A House for All Peoples

A HOUSE FOR ALL PEOPLES

By Father Morgan V. Rice, CSB

The first reading from Isaiah ends with the Lord’s saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (56:7). The psalm echoes that notion of all people offering prayer to God in the response, “Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you!” (67:3). Would that not be a beautiful experience of a united human family that has come to know our merciful and loving God shown to us in the person of Jesus Christ? I believe we get tastes of it when we, a diverse people representing different nations, cultures, ages, and backgrounds, gather together at the Eucharist to worship the Lord and be nourished by Jesus. This I have witnessed during my two or so months here at St. Basil’s; however, we know this is not the case in all parts of our world.

I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, Va., where the violent and hateful events of last weekend occurred. The demonstration of one group of people claiming to be superior to others goes against the future the Lord has laid out and against what Jesus taught us by his compassion and non-violence. Instead of the community of trust, mutual respect, and life that the Lord desires, the actions of those in Charlottesville led to the loss of human life and an atmosphere of fear and division. Condemning the violence at UVA, the university’s Rector wrote in a message to alumni, “We are all here for a purpose, and the events of the last few days have leant that purpose greater clarity and urgency”.

Events like Charlottesville certainly do clarify our purpose as women and men striving to live out Gospel values and bring the Good News of Christ to all. One of those values is to open ourselves to the gifts and goodness of others who come from backgrounds that we might have been taught to fear or be suspicious of. We do that when we make it a point to encounter and get to know others, particularly those who are different from us, with a belief that we can learn and be transformed from our interactions. Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman and the recognition of her tremendous faith demonstrated that his mission was broader than originally understood. To what insights might our interactions lead us?

In a couple of weeks, university students from around the world will be coming to begin the academic year. The University of St. Michael’s College campus will be abuzz with Orientation Week activities. As part of those activities, students will be attending the 4:30pm Mass on Sunday, 3 September. My hope is that hundreds will come to celebrate and will find a welcoming home at St. Basil’s, where together we can all join in praise of God and truly be a house of prayer for all peoples.

Sundays Readings:

Isaiah 56.1, 6-7 2

Peter 1.16-19

Matthew 17.1-9

FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

By Lisa Fernandes

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This is an ancient feast that was gradually introduced into the Western Church, and made a universal feast by Pope Callistus III in 1457. It celebrates Christ’s glorious transformation before several Apostles.

Just prior to the Transfiguration Jesus takes Peter, James and his brother John up a high mountain where his appearance changes: “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matthew 17.2).

According to the Catechism: “Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary” (CCC 568). Today it is an important reminder of Christ’s divine nature; we all need reminders to strengthen our faith in this age of chaos.

Peter, James and John were purposely chosen as Jesus only needed a few witnesses and these, specifically, were part of his inner circle. These are the same three disciples that later accompanied Christ to Gethsemane on the eve of his passion. The transfiguration was not meant for the masses even though Peter misunderstood what was happening and wanted to build tents to mark the event and show everyone. But it was meant only for their eyes as Peter and the other disciples realize when suddenly God says: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Matthew 17.5). It was at this point that the disciples fell down to the ground in awe.

I think it is important for us as current believers to understand their amazement. In our society where there sometimes seems to be a lack of wonder and we are becoming jaded, we seem to have lost our childlike amazement. We overuse the term “awesome.”

I was reminded of this in a recent obituary of Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, a longevity expert who died at the age of 105. He had many rules for living longer: “We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep,” he often said. “I believe we can keep that attitude as adults — it is best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.”

How can you recapture your amazement at this wonderful life God has given us? Write a gratitude journal. Find awe in everyday things. I recently went to hear one of the world’s greatest choirs, The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge from England and I thought how lucky I was to have this experience. And also don’t take for granted Christ’s sacrifice. Pope Francis encouraged parishioners to look at the Cross often, and to remember how Jesus was “annihilated” to save us.

Relish the rare moments in between our everyday life when we might sense we are on the mountaintop in communion with Jesus.

Sundays Readings:

Daniel 7.9-10, 13-14 2

Peter 1.16-19

Matthew 17.1-9

Mustard Seed

You Have Revealed To Little Ones The Mysteries Of The Kingdom

You Have Revealed To Little Ones The Mysteries Of The Kingdom

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

One of the main principles of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is to focus on “the essential.” In preparing the presentations for the children, it is important to not overwhelm them with explanations full of deep theological concepts. Instead, we find the one kernel, the key phrase, the key theme, the key image, and we let each child experience the wonder surrounding it in their own way. Their reactions may be big or small but, as Paul’s letter to the Romans emphasizes, sometimes when the Holy Spirit is at work, there are no words; only silence and awe.

Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It is a speck, barely bigger than the head of a pin. The children of the Atrium put their hands out to us and cup them together. They are anxious to have “the smallest of all the seeds” placed in their hands. The moment they receive the seed they are struck by the size and raise their cupped hands closer to their face to get a closer look.

They engage with the reverence of the moment the same way adults respond to the miracle of a newborn baby. Some comment on the size over and over exclaiming, “It is so small,” while others sit in awe trying to protect the seed in their hands. The children are keenly aware that the seed they are holding has a strength within that no words can describe. We also show the children a picture of the transformation which will occur once that seed is planted and grows. The tree has a trunk that is thick and can grow to be 20ft tall. The branches extend and weep like a willow’s. It can withstand harsh arid climates and, no matter what it endures, it will continue to grow and survive. It is a transformation that is both mysterious and beautiful.

For our youngest children in the Atrium, the essential is the movement between small and great. So simple but so very rich with meaning. They take this knowledge and apply it to everything they see in the world. Everything that grows, including themselves, starts small and transforms into something that seems unimaginable. Eventually we, the catechists, pose the question, “Whose strength could be so great, to transform a mustard seed into a tall tree?” It is the marvel of creation. For God’s presence is in all things and always ensures that new life and growth will occur. Even if it seems impossible.

This is the Kingdom of God. It is all that exists as it is born and transforms and withstands. It is beyond words. But to marvel at it, as the littlest amongst us show us, is a form of prayer. Jesus tells us to humble ourselves like children. So today, let each of us take a moment to be childlike and marvel at the Kingdom of God that is all around us.

 

Sundays Readings:

Wisdom 12.13, 16–19

Romans 8.26–27

Matthew 13.24–43

Summer rest

SUMMER REST

By Tina Sibbald

School is out; many book vacation time this month, and we enter a mindset very different from the fall, or the Christmas and Easter seasons. Life slows down for a little while, and we rest. Even the Gospel this week has that feel to it.

Ironically, the rest that Jesus offers us involves activity, not passivity. We are invited to take up the yoke of Jesus. In modern day farming it is tractors plowing fields, not oxen, but one can imagine how hard that work was. That doesn’t feel a lot like rest.

Sometimes it takes symbolism from a simpler time to make the point. Imagine being the only one attached to the yoke and pulling the weight of the plow. That plow symbolized life, and life is hard work, especially when we try to do it alone. So when Jesus invites us to share His yoke, do you think it is because He needs us to lighten His burden?

When we truly align ourselves with God, it is Jesus who does the heavy lifting. That’s how we find rest. While other obligations and workloads may lighten during the summer months, what a great opportunity there is to spend time aligning ourselves with, and getting to know Jesus in a fresh new way. Reading an uplifting book, taking a contemplative and prayerful walk in the park, paying a visit to someone who is home-bound, or volunteering at a lunch program are all great ways to find rest, and peace.

The summer season offers us a wonderful opportunity to take a deep breath and pause. Why not invite Jesus to be part of that? You may find more rest and peace than you ever thought possible.

Sunday’s Readings:

Zechariah 9.9-10

Romans 8.9, 11-13

Matthew 11.25-30

Talking to God

TALKING TO GOD

By Emily VanBerkum

I have spent a great deal of time contemplating Jesus’ words to his Apostles in today’s Gospel. Jesus commissions them to go forward and preach God’s Word by their very lives, not simply because they are told to do so, but as a result of their real, life changing encounter with Christ as God incarnate. Jesus’ words are poetic. “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” To me, this is a clear sign that the road to bring others to Christ is not always a clearly defined or paved path.

To give encouragement, Jesus reveals something of God’s mercy and love by reminding them that God cares for even the smallest and cheapest offering made in the Temple and counts every last hair on our head. All are accounted for and embraced as part of God’s intended creation. Nothing willed by God is ever in vain. Therefore, we may sometimes feel confused by God’s action, or presumed inaction, in our lives. We may typecast God as being distant from us or as a “big picture” kind of thinker. And yet, to me, God is in all the little details of our lives.

Growing up, my parents would say a bedtime prayer before making the sign of the cross on my forehead and kissing me goodnight. They would not say anything scripted, but rather offered words from the heart usually expressing gratitude or would ask for God’s help. I am grateful to them for instilling in me the ability to really talk to God. In this way, God was always near, very personal, and intimately acquainted with my goings on. Our parish’s baptismal preparation program focuses on growing in relationship with God. Time, energy, care- these are but a few characteristics of how we build strong and healthy relationships with those we love. God is no exception. If we desire for God to be near to us, and to be receptive to God’s Word, it is essential that we dedicate to God and our faith lives the same time and energy we spend cultivating our other important relationships.

Allow today’s Gospel to be a reminder that no detail that weighs on our minds or hearts is too minuscule or insignificant to be overlooked by God. My prayer is for us all to recognize God’s actions both big and small and to talk to God as a close friend and confidant. Today, I share with you the words of Saint Alphonsus Liguori who offers us some direction:

“Become accustomed to talking to God as though you are face to face, familiarly, with confidence and love, as to a friend, the dearest friend you have, who loves you so much…There is no doorkeeper, for whoever wishes to speak to God; indeed, it is God’s pleasure that you should talk familiarly with God. Speak to God of your business, of your plans, of your sorrows, of your fears, and of all that concerns you. Above all do it, as I have said, with confidence and with an open heart, because God is not accustomed to speak to the soul that does not speak to God. Such a soul, being unused to dealing with God, will not well understand God’s voice when God speaks.”

…and the words of Venerable Dorothy Day: “If I have achieved anything in my life, it is because I have not been embarrassed to talk to or about God.”

 

Sunday’s Readings:

Jeremiah 20:10-13

Romans 5:12-15

Matthew 10:26-33

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

PARTAKING OF TRUE FOOD

by Lucinda M. Vardey

When Jesus taught that his flesh is true food and his blood true drink, many of his followers left his community. Yet, in fact, Jesus was establishing the binding of community, the future church, the body of Christ. St. John Henry Newman said in a sermon that Jesus’ incarnation is a divine gift that visibly unites heaven and earth establishing a sacramental principle in the heart of Christian devotion.

On this solemn feast of Corpus Christi, we celebrate the gift of the sacrament of the Eucharist that nourishes our souls. True food fills us with the presence of Jesus, opens us to be transformed into a temple for the Holy Spirit and brings us into communion with all those who partake with us. But there is also much more that goes on beyond our reason or understanding.

This bread, this body of Christ is food that “endures for eternal life” (John 6:27) and partaking of it helps satiate our spiritual longing and hunger for God.

The following prayer is attributed to St. Ambrose

O Bread most sweet, heal the palate of my heart, heal it of all weakness and frailty through the sweetness of your love.

O Bread, most fair, that refreshes us and never fails, may my heart feed on you…

O holy Bread, living bread, enter my soul and heal and cleanse me within and without, then I will neither hunger or thirst because of being wondrously satisfied in you and by you.

Grant that this holy feeding on Your Body and Blood, of which, unworthy as I am, I propose to partake, provide the healthy bringing forth of fruit well pleasing to you.

Amen.

Sunday’s Readings:

Deuteronomy 8.2-3, 14b-16a

1 Corinthians 10.16-17

John 6.51-59M

The Most Holy Trinity

BEARING THE TRINITY IN 2017

By John Dalla Costa

Like others who recite the Liturgy of the Hours, we at St. Basil’s have adopted the practice of bowing when praying the “Glory Be.” Four times during every Lauds and Vespers we bow to bodily show our reverence for our Triune God.

With today’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity we may ask ourselves how to enact the due reverence in our everyday lives? To be a Christian is by definition to be immersed in Trinitarian love. What does this spiritual truth mean in practice?

The followers who knew Jesus personally, as well as those like Paul who converted after the Ascension, experienced the Trinity profoundly in their prayers before it was formalized by theologians. Faithful Jews who fiercely protected the Oneship of God met God so radically in Jesus that they had no choice but to leap into the unifying mystery of love as embracing Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We share this Trinitarian praying at every Eucharist. The Son of God offers himself for us, in thanksgiving to the Father, and to raise us through the Holy Spirit into our destiny with God. More than encounter Trinity, holy communion sanctifies us to participate in the very nature of God. For being included in this profusion of love, the most important reverence to Trinity happens when we recognize that-of-God in persons, beliefs or circumstances that are most unsettling, or even inimical to us. “The irreducible multiplicity of human life,” explained Hans Urs von Balthasar, “…appears to be paradoxical or even illogical only to one who does not know God’s trinitarian being.”

Shocked by recent terrorist acts, immersed in our world’s divisive politics, and cajoled ever-more aggressively into self-satisfying competition, today’s divisiveness seems intractable. Trinity is the only answer and antidote for these great anxieties because it consecrates diversity.

As Pope Francis explained at Pentecost, to “become a Christian of the “right” or “left”” is a contradiction. Especially today, recognizing that difference is holy is the best and most important way to revere God and make God’s hope tangible to our divided world.

Sunday’s Readings:

Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

John 3:16-18

Pentecost Sunday

SENDING FORTH

By Fr. Chris Valka, C.S.B

As the father has sent me, so I send you. As I was sent, so you are sent. As a result of what you have learned, of the relationship that you have known, you are to go out and share your experience of God. I do not think there is a single person is this church who is not aware of the overlapping messages presented to us this Pentecost, for we are aware of what this commissioning means for us a global, universal church as well as what it means for us as a parish. This is a season of new life, but we do not experience new without the loss of something old.

Over the past four years, we have had a remarkable experience of church – this is as true for me as it is for each of you. The temptation is, for us, just as it was for the disciples: feeling that they could not recreate it, the disciples wanted to return to what they knew before. It was easier for them to go back to their old lives; to be satisfied with what existed before they met Jesus. And they tried – they just couldn’t do that. How can you be satisfied with once was when you have lived for what is possible? How can you ever be content with Option A or Option B when you know that life is not a choice to be made but a possibility to be lived into.

Choices always mask limitations and always contain the acceptance of problems. On one level, this is to accept the world we live in and take it as it is – which is so very necessary. However, this isn’t why we are sent. We are sent because we have seen and heard a God who is not satisfied with simply solving problems. We have seen and heard a God who nurtures our potential and knows the desires of our souls. It is that desire that defines us and it is that desire that we are to call forth from each other. As I end my time with you as your Pastor, my hope is that you continue to do this for each other. My prayer is that you never be satisfied of what we make in this life, so that you may take on more than you can handle, so that you are driven to God for strength. Change is never easy, but so long as we live with gratitude, the changes that come are understood in a wider context – a part of something much bigger than ourselves or even this one parish.

May God continue to bless us all with courage and creativity. Thank you for all you have taught me and for all that you have done with me . . . it has been an honour and a blessing.

Sunday’s Readings:

Acts 2:1-11

Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 20:19-23

Ascension of the Lord

ASCENSION AND COMMUNICATION

By Lisa Fernandes

Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and World Communications Day; appropriately enough today’s Psalm speaks of shouting, as well as singing praises to God. The Ascension, also known as the Great Commission, followed Jesus’ parting words from the gospel – the last direct encounter of Jesus with the disciples – when he says the following before he ascends to heaven: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).

We acknowledge this at every mass when we say the Apostles Creed. In his address for today’s 51st World Communications Day, Pope Francis ties the two together. First he talks about communication as he asks “…everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart ‘good news'”. Then he talks about the Ascension: “Our hope based on the good news which is Jesus himself makes us lift up our eyes to contemplate the Lord in the liturgical celebration of the Ascension.”

I was reminded of the idea of storylines from Pope Francis’ address at a talk by Bishop Paul Tighe (Adjunct Secretary with the Vatican Council for Culture) in the recent Annual Christianity and the Arts Lecture, “The Church and Contemporary Art”. He said we need a culture of encounter or dialogue with others. Art plays a role in taking this dialogue forward; art invites us to be attentive in a distracted world – an idea I appreciate as someone who has studied art history and loves spending time in museums and galleries. As Bishop Tighe said, art is universal, and the church originally needed artists as they made stories accessible to those who could not read. We all want to be in the know which is why we check our mobile devices constantly. In our age of FOMO (fear of missing out) and increased social media we might be losing the essence of dialogue as more and more dialogue is taking place between an individual and their mobile device rather than with people. So on this dual day of celebration, maybe take a minute to put down your mobile device, take in an art show and “be here now” as they used to say in the 70s – and then discuss the art you’ve seen with others.

Sunday’s Readings:

Acts 1.1-11

Ephesians 1.17-23

Matthew 28.16-20

Sixth Sunday of Easter

LOST IN TRANSLATION

By Tina Sibbald

“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”

Have you ever been online and, on viewing comments or content in a language you don’t know, use a program such as Google® translate to figure out what you are reading? Somehow, the translation seems awkward, and you know grammar and syntax are all messed up. But at least you get the gist of what is going on.

It kind of feels just like that reading 1 Peter. “Make your defense” sounds, well, so defensive. It has this back-against-the-wall connotation like we have to come out swinging in defense of Jesus. Is there anything less attractive than a Christian who is angry for the wrong reasons?

The reality is that if we all understood Greek it would all make so much more sense. “Make your defense” is the best translation from the Greek apologia, which has nothing to do with being apologetic or sorry. It means to give a reason for our faith.

Of course, in an academically oriented parish, I hardly need to explain the study of apologetics to our students, but for the rest of us, there is a lesson here.

It really matters HOW we make the case for Christ, and if we can’t find ways to do it by example, well, it just seems futile. When we are vengeful, spiteful, or judgmental towards those who just don’t understand what Christ did for us, how could we hope to set an example? We are all imperfect, so how can our righteous indignation win people to Christ? It is only kindness, compassion and empathy, that can accomplish this.

Coming from a church background which condoned shaming and humiliating and rallying in angry protest against anyone whose life did not fit into a narrow view of what a Christian should be, I have since spent significant time considering how I can show the love of Christ in a broad and inclusive way. It really matters HOW we make the case for Christ. While none of us is perfect, we are called to be examples to the best of our imperfect abilities.

I, for one, will miss the way in which Fr. Chris has exemplified the quiet and respectful manner in which we can win people for Christ. Sometimes it is all about what you don’t say, but rather what you do. I will always cherish his example.

How might your quiet actions win someone for Christ this week?

Sunday’s Readings:

Acts 8.5-8, 14-17

1 Peter 3.15-18

John 14.15-21