As the Easter Season winds down, we find ourselves encouraged this week by the Word of God. As I reflect on God’s Word and the call to “keep” God word something struck me deeply. I ask the question of myself first and foremost an all who reflect on the weekly message. What does it mean to “Keep” the Divine Word?
In ministry I walk with people of many ways of life, languages, ages, cultures and backgrounds, all seemingly desiring to know and experience God. I often remember students who had “spiritual” phenomenon happening around them and they would come and ask for prayer, a blessing or some “protection” against the phenomenon they were facing. What struck me was that in each instance the young person recalled attending church as a child, but once they were freed from the clutches of their parents they let prayer and God’s Word go and just do their thing. This is the point for our reflection today. If we listen to God’s Word today we are told by Jesus;
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
If we love God we must keep His word. But how can we keep that which we do not possess? How can we possess God’s Word if we don’t read it, don’t reflect on it, simply live each and every day in complete ignorance of God’s Word yet we say we are Spiritual, not Religious, we believe in God and Love God but don’t have a clue as to what God’s word has to say about and over our lives.
I recall as a new pastor in my third parish parishioners were upset that I was preaching from the Bible. They actually complained and wondered why on earth would I be preaching from the Bible. Those who complained left the parish because I preached from the Bible. This is remarkable, that some people are content simply going through the motions, feeling good and having a nice time with their friends on Sunday, but have no desire to hear nor grow in their knowledge of God’s Word.
This proclamation and sharing of the God’s Word the “Kerygma” is central to our Christian faith. The very purpose for which the church exists is to proclaim the Word of God so that others might hear it, receive it and believe it. In doing so enter into a personal encounter with Christ through His word and in His Church. So often as Christians, faith and spirituality are just something we do on Sunday, because we’ve always done it, or we have an obligation to go. But to truly desire God’s Word, and encounter with Jesus and grow in a personal relationship is completely foreign to some and not the reason why
I invite us each to come to possess and keep the Word of God through growing in our knowledge through the daily reading and reflection on God’s Word. There is hope for us if we are open to the truth of God’s word. Namely that hope is the Advocate, the Holy Spirit that Christ sent to the Church that will instruct us, teach us God’s word. It is the movement of the Holy Spirit that enlightens and opens our hearts to truly hear, receive and possess the Word of God so that we might truly keep the Word of God at the center of our lives. Prayer, and the reflection on God’s word open us up to a deeper encounter with He who is the Divine Word, Jesus the Son of the Living God.
To know and posses God’s Word requires a personal encounter with Jesus, that encounter comes in opening our heart to Him, and through the reflection on His Word. Through this personal encounter there is the possibility of a personal relationship with Jesus. As a Christian the personal relationship with the Risen Lord and Savior guides and impacts our lives. We now posses God’s Living Word in our lives, in moments of doubt and encouragement. As Pope Francis reminded us, “The Catholic Faith is not a Philosophy, it isn’t and ideology, it is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ” and growing in relationship with Him.
Here are a few examples of God’s Word. Speak them over your life.
I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” -Psalm 16:8
“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You oh Lord. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” -Psalm 56:3-4
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16.33
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” -John 14.27
As we encounter Christ begin to posses His Word, we can then speak and call forth the very Word of God over our Lives. God’s Spirit will lead, guide us, teach us and form us in the Word of God that we might truly posses the Word and grow to understand it each day of our lives. Living and loving God draws us deeper into an encounter with the Divine Word.
Fr. Stephan Brown, SVD