Tapping into the Active Word of God
Scripture says, “The Word of God is living and effective.” It speaks to us personally. In the terrific book The Greatest Reformer, a biography of Pope Francis, there is an incident that illustrates this. Shortly after Pope Francis was made pope, a few evangelical pastors he used to pray with in Argentina visited him. One confided that God had given him a word for the new pope. From his iPad he read from Jeremiah, chapter 1: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations . . . . See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” With that, another pastor handed the pope a paper with a word he had brought for him. It had the same word on it. Neither pastor had known about the other. Pope Francis laughed and said that two days before he left Argentina for the conclave, another evangelical who prayed with him came and said, “Yesterday I was praying for you, and God gave me a word: Jeremiah, chapter one.”
Having God speak directly to us, addressing our particular situations through Scripture is not unusual. This may happen during the proclamation of Scripture during the Eucharist. Or it may occur when we open the Bible, ask God to speak, and with faith and confidence read a passage. What we hear might give us goosebumps! St. Francis of Assisi called this practice the First Opening. It’s also been called the Lucky Dip and Bible Roulette. When he opened the Bible this way, he found the three basic rules for his new community, the Franciscans. When Thomas Merton was discerning whether or not to join the Trappists, known for their strict silence, he opened his Bible and read, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm He obeyed and became an esteemed spiritual writer.
One striking experience I had with God speaking to me like this happened one day when I was greatly distressed. I opened my Bible and my eyes fell on the verses, “When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. For I, the Lord, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3) Needless to say, these words comforted and encouraged me.
Some might say that this practice of using Scripture to contact God is superstitious. It is not if it is done as an act of faith. Louis Evely in his book That Man Is You urges us to be like the woman with the incurable hemorrhage who stealthily stretched out her hand to touch the cloak of Jesus. She was cured because of her faith and expectancy. Some might say that this practice is childish. Well, I’ve noticed that God tends to humor us. And didn’t Jesus hold up a child as a model, a child who is simple and trusting?
When have you heard a word from the Lord? How did it affect your life?
A similar quiestion was proposed at our St. Joseph men’s renewal meeting. We were asked what event happened that caused you to deepen your faith. It could be anything. Answers varied.
When it came to my turn I explained that I’ve been a lifelong Catholic, never leaving the Church. I could never leave. I was always afraid I would miss something, what that something was, I did not know.
Well, one Sunday 10 or 15 years ago, I was at mass and one of the readings was from Jeremiah 17:5-11, the verses from “True Wisdom.” I don’t know why, but verses 7-8 just seemed so perfect. (Maybe I was thirsty?) Well, the priest didn’t include that reading in his homily. So, after mass, I went home and looked up the verses again, keeping them in the back of my mind.
I’m not sure if that is the reason I became interested in scripture, but ever since then I’ve become more and more involved with the Church. Becoming an Altar Server, joining the Men’s renewal team, leading Living the Eucharist meetings, daily catechism and scripture readings with discussion, Men’s Bible study and attending a Poustinia last fall are now part of my religious life. If you would have told me I would be this involved with the Church 10 years ago, I would have called you a nut. Now I can’t see myself doing anything else.
For some of us, isn’t it funny how God slowly works His way into your life with just a couple of verses of scripture?
Mark, I just had to look up Jeremiah 17! Your story is another proof that God works mightily through his word. It also reminded me of the role Jeremiah 15:16 played in my life—”When I found your words, I devoured them. They became my joy and the happiness of my heart.” Our novice director told us that the readings for our birthday held a special message for us. My birthday is the feast of St. Martha, so I figured every year I would hear God rebuke me for being a workaholic. But one year I paid attention to the first reading, which contained that verse from Jeremiah. “Coincidentally” for years I had been beginning my talks on Scripture with that prayer. Moreover, speaking and writing about the word has been the dominant work (and joy) of my life.