Monday, July 14, 2014

The Word of God

Hunger for the Word of God

Amos 8, 11:

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
    “when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
    but of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 They shall wander from sea to sea,
    and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,
    but they shall not find it.
Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Gospel MT 13:1-23

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore. 
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow. 
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up. 
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. 
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots. 
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. 
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. 
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?” 
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. 
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear. 
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. 
But he has no root and lasts only for a time. 
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away. 
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit. 
But 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.”


Furthermore, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one's life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life (Benedict XVI, Oct. 6, 2008).
                As Moses – because of the hardness of their hearts - acted as a proxy for God in the Deuteronomic commands, giving the people "bad" commands such as divorce and the ban on whole cities (Herem), God Himself becomes man and reveals the fullness of the truth of man to man. St. Josemaria Escriva said: “Thus Jesus fulfilled the ancient prophecies that predicted, for messianic times, the institution of a marvelous school where God himself would teach all men: No longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying “know the Lord” (Jer. 31, 34); all your sons shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the prosperity of your sons (Is. 54, 13). From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1, 16 -17). When, moved by his grace, we accept Christ’s message and follow closely the One who is the Truth (cf.  Jn. 14, 6), the doors of this school are opened to us, which are shut to the wise and prudent of this word (cf. Mt. 11, 25-27); 1 Cor. 1, 26-29). And we will hear with grateful joy our Lord’s words: No man can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (Jn. 6, 44). We have only to consider a few traits of God’s Love made flesh and our souls are touched by his generosity; they are set on fire and feel gently compelled to contrition for having been petty and selfish on so many occasions. Jesus does not mind lowering himself in order to raise us from our destitution to the dignity of being children of God and brothers of his. You and I, unlike him, often pride ourselves stupidly on the gifts and talents we have received, to the point of making them a pedestal from which to impose our will on others, as if the merits of our few relatively successful efforts derived from ourselves alone. What do yo have that you have not received from God” And if what you have, you have received, why do you boast as if you have not received it? (1  Cor. 4, 7).[1]

The Spirit of Opus Dei:

                “From Nazareth to the Holy Sepulcher, bishop Álvaro del Portillo continually asked our Lord that his daughters and sons would follow with absolute faithfulness the pathway that God has opened up for them through St. Josemaria Escriva.  Alvaro, his son, followed this path to the end and transmitted it to us integrally, as a precious inheritance from Escriva.

                One of the defining features of this path of sanctity, intrinsic to the spirit of Opus Dei, is a trusting friendship with Jesus Christ, our brother and model, who, through the action of the Holy Spirit, leads us to realize that we are children of God the Father. There is no more effective way to achieve this goal than to meditate on the holy Gospels, making the effort, as our founder asked us, to see ourselves as another character in the scenes narrated by the evangelists.

                Don Alvaro’s departure for heaven just a few hours after finishing his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, is an additional incentive to strive to carry out our beloved and holy Father’s oft-expressed advice: seek Christ, get to know Christ, love Christ.

St. Josemaria Escriva: “Never read the Gospels in a superficial way. There you can learn how to deal with Jesus. St. John tells us that, is he had tried to record everything our Lord did and said, all the libraries in the world wouldn’t have had room for the books he would need to write (cf. Jn. 21, 25). But the evangelists have given us enough details for us to learn how to deal with Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit, and with the Mother of God, who almost goes unnoticed, and with St. Joseph, who is totally hidden. How wonderful!" (Family reunion of Opus Dei, Jan. 2, 1971)

                Through these sacred texts entrusted to the Church, the Holy Spirit continues to enkindle in souls the same fire that burned in our Savior’s words. Our founder counseled: “When you open the holy Gospel, think that what is written there – the words and deeds of Christ – is something that you should not only know, but live.[2] Everything, every point that is told there, has been gathered, detail by detail, for you to make come alive in the individual circumstances of your life.

                “God has called us Catholics to follow him closely, In that holy Writing you will find the Life of Jesus, but you should also find your own life there.

                “You too, like the Apostle, will learn to ask, full of love, ‘Lord, what would you have me do?’ And in your soul you will hear the conclusive answer, ‘The Will of God!’

                “Take up the Gospel every day, then, and read it and live it as a definite rule. This is what the saints have done” (The Forge 754).

                With a burning faith in Christ’s presence and action in history, our Father would go to the Gospel passages to imbue himself with our Lord’s words and deeds. He advised us, his children, and many others to do the same. “Try never to hold yourself aloof from those scenes. In God’s presence, see yourself as one of the characters there, and react as you would have if, twenty centuries ago, you had really been at our Lord’s side. For Jesus Christ lives. He lives! St. Paul has told us so: Iesus Christus heri et hodie, ipse et in saecula! (Hebr. 13, 8) (Family reunion of Opus Dei, April 5, 1971).

Thus St. Josemaria became intimately acquainted with the Son of God’s life on earth. “For we do need to know it well, to have it in our heart and mind, so that at any time, without any book, we can close our eyes and contemplate his life, watching it like a movie. In this way the words and actions of our Lord will come to mind in all the different circumstances of our life.

                His contemplation of these texts enabled St. Josemaria to use them in his preaching with extraordinary force, stirring souls to read the life of Jesus. “We have to live in the times of Jesus and become a character in his epoch. The whole secret of our sanctity lies in becoming like Him. He is our model. Therefore we read the Gospels daily, so that we will never lack the fuel that enkindles the fire of our love.

                We should read the Gospels with a sincere desire to listen to Jesus, to identify ourselves with him. St. Josemaria advises. “Mingle with the characters who appear in the New Testament. Capture the flavor of those moving scenes where the Master performs works that are both divine and human, and tells us, with human and divine touches, the wonderful story of his pardon for us and his enduring Love for his children. These foretastes of heaven are renewed today, for the Gospel is always true: we can feel, we can sense, we can even say we touch God’s protection with our own hands.”


 “(O)ur reading [of the lectio divina] must be complete and at the first stage ‘without annotations.’ What does this thesis mean? It is important that the canonical text be read just as it is, leaving out of consideration what may have been it sources, its literary genesis and its literary components – the canonical text alone is inspired… Understanding the genesis of the text can be very useful for its comprehension, but what counts for the faith is always the integral text in the context of the unity of the canonical text as a whole….

Saying this expresses no fundamentalism, no disregard for comments which have their indispensable function, but they must not prejudice or exclude personal and immediate contact with the divine word… I always remember the beautiful words of Staretz Zossima addressed to the young theologian Alyosha in the novel The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. The wise old monk Zossima advises his young friend to read Scripture as it is to the simple people and adds: ‘You will see how the simple heart understands the word of God.’ It is important to listen always anew to the biblical message, in a way that is quitre personal, as words addressed directly to me, as words that do not belong to the past, but speak to me today. It would be dangerous to renounce this immediate listening or let oneself be guided by the opinion that the problems of the correct interpretation of the text are, in the present state of biblical research, so complicated that only specialists have access to the text. Scripture does not lie in the past, but has always a present-day voice; it does not become the property of an elite, but is always the property of the ‘poor in Spirit.’”[3]

[1] Josemaria Escriva, “Another Character in the Scene” Rome April 3, 1994, Solemnity of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ..
[2] This sets the tone of the Spirit of Opus Dei. The whole of it is not simply to know but to do: “Love is deeds and not sweet words.”
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Thorn in the Flesh,” The Catholic World Report, November 1992, 48-54.

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