Fr Augustine Vallooran V.C
Let us begin our reflection by meditating together on
Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it to observe thy righteous ordinances. I am sorely afflicted. Give me life, O Lord, according to Thy Word.
O God, here I am before you - to read Your Word. Let Your Word fall into my heart as a seed to bear fruit a hundred-fold. Let my heart be ready to listen to Thy Word so that I may be comforted, consoled, and strengthened - that I may be led the right way in Your Spirit. Amen
A very sad-looking and disturbed young man told me all the problems of his life. Finally he added, “Father, my problem is that my faith is very weak. I am not able to believe in God. I am not able to leave my life in the Hands of God. I am not able to trust Him fully. Even little problems of life disturb me and then I do not pray, and then I am very afflicted and I become desperate. Tell me Father, what shall I do to strengthen my faith?” I told him, “My friend, faith does not just happen like that. Faith is to be fostered. Faith is to be fed.” And I added, “In order for faith to be fostered, we need to plant the faith in the fertile soil of the Word of God. It is when we continually hear God’s Word and when the Word becomes the object of our meditation, that the Word of God will sink deep into our heart and faith will be aroused in us.” I quoted to him Romans 10:17, "Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ." The Word of God increases our faith always, strengthens and fosters it to support us at every difficult moment of our life.
The Bible - The Word of God
Now what is the Word of God? What is the Bible? Of course, the Bible is a book – in fact a collection of many books, written by dozens of authors, over a period of hundreds of years. And yet, the Bible is not a dead letter.
The Bible is not merely a book written years ago. The Bible is not the ideas about God. Neither is the Bible a mere guidebook to lead us in our life.
The Bible is the Word of God! It is God’s own Word given to us in the words of men.
That is why St. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:21, "No prophecy ever came by the impulse of man but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." It is all from God and therefore it contains the Power of God. The Power of God comes to us in the Word of God.
In the beginning of the world, God said, "Let there be light”(Genesis 1:14), and the thickest of darkness was dispelled from the face of the earth.
Jesus said, "Be calm," (Matthew 8:26) and the roughest sea, the waves – the roaring waves – fell at the feet of Jesus like tiny movements of water, soothing the feet of the Lord.
Jesus said, "Lazarus, come out!"(John 11:43) and the power of the Word entered into the dead body and gave it life! Lazarus came out as a living man, out of the tomb.
Jesus said, "Get up and walk!"(John 5:8) - The Power of that Word that went out of Jesus, entered into the paralyzed man, lying there for the last 38 years at Bethseda, and the man got up and walked. This is the Power of the Word of God!
A Power that can change our lives – a Power that converts even the hardest of sinners. A Power that comforts us even in the most bitter moments of our lives.
That is why the Lord declares, "Is not my word like fire and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah 23:29)
The Power of God’s Word that overcomes all human power, all human miseries, all human sorrows, all human troubles – giving us a heavenly comfort, giving us a divine joy to fill our hearts at every moment of our life.
The Bible is to be looked at as God’s own Word. That is precisely why this book, the Bible, is the most important book ever written – because it is written by God! By the Holy Spirit in God’s Power, He speaks to us. It is specifically for this reason, therefore, that when we take up the Bible, and begin to read, I believe, you and I must have 4 basic attitudes to approach the Bible:
God’s Love-letter – The Bible
We need to come to the Bible joyfully. The Bible reading should not become a burden to us – a routine to us. The Bible must be a source of joy for us. When I take up the Bible in my hands, my heart should begin to bubble up for joy because I am going to begin to hear God’s Word. St. Augustine tell us that the Bible is the love-letter that God has written to everyone who believes in Him. A love-letter – a letter filled with God’s Love. For example, if I am waiting for the letter of my friend, and finally the letter comes, how do I look at that letter? I will look at it as the most precious thing. I will open it immediately and I will begin to read it - and read it again and again. The more I read the letter, the happier I become! Thus, if the Bible is the love-letter God has written to me - to me personally - it is a matter of joy for me to read the bible.
"Speak Lord, Your Servant is Listening"
I must come to the Bible prayerfully and expectantly. What am I expecting in prayer when I am reading the bible? In prayer, I should expect to hear God’s Word. If it is the love-letter, then whatever I feel when I read a love-letter, I should be able to feel when I read the Bible. Therefore, I must approach the bible with the same attitude of Samuel. Samuel said, "Speak Lord, Your servant is listening."(1 Samuel 3:10)
With a listening heart, I must begin to read – not carelessly, No! With a lot of affection and love and faith, I must expectantly wait for God to talk to me, and wait to listen to what God has to tell to me. I will listen and I will hear God talking to me.
I remember a housewife once sharing her experience with me. She said that one morning, when the husband left home for the office, he was for some reason very irritated and angry. He shouted at her and abused her and then he left. At first she felt very angry and subsequently she slipped into a sort of self-pity. She said, “I love him so much. I do everything for my husband and yet this is what he does to me.” She was depressed and then she began to ask herself, “Is anything wrong with me? Am I not enough for my husband?” She began to feel terrible. She said, “I began to feel ashamed of myself. This morning, my husband spoke to me and treated me as a worm. After all, I am good for nothing. I am good for no one.” She felt ashamed and she said to herself, “If I am not good for my husband, why should I remain here? She thought she would pack up and go to her father’s house because she could not remain there anymore.
While packing up, she found a bible on the table. She took that bible and began to read. She just opened the bible and she began to read, and she could not stop reading! She came to Isaiah 43:4, where the Lord God says, "You are precious to Me. You are dear to Me. I love you." She said, "Father, when I read the words, somehow those words began to stand up in bright light and those words went into my heart so powerfully. I began to sweat. God is speaking to me." She said she could not see anything else anymore and she could not hear anything else anymore. She felt an emptiness in her heart – into that emptiness, came the fullness of the Word, “You are precious to Me. You are dear to Me. I love You.” She felt the words being spoken to her.
God is speaking to me. “I am precious to God. I am dear to my God. My God loves me.” That experience - she was filled with a great joy, “I am precious to My God. Whatever others speak about me is not true. I am a precious person. God loves me.
If God loves me and I am precious to my God, I must be very special to my God.” That brought her a lot of self-esteem.
All her self-pity and all the depression vanished and she was filled with great joy. She waited till the evening for her husband to come back to say to him, “I love you. You are dear to me.” Well, by that time, her husband was repentant and there was a lot of love in their hearts and in their relationships. We need to come to the Bible with an attitude of prayer - an attitude of expectant faith waiting to listen to God’s Word.
"Let It Be Done to Me..."
The third attitude – come to the Bible obediently. St. James tells us, "Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22)
I must be ready to obey God’s Word and in this, Mother Mary is a great example. The Word of God was proclaimed to her. She accepted the Word. She did not understand much. She kept it all in her heart as she meditated on God’s Word and she gave the response, "Here am I, Your handmaid. Let it be done to me according to Your Word."( Luke 1:38)
Whatever God tells me, I must be ready to obey. My life shall be built on God’s Word. This attitude to obey God’s Word - that is what Jesus tell us in Matthew 7:24-25, "Everyone who hears this words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock. The rains came and the waves came to beat upon the house – and the house remained sturdy and strong because it was built on the rock of God’s Word". Our life must be built on God’s Word. Every experience of our lives must be built, must be moulded on God’s Word.
Faithful To The Teaching Of The Church
The fourth attitude – you must come to the bible faithfully. We must be faithful to the Church because the Bible is the book of the Church and the teaching authority is given to the Apostles. Before ascending to the Father, Jesus said to the Apostles, "All authority in heaven and earth is given to you." (Matthew 28:18) ...and handing over that authority to the Apostles, he said, "Go and preach to the whole world, and baptize them and make disciples of them." (Matthew 28:19) Therefore, the teaching authority is of the church. St. Peter tell us in 2 Peter 1:2, "First of all you must understand this. No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation." Let us not run the risk of misunderstanding the Word of God. Rather, let us always be careful to interpret and understand God’s Word in the light of the teaching of the Church. And thus, God’s Word will be the light to our feet and the joy to our hearts.