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

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sunday of week 30 of Ordinary Time

Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-30

“LOVE - AND DO WHAT YOU LIKE” is a statement attributed to the great St Augustine. He did not say simply, “Do what you like” but “LOVE, and do what you like.” The word ‘love’ changes the meaning of the statement completely. We have a similar theme in today’s Gospel. It touches on the very heart of the Christian message and indeed of all human living.

Some Catholics, especially many young, argue, "I come to church to worship God. Spare me the message on the poor. I get that on the TV all week." This is telephone booth theology: just me and God and nobody else. Here they obey the first great commandment and forget the second.

Other Catholics operate on social worker principles. They put out for the poor not because it pleases God but because it pleases them. Very often they don’t love neighbor but themselves. Jesus is squeezed out of the package. They obey the second great commandment and disregard the first. Such people are humanists but not Christians.

But there are also others who argue: Jesus teaches about love and don’t tell me anything about moral obligations and commandments. Don’t challenge me with the difficult questions and don’t touch my private life. They obey their own vision of God and they create their own understanding of love. They neither worship true God nor love their neighbor.

And who said: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” (John 14,21).
And John in his first letter adds: “Whoever says, "I know and I love him, but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2,4).

Some others say:
- “I love God, and God loves me”. It’s true that I am greedy, egoistic, impolite, and merciless but God’s love is infinite and He will certainly forgive me”.

- “It’s true that I neglect His commandments and I am not a churchgoer but He requires only to love Him, not to go to the church, so don’t upset me with Sunday Masses on a regular basis”.

- It’s true that I am living already for 20 years in non-sacramental marriage but I love my wife (or my husband) so don’t upset me with something what is not in the Gospel. God loves me and He will certainly save me, because I love my spouse.

Is it not a misunderstanding of the Gospel message? Is it not a total failure in understanding Christ’s teaching? Are we not turning the Gospel message upside-down trying to adjust it to our lousy life?

Is it not true:
- that the love of God without love of the neighbor is a kind of very grave and serious hypocrisy? You can not love God whom you don’t see if you don’t truly love neighbor who is near to you.

- but it is also true that the so called love of the neighbor (sentimental and romantic) without being rooted in the love of God is a kind of idolatry and self-deception.

It is true and certain that the central point of the Good News is the message of love, but we do forget very often that Jesus was crucified not for preaching love of God and neighbor but for preaching the very difficult and sometimes uncomfortable truth - HOW THIS LOVE SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD. And this truth is very challenging and sometimes very upsetting, because I won’t like to accept it, and so I modify the understanding of God’s love to fit my convictions and my idea of comfortable Christianity.

We should not forget that Jesus’ understanding of love is very different from our understanding. God loves us and he requires the same from us, but this love is not emotional, not sentimental, not silly or romantic. Jesus is not a “Hollywood sappy lover” who dies in a melodramatic way. He is the God, He Himself is the LOVE, but at the same time He said “I am the Truth, I am the Way, and I am the Life. Who would like to come to my Father has to come through me.”

The word, love, has become devalued - like a currency that once bought a steak dinner, but now can barely purchase a donut. Much of modern Christian life seems like a bad version of a Hollywood cheap, romantic story rather than the morning of Resurrection. We need to revalue the meaning of love.

Emotions of course are important - and we should do all we can to have positive feelings toward family members, co-workers and fellow parishioners. But love itself is not a feeling. Love is a decision. Sometimes it is a very difficult and very challenging decision. And I should add that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, because none of us on our own is capable the love Christ requires of us.

Can I say that parents who decide to punish their child to prevent him or her from biggest troubles don’t love the child? Even if the child is sometimes very upset …

Can I say that mother stressing some obligations and duties in the formation of her child does not love him? Love is also shown by caring enough to discipline the child. Preventing the child from hurting himself or someone else.

Can I say that only the sentimental and non upsetting emotions are good?

The commandment of love of God and neighbor are not original to Jesus and there is nothing new about their being placed together; what is new is that Jesus presents them as dependent on each other or even interdependent. According to Jesus they are inseparable one from the other.
Also new to him is that he widens the definition of neighbor to include everyone and stress the proper and not sentimental understanding of love. You cannot pretend that you love God if you don’t keep His commandments.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


This first reading from Isaiah is God indicating clearly that He alone is the Lord of the universe.

A little while ago I visited St. Matthew School and was talking to some students in class. We were talking about the Trinity. Three divine persons in one God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the discussion went on - I asked a question. I said “Can anyone here tell me why there is only one God?"

One hand immediately shot up. You could almost hear the gears grinding as this little girl looked like she was sorry she put her hand up. I told her to go ahead. She hestitated a bit and then said loudly “There is only one God because He's everywhere and because He’s everywhere there is no room for any other god."

There’s logic there.

Some five hundred and fifty years before the birth Christ, God used Cyrus the founder of the Persian Empire to free God's people from exile and return to Jerusalem. Isaiah calls Cyrus “God’s anointed” because even though Cyrus did not know God, without violating his free will, the Lord directed Cyrus’ steps. God shows us that as Lord of heaven and earth, He can use any earthly power to benefit His people.

And the responsorial psalm that follows, Psalm 96 calls for all the earth to sing a new song to the Lord and declare His glory among all the peoples. The Lord is to be revered as the only God. He made the heavens. Therefore, all must worship the Lord and say among the nations, The Lord is King!


In this Gospel from St. Matthew, Jesus reminds us that we are citizens of two countries.

Give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor. We are citizens of the country in which we live. To Canada we owe many things, such as safety, public services, education, health, etc. etc.,

A Christian is a person of honor, and so each Christian must also be a responsible citizen. Every Christian has a duty to the earthly ruler for the privileges which that ruler provides. We have a duty to Canada.

But the Christian is also a citizen of heaven. Therefore, Jesus says, Give to God the things that belong to God. Therefore God, to Whom we owe everything, deserves our complete submission.

All that we are and have is from Him. As it says elsewhere in the Bible, in Him we live and move and have our being.

If there is ever any conflict between our dual citizenship, if there is ever any conflict between God and Canada, then there is no question that we must choose in favour of God.
For God is the higher power and He made the Canada that we live in.

The image of the coin that Jesus asks for, has a deep meaning for us. The coin for the tax has the image of the head of the emperor on it. Therefore, it belongs to the ruler, Caeser.

We, on the other hand are stamped with another image. We are stamped with the image of God. God made each of us in His image and likeness.

Therefore, we belong to God. That is what gives us our great value and dignity. Because we belong to God we give ourselves completely to Him.

We render to Caeser what belongs to Caeser and we render to God without question what belongs to Him.

But, even though we render to Caeser what belongs to Caeser, do we do so without question?

Do we render blind obedience to the state? Is the state on par with our obedience to God? No, it is not.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out three circumstances where citizens are obliged in conscience to refuse obedience to the civil authorities.

Citizens are to refuse obedience when the laws are 'contrary to the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons and to the teachings of the gospel.'

When the laws are “contrary to the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons, and laws which are contrary to the teachings of the Gospel. (and that includes the rights of the unborn and the aged – because we don’t need to have a legal definition according to Canadian Law of what is life and what is not.

Why? Because we already have a definition in accordance with God’s Law – a Christian protects life from conception until natural death)

It’s pretty cut and dried isn’t it?

We recently had a Federal Election – How often did any of the Candidates mention the right to life of the unborn.

How often did you hear any candidate mention euthanasia? Did you hear any politician speak about Canada’s obligations to the poor people in our country and in the world?

And yet these topics should have been front and centre. They were not. Why not?

Because the politicians can chose the topics and issues at will.
They often pick the safe topics – never the controversial ones.

They talked about some things like the economy, or the environment and left out or were quiet on other topics such as the right to life for the unborn and the right to life for the aged.

As a Christian we have not only the right and but the serious obligation to bring up these topics up at public meetings and by writing to the press. Did we do so?

We need to ask ourselves – did any of us bring up the topic of abortion or euthanasia in this election? If not, why not?

Because if we did not then we are accomplices by omission. If we say nothing then we are really giving our approval.

If we do not speak against abortion it means we approve of it. With our silence we approve of the murder of Canadian babies, 900 a month in Alberta alone – all of it funded by our tax dollars.

How many lives might have been saved by 300 million dollars given to feed the poor of the world, instead of 300 million dollars spent on an election?

If we say nothing against euthanasia then it means that we condone it.

We need to ask ourselves the fundamental question - How do we act when the demands of the church and the state are in obvious conflict?

Jesus’ opponents try to trap Him by raising the question of the realtionship between politics and religion.

Jesus does not give an answer to their tricky question but rather He states a principle, making each of us responsible for acting in accordance with our informed conscience.

When the state requires more than it’s due and we are tempted into idolatry we must disobey the state. A Christian cannot adopt a civil religion which believes in “my country, right or wrong”.

But how often in our modern times has Caeser been given what belongs to God! The right to life as dictated by the state and paid for by it’s citizens whether they agree to it or not.

We cannot serve two masters. We can only serve one. If we choose God then we are obliged to speak up against all evil no matter what the cost.

If we must stand alone after a moral decision – will we have the courage of our convictions?

In the second reading St. Paul is encouraged by the Thessalonians faith in action which he sees as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Faith in action is what it takes.

We are not policitians and so we often do not control the agenda. But we can and must continue to influence people. We can and must speak out.

We must use the media to convince people so that there is fertile ground next time the question of the right to life enters the political forum. We must keep up the pressure.

Catholic voices in this country are many and they must be heard. They cannot remain silent.

Often our only resort is persuasion. Persuasion is always a gentle art. We best persuade by living our Christian lives to the full, remembering always that 'the anger of man works not the justice of God.'

In this last election the Prime Minister of Canada Steven Harper went on record stating that he would never allow the topic of abortion to be discussed – not by anyone. All the other politicians and it seems most Canadians obeyed this order.

However, number 2242 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that:

The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the gospel.

Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community.

'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."We must obey God rather than men.'

Politics are a moral matter no matter what the politicians say.

On this Mission Sunday it is up to all of us as Christian citizens of this great country to not only be sure to exercise our voting rights each time we have the opportunity but also to make sure that our policitians are held accountable whenever they contravene God’s laws.

In this way we make a positive contribution to social life in our country and the world and thus we play our part in rendering to God what belongs to Him.

What the Lord said to Cyrus, He says to all of us: “I have grasped your right hand, I call you by your name.

I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no God. I am the Lord, there is no other.”

Deacon Bernard Ouellete