B Cycle – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
Everyone of us has had an experience of listening to someone whose “preaching” has touched us deeply. Their words and method of delivery motivated us to examine ourselves in light of the gospel. We have also had the experience of boring preaching whose mind dulling, boring homilies spoken in a monotone. Then when they are finished, we are grateful and we cannot remember a word of it, much less apply the gospel to our lives.
It is apparent in the gospel today, those in the temple listening to Jesus teach were wide awake, filled with awe and were astonished by his words. I am sure their minds were not wandering, nor were their hearts hardened by his words. No, they were attentive, inspired and most likely many of them became followers. The scriptures tell us he spoke with authority and people would have told their friends and neighbors about him.
What does it mean to speak with authority? We know from the scriptures; Jesus was given authority over heaven and earth. But we also know Jesus never used that authority to Lord it over anyone. No, we know from his own words he could have called down legions of angels to protect him or rescue him from the crime of blasphemy. It would seem the authority the people spoke about would have been an understanding and wisdom beyond anything they ever heard. His words would have caused them to respond by believing in God’s promises made to them through the prophets. The promises to set them free and work miracles among them as he did their ancestors.
The words of Jesus were inviting, challenging at times but always inviting a response. Instilling a desire to feel the presence of God. His words were so touching, so filled with promise, so revealing of God’s mercy they could not be ignored. They caused an inward desire by those listening to respond by an intense desire to obtain the promise they held.
The aim of breaking open the word is to open the hearts of those listening to understand God’s desire for us to experience his love, his embrace, his forgiveness, and his plan for us.
Jesus said he came to show us the Father, therefore every word he spoke, every action he took, every story he told was revealing God’s plan to remove the barrier of sin between us and him. That is a message that never gets old for it is what we desire and strive to attain. What happens during the Liturgy of the Word is designed to invite without condemning and to open hearts to respond. Each of us in some way or another has sinned, and those sins cause us to hide from God. The word of God invites us to come out of hiding and let God’s embrace restore us to the glory God gave us at creation. The Word of God as it is presented to us invites us to feel what the prodigal son felt as his father ran out to meet him and enfolded him in his arms.
It is not preaching from authority as much as it is preaching from experience. Jesus knew the Fathers heart and was able to reveal that heart to all who listened to him. All Jesus did was reveal the love of God. A love that will penetrate our hearts moving us to respond. Just as the demon’s in today’s gospel, knew he was in the presence of God. So, should we during the Liturgy of the Word. But this gospel was not given to us to challenge us who preach to rely on God’s wisdom not ours. No, it is more about how well each of us responds to the word of God as it comes to us. It challenges us with a question about how well we are listening to the readings.
Have we invited the Holy Spirit to open our ears to hear what God is saying to us each week? Prior to the gospel being read, we are told, “the Lord be with you.” Let us take that literally and invite the Spirit to give us with understanding to hear the message God desires to speak to our hearts at that moment.
The issue is as a Church we have never taken the time to help people understand is how the Liturgy of the Word is as critical to our spiritual lives as is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In fact, one reason for those who are not good preachers is the lack of emphasis on how the word of God prepares hearts for what God offers us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus that day showed us how preaching with authority causes hearts to yearn for more. It is that more that moves people to invite Jesus into their hearts and the Holy Spirit into their lives changing them from faithful believers into disciples who share the good news with others. It is when lives are changed that their witness adds to the desire for others to receive what they have received. It becomes the witness of the everyday believer in the pew sharing their faith openly and sharing the good news of salvation with others that draws others to come and see. As more and more people are touched by the honest presentation about God’s desires that none will perish, and all will be restored. It is no wonder Paul the Apostle was so powerful a preacher for he was a great sinner who experienced God’s mercy.
God promised to make us holy by the gift of Jesus removing the barrier of sin between us and the gift of the Spirit to change our hearts. The Spirit of God will also be active in opening the ears of those who hear the word of God proclaimed so their hearts will be moved to respond. Bottom line is if we pray for the Spirit to open our ears, prepare out hearts and give us understanding all we will hear will be from God. Then we will respond to God and we will begin to grow spiritually by the action of the Spirit, and we will give praise to God for changing us from bored listeners into responsive disciples following the voice of the one who speaks to our hearts.