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Pope Receives Participants in International Congress promoted by Catholic Biblical Federation

Stresses that Word of God is Living, Never Grows Old

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Pope Francis on April 26, 2019, received in audience — in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Vatican Palace –, the participants in the International Congress promoted by the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF), on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its foundation, on the theme “The Bible and Life: Biblical Inspiration of the Entire Pastoral Life and Mission of the Church — Experiences and Challenges” (Rome, Hotel Ergife, April 24-26, 2019).
Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.
* * *
The Holy Father’s Address
 Eminences, Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Brothers, and Sisters,
With the Apostle Paul’s words, I welcome you, who are “God’s beloved in Rome,” wishing you “grace and peace” (Romans 1:7).  I thank Cardinal Tagle for the greeting he addressed to me in your name. You are 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 one another in the commitment to spread the Word of God.
Your reflection developed around two words: Bible and life. I would also like to say something to you on this inseparable binomial. “The word of God is living” (Hebrews 4:12): it doesn’t die or grow old; it remains forever (Cf. 1 Peter 1:25). It stays young in the sight of all that happens (Cf. Matthew 24:35) and preserves the one that puts it into practice from interior aging.  It’s living and gives life. It’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit, the Vivifier, loves to work through Scripture. In fact, the Word brings God’s breath to the world; it infuses the Lord’s warmth 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, gathered and assembled with effort, serves to warm. However, as the wood doesn’t produce heat on its own, so do not even the best studies; fire is needed, the Spirit is needed so that the Bible burns in the heart and becomes life. Then the good wood can be useful to fuel this fire. But the Bible is not a nice collection of sacred books to study. It is Word of life to be sown, gift that the Risen One asks to be gathered and distributed so that there is life in His name (Cf. John 20:31).
In the Church, the Word is an irreplaceable injection of life. Therefore, the homilies are essential. Preaching isn’t an exercise of rhetoric or even an ensemble of wise human notions: it would only be wood. Instead, it is sharing of the Spirit (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4), of the divine Word that has touched the preacher’s heart, who communicates that warmth, that unction. So many words flow daily in our ears, transmitting information and giving much input; so many, perhaps too many, often to the point of exceeding our capacity to receive them. However, we cannot give up the Word of Jesus, the only Word of eternal live (Cf. John 6:68), of which we are in need every day. It would be lovely to see “a new season” flower “of greater love for Sacred Scripture on the part of all the members of the People of God, so that . . .  the relationship is deepened with the very person of Jesus” (Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 72). It would be good if the Word of God became “increasingly the heart of every ecclesial activity” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 174); a beating heart, which vitalizes the members of the Body. It’s the Spirit’s desire to mold us as Church in “Word-format,” a Church that doesn’t speak from herself or of herself, but that has the Lord in her heart and on her lips, which draws daily from His Word. Instead, the temptation is always that of proclaiming ourselves and of talking about our dynamics, but then life is not transmitted to the world.
The Word gives life to each believer, teaching to deny himself to proclaim Him. In this sense, it acts as a cutting sword that, entering in depth, discerns thoughts and sentiments, brings the truth to light, wounds to heal (Cf. Hebrews 4:12; Job 5:18). The Word leads to living in a paschal way: as a seed that, dying, gives life, as a grape that through the press gives wine, as olives that give oil after having gone through the olive-press. Thus, arousing radical gifts of life, the Word vivifies. It doesn’t leave one tranquil, it challenges. A Church that lives by listening to the Word, is never attached to her own securities. She is docile to the unforeseeable novelties of the Spirit. She doesn’t tire of proclaiming, doesn’t yield to disappointment, doesn’t give up promoting communion at every level, because the Word calls to unity and invites each one to listen to the other, overcoming one’s own particularisms.
Therefore, the Church that is nourished by the Word lives to proclaim the Word, doesn’t navel gaze but goes down into the streets of the world: not because she likes them or because they are easy, but because they are places of the proclamation. A Church faithful to the Word does not save her breath in proclaiming the kerygma and doesn’t expect to be appreciated. The divine Word, which issues from the Father and is poured on the world, pushes her to the ends of the earth. The Bible is her best vaccination against closure and self-preservation. It is the Word of God, not ours, and diverts us from being at the center, preserves us from self-sufficiency and from triumphalism, calls us continually to come out of ourselves. The Word of God has a centrifugal, not centripetal, force: it does not withdraw internally but pushes to the external — towards the one it has not yet reached. It doesn’t assure lukewarm comforts, because it is fire and wind: it is Spirit that sets the heart on fire and moves to the horizon, expanding it with its creativity.
Bible and life: let us commit ourselves to have these two words embrace so that one is never without the other. I would like to end as I began, with an expression of the Apostle Paul, who towards the end of the letter, writes: “for the rest brothers, pray.” Like him, I also ask you to pray. However, Saint Paul specifies the reason for prayer: “That the word of the Lord may speed on” (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Let us pray and work so that the Bible doesn’t stay in the library among many books that talk about it, but that it may run through the streets of the world, awaited where the people live. I hope you will be good bearers of the Word, with the same enthusiasm that we read about in the Easter accounts these days, where all run: the women, Peter, John, the two of Emmaus . . . They run to encounter and proclaim the living Word. It’s my heartfelt wish for you, thanking you for all that you do.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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