Today, on this feast of the Epiphany, we are reminded by the liturgy that Joseph and Mary and the child had to escape persecution after the visit of the Magi. Today throughout the world many people also are fleeing persecution, hunger and danger and have become refugees and migrants. A couple of years ago Pope emeritus Benedict XVI remined us that, “…every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance.”
In the midst of the harsh debate and discussion about immigration issues in the USA and throughout the world, it is important that as Catholics we keep before us the teachings of the Church and the stance of Scripture in addressing this issue. The US Bishops Conference in their statement, Welcoming Christ in the Migrant can help us to look at this difficult issue from our Catholic perspective. They began that statement by saying,
We live in an age when strangers in our midst have become a source of suspicion and fear. Jesus’ command for us to welcome these strangers as we would welcome him is at odds with much of the prevailing sentiment expressed today. Debates over whether and how to address the migration phenomenon fill not only the halls of government but even community and parish halls. The historically generous American spirit has been replaced in some quarters with calls for isolation and restriction. In this fearful environment, how is a Christian to respond? Christ’s call is unchanging: we are obliged to welcome the stranger, knowing that “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). A disposition of openness and welcoming to the stranger signifies the same to Christ himself. Pope Benedict XVI highlights the importance of this dynamic in his first encyclical, God Is Love (Deus Caritas Est). In it he stressed that “love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God” (no. 15). [from US Bishops Statement on Immigration]
As we recall the visit of the Magi and the subsequent need of Mary and Joseph to flee with the child Jesus from their own homeland to Egypt to escape persecution may our prayers be for those in our day who have had to escape persecution also. May those who seek a place to freely express their faith in Christ and freedom to express their views find a welcome in each of us who try to follow the Gospel ideals of welcome and acceptance. Just as many German, Irish, Polish, Vietnamese, Filipino and other immigrants found a welcome in the Archdiocese in the past so also may immigrants today receive that same welcome from all of us who profess the name of Catholic in this 21st century.
Next weekend we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the completion of the Christmas season. We then return to Ordinary Time in the Church's calendar on January 11 until the Season of Lent arrives with Ash Wednesday on February 17.
As we begin this New Year of 2021, I wish to express a very heartfelt THANK YOU to all who helped with our Christmas Season Masses and celebrations. Though our celebrations were much simpler due to the COVID restrictions we were still able to celebrate the great mystery and gift of God becoming human for the salvation of the world. I also express a loud THANKS to our faithful parish staff, the Franciscan Friars who help at St. Peters and all of you who faithfully support the ministry here.
I especially want to express deep gratitude to all who contributed to the Pastor's Christmas Appeal. In the midst of the financial difficulties of our nation, the danger of the COVID virus and fewer people in the Loop these days, the generous donation of so many of you helps us to continue to provide ministry here in the Loop to all who come. To all of our faithful benefactors, both those who help financially and those who help with the gift of your time and service, be assured of our prayers for all of you and your family.
As we begin the new year of 2021 I encourage you to consider participating in one or more of the programs that will be offered by St. Peter's Church. Fr. Derran will again offer the Little Rock Scripture Study Program as well as a number of other programs in the coming months. Be sure and check the bulletin and the church web site for more information. Though we cannot yet meet face to face our Zoom and You Tube programs have been utilized by a number of people in the past months.
As we begin the New Year please remember to wear a mask, wash your hands often, avoid crowds and continue to follow health protocols of the city, state and Archdiocese. With vaccines beginning to be distributed let us pray that the danger of this virus may soon be lessened. As people who proclaim Respect for Life let each one of us do our part to ensure the health of one another in the coming months.
On behalf of the parish staff and the Franciscan Friars, I would like to thank everyone who gave us gifts, sent cards, kept us in your prayers and remembered us during Christmas. We are deeply humbled by your support and please be assured that you and all our benefactors are in our prayers.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021 TO YOU ALL!!!!