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Bible Reflections View Comments

Let the Word Come to Life in You!
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013
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Translations of the Bible were often the first and most lasting volumes of literature in many languages. The first printing presses made the word of God more available to ordinary people at a time when only the very wealthy could commission a hand-illuminated copy of the text. I grew up with paperback Bibles and used study Bibles in school. Today, the Bible can be found on iPhones, BlackBerrys and other electronic devices.

We often take for granted our ability to read and study the Bible. But we become so accustomed to treating it as a book, a piece of literature, or something to study in a class that we lose sight of the fact that our Scriptures originated in an oral culture. The significance of this is not merely that it was a time before the written word was common. Rather, the living word of God proclaimed in the midst of a faith community is something that no amount of reading or Scripture study can replace. When we listen attentively, we hear messages we might otherwise miss.

In both the First Reading from Nehemiah and the passage from Luke’s Gospel today, we see how deeply affected our ancestors in faith were by the word of God. During the restoration after the Exile, the Book of the Law or Torah (the first five books in our Bible) was discovered and Ezra the priest read this text to the people, who wept as they listened.

Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah to a passage that perfectly described his own ministry as the Word of God. He tells the people, “Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” He makes this proclamation fresh from his temptation in the desert, when he told Satan, “Not by bread alone does man live but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are fed by both the Bread of Life and the Word of God. The readings from the Hebrew Scriptures, the letters of Paul and the other early Christian leaders, and the four Gospels are selected to form us in faith day by day, week by week, year by year.

Recently, Pope Benedict in one of his regular addresses, exhorted all the faithful to pay close, prayerful attention to Gospel readings at Sunday Mass. One must be motivated by a desire to know and love God, “who comes to meet us through his word,” he said, adding, “God's word is there to be welcomed, meditated upon and practiced in everyday life.”

The Scriptures have the ability to affect us deeply. The word of God is always new to us. While the word itself remains constant, our hearing of it changes as our circumstances change and our understanding deepens.

Jesus proclaims his mission as one of release for captives and freedom for the oppressed. Being part of this mission can range from supporting an organization such as Amnesty International, participating in a local jail ministry program, or taking a nursing home resident out for a Sunday afternoon drive. It also might mean looking for ways in which you are being oppressed by a psychological or emotional burden and working and praying to find a way of being freed from that oppression.

Let yourself be inspired by today’s readings to renew your own acquaintance with the Scriptures. Let the word be fulfilled in your own life today.


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Pio of Pietrelcina: In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity." 
<p>Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease. </p><p>Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. </p><p>At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. </p><p>On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924. </p><p>Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. </p><p>Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds. </p><p>A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters. </p><p>One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.</p> American Catholic Blog In times of intense loss and grief, we take our place with Mary as she embraces all our grief in her own as she is silently holding in her arms the stark presence of our suffering God in the lifeless body of her Son.

 
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