SOLEMNITY OF THE WORD OF GOD CELEBRATED LOCALLY ON THE 2ND OF FEBRUARY – To promote the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures is a must

– Marco Carvalho

The Catholics that usually lend their voice to the reading of the Holy Scriptures in the different parishes of Macau will come together at the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady on the 2nd of February at the invitation of Bishop Stephen Lee. With such an initiative the Diocese of Macau aims to remind the faithful of the importance of the role that the liturgical readers play, not only in the celebration of the liturgy, but also – and above all – in spreading the Word of God.

The information was provided to O Clarim by Father Pedro Chung, Vicar General of the Diocese. During the ceremony, D. Stephen Lee will make the same request that Jesus Christ made to the apostles: go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.

Although the initiative will take place with a one-week delay, the call to all the Gospel readers celebrates the institution, by Pope Francis, of the “Sunday of the Word of God,” a solemnity that will be celebrated this year for the first time on 26th January. The Supreme Pontiff announced last September the creation of the new liturgical celebration in the Apostolic Letter “Aperuit Illis.” Issued “motu proprio,” the letter was the way the Pope found to answer the request of hundreds of faithful, fulfilling his own wishes at the same time. At the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, in 2016, the Supreme Pontiff argued that the creation of such a solemnity “would make it possible, above all, for the Church to revive the gesture of Jesus Christ Resurrected that opened the door to the treasure that is his very own Word, so that we can proclaim this inexhaustible wealth all over the world.”

In Father Pedro Chung’s opinion, the “Sunday of the Word of God” has a markedly ecumenical nature, which translates into a deep recognition of an undeniable shared spiritual heritage between Catholics and Jews. The Vicar General of the Diocese of Macau considers the Apostolic Letter “Aperuit Illis” as an important gesture of rapprochement with the Jewish faith: “It seems that the Pope has pointed out how important the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures are to our Christian faith. In fact, in his introduction of the Apostolic Letter he states that the Catholic Church will keep on the dialogue with the Jewish faith, as well as with the other Christian denominations,” the priest recalls. “It is obvious that we share a common divine treasure with the Jews. That treasure is the Word of God,” adds Father Pedro Chung.

In his Apostolic Letter, Jorge Mario Bergoglio set down the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, from this year on, as dedicated in a special way “to the celebration, reflection and dissemination of the Word of God.” According to the Pontiff himself, the solemnity must be seen as “an opportune moment” when Catholics “are invited to strengthen ties with the Jews and to pray for the unity of Christians.” The dialogical dimension of the Church which is inherent to the message Francis expresses in the “Aperuit Illis” is, in Pedro Chung’s opinion, a central aspect of the invitation that Pope Francis challenges the faithful with in his most recent Apostolic Letter: “In order to deepen our faith and promote the dialogue with other religions, to promote the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, especially among lay people, is a must,” the vicar-general of the Diocese of Macau says. “The Pope’s announcement is an invitation to all. And it is a clear invitation that does not mask the importance of dialogue. It is a message to everyone. His Holiness urges, in his message, the Church to celebrate this solemnity at different levels,” the priest explains.

In the presentation he made of the Apostolic Letter, last September, Jorge Mario Bergoglio urged Catholic communities around the world to find a way to live the “Sunday of the Word of God” as a solemn day, so as to make evident the normative value of the Word of God. To the bishops, the Pope offered the possibility of celebrating the Rite of the Lectorate or the celebration of a similar mystery, in order to draw attention to the importance of proclaiming the Word of God in the liturgy.

This is, in fact, the direction that D. Stephen Lee wants to instill in the celebration, Father Pedro Chung explained to O Clarim: “The ceremony that will take place in the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady is intended to remind the faithful of how important the role of the liturgical reader is, both in the liturgy and in the evangelical mission,” the Vicar-General said.

The initiative that the Diocese of Macau will promote on the 2nd of February is supported by the Macau Biblical Association. Led by Pedro Chung, the organization will promote other initiatives for liturgical readers with the aim of spreading the Word of God,

The phrase “Aperuit Illis” (which can be translated as “He opened to them”), refers to a biblical passage from the Gospel of St Luke – “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:45) – in which Jesus Christ seeks to root in the heart of the Apostles the true dimension of the Bible as God’s message: “This is one of the last gestures performed by the risen Lord before His Ascension. When the disciples are gathered together, Jesus appears to them, he shares the bread with them and opens their minds to the understanding of the Holy Scriptures,” Pope Francis recalled during the presentation of the Apostolic Letter, in late September.

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