We celebrate the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time this weekend and continue our continuous reading of Luke’s Gospel. During the past few weeks we’ve been hearing Jesus speak about the qualities of true discipleship. He continues this teaching this weekend through some very familiar passages.
The Our Father is the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples. He follows that prayer with one of his central teachings – if you ask the Father for what you need, God will give it to you.
These familiar passages provide us a look at the person of God. There is a particular portrait of God painted in Jesus’ words. As Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them how to pray, Jesus takes advantage of their request to point to a God who is very close. This God is called “Abba,” or “Papa,” one known as “Father.” I suspect that Jesus’ instruction to call God “Father” ruffled the feathers of those who wanted to keep God at a formal, safe distance – perhaps on the top of some isolated mountain, out of harms way. Instead, God keeps trying to make his way back into our lives, seeking to draw near – providing us with every blessing, giving when we ask, pointing out when we seek, and opening when we knock.
It almost seems too good to be true. But isn’t that the way sin speaks in our hearts? Sin creates doubts and makes us want to believe that the Good News is too good to be true. And even though Jesus told us again and again that God is closer to us than the breath that keeps us alive, we resist and give God a makeover of sorts. We push God back into a distant heaven or imagine that God is a judge who can’t wait to condemn. Not the God of Jesus – the Abba, the Papa who seeks to bless us with everything we need. At the heart of the Our Father is God’s desire to be with us – loving us, caring for us, providing for us.
Perhaps it is a good thing that Jesus taught us about God in the form of a prayer. For every time we approach God in prayer, we are invited to recognize the presence of God with us and within us, so that we can also recognize God around us and in others.
In attempts to keep our vision focused beyond ourselves, our Diocese asks that each parish welcome a Mission Speaker who can make an appeal sometime over the course of the year. While our own needs can seem very pressing, it is important to notice the needs of those with far less than what we have. This weekend we have the opportunity to welcome Father Val Peter from the Mary Mother of God Mission Society. He will speak at each of our Masses about the Roman Catholic Mission Churches in eastern Russia. Prior to the 1917 Russian Revolution, the area of eastern Russia had a thriving Roman Catholic population who built beautiful churches, schools and hospitals. During the Communist era, especially under Stalin, most churches were confiscated, desecrated or destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of Russian Catholics were murdered. With the fall of the Communist government, mission priests returned to eastern Russia to help to re-establish the Church and provide charitable assistance to the poor. Father Val will tell us about the work of his Mission Society in restoring the Church in eastern Russia. For additional information on the Missions and the Catholic Church in Russia, please visit their website www.vladmission.org. 5% of our Offertory Collection last weekend and this weekend will be shared with his Mission Society.
Summer projects continue this week. Now that the curbs and sidewalk around the church have been repaired, it is time to resurface the parking lot. That major project is scheduled to be done this Thursday and Friday – July 28th and 29th. Thank you for your patience in taking detours to whatever place or office you need to visit while the work is being done. Your understanding is deeply appreciated!
All of this work in our parking lots is included in Phase II of our “Honoring our Roots, Cultivating our Future” capital campaign. Your faithfulness in making your pledge payments to this 5-year campaign has provided the funds that make these improvements possible. Thank you for your faithful and regular payments of your pledges.
Also, thank you to all who have pledged to the 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. Our pledges support the work of the diocese, our larger church. Our parish goal for this year’s appeal is $171,242. Thank you to the 1,024 households who have already paid $123,307 towards our parish goal. Your generosity is deeply appreciated. If you haven’t had a chance to respond to the 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, please do so as soon as possible. We have additional commitment envelopes at the Parish Office and the Hospitality Desk in the Church.
“Seize the day” – enjoy the time and the summer season that we now have before us. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy