Feast on Truth
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).
The good life is a life of cherishing God’s word. Pascha is a time for cultivating gratitude, for reveling in God’s beauty, for learning how to feast. Well, there is no feasting more important and more satiating than feasting on the Word of God.
In our Gospel today, we hear about the Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (Jn. 10:14, 15). What does it mean, “I know my own and my own know me”? At the core of who we are is a hope to be known. This is why a child beams when mother picks her up. The adolescent looses sleep because of one glance from a boy or girl. A marriage flourishes or breaks for the same reason and the old soul in the nursing home looks for nothing more. We all want to be known, so it is no small thing that that Christ promises, “I know my own and my own know me.” God is inviting us into a relationship of knowing one another.
How well, then, do you know God? The sheep that recognize the voice of the shepherd do so only because of the time they spent with him. The other sheep remain ignorant and wander off to the wilderness. One of the fundamental tasks for a Christian is to spend time studying the Word of God. The Old and New Testament are a road map for us. The time we spend studying them is time spent breathing in the breath of God. Our minds are continually being shaped and formed by the messages around us. If the gospels are not filling our heads, something else is, and it is not of God.
The eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs is a song about God’s Word.
“Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
Beside the gate leading into the city,
At the entrance, she cries aloud:
‘To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind…Listen!’” (1-6)
“Blessed are those who listen to me,
Watching daily at my doors,
Waiting at my doorway.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
All who hate me love death” (34-36).
If you read the lives of the saints you find one thing common among all of them. They loved the Holy Scriptures. St. Augustine called the bible “letters from home,” and he dedicated his adult live studying them. St. John Chrysostom urges us to know the gospels as a pharmacist knows medicine. He exhorts, “To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers, so it is the same with the Scriptures; the more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield indescribable riches.” St. John Damascene insisted, “To search the Scriptures is a work most fair and most profitable for souls. For just as the tree planted by the channels of waters, so also the soul watered by the divine Scripture is enriched and gives fruit in its season.” St. Seraphim of Sarov, who read through the four gospels weekly, taught, “In return for this exercise alone, without the addition of any other virtuous deeds, the Lord grants man His mercy.”
Should this be a surprise to any of us? The scriptures themselves are clear. “Bind [the scriptures] on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you” (Pr. 6:21-22). We wonder why our life is empty. We wonder why we cannot be happy, and wander in circles with our head down, blaming this and that or him and her. There was once a man who starved to death surrounded by food. Each day, meat and bread were set in front of him, but he never took them. Instead, he withered away and died. It sounds absurd, but it is our story. The holy gospels are a banquet for our soul. Will we feast?
There is a sharp warning in Christ’s words today.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand [on the other hand] who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.”
Who is the hired hand in your life? The hired hand is all the wrong kinds of ideas out there. The world teaches one thing and Christ teaches another. We must continually challenge ourselves. How do our beliefs hold up to the Word of God? Is the resurrection literal or metaphorical? Have we evolved past biblical morality? Can we claim to live the Christian life without frequent confession? Have we submitted to Church leadership? All of these questions and so many others boil down to one thing. Am I the pillar and foundation of the truth, or is the Word of God?
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (Jn. 10:14, 15).
Christ is Risen! This is a time for feasting. Feast on the Word of God and you will know joy.