The question is not ‘is God on my side’, but … ‘am I on God’s side’?
Today we celebrate the new Feast: Word of God Sunday, for only the third time. It has even more relevance in our world today, than previously, as we enter a time of increasing fragmentation and lack of healthy unity in the world, and within many countries.
Why? Because Sacred Scripture is the one text, the one series of life giving instructions, that can keep us together. At present, the Tower of Babel is starting to crumble for many in the world. But, it’s not too late to take steps to prevent a total collapse.
When you go home/ visit friends, does anyone ask: ‘what were the readings about today?’ It’s embarrassing when we say: “I can’t remember!”: What does that really mean/ indicate? Could it be that we are already planning and preparing for the next event after Mass? Not interested?
Today’s First Reading says: “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light;” Many of us are searching for that light, but we forget to turn on the torch of Sacred Scripture.
Perhaps we forget because we want God to fit in with “my” plans, instead of adjusting our plans to fit into the life giving instructions God has given us: I’ve already made my plans and, now, God better help me!
A sad, and evil, example of this was the twisting of Sacred Scripture by the Calvinist church in South Africa: making black people less than white people, and claiming God said so!
A monkey and a baboon were seated next to each other during Mass in the church. The priest instructed the people: “turn to your neighbour and say they are beautiful and wonderfully created by God.” The monkey looked at the baboon for a moment,
then laughed out loud and told the priest “tell him yourself, I don’t want to lie in church!”
Do we have similar prejudices that work against unity in our families and communities? St Paul encourages us be united: and that can only happen when we follow the same text.
To let Scripture guide us correctly, for any given situation, we must take time to reflect, and listen to the Holy Spirit working through people who have knowledge and experience, to help reveal what God is saying to us at this time in history, even as we look back to the past.
Today’s Gospel reveals how Jesus started calling a group followers together to learn the deeper meaning of Sacred Scripture, as they watched Jesus teach and heal people. Pope Francis said, recently, that priestly formation must include 3 elements: Dialogue, Communion and Mission.
The same words can also summarise how ordinary people can understand what God is saying to them at this point in their lives and for their plans.
Dialogue: join a small group to discuss sections of Scripture and receive a fuller understanding.
Communion: be connected to the larger Church family: guided by Liturgy/ Rituals/ sermons, but also through Community activities and outreach to those in need.
Mission: Does our mission match the Mission of God? That’s what guarantees happiness.
After the 9/11 attacks in New York, 2001, our brother Oblate, Fr Charlie OMI, was interviewed in Indonesia and was asked: is God on our side, or is God on the terrorist side? The reply was challenging: the question is not ‘is God on my side’, but ‘am I on God’s side’ ?
And how will we know if we are on God’s side unless we study Sacred Scripture? If we are on God’s side, our mission will be one of service to the community and helping everyone to live in a way that not only respects others, but empowers others.
There’s a growing issue in our world which is causing concern: the transgender and woke “cultures”. How should we respond? The issues are very delicate.
But one thing we cannot do, is wipe away our past history. If we do, we will lose direction for the future and forget the horrors of the past: meaning, many horrors will be repeated.
The stories of slavery by prominent people in the past are also stories of redemption for our whole society: rather than wiping them away for who they originally were (slave owners), we should celebrated them for what they became: people who abolished slavery.
Sacred Scripture guided the monumental shifts in cultures all over the world, and it will continue do so if we will allow ourselves to be called into dialogue and communion by Christ.
Finally, depression is currently the third biggest disease in the world and is projected to be the No.1 killer by 2030. Let’s pray that we can carry the “light” of Sacred Scripture into the “darkness” that many people experience in their lives.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI