“May the Sunday of the Word of God help his people to grow in religious and intimate familiarity with the sacred Scriptures.”
This is Pope Francis’ hope for this day he instituted in his Apostolic Letter published on September 30, in the form of a Motu Proprio of the Holy Father Francis, “Aperuit illis”, instituting the Sunday of the Word of God.
Stressing how essential it is for Catholics to familiarize themselves with Christ’s written word, Francis highlights “a day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event.”
The Jesuit Pontiff underscores how we “urgently need 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.”
“For this reason,” he says, “we need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness.”
The relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and Sacred Scripture, Pope Francis stated, “is essential” to our identity as Christians.
“Without the Lord who opens our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth. Yet the contrary is equally true: without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his Church in this world would remain incomprehensible. Hence,” the Jesuit Pontiff noted, “Saint Jerome could rightly claim: ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.’”
Francis expressed that with this Apostolic Letter, he wished to respond to many requests he received from the people of God that the entire Church celebrate, in unity of purpose, a Sunday of the Word of God.
In point three of the letter, Pope Francis declares the day to be on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
“I hereby declare that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God,” Francis said. “This Sunday of the Word of God will thus be a fitting part of that time of the year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. This is more than a temporal coincidence: the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.
Francis called on the various communities to find their own ways to mark this Sunday with a certain solemnity.
“It is important, however,” he pointed out, “that in the Eucharistic celebration the sacred text be enthroned, in order to focus the attention of the assembly on the normative value of God’s word. On this Sunday, it would be particularly appropriate to highlight the proclamation of the Word of the Lord and to emphasize in the homily the honour that it is due. Bishops could celebrate the Rite of Installation of Lectors or a similar commissioning of readers, in order to bring out the importance of the proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy.”
“In this regard,” the Holy Father continued, “renewed efforts should be made to provide members of the faithful with the training needed to be genuine proclaimers of the word, as is already the practice in the case of acolytes or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.”
Francis went on to suggest that “pastors can also find ways of giving a Bible, or one of its books, to the entire assembly as a way of showing the importance of learning how to read, appreciate and pray daily with sacred Scripture, especially through the practice of lectio divina.”
Image credits: Top image: Jeffrey Bruno. Bottom image: Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation).