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

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda
(The Church is Always in Need of Renewal)


Trying to engage the world but forgetting what is distinctively Catholic has "wreaked havoc on the Church," according to the bishop of Sioux City, Iowa.

This is the claim made by Bishop R. Walker Nickless in his first pastoral letter, "Ecclesia Semper Reformanda" (The Church is Always in Need of Renewal). The document was published last Thursday.

"It is crucial that we all grasp that the hermeneutic or interpretation of discontinuity or rupture, which many think is the settled and even official position, is not the true meaning of the council. This interpretation sees the pre- conciliar and post-conciliar Church almost as two different churches.

"It sees the Second Vatican Council as a radical break with the past. There can be no split, however, between the Church and her faith before and after the Council. We must stop speaking of the 'Pre-Vatican II' and 'Post-Vatican II' Church, and stop seeing various characteristics of the Church as 'pre' and 'post' Vatican II.

"Instead, we must evaluate them according to their intrinsic value and pastoral effectiveness in this day and age."

Full text of Bishop Nickless' letter:

XXX Sunday – B (October 25,2009)


Mk 10:46-52

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,

Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.

On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say,

"Jesus, son of David, have pity on me."

And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.

But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me."

Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."

So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you."

He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.

Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?"

The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see."

Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you."

Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.


I just finished reading the book of Jose Saramago "Blindness".

Blindness is the story of an unexplained mass epidemic of blindness afflicting nearly everyone in an unnamed city, and the social breakdown that swiftly follows. The apocalyptic blindness is spreading around in a terrifying speed. The first few hundreds who become blind are quarantined in an old psychiatric hospital. They create an island of blindness, separated from the external word and their lives become a nightmare.

If one or few persons in the society are blind it's deplorable, but we can only imagine (or perhaps we cannot imagine) what can happen if the whole society become blind.

And I will dare to say that this is more or less the condition of our contemporary society. We are living in the society which is blind to needs of the most fragile, the most vulnerable, the defenceless, the unborn, the sick, the starving, the aged and the weakest members of this society.

We can however cry with Barthymaeus, the blind men from today's Gospel: "Jesus, son of David, have pity on us, and give us back our sight".

Thursday, October 15, 2009

29th Sunday In Ordinary Time “B”

World Mission Sunday

You know, one of the images the Bible uses for life is that of a cup. And, just as a cup can be filled with a bitter-sweet drink, so the life of each of us could be said to be a mixture of the sweet and the bitter.

Isn’t it so that there are times when the cup of our life is full of bitterness. It may be so bitter that we don't want to drink it, or feel we are not able to drink it.

But at other times the cup may be over-flowing with sweetness. At such times we can't get enough of it. And at still other times the cup may be flat and tasteless. Finally, there may be times when the cup of life seems to be empty.

In today’s Gospel James and John came to Jesus with a very selfish request. They asked that one of them be allowed to sit at His right hand and the other at His left hand in His kingdom. They obviously thought that Jesus' kingdom would be just like the other worldly kingdoms. In those kingdoms those in high places would enjoy honour, glory, and power.

How did Jesus answer them? Jesus answered by asking them a question: 'Can you drink the cup that I am to drink?' Thinking that it would be a very sweet cup they immediately said that they could.

But what Jesus was really asking the two disciples was, 'Are you will­ing to go through the suffering that I am going to go through?'

This is no easy thing — to drink a cup of sacrifice and suffering. In fact, when the time came for Jesus Himself to drink it, He seemed to shrink from it. Three times He asked the Father to remove it from Him: 'Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me' (Mt 26:39). But then He added, 'Yet not My will but Thine be done.' And then He did drink it, all of it.

The apostles didn't know at this time that the Lord's cup would be a very bitter one. Nor did they know their own weakness. So when the time came, rather than drinking the cup with Him, most of them left Him, and He had to drink the bitter cup alone.

In our own lives, we don't know in advance what the cup of life holds for us. We just find out as we go along.

Jesus, the Innocent One, chose to drink a very bitter cup. But, as we have seen, even He didn't find it easy. Yet He drank it to the very bottom. And He did so out of love for us. Love can make a bitter cup drink­able. (So can dire necessity – if you think of a bitter tasting medicine that must be drunk to be cured.)

It is love and dire necessity that makes our missionaries respond to the call to preach the gospel to drink the cup of life in far off places.

As we celebrate world mission Sunday today, we are reminded that the call to follow Christ “in mission” extends not only to missionaries but to ourselves also. Our call to follow Christ extends beyond sharing our faith and fortune with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. This call extends to all peoples or, as Jesus said, even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Only a few of us may be called and sent by the Church to serve as Missionaries overseas. And here we think of our own Father Kaz and other priest missionaries like him who have left home and country to serve God in foreign lands.

We think also of sisters such as Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity in India and others like them in Africa and the jungles of South America. We think also of those lay missionaries who have shared their time, talent and money working in missions overseas.

People like Del and Agnes Reider who for many years have served and helped the poor in far off countries.

And there are many others. You know them. But the reality is that most of us say “Yes” to our missionary vocation by staying at home and sharing the burden by way of prayer, personal sacrifice and financial support.

The first way that we can be a missionary and help our missionaries on the front line is through our prayers. Everything that we do in the name of the Lord is based on our connection with God through our prayers.

Today, we pray for all who serve the Lord in the missions through their missionary tasks. We also pray for the people that these missionaries are inviting to Christ through their words and their witness to His love. They do this by their teaching and healing, their care for the elderly and the orphans. They are there in person. We are with them in prayer.

Another way that we can support them is by personal sacrifice. Our personal sacrifice joins us in a unique way with Christ and with the Missions. We all have burdens, trials and anxieties. Even as we struggle under the crosses in our lives and drink the sometimes bitter cup of life, we can offer these trials and sufferings in union with Christ on the Cross for missionaries and for those that they serve.

Finally we can help by our financial support. And this is also most essential. Here is how we might understand the importance of today’s World Mission Sunday collection.

What is provided to the Missions today – by us and by all Catholics around the world, even those in the missions – is as critical to the missionary work of the church as the weekly collection is to our own parish. This collection for the missions is the basic lifeblood of some 1,150 mission dioceses.

Think about it. Can those missionary sisters really be sent to an isolated village in Ghana or Tanzania to teach and care for the sick without our support? Can a catechist be trained for a mission in India without our support? Can a priest travel 50 rough kilometers to say Mass at a mission in South America without our support?

In a very real way, we are the ones whom Jesus is asking to share from our plenty in order to help support these efforts to spread the good news to the very ends of the earth. Saying “Yes” to Jesus makes these missionary efforts possible.

Like the priest in Africa, the sisters in India, and the lay missionary worker in the far off jungle, it is our mission to move ourselves, at least in spirit, to those far off places to call others to Christ. Like the missionary priests, sisters and lay people, it’s our vocation to make ourselves instruments of Christ’s peace, touching even the ends of today’s broken world.

Yes, it is our calling to show Jesus to the poor, the poor of all the world and to invite them to live in that same faith which brings us all here today to share the Eucharist.

Though Jesus was without sin, He experienced weakness and temptation as we do. He understands our weakness. Hence, we should approach Him with confidence, knowing that He can and will help us to drink this cup.

If we find the cup of life particularly bitter, there is no need for us to pretend that it is sweet, or to think that we can drink it by our own strength.

Unlike the two apostles, let us not be afraid or ashamed to say, “No, Lord, I can't drink it. I don't want to drink it. But if I have to, then with your help I will. Let Your will be done – not mine.”

To drink the cup of life, especially a cup made difficult by a life of sacrifice and service to others, is to follow Christ. But those who share the bitterness of His cross will also share the sweetness of His Easter victory.

May God inspire us to be generous today in sharing that abundance of gifts that God has seen fit to shower upon us.

Following His example, let us drink this cup with Jesus. Let us help to spread the Good news and share our wealth to help the poor. It is Jesus, after all, who asks us to drink this cup.

Will we share with our missionaries or will we let them drink the bitter cup alone?

God Bless You,

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

Saturday, October 10, 2009

28 Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Mk 10:17-30


The teaching against our selfish culture

It's interesting:

For the question: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus does not answer: "Be free. Follow your conscience. If you feel good do whatever you wish" – like some of our contemporary liberalistic theologians.

Jesus' answer is precise and sharp:

"You know the commandments:

you shall not kill;

you shall not commit adultery;

you shall not steal;

you shall not bear false witness;

you shall not defraud;

honour your father and your mother."

We prefer to have the watered, nice and polite answers. But Jesus answers directly and sharply: Keep commandments! God gave us the commandments as an objective and reliable point of reference. We shall not dissolve them in the subjective and relativistic ideologies and politically correct theories. Like to the young men, He tells me also: "If you would like to inherit eternal life there is only one way; KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS!!!!"

So, do I realize that unless I keep the God's commandments I will NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD?

I certainly know the commandments and I don't need to smooth and flatten them, make them easy and more human. There are the objective and the most reliable means of entering the eternal life.

But this is not the end of Christ's teaching.

Many or most of us, sitting in the pews are not killers, adulterers, thieves, chronic liars, sinister schemers of fraud, or parent abusers. Rather, we are observing the commandments with faithfulness. Perhaps there are many people in our congregation who might be able to say to Jesus with the young man from the Gospel – “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth”. Nevertheless, like the young, rich man, Jesus can most likely address each one of us with the words – "You are lacking one thing sell what you have, and give to the poor".

And this is the climax of His teaching. This is the most difficult point of His Gospel, because we –in the individualistic society- we are convinced that it is my right to posses, to defend and to multiply my possessions. The whole world around me is telling me that I am the most important, the most precious person and my needs, my requirements and desires are on top and should be satisfied by all means. If there are not satisfied, I am disappointed; I am upset and even frustrated.

And Jesus in His teaching is going against this mentality. He says openly: "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me."

Very sturdy and very difficult teaching ...

My rights to posses against the teaching of Christ

The teaching, which is not at all smooth and nice. The teaching which openly states: "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"

Why is it difficult for rich men to enter the Kingdom of God? Is it the richness a kind of curse? Is richness a sin? Or maybe it is rather because the richness makes me blind and so I cannot see anymore nor God neither my neighbour?

"How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"

It is hard not because the richness as such is a sin but because being rich very often I become blind and selfish, self-centered …

It's my choice to listen to - or not.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

27 Sunday - B
Readings: Genesis 2, 18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2, 9-11; St. Mark 10, 2-16

Jesus’ teaching on the indissolubility of marriage in today's Gospel is very clear and distinctive.

Once a couple is validly married, there is no way that the marriage can be dissolved except by death. In Christ’s eyes a validly contracted marriage can never be dissolved in a divorce.

However, what the church teaches, which is the same as what Christ teaches, and the teachings of the secular world are quite often not the same and in fact are quite often opposite.

It is a fact that there is only one kind of divorce and that is a civil divorce. There is no such thing as a Catholic divorce.

A civil divorce is a permanent separation of the married couple which is recognized by the state but not by the church for as Christ says there can be no dissolution of the permanent bond of a valid marriage.

Everyone here is aware of the alarming statistics on divorce.

- One third of all those who contract a marriage end it in divorce.

- More than 50% of all new weddings end in divorce within 2 years after the wedding.

These statistics are a bit old but the percentages, in any cases, gives us a bleak picture of the state of marriages in today’s world.

Most of us have family members who are divorced. The dreadful plague has hit even our own homes.

So how can it be then that people who are divorced by the state can have a wedding again in the church?

This is because after thorough investigation the church has recognized that the first union was not a valid marriage and so issues a decree of nullity commonly called an annulment.

Is an annulment just a Catholic divorce?

No, an annulment is a decree granted by the church which to state it simply tells us that after thorough investigation a wedding had taken place but for various reasons a marriage did not.

Once this investigation is complete and the decree issued, the person is free to marry – since he or she was never married in the first place, even if many years have passed and even if several children were the result of the first wedding.

They were not married in the eyes of God and His church, and so after the decree of nullity and after a civil divorce is completed - the person is now free to marry.

There are three ways in which church or Canon law recognizes that a true and valid marriage did not exist in a previous union.

1. Where there was a lack or defect of what is called canonical form. As one example, Canonical form means that the parties were married in the presence of a properly delegated priest or deacon and two witnesses, following the rites of the Catholic Church.

2. There were impediments to the marriage. Impediments are circumstances of a person or of the couple that mean that they are not free to enter certain marriages. For example, if either party is below the minimum age. There are many others all of which should be reviewed with a couple planning to marry.

3. Defect of Consent. To put it simply, were the parties willing to consent, able to consent and ready to consent? Is their consent an informed consent? Did both parties freely accept and clearly understand the life-long commitment they were making? And so on.

Are they able to give themselves freely and fully to one another?

You know, the best kinds of gifts in life are the gifts given out of total freedom — no strings attached. The freer persons are from their own selfishness and self-gratifying desires, the more they can give of their true selves.

The Church has always taught that the human person is most fully human when acting from an informed conscience and free choice and not by blind impulse. The human person either "governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy."

One must be quick to add, however, that to follow one's conscience requires that one has taken the time to properly form one's conscience. One must not follow a conscience that is in error.

Therefore anyone, whether that person be a deacon, priest or bishop or anyone else who gives advice to married couples, merely tells the couple to follow their conscience without giving them the teaching of the church is only copping out of the situation and in doing so commits a gravely sinful error.

Any person who simply follows their conscience without ensuring that it has been properly formed by the church’s teaching is also in danger of grave error.

To follow one’s conscience without knowing the teaching of the church is to do so in way that does not lead to freedom.

For example in the case of a sexually active couple living together before marriage, or a divorced Catholic couple proceeding to live together as man and wife or to marry without an annulment or church dispensation, those couples have become enslaved to sin rather than becoming free to the truth that Christ has taught us.

What is that truth? Jesus says “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her”.

And today marriage being so free and easy it is no wonder that so is divorce free and easy. Well, maybe not free but certainly easy. It often has a tremendous cost on human beings. The children are the ones who most often suffer grievously.

But it is not all bad news, there is some good news. Not everyone runs to the divorce court.

For example:

- Some serious studies show that only one out of fifty seven marriages ended in divorce among husbands and wives that worshipped at church in a consistent manner.

- Even more amazing was the finding that only one marriage in five hundred concluded in divorce in couples where there is regular praying of the Rosary.

These are the facts. What does that tell us?

Remember Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said the family that prays together – stays together.

Well, it’s a proven fact so we can say: the husband and wife who pray together have an above-average chance of staying together.

The couple who pray together before marriage have an excellent start on a true and faithful marriage.

Whether we agree with Him or not it is quite plain that Christ condemned divorce and the written records confirms that fact. And St Paul clearly understood that point, for he underlines that same prohibition in his own letters.

We may not agree with Him, but, for Christ, marriage means undivided loyalty.

One commentator has observed that our culture teaches husband and wife to ask, "What's in it for me?" But Jesus wants them to ask each other, "What's in it for us?"
Am I ready to give up my life for you as Christ did for His bride the Church?

Marriages will not succeed today without God. The truest test of love is giving – that is, sacrifice. Almost all marriages that fail, fail because they fail this test – that the spouses refuse to make sacrifices.

“Justice” “rights” and “freedom” are three words that true lovers never use. The wise words of the old marriage rite taught us to vow to love “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”

This is realism, for there will be worse as well as better; sickness as well as health and there will be death. Life cannot avoid the need for sacrifice, and love certainly does not avoid sacrifice. Love also forgives all things because it knows God’s forgiveness.

Like everything in our religion it is all there in the crucifix.

Thus the marriage bond which was established not by the church but by God Himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved.

No one should ever say “I disagree with the church about divorce” but rather they should truthfully say “I disagree with Christ about divorce.”

Christ says:

“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one. So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.

And so I would like to conclude this homily with the blessing taken from the Catholic Marriage ceremony.

May God, the almighty Father, bless you with His joy.
May the only Son of God have mercy on you, and help you in good times and bad.
May the Holy Spirit of God always fill your hearts with His love.


Deacon Bernie Ouellette