America’s Young Poet Laureate
At the inauguration of Joe Biden, a young 22-year-old black Catholic (yes, she is a practicing Catholic!) riveted the nation with her words and the delivery of her poem “The Hill We Climb”. It is hard to imagine other 22-year-olds who have so riveted a nation. There may be some in the world of sports or entertainment but probably very few. Of course, I am speaking of Amanda Gorman, America’s Young Poet Laureate.
With just over 700 words of “Climb the Hill”, she entered a select circle of those who at a given moment have captured many people’s experiences and feelings. Her realistic yet ultimately inspiring words will be learned and analyzed for a long time.
God’s Poet Laureates
Since then I have been thinking about God’s Poet Laureates. Some of their names are unknown to us. Think of the authors of the books of the Old Testament – Genesis, Exodus, Chronicles, Kings, Psalms, etc. Others have names such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. What they all have in common is that their realistic yet ultimately uplifting words have been learned and analyzed for centuries. The same can be said of gospel authors Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and St. Paul, author of so many epistles.
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews sums all this up
“In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe.”
Jesus himself is “the Word made flesh”. From within our experience as humans, he not only challenged and inspired us with simple yet powerful words. He also lived the words he spoke. In the ultimate poetic expression, he invited us to do what he had done – wash the feet of our brother and sisters.
Word of God Sunday
All this is what the third Sunday after Christmas, now known as Word of God Sunday, is all about. It reminds us that God has spoken powerfully to us in every generation. We are called to listen and live according to these words of hope.
Vincent only gradually came to understand and appreciate this. Once he did, he not only studied the scripture but he seemed to live and breathe the scriptures especially the Gospels. He allowed the scriptures to shape the way he responded to life. It was as if he were reading the book of the events of his life in one hand and the scriptures in the other hand.
Vincent lived God’s word and became God’s poet Laureate in his generation.
We are called to be God’s words today.
We are God’s “poet laureates” in our generation. But we can only be this if we know God’s Word and live it. Francis reminds us that the great biblical scholar, St Saint Jerome (d. 420 AD). claimed that “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”. Another Francis believed “Preach the Gospel always. If you must, use words.“
Celebrating “Word of God Sunday”
- How would I rate my awareness of God’s words in the Gospels?
- More importantly, would anyone see God’s word in my life?
- Am I willing to spend a few more minutes of my week reading God’s word … and seeing where it fits into my life today?
Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk