You may be familiar with a recent news report of a woman who bought a zippered bag with inscription, “Moon Rocks” on it. It was mistakenly put up for sale, online, by the US Space agency, NASA, thinking it was an unused artifact from the “Moon Walk” days. Turns out it was actually the very bag Neil Armstrong used to bring back moon rocks from the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. The woman had paid $995.00 for it. Realizing their mistake, NASA went to court to try to get it back but were unsuccessful. The woman eventually auctioned it off through Sotheby’s for 1.8 million dollars.
And there is that report this past May of a valuable painting by the Canadian folk artist, Maud Lewis, discovered at the New Hamburg Thrift Centre, run by the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario. It was sold at auction for $45,000.00.
Here you have a couple of examples of “Pearls of Great Price” being discovered and making someone very rich. Actually, it is quite common for people to head out on a Saturday or Sunday morning to go hunting through garage sales and flee markets, looking for one of those “pearls of great price”. And some of those folks may walk right past a church, with its doors wide open in welcome, not realizing that inside that church there is a “True Pearl of Great Price” – the one Jesus is referring to in today’s gospel, the Pearl that can be had at no cost and who's value cannot be calculated.
But you are here today because you have discovered that Prize of all prizes – it is right here at this Eucharistic table. Here you have found Jesus, and are building a personnel relationship with Him, as He gives Himself to you in this sacrament; bringing you the gift of Salvation and Eternal Life.
But this “Pearl of Great Price” must be carefully guarded, for we must never forget that there is a Thief on the prowl, everywhere today, seeking to steal away our Precious Gift – and many today have lost their “Pearl of Great Price” to his thievery and deceit.
That safe place, where we keep our gift secure, is to be found in the practice of daily, personal prayer, together with a strong bond of ecclesial union within parish life. Alone, we are no match for the Master Thief. Only here, in the Body of Christ, are we safe.
You may get an invitation from a friend, some Sunday, to join them on a garage sale/flee market hunt. And you may like to join them. But you, in turn, might also invite them to join you on your Sunday visit here, in this House of Treasures, where they too might find the Pearl of Great Price.
Saturday, 29 July 2017
Saturday, 22 July 2017
Sunday, 16 July 2017
Once again the gospel text presents us with the Parable of Sower. Today we have Matthew's Account – Mark and Luke also include this teaching. Jesus presents the Word of God as the "Good Seed" the sower sows, and describes the different soil conditions the seed lands upon. Is there a way we could re-imagine this scene Jesus uses so as to see it in the context of our religious experience today?
For instance, how might we interpret, in practical terms, the different soils, different religious conditions, into which the seed falls? And what identity might we give to the good seed that is sown? We could interpret the seed as the grace-to-believe placed in one’s soul at baptism, and the different soil conditions as the different religious environments that a newly baptized encounters today.
So the soil is us, us Catholics, our Christian families, our parishes, our diocese, all of us Catholics that make up the Church today, we are that soil. Here it is necessary to recall Pope John Paul II’s teaching in his papal document on Catechesis - #19, where he points out that a newly baptized is given this grace, this seed of faith, potentially. [the capacity to believe placed within them by Baptism and the presence of the Holy Spirit] Now the recipient must grow and develop and become an informed, committed follower of Jesus – the question then is how will the faith of this newly baptized do.
So let’s look at the four soil conditions as four different religious environments a newly baptized child faces.
First condition is the Harden Path;
o For all practical purposes, religious practice by those who surround the newly baptized is dead – no one goes to church. In this case, baptism itself may not even happen. If does it, there is no hope of it ever to growing. The seed of faith lies dormant.
Second condition is the Shallow Soil;
o There is some religious practice to which the newly baptized is exposed – Christmas and Easter Mass – maybe first communion, maybe even confirmation but little more. Whatever little faith that one may have begun with, withers and fades away from lack of support
Third condition is the Choking Weeds;
o The newly baptized may have the early start of family support but as that one moves on to begin their own life, they find themselves surrounded by a world of strong and conflicting values; where religious practice is viewed as worthless. They are surrounded by constant negative experiences toward religion – no friends with whom to share faith – immersed in a secular culture that has no room for believers.
Fourth condition is the Good Soil;
o A newly baptized, born into a family of strong, active faith, exposed to a healthy parish experience, guided by mature religious instruction and advice – this seed of faith comes alive and takes on a strong faith life of its own. It survives to become a strong, practicing Catholic.
So what does this mean for the Church today and in the future? I came across a study showing a survey of active church attendance among Catholics from 1965 to 2016.
So what will become of church in the years to come. In her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell offered these statistics of Mass attendance in the U.S. as of 2007. Using fours age grouping by generations she offers these stats;
After we Builders and Boomers pass on what will be the condition of the Church in North America? This book is an excellent study of this question.
". . . Finally, even adults are not safe from temptations to doubt or to abandon their faith, especially as a result of their unbelieving surroundings. This means that "catechesis" must often concern itself not only with nourishing and teaching the faith, but also with arousing it unceasingly with the help of grace, with opening the heart, with converting, and with preparing total adherence to Jesus Christ on the part of those who are still on the threshold of faith." CATECHESIS IN OUR TIME ...#19 "
Thursday, 13 July 2017
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
When Jesus comes looking for a time to meet with you for daily prayer, is he greeted by this message posted on the outside of your door.
Second reading, Office of Readings – July 13, 2017
From an exposition of psalm 118 by Saint Ambrose, bishop
God’s temple is holy; you are his temple
My Father and I will come and make our home with him. Let your door stand open to receive him, unlock your soul to him, offer him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace. Throw wide the gate of your heart, stand before the sun of the everlasting light that shines on every man. This true light shines on all, but if anyone closes his window he will deprive himself of eternal light. If you shut the door of your mind, you shut out Christ. Though he can enter, he does not want to force his way in rudely, or compel us to admit him against our will.
Born of a virgin, he came forth from the womb as the light of the whole world in order to shine on all men. His light is received by those who long for the splendor of perpetual light that night can never destroy. The sun of our daily experience is succeeded by the darkness of night, but the sun of holiness never sets, because wisdom cannot give place to evil.
Blessed then is the man at whose door Christ stands and knocks. Our door is faith; if it is strong enough, the whole house is safe. This is the door by which Christ enters. So the Church says in the Song of Songs: The voice of my brother is at the door. Hear his knock, listen to him asking to enter: Open to me, my sister, my betrothed, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is covered with dew, and my hair with the moisture of the night.
When does God the Word most often knock at your door? — When his head is covered with the dew of night. He visits in love those in trouble and temptation, to save them from being overwhelmed by their trials. His head is covered with dew or moisture when those who are his body are in distress. That is the time when you must keep watch so that when the bridegroom comes he may not find himself shut out, and take his departure. If you were to sleep, if your heart were not wide awake, he would not knock but go away; but if your heart is watchful, he knocks and asks you to open the door to him.
Our soul has a door; it has gates. Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, eternal gates, and the King of glory will enter. If you open the gates of your faith, the King of glory will enter your house in the triumphal procession in honor of his passion. Holiness too has its gates. We read in Scripture what the Lord Jesus said through his prophet: Open for me the gates of holiness.
It is the soul that has its door, its gates. Christ comes to this door and knocks; he knocks at these gates. Open to him; he wants to enter, to find his bride waiting and watching.
Saturday, 8 July 2017
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." Gospel for the 14th Sunday.
There are many in the world today who believe in God – Jews and Muslims for instance. So how are we to understand Jesus teaching in today’s gospel which seems to suggest only Christians can know God? The answer is found in two key words that Jesus uses – “knows” and “Father”.
To know someone implies person-to-person encounter. The word here is “gnosis”. I know for a fact that Justin Trudeau is the prime minister of Canada. I have been given a lot of information about him through other’s reports, but I cannot claim to really “know” him until I meet him, interact with him, spend time with him, experience him personally.
The second key word Jesus uses is “Father”. To know God as your Father is profoundly more significant than knowing there is a God. Imagine someone who grew up never knowing their father – separated for some reason – then one day it happens, a man comes and stands in front of him as another says, “James, here is your father that you do not know.” James may know a lot about what fathers are to other people, but now he knows his father, and begins a whole new life with his father.
When Jesus says these words: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." This is what he means by "knows" – real, encounter, person-to-person, filial, tender, intimate, loving. The Hebrew word for Father is “Abba”.
One of my scripture teachers told a story of how this word Abba, hit home for him. He was visiting the Holy Land, and was in a busy marketplace. A little child was there with his father, shopping. Then the little boy lost sight of his father, and began to call out, “Abba, Abba, Abba, Abba, Abba”, (father, father, father,) – “here my son, here I am”, the father replied. It was then that the teacher appreciated in an intimate, personal way what Jesus meant by “… knowing the Father.”
We are like lost children who don’t know our true Father, our tender, loving and protecting Father, until that graced encounter, when Jesus says to us, “come now, look and see, here is Abba, your Father”.
Do you know your Father, your heavenly Father? Is he your Abba, your loving, protecting, life-giving Father? If not, then ask Jesus to help you to know the Father as he knows him.