As a priest I often hear people telling me their troubles. Sometimes it involves a relationship that has gone sour, and the individual is wondering whether it can ever be reconciled. Other times it is about finances and how a person is going to make it from paycheck to paycheck or how they will ever be able to pay off their debts whether that be from college loans, credit cards, furniture or clothes they have billed to be paid off over a certain amount of time, etc. Sometimes it’s about a parent who is worried about a son or daughter who is struggling in school or trying to avoid getting hooked on drugs. Maybe it concerns a troubled marriage that seems to be heading more and more toward the possibility of divorce. We all would like to experience peace rather than difficulty, joy rather than sorrow.
Any of these situations, especially if they go on over a fair amount of time, can be very debilitating and, left untended, could become greatly depressing and even possibly lead to anger against God for God not taking care of them despite the fact that an individual has prayed and asked for help. We are all too ready to tell God how he should respond to our need and the timetable that it should happen. But at the heart of our spiritual journey is absolute trust in God and a living acceptance of the virtue of hope.
Faith, hope and love. St. Paul in 1Cor 13:13 declares that these three things are the bottom line in the Christian life. They are called the theological virtues, the qualities that make us most like God. We hear plenty about faith and love, but unfortunately hope often seems forgotten. If hope is included in this short list, it must be important. But why? And what is it precisely?
To accomplish great things in life, you need a future goal that is big enough to keep you motivated. The promise of a diploma keeps college students up late writing papers when they would prefer to be partying. The dream of Olympic glory gets the runner out of bed to put in miles while others are comfortably snoozing.
In the spiritual life, you will never do great things for God unless you have your eye on the long-term goal: to experience indescribable joy in his presence forever. The ecstasy of gazing upon him, whose beauty eternally awes the hosts of heaven, the exhilarating company of friends, family and fascinating people from all ages—purified, glorified, finished masterpieces of divine love—this is what “the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6) will usher in for those who are ready.
The virtue of hope is the eager, energizing expectation of this glorious inheritance, and it is also the confidence that he who began the work of salvation in us will bring it to completion. Some think Catholics live in fearful insecurity, perpetually worrying that they may not make the grade. There are other Christians, on the other hand, who believe that once people accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, they are absolutely saved. Period! God is faithful, they reason, and he never reneges on his promises. Once saved, you are always saved.
This is partially true. God’s promise is sure. He gives us grace to accept Christ and salvation. But his grace never comes in a way that short circuits our freedom. In other words, God is a lover; he does not force his will on us. He never overpowers us and carries us away against our will. The possibility always remains that we will use our freedom to walk away, as did the prodigal son. Fortunately, the prodigal son came to his senses and returned. But note that the father did not send out a posse. The wayward son returned of his own accord. The story could have ended otherwise.
No matter the circumstances, we have every reason to hope. The Cathechism of the Catholic Church defines hope as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (#1817). One opposite of hope is despair, which is the failure to believe that God’s mercies are never exhausted. But hope has other opposites as well, such as sloth, or spiritual laziness. When faced with the prospect of life forever with God, sloth yawns and says, “Boring!”
Or how about presumption? Hope is humble confidence that God won’t give up on me. Presumption is the arrogant and lazy expectation that God owes me mercy regardless of how neglectful I am of the means of seeking grace via sacraments or obligations of our faith, such as Mass, prayer and confession. Hope is a spiritual muscle. But like all muscles, it must be exercised. Unused muscles atrophy. The “use it or lose it” sentiment applies.
To consciously turn our gaze from our daily worries to the glory of heaven is the spiritual exercise that builds the virtue of hope. And it is this hope that will be the anchor preventing us from being swept away by the inevitable storms of earthly life. Holding onto that hope can give us strength to cope with the difficulties of the journey.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The prophet Jeremiah lived in turbulent times. Like other prophets, he writes and speaks with a conscious sense of mission. The words he speaks are not his own: “The word of the Lord came to me.” But like many other prophets, Jeremiah, who was dedicated “in the womb” as “a prophet to the nations,” will meet resistance from “Judah’s kings and princes…its priests and people.” But God promises they will “not prevail over you, for I am with you.”
Paul encourages the Corinthians to “strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.” He has already spoken of the various gifts given by the Spirit and reminded them that they are to be used for the common good. In today’s text he tells us that above all the other gifts is the gift of love. Quoting what is thought to be an ancient Christian hymn, Paul says that without love we are “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal…nothing.” United by baptism to Christ, we are called to be what love is: “patient, kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude, not quick-tempered.” “It bears all things, endures all things.” Following the example of Jesus, who loved even those who persecuted him, we are called to strive to live this gift as best as we can in our own lives.
Like Jeremiah, Jesus meets resistance for his preaching. Luke tells us that he met it at the beginning of his public ministry, following his first sermon in Nazareth. Jesus reminds the people in that synagogue that God’s mercy extends beyond borders, embracing Jew and gentile alike. He reminds them of earlier prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who both ministered to foreigners. The people respond by being “filled with fury,” seeking “to hurl him down the brow of the hill headlong.” But Luke’s narrative tells us that he “went away” to Capernaum, which will become his new home base.
For Reflection: How can I better live out the gift of love in my own life? Do I sometimes reject the words of God’s prophets today?
FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
According to the Jewish law, the firstborn male child belonged to God, and the parents had to “buy him back” on the 40th day after his birth by offering a sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Lk 2:24) in the Temple (thus the presentation of the child). On that same day, the mother would be ritually purified (thus the purification). Mary and Joseph kept the Law even though, since Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus, she would not have had to go through ritual purification.
When Christ was presented in the Temple, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple, Simeon embraced the Child and prayed the Canticle of Simeon: “Now you may dismiss your servant, Lord, according to your word in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel (Lk 2:29-32)
This year we want to celebrate this feast in a special way. Therefore we invite you to join us this Tuesday, February 2, for a Solemn Mass at 11:40 A.M. Please note that there will be no 12:15 Mass on this Tuesday since the Solemn Mass will still be taking place. This will officially close the Year of Consecrated Life. I encourage everyone who comes to St. Peter’s to continue praying for all consecrated persons and for many more vocations to this way of life.
YOUNG CATHOLIC PROFESSIONALS
We invite you to the Young Catholic Professionals Kickoff Reception on Tuesday, February 2, 2016, from 7:00-9:00 P.M. at the University Club of Chicago, 76 East Monroe Street, Chicago 60603.
YCP Chicago brings together young adults to connect and deepen their Catholic faith while pursuing demanding careers. Please join us for our complimentary kickoff reception and happy hour. Mass will be offered before the event at 6:00 P.M. right here at St. Peter’s. You can RSVP online today at youngcatholicprofessionals.org. Don’t delay; click on the website and make your plans today!
FEAST OF ST. BLASÉ (Blaise)
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
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, 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.
Here at St. Peter’s we will offer the St. Blasé Blessing after each of the weekday Masses on Wednesday, February 3. If you cannot make it to one of the Masses, you may receive the blessing at the front office during the regularly scheduled hours.
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].
- MATTHEW YANG’S MASS OF THANKSGIVING
As we reported several weeks ago in the bulletin, we rejoice with rejoice with Br. Matthew Yang, O.F.M., who was ordained to the ministerial priesthood in Korea on Monday, January 11, 2016. Now Father Matthew has been spending the days after his ordination visiting with his family and also going from friary to friary in his province offering Mass, greeting his fellow friars, and offering praise and thanks to God for the gift of priesthood he has received.
He will return to the United States, to Chicago, and to the final semester of his theological studies on Wednesday, February 3rd. He will celebrate his Mass of Thanksgiving here at St. Peter’s next Sunday, February 7, at the 11:00 Mass. We invite you to participate in this glorious occasion and to wish him well as he begins to exercise his priesthood in the days ahead. We congratulate Fr. Matthew and pray for him that he will find much peace and joy as a priest for years to come.
SAINT PETER’S MEN’S GROUP
You may not be aware that every Monday evening at 5:00 P.M. we have a meeting down in the auditorium called “Saint Peter’s Men’s Group.” You will find it listed every week in the bulletin in the Activities section. This group has been meeting for many years and has played a great part in the lives of many men who have been coming together for support and assistance as they grow and mature. The primary reason for the group’s existence is for men who are dealing with some aspect of sexual addiction: it could be pornography, masturbation, marital infidelity, visiting adult book stores, seeking massage for something other than relief of sore muscles, feeling sexual temptations to be too much to handle, etc.
At a meeting you will find you are not alone in what you are dealing with; others have been struggling with the same problems. You will also find individuals who can testify that there is hope because they are now free of their subjection to addiction. There will also be persons who are willing to be your sponsor, and you will find all this done in an atmosphere of confidentiality, spirituality and Christian love of neighbor. We invite anyone to try this Men’s Group who wants to get better. That’s Mondays at 5:00 P.M. in the St. Clare Auditorium. Spending this hour a week could very well save your life and save your marriage.
A CHUCKLE FOR YOU
It seems 103 passengers and only 40 meals got loaded on an India to United States flight. The airline had messed up, and the crew was in a fix. However, one smart flight attendant had an idea. About 30 minutes into the flight, she nervously announces, “I don’t know how this happened, but we have 103 passengers and only 40 dinners.”
When the muttering of the passengers had died down, she continued, “Anyone who is kind enough to give up his/her meal so that someone else can eat will receive free unlimited liquor during the entire duration of the flight.”
Her next announcement came an hour and a half later, “If anyone wants to change his/her mind, we still have 40 dinners available!”