Beloved in Christ, we enter the third week in ordinary time with the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God. At the beginning of this Mass, we enthroned the Bible to remind us of the central role of the word of God in our lives. After this homily, we will make a commitment that the Word of God will be our daily rule and guide. This is because, on this day, we are called to embrace a deeper and richer appreciation of the Word of God. Our reading of God’s word exposes us to the treasures contained in the way God speaks to us. Today’s celebration, therefore, reminds us that reading the Bible should be part of our lives.
Let us quickly look at some key steps that will help our prayerful study of the word of God.
- Invite the Holy Spirit.
- Ask for forgiveness.
- Read the passage slowly and allow God to speak to us.
- Spend some time in silence reflecting on what we have heard. (What has drawn my attention in any way? What is God saying to me?)
- Share your findings with others in the group. “I” not “you”.
- Pray with the points that have been raised.
- Conclusion: Our Father and closing prayer.
The Bible is the Word of God. We know that the Bible contains 73 books that show the way that God has communicated and revealed his love to us. These books were written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit during a period of over a thousand years and express the steady growth in God’s intervention in human history. The Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments. The word Testament means covenant. This does not mean that the Old Testament is obsolete. It means that the covenant between God and man in the Old Testament receives its fullness in the New Covenant with Jesus Christ.
Something I find enlightening is that the Bible addresses every known human experience and offers insight on how to approach them. For example, the book of Proverbs gives sound advice on how one is to live successfully in society. The Psalms convey the different moods that we find ourselves in during prayer: trust, hope, sadness, joy, praise and thanksgiving. The prophets remind us to return to the way of the Lord. The letters of St. Paul guide us on how to live as members of the Christian community and the Gospels help us see how God draws us closer to himself to show us his unquantifiable love and mercy. The Bible teaches us that since people before us had similar experiences and received God’s help, He is not far from us in our times of need. At the centre of the message of the Bible is the gift of salvation that God freely gives to everyone in his Son Jesus Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord is my light and salvation. A careful study of the readings since Christmas will reveal the constant recurrence of the theme of light. At the Epiphany, we celebrated Jesus the Light of the world and last Sunday we were drawn to understand that in Christ all men shall see the salvation of God. The Word of God enlightens us. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, the word of God helps us to see the way we must follow as we stand at the crossroads of life. The word of God clears our doubts and casts out fear. Today’s Psalm summarises the readings by drawing attention to our Lord Jesus as the source of our light and salvation.
Today’s celebration also reminds us to pray with the Bible. The prayers of the Mass and the liturgical prayers are drawn from Scripture. As mentioned earlier, the Psalms are a very good guide to effective prayer. Today’s Psalm (27) invites us to pray for a greater closeness with God. It reawakens in us the desire to always be in the presence of God. When we pray with the word of God, we put ourselves within the reach of his goodness and mercy. Praying with the Psalms enriches our prayer lives. Some examples include:
PSALMS OF PRAISE: 8,19,29,33,46,48,84,105,117,122,145-150
PSALMS OF THANKSGIVING: 30,32,34,66,67,136
PRAYER IN TIMES OF TRIAL: 3,6,7,9,37,57,129,130,144
FOR THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARDS PRAYER: 4,5,13,28,50,61,143
FOR HEALING: 6, 103, 107
FOR FORGIVENESS OF SINS: 32, 36, 51, 90
FOR PROTECTION FROM DANGER: 16, 17, 23, 25, 31, 40, 91, 102, 120, 123, 142
Disagreements prevent our prayers from being answered. Many fall to the temptation of attaching their faith to individuals that appeal to their expectations. This creates division within the community of faith. In the second reading, St. Paul calls us to be united in our homes, at work and within the Christian community. We are for Christ. We belong to him and live for him.
The Gospel reading brings us to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. He preached the message of repentance and called his first disciples. He chooses fishermen to be his first disciples. He wanted men who would be dedicated to him because he needed people to whom he could entrust the serious mission of proclaiming the good news. Something we often overlook is the fact that these simple fishermen had the qualities that were needed. Fishermen are patient, persevere, they are courageous and capable of discerning when and how to act. They left everything and followed him. Jesus calls us to follow him and leave behind things that prevent us from walking with him. He wants us to trust him to make things work for our good.
The Bible will remain enthroned until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday to remind us of the special space that the word of God occupies in our homes and parish community. Let us journey with Jesus and read the Bible daily.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, we come to you today with the desire to know you, love you, serve you, and always make Your name known.
We need You, Lord. Without You, we cannot meet the heavy demands of life or the unrelenting pressures that we will face every day. We are making a new commitment today to place You where You always belong, the first place in our lives. Make the “we will’s” of Scripture become our affirmations: “we will trust You; we will praise You; we will follow You.” We will replace fear with faith, knowing You are always with us.
We lay down our broken armour, our rusty tools, our self-defences, and every excuse we have used for not following you. Purge our bad habits; free us from wrong expectations; and fill us with praiseworthy thoughts and actions. We want to exchange our past disappointments for Your divine appointments. Our life is Yours; our relationships belong to You; everything we have is Yours, Jesus. Set our feet on the right path, and grant wisdom so we can make the right choices that will honour You. Let us see others as You see them, as precious ones You created. Renew the gifts and abilities You have so generously given us so we can bless others as You have blessed us.
God, give us the grace to read your Word daily for your Word is a lamp for our path to the fullness of life. Give us the wisdom to walk in your Truth, and fill us with a desire to faithfully follow you, more than any other thing. Thank you that you are far greater than whatever we may face. Thank you that your presence goes with us and that your joy is never dependent on circumstances, but it is our true and lasting strength. We ask for your peace to lead us and for your grace and goodness to cover our life this day. Let your Spirit and power breathe in us and through us again, fresh, and new. May God bless every member of the Ascension Family through Christ our Lord. Amen.