Talking About Faith
Father’s Day is a time for us to take stock and reflect on our relationship with our own father and to give thanks for all that they have done for us. As in many family relationships that we have, our relationships with our fathers may not have reached the ideal that we would have desired. Some of us have been deeply hurt by our fathers.
Nevertheless, the role of the father in the growth of the child remains an important aspect in their psycho-social development. Pope Francis in his exhortation, On Love in the Family, says,
“God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity he can be “close to his wife and share everything, joy and sorrow,hope and hardship. And to be close to his children as they grow – when they play and when they work, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they stray and when they get back on the right path. To be a father who is always present. When I say ‘present’,I do not mean ‘controlling’. Fathers who are too controlling overshadow their children, they don’t let them develop” Some fathers feel they are useless or unnecessary, but the fact is that “children need to find a father waiting for them when they return home with their problems. They may try hard not to admit it, not to show it, but they need it.” Amoris Laetitia, no. 177
Children need their fathers and I believe that fathers need their children. Men become better persons through fatherhood. For those men who for various reasons do not have children, they can be father figures for children who do not have a father. To accept fatherhood is to have the courage to engage in a relationship of love and protection.
So this Father’s Day, may we pray for all fathers and father figures, that they be the best that they can be and instruments of God’s unconditional love.
This Sunday we celebrate the feast called Corpus Christi, or the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ as celebrated in the Eucharist. The Gospel passage is the story of the feeding of the five thousand. In the story, Jesus is teaching a crowd of people over the day. It is estimated that they were over 5000 people. At the end of the day, the apostles want to send everyone home.
I often wonder about this part of the story. How do the apostles react to Jesus’ stance? Do they all want to give up their food? Does this mean that they will go hungry? I am reminded of myself when I am asked to stretch myself a little bit, to give the extra time, the extra resource, the extra donation.
The apostles do take a chance and give of their food. Then something extraordinary happens. Jesus takes the bread, offers it to God, blesses it and breaks it. He then asks the apostles to distribute all of the food. Lo and behold, there is enough for everyone, with a few doggie bags on the side. They have witnessed a miracle.
I am reminded of how many times, when we take the risk to give just a little bit more of ourselves and to offer this time up to God, how we end up with enough for all. God does provide, But we need to learn to trust. In Jeremiah 1:5 God says to Jeremiah ” Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”. God provides for us before we even know that we are in need. We are assured that there will always be enough.
Can you think of sometime when you felt called to stretch yourself and came to realize that all worked out in the end? What did you learn about yourself and about God?
One of my favorite events of the liturgical year is the feast of Corpus Christi. The belief in the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine is central to the Catholic faith and distinguishes us from most of the other Christian denominations. On the feast of Corpus Christi, Catholics celebrate that faith. Jesus really gives of Himself to the faithful.
The evening of Corpus Christi in Montreal begins with a celebration of the Eucharist at Notre Dame Basilica. Notre Dame is a beautiful church in the heart of what was once the centre of the city of Montreal. The carvings, paintings and statues bring us back to an era when artisans would honor God by using their artistic talents to build a church.
As the Eucharistic celebration finishes, the host is placed in a golden receptacle called a monstrance and is then carried out into the streets with the faithful following. The procession that follows is one of joy and peace. People of all walks of life gather here, young, old, strong and less strong supported by others. Everyone walks with a candle, lighting up the dark streets like a stars in the sky. They pray, sing and walk in solidarity of their faith. Each time I participate I am uplifted as I walk with the crowd. It is difficult to describe the sense of communion that I feel, but something in my heart is touched in a very deep way.
I am reminded of how community supports my faith. Our culture today often supports the axiom of being “spiritual but not religious”. Yet, I know in my heart that through community or religion, my spiritual life is strengthened. Yes, sometimes I am even challenged by my community, but that only makes me stronger.
This coming Thursday, May 19th, I will walk again with my fellow pilgrims of faith. Why not come along? The details are here. Let me know what it was like for you?
The warm weather has been late in coming this year and the chilly nights still remind us that this spring is still in its early stages. But nevertheless, several signs of spring are coming forth. The birds are singing even louder during the morning and the daffodils and crocuses are peeking out of the ground to bring color to the garden beds.
The season of spring reminds us that life is made new even after a long winter. It is fascinating to watch as the bulbs grow out of the ground. First come the stalks of green, peeking out, as if testing to see if it is safe to come out in spite of the cold. If they grow too fast and there is a frost, they risk being frozen and loosing their blooms.
The same goes for the buds on the trees that burst forth as they feel the warmth of the sunshine inviting the leaves to come out and adorn the trees. The most beautiful are the magnolias that blossom open with enormous pink flowers and bring a show of color to the walkways. I love this time of year as it demonstrates that there is so much potential in the earth that needs to grow and give life.
In his excitement to see the bloom, my three year old grandson tried to force open a tulip bud, only to realize that it does not work to force the blossom, it only breaks instead. How many times are we too excited to wait for something in our lives to happen and try to force the situation, only to find out that it take the time it takes. We can call this God’s time.
It takes God’s time to grow in faith, to emerge from our own times of winter and become the person we were created to become.
Is there something inside of you that is emerging and needs to grow? Is it hard for you to take the time it takes for you to blossom and show your colors? Can you allow God to be the guide?
As we read more of the Easter passages, I cannot help but notice the impact that Jesus had on his apostles. Each story reveals how Jesus is remembered for the love that he showed to others, for his attitude towards the marginalized and his critique of any injustices that he witnessed. This is the way he is remembered by all those who encountered him.
The resurrection stories recount how he brought a sense of peace and comfort for those who were blessed to see him. He forgave those who may have abandoned him during the passion and he reconnected with the friends who could not understand what had happened. In each case he left a legacy of love and hope.
Each one of us leaves a legacy when we die. How we live our lives, the actions we take, the attitudes that we adopt send a message to the people we leave behind. Not too long ago, I attended the funerals of several people that I knew. At these funerals, the persons closest to the deceased would give a testimony about how the life of that person impacted them. For the most part, the testimonies were positive and each person shared what they cherished most about the loved one they had lost.
Most of us are not thinking about what will be said about ourselves at our funerals. But it is good to reflect on how we want to be remembered. What we do with our lives will speak much louder than what we say. Does our life reflect our values? Are our actions congruent with who we would like to become as a person? It is never too late to begin to act differently than we have done in the past.
We always have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the people we know and with our wider circle of contacts.
How do you want to be remembered?
There are two words that are hallmarks of the papacy of Pope Francis. These words are Joy and Mercy. So, it is not surprising that when last Friday, Pope Francis’ much anticipated Apostolic Exhoratation on the family came out, he named it “The Joy of Love”. It draws together almost three years of consultations with Catholics in countries around the world on the role of the family in the world.
Although I have not read it all myself, the title is very enticing and speaks to how real self-giving love brings us joy. This week, instead of writing a reflection, I would like to encourage you to read some of the summaries and commentaries that are available on the internet concerning the Joy of Love. You may even want to read the document in full. Let me hear your own thoughts.
Ten Top Takeaways on The Joy of Love
As we move through the Easter season, each Sunday there is another gospel story about Jesus’ appearance to his disciples. This coming week is the story of Jesus appearing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee as he watches the apostles from the shore.
They have now returned to their previous occupation as fishermen. But they did not have much luck with their catch and they slowly became discouraged. They notice Jesus on the shore, who tells them to cast their nets to the other side of the boat. Their nets are filled to the brim. As they have breakfast together, Peter is reconciled with Jesus as Peter declares his love for Jesus three times. Each time Jesus responds by telling Peter to follow him.
In this story, as in the other stories of the appearance of Jesus after the resurrection, there is a moment of healing for those who encounter Jesus.
But each meeting is very ordinary. When Jesus meets Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday, She recognizes him when he calls her name. When he meets Thomas, Jesus asks him to touch his wounds. And the reading for today shows how Jesus appears by calling to the disciples to cast their nets in a different way. There is no fanfare, bright lights, or astounding phenomenon. The appearances are ordinary and everyday.
God reveals himself to us most often in the everyday. Small gestures, discreet moments of awareness, humble stirrings in our hearts are God’s way of reaching out to us. One way to notice these events is to pray the examen. There is a wonderful new app called “Reimagining the examen.” It is a beautiful way to pray and become aware of God’s presence in our ordinary day.
I invite you to try it and see how God may be speaking to you as you go through your day.
The first Sunday that follows Easter has been designated by Saint John Paul II to be called Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a particular Sunday in which we recognize and pray in a special way to experience the mercy offered to us by God. The mercy that God offers us is another way that God shows his compassion for all of humanity. This virtue is nowhere more evident in the gospel for this coming weekend.
The gospel this Sunday is one of the stories of Jesus’s appearance to the apostles after the resurrection. Thomas, one of the apostles, is absent when Jesus reveals himself. When Thomas does see his friends and they speak about having seen Jesus, he does not believe them. In fact he tells them that he will only believe that Jesus is alive, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Quite the statement.
But Jesus, true to his word does reappear to his friends and this time, Thomas is present. Jesus knows and loves his friend. He knows that Thomas has difficulty believing that which he has not seen. He has compassion for Thomas and invites him to touch his wounds. Thomas no longer doubts. Jesus loves his friend in spite of Thomas’ skepticism. He accepts him for who he is and reveals himself to Thomas in spite of his difficulty to believe.
God looks at us in the same way that Jesus looks at Thomas. Our flaws do not define us in God’s eyes. We are loved unconditionally. As Jesus continued with his relationship to Thomas, God desires that same close relationship with us.
Pope Francis says that “The name of God is Mercy”. May we allow that mercy to touch us and open our hearts to that love.
A spiritual work of mercy that we often see Jesus perform is “to comfort the afflicted.” Jesus healed many people in his time on earth, but he not only healed them in a physical way, he healed them by being present to them or by comforting them in their sorrows.
One story that comes to mind for me is the story of the Samaritan woman. The story begins with Jesus and his friends going through Samaria, a region that is somewhat hostile to the Jews. Jesus rests alone for a while by a well where he meets a woman who is struggling spiritually. They begin a conversation and Jesus comforts her by revealing her the love of God. She is renewed and goes on to evangelize her community. Jesus brings life to her by giving her “living water.”
The encounter is very spontaneous and unexpected. How many times do we have the same kind of opportunities to be present to someone unexpectedly and to engage with them with words of kindness and caring? When that happens, we walk away nourished and unburdened as we have had a sense that God was in that encounter. We are given the opportunity to help others and they leave with a sense of peace.
To comfort the afflicted does not necessarily mean that we solve a person’s problems or make their suffering go away. But by taking the time to be present we do help lighten their burden. Blessed Mother Theresa once said that “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
Do you know of a situation where taking the time to listen to someone may help them? Listening requires that we engage with them, it is a form of self-emptying, of bringing Christ to another. In this way we show that we love them. You are performing a spiritual work of mercy.
You can review the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are those actions of mercy that assist the soul or spirit of those in need. In Western society, this need seems ever more prevalent and Pope Francis often reminds us that our spirit is in as great need of healing as our bodies. Two spiritual works of mercy that are particularly difficult are forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently.
I have personally seen so many families torn apart because of difficulties with forgiveness. Holding onto grudges hurt not only those directly involved, but also all the family members connected to them.
The story of the Prodigal Son gives us such a moving example of how God responds to our transgressions and serves as a model for us within our own families. In the story, the younger of two sons, leaves the father with his share of his inheritance to squander it on friends and sumptuous living. When he becomes destitute, he returns to his father to ask forgiveness. The father greets his lost son with great love and compassion. The older son hangs onto his resentment for his brother, only to miss out on the great source of joy that the father experiences.
Jesus must have seen this kind of scenario in families over and over when he told this parable. He knew that many people can identify or recognize this scene. He tells us that God is like the father who forgives the younger son and invites the older son to join into his joy.
Forgiveness is freeing. When our hearts are tied up with unforgiveness and resentment, there is no space for love. To forgive is to unburden ourselves of the heaviness that grudges bring. It is a great challenge at times to forgo our past resentments and hurts to forgive someone. God can help us to do that.
Is there a situation where you feel called to forgive a past hurt? Can you ask God to help you forgive? We do not need to do it all alone.