October 16, 2022 –
The 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“… proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient ….”
In Sunday’s Second Reading, Saint Paul describes how God’s Word speaks to us through the words of Scripture. But the “Word of God” is found not only in the Bible. We listen to the Word of God in the Bible in order to receive an even greater gift: the Word of God made Flesh. Opening ourselves to this greater gift is one of the chief dynamics of the Christian life.
The very structure of the Mass invites us into this spiritual dynamic. It’s not a coincidence that Holy Mass follows the pattern that it does. The two main parts of the Mass—in the Ordinary Form called the “Liturgy of the Word” and the “Liturgy of the Eucharist”—are not interchangeable. That is to say, the Mass would not make sense if the Liturgy of the Eucharist were celebrated first, and then the Liturgy of the Word. After all, the Word is proclaimed and preached as a preparation for the Word made Flesh.
We see this if we superimpose the outline of the Mass upon the outline of salvation history. Consider what we might call the “first half” of salvation history: the time of the Old Testament. During this long period of time, “God spoke” his Word “in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets” [Hebrews 1:1]. But in the “second half” of salvation history—the time of Christ and His Church—“God spoke to us”, and speaks to us today, “through [His] Son” [Hebrews 1:2], the Word made flesh, who proclaimed to His followers: “Take this, all of you, and eat it. This is my Body, which will be given up for you.”
Catholics are at times accused of being ignorant of the Scriptures. Unfortunately, there are times when this criticism is justified. To that extent, we must dispel our ignorance, for St. Jerome’s words are just as true today as when he lived: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
But if our devotion to Scripture does not lead us to a deeper devotion to the Eucharist, we miss the entire point of God becoming human: the point of the divine Word becoming flesh and blood. After all, what did God the Son say on this earth that God the Father could not have said from the heavens? Couldn’t God the Father have spoken the Beatitudes from Heaven, rather than Jesus speaking them during the Sermon on the Mount? Couldn’t God the Father have taught His People from Heaven how to pray to Him, rather than Jesus teaching us the “Our Father”? What words had to be spoken by one who is both fully divine and fully human? “Take this, all of you, and eat it. This is my Body, which will be given up for you.”
Jesus calls us to the Supper of the Lamb—the sacrifice of the divine Word made Flesh—for two reasons. The second and more ultimate is to give us while on earth a foretaste of what we would experience in the Banquet of Heaven if we were to persevere in the Faith until death.
The first and more immediate reason is to strengthen us through the Eucharist for the difficult work of our vocations within this world. If our devotion to the Eucharist—whether in Adoration, or weekday Mass, or even only our Sunday obligation—does not deepen our Christian service, we’re missing an important point of the Word becoming flesh.
In Sunday’s Second Reading, St. Paul writes about the nature of the Word of God as found in the Bible. He makes three specific points. First: “All Scripture is inspired by God”. Second, Scripture “is useful for” four purposes: “for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness”.
But then St. Paul explains that those four purposes serve a larger, overarching purpose. All Scripture is inspired and useful “so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
As faith is meant by God to express itself in a Christian’s good works, so Scripture also orients the Christian to good works. As the Word becomes Flesh in the Eucharist, the Eucharist strengthens the members of the Body of Christ for service in this world. That service aims to call even more persons into the life of the Church, and through the Church’s life with Christ, into Heaven.
The Miracle of Pope St. Gregory the Great