Celebrating the Word of God
This Sunday is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Letter "Aperuit Illis" instituted this Sunday as the Sunday of the Word of God.
In his letter, the Holy Father recalls the passage from St. Luke which reads "He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:45). This was one of the final acts of the risen Lord before his Ascension. Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples, broke bread with them and opened their minds to the understanding of the sacred Scriptures. To them, amid their fear and bewilderment, he unveiled the meaning of the paschal mystery: that in accordance with the Father’s eternal plan he had to suffer and rise from the dead, in order to bring repentance and the forgiveness of sins (cf. Lk 24:26.46-47). He then promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would give them strength to be witnesses of this saving mystery (cf. Lk 24:49).
The relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and sacred Scripture is essential to our identity as Christians. Without the Lord who opens our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth. Yet the contrary is equally true: without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his Church in this world would remain incomprehensible.
One of the most significant moments in Jesus’ relationship with his disciples is found in the account of the Transfiguration. He goes up the mountain with Peter, James and John to pray. The evangelists tell us that as Jesus’ face and clothing became dazzlingly white, two men conversed with him: Moses and Elijah, representing respectively the Law and the Prophets; in other words, sacred Scripture. Peter’s reaction to this sight is one of amazement and joy: “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Lk 9:33). At that moment a cloud overshadows them, and the disciples are struck with fear.
The Transfiguration reminds us of the Feast of Tabernacles, when Ezra and Nehemiah read the sacred text to the people after their return from exile. At the same time, it foreshadows Jesus’ glory, as a way of preparing the disciples for the scandal of the Passion: that divine glory is also evoked by the cloud enveloping the disciples as a symbol of God’s presence. A similar transfiguration takes place with sacred Scripture, which transcends itself whenever it nourishes the lives of believers.
The Gospel this week is from St. Matthew. The prophet Isaiah announced a future of liberation and great joy for all of Galilee, through the image of light that dispels the darkness in which the people walk. The Gospel, quoting verbatim the same passage of the prophet Isaiah, presents Jesus as the Light thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. He is the light that was promised to dispel the darkness of sin and to free man from the obscurity in which he is enclosed.
The light becomes an efficacious means to express God’s involvement in human history. God manifests Himself as ‘The Light’ that disperses the darkness. The light illuminates, encircles, defines things, emphasizes the colors and gives depth to space. The light heartens and comforts: to be in an enlightened place helps us to accept reality for what it is and makes one feel happier, more certain and protected.
God’s initiative with regard to men permits them to have a renewed relationship with reality. In God’s light, everything assumes a new significance, its authentic and definitive meaning. A light that illuminates gives strength and permits the disclosure of the universe and man. This is why, after saying, ‘on those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone’ (Is 9:1), the text adds, ‘you have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing’ (Is 9:2).
A joy and happiness that became real in Jesus’ presence. He is the promised light that has come into our midst, His physical presence that expresses the definitive arrival of the Light. The light that shines brightly marks God’s initiative performing His first merciful and free step towards wounded humanity.
This dynamic is expressed through Jesus call of the first Apostles. He chooses them with an unequivocal call, ‘Follow Me’. Faced with God’s sudden interruption in their lives He invited them to abandon the nets and trust themselves totally to the Lord for a new ‘catch’, a new definitive horizon. At the Last Supper, the end of His earthly life, Jesus reminds His disciples ‘you did not choose me, no, I chose you’ (Jn 15:16).
This Sunday’s Gospel invites us to remember that our personal vocation is founded on God’s original and absolutely free choice. His invitation towards us, therefore, is an invitation to make a final decision to let Him conquer or re-conquer us to mark a turning point in our lives.
Let us ask the Lord, for us and the whole Church, for the gift of a true conversion of our hearts enabling us to receive Christ as the only Light to follow. Christ is the only one that really dispels the darkness within and around us.
Almighty ever-living God, direct our actions according to your good pleasure, that in the name of your beloved Son we may abound in good works.