Walking in Onondaga Lake Park on a perfect summer day a number of thoughts came to mind, prompted by the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem “God’s Grandeur” and Sacred Scripture. Perhaps you are familiar with the opening lines of Hopkins’ poem: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God./ It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; it gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil/ Crushed.”
Summer, with its longer and warmer days, provides us with opportunities to enjoy nature and the wonder of God’s creation. Picnics, energetic or leisurely walks, vacations in the mountains, on lakes or rivers and sitting outside on a pleasant summer evening allow us to enjoy the gifts that nature offers during this season.
“God’s Grandeur” reminded me of a passage from the Book of Wisdom: “From the good things seen in creation we can know how far more excellent is the Lord . . . From the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author is seen” (Wis 13: 2-5). Writing to the community at Rome St. Paul expressed the same reality: “Since the creation of the world, invisible realities, God’s eternal power and divinity, have become visible, recognized through the things he has made” (Rm. 1:20). Just as an artist is known by his work, we gain a bit of knowledge about God from a beautiful summer day, the star-filled sky, a setting sun, a peaceful lake, a stormy river and the power of wind and rain.
Creation, however, is not the sole source for our knowledge about God. There are other sources, more complete and more satisfying than the natural world around us: the word of God in our Scriptures and Jesus, the Word made Flesh.
Every time we participate at Mass and listen to the readings and every time we take up the scriptures and attentively read them we encounter the living word of God. It is a word meant for us and for our times. It traces our history as God’s people, speaks to us about a covenant relationship, provides the guideposts that safeguard and develop our relationship with God and others and offers encouragement and hope for our journey of life and faith.
The prophet Isaiah reminds us that the word of God has great power. Like rain and snow that water the earth and make it fertile, so too the word of God fulfills its purpose. God’s word is active and powerful (cf. Is 55:10-11). St. Paul captures this thought when he tells us that the word of God received in faith saves us (cf. Rm 10:17). No wonder Pope Benedict asked us to taste again the richness of God’s word during the Year of Faith.
At a point in time, however, the word becomes more than a spoken message about someone. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us . . . .” (Jn 1:14). During this Year of Faith, we have made efforts to deepen our knowledge about our faith. Although this certainly includes knowledge about Christ, it includes foremost a knowledge very similar to love by which we know Christ in a personal way. We become a disciple, a follower of Christ. The Word that becomes flesh in Jesus calls us to a relationship. “Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him” (Jn 14:23).
When we live “in Christ,” the Word, we become “word” for others. We proclaim Christ by the witness of our lives. A disciple is one who hears the word of God and acts upon it. We act upon the word when we make Christ known, when we proclaim the Gospel to our families, our neighborhoods, our colleagues at work and to all those we encounter. This often takes place one person at a time, just as Jesus often touched others one person at a time. Think of His encounter with Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, the centurion, Nicodemus and so many more. We do well to remember also that if we are the word for others, others who have received God’s word in faith reveal God to us. Many people of faith, past and present, reveal the face of Christ to us.
God makes Himself known. He reveals Himself and His plan of salvation so that we can know Him, love Him and one day enjoy eternal life. God’s word unfolds as a dialogue not a monologue. How shall we respond? In the remaining weeks of the Year of Faith may our eyes see the Creator in all He has made. May our ears be attuned to hear God as He speaks to us in the scriptures and most especially though His Son, the Word made flesh. May we respond with a renewed faith, a steadfast hope and ardent love.
If you have an intention that you would like me to remember in prayer, please forward it to me at 240 E. Onondaga Street, Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.