If you are reading this newspaper, chances are good you own a Bible. But what type of a Bible and where do you keep it? Most importantly, how often do you use it?
The Bible is the Word of God. As the Second Vatican Council said, “God speaks in sacred Scripture through men in human fashion.” This is why the Mass has two equal parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Vatican II said the church “unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body.”
Most Americans believe the Bible is God’s word. In a 2017 Gallup Poll, 73% of Americans said they believed this. This included 86% of Catholics, with 21% of them saying the Bible is the “actual Word of God” and 58% that it is the “inspired Word of God.” However, when asked how often they read the Bible, numbers dropped. A 2014 Pew Research poll found that 45% of Americans read the Bible at least “once or twice a month.” (For Catholics, it was 36%.)
A recent survey on Bible engagement by Barna.com, in partnership with the American Bible Society, showed from 2011 to 2019 a 10% increase in Americans who “never use the Bible (from 25% to 35%).
Of course, surveys tell only so much, but consider yourself and your family. Do you use a Bible regularly? What’s your favorite Scripture passage?
This is why Pope Francis has declared this Sunday — Jan. 26 — the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as Word of God Sunday. The pope wants this to be an annual celebration.
“Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world,” Pope Francis explained in his document, “Aperuit illis,” introducing this observance last Sept. 30.
In encouraging parishes to celebrate Word of God Sunday, the pope made some suggestions:
- Enthrone the Bible, “to focus the attention … on the normative value of God’s Word;”
- Emphasize the proclamation of God’s Word in the homily at Mass;
- Give a Bible or a book of the Bible “as a way of showing the importance of learning how to read, appreciate and pray daily with sacred Scripture;” and
- Bless lectors who proclaim the Word of God — and provide proper training to new lectors — “in order to bring out the importance of the proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy.”
Some parishes in our diocese are following the pope’s lead. For example, St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Oshkosh is giving away Bibles at Mass and carrying their 140-year-old, German-language Bible in the Mass processions this Sunday.
However, it isn’t just up to parishes. We each need to examine our use of the Bible. Ask yourself:
How important is the Bible to me?
If it is, how do I show that? Do I place it in a prominent place, or even have a Bible app on my phone?
Do I take advantage of Bible studies at local parishes?
Do I read the Sunday Scriptures ahead, to prepare myself to hear the Word of God at Mass? (See page 12 for the readings for next week.)
Whether you use the Bible often or not much, it remains God’s Word. It’s important to us as followers of Christ. It keeps us in touch with Jesus, God’s word speaking to us, whenever we turn to him.
As Pope Francis concluded, “We urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord. … For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness.”