I Call You Friends
In today’s Gospel text from St. John (15:15), we witness a deepening of relation-ship between Jesus and those who follow him when Jesus says “I do not call you servants any longer … but I have called you friends.” What a remarkable thing to say, as Jesus is pushing us from an intellectual understanding of Jesus, to a heart-felt love for him and everyone around us. Fr. Thomas Rosica speaks of friendship with Jesus very eloquently when he said “Christianity demands that the believer not only grasp intellectually the main tenets of the faith, but also act on them in daily life. The extraordinary story of Cornelius’ conversion in today’s first read-ing certainly illustrates this message. It is the longest individual narrative in the Acts of the Apostles. The theme of this narrative is divine compulsion: Peter is the least prepared to accept
Cornelius into the Christian community, and he even refuses to admit him two times.”
So what does friendship look like with Jesus in our daily lives? One example may come from our own daily lives.
I have a small group of friends that I grew up with in Pictou County. Some don’t live there anymore but others still do. They are a group of people that I know in my heart will be there at the end of my life, and all through my life. No matter where we may live, or no matter where we might go to live, we still have a bond that will continue. Most of us met on the crosswalk of Diamond Street School in Trenton, on the first day or grade primary, and we have been friends ever since. The amazing thing is for me that regardless of how long it’s been since we saw each other, or how long since we have seen each other, our conversation picks up right from where it left off. Also, we can be truly ourselves with each other, the good and the bad, and not feel judged or belittled. Truly friendships that will last forever, I imag-ine it is an experience similar to many of you.
Isn’t this really the kind of friendship that Jesus wants with us? One where we can come to him with our whole self, the good and the not so good. Where we can be ourselves and come before him in truth and in love.
Pope Benedict also spoke beautifully about friendship with Jesus, right at the beginning of his pontificate. Three times during that memorable homily, Benedict XVI spoke of the importance of “friendship” with Jesus; the Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, toward friendship with the Son of God, toward the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”
That is what Jesus wants from us, a friendship with us which will lead us to an abundant life.
God bless you all Deacon Dan MacDonald
Jesus is the True Vine
The reading this week leaves me with the feeling that the first step on any journey of faith comes
with an acceptance that Jesus is the true vine, and we are the branches. Through telling of the
parable of the vine and its branches, the Lord Jesus told us that it is very important to establish a
proper relationship with God. The Lord compared us to the branches and compared Himself to the
vine. Our relationship with the Lord is like the relationship between vine branches and the vine.
Away from the vine, the branches will lose the supply of life, get withered and then die. It reminds me
of someone who comes to the faith either for the first time, or returns to the faith after a long time away.
Have you ever seen someone who goes through a spiritual awakening, and how they change over time? You see the
gradual movement of the Spirit within them, and eventually a full transformative experience follows. It may not be a
perfect analogy but when I speak about transubstantiation, I use the example of a personal transformation. When
someone comes to faith, after a period of time they become more Christ like and grow in their faith. It is very similar
to the Eucharist in the sense that the person doesn’t physically change; they look the same as before, but in their
substance or spirit, they are very different.
When we move throughout our life, it is important to keep in mind the true vine and to make sure we are attached to
the vine. As part of that process we prune the bad branches and in turn become better people, and come closer to our
Lord. From this we will bear much fruit.
God Bless You All, Deacon Danny
Saying what needs to be said
I really like this time during the Easter season, between Easter Sunday and
Pentecost. Many of the Readings bring me back to the joy of Easter, and the
sacrifice that God/Jesus made for us. This week’s Gospel reading is no different
as Jesus speaks of sheep and says “I am the Good Shepherd, A good
shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. It never ceases to amaze me when I
think about God creating us completely out of love, for no other reason than to
be in relationship with Him. Then, when we turned away from that relationship,
He came to us and lived with us, and became us, and then ultimately
sacrificing Himself in order to reconcile ourselves with Him thus giving us the
opportunity to spend eternity with Him, and to live in Him. So, in order to be a good shepherd, we must be
willing to sacrifice as well. Sometimes, we end up in situations where we must stand up for God, and also, I believe
sacrifice is at the core of evangelization as well.
There are two examples that come to mind that might illustrate my point a bit better. The first is by St. John Paul II, and
the other was by a friend of mine.
In 1998, St. John Paul II visited Cuba. He was the first ever Pope to visit Cuba. On one occasion, I recall, he was giving
a speech and as part of the speech I remember him saying “Things have to change here”. What was remarkable about it
was the fact that Fidel Castro was sitting a few feet away from the pontiff, and clearly was not happy with what was happening.
What I liked about John Paul II’s speech was that he could have faced real ramifications for his speech, but that
did not stop him. He spoke the truth and said what needed to be said. He truly laid down his life for us, the sheep of his
Another example for me was one time, we were doing a live broadcast of a music awards show. It was about to go live
all across Saskatchewan. We had a production meeting before hand when one of the crew sarcastically said “Maybe we
should pray.” So one of my friends who was on the crew said “good idea”, and she did. It created a somewhat awkward
moment which she truly could have been ridiculed for, but ultimately she stood up for what she believed and proposed
Jesus to the outside world. Afterwards, I walked over and told her that that was the best thing I had ever seen, and it
really was. Both of these examples are what God is calling us to do, to bring and share his love with all. We may all
face different circumstances, but it is the same call.
God bless you all, Deacon Danny
He is Here
The reading this week immediately follows Jesus walking down the road to Emmaus and
having had him open the scriptures to the two men. In this reading Jesus appears to the
disciples and again says “Peace be with you”. There is much symbolism in this reading
today, and I will try to speak about some of it.
I can’t help but think about the grief stricken speech by a pastor during the vigil for the
Humboldt Broncos. In the speech, the pastor asks the question of where was God? Where
was Jesus? You could see the grief in His face and voice, as He is experiencing the grief
for the families, and maybe even feeling an absence of God in His own life, especially
when He spoke about travelling through the valley of death for 15 hours or so. The pastor
answered the question in two ways; he said that Jesus was still on His throne, at the right
hand of the Father. However, Jesus is also as close as can be with the grieving, with the
poor, and with the survivors that are left behind.
I have also witnessed recently through a tragic event that has happened to a local family, that I feel relates to this reading
as well. Through this tragedy, the outpouring of love and support has been astounding, with meals being prepared and
taken to the family, donations made to help with expenses, and of course with the all-important prayers for the family.
I think of both of these tragedies because I feel the gospel reading relates in a very real way. First we see the confusion
of the disciples and then Jesus coming to be with them in their sorrow and confusion. To echo the pastor in Humboldt,
Jesus is always present to us in our lives, when we begin a new journey, or he will be present to us as we complete a
journey as well.
Another image Jesus is speaking about is the Eucharist in the midst of community, as he asks for something to eat. Jesus
is reminding us and emphasizing the importance of the Eucharist to share on a regular basis, as well as the importance of
community, especially in the times of tragedy. When I mentioned the outpouring of support for the local family, I have
to note that much of the support came from parishioners, and people with whom the family shared the Eucharist, and
prayed with over the years. For me, this all leads to an important final theme of how important it is to come together
every week for all of us to share our joys, our sorrows, and everything in between. It makes real the words and song of
St. Teresa of Avila, that “Christ has no body now but yours.” We can truly make Jesus present and do His will by
simply gathering and being there for each other. The support for the family I mentioned, and the support for the
Community of Humboldt both are testaments to the glory of God that is revealed when we share His love, through gifts
of the Holy Spirit. God bless you all, Deacon Danny
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he
looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through
which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
― Teresa of Ávila
I Can Relate
In the Gospel reading this week, the apostles are in the upper room and are
unsure of what to do next. I imagine they had a lot of questions like “where do we go?” ”what do we do?” “ are we going to face violence and other kinds of persecution?, and I’m sure “how do we provide for ourselves?”. I am sure the emotions were high as well as the anxiety level. I can’t help but think of the reading from last Friday as well, where Simon does what is familiar and says “I’m going fishing”. Lastly, we see Thomas, and his desire to see and touch the wounds of Jesus, and to be sure that Jesus has risen from the dead. I say, I can relate because I too have had experiences where I have been unsure of what to do next, and felt flat out scared of not knowing what will come next. I am especially in touch with Peter and others going fishing, and going back to the familiar. I remember especially during Formation,
being overwhelmed with all the changes, and in some cases, not knowing what would come next. Instead of fishing, I would go take my guitar out, and play all weekend, while at the same time working through the emotions and slowly calming down, as the weekend passed. Sometimes, we have to go back to what is familiar, to help us deal with change, and unsure times.
However, on Divine Mercy Sunday, we see two acts of divine mercy by Jesus himself. I feel that he could have come to the apostles and really chastised them for being so scared and staying in the upper room, after all he taught them. But in-stead he comes to them knowing they have not yet received the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide them. The he lovingly is with them and encourages them to move beyond the room, and into mission, to evangelize and share the good news of what they have seen. Jesus simply says “Peace be with you”.
It is similar for Thomas when Jesus again says “Peace be with you”, and shows Thomas his wounds, and Jesus says “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Jesus shows us his divine mercy, and his love for us. He absolutely does not give up on us; he will journey with us all through our lives. I encourage you to continue your journey to Pentecost and let the joy of Easter and the light of the risen Savior shine through you during the remaining days of Easter.
God bless you all, Deacon Danny
AN EASTER PEOPLE
Welcome to the most Joyous and Holiest day of the year! This is the day when Jesus rose
from the dead and we can celebrate our new life in Christ.
I love St. John Paul II’s famous quote when he said. “Do not abandon yourselves to
despair. We are an Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.”
Isn’t that our call today as well? To be an Easter people to all we meet outside of this
church, in our workplaces, in our families, and to those who don’t have hope.
Also, today our church will be full of people who may normally not come to Mass. I was
reading a reflection that I think truly instructs us very well as to how we are to welcome
our brothers and sisters who don’t attend every week. The stewardship reflection folks say
it this way. “Throughout our diocese thousands of people are at Mass today who may not
normally attend. Recent studies have shown that as many as 40 percent of those who do
not regularly attend may not have been at Mass since Christmas.
That is another reason for us to rejoice and say “Welcome home.” We miss you and we love you. Christ’s love for us
is at the foundation of our celebration today. St. Augustine once wrote, “God loves each of us as if there were only
one of us.” We ask God’s blessings on all those who have passed our amazing religion to you. Clearly you do
remember your devotion and are here to honor it.”
A beautiful message I believe for this Easter Sunday as we celebrate the fact that Jesus conquered death and rose
from the grave. I would like to echo the sentiment as well, and to say “welcome home” to anyone who is visiting
this parish this weekend! I truly hope you will find a permanent home here with us.
Also, to all the parishioners here at St. Thomas More, I wish you a Blessed and Joyful Easter with all your family
and friends. I also wish to thank you for being so welcoming and caring to me and my family.
God bless you all, Deacon Danny
Our Journey to Easter
We are about to embark on the most important week in the Christian/
Catholic Year. With Palm Sunday, we begin the journey through holy
week. The journey where Jesus enters into our pain, our sin, our
sorrow, and also our eventual triumph. Recently, I was reading an
article, and in it, someone said that people give often out of their own
poverty, and because of a tragedy, they may have gone through. An
example of this may be someone who has had cancer will have a desire
to help others going through cancer, or someone who grew up in
poverty will want to help someone who is experiencing a physical or
spiritual poverty. Thinking and reflecting on giving out of our poverty,
I have come to a deeper appreciation for why Jesus entered into our
lives, and have become even more thankful for His life, death, and resurrection, and His life among us. It also led me to
answer some basic questions. 1. Why would Jesus want us to minister to the poor? Answer, because Jesus was poor,
physically, but also at times spiritually. Like in the garden before He was handed over. Why would Jesus want us to
minister to those in prison and on death row? Answer, because he was imprisoned and lived on death row. For three
years, Jesus spoke about being handed over to be killed. For me, that is a kind of death row. Lastly, why would Jesus
want us to reach out to those living on the margins in our society? Answer, because He lived on the margins, He was
rejected, and vilified for his teachings, and way of life. So, in reality Jesus calls us to mission because He knows what all
this feels like, poverty, imprisonment, and living on the margins.
Holy week, especially the Easter Triduum is nothing less than a gift that we can enter into just like Jesus entered our lives.
Holy Thursday along with being a time to renew our relationship and appreciation for the Eucharist, is often a time that I
personally feel sadness. When they are undressing the table and it is bare, I feel a sense of hopelessness, and desolation. I
don’t know if you have felt that yourself?
Thursday then flows into Good Friday, which is a time to take our own poverty, our hurt, our sins, and our sadness, and
bring them to the cross. We can leave all our pain on the cross, with the knowledge and joy that Jesus has already taken
them, and sacrificed himself so that we may have eternal life, and we may know the joy of a life in Christ right now. Not
just after we pass on, not in ten years, but right now. I believe you will see that most profoundly expressed during the
Easter Vigil on Saturday, when our journey comes to a completion, and the triumph of the cross is fully realized. For me,
just like the sadness I often feel on Holy Thursday, I feel an equal measure of joy in our Easter celebrations.
So I encourage you to go to not just one, or two of the celebrations, but to Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and either the
vigil or to Sunday Easter Mass. Why? Because I feel that if you experience all the emotions of the Triduum, the joy of
the Resurrection will be all the greater, and the triumph of the cross will not only be an experience you witness, it will be
an experience that will be a profoundly personal one to you. God Bless, Deacon Dan.
It is Good to be Here
In the Gospel reading this weekend Jesus takes with him Peter, James, John, and Peter’s brother Andrew. These four men have been with Jesus the longest, ever since being called away by Jesus into a new life. When they reach the top of the mountain, the face of Jesus is transformed and his clothes become a dazzling white.
Next Peter reacts in a way that I imagine many of us would react. He says “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Peter’s reaction is to do something, as opposed to simply taking in the moment and the events that are before him. He does this likely because he is excited, and overwhelmed, and even scared. Then the dark cloud comes over them and they hear the voice of God. At that point the apostles fall down in fear, which is also a reaction we would probably have. It seems like the apostles can’t deal with what is happening right
before their eyes.
I feel as though the Gospel passage is telling us to draw closer to the Lord by just being present to him. For me, like the apos-tles, when the glory of God through the holy spirit is revealed before me, I feel the need to do something, even sometimes to resist it, as opposed to just be with God, and to let the moment be a transformative one in my life.
It’s interesting to see how at the side of Jesus, stood Moses, the mighty leader, who had led Israel out of slavery, and Elijah, the greatest of Israel’s prophets.
We are embarking on a time of change in Parish, and in our Diocese. We will need leaders to step up and help us through this process of change, as in just a few short years, things will look very different than they do now. We will also need prophets to encourage change, and demonstrate why the changes need to come. I feel we are very
fortunate to have a great pastor, and a strong leadership team to help us along this time. The same can be said for the Diocese as well, as there are already incredible things happening, by the grace of the movement of the holy spirit.
Our main focus must be on light of Christ as our primary guide, a light that at Mount Tabor had never been seen before. A light which “no fuller on earth could bleach them.” If we keep focus on Jesus, the light of our parish, and the Archdiocese will continue to shine brightly for years to come.
God bless you all, Deacon Danny
Healing and Cleansing
When I read the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy, I couldn’t help but think back to travelling to Kenya a few years ago, and meeting a man with
leprosy. As you can see from the picture I have included, the disease took its toll on the man, where he lost one foot and the other was badly dam-aged.
However, at the same time, I believe that he was healed and cleansed by his community, much like Jesus healed the man in the reading. I say he was healed because while he did lose his foot because of leprosy, his com-munity was able to save his life by providing medicine and other care at the clinic that was
happening. at the time. I feel he was cleansed because when I spoke to the man, he told me how the community had embraced, and welcomed him, even though some were scared of him because of his disease It’s like the
community lived out the gospel message that Jesus is teaching us to reach out to those living on the margins, even
if we might be scared or unsure of them. After speaking to the man along with some of the people who were with him, they all were amazed at the spiritual, physical, and emotional healing that had taken place in him.
We are called to recognize anyone in need and to bring them into our community, and help them heal and be cleansed.
Sometimes, the challenge is recognizing those in need, and getting past our own fears. I recently watched a movie with my family about Ruby Bridges. She is an American civil rights activist. She was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960. There is a scene in the movie of a teacher, and she is speaking about how they
shouldn’t bring Ruby into the school, and how we need to keep the black and the white students separated. The next thing this lady does is sit down to have lunch, and then she does the sign of the cross and says grace. The way they filmed it and the way the actress portrayed it, you really do get pretty upset watching it. Sometimes it seems we don’t recognize how to be Christ to others, and sometimes we don’t even see that someone is in need. The lady in the movie couldn’t get past all her preconceived ideas and was affected by her culture, all of which made her blind to the needs of this young child and the needs of the African-American people during this difficult time. Jesus calls us to heal the broken hearted in any way that we can, and to constantly pray that we recognize the needs of others, and that there are still groups and individuals out there who desperately want community, and love, and healing. After all, don’t we say Jesus is for everyone? God bless you all, Deacon Danny