Finding our Bridge

The Gospel of Mark relates a story very familiar to us when the Lord calls His first Apostles to “come after me.” This is in effect the calling heard by Jonah, and what Paul was trying to emphasize to us. Before the calling, however, Jesus says again, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
I have been thinking a lot about the word repent, and what it really means to repent from something, and as usual I think the answer just fell into my lap.
I was watching a new series by talk show host David Letterman where he does one hour in depth interviews with politicians and celebrities. The interviews are really well done, in this particular episode Letterman interviewed former President of the United States Barack Obama. The two were speaking about the marches on Selma back in 1965. The first march took place on March 7, 1965, organized locally by Bevel, Amelia Boynton, and others. State troopers and county possemen attacked the unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas after they passed over the county line, and the event became known as Bloody Sunday. Law enforcement beat Boynton unconscious, and the media publicized worldwide a picture of her lying wounded on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The second march took place March 9. Troopers, police, and marchers confronted each other at the county end of the bridge, but when the troopers stepped aside to let them pass, Martin Luther King led the marchers back to the church.
Towards the end of that part of their conversation David Letterman said he was deeply moved by learning about the marches, and he relayed a story about what he was doing on March 8, 1965. Letterman said I was travelling to Flor-ida with buddies and we were going to party all week with his friends. And then he asked himself, “ Why wasn’t I on that bridge in Selma?” I should have been there too, marching with the others.
I think at that moment David Letterman was repenting, he felt sorry for his inaction, but I think at the same time he found His calling. God calls us to repentance from sin of course, but He is also calling us to find our mission in the world and in essence “find our bridge”. When Jesus calls us to come and see, He want us to “find our bridge”, that one thing in our life that allows us to glorify God, and help to build his kingdom to the earth, while at the same time helping those who are persecuted or marginalized. Be it fighting for civil rights, working to alleviate poverty, or maybe it’s helping children and adults through catechises, Jesus wants us to find our calling. So ask Him today to lead you on your personal journey by answering his call, and to “come after me” and to begin a life changing
journey that will stretch you and challenge you to go deeper in love with Him, and to change the world at the same time. Now more than ever we need agents for change in the world, and God wants you to be part of it.
God bless you all, Deacon Danny


Jesus Calling Us to be a Disciple

John the Baptist’s designation of Jesus as Lamb of God is often misunderstood. It
has little to do with Jesus’ meekness, mildness, or humility and everything to do
with sacrifice, and his unending love for us. “Behold the Lamb of God.” It is
with these words that St. John the Baptist introduces Jesus to two of his followers,
who then in turn do indeed follow Jesus to learn more about Him. One of those
followers is identified as Andrew, brother to St. Peter, and the other is presumed
by historians to be St. John. Throughout his Gospel, St. John appears often, but is
never specifically named.
But why did John the Baptist use that name in particular, “Lamb of God?” Lambs were sacrificed regularly, and the
blood of the lambs given in sacrifice was given for the sins of that day. Of course, the blood of Jesus was given for
our sins, not just for a particular day but for all time.
It is as if each Gospel presents a view of who Jesus is. It is interesting to see how each Gospel emphasizes different
aspects of Jesus. You might say Matthew shows Him as the King of Kings. Mark presents Him as a Servant of God.
Luke views Him as the Son of Man. And John illustrates Jesus as the Son of God. All together the Gospel writers
give us a glimpse of the greatest Man who ever lived. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, and
most importantly loved unconditionally. Jesus has cared for us like no other. No one has ever loved us like Jesus
Jesus asks these first two disciples an important and logical question: “What are you looking for?” It is the same
question He asks of all of us. For the answer the Lord directed them, as He does us as well, to Himself – to live with
Him, to “Come and…see.” Those disciples followed Him. They do this at the urging of John the Baptist. Their
willingness to follow Jesus fulfills John the Baptist’s ministry.
In our own lives, the Gospel calls us to follow Jesus We are called to be Christ’s disciples. People come to faith in
the Lord through invitation. Andrew invites and introduces his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. If we truly believe in
the Lord, and wish to share that belief, we too will invite others to join with us. That is part of our calling.
God even goes further, and asks of us to give our lives over to him, every aspect of our lives. Often, this is a giant
leap of faith, as our lives will change and like Mary, we may not be entirely sure how much it will change until we
say yes.
However, while giving our lives to Christ can be a bit scary perhaps, there is also great joy that we experience. I
was listening to Danny speak last week about his experience with the NET team, and I remember thinking what a
great journey he is on, and what an incredible journey so many people who say “yes” to the Lord have experienced.
If you think church is boring, I can tell you a life of faith is anything but boring. However, no matter how exciting a
life in Christ is, it too will take sacrifice. Sometimes it is a sacrifice of moving to a place you are unfamiliar with
and leaving family and friends, or leaving a job that you are comfortable in, or perhaps we lose friends that just
don’t understand the change that has come over us; the you that they have come to know isn’t quite the same person
anymore. I know in my case, I lost a couple of friends because they had a kind of pre-conceived notion of what a
Catholic believes and does, and they just couldn’t reconcile that. One thing is for sure, Jesus has promised to journey
with you and guide you on this incredible journey of faith, a faith you can share with so many that you encounter.
God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald


Say YES and let Jesus do the Rest!

For a moment, let’s all think about our day timers. Whether or not it’s electronic or hard copy, for most of us we have the next two or three months planned out already. We know just what we are going to be doing, we know when, and with whom we are going to meet. There is a real comfort in that as well, as most of us like to know what’s coming ahead of time.
Think also about growing up, and having a desire to enter into a certain profession. Likely, you got an education in the field which prepared you to work and be successful in that field. Again, there is a real security in knowing you are prepared for what’s coming in your life.
This makes Mary’s “yes” in my mind all the more remarkable. Think of a 12 to14 year old girl during the time of Jesus, being asked to say yes to God, and to be completely in the dark as to what the future would bring her. I’m sure she would be aware of the coming of the Messiah, and that he would come to save the world. But, I’m also sure that she had no idea that the saviour would come through her. Still Mary said yes. Mary and Joseph knew what society at that time did to unwed mothers, but still she said yes. However, while Mary must have been frightened, she also had a faith in Jesus and allowed her to say yes. She knew that if she said yes, that Jesus would do the rest. This week I learned about a story of a Sister, and a Priest who live in Haiti. They came from very different backgrounds but were both called by God for very special tasks. Father Charles is in the process of building an orphanage in Haiti, that will provide a home for children in an area that is in great need of an orphanage. Sister Therese is creating a spiritual retreat centre and agricultural centre for the people of Haiti. Both projects are in different stages of completion which is remarkable as both ideas started from desire, with no money, or people, or other resources. And of course it was able to progress because both Father Charles and Sister Therese said yes, and Jesus is doing the rest. I don’t mean that we say yes, and then we sit back passively, however when we say yes, Jesus guides us, and helps to take down obstacles that are in our way, Just like he helped Mary, and guided her.
This is our call as well this Advent and Christmas, all we have to do is to say yes, and Jesus will do the rest. I would like to wish you all a Blessed and Merry Christmas.
God bless you! Deacon Dan


What do we really need?
The theme for this third week of Advent is joy. Ever since I realized that, I have been going around whistling the
song that our 8:30 children’s choir sings. “There will be joy joy! joy ! Joy! … the morning on that day. People
at work are used to me walking the halls singing some song or another.
The Gospel reading this week points us to Jesus through the witness of John the Baptist. John the Baptist baptizes
with water but there is one coming after Him who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. This appears multiple times in
the Bible. Last week in our Gospel, we heard the first six verses of the first chapter in the Gospel of Mark. It is
worth noting that if we read the next two verses, we would hear, “After me is coming someone who is more powerful
than me…I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” When the time had
come, John led his own disciples to Jesus and indicated to them the Messiah, the True Light, and the Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world. John, himself, was not the light. He came to testify to the light. He didn’t
spend time thinking about his shadow. He just allowed the light to shine on Him.
Ultimately isn’t joy exactly what John the Baptist is pointing us too when he points us to Jesus? A relationship with
God, through a life in Christ is the absolute true joy of our existence. Even our creation by God was out of joy and a
desire to be in relationship with us. Joy is at the centre of Christian life, even through the struggles of everyday life.
We hear a lot at this time of year about what we want, especially for Christmas. However, what gift that we receive
will bring us ultimate joy? Don’t get me wrong, I love giving and receiving gifts at Christmas time, it is a wonderful
tradition. To experience real joy this Advent and Christmas, I feel we need to think about what it is that we need,
not what we want. What is coming between us and God at this time in our lives? What is impeding us from living
in the light of Christ? What is hurting our relationships with others? Now is the time to remove these barriers in our
lives so Jesus can flow through us, and we can point others to Jesus, just like John the Baptist, so we can cry out and
make straight the path to Jesus. Let’s share that joy this Advent and Christmas just like our children’s choir who
sings with such joy. We will feel it on the Christmas morning, but also throughout our lives.
God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald


Helping our Faith to grow

I love the aspect of Advent which makes us slow down, especially in the midst of all the busyness that goes on
preparing for Christmas. I noticed that just the act of lighting the Advent candle, by its very nature, makes us take a breath and slow down, even for just a few moments. I love the Advent wreath because it has such symbolism tied to the Christmas and Advent seasons, and all to our faith journey. For instance, the circle of the wreath symbolises the eternity of God (the Alpha and the Omega). The wreath is green because it represents hope and new life. Advent is really a time when we need to step back and perhaps slow down a bit, to become more pensive and thoughtful in our approach. That may be why we hear in our readings today that St. John the Baptist was a voice “crying out in the desert.” And what was John’s consistent message? “Prepare the way of the Lord.” That is what we hear throughout Holy Scripture on this Second Sunday of Advent.
Learning even simple things like what I just mentioned about the Advent wreath helps me to grow in my faith. That I believe, is why it is so important to teach the many aspects of our faith to our children, because it is so rich and learning often helps us grow in our faith. Every word in Holy Scripture has some importance. When St. Mark
proclaims that what he is writing, and what we are about to hear, is the “Gospel of Jesus Christ,” it tells us how I
mportant it is. Most are aware that the word “Gospel” meant “Good News.” Fewer are conscious of the fact that in
Roman times it had another meaning and translation — “Glad tidings.” When we hear that term, many may think of Christmas and the birth of Christ. However, glad tidings or good news also includes Christ’s saving grace and death. It goes back to what we have been hearing in recent weeks that it is time to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Part of that preparation is to prepare the way of the Lord, especially within each of us. That is what we need to be doing now.
We had a lovely experience in my own family when we read Monday’s reading about the centurion, and how he had such a strong faith in Jesus, that he went personally to find Jesus and ask him to heal his servant. Just reading through that reading and seeing the faith of the centurion helped me and my family grow a little more in faith. This Advent, let us grow together as families and as a faith community in order for Christmas to be an even more blessed event. God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald


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


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


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


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