Letting Go

Letting Go by Michael Pirri

“…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and it dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. […] Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.” (John 12.24-26) This Gospel passage presents a metaphor which is very interesting. Being a grain of wheat is easy; we grow up as one of what seems like infinitely many grains, never really preoccupied with anything other then being a grain. But is that our full potential? Not even close! What’s most compelling is what happens to the grain when it falls. Away from it’s plant, the grain is starved for life — but all is not lost. What is most interesting is the notion that the grain dies. If you’re like me, this seems absurd: surely if the grain dies then it wouldn’t grow into a new plant. And while this may be the case, Jesus is trying to tell us that we have to leave our preconceived notions behind in order to follow Him, to grow to our full potential. We are reminded of the mustard grain; but we have to trust that we are capable of much more than we realize. For if the grain does not fall from the plant, there it will surely die. Jesus tell his disciples “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16.24-26) Here the answer is difficult, but the question for us is straightforward — will you leave it all behind?

Sunday’s Readings:

Jeremiah 31.31-34

Psalm 51

Hebrews 5.7-9

John 12.20-33



by Lisa Fernandes

Today’s readings, on the third Sunday of Lent, are about signs and symbols of God. The first reading is about a physical symbol of God’s word, in this case the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments which were “…written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18) In the Second Commandment we specifically read about the danger of worshipping physical objects meant to signify God: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above…” (Exodus 20.4). This is not a literal prohibition against carving physical images; it is about placing our faith in anything that takes the place of us depending on God. The responsorial Psalm 19 tells us that the precepts law and fear of the Lord are more to be desired than gold: ”More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;…” (Psalm 19.10) The importance of a sign or symbol of God is what it means, not what it’s made of. We encounter in our lives not only religious symbols but also secular ones. The Olympics this year partially took place during Lent. The ultimate quest in the Olympics is for the gold medal, a sign that an athlete is the best in the world and some athletes worship the gold medal almost just like worshipping an idol. Some are happy just to be there and participate. We need to take caution in not relying on the wrong kinds of idols to fulfill us (want to put down your phone?) The second reading continues the theme of the first and reinforces the importance of the cross as a sign and symbol of Christianity. In first Corinthians we read that the Gentiles may see our signs as foolishness however: “The message about the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.18) When we were marked on Ash Wednesday with the sign of the cross on our foreheads, that was a visible symbol of the Cross that also expressed that we are mortal and fallible: “…For dust you are and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) Finally in the Gospel we read the important story about Jesus driving out the moneylenders who were more concerned with the signs of material wealth than this being a temple of God. We see a very angry Christ telling us how important this is. The Jews demanded a sign that he had the authority to cleanse the temple: “…What sign can you show us for doing this?” and he anticipates his death and resurrection. (John 2.18) The most important sign is one you cannot see – your faith.

Sunday’s Readings:

Exodus 20.1-17

Psalm 19

1 Corinthians 1.18, 22-25

John 2.13-25

The Pledge of Future Glory

The Pledge of Future Glory
by Erica Tice
Each year the 2nd Sunday of Lent presents us with the account of Christ’s transfiguration on the mountainside. Seeing as the Lenten season has just begun, it seems to be an interesting vignette in the life of Christ to be recalling when, ordinarily, we might think that focussing on Christ’s suffering and death might be more appropriate to the season. A closer look, however, allows us to see that the account of Christ’s transfiguration has deep significance for us early in this season of Lent as it focuses on the sister virtues of hope and perseverance.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1817). It is precisely this virtue that Christ wants to strengthen in Peter, James, and John and, by virtue of our baptism, in us as well. He knows that His friends will abandon Him in His hour of need, not because they no longer love Him, but because they are weak and fearful. This transfiguration into glory on the mountainside serves as a foreshadowing of the glory of the life to come in the kingdom of heaven. We are meant to recall this glory, and the promise of our future glory, when we are in the midst of our own penance and suffering.

Perseverance is the virtue by which we maintain our hope and carry out our objectives to attain holiness in spite of difficulties. Holiness is earned, not bestowed. In today’s Gospel, we understand that Peter, James, and John will need to persevere not only through Christ’s suffering and death, but also their own tribulations and martyrdom to attain holiness. We, too, strive to persevere through the wear and tear of daily life, always keeping the goal in mind: eternal life. St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century Dominican friar and theological giant, phrased it beautifully when he penned a prayer relating to the virtue of perseverance: “O sacred banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of His Passion is recalled, the soul is filled with grace, and the pledge of future glory is given to us.”

This week, let us anchor our hope in God and recall the pledge of future glory that Christ has promised to all those who persevere in the life of grace: eternal happiness in heaven with the Trinity and all the saints.

Sunday’s Readings:
Genesis 22.1-2, 9.-13, 15-18
Psalm 116
Romans 8.31b-35, 37
Mark 9.2-10

Field Hospital

Field Hospital

by John Dalla Costa

Pope Francis often describes the church as a “field hospital.” The world’s wounds are not of tangential concern to the church. They are its holy mission. Indeed, evangelization is empty without attending to both the causes and aftermaths of those injuries that effect the health of body, mind, heart and soul. Early church fathers and mothers recognized that, as the mystical body of Christ, the church must continue the healing work of Jesus’ ministry. St. John Chrysostom called the church “a hospital for sinners, not a court of law.” St. Ambrose recognized that “sickness needs medicine. The medicine is the heavenly and venerable sacrament of the Eucharist.” Pope Francis is retrieving this ancient legacy, while also renewing it. He is asking us each to go into the world, as only we can – in the fields of our own our workplaces and classrooms, of our daily meetings and coffeeshop encounters, of our political activity and social justice work – to bring, as Jesus did, sacramental healing, hope and joy to others. Today’s readings remind us of the revolutionary power to heal that we’ve inherited through Baptism. The law in Leviticus logically sought to protect the community from leprously, which is as contagious as it is catastrophic. The burden of the law, however, fell on the ill, so that those afflicted with the disease were held responsible for their own painful ostracization. Jesus reverses this law, making himself vulnerable to the most vulnerable. In the passage preceding today’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples : “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also.” Moving into the field, which is always unpredictable and dangerous, Jesus meets the leper, and heals him. Such a hospital is not a place, but a disposition: it is not a structure, but an encounter, which looks beyond legal responsibility to attend to the moral needs of the human person before, or beside us. Not surprisingly, the medicine we usually most need personally is often the same as that, which by our gifts, and by God’s grace, only we can administer to others.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Leviticus 13.1-2, 45-46
  • Psalm 32
  • 1 Corinthians 10.31-11.1
  • Mark 1.40-45


by Lisa Fernandes

Today’s readings are about hope. Job is a man who exemplifies suffering. He is subjected to many trials and tribulations and in the first reading we feel his misery when he appeals to us by saying: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope. Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.” (Job 7. 6-7) To him life seems hopeless; but he does not lose faith.

In the second reading we hear of Paul’s mission as an apostle, to teach the Gospel and spread the hope of Christ. We see his passion for his work when he says: “I have become all things to all people so that I might by any means save some. I do it for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessing.” (I Corinthians 9.22-23) The second reading shows us hope in action, not just personal but spreading the good news to others.

I attended a veneration of a relic of St. Francis Xavier recently at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. He has been called the greatest missionary since St. Paul. He baptized around one hundred thousand people and performed miracles of healing and others. As I did, thousands of people lined up across Canada to venerate the relic, a physical symbol of a man who brought hope and the good news of the Gospel to so many, and continues to do so even now. It was uplifting to see this turnout at a time when there does not seem to be a lot of hope in the world.

The Gospel shows us hope fulfilled by the power of Christ’s deeds. Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law and cures many others from the city who were sick and possessed. We feel hope for ourselves when we see what Jesus can do for the whole city and even more so for humanity when he says: “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do” (Mark 1.29). In this case hope fulfilled becomes reality. Let us pray that we continue to hold to our hope in Christ.

Sunday’s Readings:
Job 7.14, 6-7
Psalm 147
1 Corinthians 9.16-19, 22-23
Mark 1.29-39

Are You Listening?

Are You Listening?

by Jessica De Luca

Following the Epiphany of our Lord, our weekly readings have reminded us that God speaks to each one of us. You may recall the story of Samuel hearing the voice of the Lord, or Jesus calling his disciples in Galilee. Entering now the fourth week of Ordinary Time, we are being asked more directly – Have you heard God’s call? Are you listening? This may seem like a daunting question. In my own journey of faith, I had often struggled to hear God’s call, even at times when I especially hoped for God’s guidance. With help from a friend, I realized that what I lacked in my relationship with God were moments of silence. Although I found the silence fruitful, it was not an easy solution. In fact, finding time to sit with God in silence each day requires discipline. As our second reading tells us, our anxieties can stop us from making space for God in our daily lives. “O that you would listen to the voice of the Lord. Do not harden your hearts!” Along with the readings, Psalm 95 challenges us to act. Are you listening? If you have heard God’s call, how will you respond? When we do hear God calling, we are propelled into action. All of us are instructed to live God’s message through our words and deeds, everyday. As we draw near to World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, let us keep in mind those who have heard God’s call, and serve the Lord as Sisters, Deacons, Brothers, Priests, and Lay Ministers. May we all grow to know God by opening our hearts to hear God’s voice. Amen.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Deuteronomy 18.15-20
  • Psalm 95
  • 1 Corinthians 7.32-35
  • Mark 1.21-28

The Hallmarks of Intentional Personal Discipleship

The Hallmarks of Intentional Personal Discipleship

by Erica Tice

Ordinary time begins with the calling of the first Apostles. This is not a coincidence. Ordinary time signifies the period of time in the liturgical year which is set aside for spiritual growth, hence the vibrant green of the vestments, chalice veils, and votive candles. As Catholics, this spiritual growth is to be centered on developing intentional personal discipleship, emphasized by the calling of the Apostles. Last week the first encounter of Andrew and Peter with Christ was described by John; today the same encounter is described by Mark. Both evangelists take care to illustrate the overall theme of intentional discipleship with particular focus on the hallmarks of such discipleship: the theological virtue of faith, the art of abandonment, and complete trust. Andrew and Peter follow after Christ in an act of pure faith. Ordinarily, faith is a virtue infused at Baptism, but Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John, demonstrate a profound act of faith by immediately and intentionally following after Christ. Not only to do they make a spectacular display of faith but they also exhibit an attitude of complete abandonment to God’s will. Mark writes that they “abandoned their nets and followed him.” These four men walked away from the only livelihood they knew. None of them knew Christ personally and none of them had any certainty about the future. In simplicity and conviction, they heard the voice of Christ and responded without hesitation. Most importantly of all, each of the Apostles in today’s Gospel wilfully put their trust in Christ. None of them knew what the future held – indeed, three of the four would profess their faith as martyrs – but they knew that Christ was part of that future. So what are we waiting for? Like Peter and Andrew, James and John, we should endeavour to become intentional disciples. By virtue of our Baptism we know the voice of our Lord. As we respond to His voice with faith, abandonment, and trust, we too will be given everything we need to become “fishers of men” and like our brothers, the Apostles, we too can cast our nets into the deep and become heroic saints.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Jonah 3.15, 10
  • Psalm 25 1
  • Corinthians 7.29-31
  • Mark 1.14-20


Erica Tice is the Campus Minister for The University of St. Michael’s College.

Responding to God’s Call

Responding to God’s Call
by Lucinda M. Vardey

As we enter more fully into the New Year, and settle into what the Church calls “Ordinary Time” we are given the opportunity to hone our prayer life and begin again with God.

God can call us at any time. In fact, it is usually within the regular everyday activities of ordinary life that this happens. God’s call is rarely delivered like a flash of lightning, or a thunderbolt. Jesus often negated others’ requests for miraculous signs to prove his messianic kingship, by emphasizing instead the centrality of personal faith.

Jesus exemplified that perfect symmetry of relationship with God, that of doing, above all, the will of God, the purpose of every believer’s life.

As we read in the book of Samuel, God calls more than once. We may not hear it as directly as the prophet, because God invites in a variety of ways. Some of us hear God’s voice in our emotions, our feelings, a deep sense of what we are to do: others find God’s calling through their service, a slow revealing of direction within the sharing of their talents and gifts. Others, like the sick and suffering – or like Samuel himself – may be lying on their beds: some may be alone on a street, or in a park, some may be on their way to a football game (as our former pastor, Fr. Ken Decker was doing when called to his vocation to the priesthood).

Many of us are afraid to take risks, but it almost goes without saying that God’s call requires them. Let us begin again to follow the Lord’s directive by stepping away from the sidelines of pondering with maybe some fear, to acting with trust and confidence as Samuel did. May we be ready to do whatever we are asked by uttering the prayer, “Here I am, speak, Lord for your servant is listening.”

Sunday’s Readings:
1 Samuel 3.3b-10, 19
Psalm 40
1 Corinthians 6.13c-15a, 17-20
John 1.35-42

Gold, Frankincense, Me & You

Gold, Frankincense, Me & You
by John Dalla Costa

Make a trek today
With willing heart follow the star
Behold the light, laser-like illuminating the Child
Come let us bring our gifts

In a heartbeat of silence
Ponder the Presence
Bask in the Child’s glow
Touch tenderly His tiny fingers
Caress with Mother Mary His cheek

Then join the wise ones
Make an offering
Be the gift
What will be the treasure we bring to Jesus?
What commitment will we lay at the crib?
How will we honour Him?

The Child has come to save us
Yet as a child needs us
To be His eyes in our world
To be His hands doing the needed work of now
To hear for Him the joys and sighs of our sisters and brothers
To be His heart enveloping the world’s sorrows and hopes
To mourn and be merciful
And to seek justice and make peace –
In His name
And in His stead

All of us matter more than gold
Each of us are indispensable

Having followed the star generations have followed
Having heeded the holy-tug of Sacred Scripture
We too are now intertwined in the story –
Mother and Child, me and you

We’ve all crossed our own deserts of longing to be here
We’ve all trusted that God’s promise would be kept
The hard-won glorious Epiphany is ours –
Not only having God revealed to us in a stable
But revealing as well our deepest selves to God

Make a trek today
Bow, or on bended knee, approach the crib
What will we offer Our Lord?
What gift to the Christ-Child can only I make?

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

Joy in the Family

Joy in the Family

by Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB

The Gospel for this weekend’s Feast of the Holy Family ends by telling us that, “When Mary and Joseph had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him”. We can assume that not only Jesus grew and became strong, but also that Mary and Joseph continued to mature and that as a family they grew stronger because of their love for one another and their desire to be obedient to God’s plan for them. Their obedience and love for each other gave them hope in the face of adversity and filled them with joy in ordinariness of everyday life. It was their love for one another that sustained them through difficult times. We can look to Mary and Joseph as an example and model of a family in distress as they were forced by conditions beyond their control to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt and move from place to place before they were able to settle in Nazareth. It was their love that brought them moments of peace and consolation in the hardscrabble life in a small Galilean town. And it is their love that is the model for Christian families today and a model for us as a Christian community. Reflecting on the Holy Family, Pope Francis said, “The true joy which is experienced in the family is not something random and fortuitous. It is a joy produced by deep harmony among people, which allows them to savour the beauty of being together, of supporting each other on life’s journey. However, at the foundation of joy there is always the presence of God, his welcoming, merciful and patient love for all. If the door of the family is not open to the presence of God and to his love, then the family loses its harmony, individualism prevails, and joy is extinguished. Instead, the family which experiences joy — the joy of life, the joy of faith — communicates it spontaneously, is the salt of the earth, and light of the world, the leaven for all of society.”

Sunday’s Readings:

Genesis 15.1-6; 17.3b-5, 15-16; 21.1-7

Psalm 105

Hebrews 11.8, 12-13, 17-19

Luke 2.22-40