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8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 26, 2017

SETTING THE STAGE

Our readings this Sunday give us the set up for Lent, which begins this Wednesday.  However, I would like to take just a moment to recapture the journey we have been on up until now, for we have been in the little moment of ordinary time since January.

Ordinary time, we said so many weeks ago, is where our knowledge of God is honed into our principles and values.  It is where we develop our habits and behaviors.  Ordinary time is where we find our routines, and our routines is where we really see what we care about.  There is no emotional high that comes from the extraordinary seasons and events of our faith.

These past few weeks, it is when we have learned about being servants, the people of the beatitudes, salt, light.  It is when we have considered own righteousness – that way of living in right relationship with God and our neighbour – love them both so that we may experience our own inner transformation.

Thus, we began with a question about how I am called to serve, is now (hopefully) a question about how am I to love?  . . . which brings us to today.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34)

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7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 19, 2017

LOVE PERFECTED

Last week, we continued our theme of learning how to be the people we are called to be with a renewed understanding of righteousness – that idea of being in right relationship.

It seems to demand that we let go of these illusions about ourselves, God and other people.  That the tenants of our relationship are not so clearly defined the parameters that we have used, but that living with righteousness means to live in love, which is necessarily and always communal.

But as we hinted at last week, if we are to live the Gospel calling to love our neighbor as “God makes the sun rise on the good and the bad; and the rain fall on the just and the unjust” – then we must reconsider the very nature of love, lest we fail to live it fully.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48)

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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 12, 2017

OUR CAPACITY FOR LOVE

In our Gospel today, Jesus tells us that unless our righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Righteousness, it seems to me, often carries a bit of weight, but it is best understood as “right relationship”.  In other words, unless we are in right relationship with God, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  It makes sense, but it helps to flesh this out a little more.

We have been challenged by the Gospel in this vain over the past few weeks.  It has called us to be servants, people of the Beatitudes, Salt and Light . . . and NOW the Gospel is calling us to a greater degree of righteousness than that of our teachers and leaders!

As I said a few weeks ago, what we have received is but a starting place.  Our ancestors received the law, but it alone was not given to save us.  What Jesus is now offering, not only saves but brings us joy.  The challenge is to move beyond our own legalism.  To move beyond a fear of punishment.  To go beyond a sense of obligation.  The sacrifice that Christ demands does not just transform our suffering, but ultimately allows us to live with a freedom and joy that often seems out of reach.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37)

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5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 5, 2017

DIMMING OUR LIGHTS

We have been told that we are servants – from the moment we were formed in the womb.  That we are called – to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  We are people of the beatitudes – blessed because of our detachment from wealth, pleasure, power and honour.  Blessed because of our joy swells from a heart that beats for the Lord – and the Lord alone.

. . . At least that is the goal . . .

Today we hear that we are salt.  And we are light.   But much like Zephaniah last week, it is the prophet Isaiah that clarifies why and how this is true.  For thus says the Lord, share your bread, shelter the oppressed, clothe the naked, and do not turn your back on your own.  THEN your light will shine.  Then your wounds will be healed.  Then you will be the salt that makes the world a better place.

In light of so many headlines, the words of the prophets seem more relevant than ever.  How can anyone who calls themselves a Christian – or identifies with any religion for that matter – ignore the victims of our structural and social sinfulness?

CLICK HERE for the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalm 112; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16)

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4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 29, 2017

THE REMNANT THAT LEADS TO A NEW BEING AND A NEW ATTITUDE

As you know, we are all on a bit of a journey now.  In every way, we are a people in the midst of great transformation.  We are a people who have encountered God and are now called forth – not simply to do, but TO BE the people we are called to be.

Today’s readings offer us a powerful message as we begin to better understand our own servanthood and calling.  The Gospel is one we know as the Beatitudes, but my fear is that we do not know them as we should.   They are the most profound and fundamental lessons of Jesus – the very basic necessitates of the Christian life.  They are his teachings about how we are to live the joy that Christ promised.  They are how we live with ultimate freedom and receive the promises of God.

And yet, when I ask most people to name the basic tenants of Christianity, they do not name the Beatitudes; but rather, the 10 commandments.   Folks, let us make that correction now, because it fundamentally changes how we understand our relationship with God.  The 10 commandments were the starting place, given to the Hebrew people so that they may one day be able to receive salvation through Jesus Christ.  But they were never meant to be the beginning and the end of the Christian life; just as the law was never meant to lead us to joy on its own.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13; Psalm 146; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12)

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 22, 2017

THE CALL OF SUFFERING

If you recall, last week we discussed our own servanthood – not just in action, but in attitude.  Servants are who we are – according to Isaiah, it is how we were formed in the womb.  Thus, this season of Ordinary Time is where knowledge and experience is honed into principles and values.

The same theme continues this week as we encounter Jesus calling forth Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John.  Their service, like ours, is a response to a need – a response to an invitation to be and do something greater.  And if we are to be great in this life, then it will always be that way for real greatness is never manufactured.  Greatness is bestowed and received as a result of the contribution to the needs of the people in the world around us.

And what is that need?  We hear it in our readings today:  to proclaim the Gospel for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  For we have seen a great light.  We have received joy because the burden of meaningless suffering is no longer.  Everything belongs – all has been brought into the light.  Though we may toil and suffer, it is not to satisfy the wants of another – the rod of our taskmaster has been broken.  Because of Jesus, our suffering now has meaning – for now it leads to our own salvation.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17; Matthew 4:12-23)

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 15, 2017

THE WORK OF THE ORDINARY

The Lord says it is too little for us to restore the survivors of Israel; rather, we are going to do something new.

When we lay down our lives for the sake of someone else; when we live – not just in doing, but in thinking and being – when our heart is captivated and our soul sings – not for our own needs, but for the needs of someone greater. . . then we will be a light to the nations for the salvation of God.

But this is hard, soul-wrenching work.  I mean it all sounds nice, but let me tell you. . . when you start to serve like this, it rattles you to the very core.

Perhaps that is why we hear this reading at the beginning of Ordinary Time again.  Because the name is deceiving – or at least our feeling about it is.  I mean we don’t like to dwell in the ordinary, but ordinary is where the life is.  Ordinary is where we find our routines, and where we find our routines is where we see what we really care about.  Ordinary requires discipline because you can’t just live off the emotional high or adrenaline rush.

The readings we hear in Ordinary Time are the ones about discipleship and how we actually LIVE the great extraordinary events like Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter.  They are readings that happen exactly after the Gospel we heard today – after the Baptism of the Lord – after our baptism – because that is when all of this starts to occur.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34)