Now Known as Chardonnay W(h)ines!
November 29 – First Sunday of Advent
Today we hit the reset button! Liturgically speaking. Today, the First Sunday of Advent begins a new year of scripture readings for Sunday and weekday Masses. We are now in year B of the Sunday readings and cycle I for weekday readings. But Advent is more than just a change in scripture readings. Advent is a call to hit the reset button in our lives! And I can’t think of a better time than NOW to reset the direction of our lives. We are living in the midst of a pandemic. We are weary, and sometimes suspicious, of government mandates in response to the pandemic. We are weary of politics that has polarized us as a people, a nation, and a church. We are weary of zoom meetings and online learning. We are weary of minimal interaction with our family, friends, and neighbors. As I said in my homily a couple of weeks ago, I think we are all experiencing a low-grade depression. But you know what, things weren’t all that different 2,000 years ago when Israel was weary of wars and being ruled by the Romans. They longed for a Savior. We celebrate the birth of that long awaited for Savior at Christmas. Advent is a reminder that we long for the RETURN of that Savior. Advent is a time to refocus on the promise of Jesus that he would return in glory. We Christians have waited for two millennia. The season of Advent is a season that invites us to deeper conversion. As disciples of Christ, we learn anew what it means to wait as Christians. Our weariness should be comforted in the fact that our Savior HAS come…..and will come again! Let’s all hit the resent button, be a little more joyful, a little more patient with each other, a little kinder. Though the uncertainties of our time can frazzle our nerves, we know one thing for sure…Jesus redeemed us and will return in glory. Now that should bring a smile to your face!
Speaking of hitting the reset button, I share with you today that Deacon Michael Plese and his wife Laurie will be leaving the parish and moving out of state. Deacon Mike has worked as a delivery driver for FedEx for 33 years. He has accepted a new position to work out of their facility in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Deacon Mike and his family have been members of OLM for 29 years. Their adult daughters, Emily is married and lives in London, England, and Michelle will be married at the cathedral in Nashville in August 2021. Deacon Mike was ordained in 2016 and has served OLM as a catechist in the RE program, celebrated baptisms and weddings. He has participated in Communion Services and Benediction. He has taken the brunt of my teasing. I’m not sure how Red Robin on Ogden Avenue is going to stay in business after he moves! Deacon Mike starts his new job the first week of January 2021, and he and Laurie will be moving to the Nashville area with 2 dogs and 3 cats! I personally thank Deacon Mike and Laurie for his ministry at OLM. He has been one of the biggest recruiters for new permanent deacons from our parish. He will deacon the 10:00am Mass on December 20 and give a farewell message at all the Masses that weekend. We will miss you Deacon Mike!
Have a Blessed Advent!
November 22, 2020 – Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe
Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year A. On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 with his encyclical Quas primas (“In the first”) to respond to growing secularism and hostility against the Church. Today reminds us that while governments and ideologies come and go, Christ reigns as King forever. During the early twentieth century in Mexico, Russian, and in many parts of Europe, atheistic regimes threatened not just the Catholic Church and its faithful, but civilization itself. Pope Pius XI’s encyclical gave Catholics hope and while governments around them crumbled, the assurance that Christ, the King shall reign forever. Pope Pius XI said that: “Christ reigns in the hearts of men, both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind.”
His encyclical continues to ring true today. The Holy Father speaks directly to the problem of what he referred to as “anti-clericalism” by which he meant the attitude of those who were seeking to extirpate Christian influence from political life. We see a version of this same attitude today when it is suggested that belief in Catholic teachings renders a person unfit for a judicial appointment. Aggressive secularist campaigns have sought to marginalize the Church and other religious institutions. Religious freedom today continues to be attacked. When our nation is beset by civil unrest, racial tension, and a pandemic, we do well to turn to Our Lord, who reigns over every people and nation!
As you know, after MercyFest 2018 we decided to discontinue MercyFest. That was probably a good thing because we would have had to cancel it if we had planned to have it this past October. We have closed the MercyFest bank account and spent the remaining $9,000 as follows: Donation to Hesed House; Replacement of two of the monitors in the narthex of the church and PLC; Installation of I-Wave air filtration systems in the church HVAC system that will purify and sanitize the air in the church (completed two weeks ago); retro fitting the parking light fixtures with LED lighting (cost split with Com-Ed, work yet to be scheduled). Again, thank you to all the chairpersons, volunteers and supporters of MercyFest over the years! Much has been accomplished!!
Fr. James, along with our Deacons and wives and parish staff join me in wishing all of you a very blessed Thanksgiving Day!
Have a blessed week!
November 15 – Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The liturgical year “A” featuring Matthew’s gospel is quickly coming to an end. Next Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King which is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. November 29th, the First Sunday of Advent, will begin a new liturgical year featuring the Gospel of Mark. Today I will share with you a quick and basic overview of Mark’s Gospel in preparation for it being the primary gospel we will hear in 2021.
In the late 60’s of the first century, nearly forty years since the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, he had not returned. The earliest Christians thought that the return of Jesus was imminent. But now, forty years has passed and Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans, and the persecution of Christians in Rome itself was intensifying. Peter and Paul had died, and few eye witnesses to Jesus’ ministry were left. Christians had told and retold the stories of Jesus’ ministry, Death, and Resurrection over the years, but Christians began to feel the need for written instruction. In these years, Mark, leaning on the teachings of Peter and others, wrote his Gospel, the earliest and shortest Gospel we have. It is likely that he wrote for his suffering community in the environs of Rome. His main concern was to record the basic facts and stay faithful to the tradition, and Mark wrote with a flair for the dramatic and a rich theological sense.
Suffering had thrown Mark’s community into a spiritual crisis. The crisis came not because of weak faith, but through a strong faith too focused on the privileges and glory of being the community of the Resurrection. Being disciples meant enjoying the benefits of Jesus’ victory. To counter this, Mark refocused on Jesus’ Death as the foundation of discipleship. Mark’s primary themes of the Kingdom of God, the identity of Jesus, and the call to discipleship each undergo dramatic development in the Gospel of Mark in light of the Cross. For Mark, everything, even Jesus’ glorious return, stands in the shadow of his Crucifixion. Discipleship is a key theme in Mark’s Gospel. So get ready to be reminded that discipleship comes with a personal cost!
On Friday, November 20 and Sunday, November 22 we will welcome Bishop Joseph Perry, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago to Our Lady of Mercy Parish. Bishop Perry will administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to 90 of our high school teens.
We thank all those who were involved in the preparation of our confirmation candidates. Congratulations to the newly confirmed and fully initiated members of the Catholic Church! We look forward to your continued growth in the Spirit and the sharing of your gifts and talents with our parish community!
Have a blessed week!
November 8 – Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the world of the Protestant Church, today is known as Stewardship Sunday. Usually every year in September we conduct a Stewardship renewal campaign at Our Lady of Mercy. This year we did not because we know that many of our members and families are struggling due to the Coronavirus pandemic. And yet, so many of you have continued your generous support of Our Lady of Mercy parish – mailing in your weekly contributions or making them online. I cannot thank you enough! Every week when our Business Manager Bob gives the Sunday collection report he says that we are truly blessed by our parishioners. Again, I thank those who have been able to continue financially supporting OLM. And if you are not able to contribute at this time, please know we are here to help. Please let us know how we can help.
I also thank those who are able to continue the stewardship of their time and talents in ministry and volunteering. We appreciate what you do. Our limited activities due to COVID and for those who do not feel safe or have underlying conditions, your absence that this time is well understood. We look forward and long for the day when everyone is able to return.
Thank all of you for being good stewards! But I guess it wouldn’t hurt giving a little thought to our stewardship. Many of us have put off doing something because we think we are too busy. We’ve all said, “I’ll do it later when I have time.” Unfortunately, at times we apply this attitude to our faith. Jesus’ call is urgent, in the here and now, in our current circumstances. How is God calling you to use your gifts today? Even in a pandemic! Remember, none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. As Matthew reminds us in his gospel chapter 25, verse 13…..”Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Have a blessed week!
November 1 – All Saints
I know that many of you are fond devotees of watching the Academy Awards usually in March, when Hollywood celebrates the best of the best. I have to admit I do not share your enthusiasm. Once I reluctantly attend a party at the home of parishioners at a former parish to watch the Oscars. After a half hour I went back to the snack table, grabbed another piece of pizza, and snuck out. The next morning on my desk was a little plastic Oscar statue with the note: “best escape artist!” I will have to admit that the Oscars are indeed a celebration. The red carpet is rolled out. The stars arrive in limousines. They anxiously and eagerly await, along with millions of television viewers, the announcements of who will take home the coveted Oscar awards. All the recipients, whether they are directors or producers, actors or actresses, are greeted by thunderous applause when the winner is announced. So goes Hollywood’s way of honoring its best.
As Catholics, we gather today to celebrate the lives of winners of another sort – all the saints in heaven. These holy people are the recipients of heaven’s reward, not Hollywood’s award. Two things about today’s celebration. First, the Book of Revelation states that there will be only 144,000 admitted to heaven. While a fundamentalist may believe this, do not despair that there may not be room for you. Scripture scholars agree that the number 144,000 represents an unlimited number, a number higher than is fathomable. God longs to give the reward of himself to any and all who will accept the gift. The second misconception we have about the saints is that we could never be one. The “any and all” who stand before God include people whose lives were not that different from our lives. Many of the saints were at one time impatient or crabby, arrogant or lazy. They knew both sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. It is said that “saints are sinners who kept on trying.” They kept on trying by turning to Jesus for direction. Jesus gave the saints, and gives all of us, a red carpet path to follow – the Beatitudes. Over and over the Beatitudes tell us who is blessed and who is best: the poor, the sorrowing, the meek, the persecuted, the insulted. Was Jesus kidding? It sounds more like the “worst who are cursed” then the “best who are blessed.” But remember, it is not a Hollywood award ceremony Jesus is guiding us toward, but heaven’s everlasting reward ceremony. Jesus reminds us of this at the end of today’s gospel when he says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Today, we join the saints in their beautifully simple acceptance speech: Thanks and praise be to God!
Remember to vote this Tuesday, November 3rd, and have a blessed week!