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 between the Centre and 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
This week in the movie theatres, a movie called “Just Mercy,” which played at the Toronto film festival in September, will be released across the country. This movie tells the story of a Harvard law graduate, by the name of Bryan Stevenson, who turns down a very comfortable law job to go to Alabama and defend a poor prisoner on death row. Stevenson takes up the case of a poor African American by the name of Walter McMillan, who had been falsely convicted of killing a white women. Because McMillan is a very poor African American in Alabama, even though there are many witnesses who can testify that he was somewhere else when this women was murdered, McMillan is falsely convicted and sentenced to death. Hardly anyone cares about his situation and no other lawyer in Alabama is willing to take the time to defend him or show any concern about his situation. Continue reading
Over the past few years, there have been a few films made about Fred Rogers and the influence that he made on young people through his television show for young people, entitled “Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood.” I remember speaking to you a few years ago about the documentary that was made about him. It showed how he took young people seriously and very deliberately spoke to them about some of the very political issues that dominated the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. I can remember watching the documentary and being surprised at how intentionally he was working to form children to respect others and how he had a real ability to feel for them. So for example, while I remember Officer Clemens on the show, I had no idea that he had been purposely placed there during a time of de-segregation in the United States to show an African-American in a position of authority and to de-bunk prejudices that were often held at that time and perhaps still are today. Continue reading
For those of you who are as old as I am, it can be hard to believe that it has been almost twenty years since we began the new millennium. Given the expectations that awaited the change of millennium in 1999, it is actually amazing how well things have gone. At the end of the 1990’s, there were all sorts of scenarios about how the world was going to end when the clock struck midnight and the new millennium came in. Not too surprisingly, there are many historical accounts which tell of the same kind of hysteria at the time of the millennia change in the year 999. One of the biggest concerns in 1999 was a fear that all computers were going to shut down because they had not been programmed in order to take into account the new dating for the years 2000 and after. As we approached midnight on December 31, 1999, many were waiting to see if chaos and total collapse of all computer networks was going to be the great tragedy of the new millennium. Continue reading
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