Sunday of the Word of God

Sunday, January 24

Sunday of the Word of God

In his motu proprio of 30 September 2019, Aperuit illis, Pope Francis has declared that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study, and dissemination of the word of God.

We are to ponder the deep relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of the believers and sacred Scripture:

  • the Lord opens our minds so that we can understand the Scriptures;
  • the Scriptures help us to comprehend the mission of Jesus and of his Church in the world;

Reading, meditating about, and living the Word of God is a life-long commitment of the believers:

A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers.

Aperuit illis 8

The Sundays of the year 2021 (Liturgical Year B) will be offering us readings from the Gospel according to Mark.

Most scholars think, Mark’s gospel was written earliest of all the gospels, probably in the range A.D. 68-73. By traditional attribution going back to the early second-century bishop Papias, the author was Mark, the follower and “interpreter” of Peter, usually identified as the John Mark of Acts, whose mother had a house in Jerusalem.

From the contents the author emerges as a Greek-speaker who was probably not an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry (since he makes statements about Palestinian geography that many judge inaccurate). This evangelist drew on preshaped traditions about Jesus (oral and probably written) to produce a compact, effective presentation. Independently, Matthew and Luke were to use Mark’s Gospel as a basic guide in composing their works, and so Mark must have been considered a good representative of the way Jesus was preached in the larger church.

Mark is addressing a gentile audience, probably a community that had undergone persecution and failure, so that now they needed encouragement (perhaps the Christian community at Rome, as claimed already by a second-century tradition).

Mark’s gospel describes the ministry of healing and preaching in Galilee first (Mark 1:1-8:26) and then moves on to the predictions of suffering, death in Jerusalem, and resurrection (Mark 8:27-16:8). The major dividing point in Mark 8 is posited about halfway through the account. After having been consistently rejected and misunderstood despite all he has said and done, Jesus starts to proclaim the necessity of the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Son of Man in God’s plan. This development reveals the christological identity of Jesus and teaches a lesson. Readers can learn much about Jesus from the traditions of his parables and mighty deeds. But unless that is intimately combined with the picture of his victory through suffering, they cannot understand him or their own vocation as his followers.

By the time Mark wrote, Jesus had been preached as the Christ for several decades. If we only had the letters of Paul, we would have a magnificent theology about what God has done in Christ, but Jesus would be left almost without a face. Mark gets the honor of having been the first Christian to have painted that “face” and made it part of the enduring good news.