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When the Scriptures are proclaimed Print
Sunday scripture column

Jem Sullivan

Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ex 17:8-13
Psalm 121:1-8
2 Tm 3:14-4:2
Lk 18:1-8


Some 40 years ago, Daniel Everett mastered what is perhaps one of the only human languages with no descriptive words for colors, past or future, and, most amazingly, with no words to express numbers.

Everett first traveled to the Amazon as a missionary and eventually became a scholar of the anumeric language of the Brazilian indigenous people called the Pirahã. Everett's findings about the language of these hunter-gatherer people quickly became the focus of much interest and debate.

Linguists were particularly keen to understand why and how this indigenous people of the Amazon had no need for words for specific numbers. Instead of precise words to denote numbers like "three, four, or five" the Pirahã words described quantities with words like "few or fewer."

We take for granted the vast treasury of words that describe in detail the world all around us. The words you read on this page are only a small fraction of the words you will read or hear today.

As you check your email inbox, listen to a favorite podcast, scan your social media pages, and respond to family, friends, or co-workers, you are immersed in the myriad words that make up the daily traffic of human communication.

In the second reading, St. Paul invites us to pause and reflect on the word of God as it comes to us in the Scriptures.

We are invited to go beyond the many words that make up daily life to the one divine word, who is God. St. Paul reflects on the origin of God's word, its relevance for life, and the call to take time to hear and reflect on God's word.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that Christianity is not a "religion of the book," but a religion of the word of God. When the Scriptures are proclaimed, God himself is speaking to his people, and Christ is present in his word.

In the Scriptures, God speaks to us through human words. Just as Jesus, the eternal word made flesh, became one of us, so does God's word find expression in human language in the words of the Bible.

This is why St. Paul asks us to remain faithful to what we have heard, learned, and believed in the word of God. In the midst of all the words that surround us day in and day out, only God's word is the wisdom that heals and reconciles us to God.

St. Paul reminds us that all Scripture is inspired by God, and so faith, gratitude, and reverence are the most appropriate responses to God's word.


Jem Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

 
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