Free from the Tomb

Free from the Tomb

By Trevor Rainwater, SJ

At each of the scrutiny Masses during Lent, the readings at Mass differ to allow the Elect and the larger Christian community to uncover their own sin and weakness so as to better prepare for the joy of Easter. This Sunday, most people hear of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), that tells us that despite one’s sins, forgiveness is always found in Christ. Those, however, who attend the 4:30 PM Mass hear the scrutiny reading of the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). The Raising of Lazarus is a fitting Gospel to have just before Holy Week because it clearly foreshadows what will occur in two weeks on Easter Sunday. In both stories, new life overcomes the grip of sin and death. Joy and excitement replace sadness and grief; disbelief transforms into the faith. It is clear from the passage that Jesus, Mary, and Martha shared a close friendship, but Martha, nonetheless, blames Jesus for Lazarus’ death. Yet it is only through the “dead” Lazarus walking out of the tomb and Mary and Martha’s grief that Jesus reveals the glories of His Heavenly Father. Just as Lazarus, Mary, and Martha had to go through suffering and death to see a flowering and deepening of their own faith, so too can we see this aspect in our own lives today. Through Lent, we undergo a cleansing and renewal of our faith in preparation for the joy of Easter. As we journey with Jesus and his disciples in these final days of Lent, we continue our quest to see Christ as the giver of new life in order to love God more deeply. Thus, what “tomb” do you want Jesus to free you from? In other words, just as Lazarus needed freedom from his burial clothes after walking out of the tomb, what parts in your life need to be “unbound” and exposed to the light of Christ? Or if you heard the Gospel of the adulterous woman, what are the “public” sins you carry and wish to let go of? Remember, Jesus waits to set you free through the sacrament of Confession!

Sunday’s Readings: Isaiah 43.16-21 Psalm 126 Philippians 3.8-14 John 8.1-11

Laetare Sunday

Laetare Sunday By Stefani Bedin This Sunday is often called Laetare Sunday, a name which refers to the first word of the Entrance Antiphon for the Fourth Sunday of Lent: “Laetare, Jerusalem” (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”). The Church is encouraging us to rejoice! We are approximately halfway through our Lenten journey, and we are invited to look forward, with joyful anticipation, to Easter, which is just three weeks away. Today, we momentarily break from some of the austerities of the penitential season. This spirit of rejoicing is reflected in our liturgies, which differ somewhat from the other Sundays of Lent. The pipe organ, which since the beginning of Lent has been used at Sunday liturgies solely to support singing, today also offers solo music—preludes and postludes. Flowers are permitted in the sanctuary. You may have also noticed the priest wearing rose-coloured vestments. These vestments are only worn on one other day of the liturgical year, the Third Sunday of Advent, or Gaudete Sunday, another time when we are specially invited to be joyful. The readings also remind us there are many reasons to rejoice. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we hear that the father celebrates over the return of his lost son. During Lent, when we are especially reminded to repent and seek forgiveness, we find joy in knowing that our God is loving and merciful. May this Sunday bring us refreshment and strengthen our faith and hope as we continue to journey toward Holy Week and Easter.

Sunday’s Readings:

Joshua 5.9a, 10-12

Psalm 34

2 Corinthians 5.17-21

Luke 15.1-3, 11-32

Relationships and Second Chances

Relationships and Second Chances

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

Lent is a struggle for many of us. We strive to develop better habits, but it is a challenge to stay on course. The readings for this week remind us to focus on the strong relationship we have with Jesus and how failure does not necessarily equal disownment by our God. The man who comes upon the barren fig tree in our Gospel speaks of it the way we often speak about ourselves. “Cut it down. Why should it be wasting soil?” How often do we believe we are of no value because we have made a mistake or given in to temptation? Instead of saying to ourselves, “I have done something wrong or bad”, we believe we are bad and not worth the time of others. Each one of us has good fruit to bear but we cannot do it if we refuse to acknowledge that we are inherently good and have much to contribute to the world. It is the gardener who speaks on behalf of the fig tree. He asks that he be given some time to prune and care for the tree so that it will be able to bear fruit. This is Jesus our Lord. If we place ourselves entirely in His care, He will take away the things that block us from bearing good fruit; our self-doubt, hesitations and fears. We are not able to bear fruit if we close ourselves off from the one who loves us unconditionally. Since we are humans, and not trees, this requires immense work on our part as we must let go of all ego and pride and open ourselves up to God. Because of this the Sacrament of Confession can feel like a daunting task. This is why we require preparation. We admit that we deserve Gods love and let go of all the things that keep us from it. We do just as much work as the gardener. God longs to have a relationship with us and we long to have a relationship with God. In our first reading Moses looks upon the burning bush and asks for God’s name. God responds with, “I Am.” A name is so important because it sets up the possibility of fostering a relationship. We know God’s name, but it is so difficult to allow ourselves to feel the overwhelming love that comes with the knowledge that God knows our name. It is another way that we are hindered from bearing fruit. Yet, God is still here and loving us in all our humanity. Today let us pray that each of us may look more kindly on ourselves so we may have the courage to bear the good fruit that God intended us to bear, and share it with the world. Sunday’s Readings: Exodus 3.1-8a, 13-15 Psalm 103 1 Corinthians 10.1-6, 10-12 Luke 13.1-9

Known by our Fruits

By Michael Pirri

Our Gospel reading today challenges us to first see our faults before we consider pointing out the faults of others. This reading is especially poignant this week; Former Cardinal McCarrick has been laicized, Cardinal Pell was found guilty of sexual offenses involving minors, and a much anticipated meeting of Church leaders on the abuse crisis seems to have fallen short of expectations. These are no doubt difficult conversations to be having. As a Catholic higher education community, we have an obligation not only to have these conversations, but also to facilitate and lead them. I recently gave a talk on Ministry for the Parish R.C.I.A. program. In it, I spoke about our baptismal call to fulfill our roles as Priest, Prophet, and King. I think the Church today is in need of Prophets – Catholic women and men who go out into the world to spread the message of the Gospel. The abuse crisis is, rightly, jarring – it disturbs us. It is disheartening to experience as a global community, especially when it is not the reality the majority of us live in our faith lives. It erodes our trust in our faith, in the Church, and regretfully, for some even in God. Further, it challenges our values, and the impression of what our values are. We cannot give tacit approval. How are we to fulfill our roles as prophets in the reality we now live in? We are called to be witnesses in our thoughts, in what we say, and in what we do. In that way we are called to share the Gospel with those around us, to be prophets in our daily lives. We don’t need to be teachers, or influencers to be effective prophets, we need simply act in a way which is befitting of our role as messenger of the Gospel. We are to be known by our actions. In this disruption, there is opportunity for reconciliation, for inner conversion. This begins with conversation. With all important dialogue, it is important to be educated on the topic, to seek truth rather than approval, to listen to those who are not listened to, but most importantly to be receptive, to listen. In a few weeks time, there will be an opportunity to do just that – listen and learn. The Wounded Body of Christ: Listening and Responding to Abuse in the Church begins with a talk on Thursday, March 14, and a full day colloquium follows on Friday, March 15. I’d like to encourage you to attend either the talk or the full day colloquium as we begin to consider how to best find our voice on the abuse crisis in the Church.

Sunday’s Readings:

Sirach 27.4-7

Psalm 92

1 Corinthians 15.54-58

Luke 6.39-45

A Radical Choice

A Radical Choice

By Fr. Morgan Rice, CSB

An article (Nov. 12, 2017) in the online version of The Globe and Mail describes how Wilma and Cliff Derksen handled the death of their daughter Candace who was murdered in the mid-1980s in Manitoba. A darkness faced them: “an abyss of sadness and anger that could swallow a person and take away everything they loved, that would spread until it destroyed all that was beautiful”. They had lost their daughter but they were determined not to lose everything else, so they made the radical choice to forgive the murderer of Candace. It was a choice rooted in their Mennonite faith. It was not something that they did once and moved on; they had to choose forgiveness over and over again as a way of living. Last month, Christina Haugan offered forgiveness in court to the truck driver who pleaded guilty to several counts of dangerous driving causing multiple deaths in the collision with the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos. Christina’s husband, Darcy, was among those who died. Like the Derksens, she had the courage and strength to choose the radical option of forgiveness as a way towards healing. It is probably one of Jesus’ most difficult teachings. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. . . . Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6.27-28, 37). To forgive those who have offended us or have hurt us or someone we love is part of our fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to love others as he has loved us. It is part of acknowledging the dignity of every human being even those who have committed heinous crimes. Forgiveness is something that might not be easy for us to offer, yet it is something that God never tires of offering us. May our experience of being forgiven by God and the examples of people like the Derksens and Christina Haugan help us to find within ourselves the ability to make the radical choice of forgiveness each day. Sunday’s Readings: 1 Samuel 26.2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-25 Psalm 103 1 Corinthians 15.45-49 Luke 6.27-38

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