October 2019 Allocutio

Called, like Mary, to be listeners to the Word

Fr. Liam Ó Cuiv

The 30th September is the day that the Church commemorates St. Jerome, who translated the scriptures into Latin making them accessible to the people of God in his day. This was the day chosen by Pope Francis to sign and issue a new Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis instituting an annual Sunday of the Word of God, devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God, which will have its first celebration throughout the Church on the 26th January 2020, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time.

This was something Pope Francis had earlier mentioned in his Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera in November 2016 at the end of the extraordinary Year of Mercy.

Now the Holy Father speaks of the entire Church celebrating in unity a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God and has suggested creative initiatives to help the faithful to become living vessels for the transmission of God’s word.

The Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis reminds us, has given great impulse to the rediscovery of the word of God, thanks to its Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, a document that, he says, deserves to be read and appropriated ever anew.

To advance this teaching, Pope Benedict XVI convoked an Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2008 on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church”, and then issued the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini.

Pope Francis gives some suggestions as to how this Sunday might be marked in parishes and dioceses. For example, he speaks of the sacred text being enthroned on the Sunday of the Word of God, and of bishops celebrating that day the Rite of Installation of Lectors and of pastors giving a Bible, or one of its books, to the entire assembly.

Addressing those who share the word of God in homilies, the Pope says, in words that we can also apply to ourselves as legionaries: “When we take time to pray and meditate on the sacred text, we can speak from the heart and thus reach the hearts of those who hear us, conveying what is essential and capable of bearing fruit. May we never tire of devoting time and prayer to Scripture, so that it may be received “not as a human word but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13)”. (No.5). and, likewise, we can note for ourselves what he says speaking of catechists: in their ministry of helping people to grow in their faith, [they] ought to feel an urgent need for personal renewal through familiarity with, and study of, the sacred Scriptures. This will help them foster in their hearers a true dialogue with the word of God. (idem.)

Pope Francis goes on to speak of the Bible’s role in helping us understand the truths of faith: “The Bible, as sacred Scripture, speaks of Christ and proclaims him as the one who had to endure suffering and then enter into his glory (cf. v. 26). Not simply a part, but the whole of Scripture speaks of Christ. Apart from the Scriptures, his death and resurrection cannot be rightly understood… Since the Scriptures everywhere speak of Christ, they enable us to believe that his death and resurrection are not myth but history, and are central to the faith of his disciples. (no. 7)”

What can we take from this initiative as legionaries? A strength of the Legion of Mary is its personal way of leading individuals to God, not as experts giving classes, but as individuals who share their faith and love of God from their own hearts. The word of God in scripture belongs not to the few but to the whole People of God. As the Pope puts it, “The Bible cannot be just the heritage of some, much less a collection of books for the benefit of a privileged few. It belongs above all to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words” (no. 4). Legionaries, who are imbued with the word of God, can be clear models of this truth. The document itself tells us: A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for 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.

Our Lady is spoken of in scripture not only as the one who brought the incarnate Word into the world, but as one who was blessed because she ‘kept’ the word and ‘pondered it in her heart’. (See Handbook p. 108). Pope Francis tells us that the Mother of the Lord accompanies us along our path of welcoming God’s word into our hearts,

However the Holy Father’s request is taken up in our parishes, as legionaries, let us do all we can to open ourselves to God’s word, as Our Lady did, to allow it enrich our legionary apostolate and to be guided by God’s speaking to us in the Word of God.