Four years ago, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter, Aperuit Illis, instituting Sunday of the Word of God for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. As the Holy Father wrote:
It is fitting, then that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride, that she may grow in love and faithful witness.
Consequently, I hereby declare that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God. This Sunday of the Word of God will thus be a fitting part of that time of the year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. This is more than a temporal coincidence: the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.
The various communities will find their own ways to mark this Sunday with a certain solemnity. It is important, however, that in the Eucharistic celebration the sacred text be enthroned, in order to focus the attention of the assembly on the normative value of God’s word. On this Sunday, it would be particularly appropriate to highlight the proclamation of the word of the Lord and to emphasize in the homily the honour that it is due. Bishops could celebrate the Rite of Installation of Lectors or a similar commissioning of readers, in order to bring out the importance of the proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy. In this regard, renewed efforts should be made to provide members of the faithful with the training needed to be genuine proclaimers of the word, as is already the practice in the case of acolytes or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Pastors can also find ways of giving a Bible, or one of its books, to the entire assembly as a way of showing the importance of learning how to read, appreciate and pray daily with sacred Scripture, especially through the practice of lectio divina.
With the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time now upon us — check your calendar! — the good people at Catholic.Bible (part of the USCCB) will be offering something new for parishes and the people in the pews.
Topics will include: “Who Actually Wrote the Bible?,” “What Are the Synoptic Gospels?,” and “How Can I Practice Lectio Divina?,” and more. This promises to be a welcome resource that should have a shelf life long after this Sunday.
For those wondering: the title of the Apostolic Letter, Asperuit Illis, is the Latin translation of the first two words of the document, from Luke: “He opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” (Lk 24:45)
Meantime, I think preachers can find some compelling connections between this Sunday’s scripture and “the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.” The Gospel is about that. It focuses on calling, answering, preaching — and how the first followers of Christ responded to The Word made flesh.