The word of God unites believers

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We, the people of faith, need to spend some quality time with the word of God. Our commitment to reading and praying with the Scriptures on a regular basis will guide us to move “from dispersion toward unity,” Pope Francis believes. He said so in his apostolic letter “Aperuit Illis,” published Sept. 30, 2019, the Memorial of St. Jerome, which established Sunday of the Word of God, celebrated the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our diocese’s Liturgy and Faith Formation offices presented an afternoon of study and reflection with Scriptures for this year’s celebration of Sunday Word of God on Jan. 24 via Zoom. Ella Johnson, assistant professor of theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, led an inspiring exploration of the life of St. Jerome, whose devotion to sacred Scripture and its translation made it more accessible to the people of God.

Those who were not in attendance missed an opportunity to rest in God and to grow in understanding of what it means to be messengers of God’s word. Let us encourage our diocese to offer future opportunities for study and reflection, and make it a priority to participate.

St. Jerome observed 1,600 years ago “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” His devotion to Sacred Scripture and its translation for the faithful of his time inspired Pope Francis’ second apostolic letter “Scripturae Sacrae Affectus” (Devotion to Sacred Scripture, Sept.30, 2020).

While some of us do study and pray with Scripture regularly — on our own, or in Scripture study groups, informal discussions or listening to podcasts of popular theologians — many more of us do not. We feel overburdened because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. That gives us greater reason to turn to Scripture, a source of hope and a reminder of our mission as Christians.

“Today more than ever, our world needs the medicine of mercy and communion,” Pope Francis said in his 2019 letter. Our attentive reading provides reminders along the way of how Jesus calls us to love one another, to reach out to the vulnerable in our midst, to place the well-being of others before our own well-being. “Regular reading of sacred Scripture and the celebration of the Eucharist make it possible for us to see ourselves as part of one another.”

Some Christians avoid reading Scripture because of its biblical language, modes of expression and ancient cultural traditions, the pope says. “This shows the need for the mediation of an interpreter, who can exercise a ‘diaconal’ function on behalf of the person who cannot understand the meaning of the prophetic message.”

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Pope Francis says that pastors are primarily responsible for explaining sacred Scripture and helping everyone to understand it. “For many of our faithful, in fact, this is the only opportunity they have to grasp the beauty of God’s word and to see it applied to their daily lives.” The pope calls on catechists as well as homilists to devote time to study Scripture for this reason. That advice does not leave anyone else off the hook. Our diocesan Office of Faith Formation offers resources on its website (www.davenportdiocese.org/ff-formation) to enrich our understanding of our faith, to make the connection between the Word of God and its applicability to our daily lives. Our diocesan Office of Liturgy offers resources for Scripture study and preaching (www.davenportdiocese.org/liturgy).

“We hear Jesus frequently tell us ‘Do not be afraid;’ we must not be afraid to open the Word of God and search it for God’s message of love to us,” advises Rosina Hendrickson, diocesan coordinator of Lifelong Faith and Lay Ministry Formation. “Read by yourself, read with your family and read with a community. If you are looking for a community with whom to break open the Scriptures, check out Living the Sunday Word from Liturgy Training Publications; this community has transformed my life and my understanding of Sacred Scripture over the past year.”  Contact Hendrickson for more information at hendrickson@davenportdiocese.org or call her at (563) 888-4244 or send a fax to (563) 324-5811.

Pope Francis challenges young people, in particular, to “begin exploring your heritage. Christianity makes you heirs of an unsurpassed cultural patrimony of which you must take ownership. Be passionate about this history which is yours.”

Young, old or in between, the word of God unites believers. Let us choose to open God’s word for the guidance and inspiration to unite us.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor
arland-fye@davenportdiocese.org


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