Reflection on Christ the King

Sunday, November 26, 2023

This Sunday marks the end of the liturgical year and the new beginning, Advent, the time of preparing and anticipating, waiting for the celebrating of the birth of Jesus; but today we focus on the kingship of Christ and his return in full glory at the end of time.

Our image of God in the first reading is one of a shepherd who searches and seeks out his sheep, with God saying, “I will seek out my sheep.” To take control because of corruption, God steps in as a shepherd to care of the flock. This image probably comes from David the shepherd king. God makes many promises of commitment and He is involved intimately. This gives us support and hope.

For Paul, writing to the Corinthians in the second reading, the image of God is the Son of God, “Christ is raised”. Adam and death came first, then came Jesus and Resurrection. This resurrection we will enjoy in its fullness only after death and after the second coming, as then comes the end where Christ will hand over all of creation to God.

In the Gospel reading, there is the Son of Man who will come “in his glory”. This is a judgement scene of separation to awaken in us a concern for right and good behaviour.

Let us focus on Christ, we, as sheep in obedience and in wonder,

Christ consoling us in times of injustice.

Let us be kind in word and action,

Be attentive to those around us who are suffering,

Seeing those who need care and attention.

We are called to love and serve the Lord by serving one another.

As we love, serve one another, honour and respect one another,

We love, serve, honour and respect God.

– Rosella Kinoshameg DOS

Reflection for Sunday, November 19, 2023

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we hear a story about people who are given money to take care of – money to not just hold on to, but to invest so as to increase the amount. Now this parable is not really about making money. What is it, then, that we are called to keep, to take care of, to help multiply and make fruitful, in our lives and in our world?

One thing that we can take care of, with the help of God’s grace, is our Mother Earth. Hopefully we and other two-legged humans can help Creation to flourish – or, at least, not do things that prevent that flourishing!

In 2015, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. In that text, he writes: “We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”

Soon there will be a United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) taking place in Dubai. Pope Francis will address the conference on December 2nd. Let us pray for those involved in this conference and for our common home, the Earth.

– Paul Robson SJ

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

   In the month of November, we remember our beloved dead. The parable of ten bridesmaids reminds us of the necessity to be prepared for our own death which might occur at any time and in any place. It is certain that our earthly pilgrimage must eventually come to an end.

   How do I then prepare for the meeting with the Lord? The best way is to frequently examine my conscience. Is the lamp (representing the love of God and my neighbor) going out? If yes, it needs more oil (such as found in the reconciliation and infused grace of the sacrament of confession).

   In the past, there were long lines of penitents waiting for hours to receive the sacrament of penance during the season of Advent. The present sight of some confessionals being degraded to the rank of storage rooms should not lead us to the foolish conclusion that sin has disappeared altogether. If our souls are soiled, let us make the wise decision of making an appointment with a priest for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When you knock at the door, God opens it and says: “Yes, I know You as You are and I love You.” Make a gift for your soul even prior to Black Friday, and join the team of wise bridesmaids.

– Fr. Toni Baranowski SJ

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus is challenging us today to address authenticity verses hypocrisy, both in our society and personally.

Malachi in the first reading says, “you have turned aside from the way; caused many to stumble…”. Questioning ourselves, what have we turned aside from? He also reminds us “we all belong to one God”, therefore we are equal to one another, but we have “…. profaned the covenant of our ancestors”. We, as Anishnabek, have profaned the covenant of our ancestors when we stop living our teachings on honesty, respect, etc, and follow a culture of attitudes that are not ours. We become inauthentic. As Christians, in the Old Testament, we turned away from our reality, our authenticity when Adam and Eve hid themselves from God to hide the reality of who they were. Closeness to God was ruined because they were not happy in themselves and who they were, but wanted to be like God. We, too, ruin our closeness to God when we separate ourselves from God. This makes us a dishonest people, not real, and inauthentic, a people who wear masks, facades, to disguise self, like Adam and Eve who hid themselves.

Jesus is much more straightforward, and doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells us “ what they say,” referring to the Scribes and Pharisees, “but don’t do what they do”. Jesus tells us and shows us throughout the gospels how to be real, how to be authentic. Being real and authentic cost him his life. It means first addressing our own lies and deceit so we can see more clearly. Then it might mean refusing to go along with the deceit of some politicians, leaders, family, friends and anyone who leads others to believe in falsehoods for their own gain. That is what being Christian is all about. No facades to gain favors from others. Be simple, like a child. As Jesus says elsewhere in the gospels, “be like little children”.

 For those of us in the church who think that by doing all the right things, we have an ‘in’ with Jesus, it might not be enough. Jesus wants a change of hearts, honest hearts without ulterior motives. Again, elsewhere Jesus says: we will come and tell him, “We ate and drank with you”, but he will say, “I do not know you”. If our hearts are not right, if we are not real and authentic, we will fool ourselves to a point that we don’t even know reality and ourselves. Let’s ask ourselves, am I talking and acting in the same manner with every person regardless of any title they might carry? Am I trying to impress some people, and if so, why? Malachi told us we all belong to one God and so we are all one. Authenticity is honesty, truth, and respect. If we can be brave enough to be honest, truthful, and respectful, we will be a humble, wise and loving people. There would be no misunderstandings, no wars, and forgiveness would be there even before it is sought, because mature people have compassionate hearts. Jesus continually challenges us to be authentic people.

– Sr. Kateri (Terry) Beaudry

Jesus and the Question of the Greatest Commandment – Reflection for Sunday, October 29, 2023

Jesus is asked what was then a very important question to the common people of Israel. What is the greatest commandment?

The problem is there are over 600 rules, or commands, defined by The Law Of Moses. Golly, how could a common person be expected to know and follow all of them equally well? It was unreasonable to expect that a person could actually know and always keep all of the commandments. So, the idea was, perhaps some are more important than the others; and if so, which ones?

This question of ranking commandments has been written about by others.

  • Christians traditionally teach the 10 Commandments. (We find them in Exodus 20:3-15)
  • The Psalmist lists 11 commands necessary to life. (Ps 15:2-5)
  • The prophet Micah gives just 3 simple rules. (Micah 6:8)
  • Jesus answered with 2. (Matthew 22:37-39; see also: Lk 10:27-28, and Mk 12:29-31)

“Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love your neighbour as yourself.”

However, that answer from Jesus was not an original thought. It is a combination of two separate statements of The Law in Deuteronomy 6:5 and in Leviticus 19:18. The genius of Jesus was to link those two commands together. In other words, according to the wisdom of Jesus it is not possible to keep only one of them.

In effect, Jesus taught that we cannot really love God if we do not love others. On the flip side, he also means that the very act of loving others in sincerity of heart is effectively a pure act of loving God. (Gasp!)

Yes, other rules are good to follow, but nothing is more important than our sincere love of God and of each other.

– Fr. Mark Hoelsken, S.J.

Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

As a new member of the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre, I was honoured when Father Paul asked if I would like to join him and a group of writers to reflect on a Sunday reading. This week’s readings help us understand our place, and it is not in this world but solidly planted in the next. Let’s take a look and watch the weaving that our heavenly Father makes through these various situations, uniting his message through scripture.

In the first reading, Cyrus, a pagan, became the ruler through no real doing of his own. He went and led his armies and freed God’s captive people. They had been (by their own doing) slaves to the Babylonians, losing sight of God with each passing generation. Yet God did not lose sight of his chosen people! Now, while Cyrus was a decent fellow, and most likely a clever one as well, he had no idea that God chose him as his anointed one! I can imagine him feeling pretty good about his accomplishments, not stopping to wonder how doors were opened and how kings responded to his call. Yet the chosen people were able to see that it was through God that Cyrus came to be the one who freed them. Yes, the people knew and were reminded that there was no one, no other, like God. Let’s see this message as our first thread.

In the second reading we hear Paul addressing the church of Thessalonica. He gives his thanks to God for them, reminding them how he prays for them all. He shares how he remembers how hard they work on behalf of Jesus and the faith. He reminds them of how great it is that they have hope!  What a joyful letter this is from Paul – so appreciative to this church and its members!  Or was he?  No, he reminds them that it is not they who carry the load, but it is through the love of God of them that they are blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit that carries this hope, this joy in all that they do. Yes, the word came to them but it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that their conviction grows. Have you ever experienced a time where you were patting yourself on the back only to realize that there was just no way you could have completed all that you did without calling on God for help? Another thread! God lets us know again that we are like empty vessels without Him.

Finally, in the Gospel we hear Jesus being questioned – once again by someone who thinks they can outsmart the Lord. But, He knows their hearts before they open their mouths. Trying to trick Him into a place where He would deny the ruler of the day, Caesar. Jesus acknowledges the earthly expectations of paying tax, yet, without missing a beat, he acknowledges God as well. One earthly place and one heavenly place – which came first? Is that even a question? Jesus knew that they may be able to pay the tax to Caesar but they could not pay the Creator what is rightfully his, especially those who deny Him! God expects us to pay our earthly taxes too, we all have our responsibilities, but we too will never be able to give to God all that is due to him. He wants us to acknowledge this! To be aware that He has chosen us! He has anointed us to do His will, even though we may not be aware of Him. And when we do become aware we need to recognize that all that is good in us comes from Him and that we can never repay Him for all that is good in our lives – but we can thank Him. Our final thread has come through.  Like the three strands of the sweetgrass as it comes together to create a strong braid, the Creator’s message comes forth! It is with this knowledge we can say as the responsorial psalm said, “All Glory and Praise to our God!” 

– Eddie MacDonald

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time October 8, 2023

Reflection on Parable of the Vineyard

Today’s readings are all about a vineyard, God’s vineyard.  The vineyard is a rich and ancient symbol for wealth, well-being and sustenance. In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable to the chief priests and elders of the people, about a landowner (God) who gave and did so much to make the vineyard (house of Israel) so complete, and everything was set for a fruitful yield. The landowner left the tenants (religious leaders) in charge, but things did not turn out. The vines were not cooperative, instead yielded wild grapes (violence and injustice of the people). The tenants wanted to be the owners, not just guardians; did not want to share any of the produce, and mistreated all the servants (prophets) who were sent to collect the produce, and did not want to listen or respect the landowner’s son (Jesus) but killed him. Jesus asks the priests and elders, “what will the landowner do to the tenants?” Their answer judged themselves and they were told the kingdom of God will be taken away from them and be given to people who will produce fruits of the kingdom.

This parable applies to us, to all people too. We have been given so much, so many gifts: life, family, work, talents, possessions, all to care for. We should not be selfish or lust for power but be prayerful, be grateful, have compassion, be just, and share our gifts with others, especially love and care. In this way we offer the fruits of our labour back to God. Paul in his letter says, “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” “I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord, to go and bear fruit that will last” (John 15.16).

– Rosella Kinoshameg DOS     

Reflection for Sunday, October 1, 2023

In connection with today’s Gospel reading, I recently read an article by a man name Francois Viljoen. He wrote about Matthew’s Gospel and the theme of righteousness. In today’s Gospel we hear about John who came “in the way of righteousness”. One of the main messages of the Gospel of Matthew is that the people, the audience, the readers or listeners, are called to be righteous – just as John the Baptist was righteous, just as Jesus was righteous.

Now, what is righteousness? According to the article, this word can have different meanings, and does have different meanings within the Bible. One meaning is that righteousness has to do with salvation, with being saved; another is that righteousness is about good conduct, right living. The writer of the Gospel of Matthew can be understood as using the term in the second sense, and so is encouraging the readers or listeners to be righteous in the sense of living well and doing the right things.

We can ask further: how can we be righteous in that sense? How can we live well and do what’s right? Righteousness includes doing good deeds – but that’s not all. It includes not only our outward deeds, but what is within us. It can also be understood as including repentance and living according to God’s will. In other words, yes, we strive to do the right thing; and we pray for goodness, rightness within us, in our hearts; and we ask God for help and ask for forgiveness when we fail; and we pray that we might discern and know God’s will, and so have a good sense of what is the right thing to do. That sounds like a lot! By the grace of God may we move toward such righteousness in our lives.

Paul Robson SJ

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 24, 2023

   In times of personal crisis, devout Catholics often plead for the help of the Holy Guardian Angels (memorial on October 2nd). To familiarize the faithful with the activities of those pure spiritual beings, a few days before (on September 29th) we have the feast of three archangels: Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

   The first among them fought successfully against the fallen angels who, under the leadership of Lucifer, had rebelled against God. As the victor of that decisive battle, St. Michael has the status of the protector of the church. We might invoke his assistance (together with our guardian angels as well) in all struggles with our particular weaknesses, when Satan seems to get the upper hand.

   Archangel Gabriel brought the joyful messages to both Zechariah and Mary about the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. He truly is the herald of joy and consolation. Married couples might also see him as the courier of their gratitude for the gift of their children.

   St. Raphael (the patron of the Sagamok parish) is associated with healing. No doubt, he has facilitated the medical efforts during the Covid 19 pandemic.

   The generous service of the archangels on our behalf reinforces the message of this 25th Sunday: that God wants to save everyone.

– Fr. Toni Baranowski SJ

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time                    September 17 2023

This Sunday’s readings are all about forgiveness: forgiveness of neighbors and God’s forgiveness to us. We are being challenged to be forgiving people and to become forgiving communities. In the book of Sirach, we are called to address our ‘wrath, anger and vengefulness’, and to put a stop to them and follow the commandments. Jesus tells us we need to forgive seventy-seven times, meaning we need to be forgiving people. Stopping one’s anger or wrath is not enough, as the Old Testament tells us, but a change in oneself is essential as the new way, according to Jesus in the New Testament.

Becoming a forgiving person is the challenge because it means a change in our whole person, and that is not an easy task. Our culture and traditions tell us we must live a balanced life following the medicine wheel teachings. The grandfather teachings invite us to practice respect, honesty, truth, and courage toward ourselves and to all around us. The practice of Christian virtues is similar in this regard. Being proactive toward living our life in balance and working to change our attitudes is what Jesus is talking about when he says ‘forgive seventy-seven times’. When we are balanced in our own lives, we work on being respectful, honest, brave and true, going against our negative ego. We then gradually become a humble, wise and loving people. It means we esteem and respect ourselves, bravely and honesty, to be true to who we are, then turn to respect all people, animals and all of creation. When we live in honesty and truth, we are a humble people; and humble people know who they are, loved people of God, as St Paul tells us in the second reading.

When we have the humility of knowing who we really are, we can then recognize the people around us for who they really are, loved people of God, just like ourselves. It is then we can look at our poor stumbling neighbor, who is trying to do the right thing in their limitations and brokenness, with a compassion that does not even need forgiveness because we look with the eyes of love. As we pick each other up and dust each other off, we are looking at ourselves in our neighbor with a compassionate gaze of love. Love and compassion need no forgiveness, and we can gaze at each other as Jesus gazes on us with love.

– Sr. Kateri (Terry) Beaudry

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