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Sunday of the Word of God

A couple weeks ago, Fr. Joe shared a summary, written by Fr. Dan Merz, of a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) concerning Eucharistic beliefs among adult Catholics. As the Church observes the “Sunday of the Word of God,” I find myself wondering what the results might be if CARA conducted a similar survey concerning beliefs about the Bible. What answers might we hear if we asked adult Catholics, in an open-ended way, “What do you believe about the Bible?” And what answers might we ourselves give to that question?

And what answers might we hear if we asked specifically, “Does the Catholic Church teach that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and have God as their author?” or “Do you believe that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error, teach the truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures?” And how would we ourselves answer those questions?

Maybe the results of that survey wouldn’t generate the national headlines that the CARA survey on Eucharistic beliefs did, such as “Half of Adult Catholics Reject Official Church Teaching on the Eucharist,” or “Half of Adult Catholics Don’t Believe in the Real Presence.” (Which, as Fr. Merz explained well a couple weeks ago, isn’t really the whole story on those survey results.) Of course, as Catholics, it’s right that we place a high emphasis on the Eucharist – we are in the middle of a National Eucharistic Revival, after all! – and it’s right to defend the importance of our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, our celebration of which is, as the Second Vatican Council solemnly teaches, the “source and summit of the whole Christian life” (Lumen gentium, 11).

Yet the Second Vatican Council also solemnly teaches us that “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body” (Dei verbum, 21). In fact, five years ago when Pope Francis instituted this 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time as the “Sunday of the Word of God,” he spoke of the “unbreakable bond between Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist” (Aperuit illis, 8), quoting that part of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Reflecting on the place of the Sacred Scriptures in our own lives, then, is no less important than reflecting on our faith in the Eucharist. As Pope Bendict XVI once wrote, explaining the same teaching of the Second Vatican Council, “Word and Eucharist are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other: the word of God sacramentally takes flesh in the event of the Eucharist. The Eucharist opens us to an understanding of Scripture, just as Scripture for its part illumines and explains the mystery of the Eucharist” (Verbum Domini, 55).

So let’s get practical. Other than answering for ourselves the questions that I posed at the beginning of this article – which are also just quotes from the Second Vatican Council’s solemn teaching about Sacred Scripture (from Dei verbum, 11) – what are some ways we can grow in our appreciation for the riches of the Scriptures?

One way might be by enthroning the Bible in our homes. Pope Francis specifically recommended this practice when he instituted this Sunday of the Word of God, and you’ll find an insert in the bulletin this week with a simple prayer service if you’d like to do so in your own home. Enthroning the Bible this way not only gives witness to our faith to those who visit our homes, but also gives us a visual reminder of the prominent place the Sacred Scriptures are meant to have in our own life of prayer.

Another way might be through the use of good Catholic media. Many people have used something like Fr. Mike Schmitz’s “Bible in a Year” podcast, and St. Vincent de Paul Parish provides access to FORMED.org for all of our parishioners, where you can find lots of content to help you grow in your knowledge of the Scriptures.

Nothing beats actually picking up your Bible, though. Maybe you’ll want to learn more about lectio divina, an ancient Christian way of reading and praying with the Scripture. Or maybe you can just spend a little time each week with the readings for the coming Sunday, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand them and open your heart to what God wants to say to you through them.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col 3:16).