A little over a year ago, Pope Francis issued a document in which he declared that the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time be celebrated at the Sunday of the Word of God. In this letter, the Holy Father had promised previously that he would set aside a Sunday so that the faithful could give special attention to the Scriptures. He wrote the following:
Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world.
I welcome this decision by the pope, as I have become more and more convinced at how powerful the Scriptures can be for us, as they speak to us in ways that encourage us and challenge us, thus pushing us forward in our journey of discipleship. I have had the practice of reading from the New Testament for 5 minutes each day, and by doing so, I have been amazed at how my love of the Word of God has grown. At the beginning of this month, I was made aware of a podcast hosted by Ascension Press titled “The Bible in a Year (with Father Mike Schmitz).” I have been listening every day and I have really enjoyed it, especially listening to the Old Testament in short chunks. Even if you signed up now, you would be getting through most of the Bible in one year. These are just two examples that work for me. There are many different ways in which to have more regular contact with the Word of God. Maybe today can be a day to make a resolution to be more intentional with regards to your relationship with the Word of God.
It is very fitting that that Sunday of the Word of God falls during this month during which we are focusing on the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the sacrament in which we receive the Word of God made flesh in Holy Communion. We speak of His Real Presence in the Eucharist, and that is one of the greatest gifts that we have as Catholics. But just because we have the Eucharist does not mean we do not need the Word of God as much; we need them both. To highlight how interconnected these two are, I share the following from Pope Benedict XVI’s document on the Word of God:
The sacramentality of the word can thus be understood by analogy with the real presence of Christ under the appearances of the consecrated bread and wine. By approaching the altar and partaking in the Eucharistic banquet we truly share in the body and blood of Christ. The proclamation of God’s word at the celebration entails an acknowledgment that Christ himself is present, that he speaks to us, and that he wishes to be heard. Saint Jerome speaks of the way we ought to approach both the Eucharist and the word of God: “We are reading the sacred Scriptures. For me, the Gospel is the Body of Christ; for me, the holy Scriptures are his teaching. And when he says: whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood (Jn 6:53), even though these words can also be understood of the [Eucharistic] Mystery, Christ’s body and blood are really the word of Scripture, God’s teaching. When we approach the [Eucharistic] Mystery, if a crumb falls to the ground we are troubled. Yet when we are listening to the word of God, and God’s Word and Christ’s flesh and blood are being poured into our ears yet we pay no heed, what great peril should we not feel?” Christ, truly present under the species of bread and wine, is analogously present in the word proclaimed in the liturgy. A deeper understanding of the sacramentality of God’s word can thus lead us to a more unified understanding of the mystery of revelation, which takes place through “deeds and words intimately connected”; an appreciation of this can only benefit the spiritual life of the faithful and the Church’s pastoral activity.