Sunday of the Word of God

by Fr Dumisani Vilakati

Taken from:

On the 26th January 2020, being the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, occurs the first celebrations of the Sunday of the Word of God as decreed by Pope Francis on the 30th September 2019, the liturgical memorial of St. Jerome and the 1600th anniversary of his death.

In the Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis in which the Holy Father declared this Sunday as such, mention is made of two matters that need to be in the minds of all Christians as we ponder on the Word of God:

  1. Giving ourselves a moment to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that dialogue between the Lord and his people as contained in Sacred Scripture.
  2. Allowing the Lord to once again open for us the treasury of his Word and enable us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world.

The Holy Father goes on to see this celebration in the context of improving ecumenical relations with both Jews and other Christian Churches and communities. This is especially true in that most of what we call the Old Testament is also Sacred Scripture for Jews whilst we share even more books with other Christian Churches and communities in both the Old and New Testaments. As such therefore, we have to see the Word of God as having ecumenical value. This is because the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.

In the same Apostolic Letter we also find some practical suggestions for the celebrations of the Sunday of the Word of God and obviously these can be adapted according to circumstances.

  1. The study and the making available of the Word of God to as many people as possible.
  2. Enthronement of the sacred text during the Eucharistic celebrations.
  3. Highlighting the proclamation of the Word of the Lord and emphasising in the homily the honour that it is due.
  4. Celebrations of the installation of Lectors or commissioning of readers.
  5. Providing members of the faithful with the training needed to be genuine proclaimers of the Word.
  6. Providing Bibles or even one of its books to the entire assembly as a way of showing the importance of learning how to read, appreciate and pray daily with Sacred Scripture, especially the practice of lectio divina.
  7. In our Southern African context we may do well too in rekindling and encouraging the spirit and practice of Bible sharing methods in families and Small Christian Communities.

It is hoped that the aforementioned practical suggestions will assist Christians to value all the more the Word of God as contained in Sacred Scripture as well as exploring its inexhaustible riches. At the end of it all though we know that it is the Lord who really assists our understanding of his Word. “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). The warning of St. Jerome, rather than scare us, should at least prove helpful: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”.