“The sacred Scriptures are the very source of evangelization” is the statement Pope Francis uses in Evangelii Gaudium (EG) to conclude the section dedicated to the proclamation of the Word. It is a page that is simple and at the same time complex. Simple, because there can be no true evangelization without the Scriptures; complex, because it is necessary to explain why the Church has “lost” the Bible during its history. The pope states: “Not only the homily has to be nourished by the Word of God. All evangelization is based on that Word, listened to and celebrated and witnessed to. … Consequently, we need to be constantly trained in hearing the Word. The Church does not evangelize unless she constantly lets herself be evangelized. It is indispensable that the Word of God ‘be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity.’ … The study of the sacred Scriptures must be a door opened to every believer. … We do not blindly seek God or wait for him to speak to us first, for ‘God has spoken, he is no longer the great unknown, but has shown himself’” (EG 174-175)
The pastoral primacy of the Holy Scriptures
The primary role of the Bible had already been recommended by Vatican II, but the pope’s exhortation leads us to reflect with a new spirit. Every pastoral work of evangelization should not only put the Bible to the fore, but must also relate it to the world we are living in, the people with whom we are dealing, and the wider humanity moving around us, enfolding and conditioning us.
This preference does not come from an inclination that would give less importance than previously to the institutional Church. Instead, it is a matter of the clear and peremptory need to recognize that one meets the Lord and hears his Word in that community of faith which is the Church. There is no tension, therefore, between those two objectives. On the contrary, there is a convergence, an underlying harmony and an expectation to see them occur simultaneously and in their fulness, since there is no reading of the Bible if not through the life of the Church, and there is no ecclesial community without listening together to the Word of God.