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THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

1-1Today we celebrate the principal feast of Mary in all branches of the church. Because she is regarded as the greatest of the saints and the first Christian, today marks the chief saints day which the church commemorates year-by-year.

Today is a celebration of the grace and power of God in a human life, of what extraordinary and truly marvellous things God can do in a life that is yield to Him and
receptive to His will.

It is a celebration of faith and trust — Mary’s total faith in her Lord and Saviour who was also her Son and Child. It is also a celebration of our own faith in Jesus who has promised that if we serve Him here on earth we shall reign with Him in glory.

Some years ago, Fr. John Millburn was for nearly 40 years the Superior of the Society of Mary and Vicar of St. Paul’s, Brighton. He travelled all over the Anglican communion preaching the glories of Mary. The story goes that after his death, he made his way to heaven and was brought face to face with St. Peter. “Your holiness,” he said, “I am Fr. John Millburn.” As St. Peter checked his entry list there was some consternation for Fr. Millburn’s name was not to be found. Off St. Peter went to consult Our Lord Himself. “There is a priest here who wants to come in, a Fr. John Millburn.” Immediately responding Our Lord said, “Let him in! My Mother has been nagging me about him for years!”

With many of the saints it’s easy for us to see what they have left behind as their monuments. Some have left large and important religious orders, others important books and teachings. Still others a good and wholesome influence, others great charitable works and institutions.

But when you come to Mary what would you say she left as her monument? Certainly no religious order, no book, no teaching, no school or hospital. She was neither wealthy nor influential in her time. By every judgement or standard you or I would use to evaluate a person’s achievement, she was completely unremarkable. So, why is it that we gather some 1900 years after her death on another continent to remember her and to pay her honour?

Some might say that she was nothing more than a woman who simply happened to be chosen as the Mother of Jesus. I think that upon reflection not many would let it go at that.

But as we think about what monument she left us, I suggest there is a title given her which speaks very much to us and to the question. The title is “Mother of the Church,” a title used for centuries in devotional prayers asking her prayers for us and our loved ones.

It focuses on the fact that Mary was the first Christian, the first to follow Christ, the first to trust in His Way. Common sense tells us that she was chosen by God for this vocation. We, too, all have our specific vocations, callings, and works – chosen by God and tailored for us in His great plan for our lives. Mary’s was to be the first Christian. God never gives anyone a job or vocation without help to do it. God did the same for Mary. The help He gives always is the grace to live up to our vocation. Since Mary was the first, extraordinary grace was given her “full of grace,” the angel declared her to be.

As the first Christian, as “Mother of the Church,” she goes before the whole Church giving us and all the baptised a perfect model of what it means to follow Jesus, to walk in His steps.

If you want to know how to be a Christian, follow Mary, listening to her Son and doing His will, even when like her, you don’t understand or even agree. She showed what it means to be faithful. Her faith was total complete.

Since she was to bear the Son of God, she received the grace of baptism at her conception that you and I have each received. This points all Christians to a deeper understanding of their own baptism; what happened to her, happens to us. She was baptised and we are baptised to do God’s will and to follow Christ. Thereafter she lived her life in Christ, as we are to live our lives in Christ.

At her death, she was taken to God to share in His glory. That collect prays that we, too, will share the same glory with the Father. That is the specific thing we celebrate today.

Her example for us and all generations is clearly set out in the New Testament. – at Cana in Galilee, she told the waiters, “whatever He says, do it.” Across the centuries she continues to say the same, her life a proof that she practiced what she preached in a life cantered upon God and not herself; obedience in which she found total freedom from always trying to control everything and everyone, a freedom found in letting God be her ruler and her guide.

Then at the Cross as she shared completely in Christ’s suffering and death, she and the Beloved Disciple are committed one to another in a relationship of mutual dependence in Christ, one which Christians still have with her in Him. It came about because her life had no meaning without His, her life’s identity is caught up in her Son’s death and resurrection. Sound familiar? It should. It is the goal and purpose of our baptism. What is ours to do is to go and live it every day, in every relationship and circumstance, just as she did.

Finally, I point you to a picture of the disciples praying in the Upper Room for the Holy Spirit to come down upon them. Ancient tradition tells us that Mary was there. What she and they were doing doesn’t appear to be very much, at least by the world’s standards. It seems so very passive. Here we are reminded that prayer is of enormous importance and is a powerful action. It is placing ourselves in direct communication with the only power that is higher and greater than all of us, the only power that can deliver us. We do well to follow Mary in this.

Because she prayed, so close was she to the throne of grace that Christians have believed for 20 centuries that there is no better person anywhere and at anytime we could ask to pray for us than Mary. So, we come full circle to Fr. Millburn — I have little doubt that Mary’s prayers for him went directly to her son. She is a powerful intercessor and a reminder that prayer is a vital importance to the body and to the soul.

As Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, in her and through her Son, we are all united as sisters and brother, sons and daughters of God.

Today we honour her. We celebrate her being taken to heaven; today we crown her with earthly honour, but ours is to crown her in our heart’s love and devotion; to walk in her ways because her ways lead to her Son, her goal and outs, now and always. Amen!!

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Posted by on August 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

2-6We have been reading from this chapter of St John’s Gospel for the past two weeks and will continue to read from it for another two.

Have you ever noticed that it is very difficult to escape your reputation? Once people have an image of you in their minds, it is very difficult to change their perception.

Jesus encountered this attitude among those who thought they knew Him. He lived in a small town, in a small country. The little village of Nazareth where He grew up was tiny. In the time of Jesus, the village of Nazareth took up no more space than a football field. Everybody knew everybody in Nazareth. People knew Jesus’ mother and father. They would have even known Him as He worked at His trade in His father’s carpenter shop. Perhaps He had built a piece of furniture for them or replaced a handle on one of their favourite tools or made a yoke for their oxen. After all, He did not begin His ministry until He was about thirty years old. For most of His adult life He laboured in as a carpenter or builder.

You can imagine how these people responded when suddenly Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the One prophesied by the prophets. We read in today’s Gospel that His fellow countrymen began to grumble about Jesus because He said that He was the bread that came down from heaven. They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose mother and father we know?” In their culture of the day basic honour came from birth into very special circumstances. Honour required that a person remain in this status, maintain and preserve it, and never consider “getting ahead.” Any attempt to improve upon or behave not in keeping with one’s birth status was shameful because it was a divisive force in the community.

We can appreciate their disbelief for we have done the same thing to people. We put them in a box. We assign them to a category. We know where they came from, we know who their parents are, we know where they went to school, we can tell by their accent or by their appearance about their background and we make certain assumptions. And because we make those assumptions, we treat them in a certain way. None of this is intentional of course. We may not even be conscious of it. It simply saves our brains the time and energy of sorting out people individually. So, we sort them out by category. That is what the folks in today’s text were doing: “We know who you are. You are Mary and Joseph’s son. You’re from Nazareth. That’s farming country, isn’t it? People are a little slow there. Well, maybe we can find a job for you that’s not too taxing mentally.” Do you think such things do not happen? Then you are naive. That is the way the human brain seems to operate.

They laughed at Jesus. “Bread from heaven? We know where you came from. You’re Mary and Joseph’s son.” Be careful when you judge anyone else’s potential. It makes no difference where we come from…or how we look or talk…or who our parents are. We are all children of God. We all have more potential than we can ever exhaust. And there is One who can help us so orient our lives that we can overcome every obstacle. Christ is bread for the world. When we feed on Him we find we can accomplish more than we ever dreamed possible.

In today’s reading, we hear Jesus say again, as he did in last week’s Gospel, that he is the bread of life. We also hear Jesus add that he is the living bread. Both statements help us understand better the gift that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist. We celebrate this gift of Jesus each time we gather for Mass. Our spiritual journey, just as any journey requires nourishment, thus God has made that nourishment available to each and every one of us through His Word and the Holy Eucharist. We must be willing to accept his gifts for the journey that lies ahead.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Feast of St Clare

2-6.jpgWHAT WILL YOU NAME AS THE PRICE OF YOUR LIFE?

At some point of our life this question is posed to each of us in a way we cannot avoid. The Lord Jesus repeatedly confronted his disciples with this issue but it was only when he himself met with the immediate prospect of death and actually submitted to it on the cross that they were forced to come to terms with it. That we are here today to hear this question posed to us is due to the fact that after the resurrection and the gift of the Spirit his followers dealt with the urgency of this challenge in the light of faith in the risen Christ.
The sooner we take a deliberate, considered stand on what goal we set for our self as the aim of our existence here on earth, the more meaningful we shall find our life becomes. Unless that choice conforms to the most fundamental and noblest aspirations of our nature, before long we shall find our self confronted with the same question once again. Experience reveals to those who reflect and have eyes to see that no earthly success or achievement bestows satisfaction for long. Only to the extent that the goal attained includes some value that transcends the finite limits of this material universe does it continue to gratify our aspiration for happiness and fulfillment.

Jesus, in this address to his followers, not only poses this challenge of confronting squarely the value we set on our life; he also indicates the condition for meeting this challenge successfully. The way to attain to the fullness of life that we restlessly strive after is to give our self to him knowing that belonging to him means to suffer, even to lose our life in this world, one way or another. We must learn, in other words, that there is a kind of happiness that this world does not understand and cannot appreciate. It is the fruit of life in the Spirit, bestowed on us through the cross of Jesus. It consists in a communion with the Father through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

The saint whose memory we commemorate today, St. Clare of Assisi, like her companion St. Francis, illustrates this truth in practice. One of the most striking features of her life as well as that of her inseparable friend, Francis, is the cheerful joy and humanity that radiated from her and those whom she formed in the way of life that was a taking up of the cross of Jesus. She had every advantage the world of her time and place could offer: youth, beauty, intelligence, wealth and influence. But she early came to see clearly their limits and looking beyond their false promise saw that the value of her life was not to be measured by any of these things or all of them together.

God alone in Jesus the Saviour is the price St. Clare and St. Francis set on their life. Today as we are confronted with our Lord’s question “WHAT WILL YOU NAME AS THE PRICE OF YOUR LIFE?” we are invited to make the same choice. At the Eucharist we are offered the answer to this query in the most personal possible manner as we receive the risen Lord Jesus into the depths of our heart. May we find in this sacrament the one answer that will always prove true and never fail to fulfill its promise: life in Christ Jesus, our Savior and our God.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

2-6This Sunday we continue to read from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. we learn that the crowd has noticed the departure of Jesus and his disciples and so seeks them out in Capernaum. In the dialogue that follows between Jesus and the crowds, Jesus unfolds for us the gift of himself that that he gives in the Eucharist.

We aren’t so different from the Israelites, right? Ever stay in a bad situation because it’s easier to stay with the devil you know? Ever settle for less than you could be doing because, well, it’s not great, but it’s tough to make a change, and, truth be told, complaining about it is easier than changing?

The Israelites had just been brought through a huge change. And it was time to learn a new skill. Trust in God.

To feed them, God gave the Israelites the gift of manna, a fine flaky substance that appeared on the ground every morning. It was so peculiar, new, wondrous, that the people ask, “What is it?”—in Hebrew, it sounds like “Manna?” and the name sticks.

The food is wondrous not only because it appears overnight while they are asleep, in this barren place, out of nowhere – or solely out of the abundance of God – but it’s theirs with no work, no slave labour, just grace, here it is.

It is also wondrous because it has special built-in properties to make sure everyone gets enough. Just enough. They must collect it each day. There’s exactly enough to go around. No more, no less. If they try to hoard it for the next day, it rots. The exception is on the Sabbath when the people aren’t supposed to do any work. On the day before the Sabbath, they can collect enough for the Sabbath too, and it will last.

Like all new things, it takes some practice. Some people hoard, and all they must show for it is a bunch of mouldy manna. Some people don’t collect enough for the Sabbath, and when the Sabbath comes, there’s no manna for them. Trust—says God, trust me—and follow my instructions—they’re trustworthy, too. Trust listen to me and obey, and you can dwell in contentment.
In Jesus, God took the life of contentment one step further. Jesus was not just someone who gave physical bread, although feeding hungry people is one of the commands Jesus gives and one of the things his ministry on earth was about. Jesus tells the crowd in this week’s Gospel that they are following Him for the wrong reasons. They seek Him because He filled their bellies. The Israelites, too, were content to follow God so long as there was plenty of food. As Paul reminds us in this week’s Epistle, we must leave behind our old self-deceptions and desires and live according to the likeness of God in which we are made. He wasn’t content to just make sure people had full bellies and their physical needs met; Jesus came to be bread of life – the source for spiritual contentment as well, the source of joy and contentment in any situation, in plenty and in want, in easy times and in times of struggle and challenge. Don’t be content with physical stuff. Don’t try to find contentment with the things of this world that are here today and gone tomorrow. Seek God’s kingdom. Seek the food that endures for eternal life.

Jesus offers himself, and walking with Jesus, feasting with Jesus, eating the bread he gives us, which is himself, we can know contentment wherever we find ourselves. Even in the midst of a desert. Even when provisions seem scarce or we don’t know exactly where the journey leads, Jesus will be our sustenance and guide if we let him. We can know what is enough, who is enough.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

2-8The story we have just heard about Jesus feeding the 5,000 — stands out in the Gospels. The Gospel writers clearly thought this story was important. It shows up in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and John. It is a parable about what we are called to do and who we are called to be. If we are going to follow Jesus, at some point, he’s going to turn to us and say: You give them something to eat. And it matters how we respond to his command. It’s about how we see the world, and what we do with what we already have. Jesus, he takes what God has already provided. He draws out the resources that are already present in the community.

As Andrew points out, all they can find is five barley loaves and two fish belonging to a boy in the crowd. But then, Jesus gets them to see what’s there with new eyes. The disciples are coming from a place of fear, of scarcity: there will never be enough! What Jesus shows us is that, whatever we have, whatever God has already given us, is always enough. If we look at it in the right way. If we decide to share. If we let, go of our fear and stop holding onto to what’s “ours” so tightly. If we can do those things, we have enough. That’s how Jesus wants us to see the world. Whatever we brought with us is what we must share, and there’s plenty for everyone, and more left over besides. This is a compelling picture of what the Kingdom of God is like.

Here’s another way of looking at it: this story about feeding the five thousand is the first supper, instead of the last supper. Jesus sat down and broke bread with his friends many times over the course of his ministry, not just that last night in the upper room.

Jesus follows the same pattern at this first supper as he does at the last supper. Take, bless, break, give: those are the actions of the eucharistic feast. Jesus wants us to take what we have, whatever it is, whatever’s already here, and bless it: in other words, give it to God. And then break it open, divide it up, and give it away. Joyfully. So that all will have enough.

Jesus does this with bread, every time he shares a meal. And he does this with his life: lives it for God, breaks it open, gives it to us. And this is what Jesus wants with our lives too: You give them something to eat. It’s not enough to simply pray that God will change things, will feed the hungry and clothe the naked. God needs us to participate in this eucharistic action. God is calling us to take our lives, and bless them, and be broken open, and then given away in service of others.

It’s the breaking that can be hard to face. But you cannot be a follower of Jesus without the risk of being broken. Serving a meal to a homeless person or taking communion to someone dying of cancer — sometimes, such an encounter is going to break your heart. It would be easier to stay safe where you never have to face that reality. But we don’t have that option: you give them something to eat.

In the section from the letter to the Ephesians for today, Paul is calling the people to be generous, by urging them to “lead a life worthy of your vocation.” God has generously lavished forgiveness and blessing on the community after they have received the good news of Jesus. Now Paul is calling them to be generous in turn: in living charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. If they do that, they will live in the abundance of God’s love, which God always gives generously.

We could also listen attentively to what Paul says, and recommit ourselves to living in a way that is “worthy of your vocation” we have received—our call to be disciples of Jesus, our call to ministry. Recognizing once more God’s generosity that gives in abundance, in turn recognize the need in our lives to be generous with ourselves—and so experience repeatedly God’s abundance in our lives. Like the young boy in the gospel, we can give what we have, despite how little it seems to be. To be thankful for God’s generous abundance, and to be open to that abundance by being generous ourselves.

Take, bless, break, give. No matter how hard or impossible this seems, the result is worth it: everyone ate until they were satisfied, and when they gathered up what was left over, they filled twelve baskets. This vision is possible. We already have what we need, right here in our midst. The Kingdom is waiting to be born.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

2-6In this today’s Gospel, we read the report of the return of the Twelve, Jesus invites them to come away from the crowds and rest. To get away, Jesus and his disciples board a boat in hopes of finding a deserted place. But the crowds notice this and arrive ahead of them. The crowds are so persistent that Jesus and his disciples cannot find a place to be alone. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is moved with pity he looks on them like sheep without a shepherd and begins to teach the crowds.

The shepherd is used over 1,200 times in the Bible about God only, a figure of speech by the biblical writers to get us thinking about what God is like. God is like a shepherd. God is like one who has a crook and knows how to use it. God is like one who abides out in fields with the ones for whom he cares.

This simply is a fact of life. Just as no one is an island, so is no one free from authority and these guiding influences. This is what arouses Jesus’ compassion for the crowd today: they are like sheep without a shepherd. Jeremiah says in the First Reading that Israel’s leaders, through godlessness and fanciful teachings, had misled and scattered God’s people. He promises God will send a shepherd, a king and son of David, to gather the lost sheep and appoint for them new shepherds. And he begins teaching them. Of course, they had shepherds, but those false shepherds had led them to seek the real shepherd.

So then, what are sheep? Since we are the sheep in this metaphor that we use for God, we ought to know. You know, don’t you, that there are critics of the church who would call us disciples of Christ, “sheeple.” It’s meant to be a derisive term for the unquestioning following, not so much of Jesus, but of the culture warrior preachers. But in many ways, we act like sheep, we are sheeple.

Sheep are not known for their intelligence, but they are quite bright in their own way. While they can easily get their little horns caught in briars or get lost, it seems that most of their brains are dedicated to their flock and their shepherd.

In a flock, sheep will arrange themselves in concentric overlapping circles of sheep with the strongest and biggest sheep on the outside and the youngest and weakest sheep on the inside. We could learn from these sheep in terms of being neighbours to each other.

In addition to their ability as a good neighbour, the sheep is singularly focused on its shepherd. So much so, that the sheep learn the voice of their shepherd, his scent, and even his silhouette upon the sky as the shepherd stands on a hill. The sheep learn somehow that this one shepherd, in however he calls to them, whether through sight, voice, or smell, is to be utterly trusted – and not only that, but all other shepherds are to be mistrusted, or at least sceptically investigated.

Mark defines the content of the teaching of Jesus as “the Good News of God” (Mk 1:14). The Good News which Jesus proclaimed comes from God and reveals something about God. In everything which God says and does, the traits of the face of God are visible. The experience which He Himself has of God, the experience of the Father, is visible. To reveal God as Father is the source, the content, and the purpose or end of the Good News of Jesus.

A dramatist of a century earlier travelled from coast to coast. He was a skilled speaker. He always concluded by quoting a passage from the Bible, one evening he chose the 23rd Psalm. Each phrase was couched with perfect intonation and nuance. And when he finished, the audience jumped to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. They had never heard the psalm read so skilfully.

An old man at the back, shuffled to the front and walked up on stage with the dramatist. “Mind if I say the 23rd.” The old man’s voice cracked as he began. His words were choppy and uneven. He went on through to the end when he had finished there were no sounds of applause. Instead silence. Then the dramatist looked out to see some persons with bowed heads; What did you do? You didn’t recite the psalm as well as I did, yet I have never seen an audience so moved by your words. How did you do that?” “Son, you know the psalm. But I know the Shepherd.”

Have you discovered the Great Shepherd’s desire to provide for you? To lead you to green pastures during wasteland? To quench the deepest thirst, we know? Then you know the Shepherd of the Psalm. Go, be sheep, follow your one and only Good Shepherd who heals and teaches and then enables us to bring life and healing to our hurting world.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

​FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-26This week’s Gospel and the one for next week describe how Jesus sent the disciples to minister in his name and the disciples’ return to Jesus afterward. In commissioning the Apostles in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives them, and us, a preview of His Church’s mission after the Resurrection. Like Amos in today’s First Reading, the Apostles are not “professionals,” who earn their bread by prophesying. Like Amos, they are simply men summoned from their ordinary jobs and sent by God to be shepherds of their brothers and sisters.

Again, this week, we hear the theme of rejection: Amos experiences it, and Jesus warns the Apostles that some will not welcome or listen to them. The Church is called not necessarily to be successful, but only to be faithful to God’s command.

Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus sent out the Twelve. These twelve were selected from among Jesus’ disciples and named by Mark in chapter 3. Mark notes that these twelve are also called “apostles.” The word apostle means “one who is sent.” The number twelve is also a symbolic number, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. His instructions to the Twelve echo those of God to the Twelve Tribes of Israel on the eve of their exodus from Egypt. The Israelites were sent out with no bread and only one set of clothes, wearing sandals and carrying a staff (Exodus 12:11; Deuteronomy 8:2–4). Like the Israelites, the Apostles are to rely solely on the providence of God and His grace. By naming twelve apostles, Jesus shows his mission to be in continuity with the mission of God’s people, Israel.

Jesus’ instructions to the apostles are very specific. He repeats the mission that they are sent to preach and to share his authority to heal and to drive out demons. Jesus sends them in pairs, establishing his mission as a communal Endeavor. Jesus also instructs them to travel lightly, without the customary food, money, and extra set of clothes. These instructions mean that the Twelve will be dependent on the hospitality of others, just as Jesus depended on others to provide for his needs.

Jesus continues to send us into the world as his disciples. But like the first disciples, we are not sent alone. Jesus has given us the community of the Church, which strengthens our life of discipleship. The Christian message can only authentically be proclaimed in and through the community of faith that is the Church. In our work with others, we build this community of faith and can invite others to share in it.

What we can see from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is that the words we speak are words that call people together in Christ. They are part of God’s plan to ” he would bring everything together under Christ,” So the words that the prophet speaks are grace-filled words, that bring all things together in Christ. Rather than the polarizing discourse that we frequently hear today, Paul urges us to work to unite people in God’s plan to bring everything together in Christ.

So, what Jesus is asking is that we encourage people to embrace the joyful vision and understanding of life that Jesus proposed and lived – what he called the kingdom of God. Jesus is asking that we not let money, possessions, and worries occupy our thoughts and drain our time and energy. Jesus is asking that we not allow ourselves to be frozen by failure when people do not respond, but that we move on to the next person, just as Jesus did.

While we can easily disregard the instructions that Jesus gives in Sunday’s Gospel as impractical, we need to see what was behind them. Once we know that, then we will know what Jesus most wants us to do. In other words, doing our best to share the message of Jesus!

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2018 in Uncategorized