Today we continue our celebration of Christmas with the feast of the Epiphany. The traditional date for this feast is the 12th day of Christmas, January 6th. Since this feast is not a Holy Day of Obligation in our country, we normally celebrate it on the Sunday following January 1st. This feast of the Magi or the Three Kings commemorates the Lord’s first manifestation to people outside of the Jewish nation. The Magi were foreigners, Persians. And as foreigners, they were not included in God’s original covenant with the Hebrew people. Their presence at Jesus’ birth hints at one aspect of his ultimate mission of bringing salvation to all peoples. Fortunately, that also includes us.
On Monday we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus’ Baptism was the inauguration of his mission in our world, his acceptance of his vocation. This is a good opportunity for us to focus on church vocations – those that arise from Baptism as well as those that are lived in the diaconate, priesthood and religious life. We are blessed to be able to welcome two of our diocesan seminarians to our parish this weekend. Jim Olofson is a Third Year Theology student from St. Walter’s parish in Roselle and Senovio Sarabia is a First Year Theology student from St. Matthew’s parish in Glendale Heights. Both are studying at Mundelein Seminary. We will be able to hear their vocation stories at our Masses this weekend.
We now have the new 2016-2017 Joliet Seminarian poster displayed in our church, chapel and school. Included in our Diocesan Vocations poster is Aaron Minix, a First Year Pre-Theology student from our own parish. He was accepted into seminary formation this past spring and this is the first year of seminary formation. The poster highlights the fact that our diocesan seminarians come from parishes much like our own. Also beginning seminary formation this year is Michael Olsta, a First Year Pre-Theology student from our parish. He is studying for the Diocese of Peoria.
Monday’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas/Epiphany cycle of the Church Year. On Tuesday, we begin the cycle of Ordinary Time, wearing green vestments. Our Sunday Gospel reading will begin the continuous reading of Matthew’s Gospel. This first part of the Ordinary Time cycle will last until Ash Wednesday on March 1st. The end of the holidays and the beginning of Ordinary Time does not mean that less than exciting things are happening in our lives. We are still called to grow closer to our God, but in ordinary, everyday and normal ways. And God continues to be present to us in the Ordinary Time Season of the year as he does in the major seasons of the year – like Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. God is always faithful no matter what season we may be celebrating at the present time. Our task is to keep our eyes, ears, mind and heart open to the subtle ways God moves in our lives.
With the beginning of the New Year, we have recently heard a lot of coverage on the talk and news shows about New Year’s resolutions. New beginnings invite us to make fresh starts in many different ways. If one of your New Year’s resolutions included growing in your relationship with God or growing in your faith, I invite you to consider some of the growth opportunities available in our parish this January.
One opportunity began last Thursday evening and runs over the next several Thursdays (Wednesdays in Spanish) – Bishop Robert Barron’s latest Word on Fire series, “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players.” Similar to his earlier series, “The Pivotal Players” is a video series in six installments and continues to tell the story of our church and provides an opportunity to discover the figures who shaped the Church and changed the world. Each session focuses on a saint, artist, mystic or scholar, particularly St. Francis of Assisi (the reformer), St. Thomas Aquinas (the Theologian), Blessed John Henry Neumann (the convert), St. Catherine of Sienna (the mystic), G.K. Chesterton (the evangelist), and Michelangelo (the artist). Each of these “pivotal players” lived at the right place and at he right time and left their mark on the church. Father Matt will be guiding sessions on Thursday evenings in English and beginning this Wednesday, sessions in Spanish – both in the Chapel Lower Level. Registration information can be found elsewhere in the bulletin.
Additional opportunities for personal growth in our faith include the various Bible Study groups that meet at our parish over the course of the week. One group meets on Monday nights and will be studying the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. A women’s group meets on Thursday mornings and will make “A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother.” And a young adult group meets every other Sunday evening. Times and locations of these various Bible Study groups are listed on the Adult Faith Formation page of the bulletin.
These unique opportunities for spiritual growth can help us take the next step in our relationship with God, whatever that may be. I encourage each of us to take advantage of the program that best seems to fit our personal circumstances at this time in our lives. January is a great month to take these steps.
As we conclude our celebration of the Christmas Season this weekend and move into the season of Ordinary Time, we have many opportunities to recognize and celebrate God’s presence in the ordinary and routine moments of our lives. It is a time of thanksgiving and grace. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy