Reflection for Sunday, June 21st by Joe Gunn

Reflection for June 21, 2015 by Joe Gunn

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

For printable version: Reflection – Sunday June 21 2015

 

Have you ever been in a boat and felt a wee bit queasy, or worse yet, in bad weather or a storm, and felt the fear rise up from your stomach to your throat?

I have…

I remember a canoe trip, quite a few years ago now, with my daughter in the bow. She was about 8 or 9 and we were pretty deep into Algonquin Park. A storm blew up on a large lake, and we were too far out for cover, with whitecaps breaking over her and the canoe landing with a thud after we crested each wave…I was deathly worried until I heard Daniela crying, but they weren’t tears. She was yelling, “Whoopeee!” And at that moment, whatever happened, I knew we’d be ok…

In today’s readings, the disciples in their own boat must have felt the same fear well up in them. And I imagine it must have been quite a tempest, because these guys were, after all, mostly experienced fishermen. You know, if you’re anything like me, it’s kind of easy to believe in Jesus when the weather is fine and things are going well. For the disciples, there were big crowds that afternoon and ticket sales must have been pretty good. But stormy seas change everything, don’t they? Rough water is kind of a metaphor for the overwhelming difficulties we all face at one time or another in our lives, and perhaps what we also face in our faith journeys…so how do we respond when challenges make the going tough…?

You know, someone else has been making waves this week – a Pope. Francis released an encyclical, a 200 page letter, the first ever written on the topic of the environment. Francis’ encyclical may be seen as a “tipping point” – towards ensuring that communities of faith – like us here at St. Joe’s – take up the challenge to preserve and protect creation.

Laudato Si is not only the title of the Pope’s letter – it is also the first line of St. Francis of Assisi’s famous Canticle of the Creatures (“Praise Be to You, My Lord”). Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio describes Francis of Assisi as “a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” (Laudato Si #10)

If you think a pope’s encyclical has nothing to do with your life far away from Rome, let me mention that the encyclical quoted a pastoral letter on the environment written by the bishops of Canada. (LS #85) And, the pope’s encyclical presents at least 3 challenges worthy of our attention, today.

 

A Moral Challenge

First, Francis uses the strongest condemnation a religious leader can, by referring to “attacks on nature” as sinful. (LS #66)

The pope’s encyclical advances the moral argument away from some traditional theologies which interpret the Genesis passages as giving license for humans to “dominate” the entire created order. Francis does not place the human over creation but more adequately sees human beings as part of creation’s web of life. The word “stewardship” only appears once in the entire document – and then it is referring to another citation. The pope asks that the biblical texts be “read in their context…” (LS #67)

 

A Challenge to International Solidarity

Second, we would expect a man from the Global South (where his church is growing) to be sensitive to the need for international development. Francis understands that, “The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty.” (LS #175)

This pope is a critic of unrestrained capitalism’s “deified market” (LS #56), acknowledges the need to change “models of development” (LS #194) and recognizes the “ecological debt” (LS #51) we owe poor countries.

The greater responsibility to act lies upon those countries, like Canada, which developed their own economies by the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels.  “There is a need for common and differentiated responsibilities…the countries which have benefited from a high degree of industrialization, at the cost of enormous emissions of greenhouse gases, have a greater responsibility for providing a solution to the problems they have caused”.

 

A Challenge to Canadians

Thirdly, Canadians must not stop at changing lightbulbs or recycling household waste – important as these activities remain. “Self-improvement on the part of individuals will not by itself remedy the extremely complex situation facing our world today… Social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds…The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion.” (LS #219)

Francis notes that “it is remarkable how weak the international responses have been” to the climate crisis to date (LS #54.) Canada has often been criticized for blocking progress on international agreements to address climate change, and the recently announced target our government will bring to the table at the COP 21 negotiations in Paris this December is reported to be the weakest among all G-7 nations.

Will this encyclical make a difference?, the media has asked all week. Only the Christian community can answer that – by actions that change our own lives.

The pope will come to the UN in New York and the US Congress in September, and will speak to the need for sustainable development and the need for action on climate change.

Development and Peace will organize their Fall Campaign called “Create a Climate for Change.” We will all be invited to participate in that effort.

Canadian faith communities will soon be asked to publish a pastoral statement on climate change, poverty, and Indigenous rights. The only time a similar proposal was advanced, in October 2011, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to sign. Our Canadian church has no position on climate change. Has the pope provided a “tipping point” to which his shepherds will now respond?

The pope discusses the need for “replacing” fossil fuel use (LS #165) and encourages renewable energy sources (LS #26, 164, 165) – policy options that Canadians should encourage our governments to adopt. A suitable response to the encyclical might be for Canadian Catholics to demand a federal poverty reduction plan with “green” policy sensitivities from all candidates to federal Parliament.

In the first reading today, Job hears God speaking from nature… indeed, God’s voice came from the whirlwind. And in the reading from Paul, we hear that if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away…

As we hear news of this encyclical on climate change, will we attempt to be more like the wind and the sea – obedient to the Creator who fashioned us?

Is Jesus sleeping in our own lives? Do we refuse to call upon Him, because we are too afraid,

too scared,

too proud?

Is this our moment to awaken Christ in our own lives, and in our efforts to protect God’s creation?

 

 

Reflection for Sunday, June 28th by Fr. Andy Boyer

Reflection for Sunday, June 28th by Fr. Andy Boyer

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

For printable version: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily

 

It is striking that we just heard a two thousand-year old story. Two thousand years it’s been around and two thousand years it’s been told and retold. And here we are today, still hearing and resonating with that old story from the Mid-East. Why? What’s its attraction? The answer is, basically, that this story tells us why we are Christians. This story reveals why Jesus captured the people who first heard him, and why he captures us today.

The outline of this familiar story is simple. Jairus, the leader of the synagogue beseeches Jesus to come and heal his daughter. Jesus agrees to come to this important man’s house – but on the way, he is interrupted by an unimportant woman who, unlike Jairus, doesn’t even have a name. And here’s where we begin to get captivated.

He was on an important mission – and here she was irritatingly interrupting, grabbing at the hem of his garment. Can’t she see he’s preoccupied, has things to do? He doesn’t have time for her. But this unusual man does the unexpected and from his actions, from this story, I learn the five things that tell me why I am a Christian.

First of all, this Jesus not only had time for the unimportant, but a preference for them. Remember, Jesus was with the synagogue leader, a high-powered man – and yet he stops to encounter a marginalized woman. That in itself is remarkable. In that time and place in history, when women had no standing, much less contaminated woman, much less a poor woman – this was revolutionary. As the saying would go in modern times, Jesus showed a preferential option for the poor. And right away, this attitude raised the hope that he will pause for you and I as well.

Second, Jesus has time for losers. He who has the habit of seeing people on the margins senses that here is a woman with losses. Down and out, having given up on her doctors and maybe by her doctors, she is a loser easily relegated to life’s sidelines. But not for Jesus. Precisely because she is sidelined, she catches his attention. That raises the hope that he will notice you and I as well; that, in fact, he has.

Third, Jesus has time for affirmation. So far, this woman has been identified only by her bleeding and her pain. But Jesus pauses – he wants to see a face and hear a name. He takes time to see her, not as intrusion or nonentity, but as a human being in need. He calls her “daughter.”And furthermore, he affirms her by giving her credit. “Your faith had made you well.” This raises the hope that he will see you and I not as a face in the crowd, but as who we are, and call us by name. We, like millions of others, find that compelling.

Fourth, Jesus ignores the naysayers. I can hear the complaints of exasperation at his demand to know who touched him. “How can you, ask in this crowd, who touched you?” And when he reaches Jairus’ house, more negative voices. “You’re too late. She’s dead. Why bother?” And when he did bother, they laughed. This raises the hope that the people who put you and I down, who are always negative toward us, who laugh at us, are wrong and that Jesus is right to deal with us and see us alive and not dead as they think.

Fifth, the story, when it’s all said and done, reminds us of a deep truth. Too often we feel that in order to be a good Christian, we have to try hard and believe this or that, whether we, in fact, actually do believe it or not; that we first have to straighten out our life and get it together, and feel this or that in our hearts in order to be pious and worthy.

But listen again to this story. In the stories of Jairus and the woman, nobody does anything except cry out in the face of death and sickness. No one, as far as I can tell, believes, or feels, or thinks. As a writer, Robert F. Capon put it: “Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the gospel is to be dead. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be wise. You don’t have to be wonderful. You don’t have to be anything. You just have to be dead. That’s it.” And this raises the hope that you and I don’t have to be virtuous or “worthy” or even spiritually alive for Jesus to raise us up. In fact, it seems the more “dead” we are, the more he cares.

We learn that even if we’re dead, spiritually or physically, we qualify even more as a candidate for his concern. So we, like so many others throughout the ages, ultimately ask: What kind of person is this? Is it any wonder we would rally around his love and join with others that also do so and call ourselves a church?

You know, it’s funny how the mind works. I thought of this gospel one day when I was watching an interview on TV. The person being interviewed was a heroic mother who had singlehandedly raised a large family. In spite of all the frustrations, disappointments, and obstacles, she had persevered, and every one of her children had made remarkable achievements, not only in schooling, but also in their vocation. It was an inspiring story worth celebrating, for it revealed the heights and depths of human greatness. But during the interview, the mother was asked her secret by the reporter who said “I suppose you loved all your children equally, making sure that all got the same treatment.”

The mother’s answer was stunning and brought me back to this gospel. She replied, “I loved them. I loved them all, each one of them, but not equally. I loved the one the most that was down until he was up. I loved the one the most that was weak until she was strong. I loved the one the most that was hurt until he was healed. I loved the one the most that was lost until she was found.”

 

That’s why I’m a Christian.

Reflection for June 14th, 2015 by Fr. Andy Boyer

Reflection for Sunday, June 14th, 2015 by Fr. Andy Boyer

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

For printable version: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection

 

Everybody is posting these days. It’s so easy. Time was, if you wanted to post a community message, you had to type it up in big letters. Then, you had to drive out to some public place and actually affix it to a real wooden or metal post so that passerby could see it and read it.

All during that drawn out process, you had the opportunity to rethink what you had said and, if necessary, if it turned out to be something you really should NOT be saying, to take it back and take it down before somebody saw it and responded to it in shock or anger.

Today, with the immediate posting prowess by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, there is no grace publication period. What you think, if you dare write it down, is instantly conveyed throughout the entire world. I remain amazed at the number of people who think their private musings about sensitive matters like race, religion, politics, and gender need to be shared with the public.

The technology wizardry of our social media generation amplifies the importance of Mark Twain’s classic counsel: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.”

As I read through the New Testament and reflect on this matter of thoughts that one should say out loud and thoughts that one should keep to oneself, I have wondered how Jesus would have fared in our social media age.

Can you imagine how Jesus would have fared if he had had license to Tweet! While they are writing the obituary, picking out the casket, and preparing for the funeral, someone in the bereaved family reaches out to Jesus for counsel. Jesus Tweets: “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

Jesus, you keep talking about the Reign of God, but you never give any details. Can you please clarify exactly what you mean by this Reign of God? What comes back? An Instagram picture of Jesus standing beside an 8 foot shrub – the caption reads: “The Reign of God is like a mustard seed. When sown on the ground, it is the smallest of all seeds. But when it grows up, it becomes the greatest of shrubs and puts forth large branches, so that birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Jesus uses the mustard seed parable as the anchor parable in a chapter filled with parables. Before he explains the opening parable in the chapter, the parable of the sower, Jesus offers what one might consider very odd words for a teacher: “To you has been given the secret of the Reign of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables, in order that they might indeed look, but NOT perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand.”

I believe there are two reasons for these odd words. First, Jesus is trying to focus his disciples, and ultimately the crowds and us, to see that the words of the parables will always be incomprehensible as long as we focus on the words and not the key to deciphering the words. The key is Jesus himself. Jesus is trying to get us to look to who he is, how he lives, what he does as the filter through which we can hear and understand the parables. His life and ministry clarify the parables and their meaning. But that is also precisely the problem. Nobody, not even his disciples fully at this stage in Mark’s gospel, want to live our lives the way Jesus lived his life. By this point in the gospel, he has touched lepers when the law says you should not. He has drawn women into his company, when tradition says you should not. He has sat at a table and associated with tax collectors who defraud the people and prostitutes who immorally serve the people and treated them as though they, too, belonged to the household of God.

We cannot understand and take part in Jesus’ Reign unless we understand Jesus, and likewise participate in Jesus’ strange, uncomfortable ministry. But we don’t want that. Nobody wants that. Because the life Jesus lives is too hard.

The second reason Jesus talks in riddles is that he intends to befuddle the crowds so he can sneak a subliminal God message in past their intellectual and spiritual defenses. On the surface, this parable seems to be a simple contrast between the smallness of the seed and the largeness of the shrub. Joel Marcus interprets the contrast rightly, I think when he says: “For the dominion of God is like the word [of God] – small in appearance, but hiding a tremendous divine potency behind its apparent insignificance.” Almost like the dominion of God sneaks up on us because we did not see it coming. We certainly did not appreciate its power because we were so mesmerized by its apparent insignificance. Marcus also counsels that “the whole comparison is not just to the object that is immediately mentions (here the mustard seed) but to the whole situation described in the parable.”

What is the whole situation?

In this nice little story about a tiny seed and a big shrub, Jesus slips in an infecting message of politics for people who do not want politics mixing up in their religion. Ched Myers argues: “there can be no question that this parable concerning the disproportion between the seed and the mature plant is meant to instill courage and hope in the small and fragile discipleship community for its struggle against the entrenched powers.”

This is particularly important information because at the time when Mark writes his Gospel, Gentiles have made themselves most unwelcome in the land. Mark’s community lives into Jesus’ mandate that God’s House is a house of prayer for all peoples by creating an integrated worshipping community of Jew and Gentile. Could it possibly be that this tiny seed of faith might one day become a shrub large enough to provide shade and nurture for integrated humankind?

The parable suggests that the answer is yes. The parable does not just describe the world God intends. The parable provokes our participation with God in establishing the world God intends. The parable slips in the infectious message that to follow Jesus is to extend the reach of this seed as far as possible. If Jews and Gentiles, if black and white, if people of every ethnicity and sexual orientation, and place in life will make up the Reign of God when it is a full grown shrub, should we not be about the work of planting the mustard seed of religious and ethnic integration in every church, in every Christian, in every human being, in every circumstance we encounter right now?

John Dominic Crossan observes that the point is not just that the mustard seed starts small and ends big, but that you just do not want it in your garden, because it likes to get big by taking over.

The mustard seed parable is suggesting that we may look small in comparison to the world’s problems, the city’s problems, our family problems, but we are a part of an infectious kingdom on the spread.

Live into that belief with the trust that when we run rampant with God’s kingdom message, God’s word, and God’s reality will spread.

In his commentary on Mark, Eugene Boring says it well: “It is true that the parable is a parable of contrast: the tiny beginnings of Jesus and Mark’s own day will grow to fill the world and become the ultimate, all-embracing kingdom. But the readers must ponder whether the unconventional Jesus and his unconventional band of followers represented this kingdom.” Do we? Do we represent THIS kingdom?

Reflection for June 7th, 2015 by Eleanor Rabnett

Reflection for June 7th, 2015 by Eleanor Rabnett

Body and Blood of the Lord

For printable version: Reflection for June 7, 2015 Body and Blood of Christ

The readings this morning have told us the story of a God who is deeply in love with and committed to his people.  Beginning with a reading from the book of Exodus we learn about a covenant of blood and sacrifice.

Paul then speaks to us of a new covenant.  A covenant of love, living in and a part of each of us. If you Google the word ‘covenant’ you will find the theological definition of a covenant as being an agreement that brings about a relationship of commitment between God and his people.

In the gospel Jesus says to us “this bread is broken, my body is broken for you.  Just as this cup of wine is poured out, my blood is shed for you.”  Jesus was speaking of a new covenant – not one dependant on obedience or law but a covenant of love – between God and you and me.  It flows from God to you and to me, back and forth from each of us to the other and back to God.  A communion of love.  The Body and Blood of Christ

For the past couple of weeks I have thought and reflected on this covenant, this bond of love.  I’ve found myself reflecting on fleeting images that would come and go.  Whispered thoughts that seemed to be behind a veil yet I knew them to be there – but to put into words to describe it all?  This is a great mystery that we know intimately within our beings.

St Augustine in one of his sermons said “you will not understand, unless you believe.”  Even with great belief it may be difficult to explain, for this understanding may be hidden deep within us.

The best that I can do is to share the words of others who are perhaps both  wiser than I and more capable of sharing their experiences of the Body and Blood of Christ.  I suspect they experience it all very similarly to myself but may better able to put them into words.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate calls the Eucharist – God’s Way of Embracing Us.  He explains that we are all human beings, physical creatures and so we need something physical – which is represented here with the Body and Blood of Christ.

He says that Jesus “gave us the Eucharist, His physical embrace, his kiss, – a ritual within which he holds us to his heart”.   Pause  A ritual within which God holds us to his heart – I invite you for a moment to close your eyes and sit in that thought   pause    OK now you can open your eyes again, but hold on where you have just been.

G.K. Chesterton wrote: “There comes a time, usually late in the afternoon, when the little child tires of playing policeman and robbers. It’s then that he begins to torment the cat!” Mothers, with young children, are only too familiar with this late afternoon hour and its particular dynamic. There comes an hour, usually just before supper, when a child’s energy is low, when it is tired and whining, and when the mother has exhausted both her patience and her repertoire of warnings: “Leave that alone! Don’t do that!” The child, tense and miserable, is clinging to her leg. At that point, she knows what to do. She picks up the child. Touch, not word, is what’s needed. In her arms, the child grows calm and tension leaves its body.(1)

Ron continues:  “We are that tense, over-wrought child, perennially tormenting the cat. There comes a point, even with God, when words aren’t enough. God has to pick us up, like a mother her child. Physical embrace is what’s needed. Skin needs to be touched. God knows that. It’s why Jesus gave us the Eucharist.”(2)

In Ron’s book “Our One Great Act of Fidelity – Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist”  Part three is titled –A Spirituality of the Eucharist – Receive, Give Thanks, Break, Share.  He writes that “The Eucharist is not intended to be simply a ritual prayer within which we participate regularly, but is also meant to be something that touches and colours every area of our lives.(3)

The Eucharist needs to be a defining attitude, a way we meet life, receive it, and share it with others.  It needs to be a spirituality, a way we undergo the presence of God and others in this world(4).

This is what we celebrate this Sunday, this is what we take with us into our daily lives – from this community and into our homes, into our work places and into our school rooms and even into our play.  We receive the gifts of the bread and wine, we give thanks, we break and pour and we share with each other.

I want to leave you with a few words that Fr. Andy spoke on Friday in his homily at Josephine Flaherty’s funeral.  He said:  “Jesus took us, blessed us, broke us and gave us – a true relationship of love”.

We are the Body and Blood of Christ.  Happy Feast Day!

 

Authorities:

Exodus 24:3-8

Hebrews 9:11-15

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Sunday Missal – Living With Christ – page 416

 

1. From Eucharist as God’s Physical Embrace – 2001-02-25

2. Ibid

3. Our One Great Act of Fidelity – Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist by Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

4. Ibid.

Reflection for May 31st, 2015 by Dave Perry

Getting Into the Flow of God

Reflection on Trinity Sunday, May 31, 2015 by David Perry

For printable version: Getting Into the Flow of the Trinity by Dave Perry for May 31, 2015
I’d like to kick off this reflection by asking for your blessing. Take a moment to pray this prayer for me…

The Prayer of Blessing
Brother / Sister ____________                                                        You are of us … of me.                                                                            We are not separate.I Bless You …                                                            Yet not I – But Christ in me – Blesses You.                                            WE give you permission to be who you are.                                        To Love and Create;                                                                                To   Fall and to Fail;                                                                                   And to Rise Again into the LOVE –                                                           That You Already are.

Thanks for your prayer … now let’s unpack what that prayer has to teach us…

When I was 13 entered a citywide tennis tournament. My folks took me to The Ottawa Athletic Club. We walked in and I’ve never been inside a ‘Club’ before. As I register for the Singles Draw – the guy asks me if I’d like to also play doubles. I didn’t want to. I don’t like it as much, plus I didn’t know anyone else. He says, no problem – they’ll take care of it and match me up. I reluctantly agreed.

Well in my first singles match I get smoked. I might have won a couple games, but I was out of the Singles Draw. Now, the Doubles was another story. We won our first game. We won our second game. I should add at this point that the guy I’m teamed up with is amazing … he’s serving cannon balls. Yeah, it turns out he was the number 1 seed in the tournament … and the best junior in Ottawa. We make it to the finals – which we win. Now I’m not sure how many points I even participated in … let alone how many I won. My partner was simply that talented and dominating over our opponents.

Now here was my dilemma … maybe you can see it. I never knew what to do with that victory. How do I describe it even? I can’t say I won the doubles title – though I did. Or even that we won the title…that’s not accurate either. A couple years I actually prayed “God, what was that about? Please teach me something.”

By that point in my life … I’d come to know – pretty well, I thought – the writings of St Paul. Such as the second reading this weekend … “You received a spirit of adoption which cries ‘Abba’ Father.“
This may have affected the answer … what I got about the tennis victory. We won because the other guy carried me, and I rode on his coat-tails. Basically he won the majority of the points (if not all them), and I was along for the ride.

With this – I could really open up to the heart of Paul’s ‘gospel.’ For Paul – his term – “living In Christ – a term he uses 26 times — is him saying “all of life is a riding on the coat-tails of the Holy Spirit.”

Look at the reading … It’s the Spirit in us that cries “Abba, Father.” In Galatians Ch 2 … He says, and NOT symbolically, “It’s not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” …“It’s not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” In chapter 3 …Paul goes on to tell us that IN CHRIST … there are no categories … no distinctions … no male or female; Jew or gentile, black or white, slave or free.

I want to highlight this spiritual masterpiece of Paul. We usually hear pieces of Paul where he is made out to be a moralist … or a sexist … or a puritan. Some social justice folks don’t like that he seemed to ignore slavery as a problem. But it’s true that we frequently hear pieces of Paul … on grace, freedom, life in the Spirit…like today). But think for a moment …. in your church life (Catholic or otherwise) – how many times have you heard a teaching specifically on “It’s no longer I who lives, But Christ who lives in me?” Probably not too often.

Let me give you a sense of how ridiculous this is. Say you went to study science and took a course on Isaac Newton … and they never mentioned that he discovered gravity. They never even mentioned that he had any interest in it at all.

That’s just as ridiculous, as not knowing the heart of Paul who says “for me to Live is Christ.” This revelation is what jazzed Paul – because it was born out of his encounter with the Risen Lord … He experiences being drawn into the flow of God … where he knew – that his life was merely a riding on the coat-tails of the Spirit. For Paul this is the foundation of God’s universal health care plan. Everybody’s covered.

The issue for him is that everyone is in the Flow of the Spirit, and they can know it. This is the issue! Not your life circumstances — slave or free … married or not … gay or not. Freedom for Paul, is an inside job. The issue is to pray and know who’s praying. To heal and to know who’s healing. To breathe and to know who’s breathing. To serve at the Supper Table and know who’s serving. Even perception … to see God … is to ride on the coat-tails of the Spirit who sees and knows and merely gives us a glimpse of that knowing.

For 1700 years we’ve basically ignored the heart and mind of Paul. And what’s it been replaced with? This weekend marks the end of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Process around the pain and abuse of aboriginal children caused by the residential school system in Canada … over 100 years of trying to “kill the Indian in the Child.” Beyond the physical, sexual and psychological abuse … which is surely bad enough – is the Christian narrative being offered – both then and still today … whether Catholic or bible fundamentalist … it was / and is / essentially a “burn, burn, burn” mentality. Burn the Indian out of the Indian, burn the gay out of the gay; burn pleasure out of human sexuality; burn the human out of the human … if you don’t get purified in this life; well we’ve got purgatory to burn out all that is “offensive” to God. And if that doesn’t work – well you burn for eternity.

Does any of that sound like Jesus who proclaimed the “Kingdom of God is among you” or the heart of Paul that states, “it’s not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me?” Jesus critiqued the church of his day, saying you lay heavy burdens on people, and don’t lend a finger to help them. Have we not, for most of our lives (and the centuries before us) been denied access to THE narrative of hope and life in the Spirit?

And by the way, if you’re a woman, or you’re gay … and you think the church isn’t working for; let me tell you … that burn, burn, burn narrative doesn’t work for anyone. And we, as with Aboriginals … when you take away the only story line that makes sense … that gives life and hope … and replace it with that kind of moralistic reward-punishment system…then stamp it with authority… You’re going to get despair, lost-ness, and the resulting addictions and distractions that the little self needs to survive the loss of a life giving narrative.

Thomas Merton says, and I agree by experience, that stuff we call “sins” … are really symptoms of the greater pain of one who sees themselves as outside the radius of God. The problem for Merton, as for Paul, is one of identity … one has to learn to see themselves inside God.

Let me wrap this into the Trinity – which is what we celebrate this weekend.

One day I was supply teaching a grade 11 world religions class. It was a hot Friday afternoon … the kids ambled into the hot portable classroom after a school BBQ … half the class didn’t even show. No lesson plan was left. This was perfect. I thought I’d be playful and see what they’re learning in Catholic school so far. So I asked specifically “Who’s the fourth person of the Trinity?”

One guy raised his hand and says Bob Marley. Which is a great answer … he’s being a little flip. But that’s cool … But I only give full marks for Bruce Springsteen. Onto the next young man who is hung up on the math problem, “Sir, you can’t have 4 people in a trinity.” I respond,” look we’re Catholics and we’ve got three persons in One God, so don’t be giving me your math anxiety. Soon, a hand goes up at the back … now I’ve got the lights off to keep the classroom cool … so I can’t really see her well. But I say “okay miss, who’s the fourth person of the Trinity?” And she says “I am. It’s each of us.”

In the Gospel today we hear about the commission given to the disciples … to go forth — baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Baptizing really means an immersion … an experience. But before that even, how about we start with us?

Remember when I said that for Merton and Paul, the issue is that one has to learn to see themselves inside God … or inside this flow of love. Now get a load of this … this is GOD’s job! It’s the work of the Spirit to draw us into the flow … to show us what we need to see. OUR job – is to give God the permission.

Can we give God permission to immerse us in the Divine Dance of Love?

The Trinity … this mysterious flow of love between persons … abides in the soul of everyone … my soul, your soul. How about we give God the green light to do unto us whatever it is we need to awaken … to be resurrected in the “who” … of who we really are.

Our vocation is to live our lives immersed in the Dance of Love as the fourth person of the Trinity. Is this a narrative you can live with?

I’d like to offer two words to nurture our participation in the Divine Dance … practice and permission.

Practice is remembering who we really are. When I asked you to pray that prayer at the beginning– it reminds us that praying is one thing, but knowing who’s praying is quite another.

So forgive someone today … let them off the hook … but remember who’s is letting them off the hook, and who is riding on the coat-tails of the Spirit.

Give thanks for one thing today, and remember it’s the Spirit in you giving thanks.

And let’s give God permission … the green light … to act in us; Teach us, show us, draw us into the Dance of Love and this great knowing. Pray this as often as you think to … pray without ceasing, Paul says. (just remember who’s praying).

I think one of the reasons we need Church … we need each other … is — because the weight of this mystery of living in Christ is too big … too good yet too fleeting … too much of a challenge for our mind – which alone can’t bear this much good news. It can’t possibly be this good can it?

It is this good. Paul knew … every Christian mystic has known it. And we can know it … if we give God permission to awaken us, touch us, draw us into the dance. We’re actually already there … we just don’t know it.

Trinity Sunday Homily for May 31st, 2015 by Fr. Ken Forester

Trinity Sunday Homily for Mat 31st, 2015

by Fr. Ken Forester

For printable version: Homily_Trinity Sunday B

 

FORMER NATIONAL CHIEF SHAWN ATLEO speaks about the victims: “There is real learning happening in Canada right now through the work of the truth and reconciliation commission, sparked by the settlement agreement and the powerful stories of survivors. And I might add, the incredible energy , enthusiasm and engagement of young people, knowing that they got aunties , uncles , grandparents, great grandparents and those who have gone on, that suffered  through the incredible difficult chapter in our shared history. What they’re saying is we must transform, transform for our own families. The survivors are saying we need to recognize that, yes,  we were victimized, even those who came in the generations after, were part of the cycle of trauma and these difficulties and social ills still prevail, they are still a reality in our community, but we can say that it’s this time in our history that we can remove ourselves from being only described as victims, to be recognized as strong survivors because that’s what we are , resilience in the face, having overcome incredible odds to accomplish  the things we are seeing in our communities. “ Unquote

I hear him saying that choice is still there, to choose to create conditions to reclaim indigenous identity. The move from victim to survivor is done through the difficult path of forgiveness. Today we pray for First Nations, Inuit and Métis for the courage to choose forgiveness. “Forgiveness is the final form of love.” Reinhold Niebuhr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.” In fact it is a process; it’s not a one-shot deal.  It’s a daily and lifelong practice to move through layers and layers of hurt and grief and re-open the heart to compassion and kindness. Gandhi has said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

We see that miracle happening in many elders today. Just a few weeks ago I heard an elder in Edmonton circle speak of his rebirth through forgiveness of the pain he endured in Residential Schools. Young man Omar Kadar. His witness puts flesh on Mark Twain’s beautiful expression: “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet leaves on the heal of the one who has crushed it.”

Truth and Reconciliation:  Often we contemporary non-aboriginals have difficulty accepting the truth of our sin. Why? Because I was not there. How can I assume the blame for actions that are not mine? Many of those who were part of the Residential School system feel unjustly judged because they dedicated themselves and worked seven days a week to serve the children in their care. The Anglican Primate expressed it this way: “Though individual participants may have had nobler intentions, the underlying colonial aim was to break Indigenous cultures, and to assimilate the children into the bottom rung of a hierarchical society.” The system was oppressive and destructive.

TRUTH: We have disrespected First Nations with our prejudices and racism and still do. Truth: We often intentionally do evil. But perhaps just as often we do things that are evil without full intention or will, because we are immersed in an oppressive system. These things cause pain to others, and we remain with shame and guilt. St. Peter addresses the people and says; “You killed the author of life.” Speaking of Jesus Christ, but, “I know you acted in ignorance, as did your rulers.” Did he say, “Therefore there is no problem.”? NO! He goes on to say you must repent; “Repent, therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.”  So Peter speaks of sin that is done without our full will. These evil acts of ours whether done intentionally or unintentionally, as well as sins of omission, failing to do the good, need the healing forgiveness of the Creator and the forgiveness of First Nations. Today we pray that we non-aboriginals own the truth of the injury caused by ourselves and by the unjust system of a dominant colonial society that continues today. Let us own our sin and repent!

Sean Atleo speaks to the non-aboriginal, “You as well are a treaty person irrespective of where you reside and if you are not of indigenous heritage know that you have also inherited this legacy, this history and you can also play a part in reconciliation…That first step is just being taken now.”

Just a word about this feast of the Trinity that we celebrate today.Words to speak of the Divine. How do we speak of our experience of the Divine?  So how do we understand the Trinity? We don’t! God, by definition, is beyond conceptualization, beyond imagination, beyond language. The Christian belief that God is a trinity helps underscore how rich the mystery of God is and how our experience of God is always richer than our concepts and language about God.

Although the dogma of the Trinity was officially formulated in the fourth  century, no formula can ever capture the reality of God. Polytheism rightly sensed the divine hidden under every rock.

To what does this call us?

To humility. All of us need to be more humble in our language about God. The concept of God needs to stretch, not shrink, the human imagination. Often in the past in our relationship with First Nations People, we were too quick to dismiss their spirituality and label it as error. Christians had the correct and only language to speak of God. Our education system in the arts, science and even theology was offered as the only correct vision of mankind, the world and the divine. We taught religion but failed to recognize spirituality.

Tomorrow we have a ceremonial walk of reconciliation. A significant step on this journey toward reconciliation could come from a deeper awareness of the richness of First Nations Spirituality. Today we recognize that we Christians may have had a rich revelation of the essence of God through the doctrine of the Trinity, but the interpretation of scripture and our image of the Divine put God in the heavens, and humans as those ordained to dominate and master all other life, with the privilege to exploit and extract the resources and minerals for our consumption. Our property. Colonial culture was the lens through which we read scripture. We paint ourselves antagonistic toward Mother Earth. Those who are reflective today, recognize that the vision of the Divine as Creator God, the Great Spirit and the deeply held experience of interconnectness of all creation proclaims a gospel the world needs to hear today. Respecting native spirituality, we can claim a renewed vision for our world. This can be a lived Reconciliation based on Respect. Mike Cachagee, an elder who spoke last night at the Kairos event , expressed this when he said “Reconciliation is working together for a good cause to arrive at a good life.”

We are created in the image of God who is one. Sr. Priscilla Solomon said it well: “We have failed to respect each other and the land. That old fabric of life must go. We must take apart the threads of colonization and create a new cloth of right relationships among brothers and sisters, making this land truly home for us all.”

All my relations!

Pentecost Homily for May 24th, 2015 By Fr. Andre Boyer

Pentecost Homily for May 24th, 2015 by Fr. Andre Boyer

Pentecost Sunday

For printable version: Pentecost Homily

These past six months in our church year have been quite a journey – a journey which records the landmark events in the life of Jesus. It’s the story of the central mystery of Christianity – the story of the incarnation. We have celebrated this remarkable story for over 2000 years now.

 

We think of the incarnation, most of us think of it this way: God walked on this earth, physically, for thirty-three years, he died, and he rose. When he left, he sent the Holy Spirit to be present among us – but the actual physical body of Jesus was gone forever.

 

Jesus was here on earth healing, teaching, and revealing God in all of God’s compassion and love for 33 years. But he is not actually here anymore. The incarnation – that time when God was physically present and walked among us is over. And while the Holy Spirit is real – the Spirit is not the actual physical presence of God. There is a lovely little story that you’ve probably heard before, about a child who woke up one night after a frightening nightmare. She was convinced that there were all kinds of monsters and goblins under her bed and in the corners of her room. She ran to her parents’ bedroom and after her mother had calmed her down, she took the child back to her own room and said, “You don’t need to be afraid, you aren’t alone here. God is right here with you in your room.” The little girl said, “I know that God is here but I need someone in my room that has some skin on!”

 

We all need a God who has some skin on. We need God to be present here and now, in the flesh, in 2015 – right here in Ottawa – someone we can heard and touch and see.

 

Most of us don’t find God in some obscure setting – like a remote mountain monastery. Most of us need to find God in the kitchen, in the backyard, in the parking lot, and on the phone. We need God to hold us when we are discouraged. We need God to give us a gentle kick in the butt when we ignore someone in need. We need a God with some skin.

 

Ronald Rolheiser, in his book – The Holy Longing – suggests that our limited understanding of the incarnation is what makes it so hard for us to find that real, live, physically present God in our lives today. He notes that our rather short-sighted perspective gives the impression that the incarnation was a thirty-three year experiment; a one-shot excursion by God into human history…and now – it’s over.

 

The incarnation is still going on – it’s just as physically real today as it was when Jesus walked the dusty roads of Palestine.

 

When the Holy Spirit came to fill up those believers on that very first Pentecost – God once again took flesh. God got some skin. But in another way, through the Holy Spirit, God took flesh once again – and ever since, God has been sending us the Holy Spirit for that same reason. By giving us the Holy Spirit, God awakens in each of us the gifts that God needs to continue to be here and present in our world.

 

That first Pentecost, God became dependent upon human beings in a whole new way – and God has been dependent on us ever since.

 

The season of Pentecost has arrived. It’s sometimes called the Season of Ordinary Time – it’s that long six months or so when nothing too exciting happens in the liturgical calendar, when the vestments are always green. It lasts until the Season of Advent arrives. Pentecost is perhaps the most important season of the church year – because it’s the season when we are reminded once again that we can be renewed in the Body of Christ and continue to make sure that God has skin. It’s the season when we are called to specifically allow those gifts with which God has blessed us, to be used so that those who need God in their lives – a real, physical God – will be able to find that God. Jesus did it 2000 years ago – but now God is depending on us to do it.

 

St. Teresa of Avila captured it so well when she wrote:

 

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands but yours,

No feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which

Christ’s compassion must look out on the world.

Yours are the feet with which

He is to go about doing good.

Yours are the hands with which

He is to Bless now.

 

During this Season of Pentecost – what are each of us going to do to ensure that the incarnation continues to live on in us as the Body of Christ – so that all those in our communities, who are so in need of God’s unconditional love, will be able to find it.

 

A God…who will hold them when they need to be held, who will fix a leaky faucet for a cup of coffee, who will comfort and reassure them when they are afraid, who will act in solidarity with them over the offences of residential schools and join in prayer for reconciliation.

 

A God…who will laugh with them when they are delighted, who will run an errand for them when they are homebound, who will pick up the phone to let someone know that they are being thought of, who will mourn with them when they grieve,

 

A God…who will house them when they are homeless, feed them when they are hungry, and visit them when they are in prison, who will sit silently with them when they simply need a quiet companion by their side.

 

What are our gifts from the Spirit?

Are we ready – to allow God to use them during this season of Ordinary Time?

Reflection for May 17th, 2015 by Robert Sykes

Reflection for May 17th, 2015 by Robert Sykes

Ascension of The Lord

For printable version: Reflection for May 16, 2015 by Robert Sykes

First Reading: Acts 1. 1-11 Psalm 47

Second Reading: Ephesians 4. 1-13

Gospel Acclamation: Matthew 28. 19, 20

Gospel: Mark 16. 15-2o

Wow, what an incredible set of demands, images, and expectations we have been presented with today. When we think of difficult passages of the bible, we tend mostly to think of the hard choices it seems to ask of us. About loving unconditionally, and challenging social norms, putting our spiritual well-being above that of our temporal well-being. For many of us these are tough aspects of a Christian life to live faithfully. We fill our days with concessions and platitudes to make them a little easier to follow through with, but also a little easier to excuse ourselves when we don’t follow through. However, those are the demands of a Christian life, in the sense of witness, living our faith, showing the world who we are as Christians and who Jesus was as the Christ. Today’s readings are a bit different; today’s readings are not so much about how to be Christian as what it means for us to call Jesus, Christ – our Saviour, but also our Lord, our God, the Son of Man.

These sorts of passages present us with a different set of difficulties, the sort that have less to do with our public ethic, but every bit as much to do with our credibility and identity as Christians. However, unlike the lifestyle we choose for living our faith, these difficulties cannot easily be squared away with an appeal to “public good”, “good living”, or common cultural decency. These difficulties call into question the very reasonability of our faith in the first place. Most of us probably just gloss over the Harry Potter-esque parts of such passages. The image of Jesus ascending on a cloud to some heavenly throne is pretty fantastical. We might write it off as a miracle, or just a fantasy of early church writers. Certainly the scientists and pragmatists among us have such trouble. These passages are not just a potential problem for believers, but they are fuel for ridicule from certain secularist “intellectuals” and militant atheists. Saying, “that’s just the imagination of the author”, or “God can do anything”, these are platitudes no less frustrating to an understanding of our faith than “I gave money last week”, or “He didn’t mean to literally turn the other cheek” are frustrating to our lived ethics.

What it all comes down to is cosmology. Some of you may know the term – cosmology is the study of the universe/creation – and of those most probably have fears or concern about the work of astrophysicists like Einstein or Stephen Hawking. Others may be thinking, “Didn’t we solve this with Galileo?”. Don’t worry, and no we didn’t. In my opinion, Christian cosmology is probably the number one intellectual impediment not only to bringing new intellectuals into the faith, but stunting our leadership inside the church from including future scientists, critical politicians, and all around great new minds. We have all kinds of great leadership from those interested in social action, justice, and Christian outreach, but we continue to lose ground on the public floor over issues of less immediate pragmatism. Some of us will fall prey to a false secular ideal, “I am Catholic, but I leave that for Sundays and raising my kids in a loving home… It has nothing to do with my [science, office, social politics]”. Others of us will just avoid the issue by living a good life according to what Jesus said we should do, how we should act, we might even be inclined to tell our children and teens not worry about the less “realistic” elements of the Bible. When the simplicity of our faith is simply to do either, we are failing.

If we are to “proclaim the gospel to all creation”, “witnesses … to earth’s remotest end”, “be prophets, … evangelists, … pastors and teachers”, then we are going to have to do more than simply live a good Christian life! Part of that life is believing in the divinity of Christ, and that means sharing that divinity with others, and that requires us to speak at their level, in their tongues! No secular scientist is going to believe that our values are good and worthy because in our mind a man flew into the sky after rising from the dead. If anything that scientist is going to write us off as silly, superstitious, even crazy. Some, those that are generous in spirit, will see the truth in our values and at least appreciate those… Secular Christians… People that think the Bible is a good source of moral teaching, but dismiss its “literal” truth, to them Jesus was a man with a socio-political understanding way beyond its time, but JUST a visionary man. To be fair, that is a big reason why we focus on the good works, and not the cosmology, of the Bible.

We can do more. When we imagine the ascension of Jesus, we often use the same imagery as other Biblical ascensions. It makes sense to, that is how they are described in the Bible. However, only one of our passages talks about clouds and quite literally rising in the air. There is a simple reason for this, the Jewish context of the day was that heaven was that place of the realm above the earth. If you have ever seen the night sky out far beyond the city lights, it is not difficult to see the dome of heaven. It is not surprising that early cosmologists saw it the same way. But even at the time the New Testament was written not everyone believed heaven was a place hovering over the world. Their world was filled with different philosophical traditions which resulted in different cosmologies. In Paul’s letter, we read just about the ascension, with allusions to rising and falling in a literal sense, but nothing about the sky or clouds. This is because Paul, although Jewish, was educated in those different philosophies, and while the audience being addressed in Acts are Jews, the Ephesians were not. The cosmology there, regarding heaven, was likely more similar to our own… Heaven was a place, but not a place in this world, and not a place simply outside the earth. Not up there [point above] or simply in here [point to the heart]. God existed entirely outside the physical form of reality. Paul’s letter is expressly, literally, telling us that to say Jesus ascended is to believe that first Christ had to become part of the real world. That God came to earth, just the same as Jesus left the earth.

Can we understand this? Is this something we can talk to secularists, scientists, and even just our skeptical selves about? Can we have an open, honest discussion about all the things our intellectuals “know” are true? Can we accept what they teach us; learn it as well as they do, and still assert the absolute literal truth that Jesus was God? That God not only exists; not only is interested in our “pale blue dot”, but that God came here, lived with us, died with us and for us; left, and absolutely promised to return! Can we do that? Because if we can’t… If we can’t find a way, like Paul tried to, and appeal to the intellect while respecting the fullness of our beliefs… Not only will we fail to be relevant to a world much bigger than our own little parish, but we will fail to live up to Jesus’ last task, and we cannot allow ourselves to do that.

An inclusive community of faith