This week is going to be another extremely important one for our country. We have already endured thirty-five days of a government shutdown from December 22-January 25 with all of its hardships both on a personal and on a national level, to say nothing of what it has done to our reputation throughout the world. As we have heard on the news, read in our newspapers, and checked daily on the internet, close to a million people have either had to work without being paid or have been furloughed without pay. In addition, all kinds of people who work for the federal government on a contractual basis have not been working and therefore have not been paid, and they may never recoup their losses. Thousands of people have been put in very difficult circumstances financially trying to make ends meet during this period, some of whom have had to resort to soup kitchens and food pantries to make it.
I suppose the good news is that many individuals, groups and organizations have stepped up to meet the critical needs of those who have been displaced. I have been edified to hear of some restaurants opening their doors to these new needy or of chefs who have organized either a lunch or a dinner for these disenfranchised workers. In some cases, neighborhoods have come together to meet the needs of their neighbors who never envisioned that this situation would ever occur. I have also heard of a few cases where companies have extended credit to individuals in need with the understanding that they would be reimbursed when all was remedied. Thankfully these sorts of things have happened, and I suspect that there were many others that will only be known in the hearts of those who were serviced.
But now we have the present to deal with. The southern border is not that different than it was when the shutdown began. Migrants and refugees are still seeking asylum from several countries in Central America. The Republicans, Democrats and President Trump all say they agree that border security is important and needs to be addressed in a better fashion. The President says that he demands a wall of some kind; the Democrats say for the same amount of money it can be done more efficiently and successfully by employing better technology and tools. Everyone seems to agree that we have an intolerable humanitarian crisis; the issue appears to be how best to improve how we handle it from both the standpoint of those asking for help and for those who provide the assistance.
This week we face another deadline: February 15 looms near—what will the President and the members of Congress accomplish both to avert another shutdown and to address the humanitarian situation at the border for the refugees and migrants who are asking for asylum from the dreadful situation that has caused them to leave their homeland in the first place? President Trump claims where we are is a national security crisis and emergency; the majority of Americans disagree with that assessment which the president uses to insist that a border wall must be built. What values that America treasures will prevail? The solution arrived at will determine for years to come what kind of nation we have been and want to remain to be. May wisdom, foresight, respect for all parties, good judgment and civility mark what lies ahead.
FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Today’s Scripture readings invite us to reflect on our sense of inadequacy in answering God’s call. This reality reminds us that we do not need to be fearful, because we are called to do God’s work and not ours.
The First Reading is an account of Isaiah’s vision of God seated on his throne in the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem Temple. When Isaiah realizes that he is in the presence of God, he laments, “Woe is me, I am doomed!” He thinks he will die, because ancients believed that no one could see the face of God and live, but the Hebrew root of the word translated here as “doomed” also means “brought to silence.” Thus, the seraph responds by bringing a coal from God’s altar to purify Isaiah’s lips. Only then can he respond to God’s call.
In today’s Gospel, we also hear of Simon Peter’s call. A fisherman by trade, he complains when Jesus tells him to take his boat into deep water and prepare for a catch. But before they know it, the nets are bursting and the boats so full that they are in danger of sinking. When Peter gets to shore, he is overcome with emotion, asking Jesus to leave him, because he feels he is not worthy of his presence. Instead, Jesus tells him, “Do not be afraid,” and invites Peter to be a fisher of people on Jesus’ behalf.
In the Second Reading, Paul assures the Corinthian community that they will be saved by believing in what he preaches. What follows is a creed and a list of witnesses to Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances. Paul identifies himself as the last to witness the resurrected Jesus and the least of his Apostles. To what does he attribute the honor of being an apostle? God’s grace.
Isaiah had not expected God to call him to be a prophet. “Woe is me, I am doomed,” he says in the First Reading. Still, the reading shows that Isaiah’s wickedness was “removed” and his sin “purged.” To understand the ways God calls us, we must know how God called Israel.
St. Paul tells the story of how Jesus appeared to him, even though he had “persecuted the church of God.” This is an account of a follower giving up his life to preach the Gospel. In Evangelii nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI calls for a spiritual fervor in spreading the Gospel. “This fervor demands first of all that we should know how to put aside the excuses which would impede evangelization,” he writes in paragraph 80. The pope referenced the spirit within John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul and noted the need for the faithful to possess “an interior enthusiasm that nobody and nothing can quench.”
“Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men,” we hear Jesus say in today’s Gospel. In Evangelii nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI teaches that Christians are called to evangelize others. In paragraph 21, he tells of the witness to the Gospel that Christians portray when they accept others and show solidarity with what is “noble and good.”
After spending a night fishing, the Apostles caught nothing, but we hear in today’s Gospel, that upon lowering their nets at Jesus’ command, their catch was bountiful. Peter came to believe that, as is taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “nothing is impossible with God” (#274).
For Your Reflection: When have you felt humbled when asked to do something? Are there ways that our parish could help people realize that they evangelize by the way that they live? Has there been a time when you received more from God than you asked?
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE SICK
Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
Monday, February 11, 2019
On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. A little more than three years later, on February 11, 1858, a young lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. This began a series of visions. During the apparition on March 25, the lady identified herself with the words, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Bernadette was a sickly child of poor parents. Their practice of the Catholic faith was scarcely more than lukewarm. Bernadette could pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Creed. She also knew the prayer of the Miraculous Medal, “O Mary, conceived without sin.”
During interrogations Bernadette gave an account of what she saw. It was “something white in the shape of a girl.” She used the word aquero, a dialect term meaning “this thing.” It was “a pretty young girl with a rosary over her arm.” Her white robe was encircled by a blue girdle. She wore a white veil. There was a yellow rose on each foot. A rosary was in her hand. Bernadette was also impressed by the fact that the lady did not use the informal form of address (tu), but the polite form (vous). The humble virgin appeared to a humble girl and treated her with dignity.
Through that humble girl, Mary revitalized and continues to revitalize the faith of millions of people. People began to flock to Lourdes from other parts of France and from all over the world. In 1862 Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions and authorized the cult of Our Lady of Lourdes for the diocese. The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes became worldwide in 1907.
Lourdes has become a place of pilgrimage and healing, but even more of faith. Church authorities have recognized over 60 miraculous cures, although there have probably been many more. To people of faith this is not surprising. It is a continuation of Jesus’ healing miracles—now performed at the intercession of his mother. Some would say that the greater miracles are hidden. Many who visit Lourdes return home with renewed faith and a readiness to serve God in their needy brothers and sisters. There still may be people who doubt the apparitions of Lourdes. Perhaps the best that can be said to them are the words that introduce the film, The Song of Bernadette: “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”
Here at St. Peter’s we will observe the World Day of Prayer for the Sick by celebrating a Communal Anointing of the Sick during the 1:15 P.M. Mass on Monday, February 11. Anyone 62 years of age or older, who has a chronic illness problem, who will be undergoing serious tests or surgery in the near future, or who suffers a mental, emotional or psychological difficulty is welcome to receive this sacrament.
If you wish to receive the sacrament, we ask that you arrive at church five to ten minutes early if possible so that the ushers can assist you in finding a designated place. In order to facilitate the priests coming through the church to lay on hands and later to anoint you, we will have every other pew open for the priests to move easily about. After the priest anoints your forehead, please answer AMEN, and then after your palms have been anointed, also answer AMEN. We would anticipate that the Mass along with the anointing will last about an hour. We hope that many people will be able to participate in this wonderful gift of healing that Jesus has given us in the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
A REFLECT RETREAT
REFLECT is a Catholic retreat for single adults in their mid-30s to 50s. It is a weekend during which you can come to know yourself better and discover more about your capacity for life as a single. You will have the chance to contemplate how and where you belong in society, within your family, faith community, and circles of friendship.
It provides an opportunity to meet with other mid-life single men and women—those who have never been married, are divorced, or widowed—who struggle with some of the same things you do…loneliness, sadness, fear of “getting out there” and meeting people in what can often seem like a couples’ world.
Mid-life singles are welcome to take a step back from everyday life February 22-24 to contemplate how and where you belong. This retreat will be held at Joseph and Mary Retreat House (formerly Cardinal Stritch Retreat House) in Mundelein, Illinois. Check-in is at 5:30 PM on Friday and ends by 3:00 PM on Sunday. Cost is $215. For more information or to register, visit www.ReflectRetreat.com.
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.
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. You will hear more about the Appeal next weekend on Announcement Sunday.
A CHUCKLE TO TICKLE YOUR FANCY
“Vernon, where’s your homework?” Miss Martin said sternly to the little boy while holding out her hand.
“My dog ate it,” was his solemn response.
“Vernon, I’ve been a teacher for eighteen years. Do you really expect me to believe that?”
“It’s true, Miss Martin, I swear,” insisted the boy. “I had to force him, but he ate it!”