Now Known as Chardonnay W(h)ines!
“Do something!” That was the cry of the crowd gathered made to the governor of Ohio who had come to the site of the mass shooting in Dayton the day after the tragic event that took the lives of 10 people and injured 27. Just hours before, another mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas killed 23 and wounding 24. A week or so before that, 3 lives were lost and 13 injured, during a mass shooting at a festival in Gilroy, California. The number of shootings and deaths weekly in Chicago is a sad statistic. Every time I hear of these senseless tragic events that have become so common in our world today, I cry out “stop the madness!” I pray for the victims, their families, and the person(s) who commit such evil crimes. And I want God to “do something” to end this craziness.
The “do something” for some is to legislate stricter gun laws and background checks – which may help. But I think there is something much deeper here that needs our attention – and that is the changing of human hearts, which cannot be legislated. Instead, God is asking us to “do something!” And that doing something involves examining our commitment to the dignity of EVERY human life, and doing all we can to end discrimination and racism in our-selves and society. Some of these mass shootings appear to be racially motivated. While most of us probably do not think of ourselves as being a racist, if we are honest, to some degree we probably are. A little joke here, stereotyping there, not speaking out when we see discrimination – all is subtle racism. Instead of blaming our president, who I do believe needs to be called out on some of his divisive and unacceptable rhetoric, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle, I think we have to start by looking first at ourselves. Racism is nothing new. Jesus tried to eradicate it in his time, by teaching that God loves ALL people. Many of this stories reached out beyond ethnic boundaries to point that out. And isn’t it amazing that with all the technological advances since the time of Jesus, much still hasn’t been done to change the human heart!
I have included in today’s bulletin a copy of an article “A Catholic Response to Racism.” As Catholics, we need to promote the dignity and worth of every single person. ALL LIVES MATTER – and until hearts believe this, racism will still flourish. But, with God’s grace and help, we CAN turn violent hearts to hearts of love, mercy and compassion! Let’s start with our own first!!
Have a Blessed Week!
What is faith? Many ask that question. Some fear they have “lost” faith. Some feel they don’t have enough faith. So, what is it? Faith is defined in our second reading today from the letter to the Hebrews. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested.” Then the author points out Abraham, our faith in faith, for our edification and emulation. In a mini biography, the ancient writer reminds us of the salient moments of Abraham’s life, each one of which was made possible by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed, not knowing where he was to go; by faith he sojourned, by faith he received power; by faith he offered up Isaac. Abraham was able to be and to do all that God asked of him only because his entire life was driven and empowered by faith. We were given the same faith of Abraham at our baptism. We just haven’t realized it!
As we look again today at Abraham, and as we remember the fervor of the early Christians, let us be renewed in our belief and newly fortified by our faith. Faith will require that we sojourn in this world without the luxury of setting our own itinerary and without full knowledge of where God will lead us. Faith requires that we believe even when it seems more practical not to. Faith also will ask us to surrender our Isaac to God. Just as Abraham fully relied on Isaac to keep his heritage and his name alive, each of us has an Isaac – someone or something without which we think we cannot live. Even that, which is so precious to us, must be surrendered to God if we are truly to live by faith. And genuine faith is more than the Sunday obligation or a time set apart each day for prayer. Faith is seeing another in need and stopping to help rather than pass them by. Faith is speaking out against injustice and voting according to our conscience. Faith is letting our Catholic Christian principles guide our lives rather than being swept along by popular opinion. Faith is the willingness to speak out when it is safer to remain silent. Faith is believing without seeing, praying without ceasing and trusting without proof that God is, that Jesus is, and that the Spirit dwells within. Living a life of faith is not easy – but with God, all things are possible!!
Have a blessed week!
Summer is fast waning – here it is August already, and thoughts begin to turn to the start of school. I am away this weekend visiting my nephew and his wife and my great-nephew and great-niece in San Antonio, Texas. Went there to cool off! Ha! Ha! The pastor of the parish that my nephew belongs to was in the seminary with me, so it will be nice to see him as well. He is getting older and has had some recent health problems. Ah, that aging process isn’t always very kind.
A modern take on today’s Gospel about the man who builds larger barns to store all his treasure would be the proliferation over the past 20-30 years of the availability of storage units to rent. Now granted, those storage pods you see in front yards make sense when you are remodeling your house. But it seems to me that if you don’t already have room for all your stuff, and you have to rent a storage unit, then you have too much stuff!! This Gospel challenges us to examine what is most important in our lives….what matters to God or what matters ultimately to us. What do we hold on to and don’t want to let go of? So what exactly matters to God? The second reading gives us some idea. We are told to seek what is above, to put on our new selves and to stop lying to one another. Practical advice. But perhaps it is the psalm response that says it best: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” By nature, holding on to, keeping anything safe, that is not of God, we close in. When our fists clench, our breath shortens and our hearts harden. Perhaps it isn’t what we have but how we hold it that causes the greatest spiritual malady. Just as there are particular physical symptoms indicating such conditions as hardening of the arteries, so too are there discernible symptoms of a spiritually hardened heart. The rich man in the Gospel is a poster child for this condition. First, he is focused on what he can physically hold on to. Next, he is counting on material wealth to afford him rest, nourishment and happiness. Sadly, he believes he is the one in control. What about us? In his book With Open Hands, Henri Nouwen teaches us to pray: Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing to hang on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love, unconditional, everlasting love. AMEN!!
Have a blessed summer!
Next weekend we will welcome the Daughters of the Divine Love, a religious order of sisters, who do missionary work in Africa and other countries. One of the sisters will speak after the homily, and a second collection will be taken for their missionary work. You can read more information about the sisters and their work by going to www.ofdivinelove.com. Please welcome them, and your generosity will be greatly appreciated! If you wish to contribute by check, please make the check out to OLM, and in the memo line write “Mission Appeal.”
All of us have probably experienced fear-based leadership. Perhaps a boss, parent, coach or teacher. They created an atmosphere where we found ourselves operating primarily out of fear; fear of making the slightest mistake and being punished, of getting on the boss’s wrong side and being ostracized. I remember a nun at the Catholic grammar school I attended whose stare and discipline put “the fear of God” in me! I suspect some of you had that experience too. These experiences can have real and lasting effects on us, teaching us to anticipate punishment, blame others, and become overcritical of ourselves. Our fears and anxieties then often slide into other areas of our lives, including our walk of discipleship and the ways we picture God. Without even realizing it, we can slip into believing that God is like an angry boss set on punishing us; then the Christian life becomes much more like a fear-based work environment instead of “life in abundance” that Jesus came to give.
God wants us to experience him as he is so that we can live the life he planned for us. Pope Francis writes: “Mercy is the first attribute of God. The name of God is mercy. There are no situations we cannot get out of, we are not condemned to sink into quicksand.” Experiencing and trusting in God’s mercy are the primary tasks of discipleship. In today’s first reading, God’s mercy is relentless captured in the dialogue between Moses and God. In Jesus, Mercy has a face. Jesus offered salvation to the world – not because of our own merit, but by God’s mercy. In the Church, justice and mercy kiss. Christians are called to be relentless in their mercy, tireless in their tenderness, and committed to holding together both justice and mercy. May God’s divine mercy touch your heart this week!
Have a blessed summer!
For my bulletin article this week, I would like to share with you a message from Bishop Conlon regarding the situation at our Southern border.
July 1, 2019
Statement of Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon
Bishop of Joliet
Once again, I write to express my deep concern and anguish over the crisis on our southern border. The tragic situation toddler of Angie Valeria and her father, Oscar Martinez, who drowned while seeking safety in the United States from the dangers of their homeland in El Salvador, dramatize the need for our response. It is not their story alone, but the plight of the many others fleeing the violence and poverty of Central America. Members of our own diocesan curia have been volunteering at rescue missions in Texas and California and bring back to us first person accounts of the suffering of these peoples. Such stories are the cries of the poor, prayers to ear of God.
There is also a crisis in our government. Torn by partisan polarization, Congress and the administration have for years failed to enact comprehensive reform which would not only provide a humane response to those seeking asylum at our border but would also address the critical need of farmers and other businesses in our own country who are unable to secure the workers they need. Further, it is a matter of abiding by international law, law that the United States took the lead in establishing, which requires a just hearing of those who come to our border seeking asylum. As well, I encourage our government officials to address the underlying economic and social conditions that have led to the catastrophic destabilization of Central America – conditions which are forcing people to flee.
Above all, we as Americans need to look into our own hearts. We cannot ignore the very real human suffering. We are confronted with real human beings, not simply “illegals”. Yes, laws there must be. But we have been given a greater law, indeed the greatest commandment, to “love your neighbor even as you love yourself.”
I encourage you, my brothers and sisters, to join me in contacting the President and our legislators, asking them to work to bring an end to this crisis, by enacting just and humane immigration policies. In addition, join me in prayer for our neighbors who seek relief from their struggles.