All posts by Andrew Pump

Sunday Reflection for January 26, 2020 by John Rietschlin

Sunday Reflection for January 26, 2020 by John Rietschlin


A couple of months ago, I enjoyed a visit with my cousin Myron. Myron and I now live a full day’s drive apart, so we don’t see one another too frequently, but we were very close as children. During our recent visit we regaled one another with memories of childhood adventures (and a few misadventures!), and we shared something of the challenges in our present day lives. It was good to be together.

As I prepared for today’s reflection, I was drawn to the fact that the gospel passage begins by situating itself in the relationship between the Bible’s two best-known cousins—Jesus and John the Baptist. We know that John was only a few months older than Jesus—Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth while both women were pregnant. The younger woman, Mary, travelled to help Elizabeth, a woman who was thought too old to bear children, during her pregnancy. So, Jesus and John met one another even before they were born, and the Gospel of Luke reports that John leapt for joy in his mother’s womb at that first meeting.

The Bible is entirely silent about any meetings or times that Jesus and John might have spent together during their childhood and adolescence. But it is not hard to imagine that there must have been such encounters. Perhaps there were extended family gatherings during religious festivals. Perhaps Jesus and John played together, while walking to Jerusalem for a Passover celebration. Did a young John the Baptist spend time with Joseph and Jesus helping in the carpenter shop? Did a young Jesus spend time with John’s priestly family studying the scriptures and learning to read?

We know that by some time in his twenties, perhaps even earlier, John had left his family home and was living in the desert as a hermit. During these years of solitude and of listening he discerned his vocation as a prophet called to announce the arrival of the Messiah. Did Jesus visit him there? Did the two young cousins spend time together encouraging one another? Reading scripture together? Praying together? Searching for locusts and wild honey to eat together? Did John help Jesus discover his vocation? Did Jesus help John do the same?

The Bible finally speaks again about John—now a man in his later twenties—as he begins his public ministry of calling people to a baptism of repentance and announcing that the Messiah has come. People from all around the region are moved by his words and after a time we hear that John’s cousin, Jesus, presents himself for baptism. At first John objects, but Jesus insists, trusting that the Holy Spirit will work through his cousin’s ministry, helping to prepare him for his own.

Today’s Gospel story begins some months later. John has been arrested by King Herod for confronting him on his sinful marriage. The news must have spread like wildfire among John’s disciples. When Jesus hears it, he realizes that his cousin’s public ministry is finished. The time has come to take up his own. He travels from Judea where John has been preaching, to Galilee in the region of Zebulun and Napthali and settles in Capernaum—a fishing village on the shore of Lake Galilee.

At first, Jesus’ ministry is like that of his cousin John the Baptist—proclaiming to the people “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Like John, the power of his words begins to attract attention and followers. Then in a few short verses Matthew describes how that ministry begins to shift and to grow. Jesus invites Peter, Andrew, James and John into a close relationship with him and with one another—starting to build a community that will continue his ministry beyond his death. And beyond preaching repentance, Jesus goes “through out Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

It won’t take long before Jesus’s teaching and his claims for the source of his authority and his healing power will bring him into conflict with the authorities. Like his cousin John, Jesus will eventually die for remaining faithful to his vocation.

I thought of my cousin Myron as I pondered today’s gospel passage. Has he been God’s instrument in some small way in my life? Has God used me in his? Who else might I have been called to touch? Who else has God used to touch me? As we dare to ask ourselves such questions, we might be tempted to dismiss them. But I am so ordinary, we might say. There is nothing special about my life. In saying this, it is easy to forget that to most of the people who met them as children or adolescents John and Jesus might have seemed quite ordinary too.

We know that as John and Jesus grew into their vocations, many were touched by God’s love through them, but others wanted to destroy them. Think of your favorite political leader, your favorite social activist, your favorite religious or spiritual leader. We know all too well now, from our experience of social media, that many people can’t stand those that we ourselves would follow. And closer to home, if I’m honest with myself, if we’re each honest with ourselves, we know that there are some who would question our own personal actions and beliefs. It seems that we’re not so far removed from the church of Corinth whose members are challenged by Paul to put aside their conflicts and be united in Christ.

How to do this?

Paul points the way…Jesus, the Christ, has made it possible. By staying true to God’s call throughout his life on earth, even when that faithfulness led to his death on the cross, Jesus opened a path for all of us to be united with one another, with creation, and in eternal life. Paul invites the Corinthians to accept this power of the Cross to help them set aside their differences—to bring them into unity with Christ and one another.

Am I willing to do this? Is each of us willing? This week I invite each of us to pray for the humility and the openness to accept the power of the Cross to change our lives. Let us ask Jesus to help us to live our own ordinary lives in extraordinary ways.

Sunday Reflection for January 19, 2020 by Roshene Lawson

There’s extraordinary in the ordinary

On this the second Sunday of Ordinary time, the Sunday after the Baptism of our Lord and entering the week of prayer for Christian Unity, I’m reminded that, as a child, I found church extremely dull as we entered ordinary time. We had just come out of the beautiful season of Advent with all the its songs of preparing and waiting for the birth of Christ, then the celebrations of Christ’s birth not to mention the gatherings of family and friends, the decorations at church and at home, the anticipation of Christmas morning. Then New Year’s and (for me) my birthday which came two weeks after Christmas. So, when ordinary time came, it felt as if all that excitement and anticipation came to an abrupt halt; the church was bare again, and we started into doing the same boring routines over and over until the next exciting season began.

What I failed to realize as a child, was that there is purpose in the mundane and repetitive nature of ordinary time.


Entering ordinary time, today’s readings and the feelings I felt as a child during this time, reminded me of the movie, Karate Kid where the teacher, Mr. Miyagi, makes his student Daniel engage in menial, repetitive tasks – sanding Mr. Miyagi’s floor, waxing his car and painting his fence – all of which had repetitive, boring movements, but which (unknown to Daniel) helped him improve as a karate student. There’s a scene in the movie where Daniel is furious with Mr. Miyagi telling him that he’s exploiting him by making him do all this useless manual labour and it’s then that Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel what he’s actually learned. We too are in a season of seemingly repetitive, ordinary motions and lessons, but motions and lessons which lead us to a better understanding of what God wishes of and for us.


The repetitive and ordinary feelings of ordinary time remind me of a reflection by an American priest (and musician) John Foley. In it he describes an Ignatian spiritual exercise called repetition where one repeats the same topic of a previous meditation or prayer session over and over again with the purpose of improving on the lesson or finding new meaning in the same space. Foley talks of how he dreaded such exercises and how it was only later that he understood the importance of repetition. Kind of like how I felt about ordinary time as a child.


With that theme of repetition and ordinary in mind, we are reminded on this second Sunday of ordinary time that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The word ordinary jumps to mind again here because in last week’s gospel Jesus presents himself to John the Baptist to be baptized. Jesus, who is supposed to be the Messiah, the great deliverer of the Jewish people, has a ceremony with ordinary people in a very dirty body of water. Not very Messianic or saviour-like but in that ordinary behaviour an extraordinary person is revealed. John the Baptist reminds us in this week’s reading that, while he is just an ordinary man who baptized Jesus in such an ordinary way, he witnessed the extraordinary in the spirit descending on the Son of God.


For the second Sunday in a row Isaiah talks of servitude – of what’s expected and of who is coming and what God wants of those who serve. Again, a repetition that we hear many times in ordinary time. We are here to serve one another and therefore, serve God. In ordinary and extraordinary ways but no matter, as long as we remember that it is our sole purpose as God’s people.

As the week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins, we read St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians – written to a community at odds with one another. The church – which is supposed to be followers of Jesus’ life and lessons – has turned in on itself, broken into factions following different leaders with different agendas all fighting among themselves. Sound familiar? Sound repetitive? Yet it bears repeating even today. St. Paul was reminding the church in Corinth that the leader to follow was Jesus and the lessons were of love, kindness, acceptance and caring – all of what Jesus had come to show us. St. Paul was reminding us that we are all in this together. A very important reminder thousands of years later reflected in this year’s theme for Christian Unity in the phrase “They showed an unusual kindness”.


Ordinary time, repeating lessons until we learn them or to remind us to do better to be better, showing unusual kindness – these themes all resonated with me recently as I accompanied a family from out of town who had a loved one who was dying. (I’ve changed some of the details of this to story in order to maintain confidentiality) As a hospital chaplain I am often called to be with families as their loved one is dying in order to help accompany them in the last hours of the patient’s life. In this instance, I was called to the room of a patient who had a very large family who were all there as this person was actively dying. This patient was a great lover of Lego – the building blocks – and had built enormous lego projects while in hospital that were all around their hospital room. As I tried to find something meaningful to help the family come to terms with what was happening, I decided I’d go to the Lego store and grab some pieces of lego to hand out to the family members holding vigil as a symbol of the patient’s great love of lego and of the great love they put into creating this family. So, before leaving for the Lego store I called ahead and told them what I needed and why and that I didn’t have a lot of time because the patient was dying quickly.


When I arrived at the Lego store, I introduced myself as the person who had called earlier when a young clerk came up to me with tears in her eyes and handed me a container of LEGO pieces. She said, “I was so moved by what this family is going through, facing the loss of their loved one, that I wanted to do something special for them.” Instead of just grabbing some random LEGO pieces and dumping them in a container, she found tiny lego decorative flowers and added two to each piece of lego to “make it special” for the family. She asked me to tell the family that they (the staff at the store) would all be holding that family and their loved one in their thoughts and hoped that I could let them know they were being thought of. Wow, I don’t often tear up over work stuff but I had tears in my eyes when I left the store.


After the patient had passed I was relaying this message to the family about the extra steps this employee took and the message she had sent. One family member started sharing the story with the rest of the family and they all began to cry tears of gratitude for the kindness shown to them by a young stranger. This LEGO employee showed an unusual kindness and helped sooth the hearts of those having a very difficult day. She turned the ordinary – selling LEGO to strangers into something extraordinary – bringing comfort to strangers in their hour of need.


I guess my reason for sharing this story is to show that it’s not difficult for us to do what we are called to do by God…to care for one another, to show mercy and kindness…to love. Total strangers can do it and can do it in ways that are seemingly innocuous but have great meaning in the end.


In the ordinary, if we practice – even when it feels mundane or less than extraordinary – we can be extraordinary and thus, fully live what God asks of us – to love one another and create a kingdom of peace here on earth.

Sunday Reflection for December 15, 2019 (3rd Sunday of Advent) by Marc McCormick

Sunday Reflection for December 15, 2019 (3rd Sunday of Advent) by Marc McCormick


Today we hear that John the Baptist is in prison, the price he has paid for fearlessly living out his mission- calling sinners to account, even, apparently Herod, the sinner King of Judea. John must know his mission is soon to end and from his prison cell he reaches out to his cousin, Jesus.

It is worth recounting the human relationship of these two cousins John and Jesus.  32 or so years previous their expectant mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, had greeted each other with great joy in the course of their pregnancies, John leaped in his mother’s womb in premature expectation that greatness lay in wait. Cousins, John and Jesus must have continued some sort of relationship in their childhoods, after which John set out on his lonely mission in the wilderness.

People eventually followed John to the desert, attracted by his message that we are called to good works and to turn away from sin. In humility John announced that his mission was limited, that he had come only to prepare the way for someone greater still, a savior, who would make crooked paths straight, a righteous king who would punish the wicked with a consuming and unquenchable fire.

Enter Jesus in renewed encounter with his cousin. Jesus here, the supplicant, asking John for repentance in the waters of baptism. As John witnesses the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus, he must have felt confirmed in his own mission and consoled that redemption for the people of his world was close at hand.

While people followed John to the desert, Jesus in contrast, came to people where they were, encountering them in all kinds of ordinary ways in their villages and towns.  Word of miracles must have reached the ears of John, but seeds of doubt too, for Jesus seemed a reluctant king and messiah, content to pose questions rather than provide answers, happy to tell stories- the meaning of which seemed to suggest that justice and freedom from oppression would not come with thunder and lightning. If not from above, from where and from whose hands must this deliverance come?

And so John having been imprisoned, reaches out to Jesus in a final encounter: “Are you the one who is to come or should we look to another?”

Jesus responds using the words of the prophet Isaiah, words that John must have already held close to his heart: “look the eyes of the blind are opened, the lame can walk, and the dead are raised”.

Transformed in his martyrdom, John the teacher reaches out to us today amidst our strife and unrest. Like all good teachers he asks questions of us rather than supplying answers:  is Jesus the One for us or do we look to another?

In responding we have the benefit of witnessing the completion of Jesus’ mission on earth, we experience his death and resurrection, share in the gift of the Eucharist together and are joined with the Holy Spirit.

And soon we will experience His birth. Where are our hearts today as we patiently await? This tiny baby will soon cry out to us for our love, for our care and protection, for our tenderness, for our strength. In his utter dependence Jesus reaches out.

Just as we await Jesus, he waits for us. In his humble arrival, Jesus wordlessly invites us to enter into relationship with him, using our hands and our hearts.

God asks that we model this relationship with His son- in our love and in our care for one another. It is this that will transform us. This will transform the world.

A teacher once memorably asked this of me: who in your life depends upon you? She went on to say that creating or cultivating such relationships are a necessity for us because they deepen our humanity.

As examples, parenthood comes obviously to mind, but of course there are other routes too – deep friendship and ongoing relationship with someone who has been marginalized in life, ongoing care and presence for the sick, advocacy for a person in seeming scandal with the world, even, and possibly in our older age, caring for a beloved pet.

We transform the life of another in the process- and we make ordinary- the extraordinary miracles spoken of by Isaiah, John and Jesus- feeble hands are strengthened, those lowly bowed-down are raised, the poor receive good news.

In the process, we come to realize that in our relationship with Jesus and His Spirit we are co-creators of the just world that John and Old Testament prophets cried-out for. As for the punishment that was promised by the prophets, Jesus shows us that encounter and relationship are far more transformative than punishment could ever be.

And what of us? Our relationships transform us too- they soften our hearts, they strengthen our resolve, they test our patience, they stretch our capacity to love. They make us confront and heal our wounds.

In the outstretched hands of the coming baby Jesus, may we see a model for relationship with our God and with one another. Like our teacher, John- Jesus, we look to you.

Sunday Reflection for December 8, 2019 by Rachel Heft

Reflection December 8, 2019
Second Sunday of Advent

There’s something truly inspiring about John the Baptist.  He’s always depicted as such a strong character, a person of complete dedication to his beliefs, a man happy to live in poverty – clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt, eating locusts and wild honey, living in the desert – preaching.  It is like he has want for nothing – no worldly needs.  And people must sense that he’s a leader or a prophet.  They’re flocking to him, drawn to him for what he offers: baptism in the River Jordan.  Baptism of people as they acknowledge their sins.

John is so passionate about his mission, and so sure of his message that he indeed – as the prophet Isaiah foretold – he crying out in the wilderness.  Because, no one whispers “you brood of vipers!”

John uses this strong language to publicly rebuke the local religious leaders of the time, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who have arrived for baptism. John warns them not to rely on their relationship to Abraham for salvation.  No, like everyone else, they must produce good fruit, as evidence of their repentance.

And like that Pharisees and the Sadducees, the message in today’s Gospel is clearly that WE are called to repent.  Repentance.  Sounds painful and unpleasant, doesn’t it?

Step back a moment and consider this: part of Catholicism is acknowledgement of sins.  Through baptism, customarily given to us as infants now, someone takes the “action” of baptizing the child and absolving it of sin – there is no need for the child (or adult’s) active participation – it is done “to them”.  But in this text, baptism involves adults acknowledging their sins.  More like our right of confession or reconciliation, which puts us in the sometimes less-than-comfortable position of verbalizing our failures – to God, via our mediator, Father Jim – and ultimately (or hopefully) being granted forgiveness.

Now, I realize that confession is a less common part of our faith these days, and I’m guessing that Father Jim’s schedule isn’t always fully booked, but I think it’s still fair to say our intent as Catholics is to acknowledge our sins and failures and want to seek forgiveness.

But repentance is actually something a bit broader than reconciliation.

No matter the time period, it seems that Christians are often dissatisfied with the state of the world.  We don’t think that society is doing a particularly good job as espousing Christian values, like taking care of the marginalized, promoting selflessness.  And repentance asks of each of us not to go to confession necessarily, but to push back against this trend in both personal and public ways.  To turn away from what society is offering us and to pivot or re-orient ourselves and our lives to God. To be counter-cultural… just like John the Baptist.

Doesn’t rebelling against mainstream society sound much more appealing than “repentance”?  I think this one’s all in the terminology and the marketing.

If John and Jesus are calling us to repentance, and asking us to be counter cultural, it’s is not enough for us to claim to be dissatisfied with the world. We are asked to do something about the world and that “something” is to live the Word, and walk the talk even when that may be awkward or uncomfortable.  And that is what John the Baptist symbolizes.

Each of us is likely to consider how we can accomplish this differently, and I can only speak to what I’ve been contemplating, to see if it resonates with you.

This is the second Sunday of Advent, we just lit the candle of faith.  We come to this church on Sunday to celebrate, recognize, feed and sustain our faith.  But showing up, or being baptised, or being descendants of good Christians isn’t enough to live your faith – that’s being secure in your self-righteousness like the Pharisees and Sadducees. Instead, we too must prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his path this Advent in all aspects of our lives.

I’ve been thinking and reading recently about the discord between the birth of Christ – a baby born to a family of modest means – and modern “affluent Western Christianity’s” Christmas traditions.

It’s not going to come as a shock to anyone here to realize that the manner in which our society celebrates Christmas, is rather at odds with the Christmas story.  It seems to get more and more pronounced every year to me, and maybe that’s because I now have young children, who spend most of Advent being asked what they WANT for Christmas.  Not how they’re preparing for the birth of Jesus – or even what they’re doing for someone ELSE for Christmas.

Similarly, I’m fully engulfed in preparing to host family dinners, I spend most of my time worrying about Christmas as a celebration to be facilitated, and expectations to be met – I’m not truly taking the time to treat it as a sacred holiday.

So if I am honest, the best way for me to celebrate Advent is to shut as much of that down as possible and to reorient my focus from preparing for Christmas as a secular holiday with decorations and gifts, and cookies and meals and to refocusing on Advent as my time to spiritually prepare the way of the Lord.

This is counter cultural, and I may have to drag my family into this with me but my time will pivoted be towards my relationship with God, and my focus on prayer, and reflection on the Word.

For my relationship with Jesus is the relationship I should be wanting to see bear fruit.