Workers in the Vineyard

Dear brothers and sisters,

The liturgy of this 25th ordinary Sunday presents the parable of the Vineyard which we have heard so many times and reflected on it. Only Matthew has this parable focused on the “difference” between the first and the last workers in the vineyard, who receive the same reward. If we are all “workers”, then life is all “work”. As we can see, the Christian mystery is contained in the image of this “landlord” who goes out at dawn to hire workers for his vineyard. Actually, this is the Christian vocation, the call to salvation and we are all called to work in the Lord’s vineyard. Outside this, there is only the useless life of the unemployed.

The different hours of the day, obviously, indicate the presence of God, his interventions and calls in history. Among the five calls there are also those at the time of the Crucifixion and at the time of Jesus’ death. Those who were first called could indicate the people of the First Covenant, and the ones called last may point to the pagans, sinners, towards whom the Master shows a privileged attention that eventually arouses the protest of the early comers.

The stern response of the Master to the complaining workers sounds like this: “… Or are you envious because I am good?”. This is the radical distance between our heart and the infinite love of God. The most difficult thing to accept about God is his mercy. It is the terrible accusation of the Inquisitor against Jesus.

The fact that the owner goes out at different intervals to bring workers into the vineyard means that the master wants everyone to enter. The vineyard does not need us, but we, by all means, need the vineyard and we, indeed, need to be grafted onto the vine which is Jesus.

When the time was due to give out wages, the master does it starting with those who came last and this causes the murmuring on the part of the early comers – murmuring that changes the first into the last. Those invited first don’t seem to appreciate the gift of the agreed money, a price that is the same for everyone and offered even to those who came at the last minute. After all, money – which here indicates salvation – is Jesus himself. It is for this reason the lucky ones are, in fact, those who receive the “promise” at the beginning of the day. But unfortunately they fail to realize the goodness of God.

At the beginning we said that this is “life” and it is all “work”. Faith is born in me when Jesus comes to me, finds me and puts me to “work in his vineyard”. From this moment on, certainly life becomes beautiful.

We are all called by Jesus to work in his vineyard. Let us thank him for the gift of faith and salvation that he offered to us all.

Happy Weekend!
Fr Saga.
Pastor.

FORGIVE & BE FORGIVEN

Forgiveness is the focus of today’s Sunday readings. While the beautiful text of Sirach and that of the Gospel say it so, the second reading highlights not only the mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation of God but also the importance of we showing God’s mercy to others in order to receive it ourselves.

Overlooking faults, suppression of the revenge instinct, forgiving and forgetting are indeed Christian imperative. The Gospel today uses the example of a king’s forgiving an official who, in turn, refuses to pardon a colleague. Obviously the lesson refers to God and us. And in turn, to us and our friends and neighbours. Who of us can say – if the truth were known – that God has not forgiven us so many times, for so many faults, of so serious a nature simply because we begged him, with hearts filled with contrition and resolve, to receive us back into his mercy? Despite such generosity on God’s part, how many of us are tempted to go right out and adamantly refuse to forgive another?
Each Sunday – daily, in fact, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice – we pray, in the Lord’s Prayer: not simply, “Forgive us our trespasses,” but, rather: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Don’t these words have meaning?

God knows that we are only human: this is why he forgives us so readily. But he also knows that with his help we can forgive others, if we only make the effort to do so. Otherwise he wouldn’t have commanded us to do so. God never commands us to do the impossible.

Forgiveness, finally, should be a daily occurrence. Doesn’t God forgive our weaknesses every day? If this is the case, then, we don’t have to wait till Christmas to act like Christians, especially, to judge others kindly and compassionately, as God judges us.

We know for sure that anger, vengeance, and resentment are terrible evils in the eyes of God. They must be dealt with and put aside, otherwise, we may risk ourselves not to be forgiven at all.

If I harbour anger against another, can I expect healing from the Lord?
If I show no mercy toward another, can I then seek pardon for my own sins from the Lord?

Therefore, dear brethren, let us put aside enmity and forgive our neighbour and thus stay always true to the commandments of God who is love and mercy.
God bless.

Fr Saga
Pastor.

Commitment to Jesus = Commitment to the Catholic Church and its Values

Dear brethren,

We are baptised people and our baptism requires that we really and always get committed to Christ. This means living out our faith even in the midst of a misunderstanding or mocking world. Commitment to Christ is our privilege, a privilege of self-oblation alongside the Lord Jesus, in whom we place unreserved faith, hope and love.

Commitment to Christ means, for us Catholics, commitment to his Church, founded on Peter and the Apostles. This Catholic Church is our Saviour’s principal Sacrament in the world. It is here that the fullness of truth and grace are found. It is here that we meet, embrace, and hear the living Lord Jesus.

However, to be a Catholic can be especially difficult today. At times we may be tempted to cover-up our catholic identity and keep quiet or feel shy to proclaim our catholic values to the world. Like Jeremiah in the first reading today, we may say everybody would mock me or I would be derided and reproached, etc. And yet we should neither shy away from being Catholics nor be scared of telling the world the teachings/values of our Catholic Church. If we are really “convinced Catholics”, then, we would realise just like Jeremiah that there is something like a “burning fire shut up in our bones” and we are weary with holding it in, and we cannot. We will certainly speak out.

Since baptism we are all prophets! Like Jeremiah, therefore, we must treasure God’s Word, Catholic Values and share them with others, even if they do not listen, even if there is going to be opposition. No wonder why Jesus tells us all in today’s gospel: If you want to be my committed followers, then you will have to accept your daily struggles/challenges and follow me.

Let us, therefore, be convinced that to be committed to Jesus is to be committed to the Catholic Church and to its Values.

As we are set to enter into September, let us pray for all school children ! God bless!

Fr Saga.
Pastor.

You are Peter and on this Rock I will build my Church

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

The gospel of this 21st Ordinary Sunday explains the importance of Peter and the continuation of the Petrine Office relating to the Bishop of Rome. As Catholics we believe that the Papacy emerged from Christ’s mission to Peter as noted in the gospel reading wherein Jesus changed Simon’s (Peter) name by calling him Kepha (Aramaic) / petra (Greek). By this Jesus meant to designate Peter as the foundation of the Church he intended to establish. Hence, Peter was to be the sign of stability, permanence and unity. Moreover, Peter is promised both the keys to heaven’s Kingdom, and the power to bind and loose in Christ’s own name. Peter, who eventually went to Rome and was martyred, functioned as chief shepherd, principal spokesman for the Apostles, principal teacher and the pace-setter for apostolic endeavour.

As the Vatican Council I declared, all Bishops of Rome (Roman Pontiffs) are Peter’s heirs and sharers of his see. Even to this time and forever Peter lives and governs and exercises judgment in his successors, the bishops of the Holy Roman See. Therefore, whoever succeeds Peter in this Chair, holds Peter’s primacy over the whole Church according to the plan of Christ Himself. One of the responsibilities of Peter and his successors, the Popes, is that of speaking for Christ = safeguarding God’s Wisdom and interpreting it. From his Chair in Rome, Peter still speaks words of faith to guide and strengthen us in our belief.

Let us thank God for giving us the Papacy, a source of rocklike certainty in life’s religious pilgrimage here below.
Let us love our Pope Francis and continue to pray for him.

Have a great week-end!
Fr Saga.
Pastor.

Universality of Salvation

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,
Today’s Gospel Reading (20th Sunday) of Mathew relates how the Canaanite woman, a non-Jew, wins healing for her daughter by showing Jesus her faith in Him. But, apart from this, what is the Church trying to say to us by highlighting the dialogue that Jesus had with the Canaanite woman? – one may ask. Well, the Gospel Reading, like First Reading which prophesies an invitation to all humanity to the Lord’s mountain, focuses on the Universality of Salvation. The same theme is sounded in today’s Second Reading, as well.

Therefore all the three readings of today remind us of the great Catholic doctrine of the universality of salvation. It is all about inclusion, the call to One Church, to One Kingdom, a kingdom that refuses to exclude those seeking God. Indeed, our historic Roman Church founded by Jesus on Peter and the Apostles is described as Catholic precisely because it is by nature universal. “Catholic” derives from a Greek word meaning “universal.” We know that Christ calls all people to salvation through his Church because divine Revelation says so. As Catholics we reaffirm this doctrine at every Holy Mass when, as the priest repeats Jesus’ words over the chalice of wine, he says: “It (Christ’s Precious Blood) will be shed for you and for ALL so that sins may be forgiven.

In spite of this, down the centuries there have been attempts on the part of self-styled Christians to narrow the scope of Jesus’ saving mission. However, the Church has consistently condemned these attempts as heretical. An example of this attempt would be the view of “predestination” held by Calvinists according to which God chooses only a certain portion of mankind for salvation, while the others he rejects.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us be watchful so that we may not be led astray by any doctrine that goes against the Catholic concept of the universality of salvation. As Catholics we believe that Christ came to save all people. All people therefore are saved in principle. “In principle,” we say, because Christ’s saving will must be realized in each and every individual. While God’s desire to save all persons is irrevocable, yet it has to be freely ratified in love by every person blessed by it.

Let us thank the Lord Jesus who has made our salvation possible and at the same time let each one of us ratify it by having true faith in Jesus Our Lord & Saviour and by doing acts of mercy and charity. God bless us all.

Have a wonderful summer of August!

Fr Saga
Pastor.

Why did Jesus force his Disciples to board the Boat?

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

The very first sentence of today’s Gospel reading (of 19th Ordinary Sunday) surprised me a bit. The verse goes like this: “Immediately…, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side.” In other words, it would mean that Jesus forced or constrained or compelled his disciples to get into the boat…
I just asked myself why Jesus had to force or constrain or compel them to…? Was he not in any way disrespecting their freedom?
Was not this attitude of him, somehow, going against their personal choice? etc. Well, answers to these questions can be vary and many.

However, when a person imposes his/her will on another one, we would call that as “compulsion”. Life teaches us that there is a compulsion in us which is the fruit of evil & sin. But then there is also a compulsion that is the fruit of great love, truth, wisdom that is in the heart. The Christian, being called to always remain in good and to overcome evil with good, surrenders himself to every compulsion, in order to remain in the greatest good.

At this juncture we need to remember the New Law that Jesus taught to his followers. The Old Law encouraged people to practise “Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth”. But Jesus asked them not to oppose the wicked. On the contrary he said: if one slaps you on the right cheek, turn also the other cheek. If anyone wants to take away your tunic, leave also the cloak.

Jesus, who is now moved and led by the Holy Spirit, compels his disciples to move forward. Why does he force the disciples to board the boat and to go ahead to the other side?
Because Jesus must add to the many truths about his person another truth which will reveal to the disciples his Superiority to every other godly person who came before him. Jesus is God and he acts as God. God walks on the clouds of heaven. He walks on the water. The Gospel passage clearly shows how Peter will have to experience the infinite distance that separates him from Christ who is the Lord. Even though he received the command from Jesus to walk on the water too, Peter’s faith is still so small, so weak that it does not support it. As soon as he puts his feet on the water, he is seized with fear and is about to sink. Peter cries out to the Lord and the Lord saves him. Nobody is like Jesus. There was no one before him and there will be no one after him either. Only he is God in his nature and is divine person. Only he, as true man, is everything and always from the Father. Peter and the others still have to go a long way to be with Christ in the Holy Spirit. The perfection of Christ is unattainable. It is beyond all and beyond everything. Jesus wanted to teach his disciples this absolute truth about himself and for this reason he compelled them to get into the boat.

Besides, Jesus, perhaps, wants his disciples to get to know what true Wisdom is. Such wisdom, which comes from above, is first of all pure, then peaceful, meek, yielding, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. It is not necessarily found in those with the most education, money, or friends. Rather, wise people can be spotted living wisely in humility, participating in good works, enjoying peace, singleness of purpose, and gentle lifestyles. This kind of wisdom is refined and focused on exactly one thing: whatever God has called us to be and do.
Well, Peter and his companions, as followers of Jesus, ought to know these and no wonder why Jesus constrains them to go on to the side of the shore so that they could learn.

Dear brethren in Jesus,
Whoever wants to educate oneself OR wants to educate others to true Faith, true Charity, true Hope, and true Wisdom should not hesitate to also make use of the method of compulsion for greater good. Seen from this perspective obliging, compelling, constraining and persuading are always ways to follow. Without these paths, probably it will never be possible to progress in the truth of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of the Church. Those who want to always act and only by their own willingness, perhaps, will never progress in things of God and may miss out on the realities of Heaven.

May Mary, Mother of God and Help of Christians, Angels and Saints, compel our will to perfect obedience so that we may know who we are, learn who God is, why the Church exists and what is our part in the building up of God’s Kingdom now and here on earth.

Have a wonderful summer weekend !
Fr Saga.
Pastor.

Am I hungry for God? Do I share with the Needy?

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

The readings of this 18th Sunday in ordinary time exhort us to long for God-Jesus who gives himself for us in the Eucharist as spiritual nourishment and ask us to share what we have with those who are in need. To be able to grasp the meaning this truth, we basically need to ask ourselves certain questions like the following:

Why do I go to Church? Do I long for Jesus?
If I long for Jesus, do I then see Jesus in those who are in need and care for them?
If I care for the needy, do I then share with them what I have? OR
Do I excuse myself saying I have only a little and what is it among so many who are in need?

As we know, it is not just Matthew but all the evangelists narrate this extraordinary fact of the multiplication of the loaves and fish that Jesus worked with his disciples and the crowds. This means that it really is an important event with essential meaning and therefore it must not be forgotten by successive generations of disciples – no wonder why all the evangelists record it in their respective gospels.

The gospel passage of today illustrates Jesus working a miracle in response to a concrete and real hunger that the people that follow him have. These men and women are also hungry for God as much as they are hungry for bread to eat. Jesus came to satisfy one’s hunger, to give answers to those who die of hunger – not just material hunger but more importantly spiritual one: hunger for love, peace, joy…

The first answer to this problem of bread to eat comes from the apostles who would like everyone to get by or to go and buy food for themselves. But Jesus totally changes the perspective and he goes from “buying” to “sharing”. In fact, Jesus tells the apostles: “You give them something to eat”.

“Sharing” solves the problem of hunger and the apostles become the model of a Christian community that does not stop sharing or does not close itself to the world of hunger, but puts itself at the service, convinced that it is possible to feed humanity, even if the means at times seems insufficient. Jesus sees the hunger of the people and at the same time teaches the apostles to take charge of the situation without fear and with deep hope.

Dear brethren, when we attend the (Sunday) Holy Mass, it is really important to ask ourselves: “Am I hungry for God? What does my life need? With what inner emptiness am I here today?” The realisation that we are hungry for God, for love, for fraternity, for peace … helps us to live the Eucharistic celebration with great meaning, true participation and fruitfulness. And it is important to recognize that those of my fellow Catholics next to me in the church also have come here with their hunger for something, with their emptiness, doubts and questions…
Jesus is there to feed me/us. He is there to teach me/us to take charge of the humanity’s hunger (a hunger for material goods) but even more for the meaning of life and God. Even if I say “I have too little” of anything (modest material means, little faith, few skills) “to share with others”, but all the same, let me not give in to fear or let me not get discouraged in any way. The miracle of multiplication and sharing can repeat itself even today, if only I trust Jesus and give him joyfully my “five loaves and two fish”. Jesus does expect from me a heart that loves, cares, shares. My little offering can make a huge difference in the lives of needy people.

To be able to this, we, all of us, need to take to heart what the prophet Isaiah says in today’s first reading. “Why do you spend your money [resources] for what is not bread and your labour for that which does not satisfy?” Let us incline our ear, and go to Jesus. Let us listen to him, so that we may learn to live, love, care and share in the Gospel way.

God bless us all!

Fr Saga.
Pastor.

Why and Who do We live for?

Living in the Word for July 26, the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

The Gospel of this 17th Sunday also speaks to us, through three short parables (the treasure hidden in the field; the merchant in search of fine pearls; and the drag net), about the Kingdom of God. By way of these stories, Jesus invites us to think about the style of our life.

Is our life a continuous search for holiness? Is it the “indulgence” of our way because of which there aren’t good results? We all have before our eyes desire for consumerism, which makes life a search for only material well-being. As for the ultimate goal of life is concerned and how we will be judged at the end of our life, we don’t seem to have much interest. If that is the case, then, that would be a great evil.

We all know that when God created us, he put us in this world to seek the holiness of life which is our only true and eternal realization. Unfortunately there is an incredible number of people who choose “unsteadiness” to cover the emptiness they feel in themselves. But it is also truly interesting to know the number of “Blesseds” and “Saints”, even of our own time, that the Church recognizes and places before us, so that we may venerate them and follow their ideals. They are the great witnesses of the Kingdom of heaven, who help build Christians of today.

It is enough to have eyes, capable of looking beyond the shadows and haziness of the world, to see the number of people of all ages and conditions who really make Jesus their treasure. Maybe they don’t make news, but they arouse a lot of admiration when we meet them in person. It is a blessing to meet them and it still great to know them and to discover with them how the “hidden treasure in the field”, which is Jesus, is found. It would be enough to visit some Houses of Prayer to experience the joy of seeing these men and women, young people and families, who turn their life into one of a search for Heaven. “Saints” know how to find and live holiness in silence, in self-giving, in detachment from a world. Unfortunately, the world seems to only long for fun – which is a “market of emptiness” or worse still, of the abuse and exploitation of the weakest. But those who participate in it, sooner or later, feel and experience the emptiness in themselves, because they realize that, after the noise, only the bitterness of a wasted-life remains.

Today, then, it is really worthwhile, in the face of this vocational problem of holiness, to ask the question about the meaning of our life and to understand that holiness is the truth of our life. It is the testimony that is presented to us today in Solomon, which gives us all a great lesson in life. Let us hear again and make our own the question that young Solomon asked God and let us listen to the words of the Lord as if it were addressed to us: “The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night”. God said: “ask me what you want me to grant you.” Solomon said: “… I am just a boy; I don’t know how to regulate myself … Grant me your servant a docile heart, so that it can do justice to your people and to know how to distinguish good from evil; in fact, who can govern this so many of your people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him: Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but you have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I grant you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you”. (1 Kings 3, 5-7-12)

Solomon’s words interpret well the thought of Jesus, that is, to consider life a service and not a triumphalism that is full of pride. In the Gospel, Jesus, in fact returns to the need to give first place to the daily search for the Kingdom of God. This is then the only great Good, immense Good – that which gives true meaning to life and before which all what we seek reveals itself for what it is: harmful rubbish.

Jesus returns to invite us to look at the true treasure of life: holiness, which means to live with him and in him, in simplicity, in service, and with joy. Pope Francis insists a great deal on joy. He writes in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium: “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew” (No.1)

Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ (No.2). Certainly, this is not the life of those who have found the hidden treasure: JESUS.

Let us pray that we may always search for Holiness and live for Christ who is our only true Treasure.

Have a blessed weekend!

Fr Saga.
Pastor.

Funeral of Lorraine Therese Foss

The family of Lorraine Foss has invited us to post the video of her Funeral Mass, celebrated in the Church on July 15th, 2020 at 10am, for those who were not able to attend in person. Lorraine Therese Foss passed away July 6th, leaving behind sons Norman & Michael, and daughters Linda & Lisa and their families along with many family members out of province.

Living in the Word for Sunday July 12th, 2020 “The day Jesus left the house and sat by the sea”

Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus,

The Gospel of this Sunday is centred on the theme of God the sower. God sows his Word generously on every type of land. His Word obviously fills the world with life.

“The sower went out to sow”. Already just this one phrase vibrates with joy and prophecy and is full of promises and harvests, a sign of bread and no hunger. Even now God goes out to sow generously. The pathways of the world and of the soul rejoice before God, the source of our lives. God is not the harvester who judges and weighs the harvest, but is the sower. He is the hand that gives, the strength that sustains, the day that begins, the voice that awakens.

Let each of us, therefore, ask/tell: how many times have I slowed down the course of miracle!
I am like a road, I am like a field of stones and rocks, I am like a tangle of thorns, a trampled heart, a stone surface,… I grow only thorns and roots of poison…

Well, we really like this Jesus who speaks in parables: the sower went out to sow and the world becomes full of life. Thus, the parable makes life to speak.
Life is not empty. There is something of God in life. If only we had eyes to look at life, if only we had the depth of the eyes of Jesus, we, too, would write parables in this life. We would tell of God using parables and poetry, as Jesus did.

We are called to be farmers of the Word, to spread it everywhere, with confident determination of the parable; because the strength is not in the sower, but in the seed; the strength is not in me, but in the Word. It will not return to God without bearing fruit.

The sower went out to sow. He still goes out to sow today, this morning, now. This sower-God, peasant God is great. He is great because he believes in the goodness and strength of the Word even more than in the visible fruits. He believes in the Word even more than in its results. It is the Word which is true, not so much its results.

God calls me to an act of pure faith, to believe in the goodness of the Gospel even more than the visible results of that word, to believe that God transforms the earth and people even when I do not see the fruits. He calls me to love his promise even more than the fulfillment of the promise, to love God even more than the promises of God.

This is an act of joyful and strong faith that the Gospel proposes today.
I don’t need crops, I just need big fields to sow and a heart not robbed.
I need God who sows, whom my dryness never tires.
And still the paths of the world will be able to celebrate life.
Let us therefore thank God-the sower who, by sowing his Word, brings life into our lives.

Have a wonderful summer week-end!
Fr Saga.
Pastor.