Servants of the Word

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

One of the outstanding communities of religious women serving in the Diocese of Providence is named the “Missionary Sisters, Servants of the Word.” The community, based in Mexico, is committed to evangelization and catechesis, especially among the Latino community. The sisters do great work, and we are grateful for their presence.

“Servants of the Word.” While it’s the title the sisters use to describe their specific charism, it’s a title that should apply equally to every Christian. We are all “servants of the word” – the Word of God – and attention and obedience to the Word are building blocks of the Christian life.

The Prophet Isaiah describes it this way: “For just as from the heavens the rain and the snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will.” (Is 55: 10-11)

Indeed, the Word of God is powerful and effective, and it impacts our lives at various times, in diverse ways. Sometimes the Word of God judges us when we’ve sinned; or it calls us to grow in holiness; or comforts us when we’re mourning; or picks us up when we’re discouraged; or praises us when we’ve done well. All of this, and more.

But the Word can’t achieve any of this unless it’s received by a welcoming soul. Jesus made that point in the parable of the sower and the seed. The seed is the Word of God, Jesus said, but sometimes it falls on a path where the birds eat it up, or on rocky ground where it can’t take root, or among thorns that choke the life within it. But when it falls on rich soil the results are different. Then it produces fruit, “a hundred, or sixty or thirtyfold.” (Mt 13:1-8)

In the Christian life, the Word of God is all around us. God speaks to us all the time. But we’ve got to provide the fertile soil in which the Word can grow and produce good fruit. We need to be open, docile and obedient. In other words, we need to be “servants of the word.”

Something to think about: What are the various ways in which God speaks to you?