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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi

Blessing of the Animals
Thurs., Oct. 4th, 2012
6:00 pm
Vancouver Catholic Worker’s
Samaritan House
1143 E. Pender St.,

The blessing of each animal, by name, means that health, healing and life are being mediated from God for the benefit of the animal in its relationship with its human partners.   The blessing is not to reinforce the separation of human animals and other animals. Instead, we are reinforcing our common kinship by blessing ALL animals--human and otherwise.

All are welcome
whether they have
no legs or many

Your Hostess:  Roni Marie

Your Host:  Derv Marie

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shared Homily Starter – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading:
Isaiah 50:5-9
Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 116
Second Reading:
James 2:14-18
Mark 8:27-35
“You are judging by human standards rather than by God’s.”   “You are judging by human standards rather than by God’s.”  This is the phrase that kept drumming within me as I was thinking about today’s homily.

We can’t possibly know the mind of God.  But we do have some clues.  The Psalm tells us that God listens, saves lives, and protects.  We hear in this reading that our God is a God of justice and mercy.  The Psalmist tells us God is gracious.  Just looking at a sampling of the synonyms for gracious informs us that God is approachable, beneficent, compassionate, kind, loving, merciful and tender.  But we like the Psalmist must walk before our God in the land of the living.

“You are judging by human standards rather than by God’s”, the first reading says that God opened my ears, and I have obeyed, I did not turn away.  Isaiah tells us that He did not hide from insults but stood firm.  He trusted that he would not be put to shame because Yahweh was at his side.  The prophet was speaking against the injustices of his day.  Then as now, those who speak out against injustice are often ridiculed and persecuted. 

One example is the student protest in Quebec.  The student protestors didn’t receive much attention in the press outside of Quebec.  When the protest did appear in the mainstream media in the rest of the country, the reporting was often less than supportive, accusing the protestors of being selfish and privileged and motivated by a sense of entitlement. 

Another example is the government treatment of Canada’s environmental groups.  Funding to the Canadian Environmental Network was cut.  The Canadian Environmental Network consists of over 640 highly diverse large and small, rural and urban organisations from coast to coast to coast. Internationally, the our government is killing the Global Environmental Monitoring System, an inexpensive project that monitors over 3,000 freshwater sites around the world for a U.N. database hosted by Canada for decades.   Lastly, funding to Environment Canada was reduced to the point that 2,100 employees were laid off.  What are we to do?

The second reading and the gospel point the way.  But first, you may wonder, why is Vikki always preaching about the environmental, economic or social justice issues.  Well, it’s because when I was teaching Catholic Social Teaching at St. Mark’s, I was asked; “Why don’t we ever hear about any of these issues from the pulpit?”   I don’t think you’ll have to ask that question. 

Now, the second reading is pretty clear.  But often when we think of the bare necessities of life, we think of food, clothing and shelter.  Yet for a human being to be healthy they need social networks, food for their souls and protection from violence.  So while “charity models”, where we just write cheques, are a necessity.  Of equal and possibly greater importance, is working with people to change the conditions that make or keep them hungry, poor and homeless─ all of which are forms of violence.   Food for the soul, like food for people, comes in diverse forms.  As children of God, we are to nurture people in expressions of faith that bring them closer to community and most of all, to God.   Because God is Love, this means we must allow people to follow God’s call to them in their own tradition if they wish and proselytize our Christianity by our love not by imposition.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus telling the disciples, not to tell anyone that he is the messiah.  Jesus knows that if people learn that he is the messiah, they will be judging him by their political understanding of the messianic mission that was popular at the time.  Jesus doesn’t want the people to think of him or try and make him a temporal king.  He tells them that he is going to suffer and die.  Jesus is going to suffer because challenges people to question the social, political and religious status quo.  But, he also tells them that he will rise again.  Jesus wants people to know that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All will be well.”  He calls the people of Caesarea Philippi ─and us─ to respond to his words and works with a transformation of heart and mind. 

If you wish to come after me, you must deny your very self, take up your cross and follow in my footsteps.  35If you would save your life, you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you’ll save it.”   Jesus is talking about more than personal piety here.  I think Jesus’ call to personal action is in the service of the wider society─ to bring forth the kingdom.  It means working for what is right and just, even if it means personal sacrifice. 

Let us look again at the students in Quebec.  Rather than being selfish and privileged and motivated by a sense of entitlement, these students sacrificed a term of education and tuition that they can never get back.  They did this for the benefit of students that will come after them.  Also, the students’ struggle grew into a much larger discussion: about democracy, about economic insecurity and about student debt loads.  The students’ struggle stimulated Quebecers into action, as evidenced in the results of the Quebec election.

Often, though, the ability to see results is like trying to reach the horizon.  We work to get closer and closer to our goals but they seem to stay out of our reach.  To take a single example from the environmental groups, we can look at David Suzuki, who resigned from the Board of the foundation he instituted.  In his open letter of resignation to the Foundation, he said, in part:

I want to speak freely ─without fear that my words will be deemed too political,─ and harm the organization of which I am so proud. I am keenly aware that some governments, industries and special interest groups are working hard to silence us. They use threats to the Foundation's charitable status in attempts to mute its powerful voice on issues that matter deeply to you and many other Canadians. This bullying demonstrates how important it is to speak out.

When Jesus tells us, “You are judging by human standards rather than by God’s,” I suggest that he is telling us that we should do what is right and just, not because we can see or control the outcome.  Rather, simply because it is right, compassionate and just.   It may call us to forego position and status.  Doing the right thing may cost us our livelihood.  

Jesus spoke out against injustice, worked against injustice, and by his compassion, he even violated religious laws.   Like the prophet, we must trust that we will not be put to shame ─because Yahweh is at our side.  We can’t possibly know the mind of God.  But we can try to stop judging what we are called to do by human standards and to start judging by God’s. 

 Please share your own thoughts on any of the readings.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

2 September 2012 – Labour Day Homily

First Reading: Jeremiah 22:13-19
Responsorial Psalm: 72:1-4, 11-14, 18
Second Reading: I Corinthians 12:12-26
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-40

For days, I was puzzling over how to weave these three readings together.  I had no one to blame but myself because I chose them from a list of suggested Labour Day readings.  Trusting in the Spirit, once I made the choices, I thought it best not to change them.  Still, I struggled with how to weave them together.  Finally, I gave up and began to look at each one separately and see what the Spirit would knit together for me.

What came to me was that each of the readings looked at labour differently.  In the first reading, Jeremiah lets us know that God holds a dim view of those who reap benefits from injustice and inequity.  The injustice that Jeremiah describes is strikingly similar to what is going on today, in our world and in this very neighbourhood.  In our neighbourhood, developers are building fine, if not spacious houses, while the violence of poverty and homelessness continue. 

In other parts of the world, corporate interests are gaining profits from the shedding of the innocent blood.  Those who are working for the rights of their communities to have just wages, clean drinking water, and preserve their lands from pollution, are the targets.  Violence and oppression are epidemic in countries like Colombia, for example, in Colombia, the most dangerous and life threatening position to hold is that of union organizer. 

Since the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United states took place in October 2011, 34 Colombian trade unionists have been killed.  And according to the executive director of the National Trade Union School, in Medellin, more than 2,900 acts of violence and 1,500 assaults have taken place, aimed at workers and labour activists. 

I remember saying a few years ago, in my uninformed state, that unions were no longer needed.  Needless to say, I have changed my mind.  In 2007, a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Report called “Negotiating without a floor,” found that traditional unions have been victim to the loss of coverage under the Employment Standards Act for large sections of their members….
Under the previous Act, unions were aware that if their collective agreements did not contain rights and benefits at least equal to the Act, the superior provisions of the Act were deemed to form part of their collective agreement.  However, since 2002, under the new Act, large groups of union members have potentially lost these employment rights without legal recourse. The new Act has left gaping holes in many collective agreements, and the government has not given unions the opportunity to re-open their collective agreements to ensure their members are not exposed [to the loss of employment rights].1

Another example, is when Christy Clark increased the minimum wage, she included everyone but servers. It's not fair and it's open to abuse.  Under the new legislation - licensed restaurants can now pay servers less than the minimum wage.2

One of the most disadvantaged groups of workers is migrant workers.  We can all as Christians and as voters work to alleviate the conditions of our brothers and sisters in their struggle for decent employment conditions. 
So the first reading can be said to describe labour issues that pertain to those in power: governments, corporations, and the wealthy.  This also suggests that the way to work for labour justice from these entities is to participate in and/or support our labour unions.

In the second reading, we are told that we are all part of the Body of Christ.  As such each and every member of the body is important and vital.  The proverbial rocket scientist is no more important in the eyes of God than the binner who collects our empty bottles.  We are to treat everyone with love and respect.  However, let’s take this analogy a little bit farther. 

Many of us, especially those of us who were schooled in pre-Vatican II Catholicism, were taught that our religion was more important than anyone else’s.  We were told that we had the exclusive rights to God’s truth and by extension, God’s love.   But the old Baltimore Catechism taught that we were created to know, love and serve God.  Now, there was no specification on who helped us to do this.  Therefore, any religious community that aids its members in knowing, loving and serving God, is performing the labour for which it was intended.  Our opening song refrains said in succession, I believe in God and it ain’t me, I believe in God and it ain’t us; I believe in God and God is God.  We are not to judge the vessels or the pathways the Creator chooses for the people of God.  We are all, ̶ regardless of race, colour, creed, affectional orientation, or social or professional status ̶   people of God. 

Which brings me to the Gospel; it tells us how we, as people of God, are called to be towards one another.  God calls us to a labour of love.  Many of us already do or contribute in some way to giving drink to the thirsty, feeding the hungry and visiting the sick.  Fewer of us, I imagine, spend much time with the, “I was in prison and you visited me”, part. 

Those of who live in the nicer areas of the city might even be part of the “Not in My Neighbourhood” crowd when the location a halfway house is proposed for their area.  Why is that?  Well because we know that the socialization to prison life does not translate to socialization in the community.  But we as Christians and as good citizens could begin the socialization process with people while they were in prison. 

Many people in our prisons belong to the marginalized and racialized groups of our society.   They are familiar with poverty, racism, and exclusion.  How healing for all of us, if we could befriend people and incorporate them into our social networks while they were still incarcerated.   With our social support and if our friendship is genuine, people would have the experience of being accepted and included.  They would then have a social support network when they are released.  We would be a living expression of a gospel community and give everyone involved a greater incentive to transform our lives. 

So the readings give us all something to think about.  In my opinion, the readings look at labour from different vantage points.  The readings also call to us for a response. 
  • From the political viewpoint of working for the common good, we could support fair labour practices and our unions
  • From the social viewpoint of the value of labour ̶   secular and religious, we could value and respect the different faces of work, and lastly,
  • From the personal viewpoint, we could become active participants in the labour of love that we are called to as people of God.

I’ll end with this prayer:
St. Joseph, Patron of Workers,
Help us to respect the dignity of all workers.
Help us to learn about and to care about workers
who do not have fair wages, just benefits, safe working environments.
Help us to raise our voices for justice for workers.
Help us to ask our government and our representatives
to develop policies that create jobs with dignity.
Guide us in our own work
and in the work of justice we are all called to participate in.
Renew our strength and commitment each day
as we face the work ahead
as we labour for the common good of all.3

1.         Fairey, David and McCallum, Simone (2007) Negotiating Without a Floor:  Unionized Worker Exclusion from BC Employment Standards.  Vancouver: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (


3          adapted from: Education for Justice. Prayer to St. Joseph, Patron of Workers.