Let The Word Be Your Guide
A Reflection for 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2011
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus? Franciscans Divine Mercy
"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” (Luke 8:16)
The words above are from the last line of the Gospel of Luke and I have chosen to begin this reflection with them because they tell us that we should never hide our faith and be ashamed of believing in God.
The Gospel reading for today from Matthew is the parable story of the farmer who sowed his seed.
Christ used the sowing of seeds to represent how some people receive the inspired word of God found in the Holy Scripture we know as The Bible.
The parable is explained in this way in a part of the reading that was added by Doctors of the Church many years after the actual first telling and writing of what Christ Said so that those who heard it, remember the Holy Scriptures were not available to every person like they are today.
“The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop”
The earliest copies were all hand scribed and only available to clergy and in later years to the very rich. The History of THE WORD OF GOD which is what all denominations who believe in the One God, Creator of All, call the Scriptures is very interesting.
Two Hundred years before the birth of Christ the Septuagint Greek Manuscripts which contain The 39 Old Testament Books and the 14 Apocrypha Books was hand written. It was not until near then end of the 1st Century after the birth of Christ that the books that make up the New Testament, or the teachings of Christ and the Epistles attributed to the Apostles were hand scribed in Greek.
Athenasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, identifies the 27 books of the New Testament which are today recognized as the canon of scripture in the year 315.
Three Hundred and Eighty Two years after the birth of Christ St. Jerome produced all 80 books of the Bible in Latin. By the year 500 the Bible was translated into 500 languages, remember, all these translations were done by hand and often resulted in some changes from the original Aramaic and Greek that was the original languages that scripture was written in.
About the year 600 the only language that the Bible was allowed to be written in was Latin and that continued until the year 995 when an Anglo-Saxon translation was created which was the beginning of a translation into what we now know as English.
The first hand-written English Language version of the Bible was produced in by John Wycliffe an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian of all 80 Books.
In 1455 when Gutenberg Invents the Printing Press; the Bible started to be mass-Produced Instead of Individually Hand-Written. The First Book Gutenberg ever Printed was the Bible in Latin.
The Bible has had many translations, many changes and yet, if one looks really close, and compares the different versions we have available, and does the research, we can deduce what was the first things that were transcribed by the first writers in both the Old and the new Testaments and what God was attempting to teach us on how we should live.
One method I like to use is to try to find the same things in multiple Gospel Stories and some time I also check what are called the Gnostic Gospels like the Gospel of St. Thomas. Most theologians will agree that when we find the same “words of Christ” in multiple Gospels we can be fairly certain that they are what Christ taught.
Most of us have heard the gospel and scripture stories all our lives, some have been read the Bible stories from the time they were little children which means we have heard the inspired word of God as given to the prophets and the disciples but what have we done with it?
I personally like to refer what is found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Like and in different wording but the same message in John, which is the only Gospel that was actually written by the Apostle to which it is attributed. Those readings instruct us “TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER” “ LOVE GOD AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR” in other words we are told by Christ, who if we are Christians believe was the son of God sent by God to enlighten us, that the key to the kingdom of heaven is to Love God and Love all God’s children which would mean we do not hurt anyone by actions that The Commandments individually detail.
In the writing of the Epistles of St. Paul we have affirmations of how THE WORD OF GOD should be received and accepted.
"I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once...." 1 Corinthians 15:1-10 "...our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance..." 1 Thessalonians 1:5 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Let us be like the Good seed; “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” and hold The Word of God solidly in our hearts and attempt, with all the energy we can muster and with deep sincerity and love of God to live The Great Commandment; “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, the second is like unto it, Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22, Luke 10, Mark 12) Or “Love one another as I have loved You” (John 13)
God knows we are not perfect and that it is not easy for us to completely follow his command and the teachings of Christ but the one common denominator we have with almost all the saints, and certainly those who are revered among the greatest saints, is admitting how sinful we are and their need to constantly imploring God for forgiveness and strength to overcome their weaknesses.
Why should we be any different than they? Morning and night and during the day I often turn to God and pray for the ability to resist the temptations that plague me.
I pray for guidance and direction in my ministry. I plead for the means to proclaim God’s infinite mercy and love for all His children and to not give in to the thoughts that I am failing God because of the limitations I have.
Like any journey we travel on we encounter many different roads. Some are lined with the beauty of God’s creation with verdant fields or lush foliage, others are filled with pot holes and detours and we struggle to reach out destination.
The destination we are aiming for is everlasting life with Almighty God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Our beloved mother Mary and all the angels, saints and heavenly elect.
The guide book to achieve that goal is Holy Scriptures so we should try to have a daily dose of meditation on the scriptures just like we take our daily vitamins or the medications that we need to keep us healthy.
We clergy daily pray the Daily Prayer or Divine Office which has scripture readings to meditate on but there are many resources out there for people to us, the bottom line is to keep referring to what I like to think of as “THE GUIDE BOOK TO ETERNAL LIFE” The Holy Inspired Word of God, found in Holy Scripture, The Bible. By listening to God “speaking to us” through the inspired word, we can avoid the pitfalls and dead ends that this world materialism and secularism put in our path to complete trust and faith in God. AMEN