Hearers and Doers of the Word

[Homily: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 9/2/12]

Our readings for this Eucharist (Deut 4:1-8; Jas. 1:17-27; Mt 7:1-23) are very rich. For this homily, I thought I would focus only on two themes suggested by the letter of St. James: Be hearers of the Word. Be doers of the Word.  Focused on these themes, however, we could be speaking with each other for the rest of the day!

St. James says: “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21b) We are reminded of the Word referred to in the Prologue to the Gospel of St. John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … All things were made through him. Without him nothing has been made. …And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:1-14).
We are asked to welcome the Word that is within us. This is not just a concept. This is the Lord, the Word made flesh, who continues to be present to us.

We are invited to consider the quality of our relationship with him, the Word – whether we are distant from him, or close to him, whether we try to keep him out of our lives, or truly welcome him into our world. In encountering the Word, we are invited again to consider his words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
“You are the salt of the earth…”
“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”
Those were words of consolation, words of challenge. Jesus’ were also words of condemnation:
“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees…!”
“You have made my Father’s house a den of thieves…!”
His were words of profoundly infinite love:
“Do this in memory of me…”
Or words of eternal life:
“This is my Body given to you… This is my Blood poured out for you
They were words of self-sacrifice totally one with the Sacrificial Offering through which we gained salvation.
“Take and eat…” – an invitation to eat, to interiorize, to make part of ourselves the Bread of Life – through we gain eternal life.

The Word continues to become flesh, as we make him part of our flesh, as we hear him, and welcome him into our lives.

As we welcome this Word into our lives, we pray that it be fruitful in us.
Let us recall the beautiful words of Is. 55:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty;
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
The Word in us is not just a barren concept, but that which accomplishes in us what the Father purposes. What does the Father purpose in us:
That we may fully appreciate the fullness of his love. That in this love, we may understand the depth of human dignity. That in his love, his justice might be accomplished – the justice which comes from faith, the justice without which faith is a lie.

Welcoming the Word in our lives, we must allow it to determine our action. St. James says: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” (Jas 1:22).

In this context, the very powerful words of James may have much to say to us: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill, and yet you do not supply them their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas. 2-14-17).

If God’s Word is a word of love, we are called upon to “do love!” “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (Jas.1-27). This means: Care for those who need caring. Care for the truly ill, the elderly, the unborn, those seeking meaning. There are so many who no longer believe in the meaning of human life. Care for those searching for the meaning of religious life, or those wanting to understand the meaning of married life.

If God’s Word is a word of justice, we are called upon to “do justice!” “The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord,” our Responsorial Psalm says (Ps. 15)

Doing justice means: close just contracts. Do not take advantage of the weakness of others. Fulfill your contractual obligations.

Doing justice means: Allow society to benefit those who ought to benefit from society; do your share in making society work for humane society.

Doing justice means: Seek the common good: allow the common good to determine what is socially just. Do the socially just.

Be hearers of the word. Be doers of the word. Welcome the Word into our lives. Do what the word commands.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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