One of the opportunities I have as Assistant Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), is to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.
Reflections on the Word | Saturday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time – Year 2 | October 20, 2018
On October 14, Pope Francis canonized two saints – St. Oscar Romero of El Salvador and St. Pope Paul VI. These two men served as great witnesses to our faith and each man was led by the Holy Spirit in different ways that remind us of the message of our readings today: the witness we give in the name of Christ lives beyond us and is embraced in the power of the eternal God who can inspire us through the witness of others long after they are gone.
Pope Paul VI – born Giovanni Maria Martini in 1897, served as a faithful priest of the church and then as a bishop, During and after World War II, Bishop Martini demonstrated an empathy for and a commitment to those who were made refugees by the Second World War. This was no passing interest – he created an office to assist missing reuniting refugees with their families at the request of Pope Pius XII – which received over 10 million requests for assistance and issued 11 million replies!
He later became Archbishop of Milan and eventually was elected Pope during the middle of the Second Vatican Council after the death of St. Pope John XXIII who had called the Council. Cardinal Martini, now Pope Paul VI, recognized the work of the Holy Spirit at work in the church and committed to continuing and successfully concluding the Council which reshaped the Catholic Church and ushered in a period of new energy and evangelization we are the beneficiaries of even to this day. Even the rituals and prayers associated with the celebration of the Eucharist which was reformed and enriched by the Council, to this day bears his name – the Mass of Pope Paul VI.
Pope Paul also wrote several encyclical letters on evangelization, the church’s social teaching, the theology of the church and sexual ethics and the theology of married love. These teaching documents remind us of the great theological legacy of this caring pastor and remarkable theological scholar and man of faith.
In addition to Paul VI, Pope Francis has canonized Abp. Oscar Romero of El Salvador. During a period leading up to a terrible civil war in his country and at a time when the country was deeply divided between a rich minority and an extremely impoverished majority, many who spoke out against the injustices being perpetrated on the poor were victimized, tortured, or killed.
Compelled by the Gospel, Romero became close to the poorest of El Salvador. He saw their pain and suffering and spoke out against the economic and social injustices he saw. He recognized the social dimension of the Gospel message and he indeed was not ashamed to preach that Gospel, even under threats to his own life, and a coordinated mis-information campaign directed against him.
Romero did not respond to insults and threats with shrillness or slogans or anger; instead he responded with a deep commitment to the Gospel message and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which always sought to bring about a change of heart even of his fiercest enemies, while never wavering in his support of the downtrodden. Romero was assassinated in 1980 while saying Mass – murdered at the altar, shot in the throat and the heart to silence his voice and still the heart of love for the people. Those who sought to silence him are now known, but it is Romero’s words and voice that continue to echo and which will endure forever in the communion of saints – as bishop and martyr.
Pope Paul VI and Abp. Romero took to heart the words of our first reading – when Paul reminds us that Christ, who also endured persecution, suffering and death, was exalted and vindicated by God and who lives forever and who’s Holy Spirit fills the community he established – the church – to witness to him. They are faithful witnesses to Spirit of God and are one with God forever.
May we all in our own way follow their examples of faithful witness to the Gospel.
God give you peace!