The Centrality of God’s Word

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on March 14, Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent, at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

It is truly so obvious to all of us that the dominant theme of today's sacred liturgy is the Word of God. In our first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, "Moses spoke to the people and said: ‘Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live. Observe them carefully teach them to your children and to your children's children.'" Jesus Himself, the new Moses, speaks also in today's gospel about the Word: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill. Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

This emphasis on God's Word can be so obvious that we run the risk of no longer being touched by the Word; we could become immune. But, this must not be so for us: for you in priestly formation now or later as priests, for us who are already ordained, for God's people to whom you will be sent. Indeed, moments ago, we prayed, "nourish us with your word of life." Yes, the Word of God is living and life-giving!

As priests, we are to teach, to preach and to guide God's people. They and we must be rooted in the Word. We cannot be wise guides to our people unless we ourselves are imbued with this life-giving Word.

So, then, the Word of God must be central to our lives as disciples, seminarians, priests.
The centrality of God's Word must be evident in prayer. Is not prayer listening and responding to the Lord, Who is speaking to our hearts words that comfort and counsel, challenge and direct? Yes, the Lord speaks to us through His Word in scripture; even more, He Himself is the Word Incarnate, present really and truly in the Eucharistic sacrifice and in the tabernacle.

Do we listen attentively to the Lord as He speaks to our hearts in the Liturgy of the Word during Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours? Yes, I repeat, do we truly listen, with openness to receive the life-giving message He desires for us, or do we "just get through it"? How instructive is our Blessed Mother's example, for she pondered the Word in her heart!

Yesterday (March 13), Pope Benedict XVI's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" was released. He reminds us: "By praying the Psalms, the Scripture readings and the readings drawn from the great tradition which are included in the Divine Office, we can come to a deeper experience of the Christ-event and the economy of salvation, which in turn can enrich our understanding and participation in the celebration of the Eucharist" (No. 45).

Our Holy Father also pointed out quite clearly the intrinsic unity of the liturgical action: "The liturgy of the word and the Eucharistic liturgy, with the rites of introduction and conclusion, are so closely interconnected that they form but one single act of worship. There is an intrinsic bond between the word of God and the Eucharist. From listening to the word of God, faith is born or strengthened (cf. Rom 10:17); in the Eucharist the Word made flesh gives himself to us as our spiritual food. Thus, ‘from the two tables of the word of God and the Body of Christ, the Church receives and gives to the faithful the bread of life'" (no. 44).

Pope Benedict XVI stressed the importance of the homily: "Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of the homily needs to be improved. Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided. In particular, I ask these ministers to preach in such a way that the homily clearly relates the proclamation of the word of God to the sacramental celebration and the life of the community, so that the word of God truly becomes the Church's vital nourishment and support" (No. 46).

Yes, the Word of God is life-giving: for us and for the entire Body of Christ. My prayer for all of us, especially for you seminarians, is this: may the Word of God embrace us and give us life; may the Word Himself take flesh in us and configure us to Him more clearly, more deeply, more fully; then, may we be enthusiastic and committed instruments of the Word, bringing light and life to everyone to whom God sends us!

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