Who made God?

Who Made God?

By Nancy Nobrega

One of our daughters lives in the United States so I often talk to my grandsons on the phone. Since they are young they get their Mom to call and then she hands the phone over to them. Nana “knows everything” and “Nana rules” so they sometimes ask for information and sometimes ask for permission thinking that I will overrule my daughter when she has already said no. One day, when he was 4, Ryan called and asked me, “Nana, if God made me and you and Mommy and Daddy (etc. etc.) who made God?” I wasn’t really ready for that but the Holy Spirit helped me and I replied, “Honey that is the most important and best mystery of all!” I felt ok about that answer because it really is the truth and he was quite satisfied and ran off to play. Kids accept and love mysteries and isn’t everything a mystery to them? That’s all he needed to know.

Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Matthew didn’t ask any more questions either. Prophets like Isaiah did not have easy lives telling the truth that more often than not no one wanted to hear. Isaiah told us that we must trust the Lord to love and care for us even when we are in hard times. God does not give up on us so we should not give up on him. Even today the truth is often hard to hear or sometimes believe. We are however given the task of being prophets by our covenant with God at our Baptism. Richard Rohr tells us the prophets are not so much those who tell the future but “ones who see clearly in the present.”

St. Paul’s life was transformed when he “met” Jesus on the road to Damascus. He had been a harsh and cruel man, persecuting Christians until he met Jesus and became a disciple – fully engaged. He heard the truth and off he went to spread the word, travelling throughout his world and eventually dying for the truth.

St. Matthew did not have an easy life either. He was a tax collector – shunned by his community. He was the only one of the three from the readings and Gospel today who met Jesus in His humanity. His life was also transformed when he heard the truth of Jesus’ word.

He connected the Old and New Testament when he wrote in his Gospel that Jesus was the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had foretold. He also died for the truth.

These men who were chosen by God to spread his word were not chosen because they were saints. As we have so often heard, they were just ordinary people like you and me. We have our good days and bad days and there are times when we are not proud of what we do. We are not asked to die for God, but we are asked to let our “old life” die – the life that we are not proud of. We ask God for help often and every time we share in the Eucharist we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We ask for God’s grace to help us let our old lives die.

In today’s gospel Matthew tells us that as soon as Jesus called to Peter, Andrew, James and John they left their whole lives behind to follow him. They were humble fishermen and “immediately left their nets to follow Him.” They did not doubt, they saw the truth. At the end of Mass, Father sends us off with the grace of his blessing and tells us, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Fr. Norm, in his homily last week ended by quoting St. Francis. “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” We don’t need to be prophets like Isaiah, or evangelists like Paul or gospel writers like Matthew, but we are just as important to God.

God made us too. Each one of us can show the truth of God’s word by our actions and we just need to have “no doubt” about the truth, just like little children, like my Ryan, that God’s grace will help us in our enthusiasm and commitment as it did and does for these great men and the little children whom God so loves. That is the joy that we must feel, the truth that we must see – our task and our purpose, to help one another see God. It is a mystery and it’s all we need to “know”.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 9.1-4
Psalm 27
1 Corinthians 1.10-13, 17-18
Matthew 4.12-23

What have you done?

What have you Done?

By Adam Lalonde, SJ

Sometimes we are so clueless about what’s in front of us that we are unable to ask the right questions. In today’s gospel reading the Sadducees make a second attempt to humiliate Jesus during his public preaching. The Sadducees were a group of Jewish religious leaders based in the Temple who adhered strictly to the Mosaic Law. In their interpretation there was no room for belief in the resurrection of the dead.

Jesus quickly turns the tables on the representative of the Sadducees who thought he could cleverly fool him. Jesus’ response is simple: you are missing the point. The resurrection of the dead is more than about returning to life. In the resurrection all creation will find its fullness in God. The concerns of this life will no longer trouble us.

We can sometimes forget the right questions too. In the spiritual life Jesus pierces our questions to show the anxiety within us that lies beyond the question. His answer remains the same: “Remember where you came from and where you are going. Remember the life to come.” Our questions then become simple: What have I done for you, Lord? What am I doing? What ought I to do?

Sunday’s Readings:
2 Maccabees 7.1-2, 7, 9-14
Psalm 17
2 Thessalonians 2.16 – 3.5
Luke 20.27-38

Brainstorm!

Brainstorm
By Nancy Nobrega

In the Gospel today Luke explains that if we want God’s help we should just keep asking. He will help us, and we should not get discouraged if we don’t get the help we need right away. The way He explains it makes me think that God will help us if we keep “bothering” Him – that we will stop nagging if He gives in. It does sound quite a bit like how we are with our children. We are told often that God loves us unconditionally, so we might think that we don’t need to be thankful for the wonderful things we receive from Him. Life is messy but, we get lots of help and little miracles every day if we are present to His grace. We love our children unconditionally too. If my children ask me to help them, it certainly makes me feel better if they have expressed appreciation for my help and also if the help that I give them is paid forward to siblings, friends and strangers. I bet that applies to anyone who gives anyone else a helping hand. Don’t we all feel better when we see the help and kindness spread and that there has been a realization of how important helping others is?

God sent Jesus to teach us the way. Now it’s our turn to show our children and each other the way. Be a good example…brainstorm with your kids how they might pass on kindness in their day. Are we not all so pleased when we see children who are kind and polite? They are watching and mimicking us! How can we pay forward the help that God has given us? We could be more cheerful. A smile and an encouraging word to friends and strangers goes so far! Remember when someone said something nice to you and how that just made your day? I know it makes me feel so good, and acknowledging that has made me brave enough to compliment strangers on good manners, thank wait staff who have looked after me, give a helping hand and a smile to tired young mothers with cranky children, let folks who are in a mad rush go ahead of me in line and call that acquaintance (not close friend) who has been having a hard time.

A friend of mine keeps granola bars in his glove compartment to hand out to the homeless instead of giving money or wondering how to give money in a safer or better way. Another friend has made sure that her children, who are now old enough, take the time to call elderly relatives who have cared for them over the years and who might be at home alone. Remember when Grandma used to take you to the park, well maybe now it’s time for you to take her for a walk in the park on a nice day or go have tea with her on a rainy one. And of course, before we ask God for help we can say thank you by acknowledging all the blessings that are in our lives, that we sometimes take for granted and that make our lives gentler and easier. Even in the midst of our most awful days there are helps: the perfect parking spot just before we think we will “lose it” because everything is going wrong, the letter from a friend that fills us with joy, the visit that is out of the blue and so nurturing, a kind word or compliment for a job well done, or that we saw that someone paid forward a kindness that we offered to them.

Sunday’s Readings:
Exodus 17.8-13
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3.14 – 4.2
Luke 18.1-8

The Right Thing

The Right Thing

By Nancy Nobrega

Doing the right thing – seems like something we shouldn’t even have to think about. ‘Hey… I always do the right thing – but do I really?’ That sounds so easy before we think about it in a specific situation in our own lives. It’s also pretty easy to tell someone to do the right thing when it is not our situation at all — so easy to be wise then! Do we know what the right thing is? Of course we do… or do we? In the Gospel today we are told not to trust anyone who is not honest in a little thing because it will likely follow that they won’t be honest in anything else. I know in my life if someone lies to me, I find it hard to believe anything they say later even if I agree with them…or at least I second guess. That’s confusing! It doesn’t mean I am not friends with them but I would not make decisions based on their advice. They may not have even known that they were not telling the truth or that is how they saw the situation or perhaps they did not know all the circumstances. There are two sides to this. We should do the right thing but we should not judge someone else for doing the wrong thing. Oh my. What does one do? Well for starters a friend told me what her wise dad once told her when she was upset because a friend had behaved badly. He said, “when you meet God at the Gates of Heaven, He will not ask you what your friend did, He will only want to know about you.” In other words it’s really none of your business to judge. If you behave well, then perhaps your friend will see how you are behaving and see that it works well for you and decide that she will try to behave better too. That feels a bit arrogant, thinking that we are such good examples when we really may not be. More confusion. In the second reading today, Paul tells Timothy that he wants to be very clear that he was appointed…a teacher …in faith and truth. In the context of the letter he is saying to not listen to false teachers. He says, “I am telling the truth, I am not lying.”…He highlights how important truth is. ….” there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and the human race, the man Christ Jesus..” Knowing what the right thing is, or doing it may not always be easy, but if we ponder the life of Christ, and we place ourselves in the hands of the Holy Spirit and ask him to direct our steps…. “just show me what to do God” – if we let go and then are present to what our hearts hear (even if sometimes we are disappointed by what we hear) we will likely be closer to “dong the right thing”. How wonderful it is to know that we are in God’s embrace and that if we accept His love things might still be a challenge but not so confusing? I am working on not sighing loudly when I hear God say “choose the harder path” but a sense of humour is so helpful and is such a gift too! God thought of everything! Sunday’s Readings: Amos 8.4-7 Psalm 113 1 Timothy 2.1-7 Luke 16.1-13

Not our Own

Not our Own

By  Adam J. Lalonde, SJ

This Sunday’s Gospel reading brilliantly puts three Lukan parables side-by-side forcing us to consider the mercy of our God and reminding us that God’s ways are not our own. There are countless beautiful reflections on these parables which consider our inclination to stray from God or even our tendency to become denouncing Pharisees or unforgiving older brothers. Luke’s Gospel, however, is not primarily concerned with reminding us of these facts. Instead the emphasis is on the One who always seeks to gather us back in. Jesus teaches us that we are not simply a number to God. Each soul is important, every lost sheep will be sought, and every hidden coin will be found. But most importantly, it is God who initiates the search. Although we must always seek God’s forgiveness, repentance is fundamentally an experience of being found by God. Perhaps the invitation today is to consider our attitudes towards divine mercy. Am I truly convinced of God’s mercy? Can I accept that mercy? How else can I be a beacon of mercy to others? We must always remember that Jesus’ love infinitely surpasses our sinful deficit and He never stops searching for the lost. Sunday’s Readings: Exodus 32.7-11, 13-14 Psalm 51 1 Timothy 1.12-17 Luke 15.1-32 Adam is a Jesuit scholastic in the M.Div. program at Regis College. He is also an alumnus of St. Michael’s College (0T8).

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.

Free from the Tomb

Free from the Tomb

By Trevor Rainwater, SJ

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

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

Laetare Sunday

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

Sunday’s Readings:

Joshua 5.9a, 10-12

Psalm 34

2 Corinthians 5.17-21

Luke 15.1-3, 11-32

Fishers of People

Fishers of People

By Emily VanBerkum

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians expresses his desire that all Christians accept the basic tenets of the Christian faith- that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, appeared to Cephas, then the twelve apostles, was buried, and rose from the dead. Paul further emphasizes the importance of belief in Christ’s resurrection by positioning himself as a witness to the resurrection, and an Apostle of Christ. In Magdala, a conciliary formed in St. Basil’s dedicated to understanding the feminine genius and the feminine dimension of the Church, members have explored the richness of Mary Magdalene’s rightful status as ‘Apostle to the Apostles.’ Though not mentioned by Paul in today’s second reading, the Gospels position Mary Magdalene as the first to witness the resurrection of Christ and the one given a distinct Apostolic charge to go share the news of Christ’s rising from the dead. In many ways, Mary Magdalene bore a transformative love for Jesus- followed him in his earthly ministry, through his gruesome death by crucifixion; she anointed him for burial, wept by his tomb, and waited in desperation and unwavering faith for her Saviour to come again in glory. Mary Magdalene was a model disciple. Learning from the significance of Mary Magdalene’s witness to Christ and fervent discipleship, today’s Gospel encourages us to reflect on our own status as a disciple of Christ. In the moments following a miraculous haul of fish, Jesus tells Simon, James, John, and the many that had gathered by the shore: “Do not be afraid; from now on, you will be catching people.” They left everything and followed Him. Fishers of people. Jesus longs for real discipleship so that followers will draw others to him by the way they model their faith. Belief in Jesus is conveyed in countless ways and, as Paul, Mary Magdalene, and the twelve apostles all understood and lived, discipleship is predicated upon a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus. Jesus’ language here does not discriminate about who can follow him, rather stating that those who witness his resurrection and saving action – as it has been passed down from generation to generation ­– will be catchers of people, in turn welcoming all women and men into the Kingdom of God.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Isaiah 6.1-2a, 3-8
  • Psalm 138
  • 1 Corinthians 15.1-11
  • Luke 5.1-11

The Magdala conciliary gathers once a month through the academic term, discussing topics of relevance to the understanding of the feminine genius and the feminine dimension of the Church. If you are interested in finding out more, please speak with Michael Pirri at (416) 926-1300 x.3210 or michael.pirri@utoronto.ca

Love and Charity

Love and Charity

By John Paul Farahat

I must confess that the second reading for this week gave me pause – many of us will recognize it as a reading often proclaimed at weddings. And I think that it is safe to say that approximately 75% of the 35-40 weddings that take place at Saint Basil’s every year incorporate this excerpt from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. So often, we miscategorise this reading as being about romantic love. We assume that Paul is talking about the love between spouses or partners. As meaningful as we may find this interpretation, it is important to point out that the reading is instead referencing charity: that is, God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love of neighbour. Paul is reminding his reader that charity is at the core of Christian living and urging a fundamental shift in their way of living out their faith. How often do we forget to connect our faith to our sense of charity? So often, our faith life, our sense of charity, and our self are not aligned: our ego, our prejudice, our sense of self, all get in the way of being charitable to “the other”. How often do we limit our charity to “the familiar”? How often do we forget that our charity is especially called on when we encounter “the other”? He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt 22:37-40)

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Jeremiah 1.4-5, 17-19
  • Psalm 71
  • 1 Corinthians 12.31-13.13
  • Luke 4.21-30