Fr Bob Writes – June 29, 2014

There are two kinds of people in any church community. We can call them the “pioneers” and the “settlers”. Pioneers love going out into the world, and preaching the gospel, inviting people into a personal relationship with Jesus. They are the evangelists, the missionaries. Others seem to gravitate towards them because they are often very attractive, charismatic, inspiring people. They turn a “chance” conversation at a bus stop or in the mall into a sharing of testimony to their faith in Jesus and lead others to become believers in Jesus themselves. But as they collect converts, they need to have a church or small group setting where they can bring these newly evangelized believers into, so they can be nurtured in their faith, through teaching, sharing, ministering and mentoring.

This is where the other group of people in a church come in – the settlers. They maintain a base of support and encouragement, where new converts can be received and properly counselled and instructed. The pioneers know they can safely leave their converts in their care, while they go on with their task of evangelizing. Pioneers also need these places for themselves after a time of missionary activity, so they can rest and recover and receive ministry themselves, before setting out again on their evangelization activities. Pioneers need settlers to provide safe havens for themselves and their converts.  Settlers need pioneers to keep bringing in new believers; otherwise they will become turned in on themselves, stale and stagnant.

This weekend we are celebrating the feast of St Peter and St Paul, two colossii of the Christian faith. We can say that Paul is most obviously a “pioneer” and the Acts of the Apostles are full of accounts of his missionary journeys into pagan countries, where he sees phenomenal responses to his call to faith in Jesus. But Paul also took care to establish churches in the places where he made converts, so that these could receive the continued nurturing ministry and instruction that he did not have the time to give. Acts also tells us that he had his own “home church” in Antioch, where he would return after his missionary journeys to report back and stay for a while to be refreshed and encouraged.

Peter would be an example of a “settler”. We are not told in Acts of his moving out of his homeland of Israel. Even when persecution of Christians arises there, he stays, so he can provide leadership to the “mother Church” in Jerusalem. It is to this church, and to such as Peter, that Paul will come, in Acts 15, to receive support and validation of his missionary endeavours among the pagans. In his letter to the Galatians, chapter 2, Paul makes note that, while he has been charged with mission to the pagans, Peter had been charged with the mission among the Jews.

Paul and Peter, pioneer and settler. Both were essential to the growth and establishment of the Christian church in the years following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Today, the Church still has need of both pioneers and settlers. Which one are you?

St. Philip Parish Annual General Assembly Reports

On Saturday, June 14, 2014 after the 4:30pm Mass, the St. Philip Parish Pastoral Council (“PPC”) held its annual general assembly. This meeting allowed the parish’s various ministries to provide interested parishioners an update on their activities over the past pastoral year and to allow parishioners the opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns about what’s going on in the parish.

For those parishioners who were not able to attend the event, the PPC is making available a compilation of the various ministry reports that were presented at the event and where an electronic copy was submitted.

The document can be accessed by clicking here.

St. Philip PFC Presents Report to Parish Annual General Assembly

On Saturday, June 14, 2014 after the 4:30pm Mass, the St. Philip Parish Pastoral Council held its annual general assembly. This meeting allowed the parish’s various ministries to provide interested parishioners an update on their activities over the past pastoral year and to allow parishioners the opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns about what’s going on in the parish.

At this meeting and along with other ministries, the St. Philip Parish Finance Council (“PFC”) presented an update on its activities. In particular, the PFC released its newly-adopted long-term financial plan (“LRFP”). The ten-year LRFP attempts to identify the major property repairs and renovations that the parish may face over the next decade, and identifies potential funding sources that allows the parish to pay for these items. This document is an ever-evolving document, and will be updated annually in conjunction with the PFC’s annual budgeting process.

Interested parishioners can view the PFC’s assembly report, along with the LRFP, on the PFC’s webpage.

Parishioners who have questions or concerns regarding this document or any other issue that falls under the PFC’s mandate, are invited to contact any PFC member or speak with Fr. Bob. PFC members are also listed on the PFC’s webpage.

Fr Bob Writes – June 15, 2014

“God so loved the world that He gave up His only Son …”(John 3:16). So begins our gospel this Sunday. Even many non-Christians know the words of the message communicated when they see a banner hanging over the railing at a baseball or football game reading “JOHN 3:16”. This verse, possibly the most quoted verse of the entire New Testament, contains the very core of both Jesus’ identity and mission. Verse 17 continues this beautiful straight-forward statement of Jesus’ mission thus: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”  But verse 18 introduces a rather discordant note: “Whoever does not believe has already been condemned” How literally should that statement be taken? What is the correct way to interpret this and other scripture texts?

Two questions of interpretation raised by this text are as follows: Is it sufficient to merely “believe” to avoid eternal condemnation? Are all people who do not believe in Jesus automatically condemned? While many evangelical Christians would say “yes” to both questions, the Catholic Church would respond “NO” to both. Fr Dempsey writes on this as follows:

“The reasoning is stated most clearly in paragraphs 14 through 16 of the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” promulgated during the Second Vatican Council on November 21st, 1964. We believe Christians will be judged not merely on belief (if that is understood as mere intellectual assent) but on faith (which is a response of the whole person to God, including our actions). We also believe that God’s judgment will not hold people responsible for not following a belief structure with which they are not familiar or have never heard in a convincing way. Individuals will be judged according to how they have followed what they believe about God and God’s will. Whether or not they know Jesus Christ personally, it will be his grace which allows them to enter into eternal glory.”

On this feast of the Holy Trinity, let us remind ourselves that the whole plan of God’s activity, as Father, Son and Spirit in our world and in our history tends always towards us sharing eternal happiness with him. “God desires everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Fr Bob Writes – June 8, 2014

We are given two very different descriptions of the Pentecost event this weekend in our readings. St Luke’s Pentecost in our first reading from Acts of the Apostles is a very noisy event, wind and fire sweeping through the house in which Jesus’ disciples are gathered. It is very reminiscent of the way in which God descended on Mount Sinai before the people of Israel in Exodus 19 and the way in which the dry bones of Ezekiel’ s vision (in chapter 37 of his book) come to life as the power of the breath of God falls upon them.

On the other hand, John’s account of Pentecost in our gospel this Sunday is an altogether quieter, more gentle occasion. The breath of Jesus on the apostles corresponds to the way God breathes life into the first human being in Genesis 2:7, and to the “still small breeze” by which God announces his presence to the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19.

Yet both events are a real imparting of the Spirit of God upon the Church. We are being reminded that the Holy Spirit “breathes as and where he wills” (John 3) and we should never try to predict how and where he will show up. The Spirit comes on an “inward journey” deep in our hearts to bring us into a close, personal, intimate relationship with God, and then sends us on our “outward journey” to preach the gospel of Christ.

It is usual to say that we “have” the Spirit through our baptism and confirmation. A more important question, perhaps, is: does the Spirit “have” us? Do we allow the Spirit to “blow as he wills ” in our lives, and in our churches, or do we try to control and tame his action? An archbishop in England a few years ago claimed that the Church was “terrified” of the Holy Spirit. In fact this is nothing new. Throughout the Bible, people try to “control” and “manipulate” God to do what they want and expect. God never bows to this kind of pressure. It is we who must bow to the action of God, surrendering to his Spirit and allowing Jesus to be Lord of our lives.