“Love of the Word of God”
March 5, 2017
The First Sunday In Lent
Genesis 2: 15-17; 3: 1-7/Psalm 32/Romans 5: 12 – 17/Matthew 4: 1 - 11
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
We began our Lenten journey 4 days ago, last Ash Wednesday. After 8 Sundays of being “BUILT UP” and seeing the life that God intended for us to have, we culminated it with the glorious transfiguration of Christ last Sunday. We must now take stock, evaluate, and ask ourselves the following:
• Why am I not manifesting and living that life, particularly the life of LOVE?
• What are the areas in my life that I need to focus on in order that I may be truly transformed into the image of Christ? This is what the Transfiguration is all about.
• What are the steps that I need to take, the actions that I must now perform so that Christ’s life in me is more evident?
• Where do I go from here?
As if giving an answer to these questions, the Lord in our Psalm today says in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go: I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” In The Living Bible translation, it says, “I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.” There is the intention of progress in our lives. This is what God intends for us.
From the beginning of man’s existence, the Lord has already laid out a path for each of our lives. He has intended each of us to live a victorious and prosperous life. John10:10b says, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” In order to secure this wonderful life, God gave us what is necessary in order that His intentions for us will be fulfilled.
Lent is the necessary time, the obvious follow up to the questions that we have. If we want the fruit of love to blossom in our lives and actions, there must be a necessary measure that we have to take. The key word here is “transformation” or “change”. In many cases, change is not easy. Yet “growth” necessitates change. We need the power of God and in God, we will see this change take place in our lives. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (Amplified Bible) says, “And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.”
Our gospel today opens our Lenten journey with the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Temptations are conditions in our lives where we are provoked to do something evil or wrong. What makes it wrong is not so much in the thing we are tempted in as much as in the way that we will use to get it. In this case, Jesus was tempted to use His Divine power to miraculously provide for a need He had for the moment. "The tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
On this first Sunday of Lent, our transformation takes place as we focus on our Love of the WORD OF GOD. We would specifically limit our focus on the written Word found in the Holy Scriptures (the Bible). It will be our “diet” for the journey of Lent. It will be what we will feast on. We should specifically limit our focus on the written Word, which is the Bible. Hopefully, we aim, after today, to challenge each of us to take the Bible again seriously from our shelves, from our closets, from the areas that have accumulated cobwebs through the years, and begin to take a wonderful and exciting journey into the life of the Word of God.
In John 6:63, Jesus said, “My words are spirit and life.” In other words, all that Christ spoke are not just empty rhetoric or empty sound bytes. The words of Christ, particularly in the gospels, have a dynamic, vibrant, life changing ability. He is after all the Word that became flesh. He is after all what His Father spoke of, “Let there be light, and there was light.”
In Hebrews 4:12 (Amplified Bible, it says, “12 For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the [b]soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Sometimes, the heart can deceive us and so the Word of God is out there to draw out the true essence of our lives.
This is so refreshingly true. This is the reason why we put much ceremony behind the reading of Holy Scriptures during the Mass. The proclaimer ends each reading with, “The Word of the Lord,” and we respond with, “Thanks be to God.” Just pause for a while and grasp what was just said and the meaning of those words. It is not just the word of men, but the Word of the Lord. Because we have heard it frequently, we have not given the readings too much attention. We have made a trite response and so, we lose the overwhelming benefit that the Word of God should have in our hearts and in our lives.
When we come to the Gospel, we level up in our liturgical actions because the gospel is Christ Himself (the Word who became flesh), which is now in focus. We perform more vivid rituals. Many times, incense is introduced. The Gradual Proclamation is spoken. There is the Hymn. Not just anyone proclaims it, but the Deacon of the Mass comes with the authority of Christ, whom he represents and says, “The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ!” We give a response, “We give glory to You, O Lord,” and with great anticipation, we give our full attention as we listen to the gospel. There is absolutely no other movement because Christ is speaking.
When we come back to that correct and proper manner of treating the Word of God, when we give the attention to what the Word of God demands, when we bring back the respect and love for the Word of God that truly deserves from us, when we give it our time, when we invest our efforts in order that we can read, meditate, (even memorize) the Word of God in the Bible, then we are brought to a greater experience of the life that we have and that which we live each day. We gain more focus on the purpose of our lives and the reason why we are where we are today. We experience a transformation, a metamorphosis, and a change into being a caterpillar that destroys plants and leaves into a butterfly that provides life to plants and flowers. This is what transfiguration means - to change to becoming a better person.
There are three ways that the Word of God transforms us. First, the Word of God transforms us be recreating our lives. In 1Peter 1:23Amplified Bible (AMP), “For you have been born again [that is, reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] not of seed which is perishable but [from that which is] imperishable and immortal, that is, through the living and everlasting word of God.” The seed of a plant perishes, but the Word of God never perishes; it is eternal and everlasting. The Word gives everyone a fresh start. It is the essence that our lives are built on. Planted in human hearts, The Word becomes an eternal source of life.
The Word erases the guilt of the past; it gives us a fresh start in whatever wrongs we have done. It recreates in us. When we experience this conversion each day, we can now understand what the writer of Lamentation says, “The steadfast love of the Lord is new every morning.” Yesterday may not have been a good day, but every day, we have a fresh start in the Word of God.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NIV), it says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." Each day, we mingle with so many things and situations that rob us of our faith that weakens us to succumb to temptations and fall to every evil way. We accumulate “spiritual dirt” consciously or unconsciously – guilt, fear, lust, improper thoughts, hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, bad words - which comes from our associations with people and from the things we read, watch or listen to. Just as we bathe our bodies each day to remove that we accumulate in the streets, we must also bathe our souls with the cleansing power of God’s Word.
John 15:3 (NASB) says, “Jesus said, ‘You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.’” There is the cleansing power of God’s Word. In Ephesians 5:25b-26 (NIV), St. Paul says,“Just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her (the Church) holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word." The Word of God has a cleansing effect in our lives, recreating us. Let us bathe ourselves daily with the Word of God so that the dirt will not accumulate in our souls, which clings to our lives.
Secondly, The Word of God transforms us by making our faith active. Romans 10:17 (NASB) says, “17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." Hearing and hearing activates our faith. 1 John 5:4 (NIV) says, "For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." Faith is a very important, valuable, and powerful weapon every believer is equipped with to combat the forces that try to prevent us from living out and experiencing the fullness of the life of Christ. When we are weak in our faith, then, we are weak in our Christianity; and temptations easily conquer us. Faith gives us confidence to take on the tasks before us. The Word of God causes our faith to surge and to gush out enabling us, empowering us to face the most intimidating and terrifying enemies. It could be your job, your school, your final exams or meeting the financial needs of the family. Faith, by the Word activating it, surges and makes us conquer these things. Our faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
When Joshua took over the leadership of Israel after the death of Moses, he was a young, inexperienced man. We can read this is Joshua 1:1-9 where we see Joshua tremble, and over and over, he was challenged by the Lord to be “strong and courageous” by taking heed to the Word of God. Joshua 1:8 (NASB) is a verse that I recommend you to memorize and God says, “8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth,” and this is a prescription for saying bad words because if the book of the law does not depart from your mouth, you cannot say bad words. “But you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will]have success.” Success is defined by God, not by the world. You may have the best accomplishments in life that the world can offer and yet, be the most unsuccessful person because success is defined by God, not by man.
It was the middle of 1983, the then Pastor Bobby Rebullida called me into his office to let me know that I was being sent to our church in San Pablo, Laguna as a temporary replacement for the church pastor. How do you pastor a church? I could not “google” it because there was nothing known as “google” back then. At 25 years old, with nothing in my credentials except a 3-month CTC course, right at the heels of the passing away of my father, left with a widowed mother and the task to help her provide for the family, I was overwhelmed with this new assignment. But one thing that I held on was the energized faith I had in God. So, I forced myself to be absorbed in the reading and study of the Bible. During lunch breaks, after office hours, during project site inspections, I took my “Open Bible” and fed my spirit with God’s Word. I took the teaching tapes and Bible tapes I had, the Christian music, and I immersed myself into the amazing world of faith. It unleashed my faith in the power of God. I began to explore the world of the “impossible” and to be introduced to possibility thinking. My faith took a quantum leap.
The Word activates our faith. It will work with us when we take the Word of God seriously.
Thirdly, the Word of God transforms us by enlightening our lives. Light is a much marvelous and astounding creation. There are two tangible effects of light: light gives direction and light unleashes potential. Psalm 19:8 (NASB) says, “The precepts of the Lordare right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV) says,‘‘Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light to my path.”
Have you ever come to a crossroad in life, when we are not sure what decision to make – about a career, about a job offer, whom to marry, where to move your home? There are constant streams of decision making each day, but have we need to learn to tap into the source of the understanding found in Holy Scriptures in order to help us know the wise thing to do. Scientists say we only use 10% of our brain. Maybe, this is true, so there is a 90% unleashed potential in every human being. Did God intend that to happen? No! He wants us to cultivate and keep it; and the way this happens is by letting the Word unleash that potential and enlightening our lives. Light has a wonderful, miraculous power. Darkness has nothing. We can’t take darkness into a place. We can only bring darkness by removing the light because darkness has no substance. Light is what has productivity, which is why there is what we call laser that can pierce through into so many things. Light is so amazing that it gives us hope in our lives. It enlightens us in the decisions that we make. If we immerse ourselves in the Word of God, then, we can see this prosper and multiply.
Being with the School Academy for almost twenty years, I am just amazed with many of our young people. Every day, they go through the Scriptures and I can’t really see if there is an effect in their lives. The Word of God is at work in their lives and it has unleashed so many things in their lives and they are taking great exploits. Indeed, The Word of God unleashes power!
In Ephesians 1:18-19 (GNT), St. Paul says, “I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, 19 and how very great is his power at work in us who believe.” Within each believer, accept it or not, is a dynamic power source. In our baptism, the Holy Spirit of God came to reside in our hearts, creating a huge reservoir of energy. We have in our possession all that we need to handle the life we have. In John 8:31-32 (NASB), Jesus said, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word,then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will unleash your power and the truth will make you free. “ The truth will unleash your potential and ability. The truth will unleash your power. The truth will make you use of the 90% that is untapped in your life because the truth will release you to the ways of God, to the impossible situations of life, and we will begin to see things and all things as possible.
This is the Word of God, not the word of man. Amen!