The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization is the Vatican department responsible for promoting the Sunday of the Word of God, which the pope introduced in 2019.
Reading the homily that Pope Francis intended to deliver, Fisichella reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, Mark 1:14-20, in which Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God.
He said that Christ’s declaration that the Kingdom was “at hand” was “the leitmotif of his preaching, the heart of his message.”
This proclamation is not only a source of consolation but also a call to conversion, he noted.
“‘Repent,’ says Jesus, immediately after proclaiming God’s closeness. For, thanks to his closeness, we can no longer distance ourselves from God and from others,” he said.
“The time when we could live thinking only of ourselves is now over. To do so is not Christian, for those who experience God’s closeness cannot ignore their neighbors or treat them with indifference.”
Pope Francis declared the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time a special day for celebrating the Word of God in the Church when he issued the apostolic letter “Aperuit illis,” on the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin in the fourth century.
The theme of this year’s Sunday of the Word of God -- the second since the pope instituted the celebration -- is “Holding fast to the Word of life,” from Philippians 2:16.
In his homily, Fisichella observed that Jesus addressed his call first to simple Galilean fishermen, rather than to scriptural experts, beginning at the periphery rather than the center “in order to tell us too that no one is far from God’s heart.”
“Everyone can receive his word and encounter him in person,” he said.
He emphasized the significance of Jesus’ invitation to the disciples: “Follow me, I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).
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“If he had told them: ‘Follow me, I will make you Apostles, you will be sent into the world to preach the Gospel in the power of the Spirit; you will be killed, but you will become saints,’ we can be sure that Peter and Andrew would have answered: ‘Thanks, but we’ll stick to our nets and our boats!’”
“But Jesus spoke to them in terms of their own livelihood: ‘You are fishermen, and you will become fishers of men.’ Struck by those words, they come to realize that lowering their nets for fish was too little, whereas putting out into the deep in response to the word of Jesus was the secret of true joy.”
The same is true of us, Fisichella said. “As he did with those fishermen, he waits for us on the shore of our life. With his word, he wants to change us, to invite us to live fuller lives and to put out into the deep together with him.”
The Vatican’s liturgy congregation issued a note last month encouraging Catholic parishes around the world to celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God with renewed vigor.
In the note published Dec. 19, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments suggested ways that Catholics should prepare for the day devoted to the Bible.