Now Known as Chardonnay W(h)ines!
August 9 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
What is Peter doing walking on water! Now I know that it is frightening to cling to a little boat in the midst of the storm. But isn’t stepping out of that boat onto the waves complete madness? Why would Peter leave the relative security of the boat and set out on his own onto the sea? Peter leaves the boat and sets out into the storm, because he knows that Jesus is there. In doing this, Peter gives us an example of discipleship. The disciple always realizes that the safest place to be is close to the Lord. Even though a boat might be keeping us afloat, that boat could sink. And when it comes to sinking, we want to be close to Jesus. The gospel shows us that Peter’s decision was right. Because when he begins to sink, Jesus stretches out his hand and catches him.
Today’s gospel, then, calls us to discern: where is Jesus? Is Jesus sitting with us in the boat of security in which we sail, or is Jesus calling us to step out of that boat and come to him? We might have realized for some time that the job we are in is not the best one for us and that we will never reach our potential if we stay in it. And yet, there is security in that regular paycheck and we have no assurance that we could find something better. The disciple asks, “Where is Jesus?” Is he with me in the boat in which I sit? Or is he asking me to step out of that boat and walk on the water? We might be in a relationship that is abusive, in which we are not valued or respected. And yet, there is stability and some companionship in the relationship, and we are terrified to think that we might have to live alone. The disciple asks whether Jesus is asking us to stay in the security of that relationship or to leave it behind. We might for years have had a dream to develop some talent that is ours, to organize a program, to attain a goal. But that would require much effort and some risk, and we have no guarantee that we would succeed. It is certainly easier to keep things the way that they are. But Jesus may be calling us to walk on the waves.
Now to be sure, there are many times when Jesus is with us in the boat, and he wants things to stay just the way that they are. But today’s gospel reminds us that that is not always the case. Sometimes Jesus is asking us to leave what is familiar, what is easy, what seems secure, and come to him in the midst of the storm. And when he calls us, here is the good news. Although the waves may be high and the winds strong, and people might think that we are crazy to step out of the boat, we are simply being disciples. We are only going to where Jesus is, taking with us the confidence that he will not let us sink. He will give us life.
Have a blessed week!
August 2 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
I recently read an article “Catholics: They are not coming back….unless….” Written by a priest in the Rockford Diocese, he gives many reasons that after the pandemic is over and the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is re-instated, many Mass going Catholics will not return to Mass. While some still fearing for health reasons, his main premise is there are millions of Catholics, who have grown quite comfortable in a Eucharist free faith. In other words, watching Mass on television and not receiving communion is just fine. His caveat is that unless we once again explain to Catholics why a real, attended Mass is necessary for their spiritual health, many will not return. I agree with him to a certain degree.
But, my romantic idealistic side says not all is lost! Perhaps I am being a bit naïve, but I think many will come back because as it has been said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” This proverb, in some form or another, can be traced back for millennia. It became popular in 1850 by the author Thomas Haynes Bayly in his work entitled Isle of Beauty. And, there is scientific evidence that it is true in relationship to lovers or friends. I think it should be true related to the Eucharist! The Eucharist is not something that we should relate to as a “thing” – the Eucharist is a person! The very soul and divinity of Jesus Christ himself. The longing we might feel when absent from a lover or friend is the same longing we should have for the Eucharist if we have not received Jesus in Holy Communion in quite some time. I’m hoping that when a vaccine is found and people feel safe, they will jump at the opportunity to come back to Mass and once again have that physical relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.
Our scripture readings today tell us that Jesus feeds every hunger. If we lose the hunger for the Eucharist, there is nothing to substitute for the bread of life. The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in today’s gospel ends with an important detail. There was enough food left over to fill 12 wicker baskets. God feeds in abundance. We need to receive that Eucharistic food so that we can go out and feed others in abundance.
Let not the necessary steps to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic deaden our desire and need for receiving the Eucharist. Actually, we need that food more than ever! When the time comes, let the pews of Our Lady of Mercy be filled with starving people hungry to receive Jesus our bread of life!
Have a blessed week!
July 26 – Seventeen Sunday in Ordinary Time
Okay, I admit it. There are times I
fantasize about becoming rich when I
buy a lottery ticket once or twice a year.
What would I do with all that money?
Of course, I know when I buy the ticket
that God would never put me in that dilemma!
But, it is fun to dream. Today’s two parables of the
“treasure in the field” and the “pearl of great price” ring a bell in
each of us because many people dream of striking in rich. The success
of casinos and state lotteries come from the hope people have
that they might win and all their problems will be solved. But, we
often read stories of maybe it wasn’t the best thing that ever happened
to them. If we satisfy all of our material desires, emptiness
remains because we are more than a body. We have a soul. Consider
a human life without friendship, love, purpose or faith and we
can understand why our greatest need is spiritual.
The spiritual is also the organizing principle of our life like the
function on a computer that cascades all the data we enter into an
order that is arranged alphabetically, numerically or chronologically,
whichever way we want. The Gospel call this organizing principle
of the human heart, the “kingdom of God.” As Jesus says elsewhere
in Matthew’s Gospel, “Seek first the kingdom of God and
His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The
kingdom of God has little to do with wealth, territory, castles, damsels
in distress or knights in shining armor. It does have to do with
the reign of God in our hearts, our lives and our homes.
As St. Paul writes in today’s second reading, “For those who love
God, everything works for their spiritual good.” Once we have the
true God at the center of our life, we never have to fear being
trapped by false gods, becoming devotees of image and celebrity,
slaves of ambition or lust, servants of power or greed, prisoners of
our job or career, because we have found our greatest good in God.
However we come to the kingdom of God, by discovery, like the
treasure in the field, or by search, like the fine pearl, we have to invest
ourselves in His reign to discover the riches, the wealth, the
perspective, the abundance of life in Christ. Those who embrace
the reign of God, the kingdom of Jesus Christ, in their lives are the
ones who really “strike it rich!”
Have a blessed week!
July 19 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today I want to give you an update on a few things…..you may not remember, but in the structure of parish administration I have a small Pastoral Leadership Team that meets with me weekly to talk about and address any parish/staff concerns that need immediate attention. At one longer meeting each month, we do strategic planning. With the transfer of Fr. Mark and parishioner Phil Britton moving out of the area, I have appointed our new Parochial Vicar, Fr. James Guarascio, and parishioners Kim Harris and Bob Maxwell to serve on the Pastoral Leadership Team. Including the new members and myself, Zara Tan and Mary Jo Trapani also serve on the Team. I thank all members for their generosity of time and to the new members for accepting my invitation to serve.
I mentioned that Phil Britton is or has already moved out of the area. Phil and his wife JoAnn has been long time active and dedicated members of Our Lady of Mercy. When Fr. Mark and I arrived three years ago, Phil was one of the first volunteers we met with. Phil was the volunteer director of adult education and formation. He provided much helpful insight for Fr. Mark and myself as we began getting a sense of OLM. We wish them all the best in their new home and parish in Tinley Park where they are now closer to their daughter, family and grandchildren. Thanks Phil and JoAnn for all you did for OLM.
We are in the final stages of preparing to inform parents with details about our Religious Education Program for the coming year. Due to budget challenges, I am not replacing this year Candy Rice, who retired and served as Director of Jr. High Youth Ministry (EDGE). I am most grateful to Dave Miserendino who offered to coordinate EDGE with the adult leaders currently serving in the EDGE Program. The COVID-19 protocols issued by the Diocese, State, and CDC present quite a challenge to offering classes in the building. Before we can open the building for in-person children and teen classes or activities we much first be approved by the Diocese of Joliet. This certification process is much like what we went through to open the church. Like the challenges the public schools and all public gatherings face, we must maintain 6 feet between tables and chairs and people. The facilities manager of the Diocese has already been out and set the occupancy limits for all the rooms in the PLC and they are significantly reduced. Additionally there must be the compliance of children wearing facemasks, hand sanitizing, having temperatures taken and keeping 6 feet apart when moving in the building. It’s pretty daunting!! So, I ask for your prayers, your patience, and your understanding.
Have a Blessed Week!
July 12 – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Do you have hope? In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the civil unrest in our country, the uncertainty of the future, add other personal difficulties and challenges, do you find it difficult to have hope? How does one develop hope? To develop hope is to cultivate mystery. All too often, we are seduced into thinking that only the present counts. We are encouraged to believe that nothing can really be changed. We are constantly exhorted to hold that there is only one way to go – namely, the party line. We thereby become victims of despair. In such a debacle, only hope can save us. But to develop hope is to cultivate mystery.
In the first reading today the exiles in Babylon had written off the Lord. They accepted what they believed to be their fate. For them the Lord could not do anything and, if he could, he was not interested. This was the party line of ancient Near Eastern theology. The prophet Isaiah counters with a message of hope: “Cry out, do not fear! Say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!” (Is: 40:9). But it was a hope interwoven with mystery. Their ways were not God ways. God would again speak his creative Word. To respond to that Word, however, was to give God the liberty to act as he chooses. To develop hope is to cultivate mystery.
In the gospel the disciples had begun to write Jesus off. Some were no longer walking with him. Jesus, however, responded to this situation by noting the natural agricultural process of failure and success. The mode of failure is readily explicable – the mode of success is rarely intelligible. Yet despite the obvious failures, God is at work. To hope is to let God work in his own mysterious fashion and not impose human restraints. To develop hope is to cultivate mystery.
There are countless ways in which we may develop hope and thereby cultivate mystery. Parents who refuse to calculate their children’s success merely in terms of academic achievement and personality point to another standard. Career people who refuse to accept the manipulative practices of big business as the only way to go testify to another dynamism. The sick and dying who refuse to see their present pain as useless and worthless indicate another value system. All such people restore God’s liberty to give as he chooses to give. All such people attest that to develop hope is to cultivate mystery.
The Eucharist communicates this as well, reflecting Jesus’ anxiety before his death and communicating Jesus’ acceptance of the Father’s mysterious plan for him. All who share in the Eucharist confess that the paths, rocks, and thorns of Jesus’ passion and death are transformed into the abundant harvest of the resurrection. The Eucharist articulates a hope, but a hope based on God’s freedom to act. The Eucharist asserts that to develop hope is to cultivate mystery! Let hope and mystery be a part of your life!!
Have a Blessed Week!