Nov 24, 2019

The Wrong People



Imagine, if you would that you went to sleep one night. And when you woke up, you found that there was a completely new government in place, with faces and names of individuals you have never heard of before. Imagine, you look outside, that despite all the familiar landmarks, buildings and stores, you notice that all the street names have been changed, there is a different flag flying and shops are no longer carrying brand names you had always been familiar with. But no one seems to mind, everyone seems to be at peace with it or don’t even notice. Is it too much of a stretch of the imagination.

If so, all of a sudden you get a new boss you know nothing about and they make immediate policy changes in the workplace. Or maybe you relocate to a new home in a different state or even a foreign land, and the way of life you were so accustomed to live doesn’t translate in this new environment. What if you had been attending this parish church for all your life and now had to attend the only church in a new town where everything was different? Or you arrive at St. Margaret’s one Sunday, and there’s a new pastor, with a different accent, a different way of doing things and who had a full head of hair!

Think, not about all these scenarios. Reflect upon how you would respond if a revolution of sorts, took place all of a sudden. Maybe you say, “Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later”. Maybe you might be in shock, angry and frustrated that your whole world has been turned upside down. Maybe you’ll just go with the flow and accept that nothing can stay the same forever. Or, perhaps, you might retreat into your own world of memories of times past and nostalgia for the “good old days”. 

Today we mark the end of the church year with the celebration of Christ the King. What have we learnt during this past year of attending Mass, engaging in the prayers, reflecting on the Scriptures, entering into Holy Communion with Christ?  Has anything changed in your life, will anything be different, has your way of looking at God, the world, changed? Many of us don’t know how to truly answer that question honestly because for many we are creatures of habit, masters of predictability, custodians of tradition and security.

One thing we, as Catholics, are so familiar with is the crucifix. We have grown up with it. It’s attached to our rosary beads, hangs on our wall, adorns the top of the altar, is the point of reference when we come into the church. But if we were to see an actual crucifixion for the first time, it would make your stomach turn. It would haunt you, disgust you, traumatize you. You would see your world differently, your relationships would be affected, your involvement in society would change, your appetite, your personality, your value system would all turn upside down. And it should. You would never be the same again, and you should never be the same again. But are you?

While the world is sleeping or while everyone is going about their daily rhythm of life, for a long time Christ has been patiently provoking each and early one of his disciples to change their attitudes about him, about God, about the world, about all things familiar. His life was all about preparing this world for a new kingdom, a new structure of relationships in a new kingdom. Everything we have been familiar with, he stands it on its head, offering us an ever new and always challenging world order if you dare look closely at him from the consequence of him being crucified on the cross by a hostile people. 

Christ, the embodiment of God with us, made friends and hung out with all the wrong people. He preached dangerously to all the wrong people. He warned the wrong people about judgement day. He offered forgiveness to those who were seen as all the wrong people. From the cross he offered a place in paradise to someone society presumed did not deserve it. In short, our Savior was crucified by the right people for saying the wrong thing to the wrong people! 

When he rose from the dead, and showed himself to his disciples, their world changed, everything changed. Nothing would, could ever be the same again. And they entered into this new way of existing in the world with the hope that a new Kingdom is coming. If we think it is the wrong time, the wrong place and we are the wrong people who should be hearing this message, look again at Christ on the cross, and hear again the words he spoke as if for the very first time. And when we make his words he taught us to say in the Lord’s Prayer, consider if your heart is ready to bravely embrace a new world to wake up into. 

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Nov 16, 2019

Mind the Gap


33rd. Sunday. Luke 21:5-19. -

Unlike summer, when we begin our cruise towards the winter, our physical activities typically begin to slow down but not our minds. As the nights become longer many of us try to take comfort during the extended evening hours by browsing the internet, following sports or watching movies or late night shopping as if there is no tomorrow. And you never know, maybe there won’t be! When our lives are lived in darkness, it’s often difficult to look forward with hope. When we look out at the world and see nothing but bad news, conflicts, fighting and angry words, it’s difficult to see beyond it all to look forward to Good News. 

Consider the Gospel we have just heard. For the Jewish people during the time of Jesus, the temple of Jerusalem, was to them what might be to us here this beautiful church, or what the whole church has seen throughout the centuries in the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. We have also in our national popular imagination the iconic Capitol buildings, the White House, the Washington monument. The British have Big Ben, the French, the Eiffel Tower. End of the world scenarios depicted in futuristic books and movies can have us imagine them being blown up, destroyed, crumbling into masses of rubble. We often react with morbid fascination of such a storyline from the comfort of our armchair. 

But what if it did happen? Would our world crumble around us and all hope for the future vanish? When something or someone around whom our lives have revolved disappears from our view or is obscured by fighting, destruction or even death, darkness seems to triumph.  “Give us this day our daily bread” we are taught to pray. But our survival instincts can often turn us into scavengers competing with each other, picking apart the leftovers. Our need for God becomes as great as the feeling of God’s absence. 

We are very well practiced preaching about the God of the oppressed. We do not seem to be well versed in preaching about the God of the depressed. It’s that dark valley that all of us, at some point in our lives find ourselves forced to travel into, especially when trying to cope with the pain of something or someone we love and live for being taken away or no longer recognizable. 

Our Lord tells us that we will inevitably experience this dark moment in our own lives, our family lives, even in the life of the church. What does he say to us?  His answer is simple, difficult because it often goes against our natural instincts, but is it nevertheless simple, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives”. 

Is that it, just hang in there? Yes, but as Christians we do so with a “secret” knowledge. As dark and as painful as the destruction and toppling of the shaffolds that often keep our lives manageable, there will be, at the right time, a resurrection and restoration. This is not just our Christian faith. It is the hallmark of Christian hope, not founded on the belief that things can only get better. It is founded on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the new Samson who stands ready to topple all our man made temples, shelters and securities. So, make sure the world comes crashing down around you, and not upon you. Christ needs us to help him build a new world and from it, as the first reading reminded us, “there will arise the sun of justice and its healing rays”.



Nov 10, 2019

Looking Forward, not back

Today’s Sunday Homily was based on the final line from the Creed: 
“I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”

Essentially I blended together the two homilies below, for All Saints and All Souls with a bit of a twist - that instead of leaving this world and going to heaven, heaven comes to us allowing us to rise from the dead on that final unending day and renew the face of the earth with the coming of the Kingdom of God. 
Christ has risen from the dead, and following him all the saints (in the right order). We’ll want to depend on them for help to walk towards the Lord, learning to walk again in a new light. Only those who prefer darkness, sleep during the day refusing to draw open the curtains they keep firmly closed tight. That’s the difference between eternal light and eternal darkness - night and day. 


All Saints

What does the future hold for us?

When we think of our personal future, what we often naturally reflect upon is our job opportunities, our family life or even our investments and retirement some day. 

What does the future hold for our world. We might be optimistic thinking about new technologies, better medicines, treatments, even an eventual cure for cancer. Maybe we don’t see much of a future because of concerns  we might have about the way our society is evolving, our awareness of greater violence, increasing harm being inflicted against human dignity and God’s creation. 

One way or another, we often say that the future belongs to us and our children. But, realistically it doesn’t! Only the present belong to us, the here and now. Now is always the time to do good and avoid evil, to love God and our neighbor and to be grateful and give thanks to God for all the gifts he gives us through all of his creation. 

So what is our future destiny? That depends on how we are united to God’s will on here and now on earth as it is in heaven. 

This is where family and friends help and connect us. 

Christian disciples always hope for the best. Not simply for ourselves, but for each other. And not simply for the living, but also those who have died. Dead or alive, a Christian is called to be a saint, to reach our future destiny to be completely one with God through Jesus Christ, in mind, in body and soul - to be lacking in nothing. 

Have those saints who have gone before us achieved that destiny, those saints whom he church prayer to, particular saints that we might have a particular devotion to such as St. Margaret, St. Francis, St. Therese, etc.? We look to them as part of our extended family and within our circle of friends. Have they crossed the finish line as we hope we will one day?

In fact no, not yet? Our favorite saints are lacking something. They are lacking their physical bodies! Their bodies and their relics are still here on earth. Is that what our future destiny holds for us?

For example, entombed in this altar are the relics of St. Benno and St. Cyril. Upon this altar I have placed bone fragments from the body of St. Anne, St. Bonaventure, St. John Macias, St. Anthony Claret and St Maria Goretti. Not so long ago, the preserved heart of St. John Vianney came to this church for a few hours. Is this the final destiny for all the saints, both living and dead - to be entombed in marble, encased in glass or to be buried in the depths of the earth? No! Heaven forbid!

We believe in the resurrection of the dead, the physical and glorious resurrection of the dead body to a new life and a new kind of existence through the power of God. Our common future destiny is to, one day (and what a day that will be), after all our work work is done, to rise from the dead with all the saints of heaven and earth, and together as family and friends to be counted among them. 

“Oh when the saints come marching in. Oh when the saints come marching in. I want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in.” (And remember they march in, they do not float or fly in!)

In this Holy Eucharist, may our partaking of the glorious resurrected body and blood of Christ, who is for us the medicine of eternal life and the anecdote to immortality, not only raise our spirits high, but also our minds, bodies and soul towards that day of his coming when we too will rise from the dead together and step into a new world as saints in a new creation. 

All Souls

We remember those who have died. Even now, we make them present in our minds. If we have loved them in life, they are to us not ghosts or spirits. We remember them in the context of a relationship. This occurs when we perhaps look at photographs, when we go down memory lane, when we relive in our mind events, celebrations, a conversation, even having an argument or something we can never forget. 

This is what eulogies attempt to do. Remember when…..? Sometimes we share with others a memory. Sometimes two or three may share particular experiences from different perspectives. We see our loved one with the fresh eyes of another. And there are memories that are, for us a deeply unique, secret in a way that only you can appreciate.  Sometimes our best memories are awakened when we are alone and reminiscing of days past. 

But where are they now? Are they in heaven? Do they live in our hearts? Are they simply no longer here? 

Suffice to say, those who have died, they now rest in peace. And resting in peace is something that we all do after a long day’s work. We all deserve our rest at sometime in our lives. 

Each one of us, after the sun has set and our own work is over, we too will rest from all our labors, rest from all our anxieties, our worries – rest from the work of daily life and living.

And for those who have now taken their final rest, what we call death, they are at peace, until that great day at some unknown time, when the Son of the eternal day will dawn upon us all. And when that day comes, all who have died in Christ and lived for him will not be afraid when we awaken and with sleepy eyes behold our creator and our judge.

So what is our prayer for our faithful departed, our loved ones who have died? Even though we may remember our sins, our Christian hope gives us confidence that we should never be afraid of God our Savior, not to be afraid of the judge of heaven and earth. He is the good shepherd who comes to lead his flock through the valley of darkness to the green pastures of everlasting life. Together let us follow him. 

So until that final day comes, may we and our departed family, friends and loved ones always rest in peace and hold on to that hope we have in Christ of eternal life. 


Nov 2, 2019

Tree Hugging


Luke 19:1-9

Zacchaeus was a businessman, a very rich and lucrative businessman. In fact, he was the CEO of a consortium of debt collectors, money launderers and profiteers, despised by the general population, entertained by the rich and famous.  In practice, popular opinion polls would have overwhelmingly suggested that Zacchaeus worshiped a false god and should be shunned by hard-working, simple and honest folk! Add to this, Our Blessed Lord reminds us that it is difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Difficult, yes, but not impossible!  So, how was this man, rich in the eyes of the world, to become rich in the eyes of heaven? Before we start pointing fingers and drawing conclusions as to who such an individual might be, let us be clear. Zacchaeus is you and me!

The first thing we will notice is that Zacchaeus - if he was to encounter Christ, even by chance - he knows he has to get away from the crowd.  

How easy it is for all of us to hide in the crowd at times, to hide behind layers of walls, hide behind or positions, even lost in an online anonymous crowd of statistics and made-up usernames.  Christ himself would never let anything outside of Himself, the crowd or popular opinion to dictate to Him who He was. He would never allow the crowd to force Him into giving His life.  Often, He would retreat to mountaintops, and quiet places to pray. And He would encourage His followers to do likewise - to get away from the crowds, our laptops and smartphones! How long do you think you could survive without wifi???

You see, it really doesn’t matter if you see yourself as big or small, standing out for attention or just going with the flow. The crowd, the herd mentality, has a habit of obscuring our view of the immensity of God's love for each and every unique face in all humanity.  Here in the Gospel, a well intentioned crowd was blocking Zacchaeus from seeking Christ.  

Our Blessed Lord does not want to be treated like a celebrity. He is not in the crowds signing autographs and posing for selfies. He is searching out for sinners - sinners who want to hear His voice, His words of mercy and who want to experience forgiveness and healing.  Caught in the tsunami of a crowd going in every direction, how does God draw out the sinner?

In many cases, it happens in the most unexpected way. Sometimes it just does not make sense. It can even appear foolish, twisted and bizarre.  Does Zacchaeus need a dramatic experience of grace to propel him up a tree so he can glimpse heaven, if only from a distance? Of course not. But underneath his visible effort, God’s invisible grace is at work lifting him up and out from the clutches of the fast moving world – God’s grace is working with him in his gradual detachment from the clutches of the world.

To all appearances, this little rich man, in order to experience mercy, up in a tree - it seems comical, even foolish.  But is it really?  It equally seems foolish on the part of God, that He would send His Son and put Him also on a tree. And from that tree divine mercy would be communicated to the world, even if the crowd responded by laughter or mockery.  And if we have to climb a tree to see our Blessed Lord, let us climb the tree of the cross and not be afraid to look foolish doing so.  For it is upon the wood of the cross that Christ offers His body and blood in sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. 

Also like Zacchaeus, we are not stuck up the tree forever, lost in the darkness of its branches! When we hear the voice of Him who will eventually tell us to come down, we know that we will have passed through our own Good Friday and into the day of the Resurrection. Salvation has come to our house!

Now this is not simply symbolic language. It’s a template for our own conversion. Conversion is not a simple one-minute exercise or an hour long ritual. It is continual, drawing us deeper and deeper into the love and mercy of God.  And it is often a continuous battle. There are times when we are glad to get away from the crowd.  There are times when we are caught up in it again.  There are times when we try to detach ourselves from the things of this world. There are times when we find it hard to let go.  There are times when we have found great comfort and strength in the cross of Christ. There are times when, because of fear and embarrassment, we have abandoned Christ on the cross.  There are times when we have joyfully trusted that He will catch us when we fall. There are times when we have kept our eyes closed and allowed our fear and sins to paralyze us.

How does the story end? Christ invites Himself into our homes, into the messy circumstances of our lives. But on our part, we have to always make sure that the door is open and there is a place and space for Him in our home, a home that may be messy inside but it keeps the crazy crowds outside.

And if we find ourselves like we do now, gathered around this altar surrounded by sinners and with the world outside thumping at our door trying to get in our mind, know that each one of us has already caught the attention of Christ's mercy. From here, whether He's invited or not, He wants to go home with you today, regardless if you have your home tidy or in disarray. Remember, the first home Christ had was a manger, a stable!

The Sunday Mass we celebrate today, opens the door.  Allow Christ to pass through the crowd and enter into the sanctuary of your home. And as our guest, let our response also be mercy - mercy especially to those, who because of our rash opinions, we have often deprived, one way or another, of their God-given dignity that no one can rob. This way we lift up everyone to that opportunity for human virtue that God's grace promises to every sinner.

All Saints All Souls



All Saints

What does the future hold for us?

When we think of our personal future, what we often naturally reflect upon is our job opportunities, our family life or even our investments and retirement some day. 

What does the future hold for our world. We might be optimistic thinking about new technologies, better medicines, treatments, even an eventual cure for cancer. Maybe we don’t see much of a future because of concerns  we might have about the way our society is evolving, our awareness of greater violence, increasing harm being inflicted against human dignity and God’s creation. 

One way or another, we often say that the future belongs to us and our children. But, realistically it doesn’t! Only the present belong to us, the here and now. Now is always the time to do good and avoid evil, to love God and our neighbor and to be grateful and give thanks to God for all the gifts he gives us through all of his creation. 

So what is our future destiny? That depends on how we are united to God’s will on here and now on earth as it is in heaven. 

This is where family and friends help and connect us. 

Christian disciples always hope for the best. Not simply for ourselves, but for each other. And not simply for the living, but also those who have died. Dead or alive, a Christian is called to be a saint, to reach our future destiny to be completely one with God through Jesus Christ, in mind, in body and soul - to be lacking in nothing. 

Have those saints who have gone before us achieved that destiny, those saints whom he church prayer to, particular saints that we might have a particular devotion to such as St. Margaret, St. Francis, St. Therese, etc.? We look to them as part of our extended family and within our circle of friends. Have they crossed the finish line as we hope we will one day?

In fact no, not yet? Our favorite saints are lacking something. They are lacking their physical bodies! Their bodies and their relics are still here on earth. Is that what our future destiny holds for us?

For example, entombed in this altar are the relics of St. Benno and St. Cyril. Upon this altar I have placed bone fragments from the body of St. Anne, St. Bonaventure, St. John Macias, St. Anthony Claret and St Maria Goretti. Not so long ago, the preserved heart of St. John Vianney came to this church for a few hours. Is this the final destiny for all the saints, both living and dead - to be entombed in marble, encased in glass or to be buried in the depths of the earth? No! Heaven forbid!

We believe in the resurrection of the dead, the physical and glorious resurrection of the dead body to a new life and a new kind of existence through the power of God. Our common future destiny is to, one day (and what a day that will be), after all our work work is done, to rise from the dead with all the saints of heaven and earth, and together as family and friends to be counted among them. 

“Oh when the saints come marching in. Oh when the saints come marching in. I want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in.” (And remember they march in, they do not float or fly in!)

In this Holy Eucharist, may our partaking of the glorious resurrected body and blood of Christ, who is for us the medicine of eternal life and the anecdote to immortality, not only raise our spirits high, but also our minds, bodies and soul towards that day of his coming when we too will rise from the dead together and step into a new world as saints in a new creation. 

All Souls

We remember those who have died. Even now, we make them present in our minds. If we have loved them in life, they are to us not ghosts or spirits. We remember them in the context of a relationship. This occurs when we perhaps look at photographs, when we go down memory lane, when we relive in our mind events, celebrations, a conversation, even having an argument or something we can never forget. 

This is what eulogies attempt to do. Remember when…..? Sometimes we share with others a memory. Sometimes two or three may share particular experiences from different perspectives. We see our loved one with the fresh eyes of another. And there are memories that are, for us a deeply unique, secret in a way that only you can appreciate.  Sometimes our best memories are awakened when we are alone and reminiscing of days past. 

But where are they now? Are they in heaven? Do they live in our hearts? Are they simply no longer here? 

Suffice to say, those who have died, they now rest in peace. And resting in peace is something that we all do after a long day’s work. We all deserve our rest at sometime in our lives. 

Each one of us, after the sun has set and our own work is over, we too will rest from all our labors, rest from all our anxieties, our worries – rest from the work of daily life and living.

And for those who have now taken their final rest, what we call death, they are at peace, until that great day at some unknown time, when the Son of the eternal day will dawn upon us all. And when that day comes, all who have died in Christ and lived for him will not be afraid when we awaken and with sleepy eyes behold our creator and our judge.

So what is our prayer for our faithful departed, our loved ones who have died? Even though we may remember our sins, our Christian hope gives us confidence that we should never be afraid of God our Savior, not to be afraid of the judge of heaven and earth. He is the good shepherd who comes to lead his flock through the valley of darkness to the green pastures of everlasting life. Together let us follow him. 

So until that final day comes, may we and our departed family, friends and loved ones always rest in peace and hold on to that hope we have in Christ of eternal life. 

Ash Wednesday

The Evening Meditation We are all held up in the church tonight waiting for ashes. There are no saints among us at this hour. ...