Father’s Weekly Message

Fr. Bob Writes – April 22, 2017

This Sunday is designated as “World Day of Prayer for Vocations” and so is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” as the gospel for today speaks of Jesus calling himself  “the good (or true, or model) shepherd.

Whether or not they had anything to do with sheep, Jewish people identified with the shepherd image in which their tradition was so deeply grounded.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were shepherds. Moses became a shepherd when he fled from Egypt to Midian.  David was a shepherd at the time he was anointed the future king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16).  Matthew speaks of God’s appointed ruler who will “shepherd my people Israel” (2:6, quoting from the prophet Micah, 5:4), Matthew speaks of the people needing direction for their lives as being “like sheep without a shepherd ” (9:36), and the division of people at the end of time “as a shepherd separates sheep from goats” (25:32).  The parable of the shepherd seeking out the lost sheep is found in all three synoptic gospels.  In John 10, from which our gospel passage today is taken, Jesus reiterates a number of times that he is the “good shepherd.”

The image of shepherd, then, in the Bible, is a very meaningful one, and speaks of leadership (especially spiritual leadership), responsibility and accountability, but also intimacy, gentleness and compassion.

The last verses of today’s gospel text indicates Jesus’ awareness and willing acceptance of his call.  Although deeply anxious about his impending death, indicated by the blood in his sweat during prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus chose to complete his mission in this world.  His sacrificial death was not forced upon him against his will.  Sometimes we are blessed to know that certain challenges placed before us in this life are part of God’s plan which will result in good for others and eternal blessings for ourselves.  Will we have the strength to say “yes” to God in such moments?

Fr Bob Writes – April 15, 2018

How was Jesus’ resurrected body different from that same body prior to the resurrection?  In paragraph 646, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that:  “Christ’s resurrection was not a return to earthly life” as was the case with the daughter of Jairus, the widow’s son at Nain, and Lazarus, who would all die again.  “In his risen body, he (Christ) passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space.”

Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:6-7) tells us that the son of God “emptied himself ” of the divine attributes (all knowing, unlimited in time and space, etc), while retaining the divine nature, taking on our human nature with its limited attributes.  In the resurrection, the divine attributes, which the Son had voluntarily set aside, were returned in a “glorified body.”

During those days following his resurrection, Jesus “weaned” the apostles off their dependence on him being physically present.  He appeared to them only for brief visits.  On at least three instances, he had a different appearance and voice than what they were used to.  With the Ascension and coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the disciples would come to understand that Jesus was still present with them but in a less limited way in which they had known his presence before.  One most important way in which he would be present to them would be in the eucharist.  As our gospel this weekend tells us, his disciples recognized him “in the breaking of the bread.

Fr Bob Writes – April 8, 2018

In our gospel today, we are presented with the intriguing character of Thomas, who was absent when Jesus appeared to the other ten apostles on Easter Sunday night.  Thomas, you may remember, was the one who said to his colleagues emphatically, that he would not believe in a risen Jesus until he had the opportunity to put his hand into the wound in his side and his fingers into the marks of the nails in his hands.  He got his wish seven days later in the gospel passage for today.

Thomas, we are told, is also called “Didymus”, which is the Greek translation meaning “Twin.”  Why does John give the translation?  Recall that wherever John appears in  his gospel, he never uses his own name, but writes “the beloved disciple” instead.  Rather than being a point of pride, this is a stylistic way of inviting every reader to place him or herself into the gospel narrative as the disciple loved by Jesus.  The reference to Thomas as the “twin” could be another literary way of inviting any reader who has had doubts or needed a little extra proof to stand in as Thomas’ “twin.”

I confess I think Thomas is an outstanding example for Christians, especially young people in this day and age when it is so easy to be swayed by the influence and values of the world.  Thomas was willing to stand up against the pressure of all his friends telling him what to believe.  He had already shown himself to be a strong fearless individual earlier in John’s gospel when he encourages the others to put their fears aside and be willing to die with Jesus if need be (cf John 11:16).  Years later, when all the other apostles were ministering in the more familiar Greco-Roman world, Thomas would go east and bring the faith to India.

Fr. Bob Writes – Easter Sunday – April 1, 2018

The encounter between Mary Magdalene and Jesus in our gospel for Easter Sunday is a brilliant dramatization, full of emotion and wonder.

The suspense builds up as we wait for Jesus to reveal himself to Mary, who is ignorant of his resurrection.  Jesus is on his way to ascend “to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.”   In other words, Jesus is about to ascend to his heavenly Father and receive from him the gift of the Holy Spirit which he will pour out on his Church, and begin the outreach to the world.  This is the fulfilment of his mission on earth.  But even as he prepares to embark on this, he notices that Mary is weeping beside the empty tomb, convinced that someone has taken the body of Jesus from the tomb.

Now Jesus could have said to himself:  “It doesn’t matter, Mary will find out soon enough that I have risen” or he could have said to himself “It is more important for me to return to my Father to receive the Holy Spirit and fulfil my mission.”  But he does none of this.  What he does is to say to his Father “I am sorry, Father, but I have to interrupt my mission, because someone down there, whom I care about, is grieving over my death.  I have to reassure her now.  Then I will return and carry out the rest of my mission.”

The gospel of John, which is the version of the resurrection of Jesus which we listen to on Easter Sunday, speaks to us about love.  It is the disciple “whom Jesus loves” who is the first to come to the empty tomb and to believe that Jesus has risen.  It is Mary Magdalene, who out of love remains weeping by the empty tomb, who has the first revelation of the risen Jesus.  It is those who love Jesus, and whom Jesus loves, who will celebrate the Easter story with the greatest joy.

Happy Easter to all our parishioners!!

Fr Bob Writes – March 25, 2018

In our text for the second reading this Sunday, possibly a hymn of the day quoted by Paul in his letter, we have a beautiful statement of the double nature of Jesus as both God and man. The Second Person of the Trinity, while retaining his divine nature, “emptied himself” of the marvelous qualities and abilities attached to that divine nature (all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful, and, according to Jewish tradition, immune to death) and took on our human nature, as we hear in Eucharistic Prayer IV, becoming “a man like us in all things but sin.”  In this total self-giving, Jesus both expresses the depth of God’s love for us and calls us to glory with him by a similar detachment of self out of love for God and others.  Jesus surrendered his immunity to death by becoming human so as to be able to die the death we deserve for all our sins.  “No greater love has anyone” says Jesus in John chapter 15, than to lay down his life for those he loves, and he was soon to put those words into action.

The example he gave of humility and self-giving love is used by Paul in his letter to the Philippians to call the community to greater humility and sacrificial love themselves.  One of my favorite Christian songs has a chorus that goes: “When I look at the cross, all I see is love, love, love.  When I stop at the cross, I can see the love of God.”  Then the verse goes on: “But I can’t see empire building, or the abuse of authority.  I can’t see backstabbing or competition or hatred or anger.”

This weekend (Passion Sunday) we are brought face to face with the Passion of Jesus.  What do we see in his suffering and death on the cross?

Fr Bob Writes – March 11, 2018

To Keep a True Lent

Is this a Fast, to keep

The larder lean ?

And clean

From fat of veal and sheep ?

 

Is it to quit the dish

Of flesh, yet still

To fill

The platter high with fish?

 

Is it to fast an hour,

Or ragg’d to go,

Or show

A down-cast look and sour ?

 

No: ’tis a Fast to dole

Thy sheaf of wheat

And meat

Unto the hungry soul.

 

It is to fast from strife

And old debate,

And hate;

To circumcise thy life.

 

To show a heart grief-rent;

To starve thy sin,

Not bin;

And that’s to keep thy Lent.

                                Robert Herrick

 

Fr Bob Writes – March 4, 2018

Fr Denny Dempsey provides a great reflection on this Sunday’s first reading from the book of Exodus

“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”  Many years ago, I was blessed to be in Jerusalem where, on a Sabbath evening, I spent a couple of hours walking through the Orthodox neighbourhood of Meah Shearim.  The streets into the neighbourhood were barricaded.  No cars would move in Meah Shearim until the Sabbath was over.  It was a warm evening and the windows of the houses were open; no radios, TVs, or other electronic devices could be heard…just the sounds of families eating, conversing , singing and praying in house after house.

I recall Jesus’ words (Mark 2:27):  “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  What a blessing for those families to spend such quality time together for a full day every week.  The Sabbath rest was an amazing proclamation of workers’ rights.  No other society of its day gave everyone, down to the lowest employees and slaves, a mandatory day off each week and an opportunity to remember that whatever we achieve through our own efforts is secondary to the saving word of God.”

How will you be spending the Christian Sabbath this week?