Thursday, 3 March 2011

Taken Hold of by the Word

Still down here in Ennis friary with the novices, and we continued today to reflect on the Minister General's Letter on the Word of God, Mendicants of Meaning: Led by the Word. If yesterday's work focused on St Francis' relationship with the Sacred Scriptures, today we looked at our own approach. We asked the fundamental question: What importance does the Word of God have in my life?

The Letter makes clear that the purpose of our encounter with the Word is to lead us to a deeper faith and commitment to Christ.

“‘Listen, my sons and brothers,” our father and brother Francis exhorts us, listen carefully to what I say. Incline the ears of your heart and obey the voice of the Son of God.’ If it is urgent today to know better the man Jesus, to recognise Him as Christ and to confess Him to be the Lord, we have no other way of achieving this objective except by taking the book of Scriptures into our hands, opening the doors of our hearts to it and offering a hearing and acceptance to the Word. If our heart has an ardent desire to get away from the insignificance or weakness of our everyday failures, we have no other way than allowing ourselves be taken hold of by the Word and giving it ample space in our lives. Being taken hold of by the Word and by Christ are one and the same thing. If we wish to re-create and re-found our life and mission, there is no other way for us than opening up space to the Word, re-reading it, studying it, meditating on it, receiving it with an empty and poor heart, ‘murmuring it day and night’ (see Ps 1:2) in order to live it and celebrate it."

There follows a beautiful passage on all the ways we can "spend time" with the Word.

“Frequenting the Word, approaching it, pestering and courting it, being silent before it, listening to it, familiarising ourselves with it, guarding, like a treasure in the memory, that Word which at some time made our heart burn (see Lk 24:32) and allowing ourselves to be surprised by it - all this will permit us to move to the rhythm of the music of God, like Francis. Then our life will recover its youth and our tiredness will be left behind, we will go our with renewed joy to meet Christ and all men and women, our brothers and sisters. And we will be able to walk more securely in the way of the commands of the Lord.”
Reverence and Openness
This attitude of faith reveals itself in a spirit of reverence before the Scriptures, and an openness to their power.

“Let us venerate and carefully accept the Scriptures as they are, the Word of God, just  as Francis taught us. Origin, one of the Church Fathers, said to the Christians of his time and says to us today: ‘You who are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, when you receive the Body of the Lord you keep it with great care and every veneration so that not even a particle falls to the ground, so that nothing of the consecrated gift may be lost. You are convinced, and rightly so, that it would be blameworthy to allow its fragments to fall through carelessness. If you are so careful in preserving His Body – and it is right that you should be – you should know that to neglect the Word of God is no less blameworthy than to neglect His Body.’”

“If the seven sacraments are signs which are seen, the Word is a sacrament which is heard. It is a sign which, through human words, allows us to enter mysteriously into contact with the living truth and will of God, and to hear the very voice of Christ, who, as He did to the paralytic, heals us of our paralysis and enables us to walk or, like He did to the man born blind, He opens our eyes so that we may see. The waters of Israel which healed the leprosy of Namaan the Syrian (see 2Kg 12:14) were the divine Scriptures for the holy Fathers. They continue to cure us of our illnesses, as the Scriptures themselves testify: No herb, no poultice cured them, but it was your Word, Lord, which heals all things’ (Wis 16:12).”

 Absolute Lord
This section of the Letter ends with a strong plea to open our hearts to Christ, the Word of God:

“The Amen, the faithful witness, who is outside and is calling us, invites us to open the door which separates Him from us: ‘Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share my throne’ (Rev 3:20). We have secret resistances to believing that we are wanted by the Lord and that it is He who seeks our presence. Let us open the door to the Word, allow ourselves to be indwelt by it, and many people wounded by life, by the experiences of failure, loneliness, weakness and indifference will enter in with it and dwell in our 'house', a dwelling place shaped and formed by God's compassionate and grace-filled Word."

"Let us give primacy to the Word in our lives so that it may be He, Christ the Lord, and He alone who is the absolute Lord of our lives, as He was in the life of Francis and Clare. Then we will be happy: ‘Happy the man who… finds his pleasure in the law of the Lord and murmurs his law day and night. He is like a tree that is planted by water streams, yielding its fruit in season, its leaves never fading’ (Ps 1:1-3).”