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Pope Francis: Return to God’s Word rather than social media’s ‘violence of words’

By Courtney Mares

Catholic News Agency

VATICAN --- Pope Francis has called Catholics to spend more time with the saving power of God’s Word as society and social media amplify “the violence of words.” Speaking of the “immense power” that the Word of God can unleash in people’s lives, Pope Francis encouraged us to always “have the Gospel within easy reach.” “While society and social media accentuate the violence of words, let us draw closer to and cultivate the quiet word of God that brings salvation, that is entle, that does not make a loud noise and that enters into our hearts,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 21. The Word of God, he said, “does not leave us self-absorbed, but expands hearts, changes courses, overturns habits, opens up new scenarios, and discloses unthought-of horizons.”

Pope Francis presided over Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he conferred lay ministries on nine new catechists and two new lectors. In his homily, the pope pointed to how history shows us the power of God’s Word in the lives of the saints. “We think of the first monk, Saint Anthony, who, struck by a passage of the Gospel while at Mass, left everything for the Lord. We think of Saint Augustine, whose life took a decisive turn when God’s word brought healing to his heart,” Francis said. “We think of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, who discovered her vocation by reading the letters of Saint Paul. And we think too of the saint whose name I bear, Francis of Assisi, who, after praying, read in the Gospel that Jesus sent his disciples to preach and exclaimed: ‘That is what I want; that is what I ask, that is what I desire to do with all my heart!’ Their lives were changed by the word of life, by the word of the Lord.”

Pope Francis underlined that for the same thing to happen in each of our lives “we need to stop being ‘deaf’ to God’s word” and to start spending time in prayer with sacred Scripture. “We cannot do without God’s word and its quiet and unassuming power that, as if in a personal dialogue, touches the heart, impresses itself on the soul, and renews it with the peace of Jesus, which makes us, in turn, concerned for others,” the pope said. “It calls us to set out with him for the sake of others. The word makes us missionaries, God’s messengers and witnesses to a world drowning in words, yet thirsting for the very word it so often ignores. The Church lives from this dynamic: called by Christ and drawn to him, she is sent into the world to bear witness to him,” he said. During the Mass, Pope Francis formally conferred the ministries of lector and catechist upon eight women and three men from South Korea, Chad, Jamaica, Brazil, Bolivia, Germany, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The ministries themselves have also been shaped by Pope Francis in recent years. The pope changed Church law in January 2021 so that women could be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte. Pope Francis established the ministry of catechist as an instituted, vocational service within the Catholic Church in May 2021. The ministry is for lay people who have a particular call to serve the Catholic Church as a teacher of the faith. The ministry lasts for the entirety of life, regardless of whether the person is actively carrying out that activity during every part of his or her life. In his homily, Francis asked people to think about whether they are making enough room for the Word of God in their lives. “Amid so many books, magazines, televisions and telephones, where is the Bible?” he asked. “In my room, do I have the Gospel within easy reach? Do I read it daily in order to be faithful to my path in life?”

The pope encouraged people to always carry the Gospel with them, either on their phone or to physically carry a small pocket-sized copy of the Gospels, adding: “If Christ is dearer to me than anything else, how can I leave him at home and not bring his word with me?” Taking the time to read the Bible can help prevent us from the trap of “concentrating on our own thoughts and problems rather than on Christ and his word,” he said. Pope Francis created the Sunday of the Word of God in 2019 on the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Jerome, who famously translated the Bible. The Sunday of the Word of God is celebrated in the Church each year on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time since 2020. “The word of God unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said. “Christ’s word not only liberates us from the burdens we bear, past and present; it also makes us mature in truth and in charity. It enlivens the heart, challenges it, purifies it from hypocrisy, and fills it with hope,” he said.

Caceres Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona dances the traditional Sinulog at the conclusion of the Fiesta Mass he presided as part of the 459th Fiesta Señor at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu on 21 January 2024. Viva Pit Señor! (Photo from Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu FB page)


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