We continue our celebration of Easter as we observe the Fourth Sunday of Easter today. This Sunday is traditionally known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” This came to be because in all three cycles of the Lectionary, the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter gives us one of the Good Shepherd sayings from John’s Gospel. “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Besides being a very comforting and reassuring saying, it also helps us to continue our Easter reflection on the gift of the Eucharist.
A normal feature of the Easter Season is that the Scripture readings guide us in a reflection on the Sacraments of Initiation that were celebrated at the Easter Vigil. The Gospel readings of the daily Masses of the past week all came from the great Bread of Life discourse found in John, Chapter 6. “I myself am the bread of life. No one who comes t me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall ever thirst”(John 6:35). The Good Shepherd is really a continuation of our reflection on the Eucharist. The Good Shepherd cares for, nurtures and feeds his sheep. Our Shepherd not only feeds us, but feeds us with his body and his blood. Our Shepherd nourishes the life we received in Baptism with his very body and blood.
Good Shepherd Sunday also gives us a chance to observe the 53rd Annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We join with the church throughout the world in praying for vocations. The Joliet Diocesan Vocation Office web pages (www.vocations.com) are a good way to learn more about priesthood, religious life, and other church vocations. Information is also available by seeing one of our parish priests or calling the vocation office at 815-221-6100. It was recently reported that 2/3rds of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics live in developing countries and see a priest for only a few days once a year. Fortunately, our situation in our country is much different. Still, we are ordaining only four new priests for our diocese next month. For the present, we join with the church in observing today’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations and ask the Lord to bless us with good and dedicated priests to faithfully serve the church.
Since Easter is the primary season of initiation into the church community, we intentionally schedule our special celebrations of the Sacraments of Initiation (First Communion and Confirmation) during the Easter Season. We will hold our parish celebrations of First Communion on May 7th and May 14th with two First Communion Masses each day. Confirmation will be celebrated on Saturday, May 28, 2016, with two separate celebrations at 10:00am and 1:30pm. Abbot Dismas Kalcic, OSB, of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle will be our celebrant. As we prayed throughout Lent for those entering the church at the Easter Vigil, so now we pray for our young people who will be celebrating Sacraments of Initiation in May.
Thank you to all who responded to our “In-pew Follow-up Weekend” last weekend and pledged to the 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. , and especially to those who responded to Bishop Conlon’s homily and pledged during the in-pew “Commitment Weekend” last February. Our pledges support the work of the diocese, our larger church. Our CMAA goal this year is $171,242. Before our Follow-up Weekend was held, 771 households have pledged $139,723 towards our 2016 goal. The Campaign’s primary objective is participation. We are looking for 100% participation in the Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, even if a family’s participation is “I do not wish to contribute at this time.” We were able to meet and surpass our 2015 parish goal with 1,111 households participating. If you haven’t had a chance to respond to the 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, please join me and your fellow parishioners in responding to the 2016 Appeal as soon as possible. Together, we can reach our 2016 goal. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.
One of the six parish goals in our current 5-Year Plan is to deepen our prayer experiences. These goals were discerned by our Parish Pastoral Council a few summers ago. Since then, we have been suggesting different ways for growing in our experience of prayer, both as individuals and as a community. A number of people have responded by intentionally arriving at Sunday Mass early so that they can read the Scripture readings of the day before Mass and to personally prepare for Mass. And that is to be commended! Over the past few weeks we have received a number of complaints about the noise and chatter inside the church prior to Mass. Those who intentionally arrive early in order to prayerfully prepare for Mass are finding it difficult to do that. I know that there are times when we are very happy to see each other. And I believe that the people who want to come early to church and prepare for our prayer together should have the opportunity to do just that. Out of respect for those who seek to prepare themselves before Mass and those who desire to offer a thanksgiving after Mass, please limit your conversations to the Narthex area. We have a large space in the Narthex where we can easily visit and catch up with each other. Please reserve the space inside the church for quiet, personal prayer. The Narthex is a perfect place to share everyday conversations and catch up with each other. The church should be a perfect place for personal preparation before Mass and thanksgiving after Mass. Let’s all try to be more attentive to what we do inside our church space.
Last weekend’s rain has transformed our lawns, trees and bushes with new life. Let us take time to enjoy this beautiful season of the year. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy