New, New, New
2016 is here and I’m sure more than one of us will continue to write 2015 on checks and other forms for at least a week. Each new year presents us with that goofy indirect pressure to make resolutions that last about as long as we write 2015 instead of 2016. Here are very new things in our world that can be beneficial to nearly all of us.
Solar Impulse 2 flew past a few world recordsin its quest to circumnavigate the globe. By spending nearly five days in the air this summer (117 hours and 52 minutes), the plane made the longest nonstop flight by a solar-powered aircraft. Piloted by co-creator André Borschberg, it was also the longest solo flight ever. Leg injury? No problem. The robot created at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris can overcome disabilities in about two minutes. Onyx Solar developed an outdoor photovoltaic flooringthat picks up the slack: solar cells inside the anti-slip glass enable decks, balconies, and walkways to draw energy from the sun. The power can be stored in a battery or, when connected to a building’s electrical system, sent straight to outlets.
The vitamin-size Micra pacemaker can be threaded through the femoral vein into the heart with a catheter. Tines then attach to the heart to deliver electrical impulses directly. The battery lasts more than 10 years, and when it’s depleted, doctors can disable the device and insert another nearby. So far, the success rate in trials is 100 percent. The first new antibiotic in almost 30 years, Teixobactin, can fight resistant strains of bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which (as its name suggests) causes tuberculosis. Radiation therapy for breast cancer can require eight weeks of near-daily trips to the hospital. A method called intraoperative radiation therapy takes less than 12 minutes total. During a patient’s tumor-removal surgery, a radiation oncologist delivers a single, concentrated dose of radiation. Organovo, which last year 3D-printed mini livers from human cells, can now synthesize individual mock kidneys. Each contains a number of different cell types in which drug effects can be tested. The new and free app, Be My Eyes, developed by the Danish Blind Society, connects visually impaired users to sighted volunteers around the world. Through a live video feed, sighted users can decrypt unfamiliar street signs, expiration dates on food packages, or anything else that needs a quick visual assist. Since it launched in January, the app has helped 23,000 users over 100,000 times.
In the State of Illinois we have many new laws, some of which most people will never know, but here are a few. There will be no ticket quotafor police and your driver’s license will not be held as bond anymore when you are issued a ticket. Pregnant women in the workplace must now be provided with reasonable accommodations that include frequent bathroom breaks and time to pump. If you are selling your home you must declare and disclose any and all known door and window damage. Sadly for some, beer tax is now extended to hard ciders. Children who suffer with seizures will now qualify for a medical marijuana oral-liquid to treat epilepsy.
Within our own Catholic Church Pope Francis opened the extraordinary Year of Mercy on December 8 and on Dec. 19 gave a great example by addressing 7,000 Italian state railways employees and praised their commitment to the poor, including their assistance in constructing a homeless shelter whose holy door he opened the preceding day. He said, “May the Year of Mercy, which opened only a few days ago impress upon our mind and our heart that mercy is the first and most real medicine for humanity, of which everyone has urgent need.” The pope also announced sweeping revisions to the process of procuring a marriage annulment and made a spectacularly successful pilgrimage to our country. The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Catholic Education, Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha applauded President Obama's signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act into law. This law demonstrates that there is bipartisan agreement on restoring equitable treatment of private schools and ensuring that all children are afforded the education services, benefits, and opportunities they deserve, regardless of the type of school they attend. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, wrote in his Advent letter: “Confident in what Jesus asks of us, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops remains steadfast in our commitment to refugees, who are often escaping severe persecution. We will continue to support strengthening social services for persons with mental illness, but we must remember that only a small number of those suffering with these challenges pose a risk to themselves or others. We encourage responsible firearms regulation. And we will advocate on behalf of people facing religious discrimination, including our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
Many new babies in our lives! My friends Valeria and Oscar birthed Emmanuel in the fall. I was presiding at an Advent Mass and after we sang “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” I whispered to them: “Do you like his theme song?” Lots of new couples too, including my niece Julie and her husband, John. We’re surrounded with new life!
The arts brought all kinds of new works. Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting the world premiere of the opera, Bel Canto. This work by composer Jimmy Lopez is based on the NY Times best-seller by Ann Patchett. It tells the true story of a terrorist attack on the home of the Vice President of Peru in which all the VP’s guests that include the world’s most renowned diva are taken hostage. In the months of captivity unlikely alliances form between captors and captives as fear and anger mingle uneasily with desire and love. Talk about art imitating life imitating art! Pictured here are my two friends, Penny Saunders and her husband, Pablo Piantino of Hubbard Street Dance, Chicago. In December HSD premiered a new work choreographed by Penny called Out of Keeping. During a two year hiatus from dance Penny had a chance to “discover the fact that every place is always changing and moving forward whether or not you are there. This new piece is, in part, my way of forging a dance within that truth.” I released my 13th album this year, The Nature Suite, a large orchestral collection available on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. Chicago Shakespeare Theater mounted a new production of The Tempest directed by Aaron Posner with stunning, creative stage magic by Penn (yes, of Penn & Teller). New, new, new artistic expressions of so much life!
New solutions to growing water demands will usually consist of water management, water conservation and education, financial tools, and technology. Two areas of science-based solutions probably offer the largest potential: modification of irrigation methods for crops, and water desalination and reclamation. Just in November the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyhas proposed new commonsense requirements that together will help combat climate change, reduce air pollution that harms public health, and provide greater certainty about Clean Air Act permitting requirements for the oil and natural gas industry. In light of Pope Francis’ new encyclical, Laudato Si’, these new advances in protecting our water and air resources are most welcome gifts to Mother Earth.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his peopleand God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 25:1-5a)
Yes, God dwells within the human race and it is that indwelling that brings about newness in everyday life. When God’s grace melts a frozen heart it brings a renewed purpose in life. When we acknowledge the presence of God in the most ordinary moments and events of life, we can develop a whole new perspective on how to be human. When we make conscious decisions to live by God’s ways, our old manner of doing things falls away and we find a springtime freshness in our souls. Put away the old self of your former way of life and be renewed in the spirit of your minds; put on the new self, created in God’s way in holiness of truth. (Eph. 4:22-24)
Ask anyone who’s in recovery about the difference between his old drinking days and days without vodka. Talk with a woman trapped in compulsive shopping what her life with no credit cards is like, or a man who no longer has to go to the casinos on payday, a young person who turns away from cutting to embrace herself with self-respect and love, or any one of us who’s been fooled into believing that our world is hopeless and then decides to believe good will overcome evil. New life can be ours when we allow God’s grace to change us. That’s what is referred to in the passage from Ephesians…put on a new self, created in God’s way in holiness of truth. One result of forgiveness is freedom. If a spouse forgives the other, there is a new lightness present, future possibilities are apparent. When we allow God to forgive us there comes a sense of rebirth, a desire to crawl from under shadows and binding memories of the past, a need to spread new wings that can now embrace life again with equanimity, purpose and – freedom.
That section from Revelation is the language of dreams, images that draw us out of our lackluster world into a place in which we prefer to live. It has always been a great source of hope that God will renew, even rebuild. And God does that when we allow God to do what it is that God does. I still stand in amazement at what some people choose to live with or within – not just the violent world we live in but everyday choices that bind, alienate or disenfranchise. Again referring to Ephesians…created in God’s way in holiness of truth. The truth of our life with Christ is that God never, ever fails to forgive and love us. And the sooner we all acknowledge and LIVE that, the sooner our world will crawl out from under those clouds of hatred, fear and vitriolic language so that people can be at peace.
This Holy Year of Mercy is one tool the pope asks all Church members to be involved with actively. We must seek pardon and must be willing to forgive others as God forgives us. In a recent address at the
Vatican Pope Francis said: “We have all heard this: ‘I’ll never forgive him’; but how can you ask God to forgive you, if you are not capable of forgiveness? Forgiving is a big thing, sure,” he said. “However, if we open ourselves to welcome the mercy of God for ourselves, we then become more capable of forgiveness.”
As part of the Jubilee of Mercy, Archbishop Blase Cupich has designated 34 Chicago area parishes and shrines as Jubilee Pilgrimage Sites; St. Peter’s in the Loopis one of the 34! By walking through the Holy Door of these sites, the faithful may gain the Plenary Indulgence offered by Pope Francis. A list of the Jubilee Pilgrimage Sites can be found at online at www.jubileemercy.org. Information about obtaining a Plenary Indulgence can also be found on the website of the Office for Divine Worship: www.odw.orgor in the Dec. 27 bulletin at our own site: stpetersloop.org.
We friars at here St. Peter’s offer the Sacrament of Penance six days a week and have a great reputation for being kind and compassionate confessors. The middle outside doors of our church are designated as the Holy Year doors. I will be leading a pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome for the Holy Year of Mercy May 24-June 2, 2016. The Archdiocese and our programs here at St. Peter’s will offer ample opportunities to learn many, many aspects of God’s mercy until the Holy Year ends on Christ the King, Nov. 20.
I pray that our world will be touched by a new way of living so that all people will know God’s endless mercy that heals, frees and draws all of us into the Embrace of Love and Forgiveness. We friars sincerely thank you for everything you do and offer to support our ministry at St. Peter’s and remember you every day in our community prayer and every Mass. May God give you new life and peace in 2016 and always.
Fr. Bob Hutmacher, ofm