To be clear, the headline and Pope Francis are not talking about soothsaying the future, but the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding of prophetic witness. Put simply: God speaks to people today–he speaks to all of us, really. Do we draw sustenance and inspiration for growth, or do we resist?
One thing this means is that we cannot accept the Old Testament as “old,” something of a bygone era. Why? The agency of the Holy Spirit:
12. When sacred Scripture is read in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written, it remains ever new. The Old Testament is never old once it is part of the New, since all has been transformed thanks to the one Spirit who inspired it. The sacred text as a whole serves a prophetic function regarding not the future but the present of whoever is nourished by this word. Jesus himself clearly stated this at the beginning of his ministry: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
A careful bit of advice, to make the bible a daily encounter:
Those who draw daily nourishment from God’s word become, like Jesus, a contemporary of all those whom they encounter: they are not tempted to fall into sterile nostalgia for the past, or to dream of ethereal utopias yet to come.
I know a few believers who cannot get to Mass daily, but they make the daily readings a part of their daily prayer.
Sacred Scripture accomplishes its prophetic work above all in those who listen to it. It proves both sweet and bitter. We are reminded of the words of the prophet Ezekiel when, commanded by the Lord to eat the scroll of the book, he tells us: “It was in my mouth as sweet as honey” (3:3). John the Evangelist too, on the island of Patmos, echoes Ezekiel’s experience of eating the scroll, but goes on to add: “It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter” (Rev 10:10).
Yes, sometimes the encounter with God is initially sweet, but the indigestion is a bother once we go a bit deeper. This isn’t a bad thing, really. It shows us aspects of our life where we are challenged, perhaps, to conversion. Many Christians self-identify with being numbered among the saved. But none of us, even the saints, are finished products in this life:
The sweetness of God’s word leads us to share it with all those whom we encounter in this life and to proclaim the sure hope that it contains (cf. 1 Pet 3:15-16). Its bitterness, in turn, often comes from our realization of how difficult it is to live that word consistently, or our personal experience of seeing it rejected as meaningless for life. We should never take God’s word for granted, but instead let ourselves be nourished by it, in order to acknowledge and live fully our relationship with him and with our brothers and sisters.
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