Today is the inaugural Feast of the Word of God. This feast was instituted by Pope Francis on September 30.2019, in his Motu Proprio Aperuit illis. For many Catholics, the Word of God is something foreign. “I am a good Catholic”, many say, “I don’t read my bible”. Of course, such a notion is absurd. To be a Catholic means to love the Word of God, not to neglect it. In order to love the Word of God, however, we must first know what it is.
Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, states that “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God”. In other words, Scripture and Tradition together form the Word of God – one cannot exist without the other. Sacred Scripture requires Sacred Tradition and Sacred Tradition requires Sacred Scripture. The reason for this relation is simple. Scripture does not interpret itself, but requires the steady hand of Tradition for proper interpretation. Likewise, Tradition requires the content of Scripture. Together, they form the Word of God.
What does this mean for us? First off, the relationship between Scripture and Tradition means that the Word of God is fundamentally communal. God has entrusted his Word to the Church, who is exclusively entrusted with the task of its authentic interpretation. This does not mean that the Church has the power to manipulate the Word of God, but that she must “serve…it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit” (DV 10). At the same time, the Word of God speaks to our individual situations. When we read the Scriptures, God is truly speaking to our present situation. His words to us are always fresh and new. As the author of Hebrews states, the word of God is living and active (Hew 4:12).
Thus, the Word of God is both ecclesial and personal. It speaks to us in our individual situations, but it also belongs to the Church. In both ways, the Word of God seeks a single purpose, namely, the salvation of souls. On this Feast of the Word of God, may the Author of this Word bless us with a deeper and deeper love for his Word.
Ian Mahood – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
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