MONTREAL – Mankind was created to take care of creation, not to own it, the archbishop of Manila told a Montreal audience April 6.

The power of prayer, ritual inside our helplessness

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In the movie based upon Jane Austen’s classic novel Sense and Sensibility, there’s a very poignant scene where one of her young heroines, suffering from acute pneumonia, is lying in bed hovering between life and death. A young man, very much in love with her, is pacing back and forth, highly agitated, frustrated by his helplessness to do anything of use, and literally jumping out of his skin. Unable to contain his agitation any longer, he goes to the girl’s mother and asks what he might do to be helpful. She replies that there’s nothing he can do, the situation is beyond them. Unable to live with that response he says to her: “Give me some task to do, or I shall go mad!”

Jesus invites us to be one with the Father

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Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C) April 17 (Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100; Revelation 7:9, 14b-17; John 10:27-30)

There are many ways to relate a series of events, poetic, scientific, artistic and journalistic modes among them. When most people hear the word “history” they think of a straight-forward narration of unvarnished “facts.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is no such thing as an unbiased or dispassionate narrator — everyone has a point to make, an axe to grind, an agenda to address or an ideology to advance. This should not really surprise anyone, and there is nothing nefarious or sinister about it. 

Naming our fear helps us live with it

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Fear is the heartbeat of the powerless. So writes Cor de Jonghe. That’s true. We can deal with most everything, except fear. 

Love is shown in humble service

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Third Sunday of Easter (Year C) April 10 (Acts 5:28-32, 40b-41; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19)

The leaders of the temple had every reason to silence the apostles. Their open and fearless proclamation of the Risen Christ exposed for all the huge mistake that they had made. Jesus had challenged their authority, attitudes and way of life. People in general do not like to be challenged in this way, even less so those in positions of power and prestige.

In the dying process, our souls mature

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In her deeply insightful book The Grace of Dying, Kathleen Dowling Singh shares insights she has gleaned as a health professional from being present to hundreds of people while they are dying. Among other things, she suggests that the dying process itself “is exquisitely calibrated to automatically produce union with Spirit.” 

Resurrection transforms lives of believers

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Resurrection of the Lord (Year C) March 27 (Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18)

The most profound and gripping theologies take the form of a story. Few people are moved by dry metaphysical speculations or hairsplitting, but many are moved by a powerful story. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is as one movie title had it, The Greatest Story Ever Told. Perhaps that is part of the problem in our own time — we have opted for an overly rationalized and skeptical approach to our faith, allowing the power and excitement of the great story to slip away.

Tears mourn barrenness

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Several years ago, while teaching a summer course at Seattle University, I had a female student who, while happily married, was unable to conceive a child. She had no illusions about what this meant for her. It bothered her a great deal. She found Mother’s Day very difficult. Among other things, she wrote a well-researched thesis on the concept of barrenness in Scripture and developed a retreat on that same theme which she offered at various renewal centres.

God will never desert us

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Passion (Palm) Sunday (Year C) March 20 (Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 2:14-23:56)

How do we make sense of catastrophe and disaster? We usually look for explanations and causes, or more often than not, someone to blame. 

God’s mercy is inexhaustible

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Many of us, I am sure, have been inspired by the movie Of Gods and Men, the story of a group of Trappist monks who, after making a painful decision not to flee from the violence in Algeria in the 1990s, are eventually martyred by Islamic extremists in 1996. Recently, I was much inspired by reading the diaries of one of those monks, Christophe Lebreton. Published under the title Born from the Gaze of God, The Tibhirine Journal of a Martyr Monk, his diaries chronicle the last three years of his life and give us an insight into his, and his community’s, decision to remain in Algeria in the face of almost certain death. 

Judgment and condemnation: we are all in need of mercy

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Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year C) March 13 (Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11)

The biblical witness is resounding — God is always compassionate and just, and concerned with the well-being and happiness of humanity. Freedom and redemption are expressions of God, and these qualities never wavered throughout Israel’s history. But in the mid-sixth century B.C., the people of Israel found themselves captives and exiles in Babylon. Jerusalem, along with its temple, had been utterly destroyed. This caused a crisis of faith among many people, and a collective search for the meaning of the disaster. Most blamed themselves for what had happened. Infidelity to God in so many ways could only end badly.