FROM THE PASTOR’S CORNER:
A word from Pope Francis ~ “Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.”
As we gather on this first Sunday in October, we celebrate the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time and begin 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.
Forty-eight 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 “Live the Gospel of Life.”
This year the Church celebrates the 25th anniversary of the landmark pro-life encyclical Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life). Written by Pope St. John Paul II, this prophetic document passionately reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching on the value and sacredness of every human life. It remains a foundational text for all our efforts to ensure that the life of every human person is protected and cherished. This special anniversary is the inspiration behind this year’s Respect Life theme, “Live the Gospel of Life.” We will have different opportunities to consider how we can “Live the Gospel of Life” throughout the month.
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 faith. For those who are thinking of becoming Catholics, this idea of a “people religion” (God & us) explains some of the difficulties they might 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 (God & me), 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” (God & us), 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 & Us” community. We journey to God together throughout our lives.
We are partnering again this year with the Northern Illinois Food Bank in providing Thanksgiving Dinner food baskets for those in need among us. Your $20 donation will provide a Thanksgiving Dinner basket for a family. We need to place our order with the Northern Illinois Food Bank by October 9th. Donations can be made at our Masses this weekend or at the parish office. Thank you in advance for your care for those in need among us.
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. Please see our weekly bulletin posted on the parish website for additional news, the additional notices with this mid-week Flocknote and other notices on our parish Facebook page. We try to use as many social media vehicles as possible to keep everyone up-to-date with all that is happening here. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy