FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Waiting like we’re a child again!

I’ve been recently thinking a lot about waiting, in light of today’s gospel, and about being prepared. I also couldn’t help but think about my own childhood, and wait-ing for Christmas. My trigger was the “Christmas Wish book”. When that came out, it for me that was the official start of Christmas. The funny thing was that it would come out earlier and earlier every year, so I was in full Christmas mode around September 15th of each year. Probably drove me parents crazy.
The gospel reading from Mark asks us to be on guard, and to wait for the coming of the Lord. I wonder if Jesus is asking us to wait and anticipate the coming of the Lord in a more childlike fashion.
As we move into Advent, we begin preparing for Christmas, and are preparing for a busy four weeks leading up to Christmas. Along with all the activity, often there is a sense of worry and anxiety as we are making sure we have a “perfect” Christmas. There are many things to think about, like buying gifts, and then sending them in time. Will there be enough money for everything? Will so and so argue with so and so during Christmas dinner? These are just a few things that may go through our minds. Children though, never think of those things, they just think about the good things associated with Christmas. I feel as though if we waited more like a child would, that we might get more out of Christmas. Something else kids do is they talk about Christmas often to their parents about how excited they are about what’s coming. Let’s follow that example as well, and talk to the father in heaven about how excited we are that Jesus is coming to us, and to give thanks for all the gifts that he will bring to us. As well, Fr. Toochukwu gives us some wonderful instruction in the bulletin and the website about praying together as a family this Advent season. If we follow this, surely our Christmas experience will be all the richer.
It’s interesting that we talk a lot about bringing our gifts to the parish community, and ultimately back to God. It is also wonderful how so many of you do just that. But one thing I hope you all know is that your presence in this
parish, and community is the greatest present that we can receive. May we all be gifts to each other, and to anyone living on the margins in our community today.
This Advent, no matter what happens, God will come, and he is our source of all truth, beauty, goodness, love, and eternal life. God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald

FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

We see Jesus in all People!

I remember reading a story about an ethics class at a university. The professor came in and handed out markers and paper to each student. Then oddly enough, he put up a dart board. He asked all the students to draw a picture of someone they didn’t like and put it up on the board. Next the professor handed out some darts and all were invited to throw darts at the people they didn’t like.
After a few minutes, all the darts were thrown and people had a grand time. Then the professor pulled all the darts of then started taking the pictures off one by one. He did this until the last page was left on the board, and what was revealed was clearly an image of Jesus. The professor said to the students that no matter who you meet, no matter who they are, they are Jesus. Then he walked out of the room.
I believe the gospel reading for this week highlights the fact whomever we meet, that person is actually a child of God, and we should see Jesus reflected in their faces. When I was in formation for the diaconate, this gospel pas-sage came up over and over again in our formation, no matter what particular course we were taking. This came up so often because it speaks to the heart of mission, and after everything is said and done and Jesus returns in glory, this is how we will be judged. We will have to answer one basic question which is: When you saw someone in need, did you respond to their need? Pope Francis describes it in this way: “At the end of the world, we will be judged,” he said. “And what will the questions be that the judge will ask?” They are listed in Matthew 25: 35-36: Did you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner?” Matthew 25 speaks to the heart of our call to mission into the world, and our need to reach out to those in need, wherever we encounter them.
We know Matthew 25 well. the most important word in it is ‘I’. Jesus identifies himself with the people he is talking about. He doesn’t just say people were in prison and you visited them or sick, or naked. He says it is ‘I’ who am in prison, sick and naked. It’s even more than being a brother or sister of Jesus. He identified totally with each of us, especially in need.
It goes back that we are all made in the image of God. Jesus sees right though us to see God. God is the divine life in each person. So is Jesus. That makes the difference. We don’t help the needy person only because he or she is needy, but because each is in the image of God and Jesus sees him or her and says, ‘that’s me’. It is only then that God’s kingdom is revealed and is made present in this world. We truly are the hands and feet of God.
God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald

THIRTY_THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Multiplied in it’s Giving
What Christ has given us is multiplied in it’s giving. I love that line, as it reminds me of a story. Close to 20 years or so back, I lived beside an older man who was in the apartment next to me. Every once in a while he would come over and we would sit down with our guitars and play vintage country songs, going all the way as far back to Hank Williams. I was kind of familiar with the songs, but he knew every word. I really didn’t think much of it to be
honest as you don’t have to convince me too much to sit down and play guitar with you. Sometime later I ended up moving to Saskatoon from Prince Albert where I was then living. When I told the older man I was leaving, he was really upset. At the time I didn’t understand, but finally I asked him when we had one last music session. It turns out that these little sessions meant a great deal to him, as it brought him back to the “old days”. So I asked him about the “old days” and he told me that he was friends with a lot of musicians around the area, and that they used to get together and play together for hours on end, and as it turned out, it was one of his best memories. So, getting together with me brought him back to the times, and really made him feel less lonely as most of his friends had passed away. Then, that last evening he told me story after story of his time with his friends, who included Red Shea, who became the guitarist for Gordon Lightfoot. Red Shea was one of Canada’s greatest guitar players. From this experience I could truly feel the gift of music multiplying in its giving.
In the parable today, we have the master, who I think we can safely represents God. Then we have servants who were given talents and were left to protect and make them grow. The first two servants doubled their talents, and were considered to be “good and faithful servants”, while the third hid his talent, and didn’t try to make it grow into more talents. The line that was intriguing to me related to the third
servant is when he says “Master, I knew you to be a hard man.” I wonder if that is why some people are hesitant to begin a life of faith, or approach God in some fashion. Maybe they see God as a “hard man”? Some
people are incapable of seeing the Kingdom of God unfolding before their very eyes and in their own time. Is this not what is in the mind of the third slave? He was stifled by fear, and was impeded from reaching out to those in need around him. Fear paralyzes each one of us and prevents us from reach-ing out to those in need around us. Instead of approaching God in fear, we must remember that he is mercy; endless mercy. Let’s reach out today as even the simplest acts can mean the world to someone and bring them closer to God. God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald

THIRTY_SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Oil For the Journey

What an intriguing Gospel passage we have this weekend. In the story, ten virgins or bridesmaids are sent to the wedding banquet. Five come ready with extra supplies, but the other five don’t. I did a little bit of research and found some historical context for the parable. The high point of the wedding ceremony at the time of Jesus occurred when the groom, accompanied by his relatives went to the family house of the bride to transfer her to his home. It is here that the rest of the ceremony took place. This moment is the beginning of our Gospel parable.
Ten young women, very likely the groom’s sisters and female cousins, are waiting his return. When the bridegroom came at midnight, they all rose to light their lamps; but only five who had thought ahead and bought extra oil were able to do so. The five without oil begged to borrow from the others, but the wise ones were unwilling to give up their resources because then none of the ten would have enough oil. While the unprepared ones were off buying more oil, the bridegroom arrived and was ushered into the marriage feast, and the door was bolted shut.
The first young girls were prepared for their roles, but the unprepared girls failed to make adequate plans and found themselves closed out of the feast.
One of the main themes of this parable, I believe, is that there is a need for us to be prepared at all times for the
coming of Jesus. We have no idea of the day or the hour when Jesus will return, so our lamps have to be full and ready for the groom to return, so we can participate in our eternal banquet with Jesus and all the saints. So what is the oil for our journey? I believe the oil for the journey is the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit guides our lives, we will always be ready and prepared for Jesus to come back in glory. Also, throughout our lives, our lamps must continue to burn brightly as another message from this Gospel is the need to evangelize others whom we encounter. Pope Francis, I find is a wonderful guide in evangelization, as he has a loving approach related to the new evangelization. I feel our approach to others is so important. Pope Francis calls us to evangelize with the heart of a shepherd. Catholics today should not just maintain institutions, but should actively seek the lost. The shepherd is never content when his sheep wander away. Mother Teresa spoke of keeping our lamps lit brightly in her own way. The following are her words:
“What are the oil lamps in our lives?
 They are the little everyday things:
 faithfulness, punctuality, kind words,
 thoughtfulness of another person,
 the way we are silent at times,
 the way we look at things,
 the way we speak, the way we act.
 Those are the little drops of love
which make it possible for our life of faith to shine brightly.
God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald

THIRTY_FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Finding Freedom in Christ

In the gospel reading today Jesus speaks about authentic discipleship, and serving the Lord to be of service to him, not to glorify ourselves.  Jesus says something quite perplexing when he says “The scribes and the Pharisees vsit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, wbut not the works they do. xFor they preach, but do not practice.”  Why would Jesus say to follow the Pharisees but don’t follow their example?  I believe he was saying that their scriptural teachings about the law were accurate and should be followed, but for the Pharisees it was more of an intellectual pursuit, not a spiritual one.  They seemed to enjoy all the attention, and being held up above others in their teaching.  However, it wasn’t a heart issue with the Pharisees, or at least with some of them, it was more about law then relationship.

I believe too that Jesus saw that they were missing one key ingredient in their  relationship with God, and that was Freedom.  This is the freedom that can only come from a loving, spirit lead relationship with God.

Never one to pass up a chance to talk about the music of Bob Dylan, there is a verse out of one of his songs that directly speaks about freedom.  It goes like this “Then she opened up a book of poems and handed it to me – written by an Italian poet from the fifteenth century. And every one of them words rang true. And glowed like burning coal. Pouring off of every page like it was written in my soul from me to you.”  While the song speaks abouta man and woman who are “tangled up” in their lives, Dylan is also referring to Dante’s comedy which Dante outlines his journey from the depths of sin to a freedom where the chains of sin are broken and he can now live a life in Christ.

Pope Francis spoke about freedom as well when he said “May the Lord grant to all of us this paschal Spirit, of going forward along the path of the Spirit without compromises, without rigidity, with the liberty of proclaiming Jesus Christ as He Who has come: in the flesh.”

I think it is key when Pope Francis says “May the Lord grant to all of us, the spirit.”  He is reminding us that we are all on this journey together.  It is a great lesson to all of us, clergy and faithful alike to work together, and to be humble in our practices and in our service, and to keep our focus and our heart on Jesus and his teachings.  Jesus offers us a freedom truly not of this world.

 

God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald