Homily – August 7, 2016

August 7th, 2016

I read a story of a young seminarian who took a leave of absence and went to work with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. He needed time to sort things out. He wasn’t sure he had a vocation. One morning after Mass he asked Mother Teresa to pray for him. She asked him ‘what do you want me to pray for?’ He told her ‘pray that I have clarity’. Mother Teresa told him she would do not such thing. He was shocked. He asked why she wouldn’t pray that he had clarity about his vocation. He said to her you always had clarity, you always knew what you were going to do. Mother Teresa told him, ‘I never had clarity; what I’ve always had was trust. So I will pray that you trust.

Personally when I use the word faith I really me trust. Trust means believing in someone even though circumstances at the time might tempt one to question my trust. St. Paul calls Abraham our father in faith. Abraham trusted God and God’s promises even when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of his old age. He trusted God would keep his promise that he would be the father of a mighty people.

On his way to the cross Jesus trusted his Father’s love for him, even when called out, ‘my God, my God why have you abandoned me. He trusted that in the end all would be well. He trusted that the hatred and contempt that swirled around as he hung on his cross would not prevail. He trusted that his love for each of us would prevail.

At this Mass, at every Mass we make present the death of Jesus. We place the sign of death, separated body and blood. We remember and celebrate the love Jesus has for each one of us as he gave his life for us. St. Paul reminds us that it is difficult to give one’s life for a good person but what proves Christ’s love for us is that even while we were sinners, even when we were estranged from God, Christ died for us.

Every day of life we are challenged to trust, trust the love of the crucified Christ for each of us even though there are days when we don’t even trust ourselves, days when we find it hard to trust that even though we are mistake making beings, even though we may be so disappointed in ourselves, Jesus Christ loves us and will always love us.

Recently Victor Frankl died. He was a survivor of the death camps where he lost his whole family. He wrote a book titled, Man’s Search for Meaning. He was reflecting on how he survived the horror and the cruelty he witnessed during his years in the camps. Basically he said that a person can survive any ‘what’ so long as they have a ‘why’. His why was the conviction that he would see his wife again. For this to happen he must survive, he must live.

Our ‘why’ our reason for living and loving, our reason for putting up with our weaknesses and failures, our reason for not giving up on ourselves, our reason for giving thanks for the blessings and the people that enrich our lives is the truth and the wonder that God chose us before the world began to be his adopted sons and daughters. No matter what the ‘what’ of our lives may, illness, discouragement, lost love, lost job, the ‘why’ of our lives is the awesome truth that, while we were still sinners Christ died for us. As we celebrate this Eucharist together and are nourished by the Bread of Life we pray we live our daily lives in the conviction of our ‘why’ for living and loving and never giving up, that Jesus Christ loves us and gave his life for us on the gibbet of the cross.

Homily – July 31, 2016

July 31st, 2016

We know these words of Jesus to be true, ‘one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions’ but greed and our need to possess, collect and hoard things always seems to win out. The real danger of having many things, being financially secure robs us of our sense of our need, our dependency on our gracious God.

This self – satisfied farmer thought he had it made. His bountiful crop would be stored in bigger barns; his ample goods would see him through for many years. He was just going to sit back and enjoy his good fortune. He might even increase his wealth. He plans to be ready for future lean years when crops fail and the cost of grain rises. He plans to cash in during these hard times when needy neighbours come to him to borrow or buy grain. He plans to sell his grain at exorbitant prices putting his neighbours at his mercy. His future looks rosy.

We all heard the saying, ‘if you want to make God laugh tell God you plans.’ God had something else in mind for this man. That very night his soul would be demanded of him and the fortune he amassed would be left for his family to fight over, relatives who did not toil for it would be the ones to enjoy his wealth.

There is nothing wrong with financial security. There is nothing wrong with a secure stock portfolio or a solid pension plan.

St. Paul asks, ‘what have you that you have not received and if you have received it why do you carry on as if you had not received it?’ He also said, ‘our sufficiency is from God.’ The message of today’s scripture is simply this, our lives are ultimately futile and meaningless if viewed in and of themselves apart from God.

Life lived in love for God and others is the life well lived. Life lived in love for God and others is a life that will reap us an abundant harvest. God grant that each of us, in our own way, be blessed to live such a life, and we will if we always have an attitude of gratitude.

Homily – July 24, 2016

July 24th, 2016

I would imagine that most of us would put ourselves down as poor or bad prayers. We try to spend a bit of time with God but then we remember we’ve got other important things to do and so we move on. We have difficulty being silent and still because our lives are so noise. I’m always impressed by the number of people who stay after the morning Mass in silence and saying their favorite prayers.

The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to prayer just as John the Baptist taught his disciples. So Jesus gave them what they wanted. He taught them, prayer is entering into a relationship with God our Father. That prayer is a way of praising God and opening our lives to what God asks of us. Pray reminds us of our need for God and God’s daily bread of love for others and a willingness to let grow of past hurts or injustices. Pray is a way of recognizing our need for God’s help to be faithful to the way God calls us to live life.

We’ve taken that lesson and turned it into a prayer – the Our Father. Any father or mother wants nothing but the best for their children. If your child asks for a fish you wouldn’t give him/her a snake. If your child asks for an egg you wouldn’t think of give him/her a scorpion. Unthinkable.

In Matthew’s gospel when he tells of Jesus teaching the people how to pray Jesus tells them ’when you pray don’t babel like the Gentiles do. They think by using many words they will be heard.’ We have a version of that today; say nine Hail Mary’s nine times a day and send this on to nine people and your prayer will be answered. Jesus tells us not to babble and tells us, ‘your Father knows what you need even before you ask him.’ We know what we want; our loving Father knows what we need. We have a whole list of gimmies. Give me health, give me peace of mind, give me the strength to love people I don’t like, give me the openness I need to accept men and women of different faiths, different racial backgrounds, different lifestyles and different opinions. Give me a happy marriage. Give my children an appreciation of the faith in which I raised them. The list is endless.

But is so hard to trust that our Father knows what we need and what we need is far more important than what we want. You know this from your own parental experience. A son or daughter just has to have this or that, they just have to go to this or that concert, they just have to – everyone else has the latest gadget, everyone else is going to this party, this concert, they just have to. But you know and you will give what they need and you know what they should get it. Now may not be the right time.

Can we trust God, our loving, caring Mother/Father to do the same for us?

We can learn from the persistency of the man who gave his neighbour no rest til got out of bed and gave him the bread to feed his guest. Our Father/Mother knows what we need and knows how and when to answer us. It’s hard to wait, it’s hard to say and mean, ‘thy will be done.’ But our Father/Mother knows what we need, what we want is our problem.

As we continue this Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that we trust the truth the Father/Mother will provide us with what we need and sometimes, if it is good for us, will give us what we want.

Homily – July 17, 2016

July 17th, 2016

Did you ever notice when you see pictures of Moslems praying in a giant Mosque you see only men. Women are surely there too but in a separate section. Orthodox Jews have separate worship spaces for men and women. This practice goes back for centuries in the Middle East. It was the same in the time of Jesus. It’s what he was used to it; it was way things were done.

Probably when Jesus and his friends dropped in on Lazarus and Mary and Martha it was just expected that Lazarus would sit with the men and listen to what Jesus had to say and probably ask questions and discuss things. Mary and Martha would carry on as usual, preparing the meal.

Mary decides to join the men and be part of their conversation. Probably Lazarus was embarrassed by Mary’s brazen behavior and the rest were probably uneasy with Mary being where she just didn’t belong, even though it was her home.

It didn’t seem to bother Jesus in the least. When the over wrought Maratha complains about the unfairness of it all, herself doing all the work, she gets no support from Jesus. So often Jesus has upset the apple cart by not buying into what the culture expectations of people. It’s almost like he’s saying, ‘Martha, chill out and join the conversation.’ You might learn something.

Jesus would not confine Mary to the limitations put on her by the culture of her time. He supported her attempt to brake the mold.

How often do we stereotype men and women? Remember a song our years ago called ‘Little Boxes’? There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow on and they’re all make out of ticky tacky and the all look just the same.

Don’t we have a tendency to box people in because of racial origins, skin color, religious background, social standing or sexual orientation? We put them in little boxes and in so doing we limit them to our limited opinions and expectations of them.

Men and women wearing clothes native to their homeland or expressive of their religious beliefs we chalk up as different, strange, and maybe even dangerous. A young black man driving an expensive car is carded, just to be safe, just to keep an eye on him. Black youths walking in a neighbourhood where they don’t seem to belong, we see as a sign of trouble. There can be so many ways we, even unconsciously, box people in, maybe not even giving it a second thought. We diminish them in our own minds. We may not even think of it but we dehumanize them. In our own mind we make them less than they are, we deny them their human worth and dignity as sons and daughters of our common Father. We rob ourselves of the opportunity to discover the goodness and kindness of these good people.

Today’s Scriptures are about hospitality; Abraham welcoming three strangers, Lazarus, Mary and Martha welcoming Jesus and some disciples into their home. St. Paul tells us, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ Being open minded, accepting of men and women different from ourselves we image the hospitality of Jesus to each of us when he said, ‘Come to me all you who labor and find life difficult and I will refresh you’. Such open mindedness would bring us closer to living the difficult command of Jesus, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’

God grant us the gift to be open minded and open hearted toward all those who come into our lives.

Homily – July 10, 2016

July 10th, 2016

I ask you to stretch your imagination as reflect on this parable of the Good Samaritan.

Can we stretch our imaginations and see the traveler on the road to Jericho as Mother Earth set upon by ruthless conglomerates who for the sake of profits, cut down Earth’s forests, poison Earth’s rivers and lake with spills of toxic wastes, pollute Earth’s air with toxic pollutants? These irresponsible actions have inflicted great wounds on Earth and on us.

Can we imagine the Good Samaritan in today’s gospel to be the good men and women, many of them scientists, environmentalists and conservationists, who are involved in efforts to help us face the reality and the consequences of the present precarious condition of Earth as we face the reality of climate change and global warming? Not just the reality but the consequences of this reality that will affect generations to come.

Are we willing to expand the horizons of our minds and see hugh corporations who exploit Earths’ resources and the scientist on their payroll who deny the present precariousness of Earth and we ourselves who are caught up in a mindset of consumerism and wastefulness as those in the parable who pass by and avoid wounded Earth, denying the reality staring us in the face, not wanting to get involved, not wanting to change our lifestyles, hoping someone else clean up the mess we’ve made?

Can we read the parable and hear it as a call to see human relationship with Earth in a new and life giving way? Can we get our heads around the truth that Earth is not a collection of objects but is a community of subjects? We humans are not lords of creation we are one with the rest of the life systems of Earth,the forests, the land, the seas, the insects, the animals, the birds, the fish – we are all one community of life.

You’ve heard me say this many times, Earth does not belong to us, we belong to Earth and what we do to Earth we do to ourselves – we did not weave the web of life, we belong to the web and what we do to the web we do to ourselves.

In May of 2015 Pope Francis wrote a letter to all people of good will. Its title is Laudato Si – the first words of St. Francis of Assisi’ canticle of praise – Praise be to you my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.

Pope Francis tells us that Mother Earth now cries out to us – as did the man who fell among robbers on the road to Jericho called out to those who passed him by – Mother Earth cries because of the harm we have inflicted on her by way of our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed Earth. He goes on to say,’ we have come to see ourselves as Earth’s lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts is reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life including the human life.’ What we do to Earth we do to ourselves.

The deterioration of Earth eventually affects the poorest of the poor. Again quoting the Holy Father, ‘For example, the depletion of fishing reserves especially hurts small fishing communities without the means to replace those resources; water pollution particularly affects the poor who cannot buy bottled water; and rises in the sea level mainly affect impoverished coastal populations who have nowhere else to go. The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems which are insufficiently represented on global agendas.’

Just for an example here in Ontario the effects of mercury poisoning of the waters at Grassy Narrows and the health of Native peoples living downstream from the oil sands projects are again in the news. I recently read about an 85 mile stretch between Baton Rouge, known as ‘cancer alley’. It is home to more than 150 oil refineries and scores of dirt poor residents with many inexplicable illnesses. A recent report claimed that 60% of ocean fish species are in danger of extinction. What we do Earth we do to ourselves.

Today’s parable came from the lawyer’s question, ‘who is my neighbour?’ We are neighbour; we are kin, to every being that lives on Mother Earth. We are our neighbour’s keeper just as they are ours. We did not weave the web of life; we are a strand in the web. Can we get our heads around this truth and honestly face our wasteful and consumer lifestyles and make a commitment to ‘live simply that others may simply live’?

Our Epistle tells us that Christ is the first born of all creation; in him all things hold together for all things have been created through him and for him. Can we stretch our imagination and see that Christ is crucified in our time by our destruction and diminishment of Earth? Something to think about.