Focusing on Christ

Focusing on Christ

By Fr. Morgan Rice

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to attend the Shaw Festival’s wonderful production of Brigadoon at Niagara-on-the-Lake with some of my Basilian confrères. Before the evening performance, we walked along the Niagara River to where it empties into Lake Ontario at Queen’s Royal Park. We stopped to look at a large granite and bronze marker dedicated to those who had successfully swum the 52km crossing to Marilyn Bell Park on the north shore of the lake, not too far from Exhibition Place. On the plaque are the words “perseverance”, “courage”, “fortitude”, “spirit”, “challenge”, and “triumph”—qualities needed to perform this feat that usually takes 20+ hours. One thing that I thought might help a swimmer is to focus on something like the CN Tower, something that could be seen from the start, something that could provide some encouragement along the way. Little by little as the fatigue set in, the tower would seem to grow taller and taller as one drew closer and closer to it.

I thought about that as I reflected on today’s second reading from Hebrews 12. Recognizing that life is akin to a race, the author of the letter encourages the Christian community to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus”. Our lives are marked with challenges that might seem overwhelming at times, but with perseverance and the right focus, the goal is attainable. For a disciple of Christ, the focus is on Jesus, who himself demonstrated perseverance and endurance through the cross to his heavenly throne. He has wants us to live fulfilling lives and eventually join him there, but things like disappointments and our sins might seem to stand in the way. They might seem like a daunting chasm to cross.

So what do we do? Like the Hebrews, we are encouraged to “not grow weary or lose heart” but to train ourselves to keep going by living out our faith and fixing our eyes on our tower of strength, Jesus Christ, who forgives us, strengthens us, and leads us to share in his triumph in the heavenly kingdom.

August 18 Readings:
Jeremiah 38.2-6, 8-10
Psalm 40
Hebrews 12.1-4
Luke 12.49-53

August 25 Readings:
Isaiah 66.18-21
Psalm 117
Hebrews 12.5-7, 11-13
Luke 13.22-30

Surrounded

Surrounded

By Michael Pirri

This past Friday was the Feast of St. Macrina (sister to St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa); this monday is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, and then Friday we celebrate the Feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim (Jesus’ grandparents).

How wonderful that the Church celebrates these women in such close proximity to one another, and that this weekend, our Gospel story speaks about Mary and Martha.

The interaction between Martha and Mary is familiar to us – especially those of us who grew up with siblings. I’m sure it isn’t too difficult for you to remember at least one occasion when housework didn’t seem equally split growing up, or when you would bicker with a sibling about them not pulling their own weight. This is the case with Martha and Mary, two sisters whom Jesus visits.

In some ways, Jesus’ response is puzzling. How can he not see this injustice? Martha is busy preparing everything and trying to have everything ready, and Mary is just sitting there. Christ certainly recognizes Martha’s distress, but rather than address the uneven distribution of work, he addressed her preoccupation with what Mary was doing. It would appear that Martha, in doing all of her lamentable tasks, sought the opportunity to complain to her guest about what her sister, Mary, was doing (or rather not doing).

It’s not very difficult to see this interaction is replicated today. In a time when all of our schedules are jammed, working in the relentless pursuit of productivity, we can’t help but compare ourselves to those around us – and go out of our way to complain about it. We feel pulled in different directions, always seeking out what we don’t have; for many, the grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence. Our challenge is to be a ‘little less Martha’ and a ‘little more Mary’. I’m sure this is a familiar feeling for some: spending the entire evening preparing for a guest to arrive, then being stuck in the kitchen cooking until dinner is ready, and then even when you get a chance to sit down and enjoy dinner with your guest, you’re still worried about how many minutes are left on dessert in the oven.

When we multi-task, perhaps our split attention can lead to being unintentionally neglectful. What Christ asks of us is to take some time to focus solely on the task at hand, and let go of our surroundings.

July 21 Readings:
Genesis 18.1-10a
Psalm 15
Colossians 1.24-28
Luke 10.38-42

July 28 Readings:
Genesis 18.20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2.12-14
Luke 11.1-13

Called and Sent

Called and Sent

By Fr. Norm Tanck

Today’s first reading from Isaiah was written to the people of Israel as they returned from years of exile in a foreign land to reclaim and restore their home in Jerusalem. Like a mother, Jerusalem will embrace her children and hold them close to her heart. Those words of comfort are joined with a promise of prosperity and success given to a people, a nation. We hear today of preachers who proclaim a gospel of success, a prosperity gospel, that emphasizes a personal empowerment the signs of which are personal wealth and a carefree living. When we look at the longer version of today’s Gospel reading, we see something different. Jesus sends out seventy of his disciples as missionaries to proclaim the Good News that the Kingdom of God is near. He sends them not alone but in pairs, companions on the journey. And he warns them that this will not be easy. They will face hardships and rejection, but they need to be focused on their message. And he tells them that their reward will not be measured by the number of those cured or converted, but that their names will be written in heaven. That same mission has been entrusted by Jesus Christ to the Church, our Holy Mother Church, who holds us close to her heart but also sends us out to proclaim the Good News in the name of Jesus Christ. When we are commissioned for a specific work by the Church our personal skills and talents become a ministry. Within the Christian community we minister to each other at Mass as readers, servers, musicians, greeters and ushers, and by bringing Holy Communion to the homebound. Through volunteering in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the RCIA, and other forms of faith formation, we exercise the Church’s mission of evangelization and education. As a community we feed the hungry, and through the St. Vincent de Paul Society we reach out to the poor and those in need. These and many other ways are how St. Basil’s Parish is called to ministry. This summer please consider how your time and talents can be used in one of our ministries.

July 7 Readings:

  • Isaiah 66.10-14
  • Psalm 66
  • Galatians 6.14-18
  • Luke 10.1-12, 17-20

July 14 Readings:

  • Deuteronomy 30.10-14
  • Psalm 69
  • Colossians 1.15-20
  • Luke 10.25-37

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

By Fr. Morgan Rice

When people find out that I am from Corpus Christi, Texas, they sometimes ask, “How many people living there actually know what the name means in English?” I wonder myself. Except for Catholics and those who studied Latin, many probably would not know that Corpus Christi means “body of Christ”. It is a name that drew attention in the early 1980s when the U.S. Navy wanted to honour my hometown, which is a significant naval centre, by naming a submarine the “USS Corpus Christi”. Catholics protested that a name that is associated with life and nonviolence would be inappropriate for a warship. As a result, the Navy named the submarine the “USS City of Corpus Christi”. “Corpus Christi” is the name that is still commonly used to refer to today’s feast day, which Pope Urban IV first decreed in the 13th century. While the papal decree called for its celebration on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday as a way to associate it with Holy Thursday and the institution of the Eucharist, some countries celebrate it on Sunday. Whichever day it is celebrated, the feast highlights the mystery of the Real Presence of Jesus in the bread and wine that become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit at Mass. While the mystery can never be fully explained in words, it does speak of God’s power to do more than we can imagine and of God’s desire to nourish and care for us so that we might experience eternal communion with God. It is beautifully described in Lauda Sion, the pre-Gospel Sequence written by St. Thomas. An excerpt follows:

Bread yourself, good Shepherd, tend us; Jesus, with your love befriend us. You refresh us and defend us; to your lasting goodness send us that the land of life we see.

May the nourishment we receive from the Eucharist remind us of the heavenly banquet for which we hope and truly make us “one body, one spirit in Christ” as we make known Jesus’ loving and true presence to all we meet.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Genesis 14.18-20
  • Psalm 110
  • 1 Corinthians 11.23-26
  • Luke 9.11b-17

Next Sunday’s Readings:

  • 1 Kings 19.16b, 19-21
  • Psalm 16
  • Galatians 5.1, 13-18
  • Luke 9.51-62

From the Mouths of Babes

From the Mouths of Babes

By Marilena Berardinelli

One of the great gifts of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the lives of its catechists is the reminder that the great teacher is not the catechist, but God and that the catechist listens to God alongside the child. As such, the catechist and child learn about and experience God together. The children in our atriums have revealed to my fellow catechists and I much about the love of God, Jesus and most certainly the Holy Spirit. Today I share with you three moments from our time with the children, in the hopes that the children’s openness to and perceiving of the Holy Spirit may inspire in you the same awe and wonder it did in them and us.

1—After presenting the Annunciation to the children preparing for First Communion, the catechist invited the children to ponder Jesus’ divine nature, by wondering together how it was that this unmarried young girl had come to be pregnant. An eight- year old autistic child shouted, “epiclesis”. At first instinct the catechist was tempted to correct the child, but with pause realized that the child was not mistaken. Epiclesis is the gesture in the Mass that communicates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine, transforming them into the body and blood of Jesus. This young child (who we often, mistakenly, thought wasn’t even listening) was able to reconcile the coming of the Holy Spirit to Mary some 2000 years ago as the same Spirit he had experienced at Mass in the breaking of the bread.

2—A four-year old child was working with a material recounting the story of Jesus’ birth. When the catechist looked over, the child had placed in the manger not the baby Jesus, but had gone to the Annunciation material on the nearby shelf and taken the flame (symbol the Holy Spirit) and placed it in the manger. A passing observer may have pointed to the baby Jesus that lay to the wayside, but the catechist saw in the child’s meditation what even she had often failed to recognize.

3—The parish’s ministry with JK/SK students concludes with the CGS presentation of Pentecost. Following this presentation, the catechist asked the children who they recognized in the action of the wind and fire. A child raised his hand and confidently replied, “God”. The classroom teacher (interrupting) corrected him with a quick “no”. When the catechist pointed out that the child’s response was indeed true, that God was present among the apostles that day and in that moment we call God “Holy Spirit”, the teacher stood in silent amazement and the child smiled a great (and holy) smile!

Happy Pentecost to all the children in our parish and to all our parishioners who desire “to change and be like children so that they too will enter the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 18.2)

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Acts 2.1-11
  • Psalm 104
  • 1 Corinthians 12.3b-7, 12-13
  • John 20.19-23

World Communications Day

World Communications Day

By Michael Pirri

Every year on the Sunday prior to Pentecost, the Church celebrates the achievements of the communications media. World Communications Day (WCD) was established by Pope Paul VI to encourage us to reflect on the unique opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication afford the Church to communicate the Gospel message. In this year’s address, Pope Francis reminds us that we are all interwoven, and that globalization is meant to bring us all closer together, not separate us. Social Media is at the root of a whole host of mental health issues: feelings of anxiety, alienation, inadequacy, and loneliness are becoming more and more prevalent. But how can this be, given that we are so much more connected than previous generations? “Clearly, it is not enough to multiply connections in order to increase mutual understanding. How, then, can we find our true communitarian identity, aware of the responsibility we have towards one another in the online network as well?” (53rd WCD Message) St. Paul remarks in his letter to the Ephesians that we hear today “…the Church, which is his body…” The image of the Church as the Body of Christ is mentioned by Paul numerous times in the New Testament. This is an important metaphor which evokes striking imagery of interconnectedness. “Being members one of another is the profound motivation with which the Apostle invites us to put away falsehood and speak the truth: the duty to guard the truth springs from the need not to belie the mutual relationship of communion.” (53rd WCD Message) Crucial to this interconnectedness, is communication. Even in cases of extreme reclusivity, we do not truly live alone. We exist in relation to others, but also in relationship with others. The same is true for our relationship with God. No matter how distant a life we are living from Him, we are never truly devoid of a relationship with Him. “God is not Solitude, but Communion; he is Love, and therefore communication, because love always communicates; indeed, it communicates itself in order to encounter the other.” (Dei Verbum, 2) The challenge for most of us in this day and age is to continue the work of forming meaningful relationships; investing in one another, we hope to forge a community where we affirm our own humanity. “By virtue of our being created in the image and likeness of God who is communion and communication-of-Self, we carry forever in our hearts the longing for living in communion, for belonging to a community. “Nothing, in fact, is as specific to our nature as entering into a relationship one with another, having need of one another,” says Saint Basil.” (53rd WCD Message)

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Acts 1.1-11
  • Psalm 47
  • Ephesians 1.17-23
  • Luke 24.46-53

It’s Time to Say Goodbye

It’s Time to Say Goodbye By Fr. Norm Tanck It is difficult to say goodbye, especially to someone you love. For the last few weeks, the Gospel readings at Mass have been from Jesus’ farewell discourse in the Gospel of John. Jesus’ goodbye isn’t a quick, “so long, its been good to know you”. It takes all of Chapters 14, 15, 16, and 17 (116 verses). It is really a beautiful, intimate insight into Jesus’ love for his Father, his deep love for his disciples. You can sense the human vulnerability of one who has to say goodbye to those he loves, and yet there is a sense of strength and purpose because the pain of separation will be replaced with the joy of being reunited in a deeper and lasting bond. He tells them it is time for him to leave them now, but promises to send the Spirit, to comfort them. He talks about the unity and peace that can only come from love and being obedient to the will of the Father. Jesus speaks of his hopes and dreams for his disciples, his friends and for the whole world, “That all would be one” and all would be at peace, He prays for them and for us. Next Sunday we will be celebrating the Feast of the Ascension when we will commemorate the Lord Jesus’ return to the Father in heaven and the Great Commission given to the Apostles to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News that the reign of God as begun. But we can already feel the anxiety of separation and loss in today’s Gospel, along with a promise of accompaniment and hope. But to address that “separation anxiety” Jesus tells his disciples and us, ”Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe”. Whenever we feel the pain of separation and loss, whenever we fear for the future, these words can be a solace and hope for us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid”. Sunday’s Readings: Acts 15.1-2, 22-29 Psalm 67 Revelation 21.10-14, 22-23 John 14.23-29

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Jesus the Good Shepherd

by Marilena Berardinelli

Following the events of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the first Christian communities sought to keep the memory of Jesus alive. Initially, they did so through oral narratives, then by committing the stories in writing in the forms of letters and gospels. These writings would eventually form the canon of the New Testament and as sacred scripture would inform and shape how subsequent generations of Christians would answer the question posed by Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15). In addition, to these oral and written accounts, Christians began to express their understandings of Jesus’s nature and mission in art. Similar to today’s popular acceptance of the cross as a symbol of the Christian faith, one of the earliest and most common motifs for Jesus was the portrait of Christ the Good Shepherd; the icon of a shepherd with a lamb on his shoulders standing amid his flock. This image of the Good Shepherd, as a metaphor for Jesus, has nourished the spirituality and apostolate of the church throughout the ages. In the mid twentieth century, Hebrew scholar Sofia Cavaletti and her Montessori trained collaborator Gianna Gobbi founded the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS), a unique catechetical approach that has as its primary goal to nurture the religious potential of the child. Centred on the person of Jesus, Caveletti’s research showed that the aspect of Christ that most speaks to young child is Jesus the Good Shepherd, who calls his sheep by name to a personal relationship with him and who lays down his life for his sheep, nurturing and protecting them. In 2016, St. Basil’s began the journey to bring CGS to the youngest of our parishioners. At the heart of our Atrium, the children work with a simple wooden sheepfold, ten sheep and the Good Shepherd lovingly carrying the last of his sheep on his shoulders. This material, like the early icon of the Good Shepherd, is a starting point for the child’s journey into entering the mystery of the merciful and bountiful love of God. Today’s liturgical celebration of the Good Shepherd invites us to share the awe and wonder of the young child who meets Jesus the Good Shepherd for the first time and who then meets Him most fully in the Eucharist. In the busyness of our lives, in the noisiness of our world, may we listen to and discern the voice of the Good Shepherd calling each of us by name and may we respond to His invitation to faithfully and joyfully follow Him always.

Love

Love

By Nancy Nobrega

As we witnessed the Easter Vigil, and as we celebrate Easter for the next weeks leading to Pentecost, how can we but be filled with love and gratitude and joy. We know this Holy Story so very well.

In this week’s Gospel the apostles are in awe and wonder as Jesus visits them for the third time since His resurrection. In the first reading they have much to fear as the high priest threatens them, but instead they are joyful to be considered worthy to suffer in Jesus’ name. They are full of love for Jesus. In John 4.18, we see that love replaces fear and here love has replaced the fear and confusion that they felt during Jesus’ Passion.

In the Gospel the apostles don’t recognize Jesus at first. This echoes Mary Magdalene who did not immediately recognize Jesus at His tomb. When Peter does recognize Jesus, he covers his naked body and we recall the story of Adam and Eve.

Peter is tasked with feeding the lambs and tending the sheep. This reminds us of the Good Shepherd who loves us so completely that He laid down His life for us. John writes that while around a charcoal fire Jesus asks Peter three times whether he loves Him. It was around a charcoal fire that Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus wipes away the denial that Peter exhibited earlier. Jesus chooses Peter to lead His people, and Peter later lays down his life in Jesus’ name.

“Sinners” and “sins” are alluded to in this Gospel – Adam and Eve, Mary Magdalene, Peter’s denial, those Jesus loves don’t recognize Him – and they are juxtaposed to Jesus tenderly calling His apostles children. No matter what we do, as long as we keep trying and “follow” Jesus we will be forgiven and loved. Jesus knows that we make mistakes and life is messy, but in the “new and most important” commandment that accompanied Jesus’ “ new covenant” he says“love one another; even as I have loved you…” ( John 13 :34). Jesus gives us “the way” to heaven on earth. Love one another which will always include forgiveness.

How can we but be filled with love and gratitude and joy?

Sunday’s Readings:
Acts 5.28-32, 40b-41
Psalm 30
Revelation 5.11-14
John 21.1-19

Nancy Nobrega is a parishioner and volunteer at St. Basil’s. In addition to her volunteer work with Magdala and R.C.I.A., she is currently a student of Theology at Regis College.

Doubt No More

Doubt No More

By Michael Pirri

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20.29) Thomas is pointed out to us in today’s Gospel not because his doubt is skepticism, but because his belief is faith. We should believe with the same certainty as Thomas. We cannot see Christ, or feel his wounds, as Thomas did. We can, however, see Him present in those around us. Since 2000, the Catholic Church has observed the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday; the feast day is associated with the apparitions of Jesus to Saint Faustina in the early 20th century. Saint Faustina was able to see Christ, and shared in what she writes in her diary, as ‘God’s loving mercy’ for all people, and especially for sinners. St. John Paul II speaking about the feast day remarked: “Jesus said to St. Faustina one day: “Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy”. Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity.” Although we cannot see Christ, we can makr Him present to others. Christ outlines what we now refer to as the Corporal Works of Mercy (serving other’s bodily needs): “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25.35-36) This Divine Mercy Sunday, let us renew our Baptismal call to follow Christ; being of service unto others, may we also be of service to Christ.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Acts 5.12-16
  • Psalm 118
  • Revelation 1.9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
  • John 20.19-31