The Greatest Commandment And The Smallest Child
by Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell
The Atrium of Saint Basil’s Parish has begun a new year. Just as the returning children have grown, so has our Atrium. As I write this, we have completed two full weekends (six sessions) in the Atrium, and it is easy to reflect on the words of the Gospel today. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus tells his disciples: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind […] And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” In a world full of noise, never ending To-Do Lists, and conflicts, it is hard to believe that these two commandments can be fully lived out by anyone. But I promise you that every Sunday these commandments are joyfully lived out by the children in the Atrium.
The youngest child, who is three years old, does not come to learn these commandments word for word till they are much older but as catechists we are always helping the child grow in their love for God and one another. One of the very first words the children are introduced to is Alleluia! Praise God! We repeat the word over and over. We sing the word with our whole bodies, with loud voices, and big gestures. And we praise God for the gifts we are given. The gift of our life, the gift of being present in the Atrium, and the gift of each other. Every week the children are presented with new work, new songs, and new words that brings them closer to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd. Hearing the words, “I love God,” from a child’s mouth is a moment of Alleluia for the catechists in the Atrium.
The youngest child in the Atrium loves with their whole heart and this creates an environment where everyone loves their neighbour as they love themselves. One of the first things the children learn about the Atrium is that it is a place of quiet where we respect one another’s work and space. But how do I know love overflows in the Atrium? At the end of every single session we place Holy Water on one another’s forehead and bless one another “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Not only do the children love receiving the gift of one another’s blessing but they love blessing each other. No one leaves the room feeling unloved. It is my favourite part of every session and another Alleluia moment.
As we begin a new year in the Atrium we ask for you to pray for the catechists and children of the Atrium. Let us also pray that each one of us can take a moment this weekend and love God with the heart of the smallest child.
1 Thessalonians 1.5c-10
by Lisa Fernandes
“Nothing is certain except death and taxes” as Benjamin Franklin said, referring humorously to secular absolute truths. In today’s readings, though, we hear about absolute truths according to God.
In the first, we hear the absolute that there is one God: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no God.” (Isaiah 45.5)
In the second, we are told we have absolutely been chosen by God: “For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that He has chosen you…” (1 Thessalonians 1.4)
When we get to the Gospel, the discussion about absolutes is not as clear; we have to think about the relationship between Christianity, secular government and society. Jesus avoids the trick but answers the question of the Herodians and Pharisees when they ask Him if the Jews should pay taxes to the Romans.
The Pharisees thought that if He said yes, He would be betraying His people and collaborating with the enemy, Rome. The Herodians thought if He said no He would be a traitor to Rome. Instead, He said: “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”. (Matthew 22.21) Jesus gave them a truthful answer but one that isn’t a simple absolute yes or no, but requires reflection and acting with the right intentions.
What is Jesus saying? There has been a lot of scholarly discussion about this passage and many interpretations. I see it as acknowledgement that it is often a difficult line to walk between the secular and the spiritual but they are not separate; they complement each other. A good person will both pay taxes and follow God’s law.
It can sometimes be difficult to know what the right thing to do is, though, as there are many trying to persuade us, and many mistruths; we do not want to be tricked into doing wrong nor dissuaded from doing good.
While Shakespeare said: “To thine own self be true”, we are not alone in discerning the right path to take as we have the help of God, our fellow parishioners, and the church community to help give us clarity.
- Isaiah 45.1, 4-6
- Psalm 96
- Thessalonians 1.1-5ab
- Matthew 22.15-21
by John Dalla Costa
Life-long Catholics who volunteer for the R.C.I.A. program at St. Basil’s usually feel that they receive so much more than they give. As catechumens and candidates make their journey towards Christ, we who accompany them inevitably see our faith with fresh eyes. Once the Easter Vigil draws near, the excitement becomes infectious, as the awe and glee of those about to receive the sacraments sweep us all into extraordinary wonder of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.
Today’s readings invite us to relish with quickened and grateful hearts the extraordinary banquet God so lovingly makes available to us each day. We often think that disbelief is the opposite of faith. But as we hear Jesus explain in the Gospel, the emptiness that most threatens our communion with God is taking God’s ever-overflowing generosity for granted.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called our attention to the “sin of indifference.” This complacency not only sanitizes God’s gifts and circumscribes God’s presence. It also deprives us of the deep joy from cherishing God’s mercy and love.
There is no easy answer to the distinction Jesus makes that: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” From the scriptures and lives of the saints we can surmise that, while many are called to listen to God’s Word, few become the chosen by heeding with full-hearts what is heard.
Many are called to partake of the body of Christ, yet few are chosen by then embodying Christ to the hungry, angry, wounded and wounding world. Many are called to experience God’s healing mercy, however few are chosen by making full use of their talents and gifts to spread forgiveness and peace.
Each of us have our own calling, and so each of us need to discern how we are to be chosen – through prayer, and in the needs of our families, friends, community, and church. This attentiveness to how we are special in our souls and capabilities is the cloak that earns us welcome in God’s feast, because it honours the One who invited us by not taking that-of-God within us for granted.
- Isaiah 25.6-10
- Psalm 23
- Philippians 4.12-14, 19-20
- Matthew 22.1-14