By Father Dariusz Strzelecki
“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” — St. Jerome
The Holy Father established Sunday of the Word of God, which is celebrated on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time — this year on Jan. 22 — as we read in the Apostolic Letter announced on Sept. 30, 2019, in the form of motu proprio “Aperuit Illis.”
The document was signed on the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Jerome — a great lover and translator of the Holy Scripture — and at the same time on the day of the liturgical memory of this doctor of the Church.
Pope Francis instituted the day for “the celebration, study, and dissemination of the Word of God.”
In the parish of St. Catharine of Alexandria in Brooklyn, for the second year in a row, we gave away free copies of the New Testament as part of the celebration.
As mentioned in the motu proprio, Pope Francis encourages us to live this Sunday as a solemn day and evokes such a feast of the Word of God described in the eighth chapter of the Book of Nehemiah.
Personally, I compare this Sunday of the Word of God to the feast of Corpus Christi — every day, we make Christ present in the Eucharistic bread on our altars, but once a year, on the feast of Corpus Christi, we solemnly celebrate the presence of God in the Eucharist. The same is true with the Word of God.
The Second Vatican Council, in its Constitution on Divine Revelation, reminds us the Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures, as has the Body of the Lord itself since, especially in the liturgy, does not cease to take, and serve to the faithful, the bread of life both from the table of the word of God and from the body of Christ.
Pope Francis also recommends the practice of “lectio divina” as prayerful listening to the Word of God. There is a nuance here that should not be overlooked. The pope did not institute Biblical Sunday, but “Sunday of the Word of God.” It’s sort of the same, but not quite.
In the exhortation “Verbum Domini,” Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that “the Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the Book’: Christianity is the ‘religion of the word of God,’ not of ‘a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word.’ ”
So, it is not only about reading the Bible but about listening to God speaking to us through the work of creation, through the books of sacred Scripture, and in the community of the Church.
Therefore, any initiatives that will help us to deepen our contact with the Word of God are highly recommended, which is why we handed out copies of the New Testament on the Sunday of the Word of God.
The Bible is the most widely distributed book in the world, but it’s probably also the dustiest because many don’t take it into their hands. Many do not know the holy Scriptures, but a good opportunity to get to know them is through listening to the readings during Sunday Mass. Let our attitude be a negation of the mentioned passivity.
Father Dariusz Strzelecki is the parochial vicar for St. Catharine of Alexandria Church in Brooklyn.