“Be strong, fear not!” — Isaiah 35:4a
Sept. 6, Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B. Readings:
1) Isaiah 35:4-7a
2) James 2:1-5
Gospel: Mark 7:31-37
By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service
You hear the source of major themes voiced by Pope Francis and St. John Paul II in this week’s readings.
The great concern of Pope Francis for the poor comes through in the reading from James. “Show no partiality,” James says. “If a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes … have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?”
Pope Francis has shown us before his papacy — and so many times since — that he goes beyond this standard to identify with the poor. His following of Gospel mandates to show love and mercy to the poor and fatherless has extended to inviting those who live in the streets around the Vatican to share the food of his table.
The reading from Isaiah fits well with the “Be not afraid!” message of St. John Paul II. “Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication.”
We need to be a church that works with, advocates for and shares bread with the poor.
And we need to be a fearless church that stands by what the Gospel tells us about the poor, the unborn and children.
When I was preparing a book of readings on the protection of the unborn, the disabled and the elderly — titled “The Zero People” — 30-plus years ago, I had moments of fear, worrying that some people would be more than simply offended by its pro-life message. But God, through Scripture, spoke a word that strengthened my backbone. The book was published and did well. Some 32 years later, it is still broadly quoted, and more than 600 copies are in libraries around the world.
Standing by the courage of our convictions, according to our faith, we can see that God, in time, does act along with us, but only if we act with confidence in support of his own word.
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