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

And You Are Never The Same

And You Are Never The Same

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

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

Readings:

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

Bringing Love to Chaos

Bringing Love to Chaos

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

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

Sunday’s Readings:

Jeremiah 33.14-16

Psalm 25

1 Thessalonians 3.12-4.2

Luke 21.25-28, 34-36

Doing the Hard Work

Doing the Hard Work

By Elizabeth Chesley-Jewell

In the Atrium when we speak about the liturgical seasons we tell the children that, “green is for the growing time.” The idea of growing is brought to life when we talk about the kingdom of God being like a grain of wheat, a mustard seed, or how Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches. In each of these instances we focus on growth being something joyful and miraculous, like how a seed can break open so that a mighty stalk of wheat may emerge. The readings for this week emphasize more of the hard work that we as humans must put into our relationship with Jesus. In the gospel, Jesus returns to his hometown and despite being one of their own the townspeople could not believe in him. Their hearts and minds were blocked possibly by fear, envy, and pride. They were unable to recognize these weaknesses as a problem and, in doing so, could not put their faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Instead of placing their trust in Him they turned away. In the second reading Paul shows that hard work must occur to keep our relationship with Jesus growing. In times of suffering Paul turns to the Lord and asks him to remove his sufferings. Jesus responds, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” This allows Paul to realize that he has no greater companion in his suffering than Jesus Christ who suffered and died for the sins of humanity. Paul tells us, “whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” Strength comes from turning to Jesus in our suffering, whether we are angry, scared, or in pain. The simple act of turning to Jesus shows our faith in Him, and in turn, we do receive peace and grace. Personally, I suffer from anxiety which can lead to immense feelings of fear and sadness. During these moments of anxiety my relationship with Jesus can drift to the way side. I’m like Paul, begging for my anxiety to leave me instead of seeking comfort and understanding from my compassionate God. I still have belief, but my fear is getting in the way of my relationship. The hard work is breaking myself open, so I may be completely vulnerable and place all my suffering in the hands of Jesus Christ. Everyone of us has weaknesses and experiences pain and suffering. Today, let us place our weaknesses in the hands of our compassionate Lord Jesus Christ and allow ourselves to find strength in his healing love.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Ezekiel 2.3-5
  • Psalm 123
  • 2 Corinthians 12.7-10
  • Mark 6.1-6

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