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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

March 01, 2009 - First Sunday in Lent


Let the Power of Christ Beat Temptation

Gn 9:8-15; 1 Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15

The First Sunday of Lent always presents the story of the temptation of the Lord. Usually on this Sunday we hear about three different temptations the Lord endured:

-       turn rocks into bread

-       demand that your Father work a miracle to save you

-       and trade His love for all the power of the world.


We don’t come upon these this year because they are in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Today’s reading is from the Gospel of Mark. Mark just states that Jesus went into the desert for 40 days, was confronted with temptations, beat off the devil and then began his mission. And what is interesting, the very first sentence of Christ in the Gospel is not: “Love each other”, but “Repent and believe the Good News”.

Temptations are always there and are difficult to overcome. The day we feel that we are no longer subject to temptation; we really should take our pulse because we will probably be dead.



 One of these temptations we endure is the temptation to make Gospel and the God’s commandments gentler, milder, and more comfortable. This is the temptation of changing the stones and rocks into bred. I will be the disciple of Christ, I will follow Him but He has to adjust and be more human more understandable, and more realistic. He is the Son of God and He has to admit that I am weak and not perfect and He has to accept me as I am.


“We used to speak a lot about ‘meeting people where they are at,’ which is fine. But we forget that “Christ does that, but he calls us to break from sin and to live a new Life in Him.” We forget that He finally refused to change the rocks into bred, that He refused to make His own life milder and gentler. We forget that He accepting the person doesn’t accept the sins and perversion. We forget that He said also: “whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10, 38-39).


Temptations are difficult to overcome. It is so easy for us to say to others, “Just say no,” but it is difficult when we are the ones who are tempted. The complex aspect of temptations is that they all contain an element of attractiveness, an element of good. All of God’s creation contains beauty. We human beings pervert that beauty and turn something that is good into bad. For example, the human body is beautiful; pornography is a perversion of the beauty. Another, example, there are wonderful medications to help people who suffer from anxiety attacks, depression, etc. The same medications are used by addicts to destroy their lives and the lives of those around them.


All sin is attractive; if it weren’t attractive we wouldn’t be tempted by it. When someone says, “If you feel good, do it,” what they are saying is that sin is acceptable as long as you are getting selfish pleasure from it. That is the way of the world. That is not the way of Jesus. Nor can it be our way.


 2 this is the second temptation, to feel good. And if I don’t feel good it means that God has to change for me the commandments, the Gospel, the Church, the whole moral law, because I feel not good, because I am offended. God has to make for me the miracles to make me feel good, to satisfy my needs, my desires, my requests and my pleasure. And if not, I will not follow Him. He has to save me even if I refuse to follow His commandments and His law. This is what the contemporary world tries to tell us. This is what the devil tries to tell us: “throw yourself down into your pleasures, into your satisfaction, into your direct and immediate gratification. For it is written: 'God will command his angels and with their hands they will support you, and save you, because God loves you.

Jesus is the conqueror of sin. But the battle was not a simple task. Jesus was tempted to save His own life and to give up and not go along with the Father’s plan. But His love for the Father and His love for us were more powerful than anything the devil or the world could muster up.


He beat off temptation, and then told us: “entrust your pain, your temptation and even your sin to me. I have conquered and will continue to conquer evil.” But don’t tell me that I have to follow your orders and accept your sins and perversities, your laws and your ways life, because accepting it will be a disaster for you. I am your Creator and I really know what is good for you and what is not. And believe me that not all that makes you feel good; is good for you, as well as not all that makes you feel bad is bad for you.


When we choose Christ, the devil really doesn’t stand a chance. In the Battle for the Kingdom, Jesus fights with us, finding a way for us to win, even though we are weak and often sinful.


3 And finally the last, the third temptation, temptation of being politically correct. The Satan constantly tries to persuade us: “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Only be politically correct, only don’t protest, don’t say no, be permissive, accept the freedom of doing wrong, don’t show your disapproval,

God refuses to give up on us, even when evil makes inroads into our lives. “See I have set my bow in the skies as a sign that I will never destroy my people.” That was the promise made to seal the covenant with Noah after the flood. The bow, by the way, is the rainbow. For people of faith, the rainbow is not just a beautiful natural occurrence. It is a sign of our hope in God. When we are overwhelmed with our own human weakness, our own continual sinfulness, the rainbow reminds us: God refuses to give up on us. We can’t give up on ourselves. Look at the rainbow. God is the Compassionate, the Merciful One.


The 40 days of Lent are really about loving Jesus but not about loving our vices and sins, not about permissive acceptance of evil. We spend this time looking for ways to grow in our love for our Saviour, Who is our Creator and Redeemer. We fight off temptation with Him. We give Him our sins in confession. We unite ourselves to Him through the Eucharist and all forms of prayer. We do everything possible to allow His grace into our lives. And we recognize, as the praise and worship song goes, “His grace is enough for us.”


On this First Sunday of Lent we pray that for the courage to live Christocentric lives, lives which are Christ centered. With Him in the center of our lives, nothing that the world throws at us will defeat us. He is the conqueror of temptation. He is the Victor over sin. 


In the desert we can place ourselves in God’s hands relying trustfully upon him. When we are tested we remember those hidden Angels who are not so far away. When we experience these trials we unite ourselves with Christ and ask him to endure the Temptation with us.

We then recognise that all these sufferings and difficulties we must endure are part and parcel of the life of a Christian and we know that they are only a sign of the victory that is to come.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Priests for Life Canada

Priests for Life, Canada is an association of Canadian Catholic priests and lay people who give special emphasis to promoting and defending the sanctity of human life. A 'Priest for Life' is not asked to leave his diocese or specific ministry.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

22.02.2009 - 7 Ordinary Time - Healing Forgiveness

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark. After the extensive healings of the first chapter--the man with the unclean spirit, Peter’s mother in law, the many people who crowded Jesus looking for some sort of cure, and even the healing of a leper--we come upon this wonderful story of the paralytic and his friends. The story is a lot deeper than a miracle story; it is a story of healing forgiveness, the power of the Lord, and the power of Christian friends.

Jesus’ response to the incident is to commend the friends for their faith and then to forgive the paralytic. When the scribes complain that only God can forgive, Jesus notes that according to Isaiah a sign of the Messiah would be that sins would be forgiven and that, among other healings, the lame would walk. The man is forgiven and healed.

I want to focus in today on this poor man and on his friends, and on the Healing Messiah.

In the case of this healing, the man is paralyzed by sin. And so are we all. Sin can exercise such force over us that we feel incapable of movement. A person’s self worth can be so torn down, that the person feels incapable of approaching healing. “How can I go to confession?” someone asks. “I’ve destroyed a life, destroyed a marriage, destroyed my family?” Many times a person will say, “I want forgiveness, but I just can’t get up the courage to seek it. I can’t control temptations. I probably will sin again.” When we feel that way, and at times all of us do feel that way, we are paralyzed by sin. We need healing. Physical healing, perhaps. Spiritual healing, certainly. In fact, if we were lowered before the Lord and He offered us a choice: physical healing or spiritual healing, will we all take the latter?

But He doesn’t offer the man in the Gospel a choice. He gives him both physical and spiritual healing. Why? Because He is God’s Love come down to earth. He loves the man too much to allow him to continue suffering both spiritually and physically. He loves us too much to allow us to stay in pain. The sacrament of reconciliation, the sacrament of penance is the sacrament of joy, the joy of healing received. The scribes couldn’t understand how Jesus could forgive and heal because they refused to expose themselves to the presence of God’s Love on earth.

The scribes learned their catechism very well: "Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Alas, today many people have no problem believing that they can forgive their own sins. And they do so. Any Catholic who goes for years without benefit of the sacrament of Confession must believe so, for as John teaches, "he who says he is without sin is a liar." Catholics at Mass go to Communion in large numbers without first discerning through an examination of conscience whether or not they are spiritually prepared to do so. To receive the Body and Blood of Christ while conscious of serious sin is a sacrilege. The Sacrament of Confession is the means commanded by Christ for the forgiving of serious sins. To reject the Sacrament of Confession is to reject the divinity of Christ and Christ Himself. Christ has been revealed that we may believe totally in him, that we may totally follow him. Salvation comes to us through the acceptance of love of the whole Christ, in all His Sacraments, in the whole Gospel, not just those parts that we find personally appealing.

The Eucharist and Confession together work toward the salvation of souls.

By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin. The Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins -- that is proper to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church. (CCC 1395)

And now we come to the real heroes of the story, at least the heroes this side of Jesus. We come to the paralytic man’s four friends. These four would do whatever it took to bring their friend to the Lord. Certainly they were pushed aside when they tried to enter the door. They probably were yelled at, insulted and mocked for climbing onto the roof and destroying it. But their determination to do what was the best for their friend, their determination to bring him to the Lord, was all that mattered.

This is what Christian friendship is. A true friend is willing to do whatever it takes to bring someone to the Lord. It is a huge blessing to have friends like that. It takes great courage to be a friend like that. How many times we come upon people wandering aimlessly in life. How many times we come upon people who are mired in their own self deprecation, mired in the effects of sin, whether they caused the sin or are suffering from the sin of others. It takes a courageous friend to say to someone, “Look, your killing yourself with drugs, with alcohol, with the way you treat other people. You don’t like who you’ve become. But you don’t have to stay suffering like this. Come to Jesus. Start new again and be happy.” It takes a lot of courage to be a friend like that. It takes a lot of courage to be a Christian.

The gospel story for today tells us about the responsibility and the opportunity we have for one another within our faith community and within the community of mankind. There are times that we are paralyzed by selfishness, fear, pride, greed or whatever. We might not realize the extent of our need. We might be unable or unwilling to do anything on our own behalf. We depend upon others to carry us to the Lord.

And there are times that we come upon others that need our strength and our faith to help them to see the Light of Christ in the middle of their darkness. There are many times that others need the power of our faith to sustain them and to carry them. And when Jesus saw their faith, the faith of the four friends, he healed the paralytic.

We pray today that we might not just have friends like that, but that we might be friends like that.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 15, 2009

The first reading from Leviticus talks about Leprosy and prepares us for the Gospel reading. In Old Testament Society, the unfortunate leper must be removed from the community and live outside the camp, that is outside the city. Furthermore, he is supposed to give notice of his impurity by rending his garments and by shouting “Unclean, Unclean”.

The leper here is supposed to represent sinners as human failures. The leper symbolizes the man disgusted with his sins, but wanting to admit and then have these blemishes of the heart cured.

That’s why it says in the responsorial psalm, “Happy are those who transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquities and in whose spirit is no deceit.”

I acknowledged my sin to you and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

In the Gospel, the Leper came to Jesus begging “If you choose, you can make me clean. Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand, touched him and said, I will do it. Be cured…. Go and present yourself to the priest and offer for your cure what Moses prescribed.

The leper recognizes Jesus as someone who can make him whole, clean and completely free from leprosy. The leper comes and kneels before Jesus. In doing this he acknowledges Jesus as someone who is divine and powerful.

Jesus not only heals physical illnesses, but at the same time He frees us from sin.
Each one of us here has an area in their life that they wish to be made clean. Jesus the healer comes to us to free us from our leprosy of sin, our leprosy of unbelief, our leprosy of hate, our leprosy of sorrow.

Jesus who heals, and cures the leprosy, also performs great signs. He casts out demons, he raises the dead. These signs serve to show and confirm God’s power in the face of illness, in the face of sin.

Today’s second reading from 1Corinthians is the foundation on which we build our Christian life, once we repent and experience this healing from Jesus.

The eating and drinking refer to the problem some Christians had about food offered to pagan idols. St. Paul takes the position that Christians are free and can eat anything. Still, they must respect the conscience of each of the weaker members. Everything we do has an effect on others, whether inside or outside the Christian community.

We must not put stumbling blocks in the way of the conversion of others.

Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to anyone, try to please everyone in everything you do, do not seek your own advantage so that others may be saved. In other words, St. Paul says, be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Each of us needs to look to Christ as our help our guide and our teacher.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums it up very beautifully with these words:

“The whole of Christ’s life was a continual teaching; His silences, His miracles, His gestures, His prayer, His love for people, His special affection for the little and the poor. (CCC561)

Seeing ourselves in the leper we can ask whether we are willing to let our spiritual leprosy, the ugly blotches of pride and self concern, die in our encounter with Christ the healer.

From the standpoint of Christ, we can ask if we are prepared to take the risk of touching and embracing the lepers around us – the unborn, the aged, the chronically and terminally ill, friends who have betrayed us, brothers and sisters we have never forgiven.

Christ never hesitated to reject society’s taboos and compassionately reach out to help others. With his touch and reassuring word, he cures and purifies.

To be imitators of Christ we are called to do the same – to reach out to those rejected by society – to touch with compassion those most in need.

To sum it up then, The leper in the old testament went to the priest to show him his disease, the pries declared him unclean. The leper in the Gospel recognizing Jesus as a holy man who could heal him, went before Him, knelt and ask for healing. Jesus healed him. So we too today recognize our uncleanliness, our sin, our hurt. We do this by reflecting on our lives and by examining ourselves. We ask Jesus to forgive us and to take away our hurt, our leprosy of sin. Jesus says I will do it. We then show ourselves to the priest in the confessional, our sins are forgiven.

After we are forgiven we are to go out and be imitators of Christ. To spread His compassionate healing touch to those around us most in need. In our families, in our church, in our community.

God Bless You

Deacon Bernie Ouellette