I have personally spoken to some Catholics who left the Faith because they believe they were not nourished spiritually by the word of God; that there was a disconnect between Scripture, the sacraments, and their daily life. But why is this the case? After all the Second Vatican Council taught that Sacred Scripture provides spiritual nourishment to the People of God in order to enlighten our minds, strengthen our wills and set our heart’s on fire with the love of God (cf. Dei Verbum, 23). Why isn’t this the experience of many Catholics, especially those who are leaving the Church or who come to church for the sacraments but watch TBN to hear the word of God?
The Spirit-filled joy that the disciples experienced on the road to Emmaus can only come from God’s Word, which is not just pages in a book but is a Person—our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Word, we don’t just read about Jesus: we encounter Him! In the Word, we don’t just become friends with Jesus: we fall in love with Him. In the Word, we don’t simply say we are good people: we give our lives to Him. In His goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the purpose of His will through Christ, through whom we have access to the Father in the Holy Spirit, and in whom we come to share in the love and life of God (cf. Dei Verbum, 2).
When we come together at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we should not sit back like mere spectators while the readings pass us by because our minds are someplace else. We need to walk more closely with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. When the word of God is proclaimed, we should praise God and exclaim with joy, “Did our hearts not burn within us when he opened the Scriptures to us?” We need to recapture a sense of awe and wonder in listening to and appreciating the depth of God’s word (see Nehemiah 8:8-10).
So how do we “hear” God at Mass? Yes, we listen to the readings and read Scripture but when do we actually hear God? We must remember that God’s words are not just pages in the Bible but that The Word became flesh and dwelt among us! We listen to the Word with our ears but in order to truly hear Him we must take Saint Benedict’s advice: “Listen to the Master’s precepts and incline the ear of your heart.” The heart is the starting place of hearing the Word of God and observing it.
The key to listening with your heart is silence. The Scriptures cry out to us, “Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace” (Psalm 131:2) and again: “Indeed, you love truth in the heart, then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom” (Psalm 51:8) and once more: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:11). We must foster of atmosphere of prayerful silence in order to hear the Word of God and allow that voice to change our lives.
What is the connection between the Word of God and the Mass? In the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word comes first because we receive Jesus in the Word of God as we prepare our hearts, minds, and souls to receive him body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. “Word and Eucharist are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other: the word of God sacramentally takes flesh in the event of the Eucharist. The Eucharist opens us to an understanding of Scripture, just as Scripture for its part illumines and explains the mystery of the Eucharist. Unless we acknowledge the Lord’s real presence in the Eucharist, our understanding of Scripture remains imperfect” (Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 55).
The Church sees the connection between word and sacrament as so important that we will receive a wonderful new English translation of the Mass in November at the start of the church year on the First Sunday of Advent. The entire Church in the United States has been blessed with this opportunity to deepen its understanding of the Sacred Liturgy, and to appreciate its meaning and importance in our lives. The long-term goal of the new translation is to foster a deeper awareness and appreciation of the mysteries being celebrated in the Liturgy.
Let us renew our love for the word of God! Let us give Sacred Scripture the attention it deserves. Let us listen attentively to what the Lord is saying to us in His word! Let us say with King David, “Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path. I have sworn and have determined to obey your decrees” (Psalm 119:105). Let us say with Jeremiah, “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became the joy and the happiness of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16). Our Father in heaven doesn’t care how many passages of Scripture we memorize: that’s not important. What’s important is how we live what we believe!
Let us be on fire for the Lord! Let the fire of His love burn away everything that turns our hearts away from him. When we encounter the Living God in this way, the paralyzing grip of sin will give way to the peace of blessed assurance: “Did our hearts not burn within us when we heard the Word proclaimed and when we received Our Lord in the Eucharist?” When we have the courage to live the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith, the fire of the Spirit will consume us. As Catholics, we know that there is no resurrection without crucifixion, and knowing that “for the sake of the joy that lay before him Christ endured His cross,” let us “not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). Let us always choose to follow Jesus who through the fire of His love, will lead us from sorrow to joy, from despair to hope, from death to everlasting life.
©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers