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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

FEAST OF ST. CLARE OF ASSISI - 11 August 2013



In Solidarity with LCWR


First Reading:   2 Corinthians 4:6-10; 16-18
Gospel:     Matthew 5:13-16  

Today, along with Saint Clare, we are celebrating in solidarity with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).  Right now, under the scrutiny of Vatican-appointed Archbishop Sartain, they are holding their 2013 annual meeting.  Our Roman Catholic Church might persecute and abandon their own.  But, when we are doing the will of God, as the first reading says, we may be struck down but never destroyed. 

In April 2012, the LCWR was chastised and put under the supervision of Archbishop Sartain.  They were charged with not speaking out enough against abortion and gay marriage, and for their radical feminism.  God, I think, saw things differently.  The sisters were honoured not only by the overwhelming support of people in the pews, but, last November, in "recognition of its extensive efforts in helping the poor, the marginalized and people in difficult circumstances”, the LCWR was awarded the Herbert Haag Prize for 2013 by the Catholic-based Herbert Haag Foundation.  The Foundation awards recognition prizes to persons and institutions in Switzerland and worldwide who expose themselves through free expression of opinion or courageous actions within Christianity.

I salute the sisters but my initial thoughts on the first reading were much closer to home.  When I read the passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, each of you came to mind.  I see the light of Christ shining in each of you.  Personal sorrow, health issues, internal doubts and struggles with the church you love, yet each of you continue to follow Christ’s teachings of love and justice. 

Laura’s painting expresses what I mean.  When I look at the beauty of that painting, I see it as an expression of the inmost Laura shining out in gift to us─ but I also see it as an expression of who we are as a community: a sanctuary, loving, warm, welcoming, yet contemplative.  That said, today’s Gospel tells us that we are to share who we are as individuals and as community beyond ourselves. 

In Saint Clare’s day all women’s religious orders owned land and property.  They were landed gentry, albeit, in monastic garb.  Saint Clare fought for her community to live differently.  Although, poverty was important for Clare, it was not the main reason that she wanted to live without owning land and property.  She sought Vatican permission to live without land ownership.  They refused.  In response, Clare went on a hunger strike.  The Holy See, afraid that she might die, finally granted what is known as, the Privilege of Poverty. 

In those times, when you owned land, you were also the master of the people who lived and worked on those lands.  Clare did not want her and her sisters to be mistresses of others.  It was a matter of justice.  They would work and grow food themselves on land they were given permission to use but not own.  So although the Poor Ladies, now known as Poor Clares, were cloistered, their light of love and justice was an example that went beyond the convent walls into a world where mercantilism or capitalism-in-infancy, was quickly taking root.

Clare didn’t think she was doing anything big.  She was doing what she thought was right, even though her contemporaries probably thought she was nuts.  The point is, in order to let our light shine, we don’t have to do grandiose things.  We just have to do the little things that we know are right and express ourselves through the gifts that God has given us.  That is what it means to live the Gospel values of love; love of God, our neighbour and ourselves.  That is what it means to let our light shine.

Please share your Response to the Word of God

 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

4 August 2013 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time


1st reading: Ecclesiastes 1.2; 2.21-23
Psalm 49:1-12
2nd reading: Colossians 3.1-5, 9-11
Gospel: Luke 12.13-21

Vanity of vanities!  All is vanity.  The first reading emphasises what we hear in our Eucharistic prayer, and that is, “Everything we have, everything we see, everything we do, everyone we love and everyone who loves us” is a revelation of God’s sustaining presence and our total dependence on God’s creative Spirit alive in the universe. 

When we look at things from this perspective, to paraphrase a few words from Fr. Ken, work is no longer something exacted of me, toil grudgingly given; our work can flow freely, as a thankful response for the great gift of life.  Those in AA call this an attitude of gratitude.  With an attitude of gratitude, we become less concerned with whether others are doing their share or whether others are getting the kudos we think we deserve.  With an attitude of gratitude, we know in our hearts that any glory really belongs─ not others, or to us, but─ to God.  Likewise, after we have done all that is asked of us, we become content to leave the outcome of our efforts in the Hands of God.  We shed our vanity and find peace.

If our hearts and minds are at peace, there is more room for the Christ Light of love within us to grow.   Since love and spitefulness cannot live in the same heart, things such as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language, die within us.  We become less tempted by greed and the need for accumulating money, power and things.

George Carlin seems an unlikely contributor to a homily but his take on possessions and their accumulation seem so relevant to today’s Gospel.  Carlin said, “A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.  You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane.  You look down; you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff.   And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up.  Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff.   That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff!   Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.”

The Gospel is telling us that the accumulation of all this stuff is fruitless endeavour.  It is of no use to us when we die and as the young man seeking Jesus’ help shows, it can bring conflict to those we leave behind. 

My grandmother lived through the depression.  Like some others of her generation, this left her with a fear of scarcity.  She hoarded stuff and money.  She couldn’t afford a bigger apartment; but each year the space to move around in the apartment got smaller and smaller.  At the end there was just a narrow path from the kitchen of her railroad flat to the living room.  The living room and kitchen still had gathering space and sitting room, but it too, was in jeopardy of disappearing.  When I was trying to clear out the place after she died, I found such beautiful treasures.  They had been there all through my childhood but I had never seen them.  She had never taken them out herself and enjoyed them.  These beautiful things just kept getting shoved further and further back, in whatever cupboard, to make room for more things.

For me the moral, so to speak, of the Gospel and my grandmother’s story is gratitude, generosity and sharing.  I should be thankful and content with what I have.  God has given me many gifts and I should be generous with those gifts and share what I have with others: my time, my gifts, and my stuff.   I see opportunities to share as opportunities to keep our gifts from becoming treasures shoved to the back of the dark cupboard of ingratitude. 

Some of us brought up in a tradition that promotes the idea of indulgences and heavenly rewards may think of the accumulation of good deeds as an insurance policy on a blissful eternity.   But this too, is not the point of the Gospel.  If the intentions for our good deeds are again, personal gain, this too is vanity.  As an example of right intentions, I close with an adaptation of the prayer written by Rabia of Basri, one of the first female Sufi poets:  “O God! If I share your gifts and do good for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I share your gifts and do good in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise. But if I share your gifts and do good for love of You, grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.’  Amen!
 
What are your thoughts?  Please share.

 

21 July 2013 - 16th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME


A Liturgy in Honour Saint Mary of Magdala

First Reading:  Genesis 18.1-10a
Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 15
Second Reading:  Colossians 1.24-28
Gospel: Luke 10.38-42

Hospitality is the dominant theme in today’s first reading and Gospel.  But what is hospitality?  The dictionary says it is “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”  Some of us are influenced to practice hospitality by the quotation from Hebrews chapter 13, verse 2, often associated with Dorothy Day, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  But fewer of us have connected it with the verse immediately before it, which says, “Let mutual love continue.”  This suggests that for people of faith, hospitality is motivated by love and is a mutual demonstration of love.  Generosity is a key component of hospitality as demonstrated in the first reading.  Abraham served the best of what he had to his guests.  Their gift to Abraham was the announcement that he and Sarah would have a son, even though Sarah was past child bearing age.

Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to experience the mutuality of hospitality.  The Director of Hummingbird Ministries, Rev. Mary Fontaine, and two other Aboriginal Elders, Ruth Adams and Laura Fortin, came to visit our community as a follow-up to our earlier KAIROS meeting on reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples.  Mary led us in a talking circle where we all shared what hospitality meant to us from our specific ancestral and family backgrounds and what hospitality meant to us as individuals.  As each person spoke, it was clear that all of us in the circle thought hospitality was more than the dictionary definition.  At the close of the circle, the Elders gave each of us a gift and the community gave a gift to Hummingbird Ministries.  We continued our sharing over the potluck supper.  Listening to each other, sharing stories, food and time, we started the day as strangers but I think everyone who was there would say that we ended the day as friends.  I think that is what hospitality does.

In the Gospel, Jesus does not chastise Mary for not helping Martha.  More importantly, he doesn’t chastise Martha for “being distracted by her many tasks.”  He knows someone has to tend to the practical side of entertaining.  Someone has to prepare the food.  But that’s just the surface story.  The story of Mary and Martha calls us to look deeper into hospitality. 

In Luke’s Gospel, the story just before this is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  That story answers the question, “who is our neighbour?”  It demonstrates what it means to love our neighbour. So let’s look at the deeper meaning of what Luke is trying to tell us here. 

We are all both Mary and Martha. These days especially, some of us─- including me─ can get so busy, with what we think we must get done, that we neglect to chose the better part.  Just as in the example of our talking circle, hospitality includes listening.  We need to take the time to listen to what Jesus is saying to us.  Our Catholic tradition is a wealth of ready made prayers.  We have a tendency to play down the contemplative styles of prayer.  We have come to know prayer as “talking” to God.  But that is only one part of what prayer is; the other part is listening to God.  Just as we are called to practice hospitality to our neighbour, we are called to listen, to open the doors of our hearts to hear what God has to say to us.  The story of Mary and Martha shows us how we can get to know God better.  It presents us with another way to show God our love; through the hospitality of an open, listening heart.

Now, I invite you to share your thoughts on hospitality.