Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent and traditionally called, Laetare Sunday or Rejoice Sunday. We are half-way through the season of Lent. Holy Week and the Easter season are quickly approaching. As we walk through Lent 2021 we are reminded that this is the second Lent that we have faced the dangers of the COVID virus. Though the increasing distribution of preventative vaccines is helping combat this deadly virus there are still far too many people who refuse to take steps to help prevent the spread of this disease. Though medical personnel say wearing a mask is crucial to help stop the spread of COVID, there are those who continue to think this life saving behavior will "interfere with my personal right." Though the scientific evidence is overwhelming too many people still, "insist that large gatherings of people, with no social distance will not be deadly." And there are countless unfounded and frankly false beliefs on the internet, social media and even in conversations with others about COVID, vaccines and safe behaviors that can help stop the spread of this disease.
On December 21, 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), issued a statement noting it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to take vaccines against COVID-19. Among other things, the CDF stated:
"All vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive” … “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one's own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good."
"In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed."
As members of the Church we profess our belief in the sanctity of ALL life. In this Lenten Season we recall the teachings of Jesus. We hear stories of his healing the sick, welcoming the stranger and outcasts. We are challenged by his words and life to think not only of ourselves but of others. In the Gospel today, St. John writes, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." As today's passage from the Gospel concludes we hear, "...whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that [their] works may be clearly seen as done in God." (cf. John 3:14-21)
For more information about the COVID vaccines from the perspective of the Church go to the US Bishops web site: www.usccb.org/prolife or the Vatican web site at: www.vatican.va You will also find information on the Archdiocese of Chicago web site: https://www.archchicago.org as well as other diocese web sites.
As I wrote in last week's bulletin, On December 8, 2020, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter titled, Patris Corde ("With a Father's Heart"). In this Letter the Pope describes Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.
You are invited to join us this Friday, March 19, to celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, at the 11:40am or 1:15pm Mass here at St. Peter's. We celebrate these special Masses to honor the memory of this holy man and pray that all of us might be as faithful to God as St. Joseph was in his life.
As we continue our journey in this Lenten Season, I encourage you, to come to daily Mass, join us for Stations of the Cross or celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation here at St. Peter's. We have Masses Monday-Friday at 11:40am and 1:15pm.
We pray the Stations of the Cross on Fridays at 2:00pm. If you come to the 1:15pm Mass on Fridays you are invited to remain in your place after Mass for quiet prayer and then stay for Stations of the Cross at 2pm. You are asked to reserve a place at Mass or stations by calling the church office at 312-372-5111. We offer the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) Monday - Saturday from 10:30am - 3:00pm. Reservations are not required for confession.
Pope Francis March 5-8, 2021 visited the country of Iraq becoming the first Pope ever to visit that war-torn country. In his meeting with civic leaders, visiting with Catholics and those of other faiths, especially Muslim leaders, the Pope sought to listen to others and to share his message of peace and our common humanity. On Saturday, March 6 he met with other religious leaders on the Plain of Ur, the traditional place of Abraham. As we begin this Fourth Week of Lent, Laetare Sunday or Rejoice Sunday, I share with you below some of the words of hope that the Holy Father spoke in that historic gathering last weekend.
Dear brothers and sisters,
This blessed place brings us back to our origins, to the sources of God’s work, to the birth of our religions. Here, where Abraham our father lived, we seem to have returned home. It was here that Abraham heard God’s call; it was from here that he set out on a journey that would change history. We are the fruits of that call and that journey. God asked Abraham to raise his eyes to heaven and to count its stars (cf. Gen 15:5). In those stars, he saw the promise of his descendants; he saw us. Today we, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with our brothers and sisters of other religions, honor our father Abraham by doing as he did: we look up to heaven and we journey on earth.
We look up to heaven. Thousands of years later, as we look up to the same sky, those same stars appear. They illumine the darkest nights because they shine together. Heaven thus imparts a message of unity: the Almighty above invites us never to separate ourselves from our neighbors. The otherness of God points us towards others, towards our brothers and sisters. Yet if we want to preserve fraternity, we must not lose sight of heaven. May we – the descendants of Abraham and the representatives of different religions – sense that, above all, we have this role: to help our brothers and sisters to raise their eyes and prayers to heaven. We all need this because we are not self-sufficient. Man is not omnipotent; we cannot make it on our own. If we exclude God, we end up worshiping the things of this earth. Worldly goods, which lead so many people to be unconcerned with God and others, are not the reason why we journey on earth. We raise our eyes to heaven in order to raise ourselves from the depths of our vanity; we serve God in order to be set free from enslavement to our egos, because God urges us to love. This is true religiosity: to worship God and to love our neighbor. In today’s world, which often forgets or presents distorted images of the Most High, believers are called to bear witness to his goodness, to show his paternity through our fraternity.
From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters. Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion. We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion; indeed, we are called unambiguously to dispel all misunderstandings. Let us not allow the light of heaven to be overshadowed by the clouds of hatred! Dark clouds of terrorism, war and violence have gathered over this country. All its ethnic and religious communities have suffered. Today, let us pray for those who have endured these sufferings. And let us pray that freedom of conscience and freedom of religion will everywhere be recognized and respected; these are fundamental rights, because they make us free to contemplate the heaven for which we were created.