Today is the first celebration of Sunday of the Word of God, and it is no coincidence that the letter Aperuit Illis, September 2019, should fit so neatly with the text received by parishioners at Christmas.
In the book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, Matthew Kelly says: “On average, Dynamic Catholics spend fourteen minutes each day learning more about the faith. They see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teachings to form them.”
Pope Francis in Aperuit Illis comments: “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.”
The Call is clear for 2020 as a Catholic community: that we delve more deeply and actively into our faith, and in so doing, bear better witness to the larger community.
It is easy to fall into a ritualist, Sunday-morning approach as longstanding practitioners of Catholicism, but diminishing numbers of attendees in churches across the world would suggest that there is breach between belief and practice, in knowledge and understanding, in the letter of the law and the Spirit of the law…( “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6)).
There is a wider context of global, social change with the emergent patterns of individualism, relativism, widening socio-economic disparity and displacement and the need for spiritual nourishment.
Gaudium et Spes, written in 1965, was prescient in its examination of the changing face of the world. In it John Paul VI stresses the role of scripture in the challenges: “In virtue of the gospel entrusted to it, the church proclaims human rights; it acknowledges and holds in high esteem the dynamic approach of today which is fostering these rights all over the world. But this approach needs to be animated by the spirit of the gospel and preserved from all traces of false autonomy.”
Pope Francis is careful in his letter to delineate both the sacredness and dynamism of holy scripture: “Without the work of the Spirit, there would always be a risk of remaining limited to the written text alone. This would open the way to a fundamentalist reading, which needs to be avoided, lest we betray the inspired, dynamic and spiritual character of the sacred text.”
Further, he invites us “to let ourselves be nourished by it [the sacred text], in order to acknowledge and live fully our relationship with Him and with our brothers and sisters”.
The Church has always been clear in emphasising the importance of scripture as one of the agents of personal and collective change: “It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.” (Dei Verbum)
Scripture and the Church’s teachings thus will provide a necessary rudder through the seas of 2020 and the following years of the decade, but it begins with introspection as voiced by Kelly, even while delving into the deeper mysteries of our relationship with the Divine.