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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Second Sunday of Lent - Cycle C

Genesis 15, 5-12. 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3, 17-4, 1; St. Luke 9, 28-36

Today we are called to reflect and meditate on the meaning and significance of the Transfiguration which can be called a mountaintop experience. the event of the Transfiguration of Jesus becomes God’s way of delivering the disciples from their crisis of faith. God opened the eyes of Peter and his fellow disciples and gave them a glimpse of God’s abiding presence with their Master Jesus. They were strengthened to believe that Jesus is the beloved Son of God and the Messiah, that he is the fulfilment of both the Law and the Prophets. God enlightened their vision and thereby they were reinforced in their discipleship.

When we are faced with absurdities of life, when we are disturbed by the experience of social injustice and discrimination, when personal and family crises—such as terminal illness, breakdown of relationship between husband and wife, between parent and child, and between friends—lead us to doubt the existence of God in our lives, we are all in need of this mountaintop experience. When our expectations arising from faith seem to be in total contrast with the actual reality of life, we are in need of this mountaintop experience to realize the abiding presence of God in our lives. Then shall we have the courage and the hope, knowing that through it all God is on our side.

As a missionary during my 16 years in Africa I sometimes experienced very touching situations. I remember one time when some African Christians were sitting in a village for a retreat. The subject was how to best spread the Gospel. Various methods were suggested running from literature and brochures, to videos, to radio announcements. Finally a young woman arose and she said, "When we judge that a pagan village is ready for the Lord Jesus, the first people we send in is a Christian family. It is their lives that will inspire the villagers to think seriously about becoming Christian. They are better than a hundred books or videos or radio announcements. They will be the keyhole through which others will see the Lord Christ. To spread the word and help the growth of the Church, Christians must not so much promote as attract." The woman's views carried the day.

As Albert Schweitzer, who was a superb "keyhole" or revelation to others by his own life, testified, "Example is not the main thing. It is the only thing."

There is a Christian proverb saying: “verba movent sed exempla trahunt” – which translated means: “words excite us, but examples attract and fascinate.”

"It’s also valid today in our daily lives. The best we can do in order to spread the message of Christ is to live our lives in such a way so that others can see God through us as they peek through the keyhole which is revealing how we live our lives."

The Lord "took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white." (Lk 9. 28-29) Why does the Lord reveal his glory to the Apostles in this way?

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that this grace was given to strengthen the Apostles for the Cross which was to come by giving them a glimpse of the Resurrection which would be purchased only by the blood shed upon the Cross.

The transformation or transfiguration of Jesus that the disciples experienced was not simply something they were to see and experience as happening to him alone. It was also an invitation for them to undergo a transformation and transfiguration of their own.

Like the Christ of today's Gospel, we too must become transfigured or transformed. The Teacher is saying to us, "Do not dwell on my Transfiguration overly long today. Rather, continue or perhaps begin to work on your own transfiguration." Christ is betting on each one of us here to become an attractive "keyhole through which others will see the Lord Christ.”

This then is what we are aiming for while Lent remains very young. Like the Christ of today's Gospel, we too must become transfigured. The Teacher is saying to us, "Do not dwell on my Transfiguration overly long today. Rather, continue or perhaps begin to work on your own." The Christ is betting on each one of us here to become an attractive keyhole.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Sunday of Lent - C

Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

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 to answer 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 and not human caprices.

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?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ash Wednesday 2010

Vancouver Olympic Games 2010

2 621 athletes and almost 10 000 journalists are present and enjoying this extraordinary sportive event.

Estimated costs of organization 2 billion dollars (law estimation)

Some are estimating that eventually it could cost Canada up to 6 billion!!!

Many people in Canada are telling that this is “One of the biggest and most useless sports extravaganza”. Because at the same time so many Canadians are living on the streets and have no decent salary, no shelter, no means for arranging honestly their lives.

Forgive me please but I would like to put this event in the larger context

At the same time

  • · 829 million people in the whole world are suffering a constant hunger and malnutrition (829 million people means 25 times the population of Canada)
  • · 12 million children in the world are starving every year this is 35 000 every day

According to the final data Canada collected and sent to Haiti 5 million dollars. A beautiful and honest gest of human solidarity. But if we count this and compare to the “sports extravaganza of Vancouver 2010” it shows up that Haiti get 400 times less than the costs of organization of Vancouver 2010.

Will you tell me that the Olympic Games in this context are the expression of the beautiful ideas of honest competition, human solidarity and peace?

This is not to make you guilty, or to underestimate the beautiful idea of sportive competitions.

Ash Wednesday and Lent proposes us a frank evaluation:

How much money do I spend for useless or even sinful activities?

Is my life an honest way of sharing with those who are less fortunate than I?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C

First Mass of Fr. Daniel Gurnick ofm

Once upon a time in a land... very close to here lived a young quiet boy named Daniel. Daniel was hard working, pleasant to be around and a behind the scenes type child. Daniel grew into a rather short young man; however his bank account grew rather large. When Daniel was finally ready to leave his family and make his place in the world, he bought his first home at 19 years of age. Daniel spent nearly 10 years in pursuit of wealth and seeking the glamorous woman that he would one day paint the white picket fence with. Oh dearest Daniel why do you dedicate so much energy to your own personal gain rather than looking at the common good? The white - keep the buffalo in type fence one day fell over, and Daniel became exhausted in his pursuit to buy all the houses on 47St. Reflipping his way of thinking and living, Daniel entered the seminary and later on the Franciscans in a different pursuit to become a Franciscan priest.

"Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Lk. 6:21) "Blessed are you as you empty your bank accounts, wallets, purses, and piggy banks for Newman Theological College (NTC) and St. Joseph's Seminary (SJS) yours will be the kingdom of God.

The Beautitudes are unique to Jesus, and they challenge us to evaluate our ways of thinking and living. Philosophers and wise people of Jesus time would not have said such words as found in the beautitudes. The rich, satisfied, laughing and socially acceptable are blessed from a worldly point of view. The poor, hungry, grieving, and outcasts are blessed from Christ's point of view. How can the poor, hungry, grieving, and outcast be blessed - it does not make sense? The poor, hungry, grieving and outcasts all paint a portrait of the Crucified Christ. Christ on the cross was poor, hungry, sorrowful and an outcast, yet Christ was blessed because he followed the will of God the Father. God the Father's response to the poor, hungry, sorrowful, and outcasted Christ was the Resurrection. God the Father's response to suffering was to raise the Son Jesus Christ from the dead.

We may feel that Jesus was being hard on the rich, satisfied, laughing and socially acceptable; however, we need to realize that St. Luke wrote his Gospel to address the social and economically poor issues of his time. If St. Luke were to write his Gospel today then, he would be addressing the issues in Haiti and the homeless on our streets in Canada. The key for the rich, statisfied, laughing and socially acceptable is to recognize their comfort comes from God. "Blessed the one who trusts in the Lord" (Jer. 7:7). Woe to all those who do not realized that all their comforts come from God and "cursed to the one who trusts in mere mortals and makes mere flesh their strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord" (Jer. 17:5). I can relate with the emptiness of relying on my own strenth and the blessings that flow from turining to the Lord.

"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man." (Luke 6:22). A very difficult verse to read and an even more difficult verse to put into practice. Christ prepared us by letting us know that every follower of his would face rejection. Be aware this rejection may come from any person on this earth. I find comfort in Christ's forwarning and a reminder that I need to turn to him for strength and courage.

We are challenged today to evaluate our own lives. Do we value the world or do we value Christ? When I say world here, I am referring to ways contrary to Christ. If we value Christ then we can easily support the men and women of NTC and the seminarians at SJS. For men and women at NTC and the seminarians of SJS desire to serve all of God's people - the rich, the poor, the hungry, the satisfied, the grieving, the laughing, the acceptable and outcasts. They are willing to accept suffering for the sake of Christ. At this Eucharist, may we value more deeply Christ's presence among us and have grateful hearts for all the blessings we receive.

Fr. Daniel Gurnick ofm