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John 19There is usually, though not always, a display of pictures or now a days a video. One thing that strikes me as a visitor to this family gathering at the funeral home is how similar these montages of life capture in pictures is between all of these different and unrelated clans.

While they all seem to have the same big moments you can just sense that each individual and family story is unique.

A little over a week ago I was at the funeral home and was doing prayers for my good friend and mentor Deacon Vern Bechard. Many of you know Deacon Vern and Mary Lou who have been members of this parish family for over 5 decades.

There was a slide show that depicted a family with 8 kids which eventually grew to include many grand and great grandchildren. Vern’s oldest son shared his deep respect for his father and what a blessing it was for all the family to be at his bedside when he died.

I wanted to tell you this story because Deacon Vern played a major role in my own journey to the diaconate and most important in my “choice” or at least my agreement to get involved in ministry to ex-convicts.

It was a Sunday, like any other Sunday, and we had come to church and as creatures of habit we sat in our usual seats in the front row by the tabernacle.

Deacon Vern was the homilist and he told a story. At the time Vern was a volunteer chaplain at the centre for young offenders. He shared how he had met a young man there who had just been arrested and his parents were waiting to see him for the first time since his arrest in the waiting room.  Deacon Vern was not there to fix anything but to just help this family reconnect at a very difficult time.

Years later when it came time for me to pick a ministry, the Director of Deacons at the time, the late Deacon Bert Cambre, “suggested” that I might want to get involved in working with ex-convicts.

Deacon Vern’s story from many years prior kept coming back to me and I eventually said yes to this invitation but I pondered, and I continue to ponder, many things in my heart about this calling.

One jarring aspect of walking with men and women who have spent considerable time in prison is that every so often they let you into their family stories.

The 1st person I met as a part of this ministry was a man named Don. I remember that day he got into my car and we were off to have a hamburger which was the 1st meal I ever shared with a bank robber.

Don was an angry young man in many ways. It turns out he grew up in a violent home. His mother was a mean drunk and drug addict.

After a few months he told me of a powerful memory he had as a child of about 8 years of age. It was like a dream. He was being held in these big hands and he had a feeling of safety and security he had never known before.

Suddenly he awoke gasping for breath. He was later told that his mother had almost choked him to death and that he had lost consciousness for a period of time.

I wanted to tell you this story and I have many more as examples of how families are not always what they seem.

But I suspect you already know that to be true.

In our gospel today Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the temple to fulfil the Law of Moses. Eventually they return to Nazareth where Jesus grows in wisdom. We know they venture to Jerusalem when Jesus is around 12 years of age. We also know Mary and Jesus would experience and grieve the loss of Joseph.

Perhaps the most significant event in the history of the Holy Family takes place right at the end of Jesus life on this earth while he is on the cross. This scene only takes place in John’s gospel. You might remember it. At the foot of the cross stands the Mother of Jesus and the disciple Jesus loves. In the moments before he takes his last breath Jesus says:

“Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19)

The way I read this story is that we are all the unnamed disciple who Jesus loves. In this moment Jesus tells us that his Mother is our mother and therefore Jesus is our brother.

In one instant Jesus promises us that regardless of our earthly family history we are all a part of his Holy Family.

If you take a moment and read the entire story you find that this Holy family is headed by a loving father who so loved the world he sent Jesus to be one with us. He is also the type of Father that will run out to meet us regardless of our wrong doings just as the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son did.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had their own story much of which we don’t know about. What we do know, however, is that each and every one of us has been included in this family and that no matter what we face on earth we always have a place to call home in this holiest of families.

This reality is what gives us the power to go out into the world in peace and to glorify our Holy Family by the way we choose to live our lives.

Advent Week 2: Peace

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Advent Week 1: Hope

 

Advent Week 1 Hope

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Matthew 25

We have completed our walk with Jesus through Ordinary time with the evangelist Matthew as our guide.

As you may have heard the last three weeks of Year A in the 3 year liturgical cycle  are particularly significant for those of us at St. Patrick’s. The Parish “Vision Statement” which is a prominent feature in the Large Hall was developed many years ago using the three parable’s from Matthew’s Chapter 25 as its foundation.

The story of the 10 Bridesmaids taught us that we have TO BE prepared for the coming of the bridegroom- Jesus – could be at any time.

The Parable of the servant who took what he had been given by his master and put it to good use is where the words Faithful Servants come from in the motto.

Last week, on Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of the church year, we hear what many consider to be the most powerful of the parables in the gospels.  Jesus tells us how on the day of the final judgement we will be separated into two groups. One on his right and one on his left. It turns out that our focus on the traditional sins, while important, may not be what we are primarily judged upon when Christ returns again.

In this parable the disciples ask Jesus to explain when did they see him poor and in need, sick or in prison or a stranger. Jesus tells them, he tells us, that “whatever you do for the least of the brothers and sisters you also do for me.” In other words Jesus on that final day will be most interested in how we walked the talk.

The St. Patrick’s vision, therefore, is a simple call; “To be faithful servants walking God’s talk.”

This message is carried forward today in our Gospel reading from Mark.  Jesus tells us to “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”

Advent is this period before Christmas, it is our time of preparation. Advent is also a call to be alert to what is about to happen on Christmas Day and to be aware of what is happening around us.

In a few short weeks we will celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. We will experience that our God so loved the world that he sent his son to not only be with us but also, to be one of us.

During mass we are reminded of this gift, although it is a silent prayer, when the priest or deacon mixes the water with the wine as the cup is being prepared for consecration he says this silent prayer:

 “By the mixing of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

Advent is this special time where we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. On Christmas Day we remember that Jesus humbled himself to share in our humanity and that he constantly invites us to fully share in his divinity.

One way we do that here at St. Patrick’s is that we are alert to the needs of the least of our Brothers and Sisters.  There are a number of worthy causes at this time of year. The St. Pat’s Knights of Columbus are in the foyer today asking for your support of their many good works. The CWL recently asked you to help women in shelters get a new start.

Perhaps our biggest requests of you each year is the Christmas Card Collection program run by the Society of St. Vincent De Paul who help those in need and the Friends of Dismas ministry to people touched by crime.

Last week many of you who participated returned the cards and a good number of you dropped by to pick up envelopes to help.

I wanted to share a letter I received from a man who was help by you this past year. I have known Edward off and on for almost 15 years through my work as part of the Friends of Dismas. He is a proud man who after years of living on his own found himself on very hard times for a number of circumstances beyond his control.

Here is what he wrote:

Dear Deacon Walsh, St. Patrick’s Parish Markham,

Last year I returned to the Toronto area, it was below zero and I was robbed at a shelter, I was broke and miserable.

I received three gift cards for Walmart and Loblaws. This was my first ray of hope. It wasn’t just that I needed things like T-shirts, socks, allergy medication, I certainly did need them, but far more important, I had to lay aside my bitterness and take the first steps to face reality.

Your parishioners gave me hope that life could be better, with these cards. When I was offered another one I was proud to say “no thank you, I’m okay now.”

God bless you and the people of St. Patrick’s for their kindness to strangers they will probably never know. This is truly Christian.    Edward

Father Greg Boyle in his book Tattoos on the Heart, offers this advice to us:

To be in the world who God is. Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.

I would like to take a moment on this First Sunday of Advent to thank all of you here at St. Patrick’s for your awe inspiring compassion for the least of the brothers and sisters.

You are faithful servants walking God’s talk during Advent and all year long. You truly know what the words at the end of Mass mean when you are invited to go in peace, glorifying the Lord by the way you are choosing to live your life.

St PaulOne of my favorite authors tells a story about his early experiences in school. He was a creative child with boundless energy. He was the type of kid many teachers just did not know what to do with, as he did not fit the mold of the “model student”.

One day this young writer to be arrived home and informed his mother that the teacher wanted to see her the next day at school. The worried mother asked her son why the teacher had summoned her to this meeting and all the boy said, as he ran from the room, was that the teacher said he was a “Scurvy Elephant” .

The next morning the somewhat angry mother entered the classroom where the teacher was waiting and demanded to know why she had called her son a “Scurvy Elephant”.

The teacher looked back with a smile and said “I did not call your son a scurvy elephant, I called him a disturbing element!”

It seems to me that to be a follower of Christ, Jesus invites us to use our gifts to become a Scurvy Elephant or a positive disturbing element in the world.

Let me explain.

In today’s readings, there is the theme of rich food that has been prepared in a banquet for us by God.  The first reading from Isaiah is my favorite verse for funerals especially if the person who has died lived a full life.

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.”

In the Gospel, we hear the parable of the king (God) who has prepared a glorious wedding feast for his son. It is a table filled with the best food available. However, at the end of the parable we learn that many of those invited refused to come and partake in all the banquet has to offer.

I have come to think that throughout our lives we will receive numerous invitations to a number of banquets the Lord has prepared for us.

Last week for example, Fr. Dominic talked about the availability of a new program here at St. Patrick’s called the Strengths based Workshop, which is open to all parishioners.

Could this be one such invitation?

A few months back I attended this Strengths based workshop in the parish hall.  Fr. Dominic and a team of parishioners organized these sessions to help people connect with their gifts (“the feast of rich food and choice wines”).

Over my business career, I have been to a number of similar workshops. You take a questionnaire and based on the results you learn about your personality type. These sessions also helped me to understand why I got along with some people and had difficulties with others.

The Strengths based workshop was different. It was excellent at highlighting how each person is a unique creation of God. It turns out we all have different combinations of strengths. The workshop also highlighted how we have the opportunity to utilize these strengths in ways that can make us a positive “disturbing element” in our families, at our places of work or school and in our community.

Let me give you an example using a character in the bible.

Who would you say is the most significant  “Scurvy Elephant” or Disturbing Element in the New Testament?

To make this more interesting lets exclude Jesus and Mary from this question because they are obviously the two that had the most impact.

My choice for the most POSITIVE Disturbing Element award would go to St. Paul the Evangelist.

Interestingly, for a time in the early story of the Church, Paul, who we knew as Saul, could have also won the Most Negative Disturbing Element Award.

When you take the Strengths Workshop, you will discover that there are 34 strengths. You start by completing a survey, which will identify your top five strengths.

There may well be an Ahha moment- an epiphany- when you examine your results. You may well realize that you have wasted a great deal of time and energy trying to fix your weaknesses rather than developing your strengths.

I have it on good authority that St. Paul did not take the online test but what might of his results looked like if he had the opportunity.

It is an assumption, but it could be a good bet, that St. Paul would have scored high in these two strengths:

Belief: altruistic, dependable, family-oriented, responsible, spiritual

and Achiever: energetic, goal-oriented, hardworking, motivated, self-disciplined

When we first meet Paul in Acts of the Apostles, he is going by the name of Saul. I once read a scholar who likened Saul to the members of the modern day Taliban.

Saul was a Pharisee. The Pharisees considered themselves the most expert and accurate witnesses of the Jewish law. Saul was also an achiever so he took this role very seriously.

When the Followers of the Way (the 1st Christians) appeared, Saul saw them as a threat to the purity of the faith. In the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles Saul is leading a group zealots that stoned Steven, the 1st deacon, for blasphemy.

Then Saul has and extraordinary encounter with Christ on the Road to Damascus. Jesus speaks to him from the heavens saying, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me? “

Our Lord could have just as easily said, “Saul, why are using your gifts to hurt my people.”

Saul became Paul with the help of another person who cared for him after Saul lost his sight. Saul realizes he must become a positive disturbing element for Christ. When he realizes this, the scales fall from his eyes and he becomes Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

From that moment on, Paul starts to use his gifts, his God given strengths, to take the good news to the world. He establishes the church in many different places. His epistles are his letters of encouragement to these newly formed groups that are often struggling with their own beliefs.

The strengths workshop offered at the Parish is a truly unique opportunity to see yourself in a new light.

If you are young person finding your way, it is a chance to understand your God-given and unique talents.

If you are in the middle of life, it is a chance to see that you are not defined by your perceived weaknesses. It is an opportunity to see that it is your strengths that make a real difference in your life and the lives of those you touch.

If you are in, or approaching the “retirement” part of your life, you may be tempted to say that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. If you take a chance and attend the workshop, you could be surprised by how much you have to offer the least of the brothers and sisters.

Back to the gospel. No matter your age, God has invited you to a one of a kind wedding feast. On the table, God has prepared for you, your own banquet of unique gifts, strengths. All he asks is we answer this invitation and join him at the table.

When we come to fully understand that we are a unique creation of God with special strengths given to us directly from this loving Father, then we truly will know what it means to go in peace and we will be fully equipped to glorify him by the way we choose to live our lives.

Walking on Water

The last time I was with you I told you about a priest, an evangelist, and a minister who had serious racoon problems in their respective churches.

Today we find the same three in a rowboat in the middle of a pond fishing. None of them had caught anything all morning.

Then the evangelist stands up and says he needs to go to the bathroom so he climbs out of the boat and walks on the water to shore. He comes back ten minutes later the same way.

Then the minister decides he needs to go to the bathroom, too, so he climbs out of the boat and walks on the water to shore. He, too, comes back the same way ten minutes later.

The priest looks at both of them and decides that his faith is just as strong as his fishing buddies and that he can walk on water, too. He stands up and excuses himself. As he steps out, he makes a big splash down into the water.

The evangelist looks at the minister and says,”I suppose we should have told him where the rocks were.”

My last homily was on the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Since then we have spent most of our time walking with Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew and he has been telling us parables. I once read that if you want to know what God thinks study the parables.

Today’s gospel story starts after the miracle of the multiplication of the loves and fish. Jesus sends his closest disciples away on a boat. He goes off by himself to pray.

There is a storm on the Sea of Galilee and the disciples are worried that they are going to die when Jesus walks across the water. They go from worried to having a panic attack thinking that he is a ghost.

When they finally realize that this might be Jesus, Peter finds the courage to call out and him saying:
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  

When I get the opportunity to speak to Christian group I like to ask them to raise there hands if they are in agreement with the following statements.

The first is- Do you believe everything that Jesus teaches in the Gospel? Most of the hands go up.

The second statement is a bit more challenging. I ask them to put up their hands if the have a deep and unwavering faith.  Here the response is mixed and it differs based on the group.

I then read them some quotes from people of faith who have shared the many doubts they have faced with respect to their faith. The audience is surprised to learn that all of these quotes about having a true and deep crisis of faith are actually the same person- Saint Mother Teresa.

What is faith?

The dictionary defines Faith as complete trust or confidence in someone or something. The same dictionary tells us that Doubt is a feeling of uncertainty.

Can you have faith and doubt at the same time?

I would suggest that the answer is yes and one could argue that if you do not have some doubt, some uncertainty then there is no need for faith.

Let me give you a simple example. Who has a cell phone? Can I have it for a moment?

Let me ask you a question. Do you believe in the law of gravity? If you have, any doubts about the law of gravity would you mind if I used your cell phone to demonstrate how it works by letting go of it.

Believing in the law of gravity takes absolutely no faith what so ever and few have any doubts about it.

Believing and living everything Jesus teaches, however, takes a great deal of faith and a radical trust in God.

In my last homily, I shared with you the four (4) non-negotiables of faith as I see it if you truly believe everything Jesus teaches in the gospel. They are:

Non-negotiable 1: You are the beloved child of a loving God

Non-negotiable 2: Love of God/Self/Neighbour/ Enemy

Non-negotiable 3: We are a people of Forgiveness

Non-negotiable 4: We practice inclusion- Open Table Fellowship

I read recently that the opposite of faith is not doubt instead it is worry. After all, if we believe everything Jesus teaches in the gospel then why do we worry?

Take the example of Mother Teresa. I do not think you could really argue that she was not a person of great faith. She clearly believed in the Non-negotiable #4, which is the practice of Open table Fellowship. She considered all she met as worthy of love, compassion and care.

She found the courage to leave the protection of the convent and went into the streets of Calcutta. What she encountered there eventually took its toll and she had many doubts but those doubts did not lead to a state of paralysis brought on by worry and anxiety.

If she allowed herself to become a victim of worry and had she stopped trusting Jesus, she most likely would have quit her ministry in defeat.

Jesus does not promise us that life will be nothing but smooth sailing. In today’s gospel, the disciples are in the midst of a storming sea.

Jesus does promise us however that we are all the children of a loving God and regardless of what happens in our lives, if we ruthlessly trust him and if we have faith in him then there truly is no need to worry. ,

Easy to say; “Don’t Worry” but it is hard for most of us to do.

Next week if you come for the 20th Sunday in OT you will hear the story of a Canaanite women who asked Jesus to cast out a demon from her daughter.

At 1st Jesus rebuffs the woman’s pleas in some pretty unkind ways. The woman persists, and at the end of the passage, Jesus praises her as a woman of great faith.

This week the Church will celebrate the Assumption of the Body and Soul of Mary into heaven.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus is the greatest example of faith. I encourage you to read the passages about Mary in the Gospel. We learn that Mary would often “ponder” things in her heart. We ‘ponder’ when we are unsure of something.

Mary did not let worry stop her from saying yes. Her yes did not mean that there would not be much pain as a result. Imagine her at the foot of the cross.

I encourage you to look at the things in your life that cause you worry and anxiety.

Today’s gospel encourages us to leave our worries in the boat. Jesus is calling us to come to him, to ruthlessly trust and have faith in him, and to know that despite our doubts we are never alone.

This does not mean that the worries you have left behind in the boat are not still there. However, if we choose to live a life based on faith in Jesus we will find the courage to go in peace.

We find this peace because we have chosen to live lives without worry and fear which is one way we can truly glorify the Lord.

I will give you restIn a small town, there were three Christian churches. There was an Evangelical, Baptist and a Catholic Church. The ministers and priest met once a year to have dinner and to talk about their ministry. Racoons had set up home in their respective church attics. The decided to meet next year and compare notes on how they had dealt with their unwelcome racoon visitors.

One year later at dinner, the evangelical preacher said they had formed a committee and decided they would build a slide from the roof so the racoons could leave. It turns out that their unwanted guests had so much fun they invited other racoons over and now, a year later, they had even more of them in the attic.

The Baptist minister stated that he did not have any luck either. It seems their congregation had decided to humanely capture the racoons and transport them out of town. Sure enough, by the next Sunday, the racoons had found their way back and they had brought even more of their friends and family with them. Therefore, the Baptists also had more critters in the attic than they had when the three pastors had met a year earlier.

They both looked at the priest from the Catholic Church who was smiling from ear to ear. He said their parish had solved the problem. He shared how they had captured the raccoons, he told them that he then baptized them and now they only came to the church at Christmas and Easter!

I chuckled at this story because it has a ring of truth to it. We have just completed the Easter Season and we have once again entered into this long stretch of Ordinary Time. I am sure you have all noticed that it is a bit less crowded at Sunday Mass.

While the crowds come to hear the Christmas and Easter stories, it is the stories about Jesus we experience during Ordinary Time that can transform our lives if we choose to understand and live them.

Over these coming weeks we will hear the Gospel, the Good News, according to Matthew.

Matthew is an interesting character. He is one of the original Apostles and his Hebrew name was Levi. He was minding his own business, and it was a profitable business being a tax collector, until one day he was “ambushed” by Jesus.

Jesus says to the tax collector, “Come Follow-me.” Matthew leaves everything and starts to follow this itinerant preacher.

What makes this scene remarkable is that Jesus would extend the invitation to Matthew in the first place. As a tax collector, Matthew would have been hated by the Jews and considered to be a sinner.

Matthew found the courage to leave everything he had to follow Jesus. The Gospel according to Matthew is an account of what most affected him on this journey.

In Matthew Chapter 11, from which today’s Gospel comes from, we find Jesus with his newly selected Apostles wandering around from village to village. While travelling they encounter followers of John the Baptist who have a question for Jesus from John, who is in prison.

It is a simple question: Are you the one or are we to expect another?

Today’s reading is the final part of this chapter and in it; Jesus gets to the point directly.

He tells us that He is the one. Our loving Father has sent him to help us carry our heavy burdens and if we trust in Him we will find rest, we will find peace.

Here we are 2000 years after Jesus shared these words with that crowd. The world today is a busy and at times a hostile place regardless of our age.

Over the past several months, I have met or talked to a number of people who are hurting because of the loss by suicide of someone close to them.

Why a person, especially a young person, contemplates taking his or her own life is a complex question and each situation is unique. There is no one answer or perhaps there is no answers at all to this question.

People who reach this stage often times feel that their burdens are so heavy they can no longer carry them. For many (not all) I would think that they did not have any real or at least a good understanding of our Mega-story (as Fr. Ron Rolheiser calls it) that is told in all the Gospels.

For me, and it maybe different for you, there are four Big (Mega) ideas that you will see played out before your eyes if you stick with this journey with Matthew through Ordinary Time. I would go as far to argue that these are the four non-negotiables of faith if you as a follower of the Christ want to be able to come to him to find rest, to experience the fullness of the peace of Christ:

Big Idea 1: You are the beloved of a loving God:

  • Brennen Manning in his book called Abba’s Child talks about how this sudden realization, that he was the child of this loving God, helped him return from the depths of his addiction to alcohol.
  • No matter what it is we have done (Prodigal Son) our loving Father will run to welcome us home.

Big Idea 2: Love of God/Self/Neighbour/ Enemy

  • Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to Love God with all our heart. We also have to love ourselves. Jesus understands that we cannot give away what we do not have and the next part of the great commandment calls on us to love our neighbour.
  • That is all fine but how can we really Love our Enemy, which is another part of the story we will hear through this most ordinary of times.

Big Idea 3: Forgiveness

  • The Sermon on the Mount- Forgive us our trespasses in equal measure to the way we forgive others.
  • The demons of Guilt /Shame and Resentment/Anger are often the root causes of our burdens.

Big Idea 4: Inclusion- Open Table Fellowship

  • The gift of Matthew 25 where Jesus tells us that when we welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, when we reach out to the least of our Brothers and Sisters two things happen. We help to lessen their burden but Jesus knows that we too will have our burden’s lifted as we will benefit even more than the ones we are helping.

Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

Over these next weeks of ordinary time, I encourage you to find your Big Ideas from the stories about Jesus according to Matthew. Allow yourself to be ambushed by Christ in such a way that you come to trust him so completely that after each Mass you attend you know what it means to Go in Peace and you have the desire to glorify the Lord by the way you choose to live your life.

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?

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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

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