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Friday, 04 February 2022 18:11

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Word of God Sunday 2022

Sunday of the Word of God

Fr Michael Hardie 150 hsOver the past few Sundays, we have heard in the first readings a focused theme – that of ‘Hearing God’s Sacred Word’. On the Third Sunday, in the reading from the book of Nehemiah, we heard the prophet Ezra proclaiming God’s Word in the assembly of the people, after their return from exile. After many decades of spiritual famine, of not hearing God’s Word read during their time of exile in Babylon, the people wept with joy at the sound of it, so much did it mean to them.

On the Fourth Sunday, God tells Jeremiah to ‘gird his loins,’ and get ready to speak prophetically and announce God’s Word to the nations. Jeremiah, albeit with misgivings, did as the Lord commanded; for the prophets were, quite often, somewhat reluctant to take up their commissions! In today’s terms, we would call the prophetic task a ‘tough gig.’

Hand holding bible book up to the sunny sky. Religious belief, faith and worship concept. In readiness for the sacred task of bringing forth God’s Word, the prophets first had to undergo a ritual of preparation and cleansing. For example, early in the book of Jeremiah and immediately after his commission, the Lord touches Jeremiah’s lips, saying to the hapless prophet, “Behold, I have put My Words into your mouth.” From then on, Jeremiah’s life is clear: it is no longer his mission, but God’s mission.

This Sunday, the Fifth in Ordinary Time, we hear from the prophet Isaiah. God’s angel touches the prophet’s lips with a hot coal – similar in symbolic gesture to God’s treatment of Jeremiah.  The Lord says to Isaiah, ‘Whom shall I send, to speak my Word?’ and Isaiah answers, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me.’ We know from the beautiful phrases and poetic cadences in Isaiah’s writing that the prophet took up his mission with alacrity and resolve.

These three readings over three weeks focus our minds and hearts on the nature of prophecy itself, which is not (as is commonly thought) a foretelling of the future, but a calling out to God’s people, who have neglected the Word of the Lord in their lives, to turn and hear God’s Word again, anew. In other words, a redemptive hearing of God’s message for humanity.

In one of his letters to the Corinthians, Paul reminds the early Christians of what they have received from him and the Lord Jesus – namely, God’s saving Word. Whether they received it from Paul in the course of his preaching, or from the Old Testament via the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Paul says it will be nothing without love. 

We have seen that lack of love for others in Luke’s Gospel for the Fourth Sunday. Whereas early in Jesus’ prophetic ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth the people marvelled at Jesus’ wonderful works of healing the sick and curing diseases, when they were reminded that God’s mercy had also been shown to Gentiles, to a poor widow of Sidon and her son, and to a leper named Naaman who was a Syrian, they were really upset. It was as if one of them had said, ‘Cure us your people but leave those foreigners to look after themselves.’ Their love was partial, conditional, and limited. That is not what Jesus was about because he, like Jeremiah and Isaiah, had answered the call to be prophets to the nations.

Each one of us is called to hear God’s Word for us in the context of our daily lives. On the feast of Saint Jerome, on 30 September 2019, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter Aperuit Illis (‘he opened their minds’) in which he declared an annual observance, on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time each year, as “Sunday of the Word of God.” The purpose of this is a renewal of reading and hearing God’s sacred Word in the communities of God’s faithful.

The Church in Australia celebrates Word of God Sunday on February 6 this year – the first Sunday in February. Thus, a special Sunday will be set aside, each year, as the Sunday of the Word of God. Resources are available from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference by clicking here.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

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