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Proclaiming the Word of God …


Dear Members of the English-speaking Catholic Community,
 
In this reflection, you need to know, where is this Word of God found, how do I prepare to proclaim it and to receive it.
 
The Word of God is first and foremost found in Sacred Scripture which is the Bible. The Bible contains two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Bible is not a book of anthropology to study the origins of humans but it contains inspired texts, depicting how God, the creator of heaven and earth, has intervened in the life of humans, to restore what we had lost due to human defiance and disobedience, what is called sin. The Bible is therefore a book of Salvation History describing how God, out of love for humans whom He created, once again elevated and restored the dignity, He had given and intended at the time of creation.
 
The texts that we read and hear at Holy Mass, are translations in English that follow the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. Translations are always faced with other difficulties. For example, in the English translation the choice of systems, because in some parts of the world the metric system is rapidly gaining ground, while others, stick firmly to the imperial. The spellings of proper names have been retained in English-speaking translations. There are many names in Hebrew that have a specific meaning, for example, Adonijah which means ‘My Lord is Yah’ (Yahweh). This is important for onomatopoeia and to avoid the corruption of texts. Due to the wide spread liturgical use of the Bible, the Word of the Lord is addressed to all humans, although the translation in English language uses the masculine form. Nevertheless, it is basic to Christian belief that God is a personal God who has spoken to humankind. He has initiated a dialogue with us in which we are invited to listen to his words, and to respond. His words are revelation and our response is an act of faith.
 
The canon of the Hebrew Bible was first determined by the Palestinian Jews at the beginning of the Christian era and it is still maintained by modern Jews. The Hebrew Bible contains only the Hebrew books and excludes the books written in Greek. The twenty-four books contained therein are divided into three sections.
1.      The Law: the Pentateuch: the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
2.      The Prophets: (a) The earlier Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel Kings, and (b) the later Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel; included are also the twelve minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
3.      The Writings: the Hagiographa: The Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations.
The Greek Bible, or the Septuagint, or ‘LXX’, as it is called, is supposedly translated by seventy people. This was for the use of the Jews of the Diaspora. It contains all the texts of the Hebrew Bible, and in addition includes books commonly referred to as deuteron-canonical which are: Judith, Tobit, Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Daniel.
 
Sacred Scripture is inspired and it contains God’s revelation in the form of a written record. Hence, the written record in the New Testament is very important which is the permanent and unchanging testimony of the apostolic generation. This written record needs to be studied and be constantly updated to answer questions of on-going generations in our world. It cannot of itself answer new questions, or explain what was once clear and has now become obscure. The writings transmitted in a living community, from one generation to another, are accompanied by a continuous tradition of understanding, which preserves and re-expresses the original meaning that is applied to resolve new problems of the modern world. Tradition therefore emerges from human origins and includes all that is venerable and valuable. Of course, if this tradition is only human, it would be liable to grave error.
 
It is here that the Holy Spirit guides the Church’s magisterium, with the help of biblical scholars, to remain the true custodians of God’s message in the original and to prevent anything that may go wrong in the essentials found in the Bible.
All three functions, namely, Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Teachings of the Church, are together required and are necessary elements to understand God’s revelation and to proclaim His Word. Therefore, hearing the Word of the Lord with reverence and proclaiming it confidently, is exactly what we need to do. St. John emphasizes, ‘We announce to you the eternal life which was with the Father. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, in order that you also have fellowship with us, and that our fellowship may be with the Father and his son Jesus Christ (cf. 1Jn 1,2-3).
 
Almighty God the Father, who through Jesus Christ creates all things and keeps them in existence gives us humans an enduring witness of himself in created realities. He first manifested himself to the first humans ‘our first parents’. Even after their act of defiance, disobedience and having lost favour with God, the Almighty promises redemption and the hope of being saved. We also know, He ceaselessly kept humankind in his care, in order to give eternal life, to those who perseveringly do good in the search of their salvation (cf. Rom 2,6-7).
 
Thus, we read in Sacred Scripture, that at His appointed time, He called Abraham in order to make of him a great nation. Through the patriarchs, through Moses and through the prophets, He taught humankind, He is the one and true God, provident Father and true judge, and to wait for the Saviour promised by Him. In this way, God prepared the way for the Gospel through the centuries.
 
Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, was sent by God to humans in human form. Jesus in obedience completes the mission given to him. Jesus, thus perfected God’s revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making himself present and manifesting himself, through his teachings and deeds, his signs and miracles, and finally through his death on the cross followed by his glorious resurrection. With the sending of his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Spirit of truth lives in our life, in our Church and in our world, giving each one of us life – our breath that we seldom think about. This was the final act of God’s redemption, revealed in Sacred Scripture and completed in Jesus Christ. It is in this way that we are able to understand the mission of Jesus having confirmed, with divinity and divine testimony, what revelation had foretold, namely, that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death and to raise us up to eternal life.
 
At the end of the specified passage from Sacred Scripture, we hear the Lectors powerfully acclaim ‘this is the Word of the Lord’. Yes, the Word of God is proclaimed exclusively and prophetically in the first part of every Holy Mass that is celebrated. Therefore, we neither consider it something above our understanding nor ignore it as mere routine. The Word of God is alive in our heart, in our life and in our world. We then need to proclaim to the world all that God has revealed to us humans, in Sacred Scripture, tradition and the Teachings of the Church, and by living an authentic life in communion with the almighty himself. Our response is then not only our act of Faith but we want to go further and invite all humans to this fellowship in the one triune God and one apostolic Church. When you are able to understand this great privilege given to you to proclaim the Word of the Lord, at least, on every Sunday at Holy Mass, you must be grateful to have the highest honour that one can attain in life, which is to proclaim to the world the Word of the Lord from Sacred Scripture.
Cletus Colaço SVD.



This page has been updated on 25.07.2019