The Church celebrates January 22, the fourth Sunday of the Word of God which coincides, as every year, with the third Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Interview by Françoise Niamien-Vatican City
It is by the motu proprio Aperuit Illis – “he opened to them” (cf Lk 24,45), published on September 30, 2019 that the Holy Father instituted the Sunday of the Word of God. Francis inscribed his approach in the wake of great texts of the Magisterium, such as the dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum and the Apostolic Exhortation of Benedict XVI Verbum Domini.
Father Hyppolite Agnigori is the parish priest of Saint-Jean de Cocody in the Archdiocese of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, Doctor of Patristics (Fathers of the Church). A teacher at ICMA, the Catholic Missionary Institute of Abidjan and a member of the Board of Directors of the Biblical Alliance of Côte d’Ivoire, Father Agnigori welcomes the initiative of the Pope who, according to him, gives the Word of God at the heart of the Christian’s life.
How do you define the Word of God?
First of all, I would like to join the Sovereign Pontiff in congratulating this initiative of the Sunday of the Word of God.
The Word of God is the Content of divine Revelation. It is expressed primarily through Scripture, which includes the Old and New Testaments, it is written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is not just a story, a text, but Someone. The Word of God is Jesus Christ,Incarnate verb“. This Word is a path of life on which God comes to meet man to allow him to follow him. The Word of God is the fundamental reference for the faith and life of Christians.
The conciliar document Dei verbum is in this same dynamic: The Word of God is the Revelation of God, the initiative of God addressed to men “like friends“. Its primary aim is not to establish truths inaccessible to reason alone, but to “to make man partaker of the divine nature“.
If it is carried out by words and actions, we must not forget that it is first of all a personal encounter whose culminating point is Christ, “both mediator and fullness of all Revelationin whom God iscommunicates itself“. The Council first wanted to recall that any Christian life is first of all a listening to the Word of God.
What do you think of this initiative of the Holy Father when the Word of God is celebrated daily during our various masses?
Our habits of daily celebrations of the Word can easily slip into a monotony, a humdrum, mundane fact and a laziness that fails to bring out the depth of God’s Word. But by instituting the Sunday of the Word of God, the Pope asks that we stop before this grace that is for us. He says it well in his apostolic letter Aperuit illis which translates the high scope of the Word of God: “he opened to them» in reference to Lk 24,47: «He opened their minds to understand the scriptures“. In its Number III, the “Word of God indicates to those who listen to him the way to follow to achieve an authentic and solid unity.“. The Pope makes people aware that the rallying of Christians does not happen in the air, but around the Word of God: it is about unity among Christians.
Pope Francis invites us to rethink the place that the Word of God should have in our life of faith. This Sunday, in his words, must be “entirely devoted to the Word of God, to understand the inexhaustible richness that comes from this constant dialogue of God with his people“.
It is a very strong invitation to listen to the Word of God in the full sense of this verb, that is to say, to hear it, to read it, to celebrate it, to meditate on it. Each of us is thus called to find richness in listening to and meditating on this Word.
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council had already given a strong impetus to the importance of the rediscovery of the Word of God through the dogmatic constitution of Dei Verbum (1965). Thus it is written “all scripture inspired by God is useful for teaching, refuting, redressing, training in justice, so that the man of God may find himself accomplished, equipped for every good work“.
The Pope thus wishes to manifest, as I mentioned, the ecumenical dimension of the Word of God. The Bible is the book of the entire people of God. As Pope Francis writes, “celebrating the Sunday of the Word of God expresses an ecumenical value because Holy Scripture shows those who listen the way to follow in order to achieve authentic and solid unity“.
What place should the Christian give to the Word of God in his life?
I will answer that the place which must be granted to the Word of God in the life of the Christian is obviously the central place. Any other place could not and cannot be suitable for the Word of God. This Sunday institution of the Word of God is simply a starting point and a reminder.
Its objective is to make familiarity with the Word of God in the daily life of Christian communities, in personal and family life, real and concrete.
The Pope issues an invitation to love Scripture with the same intensity that we find in a passage from Deuteronomy: “These words that I give you today will remain in your heart. You will repeat them to your sons, you will repeat them unceasingly, at home or on your journey, whether you are in bed or whether you are up; you will attach them to your wrist as a sign, they will be a bandeau on your forehead, you will inscribe them at the entrance of your house and at the gates of your city(Dt 6, 6-9).
The central place that the Word of God must occupy in our life is the awareness of the importance of Sacred Scripture for our life as believers, starting from its resonance in the liturgy which places us in a living and permanent dialogue with God. Without the Word of God, we no longer have any reference points.
Do you think that today the African Christian has a great knowledge of the Word of God?
Speak here of the African Christian is very delicate because as in all the continents, there are Christians who have a great knowledge of the Word of God and some who have only a simple approach.
In trying to give an answer to your answer, I would say that today the African Christian has a more or less varied knowledge of the Word of God.
The International Bible Alliance and the Bible Alliances by country work to promote the Word of God in its triple dimension: translation, promotion and dissemination of the Word of God. There is a certain enthusiasm around the Word of God. But as for the great knowledge I would not know how to venture there since it constitutes, at this stage, a personal and individual action even if impelled by the Christian communities.
I can simply say that the African Christian today feels the need to get closer to the Word of God so that his story may be lived with the path that this Word of God offers him. It is a healthy desire. In all objectivity, I can not speak clearly of great knowledge, the term rapprochement seems more appropriate to me.
What methods and means are needed to bring Christians to familiarity with the Word of God?
I will talk about walking with the Word of God because it is a story willed by God which integrates man in his earthly walk. As desired by the Apostolic letter Aperuit illis, For me it is necessary:
First of all, an in-depth catechesis of the Word of God which highlights the essential light of the Word of God in the life of Christians. If this catechesis is lacking, Christians will always see this Word as a distant entity that cannot concern and nourish them. Let us remember the risen Christ who opened the minds of the apostles to the understanding of the Holy Scriptures.
It is then necessary to highlight the documents relating to the Word of God: Dei verbum, Verbum Domini and Aperiuit illis.
Most of our Christians seem very far from these documents which they do not know and therefore cannot exploit for an adequate reconciliation of the Word of God. To walk with the Word of God, the immersion of Christians in these documents would rekindle the desire to explore the treasures of God contained in the Word of God.
There is also a need for ongoing biblical formation with experts so that the faithful do not have the Word of God without understanding its usefulness and value. We see that many people have their Bibles but do not walk with them as they should since their understanding and exploration take them away from the journey that God wishes to make with them.
For priests, seriously prepare homilies by encouraging the Christian faithful to see in the Bible the account of the mystery of salvation where God’s encounter with men culminates in the incarnation of the Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ. If the love of the Word of God is lacking in the priest, it is certain that it will have no effect on the faithful who listen to it.
Finally, the sale of Bibles in the parishes must be authorized and facilitated.
We want to say thanks to the author of this post for this remarkable material
The Word of God: Listen to it, celebrate it and meditate on it – Vatican News
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