One day recently, a friend was wrestling with the meaning of communion. He’d heard a homily delineating the proper way to receive the host so as to avoid dropping it. All very practical. But, my friend asked, is that all there is to say? Doesn’t communion mean more to us than rubrics?

Take away the sin of the world

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Jan. 16 (Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34)

What does it mean to be a servant? The word has been tarnished a bit in our own time for it conjures up the images of class and privilege. But in the spiritual sense being a servant means nothing more (or less) than doing the will of God consistently.

The mysterious and nameless Servant that Isaiah portrays is one who has been marked out for this mission from the moment he was conceived. He is addressed as “Israel” in a couple of instances, signifying that his actions and the fate of Israel are inextricably bound. His job is overwhelming: He is to restore and renew the people of Israel, who have been broken and spiritually compromised by the long exile in Babylon. But his mission goes far beyond that. In Isaiah the vision of a universal mission for Israel begins to unfold. Israel’s call from God is on behalf of all humanity. The servant is the model and paradigm for all who seek to love and serve God. It defined the life and ministry of Jesus and it should define the life of all who claim to follow Him. One’s response in faith to God’s call goes far beyond “getting saved” or going to heaven — it is a commitment for service to the world and to humanity. True religion is about service and compassion. Being a servant of God finds its finest expression in being a person for others.

God will reward us in His good plan

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Epiphany (Year A) Jan. 2 (Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12)

Singing a song of hope and a bright future is very difficult when all of the visible evidence paints a different picture. Incredulity and ridicule are often the rewards for the prophetic individual who dares to swim against the current.

All are invited under the canopy of the Father's compassionate grace

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Baptism of the Lord (Year A) Jan. 9 (Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17)

What is a true servant of God like? Many claim to speak and act on God’s behalf but all too often those words and actions do not bring honour to God. There are many times when God could do without human “favours.”

Jesus is a living reality who belongs in our lives

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Holy Family (Year A) Dec. 26 (Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23)

Years ago a Catholic theologian wrote of one of his first lessons in humility and gratitude for his parents. After leaving home for the monastery, his first letters home were filled with a sort of youthful and self-righteous zeal. He related to his father the routine of rising several times in the middle of the night for prayer while the rest of the world slept. His father’s sage response: Son, your mother and I did that with you and your siblings for years!

God is truly with us

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Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 19 (Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24)

What kind of sign would we like from God to reassure us when things are tough? King Ahaz wanted one but was afraid to ask. About 730 years BC Jerusalem was besieged by a coalition of Syrians and Israelites from the Northern Kingdom. They were trying to force Ahaz into joining their rebellion against the Assyrians. He was faced with a bitter dilemma: either join their rebellion and risk destruction or submit to Assyria as a vassal state. Definitely a lose-lose choice!

What's on your gift list?

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For some time, I’ve been part of a ministry called Project Rachel. Here I’ve seen women weep like Rachel (Jeremiah 31:15-17) for their children, lost to them through abortion. They carry, often for years, a many-faceted pain. It’s about death of the most anguishing kind, a child’s death; about guilt, the awareness that one’s own actions have helped bring about that death; about oppression, the tacit sense that one shouldn’t be grieving or suffering at all, because it’s a suffering our world prefers not to acknowledge.

Waiting for the Spirit

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Third Sunday in Advent (Year A) Dec. 12 (Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; Psalm 146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11)

When water is withdrawn from the land life virtually ceases. We have all seen the pictures of parched devastation in the countries of the sub-Sahara where creeping desert has reclaimed the land. Areas hit by drought in other countries yield only the withered remnants of fruit and grain. But the addition of even a small amount of water can make the desert areas come to life and bloom.

Open our minds

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Second Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 5  (Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12)

How can our messy world be cleaned up and set right? Some form of this question is uppermost in the minds of many people. We long for a world of justice, peace, harmony and compassion but it seems to elude us — many of our efforts not only fail but seem to make matters worse. That pesky and destructive thing called human nature is often the culprit. But there are no quick fixes and no divine figure is going to wave a wand and make the problems go away.

Precious moments

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First Sunday of Advent (Year A) Nov. 28 (Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44)

Where do human beings meet God and receive divine revelation? According to the ancient worldview it was often on a mountaintop and here Isaiah describes one that is the highest. This can only mean a more powerful encounter with God and a more profound and transforming revelation. This calls for leaving the comfort of human culture and thought systems and making oneself vulnerable. Not only that, the ascent requires elevating thoughts, ideals and desires away from self and towards God.

God is the only king we will ever need

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Christ the King (Year C) Nov. 21 (2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43)

Sometimes wanting is better than having. The people of Israel had been governed by covenant and divine law since their liberation from Egypt. They had no real need for a central government or strong ruler. Councils, elders and a loose confederation of the 12 tribes were sufficient. In times of distress or attack, God designated and anointed a judge or military leader but this role was not hereditary — it expired with the death of the leader or the passing of the crisis. In a sense they saw themselves as ruled by God.