Walking In The Light of Christ
Today’s celebration of the Epiphany proclaims that Christ is the Messiah, the glory of God. He is the light that breaks into the night and who gives a new hope and rebirth to the people that walked in darkness.
The magi came from afar and worshiped and adored the Christ child in all his fragility, vulnerability and innocence. He becomes the new temple before whom we bow down and worship. After the hectic celebration of Christmas, this feast helps us to grasp more deeply that gift that has been given to us. The Epiphany helps us to hold onto the sacred mystery of Christmas. We realize that Christ has come to save us, and that God desires that all people hear this message of hope.
The Epiphany invites us to find a new path and a new route as we begin this year. The Gospel message calls us to be more open to people who are fragile and vulnerable, weak and poor, and to share our hope and joy with others. We can bring them the light of Christ through our love and care.
What difference does this birth make to our lives as we now return to our regular routines and daily commitments? Like the wise men who faithfully followed the star that took them to Jesus, can we allow the light of Christ to guide us in all things, long after the Christmas decorations are put away for another year?
The Challenges Before Us
The January (2015) edition of Chicago magazine had a very interesting and informative cover story written by Elizabeth Fenner entitled, “Catholics At A Crossroad.” This special report points to the fact that more Chicagoans are leaving the Catholic Church; which raises the question, “Can new Archbishop Blasé Cupich change that?”
Studies state that, “In 1980, Catholics made up 43 percent of the total population of Cook and Lake counties, the territory encompassed by the Archdiocese of Chicago. Today they constitute about 35 percent, or 2.07 million people, according to an exclusive poll conducted by Rako Reseach and Strategies for Chicago in November. Meanwhile, 14 percent of the residents in those two counties -more than 800,000 people - used to be Catholic but left the church. Put another way: for every 10 Catholics here there are 4 ex-Catholics.” The article lists a variety of issues that have contributed to this sharp decline. It also cites the need for unity given the diversity of believers and their backgrounds and how they identify with the Catholic Church. Most of all, we are a church that has been seriously wounded by its sins, and one that is still trying to regain its credibility and the trust with those who once sat in the pews.
It would it be helpful to take the time to read the article. I suspect we all know someone who has distanced themselves from the Catholic Church for whatever reason. What would it take to bring them back? A simple invitation? A word of encouragement? Sharing the good news with them? I think more and more God is calling us all to be missionaries like the disciples of the early church who asked people to come and see what Christ has to offer. Who can you ask?
Let’s Get Connected
Our new website has been up and running for a couple of weeks. It seems to have been a big improvement especially for those new to our parishes and seeking basic information.
I recently registered for the parish online. It took me about three minutes to submit the form. It’s easier than booking a plane ticket. If you are not registered at Immaculate Conception or St. Joseph, please do so, especially if you frequently attend Mass at either parish.
Your registration is important information for us for several reasons. At times our parish staff needs to be in direct contact with parishioners. For example, when there are emergency situations, like a death in the family, it is helpful to have their contact information readily at hand so that we can minister to them. Also, when someone is anticipating receiving a sacrament, like a baptism or a wedding, the parish needs to record the information in a family file for future reference. Also, a person may be asked to serve as a godparent for a child’s Baptism or to be a Confirmation sponsor. In order to do so, they will be required to get a letter from their parish stating that they are actively practicing Catholics and in good standing with the church. Register today! It helps us to stay connected.
“You Better Watch Out!”
I had the opportunity to meet Archbishop Blasé Cupich over the holidays at a Christmas party. My brother Brian, who works for the Catholic Cemeteries of Chicago, had their Christmas party at the Drury Lane Theater in Oakbrook. It’s a nice moment for the employees and their families. Our new archbishop was invited to share in the festivities.
That night, the archbishop told me a funny story about what happened when he walked into the main lobby that was beautifully decorated from wall to wall for Christmas. When entered he saw a long line of little children waiting with their parents to pay their visit and make a wish with Santa in the North Pole exhibit. He heard one of the parents say, “Look! It’s the new archbishop” Suddenly a bunch of kids left the Santa and bolted over to welcome him.
I could tell that Archbishop Blasé felt a little embarrassed when he upstaged Santa. However, I think Pope Francis would be proud of his new appointment. Welcome to life in the big city.