VATICAN CITY — The newly established “Sunday of the Word of God” is an invitation to Catholics across the world to deepen their appreciation, love and faithful witness to God and his word, Pope Francis said.
By papal decree, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time — Jan. 26 this year — is to be observed as a special day devoted to “the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.”
A day dedicated to the Bible will help the Church “experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his Word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world,” the pope said in the document establishing the special Sunday observance.
Dioceses and parishes have been invited to respond with creative initiatives, helpful resources and renewed efforts for helping Catholics engage more deeply with the Bible at church and in their lives.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, said added emphasis on the importance of the word of God is needed because “the overwhelming majorit” of Catholics are not familiar with sacred Scripture. For many, the only time they hear the word of God is when they attend Mass.
“The Bible is the most widely distributed book, but it’s also perhaps the one most covered in dust because it is not held in our hands,” the archbishop said.
With this apostolic letter, the pope “invites us to hold the Word of God in our hands every day as much as possible so that it becomes our praye” and a greater part of one’s lived experience, he said.
In his letter, Pope Francis wrote, “A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a yearlong event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his Word and to break bread in the community of believers.
“We need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness,” he wrote.
Sacred Scripture and the sacraments are inseparable, he wrote. Jesus speaks to everyone with his Word in sacred Scripture, he said, and if people “hear his voice and open the doors of our minds and hearts, then he will enter our lives and remain ever with us.”
Pope Francis urged priests to be extra attentive to creating a homily each Sunday that “speaks from the heart” and really helps people understand Scripture “through simple and suitable” language.
The homily “is a pastoral opportunity that should not be wasted,” he wrote. “For many of our faithful, in fact, this is the only opportunity they have to grasp the beauty of God’s word and to see it applied to their daily lives.”