Behold the Lamb of God!

The Lamb of God

This is my homily given at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica today:

“Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.  Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”  Surely, we recognize these words which take place near the end of the Mass and during the communion rite, when we together; me as the priest and you as the faithful people of God look upon the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with true and honest faith and devotion, believing these words as fully and completely as John the Baptist did when he proclaimed them in the setting of today’s Gospel.

We then proclaim the words of the Roman centurion, who asked Jesus to heal his sick servant in the 8th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”.

Friends, these words are not Scripture piecemeal, these are perhaps the strongest, purest, most meaningful professions of our faith.  To declare who we see, who we see, when what is right now, Bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus our Lord and declare Him with the same faith as St. John did, the Lamb of God mustn’t just be words we utter with our lips or declare by rote.  These words must carry the meaning they did for St. John, but so much so that we are prepared to give everything we have for these words.

We know the Gospel account of the life of John the Baptist and we know that the Name and Person of God would cost Him.  In today’s world that we live in, a world not as different from Gospel times as we might think if we were really to reflect – not a bad world, but a world with much indifference, much greed, ambition – many reasons not to want the Gospel and the Lamb of God to be a part of that world – isn’t that the very same world we are a part of?

And I say not a bad world, because we have many parish churches that are full, at least many of them in the Archdiocese of Toronto, and every single person in every one of these churches wants a relationship with Jesus, we all do.  What are we prepared to give for that relationship?  What extent are we to believe?

Are we to be Disciples or Friend of Jesus or are we to be acquaintances?  An acquaintance gives nothing for the one with whom he is acquainted, a Disciple or friend gives everything for that friendship of mutual love and respect.  I don’t just ask you that question before I ask it of myself.

There are days, more than I would like to admit that I am merely an acquaintance of Jesus and where I’m not willing to give much for my faith – but each day I pray that it not going to be one of those days and I think it’s important for us all to do the same.  If we truly “behold the Lamb of God” here this morning at Holy Mass, then not only are our sins washed away, but the impurities of our hearts and intentions are too.  If we believe this happens, and I assure you it can and will if we allow the outpouring of grace to permeate our souls – we are ready to give it all for Jesus, for the Name above all other names, for the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  We are truly blessed as we are called here to the supper of the Lamb and having been fed, to journey out there and nourish others with our well-fed souls.  May God bless you.

St. John the Baptist: May We be More Like Him Everyday!

exaltation of the cross

St. John the Baptist should be a model and mentor for how we live as Christians.  His life given totally to God and “preparing the way for the Lord”, even though we can be fairly certain he didn’t know exactly how the Day of the Lord was to take place.  He didn’t need to, he had faith and surely his faith grew as he committed himself to trust God.  Certainly he was given the gifts he used to bring people to a “baptism of repentance”, but unlike each one of us Christians, he did not have the blessing of knowing the whole story – he did not have the big picture that we are blessed to have by being born anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi and having the Holy Tradition and Holy Gospels of the Church.  Given that, I think it’s even more remarkable, the faith and trust John had.

“I am not the Messiah” is a key phrase in today’s Gospel account of this piece of John’s life.  He is not, yet was indeed empowered by the Lord to prepare everything for the coming of the Messiah more deeply into the hearts of those who wanted to be close to God.  We are not the Messiah, nor should we ever think ourselves to be when we utilize our God-given gifts and evangelize in the world today.  We most definitely should not shrink or shy away from the gifts, the tools the Lord has given us to “prepare the way” for others to be closer to Christ.  One of the greatest tragedies for the Christian faith, is Christians shrinking away or hiding themselves so that others don’t feel “offended” by us.  We may believe that we live in a time where we believe that the mention of our faith, that our firm purpose to profess ourselves Christians will offend people – and maybe it will.  But all we need to do is open our Bibles, and to look at the Gospels to know that Jesus, and John the Baptist “offended” people too.

We need to radiate the faith that is ours.  There is a way to do it, of course.  We must radiate love, compassion, joy first.  We know all too well that this is not always the case.  Although John the Baptist, and even Jesus may be remembered in the Gospel as challenging certain groups by calling them out, “you brood of vipers” if somehow we have it that this was the predominate message, we’ve lost perspective on the Life of Christ altogether.  Love, compassion, mercy, joy, love (yes, I did mention love twice) predominated the Gospel message.

I can assure you, that I too am someone who needs to hear these words and to live by them.  I can assure you that today I am going to do what I can to be more like John the Baptist (which also means more like Jesus) and prepare the way for the Lord, and remember “I am not the Messiah”, but I am someone by my own Baptism in the Lord who needs to seek to allow Him first to enter more deeply into my own heart, and then seek to be fearless in bringing Him into the world of ours – that so much needs Him.  May God bless us all in this!

A Brand New Year: Celebrating Mary’s Motherhood…And Our Own Mothers

On this New Year’s day as we reflect upon our past year and look forward to 2018 ahead, we also celebrate a very important Solemnity, the High Feast of Mary, Mother of God.  Holy days of obligation have become fewer and fewer, but this remains for us one of those days as Catholics (Christmas is another and every Sunday), which also means that there is something very special and important that we celebrate during this day.  Mary is an important Christian figure for us as Catholic Christians.  As an “outsider” who became a Catholic, I too was one who once thought it was weird and archaic that Catholics “worshipped” Mary the way we do.  My thought for today is not to argue that we do not; but we don’t.  We respect her and give honour to her above all others for the role she plays as a “Christian before there was Christianity”, her tremendous generosity, her leadership, her example, her vocation!

If we don’t seek to understand, her title as Mother of God might confuse some, lead some to believe Our Lady herself was not fully a human being, because if God our Lord is fully divine and the uncreated Creator, how could He be born of a human being.  Of course, we know that for in time (for all-time), for a purpose and for humanity (for each and every one of us) God became one of us in His Son, Jesus.  He chose to be born into the world to experience every vulnerability we experience too.  For that purpose, God chose to be born as we are born, from a mother.  

He may have specially chosen His Mother, but He chooses ours too.  In the last few years of my life, I give thanks to God each day for my own mother, and I will until I die.  I know the Lord chose Lynda to be my mother, but I confess I would not have seen that without the eyes of faith; and I have not had the eyes of faith to see for almost 30 years of my life.  I have spent the better part of my life judging my mother and seeing her for what she was not, rather than for what she indeed was, a gift to give thanks to God for, as we do Our Blessed Mother.  My mother was very young when I was born into the world, nineteen years old.  Older than Our Lady, but young in the standards of the world I was born into.  She was pregnant with me only months after graduating high school.  I never asked my mom whether or not she intended to keep me or not, but the thought has occurred to me as I reflect and pray that this very young woman, barely more than a girl, faced many issues when she brought me into this world.  I know some of those challenges; the obstacles she faced, many of the family’s issues and demons, I know some of sad circumstances my mom (and dad too) faced bringing a child into the world.  But I came into this world, and I can look back on this now, give thanks for my life that is for God and know that my mother is probably the person I should thank most for my life.  And I do.  Now I do.

My mother passed away 14 years ago, not long after my becoming Catholic and a year before I entered seminary.  Though she died far too young (in my opinion) I am thankful that I had the opportunity in the few years before she died to appreciate her.  My life truly changed and my faith really deepened when in addition to other things, I stopped focusing on the imperfections of my mother, and focused on what and who she was; a gift from God, a person trying her best like the rest of us.  My mother did many, many things with her life I respected a great deal, but it was humbling to have her tell my sister and I that her greatest thing in life was to have brought us kids into the world.  Not only has this been the source of my growing appreciation for my own mother, but it also helped me as a Catholic to deepen my own honour and respect for our Lady.  Obviously in Mary, God Himself knew the important role she needed to play in loving, nurturing, teaching, mentoring His Divine Son throughout His earthly life – but since His life and what He was to do here was for all of humanity and for the whole world: so too was her life for the same.

As we begin a new year, may each and every one of do our Blessed Mother a favour.  May we stop for a time and reflect upon our own mothers; if we were so inclined we could reflect upon her in ways such as I have, maybe even deeper and more profound ways but conclude by giving thanks to God for the gift of our own mothers; whom He chose for us, as He did His own mother.  And may it lead us to honour Mary, not because she desires to be honoured, but because she deserves to be.  And may we ask her to pray for us that she lead us always (as she desires to do and is doing) closer to her Beloved Son our Lord.