Sunday of the Word of God
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Pope Francis recently proclaimed the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time as “Sunday of the Word of God.” This year, we will observe the “Sunday of the Word of God” on the weekend of January 25/26th. The Holy Father proclaimed this in his Apostolic Letter, “Aperuit Illis,” in which he speaks of the importance of the Word of God in the life of the Church. I would invite and encourage you to download this brief letter from the Vatican website.
The Holy Father proposed setting aside “a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people.” Quoting St. Ephrem, he describes the unfathomable riches of the Word by saying, “Who is able to understand, Lord, all the richness of even one of your words? There is more that eludes us than what we can understand. We are like the thirsty drinking from a fountain. Your word has as many aspects as the perspectives of those who study it. The Lord has colored his word with diverse beauties, so that those who study it can contemplate what stirs them. He has hidden in his word all treasures, so that each of us may find richness in what he or she contemplates.”
My dear friends, because of the great thirst and hunger we all have for truth, for an encounter with Christ and for a guide along the pathways of life, I join Pope Francis in encouraging you to read, study, and meditate each day on the Sacred Scriptures. Daily reading of the Holy Bible helps us encounter Christ who is the center of the Revealed Word of God, it helps us grow in our relationship with God whose Word is living and true and it will provide for us a compass to guide us on our pilgrim way. We should all have a personal bible, ready at hand to open and read. But the church like a loving Mother also provides a daily lectionary of the Sacred Scriptures to feed her children with truth.
As Catholics, we are blessed to have this daily reading of the Word. If we simply took the readings and response provided for us at mass, we would eventually immerse ourselves in a majority of the Bible. I believe however if we do this, we will desire even more. Might I also recommend reading and reflecting on two additional chapters of Scripture each day, from various books of the bible. Developing this holy habit will form us more intimately into disciples on fire with love for Christ and his holy Word. Although I have not always successful, I have tried in the past several years to incorporate this spiritual reading in my own daily prayer life. I love to read and reread many passages and stories from the Books of Genesis, Exodus, the Historical Books of Kings and Samuel, and the Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, which are among my favorites. Some of the most renowned passages come from the Wisdom literature of the Bible, such as Proverbs, Wisdom and Sirach. In the New Testament, I try to read the Acts of the Apostles every year as well as the various Letters of St. Paul, St. Peter and St. John. The texts of these books and letters never fail to inspire and challenge me. Over time, certain passages become like dear and venerable friends.
As important as reading the Scared Scriptures is for our lives as disciples, St. Paul reminded us in his letter to the Romans that faith comes through hearing; God’s Word is first and foremost a spoken Word. Consequently, we should do our very best to proclaim God’s Word in the liturgical assembly with greater preparation, execution and effectiveness, proclaiming the Word more slowly and reverently, helping the people hear a Word that is not our own, but rather God’s Word for us that day. The ministry of the lector and that of proclaimer of the Gospel, reserved only to the ordained, is a most important ministry that requires readers, both the lay faithful and the ordained to be diligent, mindful and devoted so as to deliver the Word to the assembly, not hastily or dramatically, but with a speed, tone and style that puts God’s Word in the focus of the listeners, not the proclaimer. I also believe that the Word of God deserves moments of silence before and after, recognizing that God is about to speak or has spoken to his people. It is in these moments, deliberating timed, that the Word can enter into the minds, hearts and souls of the People of God.
I hope you are as encouraged by Pope Francis’ gift to the Church of the Sunday of the Word of God as I am. I hope our pastors and priests will invite and encourage you to bring your personal bibles to Church that weekend to be blessed. Pope Francis in his letter encourages the Scriptures to be enthroned in our churches on this particular Sunday so as to highlight the importance of God’s Word in the life of the Church. But more than that, let us pray God’s holy Word will become a daily encounter for us all with the Jesus Christ, the WORD MADE FLESH! God bless you!
+The Most Reverend Carl A. Kemme
Bishop of Wichita