Monday, 19 March 2012

My homily on the feast of St Joseph (March 19th)

It is a great privilege for me to be sharing words with you today. Because Joseph, has a very special place in my heart.  Not only did I have the honour to share my thoughts on this quiet, yet incredibly important man in the story of Jesus last year in Wiky on the feast of St Joseph, but ever since I’ve come back to the  Church, he’s been a presence in my life…but my main focus  today will be on the readings…and yes, I will be channeling a little bit of Jonathan Goldstein for this one ( Jonathan is a broadcaster on the CBC who is a great story teller. He has retold the story of the nativity from the perspective of Joseph)

 My initial reaction was to  assume that the 2nd Samuel passage was a little at odds with the story of Joseph, and even more so with that of Jesus.   I mean, if we think of the prophetic lines about the coming of david’s offspring that will establish a new kingdom pleasing to the eyes of God  and see that from a Christian perspective, it makes sense…but it probably would have had a very different meaning for even someone like Joseph.  Although I’m sure Joseph understood that he came from the royal line of David, it had been so long since the collapse of the kingdom, that this royalty thing may have been nothing more than a distant dream to him, if even that. Perhaps, like many of his countrymen, he still had hope for the coming of a King that would restore the kingdgom of Israel,  and return a sense of pride to the Children of Israel.  Although this simple carpenter was probably not a radical nationalist, we can imagine that he still had dreams that he would see his people’s glory restored by this great messiah, this son of the Great I am.
   So imagine his shock…when he learned that it was his Mary, that would carry this great king…and that the king would not sit on a royal throne –as Nathan had prophesied-and restore the glory of Israel, but he would be humble, poor, and yet, still save the world from it’s sinfulness, and lead them into a new kind of glory…not the one that Joseph and his countrymen had been dreaming about. Not an earthly glory, but one that came from God. The Kicker for me, every time, is that…Joseph goes with it, without a moment’s hesitation. Even Mary questioned a little bit “ you sure I’m going to bring a baby into the world?? Oh Gabriel…did no one ever give you the birds and the bees talk…”.  And this wasn’t even a dream for her..this was an actual angel standing before her talking right at her, telling her how things would unfold
  Our boy Joseph, all he had to go with was a dream…a dream that awakened something in his faith, that connected him with God’s almighty plan, but still just a dream.. Do you realize how foolish any of you would look today if you were making some radical life altering decisions, and when people ask you “ What could possibly possess you to do something so  ludicrously insane??”,  you meekly answered “ God told me in a dream.”  That’s it? One dream? You didn’t discern for a couple of days or pray about this…you just...took instructions from an angel you saw in a dream and took off??? .
 Well yeah. That’s what people who are in love do. They don’t listen to the logic of the world around them.  Joseph’s love for Mary is so deep, that he is willing to go against  the conventions and laws  of the times, and doesn’t tell anyone about her ‘secret baby’ but decides to divorce her..quietly, without making any fuss, so that she could keep her dignity.  A great sign that this man’s  righteousness surpassed that of his world.
Because of that… I do not think God could have chosen a more perfect father for Jesus.   A man who so open to listening to the voice of the divine within him;, a man so commited to a deep experience of love that he would allow his own world view to be challenged and transformed; a man faithful, and unquestioning in his faith until the very end.

We know way too little about St Joseph, and I find that a shame. I
suppose we can always turn to St Brother Andre and the inspiring model
of humility and healing he brought to the world, to remind us of the
grandeur of this man, a silent figure, but an integral part
of  the greatest story ever lived.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Joy, wherever you can find it...

Happy belated St Patty's!!

This past week, A Irish fellow who is a Jesuit in our province asked me what my plans were for St Patrick's. He probably expected some response that involved beer, beer,and more beer.
How disappointed he must have been when I simply said "nothing". 

 Being someone who's not a big fan of ale, it's only in recent years that I became 'interested' in St Patty's, mostly because of the tremendous diversity of people that this celebration brings together. In Montreal, you might as well call the day  "celebrate the city's  ethnic diversity day". It is this celebration -a lot more than alcohol drinking- that developed my interest in this day over the years.

 Of course, now as I am not only a staunch Catholic, but also a religious brother, the day has a little more meaning to me, seeing that Patrick is one of the Greatest Saints in Christianity. So does it bother me that all these people clad in green and boozing it up have absolutely no concept of the religious element  of this day? I mean, after all, it is supposed to be a day when those who are abstaining from Alcohol during Lent can really let themselves loose and have a great time, with the intention of going back on their Lenten fast the following day. Nowadays, you mention Lent to any of these drunken kids out there (they can still be heard 'painting the town' green from my bedroom window), and most of them will say "don't we celebrate that  on Easter day?". Oh in the past I would have let out a great sigh and just walked away from the poor student, depressed about the lack of spirituality and religion in our world today.

Has that changed?

A little. Today, I went to Guelph for Spiritual direction, and after a wonderful session with my director, went for a little walk on the was prayerful and quite peaceful...but thanks to that little walk...I missed my bus and had to wait 2 hours for the next one. So I hung around downtown Guelph, and watched, what looked like EVERY SINGLE STUDENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY in Guelph walking around in state of drunkeness...but still incredibly happy. And there was something almost infectious about the mood in the air.

 Still, isn't my call as a religious to move away from this kind of behaviour, to abandon superficial source of happiness and seek out a more divine source of eternal joy? Oh...absolutely. Don't get me wrong, I did not envy or desire to be experiencing what these young people were...their quest for cheap fun that will only last till the evening is over and will make them sick in the morning  is the last thing I yearn for these days. I am at peace and incredibly happy  in my journey with, and towards God. There isn't much in this world that could replace this wonderful feeling.
  Through this wonderful journey of mine,  I am slowly beginning to learn, the Pastoral response to these festivities is neither to condemn, nor envy them, but simply to share the joy with them.  I don't think I even want to be the one to argue that the Ignatian charism of 'finding God in all things' is applicable here. It trullly isn't.. But at the same time, there is also nothing edifying about looking down on these young people for not having spirituality, or a desire for more from life.

 I realized that when I was walking home in the evening. Toronto was quite foggy tonight, so it made for a very eerie atmosphere, but the laughter and joy of the people echoed on every street corner. felt like New year's eve to tell you the truth. And rather than condemning the revellers for not being creative enough to be able to find other ways of expressing their youthful energy,I found myself relishing in their joy, and even glad that I was able to share this with them, even for a little bit.  Even if I wish there more spirituality in the world today, I am glad that there are events like these that bring people together in one huge celebration of life...