Monday, March 12, 2012
Mondays with Verbum Domini (Finale)
This final selection from Verbum Domini comes from the conclusion. "Come Lord Jesus!"
God’s definitive word
At the conclusion of these reflections with which I have sought to gather up and examine more fully the rich fruits of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the word of God in the life and mission of the Church, I wish once more to encourage all the People of God, pastors, consecrated persons and the laity, to become increasingly familiar with the sacred Scriptures. We must never forget that all authentic and living Christian spirituality is based on the word of God proclaimed, accepted, celebrated and meditated upon in the Church. This deepening relationship with the divine word will take place with even greater enthusiasm if we are conscious that, in Scripture and the Church’s living Tradition, we stand before God’s definitive word on the cosmos and on history.
The Prologue of John’s Gospel leads us to ponder the fact that everything that exists is under the sign of the Word. The Word goes forth from the Father, comes to dwell in our midst and then returns to the Father in order to bring with him the whole of creation which was made in him and for him. The Church now carries out her mission in eager expectation of the eschatological manifestation of the Bridegroom: “the Spirit and the bride say: ‘Come!’” (Rev 22:17). This expectation is never passive; rather it is a missionary drive to proclaim the word of God which heals and redeems every man. Today too the Risen Jesus says to us: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15).
New evangelization and a new hearing
Our own time, then, must be increasingly marked by a new hearing of God’s word and a new evangelization. Recovering the centrality of the divine word in the Christian life leads us to appreciate anew the deepest meaning of the forceful appeal of Pope John Paul II: to pursue the missio ad gentes and vigorously to embark upon the new evangelization, especially in those nations where the Gospel has been forgotten or meets with indifference as a result of widespread secularism. May the Holy Spirit awaken a hunger and thirst for the word of God, and raise up zealous heralds and witnesses of the Gospel.
Following the example of the great Apostle of the Nations, who changed the course of his life after hearing the voice of the Lord (cf. Acts 9:1-30), let us too hear God’s word as it speaks to us, ever personally, here and now. The Holy Spirit, we are told in the Acts of the Apostles, set Paul and Barnabas apart to proclaim and spread the Good News (cf. 13:2). In our day too, the Holy Spirit constantly calls convinced and persuasive hearers and preachers of the word of the Lord.
The word and joy
The greater our openness to God’s word, the more will we be able to recognize that today too the mystery of Pentecost is taking place in God’s Church. The Spirit of the Lord continues to pour out his gifts upon the Church to guide us into all truth, to show us the meaning of the Scriptures and to make us credible heralds of the word of salvation before the world. Thus we return to the First Letter of Saint John. In God’s word, we too have heard, we too have seen and touched the Word of life. We have welcomed by grace the proclamation that eternal life has been revealed, and thus we have come to acknowledge our fellowship with one another, with those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, and with all those who throughout the world hear the word, celebrate the Eucharist and by their lives bear witness to charity. This proclamation has been shared with us – the Apostle John reminds us – so that “our joy may be complete” (1 Jn 1:4).
The synodal assembly enabled us to experience all that Saint John speaks of: the proclamation of the word creates communion and brings about joy. This is a profound joy which has its origin in the very heart of the trinitarian life and which is communicated to us in the Son. This joy is an ineffable gift which the world cannot give. Celebrations can be organized, but not joy. According to the Scripture, joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22) who enables us to enter into the word and enables the divine word to enter into us and to bear fruit for eternal life. By proclaiming God’s word in the power of the Holy Spirit, we also wish to share the source of true joy, not a superficial and fleeting joy, but the joy born of the awareness that the Lord Jesus alone has words of everlasting life (cf. Jn 6:68).
“Mater Verbi et Mater laetitiae”
This close relationship between God’s word and joy is evident in the Mother of God. Let us recall the words of Saint Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45). Mary is blessed because she has faith, because she believed, and in this faith she received the Word of God into her womb in order to give him to the world. The joy born of the Word can now expand to all those who, by faith, let themselves be changed by God’s word. The Gospel of Luke presents this mystery of hearing and joy in two texts. Jesus says: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (8:21). And in reply to a woman from the crowd who blesses the womb that bore him and the breasts that nursed him, Jesus reveals the secret of true joy: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (11:28). Jesus points out Mary’s true grandeur, making it possible for each of us to attain that blessedness which is born of the word received and put into practice. I remind all Christians that our personal and communal relationship with God depends on our growing familiarity with the word of God. Finally, I turn to every man and woman, including those who have fallen away from the Church, who have left the faith or who have never heard the proclamation of salvation. To everyone the Lord says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).
May every day of our lives thus be shaped by a renewed encounter with Christ, the Word of the Father made flesh: he stands at the beginning and the end, and “in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Let us be silent in order to hear the Lord’s word and to meditate upon it, so that by the working of the Holy Spirit it may remain in our hearts and speak to us all the days of our lives. In this way the Church will always be renewed and rejuvenated, thanks to the word of the Lord which remains for ever (cf. 1 Pet 1:25; Is 40:8). Thus we too will enter into the great nuptial dialogue which concludes sacred Scripture: “The Spirit and the bride say: ‘Come’. And let everyone who hears say: ‘Come!’” The one who testifies to these things, says: ‘Surely I am coming soon!’. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”. (Rev 22:17, 20).