Precious in God’s Eyes

Precious in God’s Eyes

By Fr. Morgan Rice, CSB

In reflecting on the Christmas gift of God in the person of Jesus, I continue to be drawn to the vulnerable, needy baby in the manger. Who would have thought or imagined that God would come to us in such a humble state in such conditions?! It is difficult to grasp that our God, who created the universe and who could make it all disappear in an instant, chose to be born into this world. Out of an immense love for us, Jesus became part of the human family and accepted the many things he could have easily avoided due to his status as God. It says a great deal about God and how much God values humanity.

Like today, the world into which Jesus was born was a world that had its fair share of darkness. Yet, God chose to enter an imperfect world to bring light into the darkness, to bring life into the midst of death. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9.2). Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has been born for us! We are invited to rejoice that the Light has come, to invite the Light into the dark recesses of ourselves, and to reflect the Light to others to brighten their lives.

As we reflect on Jesus’ birth, perhaps we can reflect on how his coming to dwell among us has affected our lives. Do we allow ourselves to encounter him and allow him to continue to have an impact on the world around us through our love and care of others? While we acknowledge the darkness around us, let us live with the hope that Jesus’ coming does make a difference today. Profound transformation still happens when we cooperate with the Spirit of God within us and serve as Jesus’ presence in the world, thus reminding others of what his coming told us: that each one of us valued and precious in the eyes of God.

May you and your loved ones experience the blessings of the Prince of Peace. Merry Christmas!

Calendars

Calendars

By Marilena Berardinelli

I recently visited a JK/SK classroom in the context of our parish’s mission of evangelization in the spirit of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. To begin our “wondering” together about the seasons of the church, I asked the children what I thought was a simple question: “What is a calendar?”

Firstly, who knew that these paper organizers strung on walls and littered on desks are relics of things past. Since none of the 4, 5 or 6 year olds were familiar with Google Calendar or iCal only a handful of the 140 JK/SK students could share that: calendars told us the days of the weeks, the days we go to soccer or to ballet class, when vacations start or how many “sleeps” until their birthday. One student figuring I was the “religion lady” (as he endearingly refers to me) chimed in about his special Christmas calendar that gave him chocolate one year or toys another year. So, after much debate on whether all calendars provide “surprises” the children finally (phew!) concluded that calendars mark time.

Last Sunday the church began to mark time, not with bright lights, tinsel or chocolate(!), but with a simple wreath and the lighting of the first of four candles that mark our journey together toward the celebration of Christmas; when we remember that Jesus was born and that one day He will come again. With the JK/SK students, as well as the children who attend the Atrium, the Advent wreath is a visual reminder on what we are called to focus our attention during this time of preparation. This Advent symbol that marks time for us, helps us fix our gaze on the journey we have embarked on rather than the destination before us- on the present rather than on the celebrations, the culinary feasts, and the gift exchanges ahead.

Today’s Gospel readings reminds us that this four-week journey is meant to be a time to “Prepare a way for the Lord.” With this in mind, let us mark our calendars (paper or otherwise). If we haven’t already done so, let us commit to preparing the way, to repenting and acknowledging our failings, to committing to bearing good fruits. Let us mark this time with concrete actions that prepare our very souls for the celebration ahead.

May these remaining weeks of Advent be a time marked by interior preparations to receive and celebrate the gift of the Word made flesh.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 11.1-10
Psalm 72
Romans 15.4-9
Matthew 3.1-12

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

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.

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

An Unfinished Miracle

An Unfinished Miracle by Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB Ten lepers come to Jesus seeking a cure. “Jesus, have mercy on us!”, they cry out. Jesus hears their prayer and tells them to go to the priests who had the authority to declare them cured. But the priests also had the power to restore them to the community from which their disease alienated them. Nine were cured and healed, one however, a Samaritan, was cured of his illness but not healed of what alienated him from others. He no longer had leprosy, but was still and would always be a Samaritan, hated and alienated because of his ethnicity and religious beliefs. I suppose that he returned to thank Jesus for the cure, but wonder if he came back to Jesus also because he had nowhere else to go, no one else to share his joy with and no one who would welcome him as a person, not a category, a disease or stereotype. He came back with gratitude but also with faith that Jesus would love and accept him as a person, as a brother, a child of God. In many ways, this is an unfinished miracle, because there needs to be healing in the hearts of those who still reject the Samaritan because he was a Samaritan. Like the healing of the 10 lepers, who recognize and own their leprosy, this healing begins by recognizing the prejudices and fears, attitudes and hatreds that cause people to be excluded and alienated from us because of their nationality or ethnicity, the colour of their skin or the language they speak, by their sexuality or gender orientation, or by what they believe or don’t believe. Today’s readings challenge us to ask along with the lepers, “Jesus, have mercy on us”. Help us, Jesus, to see others as you do, sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters to each other. Sunday’s Readings: 2 Kings 5.14-17 Psalm 98 2 Timothy 2.8-13 Luke 17.11-19

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).

Short but Sweet

Short but Sweet

By Fr. Norm Tanck

I am impressed by my Protestant friends who have memorized large portions of the Bible. How would you like to impress people by memorizing a whole book of the Bible? Try memorizing Paul’s Letter to Philemon, the book from which our second reading is taken today. It is only 25 verses long. St. Paul is writing this letter from prison. With him is Onesimus, a runaway slave who was about to be returned to his master. Since he ran away, he was converted and baptized a Christian. Although, under the law, he was still a slave. Paul is asking Philemon and the Christian community he leads to welcome Onesimus back as a brother in Christ. He is asking them to see the man in a new light and relate to him in a new way. Paul writes, “I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you… Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord”. The ambiguity is that when Onesimus returns he will still be a slave under the law, but he is first and foremost to be accepted and welcomed as a brother. Sadly, it would be centuries before human slavery is abolished. And there are many things today that still hold people captive. Human trafficking exists in many forms throughout the world. Our brothers and sisters of different races and languages, different cultures and faiths are still held in bondage, alienated from the human community, our society, the Church and nation because of prejudice and fear. Who will be the St. Paul in this day and age asking us and the world to welcome all as beloved brothers and sisters, as children of God? How will we respond when this is asked of us?

September 8 Readings:

Wisdom 9.13-18

Psalm 90

Philemon 9b-10, 12-17

Luke 14.25-33

Focusing on Christ

Focusing on Christ

By Fr. Morgan Rice

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to attend the Shaw Festival’s wonderful production of Brigadoon at Niagara-on-the-Lake with some of my Basilian confrères. Before the evening performance, we walked along the Niagara River to where it empties into Lake Ontario at Queen’s Royal Park. We stopped to look at a large granite and bronze marker dedicated to those who had successfully swum the 52km crossing to Marilyn Bell Park on the north shore of the lake, not too far from Exhibition Place. On the plaque are the words “perseverance”, “courage”, “fortitude”, “spirit”, “challenge”, and “triumph”—qualities needed to perform this feat that usually takes 20+ hours. One thing that I thought might help a swimmer is to focus on something like the CN Tower, something that could be seen from the start, something that could provide some encouragement along the way. Little by little as the fatigue set in, the tower would seem to grow taller and taller as one drew closer and closer to it.

I thought about that as I reflected on today’s second reading from Hebrews 12. Recognizing that life is akin to a race, the author of the letter encourages the Christian community to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus”. Our lives are marked with challenges that might seem overwhelming at times, but with perseverance and the right focus, the goal is attainable. For a disciple of Christ, the focus is on Jesus, who himself demonstrated perseverance and endurance through the cross to his heavenly throne. He has wants us to live fulfilling lives and eventually join him there, but things like disappointments and our sins might seem to stand in the way. They might seem like a daunting chasm to cross.

So what do we do? Like the Hebrews, we are encouraged to “not grow weary or lose heart” but to train ourselves to keep going by living out our faith and fixing our eyes on our tower of strength, Jesus Christ, who forgives us, strengthens us, and leads us to share in his triumph in the heavenly kingdom.

August 18 Readings:
Jeremiah 38.2-6, 8-10
Psalm 40
Hebrews 12.1-4
Luke 12.49-53

August 25 Readings:
Isaiah 66.18-21
Psalm 117
Hebrews 12.5-7, 11-13
Luke 13.22-30