Often times, people will ask how we as preachers put together a homily for mass, especially for Sunday. I know that all of us have our own styles and approaches, so answering that question will be different coming from all who are entrusted with that significant part of our ministry. In getting ready for today, I have to confess I was admittedly puzzled as to why Luke’s very long text of 15:1- 32 (which includes Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son) was being inserted into the Lectionary (our liturgical book of the readings) at this odd time of the year. I know that we are in the C cycle of readings which primarily covers the gospel of Luke, but with a text as significant as the Prodigal Son, why does it pop up on the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time? It was proclaimed on the 4th Sunday of Lent this year, so why are reading it again? I can’t say that I have the educated answer. Honestly, I just don’t know.
And while I didn’t spend the entire week contemplating the timing and the insertion of Luke’s gospel text of the Prodigal Son, I would offer a simple observation on a possible message and this time of the year. The other night I attended the Frances Xavier Warde “Back to school” night for the parents of our students. As the moms and dads were making their way into the auditorium at Holy Name Cathedral campus for this informational session, I found myself greeting everyone as if it were January 1t, “Happy New Year!” Though I received with a few strange stares and some jovial laughter, I think the greeting is still appropriate, Let’s make it a happy new year. Maybe this is one possible reason why the text of Luke 15-1-32 is considered at this interesting time of year; it’s all about new beginnings! While I concur with theologians and scholars that our biblical texts for this 24th Sunday in Ordinary speak clearly of the unconditional mercy of God (the one whose desire is to find the lost), I also believe that God’s mercy and forgiveness is acknowledging that for every one of us, from the Prodigal Son to the lost sheep, it is time to start over again! The beautiful Father in that incredible parable didn’t ask his son about where he had been, what he had done, or why he did what he did. Rather, he ordered for new clothing, new life, and a celebration of a new beginning. It’s time to start all over again.
The school year calendar of September through May seems to articulate so much of our activities, no matter who you are. Regardless of January 1 (or for Roman Catholics, the first Sunday of Advent that begins our new liturgical year – which most people don’t understand), our secular rhythm of time puts the school year as the “beginning” of a long journey. And so here we are.
Welcome to the new year! It is an honor to welcome all the new students in our midst. So many college students, graduate students, law students from Kent, culinary students from Kendall, medical students from Rush, Northwestern, UIC and Loyola make their way to Old St. Pat’s. Welcome to our newest members of Old St. Pat’s, especially those who re-located to Chicago over the summer. Welcome to our newest families in Partners, Foundations, and the Mother Frances Xavier Warde School. Welcome to Fr. Greg Sakowicz as the new rector of Holy Name Cathedral, a great priest indeed! Welcome to all of you who were traveling during the summer months and those who were spending time in Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin at summer homes and lakes. Welcome back to those who may have just taken some time off on Sundays. We are thrilled and grateful for your return.
Join me in welcoming Michael Brennan, a member of the Norbertine Order who will be with us during this school year. Mike was just ordained to the transitional diaconate, which means he will be ordained the priesthood in May 2017. During this time, Mike will finish his studies in theology at Catholic Theological Union and likewise be serving his deacon assignment here with us at Old St. Pat’s. We are thankful for his presence among us during this school year.
As we enter this new “school” year, I hope and pray that we will all welcome the various invitations that will be made throughout the coming months with all the programs and ministries gearing up again. Could I invite you to try some things this new year, like our outreach efforts, talks and presentations, concerts, retreats, and the Emerald Ball in early November. Please keep in touch with Old St. Pat’s via this publication, the website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. My point is not to simply burden you with lots of activities and filling your calendars, but more importantly to invite us all to a sense of renewal in our lives of faith and our commitment to the community of Old St. Pat’s. May this symbolic time of the year, with so many expressions of “new” and “beginning,” help us to welcome a renewed Spirit and like the Prodigal Son, to start over again.
On this September 11, let’s pray for our world, that it may experience an abiding peace and an end to violence.
Let’s make this a great year for each other and for Old St. Pat’s.
Thanks for being here today.
Father Tom Hurley, Pastor
Stay in touch with @TomHurleyOSP on Twitter and Instagram.