19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

My Father grew up during the Great Depression and like many of his generation, had an expression that he often would use whenever there seemed to be problems looming on the horizon; he used to say ‘Things always have a habit of working out”.  In other words, don’t be consumed by fear.  Often when we are in the midst of a personal crisis, we would give almost anything to be outside of it.  Whether the problem is health, work-related, financial, or in personal relationships, we are sometimes tempted to turn to God and say, “can’t you just make this go away Lord?”  But often, once we have weathered a storm, especially if we rely on God, we find that the crisis is not as bad as we envisioned it at first, and quite often, we find that we have been given a means of helping others, to minister to them in their crisis.

Our current concerns about the pandemic gripping the world, widespread civil unrest and violence, and famine in Africa; it all seems so overwhelming. Add to that the many ways the Church herself has been facing many crises; battered by storms from a selfish and materialistic outside world – battered from within by dissension and scandalous and sinful behaviour by some of her own members; but it is not the first time in the history of the Church that this has been the case. . Today’s Gospel passage gives us a glimpse into one of those earliest moments; and gives a blueprint for dealing with these crises. 

We read today about the disciples waiting in a boat in the Sea of Galilee while Jesus is off praying alone.  A sudden storm springs up and Jesus walks across the water to come to the disciples who are in peril.

The ferocity of this storm is evident in this reading, as we know some of the disciples, particularly Peter were well-experienced sailors and fishermen; and they were afraid; now, in the middle of a raging storm, they see someone walking across the water towards them and they start to panic, and begin to shout in fear ‘it’s a ghost’!

But Jesus continues to come to them, speaking words of comfort in the midst of the wind; he tells them ‘be not afraid’…’it is I”.

There is a difference between worldly wisdom and wisdom of the Holy Spirit; and as in so many other passages we see a mixture of both of these with St. Peter.  First, he exercises prudence, a virtue and shows spiritual wisdom, rather than simply jumping into the sea;  He calls out to Jesus, testing the spirit as it were, and says, Lord if it really is you, command me to come to you – Peter knows he cannot simply get out on his own and walk across the water to Jesus, but he has discerned well enough that if it is really Jesus calling Him, then the power of Jesus will be enough to uphold him on the waves;

Having shown spiritual wisdom, Peter , the experienced fisherman, then throws worldly wisdom completely aside and gets out of a secure boat into a raging storm; AND HE Actually begins to walk on water;

This is where Peter gets himself into trouble though; he feels the wind and the waves and realizes what’s happening; he starts to lose focus on who it was who called him out of the boat and onto the water, and starts focusing on the waves and wind and his own efforts; and as soon as he does that, he begins to sink.

Once again, Peter shows spiritual wisdom; rather than turning for the boat or shouting to the other disciples to throw him a rope, he calls out to Jesus “Lord Save me!” and the gospel says ‘Immediately”  – Immediately Jesus reached out and caught him and saved him;  Jesus brings him back to the boat, they get in, and the storm ceases. And at that point, all the other occupants of the boat, it says ‘worshipped him’.

The occupants of that boat on the Sea of Galilee at that point in history are the Church. And this little Church is in crisis – is being battered from the outside by the storm surrounding the little boat; it’s being battered inside too, as we see the how little trust many of them are showing in Jesus –  They have all met Jesus, walked with Jesus, lived with Jesus; they have witnessed many of his miracles, have heard his teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven; and yet, when the entire Church is beaten about by a storm, the only one who is willing to step out of the boat in trust, because Jesus is calling him, is Peter; and so Jesus saves Him;

But it may seem curious, why did Jesus bring Peter back to the boat?  Why not bring him to shore where it was safe, since Peter was the only one who had the courage to ‘get out of the boat’ in the middle of the storm in the first place?

Because now, Peter is back amongst the other members of the Church, and has a unique and intimate story of the saving power of Christ to share with them; Christ will continue to teach them, through Peter’s experience, through Peter’s WITNESS;  it’s not hard to imagine that as time goes on, after this adventure, the other disciples would approach Peter  with their own questions; Peter has been strengthened by Jesus Himself, and will share this experience and this lesson in faith with them, and from it, they will have the opportunity to grow and develop in their own faith and prayer life.

But all of this would be impossible, without the movement of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, in Peter’s life, and Peter’s willingness to be open to the power and the gifts of faith and hope and trust supplied by God through the Spirit.

God calls each of us to be with Him, to be holy; that is the general vocation of each and every human being on the face of the earth.  Some respond, some do not. But even within this call to holiness, God calls each of us to a more intimate and specific relationship – to a particular role in helping others to grow in grace and faith and in the love of God; to witness to His love for all people; to testify to the strength He gives to each of us to follow Him.

I would really like to take a moment to share with you the story of one of my favourite saints, particularly as I think it illustrates the point of ministry in crisis, and his feast day is August 10th, this coming Monday.  He is the patron saint of deacons,the poor, the blind, librarians, archivists, stained glass workers, school children, comedians, cooks, and many more . His name is St. Lawrence.

Lawrence was one of seven deacons of the church in Rome in the middle of the 3rd century.  He was responsible for the common treasury, and took care to distribute funds to the poor of the city as they had need, and supported others in their ministry.  During this time, a persecution broke out against the Church, and the emperor ordered that all bishops, priests and deacons were to be put to death.  On August 7th the bishop of Rome, Pope Sixtus the II was arrested while saying Mass along with some of his deacons and was led away to be executed.  Lawrence, who was following this group, was in tears – he had served Sixtus at the Mass and was grieving because he wanted to follow Christ, with his own bishop, to the very end, denying nothing in his service to Our Lord.  And it appeared that he would not be granted a martyr’s death, would be left behind.

At this point, the prefect of Rome was going to spare Lawrence, in exchange for Lawrence handing over the common funds of the church.  Lawrence, showing his wit which would become one of his trademarks, basically told the prefect, ‘well I don’t have it all with me right now’.   The prefect gave Lawrence three days to bring before him, and turn over to him, the wealth of the church.

Lawrence spent the next three days distributing everything from the treasury to the poor, the lame, the sick, the homeless – he even sold off sacred vessels to increase the amount he could give away.  Then on the third day, again showing the sense of humour for which he would be noted, Lawrence assembled all of the poor and marginalized of the city of Rome in the prefect’s courtyard and announced to him ‘Behold the wealth of the Church!”

The prefect didn’t find Lawrence very amusing, and rather than a quick and merciful execution, he was sentenced to slow torture on a gridiron.  It is said his trust and faith in God were so strong that he even had the strength to joke with his tormentors as the sentence was being carried out.

Because of his example of his passion for serving the poor for Christ during his lifetime, and the courageous example in his martyrdom for Christ, it was said the entire city of Rome at that point was converted to Christianity.  Lawrence would have been spared by turning over the ‘material wealth’ to the Romans; he could have rested on all of the good he had done previously for others in this life before this crisis; but that’s not what God called Lawrence to do; God spared him the initial martyrdom with St. Sixtus – called him out of the boat of the church in crisis – to commission him to return to the crisis and minister further , not only to the poor or members of the young church – but to bear a significant and lasting witness of the selfless love of Christ to the very Empire itself; a witness centered on the desire to serve others for Christ no matter what the personal cost may be.

We may not be called to witness with our own blood for our faith; but there is no one here, man, woman or child, who has not been faced with making a decision, big or small, which calls on us to decide between the wisdom of this world, or the love of God;  the very fact that each of us is here today is a witness to the importance that we each place on our love for God and each other;  and in the middle of our own crises and storms, that’s when we need to look outside the boat and walk towards Jesus; He’s there calling us to step outside of our own crises to bring them to Him; we can trust that He will always be there, reaching out immediately to hold us up if we start to sink; strengthening us, and returning with us into our own little boats ; helping us witness and minister to others, in our journey back to the Father, listening to His words of comfort in the midst of those storms, to ‘be not afraid’.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Yet again, our Gospel passage from St. Matthew recounts the parables of Jesus concerning the ‘Kingdom of heaven’; this week, we hear Jesus comparing the kingdom to a field with a great treasure concealed in it, or a pearl of tremendous value. Those who discover this treasure or find this pearl ‘sell everything they had’ to buy the field or the pearl. Jesus clearly tells us throughout the gospels that the Kingdom of heaven is not just a far off place that we are able to enter after we pass from this life.  If we focus solely on that, then it is easy to slip into the mindset that God too is far off and impossible to encounter and live with on this side of the veil.

God’s kingdom begins here and now, in this life.  God, the Creator and Lord of all is always present to His creation.  Quite often it is His creatures that are not present to Him.  This becomes quite evident when we see the suffering inflicted on religious and ethnic minorities in Asia; when we hear of the fighting and killing in various regions of Africa; when we witness the violence and civil unrest in our own society.  Perhaps we don’t consider this as evident in our own neighbourhoods or homes or communities; but it is just as apparent in those times and places when we are unkind to each other; when we select the bad over the good because it is ‘popular’ or ‘socially acceptable’ to do so.

 We can’t fool ourselves into thinking God is not present all the time, calling His children to love and serve and care for each other, every day, everywhere.   That is where the Kingdom of heaven, the Reign of God begins; here and now.

And in those times when we truly and deeply experience that encounter with God, it is indeed a tremendous treasure, an incredibly valuable prize – in fact, when anyone has a deep, authentic experience of God’s presence they would rather stay there than anywhere else; they would give everything up in that moment to remain there – to have that ‘treasure’.

While that treasure is something we should always be seeking and willing to sacrifice our own selfish pleasures for, it is not something that we can clutch and grasp and hold all to ourselves.  It is meant to be shared, to be extended to all people.  It is in this way that the Kingdom becomes self-evident in our world.  It is in this way that we make those small steps towards reconciliation in our own day-to-day lives and, just perhaps, extend that sense of love and compassion and reconciliation to others.  God’s Kingdom does not enter into our lives if we don’t seek or desire it.  It doesn’t become the ‘place where we dwell’ if we encounter that ‘treasure’ and decline the movement to possess it. 

May God grant us the grace as individuals and as a people to strive for that treasure, and the generosity of spirit to share it with each other.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

14th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year A)

It seems that we are continually bombarded in the present with complications in our already busy lives.  The current pandemic, which for so many in the world is a burden on its own, aggravates whatever other difficulties each of us may already be facing.  The current political climate, the economic challenges facing so many, social upheaval; all these and more seem like crushing weights for our culture and ourselves to bear.

In today’s gospel, we hear an offer to those who carry a heavy load or a burden, from Jesus.  But Jesus does not have an approach of saying ‘ let me take control of your yoke’; he is also not saying ‘carry my burden with me’; he says ‘take up my yoke and learn from me’

We all have a yoke – we all carry a burden of some kind; the loads that we carry are as varied as the people who carry them.   Sometimes those burdens don’t seem so difficult; other times, they are just too heavy for us to bear. Our burdens might be grief, or sadness or disappointment; they might be stress or worry, fear of loss;  our burdens could be those things which move us away from God and each other; selfishness, ignorance, pride, apathy.  Whatever it might be, we can end up clinging to these heavy loads, these burdens, until they seem to threaten to crush us and drive us to despair; to give up all hope; to give up on people or even give up on God.

But Jesus says ‘come to me’ and ‘take up my yoke’.  He doesn’t ask what our burdens are, or our heavy loads are.  He doesn’t say only those who labour in this way, or set conditions on who can come to Him.  He says, come to me ALL who labour and are heavy-burdened. He says ‘come to me and take up my yoke’.  The point of this example of the yoke, is to really illustrate what Jesus is offering us.

If I am carrying a heavy load, and I come to someone with a similar burden, I cannot take theirs, or carry theirs, unless I let go of mine and put it down.  I have to put my load down in order to take up theirs.

This is precisely what Jesus offers; for us to take up his yoke, we need to release ours, to put it down.  When we weigh ourselves down with the desire for power or possessions; when we wallow in self pity or refuse to try to better our situation in life; when we deliberately neglect those in need, we actually feel weighed down.  We have a burden which is driven by fear; fear of losing that power, or those possessions, fear of having to try again no matter how difficult; fear of having to consider the needs of others before we consider our own comfort or convenience.  This fear moves us further away from others and from God. We have to stop clinging to grief or anger or disappointment – whatever our load consists of; if we want to take up His yoke.

And what could His yoke consist of?  What could be on His burden that would be so easy and light? 

It’s love.   Love of God, and love of neighbour;  these are the two great commandments that Jesus stressed, the burdens on either end of his yoke.  It is a load that is balanced – if we separate them and try to carry only one side, we get nowhere;  if our love is strictly for people to the exclusion of God, it is no more than a kind of social experiment, it is shallow and doesn’t last;  if we give our love only to God and refuse to be charitable to others, we fail to live as Christ commanded.  As St. John the evangelist wrote we cannot claim to love God whom we cannot see if we do not love our neighbour who we can see. 

Jesus doesn’t force us; He doesn’t say, ‘come close and I will take that burden from you and make you take up mine’…it’s an invitation, not an order, offered in love; an invitation worth listening to again and again.

“Come to me all who labour and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

It truly is a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. It is a yoke that allows us to become completely human, completely holy.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

To say that we are very happy to be celebrating as a community once again, would be a gross understatement.  With the world struggling through the current pandemic, with the racial tension and unrest everywhere, and deep economic concerns, it seems almost out of place to be in a celebratory mood.  Yet, for those of us able to once again gather in our churches (although in a limited way), this feeling of joy and relief is welcome.  Not everyone, everywhere is able to return to their parish churches due to serious health concerns and public restrictions, but for our parish family, we who are able to gather, we have a responsibility to pray for each other, for those who cannot join us at this time, and for those who we have lost either directly or indirectly from Covid-19.

In our first reading today from Jeremiah, the prophet bemoans all those who turn on him, on those who seek his downfall; and yet, he affirms that he trusts not in these others, but in the Lord. That the Lord is the almighty, the ultimate authority, and that nothing will prevail against the Lord.

Jesus reinforces this in our gospel passage from St. Matthew; ‘Fear no one; …do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” Jesus tells his disciples that God is the ultimate authority; nothing on earth can even come close, and that this One who is the ultimate authority and power intimately loves and cares for each and every one of His children.  He uses common tiny birds – sparrows – as the example; “not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge … and you are worth more than many sparrows.”  We should fear nothing – pandemic, civil unrest, changes to established social norms – because these are really nothing in comparison to God and our relationship with Him.  To lose that relationship, for all eternity – that is the one thing that we should truly fear.

He reminds His disciples that they are to live in harmony and solidarity; that they are to be as one, united in His name, and to live accordingly.  We are to acknowledge Him in our words and actions.  Conversely, if we reject Him by our same words and actions, we rupture that unity – not only with each other as church – but with Jesus and ultimately with God.  It is not the actions of Jesus or God that result in us living outside of that harmony – it is our own words and actions.  Neither God nor Jesus sets out to reject us at all (or the entire passion, death and resurrection would have been pointless).  We are the ones who do the rejecting, even the rejection of a God who is always present to and with us  – even in the midst of world and personal crises – who calls us into unity with Himself and with each other.

Let’s follow this call from Jesus to live in peace, harmony, and unity with God.  Let us pray for this same unity within our parish community – for those of us here present and those still living in isolation.  Let us also pray for this harmony within families, asking that God will especially bless Father’s on this Father’s Day, granting them the courage to be living examples of God’s loving concern for each of their children.

To say that we are very happy to be celebrating as a community once again, would be a gross understatement.  With the world struggling through the current pandemic, with the racial tension and unrest everywhere, and deep economic concerns, it seems almost out of place to be in a celebratory mood.  Yet, for those of us able to once again gather in our churches (although in a limited way), this feeling of joy and relief is welcome.  Not everyone, everywhere is able to return to their parish churches due to serious health concerns and public restrictions, but for our parish family, we who are able to gather, we have a responsibility to pray for each other, for those who cannot join us at this time, and for those who we have lost either directly or indirectly from Covid-19.

In our first reading today from Jeremiah, the prophet bemoans all those who turn on him, on those who seek his downfall; and yet, he affirms that he trusts not in these others, but in the Lord. That the Lord is the almighty, the ultimate authority, and that nothing will prevail against the Lord.

Jesus reinforces this in our gospel passage from St. Matthew; ‘Fear no one; …do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” Jesus tells his disciples that God is the ultimate authority; nothing on earth can even come close, and that this One who is the ultimate authority and power intimately loves and cares for each and every one of His children.  He uses common tiny birds – sparrows – as the example; “not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge … and you are worth more than many sparrows.”  We should fear nothing – pandemic, civil unrest, changes to established social norms – because these are really nothing in comparison to God and our relationship with Him.  To lose that relationship, for all eternity – that is the one thing that we should truly fear.

He reminds His disciples that they are to live in harmony and solidarity; that they are to be as one, united in His name, and to live accordingly.  We are to acknowledge Him in our words and actions.  Conversely, if we reject Him by our same words and actions, we rupture that unity – not only with each other as church – but with Jesus and ultimately with God.  It is not the actions of Jesus or God that result in us living outside of that harmony – it is our own words and actions.  Neither God nor Jesus sets out to reject us at all (or the entire passion, death and resurrection would have been pointless).  We are the ones who do the rejecting, even the rejection of a God who is always present to and with us  – even in the midst of world and personal crises – who calls us into unity with Himself and with each other.

Let’s follow this call from Jesus to live in peace, harmony, and unity with God.  Let us pray for this same unity within our parish community – for those of us here present and those still living in isolation.  Let us also pray for this harmony within families, asking that God will especially bless Father’s on this Father’s Day, granting them the courage to be living examples of God’s loving concern for each of their children.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (2020)

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit; three persons in one God – has been a mystery deeply explored and contemplated for two millennia by hundreds of saints, scholars, theologian, and people of faith. It is a mystery which defies the limits of human comprehension, and challenges believers to take the time to meditate on what it truly means; each time people bless themselves making the sign of the cross, ” in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” they are stating – at a minimum – a belief in the Trinity, and calling on the subsequent prayer or action to be an expression of solidarity with God in those three persons; it is a request that God in the Holy Trinity bless and direct or guide that prayer or action.

Gallons of ink and forests of paper have been used to consider and write on this mystery. At its heart is this – that God in three distinct persons – is the example par excellence of relationship. God the Father empties completely His love into the Son, the Son surrenders Himself entirely to the Father’s love, and this complete and total emptying and surrender of love is personified by the Holy Spirit. This relationship, a complete and total relationship of love , is what we are all invited into. This is not simply something reserved to a specific Christian denomination – it is an invitation held out to the entire human race.

A very learned friend of mine once wrote in a dissertation, that the greatest ‘fault’ of humanity, is that we have all forgotten our fundamental nature; that we are all created in the image and likeness of God; and in that we all have infinite value and dignity. Given the events of this past week, centering on issues of racism and accountability, I think this observation is invaluable.

No matter where on the spectrum of this discussion where one sits, there is one thing I think we all can agree on. All people, regardless of how they ‘define’ themselves, are deserving of, and desirous of, being loved. This is not just an emotional attachment, but being loved in all of its true meanings. Being free from discrimination, being free to seek their true potential, being free to raise up and support those for whom they have responsibility, being free to be healthy, happy and secure. This is what cuts to the heart of all racial strife; it’s not enough to simply say,”well on paper you have the same ‘rights’ as me – follow the processes available’,”, when in fact the opportunities, resources and respect are denied entire swaths of the world’s population based on things like skin colour or ethnicity.

God is love. God is in a loving relationship. God is a loving relationship. We know that we participate in this loving relationship if we truly act and speak in a way that reflects this, regardless of our life circumstances. If we truly believe we are God’s children, created in His likeness and image, then we really have no option other than to treat each and every human being as brothers and sisters who truly do deserve and are entitled to be truly loved; to support and defend them; to uphold and uplift them; to honestly and genuinely wish and work for the good for all.

Today’s second reading from second Corinthians, chapter 13 really captures this point:

“Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

I can’t think of a better starting point today than that.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

Christ the King

Permit me to apologize in advance, for the brevity of this particular post.

Today we celebrate (using the proper liturgical title as listed in the Roman Missal) the “Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, ” or as it is more commonly referred to , the Feast of Christ the King.

That more formal liturgical title perhaps says it all, and very succinctly; King of the Universe. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is the central figure to all of salvation history, reuniting all of creation with its creator, God the Father. To accept Him is to accept that reconciliation, that return to the state for which we all came into being. To deliberately reject Him is likewise, to reject that same reconciliation.

In St. John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus’ reply to Pilate’s question as to Jesus’ royal lineage (‘so you are a king?’)

For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

God is truth; God is compassion; God is beauty; God is love.

Everyone who belongs to God listens to Jesus’ voice.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Pantokrator_of_Sinai

 

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Easter – Ascension

One of the most typical reactions we have to a deeply moving experience, is to hang on to it, to cling to it.  Whether it is something related to our work, to our home or social life; whether it is a moment when we seem to suddenly understand a concept we have struggled with in a particular field – science or mathematics for example; whenever we have one of these ‘aha’ moments or ‘wow’ moments, we tend to want to remain there.  This is especially true in the spiritual or interior life.  When we have a particular insightful moment or an awareness of God, we might be tempted to cling tightly to that insight. Often we want to revisit these experiences, sometimes even trying to escape from thinking about certain trials or struggles we go through by ‘summoning up’ a previous happy ‘moment’.

There is something to beware in this, though, especially in the spiritual life.  There is a real temptation to want to ‘re-live’ or ‘re-create’ the event that brought about a particular experience – it may have been a real sense of the power of the Holy Spirit, or an insight into the unconditional love of God, or a deeply felt awareness in our own hearts of the presence of Christ in others.  We may have had this experience on a retreat, or during a specific Mass.  But rather than simply accepting this insight or experience as a grace moment, as a gift from God, we cling to it and try to duplicate the conditions so that we can have this experience again, and again, and again.

The fact is, when we are deep in prayer, and if we are blessed enough to have one of these insights, the moment we try to ‘figure out’ how we got to that point, the moment of that experience begins to slip away from us.

The danger in this, particularly if this involves our prayer life and spirituality, is that we have become focussed on a gift, and have forgotten about the Giver; we are hoping for the ‘high’ that we felt in that momentary experience – rather than simply accepting a gift with a sense of gratitude.  We try to cling to that grace as if it is something private and meant only for us, and we become defensive if anyone should ‘intrude’ into that grace.  And in doing that, we turn these ‘moments’ into something that almost become little gods in themselves.

We forget that God gives us these grace moments to draw us deeper into a relationship with Him, and subsequently to draw others into that relationship.  Jesus did not teach his disciples to seek the kingdom of God solely for themselves or for their own benefit.  Time after time he reminds them, and us, of our responsibility to be witnesses to the kingdom, to invite others into the kingdom – to make the love of God and the mercy of Christ known to everyone.  The whole point is to go out and bring others into that loving companionship of Jesus – and not simply by quoting a few catch-phrases or nice-sounding quotes; we are to do so by a lived example; by being visible signs, by being witnesses to the very real and precious love of God moving through our own lives.

The disciples had numerous deep and moving experiences and an intimate knowledge of the power and the presence of Jesus in their own lives.  The Acts of the Apostles, in our first reading on this feast of the Ascension, tells us how after his resurrection, Jesus spends an additional forty days with his friends; teaching them, comforting them, sharing with them.  To say that they have had a deeply spiritual experience in the presence of Jesus, who they have seen raised from the dead, would be an understatement.  But here they are, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and Jesus is lifted up.

(Luke is quite specific here – he says lifted up and that they lose sight of him in the clouds – it’s not as if Jesus kind of faded into nothingness on the ground in front of them, or ‘metaphorically’ ascended to a ‘higher consciousness’ – Luke who takes great pains in the detail of his gospel and the Acts, says Jesus was lifted up and they lost sight of him in the clouds)

But while they are ‘caught up’ in this experience, standing in awe and not moving, two strangers in white robes (we’re given the impression they are angels) say to the disciples, “Men of Galilee why do you stand looking up toward heaven?  This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go to heaven.”  In other words, the angels seem to be reminding the disciples; you’ve had a wonderful experience. Now instead of standing here and clinging to it, do something with it!

And just what are they supposed to do?  Well in St. Mark’s gospel which we heard today, before his ascension, Jesus tells his disciples to go and proclaim the good news ‘to the whole creation”  Yes, he tells them they will work great wonders, but the important thing is that they spread this ‘good news’ – the good news that God has reconciled all of humanity to himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That the history of God working through the children of Israel to make Himself known to all people has culminated in this point, and that this salvation, this reconciliation to God is held out for all who will accept Christ.  But this language of Jesus in this gospel, to ‘go and proclaim’  is how Jesus tells the disciples, just as the angels tell them, and us; ‘you have received a tremendous gift – an experience of relationship with God himself;   now do something with it!  Go out and share it with others; share it with those who do not know God; share it with those who are starving for relationship; share it with those who are trying desperately to fill their lives with all sorts of things that cannot possibly satisfy them; share it with those who have no sense of being loved.’

The reality of the love of God in our own lives is not restricted to single experiences or grace moments; the love of God is something that moves and lives and breathes in and around and through us every day, all the time, if only we have eyes to see it

Perhaps in hearing this gospel we may have one of those grace moments; a sense of the wonder and beauty and nearness of God.  If that happens thank God for it, and rather than clinging to  it tightly as a private possession, release it with an open hand and open heart, to see how God will use this experience to draw us and others closer to himself.  That is, after all, why we were created, and why Jesus entered into our humanity in the first place; to teach us how to receive the most precious gift of all, the love of God, and to do something wonderful with it.

birds over blowing rocks

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Good Friday (Year A)

The Passion from the Gospel according to St. John is the same in years A, B, and C…

Thoughts from Theophilus

Why are we here? What is our purpose?

It always amazes me how in different ages and generations and cultures, we have asked these questions and relied on popular culture to define the answers for us. Our current culture seems to believe we are here to get more, to take more and to have more regardless of how we get it.

In years gone by, some of us learned about our faith and our relationship with God through the Catechism. In the old Baltimore catechism which some of us are familiar with, the question of ‘Why are we here?” was answered; “we are here to know God, to love God and to serve God in this life so as to be with Him in the next.”

This wasn’t some discovery that the Church came up with in the 1930’s or 40’s or 50’s as an answer that would change depending…

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Second week of Lent

In his book ,”Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week’, Pope Emeritus Benedict comments on Judas’ descent into despair after his betrayal of Jesus; Judas spiralled downward because, although he had remorse for what he had done, he could not bring himself to accept that Jesus could forgive him.

Jesus reminds all those who would follow Him, that forgiveness is one of the hallmarks of His true disciples. (recall how, when asked how many times one must forgive another, it was ‘not seven times, I tell you, but 77 times 7’).  There is a very real consequence in the interior life, for the Christian who will not forgive; they deny healing graces to themselves and to others.

While we often focus during Lent on our own need for forgiveness and repentance, when we withhold that same forgiveness from others who repent we are not only ignoring, but actually acting contrary to the Gospel.  Lent provides us with the opportunity to not only seek grace and mercy, but to be instruments of grace and mercy as well.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

First week of Lent

On Ash Wednesday in Rome, Pope Francis invited all believers to be ‘islands of grace’ in an ‘ocean of indifference’.  It’s a great starting point for Christians in guiding themselves during this Lenten season.

Lent is a season of mercy; it is a season where each of us asks forgiveness from our merciful God, as we live out our hope to be made worthy of the gift of salvation that Christ bestows on us through His Passion, Death and Resurrection.
It is also a time that, in asking God for mercy, we are expected to show mercy – if we would truly call ourselves disciples of Jesus, Christians.
I am reminded of the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola concerning the two ‘standards’ (meaning the flags of military-style camps); there is the standard of Christ, and the standard of the devil. Underneath the standard of Christ, are mercy, compassion, forgiveness, charity and love; beneath the evil one’s standard are cruelty, selfishness, revenge and indifference.
We are given a choice in our actions each and every day, both towards God and towards each other.
As the knight in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ said, ‘choose wisely.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!