Today, on the feast of St. Jerome, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio “Aperuit Illis,” establishing a “Sunday of the Word of God” on the Third Sunday in Ordinary time. Pray Tell provides two reactions: from Fritz Bauerschmidt and Anthony Ruff OSB. At the end of this post is a list of the readings for the Third Sunday of the Year.
FREDERICK BAUERSCHMIDT says:
It is not clear to me whether this Sunday will be provided with propers or whether the prayers and reading already appointed for that Sunday will be retained (making it less like Trinity Sunday and more like Divine Mercy Sunday). The readings for cycle C already have a scriptural focus (the reading of the Law in the book of Nehemiah—which comes in for some discussion in the motu proprio (para. 4)—and Luke’s account of Jesus reading the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue), but the other years not so much.
The motu proprio notes that different communities will find their own ways to solemnize this Sunday, but mentions that it would be an appropriate time for the institution of lectors or the commissioning of other readers.
While I am in favor of much that the motu proprio calls for, especially with regard to the training of those who read the Scriptures in the liturgy, I must admit that I am skeptical about the value of adding such celebrations to the calendar. Perhaps this simply reflects my innate liturgical conservatism. But I do wonder where this sort of thing ends. Does every Sunday eventually end up with a “theme”? Does this sort of tinkering with the liturgical year actually yield much in concrete results? Maybe time will tell.
ANTHONY RUFF says:
Here are my first thoughts on this motu proprio.
- Emphasis on the Scriptures is always good of course.
- This initiative strengthens our ecumenical bonds with all Christians of all traditions, which is great. Indeed, the pope calls us to “strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity” (3).
- It would be nice if this initiative were a joint one, e.g. with the Patriarch of Constantinople and the World Council of Churches. But that would no doubt take many years to achieve, with lots of complications about varying liturgical calendars.
- The liturgical year doesn’t need more themes imposed on it, however worthy. The primacy of the Sundays of the year on their own terms is an important principle of liturgical reform. (That’s why I don’t really care for Divine Mercy on such an important day as the Second Sunday of Easter.) This is my major misgiving with today’s announcement.
- There don’t appear to be any major liturgical implications for this new Sunday of the Word of god – no changes to the missal or lectionary. But it seems likely that the new theme of the day will be popular and engulf the Sunday liturgy.
- The motu proprio speaks of “enthroning” the sacred text – what would this look like?
- The pope suggests distributing Bibles or books of the bible on this Sunday – great.
- There is a suggestion to celebrate the Rite of Installation of Lectors – which would be a nice annual custom. But most parish ministries begin their annual cycle in the fall with the start of the academic year. And unfortunately there is little alignment between who is installed as lector (only men can be) and who can actually lector (most women and men are never installed) – why can’t this be fixed?
- There is good emphasis on quality preaching – “Those of us who are preachers should not give long, pedantic homilies or wander off into unrelated topics.” (5) This is an important concern of Pope Francis, and rightly so.
- The emphasis on the tie between Scripture and Eucharist (8, citing the Emmaus story) is excellent.
- The theological understanding of what Scripture is follows Vatican II, especially Dei Verbum: “human words written in human fashion become the word of God.” (9) This view is informed by modern scripture scholarship and decidedly not fundamentalist (in the evangelical or Catholic versions). But it’s not arid intellectualism either, and rightly emphasizes the real point: our salvation, our transfiguration, our growing in love, through our encounter with Scripture.
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For your reference, here are the readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Roman lectionary.
Year A, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isa 8:23b-9:3, They have seen a great light
Psalm 27, The Lord is my light and my salvation
1 Cor 1:10-13, 17, No divisions
Matt 4:12-23 or 4:12-17III-A, Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled
Year B, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jon 3:1-5, 10, The Ninevites repent
Psalm 25, Teach me your ways, O Lord
1 Cor 7:29-31, This world is passing away
Mark 1:14-20, Repent and believe!
Year C, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10, Ezra reads the Law
Psalm 19, Your words, Lord, are spirit and life. (cf. Jn. 6:63c)
1 Cor 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27, We are one body
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21, Jesus fulfills the Law