November 20, 2016

11-20-16

 

This weekend marks the close of this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. I believe it has been just that—an extraordinary year of extending God’s mercy to all the faithful primarily through the more frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and through the benefits of the Jubilee Indulgence.

 

What Pope Francis had in mind when he announced this special year has truly come to pass. We do not count the number of confessions we hear at St. Peter’s, but it certainly is the consensus among the friar confessors that a much larger number of people than usual availed themselves of God’s boundless mercy in the sacrament over the past year than previously. It gave us great joy that regularly in the confessional we had less time to read and to pray the Divine Office because we were often busy the entire time.

 

We realize that another aspect of all this is the fact that sometimes the lines waiting to celebrate the sacrament were longer and more time consuming. We apologize for this, although we think it is a wonderful problem to have, since so many Catholics have the impression that almost no one goes to confession anymore. It is our sincere hope that as a result of what has happened during this Jubilee Year you will continue to keep us busy in the months ahead.

 

A second blessing of the Jubilee Year is that we all were able to notice and to concentrate on how often “mercy” is mentioned in the Scriptures. We have always heard and remembered the many parables in the Gospel where Jesus speaks of mercy, but both in the Old Testament and in the Letters of Saint Paul there are also many examples and reflections on mercy as well. This past year has highlighted those references and deepened our appreciation of the many ways that God’s mercy can be manifested in our lives.

 

Thirdly, the Jubilee Year has reminded us of something we heard about and may have even memorized during our elementary school years, namely, the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. These are some of the practical ways we ourselves share with others the mercy we have received from God. In some ways, getting back in touch with these works of mercy and now once again making them more specific in our adult years might be one of the greatest blessings of this jubilee year.

 

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are acts of compassion by which we help our neighbors with their emotional and spiritual needs. They are usually listed in this way: to admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive all injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead. How have we tried to practice these during this past year and how do we intend to continue them?

 

The Corporal Works of Mercy are these kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs. Among the many acts we can do, the following are suggested: to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick and imprisoned, to bury the dead, and to give alms to the poor. Let us make these and many other merciful types of outreach more and more part of our ordinary faith life.

 

  1. BOB PAWELL’S GOLDEN PRIESTLY JUBILEE

 

This weekend—Saturday at the 5:00 P.M. Mass—Fr. Bob Pawell, O.F.M., celebrates his Golden Anniversary as a Franciscan priest here at St. Peter’s. He was ordained on June 24, 1966, at St. Francis Church in Teutopolis, Illinois. After a brief period of parochial ministry in Saint Louis, Fr. Bob began to live and work with the ecumenical monastic community of Taize on the north side of Chicago and then with an international community of Franciscans serving the poor in Uptown Chicago. In 1976 he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to found Tau House, a ministry to those outside the Church’s ordinary care, where he would spend the next twenty years. He also founded Project Lazarus, a residence for indigent persons with AIDS, and he developed retreats for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. In 1989 he joined the staff of Blessing Place, an holistic spiritual center especially dedicated to the needs of religious and clergy.

 

In 1996, he returned to Chicago to join several other friars in establishing a friary on North Ashland Boulevard. From there he worked as the Director of the Mount Carmel House of Study and Prayer, a parish-based spiritual center. He also has been involved in preaching parish missions and retreats. For the past fifteen years Fr. Bob has been on staff at St. Peter’s as a confessor and as Director of Programs. Obviously he has lived a full and varied priestly life. We wish him well as he celebrates his jubilee, and we hope many of his friends will be able to join him at his jubilee Mass and the reception following.

 

SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE

 

Christ is King, King of the Universe. This is the faith claim we make today. The liturgical environment announces the solemnity of this day in white. Our liturgical music resounds with joy and exaltation. With the closing Sunday of the liturgical year, we prepare for Advent. The readings help us reflect on just how different Christ the King is from an earthly king. They remind us that Christ reigned as King on the Cross and now reigns in God’s heavenly Kingdom.

 

The First Reading from the Second Book of Samuel describes a gathering of the tribes of Israel at Hebron. The Israelites acknowledge to David that he has guided them in the past. They recognize the Lord has appointed David to shepherd his people and to rule over Israel. Israel’s elders and David make a covenant, and they anoint David as king.

 

A larger context for this passage from 2 Samuel is the Lord’s vision to the prophet Nathan. In this vision, the Lord promises to raise up an heir to David from his lineage. Christians see Jesus as the fulfillment of this messianic prophecy. Although David serves as an earthly king, his pastoral leadership looks forward to the manner in which Jesus will serve his people.

 

The Responsorial Psalm is a processional psalm pilgrims sang as they made their way to Jerusalem. The refrain, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord,” is an invitation to participate in the procession. It is obvious that all are welcome to come rejoicing to praise the Lord in his house.

 

During the Gospel, the congregation hears soldiers mock Jesus as they present him with the if/then statement, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” That challenge is followed by one criminal reviling him and the other standing up for Jesus and asking to be remembered. In the words that many know from Jacques Berthier’s piece “Jesus, Remember Me,” the “good criminal” requests a place in Jesus’ Kingdom. And Jesus solemnly responds that “today,” as of this moment, the “good criminal” lives in Paradise. His is a share in the heavenly Kingdom where he will live forever with Jesus. Ours is the hope to one day reside there as well. For now, we remain on the faith journey in imitation of our compassionate and merciful King who shepherds us.

 

The Christological hymn from the opening chapter of Colossians that comprises the Second Reading describes Christ’s role in creation and redemption. For the first time in the New Testament, the hymn also identifies Christ as the head of the body, the Church. In Colossians, the use of the word ekklesia refers to the universal Church. The hymn closes with an affirmation of Christ’s divinity, noting how in him the “fullness of God” dwells. In Christ, God was able to reconcile all things to himself through the “blood of his Cross.” Once again we see how Christ is a King for others. He reigned on the Cross, freely offering us salvation.

 

Pope Pius XI established today’s solemnity in 1925, at a time when leaders of nations were grasping more power than the pope thought appropriate, and civilization was declining morally, spiritually, and economically. The description of God in the opening phrase of the Collect carries the intent of Pope Pius’ encyclical Quam primas. God desires “to restore all things” in his beloved Son, the “King of the universe.” In the Prayer over the Offerings, we ask God that his Son grant “the gifts of unity and peace” to all nations. In the Prayer after Communion, the Sundays of the liturgical year conclude once more with our request that our obedience to Christ the King might lead to a share in life with him “eternally in his heavenly Kingdom.”

 

The proper Preface for Christ the King uses several Christological titles for Jesus, including “only Begotten Son,” “eternal Priest,” and “King of all creation.” Christ’s kingship is about a specific type of kingdom. The Preface describes this Kingdom as one of “truth and life,” “holiness and grace,” and “justice, love and peace.” All year we have worked toward this Kingdom. It is a Kingdom already on earth, but also yet to come. How we continue to live as heralds of Christ’s Kingdom is a question that necessitates our continued prayer and reflection as we move toward Advent.

 

THANKSGIVING DAY

November 24, 2016

 

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.

 

Here are a few fun facts you might want to share with your guests over the Thanksgiving meal. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Minnesota is the top turkey-producing state in America with a total of c. 46.5 million turkeys. Six states—Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia and Indiana—account for nearly two-thirds of the 248 million turkeys that will be raised in the U.S. this year.

 

The National Turkey Federation estimates that 45 million turkeys—one-fifth of the annual total of 235 million consumed in the U.S.—will be eaten at Thanksgiving. In a survey conducted by the Federation, nearly 88 percent of Americans said they eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, which means some 690 million pounds of turkey will be consumed on Thanksgiving.

 

Cranberry production in the U.S. is expected to reach 750 million pounds this year. Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington are the top cranberry-growing states.

 

Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and New York are the major pumpkin growing states. Together they produce 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkin, while the total U.S. production was 1.5 billion pounds.

 

The sweet potato is most plentifully produced in North Carolina, which annually grows 972 million pounds of this popular Thanksgiving side dish vegetable. Other sweet potato powerhouses include California and Mississippi. All told, sweet potato production is just over 2.4 billion pounds.

 

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 also.

 

CATHOLIC CAMPAIGN FOR HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

 

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, working to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ “to bring good news to the poor…release to captives…sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free.” The belief that those who are directly affected by unjust systems and structures have the best insight into knowing how to change them is central to CCHD. CCHD seeks to break the cycle of poverty by helping low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, families and communities. CCHD offers a hand up, not a hand out.

 

CCHD has a complementary mission of educating on poverty and its causes. This strategy of education for justice and helping people who are poor speak and act for themselves reflects the mandate of the Scriptures and the principles of Catholic social teaching.

 

CCHD provides the Catholic faithful with concrete opportunities to live out the love of God and neighbor in ways that express our baptismal call and continuing Eucharistic transformation. CCHD is made possible by the generous support of Catholics in the United States, especially through an annual parish collection, which occurs this weekend, November 19-20. 25% of monies collected remain here in the Archdiocese of Chicago to fund local projects; 75% go to the national office to assist with projects on a national scale. Please be generous in giving to this second collection for a most worthy cause and to help struggling people for justice sake.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR THE SEASON

 

When I went to get my driver’s license renewed, our local motor-vehicle bureau was packed. The line inched along for almost an hour until the man ahead of me finally got his license.

 

He inspected his photo for a moment and commented to the clerk, “I was standing in line so long. I ended up looking pretty grouchy in this picture.”

 

The clerk began looking at his picture closely. “It’s okay,” he reassured the man. “That’s how you’re going to look when the police pull you over anyway!”