Category: News

Second Sunday of Easter, April 11 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad, alleluia”! These are the words from the responsorial psalm that we sang on the Easter Sunday Masses and the antiphon prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours during the Octave of Easter. They remind us that the joy of Easter cannot be contained just in one day but we have the whole Season of Easter to come to deeper appreciation of Christ resurrection. This Sunday is the second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday and the Gospel recalls for us the profession of faith by Thomas. 

“Thomas had not been in the room when the risen Jesus appeared to the dis­ciples, and so has missed out on any personal encounter with him, the words of missioning, and the bestowal of the gifts of peace and forgiveness in the Spirit. John makes Thomas a foil for our own need of these gifts and our struggles with doubt and faith. Often the comments about Thomas concen­trate too much on him as a doubter (which he is never called anywhere in the gospels) and too little on his desire to touch the source of life. John’s gospel shows him to be the kind of person who blurts out the questions or comments others are too timid or too embarrassed to speak. He is ready to go along with Jesus en route to Lazarus’s grave and die with him (John 11:16); and he is hon­est enough at the Last Supper to say that none of the disciples have any idea where Jesus is heading (John 14:5). The disciples to whom the risen Lord appeared on Easter eve announce the resurrection to Thomas in the same words as Mary Magdalene spoke to them: “We have seen the Lord.” And they are just as unsuccessful in convincing Thomas as Mary had been with them. Like all disciples, Thomas needs a per­sonal experience of Jesus before he will believe. Until then, he is locked in his own criterion for faith: he wants Jesus to be “touchable.” 

So eight days later, on the next “first day of the week” according to the resurrection timeline, the risen Lord of the Sabbath stands again in the midst of his disciples, greets them with his peace, and then turns to the individual who is most in need of this. For eight days Thomas has wrestled with the dark stranger of doubt and is wounded by this struggle. The wounded, risen Jesus and the wounded disciple stand before one another. Jesus invites Thomas to stretch out his hand to the wounds of his hands and side. But there is no physical touching. Jesus’s personal presence and self-offering to Thomas touch him and demolish all doubts. Here is “the way, and the truth, and the life” that Thomas is seeking, and he responds with the most profound and personal assent of faith in all the gospels: “My Lord and my God!” For the future gen­erations who will listen to this gospel in the presence of the physically absent Jesus, the last beatitude that Jesus then addresses to Thomas is our greatest hope: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” It is to hand on such life-giving faith, says the evangelist, that he has written his gospel. 

In his Asian Journal, Thomas Merton wrote: “Faith means doubt. Faith is not the suppression of doubt. It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it. The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a person of faith. Consequently, the monk is one who has to struggle in the depths of his being with the presence of doubt, and has to go through what some religions call the Great Doubt, to break through doubt into a certitude which is very, very deep because it is not his own personal certitude; it is the certitude of God Himself, in us.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

Thank you to our parishioners who donated towards this year’s Easter flowers. The names of all those for whom we prayed at each Easter Mass have been published in last Sunday’s online bulletin on our website. Having flowers decorating the sanctuary always makes that space more beautiful and joyful. 

I am sure that many of us know this, but since Thursday, April 8 we are under a “stay at home order” lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic. That means that we can only accommodate 15% of our seating capacity at any time, including weddings, funerals and any other Masses and liturgical celebrations. But the good news is that the Church remains open and accessible for private and communal prayers. 

I wish to thank all the volunteers who assisted us during Holy Week: our lectors, ushers, musicians, decorators and altar servers, as well those who provided help in organizing different ministries. Having our volunteers helps to have the Liturgies and Masses proceed smoothly with less stress on your pastor 🙂

The Knights of Columbus need your assistance. A few months back one of the freezers belonging to them failed and is beyond the cost of repair. They are asking if anyone would be able to donate a used stand-up freezer. If a parishioner has one that they no longer need then the Knights would be prepared to come by to pick it up. Please call the Grand Knight, Rocco Viola at 9056621224 for more information.

During the past few weeks, when we were doing the online booking for the Holy Week Masses and liturgies, I was able to collect multiple new email addresses from our registration system. I am going to add those emails to the contact list for my weekly parish email that I send on Fridays, but if anyone wants to be removed from that list please email me back this request.

Please remember in your prayers our parishioners who passed away recently: Victoire Losier, Antonio Truglia and Rosa Petitti. And please pray for those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

As this Sunday we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, all are invited to join us for the Holy Hour with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament which will begin at 2pm. During this time there will be an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation until 3pm, when we will pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy followed by the Benediction at 3:30pm. 

Just a reminder to us all about being careful when we receive the Blessed Sacrament during Mass while having to manage our face masks. I have noticed that sometimes, as parishioners are removing their facemasks, and trying to consume the Blessed Sacrament at the same time, some pieces of the Host get broken and fall onto the floor. Please don’t rush the process. 

An update on First Reconciliation and First Communion has been sent by email to the families of all those students in Grades 2 and 3 who have been registered to receive them this spring, as well as to school staff who are involved. The information in the email is also available in the News tab of the parish website.

See you on Sunday everyone, either in person or on the livestream of the 9am Sunday Mass. 

God bless.
Fr. Mariusz

1st Reconciliation and 1st Communion – update

Dear Students, Parents, and School Staff, Happy Easter!

We hope that you and your families are all doing well. This is a follow-up to the initial letter that was sent in January regarding the upcoming celebrations of First Reconciliation and First Communion for your child/children/students.
After hearing the news of first the most recent lockdown and now the stay-at-home order, the decision has been made to postpone the celebrations of these Sacraments until (hopefully) later in this school year. Under the heightened restrictions, we are permitted to have only 15% of the church’s seating capacity filled, which for most of the schools would translate to only the students and their parents being able to attend based on the number of students that are registered. We will be working with the schools to choose new dates and will update you on those in the near future, in the hopes that the restrictions will be eased by that time so that additional family members can be present.
In the meantime, we have some resources to share with you to aid particularly those who have been learning online, or who may have had their in-class preparation for one or both of these Sacraments disrupted by the pandemic, in at-home preparations for each Sacrament. Our Diocese has suggested the following videos to watch, which cover the basics of First Reconciliation and First Communion. They are designed to help students and families to better understand what First Reconciliation and First Communion are all about and make these celebrations more meaningful.

First Reconciliation: · Sophia Sketchpad: Confession
7 min. 54 sec. – good for adults and children ·
Busted Halo Sacraments 101- (why we confess)
5 min. 9 sec. – for adults, excellent catechesis on Reconciliation but brief enough for children

First Communion: · Sophia Sketchpad: The Eucharist
6 min. 38 sec. – good for adults and children
Busted Halo Sacraments 201- (what we believe)
9 min. 18 sec. – for adults, excellent catechesis on the Mass, but brief enough for children

We also have the following resources to share with all of you, families and school staff, at this time:

Videos:
Instructions for our Celebrations at St. Francis Xavier
Please note one change from what you will see in this video: When coming forward for Communion, rather than removing your mask and consuming the host while you are standing directly in front of the priest, please first move 6 feet away from him once he has placed the host into your hand and then remove your mask, consume the host, replace your mask, and return to your seat.

Virtual Church Tour:

Handouts:
A step-by-step Confession guide and Examination of Conscience for Children
Virtual church tour worksheet (This can be submitted for the chance to win a prize! More details are in the Virtual Church Tour video.)
Preparing for First Confession (brief document with tips for parents from the Diocese)
Preparing for First Communion (brief document with tips for parents from the Diocese)
Reconciliation word search
First Communion memory page

We’ll be in touch again once a new set of dates has been chosen for each school. Thank-you for your understanding and patience during this challenging time in all of our lives. We pray that the joy of the Resurrection will fill your hearts with peace and hope during this Easter season! Our risen Lord is with us always, walking beside us at every step of our journey through life.


God bless,
Fr. Mariusz

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

With the celebration of Palm Sunday this weekend we enter into Holy Week, the most sacred time in the Church’s year as we prepare for the celebration of Easter. This Sunday we read the Passion narrative according to St. Mark, and I invite you to enter into this reflection:

“If the gospel accounts stopped just after Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, how would you imagine the next few days playing out? The scene could easily be imagined as a hero’s entry in advance of his great triumph soon to follow.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, his disciples must have felt the same weight of expectations, the portent of what Jesus’s entry meant, not just for them­selves, but for everyone. If Jesus was the promised Messiah, the events to come were not just concerned with the realities of one Passover in Jeru­salem or the fate of the people of Judah but with the world and, yes, the world to come. What could one do but wait with sharp expec­tancy for events to unfold?

And yet one unnamed woman does more than wait. Her actions interpret not only Jesus’s entry as the expected king, but the sort of king Jesus must be. After his entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus went to Bethany. In Bethany, “a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.” In this action, she simply supports the reception accorded Jesus as he entered Jerusalem as the king. The mashiach (Greek, christos) is the “anointed one,” and her actions tell us that she not only understands that Jesus is the anointed one but that she has a need or responsibility to anoint him. But who is she to anoint a king?

The people gathered around Jesus, however, ask a different question: “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.’ They were infuriated with her.” Their question is not without merit, for in scolding her they probably were attempting to voice Jesus’s concern for the poor seen throughout his ministry. Jesus asks another question, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her?”

Somehow the concerned disciples have missed something. “She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.” Jesus’s response is not an attempt to mark out the permanence of poverty as a social problem but to note that her “good thing for me” has focused proper attention on him. Whether or not she knows the full implications of what she has done, she has directed those present to see Jesus as the Messiah, to grasp his christo­logical identity.

Her identification of Jesus as the Christ by anointing went deeper, however, than even she knew, for she could not have known that she had “anticipated anointing [Jesus’s] body for burial.” Faithful women will later seek to care for Jesus’s broken body after his death in order to anoint it with burial spices, but they would not find a body. The unnamed woman, though, already had anointed Jesus not only as a king but as the humble King who emptied himself out in death.

The humility of Jesus is reflected by the generosity of this woman, who pours out all that she has as a witness for him. Who is she to anoint a king? Given the universal significance of Jesus’s passion week, her anointing might seem a little thing, but it is the most any of us can do: she recognizes Jesus, and gives all she has for him, not understanding completely that her actions helped to prepare the King, first for his death and then for his triumph, but knowing somehow he is the Messiah.

The significance of her actions is felt when Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” We, too, are called to recognize Jesus the Messiah in faith, not simply as a conquering hero but as a servant willing to give himself up to death for us.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

I think that by now many of you will have heard that the provincial government has announced that, due to the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in our city, as of Monday we will enter into the “grey zone” with more restrictions in place to limit the spread of the virus. Please note that starting Monday we will ONLY be allowed to accommodate 15% of our church’s seating capacity. Some parishioners who have registered for a Mass on Easter Sunday and/or a Liturgy on Good Friday will be contacted by our parish office on Monday offering you a place at a different Mass or Liturgy that has a smaller number of bookings. This Sunday the celebration of Masses will remain at the 30% seating capacity.

Just to remind everyone that the blessing of Palms will be omitted from the celebration of Mass this Sunday, as was mentioned before in my communication 2 weeks ago, and all Masses this Sunday will begin in the usual way. Also I forgot to add before that the washing of feet at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday will be omitted as well this year as per Diocesan guidelines during the time of pandemic. 

Finally, I want to stress once again that in regard to the bookings for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter, your booking does not reserve you a particular seat in the church. Seating will be on a first come, first serve basis and therefore please be aware with the reduced seating capacity in the church you will likely be seated in the Chapel Hall or the Great Hall.  

Congratulations to the students from our 2 elementary Schools, St. Agnes and St. Francis Xavier, who received the Sacrament of Confirmation this week through the hands of Fr. Claude and myself. We invite our parishioners to remember them in your prayers, that they may be courageous witnesses for Christ. The candidates for Confirmation from St. Clare of Assisi School will be confirmed towards the end of April due to unforeseen circumstances. 

Our Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families concludes this Sunday evening from 7-8pm on Zoom, and all are welcome to attend! This week’s theme is Holy Week. If you would like to participate and are not on the contact list, please email Wes at wmoga@hamiltondiocese.com to receive the Zoom invite. Thank-you so much to those who have facilitated and participated in our retreat!  

Once a month our youth ministry community is coming together on Zoom to pray the Rosary. All are welcome to take part! Grab your Rosary and join in this Tuesday evening, March 30, at 7:00pm as we pray and reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries. If you are not currently on the contact list for Zoom invites from Wes, please feel free to contact her for this information at wmoga@hamiltondiocese.com. Hope to see you Tuesday!

The Stations of the Cross on Good Friday will be led by the youth of our parish in the form of a tableau with music and reflections. The Stations will begin at 7:00pm, and will also be live-streamed for those who would prefer to take part from home.

You’re invited to join us for Palm Sunday Mass in person as we gather as a believing community. For parishioners who are prevented from attending at this time we provide the live-streamed 10:00am Sunday Mass this weekend on our YouTube channel.

God bless.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday, March 21 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

As we prepare to celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Lent, I would like to invite you to spend a few moments of your time with the Gospel reading for this Sunday.

“The gospel of this Sunday proclaims the paradoxical wisdom of emptying in order to become full, of dying so that we may be raised to new life. This is the “hour” of radical obedience and exaltation for which, from Cana, through con­troversies, festivals, and miraculous signs, Jesus has been waiting: an hour that in today’s gospel sees Jesus sought by new “first disciples,” those beyond Israel, to whom the evangelist refers as “some Greeks.” They were probably Greek-speaking Jews who had come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They approach Andrew and Philip, two of Jesus’s original disciples who are apparently approach­able and good at bringing others to Jesus. (Remem­ber Peter, Nathanael, and the boy with five barley loaves and two fish.) Although these seekers may have been Jews from far-flung places, John uses this episode on the threshold of Jesus’s “hour” to suggest the call of the Gentiles. Many nations who eagerly seek Jesus will be drawn into his mystery when he is lifted up from the earth on a cross; all those who will belong to the church that is meant to be multiracial and multicultural.

To explain the meaning of his “hour,” Jesus tells the parable of a grain of wheat. When it is dropped into the earth, the seed shrinks, empties itself, and dies. But in the warmth and moisture of the earth new life breaks out of the husk and bears much fruit. “Fruit” in John’s gospel means “life,” and the hour is at hand when Jesus will be buried in the heart of the earth and rise from there to transformed and transforming life.

The larger world beyond Israel now includes us. If we wish not only to see but also to follow Jesus, we must choose to empty ourselves of self-centered­ness, of the instinct for self-preservation at the expense of our sisters and brothers. Those insulated from others’ suffering, eager for good connections, popularity, and status, rather than finding and following Jesus, will lose their lives. From seeds buried in the warm love and service of others, and watered by fidelity to our baptismal commitment, the Christian community grows into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is not easy; it was painful for Jesus, and it is painful for us. Jesus’s soul was troubled, we hear, but he embraces his hour of his own free will. He has already told the crowds, “No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father” (John 10:18). What Jesus has done, he proclaims, has always been for the glory of his Father, and he will die because of the way he lived. The Father’s voice affirms Jesus’s proclamation, declaring that Jesus is giving glory to God, and will be glorified because of this. It is a voice, says Jesus, that speaks not so much to reassure Jesus himself, but to bring faith and encourage­ment to the bystanders.

We are now the crowd assembled around Jesus. Do we understand his words or the Father’s voice? Can we recognize his saving cross at the epicenter of the tragedies that are born of sin, planted on the seismic fault lines that threaten to open and crack our world apart: the divides between rich and poor, peace and violence, north and south, east and west? Even more important, can we allow ourselves to be drawn to the exalted cross of Christ so that we ourselves may offer from the “right place” of the cross the fruit of healing reconciliation for the glory of God?” (Living Liturgy 2021)

As I mentioned in my weekly message last Friday, we have provided numerous opportunities for Masses and Liturgies for Holy Week and Easter. Some of them are very busy already and some have a very small number of bookings. Please reserve your Mass or Liturgy as soon as possible to help us determine the number of ushers and lectors that will be needed.

This week our Confirmation candidates from St. Francis Xavier School (on Tuesday), St. Clare of Assisi School (on Wednesday) and St. Agnes School (on Thursday) will celebrate the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation. Please keep them in your prayers, that they may be courageous witnesses for Christ and his Church in the world.

Last weekend at all Lord’s Day Masses I informed our congregation about the serious problems with our two candle rooms. What’s the story? A few weeks ago, one of our long-time parishioners expressed an interest in providing financial assistance to renovate one of the rooms. To obtain the proper information about how much it would cost, we contacted the Diocese about sending a construction company to take a look at the project. During the assessment it was discovered that all of the pillars supporting the candle rooms are rotten and have been almost entirely eaten away by termites over the years, and they cannot support the windows which constitute the main portion of the walls. The recommendations from the construction company and the engineer that did the assessment are that:
– no one should be entering the candle rooms from now on because they could collapse
– the rooms cannot be simply restored – they would have to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Therefore, I wish to inform you that the candle rooms are now closed to the public and cannot be used for unforeseen future. The Diocese will provide further assessment on the situation as we go forward.

The Bishop Farrell Library and Development and Peace are partnering to offer the Reel Justice Film Festival, a series of online viewings of justice-themed films followed by opportunities for discussion. This month, on Thursday, March 25 at 6:30pm, they will be featuring the film To the Arctic. This 40 minute documentary is suitable for the whole family! An extraordinary journey to the top of the world, the documentary adventure reveals a compelling tale of survival. Narrated by Oscar winner Meryl Streep, the film takes audiences into the lives of a mother polar bear and her twin seven-month old cubs as never before captured on film, as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home. To sign up, please visit this link.  There are so many issues of injustice all over our world, it is hard to know where to begin. This is a great place to start!

This weekend is Solidarity Sunday. Share Lent has been a tradition in Canadian parishes since 1968. It was established to embody the two pillars of social action – charity and justice – that Pope Benedict XVI described as “not only social, but also spiritual actions, accomplished in the light of the Holy Spirit”. Each year, the campaign tells the stories of our sisters and brothers in the Global South. Not stories of poverty and misery, but of incredible strength, resourcefulness and courage. Development and Peace and its partners can accompany and support them in their quest for justice because thousands of Canadians donate to Share Lent every year. This year, our campaign theme is Share Love, Share Lent. It is inspired by the message of social fraternity conveyed by our Pope in his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti. The Solidarity Sunday collection is an opportunity to honour the Holy Father’s message as a global community and to find inspiration from the parable of the Good Samaritan which is at the centre of his encyclical. Please give generously!  Your donations make a big difference in the world. You can visit the parish YouTube channel starting tomorrow to view a video from our parish Development & Peace team to learn more about Solidarity Sunday and how you can contribute.

Our Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families continues this Sunday evening from 7-8pm on Zoom, and all are welcome to attend! This week’s theme is Repentance. If you would like to participate and are not on the contact list, please email Wes at wmoga@hamiltondiocese.com to receive the Zoom invite.

You’re invited to join us for Sunday Mass in person as we gather as a believing community. For parishioners who are prevented from attending at this time we provide the livestreamed 9am Sunday Mass on our YouTube channel.

God bless.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday, March 14 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

We have arrived at the midpoint of our Lenten Season with the celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which is commonly known as Laetare Sunday. The name comes from the entrance antiphon reflecting on Isaiah 66:10-11: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.”

“Today we hear one of the most well-known and best-loved verses in the whole of John’s gospel, a verse that proclaims “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” These words are spoken in the context of the night visit of Nicodemus to Jesus. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and Jewish leader and teacher, avoids the daylight that might reveal him as associating with a man who is unpopular with the religious institution, and so arouse suspicion of Nicodemus’s own motives and stance. To be unafraid or un­ashamed of professing our friendship with Jesus by the way we live every day always brings hard demands. The German theolo­gian Eugen Drewermann gives us a memo­rable image of ourselves when, in the words of the gospel, we have “preferred darkness to light,” to that light which is the only Son of God..: “It can happen that we become like bats, like night-flying creatures who are so accustomed to the dark that our whole biorhythm is attuned to these shadowy periods, as if our eyes would be hurt and our whole lives would be turned inside out if we were dragged out of our caves and the hidden and fearful forms of our existence were exposed to the quiet regions of light and the brightness of day” (Dying We Live: Meditations for Lent and Easter).

…We all have our own caves that we need to name. Lent is designed to drag us out of their darkness into the Easter light of Christ through prayer, fasting, and the “alms­giving” of the gift of ourselves as well as the offer of material assistance to our sisters and brothers in many kinds of need.

To help the night visitor, Nicodemus, to come into the light of understanding something of his mystery and mission, Jesus uses a good catechetical approach: he talks the language of his listener. He reminds this “teacher of Israel” (John 3:10), who is very much in the dark, of a story from their own Hebrew Scriptures (Num 21:4-9). In the wilderness, the people grumble against God and are struck with a plague of serpents whose bite could cause death. The people come to Moses, admit their sinfulness, and ask him to intercede for them with God. When he does so, God tells Moses to forge a bronze serpent, fix it and raise it up before those who are stricken. If they gaze on it, they will be saved. This seems a great paradox: healing and life from gazing on a creature of death! But they obey and are healed.

In our humanity, we are all bitten by death; yet, Jesus tells Nicodemus, the God who is love wants to give us life that never ends. And so the flesh of the Son of Man will be brutally, senselessly twisted around the wood of the cross, forged by the fire of his passion and death, and raised up for our salvation. In John’s gospel, “raising” or “lifting up” always has the double sense of crucifixion and exaltation, death and resurrection, for the two movements are inseparable. To gaze with the eyes of faith on this mystery and commit ourselves to it will mean eternal life. Jesus does not come to judge, but just as turning on a light exposes what is hidden in darkness, so it is when the light of Christ shines upon us to ex­pose both good and evil. The cross that will be raised up and venerated on Good Friday will give way at the Easter Vigil to the raised Easter candle, marked with the cross of fragrant “nails” of incense, from which we catch fire and rekindle our baptismal commitment to the saving and universal love of Jesus Christ.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

Congratulations to the students from St. Martin of Tours School who received the Sacrament of Confirmation last night (Thursday) by the laying on of hands by Fr. Claude and myself (social distancing rules were observed). Please keep all our students who have received their Confirmation in your prayers, as well as those who are preparing to receive it later this month.

The schedule for Holy Week and Easter has been published in the online bulletin on our website, as well as on our Facebook page last weekend and on the doors of the church. In preparation for Holy Week and Easter we have activated an online booking system for all parishioners who intend to be present at the Masses and Liturgies during these holy days in the Church’s year. Please book your spots at those celebrations to help us determine the necessary number of musicians, lectors and if needed Ministers of the Eucharist as soon as possible. As I mentioned last Sunday, if some Masses and Liturgies have poor registration numbers then they will be removed from the schedule and all who had signed up for them will be notified by an email or a phone call so that they can book spots at one of the other available times if they wish. For parishioners who do not have access to the internet or email, please call the parish office to register.

Our Diocese has provided us with guidelines for the celebrations during Holy Week and Easter. I would like to inform you that according to those guidelines, the blessing and distribution of palms on Palm Sunday has been omitted this year due to the ongoing pandemic, as well as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass on Holy Thursday. The Adoration of the cross during the Liturgy of Good Friday will be only by the presiding priest. Also the singing of the Litany of the Saints during the Easter Vigil will be omitted, and the renewal of baptismal promises that takes place at the Easter Vigil and Easter Masses will happen without the sprinkling rite.

As we approach the celebration of Easter, I would like to invite our parishioners to participate in providing the “Easter Flowers”. You can like to make a donation for them in the Sunday collection basket or online through our website in memory of your family members or friends who have passed away. For the past few years now, we have dedicated all Masses on Easter Sunday in memory of those who have gone before us in faith, praying for the repose of their souls.

Our Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families continues this Sunday evening from 7-8pm on Zoom, and all are welcome to attend! This week’s theme is Almsgiving. If you would like to participate and are not on the contact list, please email Wes at wmoga@hamiltondiocese.com to receive the Zoom invite.

In your prayers please remember the souls of our parishioners who passed away this week: Fred Mastroianni and Francesco Basolini, as well as their families grieving their loss. Eternal rest, grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

For your convenience I wish to provide you with the schedule for Holy Week and Easter in this email:

Palm Sunday
Saturday, March 27th:       5:30pm   
Sunday, March 28th:         8:00am, 10:00am, 12:00 Noon, 4:00pm

Holy Thursday (April 1st)
Mass of the Lord’s Supper: 7:00pm

Good Friday (April 2nd
Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion:         11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm
Stations of the Cross:       7:00pm

Holy Saturday (April 3rd)
Blessing of Easter Food:    12:00 Noon
Note: please remember that there is NO 5:30pm Mass on this day. 
Solemn Easter Vigil:          8:00pm

Easter Sunday (April 4th)
7:00am, 9:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm

Please note that due to the ongoing pandemic, we are only permitted to accommodate 30% of our church’s seating capacity. All parishioners attending Masses and liturgies on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday must register ahead of time. The registration page is on the main page. You can also register by calling or emailing the parish office. Please register as soon as possible.

And finally, this Sunday we sleep one hour less as Daylight Savings Time begins on March 14 at 2am. Please do not forget to set you clocks ahead one hour! Those who are homebound or unable to attend Masses in person at this time are invited to join us for the live-streamed celebration of Sunday Mass at 9:00 AM. Before the Mass you can also join in for the recitation of the Rosary at 8:30 am. 

God bless.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday, March 7 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

In preparation for the celebration of Mass on the 3rd Sunday of Lent, I invite you to reflect on the Gospel reading that will be our focus this Sunday.

“We find it easy to admire – even if we do not imitate – the compassionate Jesus, but an angry Jesus armed with a corded whip, driving traders and money changers out of the Jerusalem temple and upturning their tables, may shock us. This gospel does not actually use the word “angry,” but Jesus’s actions are played out against the backdrop of the “zeal” of Psalm 69:10, and the burning passion of the psalmist for God and the house of God, the Temple, that Mark places in the mouth of Jesus. This is the zeal that will consume Jesus in the hot noon of Calvary.

The cause of Jesus’s anger is not so much the money exchange or animal trading in the outer court of the temple. Foreign coinage that bore pagan or imperial images could not be accepted for the half-shekel tax for the upkeep of the temple sanctuary, and so it had to be exchanged for acceptable temple currency with which to pay this tax and also buy sacrificial animals. John writes that “the Passover of the Jews was near,” and so those flocking to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast from all over the Roman Empire needed to buy the animals required for participation in the temple worship and the domestic rituals. They could do this most conveniently at the temple. Jesus is not unaware of the need for the money exchange, nor so naïve as not to know that petty pilfering and profiteering can be involved in these transactions. Something much more radical is happening: the reclama­tion of the holy place from marketplace to his Father’s house; from empty, atro­phied ritual to living worship.

By his “parable in action,” Jesus momentarily terminates the temple worship, reclaims it from chaos and commerce, and cleanses the privileged piece of crea­tion that is his Father’s house of prayer. No doubt a few hours later the tables were again in place, animals led back in, coins exchanged – with plenty to talk about!

Yet the disturbing Jesus does not disappear from the scene; he has more “table turning” to do. He stays to answer the criticism of his opponents who can see no further than the temple built over forty-six years by human hands or who refuse to imagine or tolerate any alternatives to the religious practices and institutions that they consider faultless and unchangeable. In this Jesus stands in the line of the Hebrew prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Amos, who angrily and zealously denounced triumphalism and absolutism in worship. Jesus, too, will suffer the fate of so many prophets before and after him: rejection, persecution, even death. Jesus dares to name himself as the new and living temple in which the divine pres­ence dwells. Ultimately, the sanctuary of his body will be destroyed in his pas­sion and death, only to be raised again in three days. It is only after these events that his disciples will remember and understand Jesus’s words.

The contemporary church cannot consider itself beyond the reach of Jesus’s whip or overturning hands… For us who are living stones in the temple of Christ’s Body, Lent is also a time for cleansing the deep personal sanctuary of our hearts, for driving out of our lives whatever clutters our discipleship, blocks our ears to the word of God and the prophets, and distracts us from trading justly and lovingly with the gifts God has given us.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

Last night (Thursday) we celebrated the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation by Grade 7 students from Our Lady of Peace Elementary School. We wish to congratulate our young people on this occasion, as well their parents and sponsors, and the school staff who assisted them in preparation for the sacrament. We realize that the celebrations are different this year due to the ongoing pandemic but the grace of God in Confirmation is present and working within us. Some of you may be surprised, as I heard last night, but this year it is Fr. Claude and myself who administer the Sacrament as our Bishop has granted all pastors and associate pastors the faculty to administer Confirmation, as per the Diocesan instructions during the time of pandemic, and this faculty is in place until the end of June 2021.

This coming Thursday we will celebrate Confirmation with students from St. Martin of Tours School and their families. Please keep these candidates in your prayers.

Our Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families continues this Sunday evening from 7-8pm on Zoom, and all are welcome to attend! This week’s theme is Fasting. If you would like to participate and are not on the contact list, please email Wes at wmoga@hamiltondiocese.com to receive the Zoom invite.

Development and Peace’s annual fundraising campaign has begun. This year it is called Share Love Share Lent and is highlighting the wide variety of ways that Development and Peace works to support our brothers and sisters in the global south who suffer injustices. Much more information can be found here. A collection will be taken up at our parish on Solidarity Sunday, which this year falls on Sunday, March 21. Please give generously if you are able.

Please remember in your prayers the soul of Anna DeSimone, a long-time faithful parishioner, who passed away this week and whose funeral is tomorrow, Saturday, at 10:00am. The funeral Mass will be live-streamed on our YouTube channel. Also please pray for her grieving family. Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Join us for the celebration of the Sunday Mass in person at the regular times. We hope that more of you can start to join us in person again as you feel comfortable. For those who are not able to do so at this time we continue to livestream the 9am morning Mass on Sunday.

God bless.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday, February 28 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, which is the Second Sunday of Lent, as we gather for the celebration of the Mass and to receive the Body of Christ, we will reflect on the Gospel that describes for us the transfiguration of our Lord.

“The readings present a compendium of themes that shape the Lenten sea­son. The first reading concludes the cycle of narratives about Abraham (Gen 12–23), which unfold from his call, with the promise that he and Sarah will be the parents of many nations, through the covenant and the birth of a son, the bearer of the promise (Isaac), and reaches its pinnacle in God’s command that Abraham offer Isaac as a holocaust. As one of the most treasured subjects of Christian art, the denouement of the story is familiar. At the last moment “the Lord’s messenger” intervenes; Isaac is spared, and the promise is renewed: “Because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly” (Gen 22:16-17).

In both Judaism and Christianity Abraham is a paradigm of faith who “when tested was found loyal” (Sir 44:20), who “hoped against hope” (Rom 4:18), and who “by faith, . . . when put to the test, offered up Isaac” because he believed in a God who could raise up the dead (Heb 11:17- 19). Also in Jewish tradition Isaac is transformed into a model of self-sacrifice who went willingly to his death, which is adopted by Christians for Jesus, “the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal 2:20).

“Transformation” would be a better term to describe today’s gospel story, since Jesus, though in the form of God, took on the “form of a slave” (Phil 2:6-7), and is now transformed and seen as an exalted member of the heavenly court. The narrative is dense with biblical allusions. The dazzling white clothes are a sym­bol of divine presence in Daniel 7:9, while the presence of Elijah and Moses has been interpreted in a number of ways. They are symbols of the prophets and the Law; both are people who did not taste death but were exalted to heaven (Elijah in 2 Kgs 2:1-12; Moses in extra-biblical tradition); they are faithful prophets who suffered because they followed God’s word.

The deeper focus of the account emerges from the divine voice: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7). The transformation follows the first of three predictions by Jesus of his death by crucifixion, which the disciples consistently resist. Peter’s desire for three booths seems an attempt to substitute divine presence for the way of the cross. The same three disciples who witness Jesus’s transformation fail to watch with him during his agony in the garden (Mark 14:32-42). Mark’s readers and we ourselves are to hear the voice of a Jesus who says that the way to glory is only through the cross.

The narrative is also followed by one of the most dramatic stories in the gospel (Mark 9:14-29), the exorcism from a young boy of a destructive demon which the disciples of Jesus are powerless to combat. Raphael’s magnificent panorama “The Transfiguration,” which greets visitors to the Vatican muse­ums, captures the sequence perfectly. While Jesus and the heavenly companions are illumined in resplendent colors, the fruitless struggle of the disciples with the demon occupy the lower right-hand corner. The eye cannot help but behold the chaos of earthly evil when looking at heavenly glory.

…The deeper meaning of the narrative for Mark and for us during Lent is that even after moments of tran­scendence and transformation, we must come back to earth, continue to hear the voice of Jesus, and follow him on the way to the cross. Experience of tran­scendence is juxtaposed with the struggle against evil. The readings today encourage deep faith and trust in God.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

We are back to our regular schedules when it comes to the celebration of the daily and Sunday Masses, as well as with having the parish office reopened. When attending Masses and visiting the office you must follow all the pandemic protocols that are in place, and you are asked to please call the office to make an appointment with our secretaries before visiting.

This week we begin the celebrations of the Sacrament of Confirmation for students in Grade 7 from our five elementary schools. On Thursday evening, the first group of students from Our Lady of Peace School will participate in the Liturgy of the Word, during which they will receive the Sacrament. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the attendance is limited at 30% capacity and the candidates will be confirmed not by the bishop but by Fr. Claude and myself (this year because of the pandemic, our bishop delegated to all priests the power to give the sacrament of Confirmation). Please keep our candidates for Confirmation in your prayers. We pray that they will be strong, courageous, and enthusiastic witnesses to the world of Christ and his Church.

Today our secretaries worked extra long to have all the remaining tax receipts folded, placed in envelopes, sealed and mailed. Today was the final day to request your receipt from the parish office – they are now in the hands of Canada Post. Thank-you to those parishioners who were kind enough to pick them up or who requested a copy be sent to them by email. Doing this has saved us both time as well as some of the expense of paying for stamps and envelopes. We still had to send out more than 600 receipts. 

The One Heart, One Soul Campaign continues at our parish. We have reached $356,387 in pledges, which is 58.3% of our campaign goal. If you have not yet made a pledge and are intending to, please submit your pledge card to the Diocese.

This Sunday our Diocese observes a Holy Hour of prayer for the victims of sexual abuse and their families. It was decreed by our Bishop in the year 2019 that all parishes in our Diocese be invited to pray as a community for healing in the lives of those who have suffered from the scourge of abuse. Here at St. Francis Xavier Parish the Holy Hour will begin at 3pm with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a time of adoration, and will conclude just before the 4pm Mass with Benediction. Please join us in prayer.

Our Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families continues this Sunday evening from 7-8pm on Zoom! This week’s theme is Prayer. If you would like to participate and are not on the contact list, please email Wes at wmoga@hamiltondiocese.com.

Our condolences to Fr. Mike Downey, our former parish associate, who grieves the loss of his mother Shirley Downey who passed away on Monday, February 22 at the age of 92 in Cambridge. The funeral Mass will take place at a later date. Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Parishioners who cannot be with us in person are invited to celebrate the Sunday Mass with us virtually on our YouTube channel this Sunday at 9am.

Have a blessed weekend everyone.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday, February 21, 2021 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

The season of Lent is upon us! It began a few days ago with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, which also coincided with the re-opening of our church after the stay-at-home order was lifted. This Sunday we celebrate the First Sunday of Lent and follow Christ into the desert.

“Every year on the First Sunday of Lent, the gospel proclaimed is the wilderness temptation of Jesus. Mark’s account is honed to three short verses following immediately and urgently after the baptism of Jesus. The Spirit “drove” Jesus into the wilderness, says Mark. We often describe people as “driven” – by ambi­tion, lust, desperation – but what drives Jesus is the Holy Spirit. He is tossed into the physical and spiritual space where, before he begins his public ministry, before he proclaims one word of the Good News, he must struggle with two consequences of his baptism: his naming as Son of the Father and his solidar­ity with sinful humanity represented by the crowds on the Jordan’s banks who were called by John to a baptism of repentance. Now there are no crowds; Jesus is alone with the Spirit of God and the spirit of evil, with the wild beasts and the angels, with communion and conflict, with the struggle – that will persist throughout his life and death – to be the faithful Son. He is alone with the mem­ory of his ancestors and their wilderness wandering in what for them was not only a place of God’s revelation and promises, but also a place of their tempta­tions and failures. Jesus will show himself to be the most faithful Israelite. The opposition between human sin and divine presence, between the “angelic” and the “beastly,” was starkly exposed in Jesus’s own psyche. And if we are honest and mindful, we know them in ourselves and in our own struggles to be faithful sons and daughters of our same Father.

The English artist Stanley Spencer (1891–1959) painted a “wilderness series” about the life of Christ. In one of these paintings he depicts Jesus sitting on the desert sands with a “wild beast.” But the beast is not a roaring lion or a skulk­ing tiger. In his cupped hands he holds a small but deadly scorpion. Jesus is no wraith-like ascetic, but very much a plump “flesh of our flesh” man. Spencer may be suggesting that the really dangerous beasts are those small ones that can slither insidiously into our lives; the persistent sins and small infidelities that, almost unnoticed, can inject a paralyzing venom into our discipleship…

Jesus comes out from his wilderness experience strengthened for praise and pain and mission. The arrest of John the Baptist is the first storm that breaks over Mark’s gospel, but over it rises a Galilean rainbow of hope as Jesus pro­claims his first words: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” On Ash Wednesday, the last words of that proclamation were an alternative that was pronounced as we were sprinkled with ashes as baptized disciples of the tempted One and called to Lenten mindful­ness of the struggle between sin and grace, success and failure, into which we too are tossed.

The desert sand is not under our feet but in our hearts. Its grit is the daily irritations and indefinable loneliness we often feel. We need these Lenten weeks of heightened awareness of the importance of uncluttered spiritual and physical space where we can come to grips with our pain, where we can dis­cover the beauty of God and our sisters and brothers under the surface sands of our busy lives, and where we can allow our ears to be “dug out” (Ps 40:6) by closer listening to the word of God in our Sunday liturgy. We may then become much wiser about the spiritual baggage that we, as wilderness travelers, need to keep or discard in the trek toward Easter.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

Daily and Sunday Masses have now resumed at the regular times and with the pandemic protocols in place. If you are coming to the church, please remember to sanitize your hands at the stations provided in the Narthex, to wear your facemask at all times while you are inside the building, and to maintain social distancing. The parish office has also re-opened, and office hours are Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. If you need to visit the office, please make sure that you call in advance to schedule your appointment. If your request can be handled by phone or email, please use these methods to communicate with the staff in order to help minimize visitors to the office during this time.

As I mentioned in last week’s email, tax receipts for 2020 are now available at the office. You can either request to have your receipt emailed to you or make an appointment to come pick it up during office hours. They will be also available for pick-up this Sunday in the lobby of the church before the 5:30pm Saturday Mass and 9:00am and 11:00am Sunday Masses – our secretaries will be waiting there to assist you.

I would like to remind those who make their donations to the parish through our website using CanadaHelps that a tax receipt is emailed to you automatically as a PDF life each time you donate, and is not recorded in our parish system.

Beginning tonight, the Stations of the Cross will be held at the church on each Friday of Lent at 7:00pm. You are welcome to come to reflect and pray. Pandemic protocols must be followed therefore we are not able to provide you with a booklet of the Stations to follow along with.

This week we begin the Lenten Bible study entitled Forgiven; it is not too late to register! Please see the parish bulletin for additional information. Meetings will take place online so that there are no social distancing concerns – you can participate from the comfort of your home!

One last reminder to any students in Grade 5 and up who would like to participate in this year’s THINKfast, which will be held over Zoom on March 5 and 6, that the registration deadline is this coming Friday, February 26. The registration form and much more information about this event are available at this link here.

The weekly Lenten retreat for youth and families begins this Sunday evening on Zoom! More information can be found here. If you have not received the Zoom invite and would like to participate, please contact Wes at wmoga@hamiltondiocese.com.

In your prayers, please remember the soul of Lorenzo Castelli who passed away this week and whose funeral took place on Thursday: Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

I invite our parishioners who are homebound or unable to attend Masses in person at this time to join us for the live-streamed celebration of Sunday Mass at 9:00 AM, as we are now returning to our regular Sunday schedule. Before the Mass you can also join in for the recitation of the Rosary at 8:30 am, led by our parishioners.  

We hope to see you soon, everyone.

God bless,
Fr. Mariusz

MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS FOR LENT 2021

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18).

Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus revealed to his disciples the deepest meaning of his mission when he told them of his passion, death and resurrection, in fulfilment of the Father’s will. He then called the disciples to share in this mission for the salvation of the world.

In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter vigil, we will renew our baptismal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.

1. Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.

In this Lenten season, accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God’s word, which the Church passes on from generation to generation. This truth is not an abstract concept reserved for a chosen intelligent few. Instead, it is a message that all of us can receive and understand thanks to the wisdom of a heart open to the grandeur of God, who loves us even before we are aware of it. Christ himself is this truth. By taking on our humanity, even to its very limits, he has made himself the way – demanding, yet open to all – that leads to the fullness of life.

Fasting, experienced as a form of self-denial, helps those who undertake it in simplicity of heart to rediscover God’s gift and to recognize that, created in his image and likeness, we find our fulfilment in him. In embracing the experience of poverty, those who fast make themselves poor with the poor and accumulate the treasure of a love both received and shared. In this way, fasting helps us to love God and our neighbour, inasmuch as love, as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, is a movement outwards that focuses our attention on others and considers them as one with ourselves (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 93).

Lent is a time for believing, for welcoming God into our lives and allowing him to “make his dwelling” among us (cf. Jn 14:23). Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): the Son of God our Saviour.

2. Hope as “living water” enabling us to continue our journey.

The Samaritan woman at the well, whom Jesus asks for a drink, does not understand what he means when he says that he can offer her “living water” (Jn 4:10). Naturally, she thinks that he is referring to material water, but Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit whom he will give in abundance through the paschal mystery, bestowing a hope that does not disappoint. Jesus had already spoken of this hope when, in telling of his passion and death, he said that he would “be raised on the third day” (Mt 20:19). Jesus was speaking of the future opened up by the Father’s mercy. Hoping with him and because of him means believing that history does not end with our mistakes, our violence and injustice, or the sin that crucifies Love. It means receiving from his open heart the Father’s forgiveness.

In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for his creation which we have often mistreated (cf. Laudato Si’, 32-33; 43-44). Saint Paul urges us to place our hope in reconciliation: “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament that lies at the heart of our process of conversion, we in turn can spread forgiveness to others. Having received forgiveness ourselves, we can offer it through our willingness to enter into attentive dialogue with others and to give comfort to those experiencing sorrow and pain. God’s forgiveness, offered also through our words and actions, enables us to experience an Easter of fraternity.

In Lent, may we be increasingly concerned with “speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn” (Fratelli Tutti, 223). In order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be “willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference” (ibid., 224).

Through recollection and silent prayer, hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light, illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission. Hence the need to pray (cf. Mt 6:6) and, in secret, to encounter the Father of tender love.

To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realization that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is “making all things new” (cf. Rev 21:1-6). It means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave his life on the cross and was raised by God on the third day, and always being “prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls [us] to account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet 3:15).

3. Love, following in the footsteps of Christ, in concern and compassion for all, is the highest expression of our faith and hope.

Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need. Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion.

“‘Social love’ makes it possible to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called. With its impulse to universality, love is capable of building a new world. No mere sentiment, it is the best means of discovering effective paths of development for everyone” (Fratelli Tutti, 183).

Love is a gift that gives meaning to our lives. It enables us to view those in need as members of our own family, as friends, brothers or sisters. A small amount, if given with love, never ends, but becomes a source of life and happiness. Such was the case with the jar of meal and jug of oil of the widow of Zarephath, who offered a cake of bread to the prophet Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 17:7-16); it was also the case with the loaves blessed, broken and given by Jesus to the disciples to distribute to the crowd (cf. Mk 6:30-44). Such is the case too with our almsgiving, whether small or large, when offered with joy and simplicity.

To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you” (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.

“Only a gaze transformed by charity can enable the dignity of others to be recognized and, as a consequence, the poor to be acknowledged and valued in their dignity, respected in their identity and culture, and thus truly integrated into society” (Fratelli Tutti, 187).

Dear brothers and sisters, every moment of our lives is a time for believing, hoping and loving. The call to experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing of our goods, helps us – as communities and as individuals – to revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father.

May Mary, Mother of the Saviour, ever faithful at the foot of the cross and in the heart of the Church, sustain us with her loving presence. May the blessing of the risen Lord accompany all of us on our journey towards the light of Easter.

Francis

Sunday, February 14 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

We are preparing ourselves to celebrate the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, which is the last Sunday before we enter into the Season of Lent. The Gospel presents us with the story of the healing of a man with leprosy.

“The leprosy about which the first reading and the gospel speak today is not to be confused with contemporary Hansen’s disease, medically identified only in 1868 by the Norwegian scientist Gerhard Hansen. A number of conditions, especially those with the signs of scaly skin, swellings, and exuding bodily fluids, are described as “leprosy” in this Sunday’s first reading from the book of Leviticus. Skin that flaked off, fluids that were unnaturally exuded from the body, were considered to be conditions that violated religious-cultural boundaries connected with the integrity, and therefore holiness, of the human body, and so were considered to diminish the worth of the person. People with such conditions were banished from the community, compelled to cry “Unclean!” and make themselves obviously disheveled so that others would avoid them. To be “unclean” was also regarded as a moral failing and therefore sinful. The person who came into contact with such an afflicted one was regarded as contaminated and as ritually unclean and as adding to the moral pollution of the very gregarious Middle Eastern society.

Leprosaria and Hansen’s disease still exist in some parts of the world, but social and religious alienation because of other causes is sadly much more familiar. Who are today’s “lepers,” people whom some consider as “polluting” the homogeneous and often exclusive society by their differences in race, culture, social mores, or physical and intellectual disabilities? The attitudes of the Nazis to the Jews, the Hutus to the Tutsis, the second people to the first and indigenous people of a land, are bred by a “leper” mindset. What are our attitudes to those we might consider as weakening the moral fiber of society – the drug addicts, the HIV/AIDS sufferers, those in prison? Are we on the side of harsh, punitive justice or compassionate restorative justice? …

In the gospel, Jesus is approached by a leper. He makes no attempt to move away from him. What he is moved by is compassion, the deep gut-wrenching response that identifies with the suffering of another, and his hand stretches out to touch the man and affirm his choice to heal him. How long had it been since the leper had felt the touch of another human being on his diseased flesh, had heard words of affirmation rather than insult? We should be more enlightened about the importance of touch – the holding of the hand of the seriously ill or dying person, the silent embrace of the bereaved. Yet for some people there is the almost hysterical avoidance of touching the HIV/AIDS sufferer, or of drinking from the communion chalice lest, contrary to all medical opinion, one might be infected by this. Jesus’s compassion and humanity bridge the gap between the holy and the unclean, freedom and taboos, sickness and health.

Jesus tells the man to observe the Mosaic Law by showing himself to a priest for the confirmation of his healing, and to offer a public sacrifice, an act of worship from which his leprosy had excluded him. By this instruction Jesus shows that he respects the Mosaic teaching, even though he will soon clash with some of the scribes’ interpretation of this. Ironically, the man now goes around publicly and freely, while Jesus must leave the town and go into the country to escape his unwanted publicity. Because he has touched the leper, according to the Law Jesus is also regarded as unclean and excluded. He has taken upon himself another’s infirmity; in his passion and death he will be the Suffering Servant who bears all our infirmities and transgressions for the sake of our salvation (cf. Isa 53:4-5). Yet people still come to him, caring nothing for his “infection” and everything for his miraculous power. As those who come to Jesus, what are we seeking from him? Do we want to be infected with his compassion or with the miraculous? How does Jesus touch us – and how do we touch others?” (Living Liturgy 2021)

It is now confirmed that we are reopening on February 17! And so, since we are reopening this Wednesday, at the same time it is in our Catholic Christian tradition Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Season of Lent. Here at St. Francis Xavier Church we will have three Masses that day: 8:00am, 12:00pm and 7:00pm, during which the distribution of ashes will take place. Please note that the distribution of ashes will be different this year – a priest will say only one time to all present “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”. Then, after sanitizing his hands, he will sprinkle the ashes on the head of each person who comes towards him without saying anything. Please note that the reopening, if it takes place next week, will be with the limited capacity of 30%, with social distancing in place, masks mandatory, and sanitizing of hands before entering the church, just as it was before the beginning of the second lockdown.

On Wednesday our 5 elementary schools will participate in a virtual Liturgy of the Word for Ash Wednesday that will start at 9:10am on the parish YouTube channel. If you are homebound, please join our young students for this liturgy and pray with them and for them at the beginning of the Lenten Season. Also on the same day, the 7:00pm Mass (if we are reopened) will be livestreamed for our parishioners who are unable to join us in person.

The 2020 tax receipts are now ready at the parish office, but as you know the office is currently closed (hopefully only until February 16). If you would like to receive your tax receipt electronically, please email our parish office with the following information to confirm your identity and to help us make sure that we don’t send your receipt to the wrong person: your first and last name, your address, telephone number and envelope number. As soon as we have this information, we will be able to provide you with your electronic tax receipt. You can also pick up your tax receipt from the office after it has reopened. All tax receipts that have not been picked up in person or by email by the end of February will be mailed at that time, but if you would like to assist the parish in saving some expenses for stamps then please do so as right now our income is very limited.

In your prayers please remember the soul of our long-time parishioner Tiny Bonds who passed away this week: Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

A reminder of the upcoming Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families which will be held on Sunday evenings during Lent from 7:00-8:00pm over Zoom, as well as the online THINKfast social justice event for youth at the beginning of March. More information about both can be found here.

Our youth ministry community will also be hosting their second online Rosary of the year on Zoom this coming Thursday, February 18 at 7:00pm! All are welcome to participate. Please email Wes at wmoga@hamiltondiocese.com for the Zoom invite if you are not already on the contact list. If you are interested in helping to lead the prayers and reflections please let her know.

Join us this Sunday for the celebration of the Mass on the parish YouTube channel at the usual time of 10:00am with the Rosary prayed at 9:30am.

God bless.
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday, February 7 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

We are now in the month of February which welcomes us with cold weather that will stay with us a bit longer, or so the weather forecast indicates. Even Father Claude has become used to the colder climate as he now runs in short sleeves around the house (just kidding).

In the Church’s calendar we celebrate the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time this weekend, and as the thumbnail for the livestream indicates (I try whenever it is possible to use a painting, or drawing in this case, to show a reference to the upcoming Gospel reading), this Sunday we reflect on the Gospel passage that speaks about the healing of the mother-in-law of Peter, as well as the healing of many others.

“In the gospel, God’s remembrance of and compassion for suffering humanity comes most tangibly and radically in the healing presence of Jesus. From the religious service in the synagogue Jesus moves immediately into the house of Simon and Andrew, accompanied by James and John, disciples who are hav­ing a busy apprenticeship. In the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law we have a vignette of the mission of Jesus, the free man, who cares nothing for taboos that prohibited the touching of a woman not one’s wife, and especially on the Sabbath. Jesus has healed the tormented man in the synagogue, and he will make no discrimination between male and female, even though to hold the hand of the sick woman could earn him the accusa­tion of ritual uncleanness. Compassion has a more urgent hold on Jesus, and his raising of her is by the same power that God will manifest in raising Jesus from the dead. The response of Simon’s mother-in-law to her healing is to serve (diēkonei, which the Lec­tionary translates as “she waited on them”) Jesus and his companions. The last use of this word in Mark’s gospel is in Mark 15:41, and here it is again with reference to women who followed and served him, so framing the mission of Jesus from its beginning to his death with the service of women. It is a reminder, too, that all who have experienced the healing power of Jesus, in the flesh and in the Spirit, should respond with service of others.

Even though Jesus did not subject himself to Sabbath restraints, the crowds wait until “after sunset” when the Sabbath was over to bring those who are sick in body and mind to him. Jesus responds to the universal longing for wholeness and healing, vanquishing the reign of evil, yet commanding the evil spirits not to speak of him because not until his death will his true messianic identity be revealed. Before that, such a revelation, especially by the proclamation of the formerly possessed, could be manipulated by Jesus’s enemies into false charges of his being on the side of the kingdom of evil (see Mark 3:22-27).

The one to whom Jesus is first accountable, however, is not the sick or pos­sessed person, not Simon or his companions. Jesus’s life is above all directed to God who is acting in him and through him, so early the next morning he seeks a place where he can be alone with God in prayer. Simon and some of his companions are described not as Jesus’s “followers,” but as those who “pursue” Jesus. There is a note of accusation and misunderstanding in Simon’s words: “Everyone is looking for you” (including us!). There is no appreciation of Jesus’s own need to search for his God in prayer. What Jesus has heard in his prayer is the call to proclaim the reigning presence of God in other towns, to move on from the enthusiastic reception of yesterday, because that is why he came. How often are we tempted to stay with the “yesterdays” of success and acclamation and hesitate to go forward to the largely unknown “tomorrows” to which God is calling us? And how important is prayer in our discernment of God’s call?” (Living Liturgy 2021)

We are still awaiting any news from the provincial government regarding when we will be allowed to reopen our churches as of the time that I am posting this message. As soon as we know something, we will make a post on our website and Facebook page.

Please remember in your prayers Ada Savelli, Josephine Zabukovec, Nicola DeVincentis, and Victoria Luscombe (sister of our parishioner Claude Luscombe), who all passed away this week. And please pray for those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Eternal rest, grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Thank-you to all those who have been continuing to support the parish financially during this lockdown. Please know that you can bring your donation envelopes to the parish office and put them through the mail slot in the office door at any time. You can also send your donation in by mail, or donate online on the Donate tab of our website. We are encouraging our parishioners to consider pre-authorized giving going forward as their means of supporting the parish. If you are interested, the form for pre-authorized giving can also be downloaded from the Donate tab on our website.

The season of Lent begins in less than two weeks, starting with Ash Wednesday on February 17. You are invited to take part in the new online Bible study entitled “FORGIVEN”, which explores the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For more information please see the parish bulletin.

There are also two youth ministry events coming up during the Lenten season:
– Weekly online retreat for youth, teens, and families (7:00-8:00pm over Zoom on each Sunday of Lent)
– THINKfast (annual social justice event for students in Grade 5 and up) – held online this year
Please see this weekend’s bulletin or the youth ministry page of our website for more information on both events.
Wes also has print copies of daily Lenten devotions for both teens and families available which can be mailed out to anyone who would like one. Feel free to contact her at wmoga@hamiltondiocese.com to make arrangements.

Please join us online for Sunday Mass at 10:00am on the parish YouTube channel. The Rosary will be prayed at 9:30am.

God bless, have a great weekend and enjoy the Super Bowl!
Fr. Mariusz

Sunday Homily, January 31, 2021

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

Theme: Vocation to be a Prophet

Readings:

First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
The Prophet God Will Raise up for His People.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,7-9
A Song of Praise

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Heavy Concerns of the Married than of the Unmarried

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:21-28
Jesus the Prophet Who Spoke and Acted with Authority

Background on the Readings and the Homily

What was the literary setting of today’s first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy? The people of God had traversed the Arabian Desert and reached Mount Nebo (in present Jordan) from where the Promised Land appeared in the horizon nearby. Moses was reaching the end of his life. He had no permission from God to enter. Then, Moses had to prepare the people to live without him. He was the most powerful leader the people ever knew during the sojourn, and his impending death puts his flock in jeopardy. Death being imminent, in today’s first reading, we heard Moses giving his Farewell Discourse. A part of his encouragement to people was a promise he made; namely, that God would raise up a prophet for them from among them. Who was this prophet? It is a collective singular. So, it is the basically the whole people led by God’s spirit. God’s prophetic people were going to be different from their pagan counterparts who were involved in sorcery, witchcraft, divination, demon worship, placating of their deities and giving false prophecies for their personal gain and popularity. On the contrary, the Israelite prophets were not just one individual, but a succession of prophets who followed Moses’ spirit. They were to mediate God, His presence, words, and authority. The meaning of the Greek word prophãtãs is rich in meaning. It is made up of two components, namely, pro + phemi. Phãtãs is from the verb phemi, meaning ‘to speak.’ Pro was a preposition which had triple nuances of meaning. Firstly, it meant ‘on behalf of.’ A prophet spoke on God’s behalf. He was God’s mouthpiece. He announces God’s salvation and denounced divine judgment. The second meaning of the preposition pro had a temporal dimension. When does he speak? He speaks now for the contemporary situation. A prophet has fully immersed himself in people’s present situation. He is no mere foreteller. He does foretell, but always in relation to the present or the contemporary situation, i.e. he foretells people of the future consequences of their present actions. He went to the past or the origins to shed light on the present. Origins mean here their time of slavery in Egypt, wanderings through the desert, the covenant and occupation of the Promised Land which were the primordial events of their history and being. That history of God’s faithful became the measuring rod for people’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness to it and accordingly, they were liable to be bless or condemned by God. Prophets were called to perform religious and political functions in the community. A prophet not only speaks on behalf of God, but also acts authoritatively for him. The authority Moses exercised in leading them with wisdom and daring was an authority delegated to him by God for God. In their history, the problem was not to find a prophet (1 Kg 22:6), but to find a prophet who was speaking for God. 

In today’s gospel, we heard Jesus, the greatest prophet who ever lived, speaking and acting as a prophet. His hearers were astounded by the way and by what He spoke and acted. He always did so with daring and authority like and even more than the prophets of the OT, and that was because he was the Son of God who brought the Good News of salvation from the Father. Demons identified Him and hated His presence and actions. In accordance with God’s plan, Jesus had to be rejected, crucified, and killed because He spoke and acted as a prophet. Not many people will like being confronted by prophecy. Had Jesus become an ally of the sinful religious-political structures of His day, he would not have been submitted to this atrocious death. But that was the way by which He was destined to redeem us.  

Our baptismal anointing gave us the duty and warrant to exercise authentically our prophetic vocation in the Church and in the world. Sometimes, the modern-day equivalent of prophets is found on any given Saturday in world cities where you will see individual or a group standing on milk cartons and displaying placards, “God loves us,” or that “We are going to hell” etc or yelling out the same. They claim themslves to be speaking for God and stand for divine values. On the other hand, media is a more credible prophetic voice depending on the source. Religions also trumpet their prophetic voices from pulpits as well as religious media in faithfulness to their traditions. There are secular prophetic groups that sharpen humanity’s conscience against the violations of human of human, animal, and environmental rights. If they are done with pure motives they become truly voices of God in the secular world. Wherever we may be, let us fearlessly announce the values of Jesus’ Kingdom and denounce every violation of them. With boldness and audacity, even if we must pay for it with our lives.

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

Sunday, January 31 at St. Francis Xavier Parish

Dear Friends,

In preparation for this Sunday, which is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, I invite you to reflect on the Gospel passage that we will read during the Mass this weekend.  

“We are all formally students for some time in our lives, and it is best to remain informal students throughout our lives, for there is no point at which there is not something we can learn. At the same time, most of us function as teachers at many points in our lives, some of us professionally but most of us casually, guiding and directing people in ways that might even escape us. We teach by how we live, how we treat people, how we respond under stress, how we reprimand a child, how we help a neighbor, as well as by more concrete and direct ways of teaching.

Some of us, by training and vocation, teach religion and theology, and it is those of us engaged in this vocation who must always remain students in our area of expertise, for Jesus says, “…for you have one teacher, and you are all students.” (Matt 23:8). This teaching is directed at all Christians, but it is a difficult teaching for those called upon to be teachers and instructors, for it is easy to forget that in the things of God we are always students.

It is telling, and especially humbling for biblical scholars, to remember that Jesus did not choose his apostles from among the biblical interpreters or experts in Jewish Halakah (roughly equivalent to canon lawyers today) but from among the fishermen. How could fishermen be teachers in the Bible and Jewish law when they had not been formally trained? What did they know that the experts did not?

 What the fishermen knew, or were willing to encounter, was the only true subject: God. The unschooled fishermen knew Jesus, spent time with Jesus, and were willing to learn from Jesus what they did not know. It was not technical expertise that Jesus sought in his apostles but the willingness to encounter the word of God as life-changing and life-giving.

 It was the encounter with truth that led the students, the crowds of ordinary people in Galilee, Judea, and elsewhere, to throng around the teacher Jesus; they responded as people hungry to learn the deepest reality about God and themselves. So, “on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.” The religious experts, the scribes, are mentioned, though it seems they are not present, as a contrast to Jesus’s authority. Perhaps the experts hung back, wary of how Jesus’s teaching might affect their livelihood or authority, or because they disagreed that Jesus’s authority was grounded in the Scriptures or God.

 Yet, Jesus’s final act in the Capernaum synagogue is the demonstration of the divine ground of his teaching authority,… Jesus healed the man of the unclean spirit, and the people were again “amazed,” referring to this action of Jesus as a “teaching”: “[They] asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority.’ ” It is God’s presence and power that is the lesson not only to learn but to encounter.

 It is necessary to have teachers in all areas of knowledge, and this includes theology and biblical studies. Expertise and properly ordered authority are essential for all fields. But ultimately we are all students of the one teacher, whose authority is ordered to our salvation and joy. From this school we never graduate; this teacher is always guiding us. This education is perfected for our final purpose: to know God.” (Living Liturgy 2021)

The One Heart, One Soul campaign continues in our Diocese amid the present lockdown, with many parishes in the third wave preparing to begin soon. Since the last time that I provided you with an update, our parish has received 7 new pledges from parishioners. At the present time, the amount pledged by our parishioners is $354,587 (65.4% of our 2017 income and 58% of the campaign goal that we hope to achieve). Thank you to all who support the campaign, which will allow us to address the needs of the church that has been entrusted to us. If you have not yet made a pledge, please consider if you are able to at this time, and if so, submit your pledge card found in your campaign folder to the Diocese.

This week on Tuesday, February 2nd the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the temple, which is also a World Day for Consecrated Life. At the beginning of the daily Mass this Tuesday, we will bless candles that can be used at home for private devotions and prayers. Because of the blessing of candles, this feast is often referred to as Candlemas. The candles that we bless on Tuesday will be available in the weeks to come for you to obtain them from the parish office if you would like.

In your prayers please remember our parishioners who have recently passed away: Serafina Bracco, Ezio Carniti and Ann Marie Connolly. Also, we pray for the soul of Silvia Malvestuto, the mother of our parishioner and wonderful volunteer Anna Lemmen. Please keep all these souls and their grieving families in your prayers: Eternal rest, grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.

Join us for the celebration of the Lord’s Day Mass on our YouTube channel this Sunday,  and every day (please see the online bulletin which will be published tomorrow for the schedule of all daily Masses and devotions that we pray as a parish family during this lockdown). And please don’t forget to remind children to watch the Liturgy of the Word that is prepared for them on our YouTube channel every Sunday.

God bless, everyone.
Fr. Mariusz

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.

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