Sunday of the Word of God

While it is Australia Day here in this part of the world, universally today the Church celebrates its first ever Sunday of the Word of God.

Last September, Pope Francis decreed that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.” (Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis, no. 3).  It fulfils a proposal that he made at the end of the Holy Year of Mercy.

This Sunday, then, encourages us all to reflect on, and celebrate the central role of the Scriptures within our faith.  It is through the Bible that we come to know God, and particularly through the Gospels, we come to know the person of Jesus.  In every liturgical celebration, God speaks to us through the Scriptures that are proclaimed, and Christ is made present among us.

It’s timing, early in the Sunday of Ordinary Time, is also beneficial for us to reflect on the role the Scriptures play in our personal prayer.  The Sundays will allow us to accompany Jesus through his life and ministry as documented in the Gospel of Matthew, so this Sunday is the perfect time to make a new resolution to pray with God’s word.  Do we spend time reflecting on the Sunday readings during the week before or after Mass?  Do we give ourselves time to read the Bible, or pray with the texts through prayer forms such as Morning and Evening Prayer or Lectio Divina (“divine reading”)?

The Carmelites publish Lectio Divina prayer resources on their website each month, and our Diocesan Institute for Mission has started publishing very accessible weekly reflections on the Sunday readings by Dr Laurie Woods.  You can find links to these below:

Lectio Divina from the Carmelites Australia and Timor-Leste

Dr Laurie Woods Scripture Reflections from the Institute for Mission

22/1/12 – The Year of Mark

Gospel according to MarkDuring much of Ordinary Time this year, we will listen to readings from the gospel according to Mark.  For Sundays we have three years worth of readings.  Year A is comprised mostly of Matthew; Year B, Mark; and Year C; Luke.  Parts of John are proclaimed during the Easter Season, and on other feast days and occasions across the three-year cycle.

It has not always been this way, however.  For a long time the same readings were proclaimed every year.  In the first half of the 20th century, biblical scholarship began to develop once again in the Church.  This was reflected in the proceedings at the Second Vatican Council, which began fifty years ago this October.  The Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy spoke of the importance of scripture in liturgical celebrations, and called for the larger, more extensive collection of readings we use today.

Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony… In sacred celebrations there is to be more reading from holy scripture, and it is to be more varied and suitable.  (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 24, 35)

2/10/11 – Postures, Gestures and the Gospel Proclamation

Recently we have been looking at the postures and gestures that we engage in duringMass.  Each is intended to help us direct our minds and hearts more intently towards what we are celebrating.

While some of the gestures of Mass have fallen into disuse, one that has not been lost is the gesture prior to the proclamation of the gospel.

Once the priest announces the gospel reading, each of us signs ourselves with the cross three times; once each on the forehead, lips and chest as we say (or sing) the response, “Glory to you, O Lord.”  Signing ourselves with the cross these three times serves as a prayer or petition in itself.  Through signing ourselves with the cross we ask that the word of Christ be always in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.  In other words, we pray that all that we say and do in our lives may make the gospel of Jesus something very real for us today.

Posture is also an important part of the Liturgy of the Word.  During the Introductory Rites we stand, united as the Body of Christ that has been gathered and formed to share in the ultimate act of thanksgiving that is the celebration of the Eucharist.  Standing is also the typical posture for any time that the assembly prays during the liturgy, and the Introductory Rites include several different forms of prayer.

For the first and second readings, as well as the responsorial psalm, we sit and listen to the word of God.  The role of the assembly has changed here from praying, to listening to the scripture proclamations.  We stand again for the gospel, but not because we resume the role of praying.  We stand because the gospel is the high pointof the Liturgy of the Word.  God speaks to us through all of the readings, but Christ is particularly made present to us through the proclamation of the gospel.  The introduction to the Lectionary for Mass (book of readings) reminds us that “Christ himself is the centre and fullness of all of Scripture, as he is of the entire liturgy” (article 5).  Our standing for the gospel is a sign and acknowledgement of the particular importance of the gospel both in the celebration of Mass, and in our lives as Christians.