The Greatest Commandment And The Smallest Child

The Greatest Commandment And The Smallest Child

by Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

The Atrium of Saint Basil’s Parish has begun a new year. Just as the returning children have grown, so has our Atrium. As I write this, we have completed two full weekends (six sessions) in the Atrium, and it is easy to reflect on the words of the Gospel today. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus tells his disciples: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind […] And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” In a world full of noise, never ending To-Do Lists, and conflicts, it is hard to believe that these two commandments can be fully lived out by anyone. But I promise you that every Sunday these commandments are joyfully lived out by the children in the Atrium.

The youngest child, who is three years old, does not come to learn these commandments word for word till they are much older but as catechists we are always helping the child grow in their love for God and one another. One of the very first words the children are introduced to is Alleluia! Praise God! We repeat the word over and over. We sing the word with our whole bodies, with loud voices, and big gestures. And we praise God for the gifts we are given. The gift of our life, the gift of being present in the Atrium, and the gift of each other. Every week the children are presented with new work, new songs, and new words that brings them closer to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd. Hearing the words, “I love God,” from a child’s mouth is a moment of Alleluia for the catechists in the Atrium.

The youngest child in the Atrium loves with their whole heart and this creates an environment where everyone loves their neighbour as they love themselves. One of the first things the children learn about the Atrium is that it is a place of quiet where we respect one another’s work and space. But how do I know love overflows in the Atrium? At the end of every single session we place Holy Water on one another’s forehead and bless one another “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Not only do the children love receiving the gift of one another’s blessing but they love blessing each other. No one leaves the room feeling unloved. It is my favourite part of every session and another Alleluia moment.

As we begin a new year in the Atrium we ask for you to pray for the catechists and children of the Atrium. Let us also pray that each one of us can take a moment this weekend and love God with the heart of the smallest child.

Sunday’s Readings:

Exodus 22.21-27

Psalm 18

1 Thessalonians 1.5c-10

Matthew 22.34-40

NAVIGATING CONFLICT

NAVIGATING CONFLICT

by Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

Anyone that knows me well knows that I am not comfortable with confrontation and conflict. But I know that I am not alone; the self-help section of Indigo assures me of this. In our Gospel today it appears that Jesus Christ himself was quite aware that managing conflict requires a “How To” lesson and a pep talk. Jesus provides His disciples with directives on conflict resolution, and how in general, conflict between two individuals comes to affect the entire community.

If a resolution does not occur between two people in private, then witnesses must be made present to aid in the resolution process. If the wrongdoer still refuses to listen, then the ordeal must be taken to the heads of the Church. Finally, if it is clear that the individual will not acknowledge their misconduct, they are to treated “as a gentile and a tax collector”.

However, we listen to the words of Jesus reiterated in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” To resolve any conflict, we must be able to call on that very simple commandment. It does not mean we want to become friends with this person or that we have any desire to associate with them once the conflict has reached its end. It does mean, however, that we recognize the basic human desire to be listened to and understood, and that we are willing to, in turn, provide that to the one who has harmed us. It takes immense courage and strength; it is not always easy, but it is worth it.

At the end of the Gospel, Jesus offers one last piece of advice that brings us back to the Letter to the Romans. He says, “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” I find these words most encouraging. Yes, sometimes we struggle to resolve conflict. But, if two people enter a conflict and still recognize the goodness within one another, and desire a resolution, then God is present. God will provide the courage to do the hard work all relationships require.

God our Father, who knows our deepest desires: give strength and courage to those experiencing conflict throughout the world to approach their neighbour with love, understanding and a willingness to reconcile.

Sundays Readings:

Ezekiel 33.7-9

Psalm 95

Romans 13.8-10

Matthew 18.15-20

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

Second Sunday of Lent

A TIME TO BE TRANSFIGURED

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

Last weekend I attended the Rite of Election with my fiancé who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil. The experience of watching him stand and publicly consent to receiving the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist was incredibly moving. A quiet personal journey of becoming closer to God through RCIA will culminate in a much larger transfiguration at the Easter Vigil as myself, our family, and the Church watch him “put on Christ” and receive the gifts of the sacraments that he has felt called to for so long.

This week as we celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus it is important to understand what the word transfiguration means. While on the mount with His disciples Jesus did not transform into the Son of God. A transformation would imply that it was only at this moment that He became Divine. Instead, the chosen apostles, who till now had only seen Jesus in his human form, see Jesus transfigured in all his glory as the Son of God. This moment serves as a source of hope for the disciples during the terrifying events of Christ’s suffering and death.

Lent is a solemn time of year. We are called to look at our shortcomings and focus on repentance and penance. Good Friday is a day where we acknowledge that our sins are the nails that fasten Jesus our Lord to the cross. Often, we pray to have the strength to never succumb to temptation and to sin no more. Essentially, we are praying to be transformed, to become something that is not human because we are all bound to sin at some point and must seek forgiveness.

But the transfiguration reminds us of our true nature. We are all made good. While our sins nailed Jesus to the cross we know that on Easter He rose from the dead and, in doing so, brought us salvation. Acknowledging that we are worthy of this gift can be difficult but, when we do, we are also transfigured. We begin to live a life that exudes goodness. We are made radiant with joy. Someone can look at us and, despite our scars, failings, and humanity, see the face of Christ. Furthermore, we are then able to approach the Eucharist and Easter like the members of the elect; with a humbled joy at the immense gift we have received.

As we journey through this Lent may we pray to be transfigured. To recognize our own goodness and to not be afraid to let that goodness shine as a light for others.

Sunday’s Readings:
Genesis 12.1-4
2 Timothy 1.8b-10
Matthew 17.1-9

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

A PRECIOUS GIFT

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

The readings of this week are all about introductions and offerings. In our first reading Isaiah introduces us to the servant of the Lord. The Lord says to the servant, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” The Lord’s servant will restore the relationship between the people of Israel and the Lord. This restoration will enable the people of Israel to be a light for all nations. What a precious gift to receive a calling from the Lord; a call to go out into the world and bring people to God through word and deed.

In our second reading we are introduced to Saint Paul who is writing to the people of Corinth and presenting them with a precious gift. The purpose of Paul’s letter is to guide the people of Corinth away from sinful practices and once again form one body united in Christ Jesus. In his introduction, Paul reminds the people of Corinth that they are “called to be saints.” By being “sanctified in Christ Jesus” everyone has received the love and grace of Jesus Christ: a beautiful gift that calls the people of Corinth to share that love with the world.

Finally, we are presented with the greatest introduction and gift of all in the gospel. “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” On this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time we are presented with an extraordinary gift. John the Baptist announces that Jesus is the Lamb of God who existed before all things and now dwells on earth as the Son of God who will redeem all of humanity. The incarnation of Jesus Christ ensures that all of humanity will receive the gift of salvation that can only be found through his death and resurrection.

These three readings have great meaning for our lives today. Through the waters of baptism, we have received the grace of Jesus Christ. Each time we accept the gift of the Eucharist we also accept that we are “called to be saints” and “a light to the nations.” We are called to bring Christ’s message out into the world. It is not unreasonable to say that we are the servants that Isaiah speaks of in his writings. As we enter the season of ordinary time let each of us be thankful for the gifts we have received through Jesus Christ and be mindful of our baptismal call to serve others and bring Christ’s love to all people.

Sunday’s Readings:

Isaiah 49.3, 5-6 1

Corinthians 1.1-3

John 1.29-34

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

“AND IN HIM, ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER”

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

This week a line from Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians deeply resonated with me and helped me comprehend Christ’s kingship. Paul tells us, “Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. Christ is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

This statement clearly tells us that Jesus Christ is king. Not only is he king, he is an exceptional king due to his divinity and humanity. These two attributes enable him to rule in a way that earthly monarchs and political leaders cannot. For through him, the Word of God, the entire universe was formed. Yet, he would come to actively share in creation as a human, as one born to poor parents, living his life as a nomad, and ultimately being put to death as a criminal. While Christ is before and above all things he actively participated in humanity, the joys and the immense pain. As king, he put his people first, dying for our sins. Having no money, no political power, or jewels he humbly gave his life for his people.

The gospel this week uses Christ’s crucifixion to further highlight his kingship. Though this may appear to be in contrast with the hopeful season of Advent we are about to enter, these words are exactly what we need to hear right now, especially considering the current political climate. The child we are preparing for will grow into a man who rules with unity, humility, compassion and justice. For even on the cross Christ tells the criminal hanging beside him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” For we are Christ’s people and our suffering is his suffering. Regardless of what we have done, regardless of our differences, Christ welcomes all who put their trust in him into his kingdom. He brings hope to his people, and that hope is something in which we need to cloak ourselves.

As believers in Christ may we use this season of Advent to actively work towards bringing about peace in our world through word, and thought, and deed. For every day we work for unity, Christ himself works through us, holding all things together, ruling the universe with love, compassion and hope.

Sunday’s Readings:
2 Samuel 5.1-3; Colossians 1.12-20;Luke 23.35-43

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

WHAT IS AT THE CENTRE? 

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

On this twenty-fifth Sunday in ordinary time we hear Jesus’ parable of the dishonest steward. Upon being fired by his manager the steward returned to the individuals owing his manager money and lowered their debt. He did this to ensure his own protection and comfort now that he lacked income. Although he acted shrewdly he did come to realize something, that relationships are the most important thing we can have in life. As Jesus cautions, “You cannot serve God and mammon (money).”

If there is one thing that gets you thinking about money it is a major life change. In June when my boyfriend proposed I said yes with my whole heart. However, becoming engaged means a wedding, and a wedding involves a reception, and a reception involves quite a lot of money. And while a reception is not a bad thing I find myself struggling to keep the sacrament of marriage at the centre of the day. The actual purpose of the wedding day can be so overshadowed by planning that I find myself having to make a conscious effort to re-centre myself and focus on the love that the two of us share. The love that brings us closer to God.

Jesus tells his disciples, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones…” It is the small moments, the small trusts, and the small actions that demonstrate God’s presence in this world and lead us into closer relationship with God and each other. We are all stewards of this earth and that involves nurturing our relationships with one another. The trust the steward earned back from lowering debts could give rise to trustworthiness in greater things should he decide to serve others and not money.

For myself and my fiancé, the intimate moment of vowing to honour each other all the days of our lives is worth far more than a reception. By spending the rest of our lives caring for one another and cherishing the small moments of our relationship we act as honest stewards.

Our loving relationship that exists in this busy, often untrustworthy, world is an example of God’s love. And just like a small amount of trust can grow into a large amount of trust, I know our small simple wedding will give rise to a lifetime of beautiful small God-filled moments.

Sunday’s Readings:

Amos 8.4-7

1 Timothy 2.1-7

Luke 16.1-13

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

BY MYSELF

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

One of the major premises of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is that children can do many things by themselves. If they are shown what to do, have all the materials readily available, and are then given the space to do the task, they will succeed. The materials that the children use in the atrium depict central moments in the gospels. These small dioramas and figures allow the children to discover, by themselves, the relationship that they have with the Good Shepherd.

In the gospel today Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” The crowds say He is John the Baptist or Elijah. Peter, who knows Jesus more intimately than the crowds, correctly identifies Jesus as, “The Christ of God” or “the Messiah.” Peter gives the correct answer but is told by Jesus not to tell anyone. Jesus then tells his disciples the exact way one can come to fully understand who He is, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” In other words, one must come to fully know Jesus, fully enter into relationship with Jesus, by oneself. This knowing is deepened when one can connect ones own suffering to Christ’s. This not only allows one to recognize Jesus as Messiah and Lord but enables ones heart to be open to a strong personal relationship with Him.

As the children in the atrium come to know Christ as the Good Shepherd who knows and loves His sheep, we too can have a deep relationship with Christ by placing our own burdens, pain, and suffering at the foot of the cross. It is in our complete and total vulnerability before our Lord that we come into total union with Him. Every believer acknowledges Christ as Messiah but each one of us lives a different life, carries a different cross and through that cross we all come to Jesus in our own unique way. If Jesus asked you today, “Who do you say that I am?” would you be able to take faith in your relationship with Him and answer Him honestly? Will you come as yourself to know Him by yourself?

Sunday’s Readings:

Zechariah 12.10-11;13.1

Galatians 3.26-29

Luke 9.18-24

Sixth Sunday of Easter

GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT

By: Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

In our gospel this week Jesus tells his disciples, “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” The Holy Spirit here is identified as, “the Advocate.” This Advocate will remain with the disciples after Jesus returns to his Father in heaven and will continue to teach and guide the disciples as they proclaim Christ’s message to all the nations so all may believe in Him.

Elizabeth A. Johnson is a theologian who speaks throughout her written works about the importance of communion and interconnectivity in God, with God, and with one another. In her book, She Who Is, Johnson reminds us that the Trinity is rooted firmly in relationship. The relationality that is found in God cannot be separated from God’s divine nature. The mystery of the Triune God is found in the deep connection that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share.

In scripture there are many names for the Holy Spirit and all of them emphasize the relationship between God and God’s people. The Holy Spirit is often referenced in female language. Such as Spirit Sophia who is Wisdom, and spoken of as sister, mother, hostess, and guide. Shekinah (also female), derived from the Hebrew word shakhan meaning “to dwell,” who accompanied the Israelites throughout their exile as a source of light and encouragement. And the Advocate, present in our gospel today, who counsels and acts as Christ’s presence in the world. All of these names and qualities of the Spirit remind us that God remains with each one of us at all times and is a constant force within the greater world.

If the Holy Spirit is God’s unseen presence moving throughout the world, then we as believers are called to respond by fostering relationships that allow others to feel the love of God. Like the Holy Trinity, we as a people, a Church, and society cannot function if we do not manifest relationships that are rooted in love. The Church would not be what it is today if Jesus’ disciples had not responded to the guiding hand of the Advocate. It is a blessing that God is living and moving within our world because of the Holy Spirit. May each one of us recognize this presence in our own lives and have the courage to accept the love we receive and share it with others.

Sunday’s Readings: Acts 15.1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21.10-14, 22-23; John 14.23-29

About the Homepage Image:  Apse mosaic of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (Rome, Italy)

Fourth Sunday in Lent

A TIME OF RECONCILIATION

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent we are presented with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Lent is a time of reconciliation, where we have the opportunity to repair what has been broken in our relationships so that we can fully enter into a new life with Christ.

Today let us pause and reflect on the times we ourselves have acted as the prodigal son, the older obedient son and the forgiving Father. What choices can we make in our daily interactions and relationships to move from hurt to peace, from death to life? We can ask ourselves in what ways are we like the prodigal son who requested his father’s inheritance so he could live a life of frivolity. Have I sought ease and money over positive relationships and integrity? Have I taken the love and mercy of another for granted, possibly more than once? Acknowledging my error only when I have nothing else left? During this season of Lent what are the ways I can let go of my own greed and selfishness so I may humbly strengthen my relationships with those I love?

We can ask ourselves in what ways are we like the older son who was angry when his younger brother was welcomed back without punishment. Do I look down on the failings of others? Do I place a person’s worth, including my own, on their ability to be obedient? While integrity and right judgment are important qualities, do I often act self-righteous and disregard the suffering and humanity of others? During this season of reconciliation how can I reach out to someone who I have previously alienated or spoken of without compassion?

We can ask ourselves in what ways are we like the father who welcomed his son home without hesitation. Do I show unconditional love to others? Am I able to set aside my own hurt to alleviate the pain and suffering of another person? Do I recognize the blessings and unconditional love I have received from God or do I allow cynicism to take away my joy? During this season of Lent, as we journey towards a new birth, how can I show unconditional love to those closest to me, regardless of their faults?

Sunday’s Readings: 1 Samuel 16.1, 6-7, 10-13, Ephesians 5.8-14, John 9.1-41