Su Wk 3 Yr C
“Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.” These words were spoken by John Calvin. At the end of a week devoted to the unity of all Christians it seems appropriate to quote a man so enmeshed in the Reformation of the 16th century. This is what we are engaged in right now. We are listening to the Word of God and we are celebrating the Sacraments instituted by Christ. We are the Church. We are the body of Christ of which St Paul speaks.
As we listened to our first reading from the Prophet Nehemiah, I was minded very much of the liturgy of the Word. As Ezra read, the people listened to the Law. We today also need to read God’s law. In those days before the printing press, copies were hard to come by, so the law was read publicly. New Testament examples record it being read regularly in the synagogues. We should also read it, and we have the advantage that we can easily possess our own copies. Today we are giving a copy of the bible to each and every child who is preparing for their First Communion. This is the value of having the word in writing, but we must realize the value of reading and studying it. This is why we, as parents, will help our children to come to know the Word of God in their own lives.
In the time of Ezra the people paid attention. We should do the same. Attention is hindered by day-dreaming, whispering, joking, playing with babies, even, dare I say, reading the newsletter! Note that, even though the session was lengthy (morning till midday), people still were attentive. They did not complain that they could not absorb any more after a certain length of time, as some complain today. If they could listen and benefit for that long, why can’t we?
But why do we even have the Word of God? Well St Luke tells us clearly why in the Gospel. It is because others have written their account and it is so that Theophilus can understand why his faith makes sense to him. In our modern world we are overwhelmed with the information that is available to us. If you subscribe to Sky+, or perhaps use the Freeview service, you will have upwards of a choice of over 180 entertainment channels or 42 movie channels or 16 news channels or even 15 religious channels. It’s really important, therefore, that we know where we can turn to and find out above what really matters in life. Where do we go for reliable help to deal with the situation in which we find ourselves? There is only one source and that is Truth himself. We turn to Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and God chooses to reveal himself through the Word of God. The bible, or the Book of the Church, is entirely inspired by God himself. Fact! It’s not someone’s commentary, it’s not someone’s opinion but rather it’s someone’s inspired wisdom.
The second aspect to Luke’s reason for writing is to help Theophilus. But who is Theophilus? Whilst it is true to say modern biblical study would point to several possible people Luke may have been addressing, our Tradition says that the name, which means Lover of God, or Friend of God, merely invites all those who fit the description to hear this account of the Gospel (and also the Acts of the Apostles). So if we are people who consider ourselves to love God, then we need to be listening to the Word of God. Not only because it instructs us, but because it will reveal to us the truth of the Faith which we have received from him who is the author of life. In other words, it will confirm us in our faith. Not that we wish to be fundamentalists, quoting chapter and verse, but because the truth we seek is there for all to find.
Let me end with a statement from the great Mormon, Gene Cook: There is no evidence of higher value or authority than the Word of God.