Fifth Sunday after Epiphany [St. Scholastica, V]: February 10, 2019
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade
Beloved Disciple Eucharistic Catholic Church, Toronto
© 2019 Roger LaRade
Colossians 3, 12 – 17; Matthew 13, 24 – 30
Good seed and bad
Recently a Jewish friend of mine bluntly stated to me that Jesus could not be the Messiah because the world was still rife with evil and suffering. This took me aback. It caused me to ponder whether he had a point. It’s definitely an argument that is often presented in questioning our belief in Jesus as the Christ; an argument against religious belief in general. Certainly, from the perspective of the expectation of a heaven on earth, of a promised land flowing with milk and honey, I can understand this perspective. But is this what our faith is about?
During these Sundays after Epiphany, the readings of the Mass present us with an exposition of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of which Jesus said that it is not of this world.
The Epistle and the Gospel readings for this Fifth Sunday after Epiphany form an interesting duo in this respect.
In the passage from the Letter to the Colossians we have an early baptismal instruction outlining the principles for a life in Christ. We are getting direction about how to live our lives as Christians, as citizens of the kingdom of God, as members of Christ’s Church. We are to be united by the love of Christ. It is our unity in our common love of Christ which reminds us to act in the way described. It’s important to notice that there is no denial in this passage of the potential for and the existence of conflict, of disagreement, and of division. Yet, within this reality, St. Paul does present us with the ideal which we should strive to realize, through our humble prayer and through our intentioned actions. Indeed, our common love of Christ calls us to charity, rooted as it is in God’s love for us shown in Jesus Christ, to which we are called by our Christian commitment, our Baptism in Christ; this Baptismal commitment which we renew at every Mass, and, in fact, in every instance of decision-making in our lives.
Sometimes, in our desire to be “good Christians” we will want to deny the hard reality that we act contrary to our stated commitments. The parable of the weeds which we have in today’s Gospel passage deals with this.
The parable of today’s Gospel passage comes as part of what is known as Christ’s “Seaside Sermon”. Jesus is staying at Peter’s house in Caphernaum and he is preaching a series of parables to the crowd from Peter’s boat on the Sea of Galilee. The parables are about the kingdom of God. Later, after the preaching to the crowds, he will explain the parables to the apostles.
Today we hear the second of the parables of the kingdom, and it focussing on the continuing reality of evil. The interpretation of this parable - which indeed is given in verses 36 - 43 of this same chapter 13 - sees the weeds and wheat as unfaithful and faithful followers of Christ, all members of the same community. But it is not only that there are two separate camps, but also that each one of us is both faithful and unfaithful.
What is presented in the parable as two different agencies of separate beings - the farmer sowing good seed and his enemy sowing weeds - can be understood as being two agencies of one and the same being. And each one of us is the farmer. I sow both good seed and weed. In fact, for those of us who garden, we know that it is all but impossible to have only good seed with no weeds in our gardens. No matter the care we take, weeds always seem to push up. And, it takes a lot of continuous attention to those weeds, identifying and controlling them, so that the growth from the good seed doesn’t get overrun and killed.
The incarnation of God in Christ has not removed our freedom of choice; and it has not removed the reality of our being subject to Original Sin. It is in this that lies the answer to my Jewish friend. As long as we continue to exist as human beings on earth, prior to the Second Coming of Christ in glory, we continue to have free choice and this free choice is subject to the influence of Original Sin, of our fallen nature. But, in faith, we also believe that this free choice is always influenced by the love of Christ, the grace of God.
 See The Letter to the Colossians, Joseph A. Grassi; in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm., editors (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: 1968), p. 339.
 See The Church’s Year of Grace. Pius Parsch. (The Liturgical Press, St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota: 1957), Vol. 1: Advent to Candlemas, p. 351ff.
Dominica Tertia Post Epiphaniam [Third Sunday after Epiphany]/International Holocaust Remembrance Day: January 27, 2019
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade, O.F.A.
Beloved Disciple Catholic Church, Toronto
© 2019 Roger LaRade
Romans 12: 16-21, Matthew 8: 1-13
Being touched by Jesus is to be healed of our sin
Today, January 27th, marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
On January 27, 2005 Holocaust survivors, former Red Army soldiers, leaders of more than 40 countries, and other people gathered in Oświęcim, Poland for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the largest Nazi death camp. It was the marking of this anniversary which, later that same year, led the United Nations General Assembly to designate January 27 as an annual international day of commemoration to honour the victims of the Nazi era. This day has been observed as a day of commemoration in Europe since the year 2000.
Ten years ago, I issued a Pastoral Exhortation for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, outlining actions to be taken to mark and keep alive the memory of this horrendous sin in human history, and to pray for an end to all genocide. I want to recall those actions today. I wrote then of the appropriateness on January 27 or on the Sunday closest to January 27 that the following actions be taken, before or during Mass, either in whole or in part:
These acts of remembrance are made even more important today because a large percentage of Canadians and Americans do not know much about the Holocaust, and this likely can be expanded to all populations. An article in the New York Times this week reports that in a recent study “nearly half of Canadians cannot name a single concentration camp or ghetto that existed in Europe during the Holocaust”. The study concluded “that many Canadians do not know basic facts about the Holocaust, such as where it took place, how many Jews died, or the names of key people and places. Millennials, defined as people ages 18 to 34, were particularly uninformed.”
This highlights the need for more concerted efforts in education on the Holocaust and on the reality of genocidal acts, including the factors which pose a danger to all targets of hatred and discrimination. This is especially urgent given the rise in hate groups. The New York Times study reports that in Canada, 300 hate groups are currently operating, with most of them using the Internet to spread their message.
Some of these groups – perhaps many – would claim to be Christian. They are not Christian. They are far removed from the message of Christ.
In the Gospel of this Mass of the Third Sunday after Epiphany we hear that Jesus “stretched out his hand, touched him and said, “…be clean.” ”
The leper of Matthew’s gospel is each one of us. Representing us, the leper has faith in the healing presence of Jesus in his life and so, asks Jesus to heal him. We could say that the leper makes room for Jesus in his life. The Fathers of the Church speak of a “leprosy of the soul”, by this meaning sin.
The healing touch of Jesus is a touch that cleanses away our sins and sanctifies our being. It is a touch which opens us to the presence of the divine in our lives, in our selves. It is a touch that brings a change of heart. It is a touch that brings conversion. Such is the touch of Jesus.
Hatred is sin. Discrimination is sin. Jesus does not touch us to strengthen us in our sin. Jesus touches us to turn us away from our sin.
Forgetting about the Holocaust, ignoring past genocidal acts presents the danger of falling again into sin.
If we believe that Jesus desires to touch us, to convert us, then we must commit to remember our past sin and humbly remember that we are always in danger of falling into sin.
Let us pray our Church’s prayer for International Holocaust Remembrance Day:
O Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe, himself a victim of the Holocaust, we pray in memory of all the victims of the Holocaust and we beseech you to instill in human hearts the desire to end all discrimination and violence based on religion or ethnicity, and all genocide.
St. Maximilian Kolbe gave up his life for a total stranger and loved his persecutors, giving us an example of unselfish love for all people - a love rooted in Your love and inspired by true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculata.
Grant, O Lord Jesus, that we too may give ourselves entirely without reservation to the love and service of our Heavenly Mother in order to better love and serve all people in imitation of your humble servant St. Maximilian Kolbe. Amen.
 Pastoral Exhortation on the Observance of INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY. Most Rev. Roger LaRade, O.F.A., Église Catholique Eucharistique-Eucharistic Catholic Church, January 27 2009.
 See https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/24/world/canada/canadians-holocaust.html
 Scriptural quotations from the Roman Missal (1964: Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York).
 See Aemiliana Löhr, The Mass Through the Year, Volume One – Advent to Palm Sunday (1958: Longmans, Green & Co Ltd), p. 93.
 The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Volume One: From the First Sunday of Advent to Quinquagesima, translated and edited by M. F. Toal, D.D. (1964: Henry Regency Co., Chicago), p. 290.
[One in a series of Reflections on Franciscan Virtues by Friar Pete MacNaughton, St. Michael's Hermitage, Regina, SK]
My partner cracks up because every time I try and describe the new person from Netflix who’s got this fantastic organizational method, I end up screwing up her last name. Marie Kodo. Marie Katono. Marie Klondike.
Marie Kondo is the newest sensation! Her method of organizing and simplifying involves categorizing household items, going through them one by one, and keeping only those items which spark joy in one’s heart.
I’ve watched a couple of episodes on Netflix and thought to myself that this is a method that I’d love to try in my own home! I’ve spoken with a friend here in town who’s started the method in organizing their own home, and when I asked them how it was they told me it was both emotional and satisfying.
When it comes to sorting through stuff to get to simplicity, it can be emotional! We’ve grown to have attachments to all kinds of physical things, things which either give us a feeling of comfort and security like four walls and a roof, or things that give us a false sense of comfort, a false sense of fulfillment.
Many of us turn to shopping, or “retail therapy” because it gives us comfort, a rush, but does it truly sort out what’s going on?
How many of us hold onto resentments, hold onto anger, frustration, a drive to succeed for more when more only creates strife, suffering, and emotional struggle?
Is spiritual simplicity as easy as sorting through things and finding what sparks joy?
Does spiritual simplicity, the narrow path that’s talked about by Jesus in the New Testament, spark joy for us?
Jesus is sitting in front of you. You say to Him that you want to follow Him, and that you love Him truly with all your heart. He says to you, “Sell everything you own, take up your cross, and follow Me.”
Could you do it?
When you hold Christ in your heart, does He spark joy? Or has He simply become another object amongst the clutter?
PRAISE AND PRAYER
October 18, 2018Hermit Pete
Praise is the ability to lift one’s self out of despair to see beauty or the potential for beauty in a situation that may be more akin to despair. It is the ability to find gratitude in the painful, joy in the most sorrowful, riches in the deepest of poverties.
Prayer is the means by which praise is possible. It is the foundation on which the house that is praise exists.
Without prayer, there is no praise.
Without praise, there is no prayer.
If we constantly hold our hand out to God, rather than offer God our embrace, we are not able to grow, to move past the open palm.
When we embrace God, especially in the most desperate of situations, the still and quiet presence overtakes us. It takes great practice because our nature is to revert to the heat and the red of the emotions, to punish, to persecute, to safeguard our own privilege, our festering safety.
A simple example is snow. In Saskatchewan, snow comes when it wants to. You don’t have the choice to run away from it always, and even if you do, it’s going to come back. Last winter was one of those situations where we had a very warm fall, and were only suddenly slapped with the cold and probably one of the craziest snow storms that I can remember. There was so much snow that I couldn’t get the car out of the street to commute to work out of town.
I spent a few moments mentioning this challenge on Facebook, frustrated by the snow and wanting to get out. My spiritual director simply wrote, “Snow and rain, praise the Lord.” That’s all it took.
A more complicated example is living at home with an elderly parent who believes they can, and are, more capable than they are. The daily challenge is to try and not react to the buffer that happens at every moment, the need my parent has to assert their presence in my home in such a way that creates a real challenge in terms of boundaries. Complicating the situation is being left high and dry by my sibling who has simply made the choice to not involve himself in what’s going on. Because it doesn’t directly affect him, he makes no effort to make the situation better. My parent sees my partner as a threat and is abusive towards him in a very passive aggressive way, which makes trying to build a life together challenging.
And yet there still has to be moments of prayer, moments of praise. Learning to detach from my father’s behavior is beyond challenging. It’s painful. But it’s an opportunity for praise, an opportunity to be thankful for the people who are supportive, kind, loving. It’s an opportunity to take the silence that does happen as a moment for prayer, a moment to be still enough to recognize the storm that’s going on under my own roof as one that will one day pass, one that helps me to recognize that even if I don’t feel like I have a home here, it has helped me to recognize what it is that I need and want.
Snow sucks. But without snow, the excitement of spring can’t happen. The joy of summer flowers and the smell of clover can’t happen.
*This is part of a series of a year long journey through the book, “Franciscan Virtues Through the Year“. If you’d like more information on Old/Independent Catholicism, or would like more information on my denomination, or feel called to a vocation, click here!
This has been a very interesting week, with lots of challenging things happening.
I attended a talk at the University of Regina given by Tasheka Lavann, about working ‘woke’, or being attentive to the idea of privilege in our society and culture and how these aspects of privilege can quietly or loudly support ideas that deeply effect people in our communities.
Later in the week, a change was made within the service department of the Government of Canada to allow for a greater consideration of how individuals identify. The principle items expressed were general terms of courtesy we simply use without thinking deeply about, namely Mister, Misses, and Miss–along with the terms mother and father.
Now I’ve watched the backlash on this. I’ve watch the comments that are popping up in feeds and comment sections, I’ve heard people give that 1950’s grandmother sucking air into the mouth, shaking the head and sighing in disgust like they’ve smelt as someone let a fart out in an elevator.
My partner, Dan, has for the past year been attempting to show me just how privilege effects people. This has been a particular challenge for me because as a cis gender (namely my gender is the same as the sex I was born with) queer man, I’ve always associated myself as a part of a minority that has been in a state of struggle. That state of struggle is something that I, and a lot of us, have grown comfortable with. It’s given us a means of accepting that we’ve ‘reached that point’ where we’ve plateaued with certain rights, privileges, and recognitions that we didn’t have twenty, thirty, or forty years ago.
Dan is empathic in a very, very special way. He’s able to identify with individuals on both sides of a conflict, or on two sides of an issue in a very emotional way. This was really apparent to me last year when, after Black Lives Matter marched in the Toronto Pride Parade, he had to address questions brought up to him about police officers participating in pride stuff while in uniform. The questions were made challenging by the fact that they were being asked by Dan’s dad, who is RCMP.
When the virtue of “example” came up this week, I was immediately drawn to the scene of Jesus in the upper room.
“Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.
Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”)
So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you. I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13, New English Translation)
Identifying where privilege exists in our lives, being able to step out of it and take it off like an outer garment so that we are able to humble ourselves, to wash the feet of our siblings: these things require great courage and trepidation. In many ways, we have become comfortable, liberated, justified by the struggle of our past as queer people. It brings us down to the ground to the washing place, where we get our hands dirty in the service of advocating and helping others. Saint Francis himself in the first rule said:
Let them observe among themselves what the Lord says: “Whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them,” and “what you do not wish done to you, do it not to others.” And let the ministers and servants remember that the Lord says: I have not “come to be ministered unto, but to minister,” and that to them is committed the care of the souls of their brothers, of whom, if any should be lost through their fault and bad example, they will have to give an account before the Lord Jesus Christ in the day of judgment. (The First Rule, Confirmed without a Papal Bull)
As a Franciscan, I realize that privilege was experienced in Francis’ time even though it may have expressed itself differently because of the times in which Francis lived. But the sentiment of privilege hasn’t changed. The idea of living the vocation is to live ‘with the lepers’ as Francis did, the people who were the lowest on the rungs of the ladder of privilege. It means taking the example of Christ, acting in courage, and lowering one’s self out of privilege not to achieve or have less than what one is entitled to, but rather to become more fully what God intended us to be in the first place.
This is a challenging, and a repeating theme for me. Privilege doesn’t require courage in the least. It simply requires a willingness to accept and participate. Challenging privilege is terrifying! Especially when so many people have become comfortable in it, comforted by the idea that the poverty of others isn’t something they have to touch, or is something they can simply mouse click away. When I think of people like Dan who have to live empathically, recognizing how there are different rules dependent upon where you were born, the colour of your skin, your racial background, your employment status, the gender you identify as, or the walk you’re trying to walk, I realize I can’t do it alone. When I think about the walk Tasheka walks, having come from a country that was the first territory to legally revoke the entitlement for same sex couples to marry, a territory where people are beaten and killed for identifying as queer with little to no repercussions–literally within the last week of this blog post–and literally with no press coverage anywhere, I realize I can’t do it alone. When I think about how my trans siblings literally are clenching their fists in frustration and grief because locally, they are still fighting for recognition even from within our own gender and sexually diverse community, I realize I can’t do it alone.
Confronting privilege, confronting the backlash of privilege, confronting the reality of privilege: this is something that Jesus did, and did repeatedly. That confrontation is the reason we are in the middle of Passiontide, leading up to Good Friday, and ending with Easter Sunday. This confrontation done consistently eventually brings the realization that the only privilege that can exist justly is the privilege of treating everyone with the same compassion, dignity, and love due them as a creation of God in God’s image.
This is our Passion. This is our Cross. This is our opportunity to wash the feet of our siblings, and it is something we must do if we, as a society, want to continue to exist into the next hundred years.
The calling to Franciscan life for me is becoming more about authentic human-being-ness, about challenging regularly the need to remain in privilege and isolation from my fellow human beings. It is, the the words of the poet Henry Rollins, at once ‘terrifying and wonderful.
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