The wisdom of Pope Francis ~ “All it takes to encounter God is to acknowledge that we are needy. And the key to that encounter lies in humbling ourselves.”
On this first Sunday of May, we celebrate the Sixth Sunday of the Easter season. We continue our reading of the Farewell Discourse from John’s Gospel. We hear a very powerful and encouraging message. Situated at the Last Supper, Jesus shares his parting wish with his disciples – keep on loving! “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” “Love one another as I love you.” “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” “This I command you: love one another.” Jesus prepares his disciples for his coming departure with these words of encouragement.
Anticipated separations can rob us of a peaceful spirit and make us feel troubled or afraid. Change is never easy. Jesus knew the human heart well. And he knew their call to be his disciples would not be an easy one – that they would need someone to strengthen them (the Holy Spirit). As he prepares the apostles for what is to come, he is also preparing us for our celebration of the gift of God’s Spirit among us on Pentecost. We will celebrate that feast in just two weeks.
As the Lord promises to remain with us by sending the gift of the Spirit, we have the opportunity to reflect upon the third of the three Sacraments of Initiation we celebrated at the Easter Vigil – the Sacrament of Confirmation. During the homily at our parish celebration of Confirmation last Saturday, I reminded the candidates of our call to be disciples of the Lord Jesus. As I explored what being a “disciple” really means, we saw that being a disciple in our day is not an easy path. Since the Lord also knew that, he promised to send us “another advocate” to be our strength and our guide. That advocate was none other than the Holy Spirit – sent to the early disciples and to us to be our strength. One of the ways that the Lord continues to be with us is through the gift of the Spirit, of which we have all received, beginning at our Baptism. Becoming aware of the Spirit’s presence among us is a wonderful way for us to conclude our celebration of the Easter season. Let’s listen carefully to the Lord’s Farewell Discourse over the next few weeks and appreciate the gift of the Spirit that has been given to us.
Last Saturday, April 28th, we celebrated two Confirmation Masses during which 157 teens and adults from our parish were confirmed. As we do not have at this time an Auxiliary Bishop in our Diocese, Bishop Conlon delegated me as pastor to preside at both celebrations of this sacrament. As I had interviewed so many of the candidates in the final weeks of their preparation, I knew them and they knew me! It was an honor for me to complete the Christian initiation journey with our parishioners. Congratulations to all who were confirmed this year, both last Saturday and at the Easter Vigil on March 30th. We are very happy to see you take the next step in your lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus. Thank you to Arizbeth Alcaraz, Terri Majeski and Jackie Ludwig who coordinated our Confirmation program this year. Thank you to Vera Zielinski and Amy Alvarez who assisted with the details of the celebrations and to all of our catechists and facilitators who volunteered in our various formation programs that prepared our newly-confirmed parishioners to take this next step in their lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus. And finally, thank you to our adult choir members who led us in our sung prayer at both Confirmation Masses.
We began our parish celebrations of First Communion this weekend. Two First Communion Masses were celebrated yesterday and two additional First Communion Masses will be celebrated next Saturday. Congratulations to all of our Second Grade parishioners who are celebrating their First Communion this year. It is great watching them as they take this next step in their faith lives. Their enthusiasm is contagious. With the Eucharist so available to us every day, it is easy to forget what a wonderful gift we have from the Lord. Our 2nd graders are reminding us of this as they come to the altar for the first time. At the conclusion of each celebration, I invited each of our First Communicants to wear their special clothing when they come back for Sunday Mass today. Please congratulate them when you see them. Congratulations also to their parents for bringing them to this point in their lives. Thank you also to Vera Zielinski, our Faith Formation staff and our catechists who assisted their parents in preparing our young people for this new beginning.
Next Sunday we will celebrate the feast of the Ascension. Normally this feast is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, which would be this coming Thursday, May 10th. Nineteen years ago, our Bishops received permission to transfer the observance of the feast to the nearest Sunday. This had already been the practice in the western states of our country. The Bishops of the state of Illinois decided to make the transfer, which took effect in May 2000. So this Thursday is simply “Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter.” Next Sunday is the feast of the Ascension and the following Sunday will be the feast of Pentecost, bringing our 50-day Easter celebration to a close.
We are now in a very busy month of our parish calendar, especially with our Sacramental celebrations. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy