On the 30th September 2010, on the Memorial of St Jerome, the Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, – The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church – was published. Through this letter to the world, Pope Benedict XVI, together with all the Synod bishops expressed their “hope for the flowering” of “a new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of every member of the People of God, so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus”. (n.72). The Synod called for a particular pastoral commitment to emphasizing the centrality of the word of God in the Church’s life, and recommended a greater “biblical apostolate”, not alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as “a means of letting the Bible inspire all pastoral work”. This, Pope Benedict said, does not mean adding a meeting here or there in parishes or dioceses, but rather of examining the ordinary activities of Christian communities, in parishes, associations and movements, “to see if they are truly concerned with fostering a personal encounter with Christ, who gives himself to us in his word”. Since “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”, making the Bible the inspiration of every ordinary and extraordinary pastoral outreach will lead to a greater awareness of the person of Christ, who reveals the Father and is the fullness of divine revelation (n. 73).
Verbum Domini presents fundamental approaches to rediscovering God’s word in the life of the Church “as a wellspring of constant renewal.” In this historic document the word “rediscover” was mentioned seven times, the central theme being the rediscovery of the Word of God itself, which is always timely and never out-of-date, whereby the Church might rejuvenate herself and experience a new springtime. She will then be able to undertake with renewed vigour her mission of evangelization and human promotion in the today’s world, which thirsts for God and his words of faith, hope and charity. (Synod of Bishops, XII Ordinary General Assembly, preface).
A WELLSPRING OF CONSTANT RENEWAL
The first mention of rediscovery is where Pope Benedict XVI wishes to point out certain fundamental approaches to the rediscovery of God’s word itself in the life of the Church as a wellspring of constant renewal.
LIFE ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT
The second concerns the rediscovery of the interplay between the different senses of Scripture, where it becomes essential to grasp the passage from letter to spirit : “the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text.” “An authentic process of interpretation is never purely an intellectual process but also a lived one, demanding full engagement in the life of the Church, which is life “according to the Spirit” (Gal 5:16)” (n.38).
THE VALUE OF SILENCE
The third and fourth mention is to where rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. “Ours is not an age which fosters recollection; at times one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media. For this reason, it is necessary nowadays that the People of God be educated in the value of silence. Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence. Our liturgies must facilitate this attitude of authentic listening: Verbo crescente, verba deficiunt.” (n.66).
BIBLICALLY INSPIRED CATECHESIS
The fifth is where catechesis can help in rediscovering the centrality of God’s word – biblically inspired catechesis. “Catechesis “must be permeated by the mindset, the spirit and the outlook of the Bible and the Gospels through assiduous contact with the texts themselves; yet it also means remembering that catechesis will be all the richer and more effective for reading the texts with the mind and the heart of the Church”, and for drawing inspiration from the two millennia of the Church’s reflection and life (n.74).
RECONCILIATION AND PEACE
The sixth concerns rediscovering the word of God as a source of reconciliation and peace, “since in that word God is reconciling to himself all things (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20; Eph 1:10): Christ “is our peace” (Eph 2:14), the one who breaks down the walls of division. A number of interventions at the Synod documented the grave and violent conflicts and tensions present on our planet. At times these hostilities seem to take on the appearance of interreligious conflict. Here I wish to affirm once more that religion can never justify intolerance or war. We cannot kill in God’s name! Each religion must encourage the right use of reason and promote ethical values that consolidate civil coexistence.” Peace is possible and we ourselves must be instruments of reconciliation and peace (n.102).
MODERATION AND SOLIDARITY
The seventh “rediscovery” concerns the universal Gospel values of “moderation and solidarity”. “Poverty can exist as a virtue, freely chosen, but poverty can also exist due to injustice or selfishness, marked by hunger and need, and as a source of conflict. In her proclamation of God’s word, the Church knows that a “virtuous circle” must be promoted between the poverty which is to be chosen and the poverty which is to be combated; This entails decisions marked by justice and moderation” (n. 107).
This letter to the world on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church places the word of God at the centre of the lives of Catholics, leading us to appreciate anew the deepest meaning of the forceful appeal of Pope John Paul II: to pursue the missio ad gentes and vigorously to embark upon the new evangelization, especially in those nations where the Gospel has been forgotten or meets with indifference as a result of widespread secularism. In this way the Church will always be renewed and rejuvenated, thanks to the word of the Lord which remains for ever (cf. 1 Pet 1:25; Is 40:8).