Archive | December, 2005

The Lord Remembered- Luke 1:5-25

29 Dec

As I mentioned in a recent post, I was given a little mission by a priest to read through the Gospel of Luke and reflect on it.

Also, I posted some reflections on the Annunciation and on the invitation delivered to shepherds to visit the newborn Christ child. In both instances, messages of good news were given to people eager to hear them, to reflect on them, and to act on them. I then related these stories to our lives today, wherein we are called to recognize God’s message and to answer affirmatively to it. God wants all of humanity, created in God’s image, to heed his voice, to act in godly and upright ways, to recognize his mercy when we fail, and ultimately to return to him in Heaven.

In my first article here on the Gospel of Luke, I began with Luke’s dedication of his writing to Theophilus. The name Theophilus means “lover of God”. Luke wrote in Greek to a mainly non-Jewish audience. He intended that all who read his Gospel would come to a better knowlege of the Incarnate Jesus Christ, all man and all God, and therefore become devoted lovers of God.

Names are important so far in Luke’s Gospel, so I think it is appropriate to continue with this theme. This next section deals with the foretelling of John the Baptist’s birth. We are told of the historical context: Judea was ruled by King Herod, who was a puppet of Rome and an evil man. The next person we’re introduced to is Zechariah, a priest of the order Abijah (Lk. 1:5). His name means “The Lord Remembered”. I had to look this up…

The Lord has a history of remembering the righteous. Noah, for instance, was spared the fate of humanity in the flood because of his uprightness. (cf. Genesis 6:9-22). Later, Abram and his wife Sarai were granted the improbable: Sarai conceived and bore a son, Isaac (from Hebrew meaning “he laughs”, as Sarai didn’t think it possible that she could bear a son because of her age, so she laughed). The names Abram and Sarai were changed to Abraham and Sarah. God then saw the depth of Abraham’s faith in that he would sacrifice Isaac if God told him to do so. Thus, God made a promise with Abraham that his descendants would number infinitely. (cf. Genesis 18, 21-22). Another example of God’s remembrance of good people came prior to the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded with God: “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23). God proceeded to assure Abraham that as long as any righteous people were found in Sodom and Gomorrah, for their sake the cities would not be destroyed. (cf. Genesis 18:22-33) In the New Testament, Mary’s holiness was remembered, and God deemed her the perfect vessel to bear Our Lord in her womb.

God also remembers those less-than-righteous (us included), right from Adam, who, though banished from Eden, was promised the redemption of humankind to come. (cf. Genesis 3:15) That redemption was to come through Christ. But Christ needed a herald- someone to make his arrival known. That voice was John the Baptist, the child promised by God to Zechariah, whom God remembered, and his wife Elizabeth. This promise was made to this holy and pure couple though Elizabeth, like Sarah, was considered too old to conceive.

Despite her age, Elizabeth was to be consecrated to God (this is the meaning of the name Elizabeth; again I looked it up). Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron, the great leader and assistant to Moses. (cf. Luke 1:5) She and Zechariah were to play a part in God’s saving plan, but Zechariah found this difficult to believe. Seeing Zechariah’s disbelief, the messenger angel Gabriel replied:

“Because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” (Luke 1:20)

Importantly, we are told of Zechariah’s role as a priest. A priest who was mute was certainly incapable of doing his job properly. (cf. Luke 1:21-23) But there is a deeper meaning to Zechariah’s inablity to speak. There are times when, if one examines closely God’s revelation to us thorough nature, we are truly awed beyond words. I have experienced this awe at work in the microbiology lab, or just relaxing and enjoying nature. At times, language becomes unable to express how great God is and how wonderful his creation with which we are always surrounded is. Expression becomes muddled, as at the Tower of Babel (cf. Genesis 11:1-9), when we realize God’s glory. Yet we are still entrusted with the revelation of God’s truth to others. St. Francis of Assisi gave us a useful guideline on how to do this:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.”

Thus, when we are awed beyond belief, or just struggling to believe in God’s plan and purpose and are therefore muted, we can still be an example of Christian love to other people. Then God’s promise of salvation becomes apparent to us. We recognize our need for redemption from sin, and we may well react like Elizabeth, accepting God and becoming consecrated to him:

“This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” (Luke 1:25)

May the peace and mercy of Christ be with all God’s people. Amen.


On meanings of names, see
On St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), see

A Dedication to the Jewish People

27 Dec

To all our Jewish brothers and sisters: Happy Hanukkah!

The Jewish people were the first to receive the Word of God. Abraham, the father in faith of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, was rewarded for his faith with God’s promise to make his people “number as the stars”. (Genesis 22:17) Then, God made his Law clear to the Jews, who were first to receive the Ten Commandments through Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

We Christians say often during the Christmas season, “Emmanuel”, meaning “God is with us”, in the person of Jesus Christ. God has always been with the Jews, too. When God’s chosen people have been content, God has been with them. When they doubted God, he was there. When they met persecution, God was there. Christians, as descendants in faith from the Jews, know of the same special human interaction with God.

The beginning of Hanukkah came out of a period of persecution for the Jews at the hands of their Hellenistic (Greek) rulers. Antiochus IV attempted to force Greek paganism on the Hebrews. In c.168 B.C., the temple was desecrated. The wall separating Jews and Gentiles was torn down, and the remaining structure was used to worship Zeus. In the meantime, many Jews were killed for practicing their faith openly. Many submitted to the Greek tyranny. But a brave group led by Mattathias and then by Judas Maccabee (“hammer” in Hebrew) began an uprising that lasted about 3 years. This entire group of armed Israelites became known as the Maccabees, after their leader. Their story is told in 1 and 2 Maccabees, in the Apocryphal part of the Bible (the section between the Old and New Testaments). I feel blessed in this way (and in many other ways) to be a Catholic, since only Catholic and Orthodox Bibles contain these books. They are a valuable teaching tool and a thorough look into Israel’s history. The Councils of Trent and of Florence affirmed the place of the first two books of the Maccabees in the Canon.

At the end of the rebellion, the Jews reconstructed the Temple and rededicated it to Yahweh. A menorah, as well as jewels, precious metals, and other sacrifices were placed on the altar. It was apparent, though, that there was only enough oil to keep the menorah lit for a day. It was lit anyway, and it miraculously burned for 8 days. Therefore, on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, a candle is lit on the menorah to commemorate this event. And on each successive day for eight days, a new candle is lit. All the candles are lit from the central Shamash candle(Shamash means “servant”- as we are servants to the Servant God…my thought thrown in). Thus began the festival of Hanukkah. (1 Maccabees 4:36-61)

The uprising between 168 and 165 B.C. didn’t end the Greek occupation of Israel, but it allowed for the rebuilding of the Temple. The Greeks were only succeeded by an arguably greater menace nearly 100 years afterward: the Romans. The Jews continued to face persecution through the centuries, right up to the present day. To clarify, I’m not saying this to deny that some Jews have been persecutors, only to recognize the times the Jews have been on the receiving end. Some people who profess to be Christians have denigrated the Jewish people as well.

As the word “Hanukkah” means dedication (the dedication of the Temple to God, properly defined) I dedicate this article to the Jews. We pray that they may practice their faith without struggle, and in turn be an increasingly peaceful people themselves. And to our Jewish friends: Happy Hanukkah!



The First Nowell- Intentions and Thoughts on Christmas Day

25 Dec

Firstly, I’d like to wish anyone reading this a Merry Christmas.

Mass this morning was beautiful, as Mass always is (especially Christmas Mass). The priest’s homily reminded me of a special connection between Christmas and Easter.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the Annunciation, where Mary received the joyful news of the conception of Jesus within her and said “yes” to God’s miracle. She said “yes” without even understanding fully what was to take place. But she trusted God so deeply anyway.

At the Annunciation, the messenger angel Gabriel delivers the news to Mary that she is to bear a son. Again on this Christmas morning, we heard that in the distance some nodescript shepherds were again visited by an angel. The shepherds were afraid, but their fears were calmed by the angel. They were told of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem. These shepherds were to find an equally nondescript baby (at least in appearance) lying in a humble manger. So the shepherds set off, not knowing fully what to expect on the journey but trusting in God. (cf. Luke 2:8-15)

Likewise, in the darkness and fear after the death of Christ, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women who accompanied them to Jesus’ tomb, were again comforted by an angel of the Lord:

“Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here; he is risen” (Luke 24:5-6)

The women then went joyfully to relay the news to the Apostles.

Christ, in our priest’s words, was visited by shepherds while lying in a borrowed manger. He was buried after His death in a borrowed tomb. Both instances emphasize Christ’s humble humanity. As humans, whether we are rich, poor, famous or not, we are called to Christ-like humility. We are called to treat the least of Christ’s family members with the same care, compassion, kindness, mercy, and justice as those who are more fortunate. This is how Christ expects us to be Easter people. (I remember the phrase “Be Easter people” being repeated many times by a Sri Lankan Jesuit who served in our parish about 10 years ago who was small in stature but large in spirit.) We remember Christmas by being Easter people, because these two most important feast days are interconnected. The same message can be gathered from the Nativity as from Christ’s Passion. It’s as if an angel is speaking to us…

With that, I’d like to post a few prayer intentions, inspired by the Christmas homily given today at the Vatican.

Pray for all children, born and unborn.

Pray for peace, especially in the Middle East and in Darfur. Christmas was properly celebrated at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the first time in five years. Let us pray that peace and stability continues to be strengthened there. And let us pray for troops still in conflicts worldwide.

Pray for understanding and dialogue between different cultures and religions.

Pray for those affected by natural disasters.

Pray for scientists, philosophers, clergy, and other professionals, so that they may use their knowledge to the glory of God.

Pray for the Church, that she may convey accurately Christ’s truth that she has been entrusted with.

Pray for those in captivity, either in prison, in nursing homes, or in other places where they feel shut in, that they may still feel the power of God- Emmanuel- present to them and in them.

I would appreciate any other prayer intentions by anyone reading this article.

Emmanuel…God is with us.
In Christ’s name we pray,

Merry Christmas!
Joyeux Noël!
Feliz Navidad!


The Twelve Days of Christmas

24 Dec

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree…

There is much to be learned by listening to the radio on your drive home from work. Today, one radio host was doing a Christmas program that took the place of the regularly-scheduled afternoon news. I found her segment about the popular carol, “The Twelve Days of Chrismas”, to be particularly informative. I suspected it had religious roots, but I didn’t know just how Catholic it was until today.

During the reign of Queen Mary I (1553-1558 ), many anti-papal laws passed by Henry VIII (1509-1547) and his sickly and short-lived successor Edward VI (1547-1553) were repealed. Mary’s murderous tendencies earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary”. Anyone perceived to be opposed to Catholicism risked gruesome death at the hands of the monarchy. After Queen Mary’s death, anti-Catholic sentiment that was fuelled in part by Mary I’s abuses of her Catholicism surfaced. As is written of Mary I: “The bitter remembrance of the blood shed in the cause of Rome which, however partial and unjust it must seem to an historic observer, still lies graven deep in the temper of the English people.” (Green, Short History, from Queen Mary arguably did the Roman Catholic cause more harm than good in England.

Thus, Queen Elizabeth I’s (1558-1603) first Act of Parliament was to restore six of seven anti-Papal laws passed by Henry VIII between 1530 and 1535, including the Act of Supremacy, which transferred the rights previously ascribed to the Pope to the English Head of State. Also, Catholics could no longer hold office. This was later extended to a prohibition of Catholics to vote. Increasingly, Catholics were sought after unjustly, and many met martyrdom.

Eventually, the predominantly Catholic Irish became more vocal defenders of their rights. This forced England to re-consider the legal status of Catholics. In 1791 the Relief Act passed, granting tolerance to Catholic schools and freedom to worship openly. The Relief Act also granted voting rights to Catholics, but stopped short of allowing Catholics to sit in Parliament. The French Revolution eliminated much of the Catholic (as well as Anglican) English foothold in France. This forced many clergy to return to England and thus exert more political influence there. The Irish Rebellion (1798 ) also pushed England toward a complete legal acceptance of Catholics with the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829).

Now back to the Twelve Days of Christmas…

Between 1558 and 1829, it was illegal to be Catholic in England, and, as said earlier, being openly Catholic often meant imprisonment or execution. The Twelve Days of Christmas was written as a “Catechism song” for young Catholic children. It worked wonderfully to teach the faith to children without the state suspecting that it had Catholic origins.

The True Love referred to in the carol is God. He sent his only begotten Son, the delicate “partridge in a pear tree” (Mother partridges feign injury to protect their young; protection of children was seen as a Christ-like attribute) and many other gifts mentioned in Scripture or in Catholic Tradition. Eleven other gifts are mentioned in the carol:

Two turtle doves refers to the Old and New Testaments.

Three French hens symbolize the virtues St. Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 13:13- Faith, hope, and love (charity).

The four calling birds call to mind the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The five golden rings are the Jewish law (pentateuch)- the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The six geese-a-laying are meant as the six days of Creation (Genesis 1).

The seven swans-a-swimming could be the seven Sacraments (Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick) or the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit- Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear (Awe) of the Lord. (From Isaiah 11:2. Piety is added by tradition.)

The eight maids-a-milking represent the eight beatitudes- Blessings to
the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness. (Matthew 5:3-10)

The nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

The ten lords-a-leaping are the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

The eleven pipers piping symbolize the eleven faithful Apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Simon son of James.

Finally, the twelve drummers drumming are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son Our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again. He is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

The Holy Catholic Church,

The communion of saints,

The forgiveness of sins,

The resurrection of the body,

And life everlasting.



Ave Maria- The Annunciation

22 Dec

Ave Maria
Gratia plena
Dominus tecum
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus fructus ventris
Tui, Jesus
Sancta Maria
Mater Dei
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus
Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae

Only three days to go until Christmas…As we prepare to celebrate the ever-nearing anniversary of Christ’s birth, I thought it to be important to recognize a very important event leading up to Our Lord’s birthday- the Annunciation. Last Sunday at Mass the Gospel reading told of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary:

“Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”…”Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

It isn’t without the help of Mary that God came to humankind in the flesh. Thus, Mary deserves all the adulation given to her as the Holy Virgin, Mother of God. Mary was bewildered at Gabriel’s news:

“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1:34)

She knew of the potential repercussions of her pregnancy before marriage. But Mary trusted God to protect her. Indeed, God made a very confused and frightened Joseph understand His mission. Joseph was told not to be afraid, that the child within her was conceived “from the Holy Spirit”, thus Joseph should take Mary as his wife (cf. Matthew 1:20)

Today, we are also told not to be afraid of Jesus’ second coming, but to increase in righteousness, and therefore to prepare for the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to come again. The voice of the angel Gabriel is sounded out in the words of worthy contemporaries. Pope John Paul II said on many occasions, “Do not be afraid”. We are not to fear the things of this world; we must live in it. But we must speak out in word and action: to encourage those who act in accordance with the Gospel and to bring those who commit acts contrary to God’s will back into communion with God. Above all, we must listen to God through prayer.

In several instances, Pope John Paul’s way mirrored that of Mary. Mary’s “yes” to God paved the way for Jesus’ birth. All who follow Jesus follow Mary in saying “yes” to God. John Paul II’s papal motto was “Totus tuus” (“All yours”). He tried to make himself totally devoted to Mary’s “yes”. Mary entrusted herself to God, “Totus tuus”, although she couldn’t fully understand the Mystery of the Incarnation unfolding within her womb.

“To Mary, who gave us the Word of life, and who kept his unchanging words in her heart, do I entrust the journey of the Church in todays world. May the Blessed Virgin help us to communicate by every means the beauty and joy of life in Christ our Savior.

To all I give my Apostolic Blessing!”

-Pope John Paul II, January 24 2005.

The Mother of God is a model for all who acknowledge and follow God and allow God’s work to come to fruition within us. As such, we pray:

Hail Mary
Full of Grace
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us sinners now
And at the hour of death



Greetings, Theophilus- Luke 1:1-4

21 Dec

“Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.” (Luke 1:1-4)

So begins the Gospel according to Luke. I was asked by a local priest to read and to reflect on the entirety of Luke’s Gospel. It seems like a difficult task, but I’m determined to do it, with the help of God. I’ve chosen to post my reflections section by section on this blog as I read along. Hopefully I’ll post two (or so) articles a week on the Gospel of Luke.

My thoughts aren’t to be taken as authoritative; there are many who I acknowledge have vaslty superior knowledge of scriptural scholarship than I do. Feel free to post comments on my reflections (I really hope those interested will do so). I will doubtlessly benefit from perspectives other than those of my own mind.


(See for a more detailed discussion.)

The Gospel of Luke is traditionally held to have been written in the early 7th decade AD, though the date is debatable. St. Luke, by tradition, was a Gentile (non-Jewish) physician. Like Matthew’s account of Jesus, much of Luke’s Gospel is common to the information found in the Gospel of Mark. All of Matthew, Mark, and Luke may have based their writings on a “Q” (or Quelle, the German word for “source”) document. Luke focuses more on the human nature of Jesus than do Matthew or Mark. St. Luke’s writing style is slightly more refined than that of Matthew or Mark, though the three Gospels mentioned feature many commonalities, giving credence to their authenticity in detailing the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Luke includes the most instances of human interaction with Jesus, and Luke is especially attentive to the role of women in this interaction. Mark focuses more on the nature of Christ as a suffering servant, whereas Matthew best portrays a more universal body of believers, the Church. Together, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels, as they derive from a common path or outline (synopsis). John differs in that he immediately points to the divinity of Jesus. In contrast the synoptic Gospels mostly leave the acknowledgement of Jesus as God to the reader.

The history I’ve briefly outlined is thoughtfully debated, and much of it is not absolutely known, though history is always less important than the message contained in the Holy Bible. Some non-traditionalists even argue whether or not Luke was written by a single author. Luke was known as a doctor in Christian tradition. Even if Luke was not in fact a physician, he was indeed a doctor (the word “doctor” stems from the Latin word “doce” meaning “to teach”). Thus, as a great doctor he has much to teach us as to the life of our Incarnate Lord.


…First some Latin, now for some Greek! Luke begins his Gospel with a dedication to a friend known to us as Theophilus. This name comes from the Greek theos- God- and philos- lover. According to some thinkers, Theophilus may just be a pseudonym for Luke’s audience- Christ’s followers of non-Jewish lineage. Theophilus, whether a single person or a group of people targeted by St. Luke’s message, was an ideal for all future disciples of the Messiah. Those who follow Jesus and heed his words and commandments are indeed lovers of God.

This is why I entitled this post as I did. We are also called to be lovers of God in word, in thought, and in deed. Next, Luke presents to us the first players of his Gospel. The next section leads into the events associated with the births of John the Baptist and then of Jesus Christ.


Bread of Life

20 Dec

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Christmas is only 5 days away. With most of the shopping out of the way, I can better concentrate on the real reason for Christmas Day. We celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, who, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8 ) Meanwhile, we joyfully and hopefully await the time when Christ will come again according to His promise: “Surely I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)

Christmas is a very busy time for most of us. I mentioned the shopping. It seems impossible to escape, especially when the advertisements for Christmas sale items begin on television as early as October. And then there are the parties with family, friends, at work…The list of activities is endless…

There I was tonight, then, baking a loaf of bread in the old bread machine my mom gave me when I left home. I meticulously added all the ingredients. Perfect, I thought. I was just about to add the last ingredient, yeast. Only then did it occur to me that I had added twice the salt the recipe called for! Surely that just wouldn’t do for tomorrow’s potluck at work, so I had to start all over again. I was somewhat upset at my lack of attentiveness. As a scientist in a lab, I am known for impeccable attention to minutiae- except when I fail to pay attention!

I did eventually get the loaf of bread started, and it smelled great. I really enjoy baking bread, even if it’s taking five minutes to put the ingredients together then letting a machine finish the job. As I was starting the bread machine, I thought of the Bread of Life that is our Lord whom we Christians worship. Every time Catholics attend Mass, we are invited to partake of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist:

“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19-20)

This passage can have multiple meanings. Of course, Christ’s physical body and Human life was to be sacrificed on the cross for the sins of humankind. In that sense Christ gave us His body that we might remember our Redeemer’s free gift of salvation that humanity receives by the love and grace of God.

This is important, though there is a second sense to receiving the Eucharist in memory of the Lord. St Augustine (354-430) urged us to “be what you receive”. Our mission therefore is to strive to be Christ to others. In the words of St. Theresa of Avila, “Christ has no hands on earth but yours…” The Church is made up of many members of the one body of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12). Jesus commanded His followers to show this to the world by our Christian love. In His ministry, Christ gave us a recipe of how to accomplish this, much like a recipe for a loaf of bread. If we listen attentively and follow properly, we will be successful. If not, the result is sin and thus failure. But in Jesus’ forgiveness are the ingredients necessary to start afresh if need be.

So I offer a few thoughts on following Jesus, in the form of a bread recipe, that we may be parts (members) of the one living bread (body) that is Jesus to this world.

First, start with the most basic ingredient, flour. It is the ingredient of highest quantity. We do many things without necessarily thinking that we do them for the Lord. We perform basic instinctual routines necessary for our own survival, which take up most of our time.

The next ingredient is sugar. A smile and a sense of humour go a long way. Random acts of kindness also help us to see Christ in ourselves and in others.

For just a bit of flavour, a pinch of salt might be added. But don’t add too much (that’s a lesson I’ve learned, I hope :). Be salt for the earth (cf. Matthew 5:13). Preach the truth revealed to us by God, but practice it, too (that’s a lesson I’m still learning). The everlasting message of God’s love and the Father’s gift of His Son is lost on some through too much preaching with too little put into practice.

Then we need butter, margarine or shortening. Any of the three choices are acceptable. They all can contribute flavour to the bread while helping hold the loaf together. Here, another gem from St. Augustine rings true: “In unimportant things, diversity. In important things, unity. And in all things, charity”.

Then we get to the wet ingredients. The first is water. Jesus gives us living water to drink, and is an endless source for the asking. Sometimes, though, we’re as confused as the Samaritan woman when asked to get Jesus a drink from the well. (cf. John 4:4-42) Regardless of our background, culture, previous actions, etc…, we’re all asked to serve God as Jesus served humanity when he lived and ministered among us, died, and rose from the dead.

Next, milk is added. Milk is the first nourishment tasted by many human babies. We are called to humble ourselves to be like little children in accepting the eternal nourishment from the Lord.

Finally, we add yeast to most bread. In our lives, we are the leaven to the bread of life we receive at Communion. In living the Word of God the bread rises and fills us, and we are able to better carry out Christ’s will for us.

In our earthly lives, the bread we are called to be is kneaded and allowed to rise, then the knead-rise cycle is repeated as necessary, to make sure of our readiness for Heaven. The bread is then baked and God notices a pleasing, fresh aroma. That’s when we achieve God’s purpose for us: to be like Him. We become the united and perfect vessel for God’s Word, Jesus Christ Our King.


Be a Man

16 Dec

During a related workplace discussion this afternoon, I thought back to my last article on domestic violence. While recognizing that this social ill is widespread and affects so many, I won’t dwell on it for too much longer.

However, I remember reading an article in a magazine recently about the power of mens’ religious organizations and the place of men in society in general. Too may men fail to recognize their true role in society. As such, about 40% of marriages in Canada end in divorce, and only 1.5 children (these are statistics; no sense nitpicking over the 0.5 of a child :) are born to each Canadian woman of childbearing age. In Quebec, the majority of children are born out of wedlock. (See StatsCan) And then of course there’s anger and violence which are particularly endemic among young men. The development of young priests and discernment of vocations do not receive enough attention. Much of this can be related to our society’s misplaced identity of men.

Too many men, according to Terrence Moore (see the Claremont review of books, Winter 2003, at, are either “wimps or barbarians”. This is actually the title of Moore’s article. When not contributing to the barbarianism that leads to crime, violence, and treatment of women as objects for example, many men fail to speak out to help remedy these social evils. These men fall into the “wimp” category.

Men need to step forward and be neither “wimp” nor “barbarian”. Then there will be progress and justice in society.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), British poet, novelist, and short story author, gave us a valuable and lasting ideal of what a man should be in a poem he wrote for his son. Kipling’s poem is entitled “If”.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling



Prayers Against Domestic Violence

15 Dec

Lord God,
Your own Son was delivered into the hands of the wicked,
yet he prayed for his persecutors
and overcame hatred with the blood of the cross.
Grant those who stand against violence peace of mind
and a renewed faith in your protection and care.

Protect us all from the violence of others,
keep us safe from the weapons of hate,
and restore to us tranquility and peace.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

-Adapted from the Book of Blessings, Archdiocese of Detroit. See


Sarah and Abraham in their old age were blessed with a child they deeply cherished. Help us cherish children: Lord …..

Saul of Tarsus persecuted and abused the followers of
Jesus. Help abusers and the abused be transformed: Lord …..

Peter denied Jesus and fled in fear. Give us the courage to protect victims and challenge abusers: Lord …..

Jesus spoke with conviction and challenged authorities. Help
us be prophets bringing justice to the abused: Lord …..

Jesus loved the oppressed and outcast persons. Help us
foster laws that safeguard and respect the abused: Lord …..

The first Christians were abused emotionally and physically,
being cast out of synagogues and shunned by neighbors and
friends. Give counselors wisdom and understanding hearts to
heal abusers and abused: Lord …..

Mother Teresa saw Christ in the suffering and dying,
and welcomed them with loving care. May the hearts of all
of us be filled with such love: Lord …..

-Archdiocese of Detroit

I was inspired to include some prayers here for those who have ever experienced domestic violence. I haven’t, but in reading the blog at I felt compelled to feature a Catholic (in a universal sense!) viewpoint on this issue. I hope I offer some consolation to those affected by violence at home, and that I encourage others to pray, at least, for these people and for those who are the abusers, too.

Nobody should be subject to violence in the home, yet in the United States (I’m unsure of the figures in Canada) the leading cause of injury for women aged 15 to 44 is domestic violence. Women and children form the vast majority of victims, though violence can, of course, be directed toward anyone.

Violent acts in the home are intolerable from a Catholic perspective, and are contrary to the will of God and opposed to Scripture. I am reminded of a Chinese proverb:

If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

The fight against violence begins in the innermost depths of each person. One cannot expect beauty, harmony, order, and peace in higher structures if these are not found in the soul. I ask this of all viewers of this article, myself included: to pray when you’re angry so that anger doesn’t manifest itself as violence toward yourself or others.

St. Paul teaches:

“Be subject TO ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands AS YOU ARE TO THE LORD, for the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior.”…”Husbands, LOVE YOUR WIVES, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:21-23, 25)

“Let the husband render unto his wife due benevolence and likewise also the wife unto the husband” (1 Corinthians 7:3)

Jesus was tested by the Jewish authorities as to what He thought was the greatest commandment. He responded:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 23:34-40)

In another passage Jesus says: “The King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'” (Matthew 25:40)

Husbands have a duty to love their families as Christ loves His family, the Church. Men are to be subject to Christ in loving their wives, children, and their entire community. Violence opposes and destroys the God-like love that should be fostered in a family. It comes from a deep inability to love one’s self. If one is unable to love self, then one cannot love neighbour and cannot profess to love God.

A special responsibility exists to protect the most defenceless of human life: the unborn. This was highlighted even more by two recent cases here in Edmonton over the last few months. This past summer, a pregnant Liana White was killed. Her husband is charged in her death. More recently, 19-year-old Olivia Marie Talbot, pregnant and with a troubled past, was shot dead on her doorstep. Talbot’s mother recalled how her daughter was born premature, earlier than the amount of time Olivia had been pregnant. Olivia’s unborn child was past the age of viability, Olivia Talbot’s mother argued, thus her murderer should be charged with two counts of homicide. I agree.

In light of these cases, and similar ones in the U.S. (e.g. Scott Peterson), the abortion debate has been rekindled. It isn’t us so-called conservatives forcing open the issue as I read recently. The evil of abortion and the hypocrisy of states that permit uncontrolled access to it yet would hold murderers of pregnant women accountable for the death of the child will come to light on its own, like it or not. In Canada, over 300 children are aborted daily. In the United States, 30 million people have been lost to abortion since Roe v. Wade. That’s nearly the current population of Canada!

Other forms of violence persist: against the elderly and disabled, for example.

Let us decry all forms of domestic violence, preserving the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Scripture and the Tortilla Package

14 Dec

I returned home from work this evening with enough time to prepare and to eat supper, and then to arrive in time for the Advent Penitential Service at the church nearby…or so I thought. I quickly realized that I was missing some items I needed for the meal, among them soft tortillas. In my haste before leaving for work, I hadn’t thoroughly made sure I had everything I needed to prepare dinner. Thus, I was in a mad rush to go out again, get the necessary supper fare, and return home to finish cooking. This type of story is familiar to many I’m sure.I thought that before receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation was an especially bad time for running around like a fool!

Anyway, I came back with a package of “organic” multigrain tortillas. I was fascinated by a Biblical verse, Ezekiel 4:9, that appeared on the package:

“And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread for yourself.”

I immediately thought of the literal meaning of this verse, but also that it might be used to emphasize the oneness of God’s people, despite differences between individuals or cultures. Christians are described for example as many members of the one body of Christ, each with different gifts contributing to a single purpose. (cf. Romans 12:3-8 ) In Ezekiel, I thought, the different grains all contribute to one unit- bread.

Later, I decided to look at Ezekiel 4:9 in its context, rather than as a single verse, so that I might come to a better reflection on it. I had hardly expected that this verse appears in a chapter prophesying a siege of Jerusalem. It wasn’t about interpersonal or intercultural relations at all, at least not on the surface.

Ezekiel wrote in a time of disaster for Israel, during the Babylonian Exile. In the sixth century B.C., the Israelites were driven from their homeland they had been promised by God (cf. Genesis 12:7). This made the Jewish people question God. They needed a prophet to set their sights on redemption and vindication, while not denying their suffering that had taken place and that was to come. Ezekiel wrote of visions and of dramatic encounters between himself and God. He used often disgusting symbolism, such as that of the bread being baked in human dung then eaten (cf. Ezekiel 4:12) to tell of the coming siege of Jerusalem by Israel’s enemies. This was to call to mind how God’s people had strayed from the Lord’s will for them. Yet eventually Israel’s enemies of the time, who were even more wicked than Israel, would in turn be driven out. God would return Jerusalem to the Israelites, and “reside among them forever”. (Ezekiel 43:9) This is in a sense a foretelling of the coming Messiah.

Going back to the revolting imagery of Ezekiel 4:12, it reminded me of another passage related to dung (not a good topic over a meal of tortillas)- St. Paul’s realization in Philippians 3:7-9:

“Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish*, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God based on faith.”

*”Rubbish” is actually translated from the Greek σκυβαλα, defined more accurately as “dung”.

To follow Christ, then, we must set aside some things dear to us that are non-conducive to following God’s will. This may entail regarding all of humanity, different though individuals are, as members of one body, or as grains in a multigrain piece of bread. Above all, though, we are to see our inherent shortcomings and selfishness as revolting, and distance ourselves from it as if it were dung. Certainly attempt not to mix the waste that is sin with the heavenly food that is Christ Himself offered for us in the Eucharist.

And it’s best to read Ezekiel 4:12 and other such passages long after ingesting your tortillas…