Sunday, 26 January 2020 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time beginning from this year onwards, our Holy Father and Vicar of Christ Pope Francis has declared the institution of the Sunday of the Word of God, to be celebrated on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time every year. The purpose of this celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God is a very important reminder to all of us as Christians that the Scriptures are very important and integral in the development of our faith.

The Scriptures are none other than the Word of God, as God spoke to us through them, and those who had contributed and written the books in the Scripture were divinely inspired by God and the Holy Spirit to pass down the message of God’s truth to us. The Church has also authoritatively decided the books that are to be kept as part of the official canon of the Scripture, and from then on, we have the Bible as what we now have today.

And this emphasis on the Word of God today on this Sunday is very important to all of us the faithful people of God as the Word of God is our daily sustenance and the source of our strength and faith. When the Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert, the devil wanted to tempt the Lord Who was hungry that He should turn the stones into bread for Him to eat. The Lord rebuked Satan sternly saying that ‘man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from the mouth of God’.

But the Word of God in this case does not just refer to the Scriptures, as the Word of God as we know it, also refers to the Christ Himself, because Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is also known as the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who assumed the flesh and nature of Man for our salvation. While the Father is the Creator in the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit passes through all creation, the Son is the Word by which God created the world.

And this same Word of God has become incarnate, appearing in the flesh, as Jesus our Lord and Saviour. This makes the Scriptures even more significant, as the Scriptures become the manifestation of the truth of God, as we all know that the Bible consist of two main parts namely the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Word of God was revealed through the elders and the prophets who passed on parts of the revelation of God’s truth. And then in the New Testament, all that had been revealed and spoken in the Old Testament were confirmed in the truth of Christ.

In the New Testament, we heard the word of God from the Son Himself, the authentic and true Word revealing the truth of God’s will and plan for us. And those who wrote the Holy Gospels and the letters of the Apostles were divinely inspired through the Holy Spirit and by the experiences they encountered, to bring to us this sustenance in the Word of God, the sustenance of our soul, our mind, our heart and indeed of our whole being. Without this sustenance, our spiritual life will be empty and dead, and it will be easy for us to lose our faith.

That is why it is absolutely necessary for us to appreciate this great gift and blessing we have received in the Word of God, through the Sacred Scriptures easily and readily accessible and available for us. In the Second Vatican Council, through the Apostolic Constitution Dei Verbum, which means ‘Word of God’, the importance of the Sacred Scriptures was once again highlighted with the emphasis placed on the propagation of the Word of God among the people and the regular reading and exposure to the Scriptures by all segments of the Universal Church.

But in the same Apostolic Constitution Dei Verbum, the importance of Sacred Tradition as an inseparable part of the Church teachings and Christian truth together with the Sacred Scriptures is also highlighted and emphasised. This means that the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God cannot be studied, read or used independently of the Sacred Traditions and the magisterium authority of the Church. This is a firm rejection of the ‘Sola Scriptura’ position of those who argued that the Bible alone is the foundation of our faith.

Rather, the Bible and the words of the Lord in it must be appreciated and understood in the context of Church teachings and the Sacred Traditions of our predecessors, passed down and preserved for us from the time of the Lord and His Apostles themselves. It is this treasure of the faith that we have been blessed with and which is now highlighted in importance by our Holy Father Pope Francis as a way to stop the rapidly declining quality of our faith and relationship with God as what we can clearly see in our Church today.

If we do not expose ourselves to the truth of God in His words, how can we know more about Him? And if we are ignorant of His truth and the meaning of His words, how can we then understand and appreciate His love? As long as we do not know Him, are ignorant of His love and blind to His truth, we cannot be truly God’s disciples and our hearts and minds will always be far away from Him. In time this will lead us further and further down the path of sin and darkness.

That is why today, on this Sunday of the Word of God, we are challenged first of all to be more active in making use of the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures which we have received from the bounties of the Church, and be regular in our reading, study and appreciation of God’s words contained within the pages of the Scriptures. We should spend more time trying to deepen our knowledge of our faith, reading from the wisdom of the Lord contained within both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

And as we do this, we also have to keep the reference to the official teachings of the Church as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official Church documents and proclamations, all the guidelines and officially approved teachings of the faith as maintained by the magisterium of the Church and the deposit of the faith. By deepening our faith through closer interaction with the Word of God contained within the Scriptures and by keeping ourselves within the bounds of our Sacred Tradition, we will grow closer to God and be more faithful with each passing moments.

And among the best way to do that, is by paying close attention during the homily of the Holy Mass, when the priests explain the meaning and context of the proclaimed Word of God to us. Our priests have been prepared for many years in the seminaries and even many more years of experience during their priesthood to explain the truth in the Word of God according to the teachings of the Church. And this is why we also need to pray for all of them too, that they may remain faithful and true to their ministry.

It is important that we pay attention during the homily because if we do not understand, appreciate and adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, we will end up being like what happened in the early Church, divisions and struggles that appeared between the segments of the Christian faithful which threatened to tear the Church apart. It was so bad that St. Paul had to intervene through his letter, rebuking all those who put their own self interests first before serving the interest and purposes of God.

That was why we heard of the conflicts between those who declared themselves the followers of Paul and others who claimed that they followed Apollos. Both Paul and Apollos were great leaders of the early Church and they performed many good works for the evangelisation of more people. However, as their followers began to grow rapidly, those followers ended up beginning to seek their own individual agenda and interpret the Scriptures for their own benefits and selfish desires. And that was how, unfortunately, so many so-called denominations of Christianity exist because each person is free to interpret the Word of God as he or she wishes it.

That is why today, the second important thing that we need to take note of is besides deepening our understanding and knowledge of the Word of God, we must also continue to put our trust and faith in God through His Church, the one and only Church He has established in this world. As what He Himself said that if we are separated from Him, the True Vine, we who are His branches will perish because we have no life from Him and through Him if we separate ourselves from this unity with Him that exists in the Church.

And then, lastly, we are also called today to live and embody the Word of God in our daily living and in our faith. God has called us just as how He has called His disciples to follow Him as described in our Gospel passage today. We are all the successors to the works of the Apostles in continuing the mission which God has entrusted to them, that is the evangelisation of the whole world. But in order to do so, we have to first of all, be attuned to the Word of God, be faithful to the teachings of the Church and be willing to venture forth and be good witnesses of our faith to others.

And how do we become good witnesses of Our Lord? How do we proclaim the Word of God in a good way? It is not by preaching in public places or quoting phrases and words from the Scripture, but first of all, we must first live out what we truly believe in. This means that our every actions and deeds, our words, every words that come out from our mouths and our thoughts must be aligned with God’s truth as contained within His words in the Scriptures.

If we do not live in the manner compatible with what we speak, how can people believe in us? We are nothing better than hypocrites who say one thing but do and act in a different or even contradictory manner. That is why, our challenge today is for us to truly allow God’s words to enter into our lives and that we do not just read His words at a surface level or just through our brains. Instead, we must go deeper, in allowing those words to penetrate the depths of our hearts and souls.

And then, are we willing to allow God to change and transform us by the power of His words and truth? If we are willing, then surely we will, in time, be good examples of our faith and others who see us, hear us and witness our every actions will believe in God because of us. That is how we become the true disciples and followers of Christ, by being the beacons of Christ’s light in this world filled with the darkness of sin.

Let us all today renew our conviction and desire to love and serve the Lord, by deepening our relationship with Him through deeper and better understanding of the Word of God in the Scriptures, that we may proclaim God’s truth by our lives and actions, and bring more and more people to God’s saving grace. May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, continue to strengthen us in faith by His encouragement and love. Amen.

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