TWENTY_FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

It’s as much for you

Many years ago I went to see a musician perform at a small venue in Edmonton.  During the concert, he started talking about a relationship that he had with a friend that went sour.  He spoke about being on the driveway of his farm with his dog, kicking a soccer ball, and having an argument with his friend.  The argument ended with his friend driving away in anger.  The two didn’t speak for ten years when one day the musician was back in the same driveway with the same soccer ball, and a different dog.  So the friend, totally unannounced pulled up and got out of the car and the two talked for many hours, and patched up their differences.

I remember the musician when he finished the story said “I totally recommend reconciling your differences”.  I remember this story because you could see the relief on the musicians face and in his voice, it was obvious that parching up the relationship, and forgiving his friend freed him, as much as it helps his friend.  Over the years I am growing in the understanding that forgiving someone does as much for us as it does for the person that offended you.  However as someone said to me the other day, “forgiveness is hard work”.

Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most disturbing and emotional experiences we will ever encounter in our lives. It may involve feelings of anger, revenge, resentment, hurt, hostility, sadness, bitterness, and retaliation. But it also involves reconciliation, compromise, contrition, repentance, and redemption. It is not just an intellectual activity; it is also spiritual.

When Peter asked Jesus “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?   As many as seven times?” He replies, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Jesus is saying to never stop with the process of forgiveness.  You may have to forgive someone many times before you can go beyond saying the words, and truly feel it in your hear.  And it may also be even longer before you can trust the other person again.  But I can tell you for sure that you will be set free once you forgive, even if the other person never says they are sorry, the hurt you felt from that person will never hurt you again.  The hardest part of forgiveness is often to simply take the first step, which is where we begin.  We may have to take that first step many times before we move on to the second one, but it is possible with prayer and rely on the Lord for the strength, perseverance, and the patience that is required.

God bless you all

Deacon Dan MacDonald

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are one body

Have you ever had the occasion to watch a symphony orchestra rehearse?  I was fortunate many years ago to be able to spend about an hour watching a symphony and I can tell you it is amazing to watch.  It is interesting because of all the instruments, and musicians that come together and contribute their piece of the composition.  At the helm is the conductor, who puts all the elements together and quickly corrects one of the musicians if what they are playing is not fitting with the others.  After all the rehearsals are over, we get the finished product, which is a masterfully woven composition with all the parts working perfectly together.

I read a piece in another reflection that I think capsulizes this very well.  It says “We are intended to be a symphony, an orchestra, a group that harmonizes and seeks agreement. Jesus is not only part of our ensemble, but He is also the Director. His command is to love one another and through that love to seek to harmonize and to live our lives in emulation of Christ.”

What jumps out to me about the symphony is the fact that all the musicians are so interdependent of one another.  The same is true I believe with the kingdom of God.  As 1 Corinthians says, “We are one body”, and we are all interdependent members of that body.  So when we see someone suffering or in need we cannot say “well that’s not my problem”.   If we hear about a flood in Texas, we are called to help in any way we can.  When we learn about a child suffering in a country far from us, we are called to help.  When we see someone living on the street, we are called to help, in any way we can.

As for correcting one another, we are called to do it in love.  Sometimes when we see someone’s actions are dangerous for themselves or for others, we may need to say something, in order to prevent something destructive from happening.  But a good measuring stick we can use is to ask ourselves, if I say something, am I also willing to help that person?  If the answer is no, it may be better to not say anything at all.  So before you say something to someone else, a good exercise may be to do an examination of conscience first and ask yourself some tough questions first.

At every point though, even if the person rejects our advice, or the advice of the church community, we are called to speak in love and compassion for the other person.  That command doesn’t change, no matter what.

God bless you all

Deacon Dan MacDonald

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Treasure in The Field!

Once again in the Gospel reading for this week, Jesus speaks in parables.  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  This parable would speak to the listeners of his time, as it was a common practice in biblical times to guard your valuables by burying them in the ground.  Jesus is making the point that someone would buy the priceless items, and give up everything to obtain it.  Jesus is speaking of the supreme value of the Kingdom of God, and our desire to give up everything to obtain it.

Biblical scholars have said that the meaning of this parable is that the field is the world, and the man who gave all to buy it is Jesus.  I believe a reflection on stewardship summarizes this very well when it says.  ”And it is with joy that He gives all to buy the field, to save the world and each of us. What makes the treasure so wonderful that the Lord would give all, His very life? Each of us. In other words, each of you! Jesus gave everything to redeem the whole world to preserve a treasure it contains. He gave all because we, His people, are the treasure.”

So what are we called to do in this age today?  I believe it is simply as we spoke of before, to give back the gifts he has given to us.  Also, we are to share the gift of Jesus and the Gospel to those around us.  The sharing of the Gospel reminds me of a story I heard once about a violin.  A musician once heard a violin played at a concert, and he was so amazed by the sound of the violin, that he made contact with the owner and asked to buy the violin.  Unfortunately the violin was bought by a collector and was now in another city.  Eventually the musician tracked down the collector, but the collector refused to sell it to the musician.  Dejected, the musician asked if he could play just one time.  The collector agreed and the musician played the violin.  When the collector heard the musician play so well, and he heard how beautiful the violin sounded, he said to the musician “something so beautiful must be shared” and he gave the violin to the musician permanently.  It is so with the Gospel, it is so beautiful it must be shared.

 God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

The Final Judge!

 This week’s reading reminds us that it is the Lord who guides us throughout our lives.  He guides us through our decisions, our problems, and is with us in our joys as well. It is quite a journey of faith that we walk, as we try to live God’s will and try to guide our families and journey with our friends in their journey. In the parable of the weeds, it is made pretty clear that at a later time the weeds will be separated from the wheat.  It is also clear that God is the one who will do the separating, not us.

I see this as an invitation to define people as children of God, not as sinners, not claiming ourselves as judge and jury over someone else.  The best thing we can do is to live along side each other, supporting and loving along the way. We must take care not to be judgmental and self righteous but to make sure we have a solid relationship with God ourselves, and to make sure we are not weeds in our community.

Later Jesus speaks of the mustard seed once again, the smallest seed you can find.  Jesus is speaking to the early church who more than likely was discouraged with the slow growth of the church that they so hoped would grow.  However, He is also speaking to us who may be scared or discouraged by the slow progress of a growing faith in our family members.  He is saying that God’s work may seem slow, but be assured that God is working in all our lives.  Pope Francis was right when he said recently that we must be creative when we evangelize.  I recently had an experience where I found that much of today’s music has it’s lyrics come from scripture.  Everyone from Lady Gaga, to One Direction, to Mumford and Sons have lyrics based on scripture.  Discovering this made it possible to open dialogue with some teens who didn’t see the connection before.

Jesus is saying to us that even the faith as small as a mustard seed can grow into something beautiful, and like
Christianity can reach to all ends of the earth.

 God bless you all
Deacon Dan MacDonald

 

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