Your Word is a Lamp for my steps and a Light for my path

Homily for the Third Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

What do you read every day to nourish your mind and feed your mind? What do you refrain from reading because it would not uplift or delight you or would corrupt your mind? What TV programs do you watch because they are helpful and what TV programs do you not watch because they are not uplifting you? We decide how to nourish our minds and feed our minds by choosing what to read and watch, and we decide how to protect our minds by not reading or watching what does not uplift us.

What would feed our minds and uplift our minds most of all? The Bible, because it is the Word of God. That is why in the first reading (Neh 8) Ezra the priest read the Law, which is the Torah or first five books of Old Testament, to the Jews in Jerusalem, and why in the Gospel (Luke 4:14-21) Jesus read from the Scriptures in the synagogue in Nazareth. That is why we read Sacred Scripture every time we assemble here for Mass or some other liturgy. That is why we are encouraged to read our Bibles at home every day. The Bible is the Word of God and is therefore the most nourishing food for our mind each day.

Sometimes we forget how precious the Word of God is but think of this example. In 1964 the Romanian government released religious and political prisoners. One of them, Richard Wurmbrand, had spent nearly three of his fourteen years in prison in solitary confinement. In his book entitled In God’s Underground (pages 106-107) Wurmbrand describes how one day a new prisoner named Avram arrived in the prison. The upper part of his body was in a plaster cast. When the guards left him he drew out a small tattered book from behind the plaster cast. None of the other prisoners had seen a book for years. They asked him what the book was. It was the Gospel of John. Wurmbrand wrote that he took the book in his hand and no life-saving drug could have been more precious to him. From that day the tattered little book went from hand to hand, many learned it by heart and each day they would discuss it among themselves. That reminds us that sometimes we forget the importance of the Word of God in our lives.

In fact the Bible is so important that Vatican II tells us that the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerated the Lord’s Body (Dei Verbum §11), though of course no with the same worship. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (§103) repeats the same point. Do you venerate the presence of Jesus in the Bible? A famous preacher in the third century, Origen, expressed it like this,

“You receive the body of the Lord with special care and reverence lest the smallest crumb of the consecrated gift fall to the floor. You should receive the word of God with equal care and reverence lest the smallest word of it fall to the floor and be lost.”

That reminds us that in every celebration of the Eucharist there is both a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist. The apparition at Knock is a representation of both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

How do we hear the Word of God? We have an opportunity to hear the Word of God each time we come here. Try to go home after each Mass with some idea from the Scripture readings or their explanation in the homily in your mind. Ask yourself, “What is the Lord saying to me?” when you hear these readings from Scripture proclaimed and explained. If we don’t ask ourselves “What is the Lord saying to us?” it is no surprise if we do not hear the Lord. Those of you who proclaim the Word of God in the Scripture readings have a privileged duty. The Church teaches that when Sacred Scripture is proclaimed in the liturgy it is Christ himself who is speaking (Sacrosanctum Concilium §7). So readers, prepare well. Allow Christ to speak through you to all of us. Remember that Jesus is using your voice to talk to all of us. You have a privileged responsibility. Jesus uses your voice to talk to all of us because when you proclaim the Scriptures Jesus talks to us.

We also hear the Word of God by reading the Bible in our own homes. I began by asking questions about what way we nourish our minds. Try to nourish your mind every day by feeding it with Sacred Scripture for at least a few minutes. As part of your family prayer together every evening why not read a short passage from the Gospels and think about it means for you. Open your Bible and light a candle beside it as a sign of the presence of Jesus in the Scriptures. Keep your Bible in a prominent place in your home so that you will see it every day and be reminded to read it.

St. Gregory wrote, “The Bible is a love letter sent by God to his people in which we can perceive the heart of God.” Read and listen to God’s love letter to you every day. St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” The Word of God in the Bible brings us healing and helps us cope with life’s problems. We may not find an answer to every problem but it will certainly broaden our vision. So Ezra read the Law, the Torah or first five books of Old Testament, for the Jews in Jerusalem and Jesus read the Scriptures in the synagogue in Nazareth. It is no wonder that Ps 119:105 says,

“Your word is a lamp for my steps
and a light for my path.”

Let us nourish and feed our minds every day on the Bible, God’s love letter to us.

“The Bible is a love letter sent by God to his people in which we can perceive the heart of God.”

“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

“You receive the body of the Lord with special care and reverence lest the smallest crumb of the consecrated gift fall to the floor. You should receive the word of God with equal care and reverence lest the smallest word of it fall to the floor and be lost.”

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More for the Third Sunday Year C

Related Homilies: They have the Scriptures, let them listen to them!

Second Reading: Paul in Corinth

excerpts of talks in Your Word is my Lamp

Commentary: venerating Scripture Enjoying the Bible

second reading excerpt of Scripture Course