God never tires of speaking to you

It is truly a wonder that we have the gift of the Bible, through which God speaks to us, convicts us, heals us and nourishes us on our journey. In recognition of the importance of the Scriptures, on Jan. 26 the Church will celebrate the first “Sunday of the Word of God.”

The Word of God is essential to our identity as Christian. It gives us strength, healing and nourishment. The Catechism speaks about the Scriptures as the place where “the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God’” (CCC, 104). It’s easy to lose sight of how blessed we are to have this powerful gift, this spiritual food.

How many of us can say that in the last day or even week we have read these holy and transformative words? Do we love the Word of God and allow it to be written on our minds and hearts by prayerfully and frequently reading it? Is God’s Word part of the fabric of our lives?

The great preacher St. John Chrysostom gave a homily on Matthew 2 in which he asked the people assembled in the church: ‘Who can repeat one Psalm, or any other portion of the Scriptures?’ He looked around and observed that “there is not one” person who could claim this. The reason he most frequently heard was, “I am not …  one of the monks, but I have both a wife and children, and the care of a household.”

St. John Chrysostom replied that their belief that the Bible was only for monks is what had led to their downfall, since those who are in the world “each day receive wounds” and have the greatest need for the medicine of God’s Word. As we know, those who have wounds and don’t treat them get infected, and if left untreated, they can die.

Aware of the vital importance of the Scriptures, Pope Francis recently announced in his Apostolic Letter, Aperuit Illis, that Jan. 26, 2020 — the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time — will be the first day the entire Church observes the “Sunday of the Word of God.” This day, he wrote, is to be marked by the “celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God,” (Aperuit Illis, 3).
However, the Pope cautions that a day devoted to the Bible “should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a yearlong event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord” (AI, 8), so that our hearts become purified by its truth and our eyes opened to our sins.

Among the practices I frequently recommend to people for promoting a life of ongoing conversion are regular participation in the sacraments and daily prayer with the Scriptures. Specifically, I encourage the practice of Lectio Divina, which involves meditating on the Scriptures by engaging your thoughts, imagination, emotions and desires as you read. The goal of Lectio Divina is primarily to experience an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Through this encounter, our whole being is conformed more closely to God, increasingly receiving and believing in the love of the Father for us in a personal and particular way, thus increasing our love and knowledge of the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

This experience of hearing God’s voice and becoming familiar with his movements within us changes how we see the world around us. Soon, we become much more attentive to his presence in our relationships, in creation, and especially within the Mass. “In this sense, the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture acts as the gateway to a new Eden, where man once again lives in the conscious presence of his Maker and Savior” (Sacraments Through Scripture: A Still Small Voice, p.4).

I know that the more I read and pray with the Scriptures, and most especially the Gospels, the more they become a living word that penetrates my heart, so that I become more convinced of the Father’s personal love for me.

As you read this column, I encourage you to think about how you can use the Sunday of the Word of God as a chance to ask God for a deeper love for his Word and to increase your desire to know him through the Scriptures. St. Jerome taught that “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” When we know Jesus through the Bible, we truly become transformed and experience joy, even in times of trial or suffering. May each of us experience a renewed love for the Bible so that we become true disciples who bring Christ to the ends of the earth.

Featured image by Josh Applegate | Unsplash

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”