The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

3rd Sunday in the Lent – 23/24.02.2008

Living water

THE THEME of today's readings centres around water. The links with Baptism are obvious. Water is the source of life but also of destruction.

So we have the story of the Flood, which brought salvation to Noah and his family but death to a sinful world; the crossing of the Red Sea, which meant life and liberty to the Israelites but death to the army of the Pharaoh; and the water from the rock for the Israelites in the dryness of the desert. We will hear more about these at the Easter Vigil during the blessing of the baptismal water.

The Gospel which we have just heard is about the Woman at the Well and it also centres around the theme of water and life.

She is very surprised at his approach but her surprise allows Jesus to turn the tables and offer her "living water". She, understanding him literally, asks how he can give it as he has no bucket. But the water that Jesus will give is different. Those who drink it will never be thirsty again and it gives eternal life. Again, literally, the woman wants this water that lasts forever. Then she will never have to trudge to the well again.

What is this water that Jesus speaks about? It is God's Spirit which comes to us in Baptism. Baptism is not just a ritual producing magic effects. It is the outward, symbolic sign of a deep reality, the coming of God as a force penetrating every aspect of a person's life.

And this happens through our exposure to Jesus and to the Gospel vision of life and our becoming totally converted to that vision. This can only happen through the agency of a Christian community into which we are called to enter. As the Second Reading says today, "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit". It is not just a question of a ritual washing or immersing and saying magic words but of a real drinking in of that Spirit. The spirit quenches our thirst, not by removing our desire for God's presence but by continually satisfying it.

The Roman Triptych: Meditations of Pope John Paul II

2. The source

The undulating wood slopes down
to the rhythm of mountain streams....

If you want to find the source,
you have to go up, against the current,
tear through, seek, don't give up,
you know it must be somewhere here.

Where are you, source? Where are you, source?!

Stream, stream in the wood,
tell me the secret of your beginning!
(Silence—why are you silent?
How carefully you have hidden the secret of your beginning).

Allow me to wet my lips
in spring water,
to feel its freshness,
reviving freshness.

And we know that Christ is the source of this living Water, Water of Life, where I can wet my lips like in the spring water and feel its reviving freshness.

Lord give me please this Water of Life.

Don't contaminate it by liberalism, relativism, egoism, materialism.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

II Sunday in the Lent 17.02.2008

Today instead of homily we will read the message of the Bishops of Alberta

The Saving Works of Catholic Healthcare

A Pastoral Message from the Bishops of Alberta
In Support of our Faith-Based Institutions
February 11, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this special occasion of the World Day of the Sick we invite the faithful to support the saving works of Catholic healthcare, which bear witness to and continue the healing ministry of Jesus. Care of the sick belongs to the mission of the Church in which we are united by faith. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to uphold the continued presence and flourishing in our province of Catholic healthcare, which brings essential and irreplaceable value to our healthcare system through provision of quality, compassionate, and holistic care to all.

The World Day of the Sick reminds us of our duty to stand in solidarity with all those afflicted with chronic or incurable diseases, a call that stems from our Lord’s own words recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, “I was sick, and you cared for me” (Mt 25:36). In our Catholic healthcare institutions, we respond to this call in a manner that affirms the human dignity of the patient and offers to the sick and dying a reason to hope. We can justly call healthcare a saving work. The word “salvation” has its etymological root in the Latin salvus, meaning “well” or “sound”. Catholic healthcare is a saving work dedicated to the wellbeing of the total person. It is committed to a holistic vision that embraces the mind, body and spirit of the patient, who is always to be treated with the utmost respect. Those tireless individuals who devote their life to providing such holistic care are the arms and hands of Christ. Physicians, nurses, therapists, chaplains, social workers, volunteers, families, priests and pastoral volunteers are the very face of Christ to the sick and witness to the good news of His presence and love. This is the transformative dimension of healing to which Catholic healthcare gives witness, often articulated as the “something different” about our institutions.

In his first encyclical letter, entitled Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), Pope Benedict XVI addresses the insufficiency of having only the required technical skills in the work of caring for others. In addition is required a “formation of the heart” that gives birth to a genuine love for the other (cf. no. 31). We recognize that our continued efforts to develop the technical competencies necessary for quality care must always be joined to an unwavering commitment to provide compassionate service to all.

This is the legacy of the religious Sisters who founded healthcare in Alberta. They were singularly focused upon providing the best quality standards to the vulnerable persons who sought their care at the same time as they offered them real hope through witness to the love of Christ. Catholic healthcare has continued this tradition, and we as Albertans should be forever grateful for the role of the Sisters, and those who follow in their footsteps today, in promoting this balanced human approach of quality care and compassionate service. Efforts to ensure a just and viable allocation of financial resources and governance oversight in support of faith-based healthcare in this province require the Catholic community to lend its public voice. We the Bishops of Alberta are committed to supporting faith-based healthcare. The entire community of the faithful must always be ready to advocate on behalf of Catholic healthcare to ensure the continued presence of our institutions into the future.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton

Most Reverend Frederick B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary

Most Reverend Luc Bouchard
Bishop of Saint-Paul

Most Reverend David Motiuk
Eparchial Bishop of Edmonton

Most Reverend Gérard Pettipas, CSsR
Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan

Most Reverend Denis Croteau, OMI
Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith

Most Reverend Murray Chatlain
Coadjutor Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I Sunday of Lent

Genesis 2, 7-9; 3, 1-7; Psalm 51; Romans 5, 12-19; Matthew 4, 1-11

Years ago the explorer, Richard Byrd, spent the winter alone at the South Pole. For almost 5 months he lived in total darkness, buried beneath the snow in a tiny room. The temperature in that room often dipped to 50 degrees below zero. Three times a day, Byrd climbed the stairs to the roof of his shelter, opened a trapdoor, pushed away the snow, and went out into the cold and darkness to record weather information.

Why did Byrd choose to live by himself during these months of total darkness? He answered that question in his book Alone where he says he did it because he wanted to get away from everything. He wanted to do some serious thinking. He writes: “And so it occurred to me . . . that here was the opportunity. . . . I should be able to live exactly as I chose, obedient to no necessities but those imposed by the wind and night and cold, and to no man’s law but my own.’’ After the first month of solitude, Byrd discovered something “good’’ happening. He discovered that you can live much more deeply and profoundly if you keep life simple and don’t clutter it with a lot of material things. Byrd emerged from his room a changed man. He ends his book with these words: “All this happened four years ago. Civilization has not altered my ideas. I live more simply now, and with more peace.

We sometimes need to retire and go off into a desert to re-think our life and the forces present in it. We need to hide ourselves in a solitary place; we need to create a desert in our lives so to be able to think carefully about the demoniac forces and powers which try to terrorize our lives. And they are many.
There are the 7 capital sins or vices: pride, avarice, lust, gluttony, envy, anger, laziness.

1 - There is the temptation of the body which is famished and hungry, starving and lacking something, but not always necessarily food. The temptation of the body tries to dominate my life and tyrannize it. There is lust, the desire for any pleasure and not only what is sexual in nature. There is gluttony and laziness (a capital sin) – the bodily tyrants of our lives.

2 - The temptation of greed and materialism, the temptation of wanting to make more money, to possess more, and to have to be rich are all around us, these lead us to avarice and envy.

3 - And then there is the biggest temptation of all: pride - with our conceit, vanity and arrogance, the desire for power, the desire to dominate, and the arrogance of supremacy.

These forces are dominant in our contemporary society; these three temptations are present in the whole of our lives. Jesus had three proposals against these demoniac forces.....the three evangelical virtues:

1 - the virtue of chastity to counter the domination of the body - His answer: “one does not live by bread alone” – you are not only a carnal being, you are a spiritual being as well
2 - the virtue of poverty against the domination of money - His answer: “worship only the Lord your God” and not money, not material possessions
3 - the virtue of obedience against the domination of pride - His answer: “do not put the Lord your God to the test”. The obedience to the reason and not to the famished body, obedience to the conscience and not to the money, obedience to God.
These three “temptations” are dangerous because they reduce other people--- and even the material world--- to things that can be used purely for my personal gain. They are dangerous because they create a world and a society in which everyone has to compete to get as much for themselves as they can.

In such a rat race, a minority corners to itself a disproportionate amount of the world's goods while the majority is left without what they need.

Above all, living this kind of life are dangerous because they can create the prevailing creed of the society in which we live. They believe that undiluted happiness comes with winning millions in the lottery. They believe that the ownership of what they have acquired is absolute. But there is no absolute ownership of anything.

When we think of temptations, we tend to think of sexual sins, telling lies, losing our tempers, gossiping about people's real or imagined faults, getting angry, feeling resentment and the like.

But the really dangerous temptations are:
- to want material wealth for its own sake (the ability to turn anything into money ['bread']),
- to want status (everyone looking up to me),
- and power (manipulating people and things for my own ends), things which are seen as going with wealth, power and status.

Three key areas - Rather than just seeing them as three consecutive temptations happening almost simultaneously at a particular moment, we should perhaps see them as three key areas where Jesus was tempted to compromise his mission during the whole of his public life. They were not just passing temptations of the moment, but temptations with which he was beset all throughout his public life.

Some real examples of these temptations can be found in the Gospel accounts:
- The Pharisees asked Jesus "to perform a miracle to show that God approved of him" (Mark 8:11).
- "Save yourself if you are God's Son! Come down from the cross!" (Matthew 27:40).
- After feeding 5,000 hungry people with an abundance of food, "the people there said, 'Surely this is the Prophet who was to come into the world!' Jesus knew that they were about to come and seize him in order to make him king by force; so he went off again to the hills by himself" (John 6:14-15).

Clearly, in varying forms, these temptations of Jesus can come into our lives too. They are certainly coming. What will my response be to them?

Monday, February 04, 2008

4th Sunday Ordinary “A”
“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the Lord, who do His commands; seek righteousness, seek humility”, the prophet Zephaniah urges us in the first reading.

In the second reading, St. Paul tell us that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.

God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing, things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”

In the beatitudes Jesus confirms this view of things, which is so opposed to the world’s view of things.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”.

Listening to all this, it is easy for us to see that humility seems to be our Lord’s favorite virtue.

First of all, His Incarnation, the fact that God became man, was the most sublime act of humility ever.

It seems that His mission as our Redeemer was precisely to save us from the opposite of humility namely, our pride.

Pride, the original sin, by which our first parents decided that they could get along just find without God.

It was pride that caused the fall.
St Thomas Aquinas once said that humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us, knowing that every good we have, comes from Him as pure gift, that we depend on God for absolutely everything.

The reason that God is so great a lover of humility is because He is a great lover of the Truth.

Humility is nothing but truth, whereas pride is nothing but a lie - When we think that we can achieve or merit our own redemption, when we think that salvation depends upon us.

We are not defined by what we do, how much we earn, or what we achieve but by who we are.

We are usually closest to God when we are weakest, emptiest and lowest.

We are full of pride when our thoughts are filled with our personal rights, when we refuse to ask for help, when we think we have to understand everything in order to believe or give our allegiance.

When we think that God owes us an explanation and that our brains are fully capable of understanding all that there is to know about everything.

In the Beatitudes Jesus gives us some demanding ideals, which reverses the world’s values of things and is addressed to all and everyone who would be His disciples.

It’s all about poverty of spirit. Those who do not rely on the world are free to entrust themselves and everything to God.

This sounds like foolishness but St. Paul insists that the Gospel message opposes human wisdom. We cannot be proud of our own accomplishments. Our only boast is God’s love.

Two of the most important lessons in life are:

1. that there is a God
2. that I am not God

To be human is to acknowledge that we are not God but rather from God, that we are wholly dependent upon God and are to obey Him.

God places the humble and lowly among the people to show how we are to seek refuge in the Lord, how we are to be a remnant of those who believe in God, how we are to do no wrong and utter no lies, nor have a deceitful tongue.

God promises to the humble that they will pasture and lie down and no one shall make them afraid, the Lord is their shepherd and they are His sheep.

My dear friends, as we prepare ourselves to enter into the Lenten Season let us take the advice of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen who gives us 4 steps we can take on our way to true humility, true poverty of spirit.

The first is prayer. Only the humble can pray, because prayer presumes that we need someone and something.

Second, regular and sincere confession in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Third, letting ourselves be open to criticism.

Fourth, a knowledge of ourselves so that with the help of God’s grace we never place ourselves in situations that we know can lead us to sin.

In conclusion let us listen to part of the Litany of Humility written by Raphael Cardinal Val and make it our Lenten prayer –

That others may be loved more that I, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be more esteemed that I, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.

That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, that others may be chosen and I – set aside, that others may be praised and I – unnoticed.

That others may be preferred to me in everything.

That others may become holier that I, provided that I become as holy as I should, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.

Our Lady of Humility, pray for us.

Deacon Bernard