I love your Word, O Lord!
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 15th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 12, 2020:
There are three things St. Peter will ask you at the Pearly Gates to be admitted into Heaven: What was Sunday’s First Reading? What was Sunday’s Second Reading? And what was Sunday’s Gospel Reading? Could we all answer that today?
Our readings today invite us to reflect on the place of God’s Holy Word in our lives? In our first reading we heard, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” And Jesus gives us the parable of the seed and the sower meant to encourage our love of God’s Word. “The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
As Catholics, we are infamous for our lack of knowledge of Scripture in comparison to our Protestant brothers and sisters who seriously learn Scripture and even memorize it. I have been so thrilled with our Tuesday Night Bible Study class. We’ve had a consistent 40-45 people every week learning more about Scripture and allowing God’s sacred and holy Word to find a place in our hearts.
Pope Francis said, “Maybe we've made the Word of God a little difficult with explanations that no one understands, but the Christian life is as simple and easy as this: listen to the word of God and put it into practice.”
I think part of the problem is sometimes we treat Scripture like homework – something someone is requiring us to know, and to learn. Nobody likes homework. Instead, we’re meant to see that Sacred Scripture helps us know who we are; it helps us to know how we are to live, where we are to go, how we are to act in the world. God’s Word can comfort us, heal us, make us whole. We are meant to need Sacred Scripture as much as the air we breath or the water we drink.
I think of a powerful experience in my own life when I was actively discerning my vocation to the priesthood. God had been calling me through the Eucharist, drawing me into the mystery and grace of the Holy Mass. At one particular Mass in my early 20s, I had the most powerful experience of the Eucharist up to that point in my young life. At that Mass, for the first time in my life, I truly and completely felt the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I knew He was really there. And, as I was kneeling back in my pew, overwhelmed with this experience of God’s presence, wondering what God wanted me to do with my life, the choir began to sing a hymn based on Psalm 139, “Lord, you search me and you know me…You formed my inmost being; You knit me in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw me before I was formed, my days were shaped before one came to be.” God spoke to me in those moments through Word and Sacrament in a way that has directed every day since.
Jesus is calling us once again today to become people love the Word of God because it has the power to shape our lives. Just listen to some of the other things God says to us. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him shall have eternal life.” Or “God is love and all who love dwell in God and God in them.” Or, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Or, “Draw near to God and God will draw near to you.” Or, “All of the hairs of your head are counted. So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
In fact, that theme alone, “Do not be afraid,” is one of the most common and powerful messages spread all throughout the Bible. If there were ever a moment when we need those comforting words from God it is now. In the midst of all the challenge and chaos that surrounds us right now, hear God speak those words into your hearts every day, “Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.” This is why God gives us this gift of His Words to us – so that it might take root, it might grow, it might mold us, shape us, nourish us, comfort us, heal us, and make us whole.
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “The Word of God is living and active.” When we read God’s Word, we’re not engaged in a history lesson. These aren’t mere words from a long time ago like Shakespeare or Cicero. It is present and alive right now today. Our task is to surrender to God’s Word; to believe in our hearts that there is nothing more important than God’s Word; to pledge to be people who live as St. James says as “doers of the word and not hearers only.”
Pope Francis said, “Listen to the word of God with your ears and hear it with your heart. God speaks to each of us. The Gospel was written for each of us.”
My friends, spend some time, even 5 minutes, every day with God’s Word. Let it linger, let it touch you, let it speak to your heart. The Word of God is alive and active. It has the power to set us free, comfort our sorrows, heal our wounds, and feed our souls. “Your Word, O God, is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” Let us love God’s Word!
May the Lord give you peace.
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