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


Finding Freedom in Christ

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

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

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

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

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


God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald


The Greatest Commandment

The reading today touches at the heart of our relationship with God, and is at the heart of how we are to live as
Christians in the world. St. Augustine, as well, saw the importance of this particular teaching of Jesus. He would
say to his students that loving God, and loving your neighbor is the “guiding principle by which you can interpret
the whole of scripture…this is it”.
If we follow the law of God by the letter, it really means nothing if we do not have a love for God.
Consequently, if we truly love God, it should be impossible not to love all humanity.
I can’t help but think about Pope Francis, who at times in his pontificate has snuck out in the middle of the
night to minister to the poor and to hear confessions. He does this because his love for God and his love for
humanity are so strong, he simply can’t help himself it seems. Today’s Gospel passage is made real through the
pontiff’s actions.
I am sure you can all think of people that are examples of this, and there has been so many incredible things
that have happened because of Christians expressing their love of God, through to their love of neighbor.
However, there is so much work left to do, as there are many people living on the margins in our society.
I was speaking with someone recently about all the people of God living on the street, in our local neighborhood..
There is a guy at the Dollar Store near our parish, and he is there all the time. If you give him a donation or in the
summer my family gave him bottles of water, he will always say “thank you, and God bless you”. If you stop and
talk to him, you will find a nice and interesting man.
Another example, for me, was some time back I became aware of a student who committed suicide. She was
transgender and was rejected by family and fellow students. No one was there to help and minister to her, so she
ended her life. Sadly, it is just one example of an all too common occurrence in our schools.
A third example came from someone in a senior’s home that I took communion to. She asked me to ask my
fellow parishioners if they would come visit her, as she doesn’t get many visitors. Her family is away, and she
spends most of her time in a small room by herself. If anyone wishes to visit this nice lady, please talk to me, or
send me an e-mail.
This is an exciting time in our parish as we move from maintenance to mission. What better way to do
that than by reaching out to those in need and making this Gospel passage a reality in our lives and in the world.
God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald


We are dual Citizens

In the Gospel reading today, the Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus in His
words by presenting Jesus an impossible situation. But as we know, with
God….all things are possible. The Pharisees say to Jesus: “Tell us then,
what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus
saw what they were doing and skillfully answered their question by replying
“render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the
things that are God’s.”
This scene reminds me of some biased interviews on TV lately, where
the interviewer is clearly trying to trap his guest, or at least belittle what
they are saying. I remember reading about an interview with Saint
Mother Teresa, where the interviewer was clearly skeptical about Prayer,
and Christianity. The interviewer said basically, “Do you really talk to
God?” Saint Mother Teresa said “Yes, but mainly I listen’. Then the
reporter asked, “Does God talk to you?” Mother Teresa replied “ Yes, but mainly He listens”. After a couple of
moments of awkward silence, the reporter moved on to another subject.
I feel that Jesus is saying to us that we, in a sense, are dual citizens. We have one foot in the temporal world, and
one foot in the spiritual. It is good of course to pay our taxes and be part of the world. We raise our children in this
world, and we find our spouses, and we discover nature which can be absolutely breathtaking. Take a drive to Cape
Breton in the next few days and you will see what I mean. There are many joys in the world.
However, we live in the Spiritual world as well, where at Mass and in prayer, we connect with the Father in heaven.
In fact, it is in the Mass where earth and heaven become one, and we reach perfection, and Jesus is present in our
midst. I am coming to realize that while full communion with God may be something to come in the future, the
kingdom of God truly is present to us today. Last week’s reading really highlighted that to me.
By living in the spiritual world, and living the values of Jesus, we can truly bring a lot to the temporal world.
Take for example the truth that God created us in His image and likeness. To me, that is our first and most important
truth to remember, and our dignity, along with the dignity of everyone, comes from this fact. God created us
out of love, and He wants us to love Him back. How different would the world be, if we looked at each other first
before anything else, as children of God? I feel people are missing the mark when they try to exclude God from the
public arena. The problems of the world are not just political, social, or economic, they are also spiritual. We must
remind the world that we are all children of God. God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald


The Parable’s speaking to us today
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus is sharing another parable with the people of Israel. In this instance he is
answering the question, “What is the kingdom of God like?” What is remarkable in the parable is Jesus’ ability to
speak directly to his first century audience, but also to speak to our realities today?
We first read from Isaiah 5 that the vineyard symbolizes Israel. Since the vineyard has been planted by God, it
represents the gift and love of God. Yet the vineyard also demands the labor of the farmer that enables it to produce
grapes that yield wine. It symbolizes as Fr. Rosica says in his reflection “the human response and personal effort
and the fruit of good deeds.”
If the vineyard refers to Israel, then the tenant farmers represent Israel’s religious leaders, who despite their professed
loyalty to Israel’s law, refuse to give God his due by acknowledging and accepting God’s mighty presence in
the life and mission of Jesus. It is very similar to last week’s reading where the first son accepts the mission of the
father, but later turns away from it. When successive servants are sent to the “tenants” – and killed – they heard
Jesus remind them of the habit leaders had in ignoring many of the warnings the prophets had previously announced.
The religious leaders were being criticized for ignoring their own God-sent messengers. The vineyard is Israel and
the landowner is God. This shows that everything on earth belongs to God, as he is the creator of all things. The
slaves sent to collect the produce are the prophets sent to Israel. The son whom the tenants throw out of the vineyard
and kill is Jesus, who died outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem.
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus is speaking to us today as much as He is speaking to the first century Jews. We must
focus attention not so much on what the passage has to say explicitly about Jewish leaders, but as to what it implies
about Christians. The “others” to whom the vineyard is given over in verse 41 are accountable to the owner. They
too are charged with the heavy responsibility of producing the fruits of the kingdom.. This reading compels us to
look at our lives, our attitudes and actions, in light of whether we will embrace or reject Jesus’ saving message. We
must ask: what does it say about us Christians? What is my vision of the kingdom of God? How am I producing a
harvest for God’s kingdom, in my private and in my church life? What does the parable say to me about my own
relationships with family, friends and colleagues? What does the story teach me about my inability to forgive others
and forgive myself? How do I respond to God’s boundless mercy and goodness that He offers me each day?
God bless you all, Deacon Dan MacDonald


It’s more about doing than not doing

When Jesus says “What do you think” in the Gospel for today, it kind of reminds me of a class I took at AST.  The professor used to give scenarios to the students, and have us use theology to find the answer to the scenario.  In the Gospel passage Jesus gives two imperfect examples, the first being the one son who first agrees to work in the vineyard but later decides not to.  The second is of a son who first says no to the vineyard, but then later decides to work in the vineyard.  I believe that Jesus in the first scenario is telling the people of Israel that they have a heart problem.  They have a heart problem in the sense that like the first son, they agreed to a life of faith but later turned away from God and his love and his mercy, but still kept an outward appearance of piety.  In the second scenario, Jesus speaks of the tax collectors and prostitutes of the day and how they may have originally led a life away from God.   But many of them, after hearing the message God had sent, repented, turned to God and started living lives that were obedient and pleasing to God.  One such example I found in my research was Zaccheus. Just like the ultimately obedient son in the parable, they started out saying no to God, but they later repented and did what they knew they were supposed to do – living lives that were pleasing to God.

I say that neither of these scenarios are ideal because the ideal situation would be a son that would say “Yes Dad, I’ll do it!” and then would cheerfully, without complaining, obey his father completely.  This kind of son will no doubt bring immense joy to his father.

For me the Gospels are less about don’t do something, as much as it is about do something.  So to live out the message of the parable this week we must make our faith life active and obedient to the will of God.

Going to Church on Sunday is wonderful, and enriching, and necessary.  However, we worship God with how we live our lives from Monday to Saturday.  When we care and love for our children, we are living out this Gospel passage.  When we are remembering, and caring for the poor in our community, we are living out this Gospel passage.  When we evangelize others and tell them of the joy of the divine life, we are living out this Gospel passage.

Our words – no matter how impressive they are, no matter how convincing they sound, only ring true when they are backed by actions of love and mercy.

God bless you all

Deacon Dan MacDonald

Finding God Even to the End

I remember back when I was growing there was an older man who lived near where my father grew up.  This man lived in the woods and was an alcoholic.  He lived in a small cabin where he would drink for part of the day and then start walking and stop in a people’s houses along his route and talk for a while and then continue on.  Everyone knew him and was very generous to him, often feeding him meals when he stopped by the house.  The interesting and kind of sad thing was that when he was sober, he was the kindest, nicest person you would want to meet.

One day, the man fell ill and ended up in the hospital.  Everyone knew this would be his last days and so he had a lot of visitors coming by to say goodbye.  Unfortunately there was no family around to be with him.  However, a priest came by the visit during those last few days, and they had a number of talks where the man was able to unburden himself and come to terms with his life, and in the end he came to Jesus, and found peace in a new found relationship with God.  Finally, after so many years he found God and the peace he so longed to have.

I feel as though this story is precisely what this week’s gospel passage is referring to.  It is the desire for God and the need to keep seeking God right to the very end.  I remember the joy that people felt knowing that the man found God at the end of his life.  I distinctly recall my father speaking to someone about how it was such a peaceful experience as the man found the peace of Christ in his life.  Occasionally you hear a prayer which ends with asking God for a happy death, this seemed to me to be a happy death.

In the reading today, Jesus teaches us that we must overcome jealousy and envy. This is brought out in today’s parable of the labourers who come to work at different times of the day, but receive the same salary. Those who came at the first hour grumbled against the landowner. “He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you… Are you envious because I am generous?’

The generosity of our Lord is beyond measure and understanding.  We are called at the same time to not be generous or envious when someone comes to the Lord, even if it is later in their life, and we have been a faithful follower of Jesus for many years previous.  Jesus is speaking to the people of Israel in this parable, he is teaching that the kingdom of is for the gentiles as well.  And for us, he is saying that the kingdom of God is for everyone, and anyone we encounter.

God bless you all

Deacon Dan MacDonald