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Monday, June 22, 2015

To the Catholic Biblical Federation: the Word of God is a sacramental

Vatican City, 20 June 2015 (VIS) – The members of the Catholic Biblical Federation were received last Friday by the Holy Father, on the occasion of their tenth plenary session to reflect on the Sacred Scripture as a source of evangelisation, and on the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the dogmatic Constitution on the Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum. The Pope handed those present a written discourse, published by the VIS on the same day, and gave a brief improvised address, a summary of which is offered below.

“The surprises of God, that help us to realise that all our plans all our thoughts and many things, before the living Word of God, collapse and crumble. When a Church closes up in herself and forgets that she has been sent to announce the Gospel, that is, the Good News, to move hearts with the kerygma, then she ages and weakens. And, I would add, she sickens and dies”.

“I have heard it said many times that the diocese in northern Africa at the time of St. Augustine were dead Churches. No! There are two ways of dying: dying closed in oneself or dying by giving life as witness. And a Church that has the courage – the parrhesia – to carry forward the Word of God without shame is on the road to martyrdom”.

“In the first reading of today's Mass we have heard that Paul tell of the things he suffered, to 'boast'. 'But whatever anyone else dares to boast of – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast of that'. The outline is this. But if St. Paul had stayed there, in one of the churches, like that of Corinth, and only there, he would not have suffered all that he says. Why? Because he was an outgoing man – when he saw that things were going well, he handed over to another and went on. He is a model”.

“At the end he says this beautiful phrase: after 'boasting' of his many journeys, the many times he was whipped, the time he was stoned, all of that, 'if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness'. In another passage – you Biblical scholars must know it – he says, 'I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses'. Paul's third boast is not vanity: 'But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ'. This is his strength. And this is an outgoing Church, a martyrial Church. She is a Church who takes to the street, who walks. But I prefer a Church wounded in an accident rather than a Church that sickens from being closed up in herself. With this parrhesia and this hypomone; that patience that is shouldering situations, but also the tenderness of carrying the injured faithful on one's shoulders, that have been given to her. A pastoral Church. Only the Word of God and, alongside the Word, the Eucharist. The brothers who gather to praise the Lord with the weakness of bread and wine, the Body of the Lord, the Blood of the Lord”.

“The Word of God is not something that makes life easy. No, no. It always places us in difficulty! If someone bears it with sincerity, it places him in difficulty, it embarrasses him many times. But it is necessary to tell the truth, with tenderness, with that shouldering of situations and of people. It can be understood as a fraternal respect that knows how to 'caress'”.

“One of the things that worry me is the functional proclamation of the Word of God in homilies. Please, do everything to help your brothers – deacons, priests and bishops – to give the Word of God in their homilies, so that it reaches the heart. A thought, an image, a sentiment can also reach... but the Word of God must arrive. There are many who are capable, but they make the mistake of offering a beautiful theological dissertation. … The Word of God is a sacramental! For Luther it is a sacrament, that acts also ex opere operato (effective in and of itself, Ed.). Then the tendency was more towards the Tridentine view, that of ex opere operantis (receiving its efficacy through the mediator, Ed.). Theologians then found the Word of God to be somewhere between; part ex opere operato, part ex opere operantis. It is a sacramental. Discourses are not sacramental, they are discourses done well. But in the homilies may there be the Word of God, as it touches the heart”.

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