Mar 27, 2021

The Palm Branches Out


Throughout our history, every year on Palm Sunday we gathered in mass in the piazza outside the church. We all held palms and listened to the Gospel announcing that Christ our King was at the city gates, ready to enter. I went among you showering down holy water, blessing the palms you held, so that they would become a visible reminder of the Christian joy of following in behind Christ the Shepherd who leads His flock to victory. Accompanied the ministers around the altar, we would then enter the historical drama of the Gospel as it recounted the events about to unfold leading up to Good Friday and the sacrificial death of Christ. This year, like last year, our song of “Hosanna, Hosanna” seems like a distant echo from years past. 

Whether you stop by the church on Sunday to pick up a fresh and blessed palm attend Mass, make some time within the church in adoration of the Eucharistic Presence of Christ at His altar, or find yourself at home in prayer making Sunday sacred, know that I will have offered Mass for you and your intentions. I only ask that you make your own little sacrifices to God in thanksgiving for the graces He still continues to shower on us and also in petition that He will protect, heal and guide our community during these uncertain and tense days and weeks ahead. 

It is worth recalling from Scripture, from St. Luke’s gospel account, that as our Blessed Lord approached the city amid the joyful excitement of the people gathered to welcome Him, before going forward, Christ stood back. From a distance as He looked over the city before Him, Christ wept. God weeps for our city, for our nation.

St. Matthew’s gospel account reminds us that the first thing that Our Lord did when He entered the city was to heal the blind and the crippled. As soon as He did so, the religious leaders forced Him to leave. We also must allow Christ to work through us to bring healing and hope to those who are blinded by fear or isolated in loneliness. 

But Christ does not give up on us. The following morning, this time without the fanfare of the crowds or festivities, Our Lord pushes His way into the temple grounds and with all His bodily strength and emotion causes havoc to the money changers and marketeers who had dared to make financial capital out of spiritual hunger. Surely this is a stark reminder to us, that even though our economy at this time is taking a hit, we can never allow it to be a false god to replace our dependence on the true God who does not rise and fall continuously, but through Christ has risen from the dead, never to die again. He alone is the cause of our hope. 

As we enter into Palm Sunday, the gateway to the holiest week in our Christian calendar, join me and support each other in prayer for those who are still hidden away in illness or in fear. Pray for the souls of those who have died, and for their families and loved ones. Pray for those in the medical field who put themselves in harm’s way to bring healing. Pray for those who serve us in the stores and delivery services. Pray for those in uniform who protect and serve us. Pray for those in leadership, our public servants, that they will always foresee the common good. Pray for your pastors that they may become more perfectly attuned to christ the Shepherd, Christ the Priest, Christ the Servant. Pray for the salvation of your soul and that God will renew the face of the earth to reflect His glory and His love which endures forever. 

Father Cávana Wallace

Mar 20, 2021

His Finest Hour

Today's Sunday Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Lent allows us to contemplate on how our Blessed Lord gradually prepared himself to forfeit His life for us on the Cross. Christ’s immediate preparation for His death is put into context in this Sunday Gospel with the arrival of certain Greeks who approach Him.  We are not told exactly what they said to Him, but one thing's for sure - Our Lord seemed, from our perspective, agitated. He then starts talking about a seed having to die in the depths of the earth in order for it to come to life, to grow and bear fruit.

Some have speculated about what the Greeks could have said to Our Lord. Maybe, because of the mounting political opposition to Christ and with His arrest imminent, maybe the Greeks offered Him asylum.  Maybe they asked Him to return to Greece with them - that He would have crowds listening to him in Athens - He could dialogue with their great philosophers and wise men!  He’d be safe in Athens.  And even if He felt compelled to die for His beliefs, the Greeks would have reminded Our Blessed Lord that He could have a death like the great philosopher and wise man Socrates who, arrested for spreading new ideas and refusing to worship the Greek gods, he willingly accepted, even welcomed his execution and death. 

And that Socrates was not put to death in a long, drawn out excruciatingly painful and barbaric execution, but instead was given the opportunity to die with dignity and respect. He was given a cup of poison to drink, then allowed to walk around until he felt drowsy. He was then given a comfortable couch to lay down and put his feet up, until he quietly slipped away in the gentle embrace of the sleep of death - beautiful and dignified!

How did Christ respond?  He couldn't respond quoting Scripture. The Greeks didn't have the Jewish Bible.  So instead, Our Lord used images from the language of nature. “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

Our Blessed Lord was not trying to be a philosopher. The prospect of the Cross does disturb Him greatly. He calls His approaching death by crucifixion, He calls it His “hour”. He says “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”

But what was that final purpose.  His final purpose was not to influence our minds, our to give us a new teaching or philosophy of life - or a school of thought, or a manner in which we can become all better people.  As important as all that is - Christ’s final purpose is to save our souls and to help us to reach heaven.  Because of His love for us, He will take upon Himself the price of human sinfulness and pay that price Himself.  

Christ could have avoided it. He had the divine power to even prevent his body experiencing any pain whatsoever.  But no.  Because of His intense love for you and me so that we would not die in sin and lose the opportunity to reach heaven, He willingly, freely, He desired with every fiber of His being to save us, even though in justice we do not deserve it.

The horrific truth of Christ’s crucifixion, is that you and me are fully responsible for it. He bleed to stop us bleeding! But often, we try to be like the Greeks in the Gospel today and offer Him a “more comfortable” solution.  We so often resist soul searching - so uncomfortable it is - it’s so much easier to present oneself refined and polished, sophisticated, ready in an instant to pose for the camera - anything to avoid looking interiorly, within the history of our lives, searching with for that old wound that still slowly bleeds.      

This year, we have a number of men and women who will be coming into the Church at Easter, to be fully initiated into the life of the Church, through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Easter will be their sacred hour, as it is ours, as it is for us every Sunday. 

Their journey, our journey, is not one that takes us to Athens where we can pose and philosophize, admire the museums and gaze at the pretty pictures.  Instead, the journey always takes us to Jerusalem, into the very Heart of Christ, opened up for us on the cross and its power to heal harnessed through every Mass where we know ourselves to be forgiven, freed of our sins, strengthened by His love most pure, and fed by His glorious and Risen Body and Blood.

Let us pray, brothers and sisters, that we will have the strength and the humility to accept the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our sins and respond by confessing our sins, professing our faith and living lives worthy of Christian discipleship.

Mar 14, 2021

Lenten Spring Forward

This Fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as "Laetare Sunday," is flavored with a sense of joy. Although this season is marked by the sobering disciplines of penance, today we hear the words from Holy Scripture "Rejoice Jerusalem!" as we proclaimed for our introit, that is our entrance “hymn”, which sets the pace of our journey. Halfway through Lent, we can say, we have the Holy city of Jerusalem in sight with an expectation of Easter ahead of us.

And this is good news! It assures me that there is a goal to which we are striving for, and it is in sight. Today, we get a hint of it.  The penances we do and the sacrifices we make are not an end in themselves. That would be sheer cruelty - even a hell!  

Instead, our penances and sacrifices help us reach a happy goal.  Yes, they can take much effort and endurance to do, like rowing a boat at times through rough waters and then through various storms.  But then we hear someone cry out “land ahoy!”, we don’t stop. Our rowing instead becomes animated with a joy that what has been sometimes like a dream is now becoming a reality. Christian hope and joy are inseparable.

This is why, I want to assure you and encourage you, that the sacrifices you make out of love of God and your neighbor, are well spent.  And that has to be the motivation - love of God and our neighbor. 

If the motivation of my sacrifices is to make me feel good about myself - then the focus is not God, nor God’s beloved sons and daughters - the focus easily becomes selfish. When I depend on others to make me happy, when they don’t, then how easy it is to be filled with the opposite of joy. The opposite of joy, is not sorrow.  It is despair. And if I depend on my friends to make me happy, then I risk turning them into earthly gods and goddesses.

And that does not please our Heavenly Father. What does?  “God loves the cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7), the one who can rejoice, even when burdened, who has an inner strength even when weak, who can disarm the strong even when injured, who can heal even when weak, and can give life abundantly even when dying.

Of course, this is Christ - Christ on the Cross, lifted high and shown to the world by God. A terrorist would flaunt a crucified man on a pole in front of us to to frighten us, to scare us into submission or provoke us to destructive anger.  

But our Heavenly Father lifts high the Cross of His beloved Son, not to bring fear - but freedom, healing, strength and - even joy! The Cross shows us how much evil and sin God will take, an ultimate punch bag, so that, exhausted after fighting Him, the devil will not have full strength to go after you or me. And then comes Christ’s resurrection, the ultimate victory, demonstrating that there is no stopping Christ and the coming of the Kingdom of God.

This does not make sense if we do not believe in the Easter event, the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead.  (“Whoever does not believe has already been condemned”) To see the Cross in the light of the Resurrection, allows us to rejoice, to have hope that what we are asked to endure, the sacrifices we willing make for the sake of love God - do in fact bring us to a new life. “So that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

I will therefore encourage you by making a point with a visual reminder.  Look at the portrayal of Christ on the Cross here at St. Margaret's.  Unlike other crucifixes you might see that may show Christ in all his agony and unimaginable pain - look again at Cimabue's cross above the rood screen in this church. Does it not hint of his resurrection - as if Our Lord was gracefully being lifted up from death itself in the powerful but gentle dance of the resurrection? The cross is never the final word. 

Let us ask God for the grace of a new motivation to carry whatever cross we may find ourselves with and do so joyfully, knowing that, if we do so out of love of God and neighbor, then we too will share in the joy of our own resurrection from the dead.

Mar 13, 2021

St. Joseph

To the man whose words were never recorded in the Scriptures, the Church honors this year in particular the man Joseph, husband of Mary, foster father of Jesus and protector of the family of God.

St. Joseph’s privilege was to be the husband of the Virgin Mary – truly a match made in heaven. As her husband, he became the head of the family. Indeed, as a wife, Mary was subject to him. But her natural submission to him as her husband protected her – he protected her honor, her pregnancy, her livelihood. 

Although he was foster-father to Jesus, let us never underestimate his fatherhood. St. Joseph had the same rights as a father over a son as any father of his day enjoyed and exercised. Not by the will of nature, but by grace Joseph was the father of Jesus, fatherhood delegated to him by God. And as Jesus considers us his brothers and sisters, St. Joseph also becomes a father figure for us - our guardian and our protector.

He was responsible to provide food and safety from the sweat of his own brow for Mary and The young Jesus so that the young boy 
would grow to full physical maturity and strength to travel long distances and provide miraculous food to all freely. 

St. Joseph guided the boy Jesus in his relationships with the world, protected him at home and gave him the hands-on experience of the job site. One can magine the young boy Jesus running into the open arms of St. Joseph, calling him “father”. Is it any wonder the feast day of St. Joseph is the anniversary of many priest’s ordinations, for when the priest receives Holy Communion, like St. Joseph with the vocation of being a Father, Jesus will also rushes into the grasp of the hands of priests to embrace and then to share. 

St. Joseph provides for us all a true example of faith in the midst of conflicts, doubts, and contradictions.  To accept the truth of Mary’s child, to accept that the God of the universe should be born in destitute circumstances, that he accepted the exile of Egypt not knowing for how long - he is a man of patience and perseverance. 

This was a man who could count twenty three kings of Israel as his ancestors, a man of noble blood but who was now content to be a commoner, mending broken tables, chairs and ploughs for a living – a humble man without ambition nor an agenda but to simply be faithful to God’s commands and often against the odds.

His humility was his power. He knew when to bow out and take a back seat for when the young Jesus who grew up calling him father, looked to the heavens and called out to God as Father on that unforgettable day in the temple when the young Lord wandered off by Himself for , we never hear of St. Joseph again. 

But from his hiding place of heaven, peeking through the great cloud of witnesses, beside angels and saints, Joseph looks towards the Blessed Lady he took as his wife, and with her, looks upon the face of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world.

Mar 6, 2021

Cleaning House

Understandably, during this past year, we have given much attention to cleaning surfaces - not just our hands but also objects around us. In fact, there is now a great business for sanitizers and disinfectant products. It has become so much part of the local economy and our household products. 

Two weeks ago I spoke of the sanitization of our ears, particularly within this very acoustically sensitive sanctuary and how we must be always sensitive to the hearing of all those around us, as well as for the sake of the priests and ministers - how noise, either from outside or from around us can distract us easily from hearing the whisper of God’s voice or following the prayers of the Mass so they can resound in our hearts and souls.

Last week I spoke of the sanitization of our eyes, so used to flat screens, phones and media - how the eyes are windows into our souls. And even though we may at times have to wear a mouth covering, we communicate with our eyes as does the gaze of Christ when He looks, seeing us before Him. 

This week’s Gospel for the third Sunday of Lent has us hear about Christ sanitizing the sanctuary of the temple, cleaning out all the clutter and commerce that had, over years, creeped into the sacred space of prayer - that meeting place between God and His people.

This past year has forced us to do the same here inside the church. We have memories of long processions, the swinging of the incense, hymn books in the pews, the offering basket being passed around, a baptism font overflowing, coffee and doughnuts after the Sunday morning Masses and all the hugs and handshakes afterwards.

As much as we fondly remember and take comfort from these past memories of how Mass was typically celebrated here with all the “smells and bells”, the sweeping action and the effects of the pandemic might be compared to the opportunity Christ took to “clean house”.  

This sweeping action has us returning to the bare necessities of worship, how we offering the sacraments. Even how we approach the sacrament of confession must be cleansed, examining our actions not according to our own standards and expectations, but through the simple but penetrating directives God has given us through the Ten Commandments (First Reading)

Far from being a sterile environment, we rediscover what we truly need for the essentials of prayer and worship. For the Mass, all we need is an ordained priest, bread and wine. For confession, one priest and a repentant sinner. For a wedding, all I need is a couple who are free to be married and two witnesses. To pray the rosary, all I need is to be able to count up to ten!

This is where it always begins. During these final few weeks of Lent, ask yourselves what is truly essential in my relationship with God, the Church, with my loved ones, what is that essential core of my being can often be suffocated by all the extra stuff that can clutter my life and stifle my ability to profoundly pray, fearlessly fast and abundantly give alms. 

This is all summed up in that opening prayer we heard at the beginning of Mass for this Third Sunday of Lent:

O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,

who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving

have shown us a remedy for sin,

look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,

that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,

may always be lifted up by your mercy.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

God, for ever and ever.

Gardening Kingdom

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