5 Ways to Celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God

Here are some practices to help increase our love for the Sacred Scriptures.

Pope Francis celebrates Easter Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 4, 2021.
Pope Francis celebrates Easter Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 4, 2021. (photo: Vatican Media / CNA)

The Church celebrated the Sunday of the Word of God for the first time on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time of 2020. This is a new celebration instituted by Pope Francis with the apostolic letter, Aperuit Illis.

The Pope instituted this celebration because, he wrote, “It is fitting, then that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride, that she may grow in love and faithfulness.” The Scriptures themselves tell us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword …” (Hebrews 4:12). This tells us two things: first, that God wants to speak to us; second, that listening to God speak is the way for us to grow into our fullest potential.

So, I am here proposing a list of five ways that we can honor Pope Francis’ directive and grow in devotion to the Word of God.

1. Enthrone a Bible in your home. Give the Word of God a prime place of honor and reverence in your home. Start by creating and devoting a “sacred space.” Then, use an enthronement prayer service (several, like this one, are available online), to make the Bible prominent in that space. The Bible then becomes the spiritual center of your home. Family members will be reminded daily of the importance of the Bible in the life of the Church and family. Visitors might even be curious about the purpose of this sacred space.

2. Commit to a Bible study, especially with a group. Father Mike Schmitz’s The Bible in a Year was a top podcast in the world last year. There are numerous other great studies available: some on individual books of the Bible, and some on themes throughout Scripture. Still, too many Catholics admit that they have never read and studied the Bible much, if at all. These great programs and podcasts can help change that. Remember, though, that the full potential that these studies have is best achieved in community. The Bible was never meant to be studied only. It was meant to be discussed with the Church and, more importantly, to be lived in the world.

3. Begin reading the daily Mass readings. For those who may have already completed The Bible in a Year, or those who simply need a slightly different format, engaging with the daily Mass readings can be a great way to incorporate more Sacred Scripture into your life. Each and every day of the year, you will get readings from the Old and New Testaments. Over time, coupled with other recommendations on this list, your understanding of the Bible and, most importantly, your love of Jesus will grow immensely.

4. Commit to learning lectio divina. Lectio divina literally means “divine reading.” It is the way that the Church Fathers came to deeper understandings of Sacred Scripture in the first centuries after Jesus’ resurrection. It has been employed by Benedictines and other religious orders for centuries. It was recommended by the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as the key that would unlock a new spiritual springtime in the Church. There are several great explanations, with resources to accompany, available online (here and here, for example). I even humbly recommend my own book, A Life of Conversion: Meeting Christ in the Gospels.

5. Commit to a holy hour, at least once each week. We must keep in mind that the Word of God is a person — the Divine Word, Jesus Christ. Any and all of the recommendations above must lead us to a deeper relationship and communion with him.

There is no better place to commune with Jesus than in his true Presence. Many cities have multiple chapels with perpetual Eucharistic adoration (and they often need adorers in the late-night and early-morning hours); many parishes offer adoration on the first Friday of each month, or on special feast days. In the absence of adoration, it is perfectly acceptable to go inside a church or chapel and sit in front of Jesus in the tabernacle. (Ven. Fulton Sheen once made a holy hour sitting outside of a locked church, desiring to be closer to Jesus.)

If you want to be a better disciple of Jesus, and if you commit to one or more of these habits, your devotion to the Word of God will certainly grow. This is especially true for the last four recommendations, which can become weekly or even daily habits. Let’s hope that by forming these devotional habits the Word of God “may speed ahead and be honored” (2 Thessalonians 3:1) in our homes, our communities and our world.