Archive for the ‘Homily’ Category

Homily – May 12, 2019

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

On May 7th Jean Vanier died at the age of 90 in a hospital in Paris. He lived an interesting life. He served in the British and Canadian navy. He was an intellectual and for a time a professor at St. Michael’s University in Toronto. His life and career changed completely when visiting a psychiatric hospital in France one of the patients there asked him; ’will you be my friend?’ It dawned on Jean Vanier that beyond the limited psychiatric care and counselling this man was receiving the man needed a friend, a relationship with another human being. Will you accept me as I am? That request, ‘will you be my friend?’ was the beginnings of L’Arche, a world-wide network of homes for men and women with intellectual disabilities.

As our parish bulletin reminds every week our parish motto is; belonging, believing, becoming. I found out recently that the Toronto District Catholic School Board that chosen the same motto, ‘we belong, we believe, we become.’

Everyone wants to belong to someone or some group of people. Jean Vanier recognized that need in the simple question of a man most saw people as a simpleton, ‘will you be my friend’. Will you let me into your life? That’s when he opened his life and his heart to men and women with intellectual disabilities and limited social graces who are often brutalized in the institutions meant to help them where they are seen as ‘cases’ not men and women who have their own dignity, hidden though it may be.

Will you be my friend? At this time in our lives, in this time in history we are challenged by this question, will you be my friend. As Canadians, as Catholic Christians there should be no place in our lives for bigotry or racism or xenophobia, that fear of the stranger. Politicians here and abroad are playing on the fear of the stranger, the immigrant or the refugee. These good people are declared to be a threat to our way of life. They will be a burden on our country or a threat to our own job security. If they are allowed to live in our country they should take on Canadian ways and leave their own cultures behind.

Propaganda like this can destroy us, it has destroyed countries before, we think of Nazi Germany, and it can do it again. The bombing of synagogues and mosques and churches are hateful and inhuman acts done by narrow minded and ignorant people.

Will you be my friend? Will you accept me for whom I am? Will you see beyond the color of my skin, see beyond my dress code; see beyond my place of worship. Will you make your own, as followers of Jesus Christ, his welcoming words, come to me all you find life burdensome and I will refresh you. Will you recognize my human dignity as a child of God? Will you be my friend?

That simple question asked of Jean Vanier changed his life. Can that same question challenge us to admit any bigotry or racism hidden in our hearts?

One personal story. From 1968 to 1974 I was the religious superior of the Passionists in Canada. I was attending a meeting at Queen of the Apostles Retreat Centre in Mississauga. The main speaker was a priest from Spain. He clutched a Bible to his chest and spoke almost in whispers. He oozed spirituality of some sort. Hard to take.

During a break I went for a walk. On my way back to the retreat house an automobile stopped and I was asked if I wanted a ride so I got into the back seat and sat next to Jean Vanier and Mother Teresa. Couldn’t believe it. They were guest speakers at this retreat. They both spoke for about 15 minutes and had to move on. There messages were simple and to the point. They were different ways of answering the question, ‘will you be my friend?’ A refreshing break from our bible clutching soft speaking preacher. A cherished memory.

It is a simple question, a challenging question, will you be my friend?

Homily – May 5, 2019

Sunday, May 5th, 2019

Think on this. Jesus came to his disciples in the midst of their work. Peter announced to his friends, ‘I’m going fishing.’ He had a business to run and a family to feed. His fellow fisherman agreed to go with him. They would share the catch.

Fishing at night on the open sea would be cold. It turned out to be a failed venture. They caught nothing. They probably argued among themselves about where there was a good place to fish. They may have been short tempered after this night of failure.

In the midst of all this Jesus calls to them from the shore. He knows they caught nothing, they’re discouraged and ill-tempered. He encourages them to give it another try,’ cast your nets to your right.’ They are gifted by a huge catch of fish; their nets were endangered of breaking.

Next, Jesus prepares breakfast for them. They’d be starving after this long cold night.

Jesus comes to each of us in our work, no matter how important, no matter how ordinary our tasks. We’ve all heard the word, burnout. Burn out is not the result of too much work, burn out is the result of a work that does not vitalize us, work from which we see no returns, work from which we get no positive feedback, no recognition.

When I was stationed at our retreat house at Port Burwell there was a young man on retreat who was a high school teacher. I presumed that teaching teenager must be a thankless task. He told me he couldn’t wait to get back to school on Monday morning to be with his students. He said he felt guilty taking his pay check because he enjoyed his work so much. That man will never suffer burn out.

But how many people do jobs, have careers or professions that are just jobs, jobs that enable them to raise a family and lower a mortgage but jobs that lack a challenge, lack excitement. There is a story told of three men working on a massive building project, maybe the building of Notre Dame. That took over 200 years. They were asked ‘what are you doing?’ one answered, I’m carrying a stone.’ Another answered, ‘I’m feeding my family.’ The third answered, “I’m building a cathedral.’ He saw himself involved in a project he would never see finished but he saw himself as an important part of it.

No matter what our work we are involved in God’s ongoing work of creation. Creation is an activity of all men and women who work no matter esteemed or belittled that work may seem to others, it is still God’s work. The work each one of us does echoes the glorious work of God’s ongoing creation; even a wasted night fishing on a cold sea.

Christ comes to us not only in our work but he comes to us in the men and women with whom we work. They may be people, who need our guidance, or people who support us, or people who challenge us, even people who test our patience. In these good people Christ tests our willingness to be open minded, to be supportive, to be patient even forgiving. But try to remember, your work is a sacred reality, a sacred activity. God’s work must truly be our own.

Maybe you could think on this as you head for work tomorrow morning.

Homily – April 28, 2019

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

We can just imagine the shame and the embarrassment the Apostles felt when they remembered their cowardliness and how they denied and betrayed and abandoned Jesus to his fate at the hands of those who were out to destroy him and his reputation.

But in our gospel we see Jesus coming among them and offering them peace. Then Jesus shows them the gaping wounds in his hands and side. Wounds that are blazing  badges of his love for each of them. Wounds that say, ‘let’s put all this behind us, all is forgiven.’

Then Jesus breathes on them a breath that gives them the power to forgive, forgive the hurt and harm they will suffer as they carry the message of his cross and resurrection to the world. Forgiveness and the peace that comes with it is one of the great themes of Jesus mission. When Peter once asked.’ How many times must I forgive, seven?, Jesus answered not a stingy seven times but seventy times seven. A limitless number! Peter gets a warning, if you can’t find it in your heart to forgive others; God won’t find it in God’s heart to forgive you.

Don’t we pray every day,’ forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?

Can you imagine what a challenge faces our fellow Catholics in Sri Lanka this Sunday as they continue  to bury their murdered children or spouses, victims of terror on Easter Sunday?  They are challenged to forgive. This is what today’s gospel calls them to do. It may take them a long time to do this, some may never will.

Forgive does not mean forget. Every time we meet a person, maybe a betraying spouse, a son or daughter who we feel let us down or wasted their God-given talents, or a business person who cheated us. Feelings of anger and resentment rise up in us like bile, we can’t forget, it’s a memory that won’t go away. But we can forgive, we must forgive. The truth of the matter is the unforgiving heart languishes unforgiven and incapable of receiving forgiveness.

Forgiveness and the peace that comes with it is the great teaching of Jesus. One of the last prayers he prayed on his cross was; ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do. As we live our faith in this holy season of the Resurrection may we all be graced to pass on to others who may have harmed us, the forgiveness we’ve received from our crucified and risen Lord.

Homily – April 21, 2019

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

Easter is a feast that speaks for itself. Ours is an Easter religion. In fact our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior rests on this feast of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We believe that life has the final word, not death. As Paul the Apostle tells us, ‘if Christ has not been raised then we are still in our sins.’ If Christ be not raised the shame and pain of our crucified Christ was for nothing. If Christ be not raised the chief priests and the mob that followed them won the day on Calvary. If Christ be not risen then the forces of hatred, bigotry, racism, sexism, exclusion, fear of the stranger, greed and power that are part of our lives today will win the day. If Christ be not risen then the evils of the peoples of this world in which we live; the wars, the genocides, the hunger that kills millions, all the realities we cannot deny, these harsh facts of life, we will not surrender to the evils of their reality because of our faith in the risen Christ – the Lord of life, the conqueror of death.

In the end it is the goodness of so many men and women, a goodness that confronts the lies of racism and bigotry and white supremacy, the goodness that reaches out to the poor, the hungry, the man of woman out of work, the families that cannot afford adequate housing that in the end will show the power of justice and love, the power of Christ and his resurrection.

Seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. So we are ever mindful of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, we are faithful at being present at the Eucharist, we try to be a person of prayer. Seeking the things that are above we try to be present to the people around us, sensitive to their needs. Seeking the things that are above we try to bring peace to our own families and be reconciled with people with whom you are estranged. Seeking the things that are above us we pray for our wounded and shamed church. Seeking the things that are above us we support our parish family in its works of charity and try to be instruments of peace with all those men and women who come into our lives.

Today and every day let us feast with joy in the Lord.” Just as Christ passed through death to resurrection, so too will we pass through this world and its suffering to the glory of a new life.

God bless us all with a holy and happy Easter.

Homily – April 7, 2019

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

There is a song that sings, ‘No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.’ In other words we have no idea of what goes on in another person’s life. We have no idea of the stress they are under, or their struggles. We all deal with different worries, we have our anxieties, we all have our conflicts with other people and we all have our own joys and the support of family members and friends.

Jesus looked into the life, behind the closed doors, of this embarrassed, humiliated woman who was thrown down before him by her accusers. She was caught in adultery and the law said she was to be stoned to death. Behind the closed door of her life Jesus saw she had no choice of the man she married. It was arranged by her parents. Maybe Jesus saw that hers was a loveless marriage. He husband never saw her as a person of value. She was to do her duty as his wife.

One day a man came into her life and saw her as a woman, a person, maybe a beautiful person and showed her respect. Things went on from there and now here she is surrounded by angry, righteous men ready to beat to the ground with their stones of outraged anger.

We can imagine Jesus looked behind the closed doors of each of their lives and knew what went on behind them. Jesus saw the shallowness of the outrage and ignored it and offered them the challenge, ‘let him who is without sin throw the first stone.’ No one dared and one by one they slinked away.

‘Woman, is there no one here to condemn you? Neither do I condemn you because I know what goes on behind the closed door of your sad life. Go and sin no more.

No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. None of us knows what another person is struggling with. None of us sees the total picture. Judge not and you will not be judged but by the same severity by which you judge others will you be judged.

Heavy stuff!