Let’s not forget that in these distracting and difficult times we are in the midst of the Year of the Word, a year in which Pope Francis instituted a new feast for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Sunday of the Word of God (on 24th January next year).
The Word matters. The furnishing of the sanctuary reminds us of this with its two tables: the table of the Sacrament (the Altar) and also the table of the Word (the Ambo). At the Ambo the Reader doesn’t just read; (s)he proclaims the Word of the Lord. At the Entrance Procession (in happier times when we had one) the Deacon holds aloft the Book of the Gospels from which he later proclaims the saving Word.
One of the potential gifts of these past months, when we have been deprived of meeting the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, is to help us to see and experience more powerfully that we meet him also in the Word, and the Word is there for us anywhere and at any time and in any circumstances, above all, of course, in the words of Scripture, but also in any writings which nourish our faith; in prayers which help us to be good listeners; in the words of others which may encourage, comfort or, indeed, reprove us; in the circumstances of our lives; in our inmost thoughts and in our conscience. In all of these and in other ways besides it is possible to recognise that the Lord is speaking to us. So above all, of course, we need to learn to be good listeners.
So what does the Word do? The broad answer is that the Word brings about change; it is a creative Word. This is made very clear in the first reading for this Sunday, the 15th of Ordinary Time. Speaking through Isaiah, the Lord says this:
As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.
This Word is life-giving, the Word makes things different, the Word creates (as in the creation story, as ever since when God speaks). And, of course, in Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. So the question is: Are we listening?
Here, then, is a work for you in the coming week. Two questions: 1. What is the Word that the Lord may be speaking to me just now? 2. What is the prophetic Word that I might wish, doing the will of God, to proclaim or hear proclaimed to all of us together in this land and at this time?