On September 30, 2019, Pope Francis declared the third Sunday of Ordinary time as a special feast day in honor of the Bible whose official name is “The Sunday of the Word of God.” This is great news. This coming year, it will be on January 26, 2020. Pope Francis wrote a new Motu Proprio (Aperuit Illis) to go with this new feast day. It is a great read you can find at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190930_aperuit-illis.html.
Pope Francis wanted to stress some things that are particular to the Bible that we do not find in any other written text. The first is that the Bible is the word of God, and not just some words of men or wise sayings (1 Thess 2:13). The Bible is not something we can change or try to twist into what we want it to mean. It is something we should live by and consult every day. In the Bible, God instructs how we are to live, tells us who God is and how we can get to know Him, and strengthens us in times when life gets hard. But the desires of our Supreme Pontiff are marked best by the end of the second paragraph of the Motu Proprio, “It is fitting that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to His bride, that she may grow in love and faithful witness.” The Bible is a place where we can get to know our savior more. He even quotes the famous quote from St Jerome, “ignorance of scripture is Ignorance of Christ.” Without the Bible, we could hardly get to know Jesus.
But there are some more insights that our Pope has. He says he hopes it will unite us more with the Jewish community in realizing our Jewish roots in Christianity. More than half our Bible came from the Jewish heritage. The Old Testament cannot be muted or deleted. It is the foundation upon which the New Testament was built. This is very important. It should also unite all Christians as well, as we all believe in the blessed Trinity. What better way to enshrine the Bible than in the celebration of the Eucharist as the Word of God leads us to our happy calling in heaven. As the priest or deacon raises the gospel book and the whole ecclesia sings Alleluia (Rev 5)! It is the word of God that penetrates the heart and soul of all those who have ears to hear (Mk 4:9)! It transforms lives for those who are open to its power. He makes the link between the encountering with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and the second Mass ever celebrated (Lk 24; 13-35). On the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained Sacred Scripture and when they arrived, they discovered Him in the breaking of the bread. The Word of God is inseparable to any of the sacraments.
As the sacraments do, the Word of God is directed to save souls from eternal damnation. But our pope reminds us not to approach the Bible with a “Fundamentalist” understanding. The Gospel message was first and foremost heard, not read. For many years, before Paul or John wrote what they did, it was always preached with the dynamic breath of the Holy Spirit. The Magisterium that is filled with the Holy Spirit always guides us together with the Sacred Tradition that has been with us since the time of Jesus Himself. It transforms the lives of those who believe.
This is one feast day of the year, but Francis’ intent is that the Bible would be read every day and be a part of our everyday life. It was not something to be read one day of the year, or even every day and forgotten the rest of the time. It should truly be the living Word of God imbued in our thoughts and actions. I plan on setting up some sessions to go over the 8-page document that Pope Francis wrote starting Advent, as we begin to prepare for the Word made Flesh this Christmas. God Bless you!