24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 13, 2020
By Fr. Gerry McDougall, sj
I was taught, more than once, that anger can have two outcomes:
one outcome can be good; another can be regrettable. If we let anger take hold of us, likely the outcome will be something we regret. But, if we take hold of anger, it is a powerful force for bringing about positive change, in our life, or even in the world.
Recently, the world witnessed a great tennis player have a short outburst which, gratefully, did not have the tragic consequences it could have had. He seemed to have acted out of anger, that is, anger at himself for how he was playing. Then, there are the teen ecological warriors of our times, whose anger, right-directed, at wealthy industrialists and powerful world leaders, is educating so many of us about the necessity to care for our Mother Earth, and is changing the hearts and minds of people everywhere, for the better.
Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote the book, Dead Man Walking, is another person who helps us see how anger can have undesired consequences. She is a strong, prophetic advocate against capital punishment, by which an offender is offered no forgiveness, no mercy, but rather has his life taken, apparently, by the collective vengeance of society. In some cases, even innocent people have faced execution, and the lives of many in our world have been the cost of saving the face, and pride, of dictators and other bullies. Sister Helen hopes that more and more of us will recognize the great healing power of mercy.
We have all heard the phrase, “the wrath of God,” but Jesus came to the world to teach us that God is Love, pure Love. If God ever does get angry, that anger is always right-directed, directed by God’s Spirit of pure Love, and we never experience God’s “wrath” as vengeance, but rather as mercy, forgiveness, compassion, healing, guidance, the call to holiness, the invitation to the fullness of life, the abundance of life. Let us choose life, love and mercy, and with Jesus, let us bring more forgiveness, healing and justice into our world.
By Fr. Jim Kelly, s.j.
1st Sunday of Lent
1st March 2020
So the season of Lent has begun. It is a ‘season’ not so much because it is a certain number of days, but because it is the appropriate time for something, the right time. The word ‘season’ comes from the Latin word for ‘sow’, as in to sow seed in the field or the garden (when the time is right). That is also the same root as to ‘season’ foods–to throw the right herbs or spices in the pot when the time is right.
Sometimes we say there are four seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall), but as these past few weeks have shown it is much more delicate than that. Consider how in February, especially in our area, we had beautiful winter weather with plenty of snow and cold temperatures. But many days the sun beat down with surprising heat. The other day I saw some people ice-fishing with no hut but just their folding chairs. They looked more like they were on the beach in July. And I heard a song-bird whose name I do not know but whose voice I recognized from last summer. I wondered if this little one knows what season it is.
Our season of Lent is a chance to imitate Jesus’ experience of going out into the desert for forty days and forty nights. Jesus, Son of God, free of sin, goes out alone into the wilderness to fast and pray. There he is tempted by the Devil himself who can offer him food, and independence, and great power over others. Why does Jesus go out into this wilderness, into this time of temptation?
And for you, really, what are you asked to do in these forty days to grow closer to Christ? The Church proposes that you: 1) Fast. Seriously, is there some food or activity that you should just cut out in this season?
2) Give Alms or give something to the poor. You have a chance to donate something to someone more in need than you. You know full-well that near where you live there is a neighbour who could well use a new set of towels or some good cooking pots. If you give in this way you have to be careful never to appear snooty with your nose in the air. You give as one friend would give to another. If it is helpful, you ask another person to give the gift from you, saying simply that “a friend asked me to give this to you.”
3) Pray. Go to Mass more often, or to prayer groups, or the Stations of the Cross when they are offered; and encourage your friend to come with you. But beyond that spend at least some private time each day during Lent in prayer. Why? Nothing more than to be present with Jesus during his forty days of prayer.
Paul Robson sj
Coming up this week is Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of the season of Lent. At the Holy Cross Church here in Wiikwemkoong, and in many churches around the world, there will be a distribution of ashes at Mass on Wednesday. In some parts of the world, the ashes are sprinkled on the heads of the faithful. Our local custom is to place the ashes on the forehead, in the form of a cross. We might be interested in knowing: why ashes, and why the forehead?
My investigation of these questions has revealed that there is a long history involved, going back to the pre-Christian traditions of the Jewish people as recorded in the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament). There are stories in the Old Testament of people sprinkling ashes on their own heads, or sitting in ashes. The placing of a mark on the forehead is also found in the Old Testament, as seen in one of the visions of the prophet Ezekiel. (See Ezekiel 9:4.)
The meaning behind the ashes, as I understand it, is one of penance for wrongdoing; or the ashes can represent mourning and death. Regarding the forehead, in the Catholic Church today, we make the sign of the cross on the forehead not only on Ash Wednesday, but at the time of Baptism and Confirmation, and during the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
Also, at the time of the reading of the Gospel at Mass, all are invited to make the sign of the cross, first on their foreheads, then on their lips, then over their hearts. As we make these gestures, we can think of a short prayer such as this one: “The word of God be ever in my mind, proclaimed by my lips, and pierce my heart leading me to deeper communion with you, Jesus.”; Or a simpler prayer is: “May the Lord be in my mind, on my lips and in my heart.” May God bless us during this season of Lent. May it be a time of repentance and turning to God, and a time of quietly waiting for the celebration of Easter.
By Fr. Paul Robson S.J.
Maybe this winter (or this summer if you´re in Australia) will go down in history as the moment when the people of our world realized that climate change is real and that we´re in the midst of a climate crisis. An Australian reporter, in the context of the wildfires in that country, stated the following: “Climate change has stopped being something to argue about. When you breathe in the ash and feel the pain in your heart, you can no longer deny it.”
Wiikwemkoong´s own Autumn Peltier was one of the young people who took part in a panel discussion this past week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. She and other youth leaders are working toward empowering other young people, as well as moving the hearts and minds of world leaders and the general public, with the goal of addressing the climate crisis.
Today´s readings talk about a light shining in the darkness. In Australia, with the fires, I suppose that there is too much light these days, and not enough darkness! But the Biblical image of light shining can be understood as referring to the light of love, the light of goodness, the light of Christ! Let us pray that this light might shine brightly in our hearts and in the hearts of others.
May this light radiate outward from us and be evident in many ways, including in the ways we respect, care for, and live in harmony with our common home, God´s creation.
By Fr. Jim Kelly SJ
By Fr. Paul Robson sj
This Sunday, the Catholic Church observes the World Day of the Poor. Today is the third such Day, as this yearly observance was started by Pope Francis in 2017.
In Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus, it is suggested that the poor have received bad things in this life, but will receive good things in the next life. While this is true, there is also a sense in which poor people already have good things in this life. In his message for this year’s World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis quotes Psalm 10. In this psalm, we read: “the helpless commit themselves to you.” If it is the poor, rather than the rich, who turn to God and trust in God, then we can say that it is the poor who
are in the better position.
Furthermore, the Pope and the Psalmist suggest that God wants to alleviate, and is working toward alleviating, the present sufferings of the poor. The poor can hope for God’s help and for better things not only in the next life, but in this one. And one way that God helps the poor in this life is through those who are not poor – those who might help, and spend time with, and love and show respect toward, the poor. Pope Francis writes: “I encourage you to seek, in every poor person whom you encounter, his or her true needs, not to stop at their most obvious material needs, but to discover their inner goodness.”
One further dimension to consider, from the Pope’s message, is the following: “The poor save us because they enable us to encounter the face of Jesus Christ.”
By Fr. Jim Kelly sj
Wow. Were you caught off-guard by the snow on Halloween and usehewung? Most of us were. Traditionally that feast is seen as a time of transition. For one thing, the harvest of autumn vegetables is basically over. A heavy frost will mean squash will be ruined if it it still outside. And all the little insects (and I saw a lot of little bugs earlier last week) are done for if they did not lay their eggs or crawl into the ground. Deer and racoons and all those squirrels have had to make their plans for this time of change, and
they know it.
For so many generations, people have marked this time of transition. Setting the table and welcoming guests at Tusehwung is less common know than in days gone by, but giving out candies to youngsters who come to the door seems more popular than ever. And people buy costumes and plastic decorations like never before. The theme of these decorations is a curious mix of happy innocence–coloured leaves and fairies and little superheroes–and the outright demonic and threatening. This mix also reflects a traditional time of transition; that at this time of year there is an opening between our world and the world of the good and bad spirits, between the living and the dead.
Wonderful, then, to see people in the cemetery on Friday, despite the snow, praying for their loved ones who have died. It is a sign of great faith. Trusting already that God has shown mercy to those who have died we have a confidence that it is good for us to pray that this mission of God be fulfilled and perfected. The beginning of the First Reading at Mass this Sunday is striking. It is from the Book of Wisdom:
“The whole world before you, O Lord,
is like a speck that tips the scales,
and like a drop of morning dew that falls on the ground.
But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things,
and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent.”
By Fr. Paul Robson sj
On my mind and in my heart these days is the ongoing scandal and crisis in the Church, related to the abuse of minors by clergy and religious brothers. My reactions to this situation have included feeling disappointed, shocked, confused, humbled, humiliated. It was in this context, with this situation in mind, that I took a look at the readings for today’s Mass.
Our first reading, from the Old Testament, tells us that the Lord God “will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged,” and to the prayer of the widow and the orphan. In the New Testament, we find stories of Jesus siding with those who are being treated badly. Jesus also suffered and became a victim, an innocent victim, and so he can relate quite directly to those who hurt and to those who have been wronged.
In our Gospel reading, we have the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee is “standing by himself”, he has separated himself from others, and he looks down on others. He can be described as a self-righteous person. The tax collector, on the other hand, makes this simple, humble prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I would say that Church leaders, clergy members, like myself, go wrong when we take the position of the Pharisee, and do well when we take the position of the tax collector.
There is hope because God is still working, because Jesus is still working: working toward the healing of the victim and toward changing the heart of the oppressor. For me, among my reactions, noted above, were humility and humiliation. Well, I will take the humility, seeing it as a good thing, as a gift from God, which will help me in my ministry.