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“Reasons to be Cheerful: One, Two, Three” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, May 12, 204

When I came over from England to live here in Ottawa, I wasn’t initially assigned a parish, so I had a lot of free time to help out in different parishes, as well as saying Mass in the prison here in Ottawa.  I remember being asked to celebrate Mass one Sunday at the Croatian parish. It so happened that that day was also the feast of the Ascension, as well as Mother’s Day, plus I was asked to confer confirmation on a few of the young people in the parish. On top of all that, it was also the feast day of the particular saint the parish was named after. Try to get all of that into one homily! At least today, I only have to link the Ascension of the Lord with Mother’s Day. All our confirmations were carried out last weekend by Bishop Yvan Mathieu, who did an absolutely superb job, and even managed to throw in a mention of St. Philip, whose feast day was last Friday.

 I’ll be going off on holiday in a few weeks’ time to visit my family in England. I’m looking forward to seeing them again, as I wasn’t able to travel last year, due to my heart surgery. I assume my siblings are looking forward to seeing me as well, at least I hope so. I would be seriously ticked off if I was to find out,  when I return back to Ottawa, that, the minute I departed,  they all went off to have a party to celebrate my leaving  them. But that, believe it or not, is what the apostles did, after Jesus had said goodbye to them and ascended back to his Father’s right hand side in heaven. The apostles, we are told at the end of Luke’s gospel, when Jesus left them and ascended to heaven “returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24: 52).Read more...

“Friends of God” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, May 5, 2024

“I do not call you servants any longer. But I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my father”. So says Jesus to his disciples in our gospel today, and, since you and I are become disciples of Jesus through our baptism and confirmation, Jesus is saying this to us as well. You and I, brothers and sisters, are friends of Jesus. What an incredible act of condescension from Jesus towards us. Understand I don’t at all mean “condescension” in the usual sense of belittling someone, but in the “theological” sense of God choosing to come down from heavenly glory to our level and accommodate himself to our limited, finite understanding. This is something that God has chosen to do with us from the very beginning of our creation, when he walked with our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the cool of the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). Can you imagine what an experience of intimacy and closeness and loving communion must have passed between them and what a devastating thing to lose because of their original sin?

I am sure, after their expulsion from Gods’ intimate presence and out of the Garden of Eden, that our first parents really missed that closeness they used to enjoy with God. And you know what, I bet God misses it as well. There is no way else to explain why God continued, even after mankind’s fall , to reach out to human beings, to forge covenant after covenant with them, seeking to communicate with us and holding out the hope that, one day, we would be reunited with him. That time came with the entry of Jesus into the world, in the ultimate act of “condescension” as Jesus took to himself a human nature and a human personality, becoming “like us in all things” says the book of Hebrews “except sin” (Hebrews 2: 17; 4: 15).… Read more...

“Fear of the Lord, Comfort of the Holy Spirit” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, April 28, 2024

I was struck as I perused our readings today by the statement in that first reading from the Acts of the Apostles to the effect that the early Church was living “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit” and, as a result, it “increased in numbers”. That seems to me to indicate an important principle in church growth, which every pastor wants to see happen in his parish or community. So I thought I would explore with you what it means to live like that, i.e. “in the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit”.

To begin with, the fear of the Lord is not how the average person thinks of fear, as something that causes us to tremble and be reduced to a quivering wreck. Clearly , there are instances in the Bible where an appearance of God , or even an angel, is enough to terrify someone. We think of God manifesting himself to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai with great drama, thunder and lightning, trumpet blast, fire and smoke all around and we are told in Exodus 19: 16ff, that “all the people in the camp trembled”, and who could blame them? Or there is the story of Daniel being visited by the angel Gabriel in Daniel 10: 2-9. So glorious and awesome is the vision that all the men with Daniel , we are told, “fled and hid themselves” while Daniel felt “my strength left me ,and my complexion grew deathly pale, and I retained no strength…and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a trance , face to the ground”. Again, who could blame him? And what about, in the book of Acts, the story of St Paul, or Saul as he was known at the time, being blinded and thrown to the ground by the appearance of a flashing light and the words of Jesus: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?Read more...

“Think of the Love” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, April 21, 2024

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are”. Theseopening verses from our second reading today are among my favorite from all the Bible. It speaks to our specialness in the eyes of God, how much he cherishes us and wants us for his own. In fact, the words “has given us” is rather a weak translation of the Greek. It should read, instead, something like “lavished” so “think of the love that the father has LAVISHED upon us”.  Again, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he uses the same word: “according to the riches he has LAVISHED upon us.” (Ephesians 1:7) How often do we as grandparents love to lavish gifts upon our grandchildren, because they are so precious to us. The book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 43, verse 4, has God saying over us, his people: “you are precious in my sight, I honour you and I love you.”

If only we were able to receive those words of God, to hear him say over us at our baptism, as he did at Jesus’ baptism: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom my spirit delights” (Mark 1:11). How many of us would be healed instantly of our self-rejection, self-condemnation, our guilt and our shame, if we knew how much our heavenly Father loves us. And yet, our God is waiting to speak these words over us at our baptism, and all through our lives, but we fail to hear them, for so many reasons. The truth is that we do not really believe in God’s special love for us. I remember talking to a young man of 13, whose mother had brought him to me because he was always getting into trouble at school.… Read more...