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‘THE YEAR OF..........’

Margaret Harlock took part in a Workshop last Summer organised by the
Sisters of La Retraite to mark the Year of the Word of God. 
She describes here something of the atmosphere and most importantly its content...

We all know that 2008 has been the Year of the Olympics and we’ve all watched TV– or perhaps, even went to Beijing – and admired the skill of the athletes. Likewise, we can’t fail to be aware that 2008 is the Year of the Presidential Election in the U.S!!

But, have you noticed that 2008 is the ‘Year of the Word of God’? ‘The Word of God’; - ‘The Mystery of God who speaks to us...?

Well, to mark this Year of the Word, during the last week of August, forty La Retraite sisters, together with seven lay friends, from Belgium, England, France, Holland and Ireland, gathered in Brussels for a Scripture Workshop – delivered in French but with English translation for those who wanted it. It was a great experience. (La Retraite sisters always enjoy meeting each other but this was a bit special!) Our speaker was Yves Simeons, a Belgian Jesuit, a renowned Biblical scholar who lectures in Rome and Paris. It is always a joy to listen to someone who is an expert in their subject, but Yves combines his expertise with an infectious overflowing love for the message of the Bible.

In the preparatory working paper for the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, to be held in Rome, 5-26 October 2008, we read that “ the laity urgently need to be aware that they are not passive subjects in relation to the Word of God; ...” And again...”the faithful need to be convinced that God addresses his Word of salvation to every person without exception; consequently, he wants his Word to be a part of the Church’s mission, in what people come to know as the Good News of liberation, consolation and salvation.” (ref:www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/documents)

Certainly we were far from passive subjects in relation to the Word of God, and a sense of freedom and consolation pervaded all that we shared. We were renewed and challenged by all that Yves presented. Beginning with the Prologue of John’s Gospel, emphasising that Scripture speaks of the goodness of the Creator and of creation, we turned to Proverbs 9 and Ecclesiasticus 24. – the Praise of Wisdom. Like many of the references the ideas are so relevant to our present day – issues of creation and, new life, and resurrection after seeming disaster as in the Exile. The God of the Bible is a God who speaks – who enters into relationship with his creation... Developing the Johannine theme of light and darkness, Yves moved us through the Servant passages in Isaiah 52 and 53 culminating in the new vision of an eternal Covenant of Peace in Ch.54, expressing the fidelity of the Father who created in view of the Resurrection of the Son.

Just as we began to feel a little overwhelmed, we were encouraged by our learned lecturer who laughingly shared that it had taken him thirty years to grasp some of the concepts!

The final day was dedicated to John 9 and 10, exploring the theological implications of the cure of the Man born blind and the reality of Christ as the gate to the sheepfold, and the coherence of this account with the ideas presented in the Prologue. Yves repeatedly stressed that it is not suffering that is redemptive but love. ‘He loved them to the end’. This can involve suffering, as it did with Christ, but it is not the act of suffering in itself which redeems but the love! A very positive theology!

It is totally impossible to convey in a short article all the insights and the richness of this workshop. Yves’ knowledge and diversions into the historical and exegetical background only served to emphasise, for myself anyway, how much more there is for me to open up and appreciate in this living Word of God. .My only criticism of these three privileged days was that they were so very full that there was no time to ‘ruminate’, to quote Yves’ own word when speaking of the stages of Lectio Divina! Perhaps that is for the next thirty years! As a good follower of Ignatius Yves would encourage us to ‘find God in all things’; certainly he revealed to us the loving God who is in relationship with each of us, as well as all creation, speaking to us today, through the Bible. Merci, Yves!

Try it yourself!!! After all, this is ‘The Year of the Word’!!


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