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A mother is she who can take the place of all others

A thought…..

Pain Quote for Blog

In case you wanted to watch this year’s National Catholic Mission you can see it below along with a description of “Why giving our death’s away” might just be our final and greatest gift!
 

Father Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest, a University professor and one of the best known spiritual writers of the last 100 years. He died suddenly 20 years ago in September 1996.

In his last works, just before he died, Henri Nouwen began to speak of how the final task in life is to give one’s death to others. We are meant, Nouwen says, to give our lives for others, but we are also meant, to give our deaths for them. Just as elders are meant to teach the young how to live they are also meant to teach them how to die. That’s the final lesson we are meant to give the young, to die in such a way that our deaths are our final blessing to them.

The promise of life everlasting means that our death does not have to be our final failure, our final defeat in the struggle of life, our unavoidable fate. If our deepest human desire is, indeed, to give ourselves to others, then we can make our death our final gift.

The 2017 National Catholic Mission features Sister Sue Mosteller CSJ and Father Ron Rolheiser OMI.

NATIONAL CATHOLIC MISSION 2017 from Daily TV Mass on Vimeo.

Stations-10-forgive-7

The last time I was the homilist on Good Friday I shared with you that when I was a kid, yes there was a time when I was young, I hated Good Friday more than any other day of the year.

Think about it. You get the day off school but back in the 1960’s everything you might want to do you could not because all the stores were closed and more importantly my mother told us we could not have fun because this was the day Jesus died.

Therefore, we sat around the house and waited to go to church. We had to go early and then this strange service started and went on for what seemed like half a day.

The only “saving grace” was what I called the big loophole the Catholic Church had yet to close on all Fridays, including Good Friday.

Good Friday was a strict day of fasting especially when it came to the cardinal rule of no meat! The one thing that the adults had seemed to miss is that in place of home made meat loaf we got to have store bought Fish and Chips on Good Friday. This made all the suffering of the day worth it in my young mind.

I am not sure if you young folks here today feel the same way but I wanted to share with you how lucky you are that someone cares enough about you to bring you here so you can learn first hand this big story about the Passion of our Lord.

What if we were to divide this congregation into two? Those of you on my left let’s assume, regardless of your current age, that you are in what many spiritual writers call the first half of life. Those of you on my right you are in the second half.

The concept of the two halves of your spiritual life has nothing to do with taking the average life span of say 90 years and dividing by two.

We all spend time in the first half of life. For the first 10-15 years of life, we are learning about how the basics of life work. If we are lucky, we have caring adults, parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, around us to guide us through our formative years.

Around 13 years of age everything starts to change and all of the people in our lives who knew so much don’t seem so smart. The teenage years can be difficult as we start to figure out who we are and what we want to do with our lives.

Most people at some point emerge from this phase and begin to focus on how we give our life away to others.

Many of us will get married, some will pursue a vocation, for some children will enter the picture and then you are the person someone else is looking at for the answers about the basics of life.

Many people never leave this half of life.

So what do the Spiritual writers mean when they talk about the second half of life?

This is a long and involved discussion. I would like to focus on one aspect of this as it relates to the story of Jesus and especially as we reflect on his suffering, death and resurrection.

I had the opportunity recently to work on the National Catholic Mission, which was on TV this week and is currently available on the internet at www.dailytvmass.com.

The Mission themes are “Our final and greatest Gift and the Promise of Life Everlasting”. The idea came from the writings and teachings of Fr. Henri Nouwen.

What does the title Our Final and Greatest Gift mean?

Continue Reading »

HybernationWell I have returned from a long nap. It seems I have had a number of these over the past several years so let’s see if I can get back on the road of wandering around the internet. I have a new job as the Executive Director of the National Catholic Broadcasting Council (NCBC) so I may have some time now to combine work and wandering!

Thanks for checking every now and then to see if I am still around.

Please note: This is not an actual picture of me!

Check out the NCBC at our website: www.dailytvmass.com

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

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