“Father, What’s That Doing Here?”
Several years ago, I had to preach on the exact same gospel that we hear proclaimed at Mass this weekend. It was the power story of Lazarus who dies, and then Jesus shows up on the scene, and brings him back to life. Lazarus was a real lucky guy because he was given an unbelievable opportunity to have a second chance on life. I don’t know a lot of people who have come back from the dead to pick-up where they left-off like he did.
The bright idea that I had was to use a visual aid that would tie in with my Lazarus homily, which was basically about moving from death to new life. At times a preacher will use a prop, or a picture, a plant, or even a person to help get his message across to the congregation.
The prop that I had in mind to go along with my Lazarus homily was a funeral casket. So, on a Saturday afternoon, I called the neighborhood funeral home and asked Matt, the funeral director, if he could deliver an empty casket to the church for the weekend. I could tell from the long silent pause over the phone that he wondered if I was feeling okay, or if I needed to go to the hospital.
I reassured Matt that the casket was not for me but that it was definitely going to be part of my homily at all of the Sunday Masses. We made a deal that he could pick it up on Monday morning and take it back, unscratched, to the funeral home. Even though he was a little uneasy about loaning such a valuable piece of his merchandise, he dropped off a nice walnut one in church. I knew I won him over when I told him that I would mention his funeral home at Mass, since he handled 90% of the funerals in the parish. He appreciated the subtle and free commercial.
We put the casket right in the center aisle right in front of the altar, just like we do for a funeral Mass. We purposefully left the lid propped open, even though there wasn’t a body laid inside.
Before Mass, I got a kick out of watching parishioners coming into church and seeing the casket. Most did not know what to make of it. I could tell that some people on the very far side aisles of church were straining their necks trying to get a glance to see who was in the casket. It was easy to read their lips when they turned to each other and shrugged their shoulders, and said, “I don’t know. There is nobody in there.”
One loyal usher came up to me and asked, “Father, is the funeral over? Do you want me to move this off to the side somewhere?” I politely said, “No. It’s okay. You can leave it there.”
I could have been mean and told him, “Well, we are waiting for the woman to come back from the bathroom!” I wonder what he would have done then?
The point of the “casket homily” that Sunday was to ask the folks in the pew; What in your life needs to be buried, so that you can live? What would you like to put in the ground and let go of so that you can freely move-on with a sense of freedom and hope? What do you need to bury? Impatience? Greed? Jealously? Anger? Doubt? Fear? Imagine if you were able to close the lid on these things once and for all in your life. There would certainly be a sense of peace and joy.
Our Lenten prayer, fasting and charitable giving reminds us that this change is possible when we let Jesus enter our life. If Jesus had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead, imagine what he could do for you and me? Trust that he is the one who can raise us up. The Good News is that Jesus gives us a second chance on life!
Lenten Confessions: Wednesday, April 5th, St. Vincent De Paul
Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph parish will be joining our neighboring parishes, (St. Michael, St. Teresa, and St. Vincent DePaul) for a Lenten Reconciliation Service that will take place on Wednesday, April 5th at 7:00 PM at St. Vincent De Paul church at the corner of Webster and Sheffield Avenues. There will be several priests available to hear confessions. This is a great opportunity to receive the Lord’s mercy and compassion.
If there are ICSJ parishioners who need transportation to St. Vincent DePaul church that evening, please call our Parish Office: 312-787-7174. We will be providing a shuttle service from our parish.
Thank you to all who recently contributed to our Refugee Family Collection. We were able to raise $20,469 to support the family that arrived in Chicago on Wednesday from Afghanistan. Our parish has been working closely with Catholic Charities to get them settled in the United States.
The father and mother are both in their 30’s. The father served as an interpreter to the US Military. He speaks English, and we are hoping he has passed this down to his four children; three boys age 10, 8, and 3 and a daughter who is 6.
Besides the financial support, so many of our parishioners have graciously offered to help the family get settled and adjusted in our big city, and offered other services as well. The response has been phenomenal. Thank you for your generosity and support. This has been a great hallmark of our Lenten journey this year.
Preparing for Holy Week.
We are quickly moving through the season of Lent and making our way toward Holy Week. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday. Included in today’s bulletin is our Holy Week Schedule of services. I hope that you will be able to pray and worship at Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Parish as we trace the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These liturgies are packed with the great symbols, traditions and rituals of our Catholic Church. It’s the most important week of the whole year for Catholics.
Praise the Lord!
There is information in today’s bulletin from Kate Ryan, our Director of Music, regarding the various choirs that are being formed for our Holy Week services and our Easter Sunday Masses. The commitment is not huge, and the rehearsals are all spelled out.
Maybe you have been blessed with a good singing voice, or you are a talented musician? Maybe God is calling you to share your gifts with our worshiping community? It’s something to think about, this Lent.
Who Are You? Where Are You From?
We counted during the Month of March how many people attend each of our five weekend Masses. This information helps us to affirm that our parish is slowly growing; especially as we as we put a lot of energy and effort into making our parish more visible and know within the near-north part of downtown Chicago.
When I ask our first-time visitors, “How did you find us?” they will typically say, “We googled you on the internet and ICSJ came up fist.” The Good News is that our March survey numbers show that our attendance is up about 100 people from this time last year. We are headed in the right direction. Thank you for choosing Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph parish as you place of worship.