Week 28, Sunday. Year of Faith. Words of THE WORD.

“If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But with You is found forgiveness, O God of Israel." (Psalm 130:3-4)

May your grace, O Lord, we pray,
at all times go before us and
follow after and make us
always determined to carry out good works.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (click for full Psalm)
Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!. (Psalm 90:14).

SCRIPTURE EXCERPT (click for all readings)
“Brothers and sisters:
Indeed the word of God is living (Ζῶν)
and effective (ἐνεργὴς),
sharper than any two-edged sword,
penetrating (διϊκνούμενος) even between
soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
No creature is concealed from him,
but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes
of him to whom we must render an account.”
(Letter to the Hebrews 4:12-13.

As the beginning of the Year of Faith is noted this Sunday in many dioceses, s short and most appropriate passage from Letter to the Hebrews draws our attention to “the word of God.” Quickly, we hear that this “word” is “living (Ζῶν) and effective (ἐνεργὴς).” ζάω (zao) is the verb in the New Testament that often describes the unique life embodied in the Person Jesus. ζάω is distinguished from the Greek noun βίος (bios), also translated “life,” but life more on the level of natural metabolic processes such as circulation, respiration, digestion, etc. A number of scholars note that the New Testament usage and significance of ζάω as embodied in a person marks a noticeable difference between the two Testaments, with the Johannine usage not only echoing this meaning but sounding clearly, Jesus is ζάω.
Hebrews notes that this ζάω is ἐνεργής (energes), translated here as effective. The Greek word ἐνεργής is actually a compound of ἐν (en) meaning “in” (in the sense of localized presence) and ἔργον (ergon) meaning “work.” While wordy and somewhat awkward in English, ἐνεργής denotes a reality about ζάω that it is ‘a living that is a work (or act of labor) effected (being done) in the here-and-now.’ This underscores the dynamic quality of God’s word: it is impossible NOT to be impacted by the word of God. This is graphic imagery provided by διϊκνέομαι (diikneomai), “to penetrate” or “to pierce through.” Like ἐνεργής, διϊκνέομαι is a compound of two Greek words and when curiosity moved me to check some entries in a very old Lexicon, there are some references in Greek antiquity that viewed διϊκνέομαι as “cutting through that which is superfluous to arrive definitely at reality.” Yet another mouthful of words to describe 1 ancient word but the precision and image it offers in terms of Christian living is ‘priceless!’ For there is nothing more superfluous in life than sin itself and uncovering the reality of sin is at times as difficult as excising cancer from one’s body. We tend to hide from sin’s reality (certainly there is an echo of Genesis 3 in today’s proclamation), rationalize its appropriateness and go one with living life; at least we attempt to do such until we encounter a Person, the Person Jesus Who is ζάω and Whose very life is the embodiment of love and life.

It is vital to make this connection from the Sacred Printed Text to the Person Jesus. Paragraph 108 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a necessary insight for this Sunday’s Sacred Text: “Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”. Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living.” If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit,” open (our) minds to understand the Scriptures.” “…the word of God [that] is living (Ζῶν) and effective (ἐνεργὴς), sharper than any two-edged sword” is a Person and a Person Who sounds His very own Word that each of us may encounter Him and be blessed with the gift of a relationship with Him, a relationship that biblically is called Faith! We ought then, in light of Hebrews ask ourselves, how do I approach the word of God? Is the word of God merely pixels on a page or on a screen? Is the word of God simply one opinion among many that I may or may not consult prior to action? Or is listening to the word of God an encounter with a Person Who desires to know me and have me respond by daily conversion of heart, mind, body and strength?