Last week in the bulletin I quoted from Pope Francis’ letter for the World Day of Peace, which is celebrated each New Year’s Day. The letter is entitled “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.” He talked about the importance of maintaining our reasons for hope since there is so much evil in the world. He speaks of a “globalization of indifference.” He looks at modern society and summarizes it this way, “We have come to think that we are the source and creator of ourselves, our lives and society. We feel self-sufficient, prepared not only to find a substitute for God but to do completely without him. As a consequence, we feel that we owe nothing to anyone but ourselves, and we claim only rights.” Now Pope Francis develops this theme further:
“On both the individual and communitarian levels, indifference to one’s neighbor, born of indifference to God, finds expression in disinterest and a lack of engagement, which only help to prolong situations of injustice and grave social imbalance. These in turn can lead to conflicts or, in any event, generate a climate of dissatisfaction which risks exploding sooner or later into acts of violence and insecurity.
“Indifference and lack of commitment constitute a grave dereliction of the duty whereby each of us must work in accordance with our abilities and our role in society for the promotion of the common good, and in particular for peace, which is one of mankind’s most precious goods.
“On the institutional level, indifference to others and to their dignity, their fundamental rights and their freedom, when it is part of a culture shaped by the pursuit of profit and hedonism, can foster and even justify actions and policies which ultimately represent threats to peace. Indifference can even lead to justifying deplorable economic policies which breed injustice, division and violence for the sake of ensuring the wellbeing of individuals or nations. Not infrequently, economic and political projects aim at securing or maintaining power and wealth, even at the cost of trampling on the basic rights and needs of others. When people witness the denial of their elementary rights, such as the right to food, water, health care or employment, they are tempted to obtain them by force.
“Moreover, indifference to the natural environment, by countenancing deforestation, pollution and natural catastrophes which uproot entire communities from their ecosystem and create profound insecurity, ends up creating new forms of poverty and new situations of injustice, often with dire consequences for security and peace. How many wars have been fought, and how many will continue to be fought, over a shortage of goods or out of an insatiable thirst for natural resources….
“Mercy is the heart of God. It must also be the heart of the members of the one great family of his children: a heart which beats all the more strongly wherever human dignity—as a reflection of the face of God in his creatures—is in play. Jesus tells us that love for others—foreigners, the sick, prisoners, the homeless, even our enemies—is the yardstick by which God will judge our actions. Our eternal destiny depends on this. It is not surprising that the Apostle Paul tells the Christians of Rome to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (cf. Rom 12:15), or that he encourages the Corinthians to take up collections as a sign of solidarity with the suffering members of the Church (cf. 1Cor 16:2-3). And St. John writes: ‘If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother or sister in need, yet refuses to help, how does God’s love abide in him?’ (1Jn 3:17, Jas 2:15-16).
“This then is why it is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy. Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father. The Church’s first truth is the love of Christ. The Church makes herself a servant of this love and mediates it to all people: a love that forgives and expresses itself in the gift of oneself. Consequently, wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.
“We too, then, are called to make compassion, love, mercy and solidarity a true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships with one another. This requires the conversion of our hearts: the grace of God has to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (cf. Ez 36:26), open to others in authentic solidarity. For solidarity is much more than a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. Solidarity is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all, because compassion flows from fraternity.
“Understood in this way, solidarity represents the moral and social attitude which best corresponds to an awareness of the scourges of our own day and to the growing interdependence, especially in a globalized world, between the lives of given individuals and communities and those of other men and women in the rest of the world….
“While conscious of the threat posed by a globalization of indifference, we should also recognize that, in the scenario I have just described, there are also many positive initiatives which testify to the compassion, mercy and solidarity of which we are capable. Here I would offer some examples of praiseworthy commitment, which demonstrates how all of us can overcome indifference in choosing not to close our eyes to our neighbor. These represent good practices on the way to a more humane society.
“There are many non-governmental and charitable organizations, both within and outside the Church, whose members, amidst epidemics, disasters and armed conflicts, brave difficulties and dangers in caring for the injured and sick, and in burying the dead. I would also mention those individuals and associations which assist migrants who cross deserts and seas in search of a better life. These efforts are spiritual and corporal works of mercy on which we will be judged at the end of our lives.
“I think also of the journalists and photographers who shape public opinion on difficult situations which trouble our consciences, and all those devoted to the defense of human rights, especially the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, indigenous peoples, women and children, and the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. Among them are also many priests and missionaries who, as good pastors, remain at the side of their flock and support them, heedless of danger and hardship, especially during armed conflicts.
“How many families, amid occupational and social difficulties, make great sacrifices to provide their children with a ‘counter-cultural’ education in the values of solidarity, compassion and fraternity! How many families open their hearts and homes to those in need, such as refugees and migrants! I wish to thank in a particular way all those individuals, families, parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines who readily responded to my appeal to welcome a refugee family.
“Finally, I would mention those young people who join in undertaking works of solidarity, and all those who generously help their neighbors in need in their cities and countries and elsewhere in the world. I thank and encourage everyone engaged in such efforts, which often pass unobserved. Their hunger and thirst for justice will be satisfied, their mercy will lead them to find mercy and, as peacemakers, they will be called children of God (cf. Mt 5:6-9).
SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Returning to Ordinary Time, we encounter today’s text from Isaiah, who envisions a joyful time for Zion, the mountain of Jerusalem, which represents the chosen people. Whereas earlier the Lord had spoken words of judgment against the people, now the prophet’s words speak of renewal and restoration: “Nations shall behold your vindication.” After having returned from exile, they are promised a time of renewal, “for the Lord delights in you.”
Paul reminds the Corinthians that “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts,” but all are given by “the same Spirit.” Each “is given for some benefit.” In their community, some felt that their gifts were superior to the gifts of others. Paul challenges them to view these gifts as beneficial to the community, using them for the common good. After all, they are “the manifestation of the Spirit” and so should bring about good results. The same is true of us today; our gifts should benefit the community, helping it to grow as a living witness to the gospel.
Tradition remembers the miracle at the wedding in Cana as Jesus’ first miracle, but it is only remembered in John’s text. For John it is the first of only seven miracles or “signs” performed by Jesus, which serve to reveal “his glory” and inspire faith in his disciples. That Jesus performed this miracle at a wedding shows us that Jesus goes out to meet people where they are; he does not wait for them to come to him.
For Reflection: What gift do I have that can serve the church? Do I sense the presence of Christ in the everyday moments of life or just in the religious moments? Do I take the time to recognize the many opportunities God gives me each day to be a witness, a disciple, or am I so preoccupied with many things that I don’t even see these opportunities?
MARCH FOR LIFE CHICAGO
We invite you to join with many people in and around Chicago for the March for Life which will be held today, Sunday, January 17, at the Federal Plaza, 50 West Adams, from 2:00-4:00 P.M. It is being sponsored by many organizations, including the Archdiocese of Chicago Respect Life Office. Speakers will include Archbishop Blasé Cupich, Melissa Ohden, an abortion survivor, Orthodox Bishop Paul of Chicago, and Pastor Wilfredo de Jesus of the New Life Covenant Church of Chicago. Some of those going to the March will also be attending our 12:30 Mass before heading to Federal Plaza. For more information, please go to MarchForLifeChicago.com. This will be an excellent way to make a positive statement about respecting life at all levels of existence.
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
January 18-25, 2016
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; you “had not received mercy” but now you have received mercy (1Pt 9-10).
From these two verses of Peter’s First Letter we have the theme for the 2016 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord. The relationship between baptism and proclamation, and the calling shared by all the baptized to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord forms the theme of this week.
St. Peter tells the early Church that in their search for meaning prior to encountering the Gospel they were not a people. But through hearing the call to be God’s chosen race and receiving the power of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, they have become God’s people. Baptism opens up an exciting new journey of faith, uniting each new Christian with God’s people throughout the ages. In the shared sacred texts of the Bible, we hear of God’s saving acts in salvation history: leading his people out of slavery in Egypt, and the great mighty act of God: the raising of Jesus from the dead, which opened new life to all of us. As Christians seeking the unity of the Body of Christ, we are all called to recognize the mighty acts of God in our own lives and the life of the Church.
The Church Unity Octave, a forerunner of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was developed by Father Paul Wattson, SA, at Graymoor in Garrison, New York, and was first observed at Graymoor from January 18-25, 1908. Today, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites the whole Christian community throughout the world to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus “that they all may be one (Jn 17:21).
In a very special way, then, let us remember this intention all this week both in our universal prayer at Mass and in our individual prayer that the strides already made will continue to be fruitful and that someday soon we truly may all be one.
COME AND SEE WEEKEND
Single Catholic men between the ages of 20-35 who are considering a call to religious life and service to the Church are invited to participate in a Come and See Weekend here at St. Peter’s from February 5-7, 2016. It is an opportunity to meet Franciscan Friars and learn about their prayer, community and ministry, as well as about their founder, St. Francis of Assisi, and his message for everyone. For more information, please call our Vocation Director, Br. Thom Smith, O.F.M. at 773-753-1925 or email him at [email protected].
A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE
Joe, a notoriously bad golfer, hits his ball off the first tee and watches as it slices to the right and disappears through an open window. Figuring that’s the end of it, he gets another ball out of his bag and plays on.
On the eighth hole, a police officer walks up to Joe on the course and says, “Did you hit a golf ball through a window back there?”
Joe says, “Yes, I did.” “Well, says the police officer. “it knocked a lamp over, scaring the dog, which raced out of the house onto the highway. A driver rammed into a brick wall to avoid the dog, sending three people to the hospital. And it’s all because you sliced the ball.”
“O, my goodness,” says Joe. “Is there anything I can do?”
The police officer replies, “Try keeping your head down and close up your stance a bit.”