It was a joy to welcome Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast--a good friend whom I first met when I was a high school student and he a Jesuit scholastic at nearby Regis College--to celebrate the morning Masses at Christ the Redeemer today. The Archbishop was in Vancouver to speak at the annual Priests' Study Week.
With his kind permission, his homily appears below.
As we gather for the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day I would like to share with you the theme of our Pastoral Year in which the faithful of the Alexandria-Cornwall and Ottawa dioceses proclaim that, “Christ is everything for us”.
We so value our relationship with Our Lord and his teaching that we have made our own a challenging Scripture text: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6.68).
We believe that when you let Jesus into your life, when people put Jesus at the centre of their lives, it changes everything and puts joy into their lives. Our big challenge today is to introduce people to Christ so they get to know him. Isn’t this the purpose behind the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s initiative called “Proclaim”?
To fully implement what Archbishop Miller proposes in his recommending of Alpha, of Catholic Christian Outreach’s Discovery series and other such parish encounters means that we have to do so by introducing individuals to Christ one person at a time. We the Catholic community have to appeal to each individual person’s mind and heart.
We know that a lot of young people are looking for community and to belong to something. Our challenge, then is to build trust and to open each person to building a relationship with Our Lord so that together we might all experience the Joy of the Gospel. And that will not be something we keep here in church rather such a relationship with Jesus will push us to share it with his friends, the poor.
The Home Missions collection is being held today to support the First Nations Catholic missions in your Archdiocese along with the good work done with the seafarers who visit your ports; it is an opportunity to assist them with ongoing prayer and a sharing of our blessings.
In this way, we express that our experience of Christ Jesus as Lord and Saviour guides us in all that we are and do as we wait in patient hope for his return in glory at the end of time when all will be made right.
Today's gospel is taken from the final address of Jesus’ public ministry to his apostles then and now to us. Like the speeches found in Mark 13 and Matthew 24-25, this speech in Luke’s gospel is apocalyptic in nature. It “uncovers” or “reveals” God's designs for the future of his chosen ones, in this case the disciples of Jesus, members of the Church.
It is important, however, to realize that, since the future of salvation for the world remains hidden within God's sovereign wisdom, even what is revealed cannot be fully understood by us human beings. So, we draw from it general advice: don’t be afraid; don’t go after false prophets; allow the Holy Spirit to give you the words you need to defend your faith; hold fast to the end!
You see, faith in God and trust in his saving designs are called for so that one may correctly interpret what Jesus is telling us of the future.
Jesus urges his disciples to a patient endurance, rooted in faith, love and hope. They are not to be frightened or led astray, but are to be assured that in persecution Jesus will give them an eloquence and wisdom that their enemies will be unable to resist or contradict. Finally they are to be confident about what is to come because he is the Lord of History.
The closing weeks of one Church year and the opening week of another—the First Sunday of Advent in two weeks’ time—are linked by a focus on the “Parousia”, a word that means the “Presence” or the return of Jesus in glory. Our Christian reflection today focuses on the third part of the acclamation of faith we say or sing at Mass: “We proclaim your death, O Lord and profess your resurrection, until you come again!”
“Malachi” means “my messenger” and this Old Testament minor prophet tells of God's promise to send a figure in the end times who would “prepare the way” for God's renewal of Israel's faith life. The anonymous author of these oracles lived in Judah two generations after the people of God had come back from the Exile in Babylon (about 460 BC).
Though the Temple had been rebuilt, it was a sorry sight. The 20,000 returned exiles were poor and without material resources to rebuild the Temple.
As well, the People of God had grown weary in their religious practice. Jews divorced the “wives of their youth”, to marry pretty foreign women (Malachi 2.4). The wealthy not only cheated the poor; they were even selling them into slavery (Malachi 3.5).
The prophet's oracles are a kind of catechism, laying out convictions about: God's special love for Israel, the sins of the priests, God's opposition to divorce, God's love of justice, criticism of ritual offenses and other signs of religious tepidity.
Sometimes today we feel a similar discouragement. The evil around us and the difficulties we face—such as the way members of the Church have suffered through reports of sexual abuse and other faults of our faith community and the pain so many in the church experience—all of it causes us to grumble and grow weary. We need renewal.
Malachi's prophecy said that the world could soon confidently look forward to a day when the least shadow of evil would be blotted out. He used the image of the sun of righteousness shining out with healing in its rays.
In the ancient world, one of the principal gods was the sun, who was believed to provide for his devotees warmth, life, light and law. Malachi employed this symbolism, identifying these qualities with God's saving action towards the remnant in Israel who had remained faithful to God and neighbour in difficult times.
According to Pope Francis, the fulfilment of this promise is what the Risen Lord Jesus offers us. In his recent apostolic exhortation Christus vivit, Christ is alive, the Holy Father says that the Risen Lord can and does continually revitalize us.
Francis observes that, “Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive! He is in you, he is with you, and he never abandons you.…When you feel you are growing old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, he will always be there to restore your strength and your hope.”
Today's epistle also shares in the teaching about the end-times that colours the liturgy in these closing weeks of the year. Paul’s conviction proclaims a central biblical truth: we can trust Christ because he is steadfast, he is our lord and our friend, he will never let us down.
Take courage, then in Christ’s closeness to you and strive for ways to make him known to those whom he wishes to draw close to himself, namely your family members, your associates at work and indeed every person you meet.
[Texts: Malachi 3.19-20 [Psalm 98]; 2 Thessalonians 3.7-12; Luke 21.5-19]