I am aware that the first Sunday in February (fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time) has been designated by the Australian Bishops as Word of God on Sundayusually held on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time in other parts of the world.
The text chosen by Pope Francis for the Sunday of the Word of God is “Blessed are those who hear the word of God” (Luke 11:28).
Walking through the cathedral columbarium, leaving the diocesan offices on Friday afternoon, I had the impression that Bishop Bill was in his usual place on the veranda, watching me while enjoying his favorite pastime. I turned to check, smiling and realizing, of course, that he wasn’t there. Feeling his presence and knowing what we were going to reflect on during the weekend, I recalled his motto – In Principio Verbum. He loved and lived the scriptures and the following words explain this part of his coat of arms:
The motto In Principio Verbum is taken from the first words of the Gospel of John, In the beginning [was] word. In this context, the motto emphasizes that our faith is built on Christ himself, the Word of the Father. In its abbreviated form, In the Beginning, the Word, the motto is also meant to signify the importance of the Bible: that we do not constitute the Christian faith according to our own lights, but must be challenged to answer all that God has given us in Scripture and tradition.
Finally, the motto is intended to remind the bishop that his first duty is to preach the Good News, because the Latin will also readily carry the translation “In the first place, the Word”.
We continue to remember Bishop Bill and pray for his eternal rest, while asking him to guide those who discern our next bishop, and remembering the primacy of the word of God revealed to us in scripture.
During the week, I took the time to explain to a new member of staff the various books, on one of our shelves, that help guide Catholics – the Sunday and Weekday Missals , the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Daily Mass Book, the Ordo, the Code of Cannon Law, a Daily Prayer Book, the Lectionary, the Divine Office and the Directory of the Australian Catholic Church. I realized while holding these books and explaining their use, how blessed we are to have these many wonderful guides, but most especially, our lectionary. Each day of the year, we are directed to our scriptures to guide us while giving us hope. All over the world the same prayers and scriptures are being prayed from the beginning of the day in the Pacific Ocean until the end of the day 24 hours later. How great is the universality of our church and the order it gives us.
Our Scriptures are very important to us, and since Vatican II many Catholics have actively taken up various opportunities to study them. Last year, several parishes and young people participated in the Alpha program, where people are invited to have conversations about faith, life and God. Bible studies are held in some of our parishes, while others participate in Lectio Divina and contemplative dialogue. I hope that more Catholics will engage in the many opportunities offered, to encounter a deeper and richer understanding of the gift of faith given to us.
During the week, I virtually attended the Regional Worship and Prayer Gathering where hundreds of people gathered to pray for our region in eleven centers (Muswellbrook, Singleton, Cessnock, Branxton, Maitland , Raymond Terrace, Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Newcastle), online or via Rhema FM, coordinated by Kingdomworks’ Rick Prosser. The live sites were hosted by ministers from various backgrounds in the Christian Church. It was a powerful moment of unity and hope for our region, because we are better together.
The power of the evening came from a diversity of scriptures chosen and prayed to in the region for unity, love, strength, courage, trust, restoration, spiritual awakening, leadership and processing. John Marks of Rhema FM was honored for his 30 years of community service in Christian radio. We have a radio show, The tripbroadcast every Sunday evening on Rhema FM at 6:30 p.m., thanks to John Marks and the Diocese of Wollongong.
The Word of God was central and foremost in this gathering of prayer across Christian denominations:
- For the unity of the Body of Christ to emerge (John 17:12)
- For the testimony of Christ to increase (Nehemiah 4:14)
- For spiritual revival across our region (Isaiah 58:12B)
I invite you to click on the image below to join this powerful anthem of australia blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 in which over 300 churches have come together from all corners of our nation to declare a blessing upon Australia. I’m sure you’ll identify some familiar faces and their voices: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOt7baaVSbE)
May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make his face shine upon you,
and give you thanks,
The Lord turns his face to you,
and give you peace.
I invite you to pray the scriptures in words or songs daily, individually or with others, for the purpose of shining the light of Jesus on yourself, your family, your workplace, your parish, your community, our leaders and the nation.
Be blessed for the coming week,
February 8, 2022
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