This weekend throughout the world we celebrate the World Day for Consecrated Life. Once a year the Church reflects on the call to consecrated life—as a religious brother or priest, as a religious sister, as a member of a secular institute, as a consecrated virgin or as a hermit. What we do is underscore that there are various vocations in life—that God calls each of us to a particular way of working out our salvation and thereby giving witness to the world and to building up the Kingdom of God—all of which includes the married and single life as well. It is my hope that by celebrating consecrated life this weekend, perhaps more men and women might consider whether God might be calling them to this particular expression of their vocation. Let us listen to what Pope Francis has held out for us in this regard.
“Today’s frantic pace leads us to close many doors to encounter, often for fear of others. Only shopping malls and internet connections are always open. Yet that is not how it should be with consecrated life: the brother and the sister given to me by God are a part of my history, gifts to be cherished. May we never look at the screen of our cell phone more than the eyes of our brothers or sisters, or focus more on our software than on the Lord. For whenever we put our own projects, methods and organization at the center, consecrated life stops being attractive; it no longer speaks to others; it no longer flourishes because it forgets its very foundations, its very roots.
“Consecrated life is born and reborn of an encounter with Jesus as he is: poor, chaste and obedient. We journey along a double track: on the one hand, God’s loving initiative, from which everything starts and to which we must always return; on the other hand, our own response, which is truly loving when it has no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts,’ when it imitates Jesus in his poverty, chastity and obedience. Whereas the life of this world attempts to take hold of us, the consecrated life turns from fleeting riches to embrace the One who endures forever. The life of this world pursues selfish pleasures and desires; the consecrated life frees our affections of every possession in order fully to love God and other people. Worldly life aims to do whatever we want; consecrated life chooses humble obedience as the greater freedom. And while worldly life soon leaves our hands and hearts empty, life in Jesus fills us with peace to the very end.
“How good it is for us to hold the Lord ‘in our arms’ (Lk 2:28), like Simeon. Not only in our heads and in our hearts, but also ‘in our hands,’ in all that we do: in prayer, at work, at the table, on the telephone, at school, with the poor, everywhere. Having the Lord ‘in our hands’ is an antidote to insular mysticism and frenetic activism, since a genuine encounter with Jesus corrects both saccharine piety and frazzled hyperactivity. Savoring the encounter with Jesus is also the remedy for the paralysis of routine, for it opens us up to the daily ‘havoc’ of grace. The secret to fanning the flame of our spiritual life is a willingness to allow ourselves to encounter Jesus and to be encountered by him; otherwise we fall into a stifling life, where disgruntlement, bitterness and inevitable disappointments get the better of us. To encounter one another in Jesus as brothers and sisters, young and old, and thus to abandon the barren rhetoric of ‘the good old days’—a nostalgia that kills the soul—and to silence those who think that ‘everything is falling apart.’ If we encounter Jesus and our brothers and sisters in the everyday events of our life, our hearts will no longer be set on the past or the future, but will experience the ‘today of God’ in peace with everyone.”
If you would like more information about the Franciscan way of consecrated life, please call Br. Thom Smith, O.F.M. at 312-853-2384 or get in touch with him at www.befranciscan.com. If you would like more information about different men’s and women’s religious communities and think you might have a religious vocation, you may visit a website sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference at www.vocationnetwork.org. There you will find resources to help you to discern a vocation and a section called “vocation match” that helps you find religious communities who match your calling. They also have an “events calendar” to find discernment events in your area and to meet people on a similar path. Finally, there is a community search where you can browse through hundreds of religious community profiles in the United States.
You may also wish to check out the 2019 Vision Magazine, which you can find in the Front Office of St. Peter’s.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
All of us, because of our Baptism in Christ, are called to do the work of God. Today’s readings help us to reflect on what it takes to respond to God’s calling. The First Reading recounts Jeremiah’s call to be God’s prophet. We are told that it is a vocation for which he was destined even before he was born, and it is not an easy one. He must make the leaders of Jerusalem recognize their wicked ways, but Jeremiah need not be afraid, because God will make him strong and give him the right words to speak.
Today’s Gospel picks up where last week’s Gospel ended, with Jesus identifying himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about bringing Good News to the afflicted. At first, the crowds clamor after him, until some realize that he grew up among them, and begin to question, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” Jesus responds by comparing himself to two prophets of old who, likewise, were rejected by their people. The tone is accusatory, and the situation quickly escalates to the point that they try to throw him off a cliff.
In the Second Reading, Paul offers a teaching that is patterned after the Greek literary form “praise of the greatest virtue.” He writes of a love that surpasses all other spiritual gifts, is unfailing and totally self-giving. This is what it takes to respond to the call to do God’s work. Without it, we are nothing.
In the Second Reading, Paul tells the Corinthians that it is more important to live as followers of Christ by loving others than it is to aspire to spiritual gifts. Not only is love patient and kind, but it “never fails,” he says. Prophecies, knowledge, and tongues, he tells them, “will be brought to nothing.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the disciples of Christ live the faith, profess it, witness to it, and spread it, following Christ along the way of the cross (#1816).
To live out love is to die to self. When people are loving toward one another, they are not pompous even when they are right. A loving person seeks out the community’s interests, not just their own. Such a person is not happy to see that one is wrong, but as St. Paul states, “rejoices with the truth.” The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults explains that Christ was baptized as a sign that we, too, must die to ourselves and follow the Father’s will. A Christian disciple makes a conscious decision to follow Jesus despite the cost (#184, #451).
With our own gifts and responsibilities, we follow Christ by daily taking up the cross. This witness, empowered by the Spirit of God, is a sign to all of the love God bestows on the world (Lumen gentium, #41). Today we hear that when Jeremiah prophesies to the nations, “they will fight against you.”
Christifidelis laici relates how the suffering and martyrdom that disciples endured has been a gift to Christianity. This post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope John Paul II explains that the giving of one’s life is an astonishing sign of the abundant fruit of the apostolic life and that God’s Church is born of God’s grace (#39).
For Your Reflection: When has a relationship flourished because you failed to boast when you were right? How can our parish help people grow in listening to God’s call? Have you ignored someone in your family or community who may be speaking prophetically?
FEAST OF ST. BLASÉ (Blaise)
Sunday, February 3, 2019
We know more about the devotion to St. Blasé by Christians around the world than we know about the saint himself. We know that Bishop Blasé was martyred in the Episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, in 316. The legendary Acts of St. Blasé were written 400 years later. According to them, Blasé was born into a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian. He was a good bishop, working hard to encourage the spiritual and physical health of his people. Although the Edict of Toleration (311), granting freedom of worship in the Roman Empire, was already five years old, persecution still raged in Armenia. Blasé was apparently forced to flee to the back country. There he lived as a hermit in solitude and prayer, but he made friends with the wild animals and supposedly could walk among them unafraid, curing their illnesses.
One day a group of hunters seeking wild animals for the amphitheater stumbled upon Blasé’s cave. They were first surprised and then frightened. The bishop was kneeling in prayer surrounded by patiently waiting wolves, lions and bears. As the hunters hauled Blasé off to prison, the legend has it that a mother came with her young son who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. At Blasé’s command the child was able to cough up the bone.
Agricolaus, governor of Cappadocia, tried to persuade Blasé to sacrifice to pagan idols. The first time Blasé refused, he was beaten. The next time he was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with iron combs or rakes. (English wool combers, who used similar iron combs, took Blasé as their patron. They could easily appreciate the agony the saint underwent.) Finally Blasé was beheaded.
Since this year the Feast of St. Blasé occurs on a Sunday, here at St. Peter’s we will offer the St. Blasé Blessing after each of the weekday Masses on Monday, February 4. If you cannot make it to one of the Masses, you may receive the blessing at the front office during the regularly scheduled hours on Monday.
COMMUNAL ANOINTING OF THE SICK
Monday, February 11, is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. As we have done in years past, on this day we will celebrate the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick during the 1:15 Mass. Now is the time to put this date in your personal calendar if you plan to join us for this occasion. More details will be forthcoming in next week’s bulletin, but you may want to invite someone else to come with you to receive the sacrament.
A RENEWAL SERIES ON RACISM
This past October the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a new pastoral letter on Racism entitled “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.” The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years. Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time.
The pastoral letter asks us to recall that we are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God. Because we all bear the image of God, racism is above all a moral and theological problem that manifests institutionally and systematically. Only a deep individual conversion of heart, which then multiplies, will compel change and reform in our institutions and society. It is imperative to confront racism’s root causes and the injustice it produces. The love of God binds us together. This same love should overflow into our relationships with all people. The conversions needed to overcome racism require a deep encounter with the living God in the person of Christ who can heal all division.
We have planned a four-part series on this pastoral letter beginning on Tuesday, February 5, and continuing on February 12, 19, and 26. More details on this series can be found on the sign on the bulletin board in the church lobby or toward the end of this bulletin. We hope many people will plan to join us for this very important series, and don’t be afraid to invite your co-workers to attend as well.
A CHUCKLE: OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES
When Mary was pregnant, her five-year-old son, Billy, was utterly amazed and a little bit disbelieving that his sister was growing in his mom’s tummy.
So one day when the baby was especially active, she asked Billy to place his tiny hands on her tummy to feel the baby kick. But when he did, the baby was suddenly still.
“Oh, Billy, she must have decided to take a nap,” shrugged his mother.
“A nap?” Billy marveled. “You mean there’s a bed in there too?”