Greetings. We are blessed to be at the threshold of a sainted week. Each day this week features these canonized in various ministries. This week features missionaries (St. Paul, St. Timothy, St. Titus), scholasticism (St. Thomas Aquinas), religious communities (St. Francis de Sales, St. Angela Merici), and healthcare professionals (St. Marianne Cope). The least known of that inspirational group would be St. Marianne Cope.
St. Marianne, a Franciscan sister, served as a hospital administrator in upstate New York. In the late nineteenth century she responded to the request of a dying St. Damien of Molokai for religious to assist in his ministry to those who suffered from leprosy. St. Marianne led a group of Franciscan sisters who went to Hawaii to assist St. Damien and to continue his healing ministry of dignity and hope.
Speaking of Hawaii – the Diocese of Honolulu is under the patronage of Our Lady of Peace. The Diocese of Honolulu and the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace celebrate 24 January as her feast day.
The week of 29 January is Catholic Schools’ Week. The 10:00 Sunday Mass at the Notre Dame worship site will celebrate Catholic education. An Open House at Notre Dame School will be conducted after the Mass. Blessings!
Pope Francis, in September of 2019, issued his Apostolic Letter “Aperuit Illis” – “He opened their minds” – dedicating the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (that’s today) as the Sunday of the Word of God. The title of the Holy Father’s Letter echoes the inspiration of the Emmaus disciples whose minds were opened by the Resurrected Lord.
We have come a full liturgical cycle since 2019. Today’s readings from Isaiah, Psalm 27, First Corinthians, and St. Matthew were the readings that inspired Pope Francis to dedicate this day as the Sunday of the Word of God. These readings begin with the prophecy of Isaiah. Isaiah comments that the land which was once deprived of the light of grace would be the first to experience the fullness of grace when the day of the Messiah dawns. The readings continue with the psalmist reminding us of the great bounty of the Lord – The Lord is my Light and my Salvation. Matthew concludes the set with the calling of the first of the Twelve.
First Corinthians serves as an interesting accompaniment. Note St. Paul’s final sentence: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.” It is the Holy Spirit who safeguards that the cross of Christ, and the words of Sacred Scripture, will not be emptied of its meaning.
What is the meaning of the Cross? What is the meaning of Sacred Scripture? What is the relationship between the Old Testament and the New? What is the relevance of the New Testament Epistles to a modern audience? Why does the psalm serve as a response to the first reading? Am I emptying the Cross of its meaning?
Pope Francis wrote “Aperuit Illis” with the hope that our relationship with the Word of God would not be isolated to one particular Sunday or limited to Sundays in general. “A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers.” (Paragraph 8)
Another aspect of “Aperuit Illis” is the impact of the Holy Spirit that lifts the Word of God from words that are written upon a page to words that are written upon our heart. In addition to the impact upon the Emmaus disciples, Pope Francis, referencing the Book of Nehemiah, speaks about the emotional reaction of the returning exiles when the Word of God is proclaimed to them. The Pope then refers to the correspondence of St. Paul to St. Timothy who is encouraged to turn to the Word of God for strength in his ministry. Finally, our Holy Father offers the warning to the rich man from Luke 16 who ignores the impact of Sacred Scripture to his detriment.
Hopefully we can make this day devoted to the Bible a year-long event. During this liturgical year the Gospel according to St. Matthew will be proclaimed. Perhaps, in preparation for the Sunday celebration, you can spend some time with St. Matthew by reading the passages that will be proclaimed. Read the footnotes associated with the passage. Check out the Scriptural citations. Determine the connection between the gospel passage and the other readings for that day. What theme do you discern? What words are being lifted from the page and written upon your heart?
Pope Francis, in Aperuit Illis, presents the many ways in which “He opens their minds.” Will you allow Him to open yours?
Our Lady of Peace, pray for us!