As you know, in the year 2000 when Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina, he established the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. On September 30, 2019, on the memorial of St. Jerome, Pope Francis announced that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated as The Sunday of the Word of God. This year, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary time falls on January 26th. In Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter “Aperuit Illis” instituting The Sunday of the Word of God, he writes: “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:45). This was one of the final acts of the risen Lord before his Ascension. Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples, broke bread with them and opened their minds to the understanding of the sacred Scriptures. To them, amid their fear and bewilderment, he unveiled the meaning of the paschal mystery: that in accordance with the Father’s eternal plan he had to suffer and rise from the dead, in order to bring repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Lk 24:26.46-47). He then promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would give them strength to be witnesses of this saving mystery (Lk 24:49).
The relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and sacred Scripture 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, Saint Jerome could rightly claim: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”.
We as Catholics have a history of ignorance of the Sacred Scriptures. I suspect the “older” crowd reading this article, like me, were taught that reading and interpreting Sacred Scripture was the job of the bishops and priests. They would tell us what the Scriptures meant. So personal study of the Scriptures was not encouraged. Many of you, like me, probably had a decorative family bible with our family tree inscribed in it sitting on the coffee table in the living room as a decoration, but was never opened and read. All of us probably have protestant friends who can put us to shame by quoting chapter and verse passages from the Bible.
Since Vatican II, Catholics have been encouraged to study and discuss the Sacred Scriptures and incorporate them in our spirituality and daily life. Many programs and bible studies have followed. Many Catholics seem not yet to have made the connection between being disciples of Jesus and devouring the Word of God. It is Pope Francis hope that: “The Sunday of the Word of God help his people to grow in religious and intimate familiarity with the sacred Scriptures.”
Have a blessed week!