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Bible Sunday - 19th July 2015
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has designated the fourth Sunday of July as Bible Sunday. Next Sunday, 26th July, then is Bible Sunday for 2015.
At the opening liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, a book of the Holy Scriptures was carried in solemn procession among the Council Fathers and placed before them for veneration. This action anticipated the decision of the Council to restore the Scriptures to a central place in the life of the Catholic Church.
The first document issued by the Council, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, included this:
“Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. To achieve the reform, progress and adaptation of the liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love of Scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony”. (#24)
The Constitution speaks of Christ’s presence when the Scriptures are read in the Church and calls for “the treasures of the Bible to be opened up more lavishly, so that a richer share in God’s word may be provided for the faithful” (#51).
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation which speaks about the revelation of God’s word through Scripture, Tradition and Church teaching. It called for “suitable and correct translations in various languages” to be made of the Bible, where possible “jointly with churches separated from us”. The Council encouraged Catholics to read the Bible and called for a wider use of scripture in worship.
In the 2010 document Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict XVI expressed a heartfelt hope for a “a new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the People of God, so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus”.
Pope Francis’s speech at the opening of the Synod on the Family on 5 October 2014 included this: “The Bible is not meant to be placed on a shelf; keep it at hand, read it often, every day, both individually and together, husband and wife, parents and children, especially on Sundays. This way the family grows, walks, with the light and power of the Word of God!
Bible Sunday gives us an opportunity to think about how we are responding to these calls to make reading and studying the Bible a regular part of our faith life.
Catholics in general certainly need greater formation about, and encouragement to read, sacred scripture. I was shocked recently when a young Mass goer told me that she had only just discovered that the readings at Mass were in fact taken from the Bible. The lectionaries from which the readings are proclaimed at liturgy are of course collections of extracts from the Bible that have been selected for use in public worship. Maybe we take too much for granted in assuming that everyone knows this!
Parishes looking for resources for Bible Sunday should visit the Biblical Apostolate page on the website of the Diocese of Broken Bay, www.dbb.org.au/bible . On the Bible Sunday page is a wealth of material for parishes and schools, including homily suggestions, prayer of the faithful petitions, a bulletin insert, a children’s puzzle and templates for printing Bible bookmarks for adults and children.