Homily – August 18, 2019

August 18th, 2019

In the second reading of today’s Mass we have the words of support and encouragement that Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem. Paul wanted to exhort these good people to persevere in the face of persecution. At that time, certain believers were considering turning back to Judaism to escape being persecuted for accepting Christ as the Messiah. Jewish family members and neighbours saw them as traitors to the ancient faith. Paul reminded them of the great feats and struggles Jewish holy men and women had endured through the ages in their struggles to be faithful to God. Paul held these people up as examples of those who suffered even death for being faithful followers of the God of Israel.

His last example for them to follow is Jesus who endured such hostility against himself; a hatred and hostility that brought him to the cross. Paul encourages these wavering people to run with perseverance the race that was set before them looking to Jesus, the crucified the pioneer and perfecter of their faith.

In the gospel we hear Jesus foretelling of the struggles those who follow him would have to face; rejection by their own families, and made social outcasts by their religious leaders, made to feel like lepers, unclean, unfaithful.

Following Jesus was never meant to be a walk in the park.

Years ago G.K. Chesterton wrote these words; Christianity is the only religion which worships a scapegoat, worships the one who is hated, excluded, spat upon, blamed for everything, ridiculed, shamed, and made expendable. Christianity is the only religion that focuses on imitating the victim and which sees God in the one who is surrounded by the halo of hatred.

There are men and women in our society today who for their own purposes marginalize and scapegoat the sick, the poor, the handicapped, the unborn, the unattractive, the non-productive, and the aged. We as Catholic/Christians are scapegoated and ridiculed when we stand up for such people.

We’re called bleeding hearts when insist Canada welcome refugees, people fleeing from war and persecution. We’re called lefties when we support a living wage, affordable housing and other social causes. In doing all these things we are one with our crucified Christ who writhed in pain and shed his blood for all of us, this man who wears a halo of hatred.

In all our efforts to work for peace and justice and bring a bit of love to our troubled world we look to Jesus, the crucified, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. God give us the courage to be faithful followers of our scapegoated Christ.

Homily – August 4, 2019

August 3rd, 2019

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 28, 2019

July 28th, 2019

Lord, teach us to pray. Most of us see ourselves as poor prayers. We’re so busy we find it hard to find the time to pray and when we do pray we find it hard to be still, our minds are like racing motors thinking of things we should be doing.

We’ve made Jesus’ lesson on how to pray into a prayer itself. Jesus’s first point in his teaching is that when we pray we are entering into a relationship, son or daughter with our father, our mother. The most basic of all relationships.

On another occasion when Jesus was talking about prayer he tells us not to babble like the gentiles do. They think that by using many words they will be heard. Then he tells us,’ your Father knows what you need even before you ask him.’ Our father/mother knows what we need. We know what we want. As has been said before, prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind to suit us as it is about changing our minds to suit God’s.

The Our Father is a series of petitions the first of which is ‘hallowed be thy name.’ It is the most important petition, that God’s name be glorified. We ask the God’s kingdom come to that part of our lives which have yet to be redeemed. We ask that our lives be open to God’s will for us rather than our own. We ask for the daily bread of God’s living giving grace. Our next petition is a bit frightening if we think about it; forgive us our offences as we forgive those who have offended us Finally we ask not to be put to the test of being separated from our father/mother.

There is a country western song that sings, sometimes God greatest gift is our unanswered prayers. He’d discovered that the love he so longed for would have been a disaster. The spiritual writer CS Lewis once quipped that we will spend most of eternity thanking God for those prayers of ours that he didn’t answer!

The greatest prayer we pray is a prayer of thanksgiving. That’s what we are praying right here, right now. When we begin our Eucharistic prayer, our prayer of thanksgiving we say, it is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks Lord holy father, almighty and eternal God. We give you thanks for the gift of ourselves, our lives, our faith, our sight, our hearing, our mobility, our family, our friends, our work, our food and so many other blessings we take so much for granted. No mattered what our problems and struggles we are a blessed people.

As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist, this prayer of thanksgiving may we know in our hearts that is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give our God to give you thanks.

Homily – July 21, 2019

July 21st, 2019

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 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 break 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 7, 2019

July 7th, 2019

We know from Paul’s letters to the churches he founded that he had a deep personal relationship with Jesus. He would say of himself, ’I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me and the life I live, I live trusting in the love of Christ who died for me.’ In another letter Paul writes, ‘for me, to live is Christ.’

These powerful words that begin our second reading say everything about Paul’s relationship with Christ, ‘May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world crucified to me and I to the world.

Paul “glories,” not in his circumcision as assign of his Jewishness as some of the Jewish coverts of Galicia did, Paul’s boast was in the life giving cross of Christ, by which the world is crucified to Paul and Paul to the world.’

Paul is utterly rooted in trust, the blessed assurance in a God who bears and nourishes all of us, who would also die for love of us.

So much of the words of Paul sound like a deep personal relationship with Christ Jesus. But it is more. Have you ever heard a person say that they have accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior? It sounds like, ’just the two of us.’ For Paul who did have a deep personal relationship with Christ, but for Paul it was much more than that. Paul saw himself as a member of the Christian community which he describes as the body of Christ. Paul writes to the Christian community in Corinth; ‘ just as the body is one and has many members so it is with Christ…we are all baptised into the one body, Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female. One member cannot say to another, ’I have no need of you.’ In other words, we’re all in this together.

Right now we are members of an embarrassed church because of the sins and crimes of priests and the cover-ups of our bishops seeking to protect the reputation of our church. It’s all coming crashing down around us. That’s part of the picture. But as the eyes and ears and hands and feet of the body of Christ we Catholic Christians are to work to bring peace and justice to our troubled world. Our parish family of St. Gabriel’s is a microcosm of the whole church in our many efforts to help the hungry and homeless, in the way we’ve welcomed and supported refugee families from the Middle East, in our hospital visitors, our support of the Good Shepard Refuge and Rosalie Hall, our support of Share Life, the work of St. Vincent de Paul, in our support of Just Coffee and our young people’s involvement in local issues. We are the Body of Christ in our own simple and small ways bringing Christ love and healing to all the people who come into our lives.

Someone once said that there are two things in life we can’t do alone – get married and be a Christian. Remember the song from the musical Carousel, you’ll never walk alone? We’ll never walk alone, we’ll never pray alone, we’ll never suffer alone, and we’ll never serve alone. We are the Body of Christ. We are all in this together.

As we continue this Mass we give thanks to God for inviting us into our own personal relationship with Jesus. May we be blessed to know that this personal relationship is best lived appreciating the relationship we have with all who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.