As we gather on this first Sunday of October, we celebrate the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the beginning of Respect Life month and hold our annual Stewardship renewal weekend – “Lord, Change our Hearts, Change our Minds.” These past few weekends we have heard some timely and challenging readings from Matthew’s Gospel. Last weekend, as the landowner in the parable freely gave each of his workers a full daily wage, no matter what time they began work, we realized that we have been given an abundance of gifts from God – even though we were among the last called. This weekend brings us the parable of the two sons – a challenging invitation to say “yes” to God’s plan for us and then follow through on our “yes.”
Each autumn we conduct our annual “Stewardship as a Way of Life” renewal process and commitment weekend. Last weekend we had on display the various ministries of our parish and invited everyone to Taste and See at least one ministry they may have never considered before. Today’s Gospel of the two sons challenges us to be disciples who say “yes” to God and also follow through on God’s desires that we be faithful stewards of the gifts we have been given in “the vineyard” of our world. This Gospel provides us with a wonderful opportunity for us to hold our commitment weekend this weekend. We are committing to all three aspects of Stewardship – Time, Talent and Treasure – on the same weekend. Our recommitment materials were mailed to arrive in each parishioner’s home last week.
As Catholic Christians, we believe that everything we have is God’s gift to us. All that we have and are is a gift from God who loves us more than we can ever understand. We can receive God’s gifts with open hands and say ‘thank you,” or respond with closed fists and claim God’s gifts as “mine!” Whatever our response, God’s gifts continue to flow. If we receive them with open, grateful hands, God’s gifts can flow through us and bless those around us. Our call is to gratefully receive God’s gifts with open hands, let them bless us and then flow through us to bless others. We may have begun life with clenched fists claiming everything is “Mine!” But our call is to become grateful stewards of everything we receive and to share them. Today we have an opportunity to take the next step in living our lives as grateful stewards and recommit ourselves to sharing!
Forty-five years ago the Catholic bishops in the United States designated October as Respect Life Month. Throughout October, Catholics are called to reflect on the gift of human life, the threats against it and how we can protect all persons from conception through natural death. This year’s theme is “Be Not Afraid.” It was inspired by Jesus own words, “Behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). The Lord’s faithful presence among us can help us overcome our fears and truly be a people who respect life from conception through natural death. We will have different opportunities to consider how we can be a people of life throughout the month.
The Gospels tell us of Jesus’ practice of gathering his apostles and going off to an out-of-the-way place for prayer, reflection, rest and relaxation. This week all of the priests of our Diocese of Joliet will be following the Lord’s example. We will be gathering with our Bishops at the Pheasant Run Resort near St. Charles, IL for our bi-annual convocation. All of us will be away from Monday afternoon through Thursday afternoon. Our first Joliet Diocesan Convocation of Priests took place in the early 1980’s. It was a very powerful experience for all of us to come together with our Bishops and spend time in prayer, brotherhood, conferences, conversation and sharing. Our current practice is to do this every two years. This year’s theme is “Ministry to Catholic Youth and Young Adults (Millennials).” Cardinal Blasé Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago will be our keynote speaker on Monday evening. Additional presentations will be given by Dr. Bryan Froehle and Mr. Robert Feduccia throughout the remainder of the week. We will also take time to honor the priests celebrating significant anniversaries this year. Please keep us in prayer while we are away, as we will be sure to remember you. Since there will not be any daily Masses celebrated while we are away, a Communion service will be offered at 7:00am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. We will not have a service at the regular 12:05pm Mass time. Our regular schedule of weekday Masses will resume on Friday.
Cooler temperatures are coming our way as the autumn season settles upon us. Let’s make it a point to notice the beauty of this season – it is the Lord’s gift to us in this present moment. As always, we pray that God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy