The Word of God

The Word of God

  • Today in Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
  • 19 January 2020

In September of last year Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter “Aperuit illis” devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God. The feast day of St. Jerome was chosen for the Holy Father’s announcement that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time would be celebrated as the “Word of God Sunday.” St. Jerome was from Dalmatia and died at Bethlehem exactly1600 years ago. He was an early commentator and author of the Latin (“Vulgate”) translation of the Bible. He is one of the four great doctors of the Latin Church and the patron saint of scripture scholars. The St. Jerome Biblical Commentary is standard reading and reference for all seminarians and priests to this day. Pope Francis says that he wrote this Apostolic Letter in response to requests from the faithful around the world to celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God. He suggests that the Bible be granted particular honor on this Sunday of celebration.

For those who may have wandered through the parish campus, we have displayed several large (antique) Bibles in the Commons and the Family Room. These Douay-Rheims publications are beautifully preserved translations of the Vulgate and are well over 125 years old. Although the language is somewhat archaic, it is an accurate view into the Latin Bible that was the standard Christian text for over one thousand years. The simultaneous invention of the printing press and the Protestant Reformation began the translation of Sacred Scripture into the modern European languages and eventually into virtually every tongue on earth. As the most published book in the world, the dissemination of the Word of God has already taken place. But Pope Francis has a more keen interest in seeing that the Scriptures become more familiar to the Catholic ear and studied more attentively by Catholics. This too has been occurring, not only here at St. Elizabeth Seton, but throughout the Church. Bible study groups are popping up like mushrooms in every parish as the interest in this most ancient of books continues to rise.

Catholics are sometimes intimidated by their Protestant and Evangelical neighbors because of their apparent facility with chapter and verse. But it is not correct to consider Catholics more ignorant of the Bible than their Protestant counterparts within Christianity. It is my contention that most Catholics have greater familiarity with the Scriptures than they might realize. The Sunday Lectionary exposes us to vast sections of the Bible over a period of three years. We are currently in the year of Matthew, where we are exposed to virtually the entire gospel until we begin the year of Mark next Advent. The liturgy is replete with references to the Word of God that we can hear, and celebrate and read. Studying the Bible is another matter.

Next Sunday morning (January 26th), to celebrate the Word of God, I shall be giving a presentation on the history and study of the Bible that should introduce a methodology to open the Scriptures in some interesting and exciting ways. It is not just an old religion book! The Bible contains history and science, philosophy and prophecy; it is a window into the heart of humanity that exposes the best and the worst. So please come and join me next week for a quick tour of our Scriptures and BYOB ( Bring your own Bible). As the many generations from St. Jerome to the present have discovered, there’s a good reason why the Bible is The Best of the “Best Sellers.”