Lent is an annual opportunity to rediscover the power of the Word. The Word was given special prominence on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, henceforth Sunday of the Word. Many people asked subsequently: “What’s next? Is this a one-time affair?” The answer is a definite “No!”
During Lent the Catechumens (the unbaptised) will be on their last leg of preparation before Easter. They are a signpost to us regarding the importance of the Word because a Catechumen is a “hearer of the Word”.
The Word is their “food for the soul” for they cannot yet eat the other “food for the soul” – the Eucharist. Every week in preparation for their full initiation in the Church they meditate on the gospel of the coming Sunday.
We Catholics often treat the Word shabbily. We do not read it before Mass; habitually reach late; put more emphasis on the “consecration” compared with listening to the Word; stroll up the aisle while the gospel is being proclaimed; and place announcement folder over it—suggesting that the Word can easily be displaced. Then we say Mass is boring.
Could it be the Lord finds our approach to the Word boring? If we want to really fast for Lent then let’s fast from treating God’s Word presumptuously.
Studies done on Catholics who have left the Church and are now worshipping elsewhere reveal that one of the main reasons for leaving was they did not know or understand the Bible and felt spiritually they were not progressing.
This is a significant point: spiritual stagnation is related to the impact of the Word in the daily lives of people. It also points us to the cure: daily meditation on God’s Word, especially in this fertile season of Lent.
Here we need to be digitally smart and meet the millennials where they are— on their cellphones—and there are numerous apps to facilitate this.
Pope Benedict XVI observes the Word is also “a word which disrupts”. Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp liked to say, “the gospel is subversive”. The Word is not only there to comfort the afflicted but to afflict the comfortable. Preaching the gospel got St Paul beaten and thrown in prison on many occasions.
If nobody is upset with our preaching, we might be preaching some other gospel, including our own. While we are not there to disrupt people every Sunday the Word invites us to disrupt our ego, our Church and our nation when the need arises.
Fifty years ago, the Black Power Movement and their protests were a ‘word’ which disrupted Church and society. Their veiling the statues in the Cathedral in black cloth was what in the Bible is called “prophetic symbolism” – actions that disrupt. It reminded both Church and society how comfortably robed it was in the racism and class prejudice of the day.
Things are better now but the work is far from complete. Racism and class prejudice still operate at subtle levels and empowerment and advancement of the African male is in a state of underdevelopment.
Let’s then stay with the Word this Lent. Let us allow the Word to comfort, heal, challenge, disrupt and make us better Christians for 2020.