Dialogue

Dialogue

By Michael Pirri

“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”
Matthew 3.16

Just before the point where today’s Gospel begins, John the Baptist remarks that he baptizes ‘for repentance’. Christ, a man with no sin, shows great humility in approaching John in the river. It is a sign that he is fully human – just like us, he encounters the Holy Spirit at baptism.

Most of us are fortunate that we are able to receive the sacrament of baptism as infants; this initial encounter not only marks our cleansing from original sin, but we are also sealed with the chrism by having the sign of the cross made on our foreheads. If baptism is the first encounter with Christ, how are we meant to build upon this foundation? How do we foster relationships with people in our lives?

Communication is the cornerstone to all great relationships. With friends and family, we can see the fruits of frequent communication borne out. Equally important is an efficiency in communication; a healthy dialogue involves both actively listening and participating. It is no wonder that these are also the words used when discussing how the faithful ought to participate in the Mass: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people, is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium n.14)

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 42.1-4, 6-7
Psalm 29
Acts 10.34-38
Matthew 3.13-17

What can I give?

What can I give?

By Michael Pirri

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

–In the Bleak Midwinter (Rossetti)

No doubt today’s Gospel reading is a familiar story. Though we usually meld it together with the birth of Christ as part of the nativity, the wise men don’t actually show up until Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas. The season of Christmas lasts from Christmas to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. (In some communities, it’s observed until Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation.)

As we continue through the Christmas season, it’s important to consider how we are invited to share the joy of the nativity throughout the entire Christmas season.

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

Fair Share

Fair Share

By Michael Pirri

In Jesus’ day, the tax system was easily corrupted. Tax collectors were effectively able to mark-up their taxes and take the difference for themselves. The more prominent the tax collector, the more tax they could add to tax collected by those below them; Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector – a very prominent man. It looks like wealth inequality is not something new to the 21st century!

When we talk about the widening wealth gap today, we think of the top 0.01% of earners, people who are worth billions of dollars. How can such inequality exist in the world? Why aren’t these people paying their fair share?

Zacchaeus wasn’t paying his fair share either. He was actually taking advantage of those less fortunate than himself.
As painful as it is sometimes to see that HST line at the bottom of your receipts, it helps it some way knowing that at least it helps to pay for things. It funds our hospitals and schools, pays for road repairs and subsidies to public transit, provides grants to non-profits that feed the poor.
What is disheartening though is that it is not enough. When will we, like Zacchaeus, climb the tree in our garden and look into the face of Jesus?

As I write this, the #unignorabletower is trending on social media. A building, dubbed the #unignorable tower, would need to have space for 116,317 individuals and families, proving the point of how massive our poverty and homelessness problem is. Standing at over 2.5 times the height of the CN Tower, The #UNIGNORABLE Tower was imagined by the United Way to represent the scale of the problem, and bring attention to this big and complicated issue.
Sunday’s Readings:
Wisdom 11.22 – 12.2
Psalm 145
2 Thessalonians 1.11 – 2.2
Luke 19.1-10

On November 9 and 10, we are holding our annual Christmas Drive to help fundraise for our Christmas meals and gift bags. Your $15 of support go a long way towards providing items to those in our community who need the most help.

Surrounded

Surrounded

By Michael Pirri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Communications Day

World Communications Day

By Michael Pirri

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

Sunday’s Readings:

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

Doubt No More

Doubt No More

By Michael Pirri

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

Sunday’s Readings:

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

Known by our Fruits

By Michael Pirri

Our Gospel reading today challenges us to first see our faults before we consider pointing out the faults of others. This reading is especially poignant this week; Former Cardinal McCarrick has been laicized, Cardinal Pell was found guilty of sexual offenses involving minors, and a much anticipated meeting of Church leaders on the abuse crisis seems to have fallen short of expectations. These are no doubt difficult conversations to be having. As a Catholic higher education community, we have an obligation not only to have these conversations, but also to facilitate and lead them. I recently gave a talk on Ministry for the Parish R.C.I.A. program. In it, I spoke about our baptismal call to fulfill our roles as Priest, Prophet, and King. I think the Church today is in need of Prophets – Catholic women and men who go out into the world to spread the message of the Gospel. The abuse crisis is, rightly, jarring – it disturbs us. It is disheartening to experience as a global community, especially when it is not the reality the majority of us live in our faith lives. It erodes our trust in our faith, in the Church, and regretfully, for some even in God. Further, it challenges our values, and the impression of what our values are. We cannot give tacit approval. How are we to fulfill our roles as prophets in the reality we now live in? We are called to be witnesses in our thoughts, in what we say, and in what we do. In that way we are called to share the Gospel with those around us, to be prophets in our daily lives. We don’t need to be teachers, or influencers to be effective prophets, we need simply act in a way which is befitting of our role as messenger of the Gospel. We are to be known by our actions. In this disruption, there is opportunity for reconciliation, for inner conversion. This begins with conversation. With all important dialogue, it is important to be educated on the topic, to seek truth rather than approval, to listen to those who are not listened to, but most importantly to be receptive, to listen. In a few weeks time, there will be an opportunity to do just that – listen and learn. The Wounded Body of Christ: Listening and Responding to Abuse in the Church begins with a talk on Thursday, March 14, and a full day colloquium follows on Friday, March 15. I’d like to encourage you to attend either the talk or the full day colloquium as we begin to consider how to best find our voice on the abuse crisis in the Church.

Sunday’s Readings:

Sirach 27.4-7

Psalm 92

1 Corinthians 15.54-58

Luke 6.39-45

Keeping the Word Central

Keeping the Word Central

The first reading takes place at the end of the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites: the heads of several families had accompanied Ezra, a priest and scribe, back to Jerusalem some short time ago. The seventh month of the Hebrew ecclesiastical year is also the first month of their civil year. Much like January for us, I suspect this was a time of much planning for the year ahead, even more so considering their home was in ruins. The ceremony in the first reading represents a culmination of Ezra’s attempts to restore hope to all those who have returned to Israel, by using the only constant that they have known – God’s Law as shared with them by Moses. Christ exists as the culmination of Isaiah’s prophecy in the second reading – the realization of the Word in the flesh. Much like the Jewish people returning to their homes, we are called to listen to the Word when things are difficult, when we have a long road ahead. The Word being made flesh is the fruit of God’s love and joy for us. But how can we spread this joy swelling from within? If you’ve been following the new releases on Netflix, you’ve likely heard of Marie Kondo, a Japanese ‘declutterer consultant’ who has sparked a decluttering craze. Part of her cleaning method, the Konmari Method, involves taking each item, and considering whether it brings you joy or sparks within you a great feeling. If the item doesn’t ‘spark joy’, you thank the item and then discard of it (hopefully by donating!). Scripture, too, is meant to spark within us something profound; God’s joy and love comes to us through the Word made flesh, through Christ. Much like decluttering, bringing this joy into the world is a step by step process. Day by day, attention to the Word will bring us closer to the joy revealed in the Gospel today.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Nehemiah 8.2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
  • Psalm 19
  • 1 Corinthians 12.12-30
  • Luke 1.1-4; 4.14-21

And on Earth, as in Heaven

And on Earth, as in Heaven

By Michael Pirri

“Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered in to heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf…” (Hebrews 9.24-28) The modern concept of a church building is a development of the Jewish tradition of the synagogue and the temple. The synagogue is traditionally understood as a place for verbal prayer and reverent reading and discussion of Sacred Scripture. The temple, was a place to encounter the presence of God in a restricted, and limited way. Modern churches combine the two, they are a place to encounter God through the scriptures, and in the sacrifice of the Eucharist. The Sacred Liturgy is where we “take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and true tabernacle” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 8). Our church buildings serve as a place for us to “see” the full community of liturgy: angels, saints, and the Trinity. In some ancient churches in Rome, inscribed above the doors, you’ll see PORTA CŒLI, Latin for Heaven’s Gate. The importance of the rituals and sacraments that take place in a church cannot be understated. Here heaven dips down to earth and we reach upward, and, for a moment, we see God face to face.

Sunday’s Readings:

  • 1 Kings 17.10-16
  • Psalm 146
  • Hebrews 9.24-28
  • Mark 12.38-44

 

For those interested in how human understanding of the Liturgy helps shape church architecture, there’s a great publication entitled Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy by Denis R. McNamara.

Serving the Poor and the Call to Holiness

Serving the Poor and the Call to Holiness

By Michael Pirri

Following the canonization of 7 new saints last week, Pope Francis remarked “The world needs saints, and all of us, without exception, are called to holiness. We are not afraid!” It’s easy for us to distinguish ourselves from the traditional saints, most often far removed from our contemporary life; we can have a hard time imagining the circumstances these holy men and women found themselves in. Their lives undoubtably provide us with inspiration for our own personal calls to holiness, but it can be difficult to translate their work into a modern context. Among the new saints of the Church is St. Oscar Romero, a Latin American Archbishop who was murdered while celebrating Mass in the spring of 1980. He frequently spoke out against poverty, human rights injustices, assassinations, and torture in his home country of El Salvador. From 1977-1989, 12 religious and one lay missionary were assassinated during the civil war for their work against the oppressive government. These events are part of society’s collective memory. He is a modern saint, providing modern examples of works of charity. These men and women were committed to Christ’s call to love and serve our neighbours. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are[…]” Hebrews 4.15 St. Oscar Romero’s work with and for the poor are directly related to today’s Gospel reading. “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10.43-45) May we pray for the discernment to respond to the call to serve the poor among us.

 

Sunday’s Readings:

  • Isaiah 53.10-11
  • Psalm 33
  • Hebrews 4.14-16
  • Mark 10.35-45