Pope Francis invites the Church to observe the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time each year as the Sunday of the Word of God like our annual “Bible Sunday”. When the Holy Father published his Apostolic Letter, Mottu Proprio “Aperuit Illis” (AI) on 30 September 2019 (on the inauguration of the 1600th anniversary of St Jerome’s death), he invited every Catholic “to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God,” (AI, no. 3). The Church will celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God on 26 January 2020 with the theme from Luke’s Gospel (24:45), which describes how the disciples on the Road to Emmaus encountered the Risen Lord and how “He opened (Aperuit) their minds to understand the Scriptures.” As we reflect on this text, we realise that without the Risen Lord, it is impossible for us “to understand Scripture in depth” (AI, no. 1).
The Universal Church will celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God worldwide, to give all Catholics an opportunity to “concentrate on the great value that the Word of God occupies in its daily existence” and “the inexhaustible richness contained in the constant dialogues between the Lord and His people,” (AI, no.2). The Church encourages Bible reading among Catholics regularly and prayerfully, and to listen to the Word attentively. The Bible is not the privilege of a few but the Church emphasises that every home and every individual should possess at least a copy of the Bible, (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, Vatican Council II, 1965). After 55 years of celebrating this dogma on the Divine Revelation, Pope Francis wants to “stimulate all Christians not to just place the Bible on a shelf as one of many books, perhaps filled with dust – but as an instrument that awakes our faith,” (AI, no.4).
When we read the familiar text on the road to Emmaus, the scene of the Risen Lord and the disciples demonstrates “the unbreakable bond between Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist”. The Holy Father reminds us that the Sunday of the Word of God should not just be celebrated as a yearly event but as an urgent need for us “to grow in our knowledge and love of the scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers,” (AI, no. 8). In the last paragraph, the Holy Father hopes that the Sunday of the Word of God will help every one of us “grow in religious and intimate familiarity with the Sacred Scriptures,” (AI, no. 15).
The Holy Father has also highlighted the responsibilities of pastors, preachers and catechists “to read the Bible often,” “to take time to pray” and “meditate the sacred text” so that one “can speak from the heart and thus reach the hearts of those who hear us, conveying what is essential and capable of bearing fruit.” (AI, no. 5).
The Holy Father urges us to read the Bible using the “lectio divina” method – to pray daily with the Sacred Scriptures (AI, no. 13), share the word of God with others (AI, no. 12), listen to the Word and practice the mercy (AI, no. 13). Mother Mary kept the word and witnessed it in her life – humbly, faithfully, hopefully and lovingly (AI, no. 15). On this Sunday of the Word of God, let’s make Scripture a part of our everyday lives and renew our commitment to be living instruments of transmission of the Word of God.
“Your word, O Lord, is lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Ps 119:105).
by Rev. Fr. George P.