Word of God Sunday: A new avenue towards unity

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Word of God Sunday: A new avenue towards unity

By Kassidy Hall and Kimberly Horton

This Sunday, January 26, His Holiness Pope Francis will lead denominational representatives in the first Sunday of the Word of God, a new annual occasion committed to celebrating and studying the Bible.

Announced by Pope Francis at a press conference on January 17, the celebration will take place on January 26 in St. Peter’s Basilica and parishes around the world. The day’s events in the Vatican will be centered around a Papal Mass and a public reading of the Gospel of Matthew in the afternoon.

A RENEWED COMMITMENT TO SCRIPTURE AND UNITY

As recorded by the Vatican News, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the prelate tasked with organizing the celebration, hopes his creative initiatives “will stimulate believers to be living instruments of transmission of the Word.”

The day’s position in the Liturgical Calendar holds immense significance, according to the Vatican’s website. The Sunday of the Word of God is intended to continue ecumenical dialogue initiatives and emphasize all Christians’ commitment to the Word of God.

An image of Our Lady of Knock, Patron of Ireland, will be placed next to the altar during the service. The patron, known for appearing in Knock alongside the apostle St. Joseph and the Gospel writer St. John, was chosen to exemplify the unity between those who will be in attendance.

Following the celebration of the Eucharist, a representative of the Orthodox Churches and of Evangelical communities will each symbolically receive a Bible from the Pope, according to Vatican News. The Lectionary from the Second Vatican Council will also be enthroned for the duration of the service.

“In short, everyone is entrusted with Sacred Scripture,” says the Vatican website. “This Sunday of the Word of God, therefore is a pastoral initiative... with the aim of reviving the responsibility which believers have in the knowledge of Sacred Scripture and in keeping it alive through a work of permanent transmission and understanding, capable of giving meaning to the life of the Church in the various conditions in which they find themselves.”

A NEW AVENUE TOWARDS UNITY

While the Sunday of the Word of God promotes a unified reverence for Scripture within the Catholic Church, through it another area for unification may be opened: the Protestant church.

The first major break from the Catholic Church (excluding the Great Schism) began with German layman Martin Luther, a leader and theologian widely regarded for spreading the basis of Protestant doctrine. One of these doctrines is Sola Scriptura, or the belief that Scripture is the only source of Christian faith and authority -- making Scripture the highest-regarded part of the Christian life in many Protestant circles.

A problem Luther foresaw -- which many still see in the Catholic Church today -- was a perceived lack of personal encounters with Scripture; on this matter, Fisichella agrees, observing that the Bible is often “one of the many books on the shelf at home, perhaps covered with dust.”

Though the Catholic Church believes Sacred Tradition also has a high level of authority, there is virtually no disagreement on either side of the Protestant-Catholic line that Scripture remains authoritatively the Word of God and should be revered.

The correction of false doctrine is equally valuable to both parties; and the Sunday of the Word of God, like many feast days, works to build more emphasis into the Church Calendar on teachings and values that have a tendency to be forgotten or overlooked.

The upcoming Day of Dialogue, as well as the week of prayer for Christian Unity, are both commendable steps towards unity among all believers, and the timeframe for the Sunday of the Word of God places it in an ideal time to also bear witness to Lord Jesus Christ’s desire for the unity of his body.

Though there is surely a long road ahead for unity within Protestant churches, just as there is with the other Abrahamic traditions, perhaps this expression of shared value, that of Sacred Scripture, may also open the door for better dialogue and unity within even another part of the Christian world.

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 13:34
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