The Word Among Us

Jan/Feb 2016 Issue

Creative, Liberating, Living, and Fruitful

What is it about the Scriptures?

By: Leo Zanchettin

Creative, Liberating, Living, and Fruitful: What is it about the Scriptures? by Leo Zanchettin

It’s no secret that we at The Word Among Us love to talk about the Scriptures. It’s because we have experienced Scripture as a life-giving word, a liberating word, and a word that has the power to turn us into “living gospels.” And we know we are in very good company.

During our thirty-five years of publication, we have been blessed to live under three very effective popes: John Paul II, the philosopher; Benedict XVI, the theologian; and Francis, the pastor. Each pope in his own way has encouraged Catholics to read the Scritpures, meditate on them, and let them find a way into their hearts.

Pope John Paul II had a habit of filling his encyclicals and apostolic exhortations with quotes from, references to, and images from the Bible. Then there are his Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, which are grace-filled invitations to meditate on key gospel stories about Jesus. According to his personal secretary, when John Paul II was on his deathbed, his final request was for someone to read to him from the Bible. Moments later, one of the attending priests read nine full chapters of the Gospel of John before the pope uttered his final words, slipped into a coma, and passed on.

For his part, Pope Benedict XVI kept up the tradition of citing Scripture exhaustively in his writings. He also convened a worldwide synod of bishops focused exclusively on helping and encouraging people to take up the word of God. He was so immersed in Scripture that he spent what little spare time he had writing a three-volume work, Jesus of Nazareth, which was an extended meditation on the Gospels.

And now we have Pope Francis, who unpacks the Scriptures in a very practical and engaging way in his daily homilies from his home at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Every day, summaries of these homilies make their way around the world via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, offering millions of people the chance to meditate with him on the word of God and to ask how they can put these words into practice.

We are both glad and grateful that these popes have followed Vatican II by urging us all to read, study, and meditate on the Scriptures. Because of their work, countless people have experienced the word of God coming to life for them. They are all proof that this word is “living and effective” and inspired by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 4:12).

But it’s not just in Scripture that God speaks. His word comes to us in other ways as well, ways that we also strive to incorporate into our magazine.

A Creative Word. Scripture tells how God spoke over the primordial “formless wasteland” and brought light where there had been only darkness (Genesis 1:2). It describes God’s word as being so powerful that it can call order, fruitfulness, and life out of chaos.

What a moving illustration of what God wants to do in our lives! By the power of his voice, he can call us by name and rescue us from the darkness and chaos of sin. He can separate light from darkness within us and speak words of purpose, hope, and vitality to us so that we can bear fruit.

This is one reason why we often talk about God as a loving Father. We are convinced that he wants to help us be ordered and fruitful. And we know that it happens as we ponder his words. He fills us with everything that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious (Philippians 4:8). He helps us learn how to think clearly, and he urges us to reach out to other people with his words of love.

A Liberating Word. When the Hebrew people were enslaved in Egypt, God raised up Moses and told him to set his people free. But notice how Moses was to accomplish this task. God could have told him to muster an army or help the people slip away undetected in the middle of the night. But he didn’t. Instead, he sent Moses to deliver a simple message to Pharaoh: “Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1).

Moses’ one weapon was the word of God, a word of liberation and freedom. Just by speaking the word, Moses brought plagues against the Egyptians. Simply by giving voice to God’s commands, he made water flow from a rock and manna appear in the desert. That way, the people knew that their freedom came, not by their own cleverness or strength, but by the word of God.

Again, we use images like these to encourage you to make connections to your own lives. Every day, we face temptations designed to keep us bound in sin, but God’s word is available to us. It has divine power to strengthen our resolve, lift up our spirits, and help us stand firm. It tells us about David, who overcame Goliath with nothing but a slingshot and faith in the Lord. It reminds us of how Joshua and the Israelites conquered Jericho simply by following God’s commands. And it tells us how even Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations by holding fast to the words of Scripture.

This is why we often urge you, whenever you feel tempted, to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Read it. Ponder it. Immerse yourself in it. Then, like David, Joshua, and Jesus, stare that temptation in the eye, and proclaim the promises of God. Proclaim that you believe in Jesus Christ, your Savior (Romans 10:9). Affirm that you have been baptized into Christ, and that the Holy Spirit lives in you (Colossians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 6:19). Call on the Holy Spirit, the “breath” behind the word, to strengthen you, and you will see victory.

A Living Word. Of course, there is more to the word of God than the spoken word and the written word. There is also the word that is “proclaimed” by the lives of his people. St. Paul once told the believers in Corinth, “You are our letter, written on our hearts . . . not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of flesh” (2 Corinthians 3:2, 3). Similarly, Jesus told his disciples, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16).

Writing to the church in Thessalonica, Paul said, “From you the word of the Lord has sounded forth . . . in every place your faith in God has gone forth” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Now, the Thessalonians had not traveled all over the Roman empire as missionaries. Rather, news about their faith and their love had spread, and the witness of their lives touched people near and far.

This is why we like to write about how God wants his imprint, which is on our lives, to speak through our lives. We are convinced that each one of us can be a living gospel, a message of good news, to the people around us. Simply by our actions and our attitudes, we can testify to the joyful, grace-filled life available to everyone.

This is why personal testimonies are an important part of our magazine. They act as a kind of “letter” to everyone telling the marvelous works of the Lord. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading the stories you send in—even the ones we don’t end up printing! They feed my own faith because they give me moving snapshots of the infinite ways that God loves to help and heal, comfort and console, his people. So please keep sending them in!

A Fruitful Word. Speaking through his prophet, God promised that his word, once spoken, would never come back to him void or fruitless (Isaiah 55:10-11). Like the seed sown on all kinds of soil, his word sprouts and grows (Matthew 13:3-8). Every word that God speaks—in whatever way he speaks it—is filled with great potential to change hearts. Even if we don’t see the change right away, we must still believe that God is at work, speaking light into even the darkest of situations.

God speaks his word through the testimony of people who are trying to please him with their lives. He speaks it in the beauty of nature as it sings the praises of its Creator (Psalm 19:2-5). He proclaims it through the Church as it moves through the centuries. And most important, he gives us Jesus himself, the Word made flesh, who entered our world two thousand years ago to save us from our sin.

This is the word of God that we at The Word Among Us love to share—a creative, liberating, living, and fruitful word. As we embark on the next thirty-five years, please pray for us, even as we pray for you. May we never, ever lose sight of the power that comes to the Church when her people read and study and meditate on the Scriptures!