How do we prepare ourselves to receive the Word of God when we come to Church on Sunday? Do we show the same reverence for the Holy Scriptures as we do for the Body of our Lord? Do we come to be fulfilled, body, soul, and divinity, or are we just looking to fulfill our Sunday obligation?
After we die, God is going to examine our conscience. Sharp knife in hand, he will conduct a spiritual post-mortem. Under the knife, our innermost secrets and thoughts of the heart will be exposed. The “scalpel” God will use is his Word.
This Word is “living and effective,” says the writer of The Epistle to the Hebrews, “sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (4:12).
Think of God as the doctor. The Soul Doctor. The Love Doctor. Whichever. When we are sick we visit the physician and jot down our symptoms on a clipboard in the waiting room so he can make his diagnosis. If we’re not honest with the doctor, if we can’t tell him where it hurts, he can’t help us.
It’s the same way with the Word. We hear the Word of God proclaimed at mass in preparation to receive our Eucharistic Lord. We must allow ourselves to receive these vital spiritual elements so that our wounds — which Christ bears, ultimately and entirely so we don’t have to — can heal. Before we receive our medicine we must allow ourselves to be examined. No surgeon, and certainly no patient, should approach the operating table unprepared. As such, we must make ready to receive the living Word before we approach with faithful and holy fear the Great Healer and Physician.
The Liturgy of the Word prepares us to receive the Eucharist; the Eucharist fulfills the Word written by God upon hearts. “The Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body” (CCC 102; cf Heb 1:1).
The Word of God is “living” because it is the Word of the Living God. And it is “active” in the hands of the skillful surgeon, sharper than any two-edged sword. The instrument that the writer of Hebrews describes is called a machaira (mah-kai-ruh), a small knife precise enough to flense meat and sinews from a stew bone yet strong enough to sheer through a warrior’s bronze helmet. The machaira also was a symbol of intellectual agility, used by magistrates and judges in the Roman judicial system. The double-edged sword represented the guile of court officials capable of using both sides of a legal argument to defeat opponents in court.
If a kitchen knife can puncture a bronze helmet, God’s word is certainly sharp and powerful enough to perforate the divide between soul and spirit, elements as close to our essence as are our joints and marrow. With his scalpel God can perform open-heart surgery and examine our deepest secrets. There is nothing that can be concealed from God. “Everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (4:13).
God sees the heart and uses his Word to help us see our true spiritual condition (Jer 17:9). Spend time daily reading the Word and meditating on it, always applying its truths to your heart. One day we will render an account to God of what we have done with his Word. We must be faithful.