About the Book:
Pope Francis illuminates a new, vibrant way of experiencing the Gospel through moving, intimate, and deeply meditative reflections that encourage us to live fully with meaning, purpose, and strength.
We live in an unprecedented time that has threatened to upend our daily rhythms, our work, our homes, even our faith. More than ever, we need books like Reflections on the Sunday Gospel to stir us to hope, to comfort, to peace. We need to remember what we live for and how good God is.
These reflections—published in English for the first time, drawn both from homilies given by Pope Francis and readings from the Fathers of the Church, including Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, and Saint Ambrose—do more than offer a way to enter into the liturgical year with weekly readings to enrich your devotional time. They offer Christ, and the power of His resurrection. They offer His words of assurance: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33, ESV).
Ultimately, as Pope Francis guides us through these timeless words, we will glean how even the giants of the faith needed God as much as we do, and how we can draw near to a good and faithful God no matter where we are or what season we’re in.
Usually when I get a book on NetGalley, the publication date is within a few months. Generally publishers ask us to hold our reviews until about thirty days before publication. I just noticed that the publication date for this book is November, 2022, which at first raised my eyebrows, but then got me thinking.
If you are not familiar with the Catholic Lectionary, it is the book that contains the readings for Mass that day. While there is some flexibility on weekdays, if you go to Sunday Mass anywhere in the world, you are going to hear the same Scripture readings as all other Catholics. The Lectionary presents these Sunday readings in a three year cycle with each year focusing on a different synoptic gospel. This year that gospel is the Gospel of Matthew. When Advent begins, we start another church year and will move on to a different Gospel. This year's cycle is the same as the one starting in November, 2022.
So, now that you've had a quick lesson on Scripture in the Catholic Mass, what about the book? As noted, it contains writings of Pope Francis about the readings each week. This week's readings are here.
In case the link doesn't work when you are reading this, the First Reading is from Exodus and tells the Israelites not to oppress people. The Second Reading is from Thessalonians and Paul is praising them for showing his preaching by their lives. The Gospel is Jesus saying you shall love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.
Chapters in the book begin with Pope Francis' reflection. In this case he points out that the loving God and loving neighbor are inseparable as people are made in the image of God. He also states that we cannot separate prayer and devotion and service to others. He says "In the middle of the dense forest of rules and regulations--the legalisms of the past and present--Jesus makes an opening through which one can catch a glimpse of two faces: the face of the Father and the face of the brother. He does not give us two formulas or two precepts; there are no precepts or formulas. He gives us two faces , actually, only one real face, that of God reflecte din the many faces, because in the face of each brother...there is God's own image.
Following the Holy Father's teaching is a reading from the Fathers of the Church, in this case, St. Maximus the Confessor, who in this excerpt talks about love. This does not appear to be one long teaching but rather excerpts from a variety of things, based on the ellipses and brackets. One quote I liked was "He who loves God cannot help but love every man as himself, even if he abhors the passions of those not yet purified".
I'd say the teachings from Pope Francis are pretty much the type of things he is known for--don't judge, love, care for the poor etc. If Pope Francis is like fingernails on a chalkboard to you, you probably won't like this book. If he is "your" Pope, you will. I like him, so I'm giving this book a B+