• Archbishop Martins tasks Catholics on devotion to sacred scripture
• Lay faithful to attend Mass with their Bibles
• Pope Francis’ letter recalls importance of the sacred scripture; warns against long homilies
By Constaincia Uruakpa
The Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, His Grace, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins has enjoined Catholics to have a renewed vigour in devotion to sacred Scripture, a living and tender love for the written word of God. The Chief Shepherd gave this charge following the Holy Father, Pope Francis’ directive in his Apostolic Letter, Aperuit Illis, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures -Lk 24:25)”, presented on 30th September, 2019, the 1600th anniversary of the death of St. Jerome, devoting the third Sunday in ‘Ordinary Time’ to the celebration, study and dissemination of the ‘Word of God.’ The letter read: “At the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I proposed setting aside a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people” (Misericordia et Misera).
Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of His word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world.” The Pope utilizes the scene of the Risen Lord appearing to the disciples at Emmaus to demonstrate what he calls “the unbreakable bond between Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist”. Since the Scriptures everywhere speak of Christ, he writes, “ they enable us to believe that His death and resurrection are not myth but history, and are central to the faith of His disciples”. The letter further states that the Bible is not meant for a privileged few, it belongs “to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words”. The Bible cannot be monopolized or restricted to select groups either, he writes, because it is “the book of the Lord’s people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division towards unity”.
Highlighting the importance of Wthe homily, Pope Francis writes, “Pastors are primarily responsible for explaining Sacred Scripture and helping everyone to understand it”. Which is why the homily possesses “a quasi-sacramental character”. The Pope warns against improvising or giving “long, pedantic homilies or wandering off into unrelated topics”. Rather, he suggests using simple and suitable language. For many of the faithful, he explains, “this is the only opportunity they have to grasp the beauty of God’s Word and to see it applied to their daily lives”. “The role of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures is primordial. Without the work of the Spirit, there would always be a risk of remaining limited to the written text alone”. The Holy Father continues: “This would open the way to a fundamentalist reading, which needs to be avoided, lest we betray the inspired, dynamic and spiritual character of the sacred text”. It is the Holy Spirit who “makes Sacred Scripture the living word of God, experienced and handed down in the faith of His holy people”. Pope Francis invites us never to take God’s Word for granted, “ but instead to let ourselves be nourished by it, in order to acknowledge and live fully our relationship with Him and with our brothers and sisters”.
The Holy Father concluded his Apostolic Letter by defining what he described as “the great challenge before us in life: to listen to Sacred Scripture and then to practice mercy”. God’s Word, writes Pope Francis, “has the power to open our eyes and to enable us to renounce a stifling and barren individualism and instead to embark on a new path of sharing and solidarity”. The Letter closes with a reference to Our Lady, who accompanies us “on the journey of welcoming the Word of God”, teaching us the joy of those who listen to that Word and keep it. According to a statement signed by Very Rev. Fr. Julius Olanrewaju Gasper, Parish Priest, Regina Mundi Catholic Church, Mushin, Lagos, Archbishop Martins has directed the Enthronement of the Word of God today, Sunday, January 24, 2021 at all Masses, and all worshippers are expected to attend with their Bibles. He said: “Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we shall be having the Enthronement of the Word of God come this Sunday, 24th January, 2021 (Third Sunday in Ordinary Time) at all Masses.
This we shall do following the Rite of Commitment to the Word of God as directed by our Archbishop. “Therefore, when coming for Mass on Sunday, 24th January, 2021, we are all expected to come with our Bible. This is because, the Bible will be blessed and we are all expected to go and enthrone the Word of God in our various homes. Take note, that you are expected to have prepared a special place in your home where you shall enthrone the Word of God, after Mass on Sunday. Therefore, endeavour that you and your family members prepare for this occasion, to welcome the Word of God in a special way into your homes.” The Word of God is to remain enthroned from Sunday, January 24, 2021 till Tuesday, February 16, 2021, the day before Ash Wednesday.