Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Word That Is Made Up of Flesh and Blood

Everyday we use words. We are so familiar with words that we do not notice the importance of the Word. Yes, I am talking about the Word, singular, not about words, plural. But Luke who wrote the Gospel for today's reading saw the value of this Word. That is why we heard it read a while ago, "While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Genesareth" (5:1).

Notice carefully what Luke wrote. He said that the crowd was listening to the word of God. He could have said, "listening to the words of God" because Jesus used or spoke many words. But he did not use the plural. Luke used the singular, word. As we shall learn today, the difference is not just one of grammatical number, singular or plural. The singular "word" has many things to say to us which cannot be conveyed by the plural "words".

For hundreds of years before Vatican II, that is, before 1962, the Mass did not end with a blessing but with a reading from the Gospel according to John, the first 14 verses. This portion of John's Gospel is about the Word. It begins, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And the last verse of this portion is, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us". Some of the old people among us here remember this ending although most probably we did not understand it because the priest read it in Latin.

Today we reflect upon this Word who has become flesh and blood and lived on this planet earth.

In the dictionary the basic meaning of "word" is that it is the basic unit of a language. In other words it is something we use to communicate with others. Interestingly enough the word exists in six places or situations, just like water existing in three states: liquid in its normal state, solid as ice and gaseous as vapor.

First, the word exists as a sound. Secondly, it also exists in print. Before it exists as a sound or in print the word exists in our mind as an idea. So, thirdly, the word exists in our mind as an idea. Fourthly, it may also exist in a sign. The deaf and dumb use words but in signs. The Trappist monks use the word in signs because they are not allowed to speak except on special occasions. Fifthly, the word also exists as a series of numbers in the computer and in the media attached to a computer. You see, the computer uses only two numbers, 1 and 0. When a word enters a computer this is translated into numbers composed of 1 and 0, the only language the computer understands. The sixth way that the word exists is the one we are interested to learn today.

Why is the Word so important in our lives? Because it is the Word who created us. In John's Gospel we read, "Through him (that is, the Word) all things came into being, and apart from him nothing came to be." It is through this Word that we exist, that we are here on planet earth, that we are here inside this building.

It is through the word that we are healed of our diseases. We say this everytime we make communion. We say, Lord I am not worthy that you enter under my roof but only say the Word and I shall be healed. Notice we do not say, "only say the words," but "only say the Word," singular.

It is the Word who cleans us of our sinfulness. Jesus told his apostles during his last supper, "You are clean already, thanks to the word I have spoken to you (John 15:3).  

How can the Word create us, heal us of our diseases, clean us of our sinfulness? It can do all these and more because this Word is the Word of God. God spoke the Word to express himself, to communicate himself to us and to our world. And he spoke this one Word, his Son who became flesh and blood in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This Word is most powerful because it is Jesus himself. The sixth way the word is present is in the flesh and blood of Jesus. He is the Word.

It is the Word who improves our lives, who gives us what we need. It is also the Word who can give us what we want. All the sciences in the world use words and all these words come from the one Word of God. If all the words in all the worlds were boiled down to one word, this would be the one Word of God. Scientists do not realize they are studying the Word of God by using his words. The farmers and the employees do not realize that their life comes from the Word, the improvement of their lives comes from the Word, any genuine progress comes from the Word.

Only fellowship or companionship with the Word who has taken on flesh and blood will make our life better because only he knows what words to use to make our life better. He has these words with him.

In the dictionary in the meaning of "word" there is an entry which says that if the word begins with a capital letter it is the Bible. Yes, the Bible is the written Word of God. The Bible is the written Jesus Christ. It is a unique book. It is unlike any other book because what it contains is not just words as in other books. It contains a person, the Word of God, Jesus the Christ. That is why in the Christian Community Bible of the Claretian Publications the first sentence in the introduction reads, "You have opened the Bible; now look for Christ as you read."

Vatican II urged all of us to read the Bible with devotion. It is intimate familiarity with the Word in the Bible, that is, with Christ speaking to us from and through the Bible that will help us live with peace and joy in our life.

As a closing prayer let me borrow from a cellphone message from my friend Fr. Buddy Torres OCD, a Discalced Carmelite missionary in the province of Palawan, Philippines.

Let us bow down our heads to pray.

Lord, teach us to be always Word or Christ centered and refrain from being work or I, me, mine centered. Amen.

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