I was watching the Jeopardy championship tournament on its first night, with one eye on the show as I ruffled through mail and papers, when it came to the final question. The category was the Bible. I saw the category and panicked. What if I don’t know the answer to this question? I love Scripture but am not able to quote it chapter and verse. I am supposed to know answers on this subject. It took me back to Sunday school and those days when Father would quiz the class on what we were learning creating a “fear and a trembling” in my soul.
And the question was: “What are the first six words of the Gospel of St. John?” I breathed a sigh of relief. Now I wished I was with family and friends, and could show off my prowess. I felt good. I was back on my game. Will the three champions get this one? Is this something that others can recite by heart like I can? I don’t know. I have quoted these six words over and over in presentations and in my classes. I love these six words.
The champions were called on. James, “In the beginning was the Word” followed by Ken, “In the beginning was the Word” and finally Brad, “In the beginning was the Word.” A humbling moment (for me) but a great moment reflecting on the power of the first lines of John. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This was also a wakeup call about useless worrying about correct answers. The Bible is not about answers but about taking God’s Word into one’s heart for this time and in this moment of life.
The Word of God is powerful and important to our growth spiritually and as disciples. For this reason, Pope Francis has issued an apostolic letter entitled “Aperuit Illis.” It is a small document in size but rich in its reflection on the importance of Scripture in one’s life. It proclaims the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Jan. 26 this year) as the “Sunday of the Word of God” for all dioceses and churches throughout the world. Pope Francis suggests that individuals find ways to delve into the richness of sacred Scripture in order to see its value in daily living. Pope Francis states, “The relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and sacred Scripture is essential to our identity as Christians. Without the Lord who opens our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth.”
Each time we listen to the Scriptures as a community at Mass we hear the Living Word of God in the context of the here and now. There is a prophetic power to the Scriptures. We are different every time we study, ponder and hear the Word proclaimed. Each Sunday the Scriptures are read and we are new to these readings every time we hear them. Our questions, our life experiences, our relationships with each other and God are not the same as yesterday. Pope Francis states: “Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim it unfathomable riches before the world.”
While quiz and game shows engaging in Bible questions are fun and may be a challenge or reminder of the Bible’s wealth the Bible is so much more. It is the living Word of God. It is nourishment for the soul and “belongs above all to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words.” The Word of God nourishes the community every Sunday of the year. As hearers of the Word there are many books, liturgical supplements, classes and opportunities to probe the richness of Scripture and tools for study and praying with the Bible.
“Who is able to understand, Lord, all the richness of even one of your words? There is more that eludes us than what we can understand. We are like the thirsty drinking from a fountain. Your word has as many aspects as the perspectives of those who study it. The Lord has colored his word with diverse beauties, so that those who study it can contemplate what stirs them. He has hidden in his word all treasures, so that each of us may find a richness in what he or she contemplates” (St. Ephram).