So many memories

Fire in Telegraph Creek newslink

What a shockwave has hit our community! Each one of us has been affected in one way or another. Each one of us experiences loss and grief at some moment in our lives, some more than others, in differing capacities, but who ever thinks they will be the victim of the disaster from a forest fire.

We were informed on Tuesday evening that St.Theresa’s Catholic Church and rectory(the house we were living in) were both taken by the Alkali Lake fire, along with many other structures/homes in the village.

BC Catholic news article

Fortunately for us we had left town last Thursday morning to head south for the birth of our newest baby, bringing with us our hard drive with our family photos. We left, not realizing it would be our last view of the place. We have been dealing with grief and a sense of loss of all the special keepsakes that are irreplaceable but most of all the loss of the Church and our home that was filled with so many faith filled memories for so many of the faithful over the years. Our hearts also hurt out of love for all of the others in our community who have lost so much, these people that we have come to know and love and have become such a special part of our lives. Although we have also felt a bit distant to this tragedy(as we were not around during evacuation) we are also aware of the blessing of our children not having to face the intense emotions of being forced out of our home. In that regard though it has also felt very surreal to all of us and I think finally getting to go back at some point will create some closure for us.

We feel that God will use this for good. Even just two days after we heard the news we were already feeling so blessed with the love and support of family, friends, and even people we have never met. This situation has really helped us to put life, its meaning and purpose, into perspective. Thinking back to all of the jobs and tasks we were trying to get complete before we left, it is not that we got them done but how we did them that really mattered. Were we doing them with great love? Were we lifting up our brothers and sisters in need of prayer as we worked? The truth is, not always. We have felt, in our hearts and soul a call to go deeper through this; God calling us to surrender everything, to ‘sell’ all we possess and be little, simple, poor, childlike(as we pray as a couple most mornings, from Catherine Doherty’s Little Mandate). We feel blessed, yet perplexed, to part of the great mystery of encountering Gods will and His love through all of this.

Although Telegraph Creek may never be the same as it was, we take comfort and joy from the memories we have had there thus far.

In the words of a good friend of ours, we pray that “from the ashes will rise beauty”; a more beautiful community, a more unified community!

And so we would like to share with you our last few memories of what life in Telegraph Creek was for us before it was, and we were, changed forever!

Because of the hot weather during the last couple months of July we spent many afternoons/evenings swimming in Sawmill Lake and cooking supper over the campfire.

Fr.Leo, from Toronto, came for a visit to celebrate Mass and prepare three of the youth for their First Communion by celebrating their First Reconciliation. We had a potluck supper afterwards in the back yard.

Josh putting a new roof on the shed, and the kids using some of the leftover vinyl for a slip-and-slide.

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A visit from our good friends, the Bruneaus(also a part of the Holy Family Apostolate) who came up for 4 days. It is always such a blessing for us to share a bit of our life with friends. And always such a comfort and joy to have visitors!

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An afternoon down at the beach, on the river, with one of the nurses. Fishing, digging in the sand, rock collecting, and watching a wedding party (in suits and dresses) boarding jet boats for a the ceremony down the river.

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Tobias’ apparent love of water. And another visit from some good friends(from Whitehorse); what a blessed July!

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Bishop Hector joining our family picnic.

Bishop Hector came to Telegraph Creek on the second last Sunday of July to celebrate three First Communions and two Baptisms. He was also able to go down to the fish camps to visit with the people there.

We had also been blessed by the presence of Kristina(pictured sitting at the picnic table with the kids), a young woman from Vancouver who came up for six weeks this summer to help out in our Mission churches. She stayed at St.Mary Magdalene Mission in Dease Lake and was a huge help with sacramental prep, also travelling to Iskut and Good Hope Lake for this purpose and making a connection with the people with her joyful and loving personality. In this short time she became a special part of our family life and we feel so strongly that God placed her in Dease Lake at just the right time to bring the support and the light of Christ that was needed.

So, so many good memories, and perhaps it’s only the beginning.

Many people have been asking how they can support or help us. Your prayers for the community, for hope, strength, and courage, as we prepare to rebuild are such a blessing and so greatly appreciated.

On the other side of things, if you would like to make an online donation towards a Relief Fund for the Telegraph Creek Community, or for the Rebuilding of St. Theresa’s Mission, you can go to the Diocese’s website here, and click on ‘Donate Now’. Don’t forget to select which fund you would like to donate to from the drop down tab.

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A ‘little’ Disposition

Reflecting on the Mass readings from yesterday and also celebrating the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel today we wanted to share a short reflection with you!

St.Paul reminds us(Ephesians 1.3-14) that God has called us, to be holy, and blessed us with his graces to ‘live for the praise of his glory’, encapsulating what it means to be Christian!

“God the Father has blessed us… with every spiritual blessing… He chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy… [He has lavished on us the riches of his graces]… that we might live for the praise of his glory…”

How are we responding to this in our own lives, in our every moment of every day, as we receive his graces in suffering, as we receive blessings or inner promptings, in moments of consolation or desolation?

We have the example of Amos(Amos 7.12-15), who was called to speak to God’s people at a time when they had become very big-headed, very rich, and very influential. He was a sheepherder, a nobody, called by God to bring his Word to a great(in a worldly sense) nation.

When we don’t get in the way with our ego, big-headedness, and pride, God can do the greatest work in us and through us! He can use us in our littleness to show His greatness!

This is of course why we are reminded in the Gospel(Mark 6.7-13) by Jesus to have total dependance on God and His providence, taking nothing extra for the journey.

How can we allow God to work through us this week? How can we turn our inner attitudes, our dispositions, towards full and complete trust without letting ourselves get in the way?

Let us look to our heavenly mother, Mary, especially as we celebrate her feast day today, and seek to model her response to God; her meek and humble heart;

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. For He has looked with favour on his lowly servant.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel       R./ Pray for us!

 

 

Family Camp & Fish Camp

At the beginning of June we had the opportunity to attend a Catholic Family Camp at Braeburn Lake, about a 1 hour drive north of Whitehorse. It was such a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some re-creation time for all of us, for the kids to be able to just run around and have fun with a lot of their friends,  and to connect with other families, all of whom we knew previously. We also got to celebrate Mass outdoors! This was the first family camp for Whitehorse and there were 7 other families present. Here are some highlights:

Camping in a cabin, that’s the way to do it with 5 kids!
The Bible scavenger hunt was a hit!
Some canoed, while others got to ride in the zodiac!
Making crafts on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Celebrating Mass!

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Tobias’ favourite spot was the wood pile(and it looks like he was joined by other culprits also, including his older brother) and pushing the small wheelbarrow. There were lots of wood scraps and construction things to play with as a couple of new cabins were being built.

Josh was out in Dease Lake last week preparing the site for the new church building. It was great to have the help of some other Catholic men! Next week will be the final site prep with removal of a few more trees on the front edge of the property and the rest of the stumps. And then we will also be putting in the foundation posts.

And  then we were all in Dease Lake the following day, taking the school bus out, to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. It started with a walk from the school up to the Community Centre. There was traditional drumming to open the event as well as a clan designation ceremony(for all those who were not Tahltan). Denise and the kids became honourary Wolves (Ch’ioyone)  and therefore Josh was an honorary Crow(Tsesk’iya). There were also lots of activities including a  bouncy house, t-shirt making, face painting, language games, and stick gambling.

We had a field trip this week down at the 6 mile fish camps where the school kids got to release the salmon that they had raised in a fish tank at their school.

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A little bit of fishing, the ol’ fashioned way, to wind down the day.

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Becoming … a polished arrow!

Happy Birthday St.John the Baptist!

His is the only other birthday that we celebrate in the Liturgy of the Church, aside from Mary’s and Jesus’. We celebrate it just after the summer solstice, after which the days begin to get shorter. It fits with the celebration of Jesus’ birthday, 6 months later, that takes place just after the winter solstice as the days begin to get longer. With this in mind we are reminded of John the Baptist’s saying in scripture “He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30). We could truly grow when we begin to model our lives after him, ‘God must become greater, I must become less.’

Here are some further thoughts from the scripture readings today, spoken so well by Jeff Cavins:

10 Years & Fun

There has been a lot going on lately, and with the weather being quite nice here there seems to be so much needing to be done. There were many more, than usual, community and school events this last month, from a Mother’s Day tea at the school to community clean-up, a healing walk through the community, a 10 km walk down to 6 mile for a bbq, the kids from the school transplanting their classroom started veggies into the community garden, and a baby welcoming ceremony. We also had a farewell potluck and celebration for one of the RCMP families who are moving down to Smithers. Their post here had already been extended an extra year (3 years total) and so they had to go.

Josh has taken up an on-call position for driving the school bus, which has actually turned in to more of a full-time position as of late. As full time as it is, it is only 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon so it works out well. And it seems our children enjoy him driving the bus also.

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We are blessed to be celebrating 10 years of marriage this year and so it was wonderful to be able to celebrate our once-a-month Mass close to our anniversary date, and on the feast of Pentecost. We were able to renew our vows and receive a blessing from Fr.Suresh. It was so wonderful to see the joy on the faces of the members of our church community!

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We got to spend the next afternoon, Victoria Day, down at the river with our friends and despite it drizzling a wee bit, and being a tad windy we all had a blast!

 

With the snow finally gone there is always the pressure, and excitement, to get projects around the property completed. And with the help of some of the community it always makes the job a lot easier AND a lot more enjoyable:)

 

Our new wrap-around driveway was completed last June and so now it was time to run the fence down the property line next to the new driveway.

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Summer Lovin’

What a beautiful day it was on Sunday! Feels like summer is here with 25 degree celsius weather during the day and the warm breeze. Being a Sunday we of course gathered in worship as a Church community(which I will share a little bit more on further down) and once all of the visiting was done decided to head down to the beach, at old town, for some quality family time.

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Playing Mancala with stones we found at the beach!

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On the church side of things, it is always wonderful celebrating the Easter season. And on top of that we celebrate May as the month of Mary. So we had a ceremony for the crowning of Mary and we’re so sad we forgot to take pictures. But it involved the children processing with flowers up to the sanctuary, to the singing of Immaculate Mary, and placing their flowers at the feet of Our Lady. And then the rest of the congregation was able to come forward and do the same. We also placed a wreath of flowers on Mary’s head.

 

The Scripture readings from Sunday centred on the Golden rule: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15.12) A fairly repeated verse and one that we should all strive towards, but what does it really mean?!

For one, it means opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit. The 1st reading(Acts 10.25-48 and a little bit before to get the full context) really opens our eyes to this as we see Peter being led by the Spirit to a new way of thinking; really to see as God sees AND living from that. This isn’t always easy as we as usually tend to stay away from change! But it is from this that the early Church extends the scope of it’s mission from just the Jews to non-circumcised believers, in Peter’s words from a reformed view, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10.34-35)

Secondly, it means we have to abide in His love(John 15.9). There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love and He loves us all perfectly and equally. I think the key here is, also from this Gospel passage; “You did not choose me but I chose you.” (John 15.16a) It involves us giving up our control over our little story and surrendering to Gods’s love so as to be caught up in His great story.

Thirdly, and lastly, is the measure we are asked to give. In our society the word ‘love’ is used pretty loosely and lightly, but if we continue to look at this last weekend’s scripture passages we see it painted very clearly; “ 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.” (1 John 4.10) And so the cross is what we measure our love against and by. We can say words, but they have no meaning until we put them into action; “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15.13) This is the measure to which we must love, laying down our lives, in other words sacrificing, for one another as Christ did for us!

SO, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15.12)

And in the closing lines of the Gospel passage we hear: “… I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15.16b)

Our very mission is TO love! And our individual mission which God has called us to, always takes the form of love, no matter what it is; it always takes the form of Him who first loved us.  WE are chosen BY love, to BEAR love!

We encourage you today to abide in God’s love for you and to ponder your mission, to love, by asking yourself:

How am I to lay down my life for others?

How am I to make of my life a gift?

God is speaking to YOU, “I have chosen you to be a bearer of my love to the world!”

May the last two weeks of the Easter season be blessed for you 🙂

 

6th Sunday of Easter

Acts of the Apostles  10.25-26, 34-35, 44-48

Psalm 98

1 John 4.7-10

John 15.9-17

 

*** Some themes and ideas paraphrased from Mark Hart (The Bible Geek) @ “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday Podcast” and from Bishop Robert Barron’s Sermons Podcast.

 

A long awaited update

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Looking back it has already been close to 1 year since we last sent out an update. It has been a full year and one with a lot of adjustments, challenges and changes. This year, up to this point in our family life, has been one of the greatest struggle and growth, but also great blessing.

As always, we have enjoyed so much the time that we have had to spend with family and friends in the south. It has become so precious to us, as the distance makes our hearts long for the physical presence of our loved ones, which we have grown to cherish much more deeply than we ever have.

There has been a lot happening in the community this year. Joshua celebrated his third funeral service within a month and a half of each other, just last month, which is always a very moving opportunity and one he feels so honoured to be asked to celebrate. We believe that it is truly a comfort for the people here to have a presence at the church. It was reassuring, just recently when Joshua was asked to lead a funeral service they said, “We are thankful to have you here to do this for us.” We also finished up sacramental prep with the celebration of the Sacrament of First Holy Communion, back in May, a total of 8 children and their families attending. It has been an ongoing journey here in the ministry of presence, the more we are truly present the more we feel welcomed in; a school, where we are equals walking side by side and discovering what we can bring forth from eachother. A wonderful mystery! As we get to know people more there is a certain longing we have to go deeper and to encourage others to go deeper as well, in their faith, and so there has been some challenging pastoral moments.

We continue to host a family games nite every Friday night during the winter months, which is a highlight especially for the children. We had the help of some of the community members, and one of the other pastoral administrators, in relocating our shed from the front yard to the back and now have a lovely pull through driveway and extra parking; a huge transformation, and now the church is visible from the main road!!

At the kids’ Spring Break we were able to join both sides of our family, and were blessed with a prolonged visit(with Joshua’s side), albeit not under the most preferable of circumstances with Joshua being diagnosed with MS and facing a lot of uncertainty. Although at times we felt lost, and didn’t know what to do, we also felt so blessed and provided for and were showered with so many prayers and so much support. It was a big adjustment of our lifestyle, especially at first, but feel now that we have somewhat settled into this new reality.

In previous years Joshua has been a one-man show with getting our winter’s firewood; cutting the wood, hauling the wood, and splitting and stacking the wood. But this year from start to finish it was a team effort! Volunteers from the community, family, priests, seminarians, and even the Bishop lent us a huge helping hand! We were blessed to have 2 new priests arrive in the diocese, serving northern BC and the Yukon. So we were able to start having them come down to celebrate Mass twice a month, instead of the usual once a month, which it had been for the last 2.5 years.

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One of the biggest highlights of the year was our time with family over the summer; celebrating both of our parents’ anniversaries (35th & 40th) as well as Joshua’s brother’s wedding. Our summer vacation finished up with our speaking(as the key-note speakers) at the Catholic Family Conference on Vancouver Island; a whole new experience for us. We were very humbled to see God work through us and touch the lives of those who attended. Joshua’s favorite moments were being able to talk to the men, sharing his story with them and encouraging them in their walks and also being surrounded by the support of our family while doing so. Denise’s favorite moment was being able to journey with a loved one back to the Catholic faith! At the beginning of the conference we had all our kids up there with us and did a short rap grace and introduction, which ended up being a great hit both with the kids and the crowd. It was great being able to incorporate our whole family into our sharing! It was very uplifting to be surrounded by so many other Catholic families, and also to have some of our extended family with us; Denise’s mom, brother, and sister-in-law, and Joshua’s parents, 3 siblings, and 3 cousins.

The kids had a good start to the school year, still enjoying the fact that there is an actual school bus that drives them to and from school. Kateri has moved in to the older grade, the Grade 3 – 5 class. Her favourite part of school is her Tahltan language class that she has every day. Isaiah started Kindergarten, joining his big sister Gianna in the K – 2 class. Isaiah is very quiet in class but loves recess and a program they do, called “Go-Noodle”! Gianna loves math and reading and enjoys helping Isaiah with these skills too! Aliz has been enjoying Headstart(preschool) but hasn’t had too many classmates. Being a social butterfly this has been difficult for her, so has been intermittent with her excitement in attending. Tobias has been into everything, whatever he can reach or get a chair to reach, and has been starting to say a few more words.

We wound down the fiscal year here with a trip to Whitehorse, for our Pastoral Advent Retreat on Church law, mainly highlighting the Sacraments with emphasis being on ways and ideas for being more pastorally present in our communities. As always it was good to be together with our northern family; the priests, other pastoral staff, the Maryhouse ladies, and our other friends.   We always leave to come back home feeling so spiritually nourished, We also had our fill of fun, staying at our friends’ place and with their 6 kids, all around the same age as ours. Our God-son’s family with five kids live next door too, so it is always a party! This time around we were able to go to the pool, to the sledding hill for a pizza and hot chocolate party, and the Santa Claus parade and live Christmas tree light-up!

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Above Teslin

Our new year started out with a surprise bon fire in our back yard, which we found out about when we got a knock on the door at around 11pm, and were greeted by a caravan of vehicles in our driveway. It was SAFE! It was the brush pile that we had built back in the summer when we were clearing the front yard to move the shed and build the new driveway. That morning Joshua had taken some hot ash from the fireplace and emptied it on the pile, as he always does, and with there being a foot and a half of snow over the pile who thought it would flare up. Some 8 hours later it indeed did. So it worked out well with the very cold weather and added some excitement to everyone’s new year’s eve. A day later we were joined by our friends from Fraser Lake, a family with 6 kids, for a few days. It was so wonderful to have close friends with us to spend some of the holidays doing fun things together.

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We recently had two seminarians, studying for the Diocese of Grouard- McLennan(Northern Alberta), from St.Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton stay with us. They were here for around 3 weeks for their pastoral experience. It was a truly blessed time as they fit seamlessly into our family and community life. It was special for the community to see these young men who are studying to be priests and they even got a comment, “People still do that?” But they were received so openly be all in the community. It was wonderful having their hand for catechism classes and they were even each able to share a reflection at our Sunday Communion Service. Really, for us, it was like having family staying with us with the gracious amount of support they brought. The Lord continues to bless us with unique opportunities, like this, that give us a greater love for our universal Church and a greater appreciation for how He continues to work in and through our lives and the lives of those around us.

 

We wrapped up this last weekend with the Winter Carnival here in town, bookended with Gianna’s birthday(on Friday) and her party(on Monday). Although it was a lot of fun it definitely left us fairly exhausted. Life here in a small town usually doesn’t have this much going on at once 🙂

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Winter Carnival sledding

Well, we feel that there is so much more we could say and share however out of the hope of actually getting out this update to all of you we will have to leave it at that. And hopefully we will have time to write some more soon!

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“Hot chocolate anybody?”

PS – Would not want to forget our most exciting news…

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The Good Shepherd

We hear this beautiful Psalm today (Psalm 23). It’s one I am sure many, if not all of you, are familiar with. It depicts our Lord and God as our Good Shepherd; one who provides for our needs so that “[we] shall not want” for anything. He is one who “comforts [us]” and “leads [us] in right paths.”

I find it interesting that, in the Gospel today, we are compared with sheep! I have heard that they are not very smart, hence why they need a shepherd. Truth be told (and I speak firstly of myself) we are not the brightest when it comes especially to spiritual matters. We continually go back to our same habits of sin as much as we try to turn from them, we get distracted by worries, and we stray awful close to cliffs of self-sufficiency and doubt among many other things. We are in need of being led by a shepherd who can bring us comfort and security, who knows our weaknesses and can lead us to green pastures and beside still waters.

Two lines in our Gospel today really spoke to me:

  • “He calls his sheep by name… He goes ahead of them and the sheep follow because they know his voice…”  John 10:4-5
  • “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  John 10:10

The first, “He calls his sheep by name… He goes ahead of them and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but run from him because they don’t know the voice of strangers.”

It is important then for us to be able to hear the voice of the shepherd so that we can follow it, otherwise it will be the voice of the stranger that will entice us in. In today’s world however there is so much noise. The biggest one I can think of is our televisions, but we also have our iPads, Tablets, iPods, telephones, e-mail, the news, the media; all these things that fill our heads with noise. How are we to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd? In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: “We are no longer able to hear God; there are to many frequencies filling our ears.” Now I am not saying to get rid of these things, although that would certainly make it a lot easier for us to hear God’s voice, but I know for myself this noise distracts and pulls our minds and hearts away from silence. As a family, we challenge ourselves on Sunday to pull away from the screens and the noise, to be in the silence of eachothers, and God’s, presence because this is where His voice is. So my challenge for you is this; think about the nose in your life, from the time you get up in the morning. This week(maybe even today) be conscious of even just one thing that creates noise in your life and take it out for a day. Spend that time in silence and allow the Shepherd to speak to you.

This leads us to the closing line of the Gospel, Jesus’ life’s vocation: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

“Sometimes in the media world we live in, I would say a post-Christian and anti-Catholic world for the most part, we get this message that the Church is oppressive, that God is a mean ogre in the sky who wants to squash our fun. Nothing could be further from the truth. What God gives us is this incredible plan of his that is all about helping us live the abundant life.” -Teresa Tomeo  (from Opening the Word on FORMED.com).

Yes, these green pastures and still waters can be likened to heavenly paradise into which we can enter by Jesus, “the gate;” the way in. However Jesus not only leads us to life in heaven, but ‘abundant life’ here on earth if we follow in the paths he has made for us. Let’s go back to the words of St.Peter in the 2nd reading(1 Peter 2:21,23) for a moment: “Christ also suffered for you leaving an example, so that you should follow in his steps… When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.” So we have this Good Shepherd who leads us, by first walking the path that we too must walk, in order to have HIS abundant life in us.

I want to share a little story with you to go back to the behaviour of sheep. I have heard it said: “That when a lamb is particularly rambunctious or adventurous, repeatedly putting itself in danger, a shepherd will sometimes purposely break one of it’s legs. He then puts the lamb around his neck until it’s leg is healed. By that time, the little lamb has become attached to the shepherd, and it never again strays far from it’s masters protection and guidance.” Fr.John Bartunek (The Better Part, pg 895)

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In my own life I can really relate to this lamb. I didn’t realize how self-sufficient I had become. Yes, I said I needed God but I feel that there wasn’t a deep realization of that need. So when I was hit with what started as a common cold and ended with me losing much of my balance and proper leg function I was for the first time in my life actually, physically in need of others to help me. I couldn’t do everything any more. Before all this had happened I had booked myself for a 2-day silent retreat. God had placed the need for this on my heart, even having to sacrifice time with my family who we were down to visit with. At the beginning of the retreat I remember the priest explaining the purpose of the silence, ”To create a space to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to us.” It hit me, and made so much sense. And it was such a time of grace for me. I realized, in my physical weakness how weak I was spiritually and how much I needed God. This time of intimacy in the silence gave me a new perspective and a new angle from which to see life. But I first needed to have my ‘leg broken’, so to speak, so that I could learn to remain close to Him, to rely on Him for my every need.

In closing, the Lord guides us, as a shepherd guides his sheep, if we are open and disposed to hearing his voice in the silence. He has an incredible plan for each one of us, to help us live the abundant life here and now and (God willing) eternal life with him in heaven. So let us not be timid or fearful but live whatever presents itself to us, because everything is a gift from our Good Shepherd for our own good and for our abundance!

Be Perfect…

With the closing line in today’s Gospel(Matt. 5:48)  Jesus gives a challenge that carries a lot of weight, but offers us a way to true happiness, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” There is a lot packed in to this one line; “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Can we really be perfect? Yes, and according to Christ it is by love; “Love your enemies and pay for those who persecute you.” Our usual strategy might be to avoid our enemies, or to simply put up with them, but to actually love them?

What Jesus is trying to show us here is that love is not about feelings, or about loving those who love us, but rather desiring good for the other. To give an example, [to love a friend we could just do so because we know that we will receive something good in return, but when you love an enemy, who will not return in kind, you truly know that you are loving].

If you notice in the first reading(from the old law) we are told “love your neighbor as yourself,” but Jesus, in his ‘new commandment’(in fulfilling the old law by making himself its centre) tells us to love our neighbor as he loves us. This is really where the revolution of the heart is, because anyone can love those who love them, as even those who do not believe in Christ do, but we must “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us].” Can you imagine getting to heaven and the first person you meet is the one you liked the least on earth? It’s possible, after all, “[God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends his rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God desires the good of all, and his love extends to all the same, saints and sinners alike, even to those with the worst intentions. For God IS love. And Jesus asks us to love as he loves us? But how can we possibly love like this? The truth is that we can’t love as we ought to on our own, but we can with Him and through Him.

By Christ’s death on the cross he took the Church(which is all of us) as his spouse(laying down his life for his bride) and gifted to her the Holy Spirit making us, each one of us, in a very personal way members of his body. As St.Paul says, the two became one flesh. In a tangible way this is the gift of the Eucharist to us, supernatural food for our Christian souls to supplement our weak efforts and keep us strong, united with Him, as we follow this difficult path. So we now share perfectly with Christ in his atonement(reparation for our sins), in his supernatural life(received through the sacraments), and in his triumph(through the resurrection-eternal life).We have the power, in and with Christ and the Holy Spirit, to overcome the world and the devil. We are promised perfection in him, provided we desire, cooperate, and ask for it!

We have this ideal, to “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” and we also have Jesus Christ, his Son, who shows us by his example this path that we must take, walking it ahead of us and beside us. He was betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends, tortured, humiliated, unjustly condemned, and put to death. He loves us as we are, that even while with our sins we keep acting as his enemies today. To see with the eyes of Christ on the cross; these are the eyes with which we need to gaze upon our enemies; If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also, if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well, if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them a second mile!

If you want to be perfect begin by loving your enemies! They will be your aid in reaching perfection. Today, think of one person you have a hard time getting along with, or someone whom you do not like being around. Start with saying a prayer for them and for the opportunity to see them with the eyes of Christ. Are you holding a grudge with anyone, or seeking vengeance, or not speaking with someone because of differences. Pray for Jesus to show you a way to love. Pay attention to the thoughts that cross your mind about others this week, and take those moments to offer a prayer. Instead of calculating your love (ie. I won’t do this for that person they did this to me; I won’t speak to them because they did or didn’t do this to/for me) open yourself to God’s love for you and look for opportunities and invitations to love those that are most difficult for you to love; start in little ways.

It is by our love that we are set apart from the world, and it is in our love that we have the opportunity to be like our God, to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

 

 

Further Reading:

Reading 1 – Leviticus 19:1-18
Psalm – Psalm 103:1-13
Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Gospel – Matthew 5:38-48

As Lent draws near…

Just stumbled upon a great idea today as we received an e-mail from HolyHeroes.com: to pray a novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Lent!

“We want to prepare our Lent in imitation of Jesus, who was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert of His Lent.

This Lent, rather than trying to change ourselves by penances and sacrifices of our choosing, we want to be led by the Spirit so that He can guide us in the ways He would like to transform us.”

You can find the article here.

Blessings!