Fr Bob Writes – November 29th – First Week of Advent

Fr Bob writes: Our second reading this weekend from St Paul to the Thessalonians could be summed up by saying: “You’re doing a marvelous job of following Christ. How about kicking it up another notch into high gear?” This combination of affirmation and challenge is found in Paul’s other letters as well. He praises the Corinthians for their openness to the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:4-9) prior to reprimanding them and challenging them to heal the divisions and discord within their community (1 Cor 1:10ff). He affirms Philemon’s generosity (Philemon 4-6) before challenging him to go a step further by treating his ex-slave as a brother (Philemon 7-16). Look through any of Paul’s letters and you’ll find that affirmation and challenge to hand in hand in every one of them, a good model for us in dealing with one another.

In terms of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament, Paul’s major one would be that of exhortation (cf Romans 12: 8). This may be defined as “the ability to encourage others to grow emotionally and spiritually , even in the face of hardship and suffering.” Exhorters serve as “God’s cheerleaders” in a church setting. They seek to share the practical application of truth in a person-to-person setting, and desire to create harmony and unity in the community. They see possibilities in place of problems, opportunities instead of obstacles. Whilst exhortation itself is a specific gift of the Holy Spirit, every one of us should at times seek to exhort others to become the best possible version of themselves.

Hebrews 3:13 tells us to “exhort one another every day, as long as “today” lasts, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” While exhortation is often seen as primarily verbal, often the best way to encourage others to be the best they can be is by personal example. St Paul himself liked to invite his readers to follow his model in living the Christian life, e.g. in our second reading this weekend, he says: “as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, should do so more and more.”

As we begin a new Church year with our Advent season opening this weekend, with new graces available to enable us to grow in our relationship with God, let us ask ourselves these questions: “Who is the person who encourages me the most by the way they are living?” and “How can I live out my Christian life better so I can be an encouragement to those around me?”

Happy Advent everyone!!

Fr Bob Writes – Feast of Christ the King (Nov 22, 2015)

This Sunday gives us the feast of Christ the King, which closes off the Church’s liturgical year. The readings for the Mass cause us to reflect on what kind of king Jesus is, and what kind of kingdom he is bringing in.

Although Jesus began his public ministry proclaiming that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand ” (Matthew 4 : 17) and referred frequently to the Kingdom in conversation and parables, he was very careful to never directly claim kingship (in fact the one time the people wanted to take him and make him king, after his miracle of feeding the 5000 in John’s gospel, chapter 6, Jesus flees into the mountains). Jesus’ opponents believed Jesus was indirectly making a claim to kingship in his preaching, but they lacked the clear evidence needed to convict him. Many others apparently interpreted Jesus’ message in the same way.

As an astute political leader, Pilate gets right to the point in our gospel this Sunday by asking Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Those bringing Jesus to Pilate had not mentioned any such claim for doing so, but, as Jesus intimates in his response, others had told Pilate about Jesus’ teaching about a kingdom. Pilate had already given thought to whether this was a purely religious issue or if it had political ramifications which would demand his attention. In the ensuing conversation, it quickly becomes clear to Pilate that there is no political threat. “I find no guilt in him” he informs the Jewish leaders, not once, but three times!!

In Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion”, four languages are spoken at different times in the dialogue. Aramaic and Hebrew, the two common languages of Jesus and his followers, are the most frequently spoken. There is also Greek, the language of the common person throughout the Roman Empire, employed in conversations of Pilate with his soldiers and other non-Jews. In this conversation regarding Jesus’ kingship, however, Pilate addresses Jesus in Latin, a language which at the time was spoken only by the elite of the Roman world, the educated and royal class. Jesus’ response in perfect Latin was one way Pilate was given to recognize kingly qualities in Jesus. This leads him to have affixed to the cross of Jesus the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, the three languages of the Roman Empire, an action which brings complaint from the Jewish leaders, and Pilate’s emphatic response “What I have written, I have written” (John 19).

What leads you and me to recognize Jesus as King and to place ourselves under the authority of Christ the King?

St. Philip TAC Meeting Agenda for November 17, 2015

The St. Philip Temporal Affairs Council (“TAC”) held its November meeting on Tuesday, November 17, 2015.

In keeping with the TAC’s desire for transparency and accountability to the parish community and to inform it of the issues the TAC deals with, a copy of the meeting agenda can be obtained by clicking here.

While the TAC does not make public its meeting minutes by publishing them to the parish website, parishioners wishing more information on any of the items raised in the meeting can contact either Fr. Bob or Mike Lotan, TAC Chair.

Fr Bob Writes – November 15, 2015

“I keep the Lord always before me ” (psalm 16)

This coming week will see the conclusion of the 33 Days to Morning Glory personal and parish retreat which many of us are following at St Philip’s and St Clare’s (and Lift Jesus Higher). The retreat will conclude with a special Mass on Saturday November 21st at 10 am, during which we will make our Marian consecration. I am looking forward very much to seeing the impact on our parish communities of this communal pledge of ourselves to seeking holiness in every aspect of our lives.

That search does not end with the making of our pledge, of course. It is something which we much be pursuing every day of our lives. To help us take the next step, we will be holding small “connect” groups in our homes to meet and discuss Matthew Kelly’s book “Rediscovering Catholicism” which was given out in the parishes over the Pentecost weekend. (If you did not manage to get a copy of this book, we have more copies in the parish office).

Kelly’s book begins with the universal yearning within the human heart for happiness, and proceeds to show how that yearning is itself a quest for an authentic way of life, in which we seek to become “the best version of ourselves” that we can. In other words, it is all about the quest for holiness.

After all the masses this weekend, the opportunity will be given for a family or an individual to sign up to offer their home to be a place where people can gather to discuss Kelly’s book. We will then engage in several months training so that those who sign up are led in the steps of how to host a small discussion group. In the spring, those groups will start up and continue through till summer, when there will be a break, and we will resume in the fall once more.

The small group will be an ideal place to bring along any one you know who is curious to know more about the Catholic faith, or those who have lapsed from their faith and are seeking a way back. For all it is a wonderful opportunity to realize the truth of the words in our responsorial psalm this weekend:

You show me the path of life

In your presence there is fullness of joy

In your right hand are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16)