Memory of the Church

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Feast of the Black Christ of Esquipulas in Guatemala, venerated throughout all of Central America.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Hebrews 3, 7-14

That is why, as the Holy Spirit says: If only you would listen to him today!

Do not harden your hearts, as at the rebellion, as at the time of testing in the desert,

when your ancestors challenged me, and put me to the test, and saw what I could do

for forty years. That was why that generation sickened me and I said, 'Always fickle hearts, that cannot grasp my ways!'

And then in my anger I swore that they would never enter my place of rest.

Take care, brothers, that none of you ever has a wicked heart, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God.

Every day, as long as this today lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin,

because we have been granted a share with Christ only if we keep the grasp of our first confidence firm to the end.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This passage from the Letter to the Hebrews begins by quoting the second part of Psalm 95, which condemns the deafness of the people of Israel during the years of their exodus in the desert. In fact, the psalm begins as a song of invitation to enter into the sanctuary, “O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Ps 95:1-2, 6). Perhaps the author wanted to underline the fact that the new people of the disciples, have already entered the Lord's house, and therefore are even more obliged to listen to the Word of God and not harden their hearts, as the Hebrews did at Massah and Meribah. We might say that since God's mercy for us has been greater than the mercy he showed the people of Israel in the desert, we should be even more ready and willing to listen to the Word of the Lord. It is clear that the ability to enter the Lord's house and remain there as his friends comes from listening to the Gospel. The author of the Letter asks his listeners not only not to stray from God, so as to continue listening to his Word, but also to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” There is great pastoral wisdom in this recommendation; only the daily, concrete practice of fraternity guarantees that we will remain disciples. The sacred author addresses the entire community: every “brother and sister” is responsible for being attentive to one another and to take special care of those who no longer listen to God's voice. Not only some are called to be responsible for others; everyone, every Christian, is called to open his or her eyes towards his or her brothers and sisters in order not to lose one of them. In this sense, every disciple is entrusted with “paraklesis,” the power to advise his or her brothers and sisters in order to prevent “sclerosis” of the heart, the hardening that makes a man or woman bitter, unhappy, and selfish. It is impossible to be a disciple of Jesus on one's own, apart from one's brothers and sisters. We can only be disciples if we listen to the Word of God together. When we listen to the Scriptures together, the one Spirit speaks to those who listen and builds them into one body. Listening persistently makes those who welcome the Word that is sown into their hearts disciples. And the “today” mentioned in the Letter refers to our daily lives, illuminated by the Gospel. That is how we can enter into the rest the Lord gives to his faithful ones. Encouraging and sustaining one another, and praying together, for one another, builds up the community as a family of God, capable of welcoming and consoling.