A FEW WORDS
By Lucinda M. Vardey (Parishioner, Contemplative Women of St. Anne)
As in most of Jesus’ parables, it takes only a few words to make a number of points. The self-confident Pharisee, standing in formal piety, was separated in his thoughts and prayer from not only a merciful God but those different from him. The tax collector, on the other hand, was empty of any feeling of worth and by uttering a few sincere words allowed space for God to work in his soul.
Jesus places both men in the extreme: they were far from each other in society and, according to the Pharisee, far from each other in capabilities of worship. But Jesus could also be indicating that prayer is not a competition. It’s not about how many words and how many times we recite them, but how we turn up, the attitude with which we enter into prayer, the state of our hearts in relating to God and those who pray alongside us.
The tax collector’s few humble words can be seen as an acknowledgment that all things are from God and in God, and without the grace of God’s mercy we are unable to change for the better and begin again anew. The prayer of the Mass follows the same course: we start with confession and repentance. By requesting the mercy of God we then raise our voices united in the Gloria, the praise and thanksgiving that indeed is “The prayer of the humble” that “ pierces the clouds.” (Sirach 35: 21).
ON HOLY GROUND, TOGETHER
By John Dalla Costa (Parishioner)
If we seek a sign for stewardship, or desire scriptural guidance for participative ministry, we can’t do better than with today’s first reading from Exodus. With outstretched arms Moses transmits God’s grace to Israel. Yet at this moment of crisis the need is overwhelming. On his own, Moses can only do so much. So others in the community improvise. Audaciously, they too assume the holy stance, supporting Moses’ arms so that the people would continue receiving consecration.
Stewardship is a shared vocation. As with Aaron and Hur assisting Moses, there are times when ministry to community hinges on our bringing personal strengths, gifts and talents to bear on the outcome.
Baptism confers this priestly potential in each of us. But assuming this vocation cannot be ad hoc. Writing to his acolyte Timothy, Paul describes on-the-job training for stewards. Jesus is our model, and aim: his presence in our lives, through faith, guides us in understanding our role in serving God’s church. Paul also points to scripture “for training in righteousness,” to gain proficiency as teachers, mediators, conflict-healers, and to be “equipped for every good work.”
Proximity to holiness is a privilege not to be taken lightly. “Pray always” Jesus told his disciples, and do not “lose heart.” Today’s parable cautions that help is not available on-demand. God is not an ATM. But Jesus assures us that steady, constant, continuous prayer works profoundly. It’s not that repetition wears God down, but rather that such habits of prayer prepare us to receive vocation, and the abundant grace for fulfilling its duties.
MERCY AND GRATITUDE
By Maria di Paolo
This weekend the readings are about healing and purification. How is God’s mercy and forgiveness manifest? What are our reactions on receiving this amazing grace?
Namaan, a Syrian general and an enemy of Israel, has a bothersome skin condition. He hears, from a servant, about the healing powers of an Israelite prophet, Elisha, and he goes to him to be cured. However, Elisha refuses to meet Namaan in person and instructs a messenger to tell him to go to the river Jordan and immerse himself seven times. At first, Namaan, is angry, but his servants convince him to try – he has nothing to lose. Namaan does as he is instructed, he is cured and experiences a profound conversion.
Jesus meets ten lepers on the road. They ask him for mercy. He in turn instructs them to go to see a priest and they are healed. Only one returns, gives praise to God, and thanks Jesus.
In the Bible, physical ailments, especially obviously disfiguring ones, such as leprosy, were considered manifestations of sin and interior troubles. What Namann and the lepers experience is not a superficial return to physical purity but is symbolic of a deep spiritual healing.
It is interesting that both Elisha and Jesus are God’s agents: they do not “do” the curing themselves. There is no magic here. Without conversion to God, neither Namaan nor the lepers would be healed.
It is easy to criticize the nine lepers who do not return to Jesus to give thanks: do they take God’s mercy for granted? When we receive forgiveness, what is our reaction? Do we experience conversion, or do we take the mercy of those we have sinned against, and God’s mercy, for granted?
WHAT WE BELIEVE
By Fr. Ken Decker, CSB
A number of parents have come to St. Basil’s these last few months asking to have their children baptized. At the other end of the spectrum quite a few adults, including several teen-agers, have come with the same request for themselves. All are saying that we want to be a part of this church. Of course this church refers to more than the place on St. Joseph Street. Our parish is a part of the Church of Toronto. Also we are a church that teaches and professes all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches.
It is our hope that all of these children and adults that will become full members and join us in our weekly celebration of oneness, the Eucharist. I want to remind all who read this short piece, what it is that the Catholic Church believes and teaches. In summary what the Church believes and teaches is contained in our creeds. The creed we are most familiar is the very ancient Apostles’ Creed. It is our custom to renew our profession of faith each Sunday by reciting this creed. When the individuals mentioned above are ready to be baptized, they must indicate that they too believe in the elements of the Creed before the water of baptism is poured. We know that church membership is more than simply saying “I believe in God the Father Almighty…” But all of us needs to remember that this is the core of our belief and the official profession of our oneness in Jesus Christ.
Once we say “I believe…” the real work begins for we must complete the process by following the teaching of Jesus passed on to us in the Gospels.