Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Circumcision of Heart

In the Hebrew Scriptures there is a story about a man whose name was Jonah. Jonah was tasked by God with the unpopular duty to travel to the city of Nineveh (in the belly of a whale!) and tell the people they had to change their wicked ways.

Its not easy to try and tell someone they need to change.
Its not easy listening to someone tell you that you need to change (my wife is telling me all the time :) )

But change we must.
It is a gift when we have someone in our lives who has the courage to tell us that some attitude or behaviour needs to be revisited.

No one is perfect, and our lives need to be a process of changing and growing into being more compassionate, forgiving and relational people.

Such change is something one needs to choose, it cannot be forced.

Such a change needs to be from the heart, a change of heart, or in scriptural terms, a circumcision of heart.

When hearts are changed, families, cities and nations can be changed.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Change is unavoidable.
Change is unavoidable in every aspect of our lives.
Every passing moment brings change within us and the environments that we find ourselves in.

This reality of constant change is non negotiable.

The question we need to ask ourselves though, is HOW do we want to change in each passing moment?
Or, What influences are we going to allow to effect the change in our lives?

Psychology 101 reminds us that our environments form us.
What environments are we putting ourselves in? People, places, organizations, music, movies, television, books, etc.

There are many things that make up my environment that continues to form me, but the most important influence is the forming influence of the Living Word of God, my openness to the Holy Spirit of Life, and the presence of a healthy and supportive church community.

Lent is a time for us to re evaluate how "change" is taking place in our lives.
It is a time for Transformation, Transfiguration.
It is a time for us to become more like Jesus, more like God's Divine Life of Love - that alone which does not change.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Struggle for Freedom

In every liturgical year the Church brings us in the first Sunday of Lent to reflect on the Lord’s being led into the desert to struggle and be tempted. 

The first Sunday of Lent reminds us of the very real humanity of Christ. It also reminds us that we, like Jesus, need to struggle in the process of knowing who we are in relation to God and one another.
In order for us to make real progress in this inward journey of self realization, we need to take the spiritual desert seriously.
  • many people are afraid of the desert.
  • Afraid to face the interior noise and pain.
  • Lent and our mission calls us to face this spiritual “noise” that keeps us from being more fully human and alive.
Jesus calls us individually and corporately to go into the desert with Him.
  • to learn to trust Him
  • to learn to be present to Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • To battle the enemy and the noise and the distraction within us.
The spiritual desert is a tough place where we learn to recognize and do battle against the temptations that separate us from the Lord of Life.
St.Augustine of Hippo says
“we progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial…we can only grow when struggling against temptation and challenge.”
The interior life of struggling from self and more habitually centering on Christ is something we must simply practice and do.
  • The spiritual practices of meditating on the Word of God, and of learning how to be more open in our daily living to the Love of God, are foundational practices in Christian living.
  • Such spiritual practices can only be learned by practicing them, and over time, the spiritual fruit will be realized. 
Lent is an invitation to enter into the inner desert…
With the Holy Spirit…
To say no to the enemy within us…
As we grow stronger in this inner spiritual journey with Christ, we will be more effective in drawing others into the holy dance of Eternal life and Love.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Journey from Bondage to Freedom

Throughout Lent Christians will hear the unfolding of the story of the Hebrew people's journey from the bondage of slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the promised land.

This story, this journey from bondage to freedom, is not only the story of nations - the ancient Hebrew people, the indigenous of Canada's north, or the people of Syria today - it is the story of every human being.

There are so many things in our lives - some avoidable, others unavoidable - that can keep us in "bondage" if we allow it to, and prevent us from being open to Life and Love. And often times we need others to support us, to direct us and to walk with us in the process of liberation.

Moses was that person for the Hebrew people. He saw the injustices committed against his people, and he heard God call him to help lead His people out of slavery. In a quiet place, free of distraction, Moses experienced Holy Ground, he experienced a place where he encountered the Living God - the Living God who called him to acts of mercy and self sacrifice for the needs of others.

Only as we encounter Holy Ground, the sacred space of the Living God, will we come to recognize more the ONE LIFE that we all share, the One Life that calls us to respond to the needs of others, the One Life that calls for a more just, equal and free society for all of God's people.

Jesus is THE ONE who is within all of us as we walk with and support one another into the fullness of Life.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

What is Lent about?

As human beings, what is it that we most need?

There are the basic needs of food, water, shelter, warmth. When and as these needs are being met, the greatest human need is the need to be loved.

We often meet a snag when as we seek to have our need for love met. That snag is our sin. None of us are perfect, and the less perfect we are, the more we sin. That is to say, the more we cause problems in our relationships with others.

For the Christian, the holy season of Lent is about making progress in overcoming this problem of sin and broken relationships.

Saint Leo the Great (4th century) reminds us that "the special note of the paschal feast is this: the whole Church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins."

Through the power of the Cross of Christ, all of humanity can know and experience the joy of forgiveness of sin, and the freedom to experience the Love of God, and the joy of loving others with that same Love.

It is this Divine Love that makes us equal with each other. St.Leo says again "those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts."

What we most need is to know that we are loved by God and by others. Out of that love and affirmation, what we most need is to love God and others.

It is this love and concern for others, that will motivate the church, and all people of good will, to respond to the basic needs of food, shelter, health care, education, justice, freedom and equality in our Global Village.

That's something of what Lent is about!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Fasting and Repentance: Good things to do

For Christians, today, Ash Wednesday, is the beginning of Lent. It is a time for us to examine, redirect and renew our lives.

All of us want to have "renewed" lives, lives that are meaningful, purposeful, lives that have "fresh air" regularly breathed into them.

Lent is an invitation to do so.

Repentance is part of the process. Repentance simply means taking a look at our lives (our attitudes and behaviours), and continuing to change the things that need to be changed.

How do we know what needs to be changed?
Anything that gets in the way of open relationship to every other human being and to God's Divine Life.
Nurturing such openness to Life is a life time process, and facilitated through a healthy church community.

Another aspect of Lent is fasting. Fasting is not just about denying yourself food or other things.

Isaiah tells us of the fasting that God wants: "releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own."

Lent is a call to change our own lives in such a way that we can do our part in the healing and restoration of our families, in our churches, in our communities, in our province, in our country, in our world.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Choice is Yours

Rational human life is about making choices.

As reasonable beings made in the image of a reasonable, rational God, we are responsible for every choice we make in our thoughts and in our deeds.

As much as some may try, we are in no position to blame anyone else or anything else for what we think and what we do.

I used to play hockey with a fellow who used to look at me and say "Father, they makes me curse!" Well, that's not really true :)

St.Gregory of Nyssa says "We are in a sense our own parents, and we give birth to ourselves by our own free choice of what is good. Such a choice becomes possible for us when we have received God into ourselves and have become children of God."

The more full experience of human life is in the process of becoming more aware of the Divine life within us; and not only to become aware, but to cooperate with that life, to live that life.

The full human life chooses from within the goodness, love, compassion, forgiveness that is Divine, that is Christ's very life.

Lent is a time to renew or rediscover, or even to discover for the first time, this Divine Life.

The choice is yours.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A reflection for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday, 22 February 2012
The church calls us in Lent to examine our lives and change our ways, and be healed.
Lent is not a season of punishment so much as one of healing.
Lent is an invitation to “change” your heart, and make it more whole and complete.

The Ash Wednesday Liturgy reminds us to: 
“create and make in us NEW and contrite hearts”
“…acknowledging our BROKENNESS”
“…renew our life in the PASCHAL MYSTERY”
“self examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, READING AND MEDITATING on the word of God.”
This is the process through which we are healed and made whole.
This lent, let us surrender every aspect of our lives to Christ.
With trust and faith, let us follow Him into the land of promise, The life of Resurrection, where all things are NEW.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sunday Reflection

Sunday Homily for 19 February 2012, Gospel of Mark 2:1-12
The last 3 Sundays we have been hearing stories of Jesus’ healing ministry.
Today we are going to hear about: 1) Bringing Others to Christ, and 2) Relationship between sin and suffering
  1. Bringing Others
A “full” House
“So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them”
  • this is the way our churches should be.
  • When we proclaim the Word of God and administer the sacraments, God is at work here amongst us.
  • So what are we doing to bring people along?
  • OR...
  • Do we really believe that God is here present to us and active among us?
Bringing people to Jesus
“Then some people came, bringing to Jesus a paralysed man”
  • bringing someone to Jesus.
  • imagine that.
  • again, what are we doing to try and bring others to that which they most need?
Remove the roof
“...they removed the roof...”
  • wow!
  • what roofs are we removing to help others get to Christ?
  1. Relationship between Sin and Suffering
“Son, your sins are forgiven”
“Stand up and take your mat and walk”
There is a close relationship between the healing of sins and the health of the body.
Sin can exercise such force that people are unable to move or to change. 
All suffering is rooted in humanity’s separation from God. For this reason, Jesus must call attention here to the man’s deepest need ( the need for forgiveness of sin) -  otherwise the testimony of this healing would remain nothing more than the story of a remarkable miracle. 
The Kingdom of God
In his act of forgiveness Jesus was also declaring the presence of God’s Kingdom among people. 
The Kingdom of God is also amongst us. We are forgiven and set free.
Our Witness
Those of us touched by God’s forgiveness must become public witnesses to others so that they in turn can know the healing and wholeness that Jesus offers. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Radical Welcome of All, and Healing in Relationship

We are created to be fully alive, and every human being yearns to be free from that which keeps us from being in life giving relationship with others and with the Divine Life.
There is  a story in the Gospel of a person sick with leprosy and therefore a rejected social outcast who hears of Jesus and comes to Him for healing. 
The radical welcome of Jesus Christ
This is not only a story of a physical illness, it is a story about social rejection. 
All of the most socially diseased are invited and welcome to come to Jesus Christ.
Not just the person with leprosy, but the…
  • the alcoholic
  • the person addicted to narcotics
  • the sexual sinner
  • the woman beater
  • the person wanted by the police
  • the thief
  • the person suffering from depression
  • the mentally challenged
  • etc
People who are socially difficult to be around and may make many folk uncomfortable are invited and welcome to come to Jesus, to come to the loving relationships within the church.
There is healing in relationship
When we make people welcome, there is healing.
When we accept people even in the mess that they may be in, there is healing.
There is healing in the embrace of the saint.
There is healing in the embrace of the sinner.
Once we come to know the Risen Christ ourselves, His Love and acceptance, then we will have a desire to love and embrace not only every human being, but especially those who are marginalized for whatever reason.
The enthusiasm of Love
The leaper, after being loved, accepted, and healed, cannot contain himself.
There is enthusiasm after the encounter with the divine love revealed in Christ.
There is enthusiasm after encountering love and relationship.
There is an enthusiasm that wants to tell everyone about the power of Jesus Christ to heal and set free.

The truth is that if we know the Christ Life, we will be enthusiastic and committed to the mission of making that Life known to others.
Our Mission
As we come to know more and more the power of the Love of Christ in our own lives, let us do our part in inviting and welcoming into the life of the Church those around us who are most in need.
And let us embrace one another with Christ’s love and real relationship.
And let us continue on the healing journey together with Him.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

What are demons?

“So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.”
What are demons or unclean spirits?
Little red men with pointy ears and pitch forks?
Are they some kind of being that enters us from outside of ourselves?
Simply put, demons or unclean spirits are our own thoughts and desires that are not of  God.
The battle is within
The battle against evil is within us, within our own hearts and minds.
All that draws us away from loving and being loved, all that draws us away from mercy and compassion, all that draws us away from peace and joy…is the demon or unclean spirit.
An unclean spirit is…
An unloving thought is an unclean spirit.
A judgmental thought is an unclean spirit.
A thought that lacks mercy and forgiveness is an unclean spirit.
A thought that is filled with anxiety about the present or future is an unclean spirit.
A thought that is filled with pain from our past is an unclean spirit.
We have to make a choice with every thought
We have a choice with every single one of these thoughts as they come into our minds: are we going to be possessed by this demon and allow it to consume our consciousness, or through the Grace and power of the Cross of Jesus, are we going to let it go and be free. 
Jesus’ call to us:
1.Quiet and recognition
Jesus calls us to places of worship and quietness in order to recognize and identify the unclean spirits within us that are robbing us of life.
2. The Cross and Grace
Then he offers us the power of His Cross: to put the Cross between us and the unclean thoughts, to free us from the bondage of these demons by His Grace, the infilling of the Holy Spirit. 
3. Listen to His Words
And then He calls us to listen to His Word, His teaching.
His Spirit filled Words are to fill our hearts and minds.
His words of life and love and mercy and peace are to overpower and replace the unclean spirits that have dominion over us.

“So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.”
The Lord Jesus desires to come into our hearts to teach us the Truth about Life, to lead us out of the bondage of all that is unclean and damaging, and to bring us into the Promised Land of freedom, love, peace, joy….eternal life in communion with the Father.
He calls us to be a people of love that can draw others to freedom, wellness and fullness of life.