On Sept. 30, 2019 Pope Francis instituted The Sunday of the Word of God. September 30 was the liturgical memorial of Saint Jerome and the 1600th memorial of his death. How appropriate! It was Saint Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church, who famously said that “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
Pope Francis wrote that he had received many requests “from the people of God that the entire Church celebrate, in unity of purpose, a Sunday of the Word of God.” This letter establishing Word of God Sunday is a response to those requests. He declared “that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be dedicated to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.” In 2020, Word of God Sunday will be celebrated on January 26.
In his Apostolic Letter Pope Francis writes:
A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for 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 break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, 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.
Christ Jesus is knocking at our door in the words of sacred Scripture. If we hear his voice and open the doors of our minds and hearts, then he will enter our lives and remain ever with us.
The Holy Father explains that the Holy Spirit was not only operative in the writing of Scripture. He continues to shed light on the truth in the minds of readers. How often have we read a passage of Scripture and felt that the words directly reflected on a situation or challenge in our life today. The Holy Spirit continues to inspire and direct us as we read the Word of God.
And let’s not forget that Scripture is an important element in the full armor of God.
Finally draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-17, NABRE)
The Word of God is the sword of the spirit! It is our weapon against evil. And is there any question that we are in the midst of a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of God’s children? We need the sword!
What can we as individuals do to grow in our understanding of the Bible and to greater appreciate the truth it contains? We could join a Catholic Bible study or subscribe to Catholic commentaries on the liturgical readings.
We could make a point to spend more time reading the Bible as part of our individual prayer time. There are also daily Bible reading resources to guide us and to designate particular readings for each day.
We could start a family Bible reading time with just a short passage, perhaps something that is included in our children’s Bibles.
My pastor suggested that we memorize a verse of Scripture a week. Not a passage, mind you, just a verse. He pointed out that by the end of a year we would have committed to memory 52 verses. A verse a week would not take much effort. A verse is about a sentence. How would we decide where to start? We could ask the Lord in prayer. Or He may already have told us. We know which passages are dear to us, the ones that address our wounds and our sins, the ones that fill us with love, encouragement and hope. I will start there.
There are advantages to having Scripture passages memorized. Sometimes we are in situations where it is very comforting to be able to pray to ourselves a passage of Scripture. When I can’t sleep, for instance, I like to recite Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd…”).
To combat negative thinking I recite Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (NABRE)
There was a time when if a negative thought came to my mind I would immediately recite that passage. It truly helped to overcome a bad habit. The Holy Spirit was working on me.
I’m sure each of us has favorite Scripture passages. I know I do, but only a couple of them are memorized. I guess it’s time to get to work. And Word of God Sunday seems a perfect time to start.
Thanks be to God that the Holy Father has designated Word of God Sunday to focus our attention and prayer times more intently on the truth of the Inspired Word, an important way that God uses to speak to us and to guide us. May we take up this Sword of the Spirit, this heavenly weapon, to defend the truth and to keep ourselves on paths that lead to holiness.
What ideas do you have, for yourself or for your family, to spend more time on the study of the Word of God?
Copyright 2020 Rosemary Bogdan