The God Who Speaks of Justice and Peace – Year of the Word 2020-2021

By Deacon Adrian Cullen, Evangelisation Co-ordinator, Agency of Evangelisation, Diocese of Westminster

At the heart of the ‘The God Who Speaks’ Year of the Word 2020-21 is the figure of St Jerome whose Feast Day on 30th September marks 1600 years since his death. It was Jerome whose tireless work to interpret the Bible, and translate it from Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic into Latin, opened the Scriptures for the people of his age, and through the centuries since.  Pope Francis, celebrating this anniversary, tells us that Jerome continues to be ‘a figure of enduring relevance for us, the Christians of the twenty-first century’. Jerome’s “living and tender love” for the written word, was not just a personal devotion to sacred Scripture for its own sake, but a revealing of Jesus Christ himself.  For, as Jerome says, it is through knowing Holy Scripture, that we come to know Christ, who reveals to us the power and wisdom of God.

In the practical work of bringing justice and peace to our world, it is lines of wisdom, stories of courage, and the sayings of Christ, so wonderfully brought to us by Jerome, that feed our every action. There will be words, phrases and paragraphs from the Old and New Testaments that play around in our mind; we may not even realise they are there, but they support us, guide us and encourage us in our work of bringing God’s Kingdom into the World.

In our world where it appears that the divide between rich and poor is ever widening, and that for many people God seems to be irrelevant, the words of the herdsman and prophet Amos, who faced similar issues, may to come to mind: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”.  This too, is what we strive for.

Maybe there are phrases of St Paul that hover in our thoughts. We may not be sure from which of his letters they come, or even if the order of the words is correct; but they surface in our mind in times of need, when the work we do is tiring and thankless, but we know it is the right thing to do: “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,” – Galatians 5:22.

And there will be times when the words of Jesus himself whisper in our heart: ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:40. And then, in that moment, The God Who Speaks, is speaking to us.

Pope Francis encourages us to always carry a Bible – a book, or on a smartphone, so that whenever we have a few minutes to spare in the day – each day, then we can turn to God and hear him speak to us.

And in this time of global pandemic, Pope Francis, in the first of a series of reflections he has given over the past few months, turns to the Bible, so that we can learn to “heal the world”, not just of pandemic, but of all its injustices:

Thus, we must keep our gaze firmly fixed on Jesus (see Heb 12:2): in the midst of this pandemic, our eyes on Jesus; and with this faith embrace the hope of the Kingdom of God that Jesus Himself brings us (see Mk 1:5; Mt 4:17; CCC 2816). A Kingdom of healing and of salvation that is already present in our midst (see Lk 10:11). A Kingdom of justice and of peace that is manifested through works of charity, which in their turn increase hope and strengthen faith (see 1 Cor 13:13). 

Pope Francis, Catechesis: “To Heal the World”

The Year of the Word has been extended to January 2022, during which, Catholics, and all of us working for justice and peace, are encouraged to explore and become more familiar with Holy Scripture, and so be ever listening to words that come to us from The God Who Speaks.