Will they know you are a Christian?

12-06-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

You are hereby summoned by the order of His Holiness, Pope Francis to participate in the Jubilee of Mercy beginning on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (It is a Holy Day of Obligation in the USA.)

I put it that way because participation in the Jubilee Year is not optional but constitutive of being a Christian. This is not a matter of Christians ramping up their good deeds. Pope Francis wants to shape the way we do Church and practice religion in the 21st century.

When Jesus spoke to St. Faustina, guding her to give us the Divine Mercy teaching, He told her that he had opened up the door of His Mercy and that all are invited to walk through it while it is open. But there would come a time when the door is closed and then the only option would be to walk through the door of His Justice. Pope Francis will open the Holy Doors in the four-major Basilica's of Rome, which normally remain sealed up except when a Jubilee Year is declared. I think in many ways this is a symbolic way to visually remind us to take seriously the invitation to open ourselves to mercy and to practice mercy while there is still time.

And if you can't make it to Rome we have two Holy Doors designated in our Diocese, one at the Cathedral in Phoenix and the other at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. Our Bishops will open both doors on Sunday December 13th and you are invited to participate.

On a less authoritative summons, our Stewardship Committee invites you to participate today in our People Raiser to the fourth power (PR4): The FORCE AWAKENS! Why to the fourth power? First because Pope Francis has called on us to exponentially increase the ways we practice our faith. Secondly this year we have changed the format so rather than one big People Raiser or Ministry Fair we will hold four smaller ones during the year. This will give us an opportunity to focus more in depth on the variety of service commitments available. It will also help us tie each ministry to one or more of the Works of Mercy. Our goal is to make sure that each of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy are practiced through our Parish service. That may mean intensifying already existing ministries or forming completely new ones.

So for instance one of the Corporal Works of Mercy is to feed the hungry. We do that in two ways: through our St. Vincent de Paul Conference and through participation in the Tempe I-Help Program. How about Visit the Sick? Our Ministers of Care do that each day for shut-ins and those at Tempe-St. Luke's Hospital. One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to Instruct the Ignorant (ignorant in this sense means not having knowledge through no fault of ones own) we do that through our RCIA Program that brings new members into the Church, through our Religious Education Program that provides sacramental formation and preparation to our young people. That is just a sampling of the ways in which our ministries carry out the demands of the Works of Mercy.

In case you may be perplexed at what is a People Raiser, well rather than fund-raising we do people-raising since people are the most important capital. So this is a way to call more of you into service and to ask those who already serve to recommit to service. Please remember that service is a way of life for the Christian and not an optional extra. We can either be the people who call out "Lord, Lord" but to whom the Lord will say "I never knew you" or the son who when asked by his father to do something said yes but did not do it or we can be the people who will hear the words, "well done good and faithful servant." Which do you want to be?

We cannot escape the Lord's words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-45). Moreover, we will be asked if we have helped others to escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair and which is often a source of loneliness; if we have helped to overcome the ignorance in which millions of people live, especially children deprived of the necessary means to free them from the bonds of poverty; if we have been close to the lonely and afflicted; if we have forgiven those who have offended us and have rejected all forms of anger and hate that lead to violence; if we have had the kind of patience God shows, who is so patient with us; and if we have commended our brothers and sisters to the Lord in prayer. In each of these "little ones," Christ himself is present. His flesh becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us. Let us not forget the words of Saint John of the Cross: "as we prepare to leave this life, we will be judged on the basis of love". Pope Francis

Love, Fr. John B.

P.S. Mass for the Holy Day will be on Monday at 7pm and Tuesday at 6:30am, 8am, 2pm.