There are certain Sundays in the Church’s calendar that focus our attention on a particular idea.
For example, the Second Sunday of Easter is known as Divine Mercy Sunday. It centers our attention on the mercy of God. In the gospel proclaimed each year on that Sunday, we hear how the Risen Lord appeared to his amazed disciples, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. The gospel readings for that Sunday speak of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep, seeks them out when they stray, and willingly lays down his life to save them from harm.
The most recent Sunday to be given a special title is this coming Sunday. On September 30, 2019, Pope Francis announced, “I hereby declare that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.” This means that this coming Sunday, January 23, is entitled The Sunday of the Word of God.
Even without this designation, the scripture passages assigned for this Sunday would focus our attention on the life-giving, life-changing power of God’s word.
In our First Reading (Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10), we hear how the people of Israel, who had returned from exile in Babylon, listened attentively as Ezra the priest proclaimed God’s holy word, “from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand.” In the reading of that word, the people were reminded of their covenant with the Lord.
In Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm, the power of the word is emphasized as we pray, “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.”
In our Second Reading (1 Corinthians 12:12-30), Saint Paul speaks of the roles given to those who make up the Church, the living Body of Christ. Paul stresses the importance of apostles, prophets, and teachers. He highlights those whose mission is centered on preaching, explaining, and teaching God’s saving word.
Then in the Gospel (Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21), Luke tells us how Jesus himself proclaimed God’s word in the synagogue at Nazareth and how he applied the words he read from Isaiah to himself. “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus announced that the word of God he was reading could be seen in his ministry.
While this Sunday is entitled The Sunday of the Word of God, that is true for every Sunday. For each time we gather for Sunday Mass, God’s word, which is “spirit and life,” is proclaimed from the pulpit “in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand.”
That word, which is explained by the “apostles, prophets, and teachers” of our day, gives purpose and meaning to life, brings hope and consolation, reveals the light of truth in a world filled with darkness, transforms lives, and draws us ever closer to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
As Pope Francis told us in announcing The Sunday of the Word of God, “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. For this reason, 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.”
© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski