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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Advent Sunday

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LUKE 21:25-28, 34-36; KEY VERSE: “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (v 28).

If you were to ask Catholics the meaning of Advent, they would most likely respond that Advent is a season of anticipation before Christmas. It’s a time of joy and excitement as we prepare to celebrate the day Jesus was born.

Even secular society sees these weeks before December 25 as a time of anticipation. Children anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus and the gifts he will bring. Families anticipate being together and honouring cherished traditions.

Business owners anticipate a record-breaking volume of sales from in store and online purchases. The post office and shipping firms anticipate delivering hundreds of millions of cards and packages.

Restaurants anticipate catering a full schedule of Christmas and holiday parties. And everyone anticipates increased traffic, longer waiting lines, frayed nerves, and the pressure of getting everything done on time.

But for us as Christians, Advent is about anticipating something more than just Christmas. That is made clear in the Gospel passage chosen for the First Sunday of Advent. That reading (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36) is about the cataclysmic events that will accompany the return of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. Even in the midst of the world’s confusion and chaos, Jesus reassures us, “The kingdom of God is near,” as difficult as it may sometimes be to discern its presence. Rather than hunker down, “Stand up,” commands our Lord, “and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

That aspect of Advent is easily forgotten as we prepare to focus on the memorable and cherished events of the Lord’s first coming.

But it was not forgotten by the early Christians. They were focused not on Bethlehem but on the Lord’s return in glory. They waited with eager anticipation for the Lord to come again and to usher in God’s kingdom. All things would be set right; all people would live in peace with one another and with God. The Father’s would be done on earth as it was being done in heaven.

But such anticipation for the coming of the Lord has waned over time. After all, almost 2,000 years have passed since Jesus spoke of his return.

Advent is the season when we learn to overcome our “fear and foreboding” and once more open our hearts to others just as God has disclosed and demonstrated his love for us in Christ. Advent requires a certain element of mindfulness – of keeping awake and alert to the universe around us – and to the cosmos within us. It requires as well, a certain sense of recognition and acceptance of others with all their spiritual baggage and insecurities – no small order in an age of polarization and mistrust.

Of course, being on the spiritual welcoming committee has never been an easy task. Who or what are we waiting for, we might well ask. Who or what are we welcoming? Refugees perhaps, from lands far different than our own? Homeless beggars at freeway on-ramps? Christ after all came in a manner completely new and unexpected. Would we have recognized him at rest in that feed-trough outside Bethlehem so long ago? Would we have known to welcome him? His coming is still hotly debated and even denied, his very existence a sign of contradiction for many.

He brought joy, but we still know sadness. He brought life, but we still know death. So, putting out the welcome mat and hanging the “Open for Business” sign in the window of our hearts can seem a scary proposition this Advent season or anytime. As we secure our airports, screen our visitors, and look over our shoulder it can become all too easy to forget about welcome and human commerce altogether.

It is interesting that at perhaps the busiest time of the year, when so much needs to be done before Christmas, Advent begins with a Gospel reading that reminds us of what truly demands our focus and anticipation.

As we pray at every Mass, may we “be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST THE KING

JOHN 18:33b-37 KEY VERSE: “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (v 36).

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This Sunday, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is the last Sunday of the liturgical year of 2015

Jesus comes to bear witness to the truth in this last Gospel of the Church’s year. “I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’ The truth that in Jesus, God keeps the promise He made to David – of an everlasting kingdom, of an heir who would be His Son, “the first born, highest of the kings of the earth”

Today’s lesson from Revelation points to two things. The first is that the baptized are incorporated into a “royal priesthood”. This means that, in Jesus, we have become those who stand as a body or company. We are given the task of mediating between God and humanity and creation. We are God’s agents of reconciliation. At home, work, school, play, in social interactions – even on Facebook – we echo God’s plea, “Come to me all you who work and are burdened and I will give you rest.” We speak and act not merely as a priesthood, but as a priesthood invested with royal authority, a royal status epitomized in servanthood.

In the same passage from Revelation we read:

“It is he who is coming on the clouds; everyone will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the races of the earth will mourn over him. This is the truth. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Every Sunday when we proclaim the faith of the Church when we say together in the Nicene Creed, “He will come again in Glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” For just as now, the royal priesthood works for justice and mercy, tells of God’s forgiveness and unfathomable love, and lifts up the Cross as the sign and symbol of Christ’s redeeming work. We look forward in hope to the end times.

The Gospel reading (John 18:33-37) makes a good ending to this cycle of 52 Sunday readings.

In this Gospel Jesus stands accused before Pontius Pilate, the representative of worldly and material power. Jesus boldly declares that he is no earthly king. The kingdom he rules does not belong to this world. The truth he preaches does not depend upon human wisdom.

We have heard similar messages proclaimed in the Sunday Gospels throughout this liturgical year.

In those Gospel readings, Jesus was portrayed not as a ruler who sought power, who imposed his will on others, and used coercion and intimidation to gain followers. Rather he was the humble servant, the compassionate and merciful teacher.

Jesus was not depicted as a ruler eager to conquer lands, to gain wealth, and to raise armies to protect his kingdom, but as a ruler hungry to have a place in the hearts of those who heard his words, especially the poor, the rejected, and the defenceless. He was seen as opposing all those who sought kingdoms founded on power, celebrity, and material wealth. “My kingdom does not belong to this world.”

Jesus was not pictured as preaching a message that received approving nods from the powerful and well-connected, but one that left them feeling uncomfortable and angry. He spoke words of truth that revealed the meaning and purpose of life and the values and priorities that God sets for his people.

As this liturgical year comes to an end, the Church in her wisdom has chosen a Gospel that brings together all that we have heard these past 12 months.

Sunday’s Gospel makes a good ending to a powerful set of messages!

On this Christ the King Sunday we commit ourselves to Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life”, the king who is a servant. Who comes, teaches, heals, reconciles, dies and rises again, who lives through us and who will return. Nowhere is this more evident as in Eucharist when we bring the world to God through Jesus and offer “ourselves, our souls and bodies” as we “dwell in him and he in us”. So the royal priesthood is nourished and strengthened to be Christ in the street and supermarket, Christ beyond the door of our parish church to be announced and heralded from the rooftops. Today, as we process forward to the sanctuary and bow in reverence to the King’s presence in a tiny wafer, spend a few minutes, “examining our manner of living and our attitudes toward others.” And if there is a gap between what we profess and the reality we live, then it’s a perfect time to recommit our lives to Christ, the King of the Universe.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

MARK 13:24-32   KEY VERSE: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son,
but only the Father” (v 32).

1-7  In this, the second-to-the-last week of the Church year, Jesus has finally made it to Jerusalem.

Near to His passion and death, He gives us a teaching of hope Jesus speaks about what will happen in “those days.” He says, “the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

Following those traumatic events, people “will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”

We usually understand that passage as referring to the end of time when Jesus will return in triumph. No one knows the day or the hour so we must be prepared.

However, in that passage Jesus also says, “I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place..”

In this passage the one thing that we must retain is the fact that Jesus did foretell that he would come again.

To keep the passage focused only on the future we must interpret “generation” as referring to all of humanity. But perhaps “generation” means just what it says. In that case, Jesus was saying that the events he was speaking about would occur in the lifetime of those who heard his words. And they did.

That first Good Friday, the world fell apart for those first disciples of Jesus. For them the powers of heaven were shaken and darkness reigned. We read in Matthew’s account of the Passion, “from noon onward, darkness came over the whole land.” Then when Jesus died, “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split.”
On Easter Sunday and in the days that followed the disciples saw “the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory” as the Risen Lord appeared to them. With his coming from the tomb, the elect began to be gathered and the Church was born.
In addition, the words, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” can also mean the passage applies to us, to our generation. For we are living in a time when horrific events that shake humanity and darken our world are reported each day – terrorism, wars, brutality, the persecution of Christians, natural disasters, mass migrations, economic insecurity, abortion, euthanasia, corruption, moral relativism, etc.

Yet despite those tribulations, for those who see with the eyes of faith, Jesus continues to come in glory. He comes to us through his word, through the sacraments, and through his Church, and he continues to “gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” The Lord Jesus continues to draw people to himself.

Sunday’s Gospel has a message that applies not only to the future, but also to the past and the present as well. God’s word is for all times. God’s word is for all generations.

In practical terms, what does living with this clear awareness really mean?
What does it mean to “be watchful,” or, as today’s Psalm puts it, to “set the Lord ever before” us and “keep him at our right hand” so that we will not be “disturbed.”

It means three things.

First, it means making our personal relationship with God a true priority through daily prayer, ongoing study of our faith, and frequent reception of the sacraments.

This is what we can call keeping a healthy “God-life.”

Second, it means sharing with others the news that Jesus has shared with us.
Jesus died not only for those of us who are here today, but also for those who aren’t.
If we don’t tell them the message of Christ, who will?

Third, it means following Christ’s example in our daily lives.

Jesus was honest, courageous, gentle, patient, forgiving, humble, pure, faithful…

Every single day he gives us opportunities to learn to follow his example, getting our souls ready for the great adventure of heaven.

The apocalyptic themes at the end of the liturgical year are moments to take stock of where we stand before God and one another-re-examining our life priorities and recognizing the opportunity for change, and remembering and being encouraged by the fact that, through Christ, good has overcome evil and everything is ultimately in God’s hands.

As we continue with this Mass, let’s thank our Lord for telling us what the future holds.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 MARK 12:38-44  KEY VERSE: “For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty” (v 44).

1-7We live by the obedience of faith, a faith that shows itself in works of charity and self-giving. That’s the lesson of the two widows in today’s liturgy.

The widow in the First Reading isn’t even a Jew, yet she trusts in the word of Elijah and the promise of his Lord. Facing sure starvation, she gives all that she has, her last bit of food—feeding the man of God before herself and her family.

The widow in the Gospel also gives all that she has, offering her last bit of money to support the work of God’s priests in the Temple.

Berween the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of the Women there was the Beautiful Gate. It may well be that Jesus had gone to sit quietly there after the argument and the tension of the Court of the Gentiles and the discussions in the cloisters. In the Court of the Women there were thirteen collecting boxes called “The Trumpets,” because they were so shaped. Each of them was for a special purpose, for instance to buy corn or wine or oil for the sacrifices. They were for contributions for the daily sacrifices and expenses of the Temple. Many people threw in quite considerable contributions. Then came a widow. She flung in two small coins. The coin so called was a lepton, which literally means a thin one. It was the smallest of all coins and was worth less than one cent.

Mark tells us that Jesus observed people making their contributions to the temple treasury. The rich came forward and made substantial donations that would make the red in any fundraising thermometer shoot upward.

Then a poor widow came along and dropped in “two small coins worth a few cents.” However, Jesus valued her small gift more than the substantial ones made by the wealthy.

While the poor widow’s donation would make no difference to any fundraising campaign and not even register on any visual display of contributions, her few coins made a big difference in her life. As Jesus remarked, “she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

While the substantial contributions of the wealthy would excite any fundraising advisor, those gifts did not affect the lifestyle of those donors. As Jesus said, “they have all contributed from their surplus wealth.” They gave what they did not need. Their giving involved no sacrifice on their part.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that it is not the amount of our gift that matters, but rather the amount of sacrifice it takes for us to make that gift.

The most difficult part of sacrifice, understood this way, is that since God’s self-giving is total, God asks that ours be the same. This is the real meaning of this women’s poverty. In the story, of course, the poverty is physical – with minimal food or money, and the call comes to give it away. But what God is really asking for is that our whole self be entrusted to God in love. This becomes concretized in the invitation to let go of something that, in our vulnerability and poverty, feels essential to our life and well-being. While we are unlikely ever to face the exact same circumstances as these widows, at certain times in our lives we do experience such a call to give far more than we believe we can spare. Blessed are we if, like them, we have the grace to realize in such a moment that whatever it is we are clinging to is mere dust in comparison to the rich relationship that we are being offered!

In our ordinary daily lives, of course, we are usually dealing with much more mixed situations. Most likely we are not often seriously tempted just to follow rigid rules while trampling on real people. Even rarer is the literal call to hand over “our whole livelihood.” Taking time to meditate on these stories, however, can help us discern the call to sacrifice as it manifests more subtly in our everyday lives. First of all, the scriptures remind us that genuine sacrifice must be a response from the heart, not just the fulfilment of the expectations of our tradition or of other persons. Even more importantly, they invite us to loosen our fixation on whatever we are being asked to “give up” and look instead toward what is being asked of us relationally. When we can respond with faith and trust within that relationship, the “giving up” becomes an act of love. Finally, these scriptures offer us a new perspective on our experiences of vulnerability and poverty. Paradoxically, it is in just such moments that “giving all” at last becomes truly possible.

If we all gave as the widow did we would imitate the woman’s generosity, we would positively affect those in need, and we would imitate the generosity of Jesus who sacrificed all he had for us. His giving certainly made a difference to him and a difference to all humanity.

It is a strange and lovely thing that the person whom the New Testament and Jesus hand down to history as a pattern of generosity was a person who gave a gift of almost no value in the eyes of the world.

And again we are called to imitate His sacrifice of love in our own lives. We will be judged, not by how much we give—for the scribes and wealthy contribute far more than the widow. Rather, we will be judged by whether our gifts reflect our livelihood, our whole beings, all our heart and soul, mind and strength.

Are we giving all that we can to the Lord—not out of a sense of forced duty, but in a spirit of generosity and love.

We may feel that we have not much in the way of material gifts or personal gifts to give to Christ, but, if we put all that we have and are at his disposal, he can do things with it and with us that are beyond our imaginings.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED (ALL SOULS)

1-16  When St. Paul talked about the resurrection of the dead with the philosophers at Athens, many laughed and mocked him (Acts 17:32). He would later write, is “foolishness” to the wise of this world (1 Cor. 1:18).

Yet this week’s First Reading tells us that it is foolish to think that the souls of the just are dead. Instead, theirs is a “hope full of immortality.”
If we believe in Him, we will follow Him, as the Psalmist says: He will refresh our souls in the waters of Baptism, anoint our heads with the oil of Confirmation, and set before us the table of the Eucharist.

There our cups will be filled to overflowing. And by these mysteries of His kindness and goodness, we will “dwell in the house of the Lord” in this life and in the life to come.

An Elderly woman was a very active and faithful member of her parish for many years. Knowing that her days were few, she asked her pastor if they might talk about her funeral. The pastor came to her home and, over tea, they talked about the readings and music and other details of the liturgy. As the pastor was about to leave, the woman said, “I have one more request. And it’s a little unusual.” “And what’s that, Martha?” the pastor asked. “When they bury me, I want my rosary in one hand and a fork in the other.” “I’m sorry?” the pastor stammered, caught by surprise. “You want to be buried with a fork?” “Yes. You see, lately I’ve been thinking about all the church dinners and banquets I’ve attended all through the years. I couldn’t begin to count them all. But one thing sticks in my mind. At all of those wonderful suppers, when the meal was almost finished, a servant or hostess would come to the table to collect the dirty dishes. And at the best dinners they would say, `Keep your fork.’ Of course, that meant that desert was coming. And not just a pudding or even a dish of ice cream – you don’t need a fork for that. It meant the good stuff – like chocolate cake or homemade apple pie. When they said to keep my fork, I knew the best was yet to come. That’s exactly what I want people to talk about at my funeral.” “Oh, they can talk about all the good times we had together. But when they see me in my casket in my beautiful blue dress, I want them to turn to one another and say, Why the fork? And I want you to tell them that I kept my fork because the best is yet to come!”
The traditional Church teaching of the “communion of saints” tells us that there is oneness among the members of the Church in their different states. The Church Militant, – that’s us, who are still on pilgrimage in this life; the Church Triumphant, – those in heaven enjoying the bliss of God’s life; and the Suffering Church, those who are being purified to prepare them for the Church Triumphant. We believe that the Saints in the Triumphant Church pray and intercede for us who are struggling in our pilgrimage in this life, and we pray for the Suffering Church, the souls in purgatory.

The Solemnity of All Souls focuses on the souls in Purgatory. We know that most of us are not so good that we can go straight to heaven. And most of us are not so bad that we deserve to go to hell. Most of us are basically good and loving, but our love needs to be purified of all the imperfections, selfishness, and impurities to be ready for God, who is Pure Love. As a grade school catechism boy puts it. To those who are very, very good, God would say, “Come, and enjoy your happy reward in heaven.” To the very bad people God would say, “You have been very, very bad. You go down below! “To those who are not very good, nor very bad, He says, “See you later!”

Most people around the world, have a strong devotion for the dear departed. But because we know practically nothing about the next life, people tend to project the important things of this life to the next. Some people would burn what is valuable to send them to the deceased so that the deceased could continue to enjoy them. Some Chinese would burn paper painted with gold and silver as money for the dead. They offer food, paper houses and cars, sometimes including the driver to provide for the dead.
We don’t have a good idea of what the next life or eternal life is like. For those in hell we can only say that without God, there can be no love – And without love, there can only be hatred and isolation, only physical, psycho-emotional spiritual torments. Whatever torment we fear the most, we’ll get it there – forever. For those in heaven and purgatory, Jesus assured us at the Last Supper, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places; otherwise, how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:1-3).

And St. Paul tells the Christian at Corinth and us, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 1-3) Some people tried to explain it this way. If you were to describe a modern mansion, with air conditioning ,with swimming pools, television and home theatre, to a medieval man, he will not make sense of what you’re talking about. What you say is beyond his experience and imagination. If you were to describe a modern kitchen with its hot and cold water from the tap with freezer and microwave, and electric oven similarly they will not understand what you’re talking about. It is beyond their experience and imagination. So it is with what God has prepared for us in the next life. It is beyond our experience and our wildest dream.

And so we have the marvellous readings this day that call us to reflect more profoundly on reality: the reality of hope, resurrection and eternal life. This is God’s answer to the pain and loss of death. This is why this feast is important. This is why our faith is so significant. This is why we can face death without despair. Because in faith we trust in His words that it will be much better, and beyond our expectation. The best is yet to come.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Uncategorized