Stand firm on the word of God


Remarkable events in the life of Jesus resound in the Mass Readings of the Fourth and Fifth Sundays in Ordinary Time. Most significant is the word of God, of which we are to know, live and proclaim. Many are hesitant for feelings of unworthiness because of sin. Others proclaim, yet receive rejection. Fear holds many from the mission. How can we understand the call and live out the mission given to us by the word of God?  

The call  

Three people. One call. Over the next two Sundays, we will hear the sending of two great prophets and the call of the apostles. Each receive the word of God in varying manifestations. Jeremiah, Isaiah and Simon Peter encounter the word of God fully made known and present. 

Jeremiah writes, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jer 1:4-5). What a halting moment for Jeremiah to hear these words. God commissioned Jeremiah to be a prophet before he took his first breath, to proclaim the message of repentance. What does Jeremiah say? “I don’t know how to speak. I am too young.” God reassures Jeremiah by telling him, “I will give you all you need.” God even tells the reality of what will come through the trials and tribulations. There is no sugarcoating this sending. Yet, God will be by his side. Jeremiah knows this is a daunting task. Despite his fear, he answers and begins the journey. 

Isaiah’s call is in a vision, a beatific vision. “I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above” (Is 6:1-2). God shares this vision to purify and prepare Isaiah for what is to come. Isaiah immediately thinks he will die or perhaps be silenced as he realizes his lack of worthiness because of sin. Yet God purifies the prophet of sin thus enabling him ready for mission. 

“While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore” (Lk 5:1-3). Simon (Peter) allowed Jesus to “get into his boat and put out,” in order for the sound of the word of God to travel more effectively over water. Indeed, when Jesus got into Simon’s boat, Simon was about to realize the future vessel to proclaim the word of God was his very own mouth, mind and heart. 

Jesus, the Word Made Flesh, performs the miracle of the fish. Stunned, Simon humbles himself before Jesus as he realizes he is sinful and Jesus is more than an iterant preacher. Jesus assures Simon and the others to fear not for a greater task is at hand. What did they do? They dropped EVERYTHING and followed Jesus. 

Think for a moment of a time where God called you to action, a mission or something beyond your scope. How did you initially respond? Did you experience fear, unworthiness, surprise, inability, humility, awe or something else? What did it take to trust in God’s word and follow him? How did God “form” you to be capable of this mission? We have talked about the many gifts given individually for the good of the entire mystical body. What is God sending you to do for him? Are you rooted in the word of God as to be transformed and made-ready for mission?

Rooted in love 

St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians expresses rich practical realities for life-giving faith. Chapter 13 is the “The Way of Love.” St. Paul, before this passage, explains the spiritual gifts. Yet, he leads us to a more “excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31) of life in Christ. The way of love is the way of God. Yes, we strive to grow in the spiritual gifts given to us. Yet, without a foundation in love, we are just loud noises in disharmony. 

The passage is truly familiar to the faithful.  “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7). It continues to verse 13 and is well worth deeper reflection. 

Some suggest as a prayer to replace the word “love” in the passage with “God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.” A penance given to me was to replace the word “love” with my name. I actually prayed the passage using all five: love, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and my name. It was an awakening. Rooted in the way of love clinches the definition of love as an action. 

St. Thomas Aquinas states, “To love is to will the good of another.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 26 4, corp. art.) He describes four accomplishments of love. First, love is the cause of one’s spiritual life. “Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” 

Second, love leads to the observance of the divine commandments. 

Third, love provides protection against adversity. 

Fourth, love truly leads to happiness, since eternal blessedness is promised only to those who have charity.” (From a conference by St. Thomas Aquinas Opuscula, In duo praecenta … Ed. J.P. Torrel, in Revue des Sc. Phil. Et Théol., 69, 1985, pp. 26-29. ) 

St. Paul testifies of the grace from God, which enabled him to preach in order for others to receive and believe the proclamation of salvation: “Christ died, rose and appeared, for the salvation of all who hear” (1 Cor 15:1-11). What a powerful example for us as missionary disciples to receive the word of God, stand firm upon it, proclaim the message through love, with love, in love. Know God is with us every step of the way as we preach so others will come to believe that Jesus Christ, whom, “The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives” (Lk 4:18). Thus, by faith we believe, with hope we look forward and in love we are rooted. “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).

Dow is the director of the Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.