7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” As we listen to these verses from today’s Scripture, our initial reaction probably is that it is impossible for us or it is not meant for us. Often, holiness is something we admire in other people, like the saints and not something we feel we can attain. Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), reaffirmed the universal call to holiness, which extends to every baptized Christian.
What is holiness? In what does holiness consist? Some may respond that we acquire holiness by keeping the commandments. Still others will draw on references to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. A variety of religious denominations quote the Golden Rule as a formula for holiness. For Buddhists, an eightfold path will lead to holiness.
The readings of today call us to holiness — a holiness that is not rooted only in ourselves or our deeds, but a holiness rooted in God. God created us in the divine image, the essence of all that is true, good, loving and holy. Thus, our holiness comes from a God who is Holy.
May be looking at the example of athletes can help us in our further reflection. We all know, that the athletic ability we see in athletes is not something they get overnight. It is the result of years and years of practice, of working hard every day to perfect techniques, balance, and endurance. In a way it demands the commitment of their whole lives.
On the other hand, if these sports persons or athletes did not have some kind of inborn talent or ability, no amount of determination, or practice could result in victory. St. Paul calls us “the Temple of God.” “The temple of God, which you are,” he says, “is holy.” We still have to set our goals high, and we still have to work hard to achieve it, but like an athlete we have the ability to be holy people because we are made in God’s image. God created us in the divine image, the essence of all that is true, good and holy.
So, holiness is not something beyond our strength, but something we already are by God’s grace. And the routine for practice to get to that ideal is to bear no hatred, to take no revenge, carry no grudges, be generous, and be loving.
Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation on the call to holiness says It is often in small steps that we make progress on the path of holiness “The holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures,” he said, before citing the example of a person who refuses to gossip, of a parent who returns home tired and yet listens patiently to his or her child, or of a person who prays with faith even in moments of anxiety, or of a person who encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. Holiness is found precisely in the ordinary, everyday, rhythms and routines of our lives!
There is a story of a young boy and his mother who were in one of Europe’s ancient cities, exploring the majestic cathedrals built many centuries ago, containing sacred art, murals and stained-glass windows. The young boy looked up at the stained-glass windows, the light streaming through them and asked his mother, “Mother, what are those?” His mother replied, “They are stained glass windows and on the windows are saints.”
Then she asked her son, “Do you know who saints are?” Continuing to gaze up at the windows, he answered, “Saints are people who let the light shine through.” Saints are people who let the light shine through! What a simple yet profound way of explaining holiness.
We are holy when we model our life on Christ, when we reflect Christ. It is making those little decisions in our day lives to let the light of Christ shine through our actions and our motives and our relationships. The holiness to which the Lord calls us will grow through small gestures of love and service. Sometimes we may become discouraged and fall short in our efforts, let us remember that this is the work of a lifetime.
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In last Sunday’s Gospel, which is part of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his disciples, “the salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world.” In today’s segment of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus directs our attention to living the Law of our ancestors in a radically new way.
Today’s gospel passage like many passages in the gospel of Matthew is addressed to a community of Jewish Christians. Written some 50 years after the death of Jesus, it speaks to a predominantly Jewish Christian community that is struggling with fellow Jews who have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. In this Gospel passage, these Jewish Christians are reassured that Jesus hasn't abolished the Jewish law and that Jesus hasn't come to take that law away.
Jesus seems to be a bit harsh on his followers when he says unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. What he says I believe is that if you're going to follow me, then there's another whole set of values that go beyond those laws of the Old Testament. Jesus reaffirms the teaching of the commandments and then goes on to challenge his listeners to live them in a more profound way.
This becomes very clear in an incident that is recorded later in Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus tells about a young man who comes up to him and says, "Lord, what must I do to gain eternal life?" Jesus says if you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments and Jesus lists the commandments." The young man says to Jesus, "I've kept all the commandments from my youth. "What more must I do to gain eternal life?
And Jesus says, "If you wish to follow me, go sell all that you possess. Give the money to the poor, and you will become the owner of a treasure in heaven. The young man, went away sad because he was a person of great wealth. So, what has become very clear is that the commandments are important. But the kingdom of God, the reign of God that Jesus proclaimed and has come to fulfill has a different value system than there has been in the past.
And this new value system is laid out in the beatitudes. And it is illustrated in the series of contrast statements in today’s Gospel reading where Jesus says, you have heard that it was said of old, 'Thou shalt not kill. I say don't even be angry with your brother or sister.' This takes us far beyond the commandments."
The examples Jesus uses in this selection from the sermon — and the ones we will hear next Sunday — deal with vital human relationships and calls for reconciliation rather than anger; respect rather than exploitation; fidelity to our commitment and so on. These are the practices we have to commit ourselves to in order to follow Jesus’ demands.
The words of Jesus in today’s gospel are not meant to discourage or crush our spirit when we do not measure up, but to inspire us with a portrayal of what we are capable of doing with God’s grace. Even as we struggle to grow in faith and virtue, we are God’s children, able to reflect the beauty and goodness of the one who created us.
Each of us knows people who, in fact, reflect the spirit of Jesus’ teaching — people who check their anger and forgive; people who treat others with respect; people who struggle to be faithful. And I believe this is what we all want to do and we try to do.
As we heard in the first reading from the book of Sirach, God’s commandments are meant to call us to life, to a deeper union with God. Each day each one of us is offered a choice – life and death, good and evil, whichever we choose will be given us.
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I am happy to be back after my holidays. I had a great time spending time with my family In India, and visiting relatives and friends. Over all it was a great holiday except for the 24-hour delay in Boston as I returned to Toronto. And of course, I miss the warm weather as winter is not my favorite season.
As we are in the winter season, a season with slippery roads, and low visibility, it is quite timely that today’s Gospel reading speaks of salt and light. We know salt and light are both powerful elements that fight the problems of this season.
In the Gospel, Christ tells his disciples that they are the salt of earth; they are the light of the world. Brothers and sisters, it goes the same for us as Disciples of Christ. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. That is something to think about and act on. We are the salt that the Lord scatters to preserve those in need. We are the light that the Lord sends out to give comfort to those who dwell in darkness and fear.
It’s not hard to draw from today’s scriptures specific ways in which we are meant to be salt and light. More specifically, listen today to the reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah where Jesus drew his own commitment to hunger and thirst for justice. Isaiah’s demands are as true today as they were in his day. As followers of Christ each one of us, in our own situation is called to loosen the bonds of injustice, share our bread with the hungry, and take care of our own, especially those in need of our help.
I read about an image of being the light of the world that I found very helpful. In large cities, they used to have lamps that they would light. A person would have the responsibility of being the lamplighter, going around lighting one lamp after another. And people were watching the lamplighter doing his work. They could watch him go until the sun went down and couldn’t see him anymore. But they could see a new light come forth. And one said to the other, “This is what it means to be a Christian. Those who are Christians continue to light new lights and you can follow their path by the lights they leave behind.
This Sunday marks World Marriage Day. The purpose of observing Marriage Sunday is to highlight the importance of the Sacrament of Marriage and to affirm couples who strengthen our faith community through their witness. Married life is a vocation, it is a calling. One of the essential things that sustains me in my vocation as a priest is prayer. Prayer is important because it is through prayer, we are given the grace, wisdom and strength to remain true to our commitment. Prayer does not take away trials and difficulties but provides hope that God’s presence brings peace, heals brokenness and restores all things new.
As much as I remind myself, I like to remind you that God is part of your marriage. The life you build together, you build with God; and when you have moments of doubt and discouragement you can count on God’s help, grace and love. It is a love that will never change. It is a love that we all can build our lives on!
Message of Cardinal Collins Thomas
As we celebrate Marriage Sunday in the Archdiocese of Toronto, I wish to congratulate and thank married couples who strengthen our community through their daily witness of love, commitment and selflessness. Your ongoing "yes" provides hope and inspiration for the community.
We also extend our loving support to those who have lost a spouse or have experienced the pain and suffering of a broken relationship. If you are in need of assistance during these difficult days, I encourage you to seek out programs and resources in our diocese so that we may accompany you through the healing process.
To those assisting couples as they prepare for marriage and for those engaged in marriage enrichment programs or movements to support the sacrament of matrimony, be assured of my gratitude. Your ministry is essential in laying a foundation for healthy relationships and loving families, something so urgently needed in our world today.
Thank you for all that you continue to do to value and enrich the sacrament of marriage in our homes and parishes, extending our love for one another to all those we encounter each and every day. May God continue to bless you now and always!
Once upon a time there was an oppressive King. This king was able to work his will on his subjects in all things except one; he was unable to destroy their belief in God. So, he summoned his three wisest advisers. “Tell me,” he said, “where can I hide this people’s God, so that they will not find him.”
The first wise man said, “Hide their God beyond the farthest star, there they will not find him.” “Not so,” said the second wise man. “One day these people may learn to fly beyond the farthest star and there they will find their God. Instead hide him in the depths of the ocean.” “No,” said the third wise man. “One day these people may learn to swim to the bottom of the sea and there they will find their God. Instead, hide their God in the everyday life of the people, there no one will find him.”
The gospel story today concerns three different wise men. Instead of trying to hide God they were the first to find God among his people. Their task was not an easy one. They had to travel a great distance, they had to discern and interpret the signs around them in order to find the right direction. They also had to deal with treacherous people like Herod, who wanted to destroy any threat to his power. And, to their amazement, their destination turned out to be a humble dwelling, where a seemingly ordinary child lived with a carpenter and his wife.
God still lives among his people. Like the three wise men in our gospel, we must look for the signs which point the way to God. We do not have the light from a star to follow, as they did. But there is a light which helps all those who search for God. It is the light of faith and it illuminates the path to Christ. The light of faith can provide us with direction. And when our faith finally leads us to God, we must be willing to follow, to give ourselves to his will. I can recall numerous experiences where I was given signs and invitation to see God in those I am called to minister to. There have been times I have responded to those invitation with much joy. But there have also been times when I have not responded to the invitation to see God, to encounter God in those I am called to serve.
My friends, we receive signs, invitations and directions from God every day. How many times have we failed to move forward because we were not ready to accept what was being asked of us? To find God in our everyday lives we have to be open to the signs he sends us.
Maintaining a discipline of prayer will help us to discern those signs and give us the courage to follow our faith wherever it leads us. Without prayer the light of faith can even go out and then we will have nothing to lead us to God.
The wise men followed the light of a star to Jesus. Many a times we are waiting for Jesus to find us, but we have to be more like those three wise men, and move from where we are to where Jesus is. If we are willing to say yes to the faith that guides our lives, then it will help us see the glory of God that lives among the everyday life of his people.
Dear friends, today we celebrate a God who is not distant and removed from those he has created. We celebrate a God who is living here among his people, who is living within the people that he loves. As we continue our journey of faith, let us pray that on our journey, we may discern the signs of faith that will help us to know God more clearly.
But above all, as we follow the light of faith to Christ let this question be our guide, “If a man or woman came to me, searching for Jesus, would they find him in my everyday life?” Our answer will teach us a great deal about ourselves and about the God that we are looking for.