Sunday of the Word of God

Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Motu proprio "Aperuit illis", published on September 30, 2019, establishes that "the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God". Pope Francis says he wrote this Apostolic Letter in response to requests from the faithful around the world to celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God.

The timing of the document is significant: 30 September is the Feast of Saint Jerome, the man who translated most of the Bible into Latin, and who famously said: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ". This year also marks 1600 years since his death.

The title of the document, “Aperuit illis”, is equally important. They are its opening words, taken from St Luke’s Gospel, where the Evangelist describes how the Risen Jesus appeared to His disciples, and how “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”.

The timing of the day will mean that it will often coincide with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and is at the same time as commemorations for Holocaust Memorial Day. Pope Francis notes this:

“This Sunday of the Word of God will thus be a fitting part of that time of the year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. This is more than a temporal coincidence: the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.”

The Bible is not meant for a privileged few, continues Pope Francis. It belongs “to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words”. The Bible cannot be monopolized or restricted to select groups either, he writes, because it is “the book of the Lord’s people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division towards unity”.

The importance of the homily
“Pastors are primarily responsible for explaining Sacred Scripture and helping everyone to understand it”, writes Pope Francis. Which is why the homily possesses “a quasi-sacramental character”.  The Pope warns against improvising or giving “long, pedantic homilies or wandering off into unrelated topics”.

Rather, he suggests using simple and suitable language. For many of the faithful, he writes, “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 role of the Holy Spirit
“The role of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures is primordial”, writes Pope Francis. “Without the work of the Spirit, there would always be a risk of remaining limited to the written text alone”.

Pope Francis invites us never to take God’s Word for granted, “But instead to let ourselves be nourished by it, in order to acknowledge and live fully our relationship with Him and with our brothers and sisters”.

Practicing mercy
The Pope concludes his Apostolic Letter by defining what he describes as “the great challenge before us in life: to listen to Sacred Scripture and then to practice mercy”. God’s Word, writes Pope Francis, “has the power to open our eyes and to enable us to renounce a stifling and barren individualism and instead to embark on a new path of sharing and solidarity”.

The Letter closes with a reference to Our Lady, who accompanies us "on the journey of welcoming the Word of God", teaching us the joy of those who listen to that Word – and keep it.

Enthroning the Bible in the Family to show that God is at the center of their lives, many families enthrone the Bible, the Word of God, in a visible place in their homes. By placing the Sacred Scriptures in a prominent place decorated with flowers and art, and by gathering at this spot for daily prayer, families show that God is present and active through his Word. Enthroning the Bible in your home is easy. Simply pick a place where the Bible can be honored. The Bible should be placed where it will be seen regularly, but the location should be apart from the noise and confusion of the family entertainment.

Place the Bible, opened to a favorite passage or the readings of the day (these can be found at, on a table or shelf. Use the following ritual prayer when you gather as a family to enthrone the Bible. Things to Prepare • Bible • A shelf or table where the Bible will be placed (the shelf may be adorned with a cloth and candles).

When possible, the ritual may start outside the main door to the house or outside the main entrance to the room. One member of the family holds the Bible, raised slightly. The father, mother, or other leader begins the celebration with the opening litany:

Leader: Our Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Word of the Father.

Response: Come, Lord Jesus, come. Leader: You became one with us to tell of the Father’s love. Response: Come, Lord Jesus, come. Leader: You are the light that shines in the darkness. Response: Come, Lord Jesus, come. Leader: You save us from fear and break the bonds of sin and death.

Response: Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Leader: You come to guide our steps and lead us to God.

Response: Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Leader: You are the Word of eternal life.

Response: Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Leader: You fill us with the Holy Spirit.

Response: Come, Lord Jesus, come.

As everyone enters the house or room, they may sing a suitable song. Then one of the following Scripture passages is read from the Bible: Matthew 4:17-23 Jesus calls and heals through the power of his Word. Mark 4:1-20 The Word is like the seed. Luke 4:14-21 Jesus proclaims the Word in Nazareth. John 1:10-14 Jesus is the Word of God and the light of the world.

After the reading, the leader places the Bible in the place prepared for it. All bow deeply before the enthroned Bible. Leader: We have heard your words, Jesus. They give us joy and bring light and truth into our lives. Your presence gives us peace in our troubled and divided world. Let your Word create in our hearts a deep desire for you. Be with us in our hearts and homes, in our community and country. Give us your Holy Spirit to help us to understand your Word. We enthrone now this Holy Bible in our midst. Make your Word the center of our lives. May your Word inspire all that we think and say and do. May your Word bind us together in unity with each other and with you, today and forever.

Response: Amen.

All join in saying the Lord’s Prayer. All repeat after the leader: We promise to respect the Word of God in our midst. We shall read and reflect on it as a family of God. May we draw from it inspiration for our decisions, strength for our work, and comfort in suffering. Jesus, help us to be faithful to our promise, you who live forever and ever. Amen.

The celebration concludes with a sign of peace.

Adapted from Enthroning the Bible in the Family, by Pauline Publications Africa. Used with permission. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.

From: the Vatican News