As we begin the wonderful month of May today, we also continue our 50-day celebration of Easter. We celebrate the Sixth Sunday of the season and continue our reading of the Farewell Discourse from John’s Gospel. We hear a very powerful and encouraging message. Situated at the Last Supper, as Jesus is taking leave of his disciples, he reassures them: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you…. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid…. I am going to the Father…. I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”
Anticipated separations can rob us of a peaceful spirit and make us feel troubled or afraid. Change is never easy. Jesus knew the human heart well. And he knew their call to be his disciples would not be an easy one – that they would need someone to strengthen them (the Holy Spirit). As he prepares the apostles for what is to come, he is also preparing us for our celebration of the gift of God’s Spirit among us on Pentecost. We will celebrate that feast in just two weeks.
Next Sunday we will celebrate the feast of the Ascension. Normally this feast is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, which would be this coming Thursday, May 5th. Seventeen years ago, our Bishops received permission to transfer the observance of the feast to the nearest Sunday. This had already been the practice in the western states of our country. The Bishops of the state of Illinois decided to make the transfer, which took effect in May 2000. So this Thursday is simply “Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter.” Next Sunday is the feast of the Ascension and the following Sunday will be the feast of Pentecost, bringing our 50-day Easter celebration to a close.
As the Lord promises to remain with us by sending the gift of the Spirit, we have the opportunity to reflect upon the third of the three Sacraments of Initiation we celebrated at the Easter Vigil – the Sacrament of Confirmation. During the recent interviews with our Confirmation candidates, I discussed with them our call to be disciples of the Lord Jesus. As we explored what being a “disciple” really means, we saw that being a disciple in our day is not an easy path. Since the Lord also knew that, he promised to send us “another advocate” to be our strength and our guide. This weekends Gospel reminded us that advocate was none other than the Holy Spirit – sent to the early disciples and to us to be our strength. One of the ways that the Lord continues to be with us is through the gift of the Spirit, of which we have all received, beginning at our Baptism. Becoming aware of the Spirit’s presence among us is a wonderful way for us to conclude our celebration of the Easter season. Let’s listen carefully during the next few weeks and appreciate the gift of the Spirit that has been given to us.
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 beginning next Saturday, May 7th and continuing on Saturday, May 14th. Two First Communion Masses will be celebrated 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 the 930 households who have responded to Bishop Conlon’s request to support the 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. We are very close to our 2016 goal in pledges with $165,662 pledged towards our parish goal $171,242. Thank you for your generous response. The Diocese is finalizing the second follow-up letter which will be mailed to those who made a pledge over the past few years but have not yet made a pledge for this year’s Appeal. I want to encourage everyone who has not had a chance to respond to the 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal to do so as soon as possible. We have additional commitment envelopes at both the Parish Office and the Hospitality Desk in the Church. On-line pledges can be made at www.jolietdioceseappeal.org. Thank you again to all those who have already responded and are helping us reach our 2016 goal in pledges. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.
May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy