August 13, 2017

8-13-17

 

One of the great blessings of being missioned here at St. Peter’s is knowing that we have the privilege of serving as conduits for God’s mercy. Every time I enter the confessional, I realize that it is because of God’s love for us that we have this sacrament and that it is one of the best ways we have of experiencing who God really is for us. Because of this sacrament we do not need to carry around the effects of some of our choices and the shame of our mistakes; we can begin anew and open our hearts to the wonders of God’s love.

 

Sometimes people get the impression that God is an angry, judgmental being who likes to punish us for our sins. But this is not the God we Catholics believe in. We believe in the God who revealed himself to the people of Israel and who is made visible to us in Jesus Christ. This God is slow to anger and rich in mercy. God’s patience is infinite. His forgiveness is freely given to all. This does not mean that God does not care what we do or how we live. How could a loving father be indifferent to his children’s decisions and actions? How could he not care whether we are living well or being truly happy?

 

No, God cares deeply but does not force us to do anything; we have been given the gift of freedom. We can choose whatever we want and do whatever we like as long as we are willing to accept the consequences. At the same time, God really does care about our choices, and he invites us to discover his will and freely choose to live in ways that are pleasing to him—because they are good for us.

 

We believe that there will come a day when we will be asked to render an account of all our choices. Unless God is merciful, as we believe he is, that day could go badly for us as individuals and communities. We believe that it is our obligation to live holy lives—according to God’s plan for each of us—but we pray that we will be forgiven for the many ways we have failed to live up to God’s expectations as men and women called to make God known to others through what we say and do.

 

We believe that God is not a fantasy or a stranger or an angry, uncaring life force. God is love. God’s love reaches out to us, cares about us, and rescues us the way a loving father would. God is also our brother, Jesus Christ, who lived as we live and who died to set us free. God is the unseen Holy Spirit who works silently in our lives, and in our world, to make things better and to bring unity, peace, and harmony to an angry, divided and unhappy world.

 

We want to be united with God and, until that day comes, we will never be fully satisfied. We too often search for the satisfaction of our desires in places that promise what they cannot deliver. But as St. Augustine said from his own profound experience, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God.”

 

We believe in a merciful God, but unless we put God first in our lives, nothing can satisfy us. That is why so many of us, believers and unbelievers alike, live restless, anxious lives. We are filled with desires that we cannot satisfy. We long for love, success, happiness and peace, but we cannot find them. We will never find what we are looking for as long as something other than God occupies first place in our lives.

 

 

The God of mercy comes first. If we truly believe this and try to live it as best we can with the help of God’s grace, it makes a huge difference in our daily lives. Through the mystery of love and mercy incarnate, we discover who God is. Through our participation in God’s great gift of mercy—our forgiveness of ourselves and others—we grow in holiness and in hope. No real peace, no true justice and no lasting love are possible for us as individuals and communities until we accept God’s love and mercy and then share it generously with others.

 

God is not angry or aloof. On the contrary, God is pure love. In response, let’s open our hearts and love God in return.

 

NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

Today’s readings speak of humanity’s direct encounters with God. Christian mystics describe these experiences as moments of unspeakable joy, but also as times of great pain. As God told Moses on Mount Sinai, “You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).

 

The First Reading describes Elijah’s encounter with God at Mount Horeb (also known as Sinai). Jezebel, the pagan wife of Israel’s King Ahab, has threatened to kill him, and he has escaped to the mountain. As he shelters in a cave, he hears a voice: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” The prophet says he has always done what God told him to do, but the Israelites have abandoned the covenant, and people are out to kill him. In the midst of this complaint, God appears to him.

 

In the Second Reading, Paul pours out his concern about the Jews rejecting Christ, who Paul believes has been given to them by God because they are the Chosen People. Paul himself is a Jew, so this causes him great grief, but after a long debate with himself, he concludes that it was God’s plan that many Jews would not accept Jesus so that the Good News would be preached to Gentiles too. One day everyone would enjoy covenant relationship with God.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus has arrived at an unnamed mountain. Perhaps Matthew wants his hearers to think of Sinai and Elijah’s encounter with God in that place. When Jesus comes to the rescue of the disciples and calms the sea, the disciples proclaim Jesus to be the Son of God. Why? Ancients thought that humans could be healers, but only the gods could control the cosmos.

 

In the First Reading, Elijah followed God’s command and waited for the Lord at the designated place. There, he listened for God. Some might have expected God in the power of the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. Elijah, a man of prayer, was skilled at listening and found God in “a tiny whispering sound.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the importance of the attention the prophet gives to God. “In their ‘one to one’ encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world but rather attentiveness to the Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord of history” (#2584).

 

Peter’s faith was great as he climbed out of the boat and walked on water, but then he faltered. The Catechism points out that our trust in God is tested when we are unsure if our prayers are heard. “Filial trust is put to the test when we feel that our prayer is not always heard. The Gospel invites us to ask ourselves about the conformity of our prayer to the desire of the Spirit” (#2756).

 

We hear in today’s psalm an assurance of how God will act. The psalmist speaks from a knowledge of God, proclaiming that “kindness and truth shall meet.” The Catechism explains, “Certain constant characteristics appear throughout the Psalms…the distraught situation of the believer who, in the preferential love for the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations, but who waits upon what the faithful God will do, in the certitude of his love and in submission to his will” (#2589).

 

For Your Reflection: When have you found God in the unexpected? How do the actions of our faith community assure others of God’s kindness? What have you done when you felt your trust in God falter?

 

THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

 

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is always celebrated on August 15th, and this year it falls on this coming Tuesday. The feast of the Assumption is one of the holydays of obligation in the United States, so this means that all Catholics are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on this day. Here at St. Peter’s you have the opportunity to fulfill this obligation at any one of thirteen Masses: at the 5:00 P.M. Vigil Mass on Monday afternoon, and on Tuesday at 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15, 9:00, 10:00, 11:15, 12;15 (Festive Mass with choir), 1:15, 4:30, 5:15 and 6:00. Please plan ahead now for which Mass is most convenient for you, and don’t hesitate to invite someone else at work to join you.

 

The feast of the Assumption celebrates our belief that Mary “was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #966, quoting Lumen Gentium #59). This unprecedented act by God anticipates “the resurrection of all members of Christ’s body.”

 

In our readings today, we encounter Mary as an expectant mother visiting Elizabeth and sharing with her the joy of motherhood. Tradition locates the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth several miles outside of Jerusalem. This means that Mary’s journey from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea would have taken about three days. There is a heightened sense of joy in Luke’s description of the meeting of the mothers. Even John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb in response to Mary’s greeting and the presence of the Messiah.

 

 The text in Revelation presents an image that has been applied to Mary over the centuries: “a woman clothed with the sun” and who “was with child.” The mother and child are both threatened by a “huge red dragon.” But the child is “caught up to God,” while the mother “fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.” Ultimately the dragon is defeated by the child and his supporters.

 

In Corinthians, Paul speaks of Christ as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Christ’s resurrection is not intended to be unique; it is a foreshadowing of our own resurrection at the end of time. The Bible tells us that death is a result of sin. But “just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” Mary’s assumption, an anticipation of our own resurrection, is on account of her life lived without sin. Not having sinned, she does not face the consequence of sin and so shares in the resurrected life immediately.

 

2017 ST. PETER’S GALA

 

I am happy to report that our 2017 St. Peter’s Gala which we had on July 13, 2017, at the Union League Club has netted a profit of $130,000.  These monies will make a good dent toward lowering our budgeted operating deficit of $500,000 for the current fiscal year.

 

 We are deeply thankful to everyone who made this event a grand success: the Gala Committee of Fr. Mario, Carolyn Jarosz, Mary Ellen Castroverde, Steve Kunkel, and Fr. Kurt, those who assisted in selling tickets for the Gala in the lobby, the dedicated volunteers who worked the room, prepared the setup and packed up afterwards, the individuals who helped at the checkout table, those who donated items for the live and silent auctions, those who answered the call to Fund-A-Need, the vendors, companies, hotels, restaurants and individuals who donated, and to everyone who purchased tickets for the Gala and for the raffle. Special thanks go to Fr. Michael Perry, our guest speaker and General Minister of the Franciscan Order, and to Marion Valle, our auctioneer.

 

We received many compliments from those who attended, who also said that they thoroughly enjoyed the evening. We are planning to have another Gala next July, and we will announce the date as soon as we have a confirmation from the Union League Club.

 

RETROUVAILLE—A LIFELINE FOR MARRIAGES

 

The word Retrouvaille (re-tro-vi with a long i) is a French word meaning rediscovery. This program helps couples heal and renew their marriages and offers tools needed to rediscover a loving marriage relationship. Do you feel lost, alone or bored in your marriage? Are you frustrated, hurt or angry with your spouse? Are you constantly fighting? Have you thought about separation or divorce? Does talking about it only make it worse? Thousands of couples headed for cold, unloving relationships have successfully overcome their marriage problems by attending this program. Some couples come during the initial signs of a marriage problem and others are in a state of despair. The Retrouvaille Program consists of a weekend experience combined with a series of 6 post-weekend sessions. The tools learned here will help put your marriage in order again. The main emphasis of the program is on communication in marriage between husband and wife. It will give you the opportunity to rediscover each other and examine your lives together in a new and positive way.

 

You can go to www.retrouvaille.org for general information about the program. The next weekend for the Chicagoland area is 12/1-3, 2017. For questions or further information contact Robin and Phil Kain (773-544-0498) or e-mail them at [email protected]. Don’t delay; do it today!

 

A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE

 

A Chinese doctor could not find a job in a hospital, so he decided to open his own clinic. He put a sign outside the clinic which read: GET TREATMENT FOR $20. IF YOU ARE NOT CURED, YOU GET BACK $100.

 

An American lawyer thinks this is a great opportunity to earn $100 and goes to the clinic. The lawyer tells the doctor, “I have lost my sense of taste.” The doctor replies, “Nurse, bring medicine from box No. 22 and put 3 drops in the patient’s mouth.” The lawyer screams, “Ugh! This is kerosene.” The doctor smiles and says, “Congrats! Your sense of taste is restored. Give me $20.”

 

The annoyed lawyer goes back after a few days to recover his money. He says, “I have lost my memory. I cannot remember anything.” The doctor once again says, “Nurse, bring medicine from Box No. 22 and put 3 drops in his mouth.” The lawyer, annoyed, yells, “This is nonsense. You gave this to me the last time for restoring my taste!” The doctor said, “Congrats! You got your memory back. Give me $20.

 

The fuming lawyer pays him and then comes back a week later determined to get back $100. He tells the doctor, “My eyesight has become very weak. I can’t see at all.” The doctor replied, “Well, I don’t have any medicine for that, so take this $100.” Unbelieving, the doctor shouted, “But this is $20, not $100!” The doctor with a big smile replied, “Congrats! Your eyesight is restored. Give me $20.”