Sermon 1 of 3:  The Word of God, Scripture & the Eucharist

Sermon Series—The Word of God, the Gospel, and St. Mark
Sermon One of Three:  The Word of God, Scripture & the Eucharist
Septuagesima Sunday—January 28, 2018

Sometimes you’ll hear the claim that we Catholics are not very grounded in the Bible.  But that’s not a fair statement.  It’s true that we don’t approach the Bible in the same way as other Christians, and it’s certainly true that we Catholics don’t always take enough time every year to study the Bible.  But Catholics who go to Holy Mass every Sunday and Holy Day, and who listen attentively to the Scriptures being proclaimed, and the homily being preached, know the Bible better than other Christians give them credit for.

This morning, reflect on three points about the Word of God.

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First, we have to answer a question.  What is the Word of God?  If we get the answer to this question wrong, then every other question about our Christian Faith will go wrong also.  What is the Word of God?

Some of our fellow Christians would be very quick to answer.  “The Bible”, they would boldly reply.  “The Word of God is the Bible.”  Unfortunately, like a great deal of what our separated brethren believe, the problem lies in what is missing.  Or to put it a different way:  “What lies behind the Bible?”  “What is the Bible’s foundation?”  “What does the Bible rest upon?”

Ultimately, the chief answer to all those questions is “the Word of God”.  The Word of God lies behind the Bible.  The Word of God is the Bible’s foundation.  The Bible rests upon the Word of God.

“But wait a minute,” some of our separated brethren might ask, “how can those things be true if the Word of God is the Bible?”  Maybe even some Catholics would wonder the same thing.  Is there a difference between the Word of God and the Bible?

The answer to that question is found in one of the key truths of the Christian Faith.  Unfortunately, many Christians—whether Catholic or Protestant—aren’t aware of this truth, or of how it shapes our Christian Faith.

Here is this key truth of the Christian Faith.  “The Word of God is a Person, not a thing.”  The Word of God is a divine Person, not a material thing.  Those who believe that the Word of God is nothing more than paper, ink and a leather cover overlook God’s purpose in revealing the Word of God to fallen man.

“The Word of God is a Person, not a thing.”  In Sacred Scripture, St. John the Evangelist proclaims this truth in the prologue to his Gospel account.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”[1]

The Word of God is a Person:  the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  The Word of God is God the Son:  the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  St. John the Evangelist proclaims this further in his prologue:  “And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us”.[2]  The Word of God is a divine Person, not a material thing made of paper, ink and leather.  This divine Word in the Flesh is the Person who speaks to each of us through the Bible.  This Word of God became Flesh and dwelt among us.  In the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the divine Word of God became Flesh.

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But why?  Why did God the Father send God the Son from Heaven to earth, to become Flesh and dwell among us?  This is the second point we need to reflect upon.  Why did the divine Word become Flesh and dwell among us?  What could the Word do in the Flesh that he could not do from Heaven without taking on our Flesh and Blood?  Did the Word become Flesh in order to preach the Word of God?  Did the Word made Flesh dwell among us in order to preach?

Jesus did preach, of course.  All four of the Gospel accounts record His sermons, His sayings, and His parables, preached during the three years of His public ministry.  But even the greatest of His preaching was a preparation.  Every word that the Word of God preached during His public ministry was to prepare His followers for something infinitely greater.[3]

During His public ministry, the Word of God in the flesh preached many different words.  Those many words, however, had a single, solitary aim:  Calvary.  By His preaching, Jesus worked to move those around Him to turn their lives around—off the path of sin—so that they could follow Him on the path to Calvary.

And not just to follow Him there, but to join Him there:  that is in fact, to enter into His act of Self-sacrifice on Calvary.  You could put it this way.  Just as Holy Mass has two main parts—the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist—so Jesus’ public ministry had two main parts.  The first and longer part of Jesus’ public ministry was the years of His preaching and miracles.  But all of that was a preparation:  not preparing Himself, but preparing His disciples for what came next.  Those years were meant to prepare His disciples for Calvary, in order for them to enter into His Self-sacrifice there.

So it is with Holy Mass.  The Liturgy of the Word prepares us to enter into the Liturgy of the Word made Flesh.  So it is with the Bible.  Through the many different words of the Bible, the divine Person of the Word of God speaks to each of us, to lead us to the source and summit of the Christian life, where we can enter into the life of God.

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When you die, and are taken before the Pearly Gates, what will you be asked?  Here’s the third and final point.  Will you be asked to recite from memory the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 12, verse 8?  Will you be asked how many books are in the Bible?  Will you be asked to name the tribes of Israel?

In fact, the Bible tells us that when you die and are taken before the Pearly Gates, you will not be asked any questions, because then—at the hour of your death—the time for questions has passed.  You will simply be led by the Son of Man in one of two directions.  Hopefully you will be led to His Right Hand.  Hopefully you will hear Him say to you:  “‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’”[4]

In the newer English translation of the Mass, one of the forms of dismissal that the priest can say at the end of Mass is:  “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”  St. Francis of Assisi might add:  “…and if necessary, use words.”  During most of our lives on this earth, we’re called to announce the Gospel by our actions:  actions of self-sacrifice like feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, instructing the ignorant, and praying for the dead.

The Word of God is not to be thumped as if it were its own end.  The Word of God is a divine Person who wants to lead us to His Father.  The path to the Father is our living out of Jesus’ preaching during our own earthly pilgrimage:  here and now, today and every day of this week.  The divine Person of the Word of God wants to live His life through yours.  The Word of God wants to offer Himself in sacrifice this week through your daily sacrifices.  That’s often difficult, but the strength needed is offered to you here and at every Mass in the Liturgy of the Word made Flesh.


[1] John 1:1-3.

[2] John 1:14.

[3] You might put it this way:  Jesus’ preaching was a sign pointing towards the sacrament of Calvary.

[4] Matthew 25:34-36.