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Parish Newsletter, 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - B, 1st February 2015

Jesus speaks with the authority of His father

“Do you believe that God’s word has power to set you free and to transform your life? When Jesus taught he spoke with authority. He spoke the word of God as no one had spoken it before. When the Rabbis taught they supported their statements with quotes from other authorities. The prophets spoke with delegated authority – ‘Thus says the Lord.’ When Jesus spoke he needed no authorities to back his statements. He was authority incarnate – the Word of God made flesh. When he spoke, God spoke. When he commanded even the demons obeyed. 

“Augustine of Hippo (354-430) remarked that ‘faith is mighty, but without love it profits nothing. The devils confessed Christ, but lacking charity it availed nothing. They said, 'What have we to do with you (Mark 1:24)?' They confessed a sort of faith, but without love. Hence they were devils.’ Faith is powerful, but without love it profits nothing (1 Corinthians 13). Scripture tells us that true faith works through love (Galatians 5:6) and abounds in hope (Romans 15:13). Our faith is made perfect in love because love orients us to the supreme good which is God himself as well as the good of our neighbour who is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26,27). Hope anchors our faith in the promises of God and purifies our desires for the things which will last for eternity. That is why the word of Christ has power to set us free from all that would keep us bound in sin, deception, and despair.” 

-- Extract from a reflection on the readings by Dan Schwager 

 <click here for Parish Newsletter 1st February 2015>


Parish Newsletter, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - B, 25th January 2015

When Jesus calls, we must respond

“This week, Mark presented the call of the disciples, in the same way John presented the call last week. John saw evangelization as a process of personal witness, personal invitation, and discipleship from friend to friend. Mark, however, placed the call to discipleship in the public arena; it was made directly by Jesus. John emphasized the role of the disciple recruiting others. Mark emphasized the relationship of Jesus to the disciple.

“Mark began with the arrest of the Baptist to introduce Jesus to public ministry. Jesus picked up the Baptist's theme. The Kingdom of God is imminent. Repent. Unlike the Baptist, Jesus did not proclaim the advent of the Messiah. He preached belief in the Good News. Soon, the preaching of the gospel would eclipse the expectation for God's chosen One. [1:14-15]

“The Good News demanded a response. It was more than a moral turnabout. It meant a new life situation, a new relationship with God. For Mark, Jesus was the embodiment of the Good News. His preaching, his call, established this new relationship with God. Notice Jesus called four men and all four responded immediately (Mark's transition word used in 1:18 and 1:20). Leaving their livelihood, they followed the preacher and presence of the Good News.” 

-- Commentary on the Gospel by Larry Broding 

 <click here for Parish Newsletter 25th January 2015>


Parish Newsletter, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - A, 18th January 2015

Gospel shows that Jesus meets us where we are

“The Gospel passage does not record any conversation between John and Jesus - but emphasizes that John looked hard at Jesus - weighing up the man he saw before him.

What he saw - and what he sensed - led him to announce that this man was indeed the one who was to come: the Lamb of God.

Andrew and another disciple are intrigued and set out to follow Jesus. He becomes aware of them and asks what it is they want from Him. Their answer seems strange - they want to know where He lives. His response is to invite them to come to His home and, we are told, they stayed with Him for the whole day.

The next day, Andrew finds his brother and tells him about the Messiah he met the day before and takes him to meet Jesus. 

Like John the day before, Jesus looks hard at Simon - getting the measure of the man and in the light of what He discerns about him, changes his name to Cephas - or, as we more usually know it, Peter.

The two encounters are life-changing - and yet, seem very ordinary. Jesus was not proclaiming a message - making erudite speeches - or performing great miracles. Instead, He was simply walking past John - and, when Andrew and his friend introduce themselves, takes them to His home and offers hospitality and companionship. 

When He meets Peter, He does not ask searching questions or makes solemn declarations - He just looks at him - makes an assessment of his character - and accepts him as a friend.

The simplicity of Jesus’ manner reinforces His willingness to receive people ‘where they are’ - but also to see their potential.” 

-- Reflection on the Gospel by Catherine McElhinney and Kathryn Turner 

 <click here for Parish Newsletter 18th January 2015>


Parish Newsletter, The Baptism of the Lord - B, 11th January 2015

Baptism of the Son of God

The Jews were absolutely unique in the Ancient world. Not only did their religion forbid them to worship gods other than the Lord, but their prophets actually taught that the gods of the nations were mere figments of the imagination. They did not exist at all.

But devout Jews in the time of Jesus could care less. “Monotheism” was their distinctive hallmark and was ingrained in them from cradle to grave. They recited several times a day the verses of Deut 6:4-6 “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.”

So it should come as no surprise that the notion of Jesus as “Son of God” was a bit hard to take. John’s Gospel tells us this claim to divine son-ship was one of the main reasons for Jesus’ crucifixion. Hundreds of years later, Constantine had to call the first Ecumenical Council to reaffirm that Jesus was God, equal in glory and Majesty to the Father, in the face of heretical protests. Fifty years later yet another Council was called to definitively affirm the same thing about the Holy Spirit. To this day, people from Da Vinci Code fans to Jehovah’s Witnesses ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity, alleging it was invented by Constantine.

But a close reading of the Scriptures shows that the Trinity was revealed when Jesus met his cousin in the wilderness. While John baptizes his superior, the voice of the Father resounds over the waters: “This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.” At that very moment, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove. Here, for a brief instant, we glimpse the mystery of One God in three persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. This momentary appearance of Jesus as the Son of the Father, anointed with the Spirit, is an Epiphany. In fact, in the Christian East, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the Epiphany are one in the same.

It is no accident that this revelation of the Trinity happened at the moment of Christ’s baptism. For Christian baptism, here instituted by Christ, is essentially different than the baptism of John. The Baptist preached cleansing from past sins and a change of lifestyle. Christian baptism certainly involves this, but accomplishes much more. It joins us to Jesus, as Savior and Lord, and connects us with the power of his death and resurrection. But since in baptism we become one with Jesus, members of his body, all that is His becomes ours. His Father now becomes our Father, and His Holy Spirit now takes up residence within us. Baptism does not just wash away our sins so that we can escape the fires of hell. No, it establishes an intimate relationship between us and the three persons of the Trinity. God is no longer a stern monarch, but our loving Father. God the Son calls us no longer servants but friends. God the Spirit becomes the power within us to make us new people and bring us to the fullness of joy.

The fact that baptism takes place through water is no accident either. Water cleanses, true. But it is also the symbol of birth. Are we not carried in water for nine months in our mothers' wombs? In baptism, we emerge from the waters of the Church’s womb to take up a new kind of life, a holy adventure that opens out into eternity!

That’s why when Jesus commands the apostles to baptize in Matthew 28:19 he commands them to do so not just in his own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And every time we make the sign of the cross, first impressed into our foreheads at our baptism, we recall not only this command, but that wonderful Epiphany when the Trinity was first manifested at the banks of the Jordan.  

-- A reflection on this week’s Gospel by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio ( 

 <click here for Parish Newsletter 11th January 2015>


Parish Newsletter, The Epiphany of the Lord - B, 4th January 2015

The Epiphany of the Lord

"There are several important things to note about these prestigious visitors. They are Gentiles, not Jews. From the very beginning of his human existence, then, Jesus is clearly not just the Jewish messiah who has come to deliver the people of Israel from foreign oppression. No, he is the universal king, the ruler of all, who has come to tear down the hostile wall dividing Jew from Gentile, nation from nation.

If you’ve ever wondered what the word ‘Catholic’ means, here we have it. Derived from Greek words meaning ‘according to the whole’ it means that Christ did not come to establish some local religious sect for a select few, one ‘cult’ among many. No, the Church he founded is ‘catholic’ or universal, spread over the whole world, welcoming the whole human race into one nation, one family, under one King.

Something else is to be noted about these illustrious visitors. As Gentiles, they are pagans. In fact the term ‘Magi’ is clearly linked to the word ‘magic’ It was not in the Bible that they normally looked for wisdom (otherwise they would have known to go straight to Bethlehem). But in reward for their ardent though perhaps misguided search for truth, God led them to Christ anyhow, in His great mercy."

-- A reflection on this week’s Gospel by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio 

 <click here for Parish Newsletter 4th January 2015>


Parish Newsletter, Holy Family - A, 28th December 2014

The Secret of Holiness

Every year right after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. There is a reason for this. It’s easy to think the “incarnation” means God took on a human body. But there is much more to it than that. In Jesus, God unites himself to an entire human nature. He fully enters into human experience, with all its peaks and valleys. And a part of that human experience, with more than its share of peaks and valleys, is family.

Despite the cuddly image of our nativity scenes, the original Christmas was anything but cozy. A woman nine months pregnant rides 75 miles on the back of a donkey over bumpy, dusty roads so she can have her baby in a stable full of dirty, smelly animals. Quickly after the birth they have to pick up and flee for their lives, seeking asylum in a foreign land. A few years later, the now adolescent son goes missing for several days, and there ensues a conversation characterized by no little emotion. Joseph is a saint, Mary is without sin, Jesus is God incarnate, yet there are still challenges, difficulties, tense moments, and opportunities for misunderstanding. Welcome to real family life.

All things created by God are good, with human beings and human life very good according to Genesis 1. Yet in assuming a human body, the Divine Word elevated its dignity, sanctifying it, and ennobling it. In accepting baptism from his cousin John, Jesus sanctifies water and, in baptism, makes it an instrument of his sanctifying power. In entering into family life, Jesus does the same. The family, up till now naturally good, becomes an instrument of sanctification and growth in holiness.

The feast of the Holy Family shows how far off-base I was. It reminds us, as Vatican II teaches, that all human beings are called to the heights of holiness. That all states in life, including student, teenager, and parent, offer abundant opportunities to grow in faith, hope, and love. That the nitty gritty of family life, if approached right, can be a road to profound personal transformation and communion with God.

Think about it. The creator of the universe spent most of his human life as a craftsman, working with dad in the family business and ultimately taking it over. Mary, the holiest of all creatures, spent most of her time changing diapers, cooking, and cleaning. The secret to holiness is not to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love and gratitude (Col 3:15-17).

The word seminary means “seedbed.” It is a greenhouse where, in a sheltered environment, vocations can develop till they can not just survive in the real world, but bear fruit there. The family is the original seminary. In its soil  is sown the call to share in Christ’s holiness and mission.  Ironically, tending to the seedlings causes the parent/gardeners to grow as well. So family, in God’s plan, is a community where everyone has growing to do. Maybe that’s why Col 3 talks so much about forgiveness and forebearance! The bottom line is this–we don’t become holy despite the hustle-bustle of family life, but in and through it.

-- by: Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio 

 <click here for Parish Newsletter 28th December 2014>


Pope Francis' 2014 Christmas Message and Urbi et Orbi Blessing