Sunday, 6 March 2016

Lent in a rut

Do you ever feel like your stuck in a rut? I know that I usually find myself that way during this time of Lent, and truthfully, the same at Christmas. There is a part of me that truly dislikes holidays and the time approaching them. Some of it may be the anxiety over large crowds and long waits. Some of it is that I am disappointed at my own efforts in my relationship with God. Often I feel like the dog in this picture, which upon further reflection I hope is photo-shopped. What gets me is how open and aware his eyes are.

Advice for this situation? I don't have lots of good stuff right now. I'm low and feeling down, but there is a glimmer of hope because this too, shall pass. The beautiful thing about our faith is that it only takes a simple act of admitting faults and trying to be better to get back on the rails. I know that God doesn't give up on me even when I give up on myself.

There isn't a penalty box or a suspension period. As soon as I make the move to let Jesus back into my heart, I will find he was already there. I guess that is why Lent is good for listening.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Our time in the desert...

This will be a short post for this week. Our Gospel on Sunday depicted Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days, culminating with the temptation from the devil. One of the beautiful things I find in this is humanity of Jesus. For Catholics, one of our great mysteries is understanding how Jesus is both fully God and fully human.

Facing his temptation would have been very difficult. I'm sure that he would have often felt like manifesting bread over the 40 days. I know that I could not make such self-sacrificing decisions if I were to have Jesus' power. Even on the night he was taken, Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from him and asked his Father to not have him on the cross. At the end, Jesus repeated that most important line from the "Our Father", which is "thy will be done." Jesus wanted to do the Father's will more than anything, even at the cost of great suffering and his own life. He offered the perfect rejection of temptation that Adam and Eve could not do in the Garden of Eden. His perfect sacrifice is how we are restored to God.

So over this Lent, think about how you can resist temptation--be like Jesus and turn to prayer. Most importantly, think about how you can do the Father's will. Look for people in need of mercy and share some.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Walk a mile in someone else's shoes

This week we will celebrate Ash Wednesday and begin our Lenten Journey. Our Gospel today at mass depicting Jesus meeting 3 of the apostles and making them fishers of people. They immediately changed their path and went on in a new direction. Lent is that time for us so may consider the direction in our lives. Are we putting God first? Are we showing acts of mercy to our neighbours? Is it time for us to alter our path and direction?

When a person is blessed with ashes, there are two common blessings. The one we often use is, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel." This is a reminder for us to look at our nets and ask if we are catching the right things in our life. Perhaps we can look for other things and change our path. 

The second response is, "Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return." This is a good reminder that we are here only for a short time. Sooner or later we will all face death--something often neglected by our culture. The legacy we will leave is found with the people around us. Our mercy themes for February "clothe the naked" and "instruct the ignorant". Mother Teresa was an ideal example of sacrificing herself for others. Below is a picture of one of her feet. She had a severe and painful deformity of her toes which must have been quite painful. Every month when there was a donation of footwear, Mother Teresa would always go through the supply and find the worst pair of sandals for herself, leaving the best for her patients and fellow sisters. Can we walk in her shoes this Lent?

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Semester 2: The Force Awakens

February is like a New September without the same level of anticipation and much worse weather. It is the beginning of Lent shortly, which many Catholics practice as a somber season. It is important for us to remember that while we consider the seriousness of sin and Jesus' sacrifice, that we walk with joy in our day to day life. Lent should be no example. It is an opportunity for us to strip away worldly distractions to focus only on God; that should be joyful as we grow closer to God. Christians are a hopeful people who change the world through God's love.

For our grade 12's they are embarking upon the last leg of this journey. Challenge them to think about what they expect from themselves for their last semester. Ask them to consider what the "good life" means because in five months, many will pursue it in their own way. I hope that we teach our kids the importance of serving our neighbours as part of the "good life". We believe that if any part of the body is ill, the whole body suffers.

This is what I propose for a Lenten challenge. We have $1000 to donate thanks to Amy Kilburn and her club. We plan on donating that as a work of mercy for clean drinking water. I challenge you and your homeroom to do a local drive for the food bank. In these difficult economic times our local food bank is seeing almost double its normal usage. This is our chance to show mercy to our local community.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

A Banquet of Mercy

In my last post I mentioned the miracle of water to wine that was referenced from John's Gospel in today's reading. I would like to build upon that tonight to discuss how we can apply this to the year of mercy that our school is immersed in.

The wedding itself is a great banquet and when we share in the Eucharist, Catholics believe that it is a divine experience where heaven and earth are united in the eternal banquet of heaven. Saving the best for last is exactly what we receive in Communion. We are able to to receive it, not because we can earn it or deserve it, but because of the free gift of God's grace and Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

The vessels used for the miracle were jars contained with water for purification. This mystery of the water and wine connects the sacrament of Baptism to the sacrament of the Eucharist. When we are baptized, it transforms us to be members of a new community in the image of Christ. It is the first step of communion. When we consume the body and blood of Jesus, we fully enter that relationship and are transformed by what we consume. By becoming like Christ, we are able to enter the kingdom of heaven, but we are called to be His body on earth, spreading mercy.

For January, our Corporal work of Mercy focus should be on "give drink to the thirsty". That can refer to physical water to those in need. There are over a billion people in our world who do not have access to clean drinking water. What kind of response would there be if 1 of 6 people in Canada was in that situation? Some reserves actually do face that problem. In California, the massive drought has had devastating effects for many families and has a global impact on food availability and prices. Again, the poorest and weakest are worst off.

Below is a video with some information and some ideas for help.

Our Spiritual work of Mercy in this month is to "counsel the doubtful". In this spiritual act, we use the opportunity for prayer and dialogue to help reveal the person of Jesus to those who doubt. As teachers in Catholic schools, we often provide this act to our students. This week is the week of Christian Unity, so I would recommend saying a prayer for that so that we focus on building relationships. For your students who often struggle with the idea of science and God, here is a great buzzfeed article that demonstrates how the two should actually support each other.

Finally, here is an article from one of my magazines this week with ideas for teaching the works of mercy to our kids. Have a great week!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

We are a sacramental people

Well folks, we have returned from Christmas and have a whirlwind time as we move from the Christmas season to ordinary time (briefly) to Lent. The last few weeks allow us to think about how God is present to us and reminds us that we are a people sacramental in nature.

What is a sacrament? Well here is a link to the catechism's official website with the definition. Not clear yet? That's okay, we'll try to discuss further.

A sacrament is the action of the Holy Spirit at work in us to reveal Christ's presence. Jesus is all about transformation and relationships. As a sacramental people we recognize the transformative work of God in the world around us and in daily activities. Specifically for Catholics we look at the 7 Sacraments as moments of great conversion. There are physical symbols that our bodies and minds perceive through our senses, which signify a permanent and profound transformation at the level of our soul.

During Advent we are constantly preparing for God to arrive and remember our ancestors who waited for their Messiah. At Christmas, specifically during the feast of Epiphany we recognize that the Word has become flesh; God is with us and He offers Himself to the world. That is why we put the blessing on our doors: 20+C+M+B+16  We ask God to bless our home and our year. We asked to be transformed to be more like him.

The Christmas season concludes with the Baptism of the Lord, where Jesus accepts Baptism from John at the Jordan. This is the universal sacrament that binds all Christians together. Baptism is our adoption into the Body of Christ. It is the beginning of our transformation to be like Jesus. Physically, we are baptized with water and blessed with oil, but on our soul, the stain of original sin is removed and we are moulded into a new creation in Christ as part of the community.

This coming Sunday, the Gospel explores the Wedding at Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle and began his ministry. Below is a great link from Bishop Barron when he gave a homily on this topic. Jesus blessing the wedding with the "best wine" is the sacramentalization of the event. Marriage becomes the only sacrament that partners give to each other and is renewed by sacrifice to each other. This becomes like the heavenly banquet that awaits us and is a reflection of the Trinity.

Choosing the wine highlights the coming sacrament that Jesus will institute just before his death. The Eucharist. This is the penultimate experience for Catholics as during Communion we are fully united in the Body of Christ; we are transformed to be one with him, in him, and through him. God is with us and before us.

In a few short weeks we recount how God came to dwell among us and how he left sacraments to sustain us on our journey as we follow him. This sacraments help us come to know him and to be transformed to be like him.

Bishop Barron's Homily 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Add some Hope, Faith, Joy, Peace....and Mercy this Advent

Hello folks,

It's been a while since I have made a post on my blog. Sorry for the delay, but strangely teaching, parenting, and coaching are each full time jobs. As my volleyball season has wound to a close, our Advent season is kicking off. This is a beautiful time of year for Catholics and it is important to celebrate it with our kids.

This advent will be even more special because next weekend Pope Francis kicks off the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Mercy and Advent beautifully go hand in hand. Often we misconstrue Advent as a preparation season for Christmas, and while we do remember Christ's birth at the end of the season, the waiting in advent is much more about the second coming of Jesus. That is why it is a joyful anticipation moreso than the solemn preparation of Lent.

The reason that we can joyfully wait for our Lord is not because we have done something worthy or because we have sacrificed enough to earn His love. Rather, we wait in hope because of His mercy. God's gift of grace is freely given to all humankind and all we need to do is to make a place to welcome Him so that we can receive the gift.

How can we welcome God?

  1. Pray--Talk to God and ask Him to be with you. 
  2. Receive the sacraments--Fix your relationship with God and seek the sacrament of Penance; receive the gift of Christ's body and blood; share your heart and energy with your spouse through your marriage
  3. Live the Beatitudes--Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Over the last century or so there have been 2 profound encounters that have shaped Catholic identity. At Fatima, our Holy Mother appeared to the three children and the importance of asking for mercy was given. During the Rosary, at the end of each decade we conclude with the Fatima Prayer:
"O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy. Amen."

Not much later Sister Faustina had her encounter with Christ. This is where we get the devotion to the Divine Mercy. Pope John Paul II made it the first feast after Easter. In Jesus' discussions with Sister Faustina, He lamented how people we not asking for His Mercy. The Divine Mercy message is one we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC: 

A - Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world. 
B - Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. 
C - Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive. 

Over each of the months remaining in the school year I will focus on 2 of the works of mercy that we can share with our neighbours.

At Father Merc, we do have some merciful activities going on. Through Santa's Anonymous we are reaching out to bring peace, joy, and hope to members of our community. This week we will have a chance to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and receive mercy ourselves. Our grad retreat is taking place with the theme of the prodigal son, which is one of the greatest parables of God's mercy.

In this advent season, I pray that we are joyfully waiting for the Lord by making a space for him. We need to do so in our hearts. We need to do so in our classrooms and homes. We need to do so by the way we reach out to our neighbours.