Archive | October, 2009

Citizens with the Saints- Reflection for Mass of October 28, 2009- St. Simon and St. Jude

28 Oct

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles
Readings: Ephesians 2;19-22; Psalm 19:2-5; Luke 6:12-19

Citizenship is an important characteristic for many people. When I have applied to study at universities, or to work, the applications have often asked me to state my citizenship. With some pride about having been born in and living in a prosperous and peaceful country, I have filled in or selected “Canadian.” That said, it brings me much sadness at times to complete the paperwork of the refugees I have worked with both in Windsor and here in Toronto. Those forms also ask for the refugee’s citizenship. When I read his or her country of origin, I realize deeply that the people with whom I work have been persecuted, threatened, and driven from their homeland. Somehow I must give these people hope and show them compassion in a land foreign to them.

The earliest Christian communities were like those of foreigners to our own country in our time. Paul writes to the small Ephesian Christian communities- scattered, maligned for a variety of reasons by surrounding pagans, occasionally brutally persecuted (1)- that they have obtained the only citizenship that matters: they belong to “the household of God.” (2) Like being made citizens of a nation automatically by birth, their belonging to God’s household is less about their own effort than that of Christ who holds the “whole structure”- the Church, God’s kingdom on earth- together as a “holy temple” and “dwelling place for God.” (3) Thus with the Lord we are “no longer strangers and aliens.” (4)

Granted, Paul wrote from an advantageous position; he was a Pharisee and also a Roman citizen. (5) Paul could be compared with those today who enjoy legal privileges due to multiple citizenships. But Paul sacrificed his religious and legal rank to become a servant of Christ, a missionary to those without status. Paul is therefore counted among the Apostles, although he was not one of the original Twelve.

 Jesus’ choice of the Twelve in today’s Gospel also shows what it means to be an Apostle and to belong to God’s household. Jesus welcomed all kinds: impulsive people like Peter who denied Him (6), Judas Iscariot who betrayed Him (7), Thomas who believed only upon seeing the marks of the nails and lance on the risen Jesus (8), Matthew, a tax collector (9), Zealots like Simon who were part of a movement seeking a messiah figure who would overthrow the Romans in Israel (10), and those like Jude, named “Judas son of James” by Luke (10), whom we know little about except a later traditional patronage to “hopeless cases.” (12)

The Apostles, diverse as they were, were unified under Christ. However, the variety of those they would serve was more important than their own. We hear that people came from Tyre and Sidon, distant Gentile territory, to hear Jesus. (13) That diversity is a characteristic of the Church today as it was in the Apostles’ time.

As diverse as the Church is, we are all united by Christ, whose power spreads over us and heals all of us. Thus we are welcomed as “members of the household of God” and “citizens with the saints.” (14) Let us pray then especially for the consolation of those who have sought refuge from threats to their lives or security, and that our Church may increasingly be a place of welcome and healing as Christ intended her to be.


Teach Us Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge- Reflection for Mass of October 23, 2009

23 Oct

Friday, October 23, 2009
Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: Romans 7:18-25a; Psalm 119:66, 68, 76, 77, 93, 94; Luke 12:54-59

Today’s readings are very Basilian. In the first verse of the Responsorial Psalm, we hear the Congregation’s motto, “Teach me goodness, discipline, and knowledge,” in a more up-to-date translation: “Teach me good judgement and knowledge.” (1) In place of “good judgement,” other English translations read “discernment” or “wisdom.” (2) Whatever the translation, we pray for openness toward God’s will and purpose for us. That will of God is the ultimate freedom with which God created us, sustains us, and will save us.

Psalm 119, from which we hear a part today, is the longest of the Biblical psalmody, an acrostic poem in the order of the Hebrew alphabet. This Psalm is a beautiful reflection on God’s “laws,” not merely empty legal stipulations but a grace-filled call to recognize God’s liberating direction in the here and now. (3)

This relates closely to today’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus criticizes the crowd for their hypocritical incapacity to “interpret the present time” while being able to “interpret the appearance of earth and sky.” (4) As the son of a meteorologist, I am intrigued by Jesus’ opening references to the rain following the cloud from the west and to the heat riding on the southerly wind. (5)

Some of Jesus’ disciples might have had a gift of forecasting weather long before the advent of modern meteorology. But Jesus asks more of us than that. Our Basilian Way of Life lists five sources from which the Lord “speaks to us:” “in the Scriptures, through the Church, in our community, in the signs of the times, and by His Spirit.” (6) In the Gospel, we see a phrase similar to “the signs of the times.”

Our interpretation of these “signs of the times,” in the context of our community and ecclesial lives enlivened by Sacred Scripture and guided by the Holy Spirit, must not be a submission to every whim of the world around us, nor ought we to adopt an exclusive legalism that shuts out the goodness of the world that God has made for us.

Jesus did not come primarily to judge the world, but to free us by uniting His will to that of His and our Father. (7) Therefore we are not appointed as judges, (8) but as disciples who pray to be able to interpret the word of God in our time by our everyday generosity and joy in response to God’s gift of our religious life. (9) Let us then petition the Lord, as in our Basilian motto and today’s Psalm: “Teach [us] goodness, discipline, and knowledge.”


God Has Come to His People and Set Them Free- Reflection for Mass of October 19, 2009

19 Oct

Monday, October 19, 2009
Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: Romans 4:20-25; Luke 1:68-75 (Responsorial Canticle); Luke 12:13-21

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has come to His people.” (1)

In place of a responsorial Psalm, today’s Mass includes the Benedictus, the beautiful hymn of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, from the Gospel of Luke. As religious, we recite this canticle every day as part of Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. The repetition of the Benedictus, as powerful as its words are, can lead to an under-appreciation of the challenges that this prayer presents to us in our everyday lives.

I am especially moved by the first stanza of today’s responsorial canticle, wherein we show our gratitude toward God for having “raised up a mighty saviour for us” in the line of “His servant, David.” (2) Jesus Christ was sent among us in accordance with the promise of God conveyed through the ancient prophets. (3) The Benedictus continues beyond what is included in today’s Mass. However, in the Liturgy of the Hours we recite the verse: “And you, my child, shall be the prophet of the Most High. You will go before the Lord to prepare His way.” (4) Thus the difficult task of prophecy is extended to us, the children of God, from the prophets who preceded Jesus’ earthly life.

Our prophetic work as religious demands “our very life” of us (5), this day and for always, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading. Christ warns us that there can be no place for greed, materialism, and for worldly anxiety that are constant temptations to us from the affluence that surrounds us. On the contrary, we the prophets and children of God must continually store up in our souls the riches of Heaven (6): fraternal love, joy, and thanksgiving for the gifts of God and of each other in community. Thus, let us be an everlasting gift to God who now sends us forth in His name.

Through us, may the Lord be blessed, for “He has come to His people and set them free.” (7)


Ste. Marguerite d’Youville, Universal Model of Holiness- Reflection for Mass of October 16, 2009

16 Oct

Friday, October 16, 2009
Memorial of Ste. Marguerite d’Youville
Readings: 1 Corinthians 13:4-13; Psalm 146:2-10; Matthew 25:31-40

Less than three weeks ago, the memorial of eight Jesuit “Canadian Martyrs” was celebrated in Canada. Those men gave their lives courageously to the service and spread of the word of God to the Native peoples of North America, and are therefore rightly honoured. In three days, the anniversary of the death of one of the eight “North American Martyrs,” St. Isaac Jogues, who died near present-day Albany, New York, will be commemorated in the United States. (1)

Today, in between the two great feast days of the Jesuit martyrs, the Canadian Church remembers the life of a more obscure saint, Marguerite d’Youville. I have long had an appreciation of Canadian history, particularly that of the Francophones of our nation. But I gained an even deeper perspective of French roots in my Anglophone-dominated native province of Alberta when I took a “Franco-Albertan” history course in my next-to-last year of undergraduate studies. (2) Also, I would often drive past the Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton, named after the Order founded by Ste. Marguerite and surrounded by the aptly-named road, Youville Drive.  

Born in Varennes, Québec in 1701, Ste. Marguerite lived most of her life in poverty. Her father died when she was young. After two years of education under the Ursulines in Québec, she returned home to teach her five younger siblings. She married François You de la Découverte in 1722. François was abusive toward Marguerite and toward himself, and he bootlegged liquor to the Indian peoples. He died young, leaving Marguerite destitute with two boys who went on to become priests. Marguerite founded a home for poor women in Montréal in 1737, and ten years later she and her companions saved the General Hospital of New France from financial collapse. Another eight years passed before the rule of the Sisters of Charity of Montréal- the Grey Nuns– was approved. (3)

In 1990, Marguerite d’Youville became the first Canadian-born person to be canonized. (4) She is a saint not only because she was humble and poor, or because she founded a religious order, or because she was faithful to an abusive husband for eight years, while also losing four of six children in their infancy. Ste. Marguerite is the ideal religious, a Canadian and universal model of holiness.

In the words of St. Paul, “faith, hope and love” found their home in Ste. Marguerite. (5) Her love and kindness was directed toward the least of our brothers and sisters. (6) The Kingdom of Heaven (7) welcomes those like Ste. Marguerite d’Youville and those among us who strive after her example.


The Spirit of Prayer- Reflection for Mass of October 8, 2009

8 Oct

Thursday, October 8, 2009
Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: Malachi 3:13-20; Psalm 1:1-4, 6; Luke 11:5-13

Much discussion about how Christians pray is centered upon the methods of prayer. People I have talked with have asked the question of me as to whether formal or rote prayer is better than spontaneous dialogue with God, or whether silence is better yet. I believe all these are necessary and helpful. We have formulas like the Lord’s Prayer, from yesterday’s Gospel reading (1), and prolonged prayer sets like the Liturgy of the Hours or even the Mass. Some find contemplative methods to be most effective, while others prefer trustful spontaneity, as in a conversation with their best friend.

No one of these is better than another- the Spirit must be allowed to move each of us differently and as He wills. When I went to Cali, I began to spend a short time in front of the Blessed Sacrament each day praying only that I would be able to learn a new culture and language and to better serve the people of our parish and school. I do not consider myself a spontaneous person, but my time in Colombia increased my appreciation of short and informal prayer.

Today’s readings, from the prophet Malachi and from the Gospel of Luke, also present us with differing ways to pray, contrasting one way that is displeasing and one that is pleasing to God.

How often we Christians fall into the pattern decried by Malachi. It is easy to see the evil in the world and, as those referred to in the first reading, to complain bitterly that those who commit such evil are not held accountable by God, but even seem to thrive. (2) How could a just God allow that to continue unabated?

In today’s follow-up to the Lucan version of the Our Father, Jesus teaches us about “persistence” in prayer (3), but He goes a step farther: If a friend needs to be persuaded toward hospitality when bothered at an inopportune time (4), and even if many among us would give almost anything to a fellow person in need- I met several of this kind of people in Colombia- God is even more generous in answering our prayer. (5) We have been sealed with the ultimate answer to our entreaty, the gift of the Holy Spirit. (6) Therefore, no longer is the core of Jesus’ message about persistence in prayer, but about unceasing prayer amid our everyday activities in a spirit of thanksgiving and of joy.