Reflection for March 8th, 2015 by John Mark Keyes

Reflection for March 8th, 2015

3rd Sunday of Lent


For printable version: Reflection_March 8, 2015_JohnMarkKeyes


Our Lenten journey is now about two and a half weeks old. We still have some wayto go before it is complete.

If you are like me, this is a good thing. It means there is time left to accomplish the things that Lent is supposed to enable us to do.

This give me hope because I have been struggling to find my direction. I have heard the encouragement about fasting, repentance and alms-giving, but I am still trying to discover what I should be trying to accomplish.

The usual things just don’t seem to work.

Giving up drinking for Lent is probably good for my physical and mental health, but what does it do for my spiritual well-being?

Repentance is hard because I find either too little or too much to repent.

On the one hand, I am working as hard as I can to please people around me and seldom say ‘No’ to anyone.

On the other, I am undoubtedly contributing to climate change, and although I try to reduce my global footprint by walking everywhere, there are limits if I want to get to church on time, especially on a Sunday when the time changes.

And as the receipts for last year’s charitable donations roll in, it looks as if I have done my almsgiving bit too.

So what should I do for Lent? Where to turn?

Today’s readings might help. Much of what we do in religious worship and practice is a matter of following rules and doing what has been done before. Maybe the place to start is to think about what these rules and practices are really all about. Because, sometimes they obscure rather than advance the original intent behind them.2

The first reading gives us perhaps the best known set of rules, the 10 commandments.

They were helpful for the Israelites of Moses’s day, but today there are few societies that can get by with these 10.

We have multiplied them into thousands of rules of many different sorts, ranging from legislation enacted by law-making bodies to rules of etiquette in the world of social media.

But Jesus collapsed the rules into just two: love God and love your neighbour. It makes you wonder. If all the rules are really about loving God and your neighbour, how do they stack up against these fundamental precepts?

Do all our laws and rules reflect these precepts, particularly many of the new ones that are being written into our law books?

So, is Lent about following rules? I’m not sure, apart from the two that Jesus enunciated.

The scene with Jesus in the Temple in the Gospel today provides another good example of the limits of rule-following. Although today we might wonder why people were setting up shop in a place of worship, it in fact made some sense in terms of the rules of religious worship and practice in Jesus’s time.

Observant Jews who came to the Temple were expected to bring sacrifices.

Merchants selling birds and animals for sacrifice were helping them meet their religious duties, although they were also making a handsome profit.

Money-changers were also helping since donations could not be made in Roman denarii because they bore pagan or imperial portraits. They had to be exchanged for coins from Tyre.

So, all these business people were in the business of helping worshippers worship.

And yet, Jesus turns them out of the temple. And then he goes further and speaks of the destruction of the Temple itself, and re-building it in 3 days.3

But of course, the re-build was not to be one of stone and mortar, it was entirely different, a Temple of Jesus’s body.

What we have in the Gospel today is a striking example of how Jesus exposes the perversion of religious worship, overturning the accessories of sacrifice and donations, and even foretells the doom of the physical space of worship, in favour of his own death and resurrection.

Jesus’s message does indeed seem foolish in overturning the tables of tradition and complacency, and suggesting that he himself will replace the temple. But it is a striking reminder that rituals and worship spaces are a means to an end, not ends in themselves.

As Paul says in the second reading, God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is strength.

So, how do I relate this to my own reality? Well, let’s look at our Lenten practices, starting with fasting and abstinence.

For example, is it really a hardship to give up eating meat? And what exactly is the benefit to giving it up?

At least two benefits come to mind. First, abstinence can be linked to global sustainability, consuming food that is less resource-intensive. It is a practice that, if widespread, can have a significant impact on the demand for resources and facilitate their stewardship.

Secondly, it can jolt me out of my complacency. If it is different from what I am used to, I notice, and in noticing perhaps engage more in Lenten reflection about the way I am living my live.

When I move on to consider acts of charity, perhaps I need to realize that the Christmas year-end is not the only time for charitable giving, and I might be more creative in our giving, expanding my donations beyond the usual ones.4

And finally, what should I be sorry for? Following rules gives me comfort, but maybe I can think more about what motivates the rules and whether I am living their spirit as

well as their letter. And when get annoyed with someone I am helping, I should not rationalize my annoyance away, but in instead work through it to remember why I am helping in the first place.

And just maybe I can do better. Maybe we can all do better.



Reflection for Dec. 14th, 2014 by John Mark Keyes

Reflection for Dec. 14th, 2014 by John Mark Keyes

3rd Sunday of Advent


For printable version: 3rd Sunday of Advent-2014(2)
I am sometimes captivated by the ideas and images we find in the Sunday readings, and I find it tempting to explore them for their intellectual stimulation. But when I read today’s readings, they evoked something different, something that resonates more with things I feel, things that move me. This is quite fitting on Gaudete Sunday since rejoicing is much more an affair of the heart and soul than the mind.

So let me begin by describing this side of my response to the readings. Two things jumped out and grabbed me. One of them was hearing Isaiah speak in the first person:
o The spirit of the Lord God is upon me.
o I will greatly rejoice in the Lord
o My soul will exult in my God.

The second thing was John in the Gospel reading: John the Evangelist writing it, and John the Baptist who is the subject of the reading. My own name is John, so when I read “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John”, it caught my attention. What I would like to do this morning is dwell on these personal connections and think about what they might mean, not only for me, but for all of us.

What is the significance of Isaiah using the first person in the first reading?
Well, it struck me that we are not just hearing what a long dead prophet said
thousands of years ago. The words from Isaiah are words we can read aloud and speak for ourselves: “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me”. In fact, this is exactly what Jesus does in the Gospel of Luke when he begins his
ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth. He reads this passage from Isaiah, and then says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”.2
This caused a great deal of consternation among those who heard Jesus since He was understood to be announcing himself at the Messiah. But there is another sense in which we can hear these words.

The Good News of Isaiah is not just something we can listen to. The Good News is really Good News when we proclaim it ourselves, not only in what we say, but also in what we do and in who we are. Isaiah speaks in the first person, and if we read and speak his words, it is as if we are expressing the same thing ourselves: “the spirit of the Lord God is upon me”! Try saying it: “the spirit of the Lord God is upon me!”. Say it aloud and loudly, with
an exclamation point at the end: “the spirit of the Lord God is upon me!”

These are not just Isaiah’s words; they are for all of us who, like Isaiah, are anointed by the Lord. It’s up to all of us to bring Good News to the oppressed, bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners, proclaim a year of God’s favour. But how do we do this?

This is where we need to use our imaginations even more. Oppressed, broken-hearted, captives, prisoners – these evoke desperate situations, but
we all experience these things by degrees, and we know others who do too. Oppression can be the weight of an unresolved problem, a broken heart comes from any number of disappointments, and people can be held captive and imprisoned by many things besides stone walls and iron bars. As we move toward Christmas, let us cultivate the joy and generosity of the season and proclaim the favour of the Lord to those around us and foster righteousness for those we meet.

Now let’s look at the Gospel reading. The writer of this Gospel is John. And he speaks of “a man named John”. When I was very young, I found this quite confusing. How could there be two Johns? Were they the same, or different? 3 And how could I be named John as well. This made for a lot of John’s rolling around in my young brain.Eventually, I figured it out, well to a point I did.

There were in fact two Johns in this Gospel: the Baptist and the Evangelist. And it made me feel great to be named after two big saints. One name, two saints. It doesn’t get much better than that. And then a couple of weeks ago, I looked at this reading again, and it struck me once
more: a man named John. That’s who I am. And maybe I can in some sense be what John the Baptist was. In fact, maybe we can all be a bit of John the Baptist, even though our names are not all John.

You see, something else that struck me as a child, and hit me again last week, was John’s humility. He didn’t want to be mistaken for Jesus. The glory of being the Messiah was not for him. He was dedicated to announcing Jesus, preparing his way, recognizing his own unworthiness to undo Jesus’s sandal strap. And what’s more, Jesus himself did not come for glory either: he too came to serve, and ultimately to give up his life for others.

So John wasn’t just preparing the way, he was also living the way that Jesus came to proclaim. He was not only announcing Jesus, he was living Jesus’s selflessness as well. And isn’t this what discipleship is all about? Proclaiming the Kingdom of God, living the Word of God, becoming one with God.

In the 9th century, another John, John Scotus also wrote about the John’s of today’s Gospel, interpreting the Evangelist’s rendering of the Baptist as the “forerunner” in terms that are as fresh today as they were over a thousand years ago. Scotus said:4o The evangelist’s intention was to differentiate between the fleeting voice and the eternally unchanging Word. The one, he would suggest, was the morning star appearing at the dawning of the kingdom of heaven, while the other was the Sun of Justice coming in its wake. He distinguished the witness from the one to whom he testified, the messenger from him who sent him, the lamp burning in the night from the brilliant light that filled the whole world, the light that dispelled the darkness of death and sin from the entire human race.

As we advance further into Advent and toward the winter solstice, the light of John the Baptist becomes bright indeed, and it can become brighter yet if we too shine as he did.

Reflection for March 1st, 2015 by Mike Britton

Reflection for March 1st 2015 by Mike Britton

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B


For printable version: Reflection_March 2,2015_MarkBritton


Text:  Gn. 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Ps. 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Rm. 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10.

“‘[The disciples] hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.’”[1]  We hear of this terror a lot, when people encounter God more immediately and directly than usual.  As another example, after God spoke directly to the people of Israel, giving them the Ten Commandments, “All the people shook with fear … .  ‘Speak to us yourself’ they said to Moses ‘and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die.’”[2]  Why is an encounter with God so terrifying?  We believe God is benevolent—that God is Love[3]; why then do we fear, so much that we think that to encounter God again would be too much for us?

From my own experience, when we encounter God, it’s overwhelming and very difficult to grasp directly:  God is more than we can speak; we are reduced to ambiguous approximations like the name God tells Moses, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh”[4], which I want to translate as “I am being”.  The experience is all-engulfing while it lasts, so much so that there is no room for thoughts or feelings as we experience them in normal consciousness.  The disciples probably had no idea how long they were on the mountaintop.

And then the transcendent experience ends.  Ultimately, we are created to be in love with God, in God with love, but our lives here serve a purpose, and so we return.  We are attached to and entangled with life:  not only with possessions and habits and pleasures, but also with goals and commitments and, perhaps most of all, with each other.  Such an experience unravels those ties a bit, because we cannot take that with us into God, though we are powerfully drawn; with a foretaste of heaven comes a foretaste of the letting go that accompanies death.

Small wonder, then, that the disciples were terrified; I certainly was after even a small such encounter.  I think T.S. Eliot had it right when he wrote, “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.”[5]  It has taken many years to accept my encounter even as much as I have, and I still have great difficulty in talking about it.  I fear that to experience something like that again could unbind me completely from this life, and so I’m reluctant to pray too hard for another such encounter.

I want to pause and go back to reexamine the story of Abraham and Isaac.  That has always been a problematic story to me, because the God I know doesn’t demand death, but life and love.  The sacrifice of the firstborn was a widespread practice among early religions; while later Jewish law requires the redemption of the firstborn by a sacrifice of five shekels of silver[6] instead, it is not inconceivable that in the very early time when Abraham lived, he may have felt that a blood sacrifice was required.  On the mountain, the angel of God told Abraham that God knew that he would hold nothing back, but that Isaac had a purpose in the world, to become the nation of Israel.  In this case, the meeting on the mountain was to mission Abraham and Isaac into the world.

Returning to the disciples on another mountain many years later, it seems to me that the purpose is different:  the disciples were already in the world, but through Jesus, God revealed to them what their destination was.  The disciples were called up the mountain to learn that Jesus was at once the man with them and the God with Moses and Elijah, and even more crucially, that they too would one day be with Jesus in that heavenly radiance.

So what about us?  We usually identify with the disciples in this Gospel, but if I’m right, we are invited as much as they are to identify with Moses and Elijah.  When the disciples lived with Jesus, they weren’t revered saints:  they were ragtag followers of a charismatic preacher and healer.  If they are invited to identify with the great leaders and prophets with God in heaven, then so are we.  Before Communion, each of us will confess that “I am not worthy that [God] should enter under my roof, but [God need] only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”[7]  Peter, James and John weren’t particularly worthy either; in their own time, neither were Moses and Elijah.  We are not worthy, but not because someone else is worthier; we are not worthy because God is beyond worthiness.  As Paul writes, “It is God who justifies,”[8] not condemns.

I don’t want to leave you with a sense that encountering God is a bad thing; it is a transformative thing, if we let it be so.  For me, it has been a bedrock of certainty and a source of strength and comfort in difficult times ever since.  I don’t know why these experiences come to some of us and not to others, but “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”[9]  Trust that God wants to be with us and have us with God, and that our experiences and actions here can serve in some way to help all of us grow into that mysterious, all-encompassing love.


[1] Mark 9:6

[2] Exodus 20:18-19

[3] 1 John 4:8

[4] אהיה אשר אהיה, Exodus 3:14

[5] Burnt Norton (1935) and Murder in the Cathedral (1935)

[6] Numbers 18:16

[7] Liturgy of the Mass

[8] Romans 8:33

[9] Psalm 95:7-8

Father Andy Boyer’s Ash Wednesday Homily

Ash Wednesday Homily

February 18th 2015

The word “lent” means “long spring days”. It commemorates the forty days Jesus spent in the desert where he was led shortly after his baptism, shortly after his epiphany. In the desert, he was “tempted by Satan”

We are going into Lent, as if Lent were something to fall into, a vessel. Victor Turner, the celebrated anthropologist, said that on a pilgrimage the whole of geography takes on symbolic meaning. It’s like falling into a world, in which each movement reflects a movement elsewhere; each step is matched by another in a parallel dance.

The geography begins in the desert. In the crucible of heat and sand, Jesus was trying to figure out “what it meant to be Jesus.” In the weeks that follow Ash Wednesdays, the Gospel readings will recount what Jesus did afterwards. He walked from town to town, sat down at the table with tax collectors and gluttons, talked to women, healed on the Sabbath, used the wrong fork. It is not at all clear to me that he knew who he was as in: “I’m the Son of God.” Rather, it looks more like he discovered, step-by-step, more about himself as time wore on, as he walked, and waited, and healed.

At the end of Lent, on Palm Sunday, we walk with Jesus into Jerusalem, the city where crowds welcomed him on the Sabbath by spreading palm branches under his feet, and where he was executed by the week’s end.

Lent is a journey towards the cross. And towards a tomb, and the mysterious unending joy of those who found that tomb empty. The goal is to bring its geography into the self, to bend beneath it, to allow the soul to find its narrative within it, it’s unfolding story. On Ash Wednesday, we enter the desert. We become the woman at the well who demands; Give me some of that water.” We are the blind man begging for sight, the sisters of the dying brother, the halt and the lame calling out from the alleys, “Jesus, remember me,” as the Taize song goes, “when you come into your kingdom.”

Finally, on the eve of Easter, we will light the tall, Paschal candle in a darkened church. Someone sings, “The light of Christ.” Lent is a journey, as a biblical scholar put it, from ashes to fire, to the living fount of our Baptism.

This journey, from tonight’s ashes, to Easter’s fire and baptismal waters, We have come to see it as a chance to rewrite our own stories. The essence of healing, perhaps the essence of what we mean by resurrection, is to take the chaotic and traumatic events of our lives and rewrite them into a new story, a new life. When we ponder the resurrected Jesus, what we think about now is how out of the chaos and trauma of death, new life was written and revealed.

Before a new story can be rewritten, the old one needs to be examined. Where is our treasure? Where is our heart? Where are we putting our time and attention?

Before we can put our hearts and our treasure in right relation, as the Buddhists say, we have to know where our hearts and our treasures are now.

I remember once when a friend signed up to help take care of another friend of mine who was dying, and she told me: I had imagined standing in a hospital corridor making compassionate decisions gracefully. Instead, what came to pass was that I sat in Ben’s living room, jet-lagged, shoveling take-out food into my mouth, my own house strewn with dirty laundry and a full cat-litter box. I had to imagine that I wanted Ben to hurry up and die. In short, I was the same old screwed up woman.

But in time, I learned that everything is God’s: my screwed up self, my dirty laundry, my harrowing inability to be perfect for Ben. Everything is God’s; shame, suicide, depression, egotism, anger, pain, betrayal. Because God is inside everything, findable in everything. God is not too good to hang out with jet-lagged women with cat litter boxes in their dining rooms or people dying of AIDS or someone nailed in humiliation to a cross. God is not too good for anything or anyone.

That is why, in Lent, we can bring anything to God. To see what the story is now and to find out where our hearts are. And yes that will mean some pain, yes, It is not easy to face our own darkness, our own ashes. We are all going to come up short, believe me. I asked a therapist once how to stop projecting onto others my own fears and weakness, that is – how to love. He said: “You must enlarge your capacity to suffer.” That is, we all have to face up to our own fears and weakness so as not to keep on pretending that it’s all someone else’s fault.

In Lent, we have to look at the ashes because we are pining for a new story. We are asked to make room for and enlarge our capacity to suffer. And, of course with it, our capacity for joy. That’s the fire.

Reflection for February 15th, 2015 by Louise Lafond

Reflection for February 15th, 2015 by Louise Lafond

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Jamie’s very recent request to do this weekend’s reflection could not have come at a better time for me as I just started my first placement as a student nurse. Yes, Holy Spirit, I am hearing you loud and clear!

It is hard from a 21st Century health perspective to understand what is truly going on in Leviticus. “Outside the camp” is the 7th Century BCE equivalent to a negative pressure isolation room that tries to prevent anyone else from becoming infected. The Israelites knew that they had no clue how to prevent the spread of infection and their only option was isolation. This does not mean that they did not care, but were powerless to help. This is shown in God’s punishment of Miriam1, Moses’ sister, who was made leprous and was forced outside the camp for seven days “…and the people did not set out on the march until Miriam had been brought in again.”

How then do we, as Paul asks us, not to cause anyone to stumble but to find the good of the many by following the example of Jesus? Tall order, as I, unlike Jesus, have not cured anyone by touching them and saying “Be clean!”

So, in this run up to Lent, what is my best offer to you who, like me, seek to serve and be like Jesus?

My modest proposal is twofold: One is aimed at all of us and the other is for the more tech savvy (or those who know someone who is tech savvy).

1. Look beyond the ribbons, whatever worthy colour they are, and learn about the people who suffer from an illness and how it affects their lives. For example: A great illness for study is schizophrenia – a devastating psychiatric illness that tends to strike adolescents and young adults. Discover the mechanisms in society that cause them to stumble, for example – the criminal courts, and work to end their isolation “outside the camp.”

2. For the tech savvy, I urge you to donate your computer time to the World Community Grid. Developed by University of California at Berkley, “World Community Grid is a simple way to support cutting-edge research into important global humanitarian causes.”2 As I was writing this reflection, my computer was working on cancer markers and genomes. This option is great for the many of us who do not have a lot of time to donate, but our computers are always sitting around.

Let us be like Jesus and do more of the doing rather than expounding our exploits and thereby confusing the medium with the message. It is not the cure, it is the disease and our willingness to touch and be touched by that which and those who are hidden from us and to bring them into the light.

1 Numbers 12
2 under “How you can Help” retrieved 2015-02-11

Reflection for February 8th, 2015 by Fr. Andy Boyer

Reflection fo February 8th, 2015 by Fr. Andy Boyer
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

For printable Version: 5TH Sunday in Ordinary Time


The Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John all begin, in one way or another, with stories related to the birth of Jesus. But Mark doesn’t tell us anything about Jesus’ birth. In fact, he begins his story when Jesus was 30 years old.

So what does Mark have in mind? Obviously, we can’t read the author’s mind, but one gets the feeling that Mark can’t wait to get into the story of what Jesus was DOING. The Gospel of Mark is very much an action gospel. It’s as if Mark were saying, “The world needed Jesus”

So in the ordinariness of our lives, all of us struggle and I believe we struggle in three ways. First, sometimes we struggle simply to maintain ourselves, to stay healthy and stable, to not fall apart, to not have our lives unravel into chaos and depression. It takes real effort just to maintain our ordinary health, stability, and happiness.

But, even as this is going on, secondly, another part of us is forever reaching upwards, struggling to grow, to achieve higher things, to live a life that is more admirable, noble, and altruistic.

Then, thirdly, at another level, we struggle with a threatening darkness that surrounds us. The complexities of life can overwhelm us, leaving us feeling threatened, excluded, and insignificant. For this reason, a part of us is forever conscious that we stand one breakdown, one lost relationship, one lost job, one death of a loved one bringing us away from descent into paralyzing depression, an illness, or a dark chaos that we cannot control.

In short, we struggle to maintain ourselves, struggle to grow, and struggle to keep depression and death at bay. Because we struggle at these three levels, we need, therefore, three kinds of spiritualities in our lives.

At one level, we need a spirituality of maintenance, that is, a spirituality that helps us to maintain our health, stability, and ordinariness. Too often spiritual teachings neglect this vital aspect of spirituality. Rather we are forever being challenged to grow, to be better Christians, to simply be better than we are at present. That’s good, but naively takes for granted that we are already healthy, stable, and strong enough to be challenged. And, as we know, many times this isn’t the case. There are times in our lives, when the best we can do is to hang on, not fall apart, and fight to regain again some health, stability, and strength in our lives, to simply get one foot in front of the next. At these times in our lives, challenge isn’t exactly what we need, rather we need to be given permission to feel what we’re feeling and we need to be given a warm hand to help draw us back towards health and strength. The challenge to grow comes later.

And that challenge comes with an invitation that invites us upwards, towards a spirituality of the ascent, our second spirituality. All spiritualities worthy of the name, stress the need to make a certain ascent, to grow beyond our immaturities, our laziness, our wounds, and the perennial shallowness of our culture. The emphasis here is always to reach upward and towards all that is more noble, altruistic, compassionate, loving, and saintly. Much of classical Christian spirituality is a spirituality of the ascent, an invitation to something higher, an invitation to be true to what is deepest inside of us, namely, the Image and Likeness of God. Much of Jesus’ preaching invites us precisely to something higher. Confucius, one of the great moral teachers of all time, had a similar pedagogy, inviting people to look to beauty and goodness and to forever reach in that direction. In our own time, John Paul II used this very effectively in his appeal to young people, challenging them always to not settle for compromise or second-best, but to look always for something higher and more noble to give their lives to.

But the challenge to growth also needs a spirituality of descent, our third spirituality, that is, a vision and a set of disciplines that point us not just towards the rising sun, but also towards the setting sun. We need a spirituality that doesn’t avoid or deny the complexities of life, the paralyzing losses and depressions in life, and the looming reality of sickness, diminishment, and death. Sometimes we can only grow by descending into that frightening underworld, where, like Jesus, we undergo a transformation by facing chaos, darkness, satanic forces (whatever these may be), and death itself. In some ancient cultures this was called “sitting in the ashes” or “being a child of Saturn” (the archetypal planet of depression). As Christians, we call this undergoing the paschal mystery. Whatever the name, all spiritualities will, at some time in our life, invite us to make a painful descent into the frightening underworld of chaos, depression, loss, darkness, and death itself.

Life reveals itself above us and below us and on the flat plain of ordinariness. None of these may be ignored. And so we need always to maintain and steady ourselves, even as we reach upwards and sometimes allow ourselves to descend into darkness.

And there’s still time to do all this. As Rainer Marie Rilke once wrote:

You are not dead yet. It is not too late

To open your depths by plunging into them

And drink in the life

That reveals itself quietly there.

So yes, this is a holy reminder, with Lent some 10 days away. You and I – we who call ourselves Christians and who want so much to be worthy of that name – we’re the ones who represent Jesus in a world that needs him altogether as much as it did 20 centuries ago, when he came physically to be among us. This is surely what Mark wants us to know.

Because our world is still in need, it still needs the Christ of Cavalry, with his compassion for our human need. And now, you and I are part of that team. We are called to help in the healing of our world.



2015 Synod on the Family

Do you want to add to the St. Joe’s response to the reflection questions put forth from the Vatican in preparation of the 2nd Synod on the Family which will take place in Rome in October?

Our response is due to the Archdiocese very soon.

Your feedback is needed by February 17th.

Questions?  Contact Michelle Miller on staff.  

Click here for more information


Reflection for February 1st, 2015 by Ewelina Frackowiak

Reflection for February 1st, 2015 by Ewelina Frackowiak

Fourth Sunday in Orinary Time


“I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the name of the shop: THE TRUTH SHOP. The saleswoman was very polite: What type of truth did I wish to purchase, partial or whole? The whole truth, of course. No deceptions for me, no defenses, no rationalizations. I wanted my truth plain and unadulterated. She waved me on to another side of the store. The salesman there pointed to the price tag. “The price is very high, Sir,” he said. “What is it?” I asked, determined to get the whole truth, no matter what it costs. “Your security, Sir,” he answered.  I came away with a heavy heart. I still need the safety of my unquestioned beliefs.”

(from Anthony de Mello “The Song of the Bird”)

Jesus from today’s gospel and from the gospel in general appears as somebody who gave up the safety of beliefs, who is vulnerable. Only a vulnerable person can speak with authority and had such an impact on listeners. If someone speaks with true authority that means she is
fearless, not afraid of losing anything, because she has nothing to lose…
Although, Jesus spoke with authority, he did not request obedience from his listeners. He rather wanted us to discover the same source of authority in us, the same capability of fearlessness and life in truth. What such life is like?

I think that in such life we recognize that we are bigger than the stories which we tell ourselves about ourselves. We accept that our beliefs do not define us, our work does not define us, our successes or failures – nothing define us. You see, sometimes it is like “we are perceiving ourselves as a cluster of ocean waves, not recognizing that we are made of ocean. When we realize that our true self is ocean, the familiar pattern of waves – our fears and defensiveness, our wants and busyness – remains a part of us but does not define us”. (from Tara Brach “True Refuge. Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Mind”, p. 20)

For years and years I was sure that something was wrong with me. Whatever I started, whether it was a graduate school, a job or a hobby, I feared that my new colleagues will sooner or later realize that I am a fake. It took me time to recognize that this is just one of the narratives that
my mind creates, a narrative fed to me in my childhood, a story that I somehow internalized.

Whatever a narrative we create about ourselves or the world around, if we do not recognize that this is just a story of our mind, we limit ourselves, we limit our perception of the world, since we want our experiences to confirm whatever the story line is. And we isolate ourselves. In such a place of isolation, we may feel threaten by the spontaneity and vulnerability of others. Just as the man in today’s gospel was, the one whom the evangelist described as someone with an unclean spirit. The man saw Jesus as a threat. Again we sense that Jesus has power but his power is not to control and manipulate but is instead the power of powerless love.

(cf. “The Theology of Dorothee Soelle”, ed. S. K. Pinnock, p. 120, 121)

Jesus did not respond directly to the man as if he recognized that the man’s behaviour did not come from his true-self. The man’s reaction to Jesus was a reaction by somebody caught up in fear, and maybe shame and anger. Now it is the time for the man to awake the same awareness of who he is and of who he is not. Time to recognize that the preacher from Galilee has love to offer. That he himself has love to offer, too.


Reflection for January 18th, 2015 by Father Andy Boyer

Reflection for January 18th, 2015 by Father Andy Boyer

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time



I came across a short text just recently – Deuteronomy 33:25. “Your shoes shall be iron and brass; and as your days, so shall your strength be.” This was actually a prophesy given by Moses to the tribe of Asher just before his death.

Asher’s land was fruitful and mountainous. To the people who lived in hilly terrain, God promises “iron shoes” for the roads they must travel.

From this we may take a very simple application. Every year is the beginning of a new journey. How will we fare? What will the road be like? Will our way be rough or easy? Our text suggests that we may have some rough road to travel before the year is done.

If our path is to be strewn with flower petals, velvet slipper will do. If all we’re going to do in 2015 is to sit and watch television, we don’t need iron shoes, thick socks will do. But if we plan to walk rocky roads, we need good footwear. As coaches like to say: no pain, no gain, no struggle, no growth.

Then there is the last part of the verse – a promise of great provision: “As your days, so shall your strength be.” God will give strength for every kind of day we may face. Some days are filled with joy, light, and happiness; others will sadness, tears, frustration, pain and heartache. Whatever each day brings, there will be strength enough to meet it.

Ron Rolheiser, in commenting on our readings of today uses the phrase: “Every tear brings the Messiah close.” He says that people are always impatient, but God is never in a hurry.

Our scriptures are often a record of frustrated desire, of non-fulfillment, and of human impatience. We are always longing for a messiah to take away our pain and to avenge oppression, but mostly those prayers seem to fall on deaf ears.

And so we see in scripture the constant, painful cry: Come, Lord, come! Save us! How much longer must we wait? Why not now? Where are you staying? We are forever impatient, but God refused to be hurried. Why is God seemingly so slow to act? Why is God so excruciatingly slow to act in the face of human impatience?

There’s a line in Jewish apocalyptic literature, which metaphorically helps answer this question: Every tear brings the Messiah closer! It would seem that there is an intrinsic connection between frustration and the possibility of a Messiah being born. It seems that messiahs can only be born after a long period of human yearning.

Human birth already helps answer that question, gestation cannot be hurried and there is an organic connection between the pain a mother experiences in childbirth and the delivery of a new life. And that’s also true of Jesus’ birth. Tears, pain, and a long season of prayer are needed to create the conditions for the kind of pregnancy that brings forth a messiah into our world. Because the real love and life can only be born when a long-suffering patience has created the correct space, the virginal womb, within which the sublime can be born. Perhaps a couple of metaphors can help us understand this.

John of the Cross, in trying to explain how a person comes to be enflamed in altruistic love, uses the image of a log bursting into flame in a fireplace. When a green log is placed in a fire, it doesn’t start to burn immediately. It first needs to be dried out. Only when it reaches kindling temperature can it ignite and burst into flames. Speaking metaphorically, before a log can burst into flame, it needs to pass through a certain advent, a certain dying out, a period of frustration and yearning. So, too the dynamics of how real love is born in our lives. We can ignite into love only when we selfish, green, damp logs have sizzled sufficiently, and the fire that makes us sizzle is unfulfilled desire.

Pierre Teihard de Chardin offers a second metaphor here when he speaks of something he calls “the raising of our psychic temperature.” In a chemistry laboratory it’s possible to place two elements in the same test tube and not get fusion. The elements remain separate, refusing to unite. It is only after they are heated to a higher temperature that they unite. We’re no different; it’s only when unrequited longing has raised our psychic temperature sufficiently that we can move towards reconciliation and union. Simply put, sometimes we have to be brought to a high fever through frustration and pain before we are willing to let go of our selfishness and let ourselves be drawn into community.

Messiahs can only be born inside a particular kind of womb, namely one within which there’s enough patience and willingness to wait so as to let things happen.

Hence, ideally, every tear should bring the messiah closer. Every frustration should ideally make us more ready to love. Every tear should ideally make us more ready to let go of some of our separateness. Every unfulfilled longing should ideally lead us into a deeper and more sincere prayer.

Brothers and sisters, it’s time to put on our iron shoes! And off we go, adventuring into this year. May God help us to press on to know the Lord better in 2015.


Reflection for January 11th, 2015 by Rachel Heft

Reflection for January 11th, 2015

Baptism of the Lord Feast


In today’s Gospel John the Baptist and Jesus perform the now well-known ceremony of baptism.   I love baptisms –the hope and endless possibility for new life, the holiness, the forgiveness, the welcome given to new disciples, the white garment, the candles… it’s all so full of wonder and beauty.

But obviously that’s not the kind of baptism Mark is referring to. John the Baptist, the desert-dwelling wild-honey and locust-eating, camel hair clothed, Biblical bush-man dunking inhabitants of Jerusalem in the Jordan River and claiming this results in forgiveness of sins.  All the while, John is making grand statements about a mighty and powerful one who is yet to come who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.

Imagine a similar situation today.  A scruffy, wild looking man who lives in the Gatineau Hills is making grand statements about the coming of a Messiah and offering to rid you of your sins if you take a plunge in the Ottawa River.  Are you getting in that line?  I’m going to guess the answer is no.

And yet, I suspect most of us admire John. He represents the true believer, the proclaimer of the Good News. We’re supposed to want to emulate him.  His devotion, his humility, his confidence in sharing the miracle of baptism at a time when baptism of repentance was not common or viewed as necessary for the Jewish people…

So if we’re not getting in line, how are we each, at the very least, proclaiming our faith outside this building?

I don’t know about you, but most of my friends aren’t practicing Christians.  While many of us come from Christian traditions, I’ve found that, when speaking honestly, the average person’s perspective on practicing Christians is closer to the way in which I’d regard John the Baptist if I met him on a modern-day street corner.  Unrealistic and gullible.

My experience in daily life has taught me that most practicing Christians of us must be closet-Christians.  We don’t walk around with billboards advertising our religion (ok, I take it back, Father Andy pretty much has a billboard… but the rest of us don’t)

We don’t introduce ourselves “hi I’m Rachel, I’m Roman Catholic”, we don’t usually hang crosses on the outside of our homes, and I don’t often hear grace being said at restaurants. Why is that?

My own religious practices tend to come up in passing, explaining why I can’t join Sunday morning running groups, or where I know one of you from when I bump into you on the street, or why my 2 year old son is always talking about baby Jesus when someone mentions Santa Claus.

And it strikes me as odd, whenever these things come up, that my colleagues, friends, and acquaintances tend to raise their eyebrows at me and say “You’re a Catholic?”  What is it? The strong, outspoken personality? The socially liberal values? Being a feminist? The red high heels? What exactly makes me so incompatible with being a Catholic?

After this initial shock, some people want to have a quick discussion about religion generally, tell me why they are not religious or ask which church I attend. Occasionally, I receive antagonistic reaction, a mocking joke (mostly meant in playful fun, but usually turns more than a little uncomfortable), and I try my best not to react, not to take it personally – because they don’t understand, and reacting will get me nowhere.

Then occasionally, weeks or months later, a colleague will come into my office to tell me how he’s spending Christmas Eve giving care packages to the homeless.  Or a friend will tell me she’s decided to start attending the church down the street in order to explore her spirituality.  Or someone who mocked my faith will share that they are having their new baby baptised.

I often don’t know why people come to me to confess these things. Are they quietly confiding their own beliefs to me because they think I’ll understand or approve?  Why do they care?  Why do they share?

This brings me back to today’s Gospel and to the other half of the story: Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist.  As Jesus emerges from the water, a voice from the Heavens acknowledges him “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  God welcomes Jesus publically into his family for the first time.  We recreate this moment every time we baptise someone in this church.  Acknowledging that we will accept and support the new members of our Catholic family.  That we are united through Christ.

Is that’s what’s happening when others come to me with their quiet admissions? Somewhere, in all this mess of callousness, is there is still a shred of belief and hope?

Are they trying to get back to their faith by doing charitable work, or acknowledging that their child will miss out if left without the formal initiation to faith?  Are they quietly asking for acknowledgement that they’re part of our Christian family – even if they aren’t wearing crosses around their necks?

Perhaps God doesn’t need each of us to be John the Baptist.  Maybe admiring him and being inspired to continue to live out our faith is enough – even though we too are flawed, even though we are openly questioning different aspects of faith, even if we are feminists who wear red high heels and don’t fit the stereotype of the traditional Catholic.

Through my interactions with various acquaintances, I’ve come to realize that unlike others I’ve never believed there’s anything hypocritical about being a practicing Catholic and not fitting the archetype of the perfect Catholic.  Good grief, who in this room fits that description?

Nor do I think it’s impossible for a person who spends time dedicated to critical thinking, or politics, or social activism, or sports, or the arts to also have a strong faith.

I look around this room and see people of different views, levels of education, interests, ages, backgrounds – teachers, students, athletes, cooks, mothers and fathers, children and teens, hairdressers, public servants, nurses, computer experts, runners, musicians, gay persons and straight persons – how many of us fit the stereotype of the “good Catholic” – and by good, I don’t mean kind and helpful, I mean unquestioning and gullible.  Somehow, that’s the realization that others come to when they raise their eyebrows at me and say – “you’re Catholic?”  What they’re trying to say is “but you don’t fit my expectation of what a Catholic looks like or acts like.

God doesn’t need each of us to be John the Baptist, God needs each of us to be our true selves and to accept one another.  To see beyond the stereotypes of what a Catholic is or should be and to know that we can get there a different way – Though maybe we could try to say grace at restaurants a little more often!  Because others need to know that our Catholic family is diverse.   Only a diverse family can claim “everyone is welcome”, and through Baptism we all accept that we’re all practicing our love for God; doing our best, and willing to let others try, in their own way, to do their best too.


By Rachel Heft

An inclusive community of faith