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Photo AlbumHi Folks- I have been away from posting for quite sometime and hope to return soon.

I gave a homily on the weekend and talk about our trip through Ordinary time since the end of the Easter Season. I have put together this Photo Album of our trip and a few people asked me to post it so here it is!

The Journey to Discipleship:

Click here our view our photo album.

The title of my last homily was “Where have all the demons gone.” In the readings for that Sunday, the apostles were upset because there are others outside of the chosen few who were claiming to cast out demons in Jesus’ name. It occurred to me that there seemed to be demons on every street corner in the New Testament.

Not so much today so it begs the question- Where have all the demons gone?

I told the story of my friend Gordie, who after spending a lifetime (30+ years) in prison still lived in a prison even though he was a free man at the time of his death in June of this year. He was a prisoner of the demon called shame.

Today I would like to continue to wonder about “where have all the demons gone with Part 2” (there may be a part 3) and for a sub-title, I have gone to one of the great theologians of our time and borrowed a line from her.

The theologian is the modern-day prophet Taylor Swift. If you are older and not familiar with Taylor Swift, then ask one of your kids or grandkids to clue you in.

In her song- Shake it Off – which is primarily about how to deal with bullies and negative people she wrote a quite profound line when she announces that “the haters are gonna hate.”

Hate is an outcome. One of the demons who reaps a bountiful harvest of hate is the demon called resentment.
One of the reasons it is so hard to see the modern-day demons is that they are very clever. The devil called “Resentment” can enter a person’s heart in so many different ways and for a variety of reasons.

There are many examples of the pain and sorrow resentment can bring. Adolf Hitler was a raging ball of resentment, which led to a hatred of the Jews so powerful that it left 6 million of our Jewish cousins dead; 60 million perished world-wide, and much of Europe demolished.
Closer to home I have talked to a number of people over the years that are so filled with resentment toward a spouse or family member who has hurt them that it is literally destroying any chance, they may have to live a peace filled, happy life.

Several years ago, I was invited to attend a Restorative Justice Conference in Los Angeles. On the opening night of the gathering, the keynote talk was given by two grandfathers. They were from completely different backgrounds, and it was a shared tragedy that would bring them together on this stage that night.

George (not his real name) was so proud of his young teenage grandson. He was smart and had a promising future of college ahead of him. Not afraid of hard work the young man took on a part-time job of delivering pizzas.

Juan (not his real name) was also proud of his grandson, but he knew this child had a difficult road ahead of him. Things were not easy for him at home and he reached out to others his age and joined a gang- it was a family that would accept him but there was a catch. This young teenage boy had to prove he was worthy to be a part of the group.

One night the paths of these two boys crossed, and their grandfather’s lives would be changed forever.

As part of the gang initiation the one grandson had to rob/ perhaps kill (I can’t remember the full details) someone and a pizza delivery person was a perfect target. Whatever took place that night the result left to one grandson dead and the other in prison for life with no chance for parole.

In our first reading today, which is from Isaiah’s description of the “Suffering Servant,” there is a powerful line that describes what happened next in both the grandfather’s lives:

Out of his anguish“Out of his anguish, he shall see light.”

Time will not permit me to go into all the anguish that filled both men’s lives in the aftermath of this horrific event. There were times of great sorrow, anger and yes the demon of resentment.

George whose grandson was murdered was the prime target for the demon of resentment but the other man whose grandson was now a branded murderer was also fertile ground for the devil to plant his seeds which when fully grown often results in hate.

Resentment is defined as a mixture of disappointment, anger and fear. It is a deadly cocktail for one’s soul.
George and Juan chose a different path. They got to know each other through the months that followed. There was a long and painful trial. Their journey to friendship was both difficult and unlikely.

George eventually chose to forgive, really forgive, this young boy, who is now a fully grown man in his late 30’s, for taking the life of his dear grandson.

We may wonder how such forgiveness is possible. Some of you may actually view this act of forgiveness as a betrayal on George’s part as he embraced the boy who ended his loved one’s life.

George found a different path out of his anguish; he chose to see the light. It was the offering of forgiveness and the taking of the extra step of reconciliation that freed George from living his remaining years filled with resentment which is that deadly mixture of disappointment, anger and fear.

Today George works closely with Juan and is trying to get Juan’s grandson released on parole. George has offered this young man, a job and a chance to restart his life.

I have heard it said that 75% of all the teachings of Jesus can, in one way or another, be brought back to the topic of forgiveness.
Jesus is to this day the wisest of teachers. He knows that the devil works in devious ways and that our inability to forgive ourselves leads to the demon of shame controlling our lives. Our unwillingness to forgive others opens a space in our hearts for the devil to plant the seeds of resentment which results in creating haters and as Taylor Swift reminds us “Haters are goanna hate”.

If we truly want to go in peace when this mass is ended, we need to find a way to glorify the Lord with our lives.
One of the most difficult ways to do this is also one of the simplest. When we are suffering and in deep pain, we can choose to come out of our anguish and walk towards the light. It is in this light, which is fueled by the healing powers of forgiveness, that the demons of shame and resentment cannot live.

Casting out the demons of shame and resentment will allow us to follow Jesus on the road to inner peace that He has built for us.

Resentment Defined

Resentment

Out of his anguish

Warning from Dad

Dont make me come down there

Year of MercyI had the honour to talk to a spirit-filled gorup of teachers yesterday and promised them I would post a copy of the presentation here at the bog so her it is! Please click on the link below:

The 4 Non Negotiables of Faith Sept 2015

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. Mark Chapter 9

I have gotten into the habit lately of giving my homilies a title. It helps me to see if there is a common theme that makes sense and might be of interest to the congregation. Unfortunately, this little practice is not a guarantee that either of these is, in fact, true, but nevertheless, I give it a go.

I was at a family gathering on Friday, and I was asked what the homily was about, and I told the gathering that the title I was thinking about giving the talk was – where have all the Demons gone?

It seems to me that there are an inordinate number of demons in the New Testament and Jesus, and his disciples spend a good deal of their time casting them out of some person they encounter.

The most famous of these might be the demoniac Jesus meets in Mark’s gospel (Chapter 5). He was a man so possessed that chains could not hold him. Jesus confronts the demons (for there were many) and drives them into a herd of pigs.

What is interesting about this story is that when the man, now cured, wants to join Jesus and become a disciple, Jesus sends him back to his village to be a sign to the people which the man did.

In today’s gospel, we hear again about demons. This time there are people the disciples deem as unworthy to work in the name of Jesus, who are casting out demons. Again, Jesus surprises his followers and says to them:

“Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.”

Interesting how open Jesus is to accepting people in spite of the disciples who seem more intent upon building an exclusive group to do the work of the Lord.

So where have all the demons gone in 2015?

I may well have met the demoniac from Mark’s gospel but the ways the demons manifested themselves in him were quite different and less dramatic than on the shores of that lake in Galilee.

I met Gordie about 12 years ago just as I was starting my ministry as a yet to be ordained deacon in late 2003. We met at the Keele Community Correctional facility and Gordie had been released on parole after many years in prison.
I would learn more about his life over the years.

One day in June, Gordie was walking down a street in one of the rougher areas of Toronto, and for some reason, this very fit 68-year-old man’s heart just stopped beating. He passed out immediately hitting the ground hard breaking his nose. Those passing by him lying on the street assumed he was drunk and hence the arrival of medical attention was delayed, and he was without oxygen for 20 minutes when they somehow got his heart started again.

When I saw him in intensive care I knew he would most likely not survive this event. His family of three sisters and two nieces and a couple of close friends gathered around, and we said some prayers, played some music and we watched as they removed him from life support.
Being a tough and stubborn guy, Gordie lived for a few more days before dying in the company of his two young nieces at 3:30 am in the morning.

Gordie’s life story is not an easy one to tell, and it must have been hellish to live. He is featured in several documentaries about ex-cons trying to rebuild their lives after years in prison. There is a scene from one of these films where we meet Gordie sitting with my friend Rev. Harry Nigh in his office at the Keele Centre. Harry mentions that Gordie has some crumbs on his t-shirt. He looks down and brushes them off saying “I am a crumb.”

One of the many names for demons nowadays is shame. I truly think the devil and his workers are much smarter now than they were 2000 years ago. They are not as loud and boisterous as they were with the demonic we met a few chapters earlier in Mark’s gospel. Today they work most of the time in silence, eating away slowly at a person until that person has given up all hope.

Gordie is shown in another clip from the documentary visiting his childhood ‘home’. He tells the story about living in the midst of prostitution and drugs as a young child often times with only white bread and sugar sandwiches for dinner. He was assaulted repeatedly by his father and his father’s friends.

He ran away and soon found his way into drugs and started a failed career as a bank robber. His criminal history is long and touches on encounters with some of the worst offenders in Canadian history.

After numerous repeat trips to prison and one extended last sentence, this 55+ year-old man returns to Toronto to try to start over again.
In the years that follow our initial meeting, I come to see the deep shame Gordie carries with him every day. The only time I see him cry is when he talks about a woman bank teller he traumatized in a robbery and when he remembers a young man murdered (not by Gordie) in prison.

Slowly after his release he started to come back to life.

How?

People started to take an interest in him. He attended the Dismas Fellowship meetings that many of you cooked casseroles for, and he ate the pasta and meatballs provided by our Knights of Columbus Council. He was touched by the Christmas gift bag he got each which was year made possible by those of you who participate in that outreach in November run by the Society of St. Vincent De Paul. A number of St. Patrick’s parishioners were praying for Gordie even though they had never actually met him.

And a few of you got to know him as a friend, and you sat at a table with him to share a coffee or a meal of mystery casserole.
Gordie had people from many different Christian groups walking with him.

When he died, he was surrounded by family. A week later, we had a memorial service for him in the basement of the Baptist church were years earlier he had been baptized, and the tables were filled with his friends.

I believe it would be a mistake to say the Gordie ever rid himself of that demon called shame, but I do believe he attained a goal he set for himself 12 years earlier, which was to die a free man, with no drugs in his system and family and friends around him.
Some of you out there may judge him to be unworthy of such a peaceful death. Beware of the demon called resentment it is almost as powerful as the one named shame.

Some of you helped to make Gordie’s (or someone like Gordie) death as peace filled as possible.
If you know what it is like to help another person to drive out the demon of shame, then you will understand what it means to go in peace for you are truly glorifying the Lord by your life.

Remembering Gordie

This weekend in my homily I am remembering the story of my friend Gordie and his fight with the demon of shame.

Here is a short video that deals with some of his demons and how a few folks, like the “unauthorized” breakaway disciple in the Gospel for this weekend, helped Gordie to a enjoy a peace filled death this past June.

Road to Success

Open Table Fellowship

The traditional view of the table of the last supper:

Last Supper da Vinci

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 
 

 

Another way to look at it:

Last Supper Eichenberg

Hi folks- I have been away wandering as any good itinerant would do and have not been posting for sometime. I will spare you all the details except to say thanks to those who sent me some notes wondering if I had fallen of the edge of the world.

I haven’t and as tie permits I will be posting now and again and perhaps even starting up some new adventures on the internet.

I am preaching the homily this week and I wanted to post a clip of the video below from the Passion of the Christ- if I can remember how do do this:

That seems to have worked.

I love this clip and plan to make this weekends homily about Jesus the builder of tables.

Happiness is...

I was wandering around the Internet the other day and came upon a story that is supposedly told by one of this past century’s great philosophers- John Lennon of Beatle’s fame. In this short quote, he tells us the most important life lesson his mother ever taught him.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life” (John Lennon).

Happiness is a subject I have wanted to explore in a homily for some time. In fact it is an area I have been actively studying for years.
Happiness it turns out is actually a simple idea that is very difficult for most of us to fully attain. If you try to define happiness, you will soon find it is much easier to describe what it is not contrary to what it might be.

Another modern day poet PHARRELL WILLIAMS- the guy with the funny hat- took a stab at defining happiness in the number 1 song of 2014 simply called Happy. Here is the chorus:

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy……

I have no idea what he means when he says,” Happiness is a room without a roof,” because to me that is simply being outside- maybe that’s what he means? (Someone answered this for at church on Sunday- Click here for what it means!)

The second line, however, is quite interesting as it asks you to clap along if you believe happiness is the truth.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus told his followers that he was the truth. What if we took this line and adapted to read “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the Christ”.

The third line of the chorus to the song Happy asks us perhaps the most profound question of all:

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you….

That is a tough question. I see it as difficult because for people of all ages, from 7 to 107, they often set out to find what they think will make them happy only to attain it and too be disappointed that they are no happier than they were when they started down this now false path.

Was Jesus himself a happy person?

Today’s gospel reading offers us a glimpse into a potential answer to this question. In this story from Mark’s gospel, Jesus has just returned from a 40 day fast in the desert. He has learned that John the Baptist has been arrested. I suppose he would have every right to be miserable and unhappy.

We find him walking along the shores of the lake called the Sea of Galilee, and he offers up a simple invitation to two brothers in their boats- “Come follow me….”

The evangelist suggests that Simon, and his brother drop their nets and follow him. Soon after, in an even more shocking recruitment, we are told that John and James, the sons of Zebedee abandon their father to follow this itinerant preacher.
Why is this so shocking? Grown men in the time of our Lord would never consider abandoning their father, their families and their business in this manner.

Jesus continues to wander around the Sea of Galilee attracting followers to his ministry.
I would argue that the people who look at Jesus see something in him, and they say to themselves- Whatever this man has I want that for my life.

What did Jesus have that these early disciples wanted?

Could it have been that they could see in him the purest form of joy or a happiness which could be called peace?
I am convinced that Jesus was the happiest person ever to walk this earth. Many of his teachings offered lessons for us about how we can live as happy people at peace with who we are and with one another.

Here are three of Jesus’ core teachings all of which have a direct impact on our happiness:

Love is a verb- Jesus consistently tells us that we are built to love. That sounds easy until we realize that he is not talking about love as a romantic feeling but as a very concrete verb. The love Jesus talks about has to do with the way we treat ourselves and others. Read St. Paul to Corinthians for a complete definition of what love is, and you will find that the road to happiness means we need to be: patient/ kind/ never jealous or boastful.

The Art of Forgiveness– There will be no happiness or real peace in our life, unless we master the art of forgiveness. Why is this required? Because none of us can always love the other (or ourselves) all the time in the way, Jesus teaches us. We will hurt people and they will hurt us. Therefore, forgiveness is often times the only real route back to happiness.

Mercy and Kindness for those we are closest to and to the stranger– Time and again Jesus encourages us to love those who are closest to us and often times this may seem to be the most natural people to love but strangely these will also be the ones, we will need to practice the Art of Forgiveness with most frequently.

Just as often, Jesus teaches us and shows us that the path to true happiness involves freely giving our love to the stranger. One of the hidden truths of giving our happiness away to those who we do not know is that it is returned to us many times over.
A paradox of sorts is that the more we actively seek happiness the farther away it gets from our grasp. When we concentrate on love/ forgiveness and mercy the more happiness seems to find us.

It is also true that there will be times of suffering and pain that will make happiness seem like only a memory. Jesus suffered greatly and one of the reasons he chose the path he did was to show us that suffering was a part of human life.
In John Chapter 14, Jesus tells the disciples that they must not fear. He knows the sadness of the passion, and the crucifixion will be more than they can handle.

He tells the gathered disciples and us that he wants to give us a present- he says Peace I give you- and then he says even more when he tells us that it is his peace he gives us.

When we choose to be one with Christ then happiness is truth. Even though we may not be worthy of this deep happiness, all we have to do is say the word and our spirit shall be healed.

The gift of true happiness which is Christ is what allows us to “Go in Peace, and we glorify our Lord by giving this happiness away freely to all we encounter”.

Thanks to everyone who has been dropping by to see if I am alive. I have been away just wandering (Wow where did that 4 months go? ) as any good itinerant would do but I am back for now anyway.

To be honest I need a place to post a video for a homily I am giving on Sunday about Happiness. A strange topic perhaps given many religious folk want to focus on we really have nothing to be happy about given all the evil and misery in the world.

Perhaps they have a point but here is the Billboard’s 2014 Top song of the year that offers up an alternative to being miserable- which is of course To Be Happy!

In Search of HappinessA famous Sufi mystic, Rabiya, was searching for something on the street outsider her small hut. The sun was setting and darkness was descending, as few people gathered around her. “What have you lost? What are you searching for? Perhaps we can help,” they said to Rabiya.

Rabiya said, “I have lost my needle.”

One amongst the people said, “Well, the sun is setting now and it will be very difficult to find the needle. Where has it fallen? That’ll help us narrow down the area on this big road. If we know the exact place, it will be easier to find it.”

Rabiya told them, “It is better not to ask me that question — because, actually, it has not fallen on the road at all. It has fallen inside my house.”

Everyone started giggling as if she was joking. Then a skeptic says out loud, “We always knew that you were a little insane! If the needle has fallen inside the house, then why are you searching for it on the road?”

“For a very simple reason: inside the house there is no light and on the outside a little light is still there,” Rabiya replied.

The people laughed and started dispersing. Rabiya called them back and said, “Listen! That’s exactly what you are doing: I was just following your example. You go on seeking bliss in the outside world without asking the most fundamental question: where exactly have I lost it?”

After a pause, she continues, “You have lost it inside, and yet you are looking for it on the outside for the very same reason — your senses are outward bound, your ears hear sounds on the outside, your hands touch things on the outside. That’s the reason why you are searching outside. For a very long time, I was also just searching on the outside. But the day I searched inwards, I was surprised. That is where I lost it and that is the only place it can be found.”

Where did summer go?

What the heck happened to the summer? A few folks may have noticed that I took some time off from the blog in August. I wish I could tell you this was a well planned out hiatus but truth be told I got myself so busy with stuff that I let my blogging slide a bit.

Well I am back although just as busy with stuff so I thought I would include the short video below as a reminder to myself of the value of time.

(Click on the “X” to get rid of the annoying Google Ads)

 

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