Voices of Faith

The Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Dear Friends:

Last weekend, the world watched in horror as yet another act of senseless violence took the lives of innocent people, this time at a house of worship, a synagogue in a quiet suburb of Pittsburgh. We stand in prayerful solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters. We decry acts of religious or ethnic prejudice and intolerance, and we stand by the basic tenant of religious liberty as a value and a right in our nation. Somehow this latest horrific deed strikes closer to home for us as people of faith. Shopping malls, movie theaters, schools, restaurants, and churches are all seemingly safe places, and we feel violated as that perception has been shattered. Here on our campus, there are a number of safety and security measures in place, and more enhancements to security for our school building in the works this fall. Our staff will be studying how we can be better prepared in the event of an emergency in the church during Masses, but in the meantime, we can all do our part to pay attention to our surroundings. Keep in mind the admonition, “if you see something, say something.”

Today’s scriptures invoke the “Great Shema,” a prayer uttered by devout Jews each day: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). This proclamation is the heart of the Law of Moses, and forms for us the Great Commandment of Jesus to love God and love neighbor. Shema literally means “listen,” which is certainly more emphatic than simply to hear. As we recommit ourselves to peace and to respect for our neighbors, we are really listening and taking the Lord’s words to heart.

Please keep in prayer this week those of us who will be in pilgrimage in the Holy Land as part of the American Pilgrimage Choir. Dr. Trapp will be leading the choir and I will serve as chaplain and spiritual director. We will celebrate Mass in the various holy places, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the site of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Burial), the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and the Church of the Transfiguration atop Mount Tabor. Know of my prayers for our community throughout our pilgrimage, especially as we visit the house of St. Joseph in Nazareth. And we will pray, too, for healing and peace in our communities, our country, and our world. We will remember at the Western Wall in Jerusalem the victims of the synagogue shooting last week and will pray for respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters.

As we “go to the polls” this week for the national mid-term elections, let us pray for elected officials and candidates for public office to serve with integrity and respect, to uphold the common good and the sanctity of human life, and to work for lasting justice and peace.

God’s peace,

Fr. Rick

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