Brothers and Sisters
I thank you for your presence and support here today.
Today is the Feast of Mark, the evangelist. The words of his Gospel this morning recount the great commission of Christ to all who believe and follow him: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature”. Later, in the same passage, we read that “they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word”
It is somehow fitting that the launch is taking place on such a day, for the book is a proclamation of the Good News and a confirmation of the Lord’s work in my life.
This book is about 40 years in the making. It took root initially when I was asked to prepare a radio programme on the books of the Bible for West Limerick 102FM, but ultimately I am writing it because of my experience in the Word in my own lifetime. It is something I want to share with others in thanksgiving for all that God has done in my life, through the encounter with the written Word of the Scriptures, and the Living Word that is our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we enter what is now described as the post modern, almost post Christian era, the Bible appears at times to have little relevance. My experience tells me that nothing could be further from the truth, and the truth expressed by Jesus when he returned from the Road to Emmaus that “All things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me” (Luke 24:44), is entirely understandable in the light of the Scriptures. In essence this is what FOR IT IS WRITTEN sets out to establish and illustrate.
It is an attempt to make the connections, to join the dots, between the Old and New Testaments, as happened in the early Christian writings and churches, in response to the life of Jesus-his ministry, death and resurrection;
In doing so it also represents an attempt to communicate the Bible’s single overarching theme of God’s love for creation and humankind, the full revelation of which is in Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit
The Bible today retains its place as the centrepiece of every Christian liturgical celebration-irrespective of denomination. The Scripture opens to us the revelation of a God in communion and relationship with the Universe and everything in it; and to the many responses of individuals and communities to this God of Love as it unfolds across the pages;
We learn of the person and ministry of Jesus, of the healing, forgiveness and salvation offered freely to us in him; and we learn of the promise of the Indwelling Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures have the power to draw us into relationship with the God of the Word, into an awareness and understanding of the Father, Son and Spirit at our deepest spiritual level, and into that Grace in which we are rooted and grounded in love and enabled to live out our lives in love for God, self and neighbour. In short it helps us to become Christ-like.
Above all we begin to comprehend that we are never alone, that God, in the Spirit of Jesus, is always with us. Our awareness of this abiding presence, our assurance of the truth of God’s love and our hope in the finished work of Christ-who is the same yesterday today and forever-is confirmed by familiarity with the Word and by our own life experience in light of that Word. God uses everything in our life, and in this beautiful world around us, to draw us into God’s loving kindness, faithfulness, mercy and love.
The experience of union with God is the goal of all religion, a word which essentially means to be re-aligned or reconnected. Jesus’ final prayer for all who follow him is a prayer for that union, that unity, that Oneness with the Father which was his own experience-“I and my Father are One”. He prayed for all “who will believe in me through their word, that they all may be one, as you Father are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us … that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:20-26).
An experience of such union between human and divine, is not to be felt in the head, not to be shaped by the ego, and not comprised of knowledge. The bible speaks of a God who looks not on outward appearance but on the heart; of knowing that God and Jesus in the heart, of a peace that surpasses all understanding, of knowing the love of Christ which passes knowledge, of being filled with all the fullness of God, which Paul describes as the mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
At the core of our spiritual awareness is an experience of that God “in whom we live and move and have our being” to use Paul’s words. It’s hard to describe this but it is an experience of the reality of God, of Jesus and of Spirit in your life. Paul’s name for it in his letter to the Corinthians is “a new creation in Christ” while in the epistle to Titus he refers to it as “regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”.
It is like “the wind that blows where it wishes” to quote Jesus as he spoke to Nicodemus; “You hear the sound of it, you cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes”. But you are aware of it and it changes you forever. “Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back”, to quote John O Donoghue. It is Amazing Grace; it is the gift of God.
This is how two of my favourite writers try to describe it and I will leave you now with their words, as they do a far better job of it than I ever could:
Meister Eckhart speaks of the is-ness of God
“What is life? God’s being is my life. If my life is God’s being, then God’s existence must be my existence; and God’s is-ness is my is-ness, neither less nor more. In the ground of the soul, God’s ground, and the soul’s ground are one ground”.
Thomas Merton speaks of the divine spark within
“At the centre of our being is a point of nothingness, which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God … this little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody … I have no programme for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere”.
It is my hope that the book FOR IT IS WRITTEN will help others discover that divine spark, that is-ness of God within, by joining the dots between the Old and New in the person of Christ, by encouraging people to read the Word for themselves, in the full knowledge that the Spirit of Truth will guide you into all truth, as promised by Jesus, who is with us always.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
In closing let us pray together the very deep and mystical prayer of Paul for all whose faith is in Christ Jesus, Jew and Gentile:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length, and depth and height-to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:14-21).