On the Feast of the Annunciation, Pope Francis signed his Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit (Christ lives). This is a letter to the world’s young people and represents his summary of the fruit of the October 2018 Synod of the Young at the Vatican. It deals with the situation of young people today, their faith, and vocational discernment. The full text of the document was to be released on April 2, but this bulletin article had to go to press before that date, so we will have to be satisfied now with a short synopsis. If you wish to read the full text—and I hope you do—you may go to www.vaticanva and then search “Apostolic Exhortations.”
Pope Francis suggests that young people need to embrace three elements in their lives if they are to discover where God is leading them, with the understanding that if we truly want to find the peace and joy we desire in this life, we must go beyond just what we might want to do in order to find out what God wishes us to do. Those elements are the following:
The first moment, that of listening, is manifested by the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” It is always God who takes the initiative in calling people to follow Him Francis says. He goes on to explain that young people need to find moments of quiet and stillness to listen to God’s call and that God’s voice will not be heard amongst noise and agitation.
Instead, quiet and stillness will help young people discover that “His plan for our personal and social life is not perceived by remaining on the surface, but by descending to a deeper level, where moral and spiritual forces act. It is there that Mary invites young people to come down and tune in to God’s action.”
Then comes the phase of discernment, which is “expressed in Mary’s words: ‘How will this happen?’ Mary does not doubt; her question is not a lack of faith; on the contrary, she expresses her own desire to discover God’s ‘surprises.’ In her there is attention to grasping all the demands of God’s plan for her life, to knowing it in its facets, to make one’s collaboration more responsible and complete.”
Pope Francis said this is the proper attitude with which to follow God’s call in our lives, since this attitude allows people to discover not only what God’s plan is for their lives, but also how God’s grace will help them to develop the skills and abilities needed to live out his call for them.
“Decision is the third step that characterizes every Christian vocation, and it is made explicit by Mary’s response to the angel: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word.’ Her ‘yes’ to God’s plan of salvation, implemented by means of the Incarnation, is the handing over to Him of her whole life. It is the ‘yes’ of full trust and total openness to God’s will,” the Pope said.
He highlighted the Virgin Mary as the model Christian disciple and suggested that today’s young people try to imitate her example as they search for God’s plan for their lives.
The Pope pointed out that Mary had lived a multitude of family relationships. She was a daughter, a fiancée, a bride and a mother, so all young people, no matter what their role in life and calling from God, can find an example and inspiration in her.
Trying to find one’s place in life would seem to be much easier if we had a crystal ball that always showed us perfectly where to go in order to find the peace, joy and happiness we crave and seek. However, if that were the case, we would lose the sense of trust in a loving God, the importance of total openness to the Almighty even when risk of a decision is not completely taken away, the quest that comes with the search not only for the short-term but even more so for the long-term. With so much division that surrounds us, with broken promises and detours that abound, we turn with faith and hope to the foundation of all that matters: the Triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who will never forsake us and who will always lift us up.
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Today’s readings invite us to reflect on our need for redemption and to open our eyes to the new things that God wants to do in us. The First Reading is addressed to the exiles in Babylon. They are told that God is about to destroy the Babylonian empire. What a marvelous thing! God will buy back the exiles in the same way that he destroyed the Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea. Moreover, the new Exodus will be so great that they will forget the first one. God makes all things new.
In the Second Reading, Paul tells the community at Philippi about his former life as a persecutor of the followers of Jesus and about how everything he once had is now considered rubbish in light of knowing Christ and his Resurrection. Here, “knowing” means experiencing Christ in faith.
In the Gospel’s powerful story about Jesus and a woman charged with adultery, the scribes and Pharisees force Jesus to be a judge so that they might entrap him. But what about the woman? She is shamed at least twice. The men who brought charges against her would have witnessed the act, and now she is made to stand before these men while she awaits judgment. It is likely that she had been raped because most women in the ancient world were not given enough freedom to voluntarily engage in sexual relations. Jesus saves her by saying that the one who has no sin can cast the first stone.
We hear in today’s reading from Philippians of how St. Paul sought to be conformed to Christ’s death so that he might share in the resurrection from the dead. Since this was Paul’s focus, the “loss of all things” was unimportant to him. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who die in Christ will live in Christ. “For those who die in Christ’s grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord so that they may also share in his Resurrection” (#1006).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus comes to the aid of the woman caught in adultery. We may not encounter a person about to be stoned; however, mercy can be shown in so many other ways. We can mirror God’s boundless mercy through the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the works of mercy as “charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his/her spiritual and bodily necessities” (#2447).
For Your Reflection: Are you open to God doing something new in your life? How do you make room for Christ Jesus in your life? How have you felt the mercy of God?
LENTEN COMMUNAL PENANCE SERVICE
The sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the hallmarks of the season of Lent. As we move through this special time of the year, we come to realize our faults and failings as well as our gifts and blessings. Here at St. Peter’s we have the wonderful opportunity to celebrate this sacrament either within the confessional setting every Monday through Saturday or within the context of a Communal Penance Service twice during Lent. The second of these Lenten Penance Services will be held this week on Friday, April 12, at 12:15 P.M. It will consist of prayer, Scripture reading, a short homily, an examination of conscience, and then face-to-face confession with more than ten priests stationed around the church. The entire service will last about fifty minutes. We hope you will be able to participate with us on Friday. Please note that the Penance Service will take the place of the 12:15 Mass on this day.
YOUNG ADULTS AT ST. PETER’S
We invite young adults between the ages of 20-40 to come to the weekly sessions of Saint Peter’s Young Adults on Mondays beginning at 5:30 P.M. with some refreshments and continuing with some input and discussion at 6:00 P.M. Once a month the group meets in the friars’ chapel for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and reflection on a passage from the Scriptures. Often there is faith sharing and discussion of topics current in the group. Other times there are elements of fun, e.g., an outing in the city such as a baseball game or skating at Millennium Park. Periodically there are also service opportunities at Franciscan Outreach. We promise that each session will conclude by 7:00 P.M. so that you can plan the remainder of your evening according to your needs. Coming to these meetings is a great way to meet new friends and to deepen your Catholic faith. You may stop down to the Saint Clare auditorium at any time; you don’t have to be a member of the group from the very beginning.
In particular, we invite you to join other young adults next Sunday, April 14—Palm Sunday—for a retreat that will take place right here in the auditorium. It will begin with everyone participating in the 12:30 Mass in church and afterwards coming downstairs for some refreshments, a presentation, a good deal of sharing and prayer, and concluding by 6:00 P.M. This would be a great way to prepare for Holy Week and Easter as well as to meet some new friends.
ADDITIONAL CONFESSORS BEFORE EASTER
Even though Easter is still two weeks away, we want to alert you to the fact that we will have additional confessors in the confessionals beginning on Saturday, April 13 through Thursday, April 18. We do this so that hopefully anyone wishing to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be able to do so in a timely manner. We also ask that you not wait until the last minute to come to confession because you may find the lines long and the opportunities waning. It also helps that you come early enough to make a complete examination of conscience before you actually begin your confession as that often allows your confession to be a bit shorter. As a result, you are helping yourself as well as your neighbor who will not have to wait as long.
It may be that some people are unfamiliar with the fact that we have a priest on call Monday through Friday from 10:30-6:00. What this means is that if you have any reason to talk privately with one of the priests, you may stop at the Front Office and ask the receptionist to do so. He will then get in touch with the friar assigned for that time, invite you to go to the mezzanine via the stairs off the lobby, and the friar will be there shortly. The only time you might have to wait is if someone has just come before you, and the priest is already occupied.
What are some of the things why people might want to see the priest on the mezzanine? Some wish to go to confession face-to-face rather than behind the screen in the confessional. Others have a problem they wish to discuss, and the confessional is not the appropriate place to talk about it. Some might have a theological question, or there might be an issue in their family they want to discuss, or they are having a difficult time due to a death in the family. Sometimes we are asked to fill out a witness form for an upcoming Catholic wedding or baptism, or to help someone learn a bit more about the annulment process in the archdiocese. At any rate, we want to be of service, and we will try to be there for you if we can possibly help.
Some of our bulletin readers may not be familiar with Chicago Shares, a way that you can help the homeless but not actually give them cash. You can purchase Chicago Shares in our Front Office anytime the office is open. They come in packets of five (each slip worth $1.00) and they can be used to purchase food, toiletries, and other basic items at a number of stores in the Loop and in the South and North areas beyond the Loop. These shares cannot be used to purchase liquor and tobacco, nor can they be redeemed for cash. If you would like more information about Chicago Shares, you may go to www.chicagoshares.org, or you may stop at the front office to pick up a list of the stores that honor these shares.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE LENTEN SEASON
A Texas millionaire had fallen ill. The doctors consulted did not seem to understand what ailed him. The millionaire let it be known that any doctor who could heal him could have whatever he desired.
A country doctor was finally able to cure him and, as the doctor was leaving after a week’s stay, the Texan said, “Doc, I am a man of my word. You name it, and if it is humanly possible, I’ll get it for you.”
“Well,” said the doctor, “I love to play golf, so if I could have a matching set of golf clubs, that would be fine.” With that, the physician left.
The doctor didn’t hear from the Texas millionaire for some months. Then, one day, he got a phone call from the millionaire.
“Doc, I bet you thought that I had gone back on my word. I have your matching set of golf clubs. The reason it took so long is that one of them didn’t have a swimming pool, and I didn’t think that was good enough for ya. So I had a pool installed and now both clubs are ready for you!”