Sunday of the Word of God

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16–17)

The Sunday of the Word of God in the Catholic Church takes place on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time – tomorrow Sunday, January 23rd. It was established in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio (of his own initiative), Aperuit illis, “to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.” The title of the papal document, “Aperuit illis“, is taken from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 24, the “Road to Emmaus” narrative.

Before encountering his disciples, gathered behind closed doors, and opening their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures (Lk 24:44-45), the risen Lord appeared to two of them on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem (Lk 24:13-35). Saint Luke’s account notes that this happened on the very day of his resurrection, a Sunday. The two disciples were discussing the recent events concerning Jesus’ passion and death. Their journey was marked by sorrow and disappointment at his tragic death. They had hoped that he would be the Messiah who would set them free, but they found themselves instead confronted with the scandal of the cross. The risen Lord himself gently draws near and walks with them, yet they do not recognize him (v.16). Along the way, he questions them, and, seeing that they have not grasped the meaning of his passion and death, he exclaims: “O foolish men, and slow of heart” (v.25). Then, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures” (v.27).

Francis issued this directive in consequence of his intention to set aside a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so that all believers can realize the treasure in their possession.

On the popular public television program Antiques Roadshow, people from around the country bring their treasures to be appraised by various experts. An antique might be a cherished family heirloom displayed proudly in a prominent place in the home, or a long-forgotten trinket gathering dust on a shelf in the attic. Whatever the item, the owner is usually surprised to hear the expert’s comments. The appraiser might put a low price tag on something the owner thought had great value. And what was originally purchased for a few dollars sometimes turns out to be a prized collector’s item now valued at thousands of dollars.

Take a look around your home. What is your family’s most valued possession? Is it an object, a person, a relationship? How does your family express delight and pride in treasured possessions?

Do we consider the Bible a treasure, a special table around which the family gathers? Is the family Bible among your home’s most valuable possessions? As we consider practical ways to share the Word of God at home, perhaps we will be surprised to discover that the family Bible, regardless of whether it is prominently displayed or is gathering dust on an attic shelf, is one of the most valuable spiritual treasures in a Christian home. But is it a treasure in the life of the family?

So maybe it’s time to shake the dust off your Bible and begin to read. Listed here are 10 points for fruitful Scripture reading.

Bible reading is for Catholics. The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.

Prayer is the beginning and the end. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful people.

Get the whole story! When selecting a Bible, look for a Catholic edition. A Catholic edition will include the Church’s complete list of sacred books along with introductions and notes for understanding the text. A Catholic edition will have an imprimatur notice on the back of the title page. An imprimatur indicates that the book is free of errors in Catholic doctrine.

The Bible isn’t a book. It’s a library. The Bible is a collection of 73 books written over the course of many centuries. The books include royal history, prophecy, poetry, challenging letters to struggling new faith communities, and believers’ accounts of the preaching and passion of Jesus. Knowing the genre of the book you are reading will help you understand the literary tools the author is using and the meaning the author is trying to convey.

Know what the Bible is – and what it isn’t. The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as history text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation.

The sum is greater than the parts. Read the Bible in context. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text.

The Old relates to the New. The Old Testament and the New Testament shed light on each other. While we read the Old Testament in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it has its own value as well. Together, these testaments help us to understand God’s plan for human beings.

You do not read alone. By reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, Catholics join those faithful men and women who have taken God’s Word to heart and put it into practice in their lives. We read the Bible within the tradition of the Church to benefit from the holiness and wisdom of all the faithful.

What is God saying to me? The Bible is not addressed only to long-dead people in a faraway land. It is addressed to each of us in our own unique situations. When we read, we need to understand what the text says and how the faithful have understood its meaning in the past. In light of this understanding, we then ask: What is God saying to me?

Reading isn’t enough. If Scripture remains just words on a page, our work is not done. We need to meditate on the message and put it into action in our lives. Only then can the word be “living and effective.”(Hebrews 4:12).

“10 points for fruitful Scripture reading” re-posted from USCCB.

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