13th Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24  ―  2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15  ―  Mark 5:21-43
July 1, 2012

“For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.”  [Wisdom 2:23]

                In the fall after he was elected to the papacy, Pope Benedict spoke on the topic of the Word of God.  In this context, he spoke about the practice of lectio divina, the Church’s practice of praying the Sacred Scriptures (not studying the Word of God, but praying the Word of God).  Towards the end of his address, Pope Benedict insisted to those listening to him that:  “If [the ancient tradition] of lectio divina is effectively promoted, I am convinced that it will bring to the church a new spiritual springtime.”[1]
Lectio divina begins simply with choosing a brief passage of Scripture to pray over.  But once you’ve chosen the passage of Scripture for your lectio divina, the next step is to listen.  Listen to the Word of God.  Listen, either by speaking it aloud and hearing your own voice, or by reading it silently and hearing the words in your mind.  But in either case, even though it’s your voice that you hear, it’s God’s Word that you listen to.
                Here’s an illustration of what’s at work from Holy Mass.  In the seminary, every student has to take his turn lectoring at daily or Sunday Mass.  And of course, seminarians receive training for proclaiming the Word of God as a lector.  This training consists both of what not to do, as well as what to do.  On the one hand, the proclamation of Scripture at Holy Mass is not a Shakespearean oration.  Likewise, the lector doesn’t raise his voice when quoting female characters in the Bible, and deepen his voice when quoting male characters.
                On the other hand, the proclamation of Scripture is read out loud, at a moderate pace, with strong volume, and pausing as needed to indicate the ends of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.  This act of proclamation is a very “sober” act, in the sense that the lector’s voice should not be prominent.  That is the lector’s voice is a means to a greater end:  the lector’s voice is an instrument of God’s Word.
                This illustration simply points to the fact that in lectio divina, you need to listen for God speaking His Word to you.  To use a different contrast, consider the fact that God’s Word is not something that is static.  God’s Word is something that’s alive.  The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”[2]  The fact that God’s Word is not static, but living, means that it’s never the same.  No two readings of God’s Word are the same, even if it’s the same single verse that’s heard, even if it’s the same person lectoring, and even if it’s the same congregation hearing that verse.  This is so because the Word of God is living.  It’s alive.
                You must listen to the Word of God the way you listen in conversation to another person.  This can be a very complex dynamic.  Spouses know a lot about this.  When your spouse speaks, you want – for the well-being of everyone involved – to hear your spouse.  This isn’t only a matter of listening to the individual words your spouse is speaking.  It means hearing what your spouse means.  It’s not only a matter of hearing the words spoken by your spouse, but also hearing the words that are not spoken.  It means that when certain words are spoken by your spouse, they’re meant as “code words”:  words that have been used in conversations before.  These code words send “signals” that tip off an alert listener to what the speaker’s words mean.
                Complex.  Any conversation between two persons who have a meaningful relationship is going to be complex.  By contrast, consider a very simplistic, two-dimensional relationship that you might have, and your conversation with this person.  Say that you’ve just purchased the latest Apple iPhone.  You open up the box, take out the iPhone but because no one else at home just then is younger than 30, you can’t get any further than the initial screen.  So you find the 1-800 number for tech support, and someone who sounds to be halfway around the world answers your call.  Now: what kind of relationship do you have with this person, and how are you going to listen to this person?  You’ve never met or spoken with this person before.  Your relationship has no history.  It’s also unlikely that you’re ever going to converse again.  And what is the topic of this single conversation?  It’s something very practical:  something technological.  You initiated the conversation because you want to know how to accomplish some task.  So how are you going to listen to what this other person says?  How are you going to interpret what this person says?  Very literally.
                Picture a spectrum of relationship.  At one end is the kind of relationship you might have with a Tech Support employee.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is the kind of relationship you have with your spouse.  The problem with listening to the Word of God is that many people listen to it literally, like instructions from Tech Support. 
                God speaks His Word to you as One who loves you.  He created you for love, so that you might spend your life in love.  Because mankind is fallen, God gave His Son.  Saint John the apostle says in his first letter, “In this is love:  not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us, and given us His Son as expiation for our sins.”[3]  Christ gave His life on the Cross as a husband, in sacrifice for His bride, the Church.  This is the Church you became a member of on the day of your baptism, so that God might fill your life with His love, and in turn you could spend your life in love of God and neighbor.  This is how God speaks His Word to you.  This is why you must listen to God’s Word with the ear of a spouse.
                Take one phrase from this Sunday’s Scripture readings and commit it to memory for your prayer this coming week.  For example, you might take this passage from our First Reading:  “…God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him.”[4]  Repeat these words to yourself, and listen to them.  Listen to them as coming from the God Who created you, Who loves you, and Who wants eternal life for you.  Listen to these words, and hear God’s Word, as you would in hearing the words of a spouse:  “…God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him.”

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Address of the Participants in the International Congress Organized to Commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation “Dei Verbum” (16 September 2005).
[2] Hebrews 4:12.
[3] 1 John 4:10.
[4] Wisdom 2:23.
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The parish I serve

<b>The parish I serve</b>
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Colwich, Kansas (Diocese of Wichita)