Bishop David spoke to the faithful at a Service for the Sunday of the Word of God, established by Pope Francis in 2019, calling on us all to allow the Word of God to keep us to account.
Bishop David said,
In this moment, we celebrate a Bible Service on the Sunday of the Word of God. In our own time, the Church has re-discovered an ancient aspect of her self-identity, much beloved by the early Church Fathers. We are the pilgrim people of God. The sense of journey involved in this title of the Church, the pilgrim people of God, is encouraging. And especially when we keep in mind that Jesus still walks with us today. He who once dwelt amongst us in an incarnate body, abides now in the midst of his redeemed people.
And so we turn to the living word which has been shared with us in this Bible Service. How often are we invited to find light and healing, comfort and consolation, in the words of the prophet Isaiah.
This prophet turns on its head, our notion that we must somehow become worthy and rich in grace before we can be truly disciples of the Lord. Against this insidious and paralysing idea, the prophet invites those who are thirsty to come to the waters of grace. Those without money are able to buy wine and milk. And what are we to do, to enter into this banquet of gift and blessing? God speaks to his people, ‘incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.’
Something within us instinctively recoils from this open invitation. But we are unworthy, we tell ourselves. In truth, there may be something else at work here. We also heard the prophet tell us, ‘let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’ Listening to the word of God invites personal conversion of life.
God’s plan is life-changing. He recognises our poverty, and invites us to open our hands to all that he would pour into our lives. It is not we who must change ourselves – the Lord will do this for us. We have received much. And this also speaks to our sense of complacency. Remember the words of Jesus, ‘From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.’ (Lk 12.48)
We sense that truly listening to the word of God will not only change things for us, it will make us accountable.
After all, the word obedient means one who has truly listened. And truly to hear God’s word we need the Holy Spirit. Jesus has told us this in his Gospel teaching. He reflects upon the words of the prophet, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’
Along with many other Catholics, I cannot hear these words without calling to mind our devotion to the Sacred Heart. A soldier pierces our Saviour’s dead body. Blood and water flow out of his wounded heart. And every sacramental grace we receive today is the fruit of that obedient and loving pierced heart. Those who attended the Jerusalem Temple sacrifices were familiar with gallons of water being used every day to wash away the blood of sacrifices used in worship. On the cross then, God’s definitive sacrifice of his only-begotten Son, does not end with water to wash everything away, but the living water of the Spirit, a river of grace to wash the salvation won for us on the cross into our poor lives.
We are celebrating this year’s Sunday of the Word of God during a time of gracious listening to what people are saying about our Church. We continue to wait patiently for what is being said, to be heard and reflected upon. Although we do not know yet what will be the fruits of this synodal listening to each other, I cannot help but reflect upon the synodal process through the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’
Through baptism we have been immersed into the life, the death and the rising of Jesus, the Word of God. And if we truly listen to what the Lord is saying to us today, then Jesus, really present amongst his pilgrim people, will surely bring us to the place where we are meant to be.