Fr Bob Writes – October 2, 2016

Last weekend, a group of parishioners from St Philip’s and St Clare’s left on pilgrimage to Quebec City. Our intention was to pass through the Holy Door at Notre Dame Basilica in Quebec City, one of only seven Holy Doors officially designated for the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, and the only one outside of Europe.

We first arrived at Cap de Madeleine and booked into the Hotel de Madone, just across from the Shrine of Cap de Madeleine. On Sunday evening, Deacon Mark led us in a meditation before the Blessed Sacrament, designed to prepare us spiritually to pass through the Holy Door the next day. On Monday we travelled to Quebec City and Fr Bob celebrated Mass for us at the Cathedral. The event was made even more special for us as it was the feast day of the Jesuit Martyrs Jacques de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions, whose shrine is at Midlands, in Ontario, and who were martyred while evangelizing the Indians in Northern America between 1642 and 1649.

After Mass, a priest from the Cathedral showed us a video explaining the Year of Mercy and the significance of the Holy Door. Then we each passed through the Holy Door which shows a carved figure of Jesus with his right hand extended , inviting us to enter into a an experience of His mercy. That evening, back at our hotel, Fr Bob and Deacon Mark led us through a biblical meditation on the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, before we went into the Shrine Park to pray these mysteries before the statues depicting each mystery.

On Tuesday morning we celebrated Mass at the old shrine in Cap de Madeleine, marking the feast of St Vincent de Paul, patron saint of the poor, before traveling to the Church of Saint Anthony and Blessed Frederic Jansoone in Trois Rivieres. There we visited the museum of Blessed Father Frederic, which contains many artifacts of his person and ministry, from his time in Israel, as custodian of the Holy Places, and at Cap de Madeleine, where he built up the shrine there as a place of pilgrimage and performed many wonderful miracles of healing.

On our arrival back at St Philip’s on Tuesday evening, Fr Bob blessed all the religious articles we had purchased during our trip and we gave thanks to God for blessing us so richly on our pilgrimage. Special thanks to Deacon Mark for organizing our journey and to all those on his team who helped bring it about!

Fr Bob Writes – September 25, 2016

Last weekend, we had the joy of seeing Mother Teresa of Calcutta canonized by Pope Francis. Saint Teresa was known, even during her lifetime as “the saint of the poor.”

Latin American theology often speaks of seeing God in the eyes of the poor. St Vincent de Paul said that to serve the poor is a true form of prayer. The poor, whatever may be said of the deprivation they experience, are a privileged people in God’s plan.

This Sunday’s readings remind us to keep that vision before our eyes. Many people do. They always find time to assist the poor; they give generously of their time and resources; some serve directly in leaving home for other cultures. The history of the Church is rich in its expressions of outreach.

But the poor still suffer. They are crushed not only by neglect but by exploitation. The causes of poverty today are more elusive, more difficult to label. It frequently involves complex economic systems. But it is as merciless and cruel as the conduct of the rich man in this Sunday’s gospel eating sumptuously with a starving beggar at his gate.

We have God’s assurance that the lot of the poor will one day be altered. The unconcerned affluent will not have the final say. But we cannot wait for the final day. The rich man paid the price for not alleviating Lazarus’ pain while he lived, while the chance was there. We cannot ease our conscience by saying that one day the record will be set straight. “Now is the acceptable time.”  “Carpe diem!” “Seize the day.”

Fr Bob Writes – September 18, 2016

Fr Bob writes: “God wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy  2:4)

Although our second reading this Sunday takes the form of a personal letter from St Paul to his disciple, Timothy, whom he has put in charge of the Christian community at Ephesus, Paul intended it to be shared and passed around as a guide and encouragement to all other presbyters (priests) under Timothy’s guidance.

Paul calls for the churches to pray for civil authorities. Christians were definitely in the minority, and Paul wanted no conflict with authorities which could hamper the spread of Christianity. Early Christians were especially solicitous to appear as good citizens, since they did not participate in the government’s official religious cult, since they refused to worship the emperor as a god.Paul asks for prayers for civil leaders on two scores: it will lead to the concession of an undisturbed and respected life for the Christians, and it may lead to their leader’s conversion and salvation.

What is the role of Christians regarding civil authorities today?  Should we pray for them and support them?  What about challenging them to rule with Christian values?  Are there times and situations we should not follow dictates of the law of the land?

The reference above to God wants everyone to be saved runs counter to certain other Christians beliefs, e.g. Calvinists, who hold that some people are born, pre-destined to be saved, while others are born, pre-destined to be damned. God decides which is which. Such Christians take some of Paul`s other statements, such as in Romans 9: 18, 21, which appear to support their position. But a closer reading of those texts, with the addition of the clear, unmistakeable affirmation from our second reading today, referenced above, show that this is a distortion of Paul`s real position. The Catholic Church holds that all people have the same opportunity to hear the gospel and come to salvation.

Fr Bob Writes – September 11, 2016

A lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son…The three parables Jesus tells in our gospel for this Sunday all hinge around the sense of someone or something being lost and the joy of their being found again. “He was lost, and has been found”   declares the relieved father at the return of his wayward youngest son at the conclusion of these three stories of Jesus.

The value given to what was lost is shown by the degree and intensity of effort put into finding it, and the joy displayed when the lost is rediscovered. The shepherd in the first parable leaves ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness and goes after the one lost sheep and when he finds it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices and returns home to celebrate. The woman in the second parable lights a lamp and sweeps the entire house to search for the missing coin, and when she has found it, calls together friends and neighbours for a party to celebrate. The father in the third parable leaves behind dignity and reputation to go out day after day to search for his lost son, and when he sees him afar off, runs to meet him and embrace him, then calls for a banquet to celebrate his return.

The parables are told by Jesus in response to the Pharisees and scribes outrage that Jesus “wastes” time and tarnishes his reputation hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, considered the “lowest of the low” of Jewish society. In each parable there are those who shake their head at the one who puts so much effort into finding and celebrating what was lost. The friends and neighbours of the shepherd, far from celebrating with him the return of his lost sheep, would have thought him stupid for leaving behind the other ninety-nine, as prey to lion and wolf in the wilderness. The friends and neighbours, far from rejoicing with the woman at the finding of her lost coin, would probably have thought she was making a lot of fuss over nothing – after all, she still had nine other coins, didn’t she? The elder brother, far from joining in the celebrations at  his younger brother’s return, defiantly stands aloof, and rebukes his father for wasting money and emotion on his reprobate brother.

The final line of each parable speaks instead of the joy that is experienced in the heart of God whenever one of his children realizes the error of their ways and make their way back home to him. Jesus wants the Pharisees and scribes to understand that the heart of God is wide open to anyone who does so, and there is an implied rebuke of these religious authorities that their hearts are too “stony” to do the same. On which side do you stand?


Fr Bob Writes – September 4, 2016

Fr Bob writes : “Who can learn the counsel of God ? Or who can discern what the Lord wills?”

So runs the opening verses of our first reading this weekend from the first century B.C. book of Wisdom.  We have a hard enough time figuring out how to live day by day in this world.  How can we ever hope to understand things of heaven, unless God were to take a hand, and impart to us the gift of divine wisdom? Or as the writer of our first reading puts it: “Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?”

And with that wisdom from on high, we can see earthly things in context and better understand things of this world better as well.  We trust that God, who calls us to live beyond what human nature alone would dictate, will inspire us with the gift of wisdom through the Holy Spirit in accord with the divine plan on our journey in this life.

All of us wish we had a better understanding of what God’s will for us is in this life. And it is the task of the Holy Spirit to impart that understanding to us, which is why he is called in the New Testament “The Counsellor” or “The Advocate.”  So we are in constant need of the Spirit to teach and guide us along our journey of life.

Which is why we are putting on the Life in the Spirit Seminars again this fall. Starting on Thursday September 8th at 7.30pm and continuing on for the following six weeks, these seminars are designed to bring us into a deeper experience of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so we are better able to grow in our relationship with God and develop the mind and heart of Christ within us . To this end, that our understanding of these spiritual truths will give us direction for our life journey on a daily basis.

Why not come along to the first seminar on September 8th and decide then whether these sessions are something you want to participate in?