Fr Bob Writes – April 2, 2017

Our gospel story this weekend describes the miracle of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead.  When news of Lazarus’ illness reached Jesus, he and his disciples were a couple days’ journey away on the east side of the Jordan River, an area outside the jurisdiction of the Jewish authorities who were searching for a way to convict Jesus and have him put to death.  Should he go back into their territory?  Thomas expresses the danger of doing so when he suggests the apostles should go back with Jesus” to die with him.”

Jesus did return, but why did he wait?  Given the number of days necessary for the journey and the timing of Lazarus’ death, Jesus would not have gotten to Bethany before the death of Lazarus anyway.  Perhaps Jesus knew that the Pharisees, who were aware of his friendship with Lazarus, would be keeping an eye out for Jesus to return to Bethany, but would have ended their vigil when Lazarus died.  It could also be that Jesus was simply giving time for word of Lazarus’ death to spread, thus making more dramatic the news of his subsequently being raised from the dead by Jesus.

Lazarus became a celebrity in the weeks following his return to life   Hundreds of people went out from Jerusalem to see him and hear his testimony about Jesus. This leads to the supreme irony of the Jewish authorities scheming to put Lazarus to death as well, because of the impact of his testimony about what Jesus had done for him.  Can you imagine Lazaraus, who had already died once, being afraid of a death threat?  What a grace for us not to be afraid of death, to be so strong in faith that we even welcome challenges as opportunities to give testimony to what we believe.

Fr Michael Gillessie, beloved former pastor of St Philip’s and St Clare’s, talked of his coming death as a home-coming, and wanted his funeral, celebrated last Monday, to be a joyful occasion, which it certainly was.  Jesus speaks of Lazarus’ death as his simply “falling asleep.”  May we, too, have that same belief that death is not the end, but merely a “falling asleep” in this life and a waking into the arms of Jesus in the next.

St. Philip Temporal Affairs Council Issues its 2016 Year-End Report

The St. Philip Temporal Affairs Council has issued its latest report for the year ending December 31, 2016. A hard copy of the report was available in last weekend’s parish bulletin.

The 2016 Year-End Report can also be viewed here.

To view previous reports, please visit the St. Philip’s TAC page and look for it under the heading, “TAC Reports to Parishioners and Other Reports.” Parishioners will find links to past TAC reports starting with the quarter ending September 30, 2013.

Fr Bob Writes – March 26, 2017

Fr Bob writes : Fr Denny Dempsey has some interesting comments about our first reading this weekend, where the prophet Samuel is sent by God to anoint a king in place of Saul who disobeyed God.  Here is what he says:

“As the apostles would later think the blind man in our gospel this Sunday lacks God’s favour because of his malady, Samuel judges God’s favor based on physical appearance.

Young Samuel had been placed in the service of the Lord under the priest Eli at the sanctuary of the Lord in Shiloh. 1 Samuel 3 recounts how he learned to listen to the voice of God: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”   In today’s passage, as Samuel is to select the next king of Israel and Judah, he does what we often do … neglects to ask God’s guidance, trusting in his instincts to guide his decision-making process, thus judging “as man sees.”  Before Samuel acts, God quickly corrects him to see as God sees … looking not at the appearance but into the heart.

Samuel was operating under some stress at the time.  Saul, whom he had anointed, was still king. If news got out that Samuel was anointing a replacement without the king’s knowledge, the prophet’s life would be on the line.  We, too, make some of our worst decisions under stress, forgetting to consult God.  May God catch our attention as quickly as he did Samuel’s when, under whatever stresses that may affect us, we forget to consult God for the decisions we must make in life.”

Fr Bob Writes March 19, 2017

A Hymn to God the Father

…………………Ben Johnson

Hear me, O God!

…..A broken heart

…..Is my best part;

…..Use still thy rod

…..That I may prove

…..Therein, thy love


If thou hadst not

…..Been stern to me,

…..But left me free,

…..I had forgot

…..Myself and thee.


For sin’s so sweet,

…..As minds ill bent

…..Rarely repent,

…..Until they meet

…..Their punishment.


Who more can crave

…..Than thou hast done:

…..That gav’st a Son,

…..To free a slave?

…..First made of nought;

…..With all since bought.


Sin, Death, and Hell

…..His glorious Name

…..Quite overcame;

…..Yet I rebel,

…..And slight the same.


But I’ll come in,

…..Before my loss,

…..Me further toss,

…..As sure to sin

…..Under His Cross.

Parish Mission – March 27, 28 & 29

‘COME BACK TO ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART’ is the theme of our Lenten Mission this year. Many of you will know our mission leader, Fr Anthony Mary Ibeazor, as he has celebrated Mass for us numerous times. He is from Nigeria and is studying philosophy at Dominican College in Ottawa. He and Fr Bob will lead us on a Lenten journey back to our loving father. Each evening will begin at 7pm.  Monday and Wednesday will be at St Philips and Tuesday will be at St Clares.  On our final evening, there will be four priests available for those who would like to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Fr Bob Writes – March 12, 2017

To Keep A True Lent

                          Robert Herrick

Is this a Fast, to keep

The larder lean ?

And clean

From fat of veals and sheep ?


Is it to quit the dish

Of flesh, yet still

To fill

The platter high with fish ?


Is it to fast an hour,

Or ragged to go,

Or show

A down-cast look and sour ?


No: ’tis a Fast to dole

Thy sheaf of wheat

And meat

Unto the hungry soul.


It is to fast from strife

And old debate,

And hate;

To circumcise thy life.


To show a heart grief-rent;

To starve thy sin,

Not bin;

And that’s to keep thy Lent.

Fr Bob Writes – March 5, 2017

This from Fr Dempsey about this week’s gospel:

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted for forty days and forty nights and afterwards he was hungry.  The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”  He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  Then the devil took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.  For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”  Jesus answered him, “Again it is written: You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”  Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”  At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!  It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”  Then the devil left him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

The three temptations posed to Jesus represent three basic areas of temptation that test every person…temptation to satisfy one’s physical hungers and desires, temptation to acquire possessions and power, and temptation to be acclaimed and admired by others. 

What does it mean to say that Jesus was tempted?  When we are tempted, we feel an attraction toward something…in this context, toward something not of God’s will.  Jesus shared our human nature, but did he actually experience an attraction away from the will of God?

Consider a couple dimensions of temptation.  We might call the first the “invitation” of the temptation being placed before us.  That is certainly present with the offers Satan presents Jesus.  The second dimension is, as mentioned, a certain attraction to what is offered.  Being human, Jesus did experience an attraction to satisfying hunger and to avoid suffering, but this does not necessarily translate into temptation to go against the will of God the Father.  As with his mother Mary, blessed through her immaculate conception with no attraction away from God’s will, Jesus felt no attraction to go against the will of the Father.  The Church teaches us that Jesus had both a human will and a divine will, the human being submissive to the divine (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 475).  Jesus had additional strength in his human will as a result of the discipline and dedication he lived each day and, in particular, through extended times of prayer such as the 40-day retreat he had just completed.   Our resistance to temptation is stronger when we dedicate ourselves to God and immerse ourselves in prayer. 

Temptations are not always toward something morally wrong.  We generally think of temptation in such a context, but we could also speak of being “tempted” to do a good deed, to give money to someone in need, to take a job that brings less income but makes a greater impact on society.  Bottom line…temptation is a test in which we must choose between options.  We pray that God not lead us into tests we are incapable of passing, but tests become opportunities to choose and do God’s will, to prove the strength of our convictions. 

In that sense of temptation being a test, note that Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit specifically to be tempted by the devil, to be put to the test.  Back in the 1950’s boxing was a very popular sport with fights broadcast on national TV a couple evenings every week.  The boxer was always led into the ring by his trainer and manager who had set up the fight and prepared their boxer for the contest with a certain confidence that he could be successful.  That’s the image I have as I think of the Spirit leading Jesus into the desert.  The temptation was not to be avoided.  It was a contest for which the Spirit had prepared Jesus.  It is inevitable that we will face temptations in our lives.  All too often we walk into the contest all too willingly on our own, contests set up by the devil, not the Spirit of God.  Entering into such temptation without the Holy Spirit leading us, it is little wonder we have such a low rate of success in such confrontations.   “Lead us not into temptation” we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, meaning “don’t lead us into a conflict greater than our ability to emerge victorious”…“but deliver us from evil” meaning “be our protection and give us supernatural assistance when the contest gets heated”.  

We can have more success and become stronger more disciplined Christians in the face of temptation if we dedicate ourselves to God during these forty days of Lent as Jesus did.  Jesus responded to each of the three temptations with quotes from scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 6:16, and Deuteronomy 6:13).  Becoming more familiar with God’s word can strengthen us as well.  Scriptural reading can be an important element of our Lenten discipline.