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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Feast of Pentecost

In today’s gospel Jesus tells us “when He comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you to all truth”. And it is the fulfillment of that promise of Jesus that we celebrate today, The Feast of Pentecost.

Remember Pilate's question to Jesus: "What is truth?" Well that’s a question that is still being asked today. In today’s world where do we find truth? Whom are we to believe? What is the Truth? Are we skeptical?

There seems to be a certain “lack of credibility” in the air. A lack of credibility. Businesses have folded because of financial scandals. There have been scandals in our government because officials have been caught lying about important issues.

And in our Church some of our Catholic Bishops have lost credibility because of the sexual abuse scandals. All of these scandals have one thing in common – a lack of credibility – the lack of truth.

However, there is one whom we can believe. God has absolute credibility. God gives us the Spirit of Truth so that we may be able to discover what is true.

And that Spirit is at work in our church and in the world.

Yes there are times in history when the workings of the Spirit do not appear to be too evident – There are times when the Spirit appears to be silent. And in today’s world we may very well be living in one of those times.

But the Spirit blows where it will and it cannot be stopped. The Truth will always come out eventually.

To know the truth we need to open our minds and our hearts to the working of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is called "The Advocate." The word advocate, in Greek, means someone who goes to court with you, sits beside you, and gives advice and support. Very much like what we today would call an attorney or lawyer.

We do need an attorney when we are facing troubles. We also need an attorney when we have to make some big important decisions in life or in our business.

In today’s world as Christians, we are in deep trouble. We need some advice. We need some support. We have some very important decisions to make. Abortion, euthanasia, same-sex unions, assisted suicide.

We desperately need an attorney. We need the Holy Spirit who has been sent by God. We need the Holy Spirit to help us discern what is true.

The Holy Spirit offers us these gifts:

Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and the Fear of the Lord.

We need wisdom and knowledge to find the truth. We need Understanding to grab hold of the Truth. We need Piety and Fear of the Lord to accept the truth. And finally, we need Fortitude to live by the Truth.

All of these are gifts freely given by the Holy Spirit. But we need to be open to them. If our minds are closed to the gifts of the Holy Spirit our minds are then closed to the truth. We need to open our hearts and minds to the gifts being offered to us by the Holy Spirit.

If we accept the Truth given by the Holy Spirit it shall set us free.

Free from what?

You know, the lack of credibility in Business, in Government, and in the Church brings with it a feeling of helplessness, a paralyzing fear, a fear like the fear which made the disciples lock themselves up in that upper room.

What freed them from this fear? It was the coming of the Holy Spirit that set them free. It was the coming of the Holy Spirit that made them brave, brave enough to leave that room and to go out and fearlessly proclaim the truth about Jesus and His Good News.

And that Good News, that truth, was about a God of love and compassion, a God of forgiveness and reconciliation, a God for whom all people are important and no one is excluded or driven away from the table of the Lord, not even Judas.

Now that is the good news. Almost too good to believe. Almost incredible in itself.

Jesus said “I am the way, the Truth and the Life”.
Jesus is a God who sets us free, free to serve out of love, not out of fear.

The Good News of Jesus Christ. This is the truth that we seek in our hearts. This is the truth promised and revealed to us by the great Spirit of Truth.

And that is in direct contrast with our world of today. With our world of today often that which appears credible is most often untrue. But with God that which appears incredible, too good to be true, is in fact always true.

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to remain with the Church forever. When the Apostles received the gifts of the Holy Spirit the Church was publicly made known to the people. The Gospel began to spread among the nations.

The Holy Spirit is still with us today. We can’t see Him, but we can hear Him as He speaks to our hearts, we can see His moving in our lives and we can feel the power of His presence if we accept His guidance throughout each day.

Today the Holy Spirit continues to work through His church. Through the workings of the Holy Spirit the Church is able to carry on the work of salvation given to it by Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit guides the Pope, the Bishops and the priests of the Catholic Church in their work of teaching Christ’s doctrine, guiding souls and giving God’s grace to the people through the sacraments.

The Holy Spirit directs all the work of Christ in the Church – the care of the sick, the teaching of children, the guidance of youth, the comforting of the sorrowful and the support of the needy.

The Holy Spirit guides the People of God in knowing the truth. The Spirit prays in us and makes us remember that we are all adopted children of God.

And so the Spirit brings the Church together in love and worship.

Today as we celebrate the birth of the Church on this Feast of Pentecost may we open our minds to this Spirit of Truth and open our hearts to the fire of the Spirit of Love so that we may have the courage to continue to spread the Good News not only in our Church but also in our World.

Because it is a world that desperately needs to hear the truth. And the Truth shall set us free. God Bless You.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sunday Morning – First Communion – Pentecost Sunday – St. Matthew

Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. The commemoration of the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. This happened in the upper room where the apostles were hiding for fear of the Jews.

The Bible tells us that suddenly there was a great rush of wind and tongues of fire appeared over the heads of all those present. After this, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the Apostles left the room and began to preach the Good News to all the world.

Today is also a special day because today you children will receive your first Holy Communion.

For the first time, you will receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself.

Catholics believe that when Jesus said the words "This is my body - This is my blood;' He meant exactly what He said - the bread and wine truly become the very person of Jesus.

When a priest says the words of Jesus - the words of consecration - over the bread and wine, they still look and taste like bread and wine, but the bread and wine become Jesus Christ Himself, who is then as truly present to us as He was to the apostles.

We do not claim to understand how bread and wine become Christ's body and blood. We accept, as St. Peter did the "words of eternal life'.

We believe as St. Paul did, that the bread and wine are the "body and blood of the Lord”.

Jesus gave us the Eucharist to unite us to Him: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in Me and I in him" (John 6:56).

To really understand the meaning of this, you need to think about those special moments of human closeness: your mom and dad together, your parents holding you, time spent with your best friend. The Eucharist is all this and more. The Eucharist is union with Jesus, with the Father, and with the Holy Spirit.

That’s why we call receiving Jesus in the Eucharist as “Holy Communion”.

Holy Communion not only joins us to Christ but also to one another. Those who receive Jesus are one because they receive the one Christ: The Bible tells us “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf'' (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread and gave it to His disciples, and said “Take this, all of you, and eat it; this is My Body which will be given up for you.”

When supper was ended, He took the cup. Again He gave thanks and praise, gave the cup to His disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of My Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant, it will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of Me.”

Our Lord changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood and offered Himself to God.

This was a sacrifice. This was His Body to be offered on the Cross. This was His Blood to be shed for the forgiveness of sins. He told the Apostles that He would die on the next day.

That would be the bloody sacrifice on the Cross. But Jesus wanted this unbloody sacrifice to continue on earth until the end of time.

When He told the Apostles to do as He had done, He made them priests and gave them power to offer this sacrifice.

Now kids, this is why Catholics also speak of the Eucharist not only as a meal but as a sacrifice. This is why we call our Celebration of the Eucharist the ”Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” Jesus gave His life; He shed His blood for us. The Sacrifice of the Mass is the same Sacrifice which Jesus offered on the Cross.

In every Mass Christ is present, both in the person of His priest and especially under the form of the bread and wine.

Catholics believe that the Eucharist makes present the death of Jesus. This does not mean that Christ dies again (Hebrew's 7:27). But the Eucharist is a miracle that rolls away the centuries and allows us to stand at the cross of Christ.

The Mass is a sacrifice where the Church not only remembers Jesus, but really brings Him and His saving death and Resurrection into the present to that His followers may become part of it.

In every Mass His death becomes present, offered as our sacrifice to God in an unbloody and sacramental manner, so each time we celebrate the Eucharist we remember that death.

The bible tells us that "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a partici­pation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10: 16- I7).

And so we believe that Christ is fully present in both the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine and that we receive the whole Christ when we communicate under either form.

That is to say when we receive the Body of Christ we receive the Body, Blood soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

When we receive the Blood of Christ we are receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

At the same time we receive Him we are remembering that Christ once gave His life for us in the sacrifice of Calvary.

Now kids, you have to remember that in order to properly receive Holy Communion we need to be aware that we are truly receiving Jesus Christ Himself and therefore we should never present ourselves for Holy Communion if we are aware of any grave sin that has not been confessed and forgiven.

It’s also really important for us to respect the one hour of fasting, that is, no food, gum or candy for one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion. We must try to live in charity and love with our neighbours.

Now you kids are very important to God and He takes special care to warn us adults about how we are to take care of you in His name.

In Matthew Chapter 18 Jesus warns us:

“……whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

And again In Matthew Chapter 19 Jesus says: “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

What does this mean to us adults who are your parents, your guardians, your teachers or your grandparents?

This warning means that as parents and guardians we have a very grave responsibility to ensure that you children are properly disposed to receive Holy Communion.

Not only must we ensure that everyone observes the one hour of fasting but we also have to ensure that we all arrive at Mass at a time which will allow everyone the opportunity to go to confession if necessary.

As adults we also have the grave responsibility of ensuring that our families do not miss the attendance at Sunday Mass.

There is nothing we can give God as a gift that is greater than His own Son. At each Mass we offer Jesus to His heavenly Father as our Greatest Gift to God.

We join with Jesus and the priest in offering to God this highest form of worship:

We do this:

  1. To give to God the highest adoration and glory.
  2. To thank Him for all His blessings
  3. To make up for all our sins
  4. To obtain all the blessings we need

In each Mass it is Jesus Christ Himself, God as well as man, Who is both our High Priest and our Victim, praying for us to His heavenly Father.

Missing our Sunday Mass obligation without a valid excuse is a serious sin and separates us from God.

When we prevent anyone from attending Mass we are keeping them separated from the Body of Christ.

As parents, guardians, teachers and grandparents we also have a grave responsibility to ensure that that which is being taught to the children is in line with the teachings of the Church.

Our personal opinions cannot and must not replace the teachings of Jesus Christ as presented to us through the ministry of His Church.

So kids, today as you receive Jesus Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist - Let it be the beginning of a life of closeness and unity to the risen Christ. Our jobs as adults is to ensure that we help you to always remain close to Jesus and joined to each other through the family of God.

God bless you

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

Feast of the Ascension

Homily basing on the homily of Father Alex McAllister SDS -

Today’s feast of the Ascension is quite difficult to understand.

In fact what we are celebrating is a crucial moment in the whole plan of salvation. We are commemorating the moment that Jesus handed the continuation of his great work over to us, the Church.

The Gospels tell us about the public ministry of Jesus and how he gave his life for us on the Cross and then how he rose from the dead and then as we have heard in recent Sundays how he appeared to the disciples.

Then comes the Ascension when Jesus gave the Apostles their final instructions to go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News and Baptize in the name of the Father and the Sun and the Holy Spirit. He then withdrew from them and returned to his Father in Heaven.

We are therefore commemorating two important events 1) the return of Jesus to the Father upon accomplishing his work of salvation and 2) the entrusting of the continuance of his work to the Church. Let us take these in turn.

In dealing with his return to the Father we are implicitly acknowledging that Jesus came from the Father, and that he was sent by him to implement the Father’s plan of salvation.

The important thing therefore is that this work of salvation is truly the work of God entrusted to his Son Jesus, who when his task is accomplished returns to his rightful place at the side of the Father.

So Jesus’ miracles are the actual work of God, not any other miraculous power and his teaching is the true teaching of God and not some made-up message.

Here at the very end of his ministry the whole work of Jesus is validated by his return to his rightful place in heaven.

Images of the Ascension seem to focus on Jesus going up to heaven or sometimes, as in Medieval works of art, showing his feet sticking through a cloud.

But really these images should be of the Son taking his seat at the right hand of the Father, returning to the place from which he first came.

Now while we are focusing on Christ having completed his work we are also invited to think about the beginning of the work of the Church. For although Christ accomplished all that he was sent to do, that is not quite the end of the story; for now it is the task of the Church to spread this Good News to the entire world and to incorporate all believers into the Church through Baptism.

We can summarize this by saying that the Ascension means that the work of Christ is done, while the work of the Church begins.

You might think to yourself that Christ should have stayed on a bit and brought everyone to faith in him and only then returned to the Father and that would be the true completion of his work.

But this would violate the Father’s plan that all people should ‘freely’ worship him.

The lesson of the incarnation is that the Father wants us to be saved by one like ourselves and logically this leads to us hearing the Good News not from some Divine Being but from the lips of our brothers and sisters.

And it is for this reason that the Church is given its task to proclaim the Gospel to the whole of creation.

Christ achieves the work of salvation while we are the ones whose privileged task it is to tell our brothers and sisters about it and so enable them to freely embrace it.

The next great feast in the Liturgical Calendar is the Feast of Pentecost, what we often call the Birthday of the Church. This marks the occasion very soon after the Ascension when the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the members of the Church who are immediately impelled to begin their great mission of the proclamation of the Gospel.

The Church is filled with the Spirit and carries the Good News to everyone; it has a sacred mission, a holy task. And this is not given only to the full-timers –the priests, deacons and religious– no it is a task given to each member of the Church, that by our lives we communicate Christ to the world.

Christ has returned to the right hand of God but we are his ambassadors here on earth. And it was on the Day of the Ascension that this great task was laid on our shoulders. But this huge responsibility was not given to us without support from above.

As Jesus says elsewhere: I will not leave you orphans. Yes he has returned to the Father but this is to merely reassume his glory, his place at the centre of power. And it is from this place that he can reassume his majesty and exercise influence over the whole of creation.

By returning to the Father, Jesus is more able to be with us, more able to guide us, more able to work through us. We do not see him any more in human form as the Apostles did, but he is nonetheless with us.

His word speaks through us, we work powerful miracles in his name and extraordinary conversions occur as a result of his intervention. Yes, Jesus has gone from us but only so that he can be with us in a much more powerful and universal way.

As it says in the last line of our text: There at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sixth Sunday of Easter - Cycle B - John 15:9-16

Truth, Freedom and Love

There are three words in our contemporary world which are strongly abused. These three words are: TRUTH, FREEDOM and LOVE.

1. To be right doesn’t mean necessarily to know the TRUTH, to respect the TRUTH, to live and abide in TRUTH.

2. FREEDOM is not about having a lot of choices; it is not about being able to pick and choose depending on our caprices. No, it is about doing what is good because that is what we most deeply desire. Real FREEDOM involves not making random choices but acting authentically from the very core of one’s being—where God is. It is in doing that which is best for us, doing only that which is in accordance with our true nature and our highest destiny.

3. To have the beautiful emotions and feelings to feel good doesn’t mean to LOVE.

Very often we confuse the TRUTH with being right, we confuse FREEDOM with anarchy. And we confuse LOVE with emotions and sentiments.

Jesus said in other place: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the TRUTH, and the truth will set you FREE.” (John 8, 32)

And in today’s Gospel He says:

"If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my LOVE, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15: 10-11)

This gospel passage is filled with beautiful statements about the ever popular subject of love. Jesus tells us that the Father loves him, and that he in turn loves us, and that we should love one another. Perhaps we have heard these sentiments expressed so often that we no longer realize how profound and dramatic they really are. Or maybe we don’t even know what love is? We use so often this word that I dare to say that this is the most abused word in our dictionary. Because Jesus is talking about love and not about sentiments and feelings, not about pleasure and sex ...

This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.’ This is the central text of today’s Gospel reading and indeed one could consider it one of the most fundamental texts of the Christian faith.

And yet it seems at first sight to contain a basic contradiction. How can one be commanded to love? We are all well aware that genuine love, real authentic love, must by definition be an entirely free choice. So how can Jesus ‘command’ us to express love one for another?

We tend to experience commands or laws or obligations as oppressive and as limiting to our freedom and personal autonomy. We think of rulers as overlords who wish to impose their will on us and we are instinctively reluctant to comply with external rules foisted on us in this way.

What we are dealing with here though is not the command of some dictator or oppressor but the command of God. This is the command of the only one who has our best interests at heart, the unique being who is more interested in us than we are in ourselves. It is the command of our creator, sustainer and redeemer and his command to love is entirely in our best interests.

J. Ratzinger, in „Bawarian Lectures 1963-2004” said:

“The hell is the solitude and loneliness where even LOVE is not able to penetrate”

In 1941, the German army began to round up Jewish people in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were murdered. But one German soldier objected to their murder. He was Sergeant Anton Schmid. Through his assistance, at least 250 Jews were spared their lives. He managed to hide them, find food, and supply them with forged papers. Schmid himself was arrested in early 1942 for saving these lives. He was tried and executed in 1942.

It took Germany almost sixty years to honor the memory of this man Schmid. Said Germany's Defence Minister in 2000 in saluting him, "Too many bowed to the threats and temptations of the dictator Hitler, and too few found the strength to resist. But Sergeant Anton Schmid did resist."

Name a person who better obeyed the admonition of the Christ in today's Gospel. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." The hero Schmid went beyond what even Jesus encouraged. He laid down his life for strangers.

What a welcome the court-martialed Anton Schmid must have received from Our Lord when he entered the Kingdom.

Being a Christian requires all the character we can summon up.

We have first at all to understand correctly these three words: TRUTH, FREEDOM and LOVE.

You have tried many times to be a Christian only to fall on your face. Do not grow tired. Reflect, as an historian tells us, that the first electric bulb was so faint that a lit candle had to be used along with it. Thirty-two hours were initially required to make the trip by steamboat from Albany to New York - a trip of but 150 miles. The initial flight of the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina lasted but 12 seconds. The top speed of the first car was anywhere from two to four miles each hour. We know what those inventions can do today.

Remember the aphorism that God makes a great finish out of a slow start and nothing can be done until we take the first step. Be patient. It takes an oak fifty years to produce an acorn.

Is the love of God is evident in our own family structures? We have to have rules in our families. Out of love for our children and our teenagers, we have to set guidelines so they can grow, develop, and spread their wings while they are still under our protection. More important than these rules is the reason for their establishment: love. You make rules for your children because you love them. At the same time, we have to be careful that we never allow a rule to destroy love. But also never allow the sentimental and irresponsible love destroys the rules ... because you put in danger and the rules and love.