Christians’ relationship with God depend on a growing familiarity with His word, parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne were told by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at a Mass on the Sunday of the Word of God.
However, it’s not enough to read and study the Scriptures. Catholics are called to let themselves be shaped by what they read or listen to.
The word of God was honored Jan. 26 in traditional liturgical ways and with special blessings added for the feast day. Both underlined its holiness in worship and in private reflection at home and within the family.
Pope Francis instituted the feast in 2019, establishing it on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. He announced it to the world in an Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio, “Aperuit Illis,” “Reflecting on the Word of God.”
In the letter, the pope reminded Catholics that the word of God is “‘performative’ and that “Christians should linger over and study the Word of God as revealed in Sacred Scripture,” commented Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Pope Francis emphasizes that through the Word of God and the sacrifice of the Mass we grow closer to Jesus and each other as the Body of Christ.”
Catholic News Service reported that the decree was published on the feast of St. Jerome, patron saint of biblical scholars and doctor of the Church. It was St. Jerome who said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” The title of the decree is based on a verse from the Gospel of St. Luke, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”
“I think this Sunday of the Word of God is a wonderful initiative of the Holy Father to enable the Church, as he says, ‘to experience anew how the Risen Lord opens up for us the treasure of His Word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world,” Bishop Rhoades told the assembly. “He hopes that this Sunday will increase our gratitude for the great gift of the Scriptures and will help us to strive daily to live and bear witness to the teachings of Sacred Scripture.”
The Gospel reading of the day, Matthew 4:12-23, recounted the calling of the first disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Peter, Andrew, James and John left behind their families to accept Jesus’ invitation to follow Him. Over the course of the next three years He formed the fishermen into disciples and Apostles.
We, too, are taught by the Lord and formed as His disciples, especially through His Word, said the bishop.
“St. Augustine once said: ‘When you read the Bible, God speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to God.’ The personal reading of Scripture is so important, but ‘personal’ doesn’t mean ‘individualistic,’ since it’s important that we ‘read and experience Sacred Scripture in communion with the Church.’” (Pope Benedict XVI, “Verbum Domini” No. 86)
“We approach the Scriptures in relation to the Church’s living Tradition.”
The saints of the Church, including the namesake of St. Vincent Parish, St. Vincent de Paul, are saints because they lived the Word of God, he noted. It was in praying with the Scriptures that St. Vincent learned of God’s special love for the poor and needy and became so devoted to their care.
Or think of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the bishop suggested. St. Therese discovered the love of Lord in her personal vocation by poring over the Scriptures.
“It’s good to ask ourselves when we read a passage of Scripture to ask ourselves, ‘How can I live this Word today?’”
During the Prayers of the Faithful, St. Vincent pastor Father Daniel Scheidt asked those who serve as lectors in the parish to stand in the aisles of the semicircular worship space for a blessing.
“The Word of God, proclaimed in the Sacred Scriptures, indeed enlightens minds and hearts, Bishop Rhoades told the lectors. “When the Scriptures are read in the liturgical assembly, God speaks to us and calls us to respond in faith and love. The ministry of the reader, then, is important to the life of the Church, for the reader proclaims God’s living word, and the word of God calls us out of darkness into the light of faith.”
He asked the rest of the assembly, with the confidence of God’s children, to petition the Lord to hear their prayers to bless the lectors.
“Pocket books” of the Psalms and holy Gospels were provided by the bishop for families to take home after Mass. The books were present in the sanctuary throughout the Mass and blessed before the recessional, so that sacred Scripture might be reverenced more deeply in the homes and in the hearts of those who took a copy home to read.
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