What does it mean for us to be light?

What does it mean for us to be light?

By Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB

Last weekend we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. As we blessed the candles that we use in Church and at home we were reminded that Jesus is the light of the World. This weekend Jesus speaking to his disciples and to the Church, the Body of Christ, “You are the light of the world, …let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” What does it mean for us to be light?

Isaiah tells us, “…to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly… If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday”.

The light of compassion and mercy that may be as source of healing, hope and liberation for some, may also be a challenge and judgment on others. For the light may also reveal what causes the darkness. Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999), Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in Brazil, an advocate for the poor and oppressed said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist”.

Over the centuries many individual Christians and the Church, herself, have been worthy witnesses to Christ’s care and concern for those who suffer and they are models of God’s love and mercy as they feed the hungry, care for the sick, shelter the homeless and educate men and women so that they can live happy and productive lives. Others at times have spoken out against the injustices, suffering and hurt caused by prejudice, economic systems, governments.

As we reflect on this week’s readings let us consider how we have been light to others and how others have been light to us. Let us pray that we be sensitive to the needs of others and work together to find the causes and cures for injustice in our society and the world in which we live.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 58.6-10
Psalm 112
1 Corinthians 2.1-5
Matthew 5.13-16

Who made God?

Who Made God?

By Nancy Nobrega

One of our daughters lives in the United States so I often talk to my grandsons on the phone. Since they are young they get their Mom to call and then she hands the phone over to them. Nana “knows everything” and “Nana rules” so they sometimes ask for information and sometimes ask for permission thinking that I will overrule my daughter when she has already said no. One day, when he was 4, Ryan called and asked me, “Nana, if God made me and you and Mommy and Daddy (etc. etc.) who made God?” I wasn’t really ready for that but the Holy Spirit helped me and I replied, “Honey that is the most important and best mystery of all!” I felt ok about that answer because it really is the truth and he was quite satisfied and ran off to play. Kids accept and love mysteries and isn’t everything a mystery to them? That’s all he needed to know.

Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Matthew didn’t ask any more questions either. Prophets like Isaiah did not have easy lives telling the truth that more often than not no one wanted to hear. Isaiah told us that we must trust the Lord to love and care for us even when we are in hard times. God does not give up on us so we should not give up on him. Even today the truth is often hard to hear or sometimes believe. We are however given the task of being prophets by our covenant with God at our Baptism. Richard Rohr tells us the prophets are not so much those who tell the future but “ones who see clearly in the present.”

St. Paul’s life was transformed when he “met” Jesus on the road to Damascus. He had been a harsh and cruel man, persecuting Christians until he met Jesus and became a disciple – fully engaged. He heard the truth and off he went to spread the word, travelling throughout his world and eventually dying for the truth.

St. Matthew did not have an easy life either. He was a tax collector – shunned by his community. He was the only one of the three from the readings and Gospel today who met Jesus in His humanity. His life was also transformed when he heard the truth of Jesus’ word.

He connected the Old and New Testament when he wrote in his Gospel that Jesus was the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had foretold. He also died for the truth.

These men who were chosen by God to spread his word were not chosen because they were saints. As we have so often heard, they were just ordinary people like you and me. We have our good days and bad days and there are times when we are not proud of what we do. We are not asked to die for God, but we are asked to let our “old life” die – the life that we are not proud of. We ask God for help often and every time we share in the Eucharist we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We ask for God’s grace to help us let our old lives die.

In today’s gospel Matthew tells us that as soon as Jesus called to Peter, Andrew, James and John they left their whole lives behind to follow him. They were humble fishermen and “immediately left their nets to follow Him.” They did not doubt, they saw the truth. At the end of Mass, Father sends us off with the grace of his blessing and tells us, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Fr. Norm, in his homily last week ended by quoting St. Francis. “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” We don’t need to be prophets like Isaiah, or evangelists like Paul or gospel writers like Matthew, but we are just as important to God.

God made us too. Each one of us can show the truth of God’s word by our actions and we just need to have “no doubt” about the truth, just like little children, like my Ryan, that God’s grace will help us in our enthusiasm and commitment as it did and does for these great men and the little children whom God so loves. That is the joy that we must feel, the truth that we must see – our task and our purpose, to help one another see God. It is a mystery and it’s all we need to “know”.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 9.1-4
Psalm 27
1 Corinthians 1.10-13, 17-18
Matthew 4.12-23

Church Unity

Church Unity

By Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB

John the Baptist in today’s Gospel reading, points to Jesus Christ saying, “…He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” It is through Baptism that we put on Christ and become members of the Body of Christ, the Church. St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians writes, “To the church of God, … to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. St. Paul prays for unity and peace among Christians. All those who are baptized in Christ, Catholic and non-Catholic, are united to each other in Christ. St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). But since the beginning of Christianity there have been misunderstandings and arguing, divisions and schisms. Sometimes those divisions have been reconciled, but at other times they have remained, even at times becoming deeper and more painful. These divisions are what prompted St. Paul to write to the Ephesians, “… lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). This admonition is still appropriate today as we encounter disharmony among Christians, even discord within the Catholic Church. From Saturday, 18 January (the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter) until 25 January (the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul) we invite you to pray with Christians around the world to pray for harmony and peace among all the baptized. Here is a prayer you might want to pray daily during the Church Unity Octave. God, giver of life, we thank you for the gift of your compassionate love which soothes and strengthens us. We pray that our churches may be always open to receive your gifts from one another. Grant us a spirit of generosity to all as we journey together in the path of Christian unity. We ask this in the name of your Son who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday’s Readings:

Isaiah 49.3, 5-6

Psalm 40

1 Corinthians 1.1-3

John 1.29-34

Dialogue

Dialogue

By Michael Pirri

“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”
Matthew 3.16

Just before the point where today’s Gospel begins, John the Baptist remarks that he baptizes ‘for repentance’. Christ, a man with no sin, shows great humility in approaching John in the river. It is a sign that he is fully human – just like us, he encounters the Holy Spirit at baptism.

Most of us are fortunate that we are able to receive the sacrament of baptism as infants; this initial encounter not only marks our cleansing from original sin, but we are also sealed with the chrism by having the sign of the cross made on our foreheads. If baptism is the first encounter with Christ, how are we meant to build upon this foundation? How do we foster relationships with people in our lives?

Communication is the cornerstone to all great relationships. With friends and family, we can see the fruits of frequent communication borne out. Equally important is an efficiency in communication; a healthy dialogue involves both actively listening and participating. It is no wonder that these are also the words used when discussing how the faithful ought to participate in the Mass: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people, is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium n.14)

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 42.1-4, 6-7
Psalm 29
Acts 10.34-38
Matthew 3.13-17

What can I give?

What can I give?

By Michael Pirri

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

–In the Bleak Midwinter (Rossetti)

No doubt today’s Gospel reading is a familiar story. Though we usually meld it together with the birth of Christ as part of the nativity, the wise men don’t actually show up until Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas. The season of Christmas lasts from Christmas to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. (In some communities, it’s observed until Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation.)

As we continue through the Christmas season, it’s important to consider how we are invited to share the joy of the nativity throughout the entire Christmas season.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 60.1-6
Psalm 72
Ephesians 3.2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2.1-12

Precious in God’s Eyes

Precious in God’s Eyes

By Fr. Morgan Rice, CSB

In reflecting on the Christmas gift of God in the person of Jesus, I continue to be drawn to the vulnerable, needy baby in the manger. Who would have thought or imagined that God would come to us in such a humble state in such conditions?! It is difficult to grasp that our God, who created the universe and who could make it all disappear in an instant, chose to be born into this world. Out of an immense love for us, Jesus became part of the human family and accepted the many things he could have easily avoided due to his status as God. It says a great deal about God and how much God values humanity.

Like today, the world into which Jesus was born was a world that had its fair share of darkness. Yet, God chose to enter an imperfect world to bring light into the darkness, to bring life into the midst of death. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9.2). Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has been born for us! We are invited to rejoice that the Light has come, to invite the Light into the dark recesses of ourselves, and to reflect the Light to others to brighten their lives.

As we reflect on Jesus’ birth, perhaps we can reflect on how his coming to dwell among us has affected our lives. Do we allow ourselves to encounter him and allow him to continue to have an impact on the world around us through our love and care of others? While we acknowledge the darkness around us, let us live with the hope that Jesus’ coming does make a difference today. Profound transformation still happens when we cooperate with the Spirit of God within us and serve as Jesus’ presence in the world, thus reminding others of what his coming told us: that each one of us valued and precious in the eyes of God.

May you and your loved ones experience the blessings of the Prince of Peace. Merry Christmas!

Calendars

Calendars

By Marilena Berardinelli

I recently visited a JK/SK classroom in the context of our parish’s mission of evangelization in the spirit of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. To begin our “wondering” together about the seasons of the church, I asked the children what I thought was a simple question: “What is a calendar?”

Firstly, who knew that these paper organizers strung on walls and littered on desks are relics of things past. Since none of the 4, 5 or 6 year olds were familiar with Google Calendar or iCal only a handful of the 140 JK/SK students could share that: calendars told us the days of the weeks, the days we go to soccer or to ballet class, when vacations start or how many “sleeps” until their birthday. One student figuring I was the “religion lady” (as he endearingly refers to me) chimed in about his special Christmas calendar that gave him chocolate one year or toys another year. So, after much debate on whether all calendars provide “surprises” the children finally (phew!) concluded that calendars mark time.

Last Sunday the church began to mark time, not with bright lights, tinsel or chocolate(!), but with a simple wreath and the lighting of the first of four candles that mark our journey together toward the celebration of Christmas; when we remember that Jesus was born and that one day He will come again. With the JK/SK students, as well as the children who attend the Atrium, the Advent wreath is a visual reminder on what we are called to focus our attention during this time of preparation. This Advent symbol that marks time for us, helps us fix our gaze on the journey we have embarked on rather than the destination before us- on the present rather than on the celebrations, the culinary feasts, and the gift exchanges ahead.

Today’s Gospel readings reminds us that this four-week journey is meant to be a time to “Prepare a way for the Lord.” With this in mind, let us mark our calendars (paper or otherwise). If we haven’t already done so, let us commit to preparing the way, to repenting and acknowledging our failings, to committing to bearing good fruits. Let us mark this time with concrete actions that prepare our very souls for the celebration ahead.

May these remaining weeks of Advent be a time marked by interior preparations to receive and celebrate the gift of the Word made flesh.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 11.1-10
Psalm 72
Romans 15.4-9
Matthew 3.1-12

What have you done?

What have you Done?

By Adam Lalonde, SJ

Sometimes we are so clueless about what’s in front of us that we are unable to ask the right questions. In today’s gospel reading the Sadducees make a second attempt to humiliate Jesus during his public preaching. The Sadducees were a group of Jewish religious leaders based in the Temple who adhered strictly to the Mosaic Law. In their interpretation there was no room for belief in the resurrection of the dead.

Jesus quickly turns the tables on the representative of the Sadducees who thought he could cleverly fool him. Jesus’ response is simple: you are missing the point. The resurrection of the dead is more than about returning to life. In the resurrection all creation will find its fullness in God. The concerns of this life will no longer trouble us.

We can sometimes forget the right questions too. In the spiritual life Jesus pierces our questions to show the anxiety within us that lies beyond the question. His answer remains the same: “Remember where you came from and where you are going. Remember the life to come.” Our questions then become simple: What have I done for you, Lord? What am I doing? What ought I to do?

Sunday’s Readings:
2 Maccabees 7.1-2, 7, 9-14
Psalm 17
2 Thessalonians 2.16 – 3.5
Luke 20.27-38

Fair Share

Fair Share

By Michael Pirri

In Jesus’ day, the tax system was easily corrupted. Tax collectors were effectively able to mark-up their taxes and take the difference for themselves. The more prominent the tax collector, the more tax they could add to tax collected by those below them; Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector – a very prominent man. It looks like wealth inequality is not something new to the 21st century!

When we talk about the widening wealth gap today, we think of the top 0.01% of earners, people who are worth billions of dollars. How can such inequality exist in the world? Why aren’t these people paying their fair share?

Zacchaeus wasn’t paying his fair share either. He was actually taking advantage of those less fortunate than himself.
As painful as it is sometimes to see that HST line at the bottom of your receipts, it helps it some way knowing that at least it helps to pay for things. It funds our hospitals and schools, pays for road repairs and subsidies to public transit, provides grants to non-profits that feed the poor.
What is disheartening though is that it is not enough. When will we, like Zacchaeus, climb the tree in our garden and look into the face of Jesus?

As I write this, the #unignorabletower is trending on social media. A building, dubbed the #unignorable tower, would need to have space for 116,317 individuals and families, proving the point of how massive our poverty and homelessness problem is. Standing at over 2.5 times the height of the CN Tower, The #UNIGNORABLE Tower was imagined by the United Way to represent the scale of the problem, and bring attention to this big and complicated issue.
Sunday’s Readings:
Wisdom 11.22 – 12.2
Psalm 145
2 Thessalonians 1.11 – 2.2
Luke 19.1-10

On November 9 and 10, we are holding our annual Christmas Drive to help fundraise for our Christmas meals and gift bags. Your $15 of support go a long way towards providing items to those in our community who need the most help.

Brainstorm!

Brainstorm
By Nancy Nobrega

In the Gospel today Luke explains that if we want God’s help we should just keep asking. He will help us, and we should not get discouraged if we don’t get the help we need right away. The way He explains it makes me think that God will help us if we keep “bothering” Him – that we will stop nagging if He gives in. It does sound quite a bit like how we are with our children. We are told often that God loves us unconditionally, so we might think that we don’t need to be thankful for the wonderful things we receive from Him. Life is messy but, we get lots of help and little miracles every day if we are present to His grace. We love our children unconditionally too. If my children ask me to help them, it certainly makes me feel better if they have expressed appreciation for my help and also if the help that I give them is paid forward to siblings, friends and strangers. I bet that applies to anyone who gives anyone else a helping hand. Don’t we all feel better when we see the help and kindness spread and that there has been a realization of how important helping others is?

God sent Jesus to teach us the way. Now it’s our turn to show our children and each other the way. Be a good example…brainstorm with your kids how they might pass on kindness in their day. Are we not all so pleased when we see children who are kind and polite? They are watching and mimicking us! How can we pay forward the help that God has given us? We could be more cheerful. A smile and an encouraging word to friends and strangers goes so far! Remember when someone said something nice to you and how that just made your day? I know it makes me feel so good, and acknowledging that has made me brave enough to compliment strangers on good manners, thank wait staff who have looked after me, give a helping hand and a smile to tired young mothers with cranky children, let folks who are in a mad rush go ahead of me in line and call that acquaintance (not close friend) who has been having a hard time.

A friend of mine keeps granola bars in his glove compartment to hand out to the homeless instead of giving money or wondering how to give money in a safer or better way. Another friend has made sure that her children, who are now old enough, take the time to call elderly relatives who have cared for them over the years and who might be at home alone. Remember when Grandma used to take you to the park, well maybe now it’s time for you to take her for a walk in the park on a nice day or go have tea with her on a rainy one. And of course, before we ask God for help we can say thank you by acknowledging all the blessings that are in our lives, that we sometimes take for granted and that make our lives gentler and easier. Even in the midst of our most awful days there are helps: the perfect parking spot just before we think we will “lose it” because everything is going wrong, the letter from a friend that fills us with joy, the visit that is out of the blue and so nurturing, a kind word or compliment for a job well done, or that we saw that someone paid forward a kindness that we offered to them.

Sunday’s Readings:
Exodus 17.8-13
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3.14 – 4.2
Luke 18.1-8