The Bible says that joy is our strength. And Scripture is where to find it.
Pope Francis is encouraging us to listen up when it is time for Scripture reading at Mass, not to stand there “staring at the ceiling” and “thinking of other things,” allowing God’s Word to “go in one ear and out the other.”
The pope offered a brief examination of conscience for how we live holy Mass, and particularly the Liturgy of the Word, as he reflected at Domus Sanctae Marthae on a reading from Nehemiah, which recounts when the Israelites after captivity are able to hear the Word of God again.
The reading speaks of how the people stood and listened attentively, and were weeping as they heard the Word, but Ezra encouraged them to rejoice, saying, “rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”
The pope said that an encounter with the Word of God should fill us with joy, and this joy is strength.
Christians are joyful because they have accepted, they have received the Word of God in their hearts, and they continually encounter the Word, they seek it out. This is the message for today, for all of us.
The devil immediately casts down “saddened hearts,” Francis said, while the joy of the Lord “makes us rise up, look and sing, and weep with joy.”
One of the Psalms, he noted, says that at the moment of liberation from the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish people thought they were dreaming – they could not believe it.
Our experience is similar, the Holy Father continued, “when we meet the Lord in His Word,” and we think, “But this is a dream … I cannot believe such beauty.”
The pope offered several questions to examine ourselves on how we encounter the Word of God:
- How do I listen to the Word of God? Or do I simply not listen?
- How do I encounter the Lord in His Word, which is the Bible?
- Am I convinced that the joy of the Lord is my strength? [that] sadness is not our strength?
- When I hear the Word of God, what happens in my heart?
- Do I pay attention to the Word of God?
- Do I let it touch my heart, or do I stand there staring at the ceiling thinking of other things, and the Word goes in one ear and out the other, [and] does not reach the heart?
- What do I do to prepare myself so that the Word will reach the heart?
Pope Francis has just declared that the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time will be “Word of God Sunday,” to foster appreciation of and prayer with Scripture.