The Sunday of the Word of God

Notes on the Apostolic Letter “The Sunday of the Word of God” (Aperuit Illis) by Pope Francis

Tom Gorman from Community writes about the Sunday of the Word of God which Catholics celebrate on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, which in 2023 is Sunday 22nd January (today).  Tom’s notes draw out how much the Catholic Church has recently been renewing its ancient call for Catholics to live by God’s word in the scriptures.  Our community is ecumenical and our members contribute from the riches of their own denominational setting; we hope Tom’s notes are an encouragement to friends from all traditions.

The Pope opens the Letter by saying that the relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and sacred Scripture is essential to our identity as Christians. Without the Lord who opens our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth. Yet the contrary is equally true: without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and his Church in this world would remain incomprehensible. Hence St Jerome could rightly claim: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”.

The Pope first proposed the Sunday of the Word of God at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. He wanted to set aside a Sunday given over entirely to the Word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people.

The Second Vatican council gave great impetus to the rediscovery of the Word of God ……. It is fitting then that the life of our people should be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his bride that she may grow in love and faithful witness.

Pope Francis chose this time of year to celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God because at this time “we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity …since the scriptures point out for those who listen the path to authentic and firm unity.

Pope Francis next writes about the encounter of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were devastated by the crucifixion of Jesus. They thought he was going to set Israel free. When Jesus met them Luke’s Gospel relates that: “… beginning with Moses and all the prophets he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24: 13 -35).

The Pope says that “not simply a part but the whole of Scripture speaks of Christ. Apart from the Scriptures, his death and resurrection cannot be rightly understood”. He goes on to say. “A profound bond links sacred Scripture and the faith of believers. Since faith comes through hearing, and what is heard is based on the word of Christ (Cf. Rm. 10:17), believers are bound to listen attentively to the word of the Lord, both in the celebration of the liturgy and in their personal prayer and reflection.  

Later when Jesus met the apostles, he said to them “This is what I said to you while I was still with you that everything written about me in the law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, must be fulfilled” (Luke 24: 44). Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. The Pope goes on to say: “…we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture Otherwise, our hearts will remain cold, our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness”.

The Pope then referred to Revelation 3: 20, where the Lord said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock” and added that we should always keep in mind the teaching found in the Book of Revelation: The Lord is standing at the door and knocking. If anyone should hear his voice and open for Him, He will come in and eat with them. Christ Jesus is knocking at our door in the words of sacred Scripture. If we hear his voice and open the door of our minds and hearts, then he will enter our lives and remain with us.

Pope Francis then quoted 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness The verse continues: “That is how someone dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work.” (3:17)

And he then added an important qualification: “Without the work of the Spirit there would always be a risk of remaining limited to the written text alone. This would open the way to a fundamentalist reading.  As the Apostle reminds us: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3 :6). The Holy Spirit, then, makes sacred Scripture the living Word of God, expressed and handed down in the faith of his holy people.

The work of the Holy Spirit has to do not only with the formation of sacred scripture; it is also operating in those who hear the word of God.  Sacred scripture is to be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit through whom it was written (Dei Verbum, 12). We need to have confidence in the working of the Holy Spirit as he continues in his own way to provide “inspiration” when the Church teaches the sacred Scriptures, whenever the Magisterium authentically interprets them …. and whenever each believer makes them the norm of his or her spiritual life.

Near the end of the Letter the Pope says about the Mother of God….” She is the one who was called blessed because she believed in fulfilment of what the Lord had spoken to her” (cf. Luke 1: 45).  He quoted a reflection by Saint Augustine who wrote: “Someone in the midst of the crowd seized with enthusiasm cried out: ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you’ and Jesus replied, ‘Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it’. As if to say: my mother whom you call blessed, is indeed blessed, because she keeps the Word of God. Not because in her the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, but because she keeps that same Word of God by which she was made and which, in her womb, became flesh” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 10,3)

Pope Francis ends his Letter with this with this statement of hope for the future: May the Sunday of the Word of God help his people to grow in “religious and intimate familiarity with the Sacred Scriptures. For as the sacred author taught of old: “This word is very near to you: it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance” (Deuteronomy 30: 11, 14).

Dr Tom Gorman is a member of the House of the Open Door Community, an ecumenical community in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

PDF version of this page: The Sunday of the Word of God

Our Charity Newsletter 2022

We have sent out our  Charity Newsletter for 2022, and posted it to this website here: Charity Newsletter December 2022

The newsletter begins with some personal reflections, then updates from some areas of our work and ministry, followed by dates in the diary for 2023, and a reminder of ways you can help if you are in a position to.

Please enjoy the newsletter – we pray that you are blessed by how God has been leading us over the last year.  Please also share it with anyone who you think may be interested in coming to our  Retreat Centre or to any of the events we have planned for 2023, including our Discipleship Course 2023 or Gateway Summer Youth Conference 2023

Thanks and God bless

Musings from the Honey House

By Andy Swinford, Sept 2022 

The HOD bees have been most prolific since they took up residence in the shiny new palace built for them by Brother Loarne and the team on a corner of the plot across the stream. So far this year we have taken 70kg of honey!

To our dismay one hive turned rather aggressive over the summer and several people received stings. The only way to sort this is to replace the queen. This is because it’s the queen that sets the temperament of the whole hive. I’m glad to report the colony has accepted its new monarch – here she is looking very healthy and charging about the hive like nobody’s business. If you think she’s wearing a gold crown, that’s the splodge of yellow paint recognised for designating queens reared in 2022. I’d like to point out I took 14 stings to my right hand in pursuit of this photograph. How I suffer for my art.

This reminds me of our own Queen Elizabeth II who throughout her marvellous reign provided much of the flavour of her kingdom. more…

Talks so far from DC 2022

Friends, we have created or first playlist on our YouTube channelDC 2022 playlist.  

It’s for talks given so far on our Discipleship Course 2022.  More talks will be added during our Gateway Summer Youth Conference 2022 over the next two weeks, including future evenings with Daniella Stephens, Pippa Baker, Ester Price and Brother Loarne Ferguson OFM Cap…. for more details of these evenings (live in the Tithe Barn at HOD) see the Calendar of Events.

Talks so far include a talk on the Holy Spirit by Chiara Pelazza, and four teachings on the Creed and some reflections on the Our Father by John Trimming.

Please pray for us as we gather for Gateway 18th – 31st July.

Gateway Summer Youth Conference program

Preparations are nearing completion for the Gateway Summer Youth Conference 2022!  

We will be welcoming young adults (18 – 30 years of age) from 18th to 31st July, as part of the wider Discipleship Course running from 21st March – 31st August.  The two weeks of Gateway are like a mini-version of the discipleship course, but with a more concentrated program of teaching, including invited speakers. 

A number of young people have booked in, but there is still space! Join us for these two weeks of prayer,  fellowship, teaching, service, experiencing community life – and some relaxation and fun… 

Invited Speakers


In this dark time…

This is a personal reflection in response to the war in Ukraine, written by Silvie who is from the Czech Republic. The photos are Silvie’s, taken during a visit to the Ukraine in 2011.

Tonight, I can’t go to sleep. I wouldn’t be able to. A maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed. I saw pictures of people and children who were being taken out after the bombing. A young boy was saying: ‘I am sad for my mum.’ And many more pictures of people deprived of everything, people fleeing, people wounded, people dying, and people crying. And I can’t stop crying myself. After two weeks of war, it looks as if there were absolutely no boundaries for this evil. All the suffering and killing that have happened so far haven’t been enough for someone to stop this war. It seems as if all justice was gone from the earth. It almost seems as if God didn’t exist or didn’t care. Almost. But I know the opposite is true. I know Jesus Crucified; I know Jesus my Beloved.


The Apiary at HOD

The Apiary that we didn’t have to build

By Brother Loarne Ferguson, June 2022

[Editor: Last year we had Brother Loarne living with us at HOD for several months, and during this time he was working on an apiary for us (or “Bee palace” as he says sometimes). In this article he shares the vision behind the build as an eco-project which he led during his time with us.]

“I hope the bees appreciate it!” said Kev, as we put the tools away. Andy transferred the active hives into place a few days after we had taken the main photo. Jo and June are planting climbing jasmine at the base of the lattice to form a ‘green wall’ which will break the force of the strong, north wind and give the bees a nearby source of food. The hives have plenty of space for ‘supers’ to go on top of them as the bee colonies grow… “So what,” you may ask, “is the point of all that?”

It’s a fair question. We could have bought timber down at B&Q, poured a bit of concrete into the ground and banged a similar structure together in four weeks. Why spend four months on something we could have done more quickly and easily? The answer is simple: because we didn’t have to. There are some things in life you have to start before you fully understand why you are doing them. I am told that marriage is like that and I know it holds true for the consecrated life too. It also applies to the way we built the apiary.


An invitation to our Discipleship Course 2022…

He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew :18

We offer young people aged 18 to 30 the opportunity to come and be discipled to Jesus, on our long-running Discipleship Course   Join us as we seek God through prayer, fellowship, experience of community, teaching, service and mission. 

In 2022 we offer

If you think God could be nudging you to join us in this adventure in 2022, please click on the links below for more details and how to apply. If you can’t come but know someone who might be interested, please share these links with them- thanks! God bless and hope to see some of you soon! more…

Candlemas: Anna – waiting

Lynda shares a reflection for Candlemas…

On Wednesday, 2nd February, the Church celebrates the feast of Candlemas, for some, the real end of the Christmas season.  It is a time to remember the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, as required by Jewish Law. 

Simeon and Anna greeted Mary and Joseph, and prophetically announced the arrival of the Messiah, in the unlikely form of this small baby.  As we wait for His coming again, this is particularly an encouragement to the older readers of this blog as you continue in prayer and joyful expectation!

Who was Anna?  We find her in Luke 2 v. 36, and we are told that she had lived with her husband for seven years.  As most girls at that time married at around 14 years old, she was probably a widow at 21.  Luke tells us that she was 84 years old so that would mean she had served in the temple for about 63 years, with fasting and prayer, night and day, demonstrating remarkable spiritual and physical strength.

We are also told that she was from the tribe of Asher.  Before he died, Moses bestowed this blessing on Asher:

“Asher is most blessed of sons … let him dip his foot in oil … As your days, so your strength will be” (Deuteronomy 33 v.24-25) more…

A Christmas Poem

A New Day
Lynda Watson

It is dark outside
No light
No moon
No stars
It is dark outside

In the East the sun is rising
A line on the horizon
The line is racing Westward
Fast approaching

It is dark inside
No light
No mercy
No love
It is dark inside

From on high the light has come
A babe born of Mary
A babe bringing salvation
Mercy and love

A new day has come
Be glad!
Give thanks!
The Light inside