Now Known as Chardonnay W(h)ines!
Today our gospel reading is the very familiar “beatitudes.” And while these are certainly worthwhile statement of Jesus to reflect upon, for this bulletin article I want to reflect upon our second reading today – St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It is a topic so central to our faith! The Corinthian Christians brought Paul genuine blessedness in their enthusiasm for the faith, their spiritual gifts and their desire to live in accord with the challenges of the good news. Still, their recalcitrance in certain matters and their misinterpretations of some of Paul’s teaching must have weighed heavily upon him. Paul was required to explain at length and in detail several very important truths. From these explanations, successive generations of believers including ours, have certainly benefited. The truth in question today is the resurrection of the dead.
There were a variety of factors that had influenced and distorted the Corinthian believers’ understanding of the resurrection. Fully aware of those factors, Paul was also fully convinced that if belief in the resurrection should unravel, so also would the entire fabric of the faith. For that reason, he wrote with an intensity and a fervor that could not be ignored to affirm the centrality of the resurrection and to dispel all notions to the contrary.
According to Paul, the resurrection of Jesus was not a fable. Paul insisted that it is the story of a real event, a bodily resurrection. Christ, risen from death is not just a symbol or an abstract truth, removed from reality. Therefore, those who deny that God has the power to raise the dead are placing themselves in contradiction to the Gospel. Furthermore, Paul was adamant in his claim that if Christ is not raised then the whole foundation of the Christian faith has been undone and a series of disastrous consequences has been thereby precipitated. The consequences Paul enumerates: 1. Our proclamation is in vain! 2. We are false witnesses! 3. Your faith is in vain and worthless! 4. You are still in your sins and those who have fallen asleep in Christ are the deadest of the dead! All of these consequences lead to a stark result….we are the most pitiable of all peoples!
If Christ is not raised, we preach a message that is an illusion. We offer as a cure for this world’s ills a lie that hides the terrible truth that we are powerless and alone. If there is no resurrection, our lifestyle of self-denial and service makes no sense – those who follow Jesus are mere “chumps” who are missing out on their fair share of this life’s rewards. But, we who stand for Christ and the resurrection are not “chumps”. Rather, we are believers who are willing to be thought of as fools for the sake of the faith. For, as Paul has said elsewhere in his correspondence with the Corinthians, “God has chosen the foolish of the world to shame the wise.” (1 Cor 1:27)
Paul’s writings must have had a profound impact, as we Christians today boldly and steadfastly proclaim that Christ has died! Christ has risen! And one day we will too!
Have a blessed week!
While fishing isn’t as widespread a career as it once was, “catching people” is a well-defined science. Otherwise known today as advertising, this public art form is designed to hook consumers and take their money, their time and their energy. Once “caught” the consumers serve the advertisers’ goal. Everyone is together in the net. In today’s readings, Isaiah, Peter and Paul demonstrate the moral character necessary to become true “fishers of people.” These wise men of God are brought to their knees by an encounter with the Divine. Isaiah, Peter and Paul fish for people because God has first caught them. Divine light reveals their unworthiness, and they respond appropriately. “Woe is me,” exclaims Isaiah. “I am a man of unclean lips.” In the longer version of today’s second reading, Paul says that he is “the least of the apostles” and “unfit.” Peter tells Jesus to leave him, “For I am a sinful man.”
Humility is an unpopular attribute these days, but if you wish to be caught by God or to go fishing on God’s behalf, acknowledging your unworthiness is key. When I told a priest that I was thinking about a priestly vocation, remembering my high school and college days, I told him that I just didn’t feel worthy. His response was “none of us are worthy!” And with that, I applied to the Diocese to go to the seminary, and now here I am 38 years later! Before each and every Communion we proclaim our unworthiness, and yet, moments later we stand ready to receive. Our wise ancestors knew the importance of humility. They also knew that the unworthy become worthy through the grace of God.
Strangely enough, true humility which, on the surface, would seem to disqualify us from any form of meaningful ministry, actually prepares us to become fishers of people. Once Isaiah has announced his unworthiness, his unclean lips are cleansed; his guilt and sin are blotted out. Once Peter is on his knees, he is ready to fish for people. St. Paul says it best…”By the grace of God I am what I am.”
Today’s reading invites us to become an advertisement for God. Unlike our glossy counterparts in the secular word, we shine from within. Hollowed out by unworthiness, we stand worthy. Our brightness has nothing to do with color or design, money or power. Our salvation history, our journey with the Divine attracts others. This is our calling!
Peter left everything and followed Jesus. We are to do the same. Having a relationship with the Divine is not reserved for prophets and saints. God wishes to connect with each of us, and in doing so, we move from unworthy to worthy!! We become fishers of people – caught by the love of God shining through us!! And through ALPHA, we’ve gone on a fishing expedition. Join us!!
Have a Blessed Week!
This Sunday is celebrated as Boy Scout Sunday in the church throughout our country. Girl Scout Sunday is observed on March 10th. Our Lady of Mercy has recently taken on the sponsorship of Cub Scout Pac #123 and Boy Scout Troop #849. These groups were previously sponsored by a local grammar school and a now defunct church. Bishop Conlon is a big supporter of scouting troops, so it is a pleasure to welcome these scouting programs to OLM. For information about when, where and what time they meet contact: Jamie Patzer Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the Cub Scout Pac and Tim Hickey (email@example.com or 224.805.1919) for the Boy Scout Troop. Again, we welcome these organizations to our parish and look forward to supporting the character building nature of scouting in these boys and young men.
We are thrilled that ALPHA has gotten off to a great start! And despite the inclement weather on the first Tuesday and first Thursday sessions there was a great turn-out! And so much thanks and appreciation goes to Len Eickhoff, Sylvester from Buck Services and the other guys that helped set-up and take down. The fantastic home-cooked meals by Mimi and Dan Tse and their amazing crew were lovingly served to the ALPHA guests by the ALPHA team of hosts, greeters and helpers. And a special thank you to Zara Tan for coordinating the ALPHA program for Our Lady of Mercy Parish.
Last week the Church in the United States celebrated Catholic Schools Week. The theme being “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed. Many of the Catholic grammar schools and high schools in our area held open houses. One thing to keep in mind is that Catholic parochial education is not merely private education. It is a ministry of the Church that fundamentally prepares young Catholics to live out their faith throughout the course of their lives. While we here at Our Lady of Mercy do not have a parochial grammar school, we do help families who want to send their children to a Catholic School with the cost of tuition. If you don’t currently send your child(ren) to a Catholic School and would like to, please contact me.
On January 26th we celebrated the Sacrament of First Reconciliation with 140 of our parish children. We pray that they will always feel God’s love and forgiveness and never shy away from receiving the sacrament throughout their lives. Thanks to the parents and catechists who helped prepare them to receive the sacrament.
Mark your calendars NOW! This is an event you and your family will not want to miss!! Our Lady of Mercy parish is hosting world famous singer, songwriter, author and inspirational speaker Tatiana “Tajci” Cameron who will perform a musical concert “I Thirst – The Crucifixion Story.” The concert is on Friday, April 5th at 7:00PM (two weeks before Good Friday). There is no charge and EVERYONE is invited. A free-will offering will be taken.
Have a Blessed Week!
In today’s gospel we hear Jesus proclaim what he has come to do – “to bring glad tidings to the poor….to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” This is OUR mission as well! And how we do that mission can have a great impact. In the one and a half years that Fr. Mark and I have been here, we have done a lot of observing and a lot of listening. We have spent many hours in discussion with staff, parishioners, and parish leaders. In our short time here, we have received much affirmation for some of the “changes” that have been initiated. We are told of a new energy and revitalized spirit. A universal concern has been a significant decline in Mass attendance. Over a period of 13 years OLM saw a decline of 20%. In the time Fr. Mark and I have been here, attendance has increased 13%. Last fiscal year OLM had the highest percentage increase in the Sunday collection among the 124 parishes in the Diocese. Fr. Mark and I do not and cannot take any credit for this……it is God working through the Holy Spirit touching people’s hearts and lives through HOW ministry is being approached at Our Lady of Mercy.
On January 8th I made a presentation to the leaders of all the ministries and organizations of OLM explaining the shift in the “how” I want us to undertake. It is modeled on the words of Pope Francis: “I dream of a missionary option capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” We are undertaking a shift from a “maintenance mode” (we’ve always done it this way) to a focus on mission – to giving people the opportunity to meet Jesus, not just an institution. The institution (Church) is important….she holds up the highest standards of truth and morality. But many people give up trying to reach and live those standards because when they reach out to the church they are judged and condemned, told they have to change first, have no personal relationship with Jesus, and no communal support to even try to live as Jesus calls us to live. The old “pray, pay, obey” doesn’t work anymore. Obedience motivated from a converted heart that has met Jesus is true obedience. Obedience motivated by rules and fear misses the point. Jesus mingled and ate with sinners. He didn’t tell them to change first before he would meet with them. And I believe His accepting people where they were in their life, gave them the power to make needed changes.
So, I’ve asked all staff and ministry leaders to adopt a spirit of radical welcome here at OLM recognizing that every person has a unique journey and story that needs to be heard and respected. When someone calls or comes to our offices to request a baptism, wedding, funeral or registration in RE, I don’t want the first thing they hear is: “are you a registered parishioner?” I want our staff and all of us to approach every person who comes to us as sent by God for a reason. The attitude of welcome and invitation must permeate all we do at OLM. I want to give people a reason to come back, not leave. I want people invited to experience ALPHA and discover a totally new relationship with Jesus and His church. Each organization and ministry needs to ask the question… how does what we are doing, including how we celebrate Mass at OLM, bring others closer to Jesus? I’ve asked the staff, our parish leaders, and now I ask YOU to join the mission of radical welcome and invitation to ALPHA – as a permanent shift in our thinking at OLM!
Have a blessed week!
This past Wednesday night, six busses filled with teens from throughout the Diocese along with adult chaperones and chaplains (Fr. Mark is chaplain for one of the busses) left for Washington, D.C. to participate in the 46th annual Right For Life March upon the Capitol, Supreme Court, and National Mall. They will return this Sunday evening. On Tuesday, January 22nd, the actual anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, our 8:00AM Mass will be offered for the legal protection of unborn children. For the Church, there is no distinction between defending human life and promoting the dignity of the human person. Pope Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate (http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate.html) that “The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that ‘a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.'” (no. 15). As a gift from God, every human life is sacred from conception to natural death. The life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition. The right to life is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights that leads Catholics to actively work for a world of greater respect for human life and greater commitment to justice and peace.
Locally, on another “front” of promoting the protection of the life of the unborn, most of you are aware of Waterleaf on New York Street in Aurora (and within our parish boundaries). Since 2009, Waterleaf has served more than 3,000 patients from 182 cities in 10 states. Their proximity to the third largest abortion provider in the country has enabled them to reach the most abortion-determined and abortion-vulnerable men and women with lifeaffirming messages and services. Hundreds of baby’s lives have been saved through their services. And there is more good news! Through the generosity of a property owner, benefactors and many donors, Waterleaf has begun construction on a new larger facility – RIGHT NEXT DOOR to that third largest abortion provider – Planned Parenthood. Our Lady of Mercy supports Waterleaf with donations and our prayers. I am pleased to announce that Our Lady of Mercy parish will make a $20,000 donation to the construction of the new Waterleaf facility. This donation, approved by our Finance Council, comes from our budget surplus of last fiscal year. The new facility will even have a 350 square foot chapel for the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic Adoration as well as non-denominational prayer services.
There are several ways to be involved in our Pro-Life Ministries. The 1st Friday of every month there are “prayer warriors” at the Planned Parenthood facilities. Middle school students are welcome to join our Gen Z for Life group. Detailed information about our Pro-Life ministries can be found on the parish website.
Have a Blessed Week and Choose Life!