Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
St. Philip Neri Catholic Church
October 3, 2012
“Take this book of holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the Word of God, so that it may grow in the hearts of His people." Rite of Institution of Lectors
These words will be spoken very soon, as I call you into the Ministry of Lector. How appropriate it is for us at this time to celebrate this occasion for you, our permanent diaconate candidates.
In a little more than a week, we will enter the Year of Faith, on the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And New Evangelization is in the air, as bishops from throughout the Catholic world meet in Rome for their Synod with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. They will discuss the initiatives of the Church to re-propose the faith to an increasingly secular and materialistic world. In all of this the Word of God plays a vital role. You will proclaim that Word of God as Lectors, and that proclamation can never be just a matter of words. The Word of God has power, a sacramental power of transformation when proclaimed with conviction, dedication, and fidelity. Let us look at the prayer that will be used in the rite of institution.
We will pray to God for you in this way:
Grant that as they meditate constantly on Your Word
they may grow in its wisdom and faithfully proclaim it
to your people.
There are three components here. First, you must meditate constantly on the Word of God. For this purpose, the Church has given us a tool. It is called lectio divina. Lectio divina comes to us in the Catholic Church from our earliest traditions of monasticism. It is the thoughtful and slow reading of the Sacred Scriptures, where you allow time for God to speak to you in the midst of words and sentences. The purpose is not to read quickly. There is no speed-reading in lectio divina. One may linger over a verse or even a word for several minutes, quietly, silently reflecting. This must—and I emphasize must—be a daily exercise. “[C]onstantly] in the prayer refers to this. As one spiritual author describes it, lectio divina is a non-utilitarian reading of the Sacred Scriptures. It has no set purpose or objective except to allow God time to speak to us.
Second, we will pray that you “may grow in its wisdom.” To grow in wisdom we must first admit that we are not wise. The beginning of wisdom, the Scriptures tell us, is the fear of the Lord. This holy fear recognizes the origin of Wisdom. Wisdom comes from God, not us. Job speaks of this in our first reading. “God is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who has withstood him and remained unscathed?” (Job 9:4). Job goes on to conclude: “Should he come near me, I see him not; should he pass by, I am not aware of him; should he seize me forcibly, who can say him nay? Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” (Job 9:11-12). If we remain faithful to the practice of lectio divina, we will discover how totally other God is, how totally other yet so near to us. This is a realization born from prayer. Like Job, we strive to be completely dependent upon God. “If I appealed to him and he answered my call, I could not believe that he would hearken to my words” (Job 9:16). I would be like a beggar or child, expecting nothing but receiving everything.
Third, we will pray that you “faithfully proclaim [the Word of God] to [God’s] people.” You are to be a minister. The minister is first and foremost at the service of God. This service is fulfilled in two ways: word and action. The proclamation of the spoken Word of God must be clear and enthusiastic, announced with conviction, articulate and comprehensible to the congregation who hears it. Also, the Word of God is never the written word alone. It is lived out in action. We cannot be like those in the Gospel (Luke 9:57-62) who want to follow Jesus but not now. One must bury the dead. Another must say “farewell.” Jesus answers them saying, “’No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). God moves you to make a commitment, you accept the call, and you don’t look back. You respond to God’s call by acting upon it. Your lives must be lived in complete conformity to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church. There can be no contradiction, only a striving for obedience and fidelity. As Pope Paul VI so well said, the world will listen more to a witness than to a teacher, and only to a teacher who is a witness.
As we begin the Year of Faith, may you draw nearer to Christ by your faithful fulfillment of the Ministry of Lector. May you come to know and embrace Christ every more personally.
Bishop Glen John Provost