Archive for the ‘Homily’ Category

Homily – April 16, 2017

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

In his first letter to the Christian people of Corinth Paul writes to them of a matter of first importance; Christ died for our sins and was buried and that he was raised from the dead on the third day. We could say all the rest is commentary, Christ’s teachings and miracles, but this is the heart of the matter.

This feast of Easter is the foundational celebration of our Christian faith. St. Paul tells us that if Christ was not raised from the dead then we of all people are the most to be pitied. The shame and suffering of Good Friday were all for nothing. We are still estranged from God – there was no reconciliation. But we believe that the Father has raised the Lord Jesus from the dead and we too have been raised in him to live a new life for God. Christ’s resurrection is a pledge and promise of our resurrection. Death has no power over us anymore.

And who was the person, the apostle, the proclaimer of the resurrection of Jesus? Mary Madeline, a woman. His choice was revolutionary. Think about the position of women at the time of Jesus. It is pretty close to the way women are seen in many of the countries of the Middle East even today. A woman could never leave her home unless a male member of the family was with. She could never be seen taking with a man in public. Girls were never educated as boys were. Their marriages were arranged by their fathers. They were never allowed to be a witness is a court case. They could not inherit property. There was an old Jewish prayer that went; I thank God I was not born an ignorant man, a Gentile nor a woman. Women were none persons.

Jesus went out of his way to break many of these social taboos. Many of his friends were woman who travelled with him. He encouraged Mary to stay in the room with men and listen to his teachings – he praised her for choosing the better part. He spoke publically with the woman at the well. He cured the woman with the flow of blood; he raised a young girl from the dead. Dying on the cross he was comforted by the presence of his mother and other women. His male friends were nowhere to be seen.

Jesus wanted to share the glorious reality of his resurrection from the dead first of all with a woman, Mary Magdalene. Mary came early in the morning to finish the hurried anointing of Jesus body that took place on Friday only to find the tomb empty. A man she thought was a gardener called her by name and she knew he was Jesus. She lost him once; she would not lose him again. She clung to his feet but he had something important for her to do. ‘Go and tell, go and tell my disciples, go and tell the world I am risen, I am alive.’ Mary Magdalene brought this good news to all of us – He is risen.

In our time – skepticism has thickened with the advance of science and reason, there is little time for things spiritual or supernatural. Reports of miracles and divine intervention still draw faith and curiosity, but they run against the grain. Skeptics regard them, of course, as wishful thinking and attention getting events.

People who reject the astounding claim that Jesus is risen from the dead may believe the news has been faked, there must be alternative facts. But for the cluster of women who first reported it, including Mary Magdalene, there isn’t the slightest hint that they conjured or concocted it in order to manipulate the apostles for a predetermined end. No, they just blurted it out as stupendous, unanticipated truth.

Celebrating this great act of God St. Paul tells us we are to seek the things that are above, seek and live a way of life, away of relating to other people that mirrors the teaching and example Jesus gave us through his live and his dying. We are to love others as we are loved, accept others as we have been accepted, and forgive others as we have been forgiven. This is an authentic celebration of this feast.

And may we all be blessed with a joyful Easter and testify by the way we live our lives Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Homily – April 9, 2017

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Today’s feast of Palm Sunday could be called the feast of great expectations. Jesus came to the holy city to celebrate the great feast Passover. As Matthew tells us in his gospel the crowds went wild. With great enthusiasm they welcome Jesus to the city. They spread palm branches on the road to cut down the dust, other people went before and after Jesus waving their branches crying out Hosanna to the son of David. Others proudly announced ‘this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.

Many in that crowd really hoped that Jesus was the one who was to redeem Israel. They hoped that Jesus would be their liberator who would in whatever way break the hold the Roman Empire had on God’s people and make them a nation once again. This enthusiastic crowd had great expectations. But the crowd’s enthusiasm for Jesus was countered by the authority’s concern for national security and their conviction that it was better for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish.

The people’s great expectations of Jesus were far different from God’s expectation of his son. Out second reading tells us Jesus emptied himself or his divinity and took to himself our humanity and emptied himself even more, he became a slave, a slave who would be obedient even to dying on a shameful cross. By being faithful to his father’s will our reconciliation, our peace pact with God was sealed. God’s great expectation of his son was the total obedience of Jesus, an expectation that was rewarded with Christ’s resurrection.

On the feast of Palm Sunday St. Paul tells us to have the same mindset Jesus had when he surrendered his life to his Father. The question we can ask ourselves at this Mass is; do we really mean what we say to God our Father when we say, ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’. Are willing to echo the words of Jesus as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane; ’not my will but you will be done.

Let this be our prayer as we begin the Holy Week, thy kingdom some. May we pray it as best we can, not knowing what these words may ask of us yet trusting that Jesus our Christ will be with us gracing us to mean what we say and promising us to be at our side in every situation that comes our way.

Homily – April 2, 2017

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Let’s look at the very humanness of this Lazarus event. Jesus was a close friend of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. He often visited them with his disciples. We remember the time when Jesus and his friends crashed at Lazarus’ home and caused a bit of a family squabble, Martha complaining about having to do all the work of preparing a meal while her lazy sister Mary sat and listened to what Jesus had to say.

Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was very ill. They expected him to come right away. They knew Jesus had cured sick men and women before; surely he would be there for his friend Lazarus. But things didn’t work out that way. Jesus and his companions showed up four days after Lazarus’ burial. His body had already begun to smell.

When Martha, who always spoke her mind, went out to meet Jesus she rightly complained to him, ‘if you had been here my brother would not have died.’ In other words, ‘after all the hospitality we’ve shown you and your friends, where were you when we need you? Martha and Mary must have had conversations about how disappointed they were with Jesus’ absence in their time of grief because Mary made the same complaint when she met Jesus,’ if you had been here our brother would not have died.’

Martha and Mary shared the same conviction, ‘I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ In other words, all is not lost.

And we are told that Jesus wept, he shared in their grief and in the sadness of the whole scene. As Jesus told his disciples when word reached about Lazarus’ health, ‘this illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of Man may be glorified through it,’ In other words, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Jesus goes to the tomb and in loud voice he calls Lazarus to come out. To everyone’s astonishment Lazarus comes out wrapped in his burial shroud. We can only imagine the shock and the astonishment of all who were there that day and how swiftly the news spread about what Jesus did.

One thing in this wonderful event that sticks with me is the justifiable complaint of Martha and Mary, ‘if you had been here our brother would not have died.’ That complaint might make us wonder whether or not we have been there for family members and friends when they most needed us. There can be times in a person’s life when he or she can be so overwhelmed that they feel their very life has gone out of them. Emotionally they are as good as dead. They’ve just been told they have cancer or some debilitating disease that will change their life completely. They may be tortured by anxiety or swamped by depression. They may have been let go from their job. They may be faced with the shock of separation or divorce. They may have discovered a son or daughter in trapped in an addiction. The list could go on and on, but their lives will never be the same.

Jesus was there for Martha and Mary and his presence, his words made a difference. Are we there for those who need us? We can’t make the pain go away but our concern, our presence our words can make a difference. We can ask the question; ’is there anything I can do’. We can let them know we are praying for them. Do we appreciate the fact that a visit, a phone call, an email might make a difference and let them know they are not alone? These gestures may not be appreciated but at least we tried.

There is a song titled ‘where were you when I needed you’? Jesus was there for Martha and Mary. Can he inspire us to be there for those who might appreciate our presence, our prayers or our words of encouragement? As Jesus called Lazarus to life, our little gestures might call our friends to new life, new hope. It’s something to think about.

Homily – March 26, 2017

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Just a few words on our first reading for today’s Mass. God is fed up with the sins of King Saul and wants to anoint a new king. He sends Samuel to Jesse who lives in Bethlehem. Each one of Jesse’s sons I presented to Samuel and each time Samuel is impressed with the son Jesse presents to him and each time God tells Samuel, this is not my choice. Samuel finds out Jesse has one more son, his youngest who is just a kid and is doing the mindless job of minding the sheep. He’s brought to Samuel and God’s tells Samuel, ‘anoint him, this is the one.’

We can imagine the tension this caused in Jesse’s family, the annoyance of his sons that their kid brother was God’s choice but that is how David’s journey to kingship began.

So many time God chose what we might call ‘nobodies’ to do great things. Moses was tending his father –in- laws sheep when God called him and Amos was caring for sycamore trees when he was called to be God’s prophet. God ignored Isaiah’s protestations of weakness when God called him to be prophet.

St Paul, who saw himself as the least of the Apostles wrote the Christian community as Corinth, ‘ it is the weak things of this world that God has chosen to shame the strong, and the foolish ones to confound the wise and the ones that are not to reduce to nothing the things that are.’ Christ called Peter, Andrew, James and John, who were mending fishing nets, what could be more boring, to follow him into an unknown future.

In today’s gospel Jesus choose a blind beggar, an ignored, un-named man people walked by every day as they went to pray or offer sacrifice to be the opportunity, the challenge to the religious authorities of the temple to come to see Jesus for who he was. All to no avail. They banished this man whom they saw as an ignorant fraud, from the temple and so remained blind to the reality of Jesus, the light of the world. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

We may think we are of no importance, of no influence but God can use our littleness, our limitations to touch the lives of others. We have parishioners helping out at food banks and soup kitchens and meals on wheels. We have people from our parish visiting shut ins. We have little people doing so many little things that seem so unimportant. But, as the song sings, ‘little things mean a lot.’ We shouldn’t underestimate what God might call us to do. To quote Cardinal Newman;’ God has created me to do him some definite service; He committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission. God has not created me for naught, he knows what he is about.

This is true for each one of us. We may not feel very important or powerful or very wise but God has a project for each of us. It may be something important or something trivial but if we don’t do it, it won’t be done. We have within ourselves the power, the ability to act, to encourage, to support, to be there for someone who needs us. We are all given a voice to say ‘I’m sorry’, I forgive, and I am here for you, little words that can make a great difference to other people.

God is in the habit of asking weak and unimportant people to do great things and little things.

Will we have the generosity of the young man Samuel when God called him to service and answer ‘here I am Lord send me, and do whatever God calls us to do, no matter how trivial, how unimportant it may seem to me, it can make a great difference to others.

Homily – March 19, 2017

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Can you remember how refreshing a nice glass of cold water tastes on a hot summer day? Think about for a second. It’s nice and cold and it is so refreshing. It really perks you up.

In Toronto we take water for granted. Lake Ontario is part of the greatest fresh water systems on Earth. The peoples of our First Nations called the Great Lakes the Sweet Water Seas.

Hopefully we are pained by the news reports of thousands of men, women and children from different countries displaced by ravaging droughts destroying their food supplies and their herds of goats and sheep. We see them in the thousands pouring into refugee centers in order to survive.

Today’s gospel tells us of the story of the woman at a well and her encounter with Jesus. In the towns of that time there were two important places: the market place and the community well. The men got together in the market place and gossiped about town politics. The woman went to the common well twice a day and gossiped about their husbands. The well was far more important than the market place. A dry well meant no water, no water meant no town.

In their conversation Jesus, who was at the mercy of this woman because, as she tells him the well is deep and he has no bucket. Jesus confuses her by telling what she already knows, ‘whoever drinks of this water will be thirsty again.’ Jesus promises her water that will quench her thirst forever. Jesus promises water that gushes up to eternal life, a water that does away thirst forever. Sir give me this water.

Hopefully we all thirst for a deeper relationship with God. Our relationship, our bonding with God begins with water, the water of baptism. Blessed with this water we come to life with God and begin the life long process of growing in the likeness of Christ, God’s Son, so that God can look at each one of us and say, ‘this is my beloved son, my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.’ That’s why we might pray every day the prayer of the woman at the well, ‘sir give me this water’ so I may grow into a deeper relationship with God as God shares His life with me. That’s why we pray, give us this day our daily bread, Christ our bread of life who strengthens and nourishes our relationship, our bonding with God.

Hopefully we all have a thirst for God and for God’s refreshing life and love for us. But do we ever think about God’s thirst for us? Do we ever give a thought about God’s eternal thirst for our faith, our trust, our love? God’s thirst for us is the central mystery of our relationship with God. Christ’s call from his cross, ‘I thirst’ expresses in human words God’s eternal thirst for our love in return for God’s for each of us. God loves us with an everlasting love and thirsts for our love in return.

Are we willing to quench God’s thirst, Christ’s thirst for us by living as best we can the way Christ taught us to live by his words and example? Are we willing to quench God’s thirst, Christ’s thirst by a cup of cold water, a cup of kindness to those who have wronged us, a cup of cold water that brings us closer to those we love, a cup of cold water offered to a stranger, a cup of cold water that refreshes those who feel unwanted, unloved, a cup of cold water to the homeless and unemployed, a cup of cold water to a friend living with the hurt and the loneliness of separation and divorce, a cup of cold water to a family member or friend in a nursing or retirement home, a cup of cold water of welcome to the refugees who come to our land?

As one spiritual writer wrote; our thirst for God is insatiable. But that is only half the story. More vast than the furthest reach of our hunger and thirst to be known and loved is the God who longs to be our bread of life, our living water. Are we willing to quench the thirst of God?