Pope Francis presided over the Mass celebrating this year’s Sunday of the Word of God marking the theme from John’s Gospel, “We proclaim to you what we have seen” (1 Jn 1:3). The celebration took place in St. Peter’s Basilica and included the conferral of the Ministries of Lector and Catechist on lay men and women from Italy, Congo, the Philippines, Mexico, and the UK. Pope Francis instituted the annual celebration in 2019, calling for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time to be devoted to the celebration, study, and the dissemination of the Word of God.
In his homily, the Pope recalled that in today’s Gospel we see how Jesus enters into His public ministry after a quiet life in Nazareth: He invites everyone to conversion, calls His first disciples, and gives the mission to spread the Good News of God’s boundless love for all. This “dynamism” shows us how “the Word is for everyone, the Word calls everyone to conversion, the Word makes us heralds.”
Word of God for all
Jesus is always on the move, an itinerant and pilgrim, visiting towns and villages, meeting and healing people, the Pope explained, saying “His feet are those of the messenger announcing the good news of God’s love.” The area by the Sea of Galilee where He began His preaching was a cultural crossroads of peoples of traditions, he observed, and this shows how Jesus “enlarges the boundaries” of proclaiming the Word of God not only to the righteous of Israel, but to all.
“Jesus wants to reach those far away, He wants to heal the sick, He wants to save sinners, He wants to gather the lost sheep and lift up those whose hearts are weary and oppressed. In short, Jesus ‘reaches out’ to tell us that God’s mercy is for everyone. We must not forget this: God's mercy is for everyone.”
If the Word is “a gift addressed to everyone,” the Pope explained then it must become a “main priority” of believers as it was for Jesus. And may our preaching be with an open and “an expansive heart” to all, and not as a Church with a closed heart, "may this never happen."
“Let us learn from Jesus to put the Word at the centre, to enlarge our boundaries, to open ourselves up to people, and to foster experiences of encounter with the Lord, realizing that the Word of God “is not encased in abstract or static formulas, but has a dynamic power in history which is made up of persons and events, words and actions, developments and tensions”.”
The Word of God then calls everyone to conversion, to change our lives, as we cannot remain the same after hearing its life-giving message, the Pope went on to say. The Word can even put us into crisis, he added, as it helps us see the light of God’s goodness and how to make room for it in our lives, whereas the inner darkness of vices and sins can struggle against it, something we must resist.
“When it enters us, the Word transforms our hearts and minds; it changes us and leads us to direct our lives to the Lord…Here is Jesus’ invitation: God has come close to you; recognize His presence, make room for His Word, and you will change your outlook on life.”
The Pope said we can simply place our life “under the Word of God,” not under our own tastes and preferences, but under the Word that shapes us, changes our lives, and calls us to unity.
Bearing witness in word and deed
Finally, we are called to bear witness to the Word of God that makes us heralds, the Pope concluded. As Jesus, walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, called Simon and Andrew to be His disciples, to follow Him and become “fishers of men,” we are also called now to meet our brothers and sisters in proclaiming the joy of the Gospel.
“This is the dynamism of the Word: it draws us into the “net” of the Father’s love and makes us apostles moved by an unquenchable desire to bring all those we encounter into the barque of the Kingdom.”
The Pope added that proclaiming the Word means bearing witness to it in our everyday lives in how we treat and care of each other, giving it flesh in who we are and what we do.
“This is our mission: to become seekers of the lost, oppressed, and discouraged, not to bring them ourselves, but the consolation of the Word, the disruptive proclamation of God that transforms life, the joy of knowing that He is our Father and addresses each one of us, the beauty of saying, “Brother, sister, God has come close to you, listen and you will find in His Word an amazing gift!””
At the conclusion of his homily, the Pope expressed his profound gratitude by saying “thank you” to all who proclaim the Word of God, putting it at the centre of their lives. He paid tribute to those who deepen their knowledge of the Word, the pastoral workers who spread the Word - including lectors and catechists, and especially those on whom he conferred these ministries at Sunday's liturgy. Finally, he thanked all the deacons and priests who help nourish God’s holy people with the Word by “meditating on it, living it, and proclaiming it” through their service and sacrifices.
“For everyone, may the sweet joy of proclaiming the Word of salvation be a consolation and reward.”