Friday, February 23, 2018

His Word Today: Time for forgiveness

The Prodigal Son
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Good morning everyone,

The season of Lent is a precious time, a gift that is offered to us each year.  This is an opportunity for every one of us to 'come clean' with our own consciences and with God.  The prophet Ezekiel tells us that God offers us a get out of jail card if we need it, but in return for his generosity, he asks that we turn away from all the sins we have committed (Ez 18:21).

Lent is a spiritual amnesty for sins that we may have hidden deep within our own consciences.  Since no one can say with certainty whether there is such reason for seeking forgiveness except if an individual speaks for him or herself, no one has the right to accuse another person of having sinned, and the joyful news that the prophet shares today is the fact that even God does not bring judgement against us unless we choose to hide.

This is a season of grace, a time for forgiveness, an opportunity for each one of us to discover or to re-discover the merciful heart of our God.  It takes courage to admit our failings, but it might help to know that if only we can dare to speak our truth, God is willing to forgive and to rejoice.

Have a great day.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

His Word Today: the Chair of Peter

The chair of Peter, the Apostle
above the Altar of the Chair in
Saint Peter's Basilica
Good morning everyone.

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. This feast brings to mind the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter (Mt 16:13-19), and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope, Francis. Today, we celebrate the unity of the Church, founded upon the Apostle Peter, and we renew our assent to the teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined, and to all the acts of the ordinary teaching authority of the Church.

The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on 18 January, in commemoration of the day when Saint Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Antioch, commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated in Rome on 22 February. In each of those cities, a chair (cathedra) has been venerated which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass.

Today, let us pray especially for Pope Francis.  May the Lord grant him many years of health and zeal to continue leading the Church and teaching us by his words but more importantly by his example about how we can all become more compassionate, loving and forgiving people.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

His Word Today: Saint Peter Damian

Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saint Peter Damian, a Benedictine monk who lived in the eleventh century and was known for his commitment to reforming the Church.  Peter was born in Ravenna around 1007 and studied theology and Canon Law, first at Ravenna, at Faenza, and finally at the University of Parma.  At the age of 35 years, he gave up his secular career and entered a hermitage near Gubbio.  He was a highly respected member of the Benedictine Order and insisted on monastic and clerical reform and austerity.

Despite his preference to remain a hermit and an itinerant preacher, he was chosen by his former superior and consecrated Cardinal Bishop of Ostia on 30 November 1057.  At first, he had been reluctant to accept the Office but once he was consecrated, he was as steadfast in fulfilling the role of leader as he had been in his life as a hermit and a preacher.

The life of Saint Peter Damien is an example of the fact that when God calls, sometimes we are reluctant to answer - like the young Jonah who was called to convert the metropolis of Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-2).  However, God doesn't give up until we choose to cooperate.  He always knows what's best for us, even if we are not so sure ourselves, and he will work with us, gently inviting and putting us in situations where we will constantly be urged to accept his invitation ... until we do.

Is God calling you to do something wonderful?  Are you resisting God's invitation?  Why?  History has proven over and over again that God only ever wants the best for us, and in the end, he always gets his way.  Pray for the strength and the spirit of surrender to do what he tells you to do.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

His Word Today: Like rain and snow

Good morning everyone,

Today's first reading (cf Is 55:10-11) gives us some wonderful food for thought and for prayer.  God's word is living and active.  Each time it enters our ears, we hear something new.  This Word is alive and is meant to give us life too.

Isaiah uses the image of the rain and snow that come down from the heavens.  Just as they do not return there until they have watered the earth ... so shall God's word be that goes forth from his mouth ... it shall achieve the end for which I have sent it.

Whether we are aware of it or not, God's word is at work all around us: speaking in the quiet of prayer, placing us in situations where God needs us to be present so that we can act and speak in his name.  Sometimes we are not aware of this grace until we develop the habit of being attentive for it, but when we become accustomed to looking for God, we discover quickly how close he is to us and how often he invites us to be his hands, feet, eyes and ears in the world (cf Saint Teresa of Avila).

Pray today for the grace to be aware of the many ways that God uses our talents to touch the hearts of others, and be on the lookout for the ways in which his word is at work, watering the earth of our hearts with the warmth of his love.

Have a great day.

Monday, February 19, 2018

His Word Today: For the least of these

Good morning everyone,

Some words have the power to stop us in our tracks.  The description that Jesus shares with his disciples about the final judgement is one of those moments.  There will be no room for games when that moment arrives.  Jesus' words will be uttered very calmly, but the truth that they speak will leave some of us rejoicing and others knowing that we have fallen short.

These are words that we need to hear often.  They are words that we need to reflect on and always remember because they are like a litmus test that we can use to measure how we are living our faith.  Jesus did not come to share just a good story that we were meant to hear, but a story that was meant to change our lives.  The love of God compels us not only to discover a relationship of love between us and God, but also to cultivate such relationships with others.

Today, be on the lookout for Christ who is waiting for you in the person who is hungry and needs you to provide nourishment. He is present in the person who is thirsty and waiting for you to quench that thirst (cf Mt 25:37).  Jesus is the stranger who appears at your door, the person who is shivering in the cold yet unable to look you in the eye, all the while hoping that someone will find a way to provide some warmth (Mt 25:38).  The suffering Christ is hidden away in hospital and locked away in prison, ignored by most of society but waiting in hope that someone will visit and offer a word of compassion (Mt 25:39).

Some words have the power to stop us in our tracks and to remind us about what is truly important.

Have a great day.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Time to clean house

A few days ago, we began the season of Lent.  During this period of preparation for the celebration of Easter, the liturgy invites us to enter into a privileged experience of being in the presence of Jesus.  Saint Mark tells us that after Jesus was baptized, the Spirit drove him into the wilderness for forty days (Mk 1:12-13) so we can take comfort in the fact that as we begin this Lenten experience, we are not alone.  Jesus is travelling with us along the road.

We might begin by asking ourselves: What is it that I hope to accomplish this Lent?  Each of us needs to grow in some way, so Lent allows us to stop what we are doing, to look around us so that we can get our bearings, and then to return to the Father who is waiting for us with outstretched arms.

The first reading for today’s liturgy, taken from the Book of Genesis, reminds us of the story of Noah and his family who were saved from the flood.  After the waters had receded, God established a covenant with Noah and his descendants ... (Gn 9:10).  Our God is always faithful to his word.  He remembers the covenant he made with Noah and establishes a covenant with each one of us at the time of our Baptism.

All these many centuries later, we need to stop during the season of Lent so that we can remember that God has created a covenant with each one of us.  Perhaps as time has gone by, we have forgotten how precious we are in the sight of God, but he has never forgotten.

We need to look around us: look at the life that we have lived up to now and ask ourselves whether we have been faithful to the covenant that God created on the day of our Baptism.  If not, this is the favourable time for us to be honest with ourselves and with God.  He is appealing to our consciences (cf 1 Pet 3:21) and asking us to be true to ourselves and true to him.

The Church teaches that Baptism cannot be repeated, but if our journey this Lent should indeed lead us to recognize the fact that we have strayed from the original joy of knowing that each one of us is a precious and beloved child of God, we can still return to the Father through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

A few years ago, the entire Church was invited to live a Year of Mercy: a time when we were all invited to encounter God the Father’s merciful heart.  Many people took advantage of that special year to rediscover the joy of Baptism and the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but even after we have encountered the merciful heart of God and celebrated his forgiveness, there is always the challenge of keeping our consciences clean after we have received absolution.  The answer to that question is simple because the Sacrament of Reconciliation does not just allow us to rid ourselves of our sins; it also fills us with God’s grace so that we can face the future.

As we set out on our journey this week, let us pray for the grace to walk with Jesus.  He came to forgive our sins but also to make us holy.  Let us ask him to help us to come back home, into the loving embrace of our Father.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

His Word Today: A sober second look

The Calling of Saint Matthew
James Tissot (1836-1902)
Good morning everyone,

Even in these opening days of the season of Lent, the Lord invites us to take a sober second look at our lives.  In order for us to be aware of the attitudes and practices that we need to work on this Lent, the prophet Isaiah points out two things that we can do:  remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech (in other words, dare to fast from considering yourself better than others, refrain from gossip and the temptation to jump to conclusions without first checking out the facts); .. bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted (which is the same as saying: give alms to the poor, give what you have so that others may also share in the bounty of God's goodness (cf Is 58:9b-10a).

It might help to remember that Jesus is always with us as we continue our pilgrim journey through life.  He is right by our side, pointing out areas where we need to be healed, aspects about our own behaviour that we need to change, and helping us to find the courage to turn away from sin and return to the gospel.  This is exactly what he did in the life of Levi the tax collector: He saw a poor soul that needed help, he called to him and invited him to change his ways (cf Lk 5:27).

Be aware today of the tender and loving gaze of Jesus that is focused on you.  He knows you and loves you deeply.  Listen today for his voice that is calling you by name and inviting you: ... come, follow me!

Have a great day.