October 8, 2017

10-08-17

 

One thing that is sure in our day and age is that seldom does a day pass without something of extreme importance happening in our world. We have been dealing with the ravages of a number of hurricanes invading our country and of the islands in the Caribbean. Our attention has been focused both on the damage that has occurred as well as on the heroic efforts of so many individuals and groups to assist with the aftermath. We are constantly being bombarded with the news of the tension between our country and that of North Korea—the threats of possible nuclear destruction and how to avert it. Protests of various kinds continue to happen both in Chicago and in other parts of the United States, and gun violence often seems unstoppable now with more than 500 murders in our city during the current year. These are just a few of the happenings that assail us on newscasts on radio and television, on the internet and in the print media.

 

In the midst of these and other stories around the world recently, President Trump announced just a month ago that he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This left approximately 800,000 individuals in the lurch, young people who had been brought to our country as youngsters and who now were going to school, serving in the military, holding down decent jobs, paying taxes, getting married and beginning to raise their own families. They now were left in fear of being deported and being subject to the whims of authorities to act as they felt necessary or advantageous.

 

Many groups have responded to this situation. I quote from the Statement of Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago:

 

Today President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the dreams of nearly a million young people covered by the executive order and applying for inclusion. In the past, the president stated that the Dreamer story “is about the heart,” yet today’s decision is nothing short of heartless. The Dreamers are now left in a 6-month limbo, during which Congress is supposed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, a feat they have been unable to achieve for a decade. In fact, this inability to agree on a just immigration system led President Obama to sign the executive order protecting minor children brought to this country by their parents.

 

As the considerations of the “heart” seemed to be insufficient to keep protection in place, Congress must now act decisively and swiftly. An immediate first step is for our leaders to pass legislation that will protect those previously covered by the DACA program, while they deal with the long-overdue comprehensive reform of our immigration system. They must be guided by compassion and respect for human dignity, and honestly consider the substantial evidence that deporting these young Americans would do great economic harm to the states where they reside.

 

With the bishops in this country, we remain committed to upholding the dignity of all persons and the fundamental right of all to live free from fear in the nation founded on that promise.

 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also issued a statement about this decision which says in part:

 

The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible. It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home. The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.

 

In addition, the Provincial Ministers of all seven Provinces of the Franciscan Friars Minor in the United States have issued a statement. Allow me to quote two paragraphs from it:

 

The 780,000 ‘dreamers” (those who have received deferred action) are good, generous, talented and hard-working individuals. Many of them we know personally through our various Franciscan ministries. We have celebrated the DACA program with them as a modern response to the Biblical imperative to “welcome the stranger.” Now, after President Trump’s decision to end the executive action, we commit ourselves to stand in support of and solidarity with “dreamers.”

 

We urge all members of communities we serve to condemn this unnecessary and harmful order by President Trump. Furthermore, we call upon all to contact their members of Congress and urge them to pass legislation that will fully welcome “dreamers” to our nation, remove the permanent shadow of their temporary status, and make it illegal to deport or harm them. We join the U.S. Catholic Bishops in advocating for the bi-partisan “Dream Act of 2017,” H.R.3440 and S. 1615. This legislation can help “dreamers” receive a piece of the security and human dignity they and all people deserve.

 

Despite the urgency all of these individuals and organizations have indicated, it does not seem to me that Congress has done anything so far to pass the legislation needed and called for. So much time has gone into the possibility of passing a new health care bill and now the emphasis on tax reform, together with the concern for getting necessary funds and supplies to Texas, Louisiana, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, that comprehensive immigration reform and the protection for the “dreamers” has been at a standstill. At the same time, it has recently been reported that the number of deportations, especially of individuals from “sanctuary” cities, has increased significantly.

 

Words are cheap; action is what is needed. Please prod your legislators in Congress to work diligently to address this issue lest the six-month interval given by President Trump come and go which would leave everything very much up in the air for so many people who are now living in fear and trepidation. These are our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, our friends, who deserve better treatment.

 

TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

People often associate vineyards and wine with vacations and wedding celebrations. In the Bible, the vineyard is a metaphor for the riches and delights that God’s holy ones will enjoy in the end-time. But today’s readings give a different take on the vineyard imagery.

 

In the First Reading, Isaiah uses a parable about a vineyard to deliver God’s judgment on the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, at that time (eighth century BC) being invaded by Assyria. In the story, a landowner planted a vineyard and did everything he could to make it productive and keep it safe, but the vines refused to produce good fruit. Therefore, the owner stopped caring for the vines and let the vineyard return to the wild.

 

In the Second Reading, Paul makes no mention of the vineyard, but his exhortation to the Philippians expresses well what the good fruit symbolizes—everything that is honorable, just, pure, and gracious.

 

Today’s Gospel describes Jesus using a similar vineyard parable to condemn the chief priests and elders who were supposed to be taking care of God’s people. The landowner’s son represents Jesus, who would be put to death because of the jealousy and greed of the religious leaders. Remember that the Gospel accounts were written after the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The quotation from Psalm 118:22, used by Mark and Luke as well as Matthew, must have helped the early Christians to make sense of the Crucifixion.

 

Isaiah describes the house of Israel as the vineyard and the people of Judah as cherished plants. Though God cared for the Chosen People as would an attentive owner of a vineyard, only wild grapes came forth. Instead of judgment, the people brought bloodshed; such was the Lord’s disappointment. In the apostolic exhortation Christifidelis laici (On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the World), Pope John Paul II notes that the ancient writers frequently used the metaphors of the vine and the vineyard when referencing God and the Chosen People. “The prophets in the Old Testament used the image of the vine to describe the chosen people. Israel is God’s vine…the joy of his heart: ‘I have planted you a choice vine’ (Jeremiah 2:21). ‘Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard transplanted by the water, fruitful and full of branches by reason of abundant water’ (Ezekiel 19:10) (#8).

 

The Gospel tells of tenants who will not turn over the produce of the vineyard to the owner. Relating the parable, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God will be given to a people who will produce fruit. The Lord is closely entwined with his people, Christifidelis laici explains. “According to the Biblical image of the vineyard, the lay faithful, together with all the other members of the Church, are branches engrafted to Christ, the true vine, and from him derive their life and fruitfulness” (#9).

 

Throughout Christifidelis laici, Pope John Paul II uses the metaphors of the vine and the vineyard, expressing the need for good fruit to be produced. In paragraph 16, he emphasizes the role of holiness in producing that fruit. The holiness that must be apparent within the vineyard is evident in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. There, Paul holds up whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious. In Christifidelis laici, the pope calls the faithful to rely on the fruit of holiness. He states, “Life according to the Spirit, whose fruit is holiness…requires each to follow and imitate Jesus Christ in family or in community, in the hunger and thirst for justice, in the practice of the commandment of love, in service to the brethren, especially the least, the poor and the suffering” (#16).

 

For Your Reflection: Are you able to be at peace once you have made your petitions known to God? How do you see our faith community as producing the fruit of the vineyard? Do you regard holiness as a prerequisite for producing good fruit?

 

PRIESTLY ORDINATION OF BR. BOB BARKO, O.F.M.

 

Many of the people who regularly attend St. Peter’s should remember well Br. Bob Barko, who lived at St. Peter’s for the past two years, graduated with his theological degree from Catholic Theological Union this past May, and served as a deacon here from January until the end of June. At that time he was transferred to St. Francis Solanus Parish in Quincy, Illinois, where he has served as a deacon until the present.

 

Br. Bob has been approved for ordination by our Provincial Minister, Fr. Tom Nairn, O.F.M., and now he will be ordained a priest on Saturday, October 14, 2017, at St. Peter’s. If you have never been present for a priesthood ordination, this would be an excellent opportunity for you to join us for this wonderful event. We are privileged to welcome Most. Rev. Alberto Rojas, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, as the ordaining Bishop. This ceremony will begin at 10:30 A.M. and will last approximately an hour and a half. A light lunch will be served afterwards in the St. Clare Auditorium.

 

The regularly scheduled noon Mass on Saturday will begin as soon as possible after the majority of those at the ordination have exited the church.

 

Fr. Bob will be the main celebrant at the 9:00 Mass on Sunday, October 15. You are welcome and invited to participate in his Mass of Thanksgiving if at all possible. We certainly want to congratulate Fr. Bob and pray that he will have many fruitful years of priestly ministry as he begins to serve the Lord as a friar-priest.

 

THE CHICAGO MARATHON

 

Every year on the second Sunday of October the city of Chicago hosts its Marathon and hence welcomes runners from all over the United States and from around the world. It has been said that many consider this marathon one of the best ever because of the flat terrain, the usually good weather conditions, and the beauty of the area through which the runners proceed, which includes many of the differing neighborhoods with their cultural variety and architectural magnificence.

 

This year the marathon occurs on this Sunday, October 8, so the city will be filled with all kinds of visitors—some will be runners, some will be their families and friends, and many will be the volunteers who gather to make the event possible. While we at St. Peter’s are glad to see all these people, we must point out that the marathon also presents some problems for us. Some of the streets in the Loop will be blocked off completely from early morning until near noon. People walking to St. Peter’s for Mass on Sunday morning may be inconvenienced at least for a time due to the crowds. I would advise that you plan to leave a little earlier than usual in order to arrive on time for Mass. We will offer a special blessing to all the runners who are present for our 5:00 P.M. Saturday afternoon Mass. Please join us in welcoming them and asking God’s blessing upon them.

 

A CHUCKLE FOR THE FALL

 

An IQ question given to a banker, an electrician, and a politician was, “What term would you use to describe the problem that results when outflow exceeds inflow?

 

The banker wrote, “Overdraft.”

 

The electrician wrote, “Overload.”

 

The politician wrote, “What problem?”