In his Apostolic Letter Aperuit illis (AI) issued September 30, 2019, Pope Francis instituted the celebration of Sunday of the Word of God, which will be held every year on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. This Sunday is “to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God” (AI, 3). In 2022, it will be celebrated on January 23.
Why read and study the Word of God? What is the value of the Scriptures? We find the answer in the biblical story of the Road to Emmaus as told in the Gospel of Luke (cf. Luke 24:13‐35). Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem who were lamenting with sorrow and disappointment the recent events concerning Jesus’ passion and death. When Jesus approaches, they do not recognize Him.
However, Jesus quickly understands their lack of understanding of his passion and death and proceeds to teach them. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). As the journey ends, the disciples offer food and shelter for the night to Jesus …still not knowing that He is the Risen Lord. At dinner table, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and offers it to them. At that moment, their eyes are opened, and they recognize Him (cf. Luke 24:31). With the story of the Road to Emmaus, one can see how the Word of God reveals Christ to believers, particularly in the context of the Holy Mass.
The Word of God plays a critical role in the Holy Mass. As the first principal rite in the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word usually consists of three passages, the first from the Old Testament, the second from the New Testament, and the third from the Gospels (the four narratives relating the life and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ). The Gospel is proclaimed only by an ordained priest or deacon. We encounter Our Lord through this proclamation in a similar way to how the disciples encounter Jesus on the Road to Emmaus.
Our encounter with Jesus through the Word of God is not limited to the Holy Mass. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and we can find Our Lord throughout its books. Perhaps, there is a Bible somewhere on the bookshelves in your home. When was the last Ɵme it was opened? In the books of the Bible there are many encounters with Christ just waiting to happen. But where to start?
One approach would be to just start from the beginning with Genesis and read sequenƟally through the entire Bible. That would be 73 books – 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. Often, people will abandon this effort when they get past the second book Exodus (primarily the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt) and get into the rules and regulations outlined in the following books of Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. If you want to read the Bible in a Year like this, it is best to have a companion study plan like The Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz by Ascension Press.
If that sounds too ambitious for you, then why not start with the books focused on Jesus (i.e., the Gospels)? The Gospel of Matthew is perfect introduction to the Bible since it combines a detailed description of Jesus’ life with several discourses on his main teachings, including the famous Sermon on the Mount. Don’t want to do it alone? Then, find a good Catholic Bible Study to attend where you can study the Bible with other faithful Catholics.
Reading the Word of God can be a powerful prayer since you are interacting with God through his inspirated revelation. You will be amazed how much God will communicate to you when you read and meditate on the Scriptures. Why don’t you open your Bibles today?
~ Reflection by Stephen Terlizzi