As we experience Pope Francis’s ministry for the Church, my hunch is that we read today’s first reading in a fresh way. “Compassion” and “mercy” are hallmarks of the Pope’s ethos — just watch as his face comes alive during any public encounter. His gestures of mercy match Jesus’ own words and deeds; they teach us how to respond in our own outreach to others…especially those others might relegate to the margins.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This notable Jewish command spoken from Jesus’ own lips offers an important personal reminder in the midst of winter 2014. Each of us wants to respond to the question Jesus asks his disciples in today’s gospel — who do you say that I am? Perhaps we will find the key to that response in the ways we love our neighbor as ourselves…through our deeds of mercy towards “our neighbor,” in our compassion for those who are “poor”…whomever and however we find them. And what is my response?

—The Jesuit Prayer Team