30 Sep

Nothing is Worth More Than Our Souls

Letters from a Pastor to His People- September 30, 2018

Dear Parishioners,

Nothing is worth more than our souls.  Money, our health, the 70-inch flat-screen TV, that Scotch collection in our basement...nothing.  We should be willing to do whatever it takes to protect our souls and strengthen them.  We should be willing to sacrifice and forgo anything that would endanger our souls.

This is what my namesake, St. James, is getting at in the second reading this weekend. "Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days" (James 5:2-3).

This is also what Jesus is getting at when he says, rather extremely, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off" (Mark 9:43).

What's the best thing we can do for our souls? Pray and worship God.  Those aren't the only things we need to do, but they are the most important (in my opinion). 

We are a spiritual people.  We are built for God.  We are hard-wired to be in touch with Jesus.  When we are not in touch with God, mainly through prayer and worship, we become a hollowed-out version of ourselves. 

There are things that pull us away from the spiritual life.  They don't necessarily have to, but they can, depending on our personalities.  If food or video games or our career become ends in themselves and do not lead us to Jesus, then we need to cut them out, like that hand that causes us to sin in our Lord's example.

23 Sep

Come To Me

Letters from a Pastor to His People- September 23, 2018

Dear Parishioners,

In the Gospel of Mark there is a motif known as the "Messianic Secret." Jesus desires his identity as the Messiah to remain hidden.  We saw it in last weekend's Gospel, when Peter calls Jesus 'the Christ."  The Gospel reads immediately afterwards, "Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him" (Mk 8:30).

Jesus keeps quiet in the Gospel this week as well.  "Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it" (Mk 9:30).

Why did Jesus not want people to know who he truly was?  It seems odd, doesn't it?  I mean, we wouldn't today tell people not to talk about Christ. In fact, just the opposite.  We want people to tell the world about the Lord.

I won't go into all the reasons for the Messianic Secret.  The best explanation I recall reading is that Jesus wanted the people to fall in love with him.  Jesus did not want people to be swept up in the grandeur of the 'Messiah.' If people knew who Jesus was, from a title and functional standpoint, before they came to know him as a person, they may not have authentically been attracted to him.

16 Sep

Christ in Korea

Dear Parishioners,

The cross is the theme this week.  Last Friday the Church celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  This Sunday, the 24th in Ordinary Time, Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mk 8:34).  The first reading from Isaiah 50 we also read on Palm Sunday and later this week on Thursday we will celebrate the feast day of the martyrs Andrew Kim Tae-gon and Paul Chong Ha-sang.  A word or two on these Korean saints, as their stories are inspiring and exemplify the Gospel.

Catholicism did not enter Korea until 1592.  Like Japan, the nation was isolated and sealed off from foreign contact.  Somehow Catholic literature from China, brought there by Jesuit missionaries, found its way into the peninsula.  The native Koreans who read the material were so impressed they converted.  When a Chinese priest at last visited Korea in the late 1700s, he found nearly 4,000 Catholics. Remember, these Catholics had never seen a priest. 

09 Sep

Be Open to Jesus

Dear Parishioners,

"[Jesus] put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, 'Ephphatha!'— that is, 'Be opened!' — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly" (Mk 7:33-35). 

There is a little ritual during the sacrament of Baptism called the "Ephphatha Rite." After the child has been baptized, the priest blesses the child's ears and mouths.  The hope is that the child will one day be able to hear God's word and then proclaim it to others.  Maybe parents hope as well that the child will be able to listen to the parents when the child is told to go to bed or stop fighting with their siblings.  Either way, the priest is asking the ears and mouth to be opened, as that is what the word Ephphatha means.

To be opened.  Pope Benedict XVI, in an Angelus Address several years ago, said that one word, Ephphatha, captures Christ's entire mission.  Jesus came to open us, to free us from anything that would enslave us.  Jesus came to set us free.

05 Sep

Statement of Cardinal Blase J. Cupich on Misleading NBC Chicago Report August 29, 2018

An NBC Chicago TV report that aired Monday night was edited in such a way that gave the false impression that Pope Francis and I consider the protection of children to be less important than other issues, such as the environment or immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A review of the unedited footage of that interview shows that I was referring to the recent letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, not the terrible crime of clergy sexual abuse. I said that it was not appropriate, or even possible for Pope Francis to respond to the letter’s many undocumented allegations, and I endorsed his request that journalists determine their veracity.

I was then asked whether there should be an independent investigation of the Archbishop Theodore McCarrick case, and I endorsed the call of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for a thorough investigation.

The edited report created the false impression that my comment that the pope should not “go down the rabbit hole” of the allegations in the Viganò letter was about sexual abuse. As the unedited footage shows, it was not.

As I wrote in my letter responding to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report: “Whatever words we may use to describe the anguish of reading about these heinous acts, they can never capture the reality of suffering endured by victims of sexual abuse, suffering compounded by the woeful responses of bishops who failed to protect the people they were ordained to serve. … We must resolve to face our failures and hold each other accountable. We must resolve to be clear-eyed about what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what remains to be done. We must resolve to live in the light of humility, of repentance, of honesty — the light of Christ. As your bishop, I pledge to continue holding firm to that resolve. And I ask for you to pray for all victims of abuse.”

 

02 Sep

It's the Spirit that's Fundamental

Dear Parishioners,

The Law of Moses from the Old Testament, as I've mentioned before, consisted of over 600 laws.  Those who practiced every law down to the last detail were few.  They were the urban elite.  Some of the laws dealt with ritual washing.  Farmers in the countryside simply could not do this.  Water was too scarce and precious.  Some of the laws dealt with coming in contact with dead objects.  Again, this was unavoidable for the working class. Fishermen, for example, often pulled out dead fish from their nets.  And there are many other cases of the futility of the law.

Lest the majority of people be in constant legal violation, the Hebrews created what they called "the Little Tradition." This was an adaptation of the laws of Moses.  The essence of the important laws were observed. 

But not for the Pharisees.  They followed everything, and judged those who did not.  And Jesus calls them out for it.  "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites..."(Mk 7:6).