By Delia Chatoor
It can be argued that for any Christian to be deeply grounded in the Church and Christian belief, there should be the study of the redemption of man from the Fall (Gen 3:15) through all the actions of God in support of the Chosen People and to the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension of His Son and to the parousia. All the events associated with them are found in Sacred Scripture: the Word of God.
On September 30, 2019, the Feast of St Jerome, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio titled Aperuit Illis, instituting ‘The Sunday of the Word of God’. The Sunday will take place every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time beginning January 26. The Holy Father noted that the day should be devoted to “the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.”
Pope Francis presented a number of practical ways to commemorate the Sunday and these include the enthronement of “the sacred text”, commissioning of lectors and for the clergy to reflect in the homily “the honour” that is due to God’s Word.
In a treatise against the heresy of Noetus by St Hippolytus, priest, the following is stated: “There is only one God, brethren, and we learn about him only from sacred Scripture. It is therefore our duty to become acquainted with what Scripture proclaims and to investigate its teachings thoroughly.”
The Proclamation of Jesus in Luke 21:32 is equally providential: “Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
The study and reflection on the Word should also help in a deeper understanding and appreciation of the genesis of many liturgical practices of the Church ranging from the sacraments to the structure of the Mass.
It is also useful to recall the various references in the gospels to Jesus as He read from the Torah (Lk 4:16–22), sought solace in the Psalms (Lk 23:47) and explained the prophecies about Himself from the Old Testament prophets.
In other words, Jesus was no stranger to the Old Testament and He was adept at engaging the elders from an early age when His parents found Him with them listening and responding to arguments advanced (Lk 2:46–47).
The introduction of the Motu Proprio can, therefore, be said to be fortuitous as it coincides with the Archbishop’s three Hs, especially ‘Homilies’, and the observation that the homily helps “people to enter more deeply into the word of God through simple and suitable language”.
This approach would also allow “priests themselves to discover the beauty of the images used by the Lord” in His teaching.
If we want to draw closer to God, then we must delve deeply into the Word: Christ Jesus and the Church provides many methods to help. We can gain spiritual insights through individual or group Bible studies, lectio divina, or the use of cultural traditions (dance and art).
Yet it must be emphasised, as stated in Dei Verbum, and mentioned by Pope Francis, that “we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures.”
As a beginning to appreciate the Bible, some time should be devoted to reading and contemplating St Luke’s account of the road to Emmaus where it is recorded that Jesus “opened [the minds of two disciples] to understand the scriptures.”(Lk 24:25).
Even though the Scriptures referred to in that passage are the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scripture was inspired by God and pointed to the Messiah: Christ Jesus. All of the Bible, therefore, recounts God’s promise as fulfilled in Jesus (Jn 5:39–40).
We have an open invitation to the banquet of the Word at which table we would be fed words to enrich us, strengthen us, satisfy our hunger for all that is wholesome and which would gladden the heart.
May the Holy Spirit which inspired the authors of the Word of God shed its light on us and energise us towards the Church’s new evangelisation.
Delia Chatoor is a retired foreign service officer, Vice President of the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society, and a Lay Minister of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando Parish