National Bible Sunday
First reading: Dt. 18:15–20
Moses spoke to all the people, saying: “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen. This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God, nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him. Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it. But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.’”
Second reading: 1 Cor. 7:32–35
Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction.
Gospel: Mk. 1:21–28
Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
In other words
by Fr. Dante Salces-Barril, SVD (Rome, Italy)
Today is National Bible Sunday. The word “Bible” literally means “Books.” It is an appropriate name for what we usually call “The Holy Bible” for indeed it is a collection of books—73 in all: 46 Old Testament; 27 New Testament. These “books” did not just fall from heaven. They were written by people inspired by God across space and time. Consequently, as we honor “The Bible” we must recognize the important role that the early Church played in its formation: inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Church collected and selected the books that comprise “The Bible” as we know it today.
The (early) Church was astonished at Jesus (Gospel); he was the Prophet whom God promised to raise up (First Reading). He taught with authority; his Words are powerful—even the unclean spirits obey him. Jesus and his Words kept the Church rock-steady amidst life’s uncertainty. And this gift of Jesus and his Words that the Church received, the Church in turn, gave as a gift—moved by the Spirit, she handed down Jesus and his Words from one generation to the next—so that the awe and wonder and assurances she felt in the past can be celebrated and lived in the present.
St. Paul in the Second reading talks about anxieties. Apparently, anxiety is not a modern invention—already, people in the 1st century suffered from them. Also, Paul does not mean that if you do not marry, you will be immune from problems and anxieties; only that, if you do not marry, you will be free to “worry” about the “worries” of the Lord. Trust me, religious life is not worry-free. I should know—I have been a priest for twelve years. Anxieties, fears, worries, problems, etc. are all parts of life—married or not. But the faithful, from time immemorial, have always taken refuge and comfort in Jesus and in his Words as celebrated and lived in the Church.
Our celebration today is called eucharistia (thanksgiving) and missa (mission). We thank (eucharistia) God for the gift of the Bible that contains his authoritative Words and which the Church, faithful to her mission (missa) is handing down from generation to generation. While a “personal” reading of the Bible is highly encouraged and has been proven to be fruitful, still, let us not forget that Biblical reading’s most privileged “setting” is the Holy Eucharist. It is one thing to be inspired by the Bible in the “privacy” of our room, it is another thing to be inflamed by it while standing/sitting/kneeling side by side with our brothers and sisters in the “community of the Church.” After all, there is no better biblical interpretation than the life of the faithful.