Unworthy and Joyous
December 6, 2022
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!
This Sunday, we once again encounter John the Baptist. He is apparently an important figure on our path! Recall that the saints are not distant, pious persons on pedestals, examples of virtue beyond the reach of us ordinary people. The saints are divine friends actively journeying with us.
As those of us familiar with our tradition know, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus. John is wholly other-centered. Indeed, last Sunday, we were told, This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness.’ The Voice, not the talent show, but the precursor, forerunner, the last of the prophets, wholly other-centered.
In John the Baptist, we see the attitude of heart that we are to have if we really want to experience how awesome Jesus is: a sense of our unworthiness. Indeed, similar to what John says, I am not worthy to carry his sandals, at every Mass we say, “Lord I am not worthy to that thou shouldest come under my roof…” (Matthew 8:8). This is not an act of self-deprecation, but a happy acknowledgement of how perfect Jesus is, i.e. how unconditional and generous is His love.
Beyond or deeper than the decorating, shopping, baking, visiting and the “already”-Christmas parties (!), such a sense is the right preparation for Christmas. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to awaken this in us. Interior freedom, awe and joy will follow. This is Gaudete Sunday (always the third Sunday of Advent), “rejoice” Sunday. Our joyous Lord gratuitously comes to us in our unworthiness, and we rejoice.
Yours in the Lord of joy,
Only Love Can Convert
November 29, 2022
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153), the French mystic and reformer of the Cistercian order, tells us that “only love can convert the soul, freeing it from unworthy motives.” From a rather different part of the Church, some eight centuries later, Billy Graham (+2018) tells us that “to be a Christian is not a pious pose. It is not a long list of restrictions. Christianity opens the windows to the real joy of living. Those who have been truly converted to Jesus Christ know the meaning of abundant living.”
This Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 3:1-12), for the Second Sunday of Advent, is about conversion. John the Baptist knocks at our door, extending an invitation to turn towards Jesus who comes. Conversion follows. Conversion results from welcoming and being seized in love by Christ, Who illuminates our hearts and minds. Conversion always implies change. John Henry Newman (+1890), (Anglican/Roman priest known for the Oxford Movement which, amongst other things, awakened a new appreciation in the Church for the Eucharist) tells us that “to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”.In conversion, our primary role is to acquiesce, to say “yes” to God, Whom St. Paul, in our second reading (Romans 15:4-13), so lovingly prays, “fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In conversion, we gradually become perfect in love, as we should be. Speaking of which, St. Catherine of Siena (+1380) tells us, “if you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” Ah, the fire of love…
Yours in Christ Who comes,
November 22, 2022
This Sunday, November 27, we end our Stewardship Campaign for the mission of our parish for 2023. This is more than a campaign, however. During stewardship season, we embark on a journey where we allow God’s love to awaken in us even greater generosity of heart. Why? Because our finances, although the fruit of our labour, ultimately belong to God. If so, the best management of our finances is that of generously giving them back to God.
Stewardship is a mark of true discipleship and expresses the goodness of God at work in our lives, awakening generosity of heart and moving us to love and serve one another. Generosity concretely expresses love and is a sign of holiness.
I believe that we stand at an important juncture in the life of our parish and must pray for renewal and growth. We are asking our Lord for the grace to grow in holiness and, because of the resulting “spiritual attractiveness”, to draw new parishioners with whom we may worship in awe.
I am grateful to the members of our parish, and to our broader circle of friends, whose generosity here, in this place, allows us to response to Christ’s call to holiness and to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). By His grace, we can fearlessly give!
Christ the King
November 15, 2022
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, a point of culmination, bringing our liturgical year to a close, preparing us to begin a new liturgical year, awakening in us eschatological (Second Coming) hope.
The kingship of Jesus is indeed different from all other kingships. The kingships of this world are largely kingships of power. Some, on a good day, are kingships of service (I think of the King of Belgium!). The kingship Jesus is a kingship of love--powerful love, but love. Any power in his reign (and there is power, for he is all-powerful) is at the service of love. The kingdom of God is Jesus navigating and awakening the human heart.
What is Jesus’ purpose as king, some may ask? His purpose is to love us into the mystery of God. And, although we would advise Him otherwise, He allows bad and sad things, for this greater good. As hard as it is to fathom at times, He reigns even in our brokenness. How hopeful and liberating to know and to be granted to experience, on our personal journeys, and on our communal journey here at Ascension and Saint Agnes.
When we pray, “Thy kingdom come”, we give Jesus permission to reign in our hearts, in our broken hearts, knowing, in faith, how awesome a King we have. Even when do not realize it, He is navigating and awakening our hearts, loving us into the mystery of God. Something amazing is happening deep inside us. If only we trust, and yield in love. We have every reason to hope, not to be discouraged. His kingdom comes. And “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away.” (Daniel 7:14)
Yours in Him,
November 8, 2022
God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of sound mind. II Timothy 1:7
As disciples and friends of Christ, we have been given the Holy Spirit. We are thus able, in the midst of our fragility, to live boldly, to trust when things even look bleak. We are able fearlessly to give our whole selves back to God. Such giving of self to God concretely includes our time, talent and treasure.
November is Stewardship month, when we pause to consider this gift of self. For many, it will include a pledge to the parish for 2023 (or a simple donation), in support of its mission and ministries. This is a financial expression of gratitude to and trust in the Lord, here at ASA, our spiritual home. Some of you, understandably, may be feeling financially insecure at this time. What is important is not the amount that you give but the fact that you give, back to God, in some meaningful way.
Here are three considerations for those of you discerning what the Lord may be inviting regarding of stewardship of treasure in the form of a pledge. It
“The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.” (I Corinthians 16:21)
Holy Ones of the Most High
All Saints Day
November 1, 2022
“The holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.” Daniel 7:18
“For ever—for ever and ever” AMEN! Today is All Saints Day (moved to this coming Sunday for our celebratory purposes). Actually, we do not celebrate All Saints Days, we celebrate all the saints—our true BFFs, our “for ever and ever friends”, those officially recognized by the Church for their holiness, i.e., their full participation in and sharing of divine love. Amongst other things, they reveal to us the everlasting mystery of “the church, which is Christ’s body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:11-23)
Not all parishes celebrate in such deliberate fashion. We do because, well, the heavenly host are a big deal! One need but look into the clerestory of our church, the upper level of windows. Take a look! All kinds of saints…. We are blessed to be accompanied on our journey by these Sisters and Brothers in Christ. How much richer the journey. We will discover, when we see them face-to-face in the light of God, how strong and merciful an invisible hand they lent along the way. And we will thank them!
With St. Paul, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.” Ephesians 1:17-18—2nd reading).
Yours with the saints,
October 25, 2022
Zacchaeus was “short in stature”, as we read in this Sunday’s gospel passage (Luke 19:1-10). He was height-challenged. A detail we perhaps overlook and might not consider a big deal. Being small, however, for some, can be a big deal. It might have been for Zacchaeus. Depending on how small he was, he may have been prohibited from full participation in the liturgy of ancient Israel. Indeed, in Leviticus, chapter 21, we read “no one who has a blemish shall draw near (to offer the food of his God), one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf…” Zacchaeus does not let this, however, be an obstacle to encounter. And Jesus responds to his hopefulness, and, in this welcoming encounter, Jesus lifts the prohibition. Our difficulty need not hinder our movement towards Christ, our worship; au contraire, a springboard it can be.Jesus indeed encounters and welcomes each of us in our challenges, in our brokenness of body or psyche or heart. He comes to the home of our hearts to stay. Such indwelling sets us free. His presence does not necessarily heal all things (alas!). His presence liberates our hearts to love more, even making mysterious use of the challenges to do so.
Let us eagerly welcome Jesus.
Yours in Him,
Is Humility a Thing of the Past?
October 18, 2022
Without a take-charge attitude, not much gets accomplished. The wallflower just observes, as life goes by, right? The wallflower appears to be the humble person in the room. Does humility, then, hinder human progress? Is humility feigned respect, a tired caricature? Well, not according to Jesus! In fact, in this coming Sunday’s gospel (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus says that “all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus’ exhortation certainly does not preclude taking charge. We are to seek to accomplish great things. Jesus speaks at a deeper level, in reference to God and divine love, which, of course, in turn, transforms our lives. Although there is legitimate humility before persons with great minds and great hearts, the humility of which Jesus speaks entails seeing with eyes of faith and positions our hearts to receive the greatness of God.
Hear words of Scripture and Tradition on this:
Wisdom is with the humble.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart…
No one reaches the kingdom of Heaven except by humility.
St Augustine (+430)
There is more value in a single act of humility than in all the knowledge in the world.
Saint Teresa of Avila (+1582)
Asking for the gift of humility with you, I am
Yours in Christ,
Try, Try, Try Again?
October 11, 2022
The most obvious theme for this Sunday is that of perseverance. The collect (opening prayer) asks, “that the Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name”. St. Paul, in the second reading, encourages Timothy (and us!) to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed” and to “be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable”. And, Jesus offers “a parable about the need to pray always and not to lose heart.”
19th-century British writer W. E. Hickson is credited with the well-known proverb:
Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try, try again.
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try, try again
British Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (+1892) says that “By perseverance the snail reached the ark”.
A question arises: does perseverance in our relationship with God, in the Christian life, consist in trying, trying, and trying again? Well, perhaps. There are choices to be made—sometimes hard, often repeatedly. There is a deliberate effort that consists in operating from deep within the heart, undeterred by inner or outer circumstances, “persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable”. But, perseverance in our relationship with God, in the Christian life, does not consist is “grinning and bearing it”, in “white-knuckling” it across the finish line. The parable is “about the need to pray always and not to lose heart”. Friends of Jesus are not Stoic. Friends of Jesus courageously find refuge in His heart. To pray always is, repeatedly, to bury oneself, in love, in Jesus. It is in His Heart, “fountain of eternal life”, as St. Gertrude (+1302), the German Benedictine mystic, says, that we do not lose heart. Indeed, with her, we can say to Jesus, “your Heart is a glowing furnace of Love. You are my refuge and my sanctuary”.
Grant That I May Behold
October 4, 2022
Allow me to share with you a prayer that is dear to me, a prayer full of awe and love, a prayer that we sometimes pray in the sacristy before our liturgy, our worship. It was composed by a brilliant mind in the Christian Church: Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), a Dominican friar originally from Italy. You may have heard me reference him once or twice! He is Saint Thomas Aquinas, however, as is the case with all saints, because of his love. This “prayer before Communion” is that of someone in love.
Almighty and Eternal God, behold I come to the sacrament of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As one sick I come to the Physician of life; unclean, to the Fountain of mercy; blind, to the Light of eternal splendor; poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. Therefore, I beg of You, through Your infinite mercy and generosity, heal my weakness, wash my uncleanness, give light to my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness. May I thus receive the Bread of Angels, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, with such reverence and humility, contrition and devotion, purity and faith, purpose and intention, as shall aid my soul’s salvation.
Grant, I beg of You, that I may receive not only the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord, but also its full grace and power. Give me the grace, most merciful God, to receive the Body of your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, in such a manner that I may deserve to be intimately united with His mystical Body and to be numbered among His members. Most loving Father, grant that I may behold for all eternity face to face Your beloved Son, whom now, on my pilgrimage, I am about to receive under the sacramental veil, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.
With you on this grace-full journey,
THE REV. DOMINIQUE PERIDANS