A day, or a week, in the life ….

Recently a friend asked us, “So, what does a typical day look like for you?” And so we figured it would be a good opportunity to share that thought with all of you also, as you may be wondering the same thing.

Really, we are simply living our family life, with a ‘regular’ family schedule. Gianna and Kateri attend the Tahltan school, and are provided lunch and healthy snacks every day, while Isaiah and Aliz usually attend Headstart 4 mornings a week.

Tuesday evenings, except for in the summer months, we host a Rosary and Adoration night at the church at 8 pm, so usually one of us will lead that and get some nice prayer time in while the other will finish getting the kids to bed and finish washing the dinner dishes:)

During the school year we have Catechism classes after school on 2 days of the week, from 3-4:30.

There is always the regular things to do around the house for maintenance. The summer months usually see us doing bigger projects like roofing, building new stairs to the church, painting, or other such time-involved tasks and repairs. Joshua also has to cut our wood for the winter, about 4-5 cords, and we usually try to stay a year ahead so that it has time to dry out before using it the following year. The house and the church both use wood for heating.

On one day maybe someone would stop in for a chat and you put on tea or coffee and make some time to visit, or another person may need help writing e-mails(as a regular does who doesn’t know how to read or write). It really is a ministry of being available.

It is also a ministry of presence. We try to attend whatever events are happening.

In this day and age it’s not too common that you get the opportunity for both parents to be at home raising your children. This, we feel, is one of our biggest blessings. And so we attend everything in the community as a family.

But really, a regular day is nothing fancy simply being present,to our kids and anyone else who wants a few moments to chat. It is really a breath of fresh air to what seems the alternative of the rush and busyness of city life. You would regularly just fill your day with more things because you can, while we feel that we don’t have the same pressure to do so up here. And simply the normal routine of dishes (no dishwasher!), meal preparation, laundry and cleaning fill up the day on their own!

I guess we could give you a snapshot of what last week looked like for us here:

Sunday(January 15): Sunday is perhaps our most structured day of the week. While Saturday evening saw Joshua preparing his reflection for today, we have also picked the songs for the service, or will do so in the morning. We have breakfast;usually pancakes or the like but sometimes a simple one like granola if we are going for simplicity and less to clean up. Sunday and Saturday(more often) are generally special breakfast days. We prepare the coffee and hot water for tea and goodies and make any last minute tidy ups. Joshua will start the fire in the church furnace, and depending on how cold it is, anywhere from 2 to 3 hours before the Service is due to start. We will usually watch the Holy Heroes Sunday Mass prep video and print off a colouring page that depicts an image from the Sunday Gospel for the kids to colour while we wait for Service time(although with it being in the US the odd time the solemnities don’t line up with our Gospel, as I noticed for the Sunday I posted the link for). We also have a snack for the kids during this time, to stave off hunger until after the service. Our Communion Service begins at 11:30 am, with Joshua leading and Denise in the pew with the children. A typical Sunday will see about 10 people attending, although there can be upwards of 20, not including ourselves. After the service we invite everyone over for refreshments, goodies, and a light snack. We visit in the living room and around the kitchen table and people go on their way. On this particular day 2 ladies stayed to play cards, which happens fairly regularly, while another man stayed and got Joshua’s help to check his Facebook as he can’t read or write. After everyone has left we generally have a restful afternoon. Today we invited one of the men who comes to church, who lost his wife a few years ago, over for supper. As we were sitting down to supper another couple showed up, who are the kids’ ‘adopted’ grandparents, as we wrote about here. They had already eaten but they joined in for the visit and had some dessert. Being it was a school night we got the kids down to bed by 8 pm, and resumed our cleaning up, doing dishes, etc.

Monday(January 16): Today the kids didn’t have school, as it was a professional day for the teachers, so we decided to do a fun activity together; ice fishing! We wrote about it, and posted pictures, here!

Tuesday(January 17): Today Joshua took out one of the elders to go hunting all day, as he doesn’t have a vehicle and enjoys the company. The kids’ school starts at 9, for all of them, but getting there is nice as it is only a 3 minute drive and rush hour is about 5 vehicles and they’re all going the same place:) And for the younger ones it is a 3 minute walk around the back of our house, through the RCMP driveway, and we’re at Headstart. Gianna & Kateri are at school from 9-3 while we pick up Isaiah & Aliz to come home for lunch at 12. If we feel that they are up for it, they can go back in the afternoon from 1-3. It is during the day that we can get some of the administrative things done, phone calls, planning, preparation for Catechism, house visits etc., as Tobias usually has a bit of a nap. After school the kids sometimes have a friend over, as they did today, to play until supper time. After supper we get ready for bed and have some prayer time and quiet reading until 8ish.

Wednesday(January 18): Our weekdays follow the same schedule with exceptions. Today Denise spends the afternoon planning her lesson for Catechism for the older class (ages 9-12), which she leads from 3 – 4:30 in the Atrium in the church basement. Denise has the help of one of the elders from our Church community. Today we had 5 young people in attendance. At 7 pm we attended Family Nite at the Rec Centre, which has just started up as a weekly program. They had beading, colouring, games, and even a game of basketball. While not well attended we hope that it will become so, but generally parents don’t attend these type of things with their kids. There was probably 14 kids there, but there was only 1 other parent there besides ourselves. There was however a couple grandparents and 2 of the staff from the Clinic(who organize this event). Wednesday nights we also have Adoration and the rosary from 8 – 9pm, so Denise headed back to the church to lead this while Joshua finished up with the kids at the Rec Centre at around 8:45. Generally we have anywhere from 1-4 people in attendance for Adoration/Rosary.

Thursday(January 19): Today we had Catechism class from 3 – 4:30, at the church, with 5 young children in attendance. This is the younger class, ages 6-9, and generally we have up to 8 children attending this class. Denise baked a cake for one of the ladies who attends church, whose birthday it was, and we all went over to her place after supper to celebrate with her.

Friday(January 20): One of the men, who comes to church, was over for supper as he had just come back from Terrace, where he had been for the week, and had brought us some groceries back. He had picked us up some of the things we can’t get here or that are much less expensive to buy down south, like yogurt and milk. (He always think of us! He is also a huge help around the church, cleaning and vacuuming after each Sunday Service.)

We had family games nite, which we host every Friday night during the winter months, from 7 -9. Generally we get anywhere from 4 – 10 young people in attendance, but again very, very rarely ever have any parents attending. It is usually a pretty noisy crowd, but the young people enjoy playing games (and we enjoy them!)and, in between, taking breaks to play downstairs with the toys or with our 2 pet rats, which have been quite a hit. We enjoy snacks, usually of popcorn and iced tea! We have found it is a great way to be able to host an event in the community, but still be able to involve our kids! And it is one of the highlights of their week.

Saturday(January 21): Saturday is our tidy-up day. The kids each pick a chore to do and we work together to tidy up the house; dusting, vacuuming, cleaning out and putting new bedding in the rat cage, wiping down the windows and mirrors, etc. Joshua takes some time today to gather his thoughts and prayers from the week for his reflection on the Gospel for the Sunday Liturgy, although today he doesn’t have to write a reflection as we will have a priest visiting to celebrate Mass tomorrow. Denise will normally bake some cookies or some kind of goodies for Sunday after the communion service/Mass. In the evening we usually make pizza, from scratch, and have a movie night!

Sunday(January 22): Today was spent in preparation for Mass and for supper afterwards. Once a month we have a priest come down from Whitehorse to celebrate the Mass, generally the 4th Sunday of the month. Fr.Tito, from the Phillipines originally, and Simon, a seminarian originally from Lebanon, arrived at 4:15 pm after celebrating Mass in Iskut at 10 am and Dease Lake at 1 pm. The sacrament of confession was made available, again our once a month opportunity for this sacrament. We had 20 people(not including ourselves) in attendance for Mass. After Mass we have a potluck supper, something we only do once a month for this special occasion. The people really enjoy this as it also gives them an opportunity to visit with the priest.

So there is a week in a semi-brief summary!

It is a very unique and blessed opportunity, and a challenge, for us to be able to do this type of ministry. To show the love of Christ that we have encountered, within the community of our family, with all that we meet is our mission. In the words of two of our more recent Popes:

“…Christ’s instruction: ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.’ I am particularly content that this mission will be carried out thanks to Christian families who, joined together in a community, have the mission of giving the signs of the faith that attract men to the beauty of the Gospel.” –Pope Francis in an audience with members of the Neocatechumenal Way, March 6, 2015

“…the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates…the future of evangelization depends in great part on the Church of the home.” -Pope Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation (a proclamation from the modern day Apostles)  Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), #52

We are encouraged daily by the words of Catherine Doherty which so much apply to our family life, especially her Little Mandate.

“The duty of the moment, our nitty-gritty, daily, ordinary routine of life, can bring the face of Christ, the icon of Christ, into the marketplace. Then Christ can come into the place where you work or play or eat. He will come into your home or a restaurant or a school or a company cafeteria or a subway or wherever.” -Nazareth Family Spirituality, pg 31

“There are plenty of good things you can go out and do, programs and such, but whatever you are, you have to realize that there is always a duty of the moment to be done. And it must be done, because the duty of the moment is the duty of God. Tired, untired, sick, well, whatever your state, do the duty of the moment. It’s what God calls us to do. And if we do it, people follow us. We don’t have to preach by word of mouth. We preach by living. We preach by doing. We preach by being.” -Nazareth Family Spirituality, pg 32

 

 

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Ice Fishing

We are getting a true northern experience up here! Last Monday the kids had a day off school, as it was a professional day for the teachers. And we wanted to do something outdoors with them, being that the weather had warmed up to above zero after a couple weeks of sub 20 below. The skating rink was covered in snow and melting from the rain the previous day, so when ‘Grandpa’ Jim offered to lend us his auger we decided ice fishing would be a great thing to do. He even decided to join us, as it was too icy on the roads for him to go hunting as he had planned to do that day. ‘Grandpa’ Jim and ‘Grandma’ Kitty are the kids’ adopted grandparents 🙂  (Being that their grandkids don’t live in town they take the opportunity to shower our kids with love, and hugs, and treats!) We went up to Sawmill Lake, a couple kms above town, and drilled 4 holes. The ice was about 18 inches thick! It was a perfect day; a couple degrees above zero, partly overcast. The kids lasted quite a while, especially with the snacks!

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Kateri caught the first fish!

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Your genius?

“God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (Baltimore Catechism, 3) Our Gospel reading today reveals this to us in the person of John the Baptist, a real example for us in living out our genius. [You and I were each created with a particular genius, that is to say, there is one way that you can glorify and bring praise to God better than anyone else can.]

What I found most intriguing about today’s Gospel passage(John 1.29-34) was that John says, not once but twice, “I myself did not know him.” And yet look at the opening line of the Gospel, “John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and declared( I envision him shouting and pointing), “Here is the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus was made known/revealed to him and he continued to proclaim this, as we see in the next verse following the Gospel passage we hear today(John 1.35-37); “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, ”Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” (John 1.35-37) Can you imagine today just standing with two close friends saying, “Look it’s him.” And they just leave you for him! BUT THIS IS IT! This is what we are called to do! We are called to proclaim Jesus Christ with our very lives AND(not OR) with our words. As John declares “I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed…” What are you called to do so that Jesus Christ might be revealed?

But perhaps the most powerful point of the passage is WHO John proclaims Christ as, “the Lamb of God.” What does this mean? To grasp the depth of these words we could go into two examples that foreshadowed him:

Issac & Abraham – Genesis 22.1-14; God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son Issac, Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice on his shoulders up Mount Moriah(present day Jerusalem & Golgotha, where Christ would be crucified), prepared an altar on which he laid his son, he is stopped short of sacrificing his son and God provides the Lamb. In the same way God provided his son Jesus, who carried the wood of the cross on his shoulders up Golgotha to be sacrificed for our sins.

And some 500 years later we have the end of the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt(Exodus 12.1-13); The Passover Lamb was sacrificed, it’s blood placed on the doorway protecting them from the death that was to come to every firstborn son. We too are saved by the blood of the lamb, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” who shed his bloods blood on the cross for us.

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So it is this intimacy of a God who has saved us, who desires to be so close to you that he sent and gave up his very son to death to remove all that stands between you and Him. And all this, foreshadowed over thousands of years, so that you might share everlasting happiness with him forever? What an offer? But is it an offer that you are going to take him up on?

In closing I cannot think of a better way to take God up on His offer of everlasting happiness, and I cannot think of a better way to reveal him in our lives than to echo the words of the psalmist today deep in our souls, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will!” (Psalm 40)

I also invite you to discover your genius, your one way that you can glorify and bring praise to God better than anyone else can! It may take you a lifetime time to discover, or maybe it is right there and you just haven’t thought about it or recognized it yet.

O Blessed Trinity, abundantly assist me in becoming that which thou intended me to become when thou created me, for in that perfection I will give thee the glory thou desirest of me, and in that perfection I will find my greatest joy in heaven. Amen       -(excerpt from a prayer by Fr.Lucian Pulvermacher, OFM Cap)

 

Further reading:

Isaiah 49.3, 5-6

1 Corinthians 1.1-3

 

Mary, model of prayer

Happy new year!

On this the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, the readings today focus so much on prayer and relationship with God that they are practically “oozing” with it, to use a not so technical term. They each show us something particular about prayer, each a different aspect or angle.

From the book of Numbers we hear the great blessing prayer; perhaps you have heard it before:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” -Numbers 6.24-26

Given by the Lord to his people, through Moses, he was reminding them with this prayer of his favour for them; that He would take care of them and that they need not worry. But isn’t it true that when we forget whose we are, and how he wants to bless us, that we lose that sense of peace. It is a good reminder to us!

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians(4.4-7) we hear another reminder, that we are adopted as God’s sons and daughters through Christ his Son with whom and through whom we have redemption. St.Paul uses an endearing term with which our Spirit cries to our heavenly Father as his children, “Abba! Father!” We translate this as something like, “Daddy!” I can particularly connect with this term of endearment as it is one that my children use for me. They come running to me, at times, with their arms open, looking up, “Daddy!” Without the words I can hear them saying, “I need you! I need your comfort, I need your strong arms around me, I need your love. I need you.” It is very powerful for me to translate this to the heavenly Father as I run, like my children do to me, to my Father God, my “Abba”, my Daddy! How about for you, would this change how you approach prayer?

Now of that weren’t enough we still have the Gospel passage(Luke 2.16-21), taking place just after Jesus is born. God coming to us in, I daresay, an even more intimate way than “Abba”, coming among us, to be one with us. The shepherds, upon hearing of his birth from the angels, made haste(as we hear in Scripture) to see him. They wasted no time! It makes me reflect on how hasty I am to start my day in his presence. Waking up the wee bit earlier and taking that time can make all the difference. That, like the shepherds, we might be prepared and return(to the rest of our day) “glorifying and praising God” for all that we have heard and seen as it has been spoken and revealed to us. So we can see how making haste to be in his presence gives us the power to praise him throughout our day, no matter what may come our way. It is also a reminder that we should go out as the shepherds did, not keeping the Good News to themselves but sharing it with all that they met so that others might also share in the amazement.

And then amidst all of this we have Mary, of whom the Scripture says, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” She is the mother of God, the God-bearer, who has brought him forth into our very midst by her submission to God’s will; “May it be done to me according to your word.” For her to have said that shows us the depth of her relationship with God. To internalize God’s very word and to treasure and ponder it’s meaning, this is one of Mary’s great gifts to us, and I believe it is so beautifully and powerfully conferred to us by her most holy rosary! The rosary where we can, like Mary did, ponder and treasure the events and the mysteries of Christ’s life. The rosary is a school of prayer unto itself. It can teach us meditation, by using our imagination and the power of our mind to grapple with the mysteries and try to allow them to make a deeper impression on us, as we use the vocal prayers(Our Fathers, Hail Marys,etc) to space out these meditations. We can even allow it to go deeper into contemplation, which is a mysterious openness of and movement of the will towards a particular good, the way that you would experience a particular beauty and don’t have the words to express it.

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I would encourage you to take some more time with these scriptures this week, and ask the Lord where he wants to lead you in prayer, in relationship with him. Pray the rosary and Mary will lead you in praying more powerfully and profoundly and she will help you to ponder the richness, the depth, the beauty, and the mystery of God’s love for you.

I would like to close with a quote from St.Louis de Montfort,

“We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor his Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son.”

More quotes:

The belief of the shepherds who heard the voices of the angels, and of the people who heard the shepherds’ testimony, set into motion a sharing of faith that has endured for more than two millennia and has spread to all corners of the world.”                                                                                       – Cardinal Sean O’Malley

“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.” – St.Maximilian Kolbe

A Christmas Reflection

While I don’t normally share so much in a deep way with others in writing this seemed to be a good opportunity to share a little about what has been happening in our lives through my(Joshua’s) experience of Advent and the coming of the Christmas season. I find it helps me to process thoughts, feelings, and events when I write them down. As such, I wrote this last Friday, the evening before our Christmas Mass, however I had written it down on paper. I find that my creative flow is stifled by the keyboard so whenever I reflect it is by writing down my thoughts on just plain old paper with a pen. So I am transferring it here for your benefit, hopefully! Enjoy!!

As I await in joyful expectation the arrival of the Christmas season my heart is yearning and leaping, it seems almost as a bride awaiting the coming of her bridegroom to her.

At the turn of every season of the Church I find myself opening up to what the Lord has to offer me or teach me. In prayer I ask to be led deeper, but what is so different about this Advent, about this year? Why do I feel the ardent yearning, this great desire for my true lover. For he is surely already near to me, indeed with me!

Amidst the fullness of life with 5 children(age 7 and under) we have been the worst this year with maintaining a daily Advent prayer. It has been busy, with being in Whitehorse for the first week of Advent, however grace filled with being able to enter into the mystery and depth contained in this beautiful season, and in our faith during our pastoral retreat. Coming back and feeling like I haven’t really caught up with certain “business” things(letting go of control) and leaving to go to Watson Lake in 30 to 40 below temperatures to help with renovations at the rectory there and returning with oozing power steering fluid and air in the system, arriving back safely I’m sure on the many rosaries prayed during the five and a half hour drive. Then having to deal with a squealing alternator, which I will more than likely have to replace next week with the new one that just arrived with the new drive belts today. And this week, with all of the preparations, God has called me deeper in prayer and I am really just encountering a new zeal and love for Him. He has led me into prayer this week, helping me to recognize in a new way the importance of starting my day with a substantial committed prayer time, even being joined by one of my daughter’s one morning.

I continue to recognize His blessings in my life that, even being what seems so far away from family, all I need is Him yet being blessed with so much more. He has even blessed me with breakdown in entertainment technology, (as silly as it may seem that the old iPhone I have that I would watch youtube videos on no longer supports youtube videos, and it happened two weeks into Advent.) so that I have had more time in prayer and reflection while washing the dishes; really one less thing to pull at my time and attention has made a big deal for me. Sometimes it is just so hard to let go of things on our own, although hard at first I can now thank the Lord with a fuller heart.

So with fresh snow on the ground, a beautiful time of adoration on Wednesday evening, and anticipation for Mass(the last one here being three weeks ago) I can run with joy and awe and hail Him as the lover of my soul, my Saviour in whom is wrapped up my heart.

I pray this also for all of you, that you may find yourself open to Him and His great love for you. Ask the Lord, as I now remember doing near the beginning of this Advent, to help you to encounter His great love for you in new ways. He will not disappoint you, and maybe even surprise you!

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” – John 1.1-3

(An excerpt from the Christmas Gospel reading for Mass during the day)

 

May the Lord richly bless you and your family this Christmas season!

 

 

Crisis at Christmas

A reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent (Year A)

The Gospel today shows highlights for us the crisis at the first Christmas. (Matthew 1.18-24)

We may picture the first Christmas to be like what we see on many Christmas cards, a peaceful, picture perfect night, but the Gospel today offers us a moment to internalize and connect with the events preceding Christ’s birth. As we look back on these events we can see God’s hand in the work of salvation, yet I’ma sure at the time for Joseph and Mary God’s plan wasn’t so clear.

For Mary maybe you can see how difficult it would have been, being found to be with child before she married. How is she supposed to explain this, being impregnated with God’s child, without sounding crazy? How were her family, and Joseph and his family supposed to understand? As for Joseph, we can perhaps feel his struggle. What was he supposed to think? Can you imagine his anxiety and confusion? And also being under the pressure of the Law and custom to have her killed (for being with child, not of him).

Like Joseph & Mary, how do we respond in our own lives when things don’t go as we think they should? Perhaps we build things up in our own minds and fabricate our own way through instead of asking the Lord to show us a way through, a way to understand, a path of clarity.

In the Gospel we hear how an angel appeared to Joseph in his dream and revealed God’s will for his situation. Notice how his first words are “do not be afraid”. Now it is usually never this easy for us, but it gives us an opportunity to ponder how God speaks to us. Are we leaving room in our lives for Him to speak to us and to reveal his plans?

Recently I have been reflecting and praying about something in my own spiritual journey that has been repeatedly coming up, in conversation and in reading scripture, and, although it is not a crisis, it has caused me to look past the surface of what I would think God is saying to how he is truly speaking, to my soul. I can picture how, in a different situation under stress, I may not have had the same clarity or openness.

It really is quite beautiful that while God could have saved us any number of ways he chose to come among us and become one of us. He came into the world because of our great need. He came into the world prophesied by Isaiah as Emmanuel (‘God with us’) and foretold by the angel to be named Jesus (‘God saves’), both which we hear in the Gospel today. He comes into our turmoil, our anxiety, our crisis, our need! He comes into our daily lives as a child bringing change, but also a joy and a peace.

So as we draw nearer to his birth at Christmas let us remember God is with us, to save us, from our anxiety, our doubts, our fears, our lack of faith, in whatever we are going through. He gives us the example of Joseph and Mary today in order to realize that we need to open ourselves to how He is speaking to us and embrace the clarity that he offers when we lay aside our own plans and seek his. He comes amidst us no matter what the situation of our life may be this Christmas, we can find him wherever we may be if we are open to his voice speaking to us.

Further reading:

Isaiah 7.10-14

Psalm 24

Romans 1.1-7

Are you willing to put your life on it?

The first reading today(2 Maccabees 7.1-2,7,9-14) is powerful and moving. We hear of this family of 7 brothers and the mother, one by one tortured and executed because they would not partake in practices that contradicted their faith in God. They were essentially killed because of their faith.

As brutal as this sounds we all know that this is not just something that happened in biblical times, but that it still happens today. As one who doesn’t follow the news a whole lot, a quick internet search brings up countless stories of others who have died because of their witness, by their actions, to God.

I have often wondered what I would do when placed in a situation where I was challenged for my belief in God, where death was placed before me? How does someone have this amount of courage, to be able to die to this world with peace and hope?

The answer comes in our Gospel today(Luke 20.27-38). There is a reason that these people who die for their faith are called ‘martyrs’. The word ‘martyr’ means “witness”. Martyrs witness to the existence of a higher realm, to a world beyond what we know here. This is why their persecutors have no power over them, no way to convince them otherwise, as I heard explained recently by Father Robert Barron, “A persecutor’s power [such as in the case of someone on trial for their belief in God] comes from a conviction that this life and the goods in it constitute the entirety of reality.” But for those who are martyred real life is eternal life. Faith in external life enables them to sacrifice their earthly lives for Christ, for the promise of something even greater, eternal union with God, as we hear in the Psalm(17): “I shall be satisfied, Lord, when I awake and behold your likeness.” We hear Jesus affirm this as He is challenged by the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection and loved the pleasures of the world(even disregarding many of the common Jewish practices and beliefs); “The children of this age…nor are given in marriage.” What Jesus is basically saying here is that those who believe and put their trust in the world worry about things of the world, but those who have their life set on things above do not worry about the things of this world.”

So what does this mean for us? How can we witness? How can we be ready to die for our faith? We will probably never have to face death because of our beliefs, but we can still witness even if it isn’t with our own blood.

We can witness by living our lives for heaven, by putting our trust and hope in the Lord. Jesus died on the cross before he rose. In the same way, we also must die before we can rise; die to the things of this world, our attachment to it and to sin, by pursuing that which pleases God, and die to our own will and our own desires in living by Christ’s example. We can be assured by Paul’s letter to the Romans(6.8); “If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”

There is life after death, this is our hope and this is what we witness to as believers in God and in his Son Christ Jesus! So the real question is; are you willing to put your life on it, as many have before you?!

 

Further reading:

2 Thessalonians 2.16-3.5

Why are you so wonderful?

Today in the book of Wisdom (11.22-12.2) we are given a glimpse of the world from God’s perspective. It really is a beautiful passage. There is so much richness in it. You could take several of these sentences and reflect on them for a whole day!

“The whole world before you, O Lord, is like a speck…and like a drop of morning dew.” (Wisdom 11.22) We are so tiny before God, who is the great Creator, and yet how vast is it to us. The world adds nothing to His greatness. By this definition we would seem so insignificant, yet we are each so significant to Him – “[He is] merciful to all” (Wisdom 11.23)

This next line is the real kicker:

“Lord you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured had you not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?” (Wisdom 11.24-25)

The world speaks of love often, but what is it really? Love is willing the good of the other. It is a choice. So for God, “how would anything have endured had [He] not willed it?” So it is by God’s love that we were brought and are held in being.

To quote Bishop Robert Barron “God doesn’t love things because they have wonderful qualities. That’s the way we tend to love. For example, if someone is attractive to us, kind to us, just to us then we love them. Rather, they have wonderful qualities because God loves them.”

To repeat: “God doesn’t love things because they have wonderful qualities. Rather, they have wonderful qualities because he loves them.”

With all of this in mind we hear the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19.1-10). A man who had a lack for nothing of this world. “He was chief tax collector and was rich”. Everyone around him was grumbling and declaring he was a sinner. Yet something called to the heart of Zacchaeus, I would dare to say he heard about this man Jesus and something in his heart was drawn to discover, or at least see, Him. He was being drawn out of himself because of the love of Jesus, the image of the living God, who loved him even though he didn’t know it yet.

Jesus sees him and says “I must stay at your house.” And Zacchaeus welcomed him. This coming in of Jesus into his house symbolizes Jesus totally moving into his life. Amidst whatever was in Zacheaus’ life Jesus’ love spoke to the depths of his heart and he repented; he was changed.

You know, I was speaking to someone the other day, talking about life and he said to me, “I have become convinced that it doesn’t matter what vocation I live in this life or what work I do, if I do not have relationship with God, if I do not live in His love then my life and my work means nothing. It is precisely because of his love for me, and out of that love, that I am able to be happy wherever I am and in whatever I am doing!”

This really is an important message for us to hear today; You are loved. I believe this is our biggest crisis today, is that when people do not know they are loved they search for meaning and purpose in things that will never bring meaning and purpose but leave them shallow and empty. There are times when we have all done this and still do this.

Our God is always there, he has been since the beginning of time, and now even more intimately he is present to us through his Son. It truly is His love for us that enables us to live fuller lives. And it is precisely because we are loved by Him first that our hearts are drawn to Him and we are drawn to change, to repentance and true happiness.

So during this Jubilee of Mercy, let us entrust ourselves totally and fully to the Lord our God, as Zacchaeus does today, welcoming him in to the “home” of our lives, thus allowing ourselves to experience the true joy of being loved by our Creator and our God.

Remember: “God doesn’t love you because you have wonderful qualities. Rather, you have wonderful qualities because God loves you.”

Attitude of Gratitude

Why are you here today in this church, at this service? I know I am putting you on the spot. But take a few moments to think on that. What is your purpose of being here today? Or on any given Sunday?

My answer ties in with our Gospel reading today. We heard the story of the 10 lepers who were healed(Luke 17.11-19). As Jesus approaches a village he is approached by these lepers who try to get his attention, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They are so desparate and hopeless, shunned from society and from their families. Leprosy is a disease where your body decays over a period of time. It is a slow, painful, and humiliating existence awaiting inevitable death. It was one of the most horrible of the ancient diseases. Jesus was their final hope. He tells them to go and show themselves to the priests, a requirement of the Old Testament law in order to insure a full cure so as not to spread the disease, and they were cured as they were on their way. Can you imagine the joy that they would have had at being cured? And yet there was only one leper who returned “praising God” and he thanked Jesus.

It is interesting to hear how Jesus’ immediate response was a focus on the ingratitude of the other lepers; “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?” Jesus demands gratitude, not for himself; notice how he says, “none of them was found to return and give praise to God.” So Jesus here is showing us just how important gratitude is for us. While the one leper was transformed by his gratitude I imagine the nine who were unable to express their gratitude returned to their old attitudes, habits, goals, and general shallowness of life. Nothing else in tham had changed besides being free from leprosy. It is the same for us, so it is necessary to express our gratitude as it manifests recognition for how this particular act has touched or changed our life. Now, obviously Jesus deserves our thanks as he has brought us hope, not by a mere command as he does with the lepers, but by his life, suffering, and death on the cross. Have we thought about offering him our due thanks and praising him for this great gift of eternal life which he shares with us. God also deserves our utmost thanks, for all that we have has come from Him.

This is why I am here at this service today, to give Jesus Christ my due thanks and to give God praise for all His gifts, for my very life. He doesn’t need our thanks, but we need to thank him. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that we are reflecting on this as we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend. I believe it can be easy to be thankful for what we have, but to show gratitude is an expression of faith; our utter reliance and trust in God.

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A great thing to do today, tomorrow, this week, [something concrete] is to look back on your life; think of the people and events that the Lord has put in your life. Maybe at the time you didn’t realize they were a blessing, but looking back now you can see that they were. Have you thanked the Lord for that? The simplest and best prayer we could say is, “Thank you!”

Obviously God deserves our utmost thanks, but it is also important to recognize and appreciate the small or large favours and services done by others for us each day. Are there people in your life, maybe not even at the present moment, who have helped you on your way? Maybe in a deep or profound way, maybe in a simple way. Take some time to thank these people, a simple letter or note; “Your words, your act of kindness meant a lot to me!”

When we can express gratitude and thankfulness to God and others we can stand with the leper of today’s Gospel, hearing the words of Jesus resound in our own transformed hearts, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

 

Scripture readings:

2 Kings 5.14-17

Psalm 98

2 Timothy 2.8-13

 

 

 

what can faith do?

All 3 readings today speak about faith. ‘Faith’ is a word that is used quite often so we may be familiar with it, but I am not so sure that we fully know what it means in our lives. These readings today opened up, at least for me, a new insight in to what faith really is. So, what is faith really?

The apostles open our Gospel passage today by asking Jesus, “Increase our faith!” Now these are men who have walked with Jesus, who have seen his miracles first-hand, and who have witnessed time and again Jesus life given over to the will of the Father. Obviously they feel like they are still lacking faith. They realized that they couldn’t do life on their own, that they were not in control and that they needed help. In this they show us exactly what faith is; an attitude of trust in the presence of God. FAITH is an attitude of trust in the presence of God.

Jesus responds to the apostles request with a bit of an exaggeration; “Say to this tree be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would listen to you.” Meaning that what looks impossible can become possible with just a small seed of faith. When we live our lives out of this perspective with true trust and true confidence in God we are relying on His power, as St.Paul puts it in our second reading, already at work in us. What I think of when I hear this are the lives of many of the great saints. Just one example is Mother Teresa(now St. Teresa of Calcutta). Leaving her teaching job at a school in Calcutta and moving in to the slums, the worst slums in the world, having nothing; no money, no material resources, no support. What she did have was faith. An attitude of trust. Now we have this great order of the Missionaries of Charity spread throughout the whole world doing the work of God. There are many more examples, and it shows us what God can be accomplish in our lives with just this little seed of faith.

Maybe in your own lives you have seen and experienced what a seed of faith can do. When we entrust our lives to God, when we have confident trust in His power greater things can happen; when we realize that He is in control and we are not.

Lastly, Jesus shares a sobering example and reminds us, “You also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” This statement may rub us the wrong way, but it really puts things in perspective for us, as Jesus is trying to make a point. As human beings it is almost an automatic reaction for us to assess what is coming to us, what our reward is. This sense of justice can even be seen in children, “That’s not fair”. It’s almost instinct. This isn’t a bad thing, however in the light of the Gospel today, this sense of justice implies that we are still in control, that we still have demands and expectations. In the light of faith Jesus is showing us that to grow in faith we must let go and trust God so that we can live simply in faithful service of Him. All that we have has come from Him.

So today let us repeat the apostles words in our hearts, “Lord increase our faith’, remembering that our lives are not about us, but that our lives are an exercise in trusting God; an exercise in openness to what God will reveal to us, what God will do through us, and what God will invite us to become with just a little seed of faith.

Scripture readings:

Habakkuk 1.2-3,2.2-4

Psalm 95

2 Timothy 1.6-8, 13-14

Luke 17.5-10