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

Saturday, November 15, 2008

November 16, 2008
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A

Readings: Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-6; Matthew 25: 14-30

Once upon a time a TV commentator delivered a very pessimistic editorial on a Friday evening broadcast (taped earlier in the day).

 The world was in grim shape, he told the camera.
 Global warming was worse than anyone had thought it was.
 The population of the world would double again in the next twenty year.
 It was likely that an asteroid would hit earth before the end of the next century.
 Rage was increasing the third world countries against our wealth.
 The races were polarizing in America.
 The crime had turned up again.
 Our schools were total failures and would not, could not get any better.
 There was a drug and alcohol epidemic in white suburban high schools.
 Divorce rates were increasing.
 Abortions were at an all time high.

A wave of bad news was sweeping the earth and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

When the taping was over, he got into his Mercedes and drove rapidly into the country to escape the Friday night traffic rush. At his house on the shore of the lake, he relaxed in the sauna, sipping from a large glass of Barolo wine, swam in the pool, wrapped himself in a silk robe, and sat on the deck as the sun set. He poured himself a second glass of wine and, as the sky turned red and then purple he thought that life was very good indeed.

Let us look at the parable we are presented with today.

 First, a talent was not a coin, it was a weight in gold or silver of about 40 Kilos, so it was a very considerable treasure that this man was trusting to his servants. One talent was probably equivalent to a whole lifetime’s wages for such a servant—he had entrusted them with something precious beyond their wildest dreams.

 The second point is that the Master took a very long time to come back. This is a tiny but important detail in today’s Gospel. It shows the Master’s love for his servants that he gave them more than ample time for the treasure of the talents to yield bounteous fruit.

What is the precious thing that God has entrusted to us? Is it not our own gifts or talents, as we try to understand it sometimes? Is it not our live which is a wonderful gift of God? It is, of course, but also it is the Good News of Salvation.

The great treasure that we have been given is the gift of the Gospel—the realization that Jesus is our Savior and that through our faith in him we will find salvation. It is what we do with these gifts: our life our talents and the gift of the Good News, that makes all the difference.
We are surely all at quite different stages in relation to this gift of faith. What am I doing in my life with this gift? Do I develop it, do I increase my faith, do I take care of it or I simply bury it in the soil, or maybe I neglected it and forgot?

Like the man in the Gospel
“'Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.'”

The man with one talent did not lose it. But, he did not do anything at all with it. If he had tried and failed, he would have met compassion and forgiveness. But he simply denied his responsibility, or he has chosen the easiest way … I will loose nothing because here I have my secured ticket to the Kingdom. I will bury it and at the proper time I will unearth it … Clever. Isn’t it?

 Some of us may not even be sure whether they have it or not. This might be a particular problem for some of our young people, but not only them. There are many long-standing members of the congregation who suffer doubts and experience long periods of darkness and disbelief.

But if I do nothing to develop, to improve, to increase my faith why am I astonished that my faith is dying, failing and vanishing? God gave me all what I need; it’s now up to me to do something with it.

 Others of us might find it a bit of a burden—knowing and believing in Jesus and his message but feeling quite inadequate to the task of transforming the Gospel into daily life.

God gave me the gift; He gave me the necessary skills and means. It’s now up to me to do something with this. It is astonishing; how clever and intelligent, bright we are when dealing with the multiplication of our earthly assets and how lazy, clumsy and naïve whence going about our eternal life?

 Then some of us might feel full of faith and have put a lot of effort into carrying the precepts of the Gospel over many years and who yet feel that for one reason or another God has let them down badly. They certainly haven’t lost their faith but feel a bit depressed about it and don’t know where Christ is leading them.

This is the situation when I declare: “I believe in God” but I don’t believe HIM, I don’t trust Him. Or rather I don’t trust Him thoroughly. Should I not search how to strengthen my faith, should I not “invest more” in the religious growth and development?

 Still others might be experiencing a new joy as they experience some wonderful grace or blessing from God. This is the situation when I cooperate, co work with God’s grace, with God’s gift. Somebody asked me not so long time ago: Father, do you have never doubts or suspicions that, what are you believing and doing as a pastor is wrong? Don’t you have any doubts that God is deceiving you? Don’t you doubt God’s existence and Mercy? My answer was direct: To doubt God’s existence means for me to deny my own reason and this is the end of myself, but I know also that, this is the great gift of God, with which I try to cooperate through my whole life ….

The parable tells us that faith is a real and wonderful gift from God. It is entirely unbidden—as in the parable the servants are given no clue in advance what the master is about to do.

Faith is also given to us according to our ability to deal with it—each in proportion to his ability, as it says in the parable.

But the most important aspect of the Parable is that the Master will eventually return. The parable is about Christ’s Second Coming and the judgment we will all face at the end of time. We know that we will be called to account for how we have handled this gift of faith that we have been so generously given.

 This first thing to realize is that it is not a burden; it is a gift.
o For how many Catholics the faith is a burden?
 The second thing to realize is that the man who is punished is condemned because he has buried his talent. He has refused to deal with it. He has simply ignored the gift and literally buried it.
o How many of us did the same with the talent of our faith, how many of us simply buried it?

So the message of hope is that whatever stage of life you are at, whether you are doubting, whether you are struggling to make sense of the Gospel message, whether you are teaching the love of Christ to your children, whether you are rejoicing in some new grace or blessing, whether you are going through the dark night of the soul, whether you are groping in darkness and searching for some chink of light—whatever might be happening with your faith at least something is happening!

Yes we will face judgment and we will have to give an account of ourselves. But it will be a long and convoluted story and we will have a wonderfully sympathetic listener (who knows the story all along because he was an essential part of it) and whose judgment will be merciful and who wants above all other things our happiness.

His whole aim is to give us joy—not a superficial joy, but a deep and lasting and fulfilling joy based on a life of engagement with him.

The most dangerous situation, the situation of disaster is when you bury your faith, and do nothing!!! So, DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR FAITH!!! Don’t sleep!!!
Fr. Kazimierz Kubat SDS
basing on the homily of Fr. Alex McAllister SDS

Sunday, November 09, 2008

09 November 2008 – 32 Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

Ezekiel 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12; Psalm 84: 3-6, 8, 11; 1 Corinthians 3; 9c-11, 16-17; St. John 2, 13-22

Today we are commemorating two different occasions.

Firstly, today is kept as Remembrance Sunday in Canada and many Commonwealth countries. And so we call to mind those who lost their lives in the two world wars and in the many conflicts since.

It is appropriate that we keep alive the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live our lives free from tyranny. We should not forget that, while war is something to be avoided whenever possible, it is also important that certain God-given values should be defended at all costs.

So it is fitting that we pay tribute to those who gave their lives in these conflicts. But it is also our earnest prayer that future generations may live their lives in an atmosphere of peace and trust between nations.

If the Gospel means anything at all, it means the avoidance of war and the promotion of peace and mutual understanding. With the unforgettable words of Christ “Blessed are the peacemakers” in mind, we also pay tribute to those who work for the promotion of peace in the world of today.

The second occasion we are commemorating is the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. You might think that this is a rather strange thing to be celebrating but in every church throughout the world the day of its dedication is kept as a feast.

The Mother Church

Nearly 1700 years ago, in ancient Rome, Christians wanted a parish home and they built the first church, the Lateran Basilica. Today, we join all Catholic churches throughout the world to celebrate the dedication of the Lateran Basilica. History tells us why.

Newly converted to Christ, Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in the year 313. After three centuries of persecution, Christianity was now a legal religion within the Roman Empire. Followers of Jesus finally had the right to public worship.

The Church of St. John Lateran. Historically, the first church built after Christians were legally permitted to hold public worship. We celebrate its dedication.

Our Mother Church is our parish. What did I do to fulfill my responsibility for this church, for this community where I am living?

Does Jesus has to reproach me too: “stop making my Father's house a marketplace.” (J 13:16). What is my behavior in the church, do I see it as the holy space consecrated to God, or rather as a

"We Are the Church"

Reminds me of the song "We Are the Church." The song begins, "The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people."3 "We are the church, we are the people of God."4

Paul said it in his letter to the Corinthians, our second reading today. He wrote, "Brothers and sisters: You are God’s building.... you are the temple of God, ... the Spirit of God dwells in you.... [And,] the temple of God, which you are, is holy."

The Greek word Paul uses for the word "you" is plural. In English, we do not distinguish between "you" meaning one person, and "you" meaning several people. Writing in Greek, Paul uses the plural word for "you." By the "temple of God" Paul means the community of believers, the church. Gathered as the followers of Christ, we are church, we are the temple of God.

Am I not destroying this temple of God?

Our Sacred Place

That being said, to assemble, we need a building. The Christians in Rome built the Lateran Basilica; we build a parish church. Here in our parish church we do the sacred actions of the people of God.

That’s the purpose of our church, to make God present to us. At church we receive the Sacraments. We hear the Word of God proclaimed, telling us about God and giving us guidance on how to live the holy Christian life.

The center of our church life is Eucharist. When we take Communion, we have a face to face meeting with Christ. I like the dialogue used for Communion in some eastern Rites of our Roman Catholic Church. The person will whisper his or her name to the priest, who then says, "Robert, servant of God, receives the Body of the Lord," or "Catherine, handmaid of God, receives the Body of the Lord." Our dialogue is simpler. The priest says, "The Body of Christ;" we respond, "Amen." When we receive Holy Communion, there is no doubt that God knows us by name (Isaiah 43:1).

In this building, we encounter God. Perhaps we stop for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, to say a prayer before the Tabernacle. Perhaps we come as a prodigal son or daughter to meet the merciful Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Perhaps we come as a young couple to proclaim our love before the altar, and to ask that God to bless our married life together.

The word “church” has different meanings and connotations:

- Written in capital C – is the Body of Christ, the community of His disciples, the Bride of Christ, the Holy Church of God – whom I am destroying by my sins and negligence

- written in small c – is the building where I am suppose to meet the Church in capital C, the community. But this building should be also honored, because it is the place where I meet my God. Do I not behave in this sacred (consecrated) place like in the cafeteria or town hall?

In its history, our church has withstood the persecutions of a hostile Roman Empire, endured scandals of both of our times and of other times, has stood firm against heresy, and even endured when people showed a general lack of interest.

As we celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, let us keep our church, our Father’s house, as pure and holy and Christ wants His church to be.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

02 November 2008 - All Souls

The Catholic practice of praying for the dead originates in Sacred Scripture and from the Church's living tradition.

You may recall that while He was on earth, Jesus corrected the Pharisees and others for false practices but He said nothing to correct them when they prayed for the dead.

In fact Jesus Himself along with Martha and Mary, prayed for His friend Lazarus who was already 4 days dead in the tomb.

Since praying for the dead was already a tradition of the Jews, the first Christians had no doubt that praying for the dead was part of their earthly vocation, especially when they gathered for Mass. Why pray for the dead?

The twenty-fifth session of the Council of Trent taught: I quote "purgatory exists. and that the souls detained there are helped by the prayers of the faithful and most of all by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar.

We thus come together in the Eucharist to pray for the dead because such prayer within the Mystical Body hastens and assists our dead who are being graciously purified of all they refused to let go of while on earth.” Unquote

We see therefore the practice of praying for the dead enforced in the ancient Hebrew church and in the Jewish synagogue of today. We see it proclaimed age after age by all the Fathers of Christendom.

We see it incorporated in every one of the ancient Liturgies of the East and of the West.

We see it zealously taught by the Russian church of today, and by that immense family of schismatic Christians scattered over the East.

We see it as a cherished devotion of three hundred millions of Catholics, as well as of a respectable portion of the Episcopal church.

It was the protestant reformers who first believed that praying for the dead was unbiblical but now we have some Catholics who also refuse to believe in purgatory even though it is a dogma of the church and must be believed by all Catholics who wish to remain in full communion.

Why would some of us prefer a private opinion that purgatory does not exist compared to this immense weight of learning, sanctity and authority who through the ages has proclaimed that indeed it does exist?

I have found it easy to teach this dogma to young children because children don’t seem to have any problem with understanding the concept nor do they reject the teaching out of hand – rather they accept it.

I think it’s because they find this teaching reasonable but then again they never seem to have any problem with understanding any teaching of the church.

It seems that children accept and understand Jesus’ teachings a lot sooner than adults do - this should not surprise us because today’s Gospel does say:

I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants;

Time and again Father and I have encountered young children who not only understand the gospel message but make it clear by their answers that their understanding is quite in line with the official teaching of the church throughout the ages.

We adults would do well to listen to the voices of the children when it comes to the teachings of Christ.

Because is it not foolish of those who do not believe, to stand aside with sealed lips while the rest of the Christian world is sending up an unceasing prayer for their departed brethren?

Do you think a child would be so arrogant?

Would it not be cold and heartless of any of us not to pray for our deceased friends, on account of our prejudices and opinions which have no grounds in Scripture, tradition or reason itself?

Do you think a child would be so heartless? Perhaps it could be that a child, unlike an adult, has not had a chance to improperly form their conscience and then conveniently close their ears and refuse to hear anything more on the subject because hearing the truth might conflict with the private interpretation of what we have conveniently come to believe.

Listening to the truth might cause their conscience to bother them wouldn’t it? And then they’d have to do something about it.

I think a child is wiser than that.

Look at it this way, if my brother leaves me to cross the Atlantic, religion and love for him prompt me to pray for him during his absence.

And if the same brother crosses the narrow sea of death to pass to the shores of eternity, why would I not pray for him then also?

When he crosses the Atlantic his soul, imprisoned in the flesh, is absent from me; but when he passes the sea of death his soul, released from the flesh, has also gone from me.

What difference does this make to my intercession on his behalf? For what is death? Death is a mere separation of body and soul. The body, indeed, dies, but the soul "lives and moves and has its being."

Those who have passed away are as alive today as they ever were. They hear and see us and are close to us.

It is we who have the veil across our eyes. And we shall see them all again – God willing that they are with Christ and we also end up with Him.

Our souls never die – we live forever.

And so life for the soul continues after death for all eternity, as before, to think, to remember, to love.

And does not God's dominion and mercy extend over that soul beyond the grave as well as this side of it?

Who am I to place the limits to God's empire and say to Him: "You go only so far and no farther?"

Two thousand years after Abraham's death our Lord said: "I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.

And of course all three of these guys were long, long gone from this earth. By this our Lord is telling us that He is not the “God of the dead, but of the living”.

So if it is good for me to pray for my brother while he is still alive in the flesh, why would anyone think that it would be useless for me to pray for him once he’s passed away from this life?

For while he was living I prayed not for his body, but for his soul. If this brother of mine dies with some slight stains upon his soul, a sin of impatience, for instance, or an idle word, is he fit to enter heaven with these blemishes upon his soul?

No; the sanctity of God forbids it, for "nothing defiled shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven."[Apoc. 21: 27.]

Will I send him then, for these small offenses, to eternal torments with adulterers and murderers? No; the justice and mercy of God forbid it.

Therefore, my common sense and simple logic demands that there must exist a middle place for cleansing of the soul before it is worthy of enjoying the companionship of God and His Saints.

Purgatory. So we see that the teaching of the Dogma of Purgatory is supported by Scripture, Tradition and our own common sense.

God has equipped kids with a lot of common sense so perhaps that is why they accept the teachings of the church more readily than adults do.

When have you heard an adult say “ I don’t understand this – but if God says so then I guess it is”. We hear children say this quite often.”

No wonder Jesus tells us that unless we become like little children we shall not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

That is not to say that we should not question. Of course we should. But sometimes it just takes faith.

God "will render to every man according to his works,"-- to the pure and unsullied everlasting bliss; to the reprobate eternal damnation; to souls stained with minor faults a place of temporary purgation.

This means those who are in Heaven don’t need our prayers, those who are hell – our prayers can’t help them – our prayers can only help those who are in purgatory.

I can’t bring to mind any Dogma of the Church more consoling to the human heart than the article of faith which teaches us the effectiveness of our prayers for the faithful departed.

It robs death of its sting. It surrounds our mourning with a rainbow of hope.
It softens the bitterness of our sorrow, and reconciles us to our loss.

It keeps us in touch with the departed dead just as much as correspondence keeps us in touch with the absent living.

It preserves their memory fresh and green in our hearts. We know they are always with us.

As for Purgatory ... Many English-speaking Christians (both Catholic and non-Catholic) are somehow under the ridiculous impression that it is some kind of medieval invention of the Church and not the ancient and consistent belief of Apostolic Christians.

It may not have been called purgatory from the very beginning but both Catholics and Jews have been praying for the repose of the souls of the dead from the very beginning.

We are members of the communion of saints, which includes all in Heaven and Purgatory, and all those living the Gospel on earth.

The Church invites us to pray and do penance for those in Purgatory, and to give alms to the poor and offer indulgences for the souls in Purgatory.

The Mass is even more important than indulgences.

Of all we can do to help those in Purgatory, there is nothing more precious than to offer the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

This month we invite you to include the names of those of your dearly departed whom you wish to remember in our book of Rememberance here at St. Matthews.

During Mass we will remember all those included in the book for, as I said, there is no greater prayer we can offer for them than the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Imagine the joy of one day entering Heaven and having hundreds, per¬haps thousands of souls whose Purgatory we lessened by offering Mass¬es and indulgences, to greet us and thank us for our efforts.

And, certain¬ly the souls we have helped leave Purgatory and enter heaven are already praying for us while we are still here on earth.

Through our prayers, Masses, indulgences and other good works, "May the souls of the faith¬ful departed through the Mercy of Christ, rest in peace. Amen."

Deacon Bernard Ouellette
01 November 2008 - All Saints

To strive to become a saint means to strive to achieve purity in body and soul. A saint is a person who has fully surrendered their life to Jesus Christ.

The greatest desire that anyone can have in this life is to strive passionately after holiness of life, in order that we might enter heaven once this life is over.

There are some people who think that since God is all loving and only humans are judgmental everyone will go to heaven no matter what. God in His mercy will see to it.

So why bother worrying about sanctity? Somehow through the mercy of God, I’ll get to Heaven.

We often hear this idea expressed at funerals where everyone automatically is placed safely in the arms of Jesus no matter what kind of life they lived. To do this is a falsity that is contrary to the Gospel.

And so we know then that, unfortunately, not everyone will be safely in the arms of Jesus when they die although everyone will have had the chance to do so.

In order to go to heaven one must be a saint. And sainthood is only achieved by the Grace of God.

If we end our lives on this earth as a saint without the smallest stain or imperfection on our soul then we immediately enter heaven.

If we end our lives on this earth as an unrepentant sinner with serious sins such as murder or adultery on our souls then we end up in hell. If we die with a slight sin on our souls such as impatience or an unkind word to our neighbour then we will enter the next life in purgatory and be cleansed of our small imperfection before we can enter heaven.

This is all biblical teaching.

If we had no time for God in this life then certainly we will not want to be with Him in the next and no beautiful eulogy by our friends in this world will place us safely in the arms of Jesus in the next.

However, every sinner in this life is called to be a saint in the next. And this is not impossible because God always provides, we need only accept the free gift of grace at any moment in our lives.

Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. Hence, since there is so much sin in our world today, there must also be so much grace avail¬able for those who desire to gain sanctity.

The wisdom of the saints is that they recognized this and were able to tap into the rich treasures of the Church during difficult periods of human history.

God's love and mercy are always present, even in a corrupt age such as our own but we must be willing to accept the changes necessary in our lives in order to achieve sainthood.

So where are these fountains of grace and mercy that will allow a per¬son to become a saint in our day? The answer to that is easy.

The means of attaining holiness have always been in the Church.

It is within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that God is able to purify His people and make them holy, and this happens through the sacraments and the observance of all the teachings of the Church.

In our first reading today, we learn from St. John's vision that the souls of the saints have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. At first we might think: "since when does blood make something white?"

However, the blood of Jesus is pure and is able to wash us clean from sin. We receive this blood through the worthy reception of Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Saints know this, and this is why every saint had a great love for the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Furthermore, as in the Gospel today, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes so that we might be able to live lives that are in right relation to God.

The Beatitudes help us to realize that living the Christian life is not always easy. We will be persecuted and ridiculed, but we are assured that we will be called "Blessed" for our faithful observance of the commandments of God.

The world does not understand the power of holiness and a life lived in intimate union with God, Our Lady, the saints and the Church.

The saints followed the wisdom of the Cross which, ultimately, every single person that is put on this earth will have to carry at some point or another. The Cross will be offered to everyone.

Unfortunately, many people look at the saints and think: "I'll just never be able to live up to that standard, so why even try? I’m not a saint nor will I ever be. I’ll simply live my life as best I can and rely on God’s mercy in the end" .

This is a very sad position to take when it comes to God's call and desire for each per¬son in this world to achieve sanctity. If sanctity were impossible, God would certainly not ask, call and require it of us.

Yet, because God wants us to be holy, God will give us the strength to do it.

Becoming holy is cer¬tainly not easy, but nothing that was ever worth having was ever easy to attain.

We cannot achieve our own salvation even with all our good works. It needs more than that. It means we need to accept that we are powerless before almighty God and that we need Him to save us from ourselves.

We need to abandon ourselves to God. We need to surrender completely to Jesus – to try to live as He lived and to accept the cross as He accepted it.

Personal crosses are often very hard to carry, but once we understand that our suffering can be used to grow in holiness, they become precious treasures that lead us to freedom and happiness. Christians are certainly not sadistic people.

On the contrary, through the example of Jesus Christ and those faithful men and women that have followed His exam¬ple, the saints, Christians like you and me are given the wisdom to know that the cross points to a triumph that leads to ultimate freedom and hap¬piness.

Just like a mother in labor soon forgets her suffering on account of the joy of having given birth to a baby, so the Christian knows that the cross is not an end in itself, but a passage through which joy and happi¬ness are attained.

"Washing our robes in the blood of the lamb" means that we are will¬ing to live the beatitudes of Jesus and learn how to love sacrificially in a world that will reject, scorn and hold us in disdain.

The wisdom of the saints is the wisdom of the cross. The wisdom of the cross is a wisdom that knows sacrifi¬cial love conquers all things. Without sacrificial love no one will ever become holy: without sacrificial love no one will ever become happy and free.

The saints are those whose love is so radical that they are willing to surrender their lives to the wisdom of the cross at every moment. By the grace of God, you and I are not beyond this.

We, too, can become saints in the eyes of God if we surrender our lives completely to Him and have the courage to live a life of radical, life-giving, liberating love.

In all honesty, there is noth¬ing else worth investing all of one's life in. Sanctity and personal holi¬ness are the ultimate goals of human life.

That’s why we are here, born out of the Love of God, we are all called to become saints – for only saints will enter heaven.

In the Beatitudes Jesus teaches us that if we are faithful to His teachings – rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven where we will be with God forever in the place which He has prepared for us from all eternity.

Deacon Bernard Ouellette