Pope Francis preached Sunday about the life-changing power of God’s word in Scripture, encouraging everyone to keep a Bible close for daily inspiration.
“Let us make room in our lives for the word of God. Each day, let us read a verse or two of the Bible. Let us begin with the Gospel: let us keep it open on our table, carry it in our pocket, read it on our cell phones, and allow it to inspire us daily,” Pope Francis said in his homily Jan. 26.
“The Lord gives you his word, so that you can receive it like a love letter he has written to you, to help you realize that he is at your side. His word consoles and encourages us. At the same time it challenges us, frees us from the bondage of our selfishness and summons us to conversion. Because his word has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light,” the pope said.
Pope Francis inaugurated the first Sunday of the Word of God with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The pope established the Sunday of the Word of God to take place annually throughout the world on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time.
“On this first Sunday of the Word of God, let us go to the roots of his preaching, to the very source of the word of life,” the pope said.
“We need his word: so that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life,” he said.
The pope reflected on Jesus’ preaching in Matthew’s Gospel: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
“We can now understand the direct demand that Jesus makes: ‘Repent,’ in other words, ‘Change your life.’ Change your life, for a new way of living has begun. The time when you lived for yourself is over; now is the time for living with and for God, with and for others, with and for love. Today Jesus speaks those same words to you,” he said.
Francis said that Jesus began preaching from the peripheries in Galilee, passing through “all of that varied and complex region.” In the same way, Christ is not afraid to explore the difficult terrain in our hearts.
“Here there is a message for us: the word of salvation does not go looking for untouched, clean and safe places. Instead, it enters the complex and obscure places in our lives,” the pope said.
“Now, as then, God wants to visit the very places we think he will never go. Yet how often we are the ones who close the door, preferring to keep our confusion, our dark side and our duplicity hidden. We keep it locked up within, approaching the Lord with some rote prayers, wary lest his truth stir our hearts,” he said.
Throughout the Mass, the statue of Our Lady of Knock from Ireland was on the altar as the Church celebrates the 140th anniversary of the Marian apparition. Pope Francis blessed this statue of Our Lady of Knock when he visited the Irish Marian Shrine during the World Meeting of Families in 2018.
The relics of St. Timothy were also moved to St. Peter’s Basilica for the Sunday of the Word of God. At the end of Mass, Pope Francis gave copies of the Bible to 40 people as a symbolic gesture.
“To follow Jesus, mere good works are not enough; we have to listen daily to his call. He, who alone knows us and who loves us fully, leads us to put out into the deep of life,” he said.
“We will discover that God is close to us, that he dispels our darkness and, with great love, leads our lives into deep waters,” Pope Francis said.