October 29, 2017
On this final weekend of October, a month dedicated to Respect Life Issues, I would like to draw your attention to parts of a document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty, approved and published in March 2012. What is said here is just as much applicable now as it was when issued five years ago.
“We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.
“Freedom is not only for Americans, but we think of it as something of our special inheritance, fought for at a great price, and a heritage to be guarded now. We are stewards of this gift, not only for ourselves but for all nations and peoples who yearn to be free. Catholics in America have discharged this duty of guarding freedom admirably for many generations.
“In 1887, when the archbishop of Baltimore, James Gibbons, was made the second American cardinal, he defended the American heritage of religious liberty during his visit to Rome to receive the red hat. Speaking of the great progress the Catholic Church had made in the United States, he attributed it to the “civil liberty we enjoy in our enlightened republic.” Indeed, he made a bolder claim, namely that “in the genial atmosphere of liberty [the Church] blossoms like a rose.”
“From well before Cardinal Gibbons, Catholics in America have been advocates for religious liberty, and the landmark teaching of the Second Vatican Council on religious liberty was influenced by the American experience. It is among the proudest boasts of the Church on these shores. We have been staunch defenders of religious liberty in the past. We have a solemn duty to discharge that duty today.
“We need, therefore, to speak frankly with each other when our freedoms are threatened. Now is such a time. As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.
“This has been noticed both near and far. Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened. He called it the “most cherished of American freedoms”—and indeed it is. All the more reason to heed the warning of the Holy Father, a friend of America and an ally in the defense of freedom, in his recent address to American bishops:
Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.
Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society….
“Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or to pray the rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both here at home and overseas.
“What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.”
If you would like to read the entire document, go to the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Today’s readings show that the Commandments guide us to imitate God’s gracious ways of interacting with humanity.
The First Reading is part of the code of Law that resulted from God’s covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. It’s a great example of what we call God’s preferential option for the poor. God’s care and compassion for the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt becomes the model for how God’s people should behave toward others, especially in the area of social justice. God established that principle first, as he gave Moses the Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt…” (Ex 20:2).
In the Second Reading, Paul praises the Church at Thessalonica for behaving in a similar manner. Even though they were suffering affliction, the people imitated Christ (and Paul) by accepting the Word of God with joy and living it so fully that their reputation spread throughout Greece and the Balkan Peninsula.
Today’s Gospel provides us with one of several confrontations between Jesus and different groups of religious authorities over interpretation of the Law. Here a scribe tries to entrap Jesus by asking which is the greatest of the Laws of Moses. Jesus gives a response that might better be described as a summary of the Law: love God, love your neighbor as yourself. The Greek word is agapao, meaning “to have regard for the other.” This is not emotional or sexual love. It is covenant love. Jesus declares that the entire religious tradition depends on covenant relationship with God that is expressed in love for others.
In the account from the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus brings together all of the Law in two statements. The Commandments are about love—loving God and neighbor. In the encyclical Caritas in veritate, Pope Benedict XVI notes that charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine. This virtue, he explains, drives people to serve others. Pope Benedict states in the encyclical: “Love is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God” (#1).
St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that their faith has made them a “model for all believers.” Gaudium et spes (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church) explains that faith makes itself known in all parts of a person’s life. The document states: “Faith should show its fruitfulness by penetrating the entire life, even the worldly activities, of those who believe, and by urging them to be loving and just, especially toward those in need….What does most to show God’s presence clearly is the familial love of the faithful who, being all of one mind and spirit, work together for the faith of the Gospel and present themselves as a sign of unity” (#21).
For Your Reflection: In the reading from Exodus, the Lord tells his people that they were once aliens and urges them to be compassionate. Do you sometimes forget the needs you had during a time that you were less fortunate than today? Do you look on God as your strength, your refuge? How might our relationships change when we remember that love is at the heart of each commandment?
THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
A Holyday of Obligation
The apocalyptic symbolism in the text from Revelation (our First Reading) can make the passage challenging to comprehend. Apocalyptic literature speaks of the end-time and often contains destructive images of what will happen to the earth. We hear of an angel from the East with the living God’s seal calling out to four other angels who had the power to harm the earth and sea. Before the group of angels damages the earth and sea, the angel with God’s seal wants to mark God’s servants. A very large number, but still a finite number, 144,000 will be sealed. One hundred forty-four is the square of the number twelve, perhaps representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
The number of people who stand before the “throne and the Lamb” is a “great multitude.” God’s chosen ones come from every nation, people and language. They profess salvation from God and the Lamb. The blood of the Lamb has saved the multitude from trial and distress. This faithful gathering is a vision for us of the saints who also professed salvation through the Cross. Through Baptism, we are a part of this glorious communion and hope one day to enjoy the glory of the throne alongside God and the Lamb.
As God’s children, our identity rests on the Father’s love for us. “We are God’s children now,” we hear in the Second Reading. We do not need to wait for the future to be God’s children. We know the Father now and he knows us. And, we believe in the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, whereas some in the Christian community then had difficulties believing in one or the other. Those who believe rightly, then and now, and whose lives consistently live out their belief in Jesus, hope one day that they “shall see him [God] as he is.” That will occur at the resurrection of the dead on the last day.
In the Gospel, we hear that the “blessed” are those whose spirits are poor, who are meek and merciful, possess clean hearts, are peacemakers and are persecuted, and have been insulted and slandered. These are God’s chosen. These are the ones who live as disciples of Jesus. They form the Communion of Saints, some of whom are canonically recognized and others, like most of us, did their best to live out their faith.
We hear, too, of the gifts of blessedness: comfort, satisfaction, seeing God, an identity as the children of God, and the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew wrote for a predominantly Jewish-Christian audience, so one of his goals was to show how the Kingdom of Heaven was also open to Gentiles, It is not one’s prior life that dictates entry into the Kingdom, but coming to faith in Jesus now and living as his disciple. Would that our example of living the Beatitudes would lead more people in this world to be kingdom people.
This year the Solemnity of All Saints on Wednesday, November 1, is an obligatory holyday of obligation. This means that all Catholics are required to participate in Mass on this day not only to honor the Saints but also to remind ourselves that each one of us is called to become a saint as well and that we should do our best to help others to holiness by the good example and the affirmation that we give. Now is the time to plan on what time is best for you to attend Mass on that day. Here at St. Peter’s we will celebrate the following Masses for the Feast: Tuesday, October 31, at 5:00 P.M. and on November 1 at 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15, 9:00, 10:00, 11:15,
12:15 (Festive Mass with choir), 1:15, 4:30, 5:15 and 6:00 P.M. We offer all these times for Mass so that you will be able to accommodate one of them with your work schedule. We look forward to seeing you on this beautiful holyday.
ALL SOULS DAY/BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE
Once again this year we have a Book of Remembrance so that you may write in the names of relatives and good friends who have died. This book will be in the rear of church from now until All Souls Day on November 2, when it will be brought up in procession to the St. Joseph Altar during Solemn Vespers at 5:40 P.M. on that day. The book will remain there during the entire month of November, and those who are written in the book will be remembered in the Masses celebrated at the main altar throughout November. Please be judicious in deciding the number of names you place in the book so that there will be room for others to also take advantage of this opportunity.
All Souls Day, Thursday, November 2, is an excellent opportunity to come to Mass to remember and to pray for our deceased parents, family members, relatives and friends. We will have our regular times for Masses, namely, 6:15, 7:15, 8:15, 11:40, 12:15, 1:15 and 5:00 P.M. Either on this day itself or sometime near this date I would encourage you to visit the graves of your deceased family and friends if they are buried in a cemetery in the Chicagoland area. As Scripture says, “It is a good and wholesome thing to pray for the dead.”
END OF DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
Next Sunday, November 5, Daylight Saving Time ends in the United States. Therefore before you go to bed on the Saturday night before, you want to set your clocks back one hour so that you will not arrive for Mass on Sunday at an incorrect time. My experience is that most people remember to do so, although we usually do have a few individuals coming to church wondering why the Mass schedule has been changed.
A SPECIAL COLLECTION THIS WEEKEND
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked that all parishes take up a second collection this weekend for the people of Mexico because of the earthquake and for the people of Puerto Rico because of the extreme damage from Hurricane Maria. We realize that many organizations have already asked for your financial assistance for these causes, but we hope you will be able the give according to your means now as well. Our brothers and sisters are in great need; let us help as best we can.
AN AUTUMN CHUCKLE
A young couple drove several miles down a country road, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither wanted to concede their position.
As they passed a barnyard of mules and pigs, the husband sarcastically asked, “Are they relatives of yours?”
“Yes,” his wife replied. “I married into the family.”