The Word of God: Handle with Care

The first reading from last Saturday’s daily Mass reminds us of the power that the Word of God can have in our lives if we listen to or read it with devotion. It also reminds us that God’s Word is like a scalpel with which to cut away evil.

Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account (Heb 4:12-13).

The Word of God prunes or cuts away our error by shining the light of truth on our foolishness and worldliness; it exposes our sinfulness and our silly preoccupations. It lays bare our inordinate self-esteem and all the sinful drives that flow from it: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. A steady diet of God’s Word purifies our mind, reordering it gradually.

The word of the Lord can also give us greater discernment. The word “discern” comes from a Latin root that means to sift, sort, divide, or distinguish.

We need to make distinctions, not only between good and evil, but among the things that are good. Indeed, Satan steals from what is good and then distorts it, presenting it back to us as temptation. This is because evil is a privation, a lack of what should be there. Something cannot be totally evil, because if that were the case there would be nothing at all. Satan takes something that is good and mixes in evil and lies. He is a deceiver, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Evil is not attractive, so Satan uses what is good as bait but adds a hook.

There is an unfortunate tendency today to reduce love to kindness. Kindness is an aspect of love but so is rebuke. It is an immature notion of love that reduces it to affirmation or that refers to proper correction as a form of “hate.” Satan deftly substitutes a solely-affirming love (which ignores a person’s long-term happiness and salvation) for full-fledged, vigorous love, which wants the ultimate good and salvation of the other.

Thus, even in the good things in our life, we must root out any distortions. The Word of the Lord can help us to do this.

So, the Word of God is like a pair of eyeglasses, helping us to see more clearly. In so doing, it challenges us, because we often like to hide behind a bit of confusion, murkiness, and ignorance—to blur the lines. If you put on your “Gospel glasses” and read His Word with the Church, you will be able to recognize these convenient excuses for what they are.

In this sense, it takes courage to read the Word of God with care and devotion—frequently. It will comfort the afflicted, but it will also afflict the comfortable. Each of us is a little of both.

The imagery of the God’s Word as a two-edged sword reminds us to handle it with care. It is like a strong medicine that must be used carefully, following the instructions of the Church. There will be negative side-effects to be sure, but ultimately it heals, even as it wounds or challenges. It prunes, it clarifies, and it helps us to discern and distinguish.

Respect the Word of God like the sharp sword that it is. Handle it with care and realize its power.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: The Word of God: Handle with Care

4 Replies to “The Word of God: Handle with Care”

  1. Great article Father. A little less than halfway through my former career (retired), I had a powerful reversion to the Faith. Suddenly, I was questioning as a police officer, how could I shoot, and perhaps kill an unjust aggressor? A former 82nd Airborne then Catholic Priest who had a devotion to Mary, and who took his Catholic Faith very seriously, showed me in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2265 “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.”

    What does this have to do with the Two Edged Sword of Truth? Simple – it shows forth the reality that two edged swords cut both ways. We’re all going to have to answer for everything we do – and fail to do. Everything we say – and fail to say. As a police officer or as a citizen, If I were to murder an “innocent,” or fail to pull and send rounds on an “unjust aggressor,” threatening great bodily harm or death to an “innocent,” I was responsible for, I would be guilty of serious sin either way. Why? It is a “grave duty!” It’s not hatred for the unjust aggressor, it’s love for the innocent (including love for one’s own life). The Two Edged Sword of Truth is Good, True, and Beautiful. There is no fence or bench sitting in this spiritual combat. You choose, I choose, God confirms the decision – and the consequences play out.

    Keep charging Father.

  2. In this sense, it takes courage to read the Word of God with care and devotion—frequently. It will comfort the afflicted, but it will also afflict the comfortable. Amen to that Monsignor. But…but… in these troubled times…afflict the comfortable, those who think they know which is better for others but not for themselves. You know, the know it all, those who say science can explain everything. Drraaatttt! Double drraaatttt! Wait till you see, you scoundrel braggart, when the WORD touches your heart your knees will bend and crumple to the ground to The LORD of lords and The KING of kings. Thanks Monsignor, there you go again with profound article. GOD bless you always, all of you, Priests of The Most High GOD. YHWH EL GIBOR

  3. Thank you again, Father, for another wonderful insight. I truly enjoy every one of your articles.

    On a similar topic … last night, I spent a couple of hours reading “Gaudete et Exsultate.” Since this is an encyclical on the call to holiness, I expected that some portion of it would reflect a call to repentance. I was very surprised that it not only avoided any mention of sin and repentance, but much of the Apostolic Exhortation focused on tolerance.

    There was definitely great wisdom from our Holy Father in calling out contemporary gnosticism (reducing God’s Word to a set of rules to follow) and pelagianism (thinking that obedience and repentance can be accomplished out of sheer human will, without God’s grace and mercy). He rightly cautioned that our hearts should be focused on living the Beatitudes (meekness, humility, patience in suffering, love for justice, ability to endure persecution, not judging others).

    We need to find the good in everyone and do everything out of love. However, I was surprised (and perhaps disappointed) that a call to holiness left the topic of repentance silent. If we truly love our neighbor, we need to gently admonish one another’s sins and provide mutual help overcoming our weaknesses and turning toward Christ. The Bible is clear on our responsibility toward one another in this regard. I have so many people that I love dearly who are living in a state of deep moral confusion and I’m concerned that our fear of speaking frankly about sin and the need for repentance is having a devastating effect on the salvation of many.

    As you stated, all affirmation is not love and all correction is not hate. Genuine love is to affirm what is good and correct what is evil, with humility, love, and courage. If we’re not watching each other’s backs, we will often fail to recognize the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

    1. I have not read this encyclical, but I suspect our Holy Father was attempting to reach the secular Catholics. We live in an age where judgement and criticism of others abounds and usually results only in people becoming defensive and turning a deaf ear. Perhaps he was trying to avoid that.

      I am part of the post-Vatican II generation that was raised completely ignorant of the faith. I had a “conversion” at age 33, but most of my family remains secular Catholics. Admonish them, and they will simply roll their eyes at you. Admonishment and correction work well on someone who has some understanding of God and sin, but secular Catholics have a vague and infantile concept of God and almost no concept of sin. If they believe in hell (which is doubtful), it’s reserved for the Hitlers of the world. My conversion began when my intellectual concept of God changed, and it hit me with full force when I encountered His love on a personal level.

      Before we can admonish the secular Catholics, I think we need to first introduce them to God.

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