Sunday, July 25, 2021

First World Day for Grandparents (17.B)

Today we are unwrapping a present from Pope Francis: the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

Starting this weekend, we’ll celebrate it every year on the fourth Sunday of July, the Sunday closest to the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Mother and of course the grandparents of Jesus, according to long tradition.

I am really delighted by the Holy Father’s idea, which connects with me on two levels. First, my own grandmothers played a huge and happy role in my young life. (My grandfathers died before I was born.) So did my elderly great-aunts.

Giving thanks for our grandparents and older relatives would be a good enough reason for a special day. That was certainly on the mind of Pope Francis, who has spoken often about his own grandmother Rosa.

But there’s a second reason to be grateful, just as important: all that grandparents and older family members, especially those who never married, do in passing on the faith.

This was true in my life, and I see it all the time in our parish. And when the Pope talks about his grandmother, he speaks about the role she played in his life of faith.

The voice of the elderly "is precious," Pope Francis said, "because it sings the praises of God and preserves the roots of the peoples." They remind us that "old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between the different generation, to pass on to the young the experience of life."

Here’s a perfect example: I was with parishioners at a party after the celebration of a youngster’s First Holy Communion. The grandmother—by no means elderly—stood up to say a few words.

She began “I am so moved and happy today—even more than I was at the First Communion of my own girls.”

I must say her adult daughters looked a little bit startled.

The grandmother continued: “But only because my own faith means even more to me now than it did then.”

Most of us, myself included, have grown in the understanding of our faith over the years. Our relationship with Jesus has been tested and tried. It’s been strengthened and deepened by the passing of the years.

Those of us who’ve walked with the Lord for many years have acquired a spiritual wisdom and even a certain credibility we can share with the young.

We all know that parents are the primary educators of the children. That responsibility belongs to them by natural law. One of the terrible things about the Indian Residential Schools was the denial of that right. Parents are called by God to be the first teachers and catechists of their children.

However, there’s something unique about the relationship we have with grandparents and elders. They let kids get away with murder because they can send them home after the weekend. Precisely because they’re not expected to play the primary role in training and correcting their grandchildren, except in unusual cases, grandparents can more easily listen without judgment and teach without meeting resistance.

As I mentioned, there are countless examples of this right here in our parish—and ever-increasing opportunities for grandparents to share their faith. It’s a rare family where the grandparents aren’t helping with childcare, and in these financially stressed times many are paying Catholic school fees.

My own high school tuition was paid by my unmarried aunt until I was able to land a summer job at an outrageously high wage—$5.35 an hour, as I recall.

Before turning to today’s readings, I want to say something about what Pope Francis decided to call this celebration, the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. I didn’t know what to think about it at first—many of the grandparents I know are far from elderly! But I am very glad he went beyond grandparents to include others who have played a similar role.

 Rolly and Molly Waechter were not blessed with children nor, of course, grandchildren. But they have been loved as grandparents by generations of young people in our parish—Molly as the coordinator of our parish religious education program, Rolly as the head of our Rites of Christian Initiation for Children program. Today is a day to give thanks for them, and others like them.

I often tell the story of the painting by William Kurelek in my great-grandparents' parish church in Toronto. It shows today’s miracle of the loaves and fishes taking place in a nearby park. The faces of those helping Jesus by gathering up the fragments are those of the three parish priests and a young deacon.

It’s more than appropriate that Kurelek showed priests and a future priest in his mural—after all, there is a strong Eucharistic theme in this miracle.

But Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

We must be fed by God’s Word before we are fed even by Christ’s Body and Blood. Sacraments, other than Baptism, are preceded by teaching. And, with due regard for the primary responsibility of parents, today’s grandparents are ideal for the role.

In our first reading today, Elisha says “Give it to the people and let them eat.” Elisha is not speaking to a priest or teacher or fellow prophet  but to his “servant,” no doubt a disciple.

In the Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples to make the miracle clearer by gathering up the abundant leftovers. It’s not a primary role, but an important one.

In the Church today, in difficult circumstances, every one of us must play our part in feeding hungry souls.

It seems like a very big challenge. But all of us, especially older Catholic discouraged by the times, need to remind ourselves that the hungry disciples of Elisha and the hungry disciples of Jesus were fed by God himself.

All of us, therefore, and grandparents especially, are called to pray—to ask the Lord, as our Psalm says, to give us our food in due season.

But as we pray, we do what we can do. We share with the young  what we have, as Elisha and Jesus did. And as Jesus told his disciples, we invite them to sit down. Even the busiest youngster will usually take a break from video games and sports to listen to grandma or grandpa.

I urge everyone, young and old, to read the Pope’s message for this special day. He says some consoling things, recognizing that the pandemic has been very painful for older people. Just two weeks ago parishioners told me they were going to see their grandchildren for the first time in a year a half!

But let me end with one of the challenging things Francis says in his letter:

“It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance.

 “Because there is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren. You just need to set out and undertake something new.”

A big challenge to grandparents, but to all of us as well. You’re never too old to share the Good News, but you’re never too young either!

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Thorn in the Flesh (14.B)

 


I have missed so many things, big and small, during the months without a congregation at Sunday Mass.

The biggest thing, of course, was gathering around the altar as a parish. It was especially difficult to celebrate Mass when no one was allowed to come to church.

It was a tremendous consolation to have had a choir throughout those bleak times. Since our choir were all members of the Curalli family, we were blessed to have had beautiful music and at least a miniature congregation.

The Curallis had to do more than sing. They provided the responses as well—without them, no one would have answered “And with your spirit,” which would have been strange.

They had one other job: to laugh at any jokes I dared to make in my homilies. If the joke was good enough, I could count on some audible chuckles from the choir loft.

Still, getting laughs out of five people at the very back of the church wasn’t that satisfying, and I didn’t often attempt a joke or funny story. So, one of things I am looking forward to as we resume    Mass with a full congregation is a bit of laughter.

Which explains why I was a bit disappointed in today’s readings, at least as far as their potential for humour goes. The only joke I found on the internet suggested that St. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was his mother-in-law.  That doesn’t really work for me, since my father loved his mother-in-law.

I did hear about a man who introduced himself to the new pastor after Mass on his first Sunday. He said, “You know how Paul said he had a thorn in the flesh?”  The priest nodded and the man continued, “I’m yours.”

I found that one more scary than funny.

Anyway, for many people Paul’s reference to that thorn in the flesh is no joke. Many of us know that we too have messengers of Satan beating us up and destroying our confidence.

That’s why I thought we might focus on the second reading today, especially since the question “just what was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?” is a very interesting one. Early scholars speculated that it was sexual temptation, but that’s not the mainstream view today. Many argue that he suffered physically, perhaps with headaches or eye problems, and there’s some evidence for that in one of his letters.

But the simplest answer comes straight from Paul’s words in today’s text. He tells us about the thorns that make his life and ministry difficult: weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ.

These thorns are serious hardships that draw blood from Paul. They’re not pinpricks, they’re real wounds. And so are some of the thorns we must deal with—difficult family situations, painful illness, mental and emotional struggles, persistent temptations and failures, addictions, even the pain of sin and historical injustices in our Church.

Most of us could add something personal to that list.

So how do we cope with these painful situations? God’s words to St. Paul show us the way: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

I don’t know about you, but when I face weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities, I want God to put a stop to them. I tend to pray “enough already.”

That’s not the prayer St. Paul suggests. He finds God within his struggles; he experiences the power of God in his weakness; he has learned that grace is enough.

Paul, of course, is not a new disciple, not a beginner in the Christian life. But what he says applies to all of us, wherever we are on the discipleship path. He’s sharing with us what God taught him: that we should not ask God to eliminate our difficulties, but to give us the strength to overcome them.

Paul, in his weakness, comes out victorious—not by his own power, but by God’s. We can, too, if we accept hardship as a pathway to peace.

For many months, our parish has been weakened, denied the strength of gathering to worship together. But we have continued to experience God’s grace in countless ways—and in some respects, we are stronger than ever.

Trusting in the power of Christ dwelling in our hearts and in our community, we will move forward together with gratitude and joy, even as we experience the sadness of recent weeks.

In weakness, we are strong.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

A Life and Death Story: 35 Happy Years

 



Tomorrow will be the 35th anniversary of my ordination as a priest. I planned to preach today about my gratitude for these joyful years of ministry; I was sure something in the readings would provide a launching pad for those thoughts.

No such luck. Our first treating, psalm and gospel are all on a single topic: death.

I thought maybe, especially in the heat, I could just forget about the readings and talk on the priesthood. But that bothered my priestly conscience: I rarely preach about death, and the Sunday readings don’t often suggest it.

I think the Lord gave my conscience a nudge. I was looking at the photo album from my ordination day. And while it brought back some wonderful memories, I couldn't help but notice: an awful lot of the people in the photos are now dead. In one photo, everyone’s dead but me!

You might think that would make me feel sad. But it doesn't, and it shouldn't. Because dealing with death is a fundamental part of our Christian lives and has been an important part of my own priestly and personal journey.

The first reading points out a key fact: our loving God did not create death. His plan for creation did not include death, which was a result of the failure and sin of our first parents. John Milton’s poem “Paradise Lost” tells of “man’s first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe.”

Blaming God for the fact of death is not consistent with the story of creation presented to us in the Book of Genesis.

Today’s Gospel story of the raising of a little girl is less direct. It asks rather than answers the question ‘why doesn’t Jesus work such miracles for us?’. The New Testament has many examples of Jesus bringing people back to life or at least saving their lives. Has the Lord given up that ministry?

The answer isn’t obvious, but I think it’s certain. Every miracle of Jesus is a sign—a sign of salvation. Yes, Jesus is moved by human pity, but still more by knowing he was sent to conquer sickness and death forever. It is his saving death and resurrection, not miracles, that overcomes “every disorder which is caused in some degree by sin.” (Xavier Léon-Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 363)

On this hot day, there's no time to say more, except to add that the sacraments, and the Catholic funeral rites, do bring Christ’s strength and consolation to both the dying and the bereaved. That’s my own experience: the  Lord has made his goodness known to me throughout my priestly life in numerous ways, but particularly through the death of loved ones.

One final thought connected to my ordination anniversary, prompted by the presence on the altar of Marty Cayer.  As you know, he will be serving as our parish deacon after his ordination in October. But he first knelt beside me on the altar 35 years ago, as an altar boy at St. Patrick’s, where I was assigned after ordination.

Last week, Marty said to me “You know, Father, this may sound a bit strange, but Christ the Redeemer reminds me a lot of St. Pat’s.”

It was a bit strange that our suburban parish in 2021 would remind him of an inner-city one in 1986.

But Marty was right, and he was saying something very important. Despite thirty-five years of social change, much of it negative, public failures by priests, scandals, and sorrows, not to mention a very different demographic, he finds here a community of Christians living their faith with the same conviction and courage as the wonderful new Canadians and old guard Catholics at 12th and Main.

It was a great privilege to begin my priestly ministry with a community as strong as St. Pat’s, but it’s a greater privilege still to continue it here at Christ the Redeemer.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Guidelines for Handling Storms (12.B)

 


For a long time, I thought the phrase “a perfect storm” came from Sebastian Junger’s book by the same name, which became a very successful movie in 2000. But I did a bit of fact-checking and discovered that the term is 300 years old.

Obviously storms, especially severe ones, fit nobody’s definition of perfect. The phrase “a perfect storm” compares to the familiar expression “a perfect stranger”. Perfect here means absolute or complete, not excellent.

The Church has endured a perfect storm during these past few weeks and many of us have felt tossed about by the winds and waves.

So, today’s Gospel is timely. Preachers and commentators have said for centuries that the terrible storm in today’s Gospel stands for the storms that the Church faces inside and out.

But I’ve talked about this the last two Sundays, so in today’s homily, I’d like to focus on the personal storms we face in our own lives.

Those, too, can be perfect storms where we feel no hope of calmer seas. They can be on the outside, with unemployment, financial fears, family troubles or illness threatening to swamp our boats.

But there are also storms on the inside – storms of anxiety, depression, or loss. Msgr. Joseph Krempa, one of my favorite homilists, says those “are really the more dangerous kinds of storms… turmoil within can make everything we do seem pointless.”

But Msgr. Krempa, on whose splendid book I have relied very heavily this week, calls today’s readings guidelines for handling our personal storms.

The First Reading from the book of Job reminds us that storms have limits. However intense it might be, the storm will pass. The Lord says to any storm what he says in Job, “thus far shall you come and no farther”. Sometimes we just have to wait out the storm.

When the sea gets rough, we are tempted to stop praying. We figure prayer doesn’t work anyway so we try to calm the storm by our own efforts according to our own plan. The Lord’s words to Job tell us that’s not a good idea. He’s God and we’re not.

I’m not the world’s best pray-er, but this week I spent a fair bit of time worrying about something that was really bothering me. Most of the time when I should have been praying, I was trying to figure out what I should do about it. But Thursday morning, I sat with it for a while in my prayer time.

Ninety minutes later, my worry was over. But what was really surprising was that the problem was completely solved in a way I could never have thought of myself. Never.

We don’t find storms in the second reading, but St. Paul points out that looking at things from a human point of view is a very poor substitute for seeing them as God does.

Sometimes a storm – something tough in our lives – has good consequences. I was studying in Rome when the great Stanley Park windstorm hit in 2006. It sure seemed devastating at the time, but ten years later an environmental expert said, “The destruction was shocking and impactful... but the wind opened up sections of the forest and allowed for growth of plants that needed the new open, sun-lit areas and that, in turn, allowed for greater biodiversity.”

Views improved, the damage allowed new trees and a lot more shrubbery into the area, which meant new kinds of insects and songbirds arrived.

So, too, with life’s storms. Personal tragedies can lead to new life with God, physical loss can be a time of spiritual gain, illness can lead to spiritual renewal.

St. Paul is not calling us to pretend that our difficulties aren’t real but to see them with the eyes of Christ. Just as a landscape is not the same after a storm as it was before, so we are changed by the storms of our life.

The Gospel is the high point of all three readings. It tells us that Christ is in the boat with us. Even better, he’s not just beside us in the boat but within us. He makes us a new creation which no external force can overwhelm or destroy.

Many great saints, such as Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta, experienced the dark nights of inner storms. But Christ brought them to a new day, closer to Him than ever.

No saint is a better model for trust in God than St. Joseph. Just the other day one of our parishioners described him as the Swiss army knife of saints! St. Joseph as patron of fathers is the title we think of first today, Father’s Day, but he’s also the patron of the Universal Church, of workers, and of a blessed death. You can add expectant mothers, pilgrims, and immigrants to the list.

Most of all, he can be a wonderful help when we feel we are sinking beneath the waves of fear, uncertainty and worry. In his letter announcing the year of St. Joseph, Pope Francis points out that “even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work.”

“Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course.”

“At times,” Pope Francis writes, “we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.”

We’ve had a lot on our plate during the year of St. Joseph but already we are paying more attention to him, which is long overdue. I tended to pray to St. Joseph with a laundry list of concerns whenever I visited the Oratory in Montreal. Now, I’m trying to be more aware every day of this great patron, who has been “hidden in plain sight” in the heart of our Church.

Pope Francis says, “God always finds a way to save us, provided we show the same creative courage as the carpenter of Nazareth, who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in divine providence.” (Patris Corde)

Sometimes God will command the wind and the waves to obey him, bringing immediate calm. Other times, he will ask “where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” insisting that we trust in what we do not understand.

But in every circumstance, let us turn to the Lord in our trouble and distress, trusting in his steadfast love. God will find a way to save us and to turn our problems into possibilities if we trust in him.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Festina Lente: A postscript

 


Jim Cooney, a friend of four decades, has forgotten more about Catholic teaching on social justice than I'll ever know although he was a senior executive of a large mining company when we met, which might surprise those inclined to rash judgments.

As both a student and a teacher, Jim has toiled mightily to bring the insights of the Church's social doctrine to those in industry, while helping many in the Church to understand better the legitimate role of industry in society.

He has been a significant contributor to many important dialogues on various issues across the country and beyond. Not surprisingly, he has a lively awareness of the rights and histories of Indigenous peoples.

So it was with more than a little hesitation that I shared my homily with him earlier today; I was relieved when he responded positively.

But I was truly delighted when he reminded me of the Latin maxim festina lente – literally, make haste slowly – and its application to some of the things I said in my homily today.

Jim sent along the short Wikipedia article on this ancient saying, which I will make my new motto!  You can read it here.

Trust and Confidence at a Painful Time (11.B)

 



Today would have been my father’s ninety-second birthday so I’ve been thinking a lot about him this week.

One thing in particular came to my mind as I raced from one thing to another during the difficult past few days: I never saw my father rush. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t recall a single time when I saw him in a hurry.

My Dad wasn’t much for giving advice, but I think this might be a lesson he’s teaching me ten years after his death. And maybe God is telling me something too: a book I was reading in my prayer time quoted a Finnish proverb: “God did not create hurry.”

I’ll come back to that later but let me start by saying I found it hard to write my homily this week. The disclosures about the Kamloops Residential School are on everyone’s mind, so I hoped to make a connection with the Scriptures this Sunday.

In my usual way, I looked quickly at the readings and expected something to jump out at me. Nothing at all. I slowed down a bit and read the texts a second and then a third time. I didn’t find much.

That’s what happens when you’re in a rush.

Getting desperate for something meaningful to say, I took a couple of books off the shelf—both were in Italian, so that alone was enough to slow me down.

The first was a commentary by Cardinal Albert Vanhoye. (Le letture bibliche delle domeniche—Anno B, p. 206-209)  I’m sure this great scripture scholar never wrote a single sentence in a hurry, although his style is simple and direct.

His thoughts opened up for me the central message of the readings we just heard, connecting them to one another and to what many of us are thinking this Sunday.

Cardinal Vanhoye says that today’s liturgy teaches us about two things: confidence and courage. In his view, all three readings speak about confidence and courage, although in different ways.

The Gospel tells us that the kingdom of God moves forward through every kind of difficulty and circumstance. It has an unstoppable force.

In the first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel also speaks of the extraordinary force of growth in nature. In the second reading, St. Paul declares himself to be full of confidence and thus able to carry out his commitment to please the Lord.

Trust and confidence are things we need right now. The current scandals are just the latest in a series of things that try our faith and can drive us to discouragement, pessimism, or worse. And even personal losses, sufferings and circumstances can weaken our trust in God.

Yet God’s Word today invites us to regain our courage, since the Lord is stronger than any other force and is present in us and in the Church with a wonderful power.

The other Italian commentary, by an unknown writer, says much the same thing, but adds a warning against the tendency to read these parables in a triumphant way. (Messale dell’Assemblea CristianaFestivo p. 1050.) The parables apply to the Kingdom of Christ in his Church, not to the visible Church itself. (See Louis Bouyer, “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven,” Dictionary of Theology).

We cannot identify the Church’s size or spread or success with the Kingdom. In a similar way, the failures of her leaders and members cannot stop God from continuing his saving work.

Ezekiel is writing during a time of great trial for the people of Israel: they are in exile far from the Promised Land. The dire situation threatens to destroy their hope and their confidence. But the Prophet paints them a vivid picture of hope, of new life, to inspire fresh confidence in the Lord. God will replant Israel in due time.

The parables in today’s Gospel echo that green theme of the first reading. The kingdom of God is a seed sown on the earth. In itself it is nothing important. Nothing significant – Cardinal Vanhoye says it’s like a little pebble. And yet it possesses a vital dynamism.

Look at this beautiful orchid right behind me. What do you see it doing? Nothing, obviously. But it’s growing. Slowly but surely.

So too with the kingdom of God. We would like results. If we could see more progress, it might be easier to keep building. But just to underline his point, Jesus talks about mustard seeds. Not only is the kingdom growing from seeds, but from tiny ones at that.

So too with the Church. Jesus didn’t transplant one of the great cedars of Lebanon and establish it as a towering sign of his kingdom. The Church began like a grain of mustard. Yet after Christ’s death, facing every kind of persecution and difficulty, it grew. And grew.

Why? It grew because “it had within itself the force of the Word and the grace of God” (Vanhoye, 208).

It is that same force and only that same force that can restore our confidence and courage. It is Christ, Christ Himself, who gives the Church the power to carry on in the face of sin and shame.

Cardinal Vanhoye points out that St. Paul is confident even in the face of death. In life and death, in everything, we are sustained by faith in God and, when all is said and done, by nothing else.

He sums it up neatly: “the love of Christ is the secret of everything.”

In last week’s homily, I said that we will discern together, carefully and prayerfully, how we at Christ the Redeemer will participate in reconciliation and healing following the disclosure at the Kamloops Indian Residential School and the media storm that followed.

This week has brought another wave of reactions in the media, many personal conversations, and continued insights from Archbishop Miller and other Church leaders. The Archbishop has suggested that Indigenous communities should take the lead in determining the next step in the reconciliation process.

In all this, I’ve been guided by what I mentioned in the beginning of my homily, the thought that came to me in prayer: don’t rush.

The tragedy of the residential school system unfolded over more than a century, and even now all the evils that occurred or how they were allowed to occur is not clearly understood. We cannot ever fully address or redress these evils. But many people feel an urgent need to act now. I understand that feeling. The stories rightly spark outrage. And as Archbishop Miller said on the radio, “apologies are a necessary part of reconciliation and they get their weight if they’re accompanied by action.”

As a parish, we will act in the coming months, but we won’t rush in unprepared. We need to pause and absorb the shame of what has happened. We need to listen to our First Nations communities. And we need to listen to Christ as we discuss and determine the right actions to take.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do right now. The Book of Ecclesiastes says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to mourn, and a time to dance.” This is a time to mourn.

In the first place, we mourn lives lost—young lives lost. We mourn families uprooted and cycles of abuse that still affect First Nations communities today.

But we also mourn the loss of innocence, the loss of a view some of us had of the Church as being more perfect than she is or ever was. In this regard, listen to these words of Pope Benedict, spoken in the context of another source of shame, the sexual abuse crisis:

In the midst of the scandals, we have experienced what it means to be very stunned by how wretched the Church is, by how much her members fail to follow Christ. That is the one side, which we are forced to experience for our humiliation, for our real humility. (From an interview with Pope Benedict XVI conducted by Peter Seewald and published as Light of the World, p. 175)

Secondly, we should listen and reflect. We must seek a better understanding of what happened in the residential school system. There are good resources on the Archdiocesan website that can help us educate ourselves. This week’s edition of the B.C. Catholic is a truly splendid place to start our reflection.  More resources will be made available to parishioners as we gather them.

Last but by no means least, we should pray. Pray for Indigenous families affected by the residential schools, for healing in communities, and for a mature acceptance of the Church’s role in the tragedy of the residential schools. Prayer is an essential part of the healing process.

And prayer can also lead us closer to Christ, and to a better understanding of his presence in the Church.

In this regard, I will close with more words from that interview with Pope Benedict, who reminds us that “in spite of everything,” Jesus “does not release his grip on the Church.”

In spite of the weakness of the people in whom he shows himself, he keeps the Church in his grasp, he raises up saints in her, and makes himself present through them. I believe that these two feelings belong together: the deep shock over the wretchedness, the sinfulness of the Church – and the deep shock over the fact that he doesn’t drop this instrument, but that he works with it; that he never ceases to show himself through and in the Church.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Where Else Can We Go? (Corpus Christi.B)

Archbishop Miller asked us to read his Statement of Apology and Expression of Commitment at Mass today. which I did before the homily. You can read it here.

The statement makes it obvious that we have a lot of work to do as an Archdiocese and as a parish community. We will discern carefully and prayerfully how we at Christ the Redeemer will participate in the process of reconciliation and healing in the weeks and months ahead.

The Archbishop’s words are more than enough for us to think about today, and I really have nothing to add. But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to say on this feast of Corpus Christi, when we ponder one of the central truths of our Catholic faith.

As you can imagine, a number of parishioners  have emailed me to express their sorrow and shock over the news stories of the past week. There were even one or two who had not known anything of the residential schools. Without exception, the emails were sincere and reasonable, not to mention helpful to me in planning the way forward.

But other priests were not so fortunate. Several received emails from people saying they no longer want to be Catholic. A few people asked how they could formally renounce the Faith.

Those emails contrasted greatly with the words of our only First Nations deacon, Deacon Rennie Nahanee. He told the CBC in a calm and gentle way that he was a proud Indigenous person and that his family had experienced the evils of the residential schools, acknowledging his own pain and that of his people.

But then he said that he was part of the Church, making it clear he had no intention of leaving.

I spoke with Deacon Rennie yesterday, but I didn’t dream of asking him what was keeping him in the Church, with all her historic and present failures. I knew there was no one answer, no simple answer.

But today I would like to suggest one of the answers that any of us might give to the question “why be Catholic?” Why not walk away?

That answer is the one today’s feast declares: because I believe that the Church feeds me with the Body and Blood of Christ.

In today’s Gospel St. Matthew recalls the plain words of Jesus at the Last Supper: this is my body; this is my blood. But I wish we could have read from St. John, who records what happened well before the Last Supper, when Jesus first promised the living bread.

When Jesus said “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” he crossed a line that even many of his followers could not accept. From that moment, he was no longer the hero of the five thousand he had fed with the loaves and fish. Many turned away, never to return.

But we all know that some stayed. Some of those who heard Jesus promise that eating his flesh and blood would bring life forever chose to continue on the discipleship path when others abandoned it in disgust.

They, like Deacon Rennie or any of us, must have had various reasons to remain. I would guess that St. John stayed because of his deep intimacy with the Lord.

The Bible only tells us Simon Peter’s reason for sticking around. But it’s a good one that we might consider today: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Troubled though some of us may be, even ashamed by the things we’re hearing about our Church, where else can we go to receive the bread of eternal life? That alone is reason to remain.