Focusing on Christ

Focusing on Christ

By Fr. Morgan Rice

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to attend the Shaw Festival’s wonderful production of Brigadoon at Niagara-on-the-Lake with some of my Basilian confrères. Before the evening performance, we walked along the Niagara River to where it empties into Lake Ontario at Queen’s Royal Park. We stopped to look at a large granite and bronze marker dedicated to those who had successfully swum the 52km crossing to Marilyn Bell Park on the north shore of the lake, not too far from Exhibition Place. On the plaque are the words “perseverance”, “courage”, “fortitude”, “spirit”, “challenge”, and “triumph”—qualities needed to perform this feat that usually takes 20+ hours. One thing that I thought might help a swimmer is to focus on something like the CN Tower, something that could be seen from the start, something that could provide some encouragement along the way. Little by little as the fatigue set in, the tower would seem to grow taller and taller as one drew closer and closer to it.

I thought about that as I reflected on today’s second reading from Hebrews 12. Recognizing that life is akin to a race, the author of the letter encourages the Christian community to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus”. Our lives are marked with challenges that might seem overwhelming at times, but with perseverance and the right focus, the goal is attainable. For a disciple of Christ, the focus is on Jesus, who himself demonstrated perseverance and endurance through the cross to his heavenly throne. He has wants us to live fulfilling lives and eventually join him there, but things like disappointments and our sins might seem to stand in the way. They might seem like a daunting chasm to cross.

So what do we do? Like the Hebrews, we are encouraged to “not grow weary or lose heart” but to train ourselves to keep going by living out our faith and fixing our eyes on our tower of strength, Jesus Christ, who forgives us, strengthens us, and leads us to share in his triumph in the heavenly kingdom.

August 18 Readings:
Jeremiah 38.2-6, 8-10
Psalm 40
Hebrews 12.1-4
Luke 12.49-53

August 25 Readings:
Isaiah 66.18-21
Psalm 117
Hebrews 12.5-7, 11-13
Luke 13.22-30

Surrounded

Surrounded

By Michael Pirri

This past Friday was the Feast of St. Macrina (sister to St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa); this monday is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, and then Friday we celebrate the Feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim (Jesus’ grandparents).

How wonderful that the Church celebrates these women in such close proximity to one another, and that this weekend, our Gospel story speaks about Mary and Martha.

The interaction between Martha and Mary is familiar to us – especially those of us who grew up with siblings. I’m sure it isn’t too difficult for you to remember at least one occasion when housework didn’t seem equally split growing up, or when you would bicker with a sibling about them not pulling their own weight. This is the case with Martha and Mary, two sisters whom Jesus visits.

In some ways, Jesus’ response is puzzling. How can he not see this injustice? Martha is busy preparing everything and trying to have everything ready, and Mary is just sitting there. Christ certainly recognizes Martha’s distress, but rather than address the uneven distribution of work, he addressed her preoccupation with what Mary was doing. It would appear that Martha, in doing all of her lamentable tasks, sought the opportunity to complain to her guest about what her sister, Mary, was doing (or rather not doing).

It’s not very difficult to see this interaction is replicated today. In a time when all of our schedules are jammed, working in the relentless pursuit of productivity, we can’t help but compare ourselves to those around us – and go out of our way to complain about it. We feel pulled in different directions, always seeking out what we don’t have; for many, the grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence. Our challenge is to be a ‘little less Martha’ and a ‘little more Mary’. I’m sure this is a familiar feeling for some: spending the entire evening preparing for a guest to arrive, then being stuck in the kitchen cooking until dinner is ready, and then even when you get a chance to sit down and enjoy dinner with your guest, you’re still worried about how many minutes are left on dessert in the oven.

When we multi-task, perhaps our split attention can lead to being unintentionally neglectful. What Christ asks of us is to take some time to focus solely on the task at hand, and let go of our surroundings.

July 21 Readings:
Genesis 18.1-10a
Psalm 15
Colossians 1.24-28
Luke 10.38-42

July 28 Readings:
Genesis 18.20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2.12-14
Luke 11.1-13

Called and Sent

Called and Sent

By Fr. Norm Tanck

Today’s first reading from Isaiah was written to the people of Israel as they returned from years of exile in a foreign land to reclaim and restore their home in Jerusalem. Like a mother, Jerusalem will embrace her children and hold them close to her heart. Those words of comfort are joined with a promise of prosperity and success given to a people, a nation. We hear today of preachers who proclaim a gospel of success, a prosperity gospel, that emphasizes a personal empowerment the signs of which are personal wealth and a carefree living. When we look at the longer version of today’s Gospel reading, we see something different. Jesus sends out seventy of his disciples as missionaries to proclaim the Good News that the Kingdom of God is near. He sends them not alone but in pairs, companions on the journey. And he warns them that this will not be easy. They will face hardships and rejection, but they need to be focused on their message. And he tells them that their reward will not be measured by the number of those cured or converted, but that their names will be written in heaven. That same mission has been entrusted by Jesus Christ to the Church, our Holy Mother Church, who holds us close to her heart but also sends us out to proclaim the Good News in the name of Jesus Christ. When we are commissioned for a specific work by the Church our personal skills and talents become a ministry. Within the Christian community we minister to each other at Mass as readers, servers, musicians, greeters and ushers, and by bringing Holy Communion to the homebound. Through volunteering in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the RCIA, and other forms of faith formation, we exercise the Church’s mission of evangelization and education. As a community we feed the hungry, and through the St. Vincent de Paul Society we reach out to the poor and those in need. These and many other ways are how St. Basil’s Parish is called to ministry. This summer please consider how your time and talents can be used in one of our ministries.

July 7 Readings:

  • Isaiah 66.10-14
  • Psalm 66
  • Galatians 6.14-18
  • Luke 10.1-12, 17-20

July 14 Readings:

  • Deuteronomy 30.10-14
  • Psalm 69
  • Colossians 1.15-20
  • Luke 10.25-37