My dear readers: Today's gospel passage, as short as it is, the story of the widow's mite, packs a real wallop. An immediate question that came to my mind in my reflection was the question, "What do you (and I) give to God?" what do we give? We may answer with references to our financial support of our parish or other charities, we may speak of the time we give in volunteering or in prayer or in attending mass, and the sharing of our talents for others. All these things are truly things we ultimately give to God. Another question: "What does God give to you?" Think about it before you answer. one who its truly honest and aware would say, "Everything". Which is absolutely true. Ultimately, God does give us everything in our lives. With that in mind, maybe we can ourselves, "What more can I give to God?" *************** During the announcements of this weekend's mass, I encouraged you to call, or if you feel it is better, email, our local MPP, Ms. Kinga Surma, to share your thoughts about the reality of the severe restrictions being placed on places of worship under the lockdown rules set out by the province this past friday afternoon. As I pointed out, with over 1.2 million Catholics having attended weekend masses since the previous lockdown ended last June, there has not been one reported case of an attendee being infected by the virus in the 225 parishes that are in our Archdiocese. The question is, with such astounding results, why are we being closed? I will be leaving a phone message at Ms. Surma's office tomorrow and I will let you know what her response is, if she gets back to me. If you call or email her (and I know more than a few have already done so), also mention that I have encouraged you to do so. Ms. Surma's constituency office number is 416. 234. 2800 Kinga Surma - MPP Etobicoke Centre . Her other contact info on her website www.kingasurma.com lists 416-316-3039 and email is email@example.com For the contact information of Premier Ford, please go to Hon. Doug Ford | Legislative Assembly of Ontario (ola.org)
Saturday, November 21, 2020. My dear parishioners: Our church will be closed, but our parish will still be open. No doubt you have heard the news that as of Monday, November 23rd, the City of Toronto and Peel Regions will be placed in the “Lockdown Stage” as identified by the Province of Ontario. This lockdown, which is for 28 days, but could possibly be extended by the Province, includes special emergency measures, including a restriction of 10 persons being allowed to gather in places of worship. Recognizing the logistical impossibilities of holding masses with such numbers, early last evening Thomas Cardinal Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, issued the following directives to the parishes of the City of Toronto and Peel Region: Starting Monday, November 23, 2020, parishes must restrict attendance inside the church to 10 people, including priests hearing confessions or a staff member/volunteer required to monitor capacity restrictions. Due to these measures, public Masses must be temporarily cancelled. Priests are asked to celebrate private Mass daily for the intentions of parishioners and for those suffering from Covid-19. Weddings, funerals and baptisms (all without Mass) are restricted to 10 persons, including those who are involved in ministry (priest, cantor, etc.). Parish offices will be closed to the public - limited essential appointments are permitted, by contacting the office in advance. No meetings should take place in parish halls or other church spaces at this time. The only exception would be those deemed as essential services. These meetings should be restricted to 10 people and ensure that all appropriate health and safety measures are in place. Virtual meetings should replace in-person meetings wherever possible. In any case, please do note that Nativity’s scheduled masses this weekend of Nov. 21/22 will still be taking place! In the coming days I will be meeting with our parish staff to plan our outreach efforts to you during this temporary lockdown, as we did during the previous lockdown this past spring. In the meantime, starting this Monday, I will post daily spiritual reflections on our parish website www.myparish.org, and our livestreaming of masses will continue. Courtney Strom will continue to update you via our Social Media: Facebook: @NativityOfOurLordParishEtobicoke Instagram: @NativityofOurlordparish Twitter: @OurNativity We will have a further update for you, sharing more news and outreach initiatives by this Thursday, at the latest. Like you, the news of the lockdown has left me feeling extremely sad and disappointed. So many of the faithful rely on the reception of the sacraments and our churches to find solace, peace, and support during this period of pandemic. I can assure you that together with our parish’s staff, we will do our best to ensure that the spirit of the opening statement of this update will be a reality during the lockdown: Our church is closed, but our parish is still open. Let us continue to pray for our families, our parish and all those are struggling during these difficult times. Peace and prayers, Fr. Michael Machacek.
Thomas Cardinal Collins Archbishop of Toronto continues to provide dispensation from the Sunday Mass for those who may not be able to attend for health reasons. For those individuals, you are welcome to join us via livestream. Link to live stream our 11:30am: Sunday Mass Please Note: Turn up the volume on your computer and/or on Youtube if you need to. And, if you are watching the Mass later on Sunday, please note the first few minutes will be a welcome screen. If you want to fast forward to the start of the Mass, will need to place your mouse cursor on the line just above the play button, and then move the cursor forward where you will then see the beginning of the Mass. Act of Spiritual Communion Prayer: (You are invited to pray this prayer at the time of Communion during Mass) My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
We are entering a time of further restrictions in the face of the pandemic. This afternoon, it is expected the the government of Ontario will be announcing further measures for Toronto, Peel Region and York Region to try to slow the spread of the virus. As part of this, all places of worship, including Nativity, are being asked to restrict attendance to 50, starting next Tuesday. Strangely, somehow it seems appropriate that our readings for the masses in these final days of the church year (the new year starts with the 1st Sunday of Advent beginning in the evening of Nov. 28th), speak of a great reckoning and of the end. And the Book of Revelation which we read from these days is the book par excellence when it comes to reflecting on that final reckoning and the end. Allow me, dear reader, to share some words of explanation behind today's reading Leading up to today's passage from Revelation, the first six seals of the Lamb has been broken, and now is is a lull before the sounding of the seventh trumpet which symbolizes God's voice announcing judgment and doom. In verse Now St. John himself has a role to play in the sounding of the trumpet. He receives a scroll from an angel, which he is to literally eat. He is told that it will be sweet to the taste, as it predicts the final final victory of God and God's holy people over all who are evil; but will be sour in the stomach as it also announces the sufferings the holy must endure in before that final triumph takes place. (see Ezekiel 3:1 and the verses following as a reference) The command to John to prophesy to many peoples, nations, languages and kings is then fulfilled in his writings of chapters 12-22 of this book. In these times of challenge, we are called to reflect on who we are and what we can do in the months to come. And let us pray for one another.
My dear parishioners: I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. It has been wonderful to see so many of you at Mass since we re-opened on June 22nd. A special thanks goes to the volunteers who have helped ensure our church is a safe place to worship – they have done incredible work! Since my last report to the Parish dated October 8th, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Peel Region, Toronto and York Region increased significantly, with all 3 regions now placed in the “red zone” by the Province of Ontario. In response, local medical officers of health strongly recommended that places of worship reduce their capacity in order to minimize potential transmission. Thus, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, made the difficult decision that we must temporarily further restrict attendance at our liturgical celebrations. This Tuesday, November 24th, attendance at liturgical celebrations at all parishes in the “red zone”, including Nativity, will be limited to 50 worshippers in the entire building (including the hall) at one time. These 50 worshippers do not include the clergy, liturgical ministers and the other volunteers helping with the mass. This attendance limit applies to all masses (both weekday and weekend), Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals. All non-essential meetings in the parish will have to be held virtually or be postponed. The entrance to the parish office remains closed, but if you do have need to visit the parish office you can contact Joanna Andrews, our secretary, to arrange a time to come. To help address the new capacity limits, for weekends our parish will continue to use the Eventbrite on-line registration system for reservations for the weekend masses. Please bring proof of your registration when arriving for the mass you have registered for. With these reduced numbers, the practice of walk-ins, that is, persons who arrive without reserving on Eventbrite, will no longer be possible. For weekday masses, you can still walk in as before, but once we reach 50 persons, we will have to close the door with a sign stating that our capacity has been reached. For the past few months, we have averaged almost 400 persons (excluding volunteers) over the 3 weekend masses. Now we will only be able to host 150 persons over those 3 masses. Hence, I appeal to your kindness that you register every second or 3rd weekend to allow for others to attend a weekend mass. I will also be monitoring the registration and if changes are deemed necessary to make this as equitable as possible, I will let you know. Remember you can always join our parish community in our online 11:30 Sunday mass livestream. Just go to the appropriate post on the parish homepage www.myparish.org for that Sunday’s mass. You may also consider attending one of our weekday masses that are lightly attended, such as the Tuesday 7 pm mass or the Thursday 9:30 am mass. St. Michael’s Cathedral livestreams daily mass through the Archdiocese of Toronto’s website www.archtoronto.org Daily mass is also televised on Salt+Light TV, Vision TV and EWTN. I deeply appreciate your continued financial support of the parish. Many parishioners have been dropping off their envelopes into the collection baskets at the exit doors at the end of mass. Many others, who have been unable to come to mass, have been dropping their envelopes in the mail slot by the parish office door, or in some cases, mailing it to the parish. There are 2 other options I ask you to consider in terms of your donations to support the work of our parish: the first is on-line giving by using your credit card. To do so, go to the pink coloured Donate button at the top left side of the homepage of www.myparish.org Click on that button, and then select the name of our parish, and then decide if you wish it to be for the offertory or building fund, as well as a recurring donation or a one-time donation. A second option is the use of the Pre-Authorized Giving (PAG) Programme which many parishioners now use. In this method a monthly deduction from your bank account occurs on the 20th of each month, for an amount you determine. You can also choose to have your donation directed to the offertory or the Building Fund. I think so highly of PAG that I have switched my monthly donations to our parish to the PAG method. Please contact the parish office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Joanna at the parish office for more details. I anticipate my next parish update will occur in the week of December 7th, including news about Christmas and New Year’s Masses. Please do check our parish website www.myparish.org for news and daily spiritual reflections. You can also follow us on social media through: Facebook: @NativityOfOurLordParishEtobicoke Instagram: @NativityofOurlordparish Twitter: @OurNativity Our parish youth can also stay in touch with Courtney Strom, our Youth Minister, through our parish youth website www.nativityym.com or on our Instagram account. My dear parishioners, I recognize these additional restrictions are challenging. Our parish staff will continue to make every effort to continue our service to you. In the meantime, I pray that you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy. May God continue to bless you! Peace and prayers, Fr. Michael Machacek.
Over years I have often heard from those older than me that when they were young, many priests as well as some nuns who taught in their schools would tell them to avoid reading the Bible. Why? To prevent confusion amongst the faithful. Thankfully, that is not the case these days. But there is one book I would say to proceed with caution when reading - the Book we are taking our 1st reading from this week and next – the Book of Revelation. Why use caution? It is not because there is anything dangerous in reading Revelation, but that a really good commentary is needed to accompany you. For of all the books in the Bible, this is the one that is most difficult to understand, as it abounds with unfamiliar and extravagant symbolism unfamiliar to our modern Western eyes. It is also historically influenced as it is written at a time of severe persecution against the Early Church during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (who ruled from 81-96 A.D). Revelation also uses many images from the Book of Ezekiel and to a lesser extent, Isaiah as well as the Apocalyptic section of the Book of Daniel (chapters 7-12). For example, in chapter 5, verse 6, Christ is described as a lamb with 7 horns and 7 eyes – a somewhat repulsive image. It only begins to make sense when one learns that the horns symbolize power and the eyes symbolize knowledge, and that the number 7 symbolizes totality or perfection. Put it all together and one would say, that is right, Jesus Christ is perfect knowledge and power. Let me give you another example – this one from today’s reading (4: 1-11). We read of a vision St. John has of heaven with the One seated on a throne. Around Him are 24 thrones with 24 elders. Again, background is needed. The number 12 represented either the 12 tribes of Israel or the 12 Apostles. Add the two 12s up and you get 24. Which gets us to understand that these elders are representatives of the People of the Old Testament and the People of the New, gathered around the One. Which reinforces the idea that the One, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is the Saviour not just of the Jewish people but of all people. The above example then leads me to reflect on the prayer we say just before communion - Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the One who came to take away the sins of the world – the world that was, the world that is, and the world that is to come. And the thought of that leaves me, and I dare say you, feeling so, so grateful.
We all love getting a nicely wrapped gift whether it is for our birthday or at Christmas, (which by the way is just 41 days away). We open and unwrap the gift that has been kindly given to us. We thank the person who gave us the gift and we use it. Think how the person who gave us the gift would feel if we did not open it; instead, we simply put it away and left it unopened. This is the situation that we are presented with this Sunday. A rich man, before he leaves for a business trip, calls three of servants and gives them each a sum of money. He gives them money according to the ability he sees in each of them. He simply gives them the money; he does not tell them what to do with it or how to invest it. He trusts them enough to let them decide how best to use what they have been given. The first two servants invest their money and so double the amount given. The third servant, for whatever reason simply buries his money in the ground. When the man returns, he calls in his servants and asks them to account for the money he gave them. This parable speaks to us of God and how God treats us. We have all been given gifts and talents by God. The important thing is not what I have been given, but how I use what I have been given. And also to NEVER compare the gifts you have with another person, for remember, it is God who has decided on the gifts each is to receive according to our abilities. God calls us, God loves and as we see in this gospel, God also trusts us. Our talents are not just for ourselves; they are meant to be used to proclaim the Gospel and build the Kingdom of God. Just think of the trust God has in each of us and the risk He takes with us. We are now living in a time when we are waiting for the Lord to return. This parable teaches each of us what to do during this time of waiting. We cannot simply sit, wait, and do nothing. Our waiting is not to be idle or passive. We are to live our daily lives in such a way that we use all the many gifts and talents god has given each of us. In the Gospel, the man not only gave his servants money, but he also trusted them with a big responsibility. Jesus has given each of us the same responsibility. Through our ordinary lives and using our gifts, skills, and talents, we are to show that we too are faithful servants. When the Lord does return, each of us will be held accountable for the use of our gifts and how we have lived our lives. May we choose the path and a life of faithfulness and fruitfulness which leads to blessedness and a share in God’s joy. May God say to each of us, well done, my good and faithful servant. God Bless you all.
Since 1991 I have been blessed with having friends in Scotland, some of whom are priests, including Fr. Andrew Kingham, who has has stayed here at Nativity while on vacation. I have always admired the faith of Scottish Catholics, who make up 17% of the population, especially because of their persistence in the face of long-standing prejudice from the Protestant majority. Thankfully, while still present, this prejudice has diminished over the years. Scottish Catholics are proud to call St. Margaret their own, even though she was born in Hungary and raised in England. A daughter of English royalty, her family had to flee England when William the Conqueror became king of England in 1066. Their ship was shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland, but were welcomed into the court of King Malcolm III of Scotland. Margaret's grace and faith charmed Malcom, and they were married in 1070, with the two of them having 8 children, one of whom also became a saint. Malcolm, as they say, was "a bit rough around the edges" and illiterate, and he relied on Margaret to provide direction for the growth of the Church. Margaret was quite pious, and always looked for ways to grow her faith as well as the faith of the people, including an invitation for the Benedictine monks to settle in Scotland. Margaret's story of faith is a classic example of how an outsider can bring such a positive influence on the lives and faith of others. How often have we seen how an outsider can mold and shape the life of the Church in an area far different than where they came from. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who came from Albania, is another classic example of this. Sometimes it is the perspective of someone from the outside who enables others to come to see more truly. For such people, we give thanks and praise to God. St. Margaret of Scotland, pray for us!
Thomas Cardinal Collins Archbishop of Toronto continues to provide dispensation from the Sunday Mass for those who may not be able to attend for health reasons. For those individuals, you are welcome to join us via livestream. Link to live stream our 11:30am Sunday Mass: Youtube Please Note: Turn up the volume on your computer and/or on Youtube if you need to. And, if you are watching the Mass later on Sunday, please note the first few minutes will be a welcome screen. If you want to fast forward to the start of the Mass, will need to place your mouse cursor on the line just above the play button, and then move the cursor forward where you will then see the beginning of the Mass. Act of Spiritual Communion Prayer: (You are invited to pray this prayer at the time of Communion during Mass) My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Our gospel reading today gives us some apocalyptic images of the end to come. And while I did consider sharing a reflection on these images and their implications, something stirred me inside - that is, the references to Noah and Lot. When we read or hear the word of God proclaimed, it is appropriate to also consider the "outside" figures in the story that are referenced. How well do you know the story of Noah? Of course, you will say he was the one that built the ark. But did you know that he was a descendant of Seth, the third child of Adam and Eve. Which makes one ponder on his actions and how, in his own way, the story of the ark is one that has its roots in the result of his ancestors Adam and Eve eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you can, read Genesis chapters 5-9. Lot was the nephew of Abram, who was later renamed by God as Abraham. We read of him in Genesis 11-14 and then again in chapter 19. Lot's story is one of family ties, of commitment to God, of honour, of greed, and of course, being one of the few just people who are saved before the city of Sodom is destroyed by God. Today I am committing myself to once again reading and reflecting on their stories. For to really appreciate what Jesus shares in today's gospel, we need to know the background. I urge you, dear reader, to try to commit yourself today to reading either the story of Noah or Lot. And you'll get "extra brownie points" if you read both. For both stories are fascinating. And both stories have much to teach us.