Listening to God’s Word

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

This past Wednesday, at our first Fellowship Dinner of the new semester, we were blessed to be joined by guest speaker Mr. Jesse Boeckermann, the Western Regional Director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Charlotte. During his presentation I was impressed by the personal story Jesse shared with us about how he came to work for Catholic Charities.

Jesse studied journalism and broadcasting in college, and his dream job was to be a sports broadcaster. After graduation, he was fortunate to get a job doing exactly that for a local radio station. He was living his dream, doing what he loved — and he was getting paid for it! Certainly anyone would could themselves blessed to be in that position.

He always enjoyed volunteering in his community, though, and one day an unexpected opportunity arose. A position opened for the director of a local homeless shelter. Something (or rather “someOne”) prompted Jesse to update his resume and send it in, even though he didn’t think his background in broadcasting made him qualified for the job. Jesse landed the job, and thus began a career in non-profit direct service that has proven more fulfilling than he could have imagined.

His story resonated with me because I also worked for many years after college in a job that I enjoyed before God called me in a completely new direction. During college I began working for a local non-profit museum doing public history work. I enjoyed what I did and after many years I became director of the museum. Then one day I got a phone call: the campus ministry position at WCU was opening up and I was being encouraged to apply. I was not considering a career change, but I was open to serving God however he was calling me to use my gifts. I threw my name in the hat, got the job, and sixteen years later I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Often college students may stress about what life after college will be like. Will you get a job? Will it be in the field you studied? Will you marry and have children? What does God have in store for you? It can be scary not knowing the answer to these questions.

But God knows the answer, even if you don’t. And he’s more than able to work things out to get you to where you need to be, even if you can’t see where the road is leading at this time in your life. That’s why Jesus tells us not to worry about your life (Mt 6:25) but to seek first the kingdom of God (Mt 6:33). Even if you think you have your future all figured out, God may have other plans in mind for you.

In this Sunday’s gospel (Mt 4:12-23) Simon and Andrew were at their job fishing when Jesus came along and said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19). He then called James and John to do the same (Mt 4:22). The gospel tells us that they immediately left their nets and followed Jesus.

The Sea of Galilee is a beautiful place. I imagine spending your days fishing that sea would be a pretty pleasant life, all things considered. One could easily get settled there. But Jesus has a way of shaking things up, to get us to where we need to be — assuming, that is, that we are open to hearing and responding to his voice.

Sunday of the Word of God

In 2019 Pope Francis declared the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time to be the “Sunday of the Word of God,” which he said should be “devoted to the celebration, study, and dissemination of the Word of God.”

Sometimes we may wonder, “How am I supposed to hear God’s voice?” We speak to God in prayer, but how does God speak to us? Certainly the Holy Spirit speaks to us often in subtle and silent ways; the inner promptings of our heart and in the circumstances of our life. But these can be hard to discern. How do I know if what I think the Holy Spirit is telling me is not simply what I want for myself?

The most clear and direct way that God speaks to us is through the Holy Scriptures, which we rightly call the Word of God. The Church teaches that God is the author of the scriptures (CCC 105) and that the books of the Bible “firmly, faithfully and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided in the Sacred Scriptures” (CCC 107).

Of course the Word of God is not a book, but a person, Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Image of the Father and the Divine Logos. We call the scriptures the Word of God precisely because they reveal Christ to us. Otherwise they would wouldn’t be the Word of God, but rather words about God. Because they are God’s inspired Word, we venerate the scriptures as we venerate the Lord’s Body (CCC 103).

So if you want to hear God’s Word in a most direct way, open the scriptures. Make them part of your daily prayer life. There are many ways to do that — praying with the daily lectionary readings, attending a Bible study, listing to the Bible in a Year podcast, etc. You should always be mindful to read the scriptures with the mind of the Church to make sure you are understanding them correctly, as “there is no prophesy subject to private interpretation” (2 Pt 1:20). But Catholics should not shy away from private Bible study — in fact, the Church encourages it.

To celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God, campus ministry will be giving away Bibles and other scriptural resources after Mass this Sunday. We also invite you to participate in one of our small group Bible studies that meet on campus throughout the semester (click here for more info). This Wednesday’s program after dinner will be all about the ancient Christian practice of Lectio Divina (literally “divine reading”) which is a method of praying with the words of sacred scripture. We hope you will be able to participate in these activities.

May the Word of God enrich you and guide you along right paths!