July 15, 2018
Last week in this column I summarized the thoughts of a Protestant pastor in his new book Quit Church, in which he writes that followers of Jesus are called to be “all-in” as they respond to the Lord’s call as a disciple. His point was that all too frequently we are willing to be superficial in our response rather than understanding that, even though we are weak from time to time, we try our best to imitate Jesus, who was willing to give completely of himself for us, even to suffering and dying that we might live.
Today I’d like to offer the perspective of Pope Francis, who is addressing this same point. During his address to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square about a year ago, he said, “The disciple of Christ is not one who is deprived of something essential; he is one who has found much more: he has found the fullness of joy that only the Lord can give. It is the evangelical joy of healed people: of forgiven sinners, of the thief to whom is opened the door of paradise.”
Speaking about that day’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, which tells the parables of the “hidden treasure” and the “pearl of great price,” Pope Francis emphasized that “the attitude of searching is the essential condition for finding.” The treasure is the kingdom of God, found through the person of Jesus Christ, the pope said. And to obtain it, our hearts must burn with the desire to seek it and find it out. “He is the hidden treasure, he is the pearl of great value. He is the fundamental discovery, which can make a decisive turning point in our lives, filling it with meaning.”
Too many of us spend our whole lives searching in the wrong places, for things that will never satisfy our deepest longing. The parables that Jesus tells in St. Matthew’s Gospel speak to the urgency of seeking, and ultimately finding, “hidden treasure” and the “pearl of great price.” Whether we find them by accident or as the result of a long and difficult process of seeking, our reaction should be immediate and all-encompassing. We must sell everything we have, without counting the cost to ourselves, and embrace the new-found treasure, the pearl of great price, as the secret to all life’s mysteries.
As Pope Francis has written in his encyclical Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home, “Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise” (#12). This is a great discovery that the missionary disciple makes when he or she encounters the person of Jesus Christ and gives up everything to follow him and proclaim his Good News.
The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price “highlight two characteristics concerning the possession of the kingdom of God,” Pope Francis said, “searching and sacrifice.” It is true, the pope says, “the kingdom of God is offered to all—it is a gift, a favor, a grace—but it is not made available on a silver plate. It requires dynamism: it is to seek, to walk, to do.”
Consistent with his intolerance for “lazy Christians” or those of us who are content to remain indoors in the comfort and security of our homes, Pope Francis says that the Gospel demands action, not mere lip service. Giving up everything—including our very lives—for the sake of the Gospel is the most dramatic form of action that a missionary disciple can take in response to the Lord’s invitation, “Come, follow me” (Mt 4:19).
“Evaluating the invaluable treasure leads to a decision that also involves sacrifice, detachment and renunciation,” the pope says. A disciple’s choice to sacrifice everything for Christ is not a matter of “despising” the things of this world, but of putting things in their proper order, placing Jesus first before everything else. And doing so leads to the joy of the Gospel, which fills the hearts and lives of those who have found Jesus. “Those who are saved by him are freed from sin, sadness, inner void, and isolation,” the pope said. “With Jesus Christ, the joy is always born and reborn.”
Every one of us seeks the “consoling presence of Jesus in our lives.” And this presence, Pope Francis said, is one that transforms our hearts, opening us up to the needs of our brothers and sisters, in particular those who are weaker or more vulnerable than we are, especially the poor, migrants and refugees, the unborn, elderly and infirm on the margins of society.
We pray that each of us will witness with daily words and gestures the joy of having found the treasure of the Kingdom of God, that is, the love the Father has given us through Jesus.
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
For today and the following six Sundays, we read from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, whose theme is captured by these words: “In the Church, Christ fulfills and reveals his own mystery as the purpose of God’s plan: ‘to unite all things in Christ.’” Today’s reading from Ephesians presents a beautiful hymn praising God the Father who has chosen us in Christ and blessed us in the Spirit “with every spiritual blessing” from all eternity.
In the First Reading, God calls Amos from his ordinary life as a “shepherd and a dresser of sycamores” to become a prophet carrying God’s Word to God’s people. Amos’ task is to challenge the people to repent and to return to their covenant relationship.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends out the Apostles in pairs to share in his ministry of preaching and healing. Called “to preach repentance,” they have no visible means of support, but God’s grace was with them as they “drove out many demons and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” This is the first of two places in the New Testament where healing occurs in relation to anointing with oil. The Letter of James shows the early Church continuing Jesus’ instruction to heal those who are sick. “Are there any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13).
Today the Church continues this instruction in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Just as were the prophet Amos and the Apostles, we have been chosen to be the Son’s coworkers in continuing God’s plan of bringing healing and grace to a broken world.
In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis points out that the Gospel is not about our personal relationship with God or about performing a series of charitable acts, but about “loving God who reigns in our world. To the extent that he reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity.” Pope Francis points out that “Jesus’ mission is to inaugurate the kingdom of his Father; he commands his disciples to proclaim the good news that ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (#180).
Just as Jesus sent his followers to preach and to heal, Christians today must continue to pass on the faith. Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, states, “God has seen to it that what He had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all generations. Therefore Christ the Lord, in whom the full revelation of the supreme God is brought to completion, commissioned the Apostles to preach to all that Gospel which is the source of all saving truth and moral teaching, and to impart to them heavenly gifts” (#7).
For Your Reflection: Do you ever consider that there are unlikely prophets in your midst? Is it hard for you to realize that you are chosen by God to do his work in the world? How do you seek to make the Kingdom of God come alive in your home and workplace?
THEOLOGY ON TAP
Attention, Young Adults (20-40)! Theology on Tap continues this Monday, July 16—5:30-7:30 P.M.
Our speaker this week is Chelsea Piper from the Archdiocese of Chicago. She will speak on the topic “Authentic Masculinity and Femininity.” The guided discussion will focus on what gender means in a modern, faith-based context.
We hope to see you Monday in the St. Clare Auditorium downstairs for some food, some friendship, and some good discussion.
MISSIONARY PREACHING THIS WEEKEND
We are pleased to welcome Fr. Bernard E. Okafor to preach at all the weekend Masses as part of the Missionary Coop Program of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and to take up a second collection for his home diocese of Okigwe, Nigeria. Okigwe is one of the 55 dioceses in Nigeria with a population of about 120,000 Catholics in a 3,000 square mile area. The diocese was erected in 1981. Nigeria is a country blessed in a special way with good climate (no snow), so that you can wear light clothing all year round. It has good vegetation, solid and liquid minerals, and human resources as well. However the problem in Nigeria is a problem of leadership. This has left this rich country impoverished as the country’s wealth is in the hands of the very few, and little is done to help the poor masses. Therefore, the burden of caring for the poor lies on the Church.
In this diocese, much emphasis is laid on education and health care. After the civil war of 1967-70, the government took over all the mission schools and made them public. This ended up lowering the standards in education, moral decadence, and other vices. However, now seven of these schools have been returned to the diocese, but they are now in poor condition and in need of much repair. The diocese is therefore seeking for help to renovate these schools for the education of our teeming youth population.
Whatever we realize in this appeal this year will be used to renovate one of these returned schools, Mercy Girls High School. This is an all-girls high school for the proper training of our women folk, our future mothers. We wish to re-roof the school’s multi-purpose hall that serves as an examination hall, social hall, and a place for liturgical functions. Secondly, there is need to renovate the school hostels, making them conducive for the students. Thank you in advance for helping us achieve these objectives.
OUR BI-LINGUAL WEDNESDAY MASS
I want to take this opportunity to remind you that we have a bi-lingual Mass (English and Spanish) at our 1:15 Mass every Wednesday. We have been doing this for some time to acknowledge, at least in some small way, the growing number of Spanish-speaking individuals who come to St. Peter’s. Usually part of the homily, parts of the Eucharistic Prayer, and the Our Father are spoken in Spanish as well as some other sections, depending on the decision of the Presider. It has been some time since I have mentioned this practice, so if you know of some friends who ask if we ever have a Spanish Mass, please pass on this information to them.
Also, we now have three friar priests who can hear confessions in Spanish: Fr. Tom Ess, Fr. Carlos Ruiz, and Fr. Ed Shea. Anyone who wishes to confess in Spanish may call the Front Office during regular hours (312-372-5111) and ask when they are assigned for confessions on a particular day. Please don’t hesitate to call.
RETROUVAILLE—A LIFELINE FOR MARRIAGES
The word Retrouvaille (re-tro-vi with a long i) is a French word meaning rediscovery. This program helps couples heal and renew their marriages and offers tools needed to rediscover a loving marriage relationship. Do you feel lost, alone or bored in your marriage? Are you frustrated, hurt or angry with your spouse? Are you constantly fighting? Have you thought about separation or divorce? Does talking about it only make it worse? Thousands of couples headed for cold, unloving relationships have successfully overcome their marriage problems by attending this program. Some couples come during the initial signs of a marriage problem and others are in a state of despair. The Retrouvaille Program consists of a weekend experience combined with a series of 6 post-weekend sessions. The tools learned here will help put your marriage in order again. The main emphasis of the program is on communication in marriage between husband and wife. It will give you the opportunity to rediscover each other and examine your lives together in a new and positive way.
You can go to www.retrouvaille.org for general information about the program. You can also find upcoming dates for Retrouvaille in our area as well as throughout the United States. For questions or further information contact Robin and Phil Kain (773-544-0498) or e-mail them at [email protected]. Don’t delay; do it today!
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company over 30 years, he retired. Several years after, the company contacted him with a problem they were having with one of their multi-million dollar machines.
They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine fixed, but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past. The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small “x” in chalk on a particular component of the machine and proudly stated, “This is where your problem is.”
The part was replaced, and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges.
The engineer responded with the following account:
Knowing where to put the “x”: $49,999.00