As we continue our continuous reading of Matthew’s Gospel on this Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we reach a turning point in the Gospel. He is now making his way to Jerusalem where he will face his death. His days are limited. Time is short. From here on out, he speaks about the most important things on his mind and in his heart. For this weekend … his disciples must be peacemakers and freely share the gift of forgiveness that they have freely received! The community of his disciples (the church) must be a home that all feel free to seek out.
Now that we are past the Labor Day holiday, we welcome back all those who have spent the summer weekends away. When I was growing up, my family had a summer home on Delavan Lake in Wisconsin. Summer weekends and holidays were always spent “at the lake.” We were very familiar with the summer Mass schedules of St. Andrew’s church in Delavan and St. Benedict’s church in Fontana. Both parishes became our summer parish as we would go to whichever church offered the next scheduled Sunday Mass. We would return to our home parish of St. John the Baptist in Winfield on the Sunday following Labor Day. I was always amazed to learn what had happened at my home parish during that period we were “at the lake” between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It was easy to loose touch with our home parish while we were at our summer parishes. If this experience sounds familiar, if you have been attending another parish “at the lake” this summer, we are very happy to welcome you back home. If your summer Mass attendance took a vacation during the summer months, we are also glad to have you back with us. Autumn and the start of the school year are a good time to recommit ourselves to faithfully joining our parish community for Mass each weekend.
I suspect that we all remember, and will probably always remember, exactly where we were and what we were doing on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Monday we observe the 16th anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks on our country. A common reaction at that time was that everyone had to really ask themselves what was most important in life. The normal things that we get so excited about were all cast aside. Again this year, the news coverage of this anniversary gives us ample opportunity to reflect on the many ways the events of this day have changed us. Our individual experiences these past sixteen years have been varied. For myself, I believe that we have become much more aware of how fragile human life really is. Despite our efforts to control the circumstances around us, none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. The invitation that comes in remembering 9-11 is to not take anything for granted and to intentionally celebrate the gift of today. We need to do the things we need to do and to say the things we need to say now, today, so that there are no regrets tomorrow. Without a doubt, people are far more important than things.
Thank you to our Knights of Columbus Father John Guiney Council for hosting a “Blue Mass” at our 10:00am Mass today. This is the second year we have done this. The “Blue Mass” takes its name from the blue uniforms worn by police, fire and emergency services personnel. The “Blue Mass” also serves as a remembrance of all the first responders who died during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our country. A wise person once said that doing something for the first time is a novelty. Doing it a second time makes it a tradition. It is very appropriate that we honor our local first responder heroes as we commemorate the 9/11 anniversary tomorrow. Thank you to all police, firefighters, Sheriff’s deputies, Emergency Medical Technicians and rescue workers who have joined with us today. We thank you for your service and ask God’s continued blessings upon you and those who were unable to be with us today. And thank you to our Knights of Columbus Council for introducing this “tradition” in our community.
As I mentioned here last week, we had two separate Sundays in which we tithed 5% of that Sunday collection to the “Natural Disaster Relief Fund.” At the time, we had no idea where those tithes would be sent. Before Hurricane Harvey was out of Texas, we sent $6792 that had been earmarked in the “Natural Disaster Relief Fund” to Catholic Charities USA who were already providing care and relief in the area. Thank you for your support of our 5% Plan which allowed us to respond to this natural disaster as it was taking place. Each Sunday we will continue to “tithe” 5% of our collection to causes beyond our parish.
We are seeing good progress with our parish’s response to this year’s Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. The Catholic Ministries Appeal is the major source of funding for most of our Diocesan ministries and charities. We have paid $147,578 towards our parish goal of $173,968. Thank you to the 1067 donors who have already responded. Please be sure to keep up your payments to your pledge. I am very hopeful that we will reach our parish goal in paid pledges this year. If you have not had an opportunity to make your personal response to the Annual Appeal, please consider doing so as soon as possible. Diocesan ministries and charities depend upon our continued generosity.
It is wonderful to see so much activity all around us. The summer with its slower pace is clearly gone. It is good to be in such an alive and exciting time of year. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy