Third Sunday in Ordinary – Sunday of the Word of God (26 Jan ’20)

By a recent promulgation, called “Aperuit Illis” (“He opened to them [the Scriptures]”), Pope Francis has designated the third Sunday of the Year as Sunday of the Word of God. In it he tells us that:

            Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to 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. Here, we are reminded of the teaching of Saint Ephrem: “Who is able to understand, Lord, all the richness of even one of your words? There is more that eludes us than what we can understand. We are like the thirsty drinking from a fountain. Your word has as many aspects as the perspectives of those who study it. The Lord has coloured his word with diverse beauties, so that those who study it can contemplate what stirs them. He has hidden in his word all treasures, so that each of us may find a richness in what he or she contemplates.”

He reminds us that:

            When sacred Scripture is read in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written, it remains ever new. The Old Testament is never old once it is part of the New, since all has been transformed thanks to the one Spirit who inspired it. The sacred text as a whole serves a prophetic function regarding not the future but the present of whoever is nourished by this word. Jesus himself clearly stated this at the beginning of his ministry: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). Those who draw daily nourishment from God’s word become, like Jesus, a contemporary of all those whom they encounter: they are not tempted to fall into sterile nostalgia for the past, or to dream of ethereal utopias yet to come.

Today’s Gospel (Mt 4:12-23), takes up the first reading from Isaiah ((Isa 8:23-93) in which the prophet says that a “people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.”  Matthew, looking back on the life of Jesus and recalling the prophecy of Isaiah, suggests that Jesus, in his coming, burst on the Galilee of his time like a meteor. But Jesus, plodding along the roads of Galilee, lived out that coming day by day, as we are called to do. We are to become, as the Pope puts it, “like Jesus, a contemporary of all those whom we encounter… not tempted to fall into sterile nostalgia for the past, or to dream of ethereal utopias yet to come.” It is in the here and now that we must live the reality of the Kingdom which is “close at hand.”

Matthew goes on to show how the early disciples were drawn by the Spirit into the ambiance of Jesus, leaving all to become his followers and to learn how to bring his light to the people of their own time. It wasn’t all plain sailing, as Paul in the 2nd reading reminds us: disunity could break out among disciples very easily, especially when, as in the case of the Corinthians to whom Paul was writing, they were puffed up with their own insights as to how the faith should be lived out. Paul brings them back solidly to the light which Christ had brought them, a light which shone on them from the Cross of Christ. So Sunday by Sunday, and in particular this Sunday of the Word of God, we are challenged to live anew by the light of the Gospel. As the Pope says:

            The sweetness of God’s word leads us to share it with all those whom we encounter in this life and to proclaim the sure hope that it contains (cf. 1 Pet 3:15-16). Its bitterness, in turn, often comes from our realization of how difficult it is to live that word consistently, or our personal experience of seeing it rejected as meaningless for life. We should never take God’s word for granted, but instead let ourselves be nourished by it, in order to acknowledge and live fully our relationship with him and with our brothers and sisters.

(To read the full text of “Aperuit Illis” see: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-09/pope-motu-proprio-sunday-word-of-god.html and for resources on it from Maynooth see: https://maynoothcollege.ie/news-events/2019/resources-for-sunday-of-the-word-of-god)

Céline Mangan, O.P.

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