From this year, the Sunday of the Word of God will replace Bible Sunday. This means the Sunday of the Word of God must now be the springboard for the planning of Scripture activities in the year ahead.
Pope Francis decreed in his Apostolic letter Aperuit illis (AI), published on 30 September 2019, that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God” (AI, 3).
Celebrating the Word
Some proposals made by Pope Francis to celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God, which in 2021 falls on Jan 24, are to:
- Enthrone the sacred text;
- Highlight the proclamation of the Word of the Lord;
- Emphasise the honour due to the word of God in the homily;
- Celebrate the Rite of Installation of Lectors or a commissioning of Readers;
- Provide training for Readers;
- Give a Bible, or one of its books, to everyone;
- Encourage people to read and pray with Scripture daily, especially through the practice of lectio divina.
Catholics in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei have, in the last 20 years or so been celebrating Bible Sunday annually in July. This is an event that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (CBC) entrusted to its Regional Biblical Commission (RBC) to promote.
In the past, annual documents or messages were produced, a diploma Bible course was devised and taught locally, and many initiatives at diocesan and parish level were promoted so that Catholics would learn to love and live the Bible in their daily lives.
The RBC, in a statement announcing the change decreed by the Pope, recognised that despite all the efforts, “the overwhelming majority of Catholics are not familiar with sacred Scripture. For many, the only time they hear the Word of God is when they attend Mass (AI, 5).”
Rediscovering the Word
The Second Vatican Council and the promulgation of Dei verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation in 1965 gave great impulse to the rediscovery of the word of God. Following this impetus as well as a growing awareness of Scripture as a source of spiritual renewal, the Bible has in recent decades been steadily gaining the attention of Catholics.
However, while it would not want to downplay the progress made so far, the RBC emphasised the need to continue the mission of inviting all Catholics into a renewed relationship with the Word of God, not just as a mere book, but rather as God’s Word that is active and alive in their daily lives. “We need to help every Catholic deepen their appreciation, love and faithful witness to God and His Word,” said the statement, issued in September 2020.
At their 105th Plenary Assembly in January 2020, the CBC had decided that, beginning 2021, the Sunday of the Word of God in January would replace Bible Sunday in July. Although Bible Sunday remained in the 2020 regional calendar, the Covid-19 pandemic meant that not much could be done apart from the dissemination of the customary message.
Reflecting on the new date, the RBC said: “Of course, locally, we will have to adjust our minds around the timing of the Sunday of the Word of God, coming as it does so early in the year, particularly with the school year just having started and Sunday school/catechism sessions (which propelled much of the Bible Sunday activities), just getting off the ground again. This change may initially prove challenging, even difficult, to organise much for the actual day/weekend itself.”
The RBC acknowledged the efforts of the many dedicated men and women of all ages, lay, religious and priests, who have contributed so much to the increase in Biblical literacy and a love for the Word of God in the region. They said, “Without your cooperation and selfless contribution, the progress achieved would have not been possible. Let us together recommit ourselves so Pope Francis’ intention can be achieved ever more widely: “May the Sunday of the Word of God help his people to grow in religious and intimate familiarity with the sacred Scriptures” (AI, 15).”
For more information: Singapore Archdiocese Bible Apostolate: https://biblicalapostolate.wordpress.com/