True Strength Found in Love & Mercy

This blog post is a homily given to the “Associates” today.  These are men discerning the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

Prodigal Son

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be”. I’ve always liked this very accurate assessment of things, and not only do I think it to be true; I know it. Not just for the United States, but for Canada and for everywhere in the world. I know it not only because I’ve encountered it in the parishes I’ve ministered in, but I know it’s even something I meet with men discerning, in seminaries and among priests. And before you hear this as a striking condemnation or my pointing the finger at any one of you (I’m not) – I have been and often am guilty of doing the same. Before it appears that any one of us are villains in this way, I would add that the Apostles and disciples were often guilty of holding misperceptions and untruths as dear to them too – not just the Pharisees. And it doesn’t always make itself as manifest as hating the Church. The very same lack of understanding or holding of mistruths can lead us to hold an “us versus them” mentality of believing that part of what we are doing is saving the Church from its people or that we are saving these people from things that they quite truthfully are not going to be saved from by us.

What I mean by this, is that there are many who see the key role of the priest is to safeguard the sacraments from the people who I presume are abusing them. Brothers, we are all in need of saving, surely my saying hasn’t escaped any of you. Although certainly in the history of our Catholic Church there have been moments when we have held on tightly to the title “defenders of the faith” and there are times when it seems we have to defend our faith to others more than we would wish to – but our Lord requires us first and always most importantly to live it out. To live by what He calls us to. To look at the Sacraments as Gifts of Love and Mercy; that which they are.

In the Gospel today, it’s fairly apparent that Jesus is misunderstood even by those closest to Him. He is out of His mind! Misunderstanding follows our Lord everywhere He goes. Among His family & relative, among His friends, the Apostles. Certainly we have to be careful because among us as His friends, disciples and through the Holy Priesthood assistants to the Apostles – we too, all of us are prone and susceptible to being wrong, sometimes more than we are right. To being defensive when we should be compassionate. To being uncomfortable with being loving & merciful when it will make us appear weak. Again and again, Jesus appears weak and I think this is why He is so misunderstood and perceived wrongly because it’s so very easy for us to have an incorrect notion of what strength really is. We all need to think about that. I’m sure that we can think about people who have strength of character, strength of faith, strength of persistence in love and showing compassion and mercy. These are not necessarily the same kinds of things we think of when we think of strength.

Brothers, it might be nice for us to imagine that with some of the attacks we can see upon our Church even today, upon Christians even today that we utilize our “army” of Catholic Christians, said to be 1.2 billion worldwide to defend Holy Mother Church. And I know that there is and will continue to be a current of belief that we should exercise a show of force this way. But the show of force we should exercise, and which I hope is the show of force all of us here desire to show – is a show of the power of our love for everyone; enemy & friend alike. A show of mercy, if God willing you’re called to the Holy Priesthood, to be a compassionate and merciful confessor, but to offer forgiveness always, inside and outside of the confessional. A show of force in how we pray for all, for one another, for what’s best for each other.  Compassion, love, patience, kindness and dedication to the “least”. I can assure you that if you begin to exercise these kinds of things in your life, if this becomes your message, our message – there will be some, many even who think “he’s out of his mind”, just as they did our Lord. But rest assured you are doing His work.

This is what the Catholic Church is about. This is what we as members must allow to be our show of force; commitment to prayer, lived out in compassion, love, mercy and we must give ourselves totally and completely for that.

St. Matthew’s finds his Meaning & Purpose


Matthew's Call

Our lives have meaning and purpose, and while some of us make manage to make sense of it all without the help of God, most of us need that help and all of us benefit from knowing God and how He has called us out of the darkness of confusion into the light of meaning and purpose.  This is the discovery of what a vocation is and this is what we celebrate today in Word.  Samuel anoints Saul; affirms in him God’s call for him.  We hear of Jesus’ invitation “out of blue” of a notorious figure in Matthew.

In vocation work, I have more than one person who has told me that St. Matthew’s call story is a powerful one for them; that a man who was so notorious could be chosen not only for a mission to be a disciple like everyone else, but an Apostle, to be a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ.  Many of us feel like great sinners and that the weaknesses and failings we exhibit could keep us from greatness as Christians.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Saints are reformed sinners, every one of us.  Whether we’re called to be a married man or woman, priest or religious, we are all reformed sinners still in the process of reforming and hopefully being restored in an on-going way through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

What is so amazing to me about Matthew’s call we hear today is how it truly speaks to a very real human experience.  Matthew is making money; as a tax collector he surely has money in his pocket, and even though he is despised, he has a certain amount of power and influence and probably could cruise through life with “friends” or people who pretend to be his friends at least.  But has he found his meaning and purpose?  Could he be happy?

Although we can only ever speculate, I would assert that he could be content.  He has money and more than others living in Galilee and Jerusalem, he could afford things.  We know he had a place to have Jesus in for supper.  He may have to sell himself a little but he surely had people who could do things for him, or whom he could do things for – these might be ‘friends’ in a manner of speaking.  On his own, he got himself a job – but to find his true meaning and purpose, that which he gave his entire and the rest of his life for; He only managed to find through faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself invited him to this, and when he accepted his life was forever changed.  He lived for something, which he completely lived for (and died for).

What about us?  Can we see ourselves in St. Matthew?  Can we see a similar pattern in our lives?  I know I can and did.  Like St. Matthew (maybe a lot older than he was), I had Jesus come and invite me to “follow Him” and I did, followed Him into priesthood; and although my life continues to have challenges, struggles, hardships at times – it is filled with joy and through priesthood I have found my meaning and purpose and I am fully committed to it.  Most priests and religious are.  Something to consider on this day we remember the calling of St. Matthew.


The Priesthood & the Re-Presentation of the Miracle of the Loaves

I am closing in on 4 years of priesthood in May of this year and there are so many blessings and joys of priestly ministry, but also, just as with any vocation in life many challenges too. One of the greatest challenges I have is to sufficiently divide my time and to manage my time so that I can fairly give time to everyone I care about; the people I serve, the people who I love and who love me; my family and dearest friends, the people who I cherish good friendships with from my past assignments. This is a challenge, not a complaint because I had some sense that this would be part of priesthood, as it was a part of the priesthood and ministry of Jesus Himself and His disciples too. This is why we hear of our Lord going off to pray, why the Apostles began to commission deacons to serve. But we manage. Today’s Gospel speaks of the Bread of Life, and through the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves we see that the Lord gives everything and holds nothing back – and through this selfless act, we are nourished.

Our Gospel today, inspires me in my priesthood to keep working on finding the balance I need to with my time, to strive for perfection when it comes to giving myself and trying to be more and more generous every day. Generosity begets a deeper sense of vocational commitment and the joy of the priesthood is to be found in the gift of self we offer to it.

I share it because I believe that this is also what inspires other men to consider priesthood as a vocation that they might feel called to as well. The Gospel permeates our lives no matter who we are, and we live out lives of discipleship in whatever God calls us to uniquely do. But as priests, we are first hand witnesses of all dimensions of this miracle in our own lives. In the name of Christ at the Eucharistic table; the Lord uses our hands, mouths and the actions we perform in His Name to multiply the Bread of Life and then with other disciples to give it to God’s People at Holy Mass. But He calls us as well to the generosity of sharing our time and talents and priestly ministry with the people we are blessed to serve. This makes our life worth living, knowing that we do God’s important work in this way. May you continue to be guided in your own vocational discernment today and every day. May God bless you.