Sunday of the Word of God

Pope Francis Instituted this Day on September 30, 2019

Sunday of the Word of God

Father Rafael de Mosteyrín offers this article on the celebration of the Word of God, to be observed on Sunday, January 23, 2022.

* * *

Pope Francis instituted the Day called “Sunday of the Word of God” in 2019. Every year since then it takes place on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. This year it will be observed on January 23. The purpose is to consider expressly the importance of the Word of God. In this connection, we can recall that Sacred Scripture is God’s message to man and that He expects a personal reply from each Christian.

What does it mean that it’s a message? I would like to recall an anecdote that Pope John Paul I told — who will be Beatified in September –, about his years as Patriarch of Venice. He explained that some elderly priests, used to notable preachers as his predecessors were, criticized him a bit for the simplicity and ingenuousness of the examples that he gave in his preaching. But he answered saying: “The Word of God is no more than a letter. My mother, when the postman brought her a letter from my father, who was working in Germany, opened it anxiously and read and reread it; then she hastened to answer it and put it in the mailbox right away. This is the Word of God, the letter of a person that one loves, that one awaits. We read it to make it our own and we answer right away.” Hence, it’s necessary to understand it well, to answer it correctly.

So one must know well the context of the words of the Bible, to know exactly what God wants to say to us. As theologian Francisco Vari explains, in his book  “Do You Know How to Read the Bible?”, the biblical stories are not like a photograph of the events of history, in which God intervened. They are, rather, like a portrait made by a great painter. A photograph is not the same as a portrait. The Bible doesn’t offer the superficial vision that appears to the naked eye, such as an instantaneous photograph could capture, but it draws the characters of people and highlights the nuances of events.

The Bible is like a portrait painted in a painting. From some more or less figurative signs, it transmits real information of the events, as that obtained by eyewitnesses. Although sometimes the details narrate are not a tracing of the reality, they help to offer a more genuine image of what happened than if a detailed tracing had been made of the events. The Bible enjoys an authoritative interpretation, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of God’s saving interventions in favor of men. In short, the Bible is a book written with human words, but through which the Word of God is heard. God shows us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, at the same time He expects each one of us to love Him above all things and that we love one another.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester