Homily -9th December 2018


‘The Word of God came to John, son of Zechariah.’   St Luke tells us how St John the Baptist was summoned by God, by God’s ‘Word’, to begin his ministry – baptizing and preaching repentance.

St Luke describes the coming of God’s ‘Word’ to St John the Baptist in terms of its being almost a concrete, physical event: the Baptist is, we may say, ‘struck’ by God’s Word – it hits him with a force he cannot resist.  God speaks his Word and John is impelled to begin acting in God’s name, calling the people to repent and be baptized.  The Prophet Isaiah, 700 years before, spoke in much the same way about this kind of concrete, physical force of the ‘Word’ of God:  ‘The Lord has sent a Word against Jacob and it will light upon Israel’.

Today, our Readers, those who proclaim God’s ‘Word’ to us at Mass, will be re-commissioned to continue their ministry for the coming year.

Familiarity with the Scriptures – through which the Word of God comes to us – may very easily deaden us to the powerful impact of God’s word.  This is so, whether we are Readers at the Liturgy or hearing the Word proclaimed to us.  Yet now and again the Word of God can strike us with a new force.   It was certainly like this for St Augustine – who was Bishop of Hippo in North Africa in the fifth century.  He had lived a decidedly wayward and irregular life and in the book he wrote about his life – the ‘Confessions’ – he is very frank about how he found it seemingly impossible to break away from old habits.  And then one day he seemed to hear a voice saying to him ‘Take it and read’.  He opened the New Testament and saw these words: ‘Not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires’.  And, as he says in his ‘Confessions’, ‘as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled’.  Immediately he sought Baptism.

For all of us, whether our ministry is proclaiming God’s Word or whether we are primarily hearers of God’s Word, our calling as Christians is to be always ready to

welcome God’s Word and give it a home in our hearts and minds.  Let us now pray for our Readers – as well as for ourselves – that in and through them and us, God’s Word ‘may have free course and be glorified’