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Celebrating Sunday of the Word of God

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

January 22, 2020

Having just celebrated the birth of the Word made Flesh at Christmas, Pope Francis calls our attention to the written word of Scripture. He has designated January 26 as Sunday of the Word of God – “a Sunday given over entirely to the Word of God, so we might appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people. The Bible is not a collection of history books…but is aimed entirely at the integral salvation of the person” (Aperuit illis,2,9).

Pope Benedict XVI wrote that God’s presence in the Word and His presence in the Eucharist belong together, inseparably. Only if we are living in the sphere of God’s Word can we properly comprehend and properly receive the gift of the Eucharist.

This is what stands out in the very first Liturgy of the Word that took place with the risen Christ and the two disciples headed for Emmaus.

As they listened to the explanation of the Scripture, their hearts began to soften in such a way that they were able to recognize Him when later Jesus broke the bread.

Not only are the words of the Bible spoken and the stories retold at Mass – they are relived in such a way that what is remembered becomes real and present. Whatever it was that happened “at that time” is happening “at this time,” today, as the Liturgy loves to say.

We are not only hearers of the Word, passive recipients as it were, but we ourselves are the ones who speak and act. It is to us who are present that the Word is addressed.

We are to be active participants at Mass. We cannot be mere spectators at Liturgy. We are called to put ourselves in the place of the people in the story, to enter the sphere of God’s Word.

Mass is a living encounter with the Lord. For liturgy to be truly a divine encounter pleasing to God, a change of heart is necessary.

Christian conversion is an encounter for life with the “God of the living” (Mt.22:32). Mass is a life experience that forms, not an entertainment event, not an idea to be learned or merely motions to be meticulously and beautifully performed.

Ours is a hope-filled faith. We remember that Jesus said, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt.28:20). We witness to the resurrection of Jesus not by collapsing under the weight of scandal in the Church but by acknowledging it, praying, worshipping together as a family faith, working to eradicate the evil (social and personal) and continuing together in the Church’s mission of reconciliation, healing, charity and justice.

We join in the walk, the talk and the breaking of the bread with those two discouraged disciples and the risen Christ.

This New Year 2020, let us resolve to work on our comfort level with Scripture and to invite others to enter the dialogue at Mass where we are fed with the Word and the very Body and Blood of Jesus. We need this heavenly food for the journey of life.

Pray that members of our own families return to worship with us at Mass. We rely on the prayers of one another and ultimately on God’s grace to be a truly Eucharistic people.

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