Thanksgiving is a North American holiday. If I remember my school lessons correctly, it derives from the experience of the first European settlers here in North America and their experience of their first few years here on this continent. The way we were taught about this holiday when I was in elementary school recalled how difficult these first Europeans found the bitter winter to survive on their own and how unprepared they were to make it through this difficult climate. They were so unprepared for the conditions they found on this continent that it was only with the help of the Indigenous People, who knew the land and the ways of growing here, that they were able to make it through those initial days. Once they had learned to grow crops in this territory and figure out how to survive the conditions on this continent, they were so grateful that they began to have a special feast called “Thanksgiving” at the end of the growing season to celebrate the goods of this land and the great opportunities that they had discovered here. From my school days, I recall a part of those initial Thanksgiving celebrations involved celebrations with the Indigenous People who had helped these first settlers to make their lives possible here. That is why so many of our celebrations still highlight the many vegetables and local products that were handed over to the Europeans by the Indigenous People to help them survive. Of course, the history of our continent also shows us that this cooperative relationship between the first European settlers and the Indigenous People did not continue for very long. After a very short period of time, the European settlers began to take the land for granted and to demand that it all be given to them. What was at first regarded as a privilege to be grateful for, soon began to be regarded as something that was owed to them and the land and the Indigenous People were exploited. The great buffalo that roamed the continent were soon extinct and the Indigenous Peoples lost their lands and were relegated to reserves across both Canada and the United States. We still hear of the tragic circumstances of this history today as we read about the high suicide rates among the young people in the Indigenous communities. This is a part of our history that still calls for much healing, truth and reconciliation. Continue reading
Have you ever had a bright light shone in your eyes? When this happens, it can become impossible to see or notice anything else as a result of the light’s intensity. Many people who perform on stage say that the light can be so bright that even if the theatre is full, all they are able to see in the assembly is the bright light shining in their face. This is an image that I would like to come back to in a few minutes.
Today, in the Archdiocese of Toronto, we are celebrating the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. We are doing so because Cardinal Collins has asked that we celebrate the feast of our Archdiocesan patron at all the Sunday Masses. The feast that we are actually celebrating today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. So happy feast day to all who are named Michael, Gabriel or Raphael. Angels are created beings who are messengers of God. Angels have a mission to bring a message on behalf of God. The guardian angels have been created to bring a message of God’s particular care and love for each of us. The Archangels are those that are given a more important task or message from God. Michael, who is known as the prince of the angels, is known as the “one who is like God.” It is his job to defend people from Satan and to protect us from temptation. Gabriel is known as “strength from God,” and because he is often entrusted with an important message from God, he is known as the messenger of God. Raphael is known as the “healing power of God,” and is best known for his saving work on behalf Sarah and Tobias in the book of Tobit. As messengers of God, the work of the angels is always involved with protecting us from what will threaten our salvation, bring God’s healing presence, or announce His good news. Continue reading
Since I have come back from vacation, many of you have said to me “welcome.” “Welcome back” is something that has been said to me many times. So it occurs to me that “welcome” does not mean to just pass through or remain for a short period of time. When I hear “welcome back,” I am hoping that it means for at least a few months or so!!!! When we welcome people to our homes or communities, we do not just let them in the front door, only to show them to the back door. The word “welcome” implies an invitation to stay for a while and join us. The invitation that Jesus gives us is to join Him at His table, share in the Eucharist and be members of His community, the Body of Christ. Once we have accepted His invitation, and become members of His community, the Body of Christ, we too are challenged and called to also be welcoming members of His Body the Church and to extend an enduring invitation to others. Continue reading
The readings that we hear proclaimed this weekend present us with a reminder of something that is very true and yet very contrary to the way most of us think today. These readings remind us that we belong to God and do not belong to ourselves. This, I think, is exactly the opposite to the way most of us think. It is certainly the opposite of the way the world today would like us to think about ourselves. My own sense is that most of the anger and difficulties that people have towards God and the world are based on the fact that we refuse to recognize that we truly do belong to God and that He is in charge of the world and of our lives. We all like to live under the impression that we belong to ourselves, that we are in charge of everything, and that God is supposed to listen to what we tell him to do and follow our instructions. I remember very clearly one of the great spiritual lessons that Bishop Mikloshazy, one of my favorite instructors in the seminary, used to always say to us was at the heart of the spiritual life: “Remember that God is God and you are not.” This truth is also at the heart of the Stewardship Campaign that Cardinal Collins has asked the parishes of the Archdiocese to focus on in the coming years. For that reason, this weekend, I would like to focus upon four core values that are at the heart of Stewardship and that follow from this Sunday’s readings. I take these values from a book that has been shared with our parish’s Stewardship Committee by the Archdiocesan Office of Faith Formation. The book is called Making Stewardship a Way of Life, by Fr. Andrew Kemberling and Mila Glodava. They identify as the Core Values of Stewardship: 1) Identity; 2) Trust; 3) Gratitude; and 4) Love. All of the readings this Sunday calls us to embrace these values. Continue reading
I know a few priests who during the summer months make a point of giving very short homilies. Today, I would like to give a short homily, but I do so not to speak for a shorter period of time, but rather so that I can also give you a brief update about a few significant changes that will take place at the end of the summer. First a short homily.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is perhaps one of the most famous parables in the bible. For most people, when they hear this parable, they hear it as a story about what they are called to do for their neighbour. I have to admit, when I hear this parable, I think of it a little differently. When I hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, I hear it as a story of what Christ has done for me. Continue reading
As Catholics, every time that we pray, we begin by invoking the names of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, whose feast we celebrate this Sunday. This custom can be so habitual that at times we may do it without realizing how profound the words are that we are saying. Each time we name the three persons of the Holy Trinity, we are articulating a great mystery about God and his proximity to us that has been revealed to us by God Himself. The only way that we know about the Trinity and the names of the persons contained within God is because Jesus Himself has told us about Them. As the Son of God sent from the Father, Jesus has told us to call God “Our Father” and has repeatedly spoken to us about the Father. During His life Jesus promised His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit after He had returned to the Father. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Church by Jesus and His Father in Heaven. That the three cannot be separated is witnessed to in the Gospel passage from Matthew where Jesus commissions His disciples to baptize all people “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Everything that we know about God as the Trinity has been revealed to us by the Trinity Himself. We can learn so much about God’s love for us in reflecting upon this great mystery of our faith. Continue reading
At the beginning of this Easter Season, you and I celebrated Easter by renewing our baptismal promises. In the Ritual for Infant Baptism, there are about a hundred different readings that can be used at a Baptism for a child. Despite this great variety, I find that I have used only one reading at almost all of the Baptisms that I have celebrated in my years as a priest. The reading that I always use at Baptism is the text from Matthew in which Jesus commissions His disciples to go out into the world and baptize all nations. The exact words that Jesus used are as follows: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the ages” (Matthew 28: 19-20). What strikes me most about this passage is the amazing promise that Christ has made to all of us through our Baptisms: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the ages.” Christ promises all of us that He is with us always, forever, until the end of time. Today, as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, Jesus tells us that He will fulfill this promise to be with us always by sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. Continue reading
After they are baptized at Easter, the men and women who were received into the Church at the Easter Vigil through the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, are not finished with their formation. Following Easter, they continue to meet and learn about the significance of their baptisms through a period called the “Mystagogy.” The Mystagogy is a time when the baptized are invited to think about what it means to live with the gift of the Holy Spirit that they received when they were baptized and confirmed. Since these are gifts which all Christians receive when they are initiated into the Church, this theme is also one that we hear repeated in the Easter readings through the Easter Season. In fact, last week, as I met with our own parish’s RCIA, I could not help but think how one of the handouts that we were dealing with provided important insights for the readings that we hear proclaimed this Sunday. The fact is, that this period called the “Mystagogy” is not one that applies just to those who were baptized this past Easter. All of us should understand our own lives as a constant period of the Mystagogy. We should all be striving to understand the significance of our baptism throughout our life. Each Sunday throughout the year we should be attempting to understand how to live through the Holy Spirit a life closer to God and His Church. For this reason, I have decided to share with you the contents of one of the handouts that we used in the RCIA regarding the subject of discernment. Continue reading
Yesterday morning, at St. Paul’s Basilica, Archbishop Prendergast of Ottawa, ordained Deacon Adam Hincks and another Jesuit to the priesthood and five others to the diaconate. At almost the same time, Cardinal Collins, our Archbishop here in Toronto, ordained four priests to serve the diocese at St. Michael’s Cathedral. Earlier this month, Sister Christina of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and a parishioner here at St. Peter’s Parish, made her profession of vows to her community. All of this happened to be taking place on a weekend in the Church that coincides with the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Continue reading
“Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is Good; His Steadfast Love Endures Forever.”
Have you ever noticed how people speak to one another when they fall in love? Once they have first gained the courage to tell the other person that they love him or her, they begin to use this expression quite frequently. As it begins to loose some of its impact, they begin to use expressions like “very much,” or “very, very much.” Ultimately, people who are in love tell the other person that they love the other so much that they will love them “forever,” or for “all eternity.” In fact, if the person you love ever tells you that they love you so much that they will love you until next Thursday, you can be pretty sure that your relationship is in trouble. Continue reading