January 8, 2023

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 few years ago, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI reminded 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.” Pope Francis continues to remind us through his words and actions of our responsibilities as Christians and as a Church to help refugees and migrants.

In the midst of the chaotic influx of refugees and asylum seekers on our southern border and 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.  Here in Chicago and other cities and towns throughout the country, we are experiencing first-hand the plight of many desperate people. the 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, Italian, Vietnamese, Filipino and other immigrants found a welcome in the Archdiocese of Chicago in the past, so also may immigrants today receive that same welcome from all of us who profess the name of Catholic in 21st century.

Monday, January 9, 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 10 until the Season of Lent arrives on February 22, Ash Wednesday.

In last weekend's bulletin, I included part one of the Message of Peace for 2023 of Pope Francis. The remaining part of his message is below. The first part will be found in last weekend's bulletin which also is available on our website.

Clearly, this is not the post-Covid era we had hoped for or expected. This war, together with all the other conflicts around the globe, represents a setback for the whole of humanity and not merely for the parties directly involved. While a vaccine has been found for Covid-19, suitable solutions have not yet been found for the war. Certainly, the virus of war is more difficult to overcome than the viruses that compromise our bodies, because it comes, not from outside of us, but from within the human heart corrupted by sin (cf. Gospel of Mark 7:17-23).

 5. What then is being asked of us? First of all, to let our hearts be changed by our experience of the crisis, to let God, at this time in history, transform our customary criteria for viewing the world around us. We can no longer think exclusively of carving out space for our personal or national interests; instead, we must think in terms of the common good, recognizing that we belong to a greater community, and opening our minds and hearts to universal human fraternity. We cannot continue to focus simply on preserving ourselves; rather, the time has come for all of us to endeavour to heal our society and our planet, to lay the foundations for a more just and peaceful world, and to commit ourselves seriously to pursuing a good that is truly common.

In order to do this, and to live better lives after the Covid-19 emergency, we cannot ignore one fundamental fact, namely that the many moral, social, political and economic crises we are experiencing are all interconnected, and what we see as isolated problems are actually causes and effects of one another. Consequently, we are called to confront the challenges of our world in a spirit of responsibility and compassion. We must revisit the issue of ensuring public health for all. We must promote actions that enhance peace and put an end to the conflicts and wars that continue to spawn poverty and death. We urgently need to join in caring for our common home and in implementing clear and effective measures to combat climate change. We need to battle the virus of inequality and to ensure food and dignified labour for all, supporting those who lack even a minimum wage and find themselves in great difficulty. The scandal of entire peoples starving remains an open wound. We also need to develop suitable policies for welcoming and integrating migrants and those whom our societies discard. Only by responding generously to these situations, with an altruism inspired by God’s infinite and merciful love, will we be able to build a new world and contribute to the extension of his kingdom, which is a kingdom of love, justice and peace.

In sharing these reflections, it is my hope that in the coming New Year we can journey together, valuing the lessons that history has to teach us. I offer my best wishes to Heads of State and Government, to Heads of International Organizations, and to the leaders of the different religions. To all men and women of good will I express my prayerful trust that, as artisans of peace, they may work, day by day, to make this a good year! May Mary Immaculate, Mother of Jesus and Queen of Peace, intercede for us and for the whole world.

Pope Francis, From the Vatican, 8 December 2022

As we begin this New Year of 2023. I especially want to express deep gratitude to all who contributed to the Pastor's 2022 Christmas Appeal. In the midst of the financial difficulties throughout the world, the on-going danger of COVID and its variants, the FLU, RSV and other illnesses, the generous donations 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.

In the New Year, please remember to wear a mask when needed, wash your hands often, and continue to follow health protocols of the city, state and Archdiocese. With vaccines and boosters widely available, let us pray that the danger of getting a serious illness 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 2023 TO YOU ALL!!!

Fr. Michael