Letters from a Pastor to His People

Happy Birthday, St. Juliana

Dear Parishioners,

If you could ask God any question, what would you ask him? Why is there war? Why did my husband die so young? Why did Jesus not make life, and especially the faith, less complicated? Why do I have this debility? Why am I a Bears fan? Maybe those last two are related.

Jesus says in the Gospel on this 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, “nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known” (Matt 10:26). We will ultimately receive the answers to these questions when we are with God in heaven. But it's still worth asking them now, and reflecting on the very nature of the inquiry.

Continue...

Happy Father's Day!

Dear Parishioners,

We are completing this weekend the "quadfecta" of Sunday Feasts: Ascension, Pentecost, Holy Trinity, and now Corpus Christi. Today, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we focus on the Eucharist. The crucial passage from John 6, which is our Gospel today, lays out the concept of the real presence. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56). Saint Paul is fairly explicit as well: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16).

Continue...

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Dear Parishioners,

We celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. We believe in a Triune God: three persons all co-equal as God. Though ‘three is one’ appears illogical, the Trinity can be reasoned out…somewhat. Instead of providing the theological rational of how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one God and not three Gods, what I’d like to do here is propose more of a ‘what if’ scenario.

Continue...

Feast of the Holy Spirit

Dear Parishioners,

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire descended upon the disciples and Mary in the upper room fifty days after the Resurrection. Like Easter and the Ascension, this is a monumental day in our Church. Without the Holy Spirit, we do not have the Church; we do not have the ability to intimately relate to God.

Instead of explaining the importance of this feast day, I will leave you with a beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit, known as the Veni Creator. Perhaps you might pray it at some point today.

Continue...

Happy Memorial Day!

Dear Parishioners,

Happy Memorial Day! We remember all who have died in the service of our country, and particularly those from our parish. But let us also take the opportunity to remember and thank all of our veterans and parishioners currently serving in our armed forces.

One of my favorite hymns is "We Remember", by Marty Haugen. Here is the refrain:

We remember how you loved us to your death, and still we celebrate, for you are with us here; And we believe that we will see you when you come, in your glory, Lord, we remember, we celebrate, we believe.

Continue...

Lord of our Hearts

Dear Parishioners,

“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts (1 Pet 3:15).” What an interesting exhortation from our second reading this weekend. First, it is amazing to think that we can sanctify Christ. Usually we see it the other way around—Christ sanctifies us. He does, yes, but we also make Jesus holy. One of the ways we make Jesus holy is when we make him the Lord of our hearts.

This is the second point. It's not by mighty works of charity or piety that we bless God, but by what we "" in our hearts. What we are called to "do" is to make Jesus the complete master of our hearts. This isn't as easy as it seems. I would argue, in fact, that it's easier to say a rosary, go to a soup kitchen, or attend Mass than to say with all sincerity that Christ, and nothing else, rules our hearts. Think of all the other things that occupy a space in our hearts: family, career, hobbies, and pleasures. Does Christ come first and is he above all these other things? That is, are all of these things regulated and determined by God? Christ might be in our hearts, but he is the Lord? Yes, that is difficult.

Continue...

Happy Mothers' Day!

Dear Parishioners,

Happy Mother's Day! To all mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and any women who embody motherly attributes, thank you for who you are and all you do for us. You make the world a joyful, loving place.

To all the female parishioners at St. Juliana (as well as from my previous parish—Mary, Seat of Wisdom) who are like mothers to me because of the hugs, smiles, affirmation, meals you drop off, and so much more, thank you. I love you. To all the females on my staff who are like mothers to me, thank you. I'm sure you want to strangle me at times, like a son, but I love you. To my two sisters and sister-in-law who are like mothers to me, thank you. I love you. To my grandmother, thank you. I love you. And, of course, to my own mother: thank you. I wouldn't be the man and priest I am without your love and influence in my life. I love you.

Continue...

Fishers of Men

Dear Parishioners,

Today is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It's a day, above all, to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago. We need more priests, and not just warm bodies, but good, holy men willing to serve and bring Jesus Christ to the world.

Saint Peter was a priest, and a good one at that. In our first reading from Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2: 14, 36-41), Peter boldly proclaims Jesus Christ and baptizes 3,000 people in one day! Peter was effective. Obviously it was because his message was clear and attractive, and the subject of his message, Jesus Christ, even more attractive. The last line of our Gospel, a statement from Jesus, sums up Christ's attractiveness: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 1:10). But there was something else that made Peter effective, and it was more than his words.

Continue...

From Emmaus to Edison Park

Dear Parishioners,

The Road to Emmaus. What a fascinating story from the Gospel of Luke (Lk 24:13-35)! The two disciples, walking away from Jerusalem downcast, do not realize they are speaking with Jesus Christ until the breaking of the bread. “And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”

The two disciples were unable to recognize Jesus in the discussion of the scriptures. Even though Jesus explained clearly the meaning of what was prophesied and what happened—“then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures”—they still did not understand. They needed to receive Jesus in the Eucharist to be moved. “He was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”

Continue...

Put your finger here.

Dear Parishioners,

Thomas was so close. His sainthood teetered on the edge. If our Lord had not been merciful and returned to show his wounds, Thomas might never have believed in the Resurrection and might not have remained a follower of Christ. He would not be a saint and would be grouped instead with Judas. Thomas was so close to forsakenness. He could have fallen away. But Jesus catered to Thomas' need for proof and kept him secure. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’“ (Jn 20:27-28).

Maybe you've been close to the edge, close to falling astray and away from Christ. Or maybe even you did fall and were away for a while. Thomas is your saint then.

Continue...

With God all things are possible.

Dear Parishioners,

Happy Easter! Christ is risen from the dead, alleluia!

The Resurrection is like a code that has been programmed into the software of the earth. Dying and rising is everywhere. Think about it. Moving on to a high school or college is a resurrection experience. A student "dies" to his grammar school and is reborn in high school. Flowers are blooming. A new Cubs season is underway. People are marrying.

People are dying and being reborn to eternal life.

Companies, like Apple, have experienced the resurrection too, as have industries and brands: bourbon, neon sunglasses, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Twinkie, leggings and striped tube socks. All of these things existed at one point, began to diminish, and then returned.

Saint Juliana Parish is no different. The Resurrection is in our DNA.

Continue...

On the importance of the Resurrection

Dear Parishioners,

I teach 7th grade religion once a week in our school. Recently I asked them on a quiz to write a short-answer essay on why the resurrection is important. Here are some snippets of responses from the quizzes:

The Resurrection is important because when Jesus resurrected he opened the gates of heaven so we could live forever.

The Resurrection showed that Jesus was true to his word and also foreshadowed his coming again to judge all.

Continue...