Sermons

Summary: Two guides help us in our journey with the Scriptures: St. Paul and the prologue to John's Gospel

Monday of 29th Week in Course

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Verbum Domini

Our saint today, Ignatius of Antioch, is a most appropriate patron for our reflections on the Word of God. He was the third bishop of Antioch, but, more importantly, was a disciple of John the Apostle. His writings give us a direct testimony to the continuity of the early Church with the mind of Christ. He tells us of the importance of the Eucharist, of the role of the clergy, of the need to worship together on Sunday, not Saturday. And he gives the first clear evidence that the Church Jesus established was called “Catholic” as early as the first century. And he gives us one of the most beautiful appreciations of the gift of martyrdom: “I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.

In his day, Ignatius became like Abraham, our father in faith: “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” That is why his faith was "reckoned to him as righteousness." Like Abraham, Ignatius experienced the Word of God in power, strengthening him to meet the ultimate test of faith, and win the crown of martyrdom.

In Verbum Domini, Benedict tells us “the Church is built upon the word of God; she is born from and lives by that word. Throughout its history, the People of God has always found strength in the word of God, and today too the [Church] grows by hearing, celebrating and studying that word. It must be acknowledged that in recent decades ecclesial life has grown more sensitive to this theme, particularly with reference to Christian revelation, the living Tradition and sacred Scripture.” We can say with historians that after the Council of Trent, the Church, in a reforming mode, and a reactive one, went back to St. Thomas Aquinas as a kind of original source. This was not wrong, but in reacting to the Protestant doctrine of “scripture alone,” Catholics swung far in the other direction. We didn’t ignore Scripture, but we in a way treated it as a secondary support for our faith. During the twentieth century, Catholic exegesis grew exponentially. It still owes too much to the Protestant Tubingen school–teaching, for instance, that Mark’s was the first gospel written. But we have made great strides in scholarship and devotional writing based on Scripture, and even understand Thomas Aquinas better now that we understand the Bible better.

With the document Dei Verbum of Vatican II, even further progress is made. It “represented a milestone in the Church’s history.” Since the sixties, we have seen “a growing awareness of the “trinitarian and salvation-historical horizon of revelation”[5] against which Jesus Christ is to be acknowledged as “mediator and fullness of all revelation” To each generation the Church unceasingly proclaims that Christ “completed and perfected revelation. Everything to do with his presence and his self-manifestation was involved in achieving this: his words and works, signs and miracles, but above all his death and resurrection from the dead, and finally his sending of the Spirit of truth”

The 2008 Synod intended to move even further along this trajectory, so that the Church might be further enriched by an understanding and appreciation of Sacred Scripture. And it led to an increasing understanding that the Bible is the Church’s book. The New Testament came out of the Church, not vice-versa.

The Holy Father took two guides during the Synod and during the composition of Verbum Domini. The first is St. Paul, whose theology shaped the development of the Church and her doctrine, especially our understanding of the OT. The second is the prologue to John’s Gospel, and the critical line–to which we continue to bow or kneel–et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis–“and the word was made flesh, and pitched his tent among us.” We have to understand that the Revelation of Christ is the key event in our salvation history. The Word of God is not a dead letter, but a living person. That living person is with us and in us, especially through the proclamation of the Gospel and the re-presentation of His sacrifice in the Mass.

Following the example of the Apostle John and the other inspired authors, may we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit to an ever greater love of the word of God.

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