Columns

From the category archives: Columns

Word Made Flesh

Innocent suffering helps save the world

Maria Kozakiewicz

January 26, 2015
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 8, 2015

I have just talked to my friend who works with severely handicapped children. One of them, a girl aged 13, died suddenly, after a life of cruel limitations and suffering. As my granddaughter is the same age, my heart trembled at the thought of what the girl's family must be going through. Suddenly this unknown child became very dear to me. The early teens is the most beautiful time of a child's growth, comparable with the budding of roses or gentle unfolding of leaves on trees in April. I thought about Job, the symbol of suffering, and also about another small girl, whose dresses, toys and other simple mementos I saw in a church in Rome.

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God's voice is heard through pure joy

Lydia Cristini

January 12, 2015
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 18, 2015

Called by God. What does that even mean? Our Catholic faith tells us each human being has a universal call: the vocation to holiness or, in other words, the vocation to love. But each of us also has a unique call, a unique purpose, based on the specificity of who God created us to be. So, the question is: How do I hear God's specific call for my life? That's where it gets tricky. Samuel heard an audible voice saying his name. That hasn't happened to me yet.

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Small gestures can fulfill yearning for love

Kathleen Giffin

January 12, 2014
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 25, 2015

Gordon Neufeld tells a story of meeting a young man who had extraordinary success in overcoming an early childhood of abuse and neglect. When asked what had sustained him to continue to choose life and goodness instead of the despair and self-destruction so typical of those who suffered as he had, he told this story: Someone had taken him to church once when he was young. He was sitting by the aisle when, at the end of Mass, the priest walked by in the closing procession.

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Pagan Magi retained a sense of wonder

Maria Kozakiewicz

December 29, 2014
Epiphany
January 4, 2014

The star of Bethlehem, which shines in the Gospel of Epiphany, has long puzzled me. The ancient pagans of both East and West believed in oracles, dreams and prophetic utterances. They believed that gods communicate with people through nature and that the stars are part of this mysterious language as they may predict events to come. Thousands of years before Jesus was born, sign interpretation became a specialized art. Most of it was obviously fraud. Popular forms of divination were rejected by the Jewish faith, although it admitted the existence of some God-inspired individuals and a few God-sent dreams.

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We are called to be God's beloved children

John Connelly

December 29, 2014
Baptism of the Lord
January 11, 2014

In Matthew 3.17, we read these words about the moment John the Baptist baptized Jesus: "Suddenly there was a voice from heaven, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.'" The Baptism of the Lord is a profound moment, not only for Jesus, but for each one of us. It speaks to us of the reality that Jesus was and is the beloved Son of the Father. As Christians, we share in the deepest possible level with that identity. We too are now beloved sons and daughters of God our Father. It is easy to say that this idea of being God's sons and daughters is true. It is another thing to live this truth in our lives.

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God calls us to follow his mysterious plan

Kathleen Giffin

December 15, 2014
Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 21, 2014

Last night I watched Madi, my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, help set the table. She clutched her little handful of forks, and walked around the table carefully reaching up to place one beside each plate. Of course, we didn't need her to help, but giving her the job is a step on the way to more responsibility, and it makes her feel as though she is important in the family, that she can contribute and do her share. It was lovely to watch, this meticulous and careful fork placement, and it got me thinking about my role in God's work. Just as Madi can't grasp the full breadth of what is involved in making the meal I had cooked, so I am also not aware of all the ways God is at work in accomplishing the good in which I am so graciously given a role as helper.

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Shepherds' plight is keen reminder of why Jesus came

Brett Fawcett

December 15, 2014
Christmas Midnight Mass
December 25, 2014

When we hear the familiar Nativity story from Luke's Gospel, we often forget that the shepherds who heard the angels' message went back to being shepherds afterwards. They may have had a privileged, beatific, empowering encounter with the newborn Messiah; they may have been some of the first evangelists in history; they surely left the experience with a newfound joy that swallowed up all other emotions they felt for days thereafter. But, when all was said and done, they went back to being shepherds.

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I am useless as a leveler of hills, filler of valleys

Maria Kozakiewicz

December 1, 2014
Second Sunday in Advent
December 7, 2014

When Advent comes with its message of "prepare the way for the Lord," I panic. Not because of the message of the final days. In my mind this vision is inseparable from expectation of rest, peace and joy – and the meeting with love incarnate. The levelling of hills and filling up of ditches is what worries me. In my life I see nothing but ditches and hills, not a bit of a smooth road built. How is Jesus to come to me through these thorny brambles? How will he cross the stagnant lake of my sloth? And, if I want him to come, where do I start? Is there a place where he will be able to set his foot in me?

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Ask the Spirit to guide you in your struggles

John Connelly

December 1, 2014
Third Sunday in Advent
December 14, 2014

In this week's Second Reading St. Paul offers these inspired words, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Imagine if we actually did this. What if we all made prayer the continual focus of our lives? It is easy to say that everything we do is prayer. But we can dig deeper into this mystery of constant prayer. The Catholic Catechism says, "Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: If we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin. How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?" (2744).

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Clear criteria divide sheep from goats

Kathleen Giffin

November 17, 2014
Christ the King
November 23, 2014

With the feast of Christ the King, we come to the end of the liturgical year and our last consideration of end things before returning to the expectation of Advent. The separation of the sheep from the goats, the Gospel passage chosen for this year, is the most sobering and challenging of Scriptures. It is Matthew's account of the final judgment and the criteria that will divide all people between those who will enter God's kingdom and those who will go to endless suffering. It is a simple criterion; either we respond to those in need, to those who suffer, or we don't. We either have compassion that is put into action to the extent we are able or we don't.

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