THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

Walking with Jesus

 The Gospel reading for this week is the two men walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  The

disciples are walking together speaking of all that has just happened, when Jesus appears to them.  The exact location of Emmaus is not known, but it is believed that they are walking away from Jerusalem and the site of the Resurrection.  How often does that happen in our own lives where we walk away from the Lord and head in another direction?  Just like the two men though, Jesus meets us and walks with us, even if we don’t recognize Him at first.  Isn’t it wonderful to have a savior who comes to seek and find us when we’ve gone astray?  We don’t have to come crawling to Him, He is already there waiting.

So how does Jesus help the men to see and recognize Him?  He does it two ways, through Word and Sacrament.  First He reveals Himself to them through His Words and teachings. That is what He does for us as well. That is why we hear Scripture at every Liturgy and why we need to listen carefully when we hear it.  Next the passage tells us that “So He went in to stay with them.  When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.”  That is also what Jesus can do for us at Sunday Liturgy, we can have our eyes opened to seeing the real living, present Lord.  Once our eyes are open we will see the world very differently than before.  Saint Mother Theresa had a beautiful way of expressing it.  She said “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”  Lastly, the two men returned to Jerusalem and told the eleven what Jesus had said, and proclaimed that Jesus had risen!

Just like the two men, may our hearts “burn within us” as we experience an ever deeper conversion of our hearts, and grow deeper in our love for Jesus and everyone we minister to, and be refreshed during Sunday Mass by community, the reading of scripture, and the sharing of Eucharist.

God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD

How Did Jesus Feel?

I have been reflecting on the Gospel passage for a few days, and I can’t help but wonder how Jesus must have felt as He was led to the crucifixion.  My father called Jesus’ death the most horrendous and excruciating death in the history of humanity.  It was years after he said that about Jesus, that I totally figured out what he meant.  Also, a few years back someone told me how hard a time they had watching the movie “The Passion of the Christ”.  When I asked why, he said it was because he was watching his “best friend” being tortured and murdered.  I thought that was very insightful actually, and it got me thinking more about what Jesus must have gone through.

We all know about the terrible, physical pain Jesus must have endured, to be crucified on a cross, the nails through His hands and feet.  However, I think it was the mental and spiritual anguish that He experienced, which would have made it the worst death of all.  How Jesus must have felt when they falsely accused Him, and threaten to put Him to death?  I know when I am falsely accused of something, I want to strike back and defend myself, but Jesus didn’t strike back.  How He must have felt when they made fun of Him, mockingly calling Him the King of the Jews?  How He must have felt when He took my sin, and your sin upon Himself, and made Himself the Lamb to be sacrificed, so we could all have our relationship with the Father restored?  Finally, how He must have felt when they nailed Him to the cross, and slowly His earthly life slipped away?  These are all questions I hope to reflect on over Holy week and the Easter Triduum in order to feel all the emotions that come with the experience of Easter.

I suggest that on Holy Thursday, we pray and keep watch, in anticipation that Jesus’ hour has come.  On Good Friday, may we feel the same hopelessness, and despair that Mary and the apostles felt at the death of Jesus.  May we also feel anger at the injustice that has happened to our “best friend”.  May we also feel thankful though, as deep down we know that Jesus’ death is key to our salvation.  Lastly, once we have felt all these emotions, may we experience joy, happiness, and thankfulness as Jesus rises from the dead at the Easter Vigil, and the Easter Sunday Masses.

May we pray for the grace to have the fullest experience of Easter that we can, shared with our family and friends.  We pray for this grace through Christ our Lord. Amen

God Bless you all,
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

The Raising Of Lazarus From The Dead

Stories of Jesus raising the dead appear in all the Gospels, but John alone includes the story of the raising of Lazarus. Bethany was located near the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea—about 15 miles (24 km.) due east of Bethany where Lazarus died. In ordinary terrain, 15 miles would be an easy one-day journey on foot.  However, the Dead Sea is 1300 feet (400 meters) below sea level and Jerusalem is 2500 feet (760 meters) above sea level, so a traveler from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem would climb 3800 feet (1160 meters) in 15 miles—a 5 percent slope—which would make it an especially arduous one-day journey. However, when we love someone, we go the extra mile, and Jesus was very close to Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. With the raising of Lazarus, effectively Jesus seals his fate. It no longer is the authorities looking for ways to undermine Jesus, now they are looking for ways to kill Him. What struck me, is that Jesus must have known that the authorities would want to kill Him, but still He went to Lazarus anyway. This reminds me of John 15:13 which says  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”.

Why did Jesus wait two days to go to Lazarus? We get the answer from the scripture itself. “for the glory of God, that God’s Son may be glorified by it” The raising of Lazarus after 4 days further shows Jesus as the resurrection, and the light. Lazarus wasn’t just ill, he wasn’t in a coma, Lazarus had died! The effects of the act of raising Lazarus we will see later on in the passage as it reads “Therefore many of the Jews, who came to Mary and saw what Jesus did, believed in him.”

It is interesting to see Lazarus coming out of the tomb with tied hands and feet, and a cloth covering his face. There is real symbolism here I believe as this is the time of preparation during lent when we can look at our own relationship with God and try to figure what binds us to sin, or what binds us from the fullest relationship with Jesus that we can possibly have. The Lord reminds us today, “…if you believe, you will see the glory of God.”

God Bless you all,
Deacon Dan MacDonald

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

The Healing of The Blind Man

Today’s Gospel passage speaks of a man born blind who is healed on the Sabbath, and speaks not only of the physical healing of the man’s eyes, but the opening of the man’s eyes to see Jesus as the messiah standing before him.  The reading also speaks about the realities that we may face today, as we live out our faith journey and minister to others.

When I was researching this reading, an observation by Fr. Thomas Rosica jumped out at me.

He said that two verses of the reading actually speak about the healing of the blind man, however the rest of the reading speaks about the controversy that surrounds the event. This reminds me of some of the changes, and new directions that Pope Francis has taken us over the past few years. While he was elected to make changes, and has re-energized the church in many ways, we also seem to be mired in much controversy, which has served to divide the church in some ways.  I think it is important for all of us to remember that the church is guided by the Holy Spirit, and so is it’s shepherd Pope Francis.  There have been miracles happening over the last four years, and through the eyes of faith, we can experience it in a greater way.

The reading can also mirror our own journey of faith, as when our eyes are open to the glory of God through Jesus, our life can be turned upside down.  As we move from darkness to light much like with the blind man, we grow to see Jesus as a prophet only, and then we move to understanding Jesus as the son of God.  Also like the blind man however, we may experience rejection from friends, family and communities that we have belonged to.  Others may not have experienced a conversion in the same powerful way that we have, and often people will turn away from situations that they don’t understand.  The blind man wasn’t able to explain what happened to him, and immediately he was thrown out of the synagogue. Even though this is often painful, we must pray for others to receive the gift of sight, and come into a deeper understanding of the light of Christ. Lastly, Pope Benedict said about this moving passage “The Gospelconfronts each one of us with the question: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” This lent, may we all come to say like the blind man “Lord, I believe!”

God Bless you all,
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

Meditation- Food For Thought!

Jesus, You are my great Teacher. From You, I learn the value of suffering. From You, I learn how to recognize all of the little and big crosses that You give to me today. Increase my awareness of my daily crosses, so that I may offer them back to You, especially for poor sinners.

Sometimes, my path to You is full of sharp rocks and pebbles. But, when I pick them up and give them to Mary, she cleans them off and underneath the dirt and grime is a jewel.

Even though I have trouble seeing the jewel, please take these crosses, these jewels, of mine and, through the hands of Mary, may they shine brilliantly before You. Let me not overlook one cross today, but may I offer each one to You with joy….Fr. Leszek  Czelusniak, MIC

Boredom is a manifestation of selfishness. It can only occur when we are overly focused on ourselves. It always means that we have set God and neighbor aside to focus exclusively on ourselves, and that is never a recipe for happiness………Matthew Kelly

 

 

 

THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT

Trust In Jesus!

Jean Vanier when speaking about today’s Gospel said this. “Our brokenness is the wound through which the full power of God can penetrate our being and transfigure us in God.  Loneliness is not something from which we must flee but the place from where we can cry out to God, where God will find us and we can find God.”  Jean Vanier was speaking about times when our lives seem so empty and when we are struggling, an encounter with God at this time can be very powerful and transformative.  What often needs to happen though is that someone in our life needs  to bring Jesus to us.

The woman at the well is experiencing one of those times.  She has been shamed and denied by her community, and the pain of her many marriages has left her devastated and alone.  But then at Jacob’s well, Jesus is waiting for the woman and they have a very moving dialogue.  Jesus reaches out to her and shows her that she is loved beyond measure by a faithful and loving God.  He is also able to show her that he is God.  Jesus begins speaking of water that flows not from a well but of a living water which quenches our thirst for God, and leads to eternal life.  Finally the woman says “Sir, give me this water.”

There are so many in the world today who are living in brokenness and despair, who need someone to help them see Jesus, and to help them drink from the living waters of eternal life.  An increasing number of people have not been taught about Jesus, so they don’t naturally turn to the Lord, and don’t know he is always there for them.  This is where Jesus is calling us starting this lent, He is asking us to take time to put aside our busy life and look for someone to reach out to in their times of darkness.  It requires an acceptance of who they are at that very first moment of encounter.  It requires a knowledge of who Jesus is and it requires leaving the person you encounter with the feeling that their circumstances and their sins do not define who they are.  Jesus leads us into a hopeful life and our church is one of hope.  Don’t worry about not having the right words to say because Jesus is present with us in as real a way as He was to the woman at the well.

God Bless you all,
Deacon Dan MacDonald

A Message From Our Youth Minister

I’m sure you have all heard about Steubenville but do you know what it is all about. Here in the HRM, we are very fortunate to be one of only 2 locations in Canada for this youth conference where teens gather by the hundreds to praise and worship the Lord. Franciscan University in Ohio has been hosting these events for more than 30 years all over the USA and in Canada for the past 11 years. We at St. Thomas More have been sending youth for the past 12 years and will continue to do so with your support because we see the results. All of the participants experience the living Jesus in a powerful way during the encounter and many will have a life changing transformation.

In 2005, Jenna went to the conference in Maine not sure if she even believed in God or Jesus and came back filled with the Holy Spirit. She got confirmed the following year, began volunteering with the Jr High Program and continued to do so until she started university. She attended several more conferences encouraging many others to come as well. She worked as the DRE for Jr. High part time while getting a Law Degree and now works for Chalice. Clearly, Jesus spoke to her that weekend and her life was never the same.

Daniel Perera, is another one of those stories. He didn’t really want to go the first time. I encouraged him and he did and what happened from there is remarkable. He began working with the youth and our music ministry. He has developed a great prayer life and is a very positive role model for the rest of our youth. The following year he went to LEAD which is a week long Leadership Development Program right before the conference. The skills he learned there he has brought back to our church and to others in the form of Retreats, praise and worship nights and a deeper commitment to our Youth Ministry. Several other youth here have seen the changes in Danny and are drawn to the Love, Peace, Joy and acceptance that comes with walking with the Lord.

Maria and Gael, after having attended the Steubenville conference last year have volunteered as part of our leadership team on Sunday nights and have both applied to attend the LEAD week with this summer’s rally.

Several youth over the years have come back from Steubenville renewed in their faith and committed to helping with Sunday School, youth group, service projects, music ministry and other community service outside the church. It is clear this is a worthwhile investment of our time and resources. Words alone cannot express how grateful I am for the tremendous support you have always extended to our youth and I know God will continue to bless this work. As a means to thank all of you and thank God, the youth will present a Live Drama of the Passion of Jesus on Friday, April 7 at 7:30 in the Church. Please join us along with the combined choirs as we honor God’s greatest gift to us, The Life, Death and the Resurrection of Jesus….

-Diane Gibbons

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

 The Transformative Power Of The Mass

The six days mentioned early in the Gospel passage refers to the six days after Jesus’ foretelling of his own death.  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.

I remember years ago climbing up the stairs at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.  It was fascinating as many people turned it into a pilgrimage of sorts, some going up on their knees praying step by step.  I remember myself having a feeling of anticipation as we made our way up the mountain; I felt that something great was waiting for me.  Of course, there something great waiting for me, as when we reached the top, we walked into the chapel, just as Mass was starting.

I mention this story because as I read through this week’s Gospel passage, I found myself wondering how we can have a transformative experience, much like the four men.  Then it occurred to me that it is in the Mass where we can have our transformative experience.  In the reading we see the old and new testaments come together where Moses and Elijah are speaking with Jesus.  It is in the Mass where the old and new testaments come together and reach it’s fullness in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  In the Eucharist, bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, and it is then, that we are invited to receive his body and blood and participate in a deeper life in Christ.

In the reading, a bright cloud overshadows all of them and a voice comes from the clouds: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.”  The disciples then fall to the ground in fear, and Jesus comes over saying “Get up and do not be afraid”.  Jesus says this to us as well in the Mass, as life can make us fall to our knees in fear sometimes.  But Jesus says “come to me” and lay your burdens down before me.  That is our invitation today, to go deeper into our relationship with Jesus, in our lives and through the Mass.  To lay our burdens down at the foot of the cross, so we can be transformed into a new creation.  It is our chance, just as it was in the chapel on the hill in Montreal, or on Mount Tabor for the disciples.  When we go to Mass, we can say like St. Peter, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

God Bless you all,
Deacon Dan MacDonald

Why Do We Fast During Lent?

As Christians, in everything we do, we should have as our model Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil and he fasted forty days and forty nights” (Matthew 4:1-2). The season of Lent is a commemoration of Our Lord’s fast, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. It was a time of preparation for the tremendous mission that lay before Him. To do this, He denied Himself food and water during those forty days and nights, relying instead only on God (with whom He was One) to sustain Him.

In the history of the Church, Lent has undergone much development and change, both in duration and in practice. In other words, it was not always forty days in length and the fast was not always observed the same way. For example, during the late second century, the season of penance before Easter was much shorter and some people fasted for one day, others for two days, and others for a greater number of days. The first clear mention and observance of the forty days does not come to us until the fourth century in the decrees of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

What we see from some of the earliest references is that originally the season of Lent was meant as a preparation for baptism or as a time in which people sought absolution from God for their sins. Even though fasting and abstinence were part of the practice, there was no uniform manner in which this was done. That came later. It was observed differently in various countries, and in Rome (where it had been customarily three weeks), it was eventually extended to six weeks, but always leaving out the Sundays. Because this made the Lenten season only thirty-six days in duration, with time it was lengthened by adding four more days, making it forty, in remembrance of Jesus’ fast in the desert.

You ask in your letter why we do not fast the entire forty days of Lent. In reality, although Catholics are left to decide for themselves, the Church strongly recommends that we fast all forty days. On November 18, 1966, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul VI’s constitution Pćnitemini, published some norms on penitential observance. In one part of the document, they specifically wrote about what is expected and recommended for all Catholics during the entire season of Lent. They stated: “We ask, urgently and prayerfully, that we, as people of God, make of the entire Lenten season a period of special penitential observance.”

In addition to making it clear that we are bound by obligation to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and to abstain from meat on every Friday of Lent, they also added the following: “For all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting.”

Remembering that fasting is a form of penance and self-denial, we must keep in mind that we are urged to do this during the entire season of Lent, but it does not have to be a fast from food on all those forty days. For example, those Catholics whose health would be compromised, such as the sick, are not bound to observe the Church’s laws of fast and abstinence. But there are many other ways in which we can show God how sorry we are for our sins. Among them are the following: being generous with others, visiting the sick and lonely, feeding the poor, studying Scripture, making the Stations of the Cross, praying the rosary, practicing self-control, and many others.

Even when the US Bishops made it no longer required to abstain from meat on all the other Fridays of the year, they never intended that the Catholic faithful should discontinue this practice. What they hoped was that people would continue to do it out of their love for God and not because they had to, and also to give us an opportunity to deny ourselves in other ways. Friday has never ceased to be a day of penance and self-denial, and abstaining from meat on that day is given first place, because it was on a Friday that our Lord died for our sins. Every Friday is a day to prepare for Sunday – the day that, for us who believe, is Easter every week of the year. And Sunday is never a day of fasting (not even during Lent). It is the glorious Day of the Lord!


Taken from Catholic Online:
http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=180

© Copyright 2003 Grace D. MacKinnon

Grace MacKinnon is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. She is the author of Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith published by Our Sunday Visitor. Order online by e-mail at osvbooks@osv.com or call 1-800-348-2440.

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

Jesus’ Temptation Is Our Temptation

I was struck last Sunday when I read the gospel, as to why Jesus would say you of little faith?  The difference is he usually admonishes someone with those words, but in this case he asks it in the form of a question?  I had one of those sleepless nights thinking about the question, but have simply come to the conclusion that Jesus simply is asking us if we truly believe in him?  Do we believe that he is God?  Do we truly believe that he will provide for us, just as he has for the birds of the sky?  And he asks do we want to be in relationship with him?

In the gospel for this week, Jesus himself is tempted by Satan, who’s main weapon against Jesus, and us is fear, and doubt.  But Jesus shows us a loyalty and a fidelity to God, that both instructs and inspires us to live deeper in relationship and the love of God.   Jesus is subjected to a triple temptation shortly after he is baptized, and proclaimed as the son of God, by his father himself.  First, Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread, but instead confidently and quietly waits for (mana) or bread to come from the heavenly father.  The second temptation, comes from the story of Deuteronomy 6:16:  “You must not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.”  Rebellious people of little faith and trust challenge God to fulfill his obligations of the covenant.   Jesus, on the other hand, refuses to demonstrate God’s presence with him by leaping from the pinnacle of the temple.  Jesus refuses to jump because honoring God excludes manipulation, including putting God to the test.

The third test is all related to idolatry, the worship of false Gods.  Again, we see Jesus’ undivided and loving loyalty as he remains faithful to his father, when Satan offers him, all the riches in the world.  As we can see from the temptations, while in the reading they are directed to Jesus, they can all be our temptations as well.  How often do we feel vulnerable and forget that if Jesus is calling us to a new mission, he will also provide for our needs in that mission.  How often have we put God to the test, just to know he is present to us.  And of course, what false gods have we encountered in the love of money, or power, or possessions.  This lent, Jesus is inviting us to look at ourselves, and see ways that we are being tempted, and in what ways is Jesus calling us into a deeper relationship with him.  God grant us the grace of a lent that truly draws us closer to him, and helps us to recognize our that at our baptism, he has called us his beloved son or daughter.

God Bless you all,
Deacon Dan MacDonald