It is really exciting to see a dream turn into reality. The dream of having the ability to stream our services into people’s homes has been with me for many years now. But, lacking any technical ability that could ever make this happen, I thought that it would always remain just as that, a dream. Then along came Tom Chmara and Pat McIver, the main architects of our landmark Livestream ministry, to tell me how it not only could be done, but that it should be done. And they set to work, buying or donating the necessary equipment, and working as Trojans, many long hours to set the whole thing up and then editing the recording, before putting it up on Youtube for people to be able to download onto their computers, iPhones or television sets.
When we first launched the online ministry, back in Holy Week, I was gratified, and amazed to watch the recording on the Sunday morning. Yes, there were a few audio and video glitches, but I accepted that as OK, after all, there are often glitches during the celebration of Mass every week, whether with microphones not working properly, or not switched on, or the various ministers, including yours truly, forgetting some important detail, etc. I was perfectly happy to stay with where we had got to in terms of the technology.
But Tom and Pat had different ideas. They always wanted to be raising the bar of excellence, and never seemed to be satisfied to leave things the way they were, but were always seeking out ways to improve the quality of the video and/or audio. Emails passed back and forth between them, most of them leaving me dazed and confused, about getting this or other piece of equipment, and running this or that wire to and fro, and positioning this or that camera in a new place for better effectiveness. In the end, they had mercy on me, and left me out of the flow of emails, just telling me at the end what they intended to do, and asking for my approval . Which I gladly gave, not really having a clue as to what they were talking about, but bowing to their expertise and always being amazed all over again, how each bit of tweaking and rearrangingdid in fact improve the quality of the viewing experience and raise the bar of excellence.
Finally, when I thought we had reached the zenith of perfection, and could not do any better, they came back to me and suggested we do Live-streaming, seeing as how other parishes were doing it, and how it would save the chore of spending hours editing and getting ready to get the mass onto Youtube, ready for downloading. We did a budget, with Lynn’s help, and organized a fundraising campaign and you all came through magnificently, and here we are – officially into the modern world and adapting to a new evangelization for a new era. I no longer think that this is as far as we go – I am sure Tom and Pat will come up with even more new ideas for improvement, and under their guidance and with the help of their skills and experience, I look forward to climbing the bar of excellence.
The future no longer terrifies me, but excites me, calls me into the unknown.
And that, just in case you have been listening and wondering if there was any spiritual point to all my sharing about the birth of the online streaming of our Mass, that is how we should be as Catholic Christians, brothers and sisters. We should always be seeking and striving to raise the bar of spiritual and moral excellence for ourselves. It is what our readings are telling us, when we take a good look at them. Our first reading from Israel’s oldest law code, the law of the covenant, speaks about God’s will that the poorest and most disadvantaged Israelites and non-Israelites, the resident alien, the widow and the orphan be well taken care off. They are not to be taken advantage of, they are to be treated fairly and equitably. God reminds them that, during their long years of slavery in Egypt as aliens, the Israelites were very badly abused and mistreated, treated as nobodies with no rights or freedoms. So they should know how it feels and should not do the same to the aliens in their midst. One could say the same today, those of us who are immigrants to this country should have fellow-feeling for those who have been forced to flee their own country and seek refuge in the West, including Canada. And even those who were born in this country, probably if you look hard enough, will find that you are descendants of earlier immigrants to Canada. And that should affect your attitude to other more recent immigrants.
The point is even more marked if we contrast our first reading with our gospel. The Israelites were a primitive people when God appeared to Moses and used him to bring them out of slavery in Egypt. Yet God took them from where they were, raw and uncivilized and brought them on ,in stages, to new levels of sophistication and moral and spiritual maturity. By the time Jesus arrives, they are at the stage where he can streamline the basic commandments of the Jewish Law, and present them in a form which they are able to take and make an integral part of their moral being. Instead of 663 moral laws of the “do’s and don’t’s” variety, Jesus presents them with two positive commands instead: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Very simple and direct to grasp hold of, but very profound and complicated to put into action. Before the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, the Catholic faith often got presented in terms of religious do’s and don’t’s. Catholics were those who didn’t eat meat on Fridays, didn’t practice contraception, didn’t eat 12 hours before receiving communion, and so on. Now, we are trying our best to show our faith as a way of life, not a law code, and the centre of our religion is not trying to avoid hell but living a life of love, in preparation for heaven. We are moving from being rule-driven to being love-drawn. (Petition to remove Ten Commandments from front of court house in the United States. Didn’t matter if they did – The 10C does not define our Catholic Christian faith, Jesus’ two fold commandment, or three-fold as I said earlier, at the beginning of the Mass, Jesus’ three fold commandment, love God, love neighbour, love self, defines our faith. It defines it not as a religion of do’s and don’t’s, but as a way of life, in which the only thing that should dominate is Love As St Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14: “the love of Christ for us urges us on” to love in return. St. John, in his first letter spells it out so beautifully and eloquently:
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way; God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another; if we love one another, God lives in us and his love comes to perfection in us.”First Letter of St. John 4: 7-12
“God chose us in Christ and destined us ..to live in love in His presence” (Ephesians 1: 4). We come from Love, which is God. We will, in time, return to that Love. In the meantime, we are called to live lives of love in this world. Love is our calling and our destiny, and in whose image we are made. The love between husband and wife, between parents and children, between good friends and the love we show to strangers and the needy all are reflections of God’s love in the world. The more we love, the more we are made into the image of God.
Jesus is our bar of excellence. He is the supreme model of love, and as our second reading tells us, we are called to imitate him and all those who, like St Paul, image him and his love in the world. The saints, the known ones and the hidden ones, are a “cloud of witnesses” for us to encourage and inspire us to love as they do, in imitation of Jesus. (“So keep running the race of excellence before us, following Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith” – Hebrews 12:1-2) When I read the lives of the saints I experience a two-fold emotion. There is a sense of discouragement, because I know I am not living up to those high standards of holiness and love.
But there is also a desperate longing to be amongst their company. Who or what fills the gap between who we are meant to be and who we are at the moment, in terms of loving. It is the Holy Spirit The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live lives of love on this earth, because “the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5) – given to us in our baptism and deepened in our confirmation. Where non-Christians show forth greater love at times than we ourselves, it should show us that the Holy Spirit lives and works through all people in different ways. But he should live and work most powerfully through Christians and be seen most vividly in the life of the Church, which is, or should be, the living sacrament or expression of the kingdom of God on earth. Where we, individually and communally, do not live in love, then we are failing to image God to the world, and the world turns away from us, as the Church, because they fail to see the image of God and of Jesus and the saints in us. Which is a tragedy and a terrible pity and source of shame. Which is why we must always pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so that we climb the bar of excellence, spiritual and moral excellence, showing forth in our lives the love and mercy and truth of God.
Thus, we can shine like “stars in the world, holding out to it the word of life”, as Paul tells us in Philippians 2: 15.