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Monthly Archives: October 2015

SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS

1-8   MATTHEW 5:1-12A KEY VERSE: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (v 12).

TO KNOW: In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus revealed the character he required of his followers. The “Beatitudes” that Jesus exalted was the attitude of trust and humility represented by the poor, the suffering and persecuted. At the time of Jesus, affliction was thought to be punishment for sin, and good health and material prosperity were seen as rewards for one’s righteousness. Jesus reversed human expectations of those who were thought to be fortunate – the rich, powerful and complacent people. He announced that true happiness was not found in wealth and power. Jesus promised eternal reward for all who humbly sought God’s will despite hardships. But the “blessedness” that the disciples received was not some future glory; it is the blessedness that exists in the here and now. Jesus exemplified every Beatitude. He was poor (Mt 8:20) and gentle and meek (11:29). He grieved over sin and hungered and thirsted for God’s justice (12:18). He was merciful (12:16-21) and single-hearted in his desire to do God’s will (26:39). Jesus suffered persecution and died to bring about God’s kingdom (27:50). He gave us the ideal that every Christian should constantly pursue in order to be holy people, worthy of God’s reign.

TO LOVE: Which of the Beatitudes do I most need to put into practice today?

Homily

To achieve success in any field requires hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and the willingness to meet and even exceed certain requirements.

Today, we as a Church honour all those people throughout the ages who achieved success as Christians, who became saints – those officially recognized by the Church, those admired as such by their relatives and friends, and those known only to God.

The first reading focuses us for today’s solemnity. In the Book of Revelation, St. John reports “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue” (Revelation 7:9).

This is Good News. Salvation has come not only for Israel, but for the Gentiles as well. Here is the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham, that by his seed all the nations of the world would bless themselves

In our second reading, St. John tells us that to be “saints” means to be “children of God”—and then he adds: “so we are”! Note that he speaks in the present tense.

Yet John also says that we have unfinished business to tend. We are already God’s children, but “what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” Thus we work out our salvation: “Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).

We do this as we share the life of Christ, who defined earthly beatitude for us.

Joining the company of those saints is the goal of every Christian. Every Christian hopes to be welcomed to the kingdom of heaven and to be part of that “great multitude” described in the Book of Revelation, “from every nation, race, people, and tongue” that stands before the throne of God.

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5:1-12), we hear the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Living according to the words of Jesus found in that sermon and throughout the Gospels will gradually transform us into those good and holy persons God wishes us to be.

But Jesus shows us how to be successful Christians not only by his words but also by giving us his Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God, who guided Jesus in his life and that has guided the Church over the centuries, was given to us at our Baptism and Confirmation. If we are attentive to the working of the Spirit in our lives we will one day join that “great multitude” of successful Christians we honour this Sunday, All Saints Day.

For example, the Spirit of God is at work in our lives when we read a request in the parish bulletin and we think, “I could do that.” When we see a person at work or in school obviously upset, and we feel moved to offer a word of comfort and support. When we are about to discard a letter appealing for funds to assist the suffering, and we are moved to take a second look. When a line in a homily pricks our conscience and we realize that message is meant for us. When we are faced with a moral decision, and suddenly a pertinent quote of Jesus comes to mind.

When such things happen, the Spirit of Jesus is at work, guiding, directing, and encouraging us to take the path that leads to sainthood.

Successful Christians are those who follow the words of Jesus found in the Sermon on the Mount. Successful Christians are also those who recognize those everyday inspirations of the Holy Spirit and who follow them!

This means that you – yes YOU! – can be a saint! You have exactly what it takes, because God gave it to you! Your sainthood will not look like anyone else’s sainthood. Perhaps you have an idea of what that may look like – you have a strong sense of what God is calling you to, at least for now, but remember that God is full of surprises! Or, you may not have any idea of what your sainthood looks like, because right now it is too clouded by trying to be someone whom you are not. The second reading tells us: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed” (1 JN 3:2). You are God’s child, and your path to sainthood will be continually revealed throughout your life.

Our Gospel today gives us a roadmap of holiness in the beatitudes, though the specific route you take is up to you! To which beatitudes do you relate? Which make you uncomfortable and ask you to grow beyond your comfort zone? We are always growing closer to God and to God’s plan for us. The beatitudes give us hope and direction on this journey. And the best part is that along the way, we have a multitude of holy men and women praying us into sainthood.

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Posted by on October 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 5:1-6 MARK 10:46-52

KEY VERSE: “Master, I want to see” (v 51).

1-8Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was a nobody. He wasn’t just any nobody he was a nobody among the nobodies. People often walked past Bartimaeus and at best they thought of the blind beggar as a nuisance. Day in and day out Bartimaeus would make his way to his familiar spot. Feeling his way along the crowded streets of Jericho, Bartimaeus was invisible to the people who hustled by on the way to something glamorous and important.

You see Jericho wasn’t just any city, Jericho was a city for the important people, the well-to-do. Herod had his winter palace there and all the rich Roman families spent their winters in Jericho. Jericho was an oasis, a destination city. You couldn’t get to Jerusalem without passing through Jericho so anyone who wanted to be seen had to have an address in Jericho.

So every morning Bartimaeus made his way to the Jericho Road, knowing that the rich people, the military and the important people had to pass by on their way. Jericho Road was the place to be if you were a blind beggar. But even on the main road Bartimaeus was invisible. But deep down in his heart Bartimaeus knew he was someone. He knew that God’s love for him was deeper than his blindness. He was certain that even though people tried not to see him, God saw him and that was all that mattered.

Then something happened that changed Bartimaeus’ life forever. He heard that the Rabbi name Jesus was in Jericho. Rabbi Jesus had been preaching and large crowds of people gathered to hear him but Bartimaeus couldn’t get close. He had heard about Jesus, that Jesus could perform miracles, that he cured the sick and preached about God’s love.”What do you want me to do for you?” That was the question Jesus asked of Bartimaeus, the blind man, in this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 10:46-52).

Imagine for a moment that Jesus addressed that question to you. How would you respond? The question is more challenging and fraught with danger than we might imagine. The road for Bartimaeus probably wasn’t easy. We don’t really know where his following of Jesus on the road led him. But we know that our own road has not been easy. But I think this is the point of Jeremiah’s words of hope in the first reading. Jeremiah is offering a vision of hope to the women and men of Israel who had been conquered and led out of their country into exile in a foreign land. No matter what your situation now, he says, God has plans for you. God will bring you back. God will heal you. Don’t despair! I think it’s also a message that we can find in the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. We’re not alone on the journey, we have as a companion the great High Priest. He took on our human weakness. He knew what it is to suffer. But he also knew that God never abandoned him and was taking him to a new place.

Bartimaeus when asked by Jesus what he wanted replied, “Master, I want to see.” That answer must have been the right one since it was preserved in the Gospel and has been spoken and preached about for some 2,000 years.

Jesus granted the request of Bartimaeus in all its fullness. Jesus opened the physical eyes of Bartimaeus so he could see the world around him. Jesus also opened the eyes of his soul and gave him spiritual insight. With that vision Bartimaeus saw more than just the face of Jesus, he saw his Lord. He truly saw the one he had addressed as the “Son of David.” Mark makes that clear in his Gospel by adding that after his eyes were opened, Bartimaeus immediately began to follow Jesus “on the way.” With opened eyes and spiritual insight, Bartimaeus became a disciple of Jesus.

The request made by Bartimaeus is the one we should be making as well. Imagine if our eyes could be opened so that we could see the presence and action of Jesus Christ in our world today. Imagine further if we could see ourselves, others, and situations the way that Jesus would see them.

The mistakes we make, the sins we commit, are often the result of our blindness. We see only what immediately attracts us and fail to see what is truly good and in keeping with our dignity as children of God. We see only what seems right at the moment and not the future implications of our words and actions or our inaction. We see the other person only as a stranger and not as a fellow child of God and part of our human family.

“What you do want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus gives us the perfect response. “Master, I want to see.”

Because if you notice at the end of the Gospel story Bartimaeus didn’t go off and found “The Society for the Formerly Blind of Jericho”, he didn’t go dancing through the streets shouting from the rafters, he “ immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road..”
If we are serious about asking Jesus to really see, we will follow him “on the road.” It might not be an easy journey, but it will surely be an exciting one, and one that will take us places we never dreamed of ever going.

But as Catholics we have each other as companions on the journey, we have a God who leads us “by a smooth path where they will not stumble.,” and we know that the great High Priest is with us all the way.

In the end that is all that we can do once our vision has been restored and blindness cured, follow in the way of Jesus.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see. Amen.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18

Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33; Hebrews 4:14-16  MARK 10:35-45

1-7The readings today help us focus on the question of what God expects of us, and how we are loved by God.

Some words of Jesus are easier to understand than others. We have an example of that in this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 10:35-45). There Jesus says, “For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’.”

Jesus’ words about coming to serve are readily understandable. Even non-Christians know that Jesus did not come to be waited upon by his followers. Rather, Jesus humbly served others. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He embraced the outcast. He offered forgiveness to the sinner. He proclaimed to all people that God’s kingdom of love, justice, and peace was breaking into this world. His ministry of service was dramatically illustrated when he stooped to wash the feet of his disciples.

However the words, “to give his life as a ransom for the many,” are not so readily understood. From what did Jesus ransom the many? What was holding them in its power?

We might suppose that Jesus ransomed us from the power of the devil, the power of darkness and death. Yet if that were so, it would seem to imply that evil was able to overcome good and could snatch us out of the hand of God.

Or perhaps Jesus ransomed us from the wrath of God that humanity incurred when it rebelled against God. We sinned, and the justice of God demanded satisfaction. But that idea seems to be contradicted by the image of the forgiving father found in the parable of the prodigal son. There the father demands no payment, no penance, to welcome back his wayward son.

Perhaps what Jesus did was to ransom us from ourselves. He ransomed us from our false ideas and misconceptions about ourselves, about others, and about God.

We see Jesus doing just that in Sunday’s Gospel as he “ransoms” John and James from the false idea that had taken hold of them – the idea that greatness was to be found in power and position. Instead, Jesus tells them, “anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all.”

Jesus ransoms us from the lies, the erroneous beliefs, the half-truths, the warped values that have tried to enslave humanity from the time of Adam and Eve.

Christ suffered to win back our trust. We read in the second reading from Hebrews “For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin.” But it is not enough to understand this with our minds. We have to learn to trust him with our lives, in our hearts, in all that we do. Again in Hebrews “Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.”

Today’s responsorial psalm captures the core of what Jesus attempts to teach his disciples: the only adequate response to suffering is to turn toward the Merciful One, in whom we place all our trust. This is not an explanation for how a merciful God can allow innocent persons to suffer, but it is the response of faith.

Jesus gave his life “as a ransom for the many.” He gave his life that we might know the truth and the truth would set us free.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

MARK 10:17-30  “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven” (v.21).

1-16  The rich young man in today’s Gospel wanted to know what we all want to know—how to live in this life so that we might live forever in the world to come. He sought what today’s Psalm calls “wisdom of heart.”

He learns that the wisdom he seeks is not a program of works to be performed, or behaviors to be avoided. As Jesus tells him, observing the commandments is essential to walking the path of salvation—but it can only get us so far.

“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Those are the challenging words that Jesus speaks to the rich man in this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 10:17-30).

When the man heard those words, we are told, “At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would do exactly what the rich man did. We would shake our heads and walk away. We would not be able to just sell everything we possessed and give all the proceeds to the poor.

In fact, if we did so, our relatives and friends might think we were losing our minds or perhaps they might suppose we had a terminal illness and were preparing to leave this world.

Also, if we did what Jesus asked of the rich man, the poor would certainly benefit by our charity but who would care for us and for our families? How would we pay for our food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, and transportation? Would our charity lead us to the welfare office?

Even religious brothers and sisters who take a vow of poverty and rid themselves of their possessions do so knowing that their religious order has the financial resources to care for their personal needs. Even they do not literally follow what Jesus asked of the rich man.

One way to apply this Gospel to our own personal lives is to realize that the rich man was a good person. He was striving to keep all the commandments of God, so much so that we are told that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

It was in response to the question the rich man asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” that Jesus challenged the man to sell what he had, give to the poor, and to follow him. The man was asking about the next step he should take in his spiritual life.

Jesus was well aware of what that particular man needed to do. Jesus knew what was holding him back. It was his money and possessions. They were the things that the rich man needed to let go of if he was to progress in his relationship with God.

We who hear this Sunday’s Gospel are like the rich man. Like him we are striving to keep the commandments of God. If we were not, we would not be part of God’s Church, we would not be reading the scriptures, we would not be coming to Mass.

This gospel encounter makes it clear that for those who have much, the great difficulty lies in giving up their possessions. But even those of us who have few possessions are tied down to a treasure that may not be counted as money or things.

But each of us still has further to go in our spiritual journey. We have behaviours, possessions, attitudes, even relationships that may be holding us back from taking the next step in our spiritual lives.

It sounds so difficult that we are forced to ask with those present that day in Palestine: “Then who can be saved?” The answer that Jesus gives turns us from ourselves to God’s power and grace. Once we reach the point of knowing that nothing we can do will save us, that with the writer of the letter to the Hebrews we recognize that God knows our suffering because he suffers with us, then we are ready to ask, “What can I do to inherit the kingdom, to have eternal life, to be saved,” if we are to use an expression familiar and misunderstood by many.

“That look burned itself into my heart. I had never seen or experienced such a love, communicated by a mere facial expression. I was hooked.

I walked away, yes, but his face! His face was indelibly printed on my memory.

In that moment, I had to walk away. I have many, many responsibilities and possessions. I couldn’t accept his offer to follow—not abruptly like that when I have so much under my control.

I wasn’t turning him down, exactly. I was turning down that crazy invitation to just drop it all and follow. No way could I do that.

Am I trying to justify my behavior and make excuses for myself?

Since that day, I have begun letting go, little by little. In small increments I am moving toward a final farewell to my disordered love for all things material. I am progressing towards finding Jesus on the road someday and accepting the invitation to follow. I keep seeing that amazing look of pure love on his face. I want to see that look again.

Wait for me, Jesus! I am coming. I just need a little more time.”

This Sunday’s Gospel challenges us to consider what Jesus might say to us if we were brave enough to ask him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1  Words are powerful things. Words can bring us joy and happiness, but they can also bring us sorrow and pain. Words can encourage us and fill us with hope, but they can also cause us to become depressed and despairing. Words can comfort and reassure us in times of trouble, but they can also challenge us and make us uncomfortable.

This Sunday’s First Reading and Gospel in which Jesus quotes part of the reading is all the more powerful for it comes on the day that marks the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the Family. Catholic bishops from across the world will meet in Rome from October 4 to October 25 to discuss issues facing families in today’s changing and increasingly secular society. Topics will include the sacrament of marriage, the indissolubility of the marriage, divorce and re-marriage, same sex unions, family life, the faith formation of children, the impact of poverty and migration on families, etc.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus speaks words related to the Synod. Jesus speaks of God’s original plan for marriage; he speaks of marriage as a union of a man and a woman, he says, “what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus then goes on to speak of the special place of children in his eyes. “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

As the bishops gather to prayerfully reflect on the role of the family and the challenges that families face, Jesus speaks words that remind us of the ideal that God continues to set before us all.

If we do not challenge one another to grow for the sake of the Gospel, then what is the point of committing for life? We’re just leading lives side by side. Pope Francis challenges us: Be bold! “In families, children bring headaches. I won’t speak about mother in laws. But in families, there is always a Cross. Always. Because of the love of God, the Son of God opened up that way. But also in families, after the Cross there is Resurrection.” (Pope Francis’ address at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, 2015)

If we bravely open our hearts towards the Lord and one another, we will surely be blessed all the days of our lives, experiencing resurrection and becoming a new creation in God.

Sunday’s Readings were assigned to be read on this particular date some 50 years ago, so they come at a time that makes the words especially significant.

In the Old Testament Reading there are a couple of things to notice. First of all, this story is not as much about the roles of men and women as it is about what it means to be a human being. Also, it is not saying that everyone should be married or that only married people are whole people. That’s just not true. After all, Jesus, the perfect image of God, was single. But this is saying that we human beings can only grow into who we are created to be with and through the other — through relationship and community. This growth happens in many ways, but it does not happen alone. If you ask an honest friar where his biggest and most important struggles come from, he’ll tell you “other friars.” We do not become whole or complete in isolation, but through community, through the “other.”
It is to this end that God has given us certain structures and situations in which we can, maybe, begin to discover what it means not to be alone, and where we can have our humanity drawn, and sometimes dragged, out of us. God has given us schools of love, places to grow.

Marriage and families are first of all about this. And while not everyone is called to the vocation of marriage, for those who are, this business of helping one another grow into who we are created to be is one of the primary reasons God created marriage.
In much the same way, God has called us to be the Church, and he has called us into this church, because without something like this we simply cannot be very Christian.

One of the central insights of Christianity is that being a part of a real, human, chunk of the body of Christ is essential to any serious Christian growth. Like marriage and family, parish life, church life, is not really about agreement, success, having our needs met, or happiness. Instead it is about growth into wholeness. That is why, in Church as in families, the real ties that bind are ties of love and circumstances, not of any other sort of homogeneity.

Such growth is simply not possible without commitment to a lifetime of effort and intentionally seeking the grace and help of God.
Words are often more powerful because of when we hear them, and that is particularly true when it comes to the words of God!

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels

MATTHEW 18:1-5, 10 KEY VERSE: “For I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (v 10).

E1-6very human being here has an angelic being present at his or her side. This is what God’s Word in Scripture and today’s feast assures us. And your guardian angel is assigned to you by God to “guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared”, as we heard in Exodus.

In St John’s Gospel, Jesus says that he has gone to “prepare a place for you” (14:3), so the place which Christ has prepared for us is in his Father’s house, so that we may, like the angels, “always behold the face of [God the] Father who is in heaven” (Mt 18:10). The job of the angel assigned to us, then, is to guard us on our pilgrim journey to heaven, defending us from evil influences, and leading us safely to the Father’s house until we see God face to face.

But this does not necessarily mean that we’re kept safe from physical danger, although that is important, too, but our guardian angel’s main concern is for our spiritual safety, that we should not fall into mortal sin, or lose the grace given to each of us in baptism. For, as Christ says: “what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his [eternal] life” (Mk 8:36). However, if we do fall into sin, and, as it were, lose our way, our guardian angel may act by prompting us to go to confession, for in this sacrament, baptismal grace is restored and we return to Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

But how does an angel prompt us and communicate with us? By inspirations, it seems; by suggesting certain thoughts and feelings that aid our salvation, such as when we feel moved to pray the Rosary, or help someone in need. But angels can never force our will or make us do things. Rather, like our friends, they can only make suggestions and influence us, but the decision to freely choose to do the good that they suggest, or to ignore them, is entirely ours. Hence, we’re counselled in Exodus to “give heed to him and hearken to his voice”, because the guardian angel works tirelessly for our eternal happiness and well-being.

So, today, we give thanks to God for the loving care he shows us by giving us angels to guard us on the Way. And let us thank our guardian angels by heeding their inspirations, entrusting ourselves to them like children for thus we shall enter the kingdom of heaven (cf Mt 18:3).

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Uncategorized