Blog & Pastor Letters

Sunday of the Word of God

01-23-2022Weekly ReflectionRev. Brent Bowen

When I was a Dominican novice, I remember asking one of the older friars in our community to succinctly describe the charism of the Order of Preachers. He stopped, thought for a moment, and replied, “The Dominican is meant to have a preoccupation with the Word of God.” That has stuck with me throughout my years in religious life and helped shape my ministry as a priest. Would that we all have a preoccupation with the Word of God!

Our Church celebrates “Sunday of the Word of God” this week. Pope Francis, in instituting this celebration, wrote, “The Bible is the book of the Lord’s people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division towards unity. The word of God unites believers and makes them one people.” We see a glimpse of the love for sacred scripture in our first reading. The book of Nehemiah is an account of the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. Preeminent in the rebuilding was the reconstruction of the Jewish temple, the holy place where God’s holy people would offer sacrifices to God.

In the process of reconstruction, a book of the law of Moses is discovered. Ezra, a priest and scribe, gathers the entire remnant of the Jewish people together and recites the entirety of the book before the assembly. The people bow down and weep at God’s words. After the tragedy of the Babylonian exile, they recognize the importance of fidelity to God’s Word, which was a special gift given to them as His people. By listening to the book of the law, God’s people move from being dispersed to being united as His holy people once again.

Do we see the Word of God in the same manner? Do we recognize the gift that the Bible is? In it contains all that is necessary for our salvation. Through the scriptures, God speaks to the new Israel, His Church. He assures us of His love and fidelity. He challenges us when we go astray. He communicates His plan for humanity to live in communion with God and with one another.

Would that we all have a preoccupation with the Word of God! Such a preoccupation does not happen accidentally. We need to spend time each day reading and praying with the scriptures. There are plenty of reading plans that help us to read the entire Bible in a year. What if you replaced your music or news program on your daily commute with a Bible in a year podcast? The more time we spend with the scriptures, the more they become a part of us. We begin to think as God thinks, love as God loves, and see others as God sees them.

Alternatively, we can use a missalette or smartphone app to follow along with the daily readings from the lectionary. This allows us to have a semi-continuous reading of most of the Bible over the course of a few years. Taking a few minutes with one or more of the readings allows us an approachable way of starting to read the Bible.

As we become more deeply immersed in the scriptures, it will also change how we approach the celebration of the Mass. The liturgy makes extensive use of the Bible, presenting the mysteries of our faith and helping us to enter more deeply into the Eucharistic sacrifice. That is why the Liturgy of the Word is sometimes referred to as “the table of the Word.” In the same way that the Holy Eucharist nourishes us with Christ’s body and blood, the Word of God nourishes the deepest desires of our hearts, bringing comfort, peace, and healing for life’s many challenges.

We all desire to have a deeper friendship with God. The primary way we deepen friendship in life is to spend time with the other, to get to know the them and allow them to know us. The same is true of friendship with God: the more time we spend with His Word, the more we will become acquainted with Him and his plan for our lives.

Lord God, I desire to know, love, and serve you. I thank you today for the gift of your Word, the sacred scriptures. By it, you speak to me and help me to deepen my faith. Open my heart to the ways that you call me to encounter you in the Bible. Put into my heart a love of your name so that I may be an instrument of that love for everyone I encounter.