By Richard Watkins
On May 24th, the NFL (National Football League for those not following along) instituted a policy whereby players who do not stand for singing, playing or performing of the National Anthem will be fined. I guess the thought process here is that if standing equals respect and the flag is worth respecting then players should stand.
Now I have been to many professional games in my life and I can tell you that there have been many occasions, while standing for the anthem, that respect was the furthest thing from my mind. Whether I was mockingly singing along ala Luciano Pavarotti, looking around in the stands to see if there was a better seating option or, and only in my younger days and way before meeting my lovely and dear wife, affixing my binocular enhanced gaze upon the herding of cheerleaders. Not a whole lot of “respect” for the flag going on in any of those scenarios.
I guess what I’m trying to say is just because someone does something, it doesn’t always mean what you think it means. The same holds true with words. Just because someone says something it doesn’t mean what they said is true. After all, look at all the negative figures of speech we have for…well, speaking:
There’s talk is cheap. Talking in circles. Talking out of both sides your mouth. Talking out of your…uh…hat. Lip service. Lying through your teeth. Talk a good game. Talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk. Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. Lie like a dog. All talk and no action. Crazy talk. Talking Gibberish. Speak with a forked tongue. Speak out of turn. Talk tough. Look who’s talking. Speak for yourself. And last, but certainly not least, speak of the Devil.
But with all of that, there is one phrase that serves as the exception – The Word of God.
But what exactly is “the Word” of God? It is said that the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus is the Word of God. So, which one is right? Well, both. The Gospel of St. John begins very emphatically with:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1)
What is important to note, and not to get into a whole lesson on language, is that the Greek text used the word “logos” which does mean “word” or “speech”. But it can also mean “the expression of a thought” or more importantly “principle of divine reason”.
When John refers to the Word as being with God, he is not just saying that God had a thought or a set of principles or divine reasoning (although He did and does). Rather, he was referring to a specific person being with Him as the personification or incarnation of those thoughts and principles. And that person is Jesus Christ.
So, if Jesus was the Word and the Word was God’s principle and divine reason, and God wished for mankind to know those principle and divine reasons and as such Jesus, it had to be communicated. As a result, we have the Bible. The collection of God’s truths in the form of reports and accounts of what happened (like the telling of Cain and Abel, of Noah and the flood or Moses).
But more than God just wanting mankind at that time to know about the history of the Word, He wanted to show the future of the Word. Thus, came the prophets. Their job was to prepare mankind for the coming of the incarnation of the Word. No longer would it just be men revealing to mankind what God wanted them to know. It would soon be the manifestation of the Word no longer with God, but on earth with mankind and as man.
We know this to be true because a little further down, St. John wrote:
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
During Jesus’ time on earth, God’s Word was being actively conveyed through the one conduit that had true authority to speak and act as God, as again was indicated in St. John’s writings:
For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. (John 12:49)
And when Jesus ascended to Heaven, God’s Word continued to be expressed to mankind by the apostles through the books of Acts, the letters of St. Peter and Paul and all other books from the New Testament save for the four Gospels.
Today, God is still revealing His Word to us during Mass in the Liturgy of the Word (even though we may not know it). A common misconception of Mass goers is that lectors read passages from the Bible of what God or Jesus previously said or somebody else wrote. That is not the case. Lectors do not read, they proclaim. But they don’t just proclaim the words from a book. They proclaim the “living Word of God”. The exact words that God wants his followers to hear at that very moment. That is why we refer to it as the “Living Word”. And we know God’s Living Word to be true because from that same John 1:14 passage that 1) “…the Word became flesh,” and 2) “…we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth”.
That is why we can say, with the utmost of fact, that if Jesus is the Word and Jesus is the Truth, then the Word is the Truth and there is Truth in the Word.