This fundamental gospel message is how Jesus began his mission to inaugurate the kingdom of God in “the time of fulfillment” (cf. today’s Gospel). It is a call to conversion. It is not unlike the message of Jonah and countless other prophets. The conversion of Nineveh shows that God’s mercy knows no boundaries. Today’s Second Reading reveals Saint Paul’s conviction that living in this time of fulfillment requires a new way of living that is heaven-bound rather than earthbound. As Simon, Andrew, James and John left behind their livelihood to become coworkers in Jesus’ mission, so all of us must be willing to abandon attachments that prevent us from doing so. As Saint Paul stated so clearly in last Sunday’s Second Reading: “[Y]ou are not your own…[f]or you have been purchased at a price.”
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concludes this Monday, January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. This year’s theme is taken from John 15:1-17: “Abide in My Love…You Shall Bear Much Fruit.” Here, Jesus reminds his disciples that he is the vine and we are the branches. If we abide in him, in Jesus and the Covenant made in his precious blood, we will be such a healthy branch as to bear much fruit, abundant grapes.
On September 30, 2019, in a motu proprio entitled Aperuit illis, Pope Francis designated the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time—that is this Sunday—as the Sunday of the Word of God. The timing of the document is significant: September 30 is the memorial of Saint Jerome, the man who translated most of the Bible into Latin, and who famously said: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” 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.” Pope Francis writes:
It is fitting, then that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride, that she may grow in love and faithful witness. Consequently, I hereby declare that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God. 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.
Catholics are often accused of being unfamiliar with the Bible. In reality Catholics should be more familiar with the Bible than any Christians for a number of reasons. First of all, the Catholic Church assembled the Bible as we know it today, determining which writings should be included as the inspired word of God. Secondly so much of the Bible is proclaimed during the Mass in the course of the liturgical year, with a three-year cycle of readings on Sundays and a two-year cycle on weekdays. Finally we have two thousand years’ worth of commentaries which reflect the living tradition of the Church from the first Christian century down to the present day. If Catholics are not familiar with the Bible, it’s our own fault!
Pray the Rosary this week for an end to legalized abortion and the many other crimes against human life and dignity, for families, and for the unity of Christians. As always pray for peace and the safety of military personnel serving at home or abroad.
May God bless his people with peace.