We begin reading today at Sunday Mass the Gospel of Mark. The Sunday readings are divided into three different annual cycles of readings. These have the names: “Year A”, Year B”, and “Year C.” In each of these years, the Church has us listen to one of the three Synoptic Gospels, which are Matthew, Mark and Luke. The Gospel of John, because it is dramatically different from these Synoptic Gospels, is read in portions in each of these three liturgical years. The Gospel of Mark is read in Year B, which is the liturgical year that we begin now. In the early Church, people thought that the Gospel of Matthew was the first to have been written. This is why the Gospels are ordered Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible. However, today, Bible scholars think that the Gospel of Mark was written first and that it was used by both Matthew and Luke indirectly to write their Gospels. Because the three seem to have similar sources, they are called the Synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of John is so different that it is believed to have been based upon an entirely different set of traditions. For this reason it is not one of the Synoptic Gospels and is read each year in small portions. In fact because the Gospel of Mark is the shortest, this year, during Year B of the Lectionary, in the summer there are six weeks in which we read from chapter six, the bread of life discourse, from the Gospel of John. Continue reading
When I was in my first few years of university, the last thing that I ever imagined that I would become was a priest. I hoped that I might become a lawyer or perhaps teach political science at a university. Happily, I loved studying, so none of these were impossible goals. I was even so blessed in my studies that I was able to get good grades while at the same time doing a lot of the partying that young people away from home for the first time can get lost in. I think it was all of the “good times” that I was experiencing that made me sense that something was missing. Even though I was going out a great deal, and often waking-up hung-over, I found that something was missing in my life. I sensed a deep lack of meaning and began to question what my own life might be about. Continue reading
Over the years, I have had many people ask me a very simple question when we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. That question is: “Why was Jesus baptized? If Jesus is sinless and the Son of God made flesh, why does He need to be baptized?”
The reason why Jesus chooses to be baptized is connected with who Jesus is. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus has become one of us in order to show us the way to salvation and how we are to live in order to be saved. He is baptized, in order to show us that it is through Baptism that we are called to share in the life of the Holy Trinity. Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit before he begins His public ministry in order to show us that when we are anointed by the Spirit in the Sacraments of Initiation, we too share in His mission. Just as in Baptism, the Father declares Jesus to be His beloved Son, so too through our Baptisms the Father claims us to be His beloved sons and daughters. As Jesus took up His ministry after His Baptism and anointing by the Spirit, so too each one of us is given a mission within the Church through our Baptism and anointing at Confirmation. Continue reading
One of the things about being here at St. Peter’s Parish that I find a little funny at times, is that often I will be walking along Bathurst, in front of the Church, and as I do so someone will roll down their car window, and stop me on Bathurst Street, to demand that I give them a blessing as they are driving by on the street. My first inclination is to try to have a conversation with them to find out what they think that a blessing signifies. However, as the traffic is often heavy and they are in a hurry, they frequently get a little angry with me and demand that I stop my small talk and quickly give them the blessing that they are seeking before they drive off. These experiences have helped me to realize that many people may not even know what a “blessing” signifies or be aware of what is required for a blessing to really be of any value. Continue reading
Every year, on the first Sunday following Christmas, the Church celebrates the beautiful feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The purpose of this beautiful feast is to remind each and every one of us that the most important place where we are to encounter God’s love for us is within the family. Like all of us, Jesus was born into a human family so that we might all be reminded that it is first and foremost within the family that we are to make Christ’s love present to our brothers and sisters and where we are to encounter the love and acceptance that we all desire and long to know. This beautiful feast is to remind all of us that every family—mine and yours—is a sacred place where God’s love is to be encountered. Continue reading
The first Christmas was one like no other. Mary and Joseph were required by Caesar to leave their home and travel to register in Bethlehem. This caused them to be isolated from their family and loved ones at an important moment in their lives. They were confronted with loneliness, fear and isolation. Despite these difficult times, the Christ child, Emanuel, was born into their family. Through the kindness of others, the charity and compassion of the Shepherds and Wise Men, they came through this difficult situation. This unique Christmas changed history.
This Christmas 2020 is like none that any of us have ever experienced before. Many will celebrate without family and friends. Isolation and loneliness will be experienced by many people. Despite the difficulties we will all experience this Christmas, we are invited to allow the Christ child into our hearts and homes. By reaching out to those who are lonely, caring for the needy and showing compassion to others, we can each imitate the example of the Shepherds and Wise Men who welcomed Christ and help make Him present to our brothers and sisters at this difficult time.
This is a Christmas for all of us to find new ways of encountering Christ through acts of charity, compassion and generosity. I believe the Lord is inviting all of us this Christmas to challenge ourselves to act in such a way that we might bring Christ’s love to others in these difficult and unprecedented circumstances. This year, it is up to each of us to make this Christmas different by reaching out to others through our own acts of kindness, charity and compassion. Please reach out to someone.
I wish to thank all of you for the support that you have given to our parish community through this very difficult and challenging year. Whatever support you are able to give this Christmas, is greatly appreciated and much needed.
On behalf of our entire parish community and staff, I would like to wish you, all your friends and loved ones a very blessed Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year in 2021.
On Christmas Eve and Day, no matter how we are able to celebrate it this year, at all of the parish’s Christmas Masses, I will remember, with profound gratitude, the intentions of all the loved ones and family members of the parishioners of St. Peters Parish.
May God bless you and your families this Christmas and throughout 2021.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Rev. Michael McGourty
P.S. This Christmas, due to the lockdown in the City of Toronto, there will be no publicly celebrated Masses. On Christmas Eve, the church will be open from 5:00 to 10:00 pm and the Eucharist will be distributed every 15 minutes. Due to capacity limits, only eight (8) people can be admitted to the church at a time. On Christmas Day, the church will be open from 9:00 am until noon. Again, the Eucharist will be distributed every 15 minutes and only eight (8) people can be admitted to the church at a time. The number eight (8) is due to the fact that the parish priest and volunteer at the door also count as part of the ten (10) people who are permitted in the building at a time.
The Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary begin with the Annunciation, the beautiful story of Mary’s “yes” to the Angel Gabriel, which we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke (Luke 1: 26-38). This mystery is followed by the story of Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1: 39-56) and the recognition of the Christ child in the womb of Mary as John the Baptist leaps at the presence of the child Jesus. The third Joyful Mystery recounts the birth of Jesus in the poverty of the manger (Luke 2:1-20) and reminds us of the Lord’s desire to come to each of us and be born into our homes. In the fourth Joyful Mystery, we recount the Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2: 22-39) and the recognition of Jesus by Simeon as the long-promised Savior of the people. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52), is the subject from Christ’s life that we mediate upon in the fifth Joyful Mystery. The heart of the Rosary is the “Hail Mary,” which begins with the words that are spoken to Mary by the Angel Gabriel. So much of the prayer “Hail Mary” is taken from lines of scripture that make up the Bible passages that are meditated on in the Joyful Mysteries. Continue reading
It is tempting to hear St. Paul’s invitation on this Gaudete Sunday, from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, in which he exhorts us to “rejoice always and pray without ceasing,” and want to dismiss it as not applying to us today in the difficult circumstances of the COVID 19 pandemic. We might think that Paul has no understanding of our difficulties and therefore should not be exhorting us to be joyful, given the realities of our time. Yet, if anyone knew suffering, it was certainly St. Paul during the many trials and sufferings that he endured for the sake of the Gospel. Paul was imprisoned, flogged and ultimately executed for his faith. There are few people who knew the difficulties that he knew. If anyone has the authority to exhort us to remain joyful and pray through difficulties, it is certainly St. Paul. Continue reading
As we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent, we hear this Sunday the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. This is the Gospel that we will hear proclaimed throughout the coming liturgical year, which began last Sunday.
The Gospel of Mark has a message that is particularly important in these difficult times.
Many scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was written around the year 70 A.D. Mark himself was believed to have been a disciple of St. Peter. When he writes his Gospel, many of the early followers of Jesus are struggling with the problem of suffering. They cannot understand how they have left everything to follow Christ and yet despite being followers of Christ, find themselves experiencing suffering and difficulties. The trials that these early disciples are facing are not agreed upon. Some speculate that Mark’s Gospel may have been written in Rome during the persecutions that the Church experienced there during the time when the great Apostles Peter and Paul were put to death. Others have speculated that the Gospel may have been written in Jerusalem around the same time, when the Temple was destroyed and Christians were no longer granted the protection of worship in the Temple. Regardless of the exact origin of the Gospel, one of its great themes is that of persevering through suffering and hardship. It is written to bring the Good News of Christ’s resurrection to Christians who cannot understand how they can be experiencing suffering when they are disciples of a loving Saviour. They are struggling to see Christ’s face in the midst of their trials. Continue reading