Jos 24:1-2, 15-17, 18; Eph 5:21-32; John 6:60-69
The story is told of an Indian Christian evangelist who was distributing the Gospels to passengers in a train speeding through Central India. One man in anger took the copy, tore it into small pieces and threw them out the open window.
That seemed to be the end of the matter but actually it was only the beginning… for a man who was walking along the railroad track that day. He saw this little piece of paper. Picked it up and in his own language, HE saw written on it the words: “Bread of eternal life.”
He did not know what that meant, so he asked around among his friends. One told him: “That comes out of a Christian book.” You must not read it or you will be defiled.”
He bought a New Testament and someone showed him the passage with Jesus’ words: “I am the bread of life.”
That started it! He studied the Gospels and light flooded into his heart. Later he became a preacher of the Gospel. And so it was that a little piece of paper, through the power of the Spirit, became the bread of life in this man’s life.
You see, how powerful the word of God is, even written in a piece of torn paper; it changed a person into a follower of the Lord Jesus.
Words are the easiest and most common form of communication. Great preachers have inspired saints. Great words when written, last and can be read and reread. Words are wonderful things that please the ear and the mind. More important, good and kind words, when spoken at the right time, can heal a wounded heart.
As somebody had said that, words are also the first and easiest means of communication with God. Children and many grown-ups find words indispensable for prayer. Such words well prayed are a means of sanctification. When holy men and women prayed and wrote down their words of prayer they helped to make others holy.
But words can also be very destructive. It can destroy a character or reputation, can harm the peace of a family, can stir up all kinds of violent emotions – anger, passion, greed, and lust and can wound more than a physical blow. Words can hurt too. Psychologists tell us that the way we speak about an infant affects the child negatively or positively. Laughing at a baby may create an emotional scar and may result later in neuroses.
A vast number of words are poured out every minute. Most of these are destructive and harmful. Let us not add to this stream. Let our words help and not hurt.
Just like the gospel of today, the response of St. Peter to the question of Jesus is a very good response in the sense that, like a sword, it penetrates into the deepest of our hearts. St. Peter answered: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (v.68).
Of course, the ‘word’ St. Peter had spoken is the Word of God in the Bible that instructs us on what to do in order to attain eternal life. This Word of God is sweet and life giving. We cannot receive the Holy Mass without the priest but we can read the Bible in the privacy of our rooms or anywhere else.
A story of a former Presbyterian pastor and later became a Catholic said that he was surprised to find out, when he began to know the Catholic faith, that Catholics actually respect the Bible so much as the Word of God. They draw their basic beliefs, including beliefs about Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium from the Bible.
But as somebody had said that it is ironic that while informed Catholics are ready to point out that the Bible is “our book,” the “book of the Church” relatively few Catholics read and study the Bible regularly. Relatively few know what “our book” teaches as well as many other Christians do. Hence, the challenge to Catholics today in this area is two-fold. First, we must know the Word of God, so that we will “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you account for the hope that is in you…with gentleness and reverence,” (1Peter 3:15). Second, Catholics must live the word of God by putting it into practice. Our salvation depends on being “doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving (ourselves),” (Jas 1:22). These two challenges, of course, are related because we cannot live God’s word unless we understand it and know what it really means.
Even the Vatican II Council of the Church invites us to put the Word of God into practice in our daily lives. That is why it is not surprising then that one of the four primary documents of Vatican II that we called constitutions is the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. The Latin title is simply Dei Verbum or The Word of God.
Through this word of God, we can have a personal relationship with God and fellowship with Him. We can come to know God’s existence with ease, with certitude and with no trace of error. In God’s word, we find truth, freedom and life.
I am hoping that each one of us later will say: “I am a good Catholic, not only because I am a daily communicant but also because I am a daily reader of the Word of God that gives life.” So how important is God’s Word in your life?
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B