“Prior to every word of ours about God, there is His word to us, His Word who continues to tell us:
‘Do not be afraid, I am with you. I am at your side and I will always be there’.”
– Pope Francis
The Father is revealed to us most fully and most perfectly in His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Lord Jesus is revealed to us in the Scriptures. The Word of Scripture is alive and active – it is a lamp for our steps, a light for our path (cf. Ps. 118:105), as the Psalmist tells us. And in reading those texts with an open heart, we are able to authentically encounter the Lord.
The Gospel of Saint John begins by reminding us that “in the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). Looking at this theme, our Holy Father Pope Francis writes today that –
“The Word of God took on a face. The invisible God let Himself be seen, heard and touched (see 1 Jn 1:1-3). The word is effective only if it is ‘seen’, if it engages us in experience, in dialogue. Thus, the invitation to ‘come and see’ was, and continues to be, essential.”
As Pope Francis has commented on previously, Jesus reveals to us the Face of the Father and His mercy. It is in Christ that we finally see the Father, the same Christ who was with the Father from the beginning.
In the writen Word of the Scriptures, the Lord is revealed to us in the same way He was revealed to those around Him when He walked the earth. In those times, He often invited His disciples to “come and see” – and in the written Word, He extends that very same invitation to us, today. Pope Francis says this –
“Jesus speaks of God to everyone, wherever they find themselves: He speaks ‘walking along the shore’, to fishermen who were ‘casting their nets’ (Mk 1:16).He speaks to people in the most ordinary times and places. Here we see the universal power of the Word of God.”
Saint Mark’s Gospel tells us that upon hearing this invitation of the Lord, Simon and Andrew “at once left their nets and followed Him” (Mk. 1:18). I have often pondered over those words “at once” – what charisma attracted them to Him in such a way? After following Him immediately, they left everything behind, remained with Him and eventually gave their lives for Him.
If the Holy Father is right when he says that “He speaks to people in the most ordinary times and places. Here we see the universal power of the Word of God”, then that same invitation – and it’s power – applies to us, too.
There is something inherent in answering that invitation which is self-evident but which we can also miss, if we do not listen carefully enough. Pope Francis writes about it –
“The Word Of God consoles and encourages us. At the same time it summons us to conversion, challenges us, frees us from the bondage of our selfishness. For His word has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light.“
As much as the Word consoles us, so too does it challenge us – it calls us to repentance and to conversion of heart. It asks us to repent and believe in the Good News, trusting fully in the infinite mercy of God. Only by responding in this way can we be authentically and lastingly transformed by the power of the Word. The Word can set us free from ourselves, if only we will let it.
Like those first disciples, we can put down our nets, leaving them behind to follow the Lord. Perhaps this needs a little work from us – not least of all, to determine which nets we are struggling with, which nets entagle us and prevent us from following Him ever more fully. But the power of the Word to achieve this is already there. And in listening to the Word, the process has begun.
And like a small seed planted in our hearts, now we need to help it to grow so that we might share it with others; and it is with this thought that the Holy Father concludes his teaching –
“May the Word of God sown in the soil of our hearts, lead us in turn to sow hope through closeness to others. Just as God has done with us.”