Father Bob Writes – December 1, 2013

This Sunday begins a whole new liturgical year for the Church, which starts with the season of Advent.  The word “Advent” means “coming.”  The world at large will be concentrating on the first coming of Jesus, when he was born into the world 2000 years ago, and using it as an excuse to have a party.  Perhaps there will be some of them who will be aware of the religious significance of the season and will turn up for mass at Christmas.  But in fact there are other “comings ” of Jesus, and in this Advent season, the Church wants us to be aware of them.  The New Testament, besides highlighting the birth of Jesus as his first coming, also talks about another coming of Jesus, at the end of time, when he will come to bring the world as we know it to an end and bring in the kingdom of God in its fullness.  But between these two poles of meaning are other comings, which we need to be aware of.

Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out in his book Jesus of Nazareth: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection that the idea of multiple comings of Christ can be traced back in the history of the Church to the teachings of St Cyril of Jerusalem in the 4th century A.D. who mentions two Advents of Christ. This concept was further developed by St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 11th century, who mentions a third coming between the more commonly acknowledged First and Second Comings.  Citing St John’s Gospel, Berrnard wrote: “Jesus answered him,If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him” (John 14:23).”  This intermediate coming – or middle coming – is Christ’s continual coming in his Church.

Pope Benedict further fleshes out this concept by listing seven different “comings ” of Jesus:
1. Christ comes in the flesh – the Incarnation
2. Christ comes in the sacraments – especially in the Eucharist
3. Christ comes in the Word- Holy Scripture read in community
4. Christ comes in his Spirit – all throughout salvation history
5. Christ comes in holy people – the saints of salvation history
6. Christ comes in judgement – the various events of history
7. Christ comes in glory – the glory of the Second Advent at the end of time.

This Advent, let us not, as believers, follow the lead of the world and merely concentrate on celebrating the Christmas event.  Let us also be on the look out for all the other ways in which Jesus wants to come into our lives.
Maranatha, come Lord Jesus !!

Advent Vespers – This Sunday Afternoon!

Come and celebrate the coming of Christmas with an hour of scripture readings, prayer and reflection set to the contemporary worship music of Gracenote. 

 Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 3:30pm at St. Philip Catholic Church, 127 Burke St., Richmond.

 Everyone welcome!  A freewill offering will be taken.  Join us for refreshments afterwards in the Hall.

Visit Gracenote at www.gracenotemusic.ca  Info: 613-592-6959


Fr Bob Writes – November 24, 2013

This weekend marks the end of the Church’s year.  Most of the world celebrates the year-end  on the 31st December, but the Christian Church sees the season of Advent as introducing a whole new momentum in our lives, and the prayers and readings reflect a renewed sense of renewal and rebirth, coming as it does after the rather gloomy month of November, with its emphasis on death and decay.

The end of the Church’s year is always celebrated as the feast of Christ the King. Canada does not have much historical experience of living under monarchical power, but, coming from England as I do, this is something I am very familiar with.  Kings and queens have been part of British history for centuries upon centuries.  Monarchs have come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, some have been good, but most have been autocratic, arrogant and venal.  But in the feast we celebrate this Sunday, we have a very different kind of king, bringing in a very different kind of kingdom.   It is, to quote the Preface for this Sunday’s Mass, “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

The gospel passage this Sunday shows a Jesus, supposedly King of the Jews, being roundly abused and mocked by the very people he claims to rule over, as he hangs,  a pitiful sight, in his dying agony on the cross.  And yet there is something totally splendid and majestic in the way he extends to the supplicant criminal beside him the promise of sharing Paradise with him “this day.”  There is something here that mockery and torture and abuse cannot touch, a kingly authority which transcends the limitations and cruelty of the moment and which will lead the Roman centurion, a pagan, to kneel before the crucified king and declare In truth, this is the Son of God!!

Can we perceive, shining through the pathos and humiliation of the crucifixion scene, a king reigning in all his glory?

Fr Bob Writes – November 17, 2013

Some background information will help us understand better the significance of Jesus’ remarks in our gospel this Sunday.  In the 2nd century B.C., Israel, under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, won independence from Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who tried to impose Greek culture on them by force.  But that independence was short-lived as the Jewish community soon broke into factions, one of which asked the Roman empire to help put things in order.  The Romans came and stayed, making Judea a Roman territory.  Herod the Great ruled the region under Roman authority from 37 – 4  B.C.  During that time, he undertook a great number of impressive construction projects including the citadels of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea and Herodium just a few miles south east of Bethlehem, the city of Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast with the largest artificial harbour in the world, and impressive aqueducts to bring water from Mt Carmel, and the rebuilding of the walls and much of the city of Jerusalem.

This latter project included a major expansion of the temple mount to accommodate crowds of up to 100,000 visitors.  The actual temple building was rebuilt in a way that services in the temple continued throughout the time of reconstruction.  The work on the temple began in 19 B.C. and the chief part of the project was completed in ten years, but the finishing touches of adorning the area with facing stones and paving stones continued on until 64 A.D.,  just a handful of years before the entire structure would be destroyed.  To those who lived in the vicinity of the temple, or visited it, it must have seemed to be indestructible. The disciples’ remarks to Jesus at the beginning of the gospel for this Sunday show the awe and reverence they had for this magnificent building.  Yet Jesus is very dismissive and predicts that soon it will be destroyed and all its magnificent stone-work thrown down.  Such a catastrophic event could only seem to his disciples as a sign that the end of the world had come and they press Jesus for more details on this apocalyptic event.

In 68 A.D. a group of Zealots , guerilla-style groups trying to free Judea from Roman dominance, attacked and killed all the members of a Roman squadron coming up to Jerusalem from Caesarea.  They then headed to Caesarea and other Roman outposts in the region, killing off all Roman troops and declaring their independence.  Rome marched their best army into Jewish territory, moving in a path of destruction from north to south.  Re-taking the city of Jerusalem, the Roman army completely destroyed the temple.  It has never been rebuilt.  It is tempting to interpret events such as the destruction of the temple, persecutions, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions etc, as precursors of the end times.  Some Christian denominations and preachers have predicted specific dates for the end as well. While believing and looking forward to an eventual Second Coming of Christ, the Catholic Church prefers to focus on being ready at all times rather than try to figure out the exact time.

St. Philip PFC Meeting Agenda for November 19, 2013

The St. Philip Parish Finance Council (“PFC”) will be holding its monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 in the St. Philip’s Parish Hall.  In keeping with the PFC’s desire for transparency and accountability to the parish community, a copy of the meeting agenda can be obtained by clicking here.

Parishioners wishing to provide input on any of the discussion items can contact the PFC Chair Pat McIver or any other PFC member.

Fr. Bob Writes – November 10, 2013

“God has destined us for acquiring salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ . He died for us , that all of us, whether awake or asleep, together might live with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)

Below is an excerpt from a book by Madeleine L’Engle called “Walking on Water”:

“The apple trees in the orchard are growing old. Last winter the beautiful green pie-apple tree died during the ice storms.This summer I notice that the leafing of some of the others is thin. A neighbouring farmer friend tells me that these trees have been “winter killed”…..I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple if  I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me, telling me of the death of trees, the death of planets, of people, and what all these deaths mean in the light of love of the Creator who brought them all into being; who brought me into being; and you .  The questioning of the meaning of being, and dying, and being, is behind the telling of stories around tribal fires at night; behind the drawing of animals on the walls of caves; the singing of melodies of love in spring, and of the death of green in autumn. It is part of the deepest longing of the human psyche, a recurrent ache in the hearts of all of God’s creatures”

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes affirms that God “has planted an awareness of the eternal in our hearts” (3:11). Perhaps this accounts for the “recurrent ache” and “longing” that Madeleine L’Engle speaks about so eloquently above. Deep down we feel a sense of “wrongness” when we see people , things dying around us. Intimations of our own mortality make us feel very uncomfortable and we try to drown them out with constant activity . We feel somehow that these things “ought not to be “. And we are right. The writer of the book of Wisdom tells us that ‘God did not make death; he takes no pleasure in destroying the living” (2:13) . No, rather, God “created human beings to be immortal, he made them into the image of his own nature. Death came into the world only through the Devil’s envy” (2:23).

Jesus died and rose again to show us that our yearnings for immortality are not illusory. Death is not our final end. It gives way to the bright promise of an eternal home beyond this life where death will be no more, mourning and sadness and pain will have fled, for the world of these things, the world of the past, has gone for ever (see Revelation 21:4).

In this gloomy month of November, the month when death and dying is all around us, “with such thoughts as these, let us console one another ” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)