The WORD in Other Words by Fr Dionisio Miranda SVD (Philippines) for Tuesday in Octave of Christmas
Visualize yourself waiting for a flight at the airport lounge, surrounded by small and bigger groups. Or, imagine yourself sipping coffee at a small bistro, watching that family at the corner table. Picture yourself in the lobby before the convention begins. Recall that protest demonstration complete with megaphones. Did you ever count the many conversations going on?. Finally, suppose that you were deaf and despite your lip-reading skills, can only guess at the other words being exchanged.
That thought experiment underlines how critical words are in human communication, and in fact for most human relations to even arise. We begin encounters with “Good morning,” or “How are you today?” Even business casually begins with, “How may we be of service to you today?” Keeping that in mind, how many words do we utter in a day, and how many of those ultimately matter? How many words do we exchange — between husband and wife, among family members. In the office, at play? How many of those build up, and how many destroy? How many are laced with sarcasm or wrapped in care? How many represent the best of ourselves, and how many would we wish we never said?
At the start of his version of the Jesus story, John imagines the silence of God before creation when the only Word that was uttered was within God as God. But just as love cannot contain itself and must express itself, so the God of life opened up to all of reality, creating the universe and humankind purely by creative words, as dramatized by Genesis. John‘s point is that the world was created out of love and was the overflow of the power of life within God. If so, then the words we utter as God’s creatures are meant always and somehow to radiate God‘s life-creating and life-sustaining purposes.
Words, evidently are not only words. Beyond the verbal, we express our feelings towards others through material things, offered as gifts. Recall how much time and money we just spent this season to find the appropriate gifts for everyone we care about, only to realize that it is not the size or the price that matters, so much as the thought and the valuing that drives the gift-giving in the first place. In short gifts are no more than words become materially tangible.
Similarly, John says that the Word took form not only in messaging; God’s many and varied words to humanity in the form of creation itself and the inexhaustible gifts it continues to generate for human beings. Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si that the world is not only home, but partner in dialogue. Nature offers itself to us as gift even when our response to it is ingratitude, indifference or abuse.
All that is preface, or Prologue, for what John finally wants to say is that the Word is all that Yahweh was speaking to Israel in the history of salvation — in the many episodes of blessing and ingratitude, and varied chapters of grace and sin.
Word became matter, became historical narrative, and finally became flesh. When God ran out of words, so to speak, God spoke in the most definitive of forms — his Word became flesh: it took on human nature in Jesus. With Jesus as God‘s finishing and fullest Word to us, each human being finally discovers the only Word that matters — that we be as Godly to each other as Jesus was, through incarnated love, meaning, through flesh and blood presence and sacrifice.