Fishers of People

Fishers of People

By Emily VanBerkum

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians expresses his desire that all Christians accept the basic tenets of the Christian faith- that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, appeared to Cephas, then the twelve apostles, was buried, and rose from the dead. Paul further emphasizes the importance of belief in Christ’s resurrection by positioning himself as a witness to the resurrection, and an Apostle of Christ. In Magdala, a conciliary formed in St. Basil’s dedicated to understanding the feminine genius and the feminine dimension of the Church, members have explored the richness of Mary Magdalene’s rightful status as ‘Apostle to the Apostles.’ Though not mentioned by Paul in today’s second reading, the Gospels position Mary Magdalene as the first to witness the resurrection of Christ and the one given a distinct Apostolic charge to go share the news of Christ’s rising from the dead. In many ways, Mary Magdalene bore a transformative love for Jesus- followed him in his earthly ministry, through his gruesome death by crucifixion; she anointed him for burial, wept by his tomb, and waited in desperation and unwavering faith for her Saviour to come again in glory. Mary Magdalene was a model disciple. Learning from the significance of Mary Magdalene’s witness to Christ and fervent discipleship, today’s Gospel encourages us to reflect on our own status as a disciple of Christ. In the moments following a miraculous haul of fish, Jesus tells Simon, James, John, and the many that had gathered by the shore: “Do not be afraid; from now on, you will be catching people.” They left everything and followed Him. Fishers of people. Jesus longs for real discipleship so that followers will draw others to him by the way they model their faith. Belief in Jesus is conveyed in countless ways and, as Paul, Mary Magdalene, and the twelve apostles all understood and lived, discipleship is predicated upon a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus. Jesus’ language here does not discriminate about who can follow him, rather stating that those who witness his resurrection and saving action – as it has been passed down from generation to generation ­– will be catchers of people, in turn welcoming all women and men into the Kingdom of God.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Isaiah 6.1-2a, 3-8
  • Psalm 138
  • 1 Corinthians 15.1-11
  • Luke 5.1-11

The Magdala conciliary gathers once a month through the academic term, discussing topics of relevance to the understanding of the feminine genius and the feminine dimension of the Church. If you are interested in finding out more, please speak with Michael Pirri at (416) 926-1300 x.3210 or michael.pirri@utoronto.ca

Love and Charity

Love and Charity

By John Paul Farahat

I must confess that the second reading for this week gave me pause – many of us will recognize it as a reading often proclaimed at weddings. And I think that it is safe to say that approximately 75% of the 35-40 weddings that take place at Saint Basil’s every year incorporate this excerpt from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. So often, we miscategorise this reading as being about romantic love. We assume that Paul is talking about the love between spouses or partners. As meaningful as we may find this interpretation, it is important to point out that the reading is instead referencing charity: that is, God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love of neighbour. Paul is reminding his reader that charity is at the core of Christian living and urging a fundamental shift in their way of living out their faith. How often do we forget to connect our faith to our sense of charity? So often, our faith life, our sense of charity, and our self are not aligned: our ego, our prejudice, our sense of self, all get in the way of being charitable to “the other”. How often do we limit our charity to “the familiar”? How often do we forget that our charity is especially called on when we encounter “the other”? He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt 22:37-40)

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Jeremiah 1.4-5, 17-19
  • Psalm 71
  • 1 Corinthians 12.31-13.13
  • Luke 4.21-30

Keeping the Word Central

Keeping the Word Central

The first reading takes place at the end of the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites: the heads of several families had accompanied Ezra, a priest and scribe, back to Jerusalem some short time ago. The seventh month of the Hebrew ecclesiastical year is also the first month of their civil year. Much like January for us, I suspect this was a time of much planning for the year ahead, even more so considering their home was in ruins. The ceremony in the first reading represents a culmination of Ezra’s attempts to restore hope to all those who have returned to Israel, by using the only constant that they have known – God’s Law as shared with them by Moses. Christ exists as the culmination of Isaiah’s prophecy in the second reading – the realization of the Word in the flesh. Much like the Jewish people returning to their homes, we are called to listen to the Word when things are difficult, when we have a long road ahead. The Word being made flesh is the fruit of God’s love and joy for us. But how can we spread this joy swelling from within? If you’ve been following the new releases on Netflix, you’ve likely heard of Marie Kondo, a Japanese ‘declutterer consultant’ who has sparked a decluttering craze. Part of her cleaning method, the Konmari Method, involves taking each item, and considering whether it brings you joy or sparks within you a great feeling. If the item doesn’t ‘spark joy’, you thank the item and then discard of it (hopefully by donating!). Scripture, too, is meant to spark within us something profound; God’s joy and love comes to us through the Word made flesh, through Christ. Much like decluttering, bringing this joy into the world is a step by step process. Day by day, attention to the Word will bring us closer to the joy revealed in the Gospel today.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Nehemiah 8.2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
  • Psalm 19
  • 1 Corinthians 12.12-30
  • Luke 1.1-4; 4.14-21

The Wedding at Cana

The Wedding at Cana

By Dane and Anne MacCarthy

Cana has a special affection for us as we fondly remember a pilgrimage trip to Israel in 1997 when, along with other married couples in our group, we had the opportunity to renew our wedding vows in the little church at Cana in Galilee. This weekend’s Cana readings give us pause to reflect on a number of things. We understand that the Evangelist John mentions Mary by name only twice in his Gospel. Today’s reading is a significant first – Mary asking her son, Jesus, to perform a miracle at the beginning of his public ministry. Though reluctant, He agrees. Maybe we need to call on Jesus through His mother at challenging times in our lives – how can a son say no to his mother? But why at a wedding celebration did Jesus perform the first of His signs? We married couples like to believe that He wanted to recognize marriage as a key event in many lives. Marriage marks the beginning of a new family, and is not family a little church? This Cana event points the way to the establishment of marriage as a sacrament (which admittedly did not occur until centuries later). Possibly, this is why marriage can seem to be the forgotten sacrament. Yes, the wedding day (or days as in the time of Jesus when a week of celebration was the norm) is certainly a highlight for a couple with all the accompanying dazzle – including plenty of wine. But how do we and even our Church honour the sacrament of marriage after the wedding day – when couples need that support in living out day to day life with its many struggles and challenges? We would be delighted to see in the worldwide church, a special day to honour marriage, as is the case for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, the World Day of Prayer for the Sick etc… Here in the Archdiocese of Toronto, we are fortunate that our Archbishop, Cardinal Collins, has since 2011, designated the second Sunday in February as Marriage Sunday. On this day, all parishes in the Archdiocese are asked to honour married couple in a significant way, be it by special blessing or the communal celebration of significant wedding anniversaries. The Cana experience is also seen as being about transformation from the old law to the new, as well as the ongoing transformation of our lives whether our vocation be Marriage, Holy Orders, Consecrated Religious or Single Life. Indeed, Cana gives us much cause to reflect.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Isaiah 62.1-5
  • Psalm 96
  • 1 Corinthians 12.4-11
  • John 2.1-12

The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord

By Marilena Berardinelli

Today the church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus and concludes the Christmas Season. Contrary to mainstream culture, who has long since placed their Christmas trees at the curb and are now eying the Valentine’s Day treats and gifts already displayed on store shelves, the Christian community has for the last twenty days celebrated the mystery of Christ’s coming in the world. For the last three weeks we have lived in the hope and joy of the Incarnation.

The placement of the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus at the end of Christmas Season emphasizes the biblical narrative begun on Christmas Eve. The Word became flesh as a fragile baby not a powerful king; born in the smallest of Israel’s cities not the grandeur of Jerusalem and grew-up not with kingly wealth, but in the poverty of the insignificant village of Nazareth. For thirty years Jesus lived in obscurity and his introduction to public ministry was made not with fanfare, but among the sinners seeking John’s baptism of repentance.

The gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism reaffirm that this Jesus, who shares fully in our human condition, is also fully God: “You are my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Therefore, when we are baptized the beginning of this same divine life is sown in us. The Baptism of the Lord bookends the feast of the first incarnation and propels us to ponder Jesus’ second incarnation, when that Word assumes the mystical body – us. Christ in us, is the vehicle by which God continues to transform the world.

At St. Basil’s we celebrate about 40 baptisms a year within our Sunday liturgies. It is easy to become a bystander in these celebrations. Perhaps however, we can see in each of these baptisms an opportunity to examine how we are nurturing the divine life within us. How are we cooperating with God’s desire to break into the world each day, again and again? How are we, the mystical body of Christ, exercising our gifts, talents and charisms to engage and realize God’s mission in the world?

Christ has no body here on earth but yours;
No hands, but yours.
No feet, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks with compassion on the world.
Yours are the feet with which
Christ goes about doing good in the world.
Yours are the hands with which
Christ blesses the people of the world.

(Saint Teresa of Avila)

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 50.1-5,9-11
Psalm 104
Titus 2.11-14; 3.4-7
Luke 3.15-16, 21-22

And You Are Never The Same

And You Are Never The Same

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates a human encounter with the Divine. It reminds us that once such an encounter has occurred it is impossible to return to the way things were before. The original course of events has been altered forever. The Magi, being from the East, would not have considered the Christ child to be their Messiah. However, they knew that the appearance of this new star in the sky meant the King of the Jews had been born and wanted to pay the new King homage. Once they arrived at the home of the Holy Family we are told, “they were overwhelmed with joy.” They witness the Divine in human form and are transformed and humbled. In the Atrium when we share this story with the children we will sometimes ask, “Do you think the Magi kept what they saw and knew to themselves? Or did they share it with others?” Quite often the children will respond, “They told everyone.” There is nothing more humbling than the knowledge that the one who gave His life for us will always love us. It seems so simple, but it is so difficult as humans to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the presence of Christ in our lives. Sometimes there are big moments where the presence of God is everywhere. For myself, the Feast of the Epiphany is also my wedding anniversary. A year today my husband and I vowed to love and honour each other all the days of our lives. Our vows to each other were an encounter with God, where we invite Him into our marriage and lives. And although we exited St. Basil’s that day from the same doors, we did not leave the same way we had come in. Of course, that is a very specific day at a very specific moment in time. The challenge is to keep the Feast of the Epiphany present in the ordinary days. What happens after we receive the gift of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist? We are called to go out into the world, perhaps by another road, and bring Christ to others. Just as the Magi brought their experience of seeing the newborn King to their people. We may take the opportunity to feed the hungry, help a stranger, or listen to the lonely. And, who knows, in that moment you may encounter the Divine all over again. And the joy of the Epiphany continues.

Readings:

  • Isaiah 60.1-6
  • Psalm 72
  • Ephesians 3.2-3a, 5-6
  • Matthew 2.1-12

Pondering in Amazement

Pondering in Amazement

By Fr. Morgan Rice

“The shepherds made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed. . . . But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2.17-19). In the mid-1980s, I enjoyed watching a television series entitled Amazing Stories created by Steven Spielberg. Though I cannot remember much about individual episodes, I do remember looking forward to each new episode with the hope of being amazed and delighted by some unexpected twist or turn of the story. Today, as we celebrate Christmas, we remember one particular amazing story that still has the ability to astound us even 2,000 years later. Babies are miracles in themselves, but how incredible that our God would choose to become a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem! That the King of the Universe would come to us with such humility and lowliness is probably not how we would have expected the story to have been written, but it was. Amazement can affect us in different ways. Most likely, it will lead us to tell others about what we have experienced, probably like the shepherds would most likely have done after they left glorifying and praising God for what they had heard and seen (Luke 2.20). We could also take on the attitude of Jesus’ mother Mary, who pondered in her heart what the angel Gabriel and the shepherds had told her about Jesus. She was just beginning to realize the amazing story that was unfolding as a result of her “yes” to God at the Annunciation. She had an important role to play in the story and so do we as we participate in the story of God’s salvation, each in our own ways. As we listen once again to the amazing story of Jesus’ birth, along with the knowledge of what will come later in his life, we have the chance to ponder with our entire being how God’s birth into the world continues to affect our lives. Pondering might not provide us the answers we want, but it helps us to live with, and maybe even be delighted by, the surprises, the twists, and the turns that come our way and invite us to cooperate with God who always seeks to bring about life. While the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace was born unto Mary, we have the opportunity to bring Jesus to life anew today as our relationship with him becomes manifest in our loving relationships with others. Be assured of my prayers for this family of St. Basil’s as we celebrate, ponder, tell about, and live out the truly amazing story of which Jesus has invited us to be part. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve Readings: Isaiah 9.2-4, 6-7 Psalm 96 Titus 2.11-14 Luke 2.1-16

Christmas Day Readings: Isaiah 62.11-12 Psalm 97 Titus 3.2-7 Luke 2.15-20

Bringing Love to Chaos

Bringing Love to Chaos

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

If you were to attend the Atrium downstairs today, you would witness the littlest ones of the parish preparing our prayer table for Advent. They will light one candle for hope and raise their voices asking Jesus to, “come and be born in our hearts.” Since the Atrium opened in 2016 the way I celebrate Advent has changed. It can be difficult to look inward and examine your heart to ensure it is ready to receive the newborn child. However, this can be done joyfully. For the love of Jesus Christ envelops us regardless of our faults. The preparation process becomes easier when you acknowledge that you are loved unconditionally and that the joy of Christmas will come to you regardless of how unworthy you feel. The Gospel today begins a little less joyfully. We are told of great disasters that will precede the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Son of Man will come, but not before floods and chaos upset the earth and its people. The whole event sounds bleak and it does not paint a very good picture of the world we have created. We are warned that when Christ comes in Glory, we will ignore all the signs that are in front of us like we have done for centuries. If it happened tomorrow most of us would miss it unless it went viral on social media. So how do we prepare ourselves? The Gospel tells us to stop worrying about the things we cannot control and instead focus on strengthening our hearts, so we may escape disaster and stand before Jesus in His magnificence. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians tells us that we do this by increasing our love for one another. Being self-absorbed prevents us from loving the stranger and from valuing each human we encounter. Furthermore, it inhibits us from receiving the redemptive love of Jesus Christ. You cannot be fully open to something that you do not value. It is not about being perfect, for Christ’s love knows no bounds. Instead, it is about reaching out to those in our midst and being the face of Christ in a lost world. It is through performing acts of love that we become closer to Jesus Christ, and prepare the world for the celebration of His birth and for when He comes again in Glory. That is where the joy of the Advent season is found, in giving and receiving love. May you receive the strength you need to accept and share the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.

Sunday’s Readings:

Jeremiah 33.14-16

Psalm 25

1 Thessalonians 3.12-4.2

Luke 21.25-28, 34-36

How R.C.I.A. Brought Me to Seek the Kingdom of God

How R.C.I.A. Brought Me to Seek the Kingdom of God

By Kimberley Morton

 

Today, the Feast of Christ the King marks the end of ordinary time as we head into Advent and on Sunday December 2nd our RCIA catechumens will attend the Rite of Acceptance Mass, their first official action in the Church and in their journey of faith. I remember when I was approaching this Mass I was very nervous about standing up in front of everyone, I was very much still trying to understand what I was seeking. I later realized that what I was doing was putting on the cloak of Jesus so that I could formally begin my journey of faith and joy, the quest for truth that will bring me one day to the Kingdom of God. St John Cassian tells us ‘the objective of our life is the Kingdom of God’ and the innermost meaning of the entire Old Testament is summed up in the expression of the ‘Kingdom of God’ and it remains a major key of understanding of the whole of Jesus’ message. Pope Pius XI in Quad Primas, (1924), tells us, “…when the populace thronged around Jesus in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honour and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his Kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this Kingdom as one which men and women prepare to enter by penance and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which though an external rite, signifies and produces interior regeneration.” Our RCIA catechumens are on their own paths of regeneration and truth toward the Kingdom of God. My journey, like yours, has many twists and turns and ups and downs but I embrace the words of St Paul when he tells us “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

Sunday’s Readings:

Daniel 7.13-14

Psalm 93

Revelation 1.5-8

John 18.33b-37

Stay Awake, be Ready

Stay Awake, be Ready

By Marilena Berardinelli This weekend Toronto hosts the Santa Clause parade. To mark the occasion, a Catholic institution in the city invited my family to a party inaugurating the start of the “Christmas Season”. This early holiday invite, besides upsetting my liturgical sensitivities (the Christmas Season follows, not precedes, December 25), caused me to wonder how the world will fare if even Christians have lost sight of the two-fold goal of the weeks previous to Christmas (Advent): a time to remember the birth of Jesus and to prepare for his second coming among us. Today’s gospel sets our priorities straight. Using the apocalyptic language of falling stars and darkened suns, Jesus prepares his disciples for the signs indicating when God’s reign will be fully established on earth. Jesus’ words are not simply a call to “stay awake” to the signs, but a challenge to us to “be ready” to greet them. In our context, Jesus’ words are not an invitation to discern Christmas lists, holiday menus, or vacation itineraries, but instead to discern how the choices we make, especially in the coming weeks, “ready” us for God’s kingdom. I don’t think that early Christmas celebrations are bad. However, I do believe that the God who works with us, in us, and through us in the building of the kingdom is inviting us today not to be bystanders to the status quo, but to discern our individual involvement in the transformation of our world. What choices will I make? What organizations will I support? What charities will I give to? How will I advocate the building of a kingdom that acknowledges and respects the sacredness of all, that supports the common good and acknowledges solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable, that makes ecological choices that places creation first and that works for peace both in my home and in my world? How will I respond to Jesus’ invitation to participate in God’s new world order?

Sunday’s Readings:

1 Kings 17.10-16

Psalm 146

Hebrews 9.24-28

Mark 12.38-44

Within the Christian tradition, discernment is the art of prayerful decision making. St. Ignatius of Loyola defined discernment as the ability to see clearly God’s deepest desire for us and for the world. Our parish hosts several prayer groups that support the journey of discernment needed in the building of the Kingdom, including: Christian Meditation Group, Contemplative Women of St. Anne and the Basilian Lay Associates. For more information on participating in these groups, please see our website or take an information card that is available in the church narthex.