“Without Faith, the People Perish” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, December 4, 2022

The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament declares: ”Without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). 

If you do not have a vision, a goal, a plan for your life, you are destined to perish in mediocrity, disappointment and lack of a sense of fulfilment. This is true whether it is a question of an individual or a community. St Philip’s has its own vision statement: and my community, Lift Jesus Higher has for their vision: ”To lift Jesus higher in Ottawa and in Canada.” 

What vision do you have for your life, brothers and sisters? Do you even have one?  

It may surprise you to know, brothers and sisters, that God has a vision, a purpose, for your life and he wants to communicate it to you, if you are willing to listen out for it. In the prophet Jeremiah, we read: ”I know my plans for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to lead you into a future full of hope. When you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13). This is primarily a promise to a people, the nation of Israel, but it also applies to each and every one of us. 

When God created us, he already had formed his purposes for us. In St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we read that “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him, and to live before him in love, destining us to be adopted as his children through Christ” (Ephesians 1:4-5). That is what God wants for each one of us, to have us live with him for all eternity in love and peace and joy. … Read more...

“Living on the Balls of Your Feet” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, November 27, 2022

Story of man seeking wisdom for his life – “stay on the balls of your feet, not your heels”.  This is especially excellent wisdom for us during this Advent season. For, as Jesus reminds us in our gospel today: ”therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour”.  We have been told not to seek to know the actual date when this second coming of Jesus will take place. No one knows when this will be, says Jesus, in the gospels, and elsewhere, not even He himself, only his heavenly Father. (Acts 1:6). But we are meant to be always in readiness for that event, which can happen at any moment in history. If there is one sure thing I can predict about that moment, however, is that the vast majority of the world will not be in readiness for it. Jesus reminds his disciples in our gospel today that his second coming will find people doing what they did in Noah’s time, just before the flood came and swept them all away. “As the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing  until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.“

Historically, we know that in A.D. 70, following a revolt in and around Jerusalem by the Jews seeking to drive their Roman occupiers out of their country, the Romans marched on the city , destroyed the Jews’ beloved Temple and went on a murderous rampage throughout the city. Many, many Jews were killed at that time, but no one who had become a disciple of Jesus.… Read more...

“What Kind of King Is This?” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, November 20, 2022

Story of priest called out in winter to minister to dying man.

This true story highlights a truth about God that should bring us much hope and consolation, especially if we have friends or family members who are estranged from the church and their faith. It is never too late in this life for a person to turn away from their sin and back to God. God’s hand of grace is stretched out to the very last moment of a person’s life to offer them salvation, if they will reach out and grasp it. We have two examples from Mass earlier in the week. One is of a blind man standing along the side of the road, begging, when he hears that Jesus is passing by. He starts calling out to Jesus: ”Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  When Jesus calls him over and asks him what he can do for him, the man replies: ”Lord,, let me see again”. In other words: ”Lord, I am sick and tired of living this empty way of life, since I lost my sight. Let me see again, so I can do something different with my life.” When Jesus heals his eyesight, the first thing he does is to become a follower, a disciple of Jesus. But Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, he is very close to the time when he will be crucified, and, yet, even in these last moments, he is offering this blind man the chance of salvation.

The next story from the same gospel of Luke shows us Zacchaeus, a chief tax-collector, very rich but hated by his fellow-Jews for taking their money and giving it to the Roman occupiers. He is too short, we are told, to be able to see Jesus from the ground, so he climbs a tree to look down on the path Jesus will be taking, and, to his astonished delight, Jesus stops ,looks up at him, calls him by his name, and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house for a meal.… Read more...

“The Lord is Coming – Are You Ready?” Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, November 13, 2022

It was great to visit England again after an absence of over two years, to meet up with various members of the family, to have the chance to soak in the history of such cities as Oxford and Durham, and even to attend a soccer match and drink at a country pub or two. All quintessential English experiences. 

But I have to say that I left my home country after two weeks, with a heavy heart and worried for my homeland. Not only are they having to deal with a new monarch, but also a new prime minister, with a huge migrant problem and with an economy which is in the hole to the tune of an astonishing 50 BILLION pounds. The new prime minister had issued a solemn warning to the country that they were all facing a bleak economic future, with a lot of austerity measures, higher taxes and many spending cuts , to come , The recession England is facing, will probably , according to the experts, not be over anytime soon. Everyone in the country, rich or poor, young or old, will have to tighten their belts and settle in for the long haul. The era of living on the cheap, with low interest rates and taxes was over. 

Our readings today give us a similar bleak assessment for our world. Not in terms of economic difficulties and austerity measures, but in terms of everyone having to settle in for the long haul. Ahead of us lie “wars and insurrections…famines and plagues…dreadful portents and great signs from heaven” as well as great persecution, even from members of our own families. However, with this message of doom and gloom from our gospel today, comes a glimmer of hope. Jesus assures us who count ourselves among his disciples that “not a hair of your heads will perish” and that “by your endurance you will gain your souls”. Read more...

“Will There be Faith on Earth? – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, October 16, 2022

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  It seems a bit of a strange question for Jesus to ask at the end of today’s gospel. What kind of faith is Jesus talking about? The kind of faith shown by the widow in his parable about the unjust judge, the faith to keep on plugging away, bugging the judge until he gives in and gives her the justice she is seeking? Are we meant to understand from Jesus’ parable  that God is like that unjust judge, and that we have to keep on bugging him before he finally agrees to our prayer requests? .Of course not, however many Catholics do believe that is meant to be the point of the parable. But consider: Jesus says that this judge neither fears God nor respects any human being. If the judge is meant to represent God, then what are we saying – that God does not fear himself? – which is an absurdity. Or that God has nothing but contempt for human beings? – again absurd, since Jesus has spent his three years of public ministry, showing over and over again that God has total love for us, his creation, and wants to spend eternity with us, every one of us.

The point Jesus is making is that if an evil human can eventually be worn down by a widow’s persistent plea for justice, how much more will an all-good God be concerned to answer our prayers for a more just world to be brought about? .So what kind of faith is Jesus asking for when he returns at the end of time ? If we look carefully at the context of Jesus’ words, we find that Jesus is referring to the end times, the end of the world, the return of Jesus in his Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgement, eternal life.… Read more...

“Healing and Saving Faith” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, October 9, 2022

As I said in my introduction, in our readings today, God displays his healing and saving power. He heals the leper, Naaman, in our first reading, and Jesus, following in his footsteps as his divine Son, does the same thing to no less than ten lepers in our gospel.  God is always doing that sort of thing, not only in the Bible, but also throughout human history, reaching up to and including our present day. But why do we not see more of this healing and saving power manifested in our day and age?

There are many theological and practical answers to this question, but I believe that one of the major blocks to God showing his healing and saving power is that he looks to us to show faith, a healing and saving faith in his power to heal.  And he fails to see it so often, and therefore, so often, we fail to see his miraculous power at work in our lives and those around us. As the great English preacher, John Wesley declared: ”God does nothing on earth except in answer to persistent, fervent prayer “. The problem is not on God’s side, as we have seen; the problem is on our side. I have said over and over again from this pulpit that, while we cannot do this sort of healing stuff on our own, God will not do it on His own. He looks for our co-operation, and fails, more often than not, to see it in us. As our first reading from the prophet Habakkuk last week reminded us: “The righteous person lives by their faith”. And so, we are back again to thinking and talking about our faith-response to God’s word, which seems to have been the theme to the last few weeks readings, including today’s.… Read more...

“Fight the Good Fight of the Faith” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, October 2, 2022

A friend of mine some years ago received the diagnosis that she had cancer of the stomach. The doctor was amazed at the calm way she received this scary diagnosis, and asked her the reason. My friend said “I believe that God will see me through this“, to which the doctor said “Well, I guess your God let you down this time, didn’t he?” My friend denied vehemently that this was the case. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when my friend, having survived the cancer surgery very well, returned to meet her doctor!

The last couple of weeks, the readings at Sunday Mass have all reflected on the gift of Faith, faith in a loving Creator God, faith in Jesus, His only-begotten Son, faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, faith in the Holy Spirit , faith in eternal life, in heaven and hell. We have learned that faith, genuine, fervent faith must be received as a gift from God, but has also got to be fought for, to be held onto, to be lived out. Last week, St Paul was urging us in the second reading, to “fight the good fight of the faith”, and to “pursue faith”, and today, he tells us that we must “Hold fast to the standard of sound teaching” about the faith. In our time, just as in Paul’s time, there are currents of teaching, even within the Catholic Church, that are being advanced, even by bishops and priests, that are false teachings, contrary to the orthodox truth of the Church and Scripture. Anyone who has been following the conclusions of the recent German synod will know what I am talking about. Again and again, the true faith of Christ and his Church have to be fought for, held onto fast, maintained and lived out. … Read more...

“The Last Four Things” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, September 25, 2022

About 9 years ago, Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from being pope because he felt he didn’t have the necessary energy or stamina to take on all the crises besieging the Church. I remember a newspaper at the time running a cartoon, in which Queen Elizabeth confronts Benedict and cries out “Wimp!”. It seems a little harsh, but apparently, Her Majesty seems to have had little patience or compassion for her leaders of government who resigned their post due to sickness or frailty. The homily given by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Queen’s funeral this week reminded us how she kept going, performing her duties and role right to the end of her 96 years, 70 of them as Queen, and amply fulfilled her promise, given to the nation when she was 21, that her whole life, long or short, would be dedicated to serving them to the best of her ability. As the Archbishop rightly said:” Rarely has such a promise been so fully carried out.”

The readings we have for our Mass today could be summed up in the one phrase:” O Christian, do not be a spiritual wimp!”. Looking back at the Queen’s reign, we can see that she had to endure many crises, national and personal. The loss of the Suez Canal, the ebbing away of Britain’s empire and influence in world affairs, the decisions of many nations in the Commonwealth to pursue independence from British rule, one financial crisis after another, the Falklands war, race riots on the streets of England. And on the personal level, the loss of her sister, Margaret, her mother, her husband, the marriage breakups of her children, Charles, Anne and Andrew, and, even in the last year, the scandal over her son Andrew’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Just one or two of those would be more than enough for any one person to endure, let alone all of those together.… Read more...