Father’s Weekly Message

Fr Bob Writes – October 14, 2018

“I prayed and understanding was given me; I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me”

These words from the opening lines of our first reading this weekend contrasts God’s wisdom with the wisdom of the world.  In fact, the so-called “wisdom” of the world is foolishness, and this becomes more and more obvious with each passing day as laws and policies are adopted by our various levels of government which are at complete odds with divine wisdom. In my homily last weekend, I spoke about the attempts of the Alberta government to impose laws on Christian schools which amount to a complete denial of their fundamental beliefs as Christians.  Schools henceforth will not be allowed to say that God is the source of wisdom, that God made humankind male and female, that the Bible is an infallible guide to how we should live our lives.  To hold such “liberal” principles is one thing; to force others to go against their fundamental beliefs completely contradicts the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which, apparently, applies to everyone in Canada apart from Christians.

That is why the Alpha program (and the Youth Alpha Program) which starts this weekend is a crucial resource for us as Christians to remind ourselves and to grasp hold of what is true wisdom, what the word of God really says, and what our faith in Christ really embraces. It will enable us to hold our own against the distortion and outright lies being proclaimed all across social media, lies such as Christians hate science and reason because their beliefs are all based on legend and superstition, bringing up your children as Christians is another form of “child abuse,” to believe in God is to deny true freedom to the human being, Jesus Christ never existed, or, if he did, he certainly never rose from the dead, and so on and on and on.

In the Alpha course, you will find great, sound teaching on such topics as :”Who is Jesus,” “Why did Jesus Die,” “Why and how should I pray and read the Bible,”  “Who is the Holy Spirit,” and “What about the Church,”  and much more. The course runs until December 9th, from 5pm – 7pm, beginning at 5pm with a light meal, followed by DVD teaching and group discussion.

Do you want to know the wisdom of God, and see how different it is from the wisdom of the world?  Then come along at least to the first teaching of the Alpha series, entitled “Is there more to life than this?”  starting this Sunday, October 14th, in St Philips parish hall at 5pm.  It will change the way you think and feel about your life!

Fr Bob Writes – Thanksgiving – Oct 7, 2018

Fr Bob writes: In our first reading this weekend, from the book of Genesis, we learn some profound truths about God’s tireless care for us and desire to provide what brings us true fulfillment.  Man is honored to name the animals as God forms them and brings them to him, an indication of his role in managing God’s creation.  To name something or someone was an indication of authority and dominion over what was named … the reason, by the way, Jewish people were never permitted to speak God’s name.

Yet, man still lacks his perfect “mate.”  None in the animal kingdom is worthy of him.  Woman becomes the perfect partner “at last.”  While some women today may believe that their outdoors=oriented husbands’ best friends are hunting dogs, this man, Adam, passed by dogs, horses, and all other animals, not finding any of them to be his suitable partner.  So, God performs the first major surgery, putting the man under a general anesthetic while removing one of his ribs.  Opium poppies have been farmed in the area of Sumeria along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers since around 4200 B.C., and evidence of its use as an anesthetic for a person to lose consciousness during a medical procedure is recorded in a papyrus dating from 1500 B.C.  When the man recovered in post-op, he immediately applauded God for finally creating the perfect partner for him.  The oneness indicated is more than biology for reproduction but rather a wholeness and complement of persons in marriage.  “This one shall be called “woman,”  for out of “her man” this one has been taken.”

Fr Bob Writes – September 30, 2018

“Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries…You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure.  The wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts…”

It is a sobering thought to think that this extract from the letter of James, as with others in the New Testament, which excoriate the ungodly practices of their audiences, was written to communities of Christians, So we get a picture of some of the problems existent in those early communities. It is tempting to fantasize about these early communities as having it all together, being ideal communities of fresh Christians with people who had actually seen Jesus and the apostles…not like Christians of our day and age.

But what we see in reality is the consistency of human nature down through the centuries with the lure of putting more faith in things of this world than in God, the divisive tendency to assert self-importance or that of one’s group over another, and the dozens of other human impulses which make our following of Christ less than perfect.  For that very reason, the words of scripture have as much life for us today as they did back when they were written centuries ago.



Fr Bob Writes – September 23, 2018

When it comes to leadership, there should be a marked difference between the Christian community and secular governments and organizations. Ambition often leads people to take exceptional, even unethical steps to get ahead. It often leads to position which is undergirded by power. Worldly power is one of the most dangerous and potentially lethal forces in life. As Lord Acton said it tends to corrupt, and when it is absolute, it corrupts absolutely. Human experience shows clearly the evils brought to humanity by people who craved power, even to the point of their own downfall.

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”   With these words in our gospel this weekend, Jesus speaks with incredible insight. Status was to have no place in the reign of God; it was to be absent from the church. Those who exercise authority in the community are not to resemble the “rulers of this world, who lord it over them.”  It is sad to note that in the history of Christianity this clear teaching of Jesus was frequently neglected. While it is true that many Christians who grasped the authentic spirit have left an inspiring legacy of service, it is also true that others have used the church to further their own personal aims. They have sought to be served rather than to serve. It is surely very likely that many of those responsible for outrageous acts of abuse in the Church, did so because they felt immune in their positions of power, knowing they would never be challenged.

As Jesus makes clear to his followers in today’s gospel, disciples are called to serve, even to death if necessary, and the service they render will bring with it no human acclaim or compensation= the Christian paradox ! We have yet to grasp how different we are called to be . It is when we serve the neediest, the beloved of God, that we come closest to what Christian leadership means. “The Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mark 10:45)

Fr Bob Writes – September 16, 2018

This Sunday, we read of Jesus bringing his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, to ask him the single most important question in Christianity: “Who do you say I am?”  It is crucial, because it invites a personal commitment to Jesus, not just what others have told me but what I truly believe in my mind and heart.  How would you answer?

Peter answers correctly :”You are the Messiah (or Christ),” in other words, the anointed one of God, sent by God into the world to carry out his purposes to bring in the kingdom of God and to save his people from evil.  Although Peter answered correctly, his concept of Messiah we formed by popular conceptions of a worldly leader who would bring about a new age of prominence and prosperity to the nation of Israel.  Jesus’ response to Peter, detailing the path of suffering, death and resurrection that lay before him, did not match with what Peter had been taught.  Perhaps overconfident in having identified Jesus as the Christ, Peter decides to correct Jesus’ “faulty” understanding of Messiah.  How shocking it must have been, then, for Peter, and for the other disciples, to have Jesus call him a “Satan”(literally, an “adversary”)!

The force of Jesus’ comment indicates that it must truly have been a temptation with which he contended to avoid the suffering and follow a different path more in keeping with the one Peter proposed.  This is akin to the third temptation in the desert in which Satan offered Jesus all the nations of the world for merely bowing down and worshipping him for a moment (Matthew 4:8-10).  How often do we, like Peter, evaluate situations by human or worldly standards rather than by those of God?

As we enter into our 200th anniversary year at St Philip’s, let us not be lost in all the wonderful activities planned for the time ahead, that we forget to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and continue to acknowledge him before others as the “anointed one of God, who came to save us from our sins.”

Fr. Bob Writes – September 9, 2018

This year coming up, September 2018 – 2019, we celebrate 200 years of existence as a parish in Richmond. Indeed, St Philip’s is older than the diocese of Ottawa, which was created from the older diocese of Kingston.

The theme we have chosen for this anniversary year is: Pray-Love-Celebrate.  As a parish family, we will seek to live a life of prayer, love and celebration throughout the year ahead.  No parish endeavour can survive without a strong foundation of prayer.  No parish community can be faithful to Christ unless it lives a lifestyle of love in service.  No parish can experience the joy of the Holy Spirit unless it gives space and time to celebration.

In the weeks ahead, we will spell out the various activities and programs which will mark our anniversary year.  We will be introducing the Alpha course to the parish, as well as the Youth Alpha course.  There will be extra bible studies, and extra times for adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  We will carry out a teaching Mass, to deepen our understanding of the Eucharist, which is the “source and summit of our Catholic Christian life,” according to the Second Vatican Council.  In October we will have a service of blessing of animals, close to the feast of St Francis of Assisi.  There will be parish missions and a parish retreat to mark Advent, Lent and Pentecost.  Parishioners will be invited to pledge extra time for prayer and spiritual devotions during the year in our “Pray” book.

They will also be invited to commit to various acts of service in the community in our “Love” book. We are hoping to introduce a ministry to the elderly and shut-ins, as well as a bereavement counselling ministry. We will have a book of remembrance which includes pictures of deceased members of the parish which will be brought to the altar during the month of November. Our elementary school, St Philip’s, and our high school, Sacred Heart, will be invited to join in making these pledges of prayer and service. The Peru mission, which will be held in February, will be a sign of our love in service beyond our parish boundaries.

Our “Celebrate” book will encourage our parishioners to submit photos of themselves, and of weddings, baptisms, confirmations, first communions and other celebrations. We intend to have a children’s Mass, a youth Mass, a Mass for the elderly and shut-ins, a wedding anniversary Mass, a parish Mass and social to mark the feast of St Philip, our patron (May 3rd). All of this will culminate in a grand celebration of our anniversary on September 29th, 2019.

We will keep you posted on all the events which will be marking this extra special year.  We also invite individual members of the parish to submit ideas for ways in which we can make this year extra-special.

There is a special prayer for our 200th anniversary which will be made available in the form of a book-mark, which we invite you to take home and pray every day of the year ahead.

Pray- Love – Celebrate…    Let it Begin!!

Fr. Bob Writes – August 2018

It is not unusual that a person pass through times of trials with sacrifice and deprivation to get to where they want to go on their life journey.  Sometimes these trials are the result of having chosen to follow unhealthy pathways of life such as people addicted to drugs and alcohol who must go through treatment and withdrawal if they want to be free.  People escaping from persecution and violence must often leave their homes and almost all possessions behind, suffer privation and walk great distances to get to a refugee camp.

The situation of the Israelites in our first reading, escaping from Egypt, was similar.  They were not exactly in danger of dying from hunger, as they said, since they still had their sheep and cattle.  Some livestock was probably dying from lack of good water and pasture in the desert, but the animals were their most valuable possession and source of income.  They did not want to slaughter any for food.  This indicates their reluctance to put their trust and their future completely in God’s hands.  Rather than grumble back, God understands and promises to give them manna and quail even before Moses can ask.  Receiving the manna six days a week will relieve the people’s anxiety and heighten their reliance on God to provide for them.  God says that this will be a “test” for the people, but what God is testing is not completely clear.  It may be a test of their finding security in God or accepting deprivation for the time with hope in God’s providential guidance to a better future.

What things or circumstances are we relying on for our ultimate security rather than on God?