Fratelli Tutti

Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
October 4-5, 2020

This year, in normal liturgical custom, our Sunday celebration supersedes the Feastday of Francis. But I can’t let this special day go by without notice. Therefore, I am publishing tomorrow’s reflection early, hoping that you will read some of it today. I write with warmest greeting to all Franciscans, especially my dear Sisters in Aston. PA. (The Franciscan Spiritual Center has designed some wonderful programs and made them accessible even during the pandemic. Here is a link to explore their wonderful offerings.)


St. Francis Preaches to the Birds – Giotto

For reflection, I plan to spend this evening and tomorrow morning with Pope Francis’s new encyclical Fratelli Tutti (Brothers and Sisters All), issued on this feast. St. Francis inspired the world with a renewed Gospel vision. Our Holy Father seeks to do the same with this ground-breaking teaching.

These will be the first of many prayerful days with this powerful document which Michael Sean Winters, in the National Catholic Reporter, describes:

What is clear is that Pope Francis has given the church a testament of authentic solidarity at a time when our president — and his nationalistic allies abroad — offers a counterfeit of solidarity. Both varieties of solidarity are responses to the excesses and the poverties created by neo-liberalism. Yes, poverties, it is clear, … that the material wealth neoliberal economies generate is precisely coincident with the generation of spiritual and moral poverty. The whole world groans to move beyond the moral slovenliness of laissez-faire ideas. But only the pope’s version represents an authentically Christian version of solidarity and, I would add, an authentically human version. This text challenges Christians in unique ways, but it challenges all….
…. If this pandemic does not shake us out of our post-modern cultural and moral and spiritual lethargy, what will? Pope Francis is throwing the Catholic Church and the whole world a lifeline. Will we grab it?


If you would like to pray with this profound and challenging instruction from Pope Francis, here is a link to it.


A second opportunity for prayer over today and tomorrow comes from our Mercy Sister Eileen Dooling. On our Sisters of Mercy blog, Eileen offers a lovely reflection on the Franciscan-Mercy connection. I’m sure you will enjoy it.


As you can see, there are so many ways to reflect, pray and grow on this beautiful feast. May your prayer be blessed by Francis (both of them) and by this amazing music!

Music: St. Francis Preaching to the Birds by Franz Liszt, played by Kotaro Fukuma 

Psalm 119: A Living, Tender Love

Saturday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

October 3, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119 – the longest psalm, as you might remember from one of my seven previous reflections on this rich piece of scripture.

From that wealth, we pluck this one pearl today:

I focus on this phrase to bring our attention to a beautiful document issued by Pope Francis on September 30th, the feast of St. Jerome: APOSTOLIC LETTER – SCRIPTURAE SACRAE AFFECTUS (Devotion to Sacred Scripture)

In this letter, our Holy Father describes scriptural devotion as “a living and tender love”. As we pray the scriptures each day, we ask that Love to form and instruct our hearts.

Lord, let your face shine on me.
Teach me wisdom and knowledge,
for in your commands I trust.

Pope Francis’s letter is an interesting exposition on the life and spirituality of Jerome sixteen hundred years after his death. I enjoyed reading it. But what I benefitted from most was the Pope’s encouragement to school our own hearts in a passion and pursuit of scripture. We can all learn from Francis’s words such as these:

This present anniversary can be seen as a summons to love what Jerome loved, to rediscover his writings and to let ourselves be touched by his robust spirituality, which can be described in essence as a restless and impassioned desire for a greater knowledge of the God who chose to reveal himself. 

How can we not heed, in our day, the advice that Jerome unceasingly gave to his contemporaries: “Read the divine Scriptures constantly; never let the sacred volume fall from your hand”?

A radiant example of this is the Virgin Mary, evoked by Jerome above all as Virgin and Mother, but also as a model of prayerful reading of the Scriptures. Mary pondered these things in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19.51) “because she was a holy woman, had read the sacred Scriptures, knew the prophets, and recalled that the angel Gabriel had said to her the same things that the prophets had foretold… 

She looked at her newborn child, her only son, lying in the manger and crying. What she saw was, in fact, the Son of God; she compared what she saw with all that she had read and heard”. Let us, then, entrust ourselves to Our Lady who, more than anyone, can teach us how to read, meditate, contemplate and pray to God, who tirelessly makes himself present in our lives.

Music: Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

Psalm 31: Strife of Tongues

Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

June 17, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31, just three of its twenty-five passionate verses in today’s liturgy. These three will echo in you, as will many others if you read the whole psalm. The images are so strong and yet comforting, the prayer so sincere.

  • In you, LORD, I take refuge.
  • Let me never be put to shame.
  • Incline your ear to me;
  • For you are my rock and my fortress.
  • I will rejoice and be glad in your mercy.
  • Let your face shine on your servant.
  • Save me in your mercy.
  • You hide your beloved in the shelter of your presence.
  • You heard my voice, my cry for mercy.

In my prayer, I focused on this line:

You hide your beloved in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of evil hearts;
You screen them within your abode
from the strife of tongues.


The strife of tongues”. What a phrase! And what a reality! Our divisive culture is drowning in it – in political, religious and civic contexts. It is often very hard for us to know whom to listen to and believe. But the psalmist helps us to understand a key characteristic of destructive speech – pride and boasting:

Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
The LORD keeps those who are constant,
but more than requites those who act proudly.


Today, I prayed for anyone caught in a persecution of words. Specifically, I prayed for Pope Francis and for the Archbishop of Washington, DC, Wilton Gregory. Both men have been victims of “the strife of tongues”.

In a publicized letter written to Donald Trump, Pope Francis was targeted by reactionary clergyman Carlo Viganò who dabbles in conspiracy theories and misinformation in order to undermine Francis’s ministry.

Archbishop Gregory described Donald Trump’s photo op at the Shrine of St. John Paul II as “reprehensible“, condemning the politicization of religion for “manipulative” purposes. As a result, the Archbishop, who is Black, has been racially and sexually slurred by, among others, a far-right hate group claiming to be “Catholic”.


As I prayed for these good priests, and for all others condemned for truthful and compassionate testimony, I asked God to enfold them in the verse from Psalm 31, part of which Jesus prayed on the cross:

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, LORD, God of truth.

It is painful to witness this kind of sinful negativity in the Church, and the pain does enter into our prayer. Pope Francis points to a way to heal that pain:

Poetry: Our poem today is by a 19th century poet, Susan S. Button from her only book I could find which she published herself. She strikes me as an Emily Dickinson type without the same degree of literary accomplishment. There is very little information on her although she was notable enough in society to have a portrait by John Sartain (currently in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.)

The poem, although on a serious topic, still provided a level of delight about what happens to those who slander the innocent. I offer just a few verses of the long composition and hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Slander

What is the slander’s tongue? An arrow strong,
And sharp, and fierce, empoisoning many a word,
Such as to devil’s only do belong,
When they, by Envy and by Malice stirred,
Do contemplate dark deeds, and souls do gird
For vilest crimes, and with their deadly bane,
The good man rob of fame — with lies absurd
Asunder rend kind Friendship’s gold-linked chain,
And break the three-fold, silken cord of Love amain.
——
For though Slander’s pliant bow was newly strung,
And thick and fast her feathered arrows flew,
And through the misty air their echoes rung,
The light around his head more lustrous grew;
For Innonence forth from her treasures drew
A golden shield, and clasped it o’er his heart,
While Truth held up a golden lamp and new!
While through its lucent flame flew on the dart
From Slander’s quiver, brighter light it did impart.

It trembled on the shield of Innocence—
The good man gazed, and by its blood-stained shade
He knew full well who formed it, and from whence
It came — he plucked it from the shield and bade
The innocent “tremble not, nor be afraid.”
With force redoubled Slander drew her bow
And furious all her cruel haste betrayed,
But soon was heard a horrid shriek of woe,
As her rebounding dart did to her forehead go.

~ Susan S. Button (1858)

Music: Herr, auf dich traue ich – Otto Nicolai (1810-1849j, one of the founders of the Vienna Philharmonic

Psalm 31:1-2

Herr, auf dich traue ich,
Laß mich nimmermehr zu Schanden werden,
Errette mich nach deiner Barmherzigkeit,
Und hilf mir aus.
Neige deine Ohren zu mir, und hilf mir;
Sei mir ein starker Hort,
Ein Hort, dahin ich immer fliehen möge,
Der du hast zugesaget mir zu helfen.
Lord, I trust in you,
Let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in your mercy And assist me.
Incline your ear to me and help me;
Be a strong refuge for me,
A refuge to which I may always flee,
Which you have promised to me for my aid.

Earth Day 2020

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

April 22, 2020 – Fiftieth Anniversary Earth Day

Today, in Mercy, the theme of our readings falls perfectly in step with Earth Day.

John3_16 so loved

For my prayer this morning, I re-read Pope Francis magnificent encyclical Laudato Si’ which instructs us and begs us to cherish the gift of our Common Home. – a world which God has so loved that God gave the only begotten Son that we should not perish.

This sacred document has become even more meaningful as a global pandemic exposes the fragmentations we have wrought upon the earth.

Here are two of my favorite sections from the encyclical, although I do encourage you to read the whole masterpiece if you have the time and desire.


Click here for the complete Laudato Si’


In the Judaeo-Christian tradition,
the word “creation” has a broader meaning than “nature”,
for it has to do with God’s loving plan
in which every creature
has its own value and significance.
Nature is usually seen
as a system which can be studied,
understood and controlled,
whereas Creation can only be understood
as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all,
and as a reality illuminated by the love
which calls us together into universal communion.

(Laudato Si’ paragraph 76)

laudato


The ultimate destiny of the universe
is in the fullness of God,
which has already been attained by the risen Christ,
the measure of the maturity of all things.
Here we can add yet another argument
for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination
of human beings over other creatures.
The ultimate purpose of other creatures
is not to be found in us.
Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us
and through us towards a common point of arrival,
which is God,
in that transcendent fullness
where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things.
Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love,
and drawn by the fullness of Christ,
are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.
(Laudato Si’ paragraph 83)


May these words bless and enlighten us today to become blessings for Earth, our Common Home.

Music: God So Loved the World – sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Fearful Tuesday

Tuesday of Holy Week

April 6, 2020

Click here for readings

Fearful Tuesday

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel tells the sad story of Jesus’s betrayal by his closest friends.

Pope Francis, in his Palm Sunday homily, reflected on the depth of these betrayals:

Jesus suffered betrayal by the disciple who sold him and by the disciple who denied him.  He was betrayed by the people who sang hosanna to him and then shouted: “Crucify him!” He was betrayed by the religious institution that unjustly condemned him and by the political institution that washed its hands of him.  

We can think of all the small or great betrayals that we have suffered in life.  It is terrible to discover that a firmly placed trust has been betrayed.  From deep within our heart a disappointment surges up that can even make life seem meaningless.  This happens because we were born to be loved and to love, and the most painful thing is to be betrayed by someone who promised to be loyal and close to us.  We cannot even imagine how painful it was for God who is love.


thorns

As we walk beside Jesus on this Fearful Tuesday, let us confide our hurts, current or remembered, asking to be gracefully transformed by them. Let us listen to Jesus’s pain and heart-break, asking to be a source of comfort and love to Him.

With Jesus, may we carry in our prayer all those throughout the world suffering abandonment, fear, loss, or betrayal at this painful time.

Music: I Will Carry You – Sean Clive
You may hear this song in many ways. Perhaps Jesus comforts you with it. Or you might comfort Jesus in his escalating suffering. Or together, Jesus and you may sing it over a suffering world.
(Lyrics below)

I will carry you when you are weak.
I will carry you when you can’t speak.
I will carry you when you can’t pray.
I will carry you each night and day.

I will carry you when times are hard.
I will carry you both near & far.
I’ll be there with you whenever you fall.
I will carry you through it all.

My arms are wider than the sky,
softer than a little child,
stronger than the raging,
calming like a gentle breeze.
Trust in me to hold on tight because

I will carry you when you can’t stand.
I’ll be there for you to hold your hand.
And I will show you that you’re never alone.
I will carry you and bring you back home.

Not pain, not fear, not death, no nothing at all
can separate you from my love.
My arms and hands will hold you close.
Just reach out and take them in your own.
Trust in me to hold on tight.
I will carry you.

Heart Temple

Memorial of Saint Scholastica

February 10, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we read about the massive celebration to dedicate Solomon’s Temple. It would have been a ceremony akin to the parades we view in movies like Ben Hur.

roman-triumph-58737a77-19e6-4606-bb0f-b3441f961b8-resize-750


This video gives us a good understanding of the magnificence of the building.


Praying with the passage today, core questions repeat themselves to me:

  • Can God be in a building?
  • Is there a legitimate spiritual purpose to the cathedrals, large or small, that we build?

For me, the answer is a fluid one. Certainly, beautiful churches inspire our faith and serve as a central symbol for the unity of believers.

But throughout history, these buildings have also symbolized individual and national power, pride and greed.

A recent initiative of Pope Francis converted a 19th century palace behind the Vatican into a homeless shelter. The Pope directed this rather than the site’s upgrade to a luxurious hotel. 

The building is described as having “carved wooden ceilings, frescoed walls and tiled floors — evidence of its aristocratic origins.” Sharing a meal with its first residents, Pope Francis said, “Beauty heals”.

Such healing is the real purpose of all such buildings – that their beauty heal hearts, communities, and nations. Where the purpose is lost, excess eviscerates the healing beauty.


At points in the Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as the Temple – instructing his disciples that God’s Presence now dwells in the world through him. Today’s Gospel shows us how this Presence manifests itself – through the power of compassion and justice for the poor:

Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.

Where God is present there is always healing. May it be so in our churches and in our hearts.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley

Welcome, Christ, Our Light!

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 19, 2020

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Is49_6 Light

Today, in Mercy, our readings invite us to witness the debut of Jesus Christ as he begins his public ministry.  The world has been waiting since the beginning of time and now… here He is!

Now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!

Remember when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia in 2015? The excitement? The preparation? The fanfare? What was that all about?

09222016_Pope_Francis_TC.2e16d0ba.fill-735x490
from phillyvoice.com

I think that, in one form or another, we all wanted to see and be touched by goodness. We wanted to see someone who confirmed that the world could be better than our current experience. We wanted to see the beauty of God in a human being.

The people of Jesus’s time wanted the same things. They longed for a wholeness that was beyond their grasp. They longed for healing that had continually eluded them. They longed to be renewed in faith, hope and love.

That deep longing is universal in every human life. Seeing the Pope on the Parkway won’t fill it. Even seeing Jesus one afternoon in Capernaum won’t do that. Our Alleluia Verse from John’s Gospel tells us the only way to such fulfillment:

The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
To those who accepted him,
he gave power to become children of God.

In our Gospel, we see John the Baptist’s full acceptance of Jesus into his life. After that moment in the Jordan River when the Spirit descended, John’s life changed. It became a life patterned on and completed in the reality of Jesus Christ, not only his expectation.

John changed because he saw and believed. Our Gospel today invites us to the same kind of witness and testimony in our lives:

John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.

May God give us the grace to see and respond to the reality of Christ in our own lives – in the poor, the sick, the persecuted, those longing to know God. Drawing on the beautiful Light of Christ, may we also be a testimony to God’s Merciful Presence in our world.

Music: He Shall Come Again in Glory – Philip Webb (Lyrics below)

This majestic modern hymn proclaims the hope of Christ’s second coming. Crafted for success; the arrangement captures the mystery and majesty of the text and delivers it adroitly to the choir loft with full; satisfying harmonies. Powerful! (from the East Coast Music website)

He who wept above the grave
Who stilled the raging of the wave
Meek to suffering, strong to save,
He shall come again in glory

He who sorrow’s pathway trod
He that every good bestowed
Son of Man, Son of God,
He shall come again in glory.

He who bled with scourgings sore,
He who scarlet meekly wore,
He who every sorrow bore,
He shall come again in glory.

Monarch of the smitten cheek,
Scorn of Jew and scorn of Greek,
Priest and King divinely meek,
He shall come again glory.

He who died to set us free,
He Who comes whom I shall see,
Jesus, only, only He,
He shall ever reign in glory.

He Must Increase

Saturday after Epiphany

January 11, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, John talks a lot about sin. But I think he’s talking about more than the itemized laundry list of mistakes we sometimes reckon as sin.

Catholic-Sin300

It all seemed so simple when we were in grade school, didn’t it?
Well, dealing with sinfulness in the world
is a lot more than milk bottles!



John is describing the drenching atmosphere of darkness that falls over a soul turned in on its own gratification. Pope Francis’s quote referenced yesterday captures this atmosphere:

“Jesus, at the Last Supper, does not ask the Father to remove the disciples from the world, but to protect them from the spirit of the world, which is the opposite.” The Holy Father emphasized, that it is, “even worse than committing a sin. It is an atmosphere that renders you unconscious, leads you to a point that you do not know how to recognize good from evil”.

John likens this atmosphere to idol worship:

Children, be on your guard against idols.

Most of us are beyond worshipping golden calves, but we may still be allowing ourselves to be distracted from the centrality of God in our lives.

calf

What are some potential idols that could desensitize our souls to the ravages of evil? Greed, lust, and narcissism rise to the top of the list. Caught in the grasp of these idols, human beings become oblivious to astounding evils such as war, slavery, economic oppression, sexual exploitation, corporate dishonesty, technological dehumanization, and all the other rampant abuses befuddled human beings foist on one another. 

When you see the effects of such evils reported on the evening news, do you sometimes ask yourselves, “How could a person do such things to another human being?” 

What we are seeing is evidence of souls who have died to God’s Presence within their hearts. They are indifferent to the effect of their choices on anyone but themselves.

Jesus came to open our eyes and to free us from the bonds of such sin. As the Presence of God grows in us, so does our awareness of all that is dissonant with that Presence.


We pray with John the Baptist today that we may grow in God and diminish in any selfishness that blinds us to the difference between good and evil in our lives.

Pope Francis tweeted today:

In worship, we learn to reject what should not be worshiped: the god of money, the god of consumerism, the god of pleasure, the god of success, the god of self.


Music:  I Must Decrease – Andrew and Saskia Smith ( Words below.)

God has a sovereign plan for our lives.
We won’t find it within ourselves.
But in seeking His will, His cross,
“Lose your life for My sake,” Jesus says.
Allowing ourselves to be poured out in service for Him,
first we decrease, He must increase.

I must decrease, He must increase.
I must decrease, He must increase.

The whole earth is His footstool. Who am I?
Shall the thing formed say to its Maker,
“Why hast thou made me thus?”
I must decrease, He must increase.

God has a sovereign plan for our lives.
We won’t find it within ourselves.
But in seeking His will, His cross,
“Lose your life for My sake,” Jesus says.
Allowing ourselves to be poured out in service for Him,
first we decrease, He must increase.

Lord, I exist to worship You.
Lord, I exist to worship You.

The whole earth is Your footstool.
I am thine, Lord. I exist to worship You.
The whole earth is Your footstool.
I am thine, Lord. I exist to worship You.

Lord, I exist to worship You.
Lord, I exist to worship You.
Oh yes, Lord, I exist to worship You.

The Righteous Kingdom

Monday After Epiphany

January 6, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, John instructs us in the meaning of true righteousness. 

We human beings can get very confused about this term. Some have used it to imply that observable religious practice makes one superior, holier than others. We can all visualize the “righteous” preacher pouring fire and brimstone over the lowly congregation. The beautiful term “righteousness” has been disserved by this image.

In his first letter, John describes the root of true righteousness, that state of graceful balance within a Gospel-powered life:

Beloved:
We receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in the early stages of his public ministry. He is slowly teaching the people how different his “power” and “righteousness” will be from the worldly power they might have expected.

Mt4_23 kingdom

Jesus’s “Kingdom” stands in stark contrast to the Roman Empire and the principles of domination, aggression and disregard for life which fed it. Jesus’s is a Kingdom built by uniting our differences, especially those of the poor and sick, into the oneness of God’s love.

Jesus went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,

curing every disease and illness among the people.
His fame spread to all of Syria,

and they brought to him
all who were sick with various diseases

and racked with pain,
those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics,
and he cured them.


Praying with these readings today brings me face to face “the elephant in the room”. In this Lavish Mercy community, we hope together for the growth of the Gospel Kingdom in a global community. But now that yet unrealized community stands at the brink of war because nations have so badly blurred the lines between the righteous Gospel Kingdom and the self-righteous Empire.

RSM statement
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas join with people across the world in condemning the Trump Administration’s drone strike assassination of Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Quds force, outside of Baghdad. Far from fostering peace in a troubled part of the world, this reckless decision will only escalate violence and increase suffering for millions of people. We call on our government to reject violence and militarism and instead to engage in the hard work of diplomacy. –Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM, president, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas


It is difficult to look at the “elephant” without getting political, but I am trying hard to refrain from political opinion here. What I can say with confidence is that we as faith-impelled people cannot stay silent in the face of the world’s current situation. When our voice is heard – at the ballot box and through direct advocacy – may it reflect the fundamental Gospel imperatives for which Jesus lived and died.


These clippings from Pope Francis’s visit to Hiroshima helped me in my prayer today:

“How can we propose peace if we constantly invoke the threat of catastrophic war as a legitimate recourse for the resolution of conflicts?”

“May the abyss of pain endured here in Hiroshima remind us of boundaries that must never be crossed. A true peace can only be an unarmed peace.”

“In a single plea to God and to all men and women of good will, on behalf of all the victims of atomic bombings and experiments, and of all conflicts, let us together cry out: Never again war, never again the clash of arms, never again so much suffering,” 

“Indeed, if we really want to build a more just and secure society, we must let the weapons fall from our hands.”

Pope Francis quoted Gaudium et Spes, which states that “peace is not merely the absence of war … but must be built of ceaselessly.” He added that the lessons of history show that peace is the fruit of justice, development, solidarity, care for our common home, and promotion of the common good.

“I am convinced that peace is no more than an empty word unless it is founded on truth, built up in justice, animated and perfected by charity, and attained in freedom.”

Music: Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber

The Word

Thursday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

October 3, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Ezra and Nehemiah gather all the People for a gargantuan spiritual renewal! It is the People themselves who request this renewal, realizing that they have drifted from the Law and desiring to ritualize their return to it.

It seems fitting that this reading comes just after the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashana (from sundown on Sunday, September 29 until sundown on Tuesday, October 1, 2019.) This feast marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days.

For more on these biblically rich celebrations, click here.


One of the lessons Christians can take from today’s passage is awareness of the great power and gift of God’s Word. Ezra’s community was changed by listening to that Word with open, repentant hearts.

word of God

In our Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples out to preach that Word, now transformed by the power of his Incarnation. He tells them to preach that “the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

Just this week, Pope Francis has taken steps to rekindle our appreciation of the Word. By declaring the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God, our Pope wants to help us grow in love and devotion to Sacred Scripture.

(Personally, I welcome this focus. At the time of the Second Vatican Council, there was a new and deepened awareness of the gift of Sacred Scripture. As a young religious, that awareness was central to my spiritual formation. Since that time, there seems to have been an unfortunate shift away from that emphasis. I see the Pope’s declaration as a welcome corrective to that shift.)

Pope Francis has designated the day “to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God “ so as to help the Church “experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world’.

May we gratefully respond!

(See below the music : If you are interested, I have copied a very good excerpt from Pope Francis Apostolic Letter.)

Music: We Come to Hear Your Word – Chris Jubilee

Below is an excerpt from the Pope’s Apostolic Letter APERUIT ILLIS -INSTITUTING THE SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD. I found it to be helpful in understanding the Pope’s intent with this feast:


With this Letter, I wish to respond to the many requests I have received from the people of God that the entire Church celebrate, in unity of purpose, a Sunday of the Word of God. 

It is now common for the Christian community to set aside moments to reflect on the great importance of the word of God for everyday living. The various local Churches have undertaken a wealth of initiatives to make the sacred Scripture more accessible to believers, to increase their gratitude for so great a gift, and to help them to strive daily to embody and bear witness to its teachings.

The Second Vatican Council gave great impulse to the rediscovery of the word of God, thanks to its Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, a document that deserves to be read and appropriated ever anew. The Constitution clearly expounds the nature of sacred Scripture, its transmission from generation to generation (Chapter II), its divine inspiration (Chapter III) embracing the Old and New Testaments (Chapters IV and V), and the importance of Scripture for the life of the Church (Chapter VI). 

To advance this teaching, Pope Benedict XVI convoked an Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2008 on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church”, and then issued the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, whose teaching remains fundamental for our communities.[1] That document emphasizes in particular the performative character of the Word of God, especially in the context of the liturgy, in which its distinctively sacramental character comes to the fore.[2]

It is fitting, then that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride, that she may grow in love and faithful witness.

Consequently, I hereby declare that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God. This Sunday of the Word of God will thus be a fitting part of that time of the year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. This is more than a temporal coincidence: the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.