As we come to the end of our Liturgical Year, I am writing to you for Advent, that beautiful time of the year when we spend time in preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Word made flesh.
Earlier this year on 30th September Pope Francis issued a Motu Proprio to institute the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time as a day of celebration of the Word of God. 30th September is the Feast of St Jerome and the 1600th Anniversary of his death falls in 2020. It is also ten years since Pope Benedict wrote “Dei Verbum” (The Word of God) Many Conferences of Bishops, including England and Wales, have called for a Year of celebrating the Word of God from 1st Sunday of Advent until 30th September next year and I would like to ask if as a Congregation we can also celebrate a Year of Scripture with them. St Jerome translated the Bible into ordinary everyday English because, he said, “ Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. “ Let us try to become more familiar with the Word of God in our daily prayer.
Advent is a good season to spend more time with Scripture because the readings are so beautiful . They tell us to wake from sleep because our salvation is near at hand (Rom.13:11) and the Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not know (Mt. 24:44). We are to prepare a Way for the Lord and make His paths straight (Lk 3:4) and our God is coming to save us.(Lk 35:6) However we are to be patient and not lose heart (James 5:8) because the Lord will give us a sign. The Virgin is with child and will give birth to a Son whom she will call Emmanuel (Jn 7:14)
In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis says that Evangelisation is based on the Word, listened to, meditated upon, lived, celebrated and witnessed to. Sacred Scripture is the very source of evangelisation (EG174) It is indispensable that the Word of God be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity. The study of Sacred Scripture must be a door opened to every believer. God’s Word has the power to open our eyes and to enable us to renounce stifling and barren individualism and instead to embark on a path of sharing and solidarity.(EG175)
The Franciscan Rule tells us that we are to be totally conformed to the Gospel and should reflect and keep in our hearts the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Word of the Father as well as the Word of the Holy Spirit which are spirit and life. (Ch.3 No11)
We know that Francis of Assisi opened the Bible whenever he had an important decision to make and such was the reverence he held for Scripture that he write in his Testament “ Whenever I come upon His most holy written words in an unbecoming place , I desire to gather them up and I ask that they be collected and placed in a suitable place.”
In the Scriptures we find guidance for our daily lives and the assurance that the Word of the Lord is everlasting. “ Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path” (Ps.119)
“The unfolding of your word gives light to the eyes and understanding to the simple” (Ps 119)
“The grass withers and the flowers fall but the Word of God endures forever.” (Is. 40)
If like Mary, we can ponder the Word in our hearts it will guide us through our Advent journey and through life. It will give us hope to believe in God’s promises to us which will be fulfilled no matter what. Our hope does not disappoint us because it is founded on the Word of God(Romans 5:5) Let us pray that just as Jesus was not held hostage to the expectations of the people when he took time apart to pray ,in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the world in the weeks before Christmas may we spend time with Him and reflect on His Word in the precious time we call Advent.
Let us pray for one another this Advent the words of St Paul writing to the Colossians “ Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly: teach and admonish one another in all wisdom and with gratitude in your hearts, sing hymns and spiritual songs to God” (Col.3:16)
May the Lord give you His peace.
Love and prayers
Sister Maureen, FMSJ