John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
I have been pondering lately the importance of words. Our culture constantly bombards us with words—written, spoken, tweeted or texted, there is no escape. As with all things, it seems that an excess of anything cheapens the whole. On further examination there is a whiff of the diabolical in this.
St. John’s Gospel begins with the words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” No wonder the enemy wants to cheapen the word—he is trying to undermine the Word made flesh by drowning the Word in a trash heap of words.
Jesus tells us in Scripture that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If Jesus is Truth, then every word he speaks has infinite significance. How easy it is to gloss over the familiar words of Scripture. However, if the Word is God, we should be trying our best to spend quality time with Scripture, letting the power of each Word have its way with us, pondering, savoring, letting each word soak in, until the Word once again becomes flesh and dwells within us.
This is especially true for the Mass. How easy it is to drift off during the beautiful prayers that have become almost too familiar! Like a family member whose presence and service we take for granted, it is easy to just hang around the edges of the Mass prayers without actually taking them into our hearts. This requires discipline.
One way that I have found to be helpful came about through something I read regarding one of Our Lady’s apparitions. I don’t remember which one and I don’t remember the exact wording, but the gist of it was this. The visionary was praying the Creed and Our Lady was listening intently and nodding her assent to each phrase, as if to say, “Yes He is the Father Almighty,” or “Yes He is seated at the right hand of the Father.” Every word was alive for her. It was her Son, the Truth she was hearing and assenting to. And so should we recognize the Jesus the Word in the words of Scripture and prayer.
Since reading that, I have tried to imitate Our Lady while listening to the readings at Mass, mentally adding some words of assent or thanks or praise at each phrase. For example, “In the beginning was the word (Jesus you are the Word!) and the Word was with God and the Word was God (You are Lord forever!)…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Thank you Jesus!) and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, (All glory to you Lord!) full of grace and truth (Lord I believe!).”
Someone told me recently that she felt that too often we were responding at mass with a dirge, when we should be responding with joy! Mea culpa! May God grant us the grace to hear and respond to the Word of God with faithful attention, especially in the Mass.
We should remember also that when we read the Word we bring it to life and those events we are reading about take place again on the earth through us. So if the Mass reading is about the Annunciation, we are living the Annunciation with Mary and it brings her the same joy as when it happened the first time. That is because in the will of God, everything is eternally fresh and new.
There is another front in our battle to reclaim the power of the Word. That is to examine how we use words in our daily lives, how we speak, how we pray, how we write, how we tweet and text! If we are spending quality time in Scripture, it should move us to be more deliberate with all our words, to treat them as precious gifts to be bestowed sparingly with good reason, golden coins lovingly given to God and those he sends us.
It would be useful on occasion to examine how we use words, and to let our fasting sometimes be from words, not to eliminate them entirely, but to choose carefully the words we give life to, and be willing to let words die in silence if they do not conform to the life-giving Truth. This kind of fast will grant us new blocks of time to open Scripture and let the Word be born in our hearts, that the “Word made flesh” may once again dwell among us.