Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a special occasion in our Liturgical year, when we celebrate Bible or Scripture Sunday, when we honour the Book from which we gained all that we need to know about our faith, and about our Lord and God. For the Bible or the Holy Scriptures is in itself the Word of God, the words of revelation which God had given to mankind over the ages, through His many prophets and servants.
The Holy Scripture is the revelation of the word of God, through which God made His will known to mankind, and through the advancement in technology and availability of printing, now we can have them as what we know now as the Bible. We have this privilege which members of the early Church did not have, and we should indeed be truly grateful for these gifts of the Bible we have with us.
How did then, the people of God and the faithful know about the Holy Scriptures? They did it through passing around oral stories and traditions, which they kept faithfully down through the generations, which were eventually compiled together and made into what we know as the Holy Scriptures, of which there are a total of seventy-three books, comprising of forty-six books of the Old Testament, of the time before the coming of Jesus Christ, and twenty-seven books of the New Testament, after the coming of Christ into the world.
One may ask, then, why the division between the Old and the New Testament? It is all in fact because of Christ, that is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who as divine incarnate, became Man and came into this world. If we read the Gospel of John, on the first chapter, in what was faithfully read every Mass as the Last Gospel, it is all made clear. Jesus is the Word of God, who was made flesh, and became Man, for the sake of our salvation.
Thus the Old Testament refers to the ancient and old revelations of the Lord and the faith, before the Word Himself came into the world, while the New Testament reveals truly the new testament of faith, by none other than Jesus Himself, the Word of salvation. Those who believe in Jesus and in His teachings will be saved, and those who reject them will be doomed and damned for eternity.
There are sadly however, those who believe strictly in the words of the Bible as it is, without considering the different meanings that it may have carried and not immediately obvious to us, and sometimes even to the greatest intelligent minds that men possessed. This belief, which is also known as ‘sola scriptura’, is definitely wrong, and is truly a chief cause for the great divisions between the many so-called branches of the Church, separated by the evil act of the ‘reformation’ a few centuries ago.
The greatest flaw is that, no man should ever claim to be able to understand or fully comprehend the meaning of the word of God contained in the Holy Scriptures all by himself or herself. This emphasis on the sole dependence on the Holy Scripture is not right, and will confound our understanding of the true faith in the long term. What then, should be the foundation of our faith? We should put our faith in God, and on His teachings which were made known to us through the tradition of faith among God’s people.
The sacred tradition of the faith is important, and it is also present strongly in our Church. This sacred tradition is the one that complements our faith and understanding of the faith, as we obtained from the Scriptures. It is like a guide for us in understanding the Scriptures, that we may not make the same mistake as what many throughout the ages had done, misinterpreting the Scriptures and the Holy Gospels as they liked.
It is important that we guard ourselves from the misinterpretations and misunderstandings of the Gospel’s and the Scriptures’ message, that we do not end up causing divisions among ourselves and in the Church, as what had happened before in the past. Our feeble and limited minds are not capable of understanding the fullness of the truth of God, and therefore we are bound to misunderstand its true meaning without guidance.
This is precisely the mistake that caused so many people to stray away from the faith in the one and only Church of Christ, to follow their own flawed human instincts and ways, in an open rebellion against God and His will.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remain faithful and obedient to the teachings of Christ through the Holy Mother Church, that is the Holy Catholic Church, the one and only legal and rightful authority on this earth and under heaven to teach the fullness of faith, as its role in defending the fullness of the truth of the faith. If we do so, we will be able to adhere more faithfully and closely to the truth of the Scriptures and the Word of God.
However, brothers and sisters, we have to always remember that being faithful alone is not sufficient. This is because a faith without works is dead. Remember this saying? It comes from the Letter of St. James the Apostle, who wrote how our faith must be living and genuine, and based on strong sense of love. Faith that is based on strong and living love is a strong and solid faith.
Jesus told His disciples and all of us these, in His parable of the sower and the seeds, where He mentioned the fates of the seeds that ended up in various different types of soil and growth conditions. In this parable, Jesus clearly explained how faith cannot remain dormant, but must be always living and growing so that it may prosper in us and we may be saved.
The seeds are the seeds of faith, and none other than the word of God, which God had planted in us through His Holy Scriptures and teachings which He imparted to us through His disciples and Apostles. But those seeds really have different fates depending on how we use them and how we put them in our own lives, which is indeed the soil where the seeds grow on.
The first scenario, where the seeds fell along the path and got eaten by the birds, represent the situation when the word of God is not properly internalised by us, and as a result, Satan, represented by the birds, come and take us deep into the darkness. This is what happens when we do not receive the word of God, and reject what the Lord had revealed to us.
The second scenario, the seeds that fell on the rocky ground and were not able to grow well, because they did not have deep roots, is basically our faith if we do not commit the word of God into our lives, that is exactly what I had mentioned. Yes, if we do not have a living faith, then our faith will not take deep root in our hearts, and with the coming of troubles, we will stumble and fall into darkness and evil.
The third scenario, the seeds that fell on soil infested with thistles. Thistles are plants that can grow quickly and wrap themselves around other plants, eventually competing with those plants for nutrients, and in the end, literally choking the life out of the other plants. In this case, as Jesus mentioned, the worries and concerns of the world, the pleasures and corruption of the world get in the way, and the word of God did not take root either.
It is only when we commit the word of God that we heard and read from the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Gospels into our hearts and minds, and commit to real and true actions in our lives, then the word of God may grow healthily and strongly in us, and therefore gain for us a rich bounty of harvest and returns in the faith. With regards to this, Jesus did not just promise a meager or small increase in the results, but in fact, none less than thirty, sixty, and hundred-fold or even more from what we put in as our effort.
What is this eternal reward then? This great reward is none other than eternal life with God, which He grants to all those who remain truly faithful to Him, and to those who did not just talk about their faith, but also live that faith in their daily lives. This is the way for us to achieve salvation in God, the culmination of our long effort to reach out to our Lord. It cannot be done without hard work, that is to ensure that the word of God is growing on a rich and good soil.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this occasion of Bible Sunday, let us all use this opportunity to renew our commitments to the Lord, first by reading the Bible itself, so that we may know His words, and then, apply what we know into our own lives, in our words, actions and deeds. Then, and only then, we can truly grow strong in faith and reap rich rewards in the end.
May our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, bring into us a greater understanding of the Word of God, so that we may live always in His grace, and remain truly faithful to Him. Amen.