Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time has, since 2018, been called the Sunday of the Word of God. In an apostolic letter “Aperuit Illis” Pope Francis wrote, “Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world.” He went on to say, “A profound bond links sacred Scripture and the faith of believers. Since faith comes from hearing, and what is heard is based on the word of Christ (cf. Rom 10:17), believers are bound to listen attentively to the word of the Lord, both in the celebration of the liturgy and in their personal prayer and reflection.”
The Bible is God’s divinely inspired word committed to writing. As Catholics, we believe that human authors, influenced and inspired by the Holy Spirit, received the truth of God’s self-revelation and committed it to writing. These writings have been preserved and passed on through the ages. The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, reminds us: “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: “For the word of God is living and active” (Heb. 4:12) and “it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13). (Dei Verbum 21).
Each Sunday, the readings proclaimed at Mass can be found in the hymnal (the page indicated both on the hymn board at the front of the church, and on the worship aids you take on your way into the church). It is important for us to balance our reading of Scripture with our listening to Scripture. When God speaks, He speaks with authority. Throughout the Bible we see people listen attentively as the prophets or as our Lord speak the word of God to them. When we adopt a posture and attitude of attentive listening during Mass, we are united with those Scriptural multitudes who heard God’s word proclaimed. When we read attentively, we can deepen the experience of proclamation, as with our eyes and ears together, the sacred word enters our minds and hearts. Reading the sacred Scriptures outside the context of the Mass can help us to prepare for the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, as well as prolong our meditation from Mass. I encourage you to read ahead, as preparation for Mass, and to re-read the Biblical passages after Mass, so that your own personal encounter with the Lord may bear even greater fruit.
On this Sunday of the Word of God, we can take advantage of the many resources available to help us dive more deeply into our own personal study of the Bible. One of the most popular podcasts in the world right now is the “Bible in a Year” podcast with Fr. Mike Schmitz. When you subscribe, you will receive an episode each day, giving you an opportunity for about 15 minutes of Biblical reflection and reading. More locally, here in the Diocese of Bridgeport, the Family Bible Challenge will kick off in February. To participate and learn how your family can benefit from the reflections, quizzes, and discussions, visit familybiblechallenge.org. And let us pray, along with the Fathers of Vatican II, that “through the reading and study of the sacred books “the word of God may spread rapidly and be glorified” (2 Thess. 3:1) and the treasure of revelation, entrusted to the Church, may more and more fill the hearts of men. Just as the life of the Church is strengthened through more frequent celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, similarly we may hope for a new stimulus for the life of the Spirit from a growing reverence for the word of God, which “lasts forever” (Is. 40:8; see 1 Peter 1:23-25).” (Dei Verbum 26).