February 17, 2019

You have heard me preach about and write about the issue of climate change, its impact on the earth and our world, and the moral imperative that all this places on us at the present time. I want to remind you of what Pope Francis has written in his Pastoral Exhortation, Laudato Si’, as a backdrop for this crucial aspect of our common endeavor as human beings and Christian disciples. In the letter Pope Francis reminds us that the earth, our common home, “is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.” We have forgotten that “we ourselves are dust of the earth, our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”

 

Now, this earth, mistreated and abused, is lamenting, and its groans join those of all the forsaken of the world. Pope Francis invites us to listen to them, urging each and every one—individuals, families, local communities, nations and the international community—to an “ecological conversion.” We are invited to “change direction” by taking on the beauty and responsibility of the task of “caring for our common home.” At the same time, Pope Francis recognizes that “there is a growing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet.”

 

A ray of hope flows through the entire Encyclical, which gives a clear message of hope. “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Men and women are capable of intervening positively. All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”

 

A new report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program and David Easterling, director of the Technical Support Unit at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, has stated unequivocally, “The global average temperature is much higher and is rising more rapidly than anything modern civilization has experienced, and this warming trend can only be explained by human activities.” “Without significant reductions in greenhouse emissions, the annual average global temperature could increase 9 degrees F or more by the end of this century, compared with preindustrial temperatures,” the report says.

 

The costs of climate change could reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Farmers will face extremely tough times. The quality and quantity of their crops will decline across the country due to higher temperatures, drought, and flooding. In parts of the Midwest, farms will be able to produce less than 75% of the corn they produce today, and the southern part of the region could lose more than 25% of its soybean yield.

 

Higher temperatures will also kill more people. The Midwest alone, which is predicted to have the largest increase in extreme temperature, will see an additional 2,000 premature deaths per year by 2090. There will be more mosquito- and tickborne diseases; West Nile cases are expected to more than double by 2050-. Asthma and allergies will be worse due to climate change. People will be exposed to more foodborne and waterborne diseases. Children, the elderly, the poor and communities of color will be at much greater risk for illness and death.

 

Wildfire seasons could burn up to six times more forest area annually by 2050. Along the U.S. coasts, public infrastructure and $1 trillion in national wealth held in real estate are threatened by rising sea levels, flooding and storm surges. Sea levels have already gone up 7 to 8 inches since 1900. Almost half of that rise has been since 1993, a rate of rise greater than during any century in the past 2,800 years. Some countries are already seeing land under water.

 

The report cites many more areas of devastation that will take place unless we take extreme measures NOW, but I do not have enough room to outline them all here. Both Pope Francis and countless scientists attest to these facts, figures and predictions. Individuals alone cannot remedy all these situations, but governments by working together can. We each have a part to play and we should do what we can, but we can make our concerns known to our legislators on the federal, state and local levels. We can become more knowledgeable in this field by taking time to read excellent articles and thereby be more able to discuss these issues with family and friends. We can take to heart what Pope Francis has spoken to us and thereby leave a better world and a better home to future generations.

 

SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

Trust is not easy to define in the abstract, but we know it when we see it. We also know that we must “take the leap” before something can be experienced. Today’s readings invite us to take the leap and trust in the Lord who gives life.

 

The First Reading consists of a collection of wisdom sayings centered on the importance of trusting in God and the foolishness of turning away and trusting in human values. The imagery of a tree with deep roots is frequently used to describe those who trust in God, because even in times of trouble they will survive.

 

In today’s Gospel, we encounter Jesus and a large crowd of Jews and non-Jews gathered on a plain in Galilee to hear him speak. He goes on to deliver the Beatitudes, which are, in fact, about trust in God who cares for those who suffer. Jesus also includes a matching series of “woes” that focus on those who have turned away from God by refusing to do their part in alleviating these sufferings. Where will you stand?

 

The Second Reading is a small part of a longer teaching on the doctrine of bodily resurrection. In this section, Paul explains the consequences of not accepting this teaching. In effect, he says, we would have to declare that Christ was not raised and that our faith is in vain. We know Christ was raised, Paul says, and, with him, all who trust in his name will be raised to new life.

 

In the Gospel, we hear that the blessed are the poor, the hungry, and those who weep. When we mourn, are hungry, and are impoverished in some way, we rely on God the most. We are called to trust God in all things, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. It states, “A sound Christian attitude consists of putting oneself confidently in the hands of Providence” (#2115).

 

In the Second Reading, St. Paul notes a contradiction when members of the Corinthian community say that there is no resurrection of the dead, even though they believe Christ rose. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Christ is our hope of resurrection and the center of our faith. It states, “Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him” (#995).

 

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord,” we hear in the reading from Jeremiah. Similarly, the Beatitudes tell of those in dire situations who are blessed, saying, “Your reward will be great in heaven.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the faithful may endure trials in this life but will be ultimately blessed. It states, “The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven” (#1716).

 

For Your Reflection: How has trusting in God eased a burden? Does reading the Beatitudes give you consolation? What does it mean to have the Lord as your hope?

 

FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF SAINT PETER

Friday, February 22, 2019

 

This feast commemorates Christ’s choosing Peter to sit in his place as the servant-authority of the whole Church.

 

After the “lost weekend” of pain, doubt, and self-torment, Peter hears the Good News. Angels at the tomb say to Magdalene, “The Lord has risen! Go, tell his disciples and Peter.” John relates that when he and Peter ran to the tomb, the younger outraced the older, then waited for him. Peter entered, saw the wrappings on the ground, the headpiece rolled up in a place by itself. John saw and believed. But he adds a reminder: “They did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (Jn 20:9). They went home. There the slowly exploding, impossible idea became reality. Jesus appeared to them as they waited fearfully behind locked doors. “Peace be with you,” he said (Jn 20:21), and they rejoiced.

 

The Pentecost event completed Peter’s experience of the risen Christ. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4) and began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them.

 

Only then can Peter fulfill the task Jesus had given him: “Once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:32). He at once becomes the spokesman for the Twelve about their experience of the Holy Spirit—before the civil authorities who wished to quash their preaching, before the Council of Jerusalem, for the community in the problem of Ananias and Sapphira. He is the first to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. The healing power of Jesus in him is well attested: the raising of Tabitha from the dead, the cure of the crippled beggar. People carry the sick into the streets so that when Peter passed, his shadow might fall on them.

 

Even a saint experiences difficulty in Christian living. When Peter stopped eating with Gentile converts because he did not want to wound the sensibilities of Jewish Christians, Paul says, “I opposed him to his face because he was clearly wrong….They were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel (Gal 2:11,14).

 

At the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus says to Peter, “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (Jn 21:18). What Jesus said indicated the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God. On Vatican Hill, in Rome, during the reign of Nero, Peter did glorify his Lord with a martyr’s death, probably in the company of many Christians.

 

Second-century Christians built a small memorial over his burial spot. In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine built a basilica, which was replaced in the 16th century.

 

Like the committee chair, this chair refers to the occupant, not the furniture. Its first occupant stumbled a bit, denying Jesus three times and hesitating to welcome gentiles into the new Church. Some of its later occupants have also stumbled a bit, sometimes even failed scandalously. As individuals, we may sometimes think a particular pope has let us down. Still, the office endures as a sign of the long tradition we cherish and as a focus for the universal Church. Let us be sure to offer special prayers for Pope Francis today. The leadership of the Church is a great duty and an awesome challenge, especially in these troubled times. May the Holy Spirit always be with him as he leads us in living the Gospel and being faithful to the call of our Baptism.

 

2019 ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL

 

During the last few weeks, some parish families received a letter from Cardinal Cupich requesting your participation in pledging to the 2019 Annual Catholic Appeal. The Appeal supports both Parish and Archdiocesan Ministries and funds services that are of great help for many people.

 

Please spend some time this week reflecting on the Annual Catholic Appeal brochure that is in the pews this weekend and hopefully you have taken home with you. The Annual Catholic Appeal is much different than a one-time special collection. It is a pledged campaign commitment where you can make a gift payable in installments. A pledge is a promise to make a gift over a span of time.

 

Each pledge makes a difference because all parishes participate in the campaign and the gifts of many enable our Archdiocese to deliver needed ministries and services to answer Jesus’ call to hear his word, to respond to it in faith, and to live it each and every day.

 

This year, the theme of the Appeal is “Come, Follow Me…and share the Word.” We have all received God’s love. By financially supporting the ministries and services funded by the Annual Catholic Appeal, we help to extend God’s love to many, many others. When our parish reaches its goal of $12,964.44 in paid pledges, all additional funds contributed will be returned to us for use in our Parish. Please come prepared next weekend to make your pledge and to do your part to make a difference in how we all together build the Kingdom of God.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR FANCY

 

On the last day of kindergarten, all the children brought presents for their teacher.

 

The florist’s son handed the teacher a gift. She shook it, held it up, and said, “I bet it’s some flowers!”  “That’s right!” shouted the little boy.

 

Then the candy store owner’s daughter handed the teacher a gift. She held it up, shook it, and said, “I bet I know what it is! It’s a box of candy!” “That’s right!” shouted the little girl.

 

The next gift was from the liquor store owner’s son. The teacher held it up and saw that it was leaking. She touched a drop with her finger and tasted it.

 

“Is it wine?” she asked.

“No,” the boy answered. The teacher touched another drop to her tongue.

“Is it champagne?” she asked.

“No,” the boy answered.

“What is it?” she said.

“A puppy!”