He is speaking to you.
The woman said to Jesus, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you’ said Jesus, ’I am he.’
Can you remember any words from the Bible that touched you deeply? It may be one line, or a story or a verse of a psalm. This may have happened a long time ago, and yet you remember it still.
I asked that question of a group of people recently, and I gave them a minute to think about it. Right away one lady said that some words from the Old Testament often come to her mind when life is hard:
For everything there is a season,
a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, a time to die;
a time for tears, a time for laughter,
a time for mourning, a time for dancing;
a time for knocking, a time for building.
She said that these words reassure her: she has to endure what is happening now only for a while; there will be a time for the opposite to happen. This restores her hope and encourages her to be patient.
One of the men remembered hearing the parable of the talents when he was quite young. One person was given five talents, another two and another one; he was struck by the fact that no one in the story was without a talent. This reassured him that he had talents too and could use them. Often in the course of his life since then, the story has come back to him. He remembers that he still has talents and can use them.
In a small village in Trinidad some people met on an evening in Holy Week to read the Bible and pray. They read the story of Jesus on trial before Pilate, the powerful Roman governor. Pilate asked Jesus a question and Jesus did not answer him. Pilate was taken aback. He said, ‘Are you refusing to answer me? Surely you know I have the power to release you and I have the power to crucify you?’ Jesus was not in the least bit in awe of him or afraid. He said, ‘You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.’ The villagers pondered over the story for a while and then one of them said, ‘The new policeman in this village, he is like Pilate. He is throwing his weight around and people are afraid of him. Jesus was not afraid of Pilate, we don’t have to be afraid of this policeman.’
God comes lovingly to meet us
I began by asking you to remember a time when words from the Bible touched you deeply. I invite you to recognise the deeper meaning of that experience. The Second Vatican Council said that when we read the Scriptures, ‘the heavenly Father comes lovingly to meet his children and to talk with them.’ The moment when you were touched by the words of the Bible was a moment when God came to talk with you; you met God personally.
These examples show us that when we read the Bible and meditate on it prayerfully, two things are happening. Firstly we are meeting God in a personal way: God speaks to us and we listen; we speak to God and he listens. Secondly, as we do this, we get a better understanding of God, ourselves, our lives and our world. We see this in the three examples. The woman understood that it is wise to be patient in difficult times, since these times pass. The man understood that God gave him talents and that he can always choose to use them. The villager in Trinidad understood a little better the world in which he lived; he did not have to be in fear of anyone in authority.
All three were touched by some words of the Bible. Through the words that had touched them, they met God, and they were also wiser because of the words that touched them. As a result, they were freer to live their lives more fully and more fruitfully.
Prayer: Psalm 107
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.