Today we continue our celebration of Christmas with the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. This feast is celebrated on the church calendar in our country on the Sunday following January 1st. The traditional date for this feast is the 12th day of Christmas, January 6th. This feast of the Magi or the Three Kings commemorates the Lord’s first manifestation to people outside of the Jewish people. The Magi were foreigners, Persians and astrologers. And as foreigners, they were not included in God’s original covenant with Abraham and the Jewish 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.
We also celebrate today the first Sunday of the New Year, 2016. This new beginning gives us a fresh, new start with many new opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. It seemed that many of the recent “2017 Year in Pictures” segments in the newspapers and periodicals featured images of human suffering and pain, especially the violence related to mass shootings Las Vegas and across the country. These images seem to call us back to the basics, to the things that really matter. Family and faith are at the head of that list of things that really matter. Also high on the list are the relationships that sustain us and give us life. These past few weeks of the Christmas season have given us many different opportunities to reconnect with those who are important in our lives. We realize that our faith, which gives us direction and purpose, and our relationships, which give us life, do matter the most. I hope that these truly important aspects of life influence our New Year’s resolutions this year.
We have had our 2018 parish calendars available in the Narthex since the beginning of Advent when we began the new Church Year. We still have copies available in both English and Spanish. I want to thank the Salerno family and the Salerno’s Rosedale Chapels for their generosity in providing our parish calendars again this year.
We celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord tomorrow, Monday. Normally it is celebrated on the Sunday following the Epiphany. But during years when the Epiphany is celebrated late, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated the following day. 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 now have the new 2017-2018 Joliet Seminarian poster displayed in our church, chapel and school. Included in our Diocesan Vocations poster is Aaron Minix and Joseph Solomon, Pre-Theology students from our own parish. The poster highlights the fact that our diocesan seminarians come from parishes much like our own. Another parishioner in seminary formation is Michael Olsta, a Second 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 Mark’s Gospel. This first part of the Ordinary Time cycle will last until Ash Wednesday on February 14th. 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.
Last Wednesday, January 10th, was the 36th anniversary of the death of Bishop Romeo Blanchette, the second Bishop of our Diocese of Jolliet. December 22nd, was the 2nd anniversary of the death of Bishop Joseph Imesch, the third Bishop of our Diocese. Last Sunday, Bishop Conlon celebrated a Mass at the Cathedral in memory of Bishops Blanchette and Imesch and all the priests and deacons who died this past year. We prayerfully commend them to the Lord as we remember their service to our Diocese.
Finally, I want to thank all of you, the members of our St. Isidore parish family for your continued support of our many, many parish ministries and activities. I also want to thank you for your faithful financial support. Not only were you very generous in your Christmas offerings, but you are also very generous in responding to our Stewardship Recommitment last fall, and very faithful in honoring your pledges to our capital campaign, Honoring Our Roots, Cultivating Our Future. Thank you for being so faithful in your weekly support of the parish through your regular Sunday offerings. Without your continued support, we could not provide all of the ministries, activities and programs that make us such an alive and active parish community. Another area that we can be proud of is our response to the 2017 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. For many years our response has fallen short of our diocesan goal. This past year we have surpassed our goal in paid pledges to the diocese and will receive a rebate of pledges paid over our goal. This past year has been a good year for our parish.
I also want to thank you for the volunteer services you provide. Our liturgies, our spiritual ministries to the homebound and infirm, including the area nursing homes, our social outreach ministries, our parish social functions, and our religious and educational activities could not be provided without the many volunteers who provide their time, service and talents to accomplish these tasks.
Now that we have said goodbye to 2017 and begun the New Year, 2018, we look to the future with faith and hope. We pray that God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy