As I write this article (Memorial Day 2020), there is a great divide in our country about how fast or how slowly all aspects of the closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic should be lifted. Some states have already almost completely opened everything, including beaches, gyms, restaurants, bars, daycares, etc., while the city of Chicago has indicated that this might not happen here for at least two or three weeks from now. The Archdiocese of Chicago has fashioned a very complex approach to gradually reopening our churches, while some people are extremely upset with Cardinal Cupich for taking such a restrained approach causing Catholics to wait even longer before being able to participate in public Masses. This morning we even found on both sides of our kiosk on the sidewalk in front of St. Peter’s, posters which read, “CARDINAL CUPICH: STAND WITH THE FAITHFUL, NOT THE TYRANTS. OPEN OUR CHURCHES.”
Jesus, while he was on this earth, proclaimed the Gospel despite opposition. The Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed are summary statements of what Christians believe. Although the wording in these two creeds is somewhat different, they express the same essential beliefs of the faith. Both proclaim that Jesus became incarnate—became flesh and blood—and was crucified, resurrected and returned to God the Father. What is a surprise is that neither creed says anything about Jesus’ mission here on earth. While the creedal statements are at the core of our faith, what Jesus did and preached comes mostly from what the four Gospel accounts tell us.
Unfortunately, we do not have a complete record of Jesus’ earthly ministry. If anything was written during his lifetime, it did not survive in its original form. Some Scripture scholars suggest that such a document, called the “Q source” (from the German word for “source,” “quelle”—was used by the writers of the synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke, and explains why they share so much in common. Though they share common stories, the synoptic Gospels use these common stories in different ways. In addition, each of the Gospel writers also had unique sources about Jesus’ life. This is especially true for the Gospel according to John.
Even given the differences in the Gospels, there are certain things about Jesus’ mission that come through clearly. For one, all the Gospel accounts note that Jesus was determined in what he wanted to do. He called the men he wanted for disciples with such passion that they stopped what they were doing and followed him immediately. He spoke with such force and persuasion that people followed him with abandon, and those who didn’t, decided to kill him because he was too threatening.
St. Luke tells us that Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee, in the town of Nazareth where he was raised. There, he read aloud in the synagogue the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2 announcing that his mission would be to bring glad tidings to the poor, to set captives free, to give sight to the blind and to free the oppressed. Putting down the scroll, he announced that he was the fulfillment of that passage. The people were amazed at his words because they had known him from infancy, but then after he spoke some words they didn’t agree with, they decided to throw him off a nearby cliff. Jesus did not back down even from the toughest audiences.
A key focus of Jesus’ mission was to proclaim the kingdom of God. He told stories and used analogies to help people gain an idea of what the kingdom would be. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), Jesus teaches that in the kingdom even our enemies are to be treated with love and respect. In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus teaches that God gives us all that we need, even if we waste it, and that God will be waiting for us when we return. In the parable of the sower, Jesus reveals to us God’s great generosity.
And in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:3-12) and the Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:20-36), Jesus offers us the new commandments of the kingdom. The Gospel of John recognizes Jesus’ miracles as signs that the kingdom is at hand. Jesus did not back down from proclaiming the kingdom of God even when he was told to stop. Even then, he kept proclaiming the Good News of salvation, regardless of the consequences. Jesus was faithful to his mission, even though it led to his death.
As Pope Francis repeatedly reminds us, each of us is called to join in Jesus’ mission to proclaim that message with enthusiasm and joy. We are to be beacons of hope, radiant in the joy of the Gospel, not “sourpusses” who are put off by the Gospel’s challenges. Matthew 25 presents Jesus’ teaching on an essential part of what being a disciple entails: the scene is the final judgment, and those who are saved have cared for those in need by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to those who thirst, welcoming the stranger and caring for those who are ill or in prison.
We are to show mercy and compassion to others as God shows mercy and compassion to us. We are to forgive others repeatedly and willingly—“not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22), as Jesus tells Peter in the Gospel of Matthew. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be witnesses to his life and to his mission. While we may not be called to die for our faith as some witnesses do—the word “martyr” means “witness”—we are called to be living examples of what it means to make manifest the Gospel to its fullness in our daily lives and to proclaim the kingdom of God as Jesus did.
So what does all this teach us about how to live our faith during this time of the pandemic? While all of us long for when we once again will be back in our churches celebrating Mass together, perhaps right now we need to focus on whether we are feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to those who thirst, welcoming the stranger and caring for those who are ill or in prison. As Jesus has told us, “By this will all know that you are my disciples.”
SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
Today’s Responsorial Psalm, from Daniel 3, comes from a hymn of praise sung by three Jews who, although exiled to Babylon and put into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship a golden statue, were not burnt.
God’s people have not always been so resolute against idolatry, however. In Exodus 34, Moses is instructed to make two new tablets of the covenant because he angrily broke the former tablets when he saw the people worshipping a golden calf. Like the people who want a more concrete and visible image for God in the absence of Moses, Moses seems to have trouble following a God whom he cannot see (Exodus 33), so he asks to see God’s face (see Exodus 33:12-13). Despite all of this, God makes a point to repeat the covenant and ask Moses to remake the tablets to affirm that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
We see God’s love emphasized also in John 3. Note here that often articulated but utterly mistaken idea that there is a God of wrath in the Old Testament but a God of love in the New Testament. In fact, it is difficult, if not impossible, to capture the God of the Bible in a single sentence. After all, today’s Gospel mentions God’s decisive condemnation of unbelievers. Likewise, the “merciful and gracious” God of Exodus 34 is also a “jealous God” who tells Moses that he must drive out people who are already populating the Promised Land (Exodus 34:11, 14). This, like the pronouncement of condemnation in John 3, is very different from the call to “live in peace” in 2 Corinthians 13.
In today’s Gospel we hear that God sent his Son so “the world might be saved through him.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #51, explains the unity of the work of the Trinity while quoting from Dei Verbum #2. “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.”
The Second Reading is the conclusion to the Second Letter to the Corinthians. Paul’s final words to the Church in Corinth mirror the priest’s greeting at the beginning of Mass: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.” Our understanding of the Trinity has been handed down from the early Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church #250, explains: “During the first centuries the Church sought to clarify its Trinitarian faith. This clarification was the work of the early councils, aided by the theological work of the Church Fathers and sustained by the Christian people’s sense of the faith.”
For Your Reflection: Moses describes God as “rich in kindness and fidelity.” How do you describe God? St. Paul tells the Corinthians to rejoice. Do you think of joy as part of our mandate to live out the Gospel? How can you take to heart St. Paul’s directive to “mend your ways, encourage one another, live in peace”?
ST. PETER’S OPENING FOR CONFESSIONS ONLY
We will be opening our church on Monday, June 8, 2020 for confessions only. We will do so in accord with the directives of the Archdiocese of Chicago. At a later date the nave of the church will be open first for private prayer and eventually for public Masses.
If you wish to go to confession, you must enter by the handicap door only. Penitents will be asked to wear a face mask or covering at all times. You will be welcomed and then directed down to the lower level either by the stairs or by the elevator. Once there, we will have the hallway marked with tape so that each person will be six feet apart. A maximum of ten people will be allowed inside at one time. Confessions will be heard in room B of the auditorium. A chair will be provided for the penitent, and it will be disinfected before the next penitent enters. When you are finished with your confession, you will be asked to return directly to the lobby in order to exit through the handicap door.
At St. Peter’s confessions, beginning on Monday, June 8, will be heard Monday-Saturday from 10:30 A.M. until 3:00 P.M. If you have any questions, please call our office at 312-372-5111.
SAINT BARNABAS, APOSTLE
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Barnabas, a Jew of Cyprus, comes as close as anyone outside the Twelve to being a full-fledged apostle. He was closely associated with Saint Paul—he introduced Paul to Peter and the other apostles—and served as a kind of mediator between the former persecutor and the still suspicious Jewish Christians.
When a Christian community developed at Antioch, Barnabas was sent as the official representative of the Church of Jerusalem to incorporate them into the fold. He and Paul instructed in Antioch for a year, after which they took relief contributions to Jerusalem.
Later, Paul and Barnabas, now clearly seen as charismatic leaders, were sent by Antioch officials to preach to the gentiles. Enormous success crowned their efforts. After a miracle at Lystra, the people wanted to offer sacrifice to them as gods—Barnabas being Zeus, and Paul, Hermes—but the two said, “We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God” (see Acts 14:8-18).
But all was not peaceful. They were expelled from one town, they had to go to Jerusalem to clear up the ever-recurring controversy about circumcision, and even the best of friends can have differences. When Paul wanted to revisit the places they had evangelized, Barnabas wanted to take along his cousin, John Mark, author of the Gospel, but Paul insisted that since Mark had deserted them once, he was not fit to take along now. The disagreement that followed was so sharp that Barnabas and Paul separated: Barnabas taking Mark to Cyprus, Paul taking Silas to Syria. Later they were reconciled—Paul, Barnabas and Mark.
When Paul stood up to Peter for not eating with gentiles for fear of his Jewish friends, we learn that “even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy” (see Gal 2:1-13).
Barnabas is spoken of simply as one who dedicated his life to the Lord. He was a man “filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. Thereby, large numbers were added to the Lord.” Even when he and Paul were expelled from Antioch and Pisidia—modern-day Turkey—they were “filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”
Barnabas is a good example and model for us today. Things do not always go the way we would like: sometimes friendships are shattered even though we think we were not at fault, occasionally we might feel overwhelmed at all that is going on around us, perhaps we feel that God has not come through for us the way we expected. How do we react under these circumstances? I suggest we look to Barnabas and “be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”
BR. DOUG COLLINS, O.F.M.
Br. Doug Collins, for the past several years, has been working at Franciscan Outreach in a variety of capacities. As a member of the St. Peter’s Community he has been a great asset to our brotherhood. Now during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic when some of the friars have been helping with the cooking, Br. Doug has shown us a side of himself that many of us were not so much aware of: he is a very good cook. Since Br. Doug did not have a specific ministry at the church, you might not have seen him often, but he was a regular Sunday worshipper at the 11:00 Mass as a Communion Minister and sometimes also as a Reader.
The talented Br. Doug has now been chosen to join the formation team at our St. Joseph Friary in Hyde Park, so he has moved there to begin his new assignment. We wish him well. Remember him in prayer. We hope he will periodically return to St. Peter’s for a fraternal visit.