FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Sowing In Good Soil!

This past weekend I was travelling through PEI, and I couldn’t help but be struck by the many farms that I passed by growing everything from grain, to corn, to of course…..potatoes.  I wondered what it must be like to rely on the right mix of sun and rain in order to have a healthy crop for the year.  It felt to me that it was truly an act of faith to farm the land year after year and rely on the grace of good weather.

As I drove by I noticed there were some fields that had no crops on them, then I remembered way back in high school when they would talk about leaving some fields bare for a year, so that the soil could be better prepared for another year.  This reminds me of the Gospel reading for this week when Jesus speaks of good soil and the journey that many will have to go on before they come to know Jesus in a more intimate way.  The best way I can explain this is through a friend of mine and his journey to Christ.

Ten years or so ago, I worked with someone who, despite the efforts of his wife and others, just did not embrace a life of faith.  He was pretty respectful of people’s beliefs, but it just didn’t sink into his heart.  He would go to church for a while, but then he would stop again.  However, if you fast forward about ten years to a few weeks ago, I finally reconnected with him.  The transformation in him now is incredible, he is on fire for the Lord, and when I was speaking with him, his relationship with Jesus is now seeping through his pores.  I had no idea this had happened in his life, and I found myself thinking “who is this guy”? that I was talking to!

It so reminds of this week’s reading because when I knew him before, I could see the sowing that was happening by his wife and her faith community, and I always hoped it would lead to a conversion….and boy did it ever!   Somewhere in the past ten years, the power of the Holy Spirit worked a miracle in his life, and at some point he must have been open to or invited Jesus into his heart because now Christ is there.  It was a real encouragement to me because we all want our friends and family to find Jesus, and sometimes it feels like they never will. However, Jesus is here to tell us that even when it seems bleak, He is there preparing the good soil in order for the seeds we sow to bear fruit in our loved ones. Even some of our greatest saints in the church have taken years to come to Jesus in their lives.

God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Full Of Thankfulness!

Over the long weekend, we travelled up to Ardness Nova Scotia, about a half hour from Antigonish.  My family has a property there; it is actually where my father grew up.  On the property there is a 100 year old house high up on a hill, the deck on the back of the house looks over the Northumberland Straight all the way over to PEI in the distance.

When I was standing on the  deck this past weekend, even though there was a lot of work to do, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of calm, peacefulness, and an overwhelming sense of thankfulness.  Just by the nature of God’s wonder before me, I couldn’t help but take a moment to be thankful and to give Jesus thanks for all the wonderful aspects of my life.

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus bares his soul to the fFather, and gives thanks for the unique relationship that exists between the Father and the Son. In the next section of the Gospel, Jesus invites us to a place of retreat and safety; He wants us to go to him when we are weary and in need of peace and comfort. So many of us long for relief from
sadness and pain, and hope to be consoled and be refreshed.  We also see that Jesus’ mission is to reveal the Father to us so we understand God as a loving Father.

 Our mission in turn can be to reveal Jesus to others through community.  I recently read a wonderful quote by Jean Vanier which illustrates this point. “One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”

 When we unite our mission to Jesus and to his mission, we can truly transform the world one person at a time, and Christ’s love can be felt in all aspects of our lives and through society.

As Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Heroes For The Faith!

While reflecting on this bible passage, I can’t help but think about some of the heroes of our faith. They are our heroes because they lived or are currently living out this week’s Gospel passage, in the sense that their relationship with Jesus is so strong that they are willing to endure the hardships and violence of this world, in order to maintain their life in Christ. There are three examples of this that come to my mind.

The first is the horrible video from a deserted beach where Coptic Christians were beheaded for their faith. The amazing thing about this video is that you hear the victims professing their faith right up to their last moment. They all are shouting “Jesus is Lord” over and over as they enter their martyrdom. Were they scared? I’m sure they were, but their desire was more to be in relationship with Jesus, than worrying about “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”. Another example comes from our own patron, St. Thomas More. In his life, he endured tremendous suffering. In, fact he lost everything. He lost his family, his home, his reputation, and was put in prison in defiance of King Henry VIII. At the same time though, he was a normal person, so losing everything would have had an incredible impact on him. I’m sure he was scared, and hurt, and broken, but still he endured, because his priority was relationship with Jesus. He was willing to lose it all to maintain and deepen his relationship with Christ….
Truly a hero for our faith.

Most of us thankfully won’t have to face these challenges in our lives, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t heroes today, who share their faith and face many challenges because of it. I am thinking of our youth, who want to share their faith with others, but often are ridiculed or excluded because of their faith. I was at a youth event recently and one young lady shared how difficult it has been in school, to even be allowed to talk about Jesus without being made fun of, and left off being invited to social events because of her faith. I was so impressed with her because she said that she has now graduated, but she offered to help anyone who is in a similar situation, and help them deal with the bullying. To me, this young girl is another hero of our faith, and our young people need to be supported as they make their way through school. They are willing to endure pain and suffering in favor of being deeper in relationship with Jesus.

God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

A Free Gift!

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi.  This is a solemn feast in which Jesus offers us yet another free gift, the gift of himself.  We see the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah which reads “I gave them bread from heaven to eat”.  In the wilderness, the
children of Israel ate manna and were sustained for their journey to the promised land.  Yet, they all inevitably died. Jesus, on the other hand, provides a food that will sustain to eternal life.

Originally, we were created out of love, to be one with God.  Eventually we as people turned our backs on God, but through the sacrifice of Jesus, our relationship was renewed.  The thing about this gift is that it cannot be forced, or manipulated in any way, it is our choice to receive the gift or to not receive the gift.  God’s desire is to be in relationship with us and through offering this gift, he wants us to become a Eucharistic people.

This may be an odd sounding phrase to be a Eucharistic people but I believe the key underlying theme that helps us understand it is the theme of sacrifice.  Two examples of sacrifice come to mind as throughout the Old Testament we read about sacrifices to God.  Then in the New Testament Jesus sacrifices his own body so we can be in right relationship with the father.  I believe that if we are going to be a Eucharistic people, we need to sacrifice in our own lives.

A couple of examples come to mind, the first being that we are called to reach out to communities in need and help anyone living on the margins, that can often take sacrifice.  Sometimes too we may be estranged from someone and need to reconcile, that takes sacrifice. Now, you may be recalling the words of Jesus when he said that he doesn’t
require sacrifice.  It’s absolutely true, it’s absolutely nothing to do with what he needs, it’s all about what we need to be a Eucharistic people.  From the reading though we can be encouraged by the fact that every Sunday,  Jesus offers us this gift of the Eucharist, to sustain us and help us in our Christian Journey.  This is truly the greatest gift that we can receive and that we can in turn share with our families, friends, and all whom we encounter. Let us pray for the grace to encounter Jesus and become the people he wants us to be. Amen

God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

THE SOLEMINITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

For God So Loved The World!

“ God loved the world so much that he gave His only son, so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
It is clear from the gospel of John that God truly loves this world and everyone in it.  This is despite all the sin and turning away from God that goes on.  By virtue of our very existence, everyone on this earth is a child of God.  This is not dependant on our actions, status, or abilities.  This is our dignity and identity as children of God, and no one, and no event can take this away from us.  We are given by God the love of the Trinity.  In perfect union we are offered the love of God, the love of the Son, and the love of the Holy Spirit, given by one God in one intimate Holy Communion.

Since the concept of original sin was not developed until centuries after the Gospel of John was written and hell is not mentioned in the Gospel either, one might ask what salvation John was speaking about in the Gospel.  John seems to be saying that in order to love, in order to be in relationship with God, we must be saved from all those aspects of our lives that keep us from loving unconditionally.  We must be freed from the power of sin and human systems that are driven by superficial desires.  Thankfully, Jesus has given us the sacraments in order to sustain us, and also to
reconcile to Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as we all fail from time to time in our relationships.

What is God’s desire for us?  I believe it is simply to live deeply in loving relationships; loving relationships with the Trinity, the church, and also in our families. Belief in Jesus is, however , the criteria that determines our relationship with God.  People choose salvation by opening themselves to the transforming love of God revealed in Jesus, or they close themselves off from life by refusing to accept Jesus as the God who loves.

On Trinity Sunday, rather than try to solve the great mystery of the Trinity, let us open ourselves more to it.  Let us rejoice in the great mystery of why God created us in the first place, desiring to be part of our lives.  Let us rejoice in the Father, Son and Spirit; the mystery of a God who cares for us like a loving parent.  Let us rejoice in the Son who laid down His life for us so we can be saved.  And let us rejoice in the Holy Spirit who sustains us, advocates for us, and grows more deeply in our hearts.

God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

PENTECOST SUNDAY

Unlock The Door!

Happy Birthday everyone!

I am wishing you happy birthday because we are celebrating the birth of the church during this Pentecost weekend.  Pentecost was the time that Jesus breathed life into the church, and sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples as He said “Receive the Holy Spirit”.  In a very real sense this was a special type of “ordination” to the disciples, whom Jesus gave the ability to forgive and retain sins.  Before Pentecost the disciples were holed up in the upper room and were scared to go out on mission.  So not only does Jesus imbue the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, He “unlocks the door”, and sends them out to further His mission on earth according to their own particular gifts, and to have other people join the mission and grow the church.  I have been blessed to see these gifts lived out collectively and individually in the service of God and His church.  Reflecting upon the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, it made me realize just how much we need each other to grow the church, and even to survive in this world.  We were blessed earlier in the week to have three speakers be with us at our mission who focussed on the Holy Spirit, leading up to Pentecost weekend.  Each speaker brought their own gifts, and ways of teaching us about the Holy Spirit, and all three have been able to bring Christ into the world and bring people to Christ through their various ministries.

In our lives, if we take some of the gifts one by one, I bet we will all have someone come to mind who has that particular gift.  For the gift of wisdom, I think of my parents, for the gift of understanding I think of my spiritual
director, for the gift of fortitude I think of my wife, just to name a few.  What has come abundantly clear to me is that I wouldn’t be able to get along without them, and the gifts that they bring or have brought to me.  I am sure all of you have similar experiences and feelings as I have, in that we are intrinsically connected to one another in our lives, and are so much stronger together than trying to go it alone.  As we grow in relationship and love for the Holy Spirit, our relationships to each other grow as well.  This growth in the Spirit should orient us outward rather than inward,
toward service to God and others rather than service toward ourselves. That itself is the greatest gift we are given, and one shared by all whom open their hearts to it.  Let us pray for the grace to “unlock the door” to mission this Pentecost weekend.

 God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

ASCENSION OF OUR LORD

Different Kinds Of Disciples

I was struck with the “great commissioning”, Gospel reading for this Sunday.  Especially considering what the
disciples had just seen, the death and resurrection of Jesus lived out right before their eyes.  What stood out to me was not that they worshiped Jesus, but that the reading says that some doubted.  Why, after all this would they doubt?

So, I looked at a few other translations, and I came across the use of the word “hesitated”.  It seems more likely that they weren’t questioning their belief in Jesus, it was that they were unsure of themselves, and what would happen next.  What could the disciples bring to the mission of Jesus? And how could they live out the  command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations?  I know many have similar feelings today when it comes to spreading the gospel message.  What is it that I can bring to this incredible commissioning  which Jesus calls us to today? It is the same commissioning today, as when he called the first disciples.

This all got me thinking about the gifts that people have, and the gifts we bring to the service of God with the
guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Some have the gift of music, some have a great love and knowledge of scripture, while others have the gift to preach to congregations.  I have known some others too, who witness their faith by their everyday interactions with people.  They don’t talk about their faith all that often, but the Holy Spirit, and the love of Jesus seems to be present in all they say and do, and in all that they are.  I am sure you can think of
someone in your life that matches that description.  They bring us closer to Jesus, just by the dignity of their life.

After thinking all of this through, I finally came to the conclusion that Jesus simply wants us to witness to his love for us and witness to our faith, to whomever we encounter.  We can only do that by expressing our gifts and by showing God not as a distant entity who is far away from our lives, but as a friend who is part of every aspect of our lives.  His spirit flows in all of creation, in love, suffering, and joy.  If we do get discouraged and become hesitant though, he gave us two gifts to help us through.  The first gift is the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the second is that he gave us community, he gave us each other.  So on Sunday, we may gather and be strengthened by the Eucharist, and by the friendships we develop to help us along the journey.  For me, those two elements are the reason that
Christianity has grown from humble beginnings to now reaching the far corners of the earth.  All of this was accomplished through witnessing the love of Jesus to the world, which is in need of Jesus now, more than ever.

 God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

I Will Not Leave You An Orphan

The Gospel reading for this week reaffirms the Holy Trinity working in our lives. As Jesus says, “I will ask the
Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.”  The Son prays to the Father who responds to his prayer with the Holy Spirit (Advocate). The original word for “Advocate” is the Greek word parakletos. This means literally a person summoned to one’s aid, an advisor, an intercessor.  The Holy Spirit is sent to empower and assist us to live a Christian life.  The holy spirit is also the spirit of love, a love that is shared between God, Jesus, and his people, namely you and me.

The one line from the gospel that I can’t seem to get passed is when Jesus says, “I will not leave you an orphan”.  The reason I am so focused on this one line is because of a conference I attended this past weekend.  The conference was attended by all the Deacons who speak for Chalice across the country.  We asked a question to the Deacons.  Why do they go out on weekends and advocate for the children?  We wondered what motivated them, as many have spoken for Chalice for many years.

One of the longest serving Deacons got up to speak and told us about going to Guatemala and visiting an orphanage there.  He said that the babies there were often two to a crib, and that sometimes the babies were on mattresses on the floor, and the sisters would struggle to feed and care for them all.  The Deacon said he didn’t want to touch the babies because they were so small, he was afraid to hurt them.  Later he felt like he should have touched them, because they needed that touch.  From that moment on, the Deacon dedicated himself to advocating and fighting for children in poverty.  One child at a time, he continues to do that, even at the age of 76 years old.

I truly believe that the holy spirit is working in the Deacon’s life, and the 3rd person of the trinity prompted him, to become the advocate for the poor and marginalized of society.  This spirit of love comes from God and Jesus, and runs through the Deacon, and because of this love, he has transformed many lives.

Jesus never leaves us orphaned, because as he says, the spirit dwells in us, and guides us in the Christian life.  At the same time though, Jesus calls on us to share the spirit of love with others, and do his work here on earth.  This week, let us ask the holy spirit to enter deeper into our lives, and then look for ways to transform other people’s lives by sharing the gifts of the spirit in love.

 God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

There Are Many Rooms In My Father’s House

In the Gospel reading this week, we see first a comforting, nurturing Jesus.  He is helping the disciples come to grips with the idea that He will soon depart from them.  They are greatly unsettled and are not sure what it means, or what they should do.  Jesus says “There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me.”  How beautiful it is to know that Jesus will come back for us, and lead us back to the Father, in order to spend eternity together.  As I mentioned earlier, Jesus is comforting the apostles because of their uncertainty at starting a new life.  We often have similar experiences in our own lives when we venture into the unknown; we see many examples of it.  For instance maybe we have just come to a life of faith and we desperately want to share our faith, but are unsure how to do it.  Perhaps it’s new job, and new challenges that we will face. With Mother’s Day on our minds, I can’t help think about all the moms that have gently comforted their son or daughter on their first day of school, which for the child can be full of uncertainty.  However, for the disciples Jesus is there to help and comfort them. He is present to all of us as well, as we begin our new journeys.

The Gospel also presents Jesus as the way, truth, and the life, and as the guide for our lives.  Jesus provides us with absolute truth for which our lives should be centered.  We enter into a deep relationship with Jesus and all our actions and attitudes are guided by his hand.  Similar to last week’s reading about the good shepherd, we follow Jesus because we know His voice, and He leads us personally one by one.

I would also like to wish all the moms who are reading this the happiest of Mother’s Days. You are a gift beyond measure to all our lives.

 God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

His sheep follow Him because they know His voice

We learn today that Jesus is the good shepherd.  We can rejoice in this fact, because Jesus is guiding us and leading us and is willing to lay down His life for us, just as He did on the cross.  Jesus is also in intimate relationship with us, He knows our voice, and we know His voice and follow Him.

Some time back, someone was relaying a story about a busy Sunday school class, and a conversation with a friend.  There were many kids in their classes, and it became very loud with teachers and students all discussing their lessons.  The two men chatted away for a while, and then suddenly out of nowhere, the friend got up and said that he heard his daughter’s voice, and had to leave.  It left the first person confused as to how he could hear one singular voice out of so many voices in a large crowd of students.  The friend knew the voice of his daughter because he is a close, loving relationship with her.  Jesus too, is in a close loving relationship with us and is there to shepherd us back to the father, just as he speaks of in this week’s gospel.

This little story about the father also reminded me of our own roles as shepherds in our families.  God has entrusted us to guide and protect our children, as they grow into adults, and as they develop their own faith life with the Lord.  Just as Jesus is the Good Shepherd, we too must follow his example.  A shepherd would not drive his sheep, he would lead his sheep.  That I believe is our call as well, to nurture, and lead our families, not to use any kind of force or fear, as that will only create emotions and feelings that are opposite to what we are trying to create.  We want children to hear a kind, healing voice when they hear us speak. Hearing His voice, recognizing it, and know where to go next.  It is comforting to me that God knows us so intimately, because even with all our shortcomings, weaknesses, and faults, it’s God’s real love we can rest easy in.

God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald