POPE Francis has assigned the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God. In the Philippine this coincides with the Bible Sunday which is observed around this date—and the month of January which in 2017 was declared by President Rodrigo Duterte as the Bible month.
This observance deepens the “performative character of the Word of God” which already found concrete expressions of Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution “Die Verbum” and Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation “Verbum Domini” that was issued after the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2008 on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”
Pope Francis has instituted this observance in an Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis which was issued Moto Proprio on September 30, 2019. Among the good things he has pointed out in this document is to refer to the Bible as the “book of the Lord’s people” or a “people’s book”. He says, “The Bible cannot be just the heritage of some, much less a collection of books for the benefit of a privilege few. It belongs above all to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words. At times there can be a tendency to monopolize the sacred text by restricting it to certain circles or to select groups. It cannot be that way.”
That being the case, the Holy Father calls on those that are primarily responsible for explaining the Sacred Scripture, such as the pastors, in order to make it more accessible and understandable to the community.
He exhorts the priests to prepare and give good homilies. “The homily, in particular, has a distinctive function, for it possesses ‘a quasi-sacramental character’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 142). Helping people to enter more deeply into the word of God through simple and suitable language will allow priests themselves to discover the ‘beauty of the images used by the Lord to encourage the practice of the good’. This is a pastoral opportunity that should not be wasted!”
Celebrating the Sunday of the Word of God may hopefully look back at the truth that before becoming a written text, sacred Scripture was handed down orally and kept alive by the faith of a people. Afterall, as Pope Francis points out, “Biblical faith is based on the living word, not on a book.”