Words/Word

Mk. 7:31-37

When I was a small boy, my brother had a friend, Richard. Whenever he saw me, Richard would hail me with, “Hey, Bart, what’s the good word?” I never knew what to say. What’s the good word? There were lots of good words.

Words have always fascinated me. I love puns and certain phrases. Words also connect us to our faith. Hence, I want to make several broad statements about words and the Word. First of all, words are important. They enable us to define our life, to order our experiences, to reach out, and to communicate. It is through words that we make connections and think. Words are the stuff of reason and imagination. With words we can form, shape, and create and are ourselves, in turn, formed and shaped.

Second, words are an essential part of our Judeo-Christian tradition. In the opening of Genesis we have the phrase, “And God said.” The words of God are the showing forth of His nature and purpose. Through speaking and naming, the world and man are created and ordered. Man, made in the image of God, names the creatures and begins to understand and to order his experience. The Pentateuch articulates Israel’s faith. God speaks to the patriarches and reveals His will to Moses. It is over against the Law that Israel is repeatedly tested. With the rise of the prophets, God’s words become the Word of God. Words have power; they can take on a life of their own. The prophets proclaim the Word of God: His will, judgment, nature, purpose, and love. Each of the prophets changes the life of God’s faithful people through delivering the Word of God.

In the Gospels, much of Jesus’ ministry consists of preaching. His followers come to realize that incarnate in the person of Jesus is the will and nature of God. Jesus and His message are seen as identical. It is St. John the Evangelist who most clearly states that the showing forth of God, the Word of God, is present in Jesus Christ. John with mystical genius makes the creative connections of words and tells us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The rest of the New Testament lays out the meaning of the Word becoming flesh.

When I became an adult, I knew the answer to Richard’s question. Like the deaf mute who Jesus healed, my ears were opened and my tongue released. “What’s the good word?” The good word is the Gospel. The good word is the Word made flesh. The good word is Jesus Christ. I know that now, and you do too. Share that good word. Amen.