THEME: THE WORD OF GOD
READINGS: Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10/ 1 Corinthians 12:12-30/ Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today is the Sunday of the Word of God. In this homily, we will look at the meaning, “celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God” (Pope Francis, Apostolic letter Aperuit illis, 30 September 2019, no. 3).
WHAT IS THE WORD OF GOD?
Firstly, human words could be statements or declarations which reveal the intention, wish or command of the speaker. Similarly, the Word of God reveals His intention, will, plan, command, etc.
Secondly, God’s Word is absolutely powerful and creative. His Word accomplishes what He declares. For instance, in the beginning, He declared, “Let there be light” and light appeared without fail (Gen. 1:3).
Thirdly, the Word of God is not only powerful, it is also redemptive. In other words, God’s Word saves the world. Thus, Scripture testifies to the fact that to save the world, the Word of God became flesh and lived among us (cf. John 1:1-3,14-16; 3:16).
Fourthly, God spoke His Word through His prophets (e.g., Jonah 3:1). Then, in the fullness of time, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is also the eternal Word of God, speaks to us (cf. John 1:1-3; Luke 4:14-21).
Fifthly, the Word of God which was initially passed on from generation to generation by the prophets and other servants of God was eventually written down as the Old Testament. Similarly, the Word of God which was initially proclaimed by Jesus Christ and passed on by His disciples as well as the teachings of His disciples were eventually written down as the New Testament. These two Testaments form one unit called the Holy Bible or Scriptures or the Word of God.
CELEBRATION OF THE WORD OF GOD
The written Word of God or the Holy Bible is the focus of the Sunday of the Word of God. Because the Bible is the very Word of God, though written in human words for our comprehension, and because it is indispensable for our salvation, we are to celebrate it.
We celebrate it by honouring it. There are several ways of honouring the Word of God. These include: showing reverence to it (cf. Neh. 8:5-6), being attentive when it is read (cf. Neh. 8:3), living by its tenets/commandments, showing respect to the printed Word (Bible), and enthroning the Bible in the church or in a special place in our homes.
STUDY OF THE WORD OF GOD
According to Pope Francis, the study of the Word of God is also to be highlighted on the Sunday of the Word of God. Besides the critical importance of the Bible for our salvation, it “is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). We must, therefore, dedicate some time to read, study and pray with it daily as much as possible. Each parish or church community should organize Bible study sessions, and catechists, teachers of Sunday Children Service and lay readers/lectors should be well trained.
DISSEMINATION OF THE WORD OF GOD
Another aspect of the Sunday of the Word of God is the dissemination of the Word. This involves proclaiming it or distributing copies of portions of or the entire Bible. Hearing the Word of God is fundamental to having faith in Him. Hence, the crucial importance of disseminating the Word of God. St. Paul rhetorically makes this point: “But how are they to call on one [God] in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim Him? … So, faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the Word of Christ” (Rom. 10:14, 17).
Hence, our Lord tirelessly proclaimed the Word from the beginning through to the end of His earthly ministry. He proclaimed it at various places and times. Regarding the places, He preached in the synagogues (cf. Luke 4:14-21), the Temple precints, at the shores, in the wilderness, etc. Regarding the times, He proclaimed the Word day and night, as well as on different occasions, whether His audience welcomed it or not.
The task of proclaiming the good news has to continue until the end of time. Hence, our Lord has mandated us to proclaim the good news to all nations (Matt. 28:18-20; cf. Rom. 10:15). However, we cannot faithfully and confidently proclaim the Word of God if we do not study the Bible. So, let us dedicate more time to read and study it.
Beloved, today, we have been reminded that the Word of God is indispensable for the salvation of all. Firstly, therefore, let us honour the Word of God by making it the centre of our lives. Secondly, let us make time to read, study and pray with the Word of God. Finally, as we gain confidence in our knowledge of the Word of God, may the Holy Spirit empower us to become ardent ambassadors of the good news of salvation. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John K. Louis