1 February 2009 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Dt. 18, 15-20; Psalm 95; 1 Cor 7, 32-35; Matthew 1, 21-28
There are times when we find the Lord’s words refreshing as waters from a brook. These are the times when the weariness of life’s takes its toll on us. When our heavy workload or the lack of tranquility in our lives, whether due to our own choices or our sinful lives, pushes us to yearn for something new; to hear something that would comfort us. In the experience of death, our grief does not need a scientific explanation of death, but words of consolation. In the experience of empty promises like words from politicians seeking election, we need to hear people who can speak of our woes and whose person we can identify with. We do not need the usual speeches that has lost its luster and credibility. But we need someone who speaks sincerely and credibly. And for many of us in these situations, we yearn for someone who can speak the words of God to us to give us strength, courage and hope. This is what the Lord promised the Israelites in the first reading. The Lord will send a prophet, like Moses, from their own kin, whom they will listen to. He will speak the words of God fearlessly. Whoever listened to Him, gains life. Whoever doesn’t, dies.
When Jesus taught at synagogues in Capernaum, people were astonished at his teaching. We do not know what He taught, but we know how He taught them: with authority. We also know the effect of his words: astonishment, amazement, and powerful. His words are strong: when He commanded the spirits, they obeyed Him. The words He spoke was refreshing and new. He did not teach like the scribes who would mimic the words from other people — just imagine a speaker who quotes this and that person, but you would not hear what he has to say. When Jesus taught, He knew the basis of His teaching: He would recall the Scriptures and the decisions of the great patriarchs and prophets of history. But He would put His mark on it.
In composition writing, great writers acquire a license. They often break the rules of grammar and account for their own style. I was taught by one of these great writers like Doreen Fernandez, Frs. Joe Galdon SJ and Al Nudas SJ. They said that to break grammar rules, one must first master them.
The same thing, I believe, when we have to form our own opinions about our lives and our faith. Before we open our mouths to say what we think, we must first reflect if what we are about to say is solidly based on facts. We can be credible if we actually know our stuff.
There was a time when what distinguishes a Catholic from other Christian sects is the knowledge of Scripture. Catholics were ignorant of Scripture, while the others could actually quote books, chapters and verses of the bible. Remember that many Catholic bibles are covered and stored; but, I know of friends from other faith traditions, whose bibles are marked, highlighted and creased. We sometimes forget that what makes a book, a book is when it is used. What makes a bible, a great book, is when it is read, reflected on, studied and lived. I believe, the worn bible is the most sacred of all.
If we are to become Christ in the world today, we must have a worn bible whose pages we have flipped and prayed over time. Because, when we are asked to preach the Gospel, the written Word of God comes naturally from our mouths. But we just don’t quote, we offer our own personal experience. This is what is refreshing: the Word of God applied to real life today. When we are able to do this, we participate in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Then our words would be as powerful and as astonishing.
But I pray that the words we speak touches lives.