As we gather on this Columbus Day holiday weekend, we celebrate the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time and continue our observance of Respect Life month. With our sequential reading of Matthew’s Gospel this year, we see the tension between Jesus and the religious leaders continues to escalate. Once again, he makes them the target of the parable we hear this weekend. As they answer Jesus’ question about the proper fate of the evil tenants of the vineyard, they pronounce the judgment on themselves: “the kingdom of heaven will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” We are now in a very challenging section of Matthew’s Gospel.
“Lord, Change our Hearts, Change our Minds.” Last weekend I ran my own version of the “Chicago Marathon” as we held our 2017 Parish Renewal of Stewardship Commitment to Prayer, Ministry & Support. I was able to preach at each of our six English Masses. Thank you to Father Juan Jose who delivered the same message at both of our Spanish Masses over the weekend. We gathered together at each of our weekend Masses and with gratitude for all of the many gifts God pours over us each day, we committed to offer a portion of our time in prayer, to share a portion of our talents in ministry and a portion of our treasure in parish support.
Holding the basket in the center aisle, it was a wonderful sight to see so many of our community at each Mass came forward to place their response envelopes in one of the baskets at the front of the church. There were children sent up by their parents, some semi-reluctant teens who may have been seated on the aisle, young adults, young parents, families with teens, empty nesters, the widowed and senior citizens – all processing toward the altar as they sought to take the next step in responding to the call of Christian Stewardship. “Lord, Change our Hearts, Change our Minds.” It was a very encouraging moment to behold.
If you were away or unable to return your response envelope last weekend, additional envelopes are available at the Hospitality Desk in the Church. Please complete them as soon as possible and return them either in the regular collection or to the Parish Office. Again, thank you for your efforts to respond to the Lord’s call to be faithful stewards.
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.
Jesus’ words have a particular urgency today as the “culture of death” continues to grow all around us. We saw this last Sunday night with the horrific shooting tragedy in Las Vegas – the deadliest shooting incident in the history of our country. We are all called to fully participate in the culture of life that Jesus lived and died for. Our culture does not believe that human life is sacred, from the moment of conception through natural death. So many events have become commonplace – senseless shootings in our major cities, innocent life taken by terrorists, killings based on ethnic and religious differences, executions sanctioned by the state, abortion facilities opening in our backyard with over 60,000,000 abortions taking place in our country during the 44 years since the Roe v. Wade decision. We can make a start by making the personal choice to uphold and really witness to the sanctity and dignity of every human life. We offer our prayers throughout this Respect Life month that our Catholic Christian values promoting a culture of life continue to influence everything that we do in our society and throughout the world.
Thank you for your prayers for us and all of the priests of our diocese as we gathered with our Bishops last week for our Joliet Priests’ Convocation. This year’s theme was “Ministering to Catholic Youth and Young Adults (Millennials).” Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago was our keynote speaker on Monday evening. Additional presentations were given by Dr. Bryan Froehle and Mr. Robert Feduccia throughout the remainder of the week. We took time to honor the priests celebrating significant anniversaries this year. Thank you also to Angie Orlando who led Communion services on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings while we were away.
The Convocation was a great experience for all of the priests of our diocese to be together with our Bishops. The spectrum ran from those newly ordained to those retired. Personally for me, it was good to see several of the priests I had served with in previous parishes. As we shared our memories, it became very clear to me that each of us had all been in the right place at the right time in our lives. Our prayer times together were powerful, especially the Masses we concelebrated with the Bishop.
Monday’s Columbus Day holiday has given many of our young people a 4-day or even 5-day weekend! Our parish offices will be closed on Monday, October 9th, in observance of Columbus Day. We will reopen at 8:00am on Tuesday, October 10th. Enjoy the holiday.
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