The Crusader Newspaper Group

Father Pfleger: “Honor and embrace the gift of life”

Photo caption: FATHER MICHAEL PFLEGER on Sunday, September 10, held a worship service and picnic in the Dan Ryan Woods at 83rd and Western. He was joined later by Cardinal Blase Cupich (center), who spent two hours greeting hundreds of Saint Sabina members. Pfleger challenged his members to honor and embrace the gift of life and to avoid the “whens,” planning to do this and that when they have time, or tomorrow. “Whens,” he said, may never happen because tomorrows are never promised. (Photos by Chinta Strausberg)

Holding his worship service and picnic literally under the sunny skies at the Dan Ryan Woods, on Sunday, September 10, Father Michael Pfleger told his members that tomorrow is not promised to them and to “embrace life,” and not to “create new whens” in their lives and to honor life and value one another.

Joining him later for two hours was Cardinal Blase Cupich who greeted Saint Sabina members during Pfleger’s worship service in the park.

Pfleger wore jeans and a T-shirt draped with a stole (a scarf which is a symbol of an ordained minister). He delivered a message to worshippers of improving and giving life to not only themselves, but to others whom they may need to ask for forgiveness while learning to appreciate and value “the now” of their existence.

“Embrace life, celebrate life and be present to the “now” of life. Be present today and what today has to give you,” Pfleger said, standing amid a huge circle, surrounded by church members seated in lawn chairs with a few in white tents with chairs and barbecue grills.

Pfleger’s sermon from James 14 covered: “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog, it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.” Pfleger titled his sermon, “When,” and wanted his message to be crystal clear and under God’s sun.

He reminded members how God had provided them with the best weather so far this week, with rain being forecast for Monday, September 11, and on Tuesday.

Quoting from Dr. Howard Thurman’s book, “The Inward Journey,” Pfleger said the author wrote about the temptation to postpone living until some future time. “He said to postpone living significantly and intentionally has implications, and it has realities, and if we postpone living significantly, we create a bunch of “when” stories.”

Pfleger told of how he not long ago talked to a woman who was very depressed. “It was a teacher she had in high school that she said had literally changed her life completely. She said she had impacted her in such a strong way.”

The woman found out her former high school teacher had been hospitalized, diagnosed with cancer. Pfleger said the woman wanted to reach out to her. “She said, “First I thought I’d do it when I heard she’s doing a little bit better,” and then she thought, “I’ll wait until she gets back home so I can spend more time with her.”

Time went on, Pfleger said. “She heard the woman was doing much better and was back home and feeling good. She said to herself, ‘As soon as things calm down a little in my life, I’m going to go to her house and visit with her and just sit with her one afternoon.’”

Pfleger said later the woman received a call notifying her of the death of her former teacher, who had impacted her life. She was emotionally affected by her teacher’s death. Pfleger said the woman had vowed to do it. She said, “I was going to spend time when I thought it was better.”

Pfleger warned, “All of us here have a whole lot of “when” stories in our lives.” He said some couples vow to take a day and spend time with each other, while others say they will spend a day with their children or when they retire, or say they will “do this and that…ride my bike…be by myself…take a trip and travel.”

He said some say they want to spend time with friends they haven’t seen in a long time… or when their finances get right, they will do some things for themselves….

“How many of you here are guilty of telling someone, ‘I’m going to call you or say let us stay in touch,’ but then time took over, and it didn’t happen?” Pfleger asked. Others say they’re going to get a physical, a mammogram or get a prostate exam or check out that pain they may have been feeling. He asked his members, “How many just this summer said things they were going to do but didn’t do it?

“Our lives are full of ‘whens.’ The problem is we spend so much time either bound by things that happened in our past or plan on doing things in the future in our lives.” Pfleger said the problem is we spend too much time looking backwards or forwards, but “all too often we miss the moment of now.

“Too often we miss the gift of the present,” said Pfleger. Speaking to their spirits, Pfleger said, “Tomorrow is not promised for anybody sitting here. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter how healthy you are. I have buried infants, and I’ve buried people who were over 100.”

He reflected on one man who walked out of his doctor’s office and “got a clean bill of health. He and his wife went home. He walked upstairs and dropped dead. Tomorrow is not promised. All we really have for sure is right now….”

Pfleger charged congregants to “embrace life…celebrate life and to be present to the “now” of life. Be present to today and what today has to give you, who you see today, who you can call and talk to today. Don’t put off who you need to reach out to,” he warned, as organ and violin music played softly throughout the park.

“None of us here knows when it’s our day,” Pfleger said referring to death. “And I pray that we will live fully, and I pray we can eventually begin to erase all the “whens” of our lives. Stop saying, ‘when I get this, when I do that’ because that “when” is not promised.

“Let’s not create new “whens” in our lives. Let’s learn how to appreciate life. Let’s learn how to value the now. Let’s learn how to value each other because that person you may walk by today may not be around tomorrow,” Pfleger reminded them.

Reflecting on the many funerals he has officiated over the past 40 years, Pfleger said, “Some of the greatest dreams I hear over caskets are the people who say, ‘I wish I had done this, or said this or been there when I could have.

“A lot of times the shouts over caskets are from people who are regretting what they missed, or they can’t go back to,” Pfleger said.

He issued a challenge to his parishioners, himself and those listening over the internet, including those in Africa and in prisons in California and other places, who tune in every Sunday. “Honor the gift of life,” he said.

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