“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
The Word of God has shown itself to be a living force throughout the course of salvation history. God, the Source of Life (cf. Lk 20:38), takes the first step in communicating himself. His Word is addressed to man, the work of his hands (cf. Job 10:3), who is created precisely to respond and enter into dialogue with his Creator. Therefore, the Word of God is always present to humankind from the first moment of creation to the very end of its pilgrimage on this earth. The Word of God manifests itself in a variety of ways, culminating in the mystery of the Incarnation, when the Word, who was with God, became man (cf. Jn 1:1, 14) through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, is the “Living One” (Rev 1:18), the One who has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68).
The Word of God is piercing. It casts light on every person’s life and indicates the road to be followed. This is clearly seen in the Ten Commandments (cf. Ex 20:1-21), which Jesus summed up in the commandment to love God and neighbour (cf. Mt 22:37-40). The Beatitudes (cf. Lk 6:20-26) are the ideals of the Christian life which are lived in listening to God’s Word. The Word of God searches the sentiments of the heart, inclining persons towards good and purifying them from what is sinful. In communicating himself to the sinner, who is called to holiness, God exhorts him to turn from his sinful ways: "Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets" (2 Kgs 17:13). In the Gospel, the Lord Jesus makes a similar invitation: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt 3:2). Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God penetrates the heart of the penitent sinner and restores it to communion with God in his Church. The conversion of a sinner causes great rejoicing in heaven (cf. Lk 15:7). In the name of the Risen Lord, the Church continues his mission of preaching “repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations” (Lk 24:47). In docile obedience to the Word of God, the Church follows the path of humility and conversion in order to be always more faithful to Jesus Christ, her Spouse and Lord, and to proclaim his Good News with greater conviction and authenticity.
The Word of God is active, as demonstrated in the personal lives of the patriarchs and prophets and seen throughout the history of the Elect of the Old and New Testaments. Jesus Christ bears witness to this in a totally unique way. The Word of God became flesh “and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Through his Church, he carries on the proclamation of the Kingdom of God and the healing of the sick (cf. Lk 9:2). The Church continues to accomplish these salvific works through the Word and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church, where the words of consecration produce through the grace of the Holy Spirit their effect of transforming bread into the Lord’s Body and wine into his Blood. (cf. Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14: 22-23; Lk 22: 19-20). The Word of God is therefore the source of communion not only between humankind and God but also among people, one with another, all of whom are the Lord’s beloved.
This close connection between the Eucharist and the Word of God was a factor in the choice of topic for the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, fulfilling a long-held desire to treat the Word of God in a synodal assembly. Consequently, after the Synod of Bishops on The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, which took place from 2 to 23 October 2005, thoughts naturally turned to giving attention to The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, in order to examine more thoroughly the meaning of the one table of the Bread and Word. This topic was seen as a priority among the particular Churches as indicated by their Bishops, the Pastors. In fact, the choice of topic for the next synodal assembly came about as a result of a collegial process. According to custom, the General Secretariat, at the request of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, polled the entire Episcopate of the Catholic Church for a choice of topic. The Word of God, with various nuances and a significant variety of aspects, emerged as the preferred topic among the responses from the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the episcopal conferences, the heads of the Roman dicasteries and the Union of Superiors General. The volume of material was analysed by the XI Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, which, in a certain way, represents the entire synodal assembly. In fact, 12 of its members were elected from among the members of the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. In keeping with the norms of the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, three members of the Council were appointed by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. A fruitful discussion by the Ordinary Council reduced the choices to three topics, which the General Secretary then submitted to the Supreme Pontiff.
The Holy Father, President of the Synod of Bishops, made his decision public on 6 October 2006. Subsequently, the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat began work on preparing this Lineamenta, the document intended briefly to present the subject in question, that is, the Word of God, and to set forth its positive aspects in the life and mission of the Church, while not overlooking certain areas which might pose difficulties or, at least, require a thorough examination for the good of the Church and her life in the world. Consequently, the Lineamenta makes frequent reference to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, following in a particular manner the approach adopted by the Council Fathers, that is, hearing the Word of God with reverence so as to proclaim it confidently (cf. DV, 1). In addition to re-reading Dei Verbum from a pastoral vantage point, the document cites the successive pronouncements of the Magisterium of the Church which authentically interpret the sacred deposit of faith, contained in Divine Tradition and the Sacred Scriptures.
To facilitate reflection and discussion on the topic everywhere in the Church, the Lineamenta includes a list of detailed Questions associated with the subject treated in each chapter. The above-mentioned collegial bodies are asked to submit a written response to these questions before November of this year. The Ordinary Council, assisted by specialists, will then study this material and present it in an orderly fashion in a second document, traditionally called the Instrumentum Laboris, which will become the agenda of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to take place—God willing—from 5 to 26 October 2008.
From the Church’s inception, the Word of God has been her very life. In Christ, Word-Incarnate through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church is “a kind of a sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all humankind” (LG, 1). The Word of God is also the timeless, underlying reason for the Church’s mission to those both near and far. Obeying the mandate of the Lord Jesus and entrusting herself to the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church is, therefore, in a permanent state of mission (cf. Mt 28:19).
Following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Lord’s lowly servant, the Synod wishes to promote an inspired rediscovery of the Word of God as a living, piercing and active force in the heart of the Church, in her liturgy and in her prayer, in evangelization and in catechesis, in exegetical studies and in theology, in personal and communal life, and also in the cultures of humanity, purified and enriched by the Gospel. In allowing themselves to be moved by the Word of God, Christians will then be in a position to respond to whoever asks a reason for their hope (cf. 1 Pt 3:15) and to love their neighbour not “in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18). In this way, their good works will shine forth like a light in the world, reflecting the glory of God, and all will praise our Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt 5:16). The Word of God, then, casts its rays on every aspect of the Church’s life and, by its presence in society, also acts as a leaven for a more just and peaceful world, devoid of every kind of violence and open to the building of a civilization of love.
“The word of the Lord abides for ever. That word is the good news which was preached to you” (1 Pt 1:25). Reflection on the synodal topic will become a humble prayer that the rediscovery of the Word of God might illumine the path of humanity in the Church and society through the course of history which is oftentimes arduous, as it confidently awaits a “new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells” (2 Pt 3:13).
Titular Archbishop of Sisak
Vatican City, 25 March 2007