Today marks the end of the Christmas season and provides another moment for us to reflect and receive the gift of the Incarnation. When I was in High School in the late 1980s, everyone searched for and clung to an identity within the school community. Maybe it’s the same now, but back in the 80s there were the athletes, or “the Jocks,” the good students, or “the Nerds,” those who liked Heavy Metal music, or the “Head bangers,” those who dressed in the newest fashions, or “the Preppies,” and those who liked Punk music, or “the Punks.” Certainly not an exhaustive list, but what is clear are two things. First, we all search for an identity, and second, once we find it, we cling to it with great tenacity. This is because every human being yearns to belong, to have a sense of community and a place within it. If this desire is so universal within our hearts, then it must be from God. At the same time, however, while we may have particular identities, some short and other long lasting, no identity articulated in this world is ultimately who we are. Who we are can only be found in and through God.
With the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, God reveals and gives to us our true and eternal identity. After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and he came out of the water, the scripture tells us that a voice from the heavens spoke. God the Father proclaimed that “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” We may think that it makes perfect sense for God the Father to say this of God the Son, but how do these words affect us? The Church teaches that through the humanity of the Lord, through his Incarnation, we are drawn by the Son into the relationship he shares with the Father. This means that the words the Father spoke to and of the Son, so too are those words spoken to and of us. Through Christ we have become the children of God. Through Christ it is revealed to us that God is “well pleased” by us, that we are his delight. Here then is our identity. It is not given or confirmed by others, it is given eternally to us by God. It is an identity that may be denied by us, but can never be lost. God is the guarantor. This truth is of the utmost importance for us. As God tells us in Isaiah: “Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.”
God Bless and Take Care,
Recently, I was tossing-and-turning in bed thinking of the lead story from the news I had just watched. It was, of course, about the pandemic - rising case counts in most Provinces and the presentation of the “rollout” for the vaccine in Ontario. I couldn’t sleep because I felt scared which always results in my becoming angry. I was angry with those faceless people who seem to act recklessly and thus endanger everyone else. I was angry with the government for its apparent slow “rollout” of the vaccine and I was angry with policy makers who have placed people my age without other health conditions more towards the back of the line. I felt sorry for myself. These thoughts turned and turned in my mind. Slowly, however, I began to think of something different. Should I not seek to understand why people do what they do instead of jumping to the most critical opinion? After all, it isn’t easy to be without the company of friends. Relationships and affection make us human in many ways. Should I not be happy for others when they receive the vaccine rather than envious? So many people are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus. My good health is a blessing and those whose health is not as strong and those who care for them need to be protected. Should I not wait for my turn trying to live the words of St. Paul – “Love is patient, love is kind.”? As I thought over these questions, I realized I want to be a Christian all the time. Even as I anticipate some return to the lives we use to live and enjoy, such as, the freedom to give and receive a hug, and for the Lourdes Community to be together to celebrate Mass, I must wait and collaborate as a Christian.
Our faith is not restricted to one compartment among many which together constitute our life. On the contrary, our faith is to be present and impactful in every part of our lives. The pandemic hasn’t changed our “marching orders,” it hasn’t altered our mission as given to us by the Son. That being so, how do we proceed, how do we live our faith now? A passage and image from the Gospel have been helpful to me during these moths. The passage is from Matthew’s gospel (Mt. 14: 27) where Jesus walks on the water during a storm. When the disciples see him they think it is ghost but the Lord tells them to “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” In the original text, Jesus says something closer to “I am” instead of “it is I.” The Lord’s use of “I am” reminds us that this is the name God gave to himself in response to Moses at the burning bush in the Old Testament. In the face of a storm and fear, Christ was and is saying, “Be not afraid. God is here with you.” The image comes from Jesus’ frequent reference to Israel and the world as “the vineyard.” While I know that God in his goodness, God is all-Perfect and all-loving did not create the suffering of the pandemic, but God has permitted it to continue. There are things we cannot know with regard God’s action or apparent inaction. Even though we do not understand, our call as his disciples to labour in the vineyard remains constant. And so it seems that our current mission is to labour in the vineyard the Lord in his perfect wisdom has given to us – the vineyard marked by a global pandemic.
As we seek to labour in the vineyard of the Lord in this new year, we do so with his compassion and his love. As we walk the troubled and pained paths of our world we do so with him. When he told the disciples “’I am,’ so take heart and do not be afraid,” the Lord was speaking to them and to us. We begin this new year perhaps with confusion, uncertainty and fear, but we also begin it with renewed love, generosity and hope. And we do so because our God, our Lord, our Saviour, our Brother is with us.
God Bless and Happy New Year,
We are so excited to re-open the Church very soon, and we can't wait to see you.
Our Parish team is working hard to get you all of the information about re-opening at Our Lady of Lourdes, including what social distancing measures will be in place, so that we can protect everyone's health and safety.
For now, this is just a brief note to say "stay tuned" for further information, and share some brief "headlines" for now:
Also, we will be conducting a drive for new volunteers so that we can better accommodate the additional social distancing measures for Sunday Masses (e.g. welcomers/ushers) - more details to come.
Thank you and God bless!
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Team
Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.” Until preparing for this Sunday, I always understood these words in a straightforward manner. They were like three chapter headings in the manual of Christian discipleship. If I did the things implied in “the way” and “the truth” then I would be rewarded with “the life.” I thought Christ’s words were addressed to my hands and head. Just in the past few days, however, I have come to understand his teaching as aiming not for our hands and heads, but for our hearts.
When the Lord speaks of “the way” it is easy for us to think he is targeting our behaviour. As such, his “way” is to become our path, that is, we are to act as he acted. We can reduce the Christian life to a life of imitation. It is like the popular slogan of many years ago – “What would Jesus do?” With this understanding, the Christian life feels similar to a costume, that is, “the way” is external and different from ourselves. I need to learn the actions in order to fit in. When he speaks of “the truth” again, it is easy for us to think it’s all about what we believe. If one believes correctly then one can belong to the Christian flock. But believing the Christian faith to be true and acting accordingly is not merely a conviction of our minds and will, of our heads and hands. It also involves a conviction of our hearts. And that “the way, the truth and the life” is a plea to our hearts is given with the full meaning of “the life.”
The Lord is offering with “the life,” a more basic and vital human need. He is telling us this most beautiful desire of God the Father. “The life” that the Lord gives is a life of communion with the Father. We are being asked to let the Father have what he desires. To let our Father have us forever. Or as Christ said to the disciples, “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” We are offered through the Lord the free gift to be loved eternally; to be judged mercifully and compassionately always; and, to be “dandled” with joy on the Father’s knee. In “the way” and “the truth” Jesus gives us access to the Father and reveals him to us. As he says in response to St. Philip, “[w]hoever has seen me has seen the Father.” It is extraordinary to realize that the desire of God and enacted by his initiative is to be in eternal communion with us. Jesus Christ is indeed “the way, the truth and the life.” His is not primarily a teaching, it is rather an offer. God is offering God’s very self out of love and thoroughly in love with you. How blessed we are.
God Bless and take care,
March 24, 2020
Dear Parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish,
In order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus and so as to comply with the Government of Ontario’s new regulations requiring that all non-essential workplaces be closed, we are sorry to inform you that the church and parish office must remain closed until further notice.
This is a deeply painful, but necessary, decision for our faith community.
However, we are still here for you during this difficult time. You can still leave a voicemail at the parish office: 416-924-6257. Or you can email us at: [email protected] We will return your message as soon as possible. Visit www.archtoronto.org/covid19 for updated information from the Archdiocese of Toronto and for links to view the Daily Mass online. You may also visit our Parish website at www.lourdes.to. If it is an emergency, you may also call or text me (Fr John) at 416-417-1513.
Please continue to pray for those sick and those caring for them. Be assured of our daily prayers for you.
God Bless and Take Care,
Fr John Sullivan, SJ
Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish
To the members of the Our Lady of Lourdes community,