Installation of Lectors – Memorial of Saint Jerome – September 30, 2023
Isaiah 55:10-11; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Luke 24:35-48 

“He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”  Pope Francis reflected upon these words of Saint Luke, taken from today’s gospel proclamation, in his apostolic letter, Aperuit illis, issued four years ago on this very day, the Memorial of Saint Jerome, in which he invites all of us to a deeper appreciation for the singular role occupied by the Word of God in salvation history.  

“In one of the final acts of the risen Lord before his Ascension,” Pope Francis notes, “Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples, broke bread with them and opened their minds to the understanding of the sacred Scriptures. To them, amid their fear and bewilderment, he unveiled the meaning of the paschal mystery: that in accordance with the Father’s eternal plan he had to suffer and rise from the dead, in order to bring repentance and the forgiveness of sins. He then promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would give them strength to be witnesses of this saving mystery.”         

The Holy Father has often reflected upon the centrality of the Word of God in the Christian life.  “The relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and the sacred Scripture is essential to our identity as Christians.  Without the Lord who opens our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth.  Yet the contrary is equally true:  without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his Church in this world would remain incomprehensible.”         

How providential that we celebrate the conferral of the ministry of Lector on the Memorial of Saint Jerome, whose life was synonymous with devotion to the Sacred Scriptures and with a deep love for the written word of God.  It is no surprise that Saint Jerome, who was equally known for never shying away from expressing his views on most subjects in a clear and decisive manner, would rightly claim, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”  

As the Second Vatican Council teaches, ‘the Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she has venerated the Lord’s body, in that she never ceases, above all in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the word of God and the body of Christ.’”

So, to all of us who gather for worship this afternoon, I pray that this understanding of the vital role of the Word of God in our lives instills within us a deepened appreciation for the manner in which God speaks to our hearts and journeys with us in our vocation as disciples of Jesus.  And I especially pray that you, our brothers who are receiving the ministry of Lector, will grow in your care of the treasure that is being handed on to you this day.  This moment is not merely a stepping-stone in your diaconal formation.  To the contrary, you are being called to a special recognition of the Word of God in your lives that is essential to the life of the Church. 

As Jesus made all things known to us and then entrusted his Church with the mission of preaching the Gospel to the whole world, you will assist in this mission, and so assume a special office within the Christian community.  You are being given a responsibility in the service of our faith, namely, to proclaim the Word of Life in the liturgical assembly, to instruct children and adults in the ways of the gospel, and to bring the message of salvation to those who have not yet received it.  What an awesome responsibility to so walk with Jesus through your encounter of him in the Word of God. 

Yet, consider for just a moment all that we confront throughout the course of our lives as we seek to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus.  The challenges that we face every day are not new, even if they are couched in language and practices that have only emerged within our world in recent years.  No, the mission of the disciple of Jesus – a mission rooted in the proclamation of the Word of God – has always been confronted by obstacles and values that are contrary to its heart since the earliest days of the Church. 

As such, the very life of Jesus has taught us that if the Word’s proclamation is to be efficacious, it can never be reduced to mere symbols on a page or to hollow sounds of the self-righteous.  It must be living and vibrant.  So, brothers, sear into your hearts the words of Saint Pope Paul VI:  “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.  And if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”  Live with authenticity the Word of God that you will proclaim through love and service of the People of God.

Finally, brothers, in your desire to deepen your relationship with the Lord, never forget that while you’ve been invited to this moment in your journey of faith by the Church, you have been accompanied not only by those entrusted with your formation and care, but by loving families, supportive friends and faithful parish communities.  To the wives and to the children, parents, family members and friends of the men who are in formation for the permanent diaconate – thank you for your support, your encouragement, your willingness to allow these men to listen to the call of Jesus and to say yes to his invitation serve. 

Know of my gratitude and that of the entire Church of Scranton to each of you, our candidates, and to you, their families.  As a diocese, we are blessed by your commitment and richer today, because of your efforts.  And so, we joyfully walk with you into a new ministry of service of the People of God with our love, our support and our prayers.