Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Catholic Education Week; Tulipfest Confirmations, Anniversaries, Etc.

Annual Catholic Education Week Mass
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica—Ottawa, ON
Feast of Blessed Francois de Laval—Monday, May 6th, 2013
[Texts: Acts 16.11-15; Psalm 149.1-2, 3-4, 5-6a, 9b; John 15.26-16.4a]

The readings today address what it is to encounter Christ in faith and the need we have to share the Good News with others. Today is also the Feast Day of the first Canadian Bishop, Blessed Francois de Laval. He was the first Bishop of Quebec. Bishop de Laval was widely known as a holy man with a great devotion to the poor and a profound desire to build up the Church in New France to spread the Gospel. We could not have asked for better, more appropriate readings and a Feast for Mass with Catholic educators.

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see the conversion of Lydia and her desire to share the faith with those she loved. Lydia is open to receiving the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our faith is first of all a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

Lydia is brought to the faith by the witness of Paul and other disciples. Pope Francis reminds us again and again that our faith and the transforming power of the Cross are meant to be shared. Our faith is about sharing our personal witness to a living relationship with Jesus Christ. A faith that only exists within the walls of the parish church on Sunday, or only long enough to receive a certificate, is not discipleship. It is empty of real content.

Our faith is nourished by our Sunday celebrations but lived in the classrooms and the activities of our schools during the week. It begins with our own awareness of who Christ is and what that means for me. Out of this awareness we have something vital to share with our young people who are desperate for truth and meaning in life. But we cannot share what we do not first possess ourselves. Faith is caught, not taught.

The Gospel today speaks about the role of the Spirit in the life of the disciple. The Holy Spirit continues to equip disciples for witness and to guide the Church. We live in the age of the Spirit where the Paraclete, the Intercessor, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit continuously stirs new life into the Church. The election of Pope Francis is one manifestation of the Spirit’s on-going presence and activity in the Church. The witness of authentic discipleship by Catholic educators to their students is another.

The Holy Spirit wants to nurture and encourage a faith response to the Good News of Jesus Christ in the hearts of teachers and students. But, like Lydia, we must want to receive the Spirit of Christ and to share our faith. We receive faith to share it. The more we share our faith, the more faith we have to share. But the opposite is equally true because faith is a gift that is supposed to be given away with a generous hand.

Bl. Francois de Laval was well known for his great charity. He even gave away the food from his own dinner plate to feed the poor of New France. We may not be called to share our sandwich with our students, though sometimes that is indeed what might be needed. Rather the poverty and hunger Catholic educators face is even more desperate: it is the hunger for truth and meaning in life in our young people. They hunger and thirst for Truth, Beauty and Goodness. They hunger for God, for Jesus Christ, their Saviour, Lord and friend. You, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can help alleviate that hunger by sharing your faith in Christ. Your example, your mentorship as an adult believer who lives what you believe, has enormous influence.

When you eventually leave this life to meet your Maker, you will see how your example powerfully affected your students. With God’s grace, which you have first received as His gift, you are equipped to make a real difference, the biggest difference. What you can pass on to the students is something that will be with them for their whole life, long after they have forgotten the school lessons you taught. The witness of your faith, the example of someone who knows the Lord and invites others into that transforming friendship, is timeless, is priceless.

The Catholic education system exists for one foundational reason: to grow and mentor disciples of Jesus Christ. May God bless the good work He has begun in you and through you, and bring it to completion in your witness of discipleship to our youth.

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MAY 3-20, 2013

This year's Tulip Festival got started this past weekend.  Though the flowers had been developing erratically and slowly, the warm 25+ C weather over the last few days has led to wonderful blooms these days. 

These images are all from Major's Hill Park opposite Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica.

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Wedding Anniversaries Mass—Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa
Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year “C”)—May 5, 2013

[Texts: Acts 15.1–2, 22–29 [Psalm 67]; Revelation 21.10–14, 22–23; John 14.23–29]

It’s a great joy for me to welcome wedding anniversary couples to the cathedral, along with your families and friends. It is wonderful to celebrate the renewal of your vows in this beautiful Easter season.

You have walked a long road. Your example encourages us to faithfulness in a time when popular culture tempts us with counterfeit pleasures and infidelity.

Your presence is a public witness that, with God, all things are better and all things are possible.

I pray the Holy Family’s intercession that your marriage vows continue to be life-giving. I ask that the Lord bless your families with faith, joy, love, health, long life, and life eternal.

As the Easter season draws to a close, the focus shifts from the Risen Lord Jesus to the Holy Spirit who will come upon the Church at Pentecost. In the gospel, Jesus speaks of the imminent coming of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. He will “teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

However, the Holy Spirit’s role of ‘reminding’ disciples of Jesus’ teaching is more than simply recollecting Jesus’ words. Rather, the Holy Spirit dynamically helps the Church understand how the teaching of Jesus bears on the new situations that surface.

This is what the Holy Spirit did at what has been called the ‘Council of Jerusalem,’ recounted in our first reading from the Book of Acts. A debate took place about what was necessary for salvation. The Christians who were Pharisees before accepting faith in Jesus insisted that circumcision and the observance of ritual laws were requirements for belonging to the community of God’s elect. Others believed that faith in Christ and baptism suffice for salvation.

Addressing the issue, Peter recounted how God had poured out the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles through his ministry. He cleansed their hearts by faith. Peter argued that they were no longer unclean.

Paul and Barnabas built on Peter’s theological principle. They related their experience of the signs and wonders God worked among the Gentiles. James, an exemplary Jewish leader, argued that the prophets foretold this new experience of the church. It was the restoration of Israel (Acts 1–6) and the conversion of the human race to the Lord Jesus (Acts 11–14).

So, Christians should put no obstacles to Gentile conversions. The apostles should ask only for the compromises needed for Christian Jews to participate in table fellowship with non-Jewish Christians.

Three of these concessions involved kosher rules and avoiding meat sacrificed to idols (“that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood and from what is strangled”).

The fourth dealt with illicit sex, ‘fornication’ (Greek, porneia), which has been interpreted in two ways. One was marriages between close relatives, called ‘unlawful marriages’. The other refers to sexual immorality, such as fornication, adultery, prostitution and homosexual practices. Christian morality in the New Testament era was just as countercultural then as it is to the low standard of morality today.

The church leaders announced their resolution as the joint achievement of the Holy Spirit and the apostles and elders who had convened (“It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...”). Church members in Antioch “rejoiced at the exhortation” (Acts 15.31).

The glory of the heavenly Jerusalem is the goal of all the Spirit’s inspirations. Our second reading, from the Book of Revelation, tells us that heaven does not need a temple, for all sacrifices will have ceased. Instead, in heaven there is a direct encounter between the believer and the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. Saint John, the Seer of Patmos, calls this the heavenly Wedding Feast of the Lamb. The Lamb is the Risen Lord Jesus, who offers all his peace (“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you”).

A dozen years ago, before ‘same-sex marriage’ became a serious issue, religious leaders from four American churches pledged themselves to affirm God’s first institution—marriage (cf. Origins 30:24, November 23, 2000, p. 388). Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical and delegates from the National Council of Churches declared God established the married state as ‘a holy union of one man and one woman in which they commit, with God’s help, to build a loving, life-giving, faithful relationship that will last for a lifetime’.

‘Marriage’, they said, ‘is God’s gift, a living image of the union between Christ and His church’. As such, marriage—when lived according to God’s plan—‘brings spiritual, physical, emotional, economic and social benefits not only to a couple and family but also to the church and the wider culture. Couples, churches and the whole of society have a stake in the well-being of marriages’.

The forces opposing marriages are formidable: ‘a high divorce rate, a rise in cohabitation, a decline in the marriage rate and a diminishing interest in…marrying, especially among young people.’

A variety of Catholic endeavours seeks to foster sound marriages. Some help youths discern their vocations. Others help engaged couples prepare for marriage. Still others provide pastoral care for couples at later stages of marriage. To you present today who minister in these ways and who pray for married couples, I give you my thanks.

In the Catholic view of marriage, spouses freely entering a marriage make an indissoluble commitment of fidelity to each other until death. The commitment is not conditional upon the performance of either party. It is a covenant, much like God’s covenants with his people. Indeed, your anniversary celebration is an earthly sign of God’s permanent, unconditional love for us.

In both Latin and Eastern Church traditions, the liturgies invoke God’s grace and blessing for couples entering upon a life-long project. In the epiclesis (a solemn invocation) in the rites of matrimony, ‘the spouses receive the Holy Spirit as the communion of love of Christ and His Church’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1624).

Marriage has a solemn and sacramental nature. On the threshold of His public ministry, Jesus performed his first “sign,” at his mother’s request, during a wedding feast. Marriage, then, is a public promise that brings reassurance and happiness to two individual hearts and to the heart of the Church.

When a young couple decides to embark upon marriage, they bless society with the promise of the future of this institution. It is an institution that has existed since long before either of them was born. With God’s grace, it will enrich them with more joy and happiness than either of them could ever attain by themselves.

Thank you, jubilarians of 60, 50, 40 and 25 years of marriage—and the other couples present today who have chosen to celebrate a significant number of years of marriage. You give witness to the gospel message in Christian marriage, in a happy home life, and with the rearing of children who are not only good citizens of Canada but also members of the Kingdom of God.

God bless you.

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Eglise Marie-Mediatrice (Vanier), samedi, 4 mai, 2013

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Paroisse St-Victor (Alfred, Ontario), dimanche, 5 mai 2013

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