In the midst of a lot of bad news—murders, wars, droughts, fires, earthquakes, people losing jobs, domestic problems—it’s so good to hear good news and about uplifting occasions. Although I consider myself a real sports fan, I never really became that interested in Little League Baseball. I suppose some of that can be attributed both to not knowing of it when I was growing up in Indianapolis and secondly not having it be big in any of the places where I served after being ordained. Now that I have become acquainted with the magnitude of Little League not only in the United States but also throughout many parts of the world, I wonder how so much of its history had escaped me.
It was only when I began reading about the Jackie Robinson West team in the south of Chicago that my interests were aroused and I began looking for their scores in the regional playoffs earlier this summer and then began watching their games when the World Series began in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I was hooked and eagerly looked forward to following the results of each game while watching as many games as possible on television. I could feel the excitement and the momentum building, and I was amazed at the composure and the athleticism of these youngsters mainly eleven and twelve years old.
I came to learn the importance of the coaches both for teaching the skills of the game but also for building character, individual responses to the ups and downs of the game, and team awareness and loyalty. How good it was to see a pitcher who had just hit a batter immediately go over and apologize to him about what had happened. It was wonderful to hear how the coach counseled and settled down a pitcher who was experiencing a difficult time. I admired how these young people were taught to be aggressive on the bases but not to overly celebrate when everything went well and thereby cause the opposing team to feel badly. It was refreshing to witness that the players could be serious about the game yet have fun at the same time.
What we witnessed was what can happen when coaches volunteer their time and talent, parents being totally supportive of the process, and players willing to work hard and forego some of the ordinary leisure of summertime all work together to accomplish a goal. Particularly in the case of the Jackie Robinson West team, we also saw how these youngsters helped the world see another side of what Chicago is: a place where good things can and do happen even amongst all the negative publicity that our city seems to receive because of the gangs, shootings and murders that plague some of our neighborhoods. And to think eleven and twelve-year olds have brought this about while maintaining their sense of wonder and awe!
Rick Morrissey expressed it similarly in his article in the Chicago Sun-Times (Thursday, August 28, 2014, p. 64):
In sports, we latch on to anything that remotely resembles innocence, knowing
how rare and precious it is. We want to believe in purity so much it hurts.
That’s a huge part of the draw of the Jackie Robinson West team, a bunch of little
kids playing a kid’s game. Playing it surpassingly well, of course, but playing it
with a child’s joy. Is there anything better than that? No, and there’s nobody
better than JRW, other than South Korea. But I think I speak for the city when
I say, “Who?”
It’s true: the season is over, the celebrations have wound down, and things like going back to school have taken their place. We have settled back into the “ordinary,” but I truly hope that because of these youngsters the “ordinary” will be forever somewhat changed, and all of us can once again think so much more positively about who we are and what we want to be. Thank you, JRW, for giving us a chance to yell and shout and clap and smile!
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
God tells Ezekiel that he has been appointed “watchman for the house of Israel.” It is his task to “warn the wicked” in God’s name. As a prophet of judgment, Ezekiel is called to speak words of warning to a people who have strayed from God. This warning might lead them to repentance. Many of Israel’s prophets “afflicted the comfortable” and so met persecution at the hands of their own people. Legend says this was the case in Ezekiel’s death. As a prophet living in Babylon, he preached to his fellow exiles of God’s disapproval of their behavior. In today’s text, part of a section that promises hope for the repentant sinner, God calls the prophet to speak his words of warning, allowing for the possibility of repentance and reconciliation.
Paul reminds us today that our task as Christians is to “love one another.” This is “the fulfillment of the law,” he says. We are called to be concerned with the welfare of our neighbor, and sometimes this means it is our task to speak prophetically as Ezekiel did, afflicting the comfortable.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives advice about dealing with those who sin against us. As the good shepherd goes after the lost sheep, so we too should seek to bring back the lost. He is not talking about correcting a stranger but rather “your brother”—in other words, another disciple. This instruction is addressed to the members of the church. In fact, today’s text is only one of two in which the word “church” is found on Jesus’ lips. In the text connected to the commissioning of Peter, Jesus said, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” In that text, Jesus gave Peter alone the authority to bind and loose; in today’s text, Jesus repeats those words, this time giving the disciples (plural) the same authority to forgive and to withhold forgiveness.
For Reflection: Why should fraternal correction be a part of the Christian lifestyle? When have I been admonished for a wrong I committed? How did I react to it? Do I really see bringing back the lost as part of my discipleship?
FOOD FOR THE POOR
This weekend we welcome Fr. Robert Karris, O.F.M., who will preach at all the Masses for Food for the Poor, an agency that does excellent work to assist the poor in Nicaragua, Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras and nine other countries in Central and South America. I am confident that he will tell us more about some of the conditions there and the people he has met on his mission travels to these countries, but I would like to share just one story from Nicaragua that hopefully will prepare you to be very receptive to the message he will bring.
The only access to water in Jorbin’s hillside community is the Tuma River, which carries runoff and other pollutants from local farms. It’s where everyone bathes and collects water to cook and drink. Unfortunately, drinking the water sometimes makes Jorbin sick. “It’s dirty,” Jorbin’s mother, Aracely, says of the water. “But we don’t have any other options.”
Lugging a large water jug, little 6-year-old Jorbin leaves the bare shack he shares with his mother, father and three siblings at first light. He hikes down a hill to a trail that winds down a rocky mountainside, joined by his mother who carries his 1-year-old baby sister. Others in the community who must also complete the same arduous, daily task join them.
Jorbin fills his jug with water and rests the heavy load on his narrow shoulder, slumping under the weight. He starts the hour-long hike back up the hill. The ground is slick and makes Jorbin slip, but he manages to keep up with his family. “I’m fine,” he insists. “I’m not tired.” Jorbin may say he’s fine, but he huffs and puffs under the container’s weight. There’s no pleasure in lugging a heavy container up a steep hill twice a day, every day.
Aracely hopes and prays that the future for her children will be better. “All my life, I always lived like this. We pray for Him to bless our home and that we can get out of poverty.” It hurts this loving mother to know that her children are stuck in the same poverty she has endured her whole life. “I have three children who should be in school, but I don’t have the resources to help them study,” noting that Jorbin has never attended school. “We have a lot of problems.”
To make matters worse, every day Jorbin and his family have been taking a short cut between private properties to get to the river. Unfortunately, the owners no longer want them crossing over their land. This means that Jorbin and his family will soon have to take a route that’s twice as long and also alongside a busy, dangerous road.
This is the heavy weight of poverty. But you can lift this weight off Jorbin, and children like him, by giving them access to clean water. Trekking up and down a steep, rocky mountain is dangerous work that no child should have to bear. With your gift for water, you can help Jorbin and others enjoy their childhoods. You can relieve them from their harsh labors and give them a way out of poverty. Please come this weekend prepared to make a contribution to Food for the Poor so that they can help to remedy conditions in many countries so much in need.
St. Peter’s Young Adults will begin meeting again on Monday of this week (September 8) from 5:30-7:00 P.M. We invite anyone between the ages of 20-40 to join the group Monday evening whether you a member previously or this would be your first time coming. Please meet initially downstairs in the St. Clare auditorium, and then we will go to the friary chapel just before 6:00 for an Hour of Adoration.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study with Jim Hawk will resume in the auditorium this Wednesday, September 10, at 5:30 P.M. Jim will lead the participants through the New Testament book by book, covering Hebrews through Revelation from a distinctly Catholic perspective. Be sure to bring your own Bible. If you have any questions, you may e-mail Jim at [email protected] The group will finish by 6:55 P.M. There will also be an opportunity for fellowship after each class at a nearby establishment for those who wish.
Spirituality for the Second Half of Life will take up again after the summer hiatus beginning on Wednesday, September 24, from 12:15-12:55 so that individuals who may wish to attend the 11:40 Mass may do so. In general the group will begin with prayer, a reading of the forthcoming Sunday Gospel, a period of silence, a second reading of the Gospel, and then a period of sharing about what touched individuals about the reading. The session will end with prayers of praise and petition. Hopefully many, if not all, who attended last spring will be able to return. New members are most welcome to become part of the group. It is perfectly okay if you cannot make every session; please come when you can.
SAINT PETER’S MEN’S GROUP
You may not be aware that every Monday evening at 5:00 P.M. we have a meeting down in the auditorium called “Saint Peter’s Men’s Group.” You will find it listed every week in the bulletin in the Activities section. This group has been meeting for many years and has played a great part in the lives of many men who have been coming together for support and assistance as they grow and mature. The primary reason for the group’s existence is for men who are dealing with some aspect of sexual addiction: it could be pornography, masturbation, marital infidelity, visiting adult book stores, seeking massage for something other than relief of sore muscles, feeling sexual temptations to be too much to handle, etc.
At a meeting you will find you are not alone in what you are dealing with; others have been struggling with the same problems. You will also find individuals who can testify that there is hope because they are now free of their subjection to addiction. There will also be persons who are willing to be your sponsor, and you will find all this done in an atmosphere of spirituality and Christian love of neighbor. We invite anyone to try this Men’s Group who wants to get better. That’s Mondays at 5:00 P.M. in the St. Clare Auditorium. Spending this hour a week could very well save your life and save your marriage!
THANK YOU FROM THE DIVINE WORD MISSIONARIES
We are very grateful for your wonderful generosity toward the missionary work the Divine Word missionaries do for the Catholic Church around the world. Your financial help and prayerful support make it possible for us to continue building up the Kingdom of God in some of the most difficult areas of the world. Your support will help the Diocese of Yendi in Africa where we serve. We are only able to spread the Gospel message with your prayers and help. May God continue to bless all of you.
YEAR OF THE SACRAMENTS
One Word at a Time
When we receive the Eucharist, we believe that we receive Jesus Christ into our lives. Although we read these words and agree with them, we may not fully realize their impact.
Whether we receive Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue, something extraordinary happens. Jesus touches us, and we touch Jesus. In and through the sacramental sign, the divine, healing, and loving touch of Jesus takes hold of us. It is like the intimate embrace of a mother and child or of two spouses who deeply love each other—but even more so.
When Jesus touches us and we reach out to touch him, our contact with him changes us entirely. We know ourselves as loved, healed, and united with him and one another. His touch is our healing and communion.
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
At a motivational seminar, three men are asked to come up to the stage. They are all asked, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?” The first man says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time and a great family man.” The second man says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” The last fellow replies, “I would like to hear them say….LOOK---HE’S MOVING!!!