Sunday, July 2, 2023

Final CTR Sunday Homily ~ July 2, 2023


In my formal farewell last week, I highlighted the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats  that I see as I entrust the parish to God and a new pastor. 

Today, I’d like to offer a specific vision for the future of our parish. It comes from a book that is taking the Church by storm called From Christendom to Apostolic Mission.

The thesis of the book is quite simple. The era it calls Christendom has ended. And now we must return to the apostolic approach of the early Church.

I’m convinced that this short book contains a message from the Holy Spirit to the Church in North America and Western Europe. Society has turned away from and even against the Church, creating the same conditions that the apostles faced when they set out to evangelize the world. We can no longer rely on widespread support for our mission.

The world has changed—dramatically, and swiftly. And so must we.

Please take the time to watch this short video which summarizes the message.

Are you convinced? Perhaps not—it’s a lot to take in, a huge shift from what we’ve taken for granted all our Christian lives.

Let me tell just one story. After they watched this same video, Archbishop Miller asked a group of people if they agreed that Christendom is over.

A silver-haired woman responded with quiet dignity. “I know it’s finished,” she said. “I have five children with whom we prayed, whom we took on retreats, who all attended Catholic schools—and not one of them goes to church.”

What else can explain this situation—repeated in numerous families in our parish—other than a seismic shift in society, an earthquake in values that undermines our best efforts to share the Gospel with our children?

We all thought, understandably so, that if we raised our children like we were raised, then the results—committed Catholics—would be the same. Who could have guessed that the death of Christendom, with the consequent erosion of the moral consensus in society, could make such a difference?

But it did. And now we must face up to it, with God’s help and guidance.

It’s fitting that my final homily  ends with the Scripture verse I have quoted so often, Romans 8:28, which tells us that God works for good in all things.

These are difficult days and we face a challenging future. But that’s a great blessing because it gives us the opportunity to become fully-engaged, fully-intentional disciples carrying out the mission Christ entrusted to the Apostles.

The end of Christendom calls us to share the Gospel with the same courage and zeal of the early Church, which allowed the faith to spread to the ends of the earth.


Last Saturday was the greatest day of my life.

That might sound shocking. How could my farewell celebrations eclipse my ordination day and first Mass?

Here’s the answer. Thirty-seven years ago, the potential of my priestly ministry began. Last week, the fruits of it—fruits beyond my dreams—became visible to me in all that you said and all that you did.

I think there will be some married couples who understand what I am saying. Is a wedding day more precious than the marriage or graduation of your last child, when you see what marriage made possible?

As a Monty Python character exclaimed, “I’m not dead yet!” I look forward to some years of ministry still, and hope and pray they will be richly blessed.

But somehow, I suspect that last Saturday will remain the best day of my life.

I cannot begin to thank those who worked so very hard to make Mass so beautiful and the dinner celebration so special. And to thank all of you  for supporting me, encouraging me, and putting up with me throughout these sixteen blessed years.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Remarks at Farewell Dinner ~ June 24, 2023

Looking at me now, it may come as a surprise to you that I was not an athletic young man.

Well, maybe not.

My complete lack of interest in sports was neatly explained by my father when he said, “Gregory doesn’t like anything he wasn’t good at the first time.”

And since I didn’t play sports, I didn’t follow sports. I never once opened the sports pages, even though I was reading the newspaper shortly after I learned to walk. My father did get me to read a story about his late uncle, an NHL star. But since the article was full of mistakes it didn’t inspire me to change my reading habits.

By a quirk of fate, in my forties I got to know a BC Lions football player, a Vancouver Canucks hockey player, and one of the best known local sports writers. So, I was pretty much forced to start reading the sports pages. And I read them still.

I noticed something early on about the reports of victorious games, winning goals, and athletic trophies. The players almost always said the same thing: it was really just a team effort.

Of course, they said it in different ways. “I don’t really think the trophy belongs to me but to my teammates” or “I really just tipped the goal in after a great setup.”

I didn’t believe a word of it! Since the only team I ever played on was a political party I was used to people following a script with reporters. This “aw, shucks, it was really the other guys who made this happen” struck me as a formula; they were saying what was expected.

Tonight, I apologize to all those athletes whose sincerity I doubted. I have heard so many kind and generous things about my ministry here over the past sixteen years that I feel like a winner of the Grey Cup, Stanley Cup, and even the World Cup. Yet I can only say exactly what those athletes say in the post-game interview.

I say it with sincerity and almost urgency: this amazing parish, this irresistible parish, is the result of shared responsibility, collaboration, brilliant staff, generous volunteers, and engaged disciples. And, of course, dedicated assistant pastors, one of whom liked it here so much that he’s come back for more!

My single greatest contribution was getting out of the way of those who were listening and responding to the Holy Spirit.

Sad as I am to be leaving, I want to make it very clear that I’m very happy tonight. I never dreamt that I would experience such an outpouring of love, affirmation, and support in my life. I am a happy and grateful priest beyond anything I could have imagined on my ordination day, joyful though it was.

This incredible celebration, for which I warmly thank the dedicated and hard working organizers and volunteers, has only one negative aspect for me. I want so badly to name names, to thank individuals … but I can’t.

There are at least three reasons for this, beginning with the fact that we want to go home before midnight.

The second, of course, is that speaking of the debt that I and the parish owe to certain individuals would reduce me to tears faster than ice cream melts on a hot summer day.

And finally, any attempt to name names risks both missing some and failing to acknowledge the hidden contributions of those who have quietly prayed and sacrificed for the mission of the parish.

An overflowing heart is a dangerous thing because it’s hard to stop the flow of words; I think I’ve said enough.

I give the last words to Dag Hammarskjold, the mystical secretary-general of the United Nations, whom I have been quoting all week: “For what has been, thanks. For what will be, yes.”

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Farewell Homily June 24, 2023


I’ve been thinking about this homily for six months.

In my head, I wrote at least three different homilies. The first overflowed with gratitude to God. The second overflowed with gratitude to you. And the third began “You can’t possibly expect me to say anything tonight, so Archbishop Miller will preach!”

Well, the Archbishop will not preach. When he told me he could not make it in time because of a prior Mass in Surrey this afternoon, I got the feeling he was secretly pleased that I was forced to confront my famous emotions head on.

However, the homily I’d really like to give—deeply grateful reflections on the most fruitful years of my life, looking back on the past sixteen years with wonder and awe—will remain in my heart, the words unspoken.

You’ve all heard the slogan “know your limit, play within it.” That’s what I am going to do at Mass tonight.

You’ve also all heard, many a time, my favourite Bible verse: Romans 8:28, God works for good in all things. I think that my tendency to choke on emotional thoughts has turned out to be a blessing tonight. Guided, I hope, by the Holy Spirit I decided not going to look back; not even to talk about the present; I am going to speak of the future of this irresistible parish of Christ the Redeemer.

I got the idea in a planning meeting at the Pastoral Centre where I work. One of the senior staff said he was going to present a SWOT analysis.

My immediate thought: “A SWAT analysis. And I said to myself: I know things are bad, but surely they’re not that bad!

Turns out that a SWOT analysis—S-W-O-T—is a clever way of looking at an organization or situa-tion.

S stands for Strengths. W stands for Weaknesses. O stands for Opportunities, and T for Threats: S.W.O.T. The first two—strengths and weaknesses—come from within. The second two—opportunities and threats—come from outside.

Before we move on to this SWOT analysis let’s stop for a moment to recall that we are gathered to celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. It wasn’t planned that way, but it’s perfect. The Gospel for this feast tells the dramatic story of the naming of this great saint. I’ve read it many times—I always focus on poor Zechariah. I didn’t pay any attention to what he called his son, since John is such a common name… like Smith.

But while I was preparing this homily, I stumbled across something quite delightful and relevant to my thoughts about Christ the Redeemer tonight. The name John means “God is gracious.” That sums up in three words so much of what I wish I were able to say tonight. God has been gracious to me, God has been gracious to us, and has called us to be his gracious presence in the world, as we become ever more an irresistible sign of his salvation.

We’ll come back to John, but first let’s turn to the strengths,  the strengths of our parish community and what these mean for the future. Near the top of the list is vision: this parish knows what God wants; it knows where it’s headed; and it knows how to get there.

Early in my time at Christ the Redeemer we spoke often about forming intentional disciples. We’ve worked hard at that. But somewhere along the way we realized that to form intentional disciples we needed to be an intentional parish. And that is what we are becoming and will become more and more.

An intentional parish requires three things to succeed. First, unity. If there is disagreement or even uncertainty about what we’re going, we will surely never get there. Now I have a bird’s-eye view of parish life in the archdiocese, and I know that our parish is second to none in harmony.

Second, openness to the Holy Spirit. Unity is a gift from God himself, and vision must be shaped by carefully discerning God’s will with the Spirit’s help. I look ahead with great confidence precisely because I know that the parish’s strengths are not rooted in human wisdom or gifts.

Now let me contradict myself! A third tremendous strength is the emergence of teams. Teams aren’t simply a way of multiplying volunteers: they’re a whole new way of doing things.

Without teams it’s just not possible to accomplish some aspects of our vision—some aspects of the mission we have. It takes teams to become welcoming and hospitable to visitors; it takes teams to express charity and compassion for the needy, the sorrowing, the refugees; even our vibrant prayer ministry involves teams.

Most of all it takes teams to evangelize widely. Reaching large groups of people demands equally large numbers of volunteers.

John the Baptist was the last solo evangelizer! He had a unique call from God, from his birth. No one, not even St. Paul, had such an assignment. From Jesus onward, spreading the Gospel has demanded teamwork.

The pandemic was an amazing example of what teams can do; it’s been difficult to keep that energy going post-pandemic but I’m confident that teams are what will drive the parish forward in the years ahead.

Of course, we have weaknesses. Despite our best efforts, some of us are still reluctant to invite others to know Jesus or even to bring them to church events. Effective evangelization requires a culture of invitation, which—let’s be honest—takes us out of our comfort zone.

Connected to this particular weakness in our parish is a strong tendency to over-protect our personal time. When someone pointed this out, I was very quick to defend our parishioners by saying how busy everyone is. The person I was talking to—a very busy person—looked me straight in the eye and said, “people find time for what matters most to them.”

Since we only have seven days in a week and twenty-four hours in a day, individuals will need to change some priorities if we are to move ahead, they’ll need to put their baptismal call ahead of chairing the strata council or serving on the golf course board. I don’t dare say anything about coaches!

And speaking of priorities, stewardship manages to be both a strength and a weakness at Christ the Redeemer. Parishioners show remarkable generosity when presented with extraordinary needs: when the roof eventually gives up, Father Paul will have no problem finding the money to replace it. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that regular weekly giving is stagnant and doesn’t show the enthusiasm typical of a thriving evangelical church. Continuing and growing our commitment to excellence requires not only volunteers but paid leaders able to devote their energies to our mission full time. And that requires not special donations but ordinary support.

Before looking at opportunities, one last weakness. We’re still waiting to see the full fruits of our efforts to promote Eucharistic devotion. There is all kinds of evidence that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament strengthens the committed and helps the weak commit. Yet there is sometimes a general lack of reverence toward the Real Presence here in the church that we will need to overcome to reap all the benefits of being a Eucharistic community. We need our visitors to see what we believe and how we stand before the Eucharistic Lord in his house.

Opportunities, well they abound. You can’t miss the signs of new housing going up in the area. Single-family houses are being replaced by townhouses and apartments, giving young families a chance to come back here. You only need to look around on a Sunday—or today—to see the young families, the new families with their children at Mass.

Immigration is an opportunity and a challenge. There are many new Canadians in our area who are looking for a connection. They don’t find their former religious culture meets their needs and they are open to exploring our Faith.

And finally, threats.

Today, as I mentioned, we’re celebrating the birth of St. John the Baptist and his place in the history of our salvation. But we can’t forget that on another feast day we remember his death. The greatest threat as the parish moves into the future is the society in which we live, which is becoming almost daily more hostile to Christianity and Christians.

We encounter this threat chiefly in two forms. The most insidious is the effect on our young people who, under the influence of social media and the entertainment industry, are almost brainwashed into beliefs that are incompatible with discipleship. It demands superhuman effort by our families, and our school, and our parish to keep them united to Christ and his Church when they reject so much of the Catholic understanding of the human person and of the family.

The second form that this threat takes is the blatant prejudice against professing and living the faith at work and in the public square. What was first a problem mainly for doctors, nurses, and pharma-cists—and we have all those in the parish—became a problem next for lawyers. Now almost no one can escape the so-called cancel culture, whether a banker, an athlete, or a counsellor.

This will make ordinary churchgoing increasingly difficult. Sixteen years from now there will be few parishioners who are not willing to suffer for their beliefs. The others will have left us.

Christ the Redeemer faces lesser challenges as well. These need to be acknowledged as we look ahead. It’s increasingly difficult, in the labour market, to hire staff of every kind, including teachers in our schools. Our location is both hidden away, not visible to passersby, and beset by traffic problems and limited public transit. And always the issue of housing prices casts its shadow.

I don’t know what John the Baptist would make of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. He really had only one strength, that given him by the Holy Spirit and deep-ened by prayer and penance in the desert.

He had few opportunities, preaching in the wilder-ness and on the riverbank. Yet his voice echoed with such power that the religious leaders could not ignore it or dismiss it.

Threats, on the other hand, he had. Like the prophets of our day, he upset the powerful. Fulfilling his mission to be a voice crying in the wilderness cost him his life. He was not beheaded because he proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God but he was beheaded because he defended the natural law of marriage. It was the ultimate in cancel culture.

As we ponder the example of John the Baptist, we can ask ourselves where we fit ourselves in terms of our SWOT analysis of our parish. Are there some things we might do to be part of its strengths? Could we get involved—more involved—in overcoming the weaknesses and seizing the opportunities?

Most of all, in our lives of prayer and worship and service, let’s think about John’s laser focus on Jesus. John had a central message, proclaimed it tirelessly, always keeping the attention off himself, pointing literally to the Lord, the Lamb of God.

John, like King David, was a man after God’s own heart, a man who carried out God’s wishes. The Lord now speaks to us as he spoke in the first reading. He says, “You are my servant … in whom I will be glorified.”

God has given every member of our parish community the same task he gave to John the Baptist, and for the same reason. We are all called to be a light to the nations so that salvation may reach the ends of the earth.

It’s a daunting task to say the least, and we will sometimes be as discouraged as Isaiah was, feeling we laboured in vain. But the battle is the Lord’s, the Lord who rewards us for our labours both now and in eternity.

Yes, we face weaknesses and threats—but they are no match for our strengths and opportunities. The parish can look to the future with hope and with confidence if each member responds to the Lord’s call.

It all depends on you.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Calling ALL Labourers! (11.A)


I have never been happier being a priest than I am right now. Not on my ordination day, not as I said my first Mass.

Leaving Christ the Redeemer may be the hardest thing I have ever done, but it’s let me see the fruit of my labours in a way I never expected. Hearing people talk about my ministry here is the closest thing to attending my own funeral.

So, it would be easy to focus this homily on the need for priests. After all, the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel were part of the prayer for vocations we used for many decades in this Archdiocese: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

And what better time to ask you to pray for priestly vocations than now, when the joys of priesthood are almost overwhelming me?

But it’s not where the Holy Spirit directed me this weekend.

God’s words from the first reading are what landed on my heart: “you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” He is speaking not to the ordained, but to every single one of us.

This divine call is echoed clearly in the New Testament, where St. Peter writes “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pt 2:5).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it simply: “Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers” (n. 1268).

But despite such rock-solid foundations, we’re slow to accept the idea of the baptismal or common priesthood. We’ve tended to focus on the gift of the ordained or ministerial priesthood, while our Protestant brothers and sisters have emphasized the priesthood of all believers. Happily, the tide is turning.

The words of a noted Protestant theologian apply completely to our Catholic Church: “ The priesthood of all believers is a call to ministry and service; it is a barometer of the quality of the life of God’s people in the body of Christ and of the coherence of our witness in the world, the world for which Christ died.”

I’m struck by that word ‘coherence.’ I even looked it up to understand it better. Coherence is “the quality of being logical and consistent.” It’s when “the parts of something fit together in a natural or reasonable way.”

Is it logical when the work of an organization is carried on only by its leaders and not by its members? Is it consistent when ordained ministers are the only ones proclaiming good news to the world?

Is it natural or reasonable that the world’s 407,872 priests try to evangelize or re-evangelize the world’s eight billion people? That’s about two million people per priest.

But there are about 1.3 billion baptized Catholics in the world—more than one for every eight people on the planet.

The math is obvious.

But it’s not only about numbers. When we become convinced of our call to be labourers in the Lord’s harvest, we experience a new level of Christian joy, of satisfaction with our faith.

Working alongside one another in the Lord’s field or vineyard, we discover what the Christian life can be. Before I came to Christ the Redeemer, I was a happy and productive priest. I had assumed I would do good work in the Archdiocese, using my canon law training to help the Church. I was like a happy middle-aged bachelor who was no longer thinking of getting married and starting a family.

And then, like one of those men who marries late and discovers that fatherhood was what he was really made for all along, I became a pastor, a shepherd, and indeed a father.

A similar joyful discovery is available to every single Christian ready to sign up as a labourer—a priestly labourer—leaving the sidelines or what Pierre Berton called the comfortable pew.

We saw it yesterday as more than a hundred people were prayed over for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, each of them ready for whatever God had in store for them. I am still processing the power and wonder of it all, but I suspect it may have been the spiritual high point of my years in the parish.

Here’s something interesting: there were about a dozen three-person teams praying over individuals. Thirty-six or so Catholics asking the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of those who came forward for prayer. One of those 36 was a priest—me. (Father Zidago was in the confessional.) The other 35 were exercising their baptismal priesthood in a non-sacramental ministry of prayer and intercession.

Simply unimaginable before the New Pentecost that St. John XXIII prayed for in 1962.

To return to the image I quoted earlier, the barometer is rising, and rising fast, at Christ the Redeemer parish.

In closing, we can’t forget that we are a priestly people, a priestly kingdom, in a very particular way when we gather for the Eucharist. The ordained priest has a unique role in the Mass, but every one of us is also exercising a share in Christ’s priesthood as we gather at the altar.

Words from St. Leo the Great can serve as my summary today: “What is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?”

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: June 11, 2023


On today’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, commonly known as the Feast of Corpus Christi, I’d like to talk about … money.

Shocked? You shouldn’t be: the connection between the celebration of the Eucharist and the generosity of those attending goes back to the first Christians.

But the connection between the worship of God and the offering of gifts goes back much farther than that. Sacrificial offerings are part of the history of almost all religions, even paganism.

The chosen people were no exception. Recently at weekday Mass we heard the Book of Sirach say, “Do not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Give to the Most High as he has given to you, and as generously as you can afford” (cf. Sirach 35:1-15).

Many centuries earlier, the Book of Genesis tells the story of Abraham offering the priest-king Melchizedek one tenth of all he had, in gratitude for victory over his enemies.

The command to offer the first fruits of the harvest in the Temple appears in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy (Ex. 23:19; Dt. 26:1–11). We see the offering of grain and bread in Leviticus (2:14; 23:9) alongside peace offerings or communion sacrifices of animals.

Returning to the early Church, we all know that the first Christians owned everything in common, sharing their goods and possessions as they met in their houses for the breaking of bread.

Before I continue let me tell you about a priest who followed a strict rule during almost 40 years as a pastor—he spoke once a year about money, no more, no less. That’s what he’d been taught to in the seminary. When he retired, he overheard someone say, “I’ll miss his sermons, even though he was always talking about money”!

To be honest, I’d consider it a compliment if someone said that about me, because I haven’t talked enough about this subject. And I think I’ve made it clear that those who think that priests shouldn’t talk about money haven’t got a biblical leg to stand on.

But to those who still find it a bit shocking to hear me preaching about money on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, I want to point you to the tabernacle. Of all the changes to the church, from the new meeting rooms, outdoor deck, beautiful new doors, etc., nothing’s more important than what you see behind me: the renovations that placed the tabernacle in the heart of our sanctuary.

The tabernacle housing the real presence of Christ whom we revere on this feast day is now at the center of our attention, second only to the altar where we celebrate his saving sacrifice.

So, what’s the location of the tabernacle got to do with money?

I’ll answer the question with a question. How were the extensive sanctuary renovations paid for?

The same way everything else I’ve mentioned was paid for: by your generosity to Project Advance. We didn’t draw on a savings account, nor were there any huge individual benefactors. Our annual fundraising campaign funded each of the projects I’ve mentioned and many others. 

Although the tabernacle is easy to point to while I’m talking about fundraising on this Eucharistic feast day, let’s not forget that Project Advance has also supported the growth of our spiritual communion with one another. By funding evangelization, youth ministry, and community-building projects it has helped call us together in communion with God and with one another.

On top of this, the annual campaign has funded much of our charitable work and giving. It has helped refugees, needy people on the North Shore, women in crisis, Catholic education, Pro-Life, and many other good works. This, too, is connected to our Sunday celebration.

Have you ever wondered why the deacon stands beside the priest at Mass? The first deacons were ordained to aid with the daily distribution of food to the poor when the Apostles, who presided at the Eucharist, could no longer manage. The deacon at the altar reminds us of the connection between our worship and our charity (cf. Acts 6:1-6).

Today I hope we will “consider not only what Jesus is offering us in the gift of the Eucharist but to also consider our response to that gift.”

As the American Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg has written, “When we receive Communion and say ‘amen’ to the Body of Christ we are not only professing our belief in the reality of the Eucharist but are also stating our commitment to live that reality in what we say and do” (Come Follow Me, p. 138).

There are countless ways to live that reality—from the smallest acts of charity to the greatest of sacrifices. Today I am just saying that your generosity to Project Advance is one of them and that it’s a form of charity that, like the Mass itself, is not individual but part of our common response to Christ.

I’m not sure why Project Advance has had a slow start this year. Our projects are certainly attractive: in the first place, the campaign will subsidize the eighteen young adults who are going to World Youth Day in Portugal. It’s pretty well unaffordable otherwise.

It will also support the Talitha Koum Society and Spectrum Mothers Support Society in their work with women who are in recovery or dealing with the challenges after childbirth.

We will acknowledge the important place that Alpha, CCO, and Divine Renovation that played in the renewal of our parish by donations to these ministries.

And, if the campaign takes off, we will be able to set aside funds for the replacement of the tired and fraying carpets in the church.

A wise priest never tries to make people feel guilty about the level of their giving. Only gratitude fuels Christian stewardship. As Psalm 116 asks: “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?”

The answer is we can’t! We can’t. But we can at least do our best to show God where our heart is.



Saturday, June 3, 2023

A Book Sale on Trinity Sunday!


We are having a book sale today to support our parish pilgrims heading off to World Youth Day next month. I had decided it was time to downsize my personal library. To tell the truth, I didn’t have much choice—there’s no room for two-thirds of my books in my new home.

It’s been painful. Letting go of books given to me by friends now deceased, books inscribed to me by their authors, and books that remind me of my failures, like “Teach Yourself New Testament Greek” or “Lose Twenty Pounds in Just Three Weeks”!

But it’s also been prayerful. Some of these books are milestones on my spiritual journey. Some have helped me develop my adult view of life and love.

This is why there are some books I’ll never give away. At the top of the list is one that a dear priest friend gave me when I entered the seminary, called The Spiritual Life of the Priest, by an Irish abbot named Eugene Boylan.

In that book I discovered the best-kept secret of our Catholic faith: that “God, by grace, resides in the soul as in a temple, in a most intimate… manner.”

Those aren’t even Abbot Boylan’s words; he’s quoting an encyclical on the Holy Spirit by Pope Leo XIII. In other words, the teaching that rocked me wasn’t anything new; it’s solid Catholic teaching. But no one ever told me about it.

This teaching may be called the indwelling of the Holy Trinity in the Christian soul.

The abbot states this awesome truth in simple words: “When a soul… is in a state of grace, when a soul is supernaturally alive, God is in that soul.”

“He dwells in our souls, giving them life, making them share in some way in his own nature.”

Now this is a teaching with consequences. Leo XIII said that the presence of the Trinity unites the soul “more so than a friend is united to his most loving and devoted friend, and enjoys God in all fulness and sweetness.”

It doesn’t get any better than that this side of heaven. So why don’t we talk more about the indwelling presence?

“Children seem to get it,” one Catholic blogger observed. “They seem to understand that God dwells in their hearts.  Of course, if you asked them how they know this they may look at you with a confused look and not know how to respond.  But somehow they do understand that God dwells within them.”

For adults it may take a bit more thought. God’s ultimate plan is our eternal unity with him. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity” and it offers the words of Jesus as proof: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

Eugene Boylan says we have sound authority for believing that we should enjoy God in our souls. But he asks, “what about our practice?” Do we in fact enjoy Him? Certainly we can’t if we don’t recognize him.

Today’s feast is our invitation to acknowledge and welcome the divine presence within us—to take a big step on our spiritual journey if we haven’t already.

The one-sentence summary of my short homily on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity comes straight from The Spiritual Life of the Priest but it applies to every single baptized person: “We look for God outside of ourselves, and all the time he is within.”

I am sure each of us is aware that God is fully present to us every time we receive Holy Communion. But let’s never forget that after his divine presence in our bodies is gone, his divinity remains in our souls—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Put out into the deep... (Easter 6.A)


Every Saturday morning a good friend and I go walking in Coal Harbour—from the foot of Denman Street to Canada Place and back.

On our way we pass two large marinas at which beautiful boats of every shape, size, and description are moored.

But we’ve noticed something. We never see a single craft leave its berth. Not one boat heading out into the sunshine, even on glorious days like today.

This morning it hit me: could we in the Church be a bit like that? We are blessed with something beautiful and powerful—our Catholic faith. And we’re in the boat, which is a word often used to describe the Church. We’re on board.

But might we be like those boat owners who just can’t get out of their comfort zone to start the engine or run up the sails—to push off from the dock?

Because you need to set sail to really experience the excitement of a sunny day on the water, the joy of riding the waves, the natural splendour all around.

So, there’s my question for everyone here today. Has life in the Church been exhilarating for you? Have you ever had an experience that compared to feeling the wind in your hair as you skimmed over the waves, with sun and blue sky overhead?

Well, those are only analogies, so let me be more direct. Do the words of today’s Gospel resonate in your hearts? Have you experienced God abiding with you and in you?

What if I asked young people why they stopped attending Mass in the years immediately after their Confirmation? I’m almost sure that many would answer “because it didn’t make any difference.”

Pope Francis has said “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.” Which makes me ask: Are there Christians whose lives are like Easter without Pentecost?

But let me come back to the owners of those berthed boats. Should they ever ask me to preach on the dock, I’m ready with a Scripture text: the words of Jesus to St. Peter in the Gospel of Luke, “put out into the deep” (5:4).

That’s what Christ the Redeemer parish is inviting you to do next weekend and beyond—to put out into the deep so that you can find a richer Christian life, what you may have been missing while sitting on the dock. We’re offering you what those believers in Samaria experienced when Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Now let’s take a time out for a moment of sacramental theology. “The apostles’ practice of laying hands on new believers to impart the Holy Spirit,” as we heard in today’s first reading from Acts, “is regarded by Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of confirmation, which completes baptism and ‘in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church’” as the Catechism says (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Acts of the Apostles, 143).

We’re not inviting you to be confirmed—most of you already are. (Of course, if you aren’t, do let me know and we can talk about that.)

But what we are offering is the experience of what you’ve already received in Baptism and Confirmation. Call it a new Pentecost—an opportunity to realize the effects of these sacraments. Every one of us calls God our Father when we say the Lord’s Prayer; but all too often we live like orphans.

Jesus promises that the Father will send us the Spirit. He calls the Spirit “another Advocate,” because Jesus is an Advocate also, who pleads our cause and intercedes for us. He says the Spirit will not only remain with us but be in us. We will not only know the Father’s love, but also experience it.

Certainly, in Confirmation we were given the grace the Lord promises. But many Catholics never experienced that grace at an affective and effective level.

What do we do about that?

In recent years the Church has come to understand what is usually called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as something distinct from the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household explains it like this:

The Baptism in the Spirit is not a sacrament, but it is related to a sacrament, to several sacraments in fact—to the sacraments of Christian initiation. The Baptism in the Spirit makes real and, in a way, renews Christian initiation.

Another Cardinal, Paul Jozef Cordes, points out that while the term “Baptism in the Holy Spirit is common in English, French and Italian speakers refer to “Outpouring of the Spirit.” Whatever it is called, he says it is “a concrete experience of the ‘Grace of Pentecost,’ in which the working of the Holy Spirit becomes an experienced reality in the life of the individual and the community.”

He says that this experience is the certain and sometimes overwhelming ‘realization’ of the loving nearness of God proclaimed in the Church’s message and encountered in the individual act of faith.

How can this be? How can a sacrament received so many years ago come back to life with explosive energy, as often happens through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? Cardinal Cantalamessa refers to Catholic sacramental theology which teaches that the fruit of a sacrament can be “tied”—the sacraments are not magical rituals that act without the person’s knowledge or response.

They bear fruit when human freedom cooperates with the divine grace. As St. Augustine said, “The one who created you without your cooperation, will not save without your cooperation.”

I’m not trying to explain all this today. But the truth is that many of us know that our Christian lives should be much more of an adventure than they are. Deep down, we want to experience, and not just believe, the promises Jesus makes in today’s Gospel of the life-changing gift of the Spirit.

My one sentence summary is just a question: Do you want more? Because there’s more on the way—in just a week the dynamic Bishop Scott McCaig will be here to preach our Holy Spirit Mission. The Mission begins Saturday afternoon at 2:00, ending with the Saturday 5:00 Mass celebrated by the bishop.

By the time the mission is over you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether you’re ready to “put out into the deep.” The parish team will make sure the boat’s ready for you two days later. Our first-ever Life in the Spirit Seminar, which is a preparation for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, begins on Tuesday May 23 at 7:00 pm.

This dramatic moment in the history of our parish may, for some, feel like boating on a choppy sea. After all, no one ever got seasick on a boat that’s tied up. But as I’ve said, they missed out on the excitement—and there’s nothing more exciting than what God has in store for those who love him.

So join us and find out what he has for you.