Fr Bob Writes – January 7, 2018

Fr Bob writes:  This Sunday, Lift Jesus Higher community will be arriving at St Philip’s for their first 12.30pm Mass.  Lift Jesus Higher is a small charismatic community operating in the diocese of Ottawa with the permission of the archbishop of Ottawa.  It was founded by Fr Ed Wade, a member of the Companions of the Cross and myself , back in 1997.  When Fr. Ed was moved to Houston in 1998, I became director of the community and have been ever since.  When Archbishop Marcel Gervais retired as archbishop of Ottawa diocese in 2007, he issued a decree designating Lift Jesus Higher as “a private association of Christ’s faithful” according to Canon law no. 301 (1).  Recently, Archbishop Prendergast gave me permission to bring the community to St Philip’s, in part to prevent me having to travel continuously between Richmond and LJH’s home in Vanier, which I had been doing over the last six years.

The mission of Lift Jesus Higher community is, as its name already suggests to “lift Jesus Higher in Ottawa and the nation, to see Ottawa and Canada transformed by the love of God in Jesus Christ through the revival power of the Holy Spirit” (Lift Jesus Higher statement of mission, vision, values).  Anyone familiar with the kind of language used here will know that the community is a “charismatic” one.  “Charismatic” indicates that the “charisms” or gifts of grace of the Holy Spirit are encouraged and practiced throughout the life of the community, especially in its liturgy and prayer meetings.  Charismatic renewal, always present in the Catholic Church since its inception, cf Acts 2: 1-4, 1 Corinthians 12: 7 – 11 received renewed recognition and encouragement following Vatican II, cf document on the Church, article 12, and Pope St John Paul II encyclical, Christafideli Laici.  St Philip’s and St Clare’s have already been exposed to charismatic renewal in recent years, with the Life in the Spirit seminars that have been held there, and there is now a charismatic prayer meeting that gathers at St Philip’s church on Thursdays at 7.30pm.  Back in October, Lift Jesus Higher moved its own prayer meeting, Oasis, to join with the St Philip’s prayer group, a move which has been a blessing and boost to both communities.  Now LJH will start to celebrate Mass on Sundays at 12.30pm, and this, as well as providing another opportunity for Sunday Mass to St Philip’s and St Clare’s, will add to the growth of spiritual activity already happening in our parish communities.

Everyone is welcome to come along on any Sunday and join with the Lift Jesus Higher community for its Mass at 12.30pm.  Be alerted, however, to the fact that this is a charismatic mass, so you will witness things you have perhaps not seen before, such as the use of the gift of tongues in praise, of words of prophecy and healing ministry.  Also, the mass goes on for somewhat longer than usual, between one and a half hours to two hours.  However, don’t let that put you off.  Lift Jesus Higher is a very loving community and you will be assured of a warm and friendly welcome.

Fr Bob Writes – Christmas 2017

And Mary said:   “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word ” (Luke 1: 38).

We believe that the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary took place at the moment she said “Yes” to God.  That is why the feast of the Annunciation is placed on March 25th, nine months before Christmas.  How old was Mary at the time?  We don’t really know, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating.  The minimum age for marriage under Jewish law is 13 for boys, 12 for girls.  The official betrothal (far more binding than our modern era understanding of engagement) could take place a year prior to the full-fledged marriage.  The Talmud recommends that a man marry by the age of 18.  Therefore, it would not have been unusual for Mary to have been betrothed to Joseph by the age of 15.

Did Mary understand what it would mean to be mother of Jesus?  That is the theme of one of my favorite Christian songs:  “Mary did you know?”  “Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water, that the child you delivered would one day deliver you..?” so run some of the lyrics of the song.  Although we believe that Mary was given a special gift to never experience an attraction to things contrary to the will of God (her immaculate conception), that does not mean she received a gift of intellectual understanding regarding her son’s full identity and mission.  Note how confused she was (Luke 2:49) when twelve-year old Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem and explained himself by saying “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”   While this may at first seem to minimize the blessedness of Mary, it actually enhances my appreciation of her dedication to God and the divine will.  Her ‘Yes’ was not based on understanding but on faith.  St Augustine is quoted as saying “I believe, in order that I may understand.”  First faith, then understanding.

A merry Christmas and happy New Year to all our parishioners!!

Fr Bob Writes – December 17, 2017

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1).  Today, the third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called “Gaudete” or “Rejoicing” Sunday.  Since Advent is not a penitential season but a season of hope and expectation, today’s celebration reminds us that we have ample reason to hope in view of our experience of God’s goodness.

The note of joy and hope is especially marked in our first reading from the prophet Isaiah. Addressed to a people newly released from exile in Babylon, and coming back to Israel to find their cities in ruins, its beloved capital, Jerusalem, and its Temple, gutted, Isaiah proclaims a coming restoration, healing and blessing to them from God.  In the part of this prophecy not quoted in today’s reading, he looks forward to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and all the other cities, and the re-establishment of their status as “favored of the Lord” and a “royal priesthood” (cf Exodus 19:5-6).  God will once more broker a covenant relationship with them, but this time the covenant will be everlasting.They shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs” (Isaiah 61: 7).

The Church understands itself as inheriting Israel’s mantle as a “chosen race, a holy nation, a royal priesthood” and therefore the recipient of God’s blessings.  Jesus himself takes these words from Isaiah’s prophecy and applies them to himself, in his inaugural sermon at Nazareth in Luke 4:18.  We, as followers of Jesus, are now the ones to whom Jesus brings good news, ministers healing to our brokenness because of our sin, and proclaims liberty to us who have been held captive to Satan, and the fear of death and hell our whole lives long (cf Hebrews 2:15).  We have been called by him into a new and everlasting covenant with God by his blood sacrifice on the cross – note the words said by the priest over the chalice at Mass.

And we now are the “Bride” of Christ, following up the second part of Isaiah’s prophecy today. Jesus, who loves us, his Church, as a husband is meant to love his bride, with total unconditional love, is coming back to claim his bride at the end of time and usher into the everlasting marriage home of heaven (Ephesians 5: 25-27).  This is what Advent point us to- not so much his first coming 2000 years ago, but his second coming at the end of all things. He expects to find his bride “sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Let’s try our best not to disappoint him!

Fr Bob Writes – December 10, 2017

“A voice cries in the wilderness…” (Isaiah 40:3).  This verse from our first reading this Sunday is quoted in Matthew 3:3 in reference to John the Baptist preparing the way of Jesus.  We joke that, here in Ottawa, we have two seasons, winter and construction.  (In truth, this now seems to have turned into just one season, construction!).

In Old Testament times, many an army built roads, often referred to as “the king’s highway” , which increased commerce (with accompanying income from taxes and road tolls) and enabled the army to patrol more rapidly in troubled areas.  In Jesus’ time, the Roman armies were the experts, building roads connecting all parts of the empire.  Think of our modern road system here in Canada.  How many valleys have been bridged, how many mountains “leveled” with tunnels, how many narrow ways widened and rough ways made smooth?

We are called to be part of God’s road construction crew, preparing the way for others to draw near to God, and removing the obstacles preventing God drawing nearer to us.

Fr Bob Writes – December 3, 2017

Fr Bob writes: Another Advent season opens this weekend.  As usual, the focus for us as Christians should not be celebrating Christ’s first coming as a child 2000 years ago, but his second coming “at a time you do not know or expect.” (Mark 13:33)

When will the Second Coming of Jesus take place?  As the apostles continued staring up to the skies following Jesus’ ascension, angels appeared and told them, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you will return in the same way as you have seen him going up to heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

Early Christians believed Jesus’ return would take place within a few years, if not months. That’s why those who joined the first Christian community at Jerusalem sold what they had and put their money in the common pot.  They felt sure that Jesus would return before the money ran out. The passing time was a challenge both to their financial situation and their faith.  If Jesus wasn’t returning, something which the early preaching had led them to believe, how true were the other things they had been taught about him?

That is why Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus who sold a piece of property and put the whole amount in the pot was given the nickname “Barnabas,” meaning “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36-7).  Paul took up a collection for that community during his missionary journeys.  He wanted to support the faith of the Jerusalem community in the return of Jesus.  John Mark wrote his gospel, the first of the four to be written, as a member of Peter’s missionary team.  The teaching of the return of Jesus undoubtedly was part of Peter’s preaching of the message of Jesus Christ.

Twenty-some years after the ascension, however, Christian leaders were wrestling with Jesus’ “delay.”  They thought back to any indications Jesus may have given them.  What they recalled was included in passages such as today’s gospel selection.  We don’t know when Jesus will return, so keep alert, on watch and ready at all times.

Happy Advent!!

Fr Bob Writes – October 1, 2017

Last Sunday’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah reminded us that “God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.”  Perhaps many of us, myself included have questioned God’s ways at times in our lives.  The people in the prophet Ezekiel’s time certainly did, as our first reading this Sunday tells us ” The Lord’s way is not fair!” they complained.

Why? Because Ezekiel had relayed to them a word from the Lord regarding a previous common belief that children share in the guilt and punishment for the sins of their parents and vice versa.  The lesson makes it clear that God will not punish anyone for the sins of another.”  I will judge you each one according to his ways” (18:30). Within that teaching is given the message of complete forgiveness for the sinner who turns away from sins to lead a virtuous life.  “None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him” (18:22).

We are reminded again that God is so much more gracious and merciful than we are, so much more willing to pardon offenses than we.  Instead of complaining about the Lord’s generosity, perhaps I should question why we are so unwilling to follow his example?

Fr Bob Writes – September 24, 2017

One of my first parishes was based in a very Irish area in North London, England. It was very common at that time for young men looking for construction jobs, to wait around in the town centre, until a truck stopped and a manager chose a dozen or so for work that day.

This scenario is very close to that described by Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel parable. Obviously, the men chosen first for work would have been the fittest and strongest. Imagine how you would feel if you didn’t get chosen for work day after day because of some weakness and disability.

The point Jesus is making in this parable is that recruitment for work in the Kingdom of God is based on very different criteria than the world. As far as God is concerned, the only qualification is willingness. It doesn’t matter to God if you suffer from physical, mental, emotional or spiritual disabilities. He still wants to use you for the work of spreading the gospel and building up the Kingdom of God.

Another point is equally important. The “wage” for doing the Lord’s work is life in heaven. There is nothing greater good this. It doesn’t matter whether you have been working for the Lord for thirty years or thirty minutes (remember the good thief on the cross besides the dying Christ?) You can’t receive more than one gift of eternal life, no matter how many years you have been in the Lord’s service!