Category: News

Sunday, January 24, 2021 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Last Sunday, we heard Jesus inviting his first disciples to “come and see”. This Sunday, which is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, in the Gospel according to St. Mark we hear His call to “come follow me.”

“In the wilderness Jesus has withstood Satan’s temptation, and, strengthened in spirit by this personal combat, he comes into Galilee, the “springtime” place of first preaching, first ministry, first calling of disciples. Yet there has also been a winter: the arrest and imprisonment of John the Baptist, which add urgency to Jesus’s first spoken words in Mark’s gospel. The time of God’s reigning presence is at hand, and this Good News of God demands a response. “Repent, and believe in the gospel” may have been repeated as an early Christian baptismal call to the catechumens (the elect) as they descended into the Easter waters to rise up as God’s new creation. At infant baptism our parents and our faith community made this response for us; the challenge is for us to say our own continuing adult “Yes” to this call and grow in our discipleship.

Urged on by his sense of mission, Jesus passes along the lakeside, the Sea of Galilee. He “saw” Peter and Andrew, with a seeing that penetrates to their deepest selves and their future potential as his disciples whom, with all their successes and failures, he will make fishers of people to draw others into the kingdom. All that Simon and Andrew will become will be because of Jesus and, with contagious gospel urgency, “they abandoned their nets” – the source of their income – and follow him. A little further on another two brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee, are called while they are involved in their fishermen’s task of mending nets. Once again the call and response is immediate and the dispossession is radical when they follow Jesus. It is significant that the first disciples whom Jesus calls are people who must leave what is indicative of their success in a brotherly and family venture: boats, nets, hired servants, parent. They follow Jesus, not hoping for a better lifestyle, but urged by his words to an unconditional obedience to him. From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus gathers a community around himself in a relationship of “brotherliness” that the call of two sets of brothers may also suggest.

In some ways, call­ing fishermen to His work seems like an odd choice and yet the skills needed for catching fish (patience, perseverance, hard work, ability to weather storms) would likely come in handy when fishing for people. Within the gospel, Jesus chooses or­dinary people with everyday occupations to be his closest collaborators. Though they were not the obvious choices for founding his church, in following Jesus the disciples gained the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to carry forth Jesus’s mission after his death and resurrection. Today, Jesus continues to call ordinary, everyday people to be “fishers of men.” How will we respond?” (Living Liturgy 2021)

This week our Bishop Crosby published a pastoral letter entitled “For the Common Good”. It had been shared on our Facebook page and will also be available for you to read in our parish bulletin tomorrow. The Bishop reflects on the difficult situation that we find ourselves in right now and encourages us to maintain our spiritual life amid the ongoing lockdown as we are prevented from attending Mass in person and receiving the Body of Christ.

Please note that the parish office remains closed at the present time until February 10, or until further notice. We are monitoring emails and phone calls, replying to them whenever possible to address the most urgent needs.

In your prayers, please remember the souls of our parishioners who passed away this week and their mourning families: Luigi Maciariello and Bruno Perusin. Eternal rest, grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

I will be sending an email tomorrow regarding the upcoming First Reconciliations and First Communions to the parents and guardians of this year’s Grade 2 students, as well as to those of this year’s Grade 3s who did not participate in these Sacraments this past fall. Please stay tuned!

You are invited to join in with the celebration of the Lord’s Day Mass at 10:00am this Sunday, with the Rosary prayed at 9:30am. Also, children are invited to join in with Children’s Liturgy on our YouTube channel, available starting at 8:00am every Sunday.

God bless,
Fr. Mariusz

Pastoral Letter from His Excellency, Bishop Crosby to the faithful of the Diocese.

BISHOP OF HAMILTON
FOR THE COMMON GOOD
On the Pandemic Sacrifices

My dear friends,

The decision to close our churches and suspend public celebrations of the Mass has been a painful one for our clergy, religious, and all the lay faithful in the Diocese. While the sadness of our inability to gather to celebrate the Eucharist is profound, some of the responses to this closure – in addition to falling short of the demands of charity – betray a fundamental lack of understanding not only of why this great sacrifice is being made, but also whose example we follow in so doing.

We know that Holy Communion is the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, the source and summit of the Christian life. His death is the ultimate sacrifice of love for us – to which we are joined when we participate in the Mass and receive Communion. When we eat His Body and drink His Blood, we say that “we become what we eat”, the Body of Christ.

During these pandemic days we are uniting ourselves closely to Christ by making serious sacrifice for the health and well-being of others. This is not a matter of weakness. In fact, during these days of sacrifice, we live selflessly, as we profess- much as Jesus Christ urges us to live – for the common good. By definition, sacrifice is never easy – and during these days and weeks and months of sacrifice we come closer to Him – we are more like Him – because our sacrifice emulates His! Our children are learning a very important lesson during these difficult days: sometimes we have to give up our freedoms, privileges and pleasures in order care for others – so they might live!

Over the past 22 years, I have been blessed to have served three Dioceses as Bishop: the Diocese of Labrador City-Schefferville, St. George’s Diocese, (the boundaries of which were extended prior to being renamed the Diocese of Comer Brook and Labrador,) and the Diocese of Hamilton. In the first two Dioceses there were remote communities of Catholic faithful who rarely had the opportunity to celebrate Mass, because there were few Priests. The people longed for Holy Communion and gathered and rejoiced when a Priest visited and celebrated Mass with them, so they were able to receive the Body of the Lord. This experience of a long wait between Masses will continue for them into an unknown future.

The fact that they cannot receive Holy Communion, however, does not stop them from praying and nurturing a relationship of love with the Lord: the Rosary is still a staple for prayer, reading the Sacred Scriptures prescribed for the day or for the corning Sunday, sharing reflections and praying with neighbours, saying familiar prayers with family and friends. The faithful in these communities will continue to make this sacrifice for months and years to come. In contrast, in Southern Ontario, where we are privileged to have many parishes and priests to serve them, our pandemic sacrifice will last for a few more months, or for as long as it takes to curb the high numbers of citizens – our brothers and sisters – who contract the dreaded virus.

Since the Ontario Government declared a lockdown in the Province of Ontario effective December 26, 2020, the decision was made, once again, to close our Parish churches in the Diocese of Hamilton. While the current government and public health regulations permit gatherings of no more than ten people for worship (including funerals and scheduled weddings), we are asked to limit all gatherings outside of our homes in order to limit the spread of COVID in the community. In compliance with government and public health directives and out of an abundance of charity, gatherings for Masses in our churches, with the exception of funerals and weddings (up to ten people), even in small numbers are suspended for the period of the lockdown.

The decision to close our churches has not been taken lightly and in no way should it be understood as undermining the central place which the celebration of the Eucharist and the other Sacraments hold for us as Catholics. Our need to gather to give thanks to God remains “our duty and our salvation”; our need for true nourishment, which the Eucharist alone provides, continues. Now, however, we unite ourselves spiritually with our priests who are celebrating Mass daily and we rely on the infinite fruits of the Mass to sustain us.

We continue to pray for one another, for those who are suffering in any way during this pandemic and for those who have died. Let us pray with confidence in God’s mercy, that the promise of an effective vaccine will be realized and we will soon be able to return to gather again in our churches to give God thanks, to worship with the sacred assembly, and to be nourished with the Body and Blood of the Lord.

Sincerely in Christ and Mary Immaculate,
(Most Rev.) Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton
January 18, 2021

Sunday Homily, January 17, 2021

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B:
By Fr. Claude Perera, OMI

Theme: Vocation

Readings:                                                                                                                        

First Reading: 1 Samuel 3:3b–10,19
The Lord calls Samuel.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 40:2, 4, 7–8, 8–9, 10
A prayer of commitment to follow the will of the Lord.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:13c–15a,17–20
Paul reminds the Corinthians that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Gospel Reading: John 1:35–42
John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Lamb of God, and Jesus receives his first followers.

Background to the Readings and Homily


In the first reading of today from the book of Prophet Samuel, we hear the call of Samuel. The name Samuel may mean most likely “God heard”. His birth was a result of God hearing his mother Hanna’s bitter cries as a barren woman in advanced age. Samuel was the last of the Judges who succeeded Eli as the high priest at Shiloh. During the period of Judges, there is no mention of prophetic activity except twice, i.e. Deborah the female Judge who was a prophetess (Jud 4:4) and the anonymous prophet of Israel (Jud 6:8-10). Samuel was not only a Judge, but also first major prophetic figure who had both religious and political functions to play as they settled down in the Promised Land. Thus, his call was a hall mark in the history of Israel. For a person of such stature, a vague and hazy call will not do. It had to be well discerned and known for sure. That is why he had to be called three times. Finally, it was Eli, the High Priest of Shiloh who identified it. Besides, it was not something sporadic.  His parents had brought him as a young child to live in the temple to serve God in fulfillment of the vow made by his mother,

Anow let us turn to today’s gospel. As the second Sunday in the Ordinary time of the Year, which is a B Year of the cycle of Sunday readings during which we should have read the Gospel of Mark, but we had today’s gospel from John. And that is a continuation of last Sunday’s reading. Today’s gospel reading immediately follows John the Baptist’s testimony and his identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God. Having received the baptism by John, Jesus begins to gather followers. The first followers of Jesus were former followers of John the Baptist. They were looing for Jesus because of the testimony of John the Baptist who spoke of Jesus as the Lamb of God. We hear it at Mass everyday at the fraction rite. For Jews, this title brought the memories of the first Passover feast when the paschal lamb was first offered as a sacrifice before God after which the Israelites began acquiring their freedom from slavery in Egypt. This designation as the lamb of God also recalls prophet Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant of Israel. Using this name for Jesus, John the Baptist alludes to Jesus’ passion and death and thus, a new interpretation of the Jewish Passover begins in terms of the Last Supper, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
Andrew and another man were already followers of John the Baptist. After hearing John’s testimony of Jesus being the lamb of God, these two became followers of Jesus. They began to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Faith becomes contagious. Andrew then brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus who also followed him It is not that they understood the meaning
of that title of Jesus. They followed him because their teacher, the Baptist pointed at him. When they ask for Jesus’ whereabouts, He told them to come and see. Jesus was an itinerant preacher. He had no sedentary occupation or a mailing address unlike ours during His public life. His was a journey of faith going from place to place. The disciples gradually got accustomed to this strange way of life. The Lord moulded them to become like him.

When we speak of vocation in the Church, we often restrict it to clerical state and religious life. This is a gross mistake. It is a biblical fallacy. In the Bible, God calls people to varied and multiple services. In the Church, similarly, there are many and varied charisms (1 Cor 12:5). Among them only some are exercised in contexts of clerical or consecrated life. Many of the services or ministries in the church are exercised by the members of the laity. God in His opportune time will provide pastors for his people (Pastores dabo vobis – Jr 3:15). But what is important is that we prepare the ground for future devoted and committed Catholic leaders through the Christian/Catholic formation we give our children at home and in Catholic schools. Our homes with committed holy parents must be places where Christian/Catholic values are being lived, witnessed, and promoted. Children growing in such homes, have greater chances of becoming good human beings, and God-willing, good Christians/Catholics some day. If there is a good laity in the Church, vocations, be it for clerical/religious way of life or for lay leadership, will keep breeding. Rather than wailing over the dearth of vocations, we must do the spade work during the childhood and adolescence of our progeny, and of course, pray to the Lord of the harvest so that He may send labourers to His harvest (Mt 9:37-38).

Happy Sunday! Bon Dimanche! Buona Domenica! Schönen Sonntag! Gelukkige Zondag! Szczęśliwej Niedzieli! Sretna Nedjelja! Shubha Iru Dinak, Iniya Gnaayiru! Ravivaar Mubaarak Ho!

Sunday, January 17, 2021 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

 After all the excitement of Advent and Christmas, we find ourselves entering into the beautiful liturgical season of Ordinary Time. This Sunday we read from the Gospel of John about when John the Baptism points to Christ as the one whom we should follow.

“As we begin our journey through Ordinary Time, the gospel begins with look­ing and gazing and responding to the call to discipleship. John the Baptist stands with two of his disciples, ready to decrease in personal significance so that Jesus may increase (cf. John 3:30). After his testimony there will be no hang­ing onto or hankering for his former disciples. John watches Jesus pass by; the eyes of John’s heart penetrate to the reality of this man, and he points him out to his disciples as the Lamb of God. The Jewish religious experi­ence of the lamb was as the sacrificial offering that overcame the alienation of sin and created unity between the people and God. In whatever way the Baptist’s disciples understood his words, they were spoken with an urgency that made them leave John and follow Jesus. Jesus himself turns and sees them. The word the evangelist uses for “saw” (theásthai) has the sense of gaz­ing contemplatively and engagingly at these two followers. Jesus then asks them his first question in the fourth gospel: “What are you looking for?” It is a question that will persist throughout this gospel, from this first chapter to the garden of the resurrection morning, but by then the “What” has become “Whom” in the intimate encounter of Jesus and Mary Magdalene (John 20:15). 

The two disciples ask Jesus, the Teacher (Rabbi), where he is staying, and he responds by inviting them to “Come, and you will see.” Their question is about a place; their experience is about abiding for the rest of the day in a relationship with a person, about the beginning of a new communion between the people and this Lamb of God. The “where” is not as important as the “with whom.” The pattern of discipleship is established: through witness (of the Baptist), others follow and experience Jesus’s truth for themselves. They in turn bring others to Jesus. One of the first two who followed Jesus remains anonymous, perhaps as a Johannine invitation to future readers to see a challenge to themselves in the following, seeking pattern of discipleship. The other is later named as Andrew, who announces to his brother, Simon Peter, that he has found the Messiah… This gospel proclaims that all discipleship is an active and involving relation­ship with Jesus: a following, seeking, staying, finding, and dialoguing with him everyday.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

Over the past few weeks of the Christmas Season I haven’t provided any updates on the ongoing One Heart, One Soul Campaign taking place in the “second wave” of parishes in our Diocese. I would like to let you know that we have received an additional 17 pledges since I last remarked on our progress just before the lockdown. At this time our parish has pledged $342,152 to the campaign, which is 63% of our 2017 income and 56% of our fundraising goal. Thank you to everyone who has given their support, which will help to address the most urgent needs of our parish (leaking roofs, the freezing lobby of the church and leaking candle rooms) and make our gatherings for fellowship, prayer, and worship more comfortable and pleasant. We still have a long way to go to achieve our goal, and therefore I renew my invitation to parishioners who have not yet made a pledge to join in as you are able in supporting the future of our parish. 

Due to the lockdown at the present time, we are prevented from being together in person for the celebration of the Holy Mass, and must have very limited numbers for funerals, weddings and baptisms. In this situation, the best thing we can do is to unite ourselves spiritually by participating in the livestreaming of daily and Sunday Masses, the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as well as the weekly Children’s liturgy videos, on the parish YouTube channel. There is also the continuing opportunity to participate in online gatherings on Zoom for Bible Study (which will soon begin a new program – please see the  parish bulletin for more details) and youth groups for students in Grades 3-12 (please see the Youth Ministry page in the parish website). Join us in these celebrations and online gatherings to remain spiritually fit and close to Christ. This way the bond of unity grows between us and Christ.

God bless everyone and see you online.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday Homily, January 10, 2021

The Baptism of the Lord 2020
By Deacon John Girolami

Jesus immersed in the human experience

Today, Mark tells us the story of the baptism of Jesus. This story is very different than the stories of Jesus that we heard over the Christmas season. Jesus is now a man and John the Baptist his cousin who lept in the womb of Elizbeth is grown up as well. He is going about his ministry, calling the people of God to repent from their sins.

Jesus comes forward to meet John at the Jordan to be baptized. Christ himself steps forward to fulfill His promise to the Father. He begins his ministry freely, knowing that the journey takes Him to the cross. He is baptized by John, signifying the beginning of his life of service to his people, as their Savior. The Father sends the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove which descends upon Him. Then the Father’s voice is heard.

“You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased. “; a revealing of Jesus as God by God the Father himself. Today God the Father himself shows us that Jesus is His beloved Son.  Jesus wills to be baptized by John to bring us salvation.

This is the second time we are shown Christ as the Savior, the Son of God in the scriptures. The first was at the visit of the wise men that were led by the star. Here Christ is shown as the savior of not only the Jews but of all men.

The third manifestation or showing of Christ as the Son of God will be at the wedding feast at Canaan where Jesus changes water into wine.

But why has Christ chosen to be baptized? He is sinless. He needs to repent for nothing. What is he doing there? Why has he come?
Jesus comes to be immersed in the experience of humanity.

This shows Christ’s solidarity with us. He is both God and man. As a child He experienced what it feels like to be born. He will know what it is to die on the cross. At the Jordan, Jesus is there with all the sinners.  But in Christ a new creation is begun. He elevates the human body and the human soul to no longer be a slave to sin but to be a child of God. He shows us what life was intended to be all along.

When we are baptized, we too have been claimed by the Father. We share a type of identity with Christ. And when I celebrate the sacrament of baptism, I hear these words in the back of my mind every time the water is poured on the head.
“You are my son. You are my daughter, my beloved.” The newly baptized receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

By virtue of His baptism at the Jordan, we are invited to reflect on our own Baptism. We are asked to look at ourselves and see if we are meeting our baptism commitments, to follow Christ and his ways, to live a life of love of God and love of neighbor.  As his followers we should lead others to Jesus by our example, our behavior so that they see Christ in us. In doing so, they can build their own relationship with Christ. This should be seen in every area of our lives. Baptism is a birth into the Christian community and is in every way as solemn and as important as physical birth itself.  In baptism we become by adoption, children of God. We are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. Through the visible signs of the sacrament we are inwardly transformed. It shows God’s belief in us that we are created for good. By the pouring of the water at baptism, the person is recreated by God in His image. God breaks the lineage we have with Adam and Eve and we are remade without the fall interfering with our creation.

So, we can see how the baptism of Jesus is a showing of God to man, and an encounter with God. What we forget is that every time the sacrament of Baptism is celebrated, it is a showing of who God is and how God saves his people. It is an encounter with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the sacrament. We also receive the graces of baptism and we enter into a new personal relationship with our God. It is also an invitation into Christ’s mission.

The soul was asleep, hidden under the blanket of original sin. The soul comes to life and is fed by the grace of the Father. Before all else, baptism consists of being recreated and incorporated into a new higher kind of life, a supernatural life of grace. It involves coming into a new kind of spiritual relationship as a child of God through Christ.
We ourselves become a means by which Christ is shown to the world. We become a Christian.

The venerable Archbishop Sheen of the United States defined Christianity is this way: “Christianity is not a system of ethics; it is life. It is not good advice; it is divine adoption. Being a Christian does not consist of just being kind to the poor, going to church, singing hymns or serving on parish committees, though it includes all these. It is first and foremost a love relationship with Jesus Christ. “

How do we show Christ to the world?
We do so by finding the lost. Maybe a friend is overwhelmed with all this Covid talk and need someone to check on them, to reach out to them.
We do so by healing the broken. Maybe a friend has lost a loved one and needs help finding some hope in each day.
We do so by making music in the heart. Maybe someone needs to just hear some good news, some joy, like to sound of a new born baby.
Do this and people will know you are a follower of Christ. They will know by your love.

Sunday, January 10, 2021 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

This Sunday’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas season within our liturgical year. The day after will be the first Monday of Ordinary Time. In the Gospel St. Mark describes for us Jesus’s arrival from the humble and unimportant village of Nazareth and choice to go down into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized by John.

 “Baptism is an ancient practice with some roots in the Essene community and in the ministry of John. Many of those ancient Jewish people who felt a need to repent of sin and experience forgiveness were baptized by John in the Jordan. How strange then that Jesus, too, went to John to be baptized. This has been a theological quandary ever since. Each evangelist handles the matter in a slightly different way, with the Gospel of John skipping the baptism altogether, so that John simply testifies to Jesus as the Lamb of God!

Baptism will be the way new members, too, are grafted on to this people of God, in imitation of Jesus himself. At the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus commands the Eleven to go to the nations (Gentiles) and make disciples by bap­tizing them.

We see baptism then as a dying to a former way of life and living now for God. Once baptized we are welcomed into the family of God, living a life in the spirit, the same spirit that animated the ministry of Jesus. On this feast of the baptism, let us recall the meaning of our own baptism and live lives worthy of that call.

This Sunday’s feast marks a transition in the life of Jesus from his quiet, family life in Nazareth to the active years of his public ministry. It is telling that in the life of Christ the vast majority of his years were occupied with the tasks of everyday living: working as a car­penter, eating meals with his family, praying in the synagogue, and making pilgrimages to worship in the temple in Jerusalem.

In the Christmas season, we might have also experienced a time of “being” instead of “doing.” With the chaos of Christmas preparation over, hopefully these last few weeks have been a time to spend with family (not so much with friends this year due to the pandemic) to live out the joy of the incarna­tion, to grow closer to Emmanuel, God with us.

Beginning Monday, as we enter Ordinary Time, we are invited to begin to integrate what we have experienced throughout this holy season. What have you encountered in the gospels of Christmas, the feast of the Holy Family, the solemnity of Mary, Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord that has touched your life in a new and different way? And as you continue your life in the world through work or school or community service and interaction, how can you bring what you have experienced with you? In the waters of our own baptism we were anointed priest, prophet, and king, and assured of our own “be­lovedness” as a daughter or son of the living God. How is God calling you to live out this belovedness in your own public ministry?” (Living Liturgy 2020)

As we conclude the time of the Christmas Season, I would like to thank Fr. Claude, Deacon John and Deacon Carmelo for assisting at the Christmas Masses and making themselves available to preach on selected dates. Thank you to our musicians for providing musical accompaniment at all of the Christmas Season Masses and beautifully singing the carols before them. Thank you to our custodian Marc for serving as a lector during this time. Also, many thanks to a number of parishioners who sent cards and wishes to our parish office staff and to Fr. Claude and I during this time of year. Thank you for your generosity to us that was expressed to us by a variety of gifts.

Just a reminder that the parish office remains closed until January 23rd due to the ongoing provincial lockdown or until further notice. We try to monitor incoming calls and emails with requests for donations envelopes and calendars for 2021 and Mass intentions, responding to them when it is possible.

Our three youth groups for students in Grades 3-12 resume this coming week over Zoom! It’s never too late to join, or for students to try out a meeting to see if they would like to join. Each meeting is an opportunity to spend time with the Lord, build community with one another, explore our faith, and have fun lots of fun! Meetings include screen games, videos, faith-based messages and conversations, and time for prayer. You can click here for more information, including schedules and registration forms, and stay tuned to the online bulletin this weekend for a special video about youth group prepared by some of this year’s leaders and participants!

Join us this Sunday for the celebration of the Mass at 10:00am on our YouTube channel, with the Rosary prayed at 9:30am. Please know that you can pray with us in the parish community daily by joining us for daily Masses, the Rosary and the Chaplet. The schedule for the entire week, including Mass intentions, is provided in our online bulletin. And finally, please invite your family and friends to subscribe to our YouTube channel… the more the merrier! Thanks.

God bless.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday Homily, Solemnity of the Epiphany, January 3, 2021


Theme: Jesus, the Light of the Nations
by Fr. Claude Perera, OMI

Readings:

First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6
All nations will flow to Jerusalem.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13
All nations shall worship the Lord.

Second Reading: Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6
Gentiles are coheirs of the promise of Christ.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
The Visit of the Magi

Background on the Readings and the Homily

The event which Isaiah 60 describes in the First Reading of today recaps the story of the return of the exiles to Jerusalem. King Cyrus of Persia, who defeated the Babylonians and made Persia the dominant power in the region (Ezra 1:1) in his edict of 539 said that that the Lord charged him to set free forty-two thousand exiles together with servants and animals, and to return to Jerusalem and begin the task of rebuilding the temple (Ezra 2-3). He returned the gold and silver vessels amounting to about 5000 of them robbed from Jerusalem temple by the Babylonians (Ezra 1:10). They were given one hundred talents of silver, and to one hundred measures of wheat, and to one hundred baths of wine, and to one hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much” (Ezra 7:21-22). Then they started on foot walking back to their homeland.

How does Isaiah describe this event in the reading? He first speaks of the thick darkness that surrounded them because they were in a foreign land away from their homeland where alone they believed that God could be present. Now their caravans were moving back to their motherland. It was the place of light. Look at the vocabulary of luminosity in the reading. The glory of Yahweh has risen on you. On you Yahweh is rising and over you his glory can be seen. The nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness. Lift up your eyes and look around: all are assembling and coming towards you. At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart will throb and dilate, since the riches of the sea will flow to you; the wealth of the nations comes to you.  The author expresses people’s happiness as they are walking towards Jerusalem, the city of light. It was dark all this time because the enemies have destroyed the temple, the place where God inhabited. Now that temple is going to be rebuilt and God will recommence to dwell among them.

This was a prophecy which reached its climactic fulfillment in Christ. Five hundred years later, Jesus Christ, the true light of the world was going to be born in that very same land. At His birth, a radiant star will appear. Magi or some wise men from the East would came following His star to worship him. The magi formed the sacred caste of the Medes. They functioned as priests in Persia and exerted an influence on the society. Median priests were not originally called Magi, but guardians of the fire, and it was the Chaldaeans who first named them Magi. They received royal patronage with Nebuchadnezzar gathering round him the religious teachers and wise men of the conquered people (Dn 1:3, 4, 20), the magi probably became a syncretistic sect, although they opposed idolatry.

The Jewish expectation of a star as a sign of the birth of the Messiah is mentioned in the Tractate Zohar of the Gemara, the component of the Talmud containing rabbinical analysis and commentary on the Mishnah. Mt 2:2 says, “We Saw His Star in the East”The Greek word aster (“star”) in may mean a comet. Kepler, proposed a hypothesis in 1606, that in May of 7 BCE there was a remarkable conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and/or Venus which were clearly observable by the naked eye. This was later confirmed by Münter, the Lutheran Bishop of Zealand in 1821, and advocated by C.L. Ideler in 1826. William’s comet catalogue (1871) mentions a broom comet that appeared in 5 BCE as recorded by Chinese scholars. If we say that the star in Mt 2:9 was a comet, then that goes contrary to the findings of modern astronomy.  For a comet could not have disappeared [unless it was a Stella Nova], and reappeared, and stood still like the Matthean star. So, what the Magi saw might have been a Stella Nova, a star which suddenly increases in magnitude and brilliance, and then disappear altogether.

Why did Matthew choose Persian Zoroastrian Magi and elements of astrology to herald the coming of Jesus Christ? Did they have any special significance which we have lost today? Was it their astrological beliefs that led them to Jesus? Courtney Roberts in his Star of the Magi … says that the Magi had hoped for a savior born of a virgin in fulfillment of prophecies made about him. Ancient Persian beliefs did have an influence on the formation of Jewish apocalyptic ideas which gave them hope as they were oppressed by the Roman yoke. Such expectations revolved round astrology rather than astronomy.Since Matthean Magi came from the East, they have commonly been identified as Persian/Median priests or astrologers. One thing which we cannot deny is that at this time due to Persian and Hellenistic influences there was a great interest in astronomy and astrology and respect for those who practised them, however contrary it may have been to Jewish faith. We cannot deny that there must have been some special divine revelation (not specified in the Bible), by which the magi came to know that the birth of this child was no mere casual happening, but part of the divine plan as depicted by an extraordinary star. 

Prescinding from all these academic considerations, let us not look for precise chronological and historical details from the Bible. Bible contains historical truths, but that is a history interpreted from the point of the faith of a believing community. We must learn to look for the salvific truths or messages clothed in various literary forms. Matthew would have been familiar with this Stella Nova. He gave it a theological significance. Matthew made the star of Bethlehem a symbol of Christ, the light of the world. The star that appeared at Jesus’ birth testified to the light He was. This light was rejected by His own people, led by their cruel King Herod the Great who preferred to be in the dark and be engaged in the activities of the evil forces of darkness. Thus, the light was diverted to the gentiles. That is how we are Christians as Paul says in today’s second reading. The meaning of the feast of Epiphany (from Greek, meaning ‘Manifestation’) is that Jesus, the Light who manifested himself to the gentiles who accepted Him, empowered them to become children of God (Jn 1:12) and be saved.    

Through baptism, Jesus offered us the same direct revelation of the light of the world. Like His own people, are we going to reject Him or be indifferent to him? On this feast of the Epiphany, we must find an answer to this intriguing query.

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Dear Friends,

In the next several hours we will say “good-bye” to the year 2020 AD, which has been a tremendous challenge to so many (countries, communities, our own community, families and individuals). And we will welcome the new year of 2021, praying that, as the reading from the Book of Numbers proclaims: “The Lord bless us and keep us; the Lord make His face shine upon us and be gracious to us; the Lord turn His face toward us and give us peace.” And also, as we welcome a new year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

“In today’s gospel there is excitement as the shepherds hurry into Bethlehem to pour out what they have heard and seen to anyone who would listen to them. But at the center of this movement and ferment is Mary, the still point around which it all revolves. She says nothing, but in her heart she treasures and ponders all that is happening. The word that Luke uses here for “reflecting on” is symballo, a word in the Greek that literally means to “throw together.” With Joseph at her side and her child lying in a manger wrapped in the swaddling cloths that bind both king and commoner (cf. Wis 7:4), Mary, the contemplative woman, silently holds and “throws together” in her heart the events of divine conception and human birth, heavenly hosts and hillside shepherds. Years of seeking to understand lie ahead of her as the first and most faithful of the disciples of Jesus. In her pondering and remembering, Mary is a model for our reading of the Word of God (our lectio divina), and the conversation between that Word and events of our own lives.

As we gaze on this peaceful woman, we can appreciate how appropriate it is that January 1 has been chosen by the church as the day on which we pray for world peace. Like her, we are called to gaze on the child who is the Prince of Peace. It is his reign, not the Pax Romana, not the Pax Americana, nor any other political maneuvering, that will make peace… a reality in our hearts and in our world. Then humanity will be a people of praise, and all the nations will “be glad and exult.” The responsibility for peace is now in our hands.

Mary’s role as Jesus’s mother renders her a unique witness to the life of the Messiah. She knows of him from Gabriel’s words before he is conceived in her womb, she participates in his birth, and she cares for him as an infant, child, and adolescent. Throughout these intense years of mothering the son of God, she must have heard and seen many things. In Mary we find a model of discipleship and also a model of glorifying and praising God with the entirety of her body, mind, soul, and spirit. In reflecting on all she has heard and seen within her heart, she shows us a way of living deeper each day into the mystery of the incarnation.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

As we find ourselves in the second lockdown of this year and without the possibility of gathering together in our church to celebrate the Christmas Season, please know that you are invited to join in for daily and Sunday Masses on our YouTube channel whenever possible. The schedule for those celebrations is in our bulletin on the parish website. Since this Friday we observe the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, which is a holy day of obligation in normal circumstances, we will have 2 Masses on this occasion: one on Thursday evening at 5pm and one on Friday at 10am. Both will be livestreamed.

Please know that your parish needs your assistance during this time, as this is now the second occasion that we missed a substantial collection (Easter being the first and Christmas the second). It’s not too late to donate to the parish before the end of the year. Donation envelopes can be dropped off through the mail slot at the parish office, they can still be mailed to us, or you can make a donation on our website under the “Donate” tab. Please know that when you donate on the website, the email that you subsequently receive contains the PDF file which should be used for your tax purposes. Thank you to all who are supporting our parish at this time and have been throughout the year.

I would like to mention that in the past a number of our parishioners expressed an interest in Preauthorised Giving. Sometime in the next couple of days, our bookkeeper Jean Goobie will personally contact those individuals who previously filled out and submitted a Preauthorised Giving form to ask if they are ready to begin giving to the parish in this manner. I would invite everyone to think about this option, as it will gradually eliminate the need for donation envelopes, allowing us to go “green” in the near future and avoiding the expense of paying for the envelopes every year. I have posted the form on our website under the “Donate” tab for your consideration.

Also, please note that due to the provincial lockdown, the parish office is closed until January 23 or until further notice. At this time all emails and phone calls are monitored by me and sometimes remotely by our parish staff.

And finally, you are invited to read an article by Fr. Claude, which he wrote for a newspaper in Sri Lanka, on the question of: Was Jesus a present? The article is posted on our website under the “News” tab.

Thank you for your time, everyone. See you in the new year of 2021!

God bless.
Holy Mother of God – pray for us!
Fr. Mariusz

Was Jesus a Peasant?

By Fr. Dr. Claude J. Perera, OMI

Our common knowledge about Jesus belonging to the rural peasantry in Galilee has been challenged by recent archaeological discoveries done in an ancient town, Sepphoris by name. At the very outset, we got to clarify the term ‘Peasant.’ The Cambridge English Dictionary has two definitions to the word ‘Peasant.’

  1. “a person who owns or rents a small piece of land and grows crops, keeps animals etc. on it, especially one who has a low income, very little education, and a low social position. This is usually used of someone who lived in the past or of someone in a poor country”:
  2. “a person who is not well educated or is rude and does not behave well.”

Does any of these definitions correctly and adequately describe who Jesus was? In trying to answer this question, one first thing we need to examine is what St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus was by profession. Was he a peasant? There is no evidence to substantiate an argument to that effect.    

Jewish historian Josephus (37/38 – 100 CE) presented Jesus of Nazareth as belonging to an artisan class, but his social class is said to be below peasants (contrary to the general understanding that artisans were above peasants) and was likely illiterate. Jesus’ foster-father Joseph’s occupation (tekt¯n in Greek, in Mk 6:3) has been variously rendered as ‘carpenter’ (2 Kgs 22:6); ‘craftsman,’ ‘workman’ (Is 44:12); ‘smith’ (1 Sm 13:19); ‘woodworker’ and ‘stonemason’ (2 Sm 5:11); ‘worker in brass’ (1Kgs 7:2) and ‘unskilled day laborer.’ (Cf. LEH Greek- English Lexicon of the Septuagint[CP1] ). His knowledge and the use of vivid imagery related to rich landowners and masters who had slaves and servants seem to suggest that he was no mere rustic frog in a well. These suggest that he would have been aware of a mixed sociological surrounding. Whether or not artisans were above or below peasants may not be too relevant. Jesus’ occupation may not have much to do with his literacy. But what really matters for his literacy is the place where he lived. If he had lived in a backwater area, then probably he would have been illiterate because he did not come from a wealthy merchant or priestly family whose children alone had the patrimony of education at that time. Education being expensive and rare, it was beyond the reach of artisans and peasants. Such high society did not lived in rustic hamlets, but in cities

Scholars debate as to whether Jesus was literate. Chris Keith in “Jesus and Literacy,” inhttp://bibleodyssey.com/en/tools/ask-a-scholar/jesus-and-literacy (access 12.11.2020) rules out the possibility of Jesus being literate, whereas  Craig A. Evans in Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence (SPCK, 2013) pp. 63–88 advances arguments to the contrary. However, there is little evidence to say that Jesus had any formal education. His knowledge of Scripture is most likely resulting from listening regularly to sacred texts and commentaries at the synagogue.  Interestingly, the question of Jesus’ education and mentorship was intriguing to Christians in the late second century.  During his youth at Nazareth, Jesus would have been an artisan like his foster-father Joseph. But during his public life, Jesus was a teacher, a wise person. He was not an academic, but with the kind of the oral education of a God-fearing and good Jewish family as well as his Jewish home-upbringing in the Nazareth region.

He would have been trilingual, namely, Aramaic, Greek, and the liturgical language of Hebrew. Aramaic was an ancient Semitic language, now mostly extinct, was the language of the Aramaeans from about the late 11th century B.C.E. A version of it is still extant in some Chaldean Christian communities in Iraq and Syria. With trade and military expeditions, Aramaic language had spread in that region by the 7th century B.C.E., and it had become the lingua franca in much of the Middle Orient. In the first century CE, it would have been the most common language of ordinary Jewish people. Most religious scholars and historians agree that historical Jesus and his disciples spoke a Galilean dialect of Aramaic. Hebrew belongs to the same linguistic family as Aramaic. At the time of Jesus, Hebrew was also the language of religious scholars and of Holy Scriptures. The Hebrew Bible almost in its entirety was written in Hebrew, although it contained some small section in Aramaic. The Bible had been already translated into Greek already by the third century BCE.

Together with Aramaic and Hebrew, the colonial languages of Greek and Latin were also common in Jesus’ time. As Alexander the Great invaded Archaemenid Persian Empire and defeated the Persian Emperor Darius III at the battle of Issus in 333 BCE, Greek replaced other languages as the official language of the region by and large. With the Roman conquest of the Greek Empire in 146 BCE, in its Eastern region to which belonged Judea kept Greek as its lingua franca. The use of Latin (the official language of the Roman Empire) was reserved for legal and military matters. According to Jonathan Katz, a Classics lecturer at Oxford University, Jesus’ would have probably known some Greek, as it was a common language of the people with whom he spoke regularly, although most likely he may not have been too proficient. He further says that his knowledge of Latin probably would have been restricted to a few words. For sure, he would not have spoken Arabic since it began to be used in Palestine only after the first century CE. In conclusion, we can say that Jesus’ most common spoken language was Aramaic, but he was still familiar with three or four different tongues even if not fluent, or even proficient.

The apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas written ca 185 CE says that Jesus was not educated in the strict sense of the word, but he excelled much more than his teachers at the synagogue (Chapters 6 -8). However, certain linguistic and rhetorical heritage found in the synoptics as well as in the Fourth Gospel could be explained by the Redaction Critical Approach (Redaktionsgeschichte– ‘Redaction Criticism’) to the gospels, where such sophistications should be understood as the work of evangelists who reworked the oral forms that were circulating in the Apostolic Community (Formgeschichte – ‘Form Criticism’). The sacred authors left their imprints, (i.e. traces of the instrument (by the Instrumental Authors) on their final products (i.e. gospels) which are attributed the Principal Author, God although His Spirit inspired the sacred authors. The language and rhetorical abilities that come to the fore are not from Jesus, but from the evangelist. But the saving message they convey came from Jesus’ wisdom as the Son of God.

Recent discussions of Jesus’ social class locate him within the social structures of Mediterranean society generally, or particularly in the Galilean society of the first century. There seems to be a debate among many contemporary scholars about Jesus as to whether he was really a peasant or someone higher in the socio-economic strata. We know in general he was from the lower class, by the standards of the Roman imperial aristocracy or even of the ruling class of Palestine, the Herodian client kings. He may have been an artisan, but he does not seem to have been a peasant in the strict sense, someone who was working the land for a living. However, he was close to peasant society. The images used in his parables and aphorisms show that he was firmly rooted in peasant society (Mt 13:4-9, 18-32, 44-50; 18:31ff.; 24:32; 25:14ff; Lk 12:24-32; 15:4-7; 21:29-32). But they also call upon images of landowners and bailiffs (Lk 12:13-21; 20:1-16) and relationships between slaves, masters, (Lk 16:13; 19:11-27; Mt 10:24; Jn 8:33) and servants (Lk 16:1-8, 19-31; 18:18-23). So, Jesus knew the social stratification of the time well. He may well have stood in some relationship to it.

Prescinding from settling into the easy answer of resorting to Jesus’ divine omniscience as the source of his knowledge (while not contesting the same in any manner), were there other natural situations that would have made him more literate and having a higher social standing? Our common knowledge about Jesus belonging to the rural peasant in Galilee has been challenged by recent archaeological discoveries done in an ancient town, Sepphoris by name.

Jesus grew up in the bucolic village of Nazareth in the Lower Galilee which would have had a small population of about 100 -200 people. Was Jesus a backwater from a hinterland, totally cut of from the neighbouring urban life? Some fascinating recent archaeological discoveries prevent us from giving an affirmative answer. This archaeological site containing the ruins of the then active ancient city center of Sepphoris is less than four miles from Nazareth. Sepphoris is said to have been the capitol of the Galilee. The name Sepphoris is from Hebrew sipphoris meaning ‘bird.’ For It was called so because it lay on a mountain like a bird perched on it. It was the first capital of Herod Antipas (20 BCE to 39 CE) who was Herod’s son, who succeeded him as the tetrarch, or governor of Galilee and Perea. He changed the city’s new name to Autocratoris, rebuilt it mingling Jewish and Greco-Roman architecture, calling it ‘the jewel/ornament of the Galilee’ because of its beauty and wealth (Josephus, Ant. 18.27). It was the wealthy trade center for the area. Like the splendid City of Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast, it had all the attractions of Greco-Roman urban life and functioned as the center of political activity. That explains the excavations at Sepphoris revealing of humongous buildings, theaters, amphitheaters akin to any contemporary city centre. Sepphoris lay on the major land route between Caesarea on the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee. That was the secret of its being a cosmopolitan city. Its inhabitants would have spoken several languages like Aramaic, Greek, Latin, in addition to their liturgical language Hebrew. Market place weights registered in both Aramaic and Greek have been found at the site. Besides, it was possible that they would have managed to communicate with their gentile neighbours in Phoenician and Syrian as various people drew into the cosmopolitan centre for trade and other civic needs. Sepphoris could not have been merely a self-contained city with its administrative institutions, houses, waterworks etc., but it had also satellite settlements around. Nazareth and the cluster villages would have been satellite villages of municipality of Sepphoris, which provided agricultural and other raw materials needed for industries.

However, Jesus has never mentioned the name Sepphoris, although his early life was not far it. He nowhere describes the civic life or archaeological ornamentations of contemporary great cities, except his references to Jerusalem which for Jesus had always a theological significance (Mt 24:1-28; Mk 13:1-23; Lk 21:5-24). The biggest city he seems to have gone during his public life seems to be Jerusalem. According to Luke’s Gospel, his career culminated there, and that with very unfortunate consequences. However, Jesus who inherited a traditional Jewish culture could not have been a stranger to this lively intersection of Greek urban culture at Sepphoris without seeing its sophisticated urban culture. Whether he was influenced by it is a different question and the extent its influence on him is questionable. But surely, he would have been aware of its existence.

Between a peasant artisan and a peasant farmer, the former who has been deprived of his land is said to be lower in the social ladder in a world there was no middle class but only the two classes of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ Anthropologists say that being a peasant-artisan was no compliment. In the ancient world, city was in antithesis to village. In Sepphoris, there were aqueducts that brought in water from rural hills to it. The interaction between the city and village was not a happy one. A city had nothing much to give to poor villagers except imposition of taxes, violence, and oppression. Most of the needs of the simple villagers were met within the villages which were self-sufficient units containing their necessities of life.   

Whoever Jesus was or to which social category he belonged, synoptic gospels were written to rural audiences. It could be that in the gospels Jesus appears as a rural man speaking to fellow-rural men. Jesus seems to spend his entire public career interacting with Jews in small townships or villages in the Galilee and Judah. Synoptic materials deal with ordinary, day to day, rural experiences and knowledge related to a rural populace. They presume no profound academic knowledge in the Greek sense of the word. The kind of knowledge Jesus had was true to the Hebrew concept of knowledge. For the Hebrews knowing was not something intellectual but an experiential event. Knowledge was intimacy. Knowledge meant being profoundly related. Jesus’ relationship to the Father was one such. It was never an intellectual contemplation of the Father in the Greek sense of the word.

In ancient times, the sharp contrast and social tension between town and country as we have it in our times, did not exist because the villages were often bordering towns. Yet, there was some sharp contrasts in some areas. For example, it was in the cities or the large towns where the big landowners, tax collectors, public officials and judges lived. It was there that the more ostentatious so called ‘Respectable People’ lived. Their ways of life had sharp contrasts between sophistication and simple rustic living. Jesus and his followers were not townsmen. They felt at ease only in a country surrounding.

During His public life, Jesus seems to have avoided Sepphoris and Tiberius, the two substantial settlements or cities in the Galilee. That was not where interests lay or where he felt welcome. He was more at home with villages and the small towns, where the peasants and artisans inhabited. Young Jesus of Nazareth would not have gone to Sepphoris for the purpose of entertainment and pleasure as their only day off was the Sabbath (Saturday) and the pious Jews spent the Sabbath in a very holy manner with prayers and works of piety pleasing to the Lord without breaking the third commandment (Ex 20:8-11). If at all Jesus ever went to Sepphoris, it may have been for the purpose of artisan work which his profession involved. This city was four kilometers away from Nazareth would have been the place where all teenagers would have flocked together for work. This must have been particularly so when Herod Antipas was building that city in 17 CE and later, for maintenance of the same when many technicians and artisans were needed. At that time, Jesus was a teenager and/or youth. Possibly, Jesus had his dealings related to work with this commercial hub, while being a resident in the hamlet of Nazareth. Her may have walked to work from home.

Another fact that supports Jesus’ literacy is speculations about his connection with Joseph of Arimathea. We have no verifiable details about Joseph except that he was quite wealthy. We may presume that he was an elderly man at the time of the crucifixion who had the courage to bury Jesus. Some claim that although Joseph of Arimathea was not one of the twelve, he had an important role. He was a member of the Sanhedrin. He is mentioned in all four gospels (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-55; John 19:38-42). For in Luke and Mark, he was not a disciple of Jesus, but someone who was awaiting the Kingdom of God. As a member of the Sanhedrin, he was aware of the opposition Jesus had from the Jews and we surmise that he did not vote to surrender Jesus to Pilate in view of passing death sentence.  For John he was a crypto-Christian. But for Matthew he was already a true disciple. Only Matthew mentions that it was Joseph’s own tomb hewn out of the rock himself. “Only in Matthew is Joseph wealthy (cf. Isa 53:9), which coheres with his owning an expensive tomb, but not with his hewing it out himself. ……… Joseph’s wealthy status also places him in solidarity with (some of) the members of the Matthean Church, themselves more wealthy than average.” (Cf. Eugene Boring, (1995) “The Gospel of Matthew,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 494). According to some extra-biblical and legendry claims, Joseph of Arimathea, (known in the later non-biblical tradition as Joseph of Glastonbury) was a paternal uncle of Mary, mother of Jesus as evidenced by the family tree of Jesus traced up to Adam kept in the Herald’s Office at the English College of Arms in London which is also confirmed by the Harley Manuscripts held in the British Museum. A claim is also made that Joseph of Arimathea was a merchant in metals and who eventually took young Jesus with him on his business travels. trips to England, India, and even to South America. Joseph of Arimathea has been called ‘Nobilis Decurio’ or Minister of Mines by the Roman Government. If that were the case, Joseph of Arimathea would be one of the wealthiest of all Judea. It could be that Joseph of Arimathea if he had been a relative of Mary, he would have cared for Mary’s family after St. Joseph’s demise. It may be this kinship that he had to Jesus that would have partially motivated him to bury Jesus.

What can we conclude from this Joseph of Arimathea episode? The idea that Jesus traveled about with him, a fact which may have contributed to his literacy and the knowledge of languages is of legendry origin. If Jesus had sojourned in Europe and in the Orient, with His maternal uncle Joseph of Arimathea, he would have picked up something of the European languages and would have made references to Europe and the Orient in his teachings. Through the trade routes, ideas spread to the Mid-Orient. Those things never entered to his theology and spirituality and so there is absolutely no evidence for a claim that Jesus’ alleged travels influenced him. Furthermore, even if Jesus had associated the upper-class business in Palestine as well abroad, and thereby had become an upper middle-class citizen, all because of Joseph of Arimathea, why did he not own his belonging to that middle class? On the contrary, he only referred to their empty ways of life and those of the rich and spoke of their attachment to wealth which he named ‘the mammon’ (Mt 6:19-21, 24; Lk 16:13). Mammon was a Syrian deity that enslaved people to wealth. Jesus had no allegiance to such wealth or wealthy. Jesus lived an extremely simple life (Mt 8:20-21). In the Lukan Infancy Narrative, the protagonists were all the riff raff of the society (Lk 2:7ff.). He was found fault by the high society of this day for associating the marginalized like the poor, sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes (Lk 4:18; 15:1-2; Mt 21:31-32). Mary’s Magnificat speaks of a reversal of the socio-political order (Lk 1:51-53). It is a non-violent revolution of the change of hearts. When Jesus did not want to count equality with God as something to be held on to but totally emptied himself, would he have ever held on to an upper class? No, not at all. The best way to describe Jesus is that he would have been an artisan of some sort of the lower middle class. But He stood above all such social distinctions. Jesus as the Son of God was classless. For His Kingdom was not of this world (Jn 18:36). His struggle was a spiritual transformation of the humanity to make them heaven-ward. But in that heaven-bound journey, basic earthly needs were not ignored. He accepted that people needed to eat and drink etc. (Mt 13:52). Where there were people deprived of life’s necessities, the covenant community was expected to share their resources and provide for the needy (Mt 25:31-46; Act 2:44-45).

Bibliography:

Frontline, “Jesus’ Social Class: Recent Archaeological Findings Challenge the Image of Jesus as a Peasant Preaching in a Pastoral Backwater,” See Harold Attridge, “Now what do you think we can know about Jesus’ social class based on recent evidence and discussions?” L. Michael White, “The Galilee and Sepphoris”; Holland Lee Hendrix, “Not a Humble Carpenter”; John Dominic Crossan, “A Peasant Boy in a Peasant Village”; Shaye I. D. Cohen, “Jesus Avoids Cities”; Paula Fredriksen, “Sepphoris Didn’t Make Much Difference,” and Eric Meyers, “Jesus Probably Trilingual,” Cf. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/jesus/socialclass.html (access 05.12.2020).

Aubin, Melissa M. (2000). The Challenging Landscape of Byzantine Sepphoris. ASOR Publications.

Barzilai, Omry; et al. (19 August 2013). “Nahal Zippori, the Eshkol Reservoir – Somekh Reservoir Pipeline,” Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys in Israel. (No. 125).

Chancey, Mark A. (2005). Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee Jesus. Cambridge University Press.

Cohen, S. J. D. (2002). Josephus and Rome: His Vita and Developments as a Historian. Brill: Leiden.

Evans, Craig A. Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence. SPCK, 2013, 63–88

Keith, Chris. in “Jesus and Literacy.” in http://bibleodyssey.com/en/tools/ask-a-scholar/jesus-and-literacy (access 12.11.2020).

Miller, Stuart S. (1984). Studies in the History and Traditions of Sepphoris. Brill: Leiden

Rowan, Yorke M.; Baram U. (2004). Marketing Heritage: Archaeology and the Consumption of the Past Rowman Altamira.

Christmas Homily, December 25, 2020

By Fr. Claude Perera, OMI

First Reading: Isaiah 52:7-10
The Good News of the return of the exiles is announced by the watchmen of Jerusalem.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98:1-6
Praise for God Our Saviour

Second Reading: Hebrews 1:1-6
God has finally spoke through his Son.

Gospel Reading: John 1:1-18 (or shorter form, John 1:1-5, 9-14)
Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Christmas involves four Masses each with an assortment of readings to help focussing on the event of profound mystery of the incarnation. The Gospel for the Vigil Mass is the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. The Midnight Mass has the Lucan narrative of the birth of Jesus which continues into the episode with angels and shepherds at the Dawn Mass. This content is common knowledge related to Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. But the Daytime Mass goes in a completely different direction.

The centre of the Daytime Mass is the prologue of the Gospel of John, which is not an Infancy Narrative unlike in Matthew and Luke, but a kind of substitute for it in the Johannine manner. Its opening words resonate the beginning of the Book of Genesis. In this poetic passage of the prologue, John uses the word Word five times reaching the crescendo in verse 14 which says, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” The prologue uses highly philosophical and theological language. What is the reason for it?

Within thirty years of Jesus’ death, Christianity had spread in the Mediterranean world, specially in Asia Minor and Greece and Rome who thought in Greco-Roman categories. But Jewish concepts were alien to them. So, John had to present Christianity to the Greek world in the Greek city of Ephesus where the Johannine community was.  He found that, in both Greek and Jewish thought, the concept of the “word” existed.  For the ANE people, word (davŒr in Hebrew) was the creative, saving as well as destructive divine utterance. The Greek term for word was Logos which meant not only word, but also reason.  Hence, Logos, evoked a double meaning of the Word of God and the Reason of God. That is why John presents Jesus to the Greeks as the eternal, light-giving and creative power of God, or the Mind of God in the very beginning of his Gospel. To it he added region’s other prevalent philosophical concepts like the pre-existence of the word, and the Zoroastrian dialectics (like the light and darkness, knowledge and ignorance, truth and falsehood, life, and death etc.). Strictly monotheistic Jews could never understand the pre-existence of the Word with God. But as that concept was found in Greek philosophy and thus, known to the audience. Greek philosophy understood the logos as an intermediary between God and humanity. So, John used it. God sent that pre-existent eternal Word into human history in order to reveal the glory that He shares with the Father.

Talking of the incarnation, in Jn 1:14, he said “The word was made flesh and dwelt among us”. This has a wealth of meanings. The Greek word used to express the idea of dwelling was ‘eskenousin’, from the Greek noun skn meaning ‘tent.’ This means that God’s eternal Word pitched his tent among us. Why did he say that?  Prologue refutes certain Gnostic ideas, which denied the reality of the Incarnation of the Son of God. This was the Gnostic heresy, called Docetism, which taught that Jesus did not have a physical existence and it was merely an ‘appearance’ or a ‘façade’ because a divine super creature could not identified himself with this defective human existence. So, John insists that Jesus, the Son of God became a true human being. Christmas is the feast of the humanity of Jesus. He was born into all the vicissitudes of human existence except sin. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews rightly recognized this when he said, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14-16). At incarnation God ennobled human nature. Christmas is the feast of human nature. St Iranaeus said glory of God is man fully alive. Let us be happy that we are created as humans and not animals. Humans are rational animals although we do not behave as rational animals often. On the other hand, in the poor and developing countries the poor live in subhuman levels deprived of human rights and basic needs of life. God is not the cause of their misery. Misery has been caused by the greed or the lack of concern for the needy people. Let Christmas challenge us to reorientate us in the right direction.

Happy Christmas! Joyeux Noel! Buon Natale! Feliz Navidad! Feliz Nadal! Frhliche Weihnachten! Fijne Kerst! Wesołych Świąt! Sretan Božić! Shubha Naththalak! Mahilchiyana Kristhumas!Krisamas Kee Shubhakaamana!

The Nativity of our Lord

Dear Friends,

As we prepare for the celebration of Christmas in couple of hours, I invite you to ponder the Gospel passage that is read at the Midnight Mass and so beautifully announces to us the Nativity of our Saviour:

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus
that all the world should be registered.
This was the first registration
and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
All went to their own towns to be registered.
Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee
to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem,
because he was descended from the house and family of David.
He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth,
and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2, 1-7

“The reading from Luke at the Midnight Mass is sublime, yet popular. Even the 1965 Peanuts Christmas special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, features this gospel passage, read by the character Linus. The master storyteller Luke enraptures us with the story of Jesus’ birth. The simple clause “because there was no room for them at the inn” has inspired innumerable artists, homilists, theologians, and more. But Luke says no more about that episode than those few simple words. He says much more about the shepherds, the angel, and the multitude of the heavenly host. The few verses of this gospel reading light up our imagination, touching on key themes for Luke, such as Jesus as Savior, Jesus as food for the world (laid him in a manger), and the situation of the Christ-event at a particular time and place (with mention of Quirinius and the town of Bethlehem). How appropriate that we read this story of the shepherds keeping the night watch at our Midnight Mass. 

Midnight by definition is a time of darkness, the middle of the night. And yet, it is during this time that light enters the world by the birth of the Christ, the Savior. Such a stark contrast is not by accident in the Gospel of Luke or in our liturgy tonight. We recall how God brings life from death, joy from sadness, and light from darkness. When we face moments of darkness in our own lives, let us recall the Christian faith that is at our core, that sees the birth of a child during the night watch as a profound moment of grace.” (Living Liturgy 2020)

For most of us the celebration of Christmas will be much different this year then ever before. In my own lifetime I can recall only one Christmas when I wasn’t able to participate with the faith community in the celebration of the Christmas Mass because I was in the air force, and on guard duty that night. It is certain that many of us will feel that something is missing from the celebration of the great mystery of our faith, that we are prevented from receiving the One who became one of us so that we can become like Him. I assure you that Fr. Claude and I will remember all of you in the celebration of the Christmas Masses, praying that we can soon be reunited at the celebration of Mass, the center of our Christian faith.

On behalf of our parish staff, youth minister, three deacons, and Fr. Claude, I wish you great joy in your celebration of Christmas. May the One who was born into the simplest of settings be for all of us a great source of deep faith, unbroken hope and charity. May Christ be born in our hearts again and again, and His love transform us and fill us with peace. 

Please join us in the celebration of Christmas Masses on our YouTube channel. The Christmas Eve Mass will be livestreamed on December 24th at 8pm and Christmas Day Mass will be livestreamed on December 25th at 10am. 

Also, our youth have created a video version of the annual Christmas pageant! We hope you’ll have a chance to watch it and enter into the Nativity story through Scripture, photos, and music with this year’s participants. It premieres tomorrow at 12:00pm on the parish YouTube channel at this link: https://youtu.be/Hx2wc3l0yvY

God bless and Merry Christmas!
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday Homily, December 20, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle B
By Fr. Claude Perera, OMI

Theme: Royal Messiah. Son of David, the Just One                                                                                    

Readings:

First Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16
The Promise to David that His Dynasty will endure forever

Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 89:2-5,27,29 – Praising God for the Faithfulness to His Covenant

Second Reading:
Romans 16:25-27 – Praising God for His Gift of Revelation

Gospel Reading:  Luke 1:26-38 – The Annunciation to Mary

Background to the Readings

Having united the tribes of Israel and established the monarchy, David felt bad that he was living in a luxurious palace, while there was no glorious temple for God. For still God’s dwelling was the Ark of the Covenant. But God made known to David through Nathan the Prophet that God did not need such a temple. Instead, he revealed the plan that in the future God will raise up the Davidic dynasty through his descendants. The people Israel will live securely without being oppressed by enemies and his son will build a temple for God. God’s faithful love will never be withdrawn from him and that his dynasty and its sovereignty will stand firm forever. The Davidic dynasty will be God’s true house. All the same, David’s son will build a palace for God. This was the kind of prophecy we heard in the first reading. But the realization of this promise was always in jeopardy as most of the successors of Davida were much below the standards expected of Davidic kings. In general. What pervaded was anarchy and turmoil that haunted the lands of Israel and Judah. So, God’s people kept entertaining the expectation of that Royal Messiah to establish justice, hoping against hope.


In the gospel of today, you heard the realization of that hope as announced by the Angel Gabriel to Mary. Referring to the Royal Messiah to be born, the angel said, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob forever and his reign will have no end.”
In the context of the people of Israel, what was the central role of the institution of royalty? The king was expected to be the bearer of the covenant. That means that the king had to be the first to observe the stipulations of the covenant. If he kept the covenant, people also kept it. Its negation also functioned similarly. What was the foundation of the covenant? It was justice or righteousness, called •Ədkh in Hebrew, dikaiosun in Greek. Justice or righteousness was basically a moral concept related to the covenant. It referred to the divinely established moral order, harmony, and integrity which the covenanting parties were expected to observe. As God was obviously righteous, the people were also expected to be righteous. This moral integrity needed to be reflected in all the relationships of the people, be it regarding their relationship to God, to their neighbour, to the rest of creation and even within one’s own self.


In this regard, I like to take you to the entrance antiphon of today’s mass which reads in Latin, “ Rorate caeli de super – Et nubes pluant justum.” – “Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the Just One.” This is how the Medieval Church awaited and celebrated the arrival of the Messiah, the just one. This used to be the Advent hymn sung by Medieval Christians during their Advent masses. This was sung by them early in the morning in candle-light since it was still dark as they gathered in their churches. This was a penitential hymn which emphasized in the fact that people have sinned, and therefore, invoking God’s forgiveness. This hymn gives expression to the throbbing of the heart of the Medieval Christians, poor, lowly and simple as they were. They forgave each other and shared the little they had with the needy. They did a good confession in Advent. Thus, they worthily prepared themselves for the coming feast of the Nativity.


We are preparing to host the Just One. In terms of the forthcoming Christmas, our Advent preparation must be one of becoming morally integral. Our complex web of relationships in their four-fold functions need a transformation. Where our relationships, duties and obligations have been overlooked or forgotten, we need to repair them. Otherwise, it becomes a Christmas without God, without our needy neighbour etc. in an unjust world. Such a Christmas is no true Christmas. Such Christmas has been bereft of his essence. It is instead a mere noisy celebration of eating, drinking and fashion displaying on account of Jesus, the Just One sent by God’s establish his justice on earth.

Happy Christmas! Joyeux Noel! Buon Natale! Froliche Weihnachten! Fijne Kerst! Feliz Navidad! Feliz Natal! Wesołych Świąt! Sretan Božić! Shubha Naththalak! Mahilchiyana Kristhumas!Krisamas Kee Shubhakaamana!

Sunday, December 20 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we celebrate the final Sunday of Advent and reflect on the passage taken from St. Luke’s Gospel which describes for us the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“During Advent the Liturgy of the Word tells us that we bump into God in strange places: in the poor, in crowds, and, strangest of all, in the obscure village of Nazareth and one of its backwater young women. Mary is a powerless female in a world ruled by males; poor, in a highly stratified society; found to be pregnant before she cohabits with her husband, and so obviously not carrying his child to validate her existence. That she would have “found favor with God” is hugely surprising, especially to Mary!

The Lukan biblical imagination has captured the imagination of artists down through the centuries. With their own prophetic insight, they have set the extraordinary faith of Mary among familiar things: a half-read book, a meal in preparation, a door opened on children and animals at play, people passing by… The heavens have been torn open; God has come down, not with mountain quaking and fire burning, but in the gentle descent of the Spirit who broods over the womb of Mary of Nazareth. And as at the first creation life was called forth, so now the first cell of the new creation is conceived… “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Every Advent we are challenged to have the attentiveness of Mary to the flutter of Christ-life that stirs in the womb of our complacency. So often our world seems starved of stars; and so often we watch or participate in rituals of mourning for acts of terrorism, natural disaster, the local tragedies of road deaths, or other dark events. Usually in these rituals there are candles: small pieces of self-consuming wax and flame that say light has more right to exist in our world than darkness. This is the message, too, of our Advent wreath as we light the last of its four candles. But those candles, like all ritual candles, will burn out. It is up to us, disciples of the Light of the World, to catch fire from Christ’s mystery and bring something of this fire and light into our own lives and, especially, into the lives of those for whom Christmas may not be a feast of joy but a time of darkness that stirs painful memories of those with whom they can no longer celebrate because of death, separation, divorce, family quarrels. For the friendless, the homeless, the abused, Christmas may arouse bitter comparisons and regrets. The fire we catch from Christ, our readiness to be consumed like him in the flame of loving service of our sisters and brothers, may be as simple a gift as a visit, a letter, a phone call, an invitation to a meal, a present on the parish “Jesse Tree.” But it will mean that, together, we will truly celebrate something of a “Happy Christmas.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

In all the uncertainty that surrounds us due to the ongoing pandemic and the announcement that the city of Hamilton will be going into lockdown on Monday, we will wait for more details from our Diocese in regard to Christmas celebrations in our local parishes and whether or not the parish office will remain open. As soon as I know more details I will share them with you by email and post them on our website.

You are invited to visit our YouTube channel on Christmas Eve to watch the video for this year’s Christmas pageant, which will feature students and families from our parish portraying the Nativity Story through photos, as well as Christmas carols led by members of our youth choir!

As has been our practice during the time of pandemic, for those who cannot be with us this Sunday, please access the 9am Sunday morning Mass livestream here and join us in praying the Rosary before the Mass at 8:30am.

God bless.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday Homily, December 13, 2020

3RD Sunday of Advent,
by Deacon John Girolami

“Brothers and sisters, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” These are the words of St Paul that were given to us just a few minutes ago in the second reading.

For the past two weeks the Church has been in a state of expectation and anticipation. This weekend we celebrate “Rose Sunday” or “Gaudate Sunday”. Gaudate is a command that orders us to rejoice. Rejoice for Jesus is near. Visually we see the rose candle, the candle of joy, on the advent wreath that we light today.  The rose candle tells us this is a point of transition. Our time of waiting for the Messiah is almost over. The church changes focus from the Lord who is to come, to the Lord who is now near and close at hand. The mood changes to one of anticipation and preparation for the Christmas feast. We celebrate the joy and gladness in the promised redemption. We rejoice that the arrival of the Savior is near. The candle symbolizes the joy we feel to welcome Jesus in Christmas.

The Lord gives us the joy in hope of the Savior’s coming; joy in the face of apathy, joy in the face of sorrow, joy in the face of uncertainty. We rejoice in our salvation from sin. We are to prepare for the Lord’s coming with joy in our hearts, with prayer on our lips and with a life of holiness.

These three orders sum up the vocation of a disciple. We should profess the truth that he proclaimed. We must live what Jesus taught. We are to rejoice, pray and give thanks always. Advent asks us to look at ourselves and see how well we are doing these things. We are to rejoice always, in good times and in bad. How is this possible and why are we called to do this?

The answer is Christ. We are called to do this because Christ has come to save us. He loves us and will give us everything that we need to overcome sin and live with him in this world and the next. God desires that we be joyful because that joy is the most tangible sign that we recognize his marvelous love. It is the clearest evidence that he is present in our lives. We however have difficulty showing this.

Pope Francis calls it the joy of the gospel. He says “It fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Christ. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew. This joy is a serenity that comes from a deep overflowing sense of God’s love for us. From this sense of God’s dwelling in us, through sanctifying grace, we are to be joyful in God’s will for us and know he has given us the grace to meet those challenges.

Through prayer we remain in constant communication with God; we remain in his presence. He also calls us to always give thanks. He helps us realize that everything is a gift from God and we must give thanks. Rejoicing is the highest expression of joy. Having the joy of the lord in our hearts, that is where we must begin. The joy of the Lord is a constant gladness. Nehemiah the prophet says “the joy of the Lord is my strength”.

How do get to the point where we can rejoice in the Lord? It starts by making sure that we have the right relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ. We must then walk in submission to the Spirit of God. We must take time to praise God. Finally we must serve the Lord in gladness.

But holding this joy inside ourself is not enough. We, Christ’s disciples, the members of his Church, need to become a source of joy to those who are suffering. Through prayer, we also want to bring eternal joy and peace to those who have died. We must also remove the things in our lives that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy.  Our ways of greed, selfishness, indifference. They must all be removed.

To find this state of joy is not always easy, especially this year. Our normal way of life has been replaced by concern for our neighbors, our families. For many, celebrations have been delayed. Funerals are different. Even the arrival of a newborn is subdued. First communion days have become small private events. But even with all this, Christ still comes to us; maybe not in a grand Christmas pageant or a Santa Clause parade, but he still comes. Maybe God is giving us the opportunity to focus on what Christmas is really about.

I think it was told best by a cartoon character called Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas. It is about the love that God had for us that he gave us his son Jesus. He was born of Mary and became one of us. Through him, his followers can experience heaven. He wants peace and goodwill to exist between everyone.

So maybe we will have less people around the dinner table. Maybe we won’t be able to kiss our grandchildren. But the spirit of Christ and his love for us cannot be stopped. This great gift from the Father is given to us each year; no matter what the circumstances are.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his son that who soever would believe in him, would not perish but have every lasting life.” May our hearts be open to receive this great gift.

So let our anticipation be great. Rejoice, for Christ is near. The celebration of his birth in Bethlehem is near. Let us turn our eyes there for soon we will see him, Emmanuel, God with us, the child in the manger. 

Sunday, December 13 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

This is already the 3rd Sunday of Advent, know to us as Gaudete Sunday, signalling that the feast of Christ nativity is drawing closer and closer.

“Today’s gospel tells us that John the Baptist was born into the world for a singular purpose, “to testify to the light.” And not just any light, but “the light of the human race” (John 1:4), “the light that shines in the darkness,” that the darkness can never overpower (1:5). One of the reasons the feast of Christmas was originally placed on December 25 was to highlight the symbolism of celebrating the birth of the one who proclaimed himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12) during the darkest days of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter.

Whether we find ourselves in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere on this Gaudete Sunday, there is plenty of darkness to be encountered: poverty, war, violence, hatred, greed, and all manners of evil. When we turn our gaze to our own suffering and that of others, it is easy to become discouraged. How can any light possibly brighten this darkness?

As Christians, we could say that we have all been born into the world with the same vocation as John the Baptist: to testify to the light, to be hope in the world by fully living our belief in and relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the source of our gladness, and the reason St. Paul urges all of us to “rejoice always.” As the feast of Christ’s nativity draws nearer, we pause to ask ourselves, How do we live our vocation to joy? How are we being called, at this moment in human history, to testify to the light that no darkness can overcome?” (Living Liturgy 2021)

As I did over past weeks and so this weekend at the end of each Sunday Mass I will provide an update on the ongoing One Heart, One Soul Campaign. Thank you to all our parishioners who submitted their pledges to the Diocese this past week in support of our parish. Thank you for your generosity and care for the parish entrusted to us. 

Pope Francis on Tuesday announced a special year dedicated to St. Joseph starting from 8 December 2020 until 8 December 2021, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church. We are all invited to read the Apostolic Letter entitled Patris corde (“With a Father’s Heart”) that explains reasons for the year of St. Joseph and invites us to have a devotion to him. At the conclusion of his Letter, Pope Francis adds a prayer to St Joseph, which he encourages all of us to pray together during this year:

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil.  Amen.

As we are only 2 weeks away form the celebration of Christmas, please remember to register for one of the Masses on the Eve or Christmas Day. Since we are limited to only 30% capacity at this time it helps us to know how many parishioners to expect so we don’t cross that limit.  The 4pm Mass is already full so please confider other options.

Starting next week there will be numerous opportunities to receive the sacrament of reconciliation before the celebration of Christmas. Please check the parish bulletin tomorrow, when it is published online, for the confessions schedule.

For those who cannot be with us at this time in person at Sunday Mass we invite you to participate in the Mass virtually from your home by joining us for the Rosary at 8:30am followed by the 9am morning Mass here.

God bless
Fr. Mariusz

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8, 2020

Theme: Thou Art All Beautiful O Mary. The Original Stain Is not in Thee
by Fr. Claude Perera, OMI

The Readings:

First Reading: Genesis 3:9-15,20
Judgment on Adam and Eve after Their Sin

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4
Sing to the Lord for he has done wondrous deeds.

Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12
Chosen to Be Adopted Children of God in Christ

Gospel Reading:
Luke 1:26-38
The Annunciation to Mary of the Birth of Jesus by the Angel Gabriel

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of Anne her Mother. God preserved Mary from the stain of original sin from that moment of her conception. Thereby, Mary became the first to be initiated to the grace of the redemption that her Son would merit for the whole human race.

I would restrict my reflection mainly to the first reading from the Book of Genesis. In the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis a lot of symbolic language is used. In the first reading there are three powerful symbols, namely, the snake, nakedness, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Serpent (naúāš):

The serpent has been given different interpretations.

For some, the serpent is the emblem of occult knowledge related to magic and divination. But this was not a wide-spread belief. It was the beast of wisdom because of its shrewdness.

Hebrews had a natural aversion for the serpent because it was an object of worship in Canaan. It was a phallic symbol related to the mother goddess. The Assyrian goddess Asherah was the goddess of fertility. She had a serpent in her hand. Her symbol was the tree trunk (to which leaves were added sometimes). It was forbidden to have the symbol of Asherah erected in the sanctuaries of Yahweh (Dt 16:21; see Jdg 6:25, 28, 30; 2 Kg 23:6). Fertility cults symbolized by the serpent was a constant to Yahwism. Opting for a sexual interpretation of the serpent McKenzie says, “… [i]n human life, as it first proceeded from God, the fiery appetite of sex did not appear. Woman did not find her fulfillment in becoming a goddess of pleasure. It is a strong and noble rejection of the frightful over-emphasis upon sex and sexual pleasure which cursed the ancient world. For the only secure foundation of sexual and family morality is monogamy, the perpetual and exclusive union in marriage of one man and one woman until death do them part. … For the Hebrew, the unbridled sexual appetite was personalized in the deities of fertility, sanctified in the myth and ritual of fertility. We know that the Hebrews thought of this cultic myth as a perversion of sex and of the ideal of sex relations, of the position of woman, who becomes both a goddess of pleasure and a degraded being, and of divinity itself, which is identified with an animal function. Can we therefore, make the long leap to the conclusion that this idea is implicit in the third chapter of Genesis?”[1]

Although it may have been a symbol of Canaanite fertility cults with its promises of life the context of Gn 3 does not deal with a particular ethnic or religious group, but in general about the primeval wo/man. That is why the mythical figure of the speaking serpent is used (Soggin). It must also be remembered that for the Jahwist narrator serpent is only a secondary figure. The serpent stood for the fact that the impulse for the temptation stood outside wo/man. This means that wo/man is ultimately responsible for sin. In my opinion, some of these connotations of the serpent may have been present when the Jahwist narrator used the word serpent. God made the serpent which is a clever (arum) creature, and it led man to disobedience.[2] What the author of the temptation narrative wanted to say is that defection was an inevitable human phenomenon. Defection to other gods was a constant temptation of Israel. Human beings can easily be seduced. Defection is the conscious abandonment/desertion of allegiance/duty to a person/ cause/authority/ ethics and/or doctrine. The serpent is this innate human defection. This defection is always led by a craving for greater satisfaction [will] (// Early Buddhist notion of excessively selfish desire – taöhā which brings about sorrow, ennui, dissatisfaction and frustration in this imperfect, illusive and impermanent existence. Zimmerli says, “… the defection … remains something utterly inexplicable amidst all the good that God has created.”[3] However, it is important to note that it is not possible to come to terms with the origin of evil. It will remain a riddle to us.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

The serpent offers the woman something saying, “You would be like God knowing good and evil.” To be like God is the root of sin. Man wants no more to depend on God. Their sin was pride. Their sin had nothing to do with sex because by this time, they had no concupiscence.[4] What is the meaning of “knowledge of good and evil?” This is not a question of taking them separately as or good or evil, but as a single reality, e.g. binding and loosing = judicial sentence in general, coming and going or travel in general. Dt 1:39 speaks of children who do not know good and evil meaning is that they are innocent of sin. Thus, “the day you eat of it [= of the tree of knowledge of good and evil], you shall die” = “The day you sin, you shall die.”[5]

Good and evil means, knowledge that is useful and/or harmful to man. It is an overall expression or a merism signifying knowledge in a wider sense; namely, a correct judgment about what is good and bad. It stands for a wide range of moral as well as a-moral knowledge. Man is created with a strong drive for knowledge. This is the cause of his conflict with God. Although man’s life cycle is limited, his search for knowledge is unlimited. In his knowledge, man tried to experience what it is like to be like God, to know everything experientially and treaspassed or overstepped the boundaries of knowledge which God had set for him. All-embracing knowledge is not meant for man. This was the true meaning of the command not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This was the temptation to which the woman gave in. When man transgressed the command, he overstepped a boundary set for him by God.[6] Bratcher says, “[T]he man (Hebrew, ādām) was created from the ground (Hebrew ădāmāh). “Ground” and “dust” (2:7) serve to emphasize the fragility of humanity and the total dependence of the creature on the Creator. In this story, humanity possesses no inherent immortality, no spark of the divine that removes him from his earthy existence. The wo/man is simply given breath by God, something which s/he shares with animals.”[7] Yet, they failed to recognize their limits. This was the sin which they committed.  The woman transgressed the command by giving vent to her desire of being omniscient. The man simply gave assent. This is another aspect of sin, namely, complicity. Man avoided decision. Others (Eve) decided for him. He simply went with the current.

Nakedness as an Effect of Disobedience:  

According to Gn 2:25 the two of them were naked (arum”m), but the man and his wife and were not ashamed. Bratcher says, “The fact that they are unashamed indicates that they are comfortable with who they are; they accept themselves and each other. Their relationships are well ordered. They are in harmony with each other, with God, and with the world.”[8] But after the disobedience, the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves clothed themselves with them (Gn 3:7). The motif of nakedness is introduced here and plays an important role in the next chapter. In the Bible nakedness conveys different things. Shame fell on the faithless. This faithlessness can be towards God, i.e, idolaters (Ezek 7:18; Mic 7:10; Hos 10:6), or those who were unfriendly to God’s people. Shame fell on Moabites who ridiculed Israelites (Jer 48:39,27), and on Edomites because of their violence to  their brother Jacob (Ob 1:10). Also upon those who mock righteousness shame fell (Job 8:22; Ps 35:26; 132:18). It comes also on those who exalt themselves against God trusting in earthly and material power (2 Ch 32:21; Isa 30:3). Shame is not found only in the most desperate ones (Hos 4:18; Zeph 3:5; Phil 3:19; Jude 1:13). When confessed, God is said to remove shame (Is 54:4; 61:7).[9] In the context of Gn 3, the nakedness signifies either innocence or integrity, depending on how those terms are defined. There is no fear of exploitation, no sense of vulnerability. But after the entrance of sin into the world, nakedness takes on a negative sense. It is then usually connected with the sense of vulnerability, shame, exploitation, and exposure (such as the idea of “uncovering nakedness” either in sexual exploitation or in captivity in war). Wo/man feels vulnerable before each other and before other creatures. Creatures themselves begin to feel the same.

Today’s first reading ends with Gn 3:20 which says, “The man call his wife Eve because she was the mother of all the living.” Even in Hebrew is Þewwah meaning the ‘Mother of the Living.’ This expression is sarcastic. What the author of Gen is really saying is that she not really the mother of the living, but the mother of death. Led by desire, she brought death upon the universe. Eve’s antithesis is Mary, the true mother of all the living. In the Fourth Gospel, she is being presented to the Beloved Disciple as “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27). Jesus presented the new Eve to the Church and will repair the damage done by the first mother Mary. Mary did so by her obedience as opposed to Eve who ruined God’s plan by her disobedience. In view her role as the new Mother of the Living, Mary was freed from all sin, original and all other forms. She is the ideal of human race. We cannot look at Mary in glory. But all the same, let us tie up our wagon to the star, the Star of the Sea (Stella Maris) and to the ever-bright Morning Star (Lux Ferre).

Tota Pulchra Es, Maria  Thou Art All Fair, O Mary
 
V. Tota pulchra es, Maria.
R. Tota pulchra es, Maria.
V. Thou art all fair, O Mary.
R. Thou art all fair, O Mary.
V. Et macula originalis non est in te.
R. Et macula originalis non est in te.
V. And the original stain is not in thee.
R. And the original stain is not in thee.
V. Tu gloria Ierusalem.
R. Tu laetitia Israel.
V. Thou art the glory of Jerusalem.
R. Thou, the joy of Israel.
V. Tu honorificentia populi nostri.
R. Tu advocata peccatorum.
V. Thou art the honor of our people.
R. Thou art the advocate of sinners.
V. O Maria.
R. O Maria.
V. O Mary.
R. O Mary.
V. Virgo prudentissima.
R. Mater clementissima.
V. Virgin most prudent.
R. Mother most tender.
V. Ora pro nobis.
R. Intercede pro nobis ad Dominum Iesum Christum.
V. Pray for us,
R. Intercede for us with Jesus Christ our Lord.
V. In conceptione tua, Immaculata fuisti.
R. Ora pro nobis Patrem cuius Filium peperisti.
V. In thy conception, Holy Virgin, thou wast immaculate.
R. Pray for us to the Father, Whose Son thou didst bring forth.
V. Domina, protege orationem meam.
R. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
V. O Lady! aid my prayer,
R. And let my cry come unto thee.
OremusLet us pray
SANCTA Maria, regina caelorum, mater Domini nostri Iesu Christi, et mundi domina, quae nullum derelinquis, et nullum despicis: respice me, domina, clementer oculo pietatis, et impetra mihi apud tuum dilectum Filium cunctorum veniam peccatorum: ut qui nunc tuam sanctam et immaculatam conceptionem devoto affectu recolo, aeternae in futurum beatitudinis, bravium capiam, ipso, quem virgo peperisti, donante Domino nostro Iesu Christo: qui cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu vivit et regnat, in Trinitate perfecta, Deus, in saecula saeculorum. Amen.HOLY Mary, Queen of heaven, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and mistress of the world, who foresakest no one, and despisest no one, look upon me, O Lady! with an eye of pity, and entreat for me of thy beloved Son the forgiveness of all my sins; that, as I now celebrate, with devout affection, thy holy and immaculate conception, so, hereafter, I may receive the prize of eternal blessedness, by the grace of Him whom thou, in virginity, didst bring forth, Jesus Christ our Lord: Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, in perfect Trinity, God, unto the ages of ages. Amen.





[1] John L. McKenzie, The Two-Edged Sword (Milwaukee: the Bruce Publishing House, 1956 ), 96, 98. Note that all fertility cults were not represented by the serpents. The cult of Baal which also had fertility rites was symbolized by a bull. According to the Baal cult, Baal god was born in spring, came of age in summer, aged in autumn and died in winter. The king who was the officiating priest at Baal cult had intercourse with a virgin. This represented conception of Baal which gave fertility to Mother Nature.   Cf.

[2] Westermann, Creation, 92.

[3] Walther Zimmli, A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, translated of the German Original Ezekiel by Ronald E. Clements; edited by Frank Moore Cross and Klaus Baltzer, with the assistance of Leonard Jay Greenspoon. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979-83), 501-16 as quoted by Westermann, Creation, 92.

[4] Bruce Vawter, A Path through Genesis (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1956; 51963), 65f.

[5] Vawter, A Path through Genesis, 58.

[6] Westermann, Creation, 93.

[7] Westermann, Creation, 93

[8] Bratcher, ‘The “Fall” – A Second Look: A Literary Analysis of Genesis 2:4-3:24,’ 323.

[9] “Nakedness,” in ISBE in BibleWorks (henceforth, BW), 7.0.

Sunday Homily, December 6, 2020

Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle B
by Fr. Claude Perera, OMI

Theme: Preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord by a Three-fold Transformation

Readings:

First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11
Preparing a way for the Lord

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85:9-14
The Lord’s salvation is near.

Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14
The Need to Be Ready foe the Second Coming of the Lord

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist’s Mission

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel is at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel has no Infancy Narrative (unlike Matthew and Luke) and begins right away with the appearance of John the Baptist in the desert. On this the Second Sunday of Advent, we shall reflect on John the Baptist as the one who prepared the way for Jesus.

To refer to John the Baptist, Mark goes into Jewish prophetic tradition with an assortment of Old Testament prophecies of Malachi, Isaiah, and Exodus. In John Baptist’s preaching, he first quoted Malachi 3:1, “Look, I shall send my messenger to clear a way before me.” Malachi is predicting of a future figure. Mal 4:5 identifies this figure with “Elijah the prophet.” The New Testament shows how this prediction is fulfilled. Mark began his gospel identifying John the Baptist as this foretold messenger (Mk 1:2-4). Matthean Jesus did the same when he said, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Mt 11:13-14). Luke also affirmed the same (Lk 1:17; 7:27).

Mark’s description of John as a desert hermit wearing a garment of camel skin and a leather belt around the waist is reminiscent of Prophet Elijah the Tishbite (2 Kg 1:8). Prophet Zechariah 13:4 also refers to it. Eating locusts was the poor diet of the wilderness (Lv 11:22). In the ancient world, these were symbols of asceticism. Having embraced an ascetical lifestyle, he invited people for repentance the sign of which was baptism in the Jordan. Today’s first reading is the beginning of the second Book of Isaiah, also called Deutero-Isaiah (Is Chapters 40-55). It referred to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. Deutero Isaiah began his book comforting his exilic people and then said, “3 A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the desert a way for Yahweh. Make a straight highway for our God across the wastelands.  4 Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be levelled, every cliff become a plateau, every escarpment a plain; 5 then the glory of Yahweh will be revealed, and all humanity will see it together, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken”(Is 40:3-5). Isaiah is speaking of the great transformation that will take place at the end of time. It appears to be firstly a physical transformation. Deserts had by and large sandy caravan routes for camels. Highways in the deserts were rare.In Is 40:3, the two expressions ‘way of the Lord (’Deºrek ´ädönäy) and ‘a highway for our God’(müsillâ lë´löhêºnû) stand in parallelism. Similarly, In Is 35: there is a parallelism between a highway and a way of holiness where unclean and foolish should not set foot. There was already a royal highway from Memphis in Egypt via Nekhl, Aquaba, Trans-Jordania, Jerusalem and Tadmor to Resafa in Mesopotamia. But the section between Jerusalem to Tadmor had not been ready. Perhaps, the prophet was thinking initially of that. That would have been something ambitious. But he was most likely thinking in symbolic categories like ethical and spiritual. He wishes that the road becomes truly a way of the Lord. The way of the Lord is righteousness, justice, and peace. It will be the way to the land of peace in a war-stricken region. Messianic times will be characterized not only by a physical and ecological transformation, but essentially a moral and spiritual transformation in keeping with the very spirit of their God Yahweh. In such an approach there will not me any crookedness or bends. People have straight dealings both with God and one’s neighbour. 

John the Baptist heralded the messianic era. However, the Gospels may reflect the tension that seems to have existed between followers of John the Baptist and disciples of Jesus. Each of the four Evangelists reiterate that John the Baptist was not the Messiah. He was only the herald of the Messiah. Baptist’s baptism was only a baptism of repentance, while Jesus’ was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We have received both the baptism of water as well as that of the Holy Spirit. Messiah has already come. But his mission is not yet complete. The eschatology has both already and not yet dimensions. Like John the Baptist, we too as baptized Christians are harbingers of the messianic age to come and particularly, in its fulness. Our baptismal vocation has made us agents of that transformation. Advent is an intense time of living that hope when we should deepen our preparation for the second coming of Jesus. In our Advent journey, John the Baptist is presented to us as a model. Like John the Baptist, we, too, are called upon to prepare the way for the second coming of the Lord. It is still a rugged way full of unethical impurities. As individual Catholics we prepare for the same with a good Advent confession. As a Church, we need to live an optimal life of witness promoting gospel values which will display by itself, drawing the whole humanity to Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Holy Advent! Saint Avènement! Santo Avvento! Feliz Advenimiento! Santo Avdento! Heiliger Advent! Heilige Komst! Szczęśliwego Nadejścia! Sretan Dolazak!

Sunday, December 6 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

As we journey deeper into the season of Advent, we focus on this the second Sunday of Advent on the personality of John the Baptist.  

​“The Liturgy of the Word puts the adult John before us today and next Sunday to block our view of “baby Jesus,” and so remind us that the Advent–Christmas mystery is less about the child and more about the adult Coming One and the mystery of his life, death, and resurrection that he offers to us as our own mystery. We are called to make our way down to the Jordan with the hopeful and curious crowds to see this wilderness man. John had accepted the hospitality that the desert had offered him. Cruncher of the desert food of bitter locusts sweetened with wild honey, he is satisfied with the food of the poor; clad in rough camel hair, he is dressed like a new Elijah (2 Kgs 1:5-8); tempered in his spirit by solitude, John, in his turn, welcomes the crowds with a bittersweet message in sparse words that are honed to a fine cutting edge for slicing through consciences and exposing them to the truth. ​

​Son of a priest though he may be, John does not deliver his message in the temple or anywhere else in Jerusalem, but on the banks of the Jordan River. At this busy crossing place, so significant in the history of Israel’s journey into the Promised Land (cf. Josh 3), John urges the people to cross over into God’s forgiveness through the waters of a ritual baptism of repentance. The Baptist invites us, too, to honest mindfulness of the water- not of the Jordan, but of our baptism – and to examination of our consciousness about our fidelity to the Christ into whom we are baptized. Despite the crowds he draws, John’s self-evaluation has nothing of self-exaltation. At this high point of his popularity he speaks directly to the people to point them away from himself to the stronger One who is coming, and declares that he is unworthy even to be a slave who would bend down and untie the sandals on the smelling and sweating feet of this Coming One. John resists the temptation of successful ministers: to allow our own popularity to become the main concern of our ministry. When we do this, we are proclaiming what we consider the good news of ourselves, not of Jesus Christ.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

We are now in the 7th week of the One Heart, One Soul Campaign that has been introduced by our Bishop to strengthen our local parish for years to come and assist parishes in our Diocese that experience serious financial difficulties and struggle to stay open. The name of the campaign indicates is taken from the Acts of the Apostles and inspires us to be like the first Christians. We are invited to be of one heart and one soul together, caring for and assisting each other. As I have done over the past few weekends, I will provide an update on the Campaign during the Lord’s Day Masses this weekend. 

This Tuesday, December 8, which is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, our Bible Study group will begin a new program focusing on rediscovering Saint Paul’s special letter to the Philippians. It is not too late to join in this study! Please see the bulletin for additional information on how to be involved. Meetings take place on the Zoom platform so that social distancing is completely maintained. 

Today we received updated Covid-19 protocols from our Diocese that reaffirm a number of procedures that are already in place (wearing masks at all times when in the church building, reception of Holy Communion mask protocol, mask exceptions and pew cleaning). The update states that “only pews that need to be used again within one hour need to be wiped down, by running a sanitized cloth along the tops and sides of each pew”. In our circumstances we will therefore need to sanitize only after 9am Sunday Mass at this time. Thank you to all the volunteers who have so generously provided their time and assistance to sanitize the pews since we reopened in June. Please know that we still need help after the 9am Mass on Sundays for the foreseeable future.

Since we now do not have to sanitize pews after each Mass, we can start thinking about bringing back the Wednesday evening Mass and confessions before the Mass. Volunteers will be needed to assist with seating arriving Mass participants and reading at the Masses. Please contact me or the parish office some time this week if you can help.

Join us for Sunday Mass in person to celebrate the season of Advent, but if you are prevented at this time due to the pandemic then actively participate in the livestreamed Sunday Mass on our YouTube channel here at 9am. 

God bless.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday Homily, November 29, 2020

First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B
By Fr. Claude Perera, OMI

Theme: Christ Is Coming at the End of Time

First Reading: Isaiah 63:16b-17,19b;64:2-7
A Prophetic Appeal for a Divine Revisit

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19
A Prayer for Protection

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Paul Thanks God for the Faith of the Corinthians.

Gospel Reading: Mark 13:33-37
Need to be Watchful and Ready When the Son of Man Comes

Background on the Gospel Reading and the Homily

As we begin the season of Advent today, we commence the Church’s new liturgical year 2020 – 2021. Sunday Mass Readings are arranged on a three-year cycle according to which we alternate between the three synoptic gospels, whereas the Gospel of John is interspersed throughout all three years. We have now entered the second year (or the Cycle B) of the three-year cycle. In this Year B, the Sunday readings are from the Gospel of Mark.

What we have in today’s gospel is about the second coming of Jesus at the end of time, found in the Eschatological Discourse of the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Mark. He began this chapter speaking of the end event referring to the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. First Jesus was questioned repeatedly by the scribes and the Pharisees about the oncoming catastrophe, and now in Mk 13:4 by his disciples—Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Jesus warns them about the difficulties to come. In today’s gospel, Jesus concludes the warnings to them. Jesus cautions them of the need for watchfulness because the Son of Man will not give any warning before His arrival. For only the Father knows the exact hour. There is the danger of disciples being caught unawares at His arrival.

This chapter reflects the life situation which the Markan community was living through. It is most likely that the Gospel of Mark would have been written around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. The Markan community was already living the difficult times of Roman persecutions of Jews/Christians as well as social upheaval that followed. In such difficult times, Mark wanted to encourage the members of his community by recalling that Jesus had foretold of such difficulties. They needed to remain alert and watchful.

The word Advent is etymologically connected to the Latin verb advenire meaning ‘to come.’ In advent we recall two types of Jesus’s comings, namely, the second coming and the first historical coming at Christmas. During the first part of Advent, namely, from the First Sunday in Advent up to December 16, we reflect on the second coming of Jesus, while in the second part of Advent from Dec 16 – 24, we concentrate on the historical birth of Jesus.

So, now as we are in this first part of Advent, let us continue on an important aspect of our Christian life about which we began reflecting in the month of November, namely, on the life of the world to come. All life forms continue after apparent death or destruction, some physically, others spiritually. No physical property is destroyed as reminded by the French Chemist Antione Lavoisier (1743 – 1794), the father of modern chemistry who formulated the Law of Conservation of Mass. If physical properties cannot be destroyed, how much more will the non-physical things? Soul and mind live for eternity. The definitive reign of eternity begins with the second coming of Jesus, the Son of Man. This entry into eternity is not automatic. A correctly ethical and God-fearing life is a sine qua non for it. Think of last Sunday’s gospel reading, the Parable of the Sheep and Goat (Mt 25:31-46). Let these four weeks of preparation for Christmas be for an intense experience of returning to the merciful Father by forfeiting our sinful ways. Thus, whenever the end may come in and whatever manner it be, we stand ready. Living righteously, we have no fear of being unprepared. This ought to lead to a good confession in Advent.  

Happy Advent! Heureux Avènement! Buon Avvento! Feliz Adviento! Feliz Avdento! Fröhlicher Advent! Gelukkige Komst! Szczęśliwego Nadejścia! Sretan Dolazak!

Sunday, November 29 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

With this Sunday’s celebration we enter into a new liturgical year and we begin the season of Advent.

“Be watchful! Be alert!” are the first words with which Mark greets us at the beginning of this new year of the church. They are also the last words spoken by Jesus in Mark’s gospel (Mark 13:37) before the vortex of violence begins to suck Jesus into the passion and death that he will conquer by his resurrection. So even as we begin Advent, we are reminded of the paschal mystery of Christ, the hub of the liturgical year.

Today’s gospel is part of Mark 13, the chap­ter that is known as his “little apocalypse.” Apocalypse is sometimes called the literature of the oppressed, as it usually arises from and is addressed to people in a time of uncertainty or suffering, present or imminent. Such was the situation of the Markan church, persecuted and unsure what the next day would bring in terms of fidelity to or betrayal of their faith…

Mark describes the “Jesus journey” through the parable of a man who goes abroad and leaves his servants in charge of his household. Just as each one of the servants in the parable is given specific work to do during his master’s absence, so we, as members of God’s household, are to be daily committed to our baptismal calling in our own circumstances, “evening, morning, cockcrow, dawn.” Especially as “doorkeepers,” we are to watch out for and open our per­sonal and communal lives to the advent of God. Modern science speaks of the cosmos in terms of millennia of millennia, yet we know that this is not the scale of our own lifetime. The natural process of aging, perhaps the diagnosis of our own or our loved one’s terminal illness, the sudden fatal accident, the ravages of natural disasters – all these are reminders of our much shorter time and our need to be prepared for that “personal parousia,” Christ’s advent in our death.

This Sunday in our churches or homes we light the first candle on the Advent wreath: a small flame is struck on an evergreen circle, a simple ritual and sym­bol of the first flicker of hope in the One who is the Light of the World, who will lead us through every darkness to eternal life with God who is without beginning or end. “Maranatha,” “Come, Lord,” is our persistent Advent cry.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

We are currently in the 6th week of the One Heart, One Soul Campaign which is taking place across our Diocese. At Masses this weekend I will provide an update on our progress so far. Thank-you so much to all our parishioners who have donated to the Campaign up until now. I invite those who have not yet sent in their pledges to do so as soon as possible.  Thank-you.

I would like to thank Jeanette Pin, who has been working in the parish office as our bookkeeper for the past 2 years, for her hard work, positivity, good spirit, and great dedication to her duties. Due to health reasons Jeanette has retired from her position. All of us at the parish office will miss her. We wish you all the best, good health and a happy retirement.

And at this time I wish to welcome our new staff member, Jean Goobie, a long-time parishioner, who will be embracing the bookkeeping responsibilities here at the parish. Jean is a member of our parish financial council and has been working as a financial co-ordinator for Catholic Family Services in Hamilton for many years. We are happy to have Jean on our parish staff and we wish her a good and quick adjustment to her duties. Break a leg!

Thank-you to all who have already registered for the Christmas Masses by using our online registration system on the parish website or by calling the office or by sending an email. Please know that you are only booking a specific Mass and not choosing seat in the church for that Mass. For all those who are intending to come for one of the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Masses, we ask your assistance in helping us to get organized by registering as soon as possible. A note to all: If any of the Masses end up having a very low number for registrations, they will likely be removed from the schedule and those who had registered for them will be invited to attend at one of the other available times.

This Thursday, December 3, is the feast day of our patron, St. Francis Xavier. We pray that through his intercession, the bonds of fellowship within our parish community may be continually strengthened, and that we may receive the graces we need to live good and holy lives during these challenging times and always. St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!

Starting this weekend, donation envelopes for the year 2021 will be available for you to pick up upon your arrival at the church for Saturday evening and Sunday Masses. To help us prevent any contamination, please do not take your envelopes yourself. Instead, ask our parish staff or ushers, who will be stationed in the Narthex, for assistance. Thank-you for your understanding and cooperation.

The religious calendars for upcoming year that we have available every December will also be in the Narthex starting next weekend.

Please visit this weekend’s online bulletin for additional announcements from the parish.

As always, for those who are not able or prefer not to attend Mass in person at this time, you are invited to join our community in worship from your home by accessing this Sunday’s live-streamed Mass at 9:00am.

God bless!
Fr. Mariusz

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