This weekend we celebrate the Second World Day of the Poor. Pope Francis has written a marvelous letter to us for this occasion, so I would like for all of us to spend some time reflecting on his words and the perspective from which he writes.
“’This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him’ (Ps 34:6). The words of the Psalmist become our own whenever we are called to encounter the different conditions of suffering and marginalization experienced by so many of our brothers and sisters whom we are accustomed to label generically as ‘the poor.’ The Psalmist is not alien to suffering; quite the contrary, he has a direct experience of poverty and yet transforms it into a song of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Psalm 34 allows us today, surrounded as we are by many different forms of poverty, to know those who are truly poor. It enables us to open our eyes to them, to hear their cry and to recognize their needs.
“We are told, in the first place, that the Lord listens to the poor who cry out to him; he is good to those who seek refuge in him, whose hearts are broken by sadness, loneliness and exclusion. The Lord listens to those who, trampled in their dignity, still find the strength to look up to him for light and comfort. He listens to those persecuted in the name of a false justice, oppressed by policies unworthy of the name, and terrified by violence, yet know that God is their Savior. What emerges from this prayer is above all the sense of abandonment and trust in a Father who can hear and understand. Along these same lines, we can better appreciate the meaning of Jesus’ words, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 5:3).
“This experience, unique and in many ways undeserved and inexpressible, makes us want to share it with others, especially those who, like the Psalmist, are poor, rejected and marginalized. No one should feel excluded from the Father’s love, especially in a world that often presents wealth as the highest goal and encourages self-centeredness.
“Psalm 34 uses three verbs to describe the poor man in his relationship with God. First of all, ‘to cry.’ Poverty cannot be summed up in a word; it becomes a cry that rises to heaven and reaches God. What does the cry of the poor express, if not their suffering and their solitude, their disappointment and their hope? We can ask ourselves how their plea, which rises to the presence of God, can fail to reach our own ears, or leave us cold and indifferent. On this World Day of the Poor, we are called to make a serious examination of conscience, to see if we are truly capable of hearing the cry of the poor.
“To hear their voice, what we need is the silence of people who are prepared to listen. If we speak too much ourselves, we will be unable to hear them. At times I fear that many initiatives, meritorious and necessary in themselves, are meant more to satisfy those who undertake them than to respond to the real cry of the poor. When this is the case, the cry of the poor resounds, but our reaction is inconsistent and we become unable to empathize with their condition. We are so trapped in a culture that induces us to look in the mirror and pamper ourselves, that we think that an altruistic gesture is enough, without the need to get directly involved.
“The second verb is ‘to answer.’ The Psalmist tells us that the Lord does not only listen to the cry of the poor, but responds. His answer, as seen in the entire history of salvation, is to share lovingly in the lot of the poor. So it was when Abram spoke to God of his desire for offspring, despite the fact that he and his wife Sarah were old in years and had no children (cf. Gen 15:1-6). So too when Moses, in front of a bush that burned without being consumed, received the revelation of God’s name and the mission to free his people from Egypt (cf. Ex 3:1-15). This was also the case during Israel’s wandering in the desert, in the grip of hunger and thirst (cf. Ex 16:1-6; 17:1-7), and its falling into the worst kind of poverty, namely, infidelity to the covenant and idolatry (cf. Ex 32:1-14).
“God’s answer to the poor is always a saving act that heals wounds of body and soul, restores justice and helps to live life anew in dignity. God’s answer is also a summons to those who believe in him to do likewise, within the limits of what is humanly possible. The World Day of the Poor wishes to be a small answer that the Church throughout the world gives to the poor of every kind and in every land, lest they think that their cry has gone unheard. It may well be like a drop of water in the desert of poverty, yet it can serve as a sign of sharing with those in need and enable them to sense the active presence of a brother or a sister. The poor do not need intermediaries, but the personal involvement of all those who hear their cry. The concern of believers in their regard cannot be limited to a kind of assistance—as useful and as providential as this may be in the beginning—but requires a ‘loving attentiveness’ (Evangelii Gaudium, #199) that honors the person as such and seeks out his or her best interests.
“The third verb is ‘to free.’ In the Bible, the poor live in the certainty that God intervenes on their behalf to restore their dignity. Poverty is not something that anyone desires, but is caused by selfishness, pride, greed and injustice. These are evils as old as the human race itself, but also sins in which the innocent are caught up, with tragic effects at the level of social life. God’s act of liberation is a saving act for those who lift up to him their sorrow and distress. The bondage of poverty is shattered by the power of God’s intervention. Many of the Psalms recount and celebrate this history of salvation mirrored in the personal life of the poor: ‘For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him’ (Ps 22:24).
“The ability to see God’s face is a sign of his friendship, his closeness and his salvation. ‘You have seen my affliction, you have taken heed of my adversities, you have set my feet in a broad place’ (Ps 31:7-8). To offer the poor a ‘broad space’ is to set them free from the ‘snare of the fowler” (Ps 91:3); It is to free them from the trap hidden on their path, so that they can move forward with serenity on the path of life. God’s salvation is a hand held out to the poor, a hand that welcomes, protects and enables them to experience the friendship they need. From this concrete and tangible proximity, a genuine path of liberation emerges. ‘Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid’ (Evangelii Gaudium, #198).”
If you would like to read the entire letter of Pope Francis, you may go to the Vatican website. In light of Pope Francis’ call to have every parish do something special to heed the cry of the poor, our parish cluster of the Renew My Church effort decided that we would each decide what we would do but that we would promote the entire effort as a cluster. Here at St. Peter’s we are having a special meal from noon until 1:30 PM on Tuesday, November 20. It will be cooked by the friars and supplemented with donations from local restaurants. While friars will also serve the meal, we would like to invite volunteers as well to join us in this invitation to the poor and elderly. If you want to help, please contact Jo Ann Bednar at 312-853-2376 or you may stop by her office on the lower level of the church. Let’s really make this World Day of the Poor come alive for the needy and for ourselves as well.
THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Reading the signs of the times! The tone and words of today’s reading appear dark and troubling, but they are intended to offer us hope and expectation. Our First Reading looks forward to an afterlife where those faithful to God will rise to an eternal life. This passage is the earliest reference in the Scriptures to hope in an individual resurrection.
Today’s Gospel passage comes from a chapter in Mark’s Gospel in which Jesus speaks, for the entire chapter, about his Second Coming at the end of time. Jesus uses images, pictures, and the imagination of the Jewish people to describe this event. He is not giving a blueprint for exactly what is going to take place in the future. Instead, by means of the images, he conveys the simple truth that he will return at the end of time. We proclaim this truth in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
Jesus’ words are not meant to be terrifying. The apocalyptic imagery at least partly reflects the suffering and evil that people were already experiencing. This evil will surely be vanquished when Christ returns, and this vanquishing of evil will surely entail some chaos before the dawn of peace. As part of the Gospel, the Good News, Jesus’ words offer us the hope that we are destined for eternal life. The Gospel calls on us to be watchful and to lead our lives in expectation of the master’s return. When he will come is not important; what is important is that we lead our daily lives prepared to meet him when in fact he does return, as we pray daily in the Our Father, “Thy Kingdom come.” We can be sure that the world as we know it will pass away, but one thing remains steadfast, “My words will not pass away!”
In the Second Reading, we hear how Christ’s death was the ultimate sacrifice that “made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.” The Council Fathers relate in Gaudium et spes that Christ’s death made sorrow and death meaningful. The Second Vatican Council document states, “Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death. He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons and daughters in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit: Abba, Father” (#22).
With the Resurrection of Christ, Christians have hope that they will also rise. Having partaken of the Eucharist, the bread from heaven, they look forward to eternal life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly, so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection” (#1000).
For Your Reflection: How do you envision God’s coming in glory at the Second Coming? How can you seek to be at peace as is the psalmist who sings, “You will show me the path to life”? How is God’s forgiveness reflected in your life?
MASSES OF THANKSGIVING
Yesterday—Saturday, November 17—Brothers Dat Hoang, O.F.M. and Edward Tverdek, O.F.M. were ordained priests at the hands of Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas. Today, Sunday, each of them will offer a Mass of Thanksgiving: Fr. Dat Hoang at 9:00 AM and Fr. Edward Tverdek at 11:00 AM. We invite everyone who has come to know them during their years of theological study, and visitors as well, to participate in these joyous occasions.
There will be a reception after each of the Masses in the St. Clare auditorium where you may greet them, congratulate them, and receive their first priestly blessing.
Fr. Dat will return to Saint Anthony’s in Saint Louis, where he will become a parochial vicar, and Fr. Ed will remain here at St. Peter’s, where he will join the parish staff as a confessor while continuing to be an adjunct professor of philosophy at Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park. We congratulate them both, wish them well, and pray for them as they begin their priestly ministry.
November 22, 2018
Believe it or not, Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner. Hopefully you will be joining family members and/or friends to give thanks to God for the many blessings you have received and for a delicious meal to celebrate the holiday. Though many competing claims exist, the most familiar story of the first Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth Colony, in present day Massachusetts, in 1621. More than 200 years later, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday in 1941.
What better way to prepare for your family Thanksgiving Day together than to begin by everyone coming to church to celebrate the Eucharist? Our one Mass on Thanksgiving at St. Peter’s will be at 10:00 A.M., with the church opening at 9:00 and then closing at 11:00 so that the friars and the security personnel will be able to get together with their families.
CATHOLIC CAMPAIGN FOR HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
This weekend in all parishes throughout the United States we take up a second collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. For over 48 years the Campaign has been supporting low-income communities as they address root causes of poverty through community organizing and economic development. The belief that those who are directly affected by unjust systems and structures are best equipped to change them is central to our mission.
In the Archdiocese of Chicago CCHD works to break the cycle of poverty by awarding grants, educating about root causes of poverty, and building bridges of solidarity in Cook and Lake Counties. The annual collection is the primary source of funds for grants to support community-controlled, self-help organizations as well as transformative education. In 2016, we raised over $631,000 that was distributed among 23 projects in the Chicago metropolitan area.
A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE
A very gracious lady went to the Post Office to mail an old family Bible to her brother who lived in another part of the country.
“Is there anything breakable in here?” asked the postal clerk.
“Only the Ten Commandments,” she answered with a smile.