Fr Bob Writes – Oct 25, 2015

Probably most adults will have vivid memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. That gigantic concrete-and – barbed wire edifice partitioned West Berlin from East Berlin and stood as a symbol of the Cold War era from its construction in 1961. Although built by the East German government ostensibly to prevent spies from the West coming into the East to undermine the socialist system there, in truth it was built primarily to stop the haemorraging of people from the Eastern bloc into the West. In 1989, as a result of the thawing of relations between the West and the Soviet Empire, the East German government gave permission for its citizens to cross over to the West once more. Many streamed through the Brandenburg gate to meet up with relatives they had not been able to see for decades, others took picks and shovels and began tearing down the Berlin Wall.

One can imagine the emotions of those in the East coming out from “exile” into freedom. It matches the feelings of the people of Israel as they were freed from slavery and exile in Babylon in 520 B.C. and allowed to return to their homeland. Our psalm today, psalm 126, captures the tumult of emotions of those people. “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion (i.e. brought us out of bondage) we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.” What had seemed impossible had happened. In my time, growing up in the shadow of the Berlin Wall and the Cold War, I never thought I would see the day the Wall came down, or the disintegration of the huge Soviet Empire into a series of independent countries, whose previous dictator regimes toppled over, one by one, like a pack of dominoes.

The people of Israel came to see their time of exile as a time of “sowing in tears” preparatory to being able to “reap in joy.” If we are facing huge obstacles in our lives that seem impossible to overcome, let us remember the words of Jesus from the gospel two weekends away “For mortals this is impossible, but not for God. For God all things are possible.”  Let us learn to place our trust in God’s greatness and goodness, and see our present sufferings, as St Paul says in Romans 8,”as nothing compared to the weight of glory to come.” And also see our present tears as part of the process of sowing into a future harvest of blessings to come.

Fr Bob Writes – Oct 18, 2015

No doubt, once the election next Monday is over, members of the winning party will be eyeing eagerly their leader’s next moves as he brings in his cabinet. To get a seat on this important body is to have the chance to wield real political power.

So it is not surprising that James and John, in our gospel passage this Sunday, are thinking along the same lines. They are convinced that, when Jesus gets to Jerusalem, he will be inaugurating his kingdom, throwing out the occupying Roman power, and re-establishing Israel as a mighty nation. Always alive to the main chance, they decide to get their bid in early to have places in his cabinet when that happens. The anger of the other disciples when they hear the brothers making their pitch to Jesus, is only because they didn’t think of the idea first themselves.

Now Jesus has made it abundantly clear, in his journey to Jerusalem, that his is anything but a victory campaign. He knows full well, and says as much, that his arrival in the nation’s capital will result in his arrest, torture and death. His “glory” will be attained at his crucifixion. Clearly the brothers James and John have let this piece of information go in one ear and out the other. They cannot let go of the hope of power. Jesus asks them a pointed question:” Are you ready and willing to be at my right and left hand when I am on the cross? They say “yes” but we all know that, when it comes down to it, they will, along with the other apostles, John excepted, be nowhere to be seen at Jesus’ death. There is a note of irony in Jesus saying that positions at his right hand and his left in his “glory” will not be his to assign. We know that those positions will be taken by two common criminals.

Aside from this, Jesus is making it abundantly clear that what he expects from his disciples, if they are truly to be future  leaders in his community, is not a power-hungry attitude, but a “servant ” heart:” Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. Jesus has never been about dominating over others, but about serving them:” For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Political pundits are predicting that the voter turn-out for next week’s election will be possibly the lowest yet, following a gradual decline over the last 50 years. Young people are expected to fail to turn up to vote. Amongst the many reasons given for this apathy, we can surely detect a note of cynicism. Stories abound in media, films and novels of once-idealistic politicians gradually corrupted by the desire for power. As British politician Lord Acton once famously said:” Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

No doubt aware of this tendency, Jesus is careful to steer his disciples away from the path of wanting power, whether political, social or religious. When we come to cast our votes on Monday, if we have not done so already, might we want to ask ourselves this question “Who among the candidates shows a true “servant heart?”

Fr Bob Writes – October 11, 2015 – Thanksgiving

With election day looming, it is appropriate to share some reflections from Pope Francis on issues relating to how we should vote as Catholic Christians:

“Involvement in politics is an obligation for a Christian. We Christians cannot “play the role of Pilate,” washing our hands of it – we cannot. We must be involved in politics because politics is one of the highest forms of charity, for it seeks the common good. And Christian laypeople must work in politics. You will say to me, “But it isn’t easy!”…Nothing is easy in life. It is not easy; politics has become too dirty, but I ask myself : why has it become dirty? Why aren’t Christians involved in politics with an evangelical spirit? I leave you with a question. It is easy to say, “It is so-and-so’s fault.” But me, what do I do ? It is a duty! Working for the common good is a Christian’s duty! And often the way to work for that is politics. There are other ways: being a teacher, for example; teaching is another route. However, political life for the common good is one of the ways. This is clear”(June 7, 2013).

“The conscience is the interior place for listening to the truth, to goodness, for listening to God; it is the inner place of my relationship with him, the One who speaks to my heart and helps me discern, to understand the way I must take and , once the decision is made, to go forward, to stay faithful. ” (June 30, 2013)

The first quotation reminds us of our duty to participate in the election by casting a vote- we cannot simply shrug and say things like “one party is as bad as another ” or “my vote doesn’t count for anything.” The second quotation reminds us of our duty to vote according to our conscience, and our conscience must be “informed”. In other words, I must take time to learn about my faith, e.g. by studying the Catholic Catechism. But I must also take time to grow my prayer life, so that the Holy Spirit can “tune me in” to the will of God and guide my vote according to the values and principles of the gospel and Catholic teaching, which builds on the gospel

A recent bulletin contained a statement on assisted suicide issued by the Canadian Conference of Bishops, where mention was made of candidates’ silence on the question of assisted suicide and the appeal was made “We urge all the citizens of our country to raise this question of life and death at meetings with candidates, to stimulate a true debate worthy of our great country.” What is our response to this challenge? After Mass this weekend, non partisan election cards will be distributed, showing how the various parties stand on issues related to life. Please take one, and take to prayer and discernment where you, as a Catholic, should be placing your vote on October 19th.

Fr Bob Writes – Oct 4, 2015

From the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10).

These words of Jesus from our gospel this Sunday come at an appropriate juncture in the life of the Catholic Church, just between the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which was held September 22 – 27, and the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome from October 5 – 24, which has the theme: “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.”

St John Paul II once famously wrote: “The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family” (Familiaris Consortio, 75). It is not surprising, therefore, that marriage and the family have been the focus of a sustained all-out attack by Satan for the last fifty years. The upcoming Synod of Bishops have a very difficult task to forge a way forward for the Church to both hold to the original intention of God for marriage and the family, as stated in such texts as the one from Mark’s gospel quoted above, and try to find a response to the many ways in which marriage and family are lived in contemporary society.

The World Meeting on Families was conceived by St John Paul II in 1992 to strengthen the bonds of Christian families worldwide and has been held every three years since 1994. This most recent meeting was the eighth, and coincided with the first apostolic journey of Pope Francis to the United States. The theme of this year’s gathering was: “Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” As St John Paul II wrote in his encyclical, Familiaris Consortio: The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love” (17). This mission arises from the “community of life and love” that begins with the married couple in the sacrament of matrimony, and is carried forward in the way each member of the family lives and embraces an authentic life of love, both within the family, and outside it.

During the coming year, the Knights of Colombus will be promoting two initiatives to strengthen Catholic family life. The first is Building the Domestic Church: The Family Fully Alive,” a program of family prayer, meditation and Scripture. The second is the Holy Family Pilgrim Icon prayer program. The September issue of the Knights magazine, Colombia, contains excellent articles on the role and mission of the family as “the way of the church.”   If you are the wife of a Knight, or a neighbour or friend of a Knight, ask him if you could have a read of the magazine when he has finished it. That way, you will be not only providing good spiritual nourishment for yourself, but also nudging your husband/neighbor/friend, to actually get on and read the magazine himself!!