September 23, 2018
One of the most frequent themes Pope Francis has commented upon is that of each Christian being called to be a “missionary disciple.” No doubt you have heard this term used in homilies from time to time, and you might have wondered what that was all about since perhaps you don’t remember that phrase or that thought coming up in your religious education classes or even in your college theology courses. It’s one of those terms that was always present in our faith experience, but often it was explained in different words.
Being a missionary disciple traces its origin back to what Jesus said as reported in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 7-13. Jesus had been preparing his followers to get to know him first of all by living with him and listening to what he taught those who gathered around him. They had also seen him heal the sick and feed the hungry. But now in this passage Jesus sent these same disciples to go out two-by-two to preach and to heal in his name. It was a kind of apprenticeship for what they would be called to do with the power of the Holy Spirit after the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus.
The apostles had nothing of their own to proclaim and none of their own abilities to demonstrate, but they spoke and acted as emissaries, as messengers of Jesus. Like the first disciples, all Christians are called to be missionaries and should be concerned more with sharing the Gospel than with earning money or even with being successful at winning converts. Pope Francis has said, “A baptized person who does not feel the need to proclaim the Gospel—to announce Christ—is not a good Christian.”
These words should challenge us to look at how we see our lives as contemporary followers of Jesus—not just on special occasions, but every day. Our faith teaches us that evangelization must be at the heart of all we say and do: with our families, friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners and, yes, even those we do not see eye to eye with. As Pope Francis puts it, “This Gospel episode concerns us, too, and not only priests, but all the baptized, who are called to witness to the Gospel of Jesus in all the situations of life.”
Each of us can no doubt think of a situation or two—locally, nationally or around the world—where messengers of Jesus are desperately needed to bring Christ to a situation where faith is not at the forefront or even included in a discussion. Christians fulfill their mission when their proclamation is motivated only by love for and obedience to Christ, and when the only message they share is Christ’s.
Pope Francis also reminds us that Jesus calls his disciples to set out as messengers of the kingdom of God, not powerful managers, not unmovable functionaries, and not stars on tour. We must remember that, despite our efforts as messengers of Jesus, achieving our goals is not always guaranteed. Although all the baptized are sent out on mission by Christ, they go with no guarantee of success. The experience of failure, at times, is part of the poverty that comes our way.
Let us pray for the courage to embrace our vocation as missionary disciples, to be faithful messengers of Jesus, and to not be afraid to share the Gospel at all times. It may not always be easy, but it is always beneficial and rewarding.
TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
What is authentic, selfless ambition? Today’s liturgy issues God’s call to avoid jealousy and selfish ambition and to cultivate sincerity, humility, and peace (James 3:13-18). The Gospel illustrates this message especially clearly. As Jesus continues to journey toward Jerusalem, he makes a second prediction that his journey will end in his death and Resurrection.
As with the prediction last Sunday, the disciples fail to understand its meaning. They are so preoccupied with their own ambitions that they have failed to confront Jesus’ reality—so in conflict with their expectations: “They had been discussing who was the greatest.” Jesus uses this opportunity to illustrate true discipleship: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” True leadership, says Jesus, is servant leadership!
Taking a little child, Jesus draws everyone’s attention to this child. A child is vulnerable and powerless with no influence at all. Especially in the society of Jesus’ day, a child was considered to be at the lowest level of society’s hierarchy. Children are dependent and need things done for them. In this way Jesus shows that his kingdom values are very different. Instead of promoting one’s own prestige, the focus must be on the other, on the most vulnerable members of society—the poor, those who have no wealth or power, those who need things done for them—like little children.
In reaching out and caring for the most vulnerable members of society (like children), one is, in reality, receiving Jesus himself and ultimately welcoming God. Jesus repeats this same message later in his final sermon in Matthew’s Gospel on the judgment of other nations where he says: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his ambitious disciples that the one who wishes to be first will be “the servant of all.” With an understanding that a person who has authority also serves, Pope Francis preached the homily at the Inauguration of his Pontificate. He said: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison” (see Matthew 25:31-46).
St. James writes in his letter that an interior disposition can bring forth peace or discord. One who cultivates peace within will sow it among those encountered. If a person cannot even approach God humbly, what is requested will not be received. “Unless humility precede, accompany, and follow every good action which we perform, being at once the object which we keep before our eyes, the support to which we cling, and the monitor by which we are retrained, pride wrests wholly from our hand any good work on which we are congratulating ourselves” (St. Augustine, Letter 118,22).
For Your Reflection: How would you describe your trust in God? When has it been tested? Are there ways that your desires destroy peace in your relationships? In what ways did Christ act as servant? What does this mean for how you live?
SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL
The deathbed confession of a dying servant opened Vince de Paul’s eyes to the crying needs of the peasantry of France. This seems to have been a crucial moment in the life of the man from a small farm in Gascony, France, who had become a priest with little more ambition than to have a comfortable life.
The Countess de Gondi, whose husband had been helped, persuaded her husband to endow and support a group of able and zealous missionaries who would work among poor tenant farmers and country people in general, but after working for some time in Paris among imprisoned galley slaves, he returned to be the leader of what is now known as the Congregation of the Mission, or the Vincentians. These priests, with vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability, were to devote themselves entirely to the people in smaller towns and villages.
Later, Vincent established confraternities of charity for the spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick of each parish. From these, with the help of Saint Louise de Marillac, came the Daughters of Charity, “whose convent is the sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whose cloister is the streets of the city.” He organized the rich women of Paris to collect funds for his missionary projects, founded several hospitals, collected relief funds for the victims of war, and ransomed over 1,200 galley slaves from North Africa. He was zealous in conducting retreats for clergy at a time when there was great laxity, abuse, and ignorance among them. He was a pioneer in clerical training and was instrumental in establishing seminaries.
Most remarkably, Vincent was by temperament a very irascible person—even his friends admitted it. He said that except for the grace of God he would have been “hard and repulsive, rough and cross.” But he became a tender and affectionate man, very sensitive to the needs of others.
Pope Leo XIII made him the patron of all charitable societies. Outstanding among these, of course, is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1833 by his admirer Blessed Frederic Ozanam.
The Church is for all God’s children, rich and poor, peasants and scholars, the sophisticated and the simple. But obviously the greatest concern of the Church must be for those who need the most help—those made helpless by sickness, poverty, ignorance, or cruelty. Vincent de Paul is particularly appropriate for all Christians today, when hunger has become starvation, and the high living of the rich stands in more and more glaring contrast to the physical and moral degradation in which many of God’s children are forced to live.
A LETTER FROM CARDINAL CUPICH
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
This weekend we come together to celebrate the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Chicago through our annual second collection. The men we acknowledge today are the future leaders of our Church. Your past support of this collection has made a significant impact on each seminarian, and I ask you to join me again this year in contributing to the Seminarian Education Second Collection.
The critical education and training needed to successfully shepherd parishes, administer the sacraments, and strengthen our Church is made possible by both your prayers and financial support. There are currently 64 seminarians preparing for a life of service as archdiocesan priests, and their enthusiasm to evangelize our faith is inspiring.
Your contributions to this collection alleviate monthly expenses such as tuition and fees, room and board, and health insurance for each seminarian and will be used solely for the formation of new priests for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Remittance envelopes have been provided to your parish, or you are welcome to contribute online at www.archchicago.org/seminarianfund.
On behalf of current and future archdiocesan seminarians, thank you. May God continue to bless you abundantly. Please know that I keep you in my daily prayers and intentions, and I ask yours in return.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blasé J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago ATTENTION COLLEGE STUDENTS
On behalf of St. Peter’s Church, we want to say “Welcome to Chicago” if you are just arriving and/or “Welcome Back” to those who are returning. This big city can be a bit overwhelming at times, so we just want you to know that you have a home here at St. Peter’s. We are open every weekday from 5:30 A.M. until 7:00 P.M., and we are also here on the weekends. We also have a “Young Adult Gathering” that happens every Monday evening (except holidays). We call ourselves SPYA (St. Peter’s Young Adults), and we would absolutely love it if you could join us. No pressure! No cost! No experience necessary! If you are between the ages of 18 and 40, whether you are in college or not, you automatically qualify to be part of us.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or text Father Ed Shea O.F.M. at 773-892-4134.
Some of our bulletin readers may not be familiar with Chicago Shares, a way that you can help the homeless but not actually give them cash. You can purchase Chicago Shares in our Front Office anytime the office is open. They come in packets of five (each slip worth $1.00) and they can be used to purchase food, toiletries, and other basic items at a number of stores in the Loop and in the South and North areas beyond the Loop. These shares cannot be used to purchase liquor and tobacco, nor can they be redeemed for cash. If you would like more information about Chicago Shares, you may go to www.chicagoshares.org, or you may stop at the front office to pick up a list of the stores that honor these shares.
A CHUCKLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE
A blind man on a bar stool shouts to the bartender, “Wanna hear a blonde joke?”
In a hushed voice, the guy next to him says, “Before you tell that joke, you should know something. Our bartender is blonde, the bouncer is blonde. I’m a six foot tall, 200 pound black belt. The guy sitting next to me is six foot two, weighs 225, and he’s a rugby player. The fella to your right is six foot five, pushing 300, and he’s a wrestler. Each one of us is blonde. Think about it, Mister. Do you still wanna tell that joke?”
The blind man says, “Nah, not if I’m gonna have to explain it five times!”