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Monthly Archives: September 2015

MICHAEL, GABRIEL AND RAPHAEL, ARCHANGELS

1-6  Today’s liturgy – a feast of the Church (second only to a solemnity in importance) – has a very ancient history behind it. Since the about the time of the Council of Nicea in 325, which defined the doctrine of the Trinity, the Church has honored these angelic “persons” named in the Scriptures as particular manifestations of God’s attention toward the human community. They stand for us as personifications of God’s power exercised on our behalf.

Michael is the power of God to defeat, overwhelm and destroy evil that seeks to do harm to God’s beloved. From the Revelations text that is one of the options for the first reading today, we hear that Michael and his angelic companions are the victors in the cosmic contest between God and anti-God forces,  the Scriptures invite us to ponder in calling us to reverence God’s power to defeat the darkness of our lives.

Gabriel is the bearer of Good News, of the victory of God’s plan, but Gabriel’s voice (actually God’s voice in Gabriel) always bears a challenge: Will you serve God’s plan? Will you be a key agent in bringing about the Reign of God? Gabriel carries to us the opportunity to be under the standard of Christ in our life settings. It is Gabriel who brings the gift of vocation – call – to our attention in the very midst of our ordinariness.   God’s is the power of freely giving ourselves to goodness, to hope, to the work of saving our world from the forces of greed, violence, self-centeredness.

Finally, the Church invites us to honor the voice of God’s guidance and healing. Raphael has the triple task in the book of Tobit, of guiding Tobit’s son, Tobias, to his happiness in marriage, healing his young wife of a curse, and then healing the physical blindness of Tobias’ father, Tobit. Near the end of the book, the angel Raphael reveals that he is not an ordinary companion but an angel sent as a messenger of God. He tells the father and son that none of the great deeds he has done for them are from his own will or his own plan, but rather the will and plan of God that they are to praise with their whole lives. Raphael, then, is the messenger of God’s Spirit leading and guiding, healing and comforting us. But if we pay close attention, we also hear Raphael instructing us in God’s ways, challenging us to generosity, wise actions, courage, and hope when we might be inclined to less virtuous responses to the circumstances and events of our lives.

In celebrating the gift of angelic power – the power of God mediated to us in these angelic visitations, the Church places words of praise in our mouth – not words of praise for the angels but words of praise to God, from whom the power flows as streams of fire.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-16The human desire for orderliness and predictability is a good thing, because of it our science and technology, our agriculture and our medicine is made possible. Yet sometimes this trait, this part of human nature, gets in our way.

It is this fact that lies behind today’s Old Testament Reading and today’s
gospel reading.

As we heard, Moses gathered 70 leaders of the Israelite community together one day so that they might assist him in bearing responsibility for watching over and caring for the people of God. He calls them to go out with him to the Tent of the Ark of the Covenant which was placed outside of the rest of the camp, and to receive there from God the same gift of the Holy Spirit that he had.

And so they do. But there is a catch. It turns out that two of the seventy leaders did not go out to the Tent of the Ark of The Covenant.

Instead, for some unknown reason, they stayed in the camp with the rest of the people and it is there that the Spirit descends upon them, and it is there that they prophecy, and it is there that they are caught by a young man.

They are caught by him breaking the rules and regulations set down by Moses, they are caught doing things out of turn, improperly, and without due authorization, and the young man runs out to the tent of the Ark of the Covenant and he reports all that he has seen to Moses.

Joshua, who is with Moses, hears the young man’s report at the same time Moses does, and like John the Apostle in today’s gospel reading, he attempts to put an end to the irregularity. We hear him say to Moses: “My Lord Moses, Stop Them! — Stop them from disobeying you. Stop them from doing things in the way they are not supposed to do them. Stop them from defiling the Spirit of God.”

My Lord, Stop Them…

How many people have we tried to stop? How many people have we stifled because they are not doing things the way we think they should be done? Because they are not precisely following the plan that we expect them to follow?

It is a serious question.

The apostle John came up to Jesus one day. In today’s gospel reading we hear him say: Jesus, I was walking down the road with the rest of the disciples, and we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, we tried to stop him because we don’t know who he is, we tried to stop him because he doesn’t follow us.

It’s like an echo isn’t it – these two passages we are looking at today.

Jesus – We tried to stop him!… My Lord Moses, stop them!

What was John missing? What was Joshua missing? What are we missing?

What are we missing when new people come into our church and then leave it just as quickly as they came? What are we missing when members of our own family tell us that we are driving them away? And when strangers tell us that they do not feel welcome in our midst?

Are the expectations we place upon others to do things just so – just a little bit too much? But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Do you think I really care if Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp instead of here? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit in them. Would that they would prophesy in the camp, and speak God’s word in the tabernacle, and communicate the will of the Lord to one another while walking through the desert and when they are eating and when they are playing.

It is good to have order. It is good to do things in certain ways.
Having customs and traditions and rules and regulations makes sense to me.

They make sense that is until they get in the way of embracing other people
– until they become instruments of judgement instead of instruments of grace, until they become things that blind us to what God is doing in our midst instead of helping us to see. And then they have to prioritize – according to the simple law of the Spirit – the law of love – the law that embraces all our relations – the law that the Apostle Paul tells us in the Letter to Romans gives life..

But Jesus said to John, “Do not stop him! Do not prevent him from doing good in my name simply because he is not following you and the other disciples. He is on my side. For no-one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. Truly, I tell you, whoever give you a cup of water to drink because you bear my name will by no means lose the reward.”

Whoever is not against us is for us.

We are dedicated by our vows of faith and our pledges of loyalty to being loving and caring members of God’s family. We are set apart by our faith – we are made holy in other words – so that our presence in the larger world and in the intimacy of our families is a life giving presence.

As Christians we have committed ourselves to doing the work God calls us to
do and to seeing others in the way that God sees us, and judging others in
the way that God judges us.

We can only really keep our vows and pledges, we can only be true to our commitment, we can only fill the world’s need for us if we embrace one another and celebrate our common bound in God, the bound that was signed and sealed upon the cross of Christ. upon the cross of the one who said before he died, for us:

A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54; James 3:16 — 4:3 MARK 9:30-37

1-6“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me” (v 37).

I imagine being a teacher can be frustrating. It is no easy task for a teacher to impart information and understanding to a group of students, especially if some of those students are less then receptive or attentive. When the final exam comes, a teacher may discover that many students failed to grasp the material. What was taught was not understood.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 9:30-37), Jesus might have felt like a frustrated teacher for the lesson he was trying to impart was missed by his students, by his disciples. Jesus was teaching them that suffering and death awaited him in Jerusalem. “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” Jesus was not going to be the long-awaited Messiah who would free the people from the yoke of Rome and restore the Kingdom of Israel.

Yet his disciples misunderstood or dismissed what Jesus was teaching. Rather than realizing that what awaited their master would touch their own lives, they began to argue about “who was the greatest.” Jesus was speaking about suffering and service and their minds were on position and greatness in the kingdom that they expected him to establish.

So what did Jesus do? He taught the lesson even more forcefully.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus “sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’” In sitting down, Jesus took the traditional posture of a teacher at the time. A teacher sat and the students gathered around to listen.

In that teaching position, Jesus forcefully restated his point that those who are great in God’s kingdom are not those who achieve positions of power and fame, but rather those who bend down to serve the poor and the powerless.

Then like a good teacher, Jesus not only conveyed that lesson in words, he also gave a visual example of his message. Jesus took a child, a person with no rights, no status, and no importance in the society of his day, and he embraced that child. Then Jesus told his disciples that in serving a lowly child they came in contact with God himself. “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

The disciples of Jesus could find greatness just as he did, by reaching out and serving the poor, the powerless, the weak, the unimportant, the rejected, the lonely, the sick, and the aged. In our day, we have a wonderful example of a disciple achieving such greatness in Pope Francis. His words of mercy and his acts of humble service have caught the attention of the world.

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus gives us a lesson that we often fail to grasp.

Each of us has to wrestle with this question on our own and for each of us the answer is different—“What am I doing; is it enough?” As much as I may think I’m doing, maybe there’s someone I’m overlooking; maybe there’s something I’m not doing.

When I find myself standing just outside the kingdom, when God asks me to show him signs of my discipleship; when He asks me to show him my elbows, knees, and shoulders, will I have the calluses, the scars and the bruises to prove it? Is it then that I’ll finally get it; is it then I’ll understand what Jesus was talking about when he said, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS

1-6Why are we talking about the cross in September? Today’s feast originated in Jerusalem and marks the anniversary of the consecration of the basilica built by the emperor Constantine in the fourth century. This day is also a celebration of the finding of the true cross by St. Helena, Constantine’s mother; and the restoration of the true cross to Jerusalem by the emperor Heraclius several hundred years later. But more important than these particular historical events is the meaning of the cross for each believer.

One of my most privileged moments in the church year is when I witness the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. Old and young, vigorous and lame, shy and assertive, those beautiful by the world’s standards and those with an inner beauty that fairly radiates from them — all come forward: the recently widowed, and whole families walking together, the mother holding a sleeping infant while shepherding the older children down the aisle; saints and sinners; the successful and the beaten-down. They kneel or genuflect or kiss or touch or bow to the cross. And their faces are so transparent at that moment, unable to hide their love and their longing; their despair and their hope.

Everyone suffers. Everyone dies. Everyone lives with loss and fear of loss. What makes suffering Christian? What makes it redemptive? There were three crosses on Calvary Hill that dark day. There were crosses everywhere in the Roman Empire. It was the state’s means of execution. What makes the cross we embrace the cross of Jesus?

Perhaps the answer has something to do with “embrace.” When we finally say yes to our loss, no matter how great — there is room for God to heal and mend and bring back to life. In his little book A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis writes about the death of his wife, Joy. He notes that when he is the midst of his terrible, ranting grief he cannot remember her face and this grieves him all the more. Is he losing even the memory of her? But then he notices that when he is quiet, going about his daily life, writing at his desk or drinking a cup of tea, she is somehow with him and he remembers her clearly and, for the moment, he is not lonely.

The Christian cross is about acceptance and also … forgiveness. Our crosses become one with the cross of Jesus when we can say with him, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” To join our crosses with the cross of Jesus, we must forgive whoever it is we blame for our suffering, even if that blame is heaped upon ourselves or our God.

Such forgiveness doesn’t come easy. It may be the hardest act of the will we ever have to exercise.

For many in our world, the church is an alien concept. Church buildings are curious but foreign territory. Many seekers are looking for God but are reluctant to enter the doors of the church, because they are bewildered by it all. For some, the closest they may get to the Christ and the cross is the Christ and the cross they see in us. That is what it means to be a witness for the Lord that is why we are called to be disciples. That is why we are to be ambassadors for the Lord, because many come to faith by first seeing faith in others.
Really, the central purpose of the church is to lift up the cross. To let the light of Christ’s life, death and resurrection shine forth in the world. The light shines forth as the church and each Christian walks in the way of the cross in the world. The light shines as we love one another, and show others that we are his disciplines.

On this day dedicated to the Holy Cross, let us recall the cross traced upon us in baptism. The sign under which we live and move and have our being. Let us lift up the cross before others by leading Christian lives until the day of Jesus, Christ. The great hymn by Isaac Watts sums up the Wondrous Cross:
When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Were all the realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.

And also In the words of the hymn:
“Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the word adore his sacred Name…
As St Francis prayed: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Cross you have redeemed the world.”
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross focuses on its transformation from an instrument of suffering and death to that which gives life and salvation. It sums up the heart of Christianity. As it is raised up before our eyes -on church steeples and above our altars, may it remind us of the power of God’s love to make a way where there is no way

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Isaiah 50:5-9a;  James 2:14-18  MARK 8:27-35

   1-6Caesarea Philippi was outside Galilee it was a town with a history. It had once been a great centre of the worship of Baal. On the hillside rose a gleaming temple of white marble which Philip had built to the godhead of Caesar, the Roman Emperor, the ruler of the world, who was regarded as a god. And so it is an amazing thing that it was here of all places that Peter saw in a homeless Galilean carpenter the Son of God. The ancient religion of Palestine was in the air, the Jordan would bring back to memory episode after episode in the history of Israel and the conquest of the land. And clear in the eastern sun gleamed and glinted the marble of the holy place which reminded all men that Caesar was a god.

There, of all places, as it were against the background of all religions and all history, Peter discovered that a wandering teacher from Nazareth, who was heading for a cross, was the Son of God.

Our gospel story starts with Jesus posing a question to his disciples: “who do people say I am?” “Some say you are the resurrected John the Baptist, Elijah who is to come again, others say you are one of the other prophets.”
Then Jesus wants to know what the disciples think of him. He asks: who do YOU say I am?” Peter, of course (who else), is the one to speak up: “you are the Messiah.” Jesus’ response takes us by surprise. Mark’s Jesus is not pleasantly surprised at Peter’s answer. Instead he says: “Shhh.” It says in Verse 30: “And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.”

And as the conversation continues we may begin to understand why. Peter has a completely different expectation of what the Messiah ought to be about. The text says he rebuked Jesus: “what do you mean you will have to suffer and be killed? Wait a minute, that’s not what’s supposed to happen to the Messiah!” According to Peter’s version, the Messiah was to triumph over the Roman government, leading Judea to establish itself once again as an independent nation, within the old border lines.

Jesus, in turn, rebukes Peter: “you can’t even look beyond the here and now, can you?” God’s kingdom is of a different, divine nature. From a human viewpoint, the Kingdom appears to be upside down. It’s about suffering in this life for the sake of the Kingdom. And guess what? You are asked to take up your cross as well. In fact, you must be willing to risk losing your earthly life, and in doing so you will find real life, even eternal life.

I wonder if Peter’s attitude is so different from the attitude of the church today? What if Jesus asked us today: “Who do you say I am?” What would our answer be?

We may not even realize that what we’re really doing is exactly what Peter is doing–namely telling Christ what he is supposed to be like. I have a feeling most of us have a problem with who Christ really is, with the way Christ chooses to do things; we humans have a problem to let God be God.

A prayer by a three-year old Norma goes something like this:
Dear God, did you mean for giraffes to look that way, or was that an accident?

Already, at this tender age we can find rudimentary evidence of a basic human condition–a quarrel with God. Norma would not have made giraffes the way God made them–and perhaps, neither would we.

The truth is: God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways. If it was up to us, Christ would be exactly the way we wanted him to be. We read the Scriptures about Jesus and we cut and paste our own view of him–to suit our life-style and our theological preference.

In one sense our theologizing of Christ, our different answers to the question “who do you say I am?” is understandable: Jesus is Immanuel–God with us. But, we often forget that our view of God is not necessarily the whole picture of God. God-with-us doesn’t mean God-according-to-our-view.

The followers of John the Baptist saw Jesus as his reincarnation, members of the prophetic movement saw him as the prophet, and members of the apocalyptic movement saw Jesus as Elijah who had returned.

Yet, we need to realize that it’s no use to “box in” Christ, to try to control him, or to quarrel with him. Jesus asks us to give up these attempts, and just . . . surrender. Let God be God!

And surrender is what this text is really all about. Jesus says: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Surrender to the point of self-denial. To let God be in charge of our lives.

Notice that Jesus questions the apostles today “along the way.” They are on the way to Jerusalem, where the Lord will lay down His life. We, too, are on a journey with the Lord.

So, however you answer Christ’s question: “who do you say that I am?” keep in mind that this question is loaded. Christ does not necessarily want to know our opinion about him, but he rather want to know about our commitment to him. Are we willing to give up our quarrel with Christ and let him be in charge? Are we willing to surrender our lives to Christ?

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Micah 5:1-4a   MATTHEW 1:1-16, 18-23

1-6“For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (v.20).

The Evangelist Matthew celebrates the wonder of Mary’s existence and her place in sacred history but in a style that is strange to our ears.

I am referring to that lengthy genealogy with which he begins his gospel. Ancient Jewish genealogies were a totally masculine matter, a list of legal fathers. But Matthew deliberately breaks that convention by inserting the names of women who entered this history in rather irregular ways, to state it mildly. In the portion quoted above, the first surprise is the name of Tamar. The second woman to be named, Rahab, is unusual in another way; she was a prostitute and a Canaanite, to boot. Ruth stands out as a foreigner, a Moabite woman, who marries into the covenant people by way of Boaz. And then there is the woman discretely referred to as the one “who had been the wife of Uriah.” . Why, you may be asking, would Matthew bother to include in his genealogy of the Messiah these four women who had entered the line in such irregular ways? He was preparing for a person who comes some twenty-six names later–the fifth woman, Miriam (Mary), who participates in the genealogy with an irregularity that tops them all; she became the Mother of Jesus through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, through virginal conception. Remember that her own conception through the union of Joachim and Anne was perfectly normal. We celebrate that conception in her mother’s womb as the Immaculate Conception, meaning that she was preserved for the effects of original sin from her very beginning. Her own birth, nine month later, was also like the birth of any child of her time and place. The wonderful “irregularity” came in the way she became the mother of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus. So we celebrate the ordinary birth of Mary because of who she turned out to be and whose mother she became.

The point of Matthew’s genealogy was not simply to prepare for the virginal conception of Jesus but also to celebrate Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s history; Jesus does not just come at the end of that history; he embodies Israel’s vocation and further implements it, helping Israel become Isaiah’s “light of the world.” In this process Mary was not simply the vessel; she was the perfect example of an Israelite who hears the word of God and responds to that word. Fulfilling this ideal of Jewish obedience to God’s will enabled her to become the kind of mother who could raise her child to be the man that Jesus was and is.

We celebrate Mary’s birth with gratitude and with a commitment to imitate her faith. Because of Mary, we are beneficiaries of the divine story sketched in Matthew’s genealogy. Our baptism into the body of Christ has placed us in that lineage.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME SUNDAY,

Isaiah 35:4-7a; Psalm 146; James 2:1-5 MARK 7:31-37

1-6  In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37), people bring Jesus “a deaf man who had a speech impediment.” While his speech impediment may have had a physical cause, it was more than likely his difficulty in speaking was caused by the fact he could not hear. How could he pronounce words that he was unable to hear and to imitate?

In the Gospel we are told Jesus “put his finger into the man’s ears” and then he touched his tongue. “And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.”

Jesus first opens the man’s ears and then the man speaks plainly. With good hearing comes good speaking.

Notice how personal and physical the drama is in the Gospel. Our focus is drawn to a hand, a finger, ears, a tongue, spitting. In Jesus, Mark shows us, God has truly come in the flesh.

The same thing holds true when it comes to speaking about our Christian faith. As disciples of Jesus we have the responsibility to tell others about Jesus and about the good news of the Gospel. However, we cannot effectively do that unless we ourselves have first heard and understood the words of Jesus and we are not afraid

We hear his words as the Gospel is proclaimed at Mass. We hear them explained during the homily. We learn more about their application to our lives through the example of faithful Christians. And we come to a deeper understanding of their meaning through the teaching of the Church. In all these ways Jesus opens our ears so that his words, his teachings, will find a place in our minds and hearts.

If that does not happen, then our words about the Gospel will sound false. We will speak with a “speech impediment” that keeps others from accepting the message of Jesus Christ that we are trying to share.

If we want our words of faith to be understood by others, we first need to hear and understand them ourselves.
But unfortunately in life, there will be times when we experience fear, or disappointment. These feelings can often lead us to feeling alone and discouraged. In this Gospel, it is important for us to hear that our God will always remain with us through life’s journeys. We should not be weary and get off of track. Instead we should have courage and know that God will forever be our light at the end of life’s tunnels.

An issue that is often faced in our society is judgment. There are times when people are negatively judged on several things such as their appearance, social class, and race. In the readings of James 2:1-5, the Scripture says that we should all unite as brothers and sisters of Christ and treat each other equally with respect. The Scripture goes on to say ” it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him. (James 2:5)

Judgment has affected us all at one point in life. You may have been judged because you didn’t have the trendiest gym shoes, or you may have been on the other side and passed judgment on others because you felt superior while wearing the latest fashion trends. The road may be long and bumpy but with faith and effort we can work hard to eliminate negative and unnecessary judgments every day. In the passage James 2:8 we are reminded that if we can love our neighbours as we love ourselves,” we are doing well.

In this Mass, Jesus will once again perform the miracle of the Eucharist, becoming truly present under the appearances of bread and wine.

As he feeds us with this supernatural food, let’s renew our faith in his power and his goodness, and renew our commitment to help build up his everlasting Kingdom.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2015 in Uncategorized