SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE PROMOTED INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS
FROM THE CATHOLIC BIBLICAL FEDERATION
Friday, 26 April 2019
Eminences, dear brothers in the episcopate, brothers and sisters,
with the words of the Apostle Paul I welcome you, who are "in Rome, loved by God", wishing you "grace and peace" (Rom 1: 7). I thank Cardinal Tagle for the greeting he addressed to me on your behalf. You have gathered on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Biblical Federation. This jubilee will have given you the opportunity to take stock of your ecclesial service and to confirm each other in the commitment to spread the Word of God.
Your reflection has developed around two words: Bible and life. I would also like to tell you something about this inseparable combination. "The word of God is alive" (Heb 4:12): it does not die nor does it age, it remains forever (see 1 Pet 1:25). He remains young in the presence of all that passes (see Mt 24:35) and preserves those who put it into practice by inner aging. It is alive and gives life. It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit, the Life-Giver, loves to work through Scripture. The Word brings the breath of God into the world, infuses the warmth of the Lord in the heart. All the academic contributions, the volumes that are published are and cannot but be at the service of this. They are like wood that, painstakingly collected and assembled, is used to heat. But just like wood does not produce heat by itself, nor even the best studies; serve the fire, the Spirit is needed for the Bible to burn in the heart and become life. Then good wood can be useful for feeding this fire. But the Bible is not a beautiful collection of sacred books to study, it is the Word of life to sow, a gift which the Risen asks to receive and distribute so that there may be life in his name (see Jn 20: 31).
In the Church the Word is an irreplaceable injection of life. This is why homilies are fundamental. Preaching is not an exercise in rhetoric and not even a set of wise human notions: it would only be wood. Instead, it is a sharing of the Spirit (see 1 Cor 2: 4) of the divine Word that touched the heart of the preacher, who communicates that warmth, that anointing. So many words flow daily to our ears, transmitting information and giving multiple inputs; many, perhaps too many, to the point of often overcoming our capacity to welcome them. But we cannot renounce the Word of Jesus, the one Word of eternal life (see Jn 6:68), which we need every day. It would be nice to see "a new season of greater love for sacred Scripture on the part of all the members of the People of God flourish, so that ... the relationship with the person of Jesus himself may be deepened" (Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 72) . It would be nice for the Word of God to become "the heart of every ecclesial activity" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 174); the beating heart, which vitalizes the limbs of the Body. It is the desire of the Spirit to shape ourselves as a Church "formed-Word": a Church that does not speak for itself or for itself, but that has in its heart and on its lips the Lord, who daily draws from his Word. Instead, the temptation is always to announce ourselves and talk about our dynamics, but this way life is not transmitted to the world.
The Word gives life to each believer by teaching them to renounce themselves in order to announce Him. In this sense, he acts like a sharp sword which, entering in depth, discerns thoughts and feelings, brings to light the truth, hurts to heal (see Heb. 4, 12; Job 5.18). The Word leads to Easter living: as a seed that dying gives life, like grapes that give wine through the press, like olives that give oil after passing through the mill. Thus, provoking radical gifts of life, the Word vivifies. Do not leave quiet, question. A Church that lives in listening to the Word never pays for its own security. It is docile to the unpredictable novelty of the Spirit. He never tires of announcing, he does not give in to disappointment, he does not give up in promoting communion at every level, because the Word calls to unity and invites each one to listen to the other, overcoming their particularisms.
The Church that feeds on the Word, therefore, lives to proclaim the Word. We don't talk about ourselves, but we descend into the streets of the world: not because they like them or are easy, but because they are the places of the announcement. A Church faithful to the Word does not spare its breath in proclaiming the kerygma and does not expect to be appreciated. The divine Word, which comes from the Father and flows into the world, pushes it to the ends of the earth. The Bible is its best vaccine against closure and self-preservation. It is the Word of God, not ours, and it takes us away from being at the center, preserving us from self-sufficiency and triumphalism, constantly calling us to come out of ourselves. The Word of God possesses a centrifugal force, not a centripetal one: it does not cause to fall back, but pushes to the outside, towards those who have not yet reached. It does not ensure warm comfort, because it is fire and wind: it is Spirit that ignites the heart and shifts horizons, dilating them with its creativity.
Bible and life: let us commit ourselves to embrace these two words, so that one may never be without the other. I would like to conclude as I began, with an expression of the Apostle Paul, who writes towards the end of a letter: "For the rest, brothers, pray". Like him, I also ask you to pray. But St. Paul specifies the reason for the prayer: "that the word of the Lord may run" (2 Thess 3: 3). Let us pray and let us do so that the Bible does not remain in the library among the many books that speak of it, but run through the streets of the world and wait where people live. I wish you to be good bearers of the Word, with the same enthusiasm that we read in these days in the Easter stories, where everyone runs: the women, Peter, John, the two of Emmaus ... They run to meet and announce the living Word. I sincerely hope so, thanking you for all you do.
FULL TEXT + Image Share from Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation