Volume 23, Issue 3, October 2010
This article addresses the topic “the Word in the World” by seeking to clarify both concepts in the light of biblical usage and the present situation of believers. While “the world” features quite prominently in the New Testament, the understanding of the motif throughout Christian history has reflected more the Church’s experience with its socio-cultural and religious context rather than the New Testament usage. The largely defensive attitude to the world that was the stance of the Roman church in reaction to the Reformation and Enlightenment was radically challenged at the Second Vatican Council, offering the chance to re-orientate the Church towards an understanding of “world” in a less objectified sense as an imaginative construction of reality. From the New Testament, notably the Gospel of John, at least four understandings of “world” emerge, of which only one is negative. The Synoptic tradition, in particular the parable of the Weeds among the Wheat, addresses the issue of evil by indicating the world as one reality in which good and evil are pervasively intertwined such that believers can never isolate themselves over against or out of the world but must contest, with the power of the Gospel, the destructive dynamics at work in God’s good world. The Word, which believers are commissioned to proclaim to the world, is not first and foremost a message but Jesus, the Word Incarnate, who is both with us and one us, while also the locus and instrument of God’s salvific work within the world. The particularity of the Incarnation, especially as the Wisdom of God incarnate, rather than a scandal or limitation in a pluralistic world, can open us up to the infinite mystery of God mediated by all religious traditions. The Incarnation also designates our humanity as the locus of God’s Presence in the world, enabling believers, as Christ’s body, to be the Word of God resounding in the world.
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