— The Lord’s Day —

Sunday Week XXVIII

Pondering Jesus’ victorious Word

εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

“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.”

θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

This Sunday’s proclamation from the Letter to the Hebrews grounds us in “the word of God.” We hear immediately that this “word” is “living (Ζῶν) and effective (ἐνεργὴς).” In the New Testament, the verb ζάω (zao) often describes the unique life embodied in the Person Jesus and therefore is translated often “eternal living. ” ζάω is distinguished from the Greek noun βίος (bios), also translated “life,” which refers to natural life-processes such as circulation, respiration, digestion, etc. A number of scholars note that the New Testament usage and significance of ζάω as embodied in Jesus 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 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 describes ζάω as ‘a work (or act of labor) effected (being done) in the here-and-now.’ This underscores the dynamism and power of God’s word in the present time of the listener. This word impacts or effects the listener in the practicality of the here-and-now. This reality is intensified by διϊκνέομαι (diikneomai), “to penetrate” or “to pierce through.” Like ἐνεργής (energes), διϊκνέομαι  (diikneomai) is a compound of two Greek words defined in an old Lexicon as “cutting through that which is superfluous to arrive definitely at reality.” While this another mouthful to describe 1 ancient word, the precision and image it offers in terms of Christian living is ‘priceless.’ Nothing is 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 (an echo of Genesis 3 in today’s proclamation), rationalize its appropriateness and go on with living life. Such hiding and rationalizing, however, cannot ‘work effectively’ when we encounter a Person, the Person Jesus Who, as The Word, is ζάω — the very embodiment of love and life.

We do ourselves a disservice if our approach to the “Word of God” is limited to words, as sacred as they are, on a page. Being a disciple is about a Person, not letters. Consider paragraph 108 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“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 in and 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 a decision? Is the word of God merely memorized text spouted to impress? — Or is listening to the word of God an encounter with a Person Who desires to know and have me (and us) respond by daily conversion of heart, mind, body and strength?