The world paid little attention—if not completely ignored it. What little thought was given—was soon forgotten. Any substantive consideration it merited—was replaced by something easier to follow. The Word was scorched, withered, choked, and ultimately abandoned…but, it didn’t die! It’s alive and well, and is the essence of our lives! Jesus was true to God’s plan, and shared with us, everything the Father told him. The Word was first foretold by the prophets, and everything spoken proved itself in the Son of God. Jesus is God’s Plan A, and it’s never in jeopardy…there is no plan B! Whatever man does that makes it look like the plan is being side-tracked is only a distraction God uses for the good, as he re-directs it accordingly. He makes it all good. He knows instantly, in his mind’s eye…every possible scenario, every soul choosing to act out. He knows, and makes provisions for it, and continues with his original plan. He’s given us the gift of “free will”. We aren’t his puppets! His love and will for each one of us gives us permission to act, in any-way-we-want. He even allows us to sin—if that’s our choice…; we couldn’t do it if he didn’t allow it. We don’t have to listen to him at all. And, if we’re distracted by some worldly trinket, if we’re unfaithful, if our cross gets too much for us and we just don’t want to follow him; he, will wait for us—to return to him. He will overwhelm us with a desire for him…to look for him, through his word…until-he-finds-us. It’s like Jesus looking for himself within us.
After the deacon or priest proclaims the gospel during Holy Mass, we kiss the book, and say, “May the words of the Gospel wipe away our sins.” That silent prayer highlights our understanding of the Word, as we give it all the reverence in our liturgies. We proudly carry the Book of Gospels in procession, held high for the world to see. It’s placed on the altar because of its prominence in God’s plan, and escorted with candles to the ambo where it’s proclaimed. The Gospel is read to the congregation gathered to listen. It’s preceded with other readings—a tradition that goes back centuries before Jesus was born. But the Gospel is the word: proclaimed…taught…and lived… by the Word himself, Jesus! When priests and deacons are ordained, we are given the book of Gospels; we’re not given the Bible. The Gospel message is our mandate! And, it’s God himself that gives us the grace: to proclaim it…explain it…and hopefully…practice what we preach.
We all have the same mandate to preach. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “We must all preach…even if sometimes…we must use words.” Preaching the Gospel message requires that we have faith in the words we speak; we can’t sell anything we don’t believe. If we haven’t internalized the Gospel message, we can’t put it into practice. St. James tells us “Those of us that have faith…naturally put it into action.” We can’t see a hungry, homeless person in the street and just tell him, “Have a good day, take care of yourself.” If nothing else, the Gospel mandates monetary assistance—to help him…have a good day. We can’t be satisfied to read the Bible, or a spiritual book, and say, “What an awesome book!”…and change nothing in our lives…for the love of God. If we read the Bible and commentaries on the Gospel message…and don’t put it into action…we-aren’t-really “Hearing” it…we’re just “reading” it. If we aren’t disturbed, and challenged by the Gospel message…we don’t know what the Gospel message is. It’s not a matter of picking and choosing what we like—that proves our point. It’s been said you can prove any side you take on an issue by reading the Bible. The Word of God can be confusing…frustrating…and a “turn off”. God knows it…Jesus knows it—and his word to us today is, “whoever has ears…ought-to-hear!”
This coming week can be the start of a new relationship for us with the Word of God. We can start by asking Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, to fill us with a desire to know his word…internalize it…and put it into practice. Let us…be the ones…that-have-ears-to-hear!