“APERUIT ILLIS” by Pope Francis for Sunday of the Word of God
Pope Francis has given the Church a real gift which is also a challenge to all who follow Jesus. The title of his document of 30 September 2019 is from Lk 24:45, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” The Pope goes on to write, “This was one the final acts of the Risen Lord before the Ascension. Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples, broke bread with them and opened their minds to understanding of the sacred Scriptures.” [Paragraph 1] The whole document is worth pondering in prayer.
Jesus, I think, suffered at the hands of those who misunderstood the Scriptures. Those who interpreted the Law of Moses, who laid down strict Sabbath laws were good people. They studied the Scriptures daily and in the Synagogue each Sabbath listened to them and shared the message as they saw it.
Sadly, at times the whole Word of God was confined to law. They were doing their best to understand but they had gone astray. When Jesus came to open their minds to what God’s Word was truly saying, He knocked at the door of their hearts and minds but did not get an answer. He even wept as He looked over Jerusalem and dreamt of what it would have been like if they had heard the Word and accepted Him.
Let us go back to Pope Francis, “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. He then quotes St Jerome, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” [Par. 2]
These are strong words from our Pope. They wake me up to how easy it is for me to be lazy where the sacred Word of God is concerned. For all of us this is a wake-up call. For teachers and preachers, it is a challenge that cannot be ignored.
Many of our ancestors handed on the true faith to us. Certainly, in my family and hometown, there were few Scripture Scholars. But families did hand on the faith in its beauty. There was a family bible at home, the Rosary was prayed each evening, Stations of the Cross were a feature of Lent and the Catholic Schools taught to know and love Jesus and His Body, the Church.
Today we have opportunities that did not exist back then. We had no phone at home until I was 18 years of age. The words ‘mobile’ and ‘phone’ could never be used together as all phoned were fixed or in a phone box. Today an App on a phone can bring to the screen every version of the Bible ever published. It gives me the Psalms for Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church. I can listen to the Rosary being prayed and Catholic/Christian radio/TV stations offer the Word of God in various ‘user friendly’ forms.
Often, I meet people who have contacted me about marriage, baptism, confession or some family or personal issue. I love those moments. As I listen, I try to receive what the person is saying. I try to prepare to assist by prayer to the Holy Spirit and by reflecting on any information the person has already shared with me. I cannot go in ‘cold’ to a chid of God. Neither should I ever approach the Word of God without some preparation and prayer.
To catch the sense of what Jesus is telling us in His Word, the first requirement is to meet Him. Next, I listen to His Word. When I find difficult to grasp the message, I can ask another, study what scholars are saying, or even listen to a sermon at Mass. These and others that you can come up with are gifts for understanding.
Seized with enthusiasm, someone cried out, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you.’ Jesus replied, ‘Rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.’ I imagine that Mary does not disagree with her Son. She pondered in her heart all that she heard. She is a model for us all.