Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).
There are stories and passages in Scripture that are so familiar to us that we tend to categorize them in the “been there done that” file in our minds. When we hear them at Mass, we tune out with a mental note to “check back in” when we hear the concluding words, “The Word of the Lord.” If we come across these passages when reading on our own, we’re tempted to skim over them, or give them a meaningless, cursory read. We want something to give us new insight; those familiar passages seem “worn out.”
But occasionally we get blindsided by familiar things. I love it when a passage I think I’ve read or heard or studied a hundred times divulges something completely new. It takes me down a notch, and I realize that I’ve taken for granted something that is living and active, something that has the ability to pierce, to divide joints from marrow, and soul from spirit (Heb. 4:12). Something I thought was lifeless for me actually re-animates me in some way.
You know that amazing feeling you get when you find out something new about your spouse or an old friend? I’ll never forget how delighted I was to hear the story of how a sweet, even-tempered friend of mine was so determined not to go to school on her first day of Kindergarten that she gripped the doorframes of her home and made her mom pry her fingers away and carry her to the car kicking and screaming. I certainly saw my friend in a different light after hearing that story. “Sweet and even-tempered” became “sweet and even-tempered with a seriously stubborn side.” And every time I find out something new about my husband (which is about once a week), I realize that the people we think we know best will always – always – have more to reveal. We sell them short when we think we have them “figured out.” We run the same risk when we dismiss the familiar Words of God.
Karl Rahner described our experience of God as one of “inexhaustible intelligibility.” Whether here or in eternity, there is always more to know about God. And when we learn new things about God, we change, our relationship with him changes – just as my relationship with my friend shifts ever-so-slightly each time I learn something new about her. Scripture is a part of this “inexhaustible” process of knowing God and of being changed by him, of moving closer to him and him to us, close enough to pierce the “joints and marrow”, the very fibers of our being.
So next time your mind glazes over as you hear or read a familiar Bible text, ask God to show you something new. It is his Word after all, and it is alive.