21 January 2023

Homily - The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time / Sunday of the Word of God - 22 January 2023

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Sunday of the Word of God

Dear brothers and sisters,

We heard the Prophet Isaiah say to us a few moments ago that “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” that “upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Isaiah 8:1). How much darkness and gloom there is in the world today! There is, of course the darkness of winter, but even more dreadful is the darkness found in so many hearts and minds, the darkness within those who seemingly do not know happiness and who live in self-absorption. Some find themselves filled with anxiety or with bitterness, while others are filled with anger or deep hurt. They cannot find their way out of this gloom because they have lost the light. Where are they – where are we – to turn to find the light?

Several years ago, the Holy Father Pope Francis declared today, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, be celebrated as the Sunday of the Word of God. His intention in doing so was to “enable the Church to 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.”[1]

It is fitting that we observe this day today - this Sunday of the Word of God - because, among other things, the Scriptures remind us in the Psalms that the Word of God “is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). If we wish to find our way out of the land of darkness and gloom in which we sometimes get lost, we must take up the Bible. In those holy words, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we find our light and our salvation (cf. Psalm 27:1). It is the very Word of God that illumines the path for us and leads us out of darkness to “the house of the Lord” where we can dwell eternally in the brilliance of his light and “gaze on the loveliness of the Lord,” knowing forever the fullness of happiness (Psalm 27:4).

We cannot forget that “the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body.”[2] As the Eucharist is nourishment for our souls, so are the Sacred Scriptures. This is why, within the Holy Mass, the Church “never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body.”[3] Both are necessary for us; a Christian cannot live without both the Word of God contained in the Bible and in the Eucharist.

We should open our hearts each day as we open the Bible. We should not let a single day go by without reading at least of couple of verses. If you do not know where to start, try reading at least one of the readings assigned for each day’s Mass. We should open the Word of God each day to ask the Lord to guide us in the daily tasks of life, so that in our work, studies, parenting, and play “the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning” but that we might be more conformed to the Crucified and Risen Lord (I Corinthians 1:17). In this way, we can also become lights in a darkened world illuminating the way to the house of the Father, urging others to follow the way of the Lord Jesus with us (cf. Matthew 4:19).

One of the many forms of darkness afflicting our society to which each of us must bring the light of the Word of God is the realm of abortion. This cannot escape our attention, as today is the anniversary of the horrendous Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that in 1973 made abortion legal throughout these United States of America. Thankfully, this vile decision was overturned last year on June 24th by the decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, returning the question of the legality of abortion to state legislatures to decide. The overturning of Roe v. Wade has not given us an opportunity to rest, but has only made our local efforts all the more urgent.

Regrettably, thirty-eight states allow abortion; only 12 have made it illegal. Illinois, of course, is one of the states in which abortion is legal, having some of the strongest legal protections for abortion in the country. Some states, such as Illinois, even promote abortion. In 2020 in Illinois, the most recent year for which data is available from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 113,304 babies were born while 46,243 were aborted, 21% of which were done for non-residents of the Land of Lincoln.[4]

Of those women who ended the life of the child in their wombs, 88% were unmarried. This only serves to highlight the importance – the necessity - of marriage for a stable and loving society and for men to not only be chaste but also responsible.

It will take a great and concerted effort on the part of each one of us – men and women, adults and children – to repeal the laws in Illinois legalizing abortion. None of us can wait for others to take the lead; we must each strive to do all we can to protect the lives of every innocent and defenseless child. We must actively work to change not only laws but also hearts, to make abortion not only illegal but also – more importantly - unthinkable. We can do this by gently accompanying pregnant women who find themselves in difficult situations, supporting them both emotionally and financially, even taking them into our homes if need be.

Just as we should turn to the Word of God for guidance in each aspect of our lives, so should we turn to it as we seek to end the scourge of abortion. In the Sacred Scriptures God poses a rhetorical question to us, a question to which he also gives the answer: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). If God does not forget the unborn, neither can we. We must help women considering abortion to find the light, to see other paths out of what they perceive to be an impossible situation.

I urge you, then, to take up your Bibles each day and not let them be mere decorations on a shelf or a table. Allow the Word of God to wash over your lives every day so that together we can bring the light of the Gospel to a darkened world, warm gloomy hearts, and lead them to the house of the Father. Amen.

[1] Pope Francis, Aperuit illis, 2.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 103.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Illinois Department of Public Health Birth Statistics. Accessed 21 January 2023. Available at https://dph.illinois.gov/data-statistics/vital-statistics/birth-statistics.html. Illinois Department of Public Health Abortion Statistics. Accessed 21 January 2023. Available at https://dph.illinois.gov/data-statistics/vital-statistics/abortion-statistics.html.

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