IN SEPTEMBER 2019, Pope Francis issued, motu proprio, the apostolic letter, Aperuit illis, dedicating the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time every year as the Sunday of the Word of God. It aims to remind us to value the Word and study the Bible more.
During the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word encompasses the scripture readings (taken from the Old and New Testaments, the Psalms and the Gospels and the homily. An Early Church Father lamented that the faithful show utmost deference to the Holy Communion, but allow the Word to fall onto the ground and be scattered around.
After more than a thousand years, this may still be the case. The Sunday of the Word of God allows us to seriously think about how we should treat God’s Word with a respectful attitude.
We should receive the Word with the same deference as we do Holy Communion because the Word is also the Body of the Christ. As written in the opening of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word … And the Word became flesh …” Jesus is both a real person and a transcendent God. Thus in the Mass, while it is important to receive the real and substantial Holy Communion in both bread and wine, the invisible Word of God, which has been transformed into sounds and words, also nourishes our faith as well as our physical and mental being.
The altar in the Mass is described as the dining table, we who share in this foretaste of the heavenly banquet should cherish the Word as well. Whether it is the Word of God or the Holy Communion in both bread and wine, we must savour so we may be sustained on the path to heaven.
In the Book of Genesis, when God created the world, he used the Word. When he said “let there be light,” light shone out right away. God’s creation is a concrete manifestation of his Word, and it is humanity that can best manifest the characteristics of the Word.
Human beings are created in the image of God. Therefore, we are the Word of God’s presence on earth. However, the presence and action of the Word in us is yet to be perfected. If God’s image in human beings is to be fully manifested, as with the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor, then we need to follow the Word which is genuinely present on earth— Jesus Christ.
Thus, in the Mass, we hear to the Word with deference, they not only passively receive it but actively. The Word calls Christians live it out in daily life. The seed of faith manifested in actions in response to the call of Christ.
The transformation of the world is the full presence of the sign of God’s Word. The world itself is the expression of God’s revelation. To discover God’s mystery in the world, to bring various faces of the Word into focus and to enable God’s work of salvation to be fully present, each of us must fill our ears and inscribe our hearts with every single word of the Word. This in turn can restore the world to the original face of the Word as it was at the beginning of God’s creation. Only then can we genuinely and fully respond to the Word itself and participate in the building up of the kingdom of God on earth. SE