This year’s National Bible Week is going to be eventful. It is going to bring together activities of both Protestant and Catholic inspiration that are meant to unite Filipinos around the Word of God so as to bring about national transformation.
Towards National Transformation
The theme of this year’s National Bible Week 2012 is Pagpapahayag ng Salita ng Diyos Tungo sa Pagbabago ng Bansa (Proclaiming God’s Word Towards National Transformation). A page from the website of the Episcopal Commission for Biblical Apostolate informs us that the theme is inspired by the image of Jonah’s success in preaching conversion to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-10) and Jesus calling the Church “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). It is interesting how the head of the commission explains the theme:
To know what it means to prophesy as Jonah did, i.e., to speak on God’s behalf and to bring about moral renewal in our country, perhaps we can follow the words of exhortation contained in the ancient rite of ordination of deacons: “Receive the Word of God whose herald you now are. Believe what you read; teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” While it is important to make copies of the Bible available to every Filipino home so that we get them to read it, we must insist that it is not enough to just read! We must put faith in what we read—as God’s Word for us in the here and now. As recommended by Verbum Domini, a prayerful group reading of the Bible (lectio divina) can be the most potent way of building basic ecclesial communities. This can happen only if our reading allows us to grow consciously in faith together like cells and tissues in the body of Christ. And then again, it is not enough to just believe; we must teach what we believe! The task of proclaiming the Gospel is not a monopoly of the ordained and the religious; the laity too must actively do their part in work of evangelization. Finally, if we truly want to be credible witnesses to the Word, we must practice what we teach! Otherwise, we become like the proverbial “house built on sand” which fell when “the rains came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house.” (Mat. 7:24-27)
Christian life is discipleship in mission. We cannot be a Church turned in only on ourselves and preoccupied only with our Churchy affairs. The final message of the Synod that gave birth to Verbum Domini concludes with “the roads of the Word: Mission”. We are a Church in mission, consciously reaching out to the modern world and witnessing to Christ, our Lord and Savior. His mandate to us is clear: “You are the salt of the earth
You are the light of the world.” (Mat. 5:13-16)
It is interesting that the words “Receive the Word of God whose herald you now are. Believe what you read; teach what you believe, and practice what you teach” should now be applied to the whole Church as “prophetic Church”. It must be remembered that every Christian by baptism already begins to share in the prophetic, priestly and kingly offices of Christ. By taking on the dignity of Christ, every Christian becomes a prophet. The prophetic task has always been identified by the Magisterium with any form of witnessing to Christ. In Evangeli Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI made it clear that witnessing will always have a phase that is “silent” and “verbal” so that the Christian witness may help form others into witnesses too.
It is understandable therefore that Bishop David (the author of the above quote) should insist that “it is not enough to read (the Bible).” And after stating that “we must put faith in what we read”, he mentions the kind of reading done by “prayerful groups” as they build up Basic Ecclesial Communities. The building-up of basic ecclesial communities has been the Philippine Church’s project since the Second Plenary Pastoral Council held in the 80’s.
Basic Ecclesial Communities may appear like evangelical/Protestant study groups, but they are more than that. They are representatives of families who come together to read and meditate on the Scriptures regularly so as “to be Church”, that is, so that in their (cell) group, the life and mission of the Church, the Body of Christ, may find an authentic reflection in the places where they are. Members of Catholic cell-church communities complete their weekly reading of the Scriptures by receiving the Lord in the Eucharist. For them, “Word of God” means “Christ”, “apostolic tradition” and “Scriptures”. They know that these three correlative meanings come together in the Eucharist where Scriptures is proclaimed, and explained according to the mind of the apostles and concludes with communion with Christ. All reading, study, meditation and praying the Scriptures done outside the Eucharist must necessarily lead to it because it is by partaking from the two fold altar of the Word of God that one becomes “Church”.
When Scriptures is read as it is done in the Basic Ecclesial Communities, then one undergoes the experience of interrogating and being interrogated by the Word of God proclaimed in Scriptures. It is not the reading done by housewives who have nothing else to do but discuss a book over a cup of tea. It is a reading that empowers one to respond to the mandate at the end of the Mass, “Ite Missa Est” — “Go, (the Church) has been sent.” In other words, it is a reading that requires one to become a witness to Christ — one who would, given the occassion, explain to others the ground of one’s hope and even die for it if needed, as Lorenzo Ruiz or Pedro Calungsod did.
National Bible Week will be on January 23-28 and will conclude on January 29, National Bible Sunday. But on January 13, Friday, the I-Proclaim Bible Reading Campaign of the Philippine Bible Society, the third since its inception in 2010, will be held at Kawit, Cavite. The event will consist in a continuous public reading of the Bible. The activity was first held by the Canadian Bible Society in 1995 in Quebec. Mrs. Nora G. Lucero, PBS General Secretary and Chairperson of the Global Board of the United Bible Societies explains
This is what we want to duplicate in the Philippines through i-Proclaim!– for Filipinos to personally experience the Word of God! We want to encourage our kababayans to set aside differences, come together and be one in reading God’s Word. This is a public confession – I, and we hope you and all other Filipinos too — will proclaim that we as a people, are putting God’s Word in the center of our national life and that we submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!” [Source]
While i-Proclaim is obviously Protestant in inspiration (the PBS considers the Bible as a manual for social transformation), another event — Catholic in origin — the “Handwritten Unity Bible”, will also be held. It is a project that of the CBCP-ECBA designed to:
- Respond to the XII Synod of Bishops in Oct. 2008 Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI (Verbum Domini)
- Create Bible awareness and foster love for God’s Word among various sectors in the country
- Unite Filipinos in a Bayanihan effort with other Christian groups toward national transformation thru God’s Word
- Help in raising funds for the May They Be One Bible Campaign
The event consists in writing the Scriptures by hand.
The 35,656 verses from 78 (sic!) books of the bible will be written by hand by representatives from various sectors such as the Church, urban/rural poor, OFWs, youth, farmers, government offices; schools, indigenous people, and the fisher folks.
The project targets to collect a minimum contribution of PhP50 for each written verse amounting to a minimum of PhP 3.565 million which will go to the May They Be One Bible Campaign. [Source ]
The Handwritten Unity Bible is a series of activities that concludes with the writing of Scriptures by hand. This is how someone described it
Prior to the writing ceremony, participants took part in an orientation session, where the guidelines for the HUB were discussed. In addition, the participants learned more about the passage which would be written. They then practiced and memorized their assigned verse
It should be remembered that we received the Bible through the work of copyists, most of whom were monks, who not only read the Scriptures but also memorized them while at the same responding to the divine invitations they heard from its pages. And if we go beyond the monastic scriptorium backward in time, we would also find out that the inspired writers, working within their respective communities of faith, were rewriting the Scriptures, updating them, interpreting them, even correcting them as they made the prophetic words current for their time. This was the community of faith before the Gutenberg press mass produced Holy Writ and brought about what we now call “the Bible”. Before “the Bible”, there was the Church writing and rewriting its Scriptures.
We hope and pray that this year’s National Bible Week celebration will truly make us Filipinos like Mary who not only received the Word of God, but also gave Him her life, so that He can be “Immanu-el”, God with us.
Originally posted 2012-01-02 04:11:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
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