September 24, 2023

When I first read this week’s leadoff quotation from the thoughts of Pope Francis, I found it to be very interesting. Pope Francis is not the first to realize this truth. Many of the great saints in our past saw their doubts as invitations from God to draw closer! We tend to do the opposite – doubts come and we panic! We back up, withdraw and wonder what we are doing wrong. Doubts can be like warning lights on the dashboard of our lives. They remind us that we are limited. They tell us that we do not have everything figured out. And they can tell us when we are running on empty! When that happens, what do I do to fill my tank? Do I fill my tank with something fleeting? Or do I take the moment as a “sign to want to know the mystery of His Love more deeply?” 

In certain moments doubts come to everyone. Doubts that touch the faith, in a positive sense, are a sign that we want to know God, Jesus, and the mystery of his love for us better and more deeply.

Pope Francis

On this final Sunday in September and the first weekend in the new autumn season, we celebrate the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. As we continue our sequential reading of Matthew’s Gospel, we move into a section with parables that teach us about the Kingdom of God. Today’s parable of the landowner and the tenants hired at different times of the day tells us that God’s invitation to each of us comes at different times and in different circumstances. God relates to us as individuals, in individual ways. Each of us is given different opportunities. But whenever the invitation is given, we need to be ready, hear it and respond.

A particular difficulty for many of us who were baptized as infants and have lived in the Church all of our lives is to see ourselves as those who were called first and spent the whole day working, only to earn a full day’s wage like those called at the last hour. We forget that God first called Abraham and his descendants – the Jewish people. Non-Jewish people were not included at first. When Jesus came, he revealed God’s plan that all are welcome, all are called to life! And that includes us. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper ring true for us: “You did not choose me, it was I who chose you.” We actually came on the scene much later! And God’s including us was not our doing at all! It came to us as a gift, just as everything we have is God’s gift to us. We did not earn God’s favor and we certainly do not deserve it. We are blessed by God who loves us more than we can imagine. And it all comes to us as a gift! The worst thing that could happen to a person would be to fall into the trap of thinking that God owes me! Rather, the opposite is true – we owe God everything! 

Thank you for your prayers for us and all of the priests of our diocese as we gathered with our Bishops last week for our Joliet Priests’ Convocation. As this was Bishop Ron Hicks’ second Convocation with us, it was a great experience for all of the priests of our diocese to be together with our Bishop for the three days of the Convocation. Our first Joliet Diocesan Convocation of Priests took place in the early 1980’s. Our current practice is to gather every two years. Again this year, the spectrum ran from those newly ordained to those retired. As a group, we have a wide variety of talents and abilities. Despite these differences, we are all committed to doing the work of the Lord, each in our individual place and time.

Personally for me, it was good to see several of the priests with whom I had served in previous parish assignments. As we caught up with each other and shared our memories, it became very clear that each of us had all been in the right place at the right time in our lives.

On a more sober note, I couldn’t help but notice that many of the priests who were the vibrant leaders within our diocese when I was ordained 45 years ago are now moving at a much slower and more deliberate pace – including myself. And there were those who are no longer with us, either through death or having left active ministry. Overall, the convocation was a good time to be together for prayer, sharing and fellowship.

This Friday, September 29, we celebrate the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels. It is also the 3rd anniversary of the installation of Bishop Ron Hicks. It seems like yesterday that he was appointed as the sixth bishop of our diocese. Since his installation, he has visited us for multiple celebrations of the Sacrament of Confirmation, and he celebrated the closing Mass of our centennial year in May 2021. We promise him the support of our prayers as he continues his ministry among us.

Cooler temperatures are coming our way as the autumn season settles upon us. Let’s make it a point to notice the beauty of this season – it is the Lord’s gift to us in this present moment. Many things are now happening at our parish. Please check elsewhere in our bulletin for additional news. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.

– Father Jim Murphy