Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass on ‘Sunday of the Word of God’ urging Christians to make room in their lives for the Sacred Scriptures.
Sunday, 26 January, marked a new observance established by the Pope in his Motu Proprio “Aperuit illis”, to be celebrated annually on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time, and to be dedicated to the celebration, study and spreading of the Word of God.
He began his homily with a reflection on the Gospel of Matthew that introduces the ministry of Jesus: “The One who is the Word of God has come to speak with us, in his own words and by his own life.”
“Let us go to the roots of his preaching,” the Pope said, “to the very source of the word of life,” which “helps us to know how, where and to whom Jesus began to preach.”
Noting that Jesus’ ministry began with a very simple phrase: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, he explained that this is the main message of all Jesus’ sermons.
Telling us that God is near, the Pope said, that he has come down to earth and become man, He tears down walls and shortens distances through no merit of our own.
God came to visit us because he loves us
The Pope said “this is a joyful message: God came to visit us in person, by becoming man,” and he did it not out of duty, but out of love.
“God took our human nature because he loves us and desires freely to give us the salvation that, alone and unaided, we cannot hope to attain. He wants to stay with us and give us the beauty of life, peace of heart, the joy of being forgiven and feeling loved,” he said.
This helps us, he said to understand the direct demand that Jesus makes: “Repent”, in other words, “Change your life”.
It is an invitation to live in a new way, it is time for living with and for God, “with and for others, with and for love,” he said.
Jesus speaks to us, Pope Francis said, asking us to allow him to enter our lives.
He described his word as a kind of a “love letter” he has written to each of us to help us understand He is at our side.
“His word consoles and encourages us. At the same time it challenges us, frees us from the bondage of our selfishness and summons us to conversion. Because his word has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light,” he said.
The Word of Salvation enters the most obscure places in our lives
Pope Francis went on to point out that Jesus started his preaching in a places that were then thought to be “in darkness,” as was Galilee at that time.
Here there is a message for us: the word of salvation does not go looking for untouched, clean and safe places. Instead, it enters the complex and obscure places in our lives,” he said.
God, he continued, “wants to visit the very places we think he will never go. Yet how often we are the ones who close the door, preferring to keep our confusion, our dark side and our duplicity hidden.”
He noted that so often we approach the Lord with some “rote prayers, wary lest his truth stir our hearts,” but reminded believers that “Jesus went about all Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity.”
The Pope reiterated that Jesus is not afraid “to explore the terrain of our hearts and to enter the roughest and most difficult corners of our lives.”
His mercy alone can heal us, he said, his presence alone can transform us and his word alone can renew us.
The Lord speaks to all
Finally, the Pope reflected on the fact that Jesus chose to speak to simple people.
“The first people to be called were fishermen: not people carefully chosen for their abilities or devout people at prayer in the temple, but ordinary working people,” he said.
He explained that he used the language they understood and that their lives “changed on the spot.”
“He called them where they were and as they were, in order to make them sharers in his mission,” and they followed him, not because they had received an order, but “because they were drawn by love,” the Pope explained.
Good works are not enough
And he said that to follow Jesus, mere good works are not enough: “we have to listen daily to his call.”
That is why, Pope Francis concluded, we need his word: “so that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life.”
And he urged all Christians to make room in their lives for the word of God.
“Each day, let us read a verse or two of the Bible. Let us begin with the Gospel,” he said: “let us keep it open on our table, carry it in our pocket, read it on our cell phones, and allow it to inspire us daily. We will discover that God is close to us, that he dispels our darkness and, with great love, leads our lives into deep waters.”
After the Mass, those present were given a free copy of the Bible in a symbolic gesture of encouragement to make room, each day, in their lives for the Word of God.