Reflection for Sunday, April 14, 2024

This Wednesday marks the feast day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Here in Wiikwemkoong, we will celebrate with a Mass at 5:00 followed by a potluck dinner.

Kateri has been called the “Lily of the Mohawks”. Where does that title come from? In a book by Darren Bonaparte of Akwesasne, the author recounts how a Mohawk elder had told him that, after the death of Kateri, lilies sprouted from her grave – and so the title “Lily of the Mohawks”.

Bonaparte’s book is titled A Lily Among Thorns: The Mohawk Repatriation of Kateri Tekahkwi:tha. We find in the title of this book, then, another possible name for Kateri: a “lily among thorns”. When he used this phrase, Bonaparte was quoting Fr. Claude Chauchetière SJ, one of the early biographers of Kateri. Chauchetière wrote, in his story about Kateri: “I have up to the present written of Katherine as a lily among thorns, but now I shall relate how God transplanted this beautiful lily . . .”

Now, Bonaparte takes issue with the title “a lily among thorns” for Kateri. Fr. Chauchetière was suggesting that the “thorns” were Kateri’s own people, including her own family. Bonaparte questions the narrative, found in the early Jesuit biographies, which suggests that she was a good and great person in spite of her own people, her culture, her upbringing.

Based on what I know of Kateri’s life story, it seems clear that her Christian faith was an important, impactful part of her life. However, Bonaparte makes a good point in stating that her character, her goodness, her saintliness, surely would have also been formed by her culture, her family, her people – including those who were not Christians.

– Fr. Paul Robson SJ

2nd Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday – April 7, 2024

   The second Sunday of Easter marks the end of the Easter Octave, and it is also celebrated as the feast of Divine Mercy. St. Faustina, in her famous diary, reminds us repeatedly about Jesus’ unlimited mercy which was generously bestowed even upon hard core sinners like the good thief on Golgotha. St. Peter, after his denial, was also the beneficiary of this mercy.

   The future first pope (Peter) and most of his colleagues must have been ashamed because they had deserted Christ during his passion. After his death on the cross, they were shocked and uncertain about their future. Instead of scolding them, the Risen Lord greeted them with uplifting words: “Peace be with you”.

   The patient Jesus appeared at the suitable time to Thomas and was ready to meet all his demands, to assure him in his skepticism. Jesus is also very merciful to modern doubtful Thomases, waiting for the radical change of their unbelieving hearts. We all rejoice when their newly found faith is expressed by statements like “My Lord and my God”.

   We can show our gratitude for being counted among those who are blessed, by extending mercy towards others, and by continuing to perform acts of charity. Although we cannot share everything in common as the first Catholics did, let us be inspired by their spirituality.

  – Fr. Toni Baranowski SJ

Palm Sunday Reflection 2024

We begin this Holy Week with Mark telling us about the amazing “prediction” of Jesus, concerning where the disciples would find the colt, and where it would be tied. Can you imagine how these disciples felt, finding everything as our Lord said! We are then filled with joy, as people are celebrating Jesus for who he is and what he has done! You can see the full palms waving in front of Jesus as he rides into town in this beautiful, colourful procession! It must have been a sunny day! 

     Then in our first reading we hear the prophetic, painful words of Isaiah, as the joy plummets in our stomachs: “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” Surely no! Surely no one would do such a thing to the man who healed the sick, made the blind see and the lame walk!

     Our mind’s eye can visualize this prophecy of Isaiah, but our heart aches at speaking the words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” The psalm again, written long before Christ’s birth, captures the depth of pain of Christ’s last few words.

   We have a small reprieve from the pit of despair when we hear from Paul in the second reading. He gives us hope as he explains that God’s plan is at play and that His son, Jesus Christ, bore all of this for all humanity, for all of us. So that we can enter the kingdom of heaven one day.

     One of my favourite visualizations is seeing this woman in Bethany, pouring this expensive oil all over Jesus’s head and feet, using her thick black hair to wipe the oil. Of course, Judas Iscariot, with greed in his heart, complains that she is wasting this oil by anointing him. Jesus would be denied much of the rituals of death, but this would be given in its place.

     We can see the preparations being made for Passover; the lovely upper room ready to seat twelve. We can hear Jesus call out to the one who would betray him; we witness in our mind’s eye the first breaking of the bread, our hearts filled with gratitude. The reading takes us to all the darkness of those following 24 hours. Great sadness fills us as we exit the church, knowing what will be coming over the next 6 days.

     We will hear different details/perspectives throughout Holy Week. We are meant to journey with Christ through this painfully difficult time. I pray we each will open our hearts to this journey and unite ourselves on the cross of Good Friday, so that we can joyfully witness the Resurrection – our future with Christ.

– Eddie MacDonald

Reflection for Sunday, January 7, 2024 – Epiphany of the Lord

A theme of Christmas, found in our recent Christmas Mass readings, is that of the light shining in the darkness; or we might say that the light overcomes the darkness. Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany (meaning “manifestation” or “revelation”), that theme continues with the story of the star shining in the sky, which leads the wise men from the East to the baby Jesus.

Similar to light overcoming darkness is the theme of good overcoming evil. We can see the whole Jesus story, not only his birth story, as one of the triumph of good over evil. In the story of Herod and the wise men and the baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph, King Herod represents evil as he tells a lie to the wise men and is plotting to kill the child. Yet, despite Herod’s best efforts, the child is born and is kept alive and safe.

Not only is the child alive and safe, but there is time for celebration! There is time for prayer and reverence as the wise men “pay him homage”. There is time for gift giving. There is time for the wise men to be “overwhelmed with joy”.

Despite the evil forces which still exist today, let us pray that good things continue to happen, in us and through us and around us, through the grace of that same God who became one of us in the child Jesus. May good things not only happen and survive, but thrive and bring joy and be celebrated and cherished.

– Fr. Paul Robson SJ

Reflection on December 17, 2023 Readings

Joy. A lightness in your heart and in your step and on your lips.  It can last a few seconds or hours.  It is that unexplained welling up that occurs and that feels like it overflows from within.  It is hard to contain!  It most often tumbles out of in a burst of laughter, sometimes tears of happiness.  It is different than funny – funny can still be spontaneous but joy seems to be, purer.  Like beauty.  Breath taking beauty.  The colors of a sun set against the waters.  The twinkling of the sun through the green leaves.  These moments of beauty create a sense of awe and joy.

In the first reading, the prophet announces a welcome back to the captives that have finally been released from Babylon.  He describes his mission, which is of service to God’s people. He and they are filled with joy.  He says “in my God is the joy of my soul”.  He recognizes that the source of Joy is God!  Imagine, when you feel that fullness of joy, that overwhelming joy, you are feeling God as its true source!  And we acknowledge that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit sealed upon us at our Confirmation.  

Mary and Elizebeth were each filled with joy upon discovering each other’s pregnancy and were spontaneous in sharing their overflowing joy.  From the Gospel of Luke, after Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, she experienced the child in her womb leap for joy.  She said “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:42 The Jerusalem Reader’s Edition).  So important is this reflection on joy that we remember it with each Hail Mary prayer.

In the second reading, we hear that we are to rejoice always. Break down that word REJOICE and we see the word JOY once again.  Pray without ceasing!  Meaning let us shout our joy to the world in thanksgiving!  Don’t stop!  Imagine those angels who sing God’s praises always and forever!  Wow!  To experience that perfect joy of God for more than a few minutes!  To be that full of joy, it would be a surreal experience!

Finally, let’s look at John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, who felt so deep and profoundly the joy of God while in his mother’s womb that it made him leap!  It was said that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, so much so that people thought he was crazy wearing camel haired cloth (to constantly make him uncomfortable – a sacrifice) and eating honey covered grasshoppers (again a sacrifice – a way of not letting his bodily wants take over the focus of his mission).  His mission was to point the way to the true light, the Messiah.  We are to be like John the Baptist.  We are to serve the Lord with joy and point the way to the Messiah by the example of our life – let us be filled with Joy as John was, and point the way!

Eddie MacDonald

2nd Advent Reflection – Comfort My People

12 Step Programs have a lot of pithy little sayings intended to be like little lights along the dark path of recovery from addiction. One of those sayings goes like this:

Fake it till you make it.

It’s like when I cannot fully forgive someone, but I find myself sharing the prayers of the Mass with that person. When it comes time to “exchange a sign of peace”, I have three choices. First, I can ignore that person and share peace with everyone else. Second, I can pretend to exchange peace but inside I am actually refusing to acknowledge their dignity. Third, I can actually turn and actually exchange a sign of peace with that person even as I ask God in prayer to supply for me now the forgiveness that I am not yet capable of.

The first option is cheap and ultimately dishonest. The second option is also just dishonest. The third one is the “fake it till you make it” option. I am faking it alright, because it’s the best I can do right now. But I’m also working toward making it real. I’m acting in trust that God, in due time, will give me the grace I pray for when I am honestly struggling to be a better person.

The prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist both call us today to prepare the way of God. Preparing a smooth path for God to be fully present in my life is hard work. The Good News today is that when I am honestly trying to do that work, God has promised to bring it about. That is truly a great comfort.

– Fr. Mark Hoelsken, S.J.

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 “..do 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

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