My Words Will Not Pass Away
34th Week in Ordinary Time

Doug McManaman
Cycle B
Reproduced with Permission

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away"

If it is true that heaven and earth will pass away, but Christ's words will not pass away, then clearly Jesus knew himself to be more than a mere human being. He knew that he was the eternal Person of the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, who joined a human nature, and entered into human history from the outside. In doing so, he brought something into history, from a realm outside of history, from the realm of eternity.

What did he bring into history? He brought Himself, the divine life, who is eternal life. He joined himself to human flesh, and He joined Himself to human words. His words communicate something eternal and life giving. He has the words of eternal life, because He is eternal, He is God. When he says his words will not pass away, he's declaring his divinity.

Merely human words will pass away, because they are words of mere human beings, and no matter how brilliant, no matter how eloquent, they cannot impart divine life. They can be beautiful; they can impart knowledge, insight, and even human wisdom, like the words of the great philosophers. But no merely human words can impart divine life. When heaven and earth pass away, all human wisdom, all art, literature, all human achievement will pass away with it.

But Christ's words are different. His words endure, they are eternal, they contain the seeds of eternal life, and so all who feed on his words bring into themselves something eternal. We can all experience this when we read Scripture with devotion. There's something different about Scriptures. When we read it daily with devotion, we are filled with something eternal, something overflowing, something we cannot contain, but which contains us.

The greatest novels can fascinate us, but they lack that inexhaustibility that characterizes the word of God. How many times can a person read the same novel? But we can read Scripture over and over again for the rest of our lives, and every time we do, it will seem as if it is the first time. We always get something out of it that we never quite got before. The word of God is inexhaustibly deep.

In order to really understand the word of God, it is not enough to know Greek, Hebrew and history. These help, of course, in fact they help us understand what certain texts do not mean. But in order to understand Christ's words, that is, what they really mean, we must understand him. But we will not understand him unless he dwells within us through faith enlivened by charity. The divine life must be in us.

And so, it is not possible to be a true biblical scholar without faith, hope, and charity, and without the grace of contemplation. The Scriptures can only be understood in the spirit in which they were written. And they were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they were written within the body of the Church, which is Christ's body. Without that divine life in us, without that union with the Church, we cannot understand the true meaning of Scripture.

But if we have that faith, then we ought to read and pray the Scriptures every day. Because the words of Scripture are God's words, He speaks to us through them, personally.

That is one thing the Evangelical Churches do right; they get everyone to purchase a bible and get them all reading it, every day. That's why so many of them are on fire, so alive in their faith. The only problem is that they don't have the benefit of the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church that Christ established, and so they can be derailed, and often are derailed, in their interpretation of certain parts of Scripture. And a small tear in a cloth can, after a time, become a very big tear.

Catholics, on the other hand, have the benefit of the Magisterium, but often fail to read and pray the Scriptures every day. If we get back to the Scriptures, we'll find them to be a tremendous source of strength and comfort, a way that the Lord can speak to us personally, one on one. Amen.