October 14, 2018

At the beginning of this month, Fr. Ed Shea, Fr. Tom Ess, and I joined approximately 2500 people from throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago at the Rosemont Convention Center for a program dealing with the Renew My Church process presently going on in the Archdiocese. As many of you know, all the parishes in the Archdiocese have been formed into clusters of four or five neighboring parishes in order to see how they might work together more closely to meet the needs of their people as well as to find some new ways to reach out to people who either are no longer coming to church, who do not see a need to be part of a worshipping community, or who might want to learn more about the Catholic faith.

 

All too often, however, this effort is seen more as a veiled way of trying to merge or consolidate parishes rather than as a way of helping everyone come to know Jesus Christ better and to realize that thereby they will actually become a happier individual and family who will invite others more readily to know Christ as well. This gathering in Rosemont was primarily to acquaint leaders in the parishes to see the need and to listen to several presenters tell us more about a method  developed by Fr. James Mallon, a priest from the Archdiocese of Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada, and to hear about the results that have taken place in parishes which have already put these principles into practice.

 

One thing that seems to be universally true throughout much of the developed world is that regular attendance at Sunday Mass has diminished drastically in the past fifty years. There no doubt are many reasons for this, and not everyone would agree on what the major causes are, but unless we do something a bit different than we have been doing, it would seem that the results would only continue in a downward spiral. Those of us who are now part of the 20 percent of people in our Archdiocese who still regularly participate in Sunday Mass, who to some extent are involved in our parish, who have come to realize that participating in the sacramental life of the Church is absolutely essential for our deepening our relationship with Jesus and our day-to-day living experience, and for the witnessing of that life to others, are pained by the fact that so many others are in another place.

 

How many times haven’t we heard (and probably have mentioned the same ourselves) that we lament the fact that our grown children are not going to church? How many of our own brothers and sisters are in the same boat? Is it not true that we have invited them to accompany us, not always with great success? It is not necessarily true that these individuals are leading bad lives, but we hope and pray that they might do better. And all of this does not even touch those who live in what we call a Judaeo-Christian society, yet may be unchurched in our midst. Is it not true that, to some extent, we are in need of missionary efforts right here at home?

 

What Renew My Church is all about is trying to make missionary disciples of more and more people. It is doing what the early Church did after the apostles and disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and then went to the whole known world to preach the Good News. Jesus called and made disciples, the disciples were sent to make more disciples, who in turn did the same—the process that we read about in the Acts of the Apostles and through the Letters in the New Testament of Peter, John, Timothy, Paul, etc. What we are called to do in our day is exactly what they did in theirs, although in different times, circumstances, and cultures.

 

Renew My Church depends on each one of us looking not so much inward but outward. It means that lay leadership is necessary. It demands that we not become complacent, but rather excited and energized. It requires that each one of us owns our individual talents and gifts and is willing to share them for the good of others, even willing to be stretched beyond what we have thought before. Pope Francis has summed up all this so well in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium #27:

 

            I dream of a “missionary option,” that is, a missionary impulse capable of transform-

            ing everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules,

            language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s

            world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by

            pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make

            them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more

            inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and

            in this way to elicit a positive response from those whom Jesus summons to friendship

            with himself. As John Paul II said to the Bishops of Oceania: “All renewal in the

            Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial

            introversion.”

 

TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

What are your priorities in life? Today’s readings reflect on this challenging question. In the First Reading, the writer prays to God for the spirit of wisdom to be given him. Wisdom is God’s greatest gift since it provides true insight into how to lead life with integrity—a gift far more precious than gold, silver, or even health.

 

Today’s Gospel offers a concrete example of a man discerning his priorities in life. He comes running to Jesus with enthusiasm, eagerly asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tries to curb his enthusiasm and deepen his understanding by challenging him to consider exactly what his priorities are. The Lord focuses on those commandments that involve how we lead our lives and treat our neighbor. They all reflect a common thread: “I have never done anything to harm anyone!” But Jesus implies that something more is needed: “What have you done to help another person?”

 

Looking into this man’s heart, Jesus says in effect: “You consider that leading a good life entails not harming others. Instead, spend your resources in doing good for others.” Unfortunately, the eager young man could not accept Jesus’ challenge, and he walked away.

 

Notice that Jesus is not stating that riches are evil and we need to give everything away. This rich man was presented with the challenge of accepting the real priorities in his life: using his gifts and talents to help others. We discover true happiness in serving others. The challenge is presented to us as well: to discover our true priorities and scale of values and to implement them in our lives.

 

In the Gospel, Jesus asked the young man to put others and God before his possessions. All of their lives Christians are to seek to keep their focus on Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social” (#1618).

 

Just as the rich man wanted eternal life on his terms, people often want their prayer life to go their way. Approaching the Lord as an equal, they seek their own answers to their prayers. The section on prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses our refusal to turn ourselves over to God. It states, “Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have ‘great possessions’ (cf. Mark 10:22), we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift, and so forth” (#2728).

 

For Your Reflection: When has the Word of God penetrated you so deeply that it seemed sharper than “a two-edged sword?” What distracts you from seeing the needs of others and seeking a better relationship with God? Do you allow God’s love to bring joy to you?

 

FEAST OF SAINT LUKE, EVANGELIST

Thursday, October 18, 2018

 

Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, has been identified with St. Paul’s “Luke, the beloved physician.” We know few other facts about Luke’s life from Scripture and from early Church historians. It is believed that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile. Luke’s Gospel shows special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his Gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles, such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan.

 

In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor was rich, but scholars have argued that Luke might have been a slave. It was not uncommon for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician. We have to go to Acts to follow the trail of Luke’s Christian ministry. We know nothing about his conversion, but we do know where he joined St. Paul. Luke first joined Paul’s company at Troas at about the year 51 and accompanied him into Macedonia where they travelled to Philippi. When Paul left Philippi, Luke stayed behind to encourage the Church there.

 

Luke’s inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with Paul and his companions as he explains in his introduction to the Gospel: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.”

 

Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus’ life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke’s Gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus’ disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: “Hail Mary, full of grace” spoken at the Annunciation and “Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus” spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

 

Forgiveness and God’s mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy.

 

OPEN HOUSE CHICAGO 2018

 

Organized by the Chicago Architectural Foundation, Open House Chicago is a free annual event that takes visitors behind-the-scenes to more than 200 great places and spaces across the city. The seventh-annual Open House will be held this weekend of October 13-14. This city-wide festival is a unique, once-a-year opportunity for the public to experience Chicago’s rich architecture, culture and history by participating in self-guided explorations of the city and its diverse neighborhoods.

 

This year St. Peter’s will again be participating in the Open House by opening our doors to those who are interested on Sunday, October 14, from 1:30-5:00. We would welcome assistance from any volunteers either to welcome people in the lobby or to show them the church and tell a bit of our history. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Jo Ann Bednar in her office on the lower level of the church or by calling her at 312-853-2376. This would be a great opportunity to meet many people and to tell them about our church and the people we serve.

 SECOND COLLECTION NEXT WEEKEND

 Next weekend we join with the Catholic Church across the globe to celebrate World Mission Sunday. This annual Second Collection provides critical support to communities of faith in some of the most economically disadvantaged regions of the world. Working with limited means, these local churches bear witness to the Gospel amid poverty and turmoil, addressing all forms of material and spiritual need. On World Mission Sunday we stand in solidarity with them through prayerful and financial support.

 Who does the World Mission Sunday Collection serve?

 

            --Approximately 75 percent supports efforts of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith to help sustain over 1,000 mission dioceses in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands.

            --Nearly 10 percent supports the work of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association to alleviate poverty, foster Christian Unity, and promote interreligious dialogue in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe.

            --About 15 percent supports the operations of the Mission Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago, which builds bridges of love and support between global missionaries and members of the Church in Chicago.

 

In his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis states that “No one is so poor as to be unable to give what they have, but first and foremost what they are.” Those serving in mission at the global peripheries, especially communities and individuals who follow the command to serve despite their own financial struggles, witness this message of service and self-sacrifice. By joining with them, we in turn bear witness to a message of love and compassion so needed in our world today.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR THE FALL SEASON

 

Psychiatry students were in their Emotional Extremes class. “Let’s set some parameters,” the professor said. “What’s the opposite of joy?” he asked one student.

 

“Sadness,” he replied.

 

“The opposite of depression?” he asked another student.

 

“Elation,” the student replied.

 

“The opposite of woe?” the professor asked a student who he knew had grown up in Texas.

 

“The Texan replied, “Sir, I believe that would be giddyup.”