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Paul Vadakumpadan, Guwahati says,
THE WORD OF GOD: Life for the Soul, not chewing Gum for the Mind
By Fr. Paul Vadakumpadan SDB
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Guwahati, May. 19. There was once a Salesian community that was known for its attachment to scripture. In fact, they had the bible enthroned not only in the chapel but also in the dining hall and in the community room.

THE WORD OF GOD
Life for the Soul, not chewing Gum for the Mind

There was once a Salesian community that was known for its attachment to scripture. In fact, they had the bible enthroned not only in the chapel but also in the dining hall and in the community room. They would read it often and quote it frequently. Several of them seemed to know biblical verses by heart. As the rector of the community was due for transfer, the provincial appointed a new rector. At the installation of the new rector, the members vied with one another in repeating the words of scripture, ``Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord`` (Mt 21:9). No doubt, the Rector Major would have been delighted with this community.

However, not everything was all right. The original enthusiasm of the community was on the wane. There was need of tightening up discipline. After sometime, the new rector started making a few badly needed changes in the community. As soon as he started this process of reform, the confreres gathered in front of him and said, ``Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?`` (Lk 20:2). A year later when the provincial came for visitation they complained about the rector and said, ``Take him away`` (Jn 18:31). The provincial asked for advice from the Rector Major who replied, ``I am afraid the next time you go there, they will shout, Crucify him`` (Mk 15:13). Members of this community, obviously had scripture very much on their lips. How much of it was in their hearts? We may need an open-heart surgery to find that out.

There is a great thirst today for God`s word. That is a positive sign of renewal and growth. Bible conventions and retreats are heavily attended. I have no doubt that these events are doing immense amount of good. Some are very fond of quoting scripture. They seem to have a ready verse for any occasion. Certain individuals even parade their knowledge of scripture by rattling off verses one after another. In some cases, such persons are highly admired and even become objects of envy.  

At this stage, I begin to have doubts. The devil can quote scripture. As a matter of fact, when he tempted Jesus, he showed he had the scriptures very much on his lips, but certainly not in the heart. The word of God is light and life. If it is only words on the lips, it becomes a magical formula, not a divine message. However, if it is both on the lips and in the heart, excellent! If not, what matters is the heart, not the lips. The word of God must transform life. When we accept it in obedience, its power will be manifested in daily living. That is the purpose of scripture. As the rite of ordination to diaconate says in simple, almost blunt language, ``Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practise what you teach.``

Instead, if it is only a show of one`s knowledge of chapter and verse, it as good as knowing the distance of the planets in the solar system from one another. Knowledge indeed! But it is only chewing gum for the mind, not life for the soul.

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