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Posted February 04, 2013 in Word Made Flesh:
The Power of the Words

by Fr. Pat McNulty.

It’s one of my favorites!

Well, I git a little nervous when I hear the devil quotin’ the Bible like that, even if it is with Jesus way out in the desert.

Yeah, but notice how it goes between him and Jesus before Jesus does the "Begone Satan" thing at the end of the dialogue.

The devil proposes one temptation after the other by "quoting" scripture. Jesus responds not only with more clever quotes from elsewhere in the Bible but with words that give a whole new sense to the very words the devil has merely been "quoting."

So, before the dialogue is over, the devil learns a familiar bible lesson: anybody can "quote" the Bible but the words are empty if they don’t take flesh in the heart, that is, enter the heart, even if we don’t know it.

Devils can’t do that because they not only don’t have a heart for such thing, but they don’t want one either.

Amen, Reverend!

But you know, the more I look at this desert scene for the First Sunday of Lent in St. Luke’s Gospel (Lk 4:1-13), the more I begin to realize there is something about the Bible itself going on out there in the desert which applies to everyone who turns to it for this and for that.

It has to do with the way Jesus "uses" the words of Scripture, not only there with the devil in the desert but throughout his whole earthly life versus the way many of us Christians often ab-use, them.

I don’t see how a believer could abuse the Bible, Reverend, if they’re a true believer.

Maybe ab-use is a bit too strong a word, especially in this day and age, but at least we can mis-use the Bible by being unaware that it is first and foremost the "Word" of God.

So, for example our sense of Scripture can sometimes be too intellectual, a mere study of the Bible—though study we must. Or it can be an evangelical instrument by which we merely prove by preaching—though evangelize we must. Or it can be a sort of prayer device made to fit our moods—though with the Bible, pray we must.

But if we are overly focussed on studying the Bible, or quoting it, or using it to pray, we could be missing one of its most powerful gifts of this sacred scripture, namely the power of the words themselves—something which does not depend on our intellect, our evangelical prowess, or our prayers.

And so we often forget that thousands of these sacred words have already been planted deep in our hearts over a very long period without our even paying much attention at the time—perhaps as far back as when we were children, doing our "bible history" or hearing the Bible read in worship or in prayer.

But, those ways of using Scripture you talked about, sometimes that’s when the Spirit really moves, Reverend.

Yes, but I believe that same Spirit wants every one of us "folk of the Bible" to also know the sacredness of the words themselves.

And if we are alert along the way, there comes a day, our own day of "divine revelation," when all those old biblical images carefully planted by the Spirit in our hearts over the years come alive for us, and we discover we have more of a biblical heart than we ever imagined.

We might not be able to quote much at first or even explain it, but its "there" in our hearts and from there can come a new sense of biblical excitement as we begin to recall all the wonderful persons, places and things of the Bible from all those years past which we didn’t even know were there in our hearts.

And that whole process of hearing, reading, storing the words in our memory and waiting for the day, is as much a part of a "biblical life" as studying or preaching or praying from the Scriptures.

I believe the Holy Spirit eventually wants to show each of us that power of sacred Scripture. And I believe we have to be alert, if we are to recognize that precious moment of biblical faith when it comes, because it often comes at a time when we are out there in some kind of faith-desert or in the midst of great temptation.

I know what you mean, Reverend. They call that "speakin’ in tongues"?

No, this has nothing to do with that! This is all about the heart and what the Spirit has been doing there for years and then suddenly decides to let you know at the most unexpected times.

For me it started when I began to feel like I didn’t know anything about the Bible compared with my friends from other Christian denominations.

As a Roman Catholic, I had a very profound private biblical life of worship, study, and prayer but I always had a feeling that if it came to quoting the Bible, I should hang my head in shame.

Then one Sunday morning, while brushing my teeth, I had the radio on—something I never do—and it being Sunday and all, the station was featuring an evangelical preacher who was giving a sermon filled with all sorts of biblical quotes.

Instead of being thankful to hear them, I was furious! I turned the radio off, pulled the tooth brush out of my mouth, stared myself eye-ball-to-eyeball in the mirror, and, as if I myself was giving a sermon on that radio, I started repeating the name of every person from the Bible I could remember, one after the other, lickety-split.

Anyone who can make a sermon outta names from the bible belongs on the ray-dio, Reverend.

I don’t know about that but I do know this: I was taken by surprise at how many names from the Bible were buried down there in my heart and were brought up by my memory.

So, by jingo, the next day, without the radio, I did the same thing while I was brushing my teeth, but this time I repeated every place in the Bible which I could remember by heart.

Amazing! The following day I did the same thing with things.

I got so excited about remembering so much from the Bible, I think I did that all week long. And speaking of tongues, I’m not even sure now that I brushed my teeth!

In any case, I gradually began to realize that all those sacred words from the Bible, all those people, places and things which I had heard or read about over the years, whether at Mass, in study, or in prayer, had "taken flesh" deep in my own heart and were just waiting for the day.

Then, clunk, a specific passage from Scripture from my past started scratching at the edge of my memory. I grabbed my Bible and went looking for it.

The rest is history. Never again did I doubt the depth of my own biblical birthright or the power of the words of this sacred scripture even if they lay somewhat hidden in all those names, places and things from the Bible, deep in my memory just waiting for their day.

That’s good Reverend, real good, but what if you’re like me ‘n don’t know much about the Bible? I don’t think that "tooth ‘n mirror" thing would do much for me.

Try it, you might be surprised.

Well, ah don’t have my toothbrush on me, but I kin fake the mirror thing ‘n give it try I guess.

Ahhhh, Adam ‘n Eve. Moses. Ahhhhh, David ‘n Sheba, the bath lady. ‘N there was the bad guy, Necky-neeser, ‘n the good guys Zeke-e-al ‘n Daniel. Ahhhh……I kinda like this, Reverend.

I told you you’d be surprised. How about places?

Hummm…… Well, there’s the apple garden where it all started, of course. Ahhhh,, the land of milk and honey. There was Sodom ‘ n Go-for-more, that other place. ‘N then there was Mount Sign-eye ‘n mount Everest….

You’re on a roll, my friend, but PS, Mt. Everest is quite a bit further East than the Land of Milk and Honey, and it was Sodom and "Gomorrah." But how about things from the Bible?

Things? Well, sure ‘nuff there was snakes ‘n apple trees, ‘n fig leafs fer Adam and Eve. ‘N then there was, ahhhhhh, the ark built by Know-ah, burnin’ bushes and manna for breakfast. ‘N there was…..

See how much of the Bible is already hidden in your heart that you didn’t even know was there until the Spirit moved?

Now just imagine what everyone with a biblical heart could recall, if every Sunday during Lent, while brushing their teeth, they did that: started out with people, places, and things from the Bible. By Easter they would…….

‘N of course there was Jesus and his mother Mary ‘n Joseph, ‘n there was the baptizer ‘n Mary Maaglin…..

Hell-O!

‘N then there was Peter n’ Judas ‘n Pilot ‘n them ladies who buried Jesus n the guy who gave Jesus his mausoleum ‘n all them Roman soldiers, ‘n…………

Hell-O!!!

 

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