Tuesday, April 24, 2018

His Word Today: Hear His voice

Good morning everyone,

Have you ever heard a voice calling your name - even from far away, even in a crowded room - and known instantly that you needed to answer?  It takes time and repeated efforts for human beings to become so connected to one another that we instantly respond to the sound of another person's voice.  The most well-known of these may be the voices of our mothers, fathers, grandparents or children, but the same depth of connection exists between us and God.

From the day of our Baptism, Jesus has been calling our names.  At some level deep within each one of us, our hearts have always longed to hear his voice, and when we hear it - even though it might seem to be spoken at a great distance from us - we instantly want to respond ... because at that level, deep within us, we know instinctively that Jesus loves us and will do everything in his power to protect us.

Let us listen today for the voice of our Shepherd (cf Jn 10:27).  He knows us, he knows our hearts, he knows the things that can tempt us to seek out other voices, and despite all that, he still loves us.  Why would we not want to follow him?

Have a great day.

Monday, April 23, 2018

His Word Today: The gate

Good morning everyone,

A part of the task that Jesus had to perform was to help his disciples to understand how they (and we) must live and act in order to allow His light to shine in our lives.  He used the image of a sheep pen (something that would have been very familiar to them) to illustrate his point: whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep (Jn 10:1-2).

The human heart will naturally seek out independence.  There is an attitude that seems innate within us that, if untrained, will lead each of us to seek out our own goals, our own happiness - even if it means that we do so to the detriment of all other people around us.  This is the reason why all human concepts of community must include clear definitions of the limits within which that community is to function.

Jesus' idea of community is based on the limits of love.  If we want to live as his disciples, we must recognize his place of prominence in our lives.  This place of honour is not based on any sense of competition but purely centred around his love for us.  However, if we are unable or unwilling to recognize him as the source of this self-giving love, if we somehow try to set our own rules for belonging within the community of disciples, we are like thieves and robbers (cf Jn 10:2). 

Let us pray today for the grace to enter through the gate (cf Jn 10:1), to be thankful for all that we have received and trusting that our Shepherd will never lead us astray.

Have a great day.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

I know my own

Every year, on the fourth Sunday of the Easter season, the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.  This is usually the day when I tend to think about my own priesthood: about the call from God that was whispered in my ear.  I didn’t answer it right away; in fact, I would say that each day, God continues to whisper in my ear, to invite me to be a priest, and each day, I need to respond to that whisper: I need to say yes to the many ways that Jesus calls me to lay down my life for his people (cf Jn 10:11).

Some of the tasks that Jesus places in my path bring great joy, but others are not easy.  The reality is that over the twenty-five years of my priesthood, the number of priests who are serving in this diocese has declined.  There are about half the number of priests today compared with the number of priests there were then.  The decline in numbers is also being experienced in other dioceses and it is not confined merely to priests: there is also a decline in the number of Religious men and women, by which I mean Sisters, priests and Brothers who belong to various Orders.

Why has this happened?  Has God stopped whispering in the ears of our young people, or is there some other reason?  In truth, I believe that there are a number of reasons, each of which adds another layer to the puzzle.  I do not believe that God has stopped whispering, but perhaps we have forgotten how to listen for these whispers, or perhaps we have grown deaf to them because they are drowned out by competing noises.  Saint John says in today’s second reading that we are all children of God (1 Jn 3:1), but the world does not know us as such because the world no longer seems to know him.

How many of our family members and friends were Baptized and raised with faith as part of their lives, yet have forgotten how to listen for God’s whispers?  There are at least two (if not three) generations of people who now believe that faith is a private matter between God and me, or that it’s not so important for me to make time to be part of a faith community – except perhaps at Christmas or Easter.  Isn’t it funny how so many people have managed to fill up the space that would once have been considered Sacred with so many other activities that they readily admit that they are too busy to find time to take part in a local parish community?  Does this mean that the Church has somehow failed to communicate the fact that we are all precious children of God, or is it simply a matter of convenience that so many people seem to want to pick and choose the elements of faith that are convenient?

It’s difficult at times for us to see these realities in a positive light, but could it be that we are living in a time when persecution is not so much a matter of physical conflict but rather a matter of apathy?  If this is the case, then we must listen all the more for the whispers of God’s voice, prompting us to boldly proclaim the truths that we believe.  Like the apostles Peter and John, people may try to ignore what we have to say about our faith (cf Acts 4:7) but we must always be willing to bravely testify to our faith.  Like Peter, we must courageously tell others that Jesus, the stone that was rejected by the builders, has become the cornerstone (Acts 4:11).  Jesus needs each one of us to joyfully respond to the whispers he shares with us, to share the news of our faith with those we meet, and to encourage others to do the same.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

His Word Today: Who to believe

Good morning everyone,

Do people sometimes tell you things that you find hard to believe?  When such occurrences come to pass, do you take the time to verify their validity or do you just take someone's word? ... and if you should doubt, do you bother to pursue the investigation in case it might be true or do you just dismiss the news as idle gossip?

When Jesus tried to speak with his followers about heaven, many of them were shocked at the words he was using (cf Jn 6:61).  Some of them even complained: This saying is hard, who can accept it (Jn 6:60), and many of those who were following after him left and returned to their former ways of life (cf Jn 6:66).

It's not easy to be a disciple of Jesus.  There are many temptations attempting to lure us into believing that we are somehow making a mistake, that we should turn back and return to more familiar territory, but to do so would be to sell ourselves short; remember that God knows what we're capable of and he believes in us.  Still, the choice is up to us.  Each day we must choose to follow Jesus.  If we are convinced that this is the right path to follow, even despite the pressure to turn away, we too will respond like Simon Peter did: Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68).

Have a great day.

Friday, April 20, 2018

His Word Today: Eat in order to have life

The Last Supper
Oil on canvas by Joos van Cleve (1485-1540)
Good morning everyone,

Today's reflection is based on food - divine food.  When Jesus explained the importance of nourishing our hearts and souls on this divine food, it was a difficult concept for people to grasp.  Even today, it is still something that is not easy to understand.  Receiving the Eucharist is an act of faith, not primarily an act of reason.  Because it is an act of faith, the Eucharist is not easily understood by the reasoning of the world.

Jesus did not explain what the Eucharist would look like, or what it would taste like; rather he spoke about what it truly is: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood, you do not have life within you (Jn 6:53).  In fact, the Eucharist has been referred to as the unbloody sacrifice of Christ, referring to the fact that during the Mass, we do not gaze upon the bloody body of Jesus as it was seen on Calvary, but rather on the body and blood of Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine.

Each time that we celebrate the Mass, Jesus offers us his unbloody sacrifice - his body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine - in order to nourish our hearts and souls and to strengthen and enliven our faith.  Pray today for the ability to see the world as Jesus sees it, and for the courage to respond in faith to the needs of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need.

Have a great day.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

His Word Today: Destined for heaven

Good morning everyone,

One day after another, we are aware of our own activities but how often have we stopped long enough to consider that beyond the realm of our own actions, there is another actor at work.  Trying to explain this truth to the crowds who gathered around him, Jesus said:  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day (Jn 6:44).

Before we can think a thought, God has already thought it; before we can conceive of a work of charity, God has already figured out all the details about how our actions will interact with others; before we can even begin to consider the possibility of love, God has already loved us with the greatest of loves, and before we can even begin to think about heaven, God has already begun to prepare a place there for each one of us.

Although the thought of being separated from those we love brings profound sadness, people of faith have heard the words of the gospel over and over again.  As we make our way through life, we pray for the grace to believe day after day that God our Father is drawing us to himself, and when our time here on earth is complete, he will raise us up from the confines of death - just as he raised Jesus - and take us to heaven where we will live with him forever.  This is the good news of the Easter season: Jesus is risen!  Alleluia!

Have a great day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

His Word Today: Bread for eternal life

Good morning everyone,

When the crowds who had been fed on the bread and fish came looking for Jesus, he deepened the teaching that he shared with them.  What he wanted them to understand was that he did not only feed their stomachs; God's word also feeds our souls.  In fact, Jesus says: I am the bread of life ... whoever comes to me will never hunger (Jn 6:35).  It takes some discipline on our part to open our hearts and souls to God in prayer, but if we do, he will always provide more than we could ever want: companionship, love, acceptance, even forgiveness.

Anyone who has experienced the gentle presence of Jesus will know that he makes himself present to us at a level much deeper than physical sight and touch.  In fact, he makes himself known to us at the level of our hearts and souls.  Having encountered him in prayer, we are all the more able to recognize his presence in the daily events of our lives, yet he leaves us free to choose every day whether we believe in him or not (cf Jn 6:36).

The choice is ours - every day we must choose to believe in Him.  In response to our choice to believe, Jesus - the bread of life - promises to reward us with the fulfillment of a promise: he will raise us up and we will enjoy eternal life (cf Jn 6:40).

Have a great day.