Fr Bob Writes – May 1, 2016

We are now only a couple of weeks away from the celebration of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples of Jesus in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, and the Church was born.  Our next few bulletins will therefore look at the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in our lives.  The following is an excerpt from Fr James Mallon’s book: Divine Renovation, pp 178ff

“The key phrase…is “when the Advocate comes” (John 15:26).  Everything waits on the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. …The New Testament authors are clear about two things: promise and fulfillment.

In Luke-Acts, the great two-volume work written by Saint Luke, there is, from the opening, a clear sense that the Holy Spirit is at work.  John the Baptist is proclaimed to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” even before his birth (Luke 1:51).  The Angel Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and that the power of the most High will “overshadow” her (Luke 1:35).  Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41) when Mary visits.  Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67) and the Holy Spirit rests upon the prophet Simeon and reveals to him that he will behold the Lord’s Anointed.  In spite of the activity of the Spirit before and throughout the ministry of Jesus, there is still a sense that the promise of God has not been fulfilled, and an expectation that it will come soon.  After the Resurrection, Jesus tells them (ie his apostles), “I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

The fulfillment of the promise is imminent.  The clouds burst on the day of Pentecost and those cowering men are transformed by a new Power that will lead to the Gospel being proclaimed to the ends of the earth (Acts 2:1ff).  What follows throughout the Acts of the Apostles is the constant proclamation of Christ, his death and resurrection accompanied with the power of the Holy Spirit.  To repent and believe would lead to baptism and to the experience of being filled by the Holy Spirit – which is as tangible as going down into the waters of baptism.  This encounter with the Holy Spirit is not abstract, but is truly an experience of God’s power, which transforms the community of believers and the individual believer.

In the early Church, then, proclamation was always accompanied by demonstrations of power through the Holy Spirit.  To respond to the Gospel was to receive the proclamation and be filled with this Spirit of Power, which is God in us.  This experience of the Holy Spirit was fundamental to the growth of the early Church, and is essential for the Christian life today, especially in the call to the New Evangelization.  It is no surprise, then, that churches that are healthy and growing facilitate and encourage their members not just to believe in the Holy Spirit, or to receive the Spirit of God sacramentally, but to truly experience the Spirit of power in their lives.  The first wave of evangelization came from a realization of the fulfillment of “the promise” on the day of Pentecost, a realization that was experiential and transformative.  So, too, will the New Evangelization be fulfilled only by a new Pentecost.”

Please Join in Praying for Life on May 2nd and May 4th

MONDAY MAY 2nd—Day of Prayer & Fasting to Defeat Bill C14  

Alliance for Life Ontario & Campaign Life Coalition invite all pro-lifers to fast and pray on Monday, May 2, that the government of Canada invoke the notwithstanding clause to defeat Bill-C-14.  For more info: (aflo@mgl.ca); (www.allianceforlife.org); (519-824-7797).

 

WEDNESDAY MAY 4 –  Join the Nationwide ‘12-Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care’

The CWL of Canada calls all people of faith to join nationwide in 12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care.  There is a pressing need for all Canadians to have a greater accessibility to Palliative Care. It has become an urgent priority in the face of the impending legislation for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Palliative/Hospice care is end-of-life care with true compassion. It allows individuals who are facing death not to be burdened by pain and suffering but to receive the necessary support that truly respects their human dignity both physically and spiritually rather than choosing physician-assisted death as a desperate last resort.

We invite all parishioners, family and friends to join in prayer on May4th. Please consider taking some time between 7am and 7pm to pray for greater access to Palliative Care for all Canadians and for the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death. Let us also offer our prayers for the religious and conscience rights of Health Care institutions and Health Care Professionals.

Pope Francis reminds us of the need for prayer, mercy, reconciliation and compassion. “Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer.”  http://cwl.ca/12-hours-of-prayer-for-palliative-care-may-4-2016/

Fr Bob Writes – April 24, 2016

“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” 

So runs the opening verse of our responsorial psalm this Sunday.  The idea of the Mercy of God is not something new.  It is not the brain-child of Pope Francis or Saint Faustina.  It is as old as the Old Testament itself.  Countless Old Testament passages speak of it.  In fact the very first mention of God’s merciful heart comes from God himself.  When Moses asks God to “show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18), God passes before him and describes himself to Moses in this way: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).  It is a self-description which is echoed throughout the Old Testament by various psalmists and prophets.  The experience of Israel throughout her history is marked by God’s mercy, even if it is, at times, and due to Israel’s manifold sinfulness, a “severe mercy.”

If this is so, what happened to God’s justice, his punishment of sin?  Well, it is there, in Exodus 34, but it comes right at the end of God’s self-description, when he says: “by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation”.   Even this is an expression of a “severe mercy”, because God is saying that he draws a line under how far punishment for sin will go down a family line, whereas blessings flowing from a person’s faithfulness, extends to “a thousand generations“.

It seems then, that, in placing a priority on God’s justice over God’s mercy, as was done in past generations, we have exactly inverted God’s order of priorities.  God wants to be known firstly, as a God of mercy, and only latterly, as a God also of justice.  What Pope Francis and saint Faustina have done is to put the list of God’s qualities “right side up.”  And in fact, Pope Francis is not the first pope to mention God’s mercy.  In his book “The Name of God is Mercy” ,he highlights the teachings of Pope St John XXIII, Pope  Paul VI, Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI .  He quotes Pope Benedict : “Mercy is in reality the core of the Gospel message: it is the name of God himself, the face with which he revealed himself in the Old Testament and fully in Jesus Christ, incarnation of Creative and Redemptive Love.  This love of mercy also illuminates the face of the Church, and is manifested through the Sacraments, in particular that of the Reconciliation, as well as in works of charity, both of community and individuals. Everything that the Church does and says shows that Gods has mercy for man.”

Fr Bob Writes – April 17, 2016

My sheep hear my voice.  I know them and they follow me ..I give them eternal life, and they will never perish”

These words are taken from Sunday’s gospel, and they remind us that this is “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations” when we pray for God to raise up pastors after his own heart. God is often called “Shepherd King ” in the Old Testament (e/g/ Psalm 80:1) and in Ezekiel 34 he roundly condemns those “false” or “bad” shepherds, leaders of the people of Israel, who neglect to look after their sheep, so that they fall prey to various kinds of suffering. God promises to raise up “good” or “true” shepherds to replace these bad/false shepherds, and says these good/true shepherds will take proper care of his people. Furthermore, God will put these new shepherds under the leadership of one Shepherd, who will represent God to the people.

In John chapter 10: 1 – 30, Jesus speaks of himself as that one “True” or “Good” Shepherd sent by God to gather together the scattered sheep of Gods’ people and lead them to safe pasture.  This promise is seen fulfilled in our second reading today from the Book of Revelation where John sees a vision of the “Lamb” (Jesus) as the shepherd of all those who have been faithful to God, “and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” 

In the gospel of Matthew, at the end of chapter 9, we see Jesus having pity on the people of Israel, because they are “confused and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd.”   In the beginning of the next chapter, we see him sending out the apostles into all the towns and villages, with instructions to go “to the lost sheep of Israel,” healing their illnesses, delivering them from demonic oppression, assuring them that God’s kingdom is near at hand.  Jesus continues to look for those with a shepherd’s heart, who will have the same love and care for his people as he does.

As Catholics, we are taught to regard that as the responsibility of clergy and religious, but, in fact, many people display a shepherd’s or pastor’s heart, even if they are not ordained, or in a vowed life.  You see that in the way they respond with love and compassion to others, seeking to help them in their suffering and relieve their burdens.  We absolutely must pray for God to raise up vocations to the priesthood, married diaconate and religious life, of course, but we must also pray for him to continue to gift others with a pastoring, shepherding heart also, who will be moved by the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus’ lead to seek to wipe the tears from others’ eyes. Could that be you?

Fr Bob Writes – April 10, 2016

I “warned” you last weekend that, as we are in the Year of Mercy, we had already received a lot of input on the theme of “divine mercy” and we would continue to do so!! With a theme as rich as the “mercy of God,” it provides a prism through which one can look at all the writings in the gospels and see the same theme portrayed over and over again.

This is true of this weekend’s gospel also. It is a vivid portrayal of what mercy means: the forgiveness of sins which we don’t deserve, but which comes to us anyway, because of God’s infinite goodness, shown us in his Son, Jesus.

To begin with, we should note that Peter’s determination to go fishing is really his way of saying “I am quitting. I can’t do this anymore. It is too hard, Jesus, to be your disciple.” You understand that he knows by now that Jesus has risen from the dead, and he should be really happy. But he cannot get past the fact that he denied Jesus three times in his Master’s time of greatest need, after promising that he would forever be faithful. So, disgusted with himself, he goes back to the only livelihood he has ever known: that of fishing. You note also that the other disciples follow him, back to fishing and are also “running away” from Jesus’ call on their lives. The newly- born Church of Jesus seems to be falling apart before it even properly gets going!! And what happens when Peter goes fishing? He fails again, they catch no fish. Peter and the other disciples are being told that the door to the past is closed to them. There is no going back. So they are stuck, stuck between a future they feel unworthy of entering into, and a past that they can no longer return to.

And precisely at that moment when they are most forlorn, helpless and hopeless, Jesus comes to them, at daybreak, after the night of suffering and despair, and renews his call on their lives, by performing precisely the same miracle, of the huge catch of fish, as he did when he first called Peter to follow him (see Luke’s gospel, chapter 5). Now Peter jumps into the water and swims towards Jesus, no longer running away from him, but towards him. When the disciples reach the shore, they see that Jesus has already prepared a meal for them, which is his way of saying to them without words, “It’s ok, we are reconciled, I am not holding your sins of betraying and denying and running away from me against you.” The meal is a form of eucharist, the sacrament of mercy and reconciliation.

But there is more. The gospel story returns to Peter and his plight. Jesus, in a magnificent display of mercy and compassion, takes Peter through what we would call ministry for “inner healing” or “the healing of memories.”  By having Peter declare his love three times for Jesus, Peter is cancelling out his three-fold denial. And with each affirmation, Jesus repeats and even enhances his charge to Peter to be the leader of his Church.

You see? It is all about mercy, mercy, mercy. And it is given to us this weekend, so that, if we feel we have failed as a disciple of Jesus, but do not know what else to do, or where else to go, Jesus is wanting to come into our lives again and heal and forgive us, and renew his call on our lives. Are we ready to believe, and accept his offer of mercy, and then go and show that mercy to others?