REDISCOVERING THE WORD OF GOD AS GOD’S MESSAGE

June 28, 2014 at 5:19 am Leave a comment

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 2 KINGS 22:8-13, 23:1-3; MATTHEW 7:15-20 

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Idolatry and all forms of evil, injustices and immorality, spring from impietywhich is the failure to recognize God as the Lord.   If the downfall of Jerusalem was delayed, it was because there were some good and righteous kings who sought to return the nation to the Lord as in the person of Josiah.   After restoring the Temple of Jerusalem around 640 B.C, they made a great discovery of the book of the Law of the Lord, which was lost and forgotten due to neglect by the evil kings before him.

This re-discovery of the Torah was truly not by chance but by the providence of God.  Of course, man must desire to return to the Lord, otherwise God would not make Himself known.  In the case of Josiah, God rewarded his sincerity by giving him back the scriptures.  Indeed, the Word of God cannot be destroyed entirely or be suppressed for long.

Why is the Law so important for guidance in our spiritual life, or rather, in our entire life?  Because it is the wisdom of God, and Jesus further purified and expanded the laws so that we can live not just by the letter of the laws but also in the spirit as well.

Today, we need to rediscover the power of the Word of God in our lives. This is particularly true for many of our Catholics.  Although we believe that the bible is the Word of God, we pay lip service to it only, as we do not make the Word of God the guide and inspiration for our daily lives.  What is most needed is that we first fall in love with the Word and recognize truly from our hearts the Word of God as it truly is, not just a human but divine message.  Only a true reverence for the Word of God could have made King Josiah and “all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, priests, prophets and all the people, of high or low degree” listen to “everything that was said in the book of the covenant found in the Temple of the Lord.”

The next step is to understand the Word.  How does one understand? It is significant that the king had the whole book read in its entirety.   If the bible has often been taken out of context and cited to bolster one’s ideology, it is because of selective reading.  The lesson to learn about reading the scripture is that the bible, which is a collection of books, must be read as a whole and each book in relation to the whole library, and each chapter in relation to the entire book.

To read the bible in context is to read it in the context of the community of faith.  Although the bible has God as its author, it is also a product of the Church, since the bible was written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, it was the Church that ultimately discerned which book is inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Necessarily, a correct reading and interpretation of the text is rightly the prerogative of the Church.  Indeed, the Holy Spirit is given to the whole Church and not to particular individuals so as to preserve her from all errors, as we together form the body of Christ, the Church.

Failure to recognize that the infallibility of the truth of the bible belongs to the whole Church, and not to some private individuals, is the cause of much confusion and distortion of the scripture and its interpretation.  Indeed, many Catholics have been misled by deviant interpretation of the scripture texts, shaped more by human ideology and syncretistic beliefs. Some of these heretical teachings are so subtle that without the guidance of the Magisterium, we will not be able to differentiate the authentic from the false interpretation of scripture.

However, beyond doctrines, the bible must be applied to one’s life and daily living.   This was what Josiah did.  His listening of the Word did not end with the reading, but with the carrying out of the commands of the Lord.  The king “made a covenant to follow the Lord and keep his commandments and decrees and laws with all his heart and soul, in order to enforce the terms of the covenant as written in that book. All the people gave their allegiance to the covenant.”  So it is even more important that we put into practice what we read and hear from the Word of God.   Only when the Word is applied in the context of our personal life, does the Word of God come alive.

How then can we know that we have read or heard the Word of God correctly?  Jesus gives us the key to discerning the authenticity of the Word of God.  “You will be able to tell them by their fruits.”  What then are some of these fruits we should be giving attention to? 

Firstly, we must make a distinction between charismatic gifts and the fruits of the Spirit.  We must be careful not to confuse functional gifts with holiness and truth.  One might be given the gift of healing, preaching and prophecy but it is not a guarantee that the person’s teaching is true.  Of course, such gifts do authenticate that the person is from God and gives credibility to the message and most of all, display the power of the Risen Lord.  But since these are functional gifts for the service of the community, they can also be misused for one’s personal benefit and self-interest as well.

Secondly, the evangelical gifts, namely, poverty, chastity and obedience are to be equally valued.   What will change lives is not simply the message of the preacher, no matter how anointed he is, but his whole lifestyle.  When a man of God lives a life of total dependence on God in a spirit of poverty; and complete submission to Him in obedience to rightful authority and the Word of God; and a life of inclusive and unconditional love, particularly for the poor, needy and marginalized, such an evangelical lifestyle vouches for the truth of the Word that is preached and lived.  Such gifts testify to the power of the Word in the life of the preacher.

Finally, to discern whether one is living in the truth, we must realize that the fruits which Jesus speaks about are the fruits of the Spirit, namely, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22). Indeed, when we bear the fruits of the Spirit, we know that such fruits are the outcome of a life lived in union with God.

In the final analysis, instead of disputing which is the true Church or the true religion, what is most important is whether a person is living a life of truth and love.  If such is a life lived, then it should bring about our union with God and with each other, bringing about the establishment of the reign of God in our hearts and in the world.

So today, let us re-discover the Word of God like King Josiah.  We must instill in our children and young people a deep love and reverence for the Word of God, just as King Josiah was imbued with love for the Lord at a young age.  Like the psalmist, we pray, “Teach me the way of Your decrees, O Lord!” and like Josiah, we renew the Covenant the Lord has made with us.

WRITTEN BY THE MOST REV WILLIAM GOH
ARCHBISHOP OF SINGAPORE
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Retrieved from http://www.csctr.net/reflections/#sthash.d7wvDwlx.dpbs

 

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Entry filed under: Catechesis.

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