“Preach the Gospel at all times. Sometimes use words” ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI
What a marvelous gift is language! I take a breath and make some sounds and you understand what I’m thinking. I make some marks in the dirt or on a piece of paper or on a computer screen and my ideas come into your mind.
Of course there are limits to language. Words lack the precision of numbers because they often have many meanings and permutations and are subject to context. Liars discover that they can make people think that something has happened which hasn’t. Which brings us to a word like “truth”, which is a noun, but not a concrete thing.
We speak of scripture as being the “word of God”, so you would think it has to be true. But even there, things must be understood in context and, of course, through translation. If I said the word “God” to Moses, he wouldn’t know what it meant, because I’d be speaking a language that he’d never heard (that didn’t exist in his day).
God’s language is reality. When the Bible says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light'” it certainly doesn’t mean that God said those words in English. It doesn’t mean He made any sound at all. (This is the beginning, and He hadn’t invented sound yet!). God willed light and there it was. God’s word for “light” is light itself.
Jesus is the word of God. He’s the word that was spoken when light and everything else came to be. Jesus came in the flesh at a certain time and place and spoke a certain language. He was subject to all our limitations. This reality is itself a word. Our weak equivalent is “humility”. But Jesus’ spoken words have power to create reality. Have you ever noticed how often, when Jesus is asked to heal someone, He doesn’t say “be healed” or “I’m healing you” He merely tells the person to get up and move on because they have already been healed.
Jesus speaks in reality. So when He says to a dead man “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus comes out. When He says of a piece of bread “This is my body.”, it is. When He says “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” and we begin to comprehend it, we can be overwhelmed to the point of dizziness, and our lives can be changed forever.
We tend to think that God understands all languages, so when we pray, He knows exactly what we’re talking about. I have an idea that God doesn’t understand a word we’re saying. God expects us to speak in reality. So when we say “Lord, Lord” but we don’t do His will, He doesn’t hear “Lord, Lord” but “me, me”. (So, why should He respond? We’re not speaking to Him.) When we act out of love for God and do His will, He hears “I love you”. When we care for a suffering person, God hears “I care for you”.
So when God speaks to us in scripture, in the reality that surrounds us, and in the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ, let us respond, not so much with words, but with our reality–the fullness of our hearts speaking through our lives.