FROM THE PASTOR’S CORNER:
A word from Pope Francis ~ “Why can’t our judgment be like the Lord? Because God is Almighty and we are not? No, because our judgment is lacking mercy. And when God judges, He judges with mercy.”
Today we celebrate the last Sunday in September and the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. As we continue our sequential reading of Luke’s Gospel this year, today’s Gospel reading follows last Sunday’s account of the dishonest steward. We now hear the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The rich man lived in extravagance; Lazarus lived in total poverty. The rich man’s fault was not his wealth or the blessings he had. His fault was that he did not even notice the poor man, Lazarus at his door. He didn’t notice those who were around him. His blindness led to indifference and inaction. Only when it was too late did he realize the errors of his ways. Our challenge is to first notice those who are around us. Only then can we respond as the Lord calls us to respond.
Last Sunday I was the main presenter at our RCIA session following the 10:00 am Mass. I called the presentation “God’s Call – Abraham and Moses,” and it explained some key ideas about the way we see ourselves as a church. In the second chapter of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church, we call ourselves the “new people of God.” I cannot stress too much how basic this idea is to the understanding of ourselves and our Catholic religion. For those who are thinking of becoming Catholics, this idea of a “people religion” explains some of the difficulties they might have or will have.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is certainly the one aspect of our faith which causes the most difficulty for prospective converts. They usually ask: “Why should I tell my sins to a priest? I can just go to God directly to have my sins forgiven.” This illustrates the basic difference between Protestantism and Catholicism. Basically Protestantism is an individual religion, relying on private reading and interpretation of the Bible. So a Protestant is inclined to think of sin as an offense only against God and naturally feels that reconciliation is only necessary with God. But a Catholic, being a member of a “People Religion,” believes that faith basically ties a person not only to God, but to God’s people. For a Catholic, sin is not only an offense against God but also an offense against God’s people. The priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation reconciles the person to God’s people (the Church) and to God through this reconciliation to the Church. So, before a Protestant would be able to accept the practice of celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he would first have to accept this way of looking at sin, and even before that, this way of looking at religion itself.
The idea of a “people religion” also explains other things which are unique to being a Catholic. One is that we honor saints because as members of the same people, they are one with us. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and are still connected to them. Another aspect is that we stress the Sunday Mass obligation so much because we are called to worship God not only as individuals, but together as a people. Finally, we have so many different symbols and ceremonies to express our faith because so many people over the ages have contributed from their culture to the practice of the people as a whole.
Other aspects of our faith grow out of our seeing ourselves as a “God and Us” religion, a “people religion.” Even our Bible, the Word of God, is a result of our being a “people religion.” The books of the Bible were written over hundreds of years by various members of the people. Over the ages, members of the church wrote down their experiences with God so that we could recognize the presence of God when we had similar experiences. God had to gather a people and relate with them before the story of God’s relationship with the people could be written. The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with us. Seeing ourselves as the community of the disciples of the Lord Jesus is another way of expressing our roots as a “God and Us” religion. We journey to God together throughout our lives together.
Our Perpetual Adoration Chapel is almost complete. We anticipate a dedication and formal opening of the Chapel in mid-October – once we have an occupancy permit. Good things are coming!
We are moving into another phase of the Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Appeal. Families who contributed to the appeal last year but have not made a contribution to this year’s appeal are being contacted. As of this week, 903 families have responded to the appeal. Thank you to those who have pledged $177,355 towards our goal of $180,100. If you have yet to make a contribution, appeal envelopes are available at the Hospitality Desk in the Church Narthex. We can reach our goal together.
As we move into the autumn season, let us make it a point to notice the beauty of the new season around us. 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