January 12, 2020
Trust is a simple word. While a basic concept, trust is a necessary component of all human interactions. By definition, trust is the firm belief in the integrity, ability or character of a person or thing. When we say that we trust someone, we mean that we feel comfortable in that person’s company, that we feel safe and secure, able to let our guard down. We know that we can count on the person to treat us kindly, and to do what is promised.
Without trust, we would live in a world of fear, always having to be wary, never being able to rely on anyone or anything else. Trust is an essential element for life. The phrase, “In God We Trust,” is the official motto of the United States of America. The phrase appears on all U.S. currency.
But what exactly does it mean to place one’s trust in God? As Catholic Christians, the Bible is the first place we turn to try and answer this question. In many ways, the Bible is one continuous story of how God has called humanity to a relationship of total trust and how people have responded to that call. Every story in the Old Testament, starting with Adam and Eve, then on through Noah, Moses, and Miriam, David and Solomon, up to the Maccabees, shows that peace and happiness come from putting one’s trust in God, while war and disaster come from putting our trust in anyone or anything but God. This is also the message found in the writings of all the prophets.
Many of the psalms express this trust in God. Psalm 5:12 says, “Then all who trust in you will be glad and forever shout for joy. You will protect them and those will rejoice in you who love your name.” Psalm 9:10-11 makes an even stronger case. “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you. You never forsake those who seek you, Lord.” Psalm 27:5 offers us assurance: “For God will hide me in his shelter in time of trouble, he will conceal me in the cover of his tent, and set me high upon a rock.” In Psalm 62:9, we are admonished to “trust God at all times, my people! Pour out your hearts to God our refuge.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 proclaims that we are to trust God more than ourselves: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; on your own intelligence do not rely. In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”
In the New Testament, Jesus teaches what it means to trust in God completely and gives witness to that trust throughout his life, and even unto his death and resurrection.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also advises us to put our trust in God, pointing out that “Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations, it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about ourselves and their intentions, or to trust their promises” (#154).
So what does it mean for a person of faith to trust God? While some people practice a radical Christianity and depend totally on God for all that they have, such as men and women in consecrated life, most Christians show trust in God by simply living. They count on God to look after them and to take good care of them, to protect them and those they love from harm, to prepare a place for them in heaven following death. They work, earn money, plant gardens, and fix the car—all of the ordinary aspects of living.
They don’t expect God to do it for them. Rather, they see themselves as co-creators with God. They do the best work they can and trust that God will do amazing things with their work. They ask God in prayer for what they want and need, but trust that God will do what is best for them. Their trust in God gives meaning and purpose to their lives.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis assured us that even when we face tough moments, the continuous trust we’ve built over time will carry us through. Sometimes we witness the fruits of that trust, but sometimes we don’t. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t produce results.
The pope wrote, “Because we do not always see these seeds growing, we need an interior certainty, a conviction that God is able to act in every situation, even amid apparent setbacks. This certainty is often called ‘a sense of mystery’” (#279). He continues, “It involves knowing with certitude that all those who entrust themselves to God in love will bear good fruit. This fruitfulness is often invisible, elusive, and unquantifiable. We can know quite well that our lives will be fruitful, without claiming to know how, or where, or when” (#279).
I would suggest that we look to St. Joseph more carefully as a man of trust. We usually think of him as a guardian and protector, but he is also a dreamer, a man who risks trusting in dreams. In the gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Mt. 1:18-25), he listens when the angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream and tells him to take Mary into his home. Later on, he dreams of an angel telling him to flee to Egypt with Mary and the child Jesus, and they depart the same night. Later still, the dream-angel tells him to return to Israel, and then to Galilee.
On each of these occasions, There are no questions or protestations: Joseph simply trusts, and it is his trust that allows God’s will to unfold. Joseph’s response to God’s initiative, like Mary’s, is fatherly, generative, fruit-bearing, life-giving. Joseph’s dreams, and his willingness to trust in them, create a space in which the life of God in the world can be nurtured and grow. If we were to do the same, perhaps we would realize a similar experience.
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
Today marks the end of the Christmas season. Matthew describes the baptism and anointing by the Holy Spirit of the adult Jesus in a richly symbolic way that expresses Jesus’ acceptance of the mission that the Father has given him as God’s suffering servant. Jesus’ baptism unfolds in the form of a drama in two parts. The first part focuses on Jesus’ acceptance of his mission. Jesus comes to John to be baptized, but John objects: “I need to be baptized by you.” Although Jesus is the Lamb of God who is without sin, by this action Jesus, as the Lamb, identifies himself with humanity in order to take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). Jesus’ baptism looks forward to his death. When saying that by accepting baptism he “fulfills all righteousness,” Jesus submits himself to his Father’s will, consenting to a path leading to suffering, death, and Resurrection for the forgiveness of humanity’s sins.
The second part of Matthew’s drama focuses on the Father’s response to Jesus’ acceptance. God identifies Jesus unambiguously as “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Finally, “the heavens were opened” at Jesus’ baptism, reversing what happened through Adam’s sin. Adam’s rejection of God destroyed the intimate relationship between humankind and God. Now Jesus’ baptism restores God’s relationship with humankind intended at the beginning of creation.
By accepting Baptism, we embrace what Jesus accomplished for us. Through the waters of Baptism, we become a new creation, our sins are forgiven, and we enter an intimate relationship as a beloved child of God, Father, Son, and Spirit, together with all who, like us, have become a new creation through the waters of Baptism.
In the reading from Isaiah, God tells the Suffering Servant that he has been called “for justice.” He is to be a “light to the nations,” open the eyes of the blind and become a covenant to the people. Jesus is the Suffering Servant, who through his baptism is called to bring forth justice, to fulfill the law, and become a covenant to the people. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but ‘open the heart’ of the Servant who becomes ‘a covenant to the people,’ because he will ‘faithfully bring forth justice’” (#580).
For Your Reflection: Where do you notice God’s majesty? In a time as short as an elevator ride, could you explain your reason for belief? What responsibilities come with your Baptism?
CIVILIZE IT: DIGNITY BEYOND THE DEBATE
Ahead of the 2020 elections, the United States bishops have launched a year-long initiative this past November inviting Catholics to model civility, love for neighbor, and respectful dialogue. The program is entitled “Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate,” and it asks Catholics to pledge civility, clarity, and compassion in their families, communities, and parishes, and it calls on others to do the same. It is built on the premise that every person—even those with whom we disagree—is a beloved child of God who possesses inherent dignity.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, emphasized the importance of “Civilize It” in the context of the current divisive climate: “Conversation in the public square is all too often filled with personal attacks and words that assume the worst about those with whom we disagree. We are in need of healing in our families, communities, and country. This program is a call for Catholics to honor the human dignity of each person they encounter, whether it is online, at the dinner table, or in the pews next to them. I invite all Catholics to participate in ‘Civilize It.’ In doing so, they can bear witness to a better way, approach conversations with civility, clarity, and compassion, and invite others to do the same.”
Please go to www.WeAreSaltandLight.org/civilize-it for more information. Supporting materials for the initiative include ideas to help Catholics and others of goodwill to engage in and model respect and compassion, as well as resource materials to assist in the effort.
A 2020 PRAYER: BEATITUDES FOR MODERN TIMES
BLESSED are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.
BLESSED are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.
BLESSED are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
BLESSED are those who protect and care for our common home.
BLESSED are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
BLESSED are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.
A SINCERE THANK YOU
At the beginning of this new year, I want to thank everyone who has contributed to St. Peter’s in some way over the past year: the friars, the lay staff, the ministers at the altar, the many volunteers who assist in so many ways, and those who have contributed financially in order that we might keep our doors open, our services available, and our building working. On this latter point, due to the fact that our building is now 66 years old, it is showing its age in countless ways. This past year has caused us to spend far more than what we had budgeted for regular maintenance and for necessary repairs. Many of these items do not show exteriorly, but they must be addressed in order to keep things running smoothly. As you consider your contributions for the current year, please take all these needs into account if at all possible.
ST. PETER’S YOUNG ADULTS
Now that the holidays have come and gone, our Young Adults Group will begin again to meet on a regular basis. Everyone between the ages of 22-40 is welcome to join them on Monday evenings between 5:30-7:00 P.M. down in the auditorium. Usually the gathering begins with some refreshments and conversation for about a half hour and then some form of presentation and sharing for about an hour. On the First Monday of each month the group spends the time with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the friars’ chapel. Some evenings there are trips to a baseball game or some other fun place as well as ways of doing service for the needy. You do not have to register to attend beforehand. All you need do is stop down and introduce yourself to join. We hope to see you soon.
We can always use additional ministers to serve as readers, acolytes, and Communion Ministers at our weekday and weekend Masses. If you are interested, we invite you to get in touch with Mr. James Kapellas, who makes out the schedule and trains new individuals. How often you might want to join us at the altar for this service is completely up to you—you might want to be here once a week, every other week, once a month, etc. We think you would find that the Mass will come alive for you in a new way if you volunteer to serve in one of these capacities. You may contact Mr. Kapellas at 312-853-2418. If he is not in his office when you call, please leave a message with your name and telephone number, and he will be back in touch with you.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE NEW YEAR
An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor, and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed him to hear 100%.
The gentleman returned to the doctor in a month, and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”
To which the gentleman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will five times already!”