As we strive to adopt a more positive and pro-active approach to our Christian discipleship in order to avoid slipping back into the land of deep darkness, we need to be more aware of the Church’s emphasis and focus on

WORD and SACRAMENT. There are too many Catholics whose primary involvement is with the Sacraments. Too often this develops into a sometimes almost obsessive involvement with a multiplicity of devotional activities. This, then, results in a neglect of THE WORD.

It must be emphasised that no

SACRAMENT is ever celebrated without a proclamation of the WORD. A neglect of the Word impoverishes both the celebration and full efficacy of the Sacrament.

The week before last we reflected on the thrust of Matthew’s record of the Gospel as finding its roots in the long history of God’s interaction with his people through the Scriptures, his word to them and us. This word records his plan for the world together with the signs he gave. Then, last week we saw Matthew recording that Jesus’ first activity after his calling of the first disciples was “to go about all Galilee, teaching … and preaching.” Then, and then only, did he begin his healing ministry. The preaching of his word was the foundation for the

SIGNS he gave. Our celebrations of the Sacraments are the SIGNS he gives us in our own time. To understand and appreciate the signs we have to hear and understand the word that is also proclaimed in our own day. Saint Jerome, the first real scripture scholar in the Church, had no difficulty in teaching that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of God.”

In the verse immediately before the start of

TODAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MATTHEW 5: 1 – 12 a] we are told that “great crowds followed him.” Our extract tells us that “when he saw the crowds … he took his seat … this is the teaching he gave.” Matthew then records the famous Sermon on the Mount in its entirety – all three chapters of it. At the end we are told that “when Jesus had finished this discourse the people were astounded at his teaching; unlike their own teachers he taught with a note of authority.” It needs to be seen clearly that Jesus teaches (preaches) for a fairly long, uninterrupted, time during which there is not one single reference to any sign or miracle. In reality the fact is that Matthew’s version of the Good News is focussed entirely on this preaching and teaching of Jesus – ON HIS WORD! The signs given by Jesus (his miracles of healing) follow on his WORD!

If we look at

TODAY’S PSALM [146 or 145] we are truthfully able to proclaim that it is through his WORDthat the Lord “opens the eyes of the blind … raises those who are bowed down.” It is also possible to accept that it is the WORD OF GOD which is the primary “source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” {see TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING: 1 CORINTHIANS 1: 26 – 31} If we return to the Book of Genesis it is clear that it was God’s WORD that was creative and produced the signs. In addition, and as an illustration, if we recall the Last Supper, we should be well able to accept that unless Jesus had said the words ‘This is my Body ….. this is my Blood’ we would not have the Eucharist! Then, we have the powerful words of Isaiah –“so shall the word that comes from my mouth prevail; it shall not return to me fruitless without accomplishing my purpose or succeeding in the task I gave it.” {ISAIAH 55: 11}

So now we return to our Gospel extract. On reflection we should be able to recognise that these verses present us with Jesus’ words which carry solutions to all the basic challenges and difficulties of Christian life and living. They have the power to accomplish something fruitful within us in order that the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished in us. As in the case of the sacraments, the Word is not a magic potion. They ‘work’ their divine purpose in relation to our human responses.

It is only when we respond to them wholeheartedly that HIS WORD succeeds in the task he gives it. Grace works on nature. Here we provide another example from the sacraments – the gifts and graces of my Baptism lie dormant until I freely choose to engage with them and bring them to life in myselfWORD and SACRAMENT. Like the Beatitudes, the each Sacrament invites us to encounter Jesus’ hands-on ministry in all the different and challenging situations of our living.

Matthew presents the Beatitudes to us as the foundation of all Jesus’ preaching and ministry. We need to return to them over and over again as we travel through his version of the Gospel.

THE WORD is very near to us but it must be on our lips and in our hearts {see ROMANS 10:8}

Is this all an exaggeration? Well ….

“the word of God is alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword … piercing … and sifts the purposes and thoughts of the heart.” {see HEBREWS 3:12}

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