Father’s Weekly Message

Fr Bob Writes – October 28, 2018

“They go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing

They come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves” (Psalm 126)

These lines from our responsorial psalm this Sunday speak about the fruitfulness of suffering properly embraced. Joy and suffering are often linked in the New Testament. Fr Jeffrey Kirby, STD explains the spiritual logic behind this seeming paradox:

“In choosing to be happy, we must accept suffering. Some believe that suffering destroys our chance of happiness, but when it’s accepted in the right spirit, suffering purifies and intensifies happiness. We’re all willing to suffer for what we love; a priest is willing to accept hardship for his parish, spouses for one another, parents for their children, leaders for those in their charge, and good citizens for the causes of justice and peace.

It may be difficult to hear, but suffering is a prerequisite to happiness in a fallen world. We must be willing to suffer, to truly die to ourselves, our passions, our self-centredness, our sense of justice, our desire for comfort and ease, and our perception of what the world should be in order to truly find and live in the kingdom of happiness. Properly understood, suffering can be an enduring teacher, a tempered comforter, and a source of perseverance along the way to happiness.

Our human experience provides us with a full panorama of examples that convey this truth. Think about:

 * The husband and father who is terminally ill, suffering from his medical treatments and knowing that he will leave his family soon, and yet is joyful because he knows that he has today with his family, that heaven is real, and that he has the opportunity to show his children how to live and die with grace.

 * The single mother who works two jobs, suffers from standing on her feet throughout the day, barely makes ends meet, has no support, and yet is joyful because she’s doing it all for her kids.

 * The husband  who has to work each night to support his family but prays hard for the energy and will he needs to not only provide for his family but be there for them as well, and finds happiness knowing his labours are a necessary part of life but don’t have to rob him of family joys

 * The young adult who loses friends and becomes an outcast because he chooses not to partake in certain thrills and frivolities, and yet is happy; because of the knowledge that his good choices will bring about true friends in the future.

 * And you …what is your experience? What has overtaken your soul and robbed you of your happiness?

 (Kingdom of Happiness, pp.xxi- xxii)

Fr. Bob Writes – October 18, 2018

I have always believed that we Catholics should keep the image of Christ crucified on our crucifixes in our churches.  Our Protestant brethren prefer that our crosses remain empty of such a corpus, or that the image on the cross should be of Christ risen and triumphant in glowing robes.

We need to remember that the cross of Christ transcends all time and place, that it is through the suffering and death of Jesus that we are saved, justified and reconciled with God.  To move too quickly from the image of a bloody, broken image of Christ on the cross to an image of him in glory, is to run the danger of minimalizing his suffering, and thereby of minimalizing the consequences of sin and the incredible depth of love shown by Christ in submitting to being “crushed with pain.”

Our first reading this Sunday takes us to the harrowing description of the “Suffering Servant” who willingly offers himself on our behalf as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, while allowing that, through his suffering, he will see glory and resurrection and exaltation.  We want to run to the picture of glory and triumph, while bypassing the picture of suffering.  It cannot be done.  It was not so for Jesus, nor will it be necessarily for us.  We want to sit on the right hand of Jesus in glory, like James and John request in our gospel today.  However, this requires us first to “drink the cup” and be “baptized with the baptism” of suffering of Jesus.  As St Thomas of Aquinas reminds us, many people want to sit at table with Christ at the banquet, but not many want to stand with him at the cross.  Do we want a nice, comfortable life above all, or are we ready to follow the naked, poor Christ to the cross?

Fr Bob Writes – October 14, 2018

“I prayed and understanding was given me; I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me”

These words from the opening lines of our first reading this weekend contrasts God’s wisdom with the wisdom of the world.  In fact, the so-called “wisdom” of the world is foolishness, and this becomes more and more obvious with each passing day as laws and policies are adopted by our various levels of government which are at complete odds with divine wisdom. In my homily last weekend, I spoke about the attempts of the Alberta government to impose laws on Christian schools which amount to a complete denial of their fundamental beliefs as Christians.  Schools henceforth will not be allowed to say that God is the source of wisdom, that God made humankind male and female, that the Bible is an infallible guide to how we should live our lives.  To hold such “liberal” principles is one thing; to force others to go against their fundamental beliefs completely contradicts the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which, apparently, applies to everyone in Canada apart from Christians.

That is why the Alpha program (and the Youth Alpha Program) which starts this weekend is a crucial resource for us as Christians to remind ourselves and to grasp hold of what is true wisdom, what the word of God really says, and what our faith in Christ really embraces. It will enable us to hold our own against the distortion and outright lies being proclaimed all across social media, lies such as Christians hate science and reason because their beliefs are all based on legend and superstition, bringing up your children as Christians is another form of “child abuse,” to believe in God is to deny true freedom to the human being, Jesus Christ never existed, or, if he did, he certainly never rose from the dead, and so on and on and on.

In the Alpha course, you will find great, sound teaching on such topics as :”Who is Jesus,” “Why did Jesus Die,” “Why and how should I pray and read the Bible,”  “Who is the Holy Spirit,” and “What about the Church,”  and much more. The course runs until December 9th, from 5pm – 7pm, beginning at 5pm with a light meal, followed by DVD teaching and group discussion.

Do you want to know the wisdom of God, and see how different it is from the wisdom of the world?  Then come along at least to the first teaching of the Alpha series, entitled “Is there more to life than this?”  starting this Sunday, October 14th, in St Philips parish hall at 5pm.  It will change the way you think and feel about your life!

Fr Bob Writes – Thanksgiving – Oct 7, 2018

Fr Bob writes: In our first reading this weekend, from the book of Genesis, we learn some profound truths about God’s tireless care for us and desire to provide what brings us true fulfillment.  Man is honored to name the animals as God forms them and brings them to him, an indication of his role in managing God’s creation.  To name something or someone was an indication of authority and dominion over what was named … the reason, by the way, Jewish people were never permitted to speak God’s name.

Yet, man still lacks his perfect “mate.”  None in the animal kingdom is worthy of him.  Woman becomes the perfect partner “at last.”  While some women today may believe that their outdoors=oriented husbands’ best friends are hunting dogs, this man, Adam, passed by dogs, horses, and all other animals, not finding any of them to be his suitable partner.  So, God performs the first major surgery, putting the man under a general anesthetic while removing one of his ribs.  Opium poppies have been farmed in the area of Sumeria along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers since around 4200 B.C., and evidence of its use as an anesthetic for a person to lose consciousness during a medical procedure is recorded in a papyrus dating from 1500 B.C.  When the man recovered in post-op, he immediately applauded God for finally creating the perfect partner for him.  The oneness indicated is more than biology for reproduction but rather a wholeness and complement of persons in marriage.  “This one shall be called “woman,”  for out of “her man” this one has been taken.”

Fr Bob Writes – September 30, 2018

“Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries…You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure.  The wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts…”

It is a sobering thought to think that this extract from the letter of James, as with others in the New Testament, which excoriate the ungodly practices of their audiences, was written to communities of Christians, So we get a picture of some of the problems existent in those early communities. It is tempting to fantasize about these early communities as having it all together, being ideal communities of fresh Christians with people who had actually seen Jesus and the apostles…not like Christians of our day and age.

But what we see in reality is the consistency of human nature down through the centuries with the lure of putting more faith in things of this world than in God, the divisive tendency to assert self-importance or that of one’s group over another, and the dozens of other human impulses which make our following of Christ less than perfect.  For that very reason, the words of scripture have as much life for us today as they did back when they were written centuries ago.



Fr Bob Writes – September 23, 2018

When it comes to leadership, there should be a marked difference between the Christian community and secular governments and organizations. Ambition often leads people to take exceptional, even unethical steps to get ahead. It often leads to position which is undergirded by power. Worldly power is one of the most dangerous and potentially lethal forces in life. As Lord Acton said it tends to corrupt, and when it is absolute, it corrupts absolutely. Human experience shows clearly the evils brought to humanity by people who craved power, even to the point of their own downfall.

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”   With these words in our gospel this weekend, Jesus speaks with incredible insight. Status was to have no place in the reign of God; it was to be absent from the church. Those who exercise authority in the community are not to resemble the “rulers of this world, who lord it over them.”  It is sad to note that in the history of Christianity this clear teaching of Jesus was frequently neglected. While it is true that many Christians who grasped the authentic spirit have left an inspiring legacy of service, it is also true that others have used the church to further their own personal aims. They have sought to be served rather than to serve. It is surely very likely that many of those responsible for outrageous acts of abuse in the Church, did so because they felt immune in their positions of power, knowing they would never be challenged.

As Jesus makes clear to his followers in today’s gospel, disciples are called to serve, even to death if necessary, and the service they render will bring with it no human acclaim or compensation= the Christian paradox ! We have yet to grasp how different we are called to be . It is when we serve the neediest, the beloved of God, that we come closest to what Christian leadership means. “The Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mark 10:45)

Fr Bob Writes – September 16, 2018

This Sunday, we read of Jesus bringing his disciples to Caesarea Philippi, to ask him the single most important question in Christianity: “Who do you say I am?”  It is crucial, because it invites a personal commitment to Jesus, not just what others have told me but what I truly believe in my mind and heart.  How would you answer?

Peter answers correctly :”You are the Messiah (or Christ),” in other words, the anointed one of God, sent by God into the world to carry out his purposes to bring in the kingdom of God and to save his people from evil.  Although Peter answered correctly, his concept of Messiah we formed by popular conceptions of a worldly leader who would bring about a new age of prominence and prosperity to the nation of Israel.  Jesus’ response to Peter, detailing the path of suffering, death and resurrection that lay before him, did not match with what Peter had been taught.  Perhaps overconfident in having identified Jesus as the Christ, Peter decides to correct Jesus’ “faulty” understanding of Messiah.  How shocking it must have been, then, for Peter, and for the other disciples, to have Jesus call him a “Satan”(literally, an “adversary”)!

The force of Jesus’ comment indicates that it must truly have been a temptation with which he contended to avoid the suffering and follow a different path more in keeping with the one Peter proposed.  This is akin to the third temptation in the desert in which Satan offered Jesus all the nations of the world for merely bowing down and worshipping him for a moment (Matthew 4:8-10).  How often do we, like Peter, evaluate situations by human or worldly standards rather than by those of God?

As we enter into our 200th anniversary year at St Philip’s, let us not be lost in all the wonderful activities planned for the time ahead, that we forget to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and continue to acknowledge him before others as the “anointed one of God, who came to save us from our sins.”