By Thaddeus Jones

Jan 22 2024

Celebrating the annual Sunday of the Word of God, Pope Francis encourages us to be “conquered by the beauty” the Word of God brings into our lives, opening our hearts and showing us new and unforeseen wonders and horizons of God’s love.

Pope Francis presided over the celebration of the “Sunday of the Word of God” in Saint Peter’s Basilica on 21 January. This year’s motto is taken from the Gospel of Saint John: “Remain in my Word” (John 8,31).

The Pope established the day as a profoundly pastoral initiative to show the importance the word of God has in the daily life of the Church and our communities, a Word that is not confined to a book, but one that remains ever alive and becomes a concrete and tangible sign. The Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization and Section for Fundamental Questions regarding Evangelization in the World, prepared a special liturgical and pastoral handbook for the annual observance, which takes place each year on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time.

In his homily during the Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis, referring to the Gospel reading for the Sunday, observed that when Jesus called His first disciples to leave their fishing nets to follow Him, the Lord’s word “unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit, a power that draws people to God.” That Word draws us to God and then “sends us to others,” the Pope explained, as it makes our hearts and minds grow, showing us new and exciting horizons of hope and love that we naturally wish to share with others.

All missionaries

The Pope explained how we, too, on our own shores of life where we are occupied with the “nets” of our daily occupations, need to hear the Lord’s call to set out with Him as missionaries, “God’s messengers and witnesses to a world drowning in words, yet thirsting for the very Word it so often ignores.” 

“The Church lives from this dynamic: called by Christ and drawn to Him, she is sent into the world to bear witness to Him.”

Recalling how the Saints down through the centuries opened their hearts and minds to God’s Word, letting it touch them and renew their soul with the peace of Jesus and concern for others, the Pope suggested we, too, can be moved in a similar way if we “stop being ‘deaf’ to God’s Word.”

He pointed out that the risk for all of us is being overwhelmed by all we hear and letting the word of God glide over us without really hearing, accepting, or processing it. Also, when we read the word of God, we need to pray as well as read sacred Scripture, “so that it can become a dialogue between God and the reader.” He recalled that two key aspects of Christian prayer are indeed “listening to the word and worshiping the Lord.”  

“Let us make room for the prayerful reading of Jesus’ words. Then we will have the same experience as those first disciples.”

Seeking new life

Recalling how the disciples left their fishing nets to follow Jesus, the Pope described their decision and courage to leave their old lives behind to grow in a new life with meaning rooted in faith and embracing God’s love, a life centered on what’s ultimately important.

“Scripture establishes us in goodness and reminds us who we truly are: children of God, saved and beloved… Sacred Scripture releases a paralyzed faith and makes us savour anew the Christian life for what it truly is: a love story with the Lord.”

Following the Lord

Then describing how the disciples followed the Lord, the Pope said their choice shows us how Christ’s Word liberates us from past and present burdens and also helps us “mature in truth and charity,” giving us new life and hope.

The Pope prayed that we, too, may “return with joy to the sources of our faith, which is born of listening to Jesus, the living Word of God.” While we are often “barraged” by words about the Church, he hoped that we do not miss hearing and embracing “the word of life that resounds in the Church.” 

“Let us return to the sources, in order to offer to the world the living water for which it yearns and does not find, and while society and social media reflect the violence of words, let us draw closer to, and cultivate, the quiet word that brings salvation.”

Reading the word of God

The Pope suggested we examine our own lives and look at how much room we make for the word of God in our lives. With all that we read and consume, do we make space for the Bible? he asked. Do we have a Gospel nearby, “in our pockets and purses, on our telephones?” he wondered. 

“If Christ is dearer to me than anything else, how can I leave Him at home and not bring His Word with me?”

He encouraged everyone to read through at least one of the four Gospels, as many may not have done so already. And to assist the five thousand participating in the morning celebration in Saint Peter’s Basilica, a copy of the Gospel of Mark was distributed to all. 

In conclusion, the Pope underscored that God is “the author of beauty,” and prayed that we might “allow ourselves to be conquered by the beauty that the word of God brings into our lives.” – Vatican News