Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The Word is Coming

Today's readings (Rom 10:9-18; Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11; Mt 4:18-22) at Mass did not at first seem to prompt Fr. Johnson's homily at OLO Lourdes, Bethesda. That's OK by me, because the homily is supposed to be the "Word of God under another form," or something like that, and on Sundays the epistle isn't usually calibrated to match themes with the first and gospel reading anyway. I especially enjoy lives of the saints. In any event, I was mistaken, and happily so. Fr. Johnson's homily was
inspired. I'll try to recap a couple key points in brief.

  • Especially as one begins to study languages, languages and words become fascinating.
  • A word is, on one level, just a sound made by a voice; but not really, because it is a sound intended to convey meaning.  Words are attempts to communicate what is inside oneself to others.
  • The Holy Father is to be commended for his easy, comfortable use of the Greek word logos, which means "word."
  • God "in many and various ways... spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets," (Heb 1:1).  In doing so, he was attempting to reveal himself to us more and more; our ears were stopped, but gradually he prepared for the fullest revelation.
  • Jesus is the Word of God - not mere words spoken by men - but the Word become a Man.  Jesus is God's Logos.  He is the fullest utterance of God to people about himself, about who he is, about what he wants for us.
  • Everything about the life of Christ, then, is revelatory - a self-disclosure of who God is and what he wants for us.
  • Jesus was born humbly, lived his life dodging fame, and died in humiliation - and all of it voluntary.  God's ego is not on the line.  He doesn't want us to worship him so he can get his kicks.  He wants us to worship him because that is what will give us joy.
  • This Word, Jesus, is so powerful because it is divine and because it is filled with love.  It is this Word that turned Peter, Andrew, James, and John on their heels and led them to drop their nets, their livelihoods, their lives, and to follow Jesus.
I would like to add my own point.
  • The Word comes to us today in our lives, but the world is very cluttered and busy, chaotic and noisy.  The Word is not forceful or violent.  It is quiet.  It is born in a manger.  We will only hear the Word if we make time for silence in prayer and with the Word of God written on paper, so we can get a sense of how he speaks and thinks.
Wow, Fr. Johnson!  Thanks!  That was  a great homily.  At the end of Mass, he apologized for going on a bit long with his logos.  That was awful considerate of you, Fr. Johnson, but unnecessary.  The heads nodding when you asked if people were understanding you should confirm a theory of mine.  People don't mind someone going on for a bit if they really have something useful to say.


Anonymous said...

I'm an agnostic. Occasionally I browse Christian blogs, as I'm curious about how you think and always looking for reasoned arguments to sway my spritual beliefs one way or another. father Johnson's lecture interested me, but I let out a familiar sigh when I got to point 5:

Jesus is the Word of God - not mere words spoken by men - but the Word become a Man.

Up until that, Father Johnson's points were fairly clear and encouraging. Then, however, out comes a statement which makes no sense. What exactly do you mean? How can a word transform into a person? I'd have an easier time of it if it was worded like 'God magically created a humanoid embodiment of His defining characteristics and called it Jesus'. At least then I know that there's an indescribable plot device involved.

Also, your last point 'We will only hear the Word if we make time for silence in prayer and with the Word of God written on paper, so we can get a sense of how he speaks and thinks' is another 'preaching to the converted' statement. To someone like myself, it explains nothing. Jesus the man is long dead, so patently he can't speak to me like say you could, face-to-face or via phone or what have you. I literally cannot HEAR the word of JEsus unless

a. someone else reads it aloud to me
b. I hear the voice of Jesus on my head.

If by 'hearing the Word' you mean READING the bible,, and listening to other christians speaking about God etc, why don't you say it with clarity.

The mumbo-jumbo that you guys come out with about 'feeling God inside me' and 'Talking to God' plays a large part in turning me off to believing.

The closets I ever come to believing there is a God is when i am completely alone and outside in the forest or on the beach or away from large towns. I look at a tree, branches waving in the wind, think about its billions of cells combining in really complex ways, and drink in its beauty, and that single voiceless solid still lifeform does a far far better job of convinving me that a million Christians rabbiting on about stuff that seemingly defies logic.

Thy Handmaid's son said...

Hello, Anonymous! I hope you are still reading, and thank you for your interest and thoughtful response.

Please first allow me to apologize for the "mumbo jumbo". Lol, when you wrote the thing about God magically making a humanoid, I snarfed my hot chocolate. It hurt a little, but was worth the laugh.

The apology is this, specifically: the blog is only partly intended for an audience such as you. It is largely intended for a Christian audience; but also meant to be peekhole into the Christian heart and mind for those readers who aren't Christian. When we listen in on such things though, we only get bits of the conversation, and aren't likely to understand. Please allow a bit more of an explanation.

Fr. Johnson's homily, and my additions to it, were intended primarily for an already-converted audience. A homily, far from meaning to convert strangers off the street, is meant to encourage and teach those who are already basically convinced. It is not surprising that you found parts of it obtuse, since you aren't convinced yet! Fair enough.

I hope you will continue to pop in from time to time and help "keep me honest," let me know what your thoughts and questions on a topic are. I am also grateful that you did so respectfully.

If you like, I will try to offer a brief explanation of Fr. Johnson's fifth point: "Jesus is the Word of God - not mere words spoken by men - but the Word become a Man." It is actually central to what Christianity is about. I will do so in a post within a day or two, entitled for your convenience The Word Became Flesh, because to do so here would be too bulky. Plus, I like to insert pictures. So if you're reading this, please check in again, say toward the end of the week, or Monday at the latest and it will be up.

In the meantime, here is a link to a brief post I put up about a year ago. It contains links to a number of other topics - how can we know there's a God, why do we think that Jesus was Him, how can we get to know this Jesus ourselves. Please don't take the articles as definitive Church teaching; they are just this hack's hasty shot at laying them out:

You might also try going to Amazon and ordering yourself a copy of C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity". It is a gem and a beautiful explanation of the basics of the Christian faith, that all Christians (more or less) will agree on.

Lastly, I'd like to commend you on your search for Whatever-Is-Beyond-Yourself. I also love experiencing God in nature - I love hiking and camping and try to do so frequently. I've heard it said that while we build cathedrals for God in all of our cities, he built for us a cathedral - in the wild. And I certainly expect that God will be more convincing than the likes of me!