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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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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