In these times of uncertainty and even fear, I draw comfort today from the words in Hebrews in the Catholic lectionary for today. “The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”
These words read less comforting and more challenging in the New International translation of the Bible. In that version, it says “for the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” As is usually the case with all lessons, I think this message in the Bible is intended to be both comforting and challenging. A look at the rest of the lessons for today helps me better reflect on how to hear these words for my own life. How is the word of God effective in my life? How is it alive and active?
Of course that depends on the issues and it varies from day to day. But the lessons today help me define a focus for my daily reflections on the thoughts of my own heart. They help me to recognize how important it is to maintain a relationship with God that is living and effective. The lessons tell me that when the word of God is effective in my life, I am not so easily deceived. When I hold fast to the faith traditions that I have been taught, I am less fearful. When we hold fast to the Gospel, its messages will encourage our hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. One of the ways we can do this is by faithful daily prayer and reflection, such as the sort we do with this on-line ministry program.
I think another way the word of God is alive and active in our lives is when we rejoice and are joyful in our confidence that the Lord is king and has made the world firm, not to be moved. The Lord is in charge, no matter who else claims to be, and the Lord rules the earth and his people with justice and constancy no matter how unstable other rulers or would be rulers seem to be. We don’t need to be afraid of them. God is in charge. The word of God is living and effective in our lives when we draw on it to discern reflections and thoughts of our own hearts first before we consider the thoughts of the hearts of others. It is not just where they are coming from that we need to ponder, but where are we coming from when we consider their words and deeds.
All of these words are comforting. But there is also a challenge, I think. In the Gospel message today, Jesus challenges us to not neglect the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. There are hypocrites who will deceive us with trivial matters. They neglect what is really important while they draw our attention to insignificant details all for their self-indulgence. But the word of God is living and effective and it does help us discern what really needs to be done.
So today, we pray with rejoicing that the Lord comes to rule the world with justice. We pray that we may stand firm in good hope, and through the Lord’s grace discern the self-indulgent deceptions of hypocrites. But we need to discern the same in our own hearts. Let us pray that our hearts be filled with courage and strengthened to good deeds and words so that we can be witnesses to the word of God, living and effective in our hearts!