Eternal Father, through your Word You gave new life to Adam’s race,

transformed men into sons of light, new creatures by your saving grace.

The Word of God will transform the whole world

That is the hymn we sang yesterday morning at our office of readings. It says God gives new life through the Word. This reflection is about that.

The Church has given us the book of Job to read in the office or readings these past days since Pentecost. We have to pick it up again because we were reading Job before Lent began, and as is often the case Lent and Eastertide with its mystery of darkness and light is sandwiched by the book of Job. We monks are quite lucky because prayer together is something we do each day at a set time; we are almost “compelled” to take time out to listen to God’s Word, pray the psalms together, reflect and let God speak to us. Anyone who wants to have a friendship with God must give God time and space and that is not easy in today’s demanding world and the many things that engage our attention. Of course I am thinking of those who read this blog and are not monks, but might be busy at work, or a mother with children, or somebody who lives alone and is busy with many daily tasks including children and grandchildren. It will be time well spent however to do some reading of God’s Word, because no person will be able to discover himself or herself if they do not have a relationship with God. It is in our very being to know God, love Him and serve Him, and to do so not only in our personal prayers but also in all the people around us who, in God, are our brothers and sisters and are our pathway to Him. If we are distracted by many things all day long this will be impossible

Job, who has done nothing wrong, in fact has always been a virtuous man, has lost everything: his possessions, his family, his health and his self-esteem, and he is sitting on the dung heap. Three miserable friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar try to console him but only make things worse. The whole story of Job is ironical, tragic and humorous too, because it is not that Job’s three friends are wrong in what they say: but they do not convince Job at all, their words do not hit the mark. Nor is Job in his discourse completely right; we can sense there may be some self-pity in there, understandable as it is.

Last Friday we read Job’s speech which follows a discourse by Zophar (Chapter 12 of the book of Job). It begins in our translation:

“Doubtless you are the voice of the people,

 and when you die, wisdom will die with you!…

A man becomes a laughing stock to his friends

if he cries to God and expects an answer.

The blameless innocent person incurs only mockery.

‘Add insult to injury’, thinks the prosperous person

‘strike the man now that he is staggering!’

Yet the tents of those who are wicked are left in peace,

and those who challenge God live in safety,

and make a god out of their two fists!

If you would learn more, ask the cattle,

seek information from the birds of the air.

The creeping things of earth will give you lessons,

and the fishes of the sea will tell you all.

There is not one such creature but will know

this state of things is all of God’s own making.

He holds in his power the soul of every living thing,

and the breath of each man’s body.”

This quotation came alive to me when we read it, and it made me realise once again that everything is held in the palm of God’s hand, the good and the bad things we experience. Our task is to trust in Him as Job did, and perhaps I achieved that a bit more and knew the presence of God in the particular details of my own life.

The Word of God is life-giving. We are created through the Word, and each individual is different to every other person born in this world, and has a unique task to perform in his or her life on earth. Personally when it comes to taking up the Word in the scriptures, I would recommend getting help to let it become digestible and applicable. To read the bible without a guide is not easy, and we distribute in the parish the Wednesday Word, a guide to the Sunday scripture readings which you can find also on a website Also you can look at the Word of Life that we publish each month in the parish bulletin, and each week in shorter chunks or look up the website This is helpful because in this website you find experiences of how the Word can be lived.

The Word of God is not something only to help you in prayer; it is not something that you read simply to strengthen your knowledge of God; it is not just to be read so you can understand Jesus and the life of the early Church; of course the Word of God helps in all these things. The Word of God is to be lived; and to insure God’s presence that is generated by living the Word is not lost, it is good to share with others who are receptive, in an appropriate way. Not only is it a necessity to live the Word, it is necessary to share the fruits of living the Word with others.

We need to live in a different way once we are responding to the immense Love that God has for each one of us. It demands “a new culture”, and many who are reserved or shy need to learn how to share the life that God generates in them. Then we begin to change from within, and the gifts of God begin to grow, gifts like “tolerance of the differences of the other”, “patience with the weaknesses that we find in ourselves and in others”, “growth in understanding the other person and seeing his or her good qualities rather than the negative aspects”, “confidence and trust in God in the very circumstances we are in, the people, the place, the life we lead”. Then the Word is life-giving.

To illustrate the above point by its opposite, we all know perfectly well that when God’s Word is not lived by Christians it causes scandal to people who are outside the family of the Church. We know also from recent events that if the Word of God is not lived by clergy and religious, or by lay people closely associated with the Church such as in Catholic orphanages or Catholic institutions, then the Church gets a very bad name and other Christians not directly involved can be deeply shocked and scandalised.

To end here is something that happened to me as a fruit of trying to live the Word, trying to live Love which is the same as the Word of God.

One day about lunch time the phone went and a mother I knew informed me that her husband was so ill in hospital with his heart problems that he had no hope. The very next day the doctors in the high dependency unit at Blackpool Victoria would turn off the machines that were keeping him alive as he was not responding at all. So she asked me if on the next day at the time they were going to switch off everything, could I go to the hospital, pray with her and the children, have Holy Communion and help them all to say good bye to Dad and husband. Implied in all this is the famous phrase of Jesus ‘Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I among them’, and Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

Finally God sent his Son, Jesus, who revealed the face of God in its fullness by showing Him as Love and by condensing his law into the single commandment of love for God and for one’s neighbour.

Of course I made arrangements to do that, changing appointments and so on. I promised to pray for them all there and then and offer up my life for the next 24 hours for this gentleman.

The next day I rang the mother at the hospital before setting out, and she told me a remarkable thing. Her husband had made a response in the afternoon of the previous day. It looked as though the doctors were going to review their decision. Yet could I please come with Holy Communion and pray with all as we arranged.

So I arrived, not sure what to expect. My friend was there wired up with all the monitors as usual. There was no sign of anyone turning them off. In fact even I could see some response, and so our prayers continued but in a changed form. Everyone had Holy Communion, Dad received a blessing (he was ‘nil by mouth’ and could not communicate nor does he remember this event), all in that hospital bay were filled with gratitude and wonder at what God had done, and from then on things looked up. This gentleman and his wife are still very much a part of the faith community of the Church, and it must be about ten years ago that these events happened.

A tiny postscript: similar stories could be told again and again by priests who have the chance to anoint the sick and share God’s healing that is described in some of the miracles of Jesus in the gospels. God is close to us: he is waiting for us to believe in Love, to live the Word and let Jesus live in us.