today's readings are Baruch 5: 19; Psalm 126; Phil. 1: 3-6, 8-11; and Lk. 3: 1-6 Every year, on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we are reintroduced to one of my favourite Biblical figures – John the Baptist – the wild man of the desert – the last in the line of the prophets in the Bible. Now St. Luke, being the good historian that he was, begins our gospel by situating the Baptist amongst both the civil and religious leaders of those days. With all the clues provided by St. Luke, historians have determined that the Baptist began his ministry in the year 28 A.D., give or take a year. The one thing that we are not sure of is how long John carried out his ministry before he was imprisoned by King Herod. However, St. Luke is very clear about the purpose of John's ministry. For St. Luke, and for that matter, for the three other gospel writers, John the Baptist was the one, who, in fulfillment of the words of the Prophet Isaiah, was to make a straight path for the coming Saviour. And how would he do so? Through his preaching, and his invitation to all to receive a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. But that wasn’t it – for if you continue reading through chapter 3 of St. Luke’s gospel, you will see that he was calling people to something much more – he was calling them to metanoia, a word that in English literally means changing one’s mind, changing one’s ways. The Baptist’s call to repentance wasn’t just a call to confess one’s sins, but to commit oneself to do things differently from that time forward. That’s why his message is so relevant to hear each Advent. For Advent is that season that calls us to be mindful and prepare ourselves for the 2 comings of Jesus Christ into our world – the first, with His birth 2000 years ago, and His second, at the end of time, the end of the world. Advent is the expectant waiting, the hopeful anticipation and cheerful preparation of God breaking into our lives in all moments, all places, and all times, past, present, and future. Now hearing all that might make you ask, just like the people in next Sunday’s gospel asked of John, “So what exactly should we do?” Which is an excellent question! To answer that question, let me start by telling you what John would not have said. He definitely would not have said, “Go shopping, whether in person or online, and max out your credit card”. No way. Rather, John would say this: Live out your faith every day. Reach out to the poor. Don’t cheat or extort or threaten people. Be fair, kind, compassionate. Take a good hard look at your life, and then be willing to embrace some metanoia, change your ways, if they need changing! And maybe even change your thinking about this time of year. If John was here right now, he would tell each one of us to watch a short video from the Catholic media resource Busted Halo. The video is found on Youtube and is called Advent in 2 minutes. It is an entertaining, fast-paced video that really challenges us to consider how we should approach this time of year. You can find the video at Advent in 2 Minutes (NEW!) - YouTube Advent is about expecting – waiting – hoping – praying – and changing. It is not about shopping, stressing, and planning. My dear people, if you found in the past that by the middle of December you had it up to here with Christmas, you know what the problem was? The problem wasn’t Christmas – the problem was you didn’t do Advent properly. And if that’s been your case, fortunately, there’s almost 3 weeks to heed the call of John the Baptist. Jesus is standing at the door of your heart, knocking. Let him in. And let’s make this year’s Advent, a real Advent.
today's other readings are Isaiah 29:17-24 and Psalm 27 Our gospel today is a short, sweet one. But even though it is short, there is so much to it. Two blind men follow Jesus, and recognizing His glory, they cry out to Him, addressing with a very profound title, "Son of David", a title that had many messianic implications. This would have gotten Jesus' attention, but He continues on. Persistent, they follow Jesus into the house. He knows what they want, and He asks them a question, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" This seemingly straight forward question is actually a loaded one. First, He is testing their faith. Secondly, implied in His question is a caution, "Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it". One may think, well of course they want to see. But consider this - the world they have known, they world in which they have lived will change dramatically. Yes, in so many ways they will be better off seeing, but now they are going to have to adapt to a new way of life, a new way of being. And there is going to have to be a whole lot of learning and adjusting to make. But there is also going to be some major implications for their lives of faith as well. For these two, life will be so different. "Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it". That phrase I first heard in my Seminary studies, spoken by one of my priest professors. I smile at the truth of that phrase. And when I ask for something in my prayers, I always remember that phrase. Yes, I will trust that God will answer my prayers, but maybe not in the way I would have wanted, but in the way that I need.
View our Annual Report Please consider donating to the Nativity of Our Lord Society of Saint Vincent de Paul annual collection this December. Download the annual report available on this page which outlines the charity’s outreach activity this past year and includes the annual financial report. Donations to Nativity SSVP can be made by the following five ways listed below. Cheques can be made payable to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Nativity of Our Lord Conference. Either SSVP envelopes or your own (with SSVP, your name, address, Nativity envelope number, and amount indicated on the envelope) may be used. How to Donate: Donate with SSVP marked envelope in the Parish collection baskets during the weekend masses of December 11th/12th. Drop off donation in one of the SSVP Poor Boxes located in the Church. Mail or drop off donation at our parish office at 480 Rathburn Road, Etobicoke, ON M9C 3S8. Go on-line to the Society’s Greater Toronto Central Council website https://svdptoronto.org to donate by credit card. Click on the “CanadaHelps.org” button, select option #6-Conference from drop-down, and type conference name in message area: Nativity of Our Lord. Call our Society’s Greater Toronto Central Council office at (416) 364-5577 and donate by credit card, again stipulating the name of our local Society of Saint Vincent de Paul at Nativity of Our Lord. An income tax receipt for 2021 donations will be provided from the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Nativity of our Lord Conference. Contributions to the “Poor Boxes” will also be added to this receipt if the envelopes, available at the boxes, were used and/or your own envelope identified each time the donor’s name and/or parish envelope number. Thank you for your generosity. God bless!
today's other readings are Isaiah 26: 1-6 and Psalm 118 Anyone who has been involved in the construction of a new building or house knows the importance of a good foundation. And woe to those who do not do so. The rest of the building may be wonderfully built, using the best of materials and the best of craftmanship, but without a good sound foundation on rock, in time massive cracks will show up in the walls, and if not addressed quickly, the building, with time, will have some severe issues. The people of Jesus' time knew this as well. This is why Jesus uses the image of the house built on rock versus the house built on sand. The former will withstand the worst of storms, and the latter will quickly collapse. What are the faith foundations we need to ensure our own stability when challenging events come our way? What makes up the the rock we need to be built on? I like to think that this rock has 4 components: Prayer; a reliance on the Word of God; a regular reception of the sacraments of the church; and being part of a community of faith, such as our own parish. Those 4 things will help us withstand the storms of life.
today's other readings are Isaiah 25: 6-10 and Psalm 23 Last Friday was Black Friday. Two days ago it was Cyber Monday. Both days having its focus on "shop 'til you drop". But yesterday it was "Giving Tuesday". A day with a whole different theme. My question is - shouldn't "Giving Tuesday" be everyday? I know, yesterday there was a special focus on giving monetarily to charities. And that is important. For the countless many charities that do so much good do need our financial assistance, including our own parish. But giving cannot just be restricted to the sharing our treasure. There is the giving of our time and talents too, so starters. In fact, the giving of time, talent and treasure with gratitude is a major part of the foundation of being a good Christian steward, as highlighted in the parables found in Matthew 25. So what are these ways we can give, besides our treasure? How about volunteering - that is a giving of your time and talents. And God knows that more than a few good causes need people like you to do so. There is also a giving and sharing of what we have. In today's gospel, someone offers seven loaves and two fish to help feed the multitudes. Not enough, but it was a start. And Jesus uses it to feed all in that wonderful miracle. Giving - of what we have and who we are. And not just yesterday. Not just today. But everyday.
today's readings are Romans 10: 9-18; Psalm 19 ; Mt. 4: 18-22 What brought you to the faith? Was it always there, always strong? Or was it something that gradually developed over time? Most importantly, who or what brought you to our faith? A parent, a friend, a teacher at a school you attended, or maybe even an event? For St. Andrew, it was Jesus who brought him to the faith. And we hear how Jesus did so in our gospel - the call to 2 fishermen, brothers, Andrew and Simon Peter. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, made an interesting point about how people come to the faith. He said that it is rare for a person to be argued or persuaded into believing. Rather, many, many more are brought to believing by being invited to and attracted by believers. It is our example, our personally lived faith that can attract far more people than our arguments about why the faith is true, and why it needs to be accepted and lived. As a Christian, every single one of us is called to be an attractive, inviting person for those we may encounter who have yet to "come on board". Each one of us has an unlimited potential to attract others, as shown by the growth of the early church. And how did the church grow? Of course through the Holy Spirit and the teaching and life of Jesus. but also in the way that St. Paul speaks about in our first reading today when he outlines the roles of each one of us to both speak and live the faith. Yes, as Jesus says in Matthew 5, we are called to be light to our world. And like St. Andrew, we are called to follow Him as well as be a light for others to be drawn to Him.
today's 1st reading is Daniel 6: 11-28 and the canticle is from Daniel 3 About 5 years ago, at a celebration of a Burns Supper (which is held annually still to this day in many nations of the world, in honour of the great Scottish poet Robbie Burns), I volunteered, as part of the celebrations, to deliver the Immortal Memory. This is a talk which recounts the life and the impact of the poems of Burns, such as Auld Lang Syne, which is sung at the stroke of 12 am on New Year's Day. Rather than recounting the rather eventful life of Burns, I took a different tack - I decided to speak about the power of the written word and how even centuries later it can profoundly impact our lives. To emphasize this point, I used the phrase from verse 33 of today's gospel, in which Jesus says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." How true that is. Think of the magnificence of the words of Jesus - His words of teaching, consolation and wisdom - words that inspire us, console us and challenge us. Words that have touched the minds and hearts of billions - Christians and non - Christians alike. Words of truth. Words that are eternal. And words that need to be pondered and prayed with again and again.
today's other readings are Daniel 6: 11-28 and Lk. 21: 20-28 Throughout this week in place of a responsorial psalm in our weekday masses, we have been reading parts of the canticle of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. This lengthy canticle of praise takes place in the midst of the furnace they have been thrown into by the soldiers of King Nebuchadnezzar for their refusal to give praise and worship to the Babylonian gods. For refusing to do so, we hear of how the angel of God protects them from the flames, and they then with loud voices burst into this canticle (Daniel 3: 49-51) For most of this canticle, the three begin each phrase with "Bless the Lord" and then mention part of God's creation. For example, in our first stanza today they say "Bless the Lord, winter and summer heat", which is then followed up with the command: "Sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him forever". If you pray this lengthy passage out loud, you realize that this is a repetitive litany with a continual focus on blessing, singing praise and exalting our God. This canticle also becomes hypnotic as you do so. But in a beautiful way. For what better for one to do than to bless, praise and exalt our gracious God?
today's other readings are Daniel 3 and Lk. 21: 12-19 In yesterday's first reading we were introduced to the origins of the saying, "feet of clay". Today we are introduced to the origins of another classic phrase "the writing is on the wall". King Belshazzar, King of Babylon and son of King Nebuchadnezzar of yesterday's reading, is holding a feast that basically has turned into a drunken orgy. In doing so, they use the vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem that his father had destroyed in 587 BC. At this point, God has had enough. A hand is seen by all writing on the wall. The king, terrified, has Daniel brought in to interpret and "the writing on the wall" is explained. And it is very, very bad news for Belshazzar and his nation. Babylon has not learned the lesson that all power is in the hands of the supreme Lord who controls history and the fate of every nation. Just as Israel was once delivered into exile for its own idolatry, so God rescue His chosen people by having Babylon destroyed by the Persians and allowing the benevolent King Cyrus of Persia to free the Israelites from their exile and return home to the Holy Land. It is easy to look at the many challenges and bad news our world faces, such as Covid-19 or climate change or the countless economic issues we face and list them under the category “The writing is on the wall.” But if that is all we do, then we have given up. Jesus in our gospel encourages us to roll up our sleeves, and trust in God and the countless gifts and talents that He has bestowed upon us so as to address these issues. Yes, the writing may be on the wall, but something can be done about it.
today's other readings are Daniel 2 and Daniel 3 The end. This final week of the church year directs our focus on the end, the final end. In our 1st reading Daniel points out to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon the reality of how kingdoms weaken and come to an end. In his interpretation of the dream of the king, Daniel describes a huge statue with a golden head, silver chest and arms, bronze waist, iron legs and feet of mixed clay and iron. Pat Marrin reminds us that while Daniel flatters Nebuchadnezzar as being the golden head, Daniel also gives him a history lesson about the nature of earthly power, which never lasts as conquest and corruption inevitably bring down the powerful. The phrase “feet of clay” that Daniel uses become part of our lexicon, reminding us that even great empires inevitably come to an end. In our gospel, St. Luke tells us how Jesus shocks his listeners with His description of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, which would happen 70 AD. For the Jewish people, this was a calamity that shocked them to the core of their very beings, just as so many in North America were terribly shocked by the event of Sept. 11, 2001. For the Jewish people, this seemed like the end had come. So what does Jesus have to say about this? Do not be afraid, or in our gospel, do not be terrified. Do not be afraid. That constant message found throughout the gospels. Even as we can be troubled and even frightened by the many challenges that have come our way at this point of human history, we are called not to flee and be overwhelmed by fear, but rather be present to the discomfort, as we heed Jesus’ instruction not to be afraid. Remember, Christ the King has conquered eternal death, and He has already ensured a happy ending. Today, ask for the faith to trust Him until we reach the end page of our story.