“As the Lord spoke to me, the spirit entered into me.” This is true for the prophets in a special charismatic way, but this is true for all those who have faith. Whenever we listen to the Word of God with faith, it is the Spirit Himself who enlivens us and causes us to know God from within. The Word of God, the word of the sacred scriptures, is so important, that I’m tempted to preach always and only on that for the rest of my life. The experience of God’s living Word was at the beginning of my own conversion and what inspired me to give my life for the Gospel. You have to have stopped at least once in your life to consider what exactly faith is. Commonly, when we say that we believe, we mean that we espouse a certain opinion – we think something is true, we think that God exists, or we think that Jesus is our Savior. While those are things that we believe as Christians, an act of faith is something much more focused. Faith is a special ability that we have from our baptism. It is the ability to listen and hear the Word of God, the Bible, the sacred scriptures, as coming from God. St. Augustine reminds us that the voice of the Holy Scriptures is the Holy Spirit. When we listen with faith, we are listening for the voice of the one speaking, the Holy Spirit, “As the Lord spoke to me, the spirit entered into me.”
God is emphatic about the power of the Word He gives to his prophet Ezekiel,
But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
They are people of faith, but they are rebellious. They will not be able to deny that the Word they have heard is from God Himself. This Word does not force them to cooperate, but it’s authority cannot be denied. Faith gives us a sure sense of the authority of God’s Word.
In today’s second reading, Paul is overcome with God’s Word. He has received so many powerful revelations to bring zeal to his ministry than now he is also given a demon to keep him from getting too elated or excited. Some have interpreted the weakness of St. Paul as being some kind of hidden sin. I do not believe this is the case. We know from the lives of other Saints: St. Padre Pio, St. John Vianney, etc, that they too were physically abused by evil spirits. When the enemy is not longer able to take the Saints down through temptation, in his frustration he sends evil spirits to punish them for doing good and attempt to weaken their resolve. That is why Saint Paul boasts of his weakness – even though he has been brought low by all kinds of spiritual, physical and circumstantial oppression, he leans into the power of grace. Grace, again, that help and that favor of God that comes to us from faithfully hearing and obeying the Word of God.
Finally, in today’s Gospel there is a sad story about how easily God’s Word or his prophets can be dismissed by familiarity. Jesus was not believed by those who lived closest to Him because somehow He seemed normal to them. When we listen to God’s Word, His prophets, or His preachers, we must not too quickly dismiss them based on their personality. Imagine how silly you would have felt if Jesus was your cousin, and you were like, “Yeah, He’s a pretty good guy, but nothing extraordinary.” We need to pay careful attention to the way we listen, that’s what faith is for: listening with the heart.
St. Jerome wrote,
“We are reading the sacred Scriptures. For me, the Gospel is the Body of Christ; for me, the holy Scriptures are his teaching. And when he says: whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood (Jn 6:53), even though these words can also be understood of the [Eucharistic] Mystery, Christ’s body and blood are really the word of Scripture, God’s teaching. When we approach the [Eucharistic] Mystery, if a crumb falls to the ground we are troubled. Yet when we are listening to the word of God, and God’s Word and Christ’s flesh and blood are being poured into our ears yet we pay no heed, what great peril should we not feel?”