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

Renew the face of the Earth

Renew the face of the Earth

by Michael Pirri

The word “Pentecost” is derived from the greek word for fiftieth; today marks the fiftieth, and last, day of Eastertide. It’s also known as Whitsunday from “White Sunday”, in reference to the Solemnity being a day where traditionally, donned in their white garments, many people were baptized. Our first reading today is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, and depicts what must have been a frightening, yet exciting, occurrence for the apostles. I can’t help but wonder what they must have been thinking as they began to speak different languages. What must have first felt like a gift, I’m sure began to feel like a tremendous responsibility to share Gospel. Throughout the ages, that responsibility has carried on, and now it is our responsibility. Imagine if we felt the same sense of urgency that the apostles felt. How much does each of us play a role to contributing to this evangelization? How can we let the Spirit fill us and lead us? Just as the Holy Spirit filled each of the apostles there, so too does it fill us with our gifts. Praying the following prayer, I’d like you to spend a few moments every day this week to think about the way your gifts are meant to be used: Father of light, from whom every good gift comes, send your Spirit into our lives with the power of a mighty wind, and by the flame of your wisdom open the horizons of our minds. Let the Spirit you sent on your Church to begin the teaching of the Gospel continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe. Amen. Sunday’s Readings: Acts 2.1-11 Psalm 104 1 Corinthians 12.3-7, 12-13 John 15.26-27; 16.12-15

Letting Go

Letting Go by Michael Pirri

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

Sunday’s Readings:

Jeremiah 31.31-34

Psalm 51

Hebrews 5.7-9

John 12.20-33

Use it or Lose it

Use it or lose it

by Michael Pirri

Every time I meet with an individual who is interested in volunteering, I start out by getting to know what they like doing in their spare time. What is it that they are passionate about, or that they enjoy doing the most? We are quite fortunate that our volunteering parishioners bring a wealth of understanding, knowledge, and expertise to their tasks here at St. Basil’s. I believe it is important that volunteers are able to deepen their faith experience through volunteer work; I know, for instance, that music is an integral part of my faith life. My work in music ministry has been, and continues to be, a lasting source of energy for my faith journey. In part, this is why I seek to find what drives others in our community – my hope for them is that they are able to experience a deepening of faith through work just as I have. Our Gospel reading allows us the opportunity to reflect on how it is we use our abilities, skills, resources, knowledge, and time; more specifically, how we use these to glorify God. “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” (Matthew 25. 29) I think it’s important to acknowledge that the meaning of the parable extends far beyond financial investments. We must also note that the master does not compare the five talents against the two, because each slave was able to make as much as they could considering what they had been given. God gives us all a wide variety of gifts and He expects us to be able to use them; we are tasked with refining them, no matter how big or small, to their fullest potential. I’m reminded of what I was told in French immersion school about speaking French — if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it.

Sunday’s Readings:

Proverbs 31.10-13, 16-18, 20, 26, 28-31

Psalm 128

1 Thessalonians 5.1-6

Matthew 25.14-30

FRUIT OF THE VINE

Fruit of the Vine by Michael Pirri

In last week’s Gospel reading, we heard the parable of the man with two sons, both of whom get sent out to work in the vineyard. Again, in the first reading and psalm today, we hear about the vineyard. This marks the third week in a row where we speak about the vineyard, though surely not the same vineyard. It’s important to note the use of real world imagery in these parables. Under the rule of the Roman Empire, it was not uncommon for wealthy landowners to mismanage their property. Christ’s use of the vineyard shows a profound understanding and disapproval of the socioeconomic conditions of His time.

The first reading paints a pretty grim view of humanity: The Lord of hosts tended his field and “planted it with choice vines […] he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. […] he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!”

I particularly enjoy the duality in the parable which we can draw: on one hand we are the farmer, angry that our good deeds do not yield their just reward; and yet we are also the vineyard, never living up to the potential God gives us. How can we reconcile not living up to our potential? What good deeds have we done that we feel we ought to be thanked for? Psalm 80 acknowledges our shortcomings and gives us a way of recognizing this struggle “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80.19).

In the Gospel, we could once again take the role of the landowner with high expectations for the harvest in the vineyard and the willingness to do what it takes to bring that harvest to fruition. And yet we are greeted with lack of respect and abuse rather than gratitude.

Upon greater reflection, you may see that we’re not the landowner at all — we’re the unruly tenants! We tend to the land and vineyard, and when others come to claim what they believe to be theirs, we feel the need to defend the fruits of our labour. If we are the unruly tenants then, as in the first reading, the Lord is the landowner. So we denied prophet after prophet, until finally His son was sent to us, and we acted no better.

I think the best understanding of the readings today falls somewhere between the two interpretations. The focus, I believe, is to recognize that we are to give thanks for that which is given to us, and to claim each day as an opportunity to do better, realizing all of the things God gives to us.

Sundays Readings:

Isaiah 5.1-7

Psalm 80

Philippians 4.6-9

Matthew 21.33-43