Today, we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. It is also known as “The Sunday of the Word of God.” In September 2019, Pope Francis requested that “The Sunday of the Word of God” be celebrated each year on the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. This celebration reminds us of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy. Pope Francis wrote, “As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes. 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.”
This day gives us an ideal opportunity to grow in our appreciation of the word of God proclaimed at every Mass and every other celebration of the Sacraments. We truly believe that whenever the word of God is proclaimed to the community gathered in prayer, God himself is speaking to us at that moment through the person of the lector or minister. This is the reason we stand when the Gospel is proclaimed at Mass. Since the Second Vatican Council, our celebration of the sacraments includes a reading of the word of God. Since this is the normal practice for us today, we can easily forget that God is speaking to us at that very moment in his word. Those of us charged with preaching the word of God at Mass – deacons, priests and bishops – are required to begin with the word of God that we had just heard proclaimed to us rather than a topic of our own choosing. And the ambo (pulpit) is considered one of the three primary places in the church, along with the altar and the presider’s chair.
As we celebrate the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we continue to make our way through this initial stretch between the celebrations of Christmas and the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. We begin our year-long reading of Matthew’s Gospel today. Matthew opens the curtain on Jesus’ public ministry in Galilee. Jesus begins his ministry in the part of Galilee known for its large Gentile (non-Jew) population. He approaches these people, whom many Jews regarded as outside of God’s offer of salvation, announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom among them. His first proclamation is to Gentiles – outsiders – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus not only includes Gentiles in God’s kingdom, he proclaims it to them before approaching his fellow Jews. Once the outsiders have been invited and made welcome, Jesus invites the Jewish brothers Peter and Andrew, along with James and John, to join him as disciples. The pattern is set – he will invite all people, making no distinctions. Fortunately, that includes us!
The new Appendix to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: “In all dioceses of the United States of America, January 22…shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person through acts of abortion and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.” As this anniversary falls on a Sunday this year, the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children is transferred to Monday, January 23. We are all invited to remember this intention and to make Monday a day of penance in reparation for all victims of the violence of abortion. Monday’s daily Masses will focus on this day of penance and witness to our belief that life is God’s gift to us and that all life is sacred – from conception through natural death.
We are currently in the final days of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concludes on Wednesday, January 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. This week has been observed since 1968. Our parish will be joining with several area churches for an ecumenical prayer service tonight at 6:00 pm at the Lutheran Church of the Master at 580 Kuhn Road in Carol Stream. All are welcome to join with us. This annual week of prayer gives us the opportunity to recognize that there is more that unites us than divides us. In addition to Sunday evening’s prayer service, we will keep the cause of Christian unity before us in our community prayer.
Next Sunday, we begin our annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week. The Grade School community will be with us at the 10:00 am Mass and lead us in the liturgical ministries. The Grade School choir will lead us in song and the Knights of Columbus will offer their usual pancake breakfast, followed by an Open House in the school. The Grade School community will continue their celebration of Catholic Schools Week throughout the week and especially at their regular Wednesday School Mass at 8:15 am.
Once we get past the holidays, January seems to be a very long month. It can seem even longer when the Bears end their season before the playoffs, as they did this year. Even though the days are gradually getting longer, the coldest days of the winter may still be before us. In a little over a week, we begin the shortest month of the year. Can spring be too far off? May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy