This past week I had the privilege of facilitating a retreat for our Basilian novices. Charles, David, Patrick, and Sean are about halfway through their novitiate year; God willing, they will be professing vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in August. I enjoyed spending time with them in a beautiful setting in rural Texas. During our days together we looked at Jesus’ humanity; you’ve probably heard me say more than once that I’m convinced that we need to get to know Jesus as one like us if we are really going to have a relationship with him and follow him—in other words, to be intentional disciples. I don’t think that we can follow and relate to someone who is totally other.

As I ate and prayed and conversed with our novices, getting to know them better, I was struck by the unique gifts that each one of them brings to the novitiate community, and indeed, to the Basilian Fathers. We are blessed to have them in formation. At one point I began thinking of what it would be like if I actually saw each one of them for who they are in God’s eyes: God’s precious child, totally unique and totally loved, a place where God himself is found (that is, a temple of the Holy Spirit).

In this weekend’s Gospel passage Peter, James, and John get to see Jesus for who he really is: the Chosen One, the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets (symbolized by Moses and Elijah). Peter wanted the scene to last: “If you wish, I will make three dwellings here….” But then God speaks and the vision is gone. They see their friend Jesus alone before them, and go back to their regular lives. I tend to think, though, that they never were able to look at Jesus in quite the same way after that experience. They had seen him for who he really was: God’s beloved Son, the fulfilment of the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people. What would it be like if we could see each other for who we are in God’s eyes? Although Jesus is God’s Son in a unique way, scripture is clear that we, too, are God’s children, each in our own way. We, too, are God’s presence to one another. We, too, each have special and unique gifts to offer the world and the Church.

I invite you to recognize how unique and special you are—and how much Jesus wants to be in a relationship with you. Wouldn’t it be great to let others know of that? Indeed, that is what we are called to do!

I would imagine that for many of us, the thought of Jesus being tempted is an uncomfortable one. After all, isn’t Jesus supposed to be the perfect one, the sinless one? How then can he even be tempted to sin? Often that is as far as we allow our thoughts to take us- and when we stop there, we miss the deeper message that our readings are trying to convey to us.

The temptations that Jesus faces in the Gospel are variations of the same temptations that we face in the world today. There is the temptation to satisfy one’s bodily needs and pleasures, the temptation to over-inflate one’s ego and make a show of power, and the temptation to amass great wealth and power in the world. For Jesus, and for us, each of these temptations are meant to try to lead us away from the path to the cross and salvation. They are meant to lead us to seek pleasure, power, and status here and now, and cause us to lose our focus on the future hope of God’s kingdom and reign. Jesus rightly resists these temptations, because he knows that for God’s kingdom to truly come about, his authority needs to be exercised in humility, selflessness, and sacrifice, not through pride and power.

We are called to respond to the temptations that we face in the same way that Jesus did, by following the path of humility and selflessness. However, in our human weakness, we may have a harder time with that- but that does not mean that all hope is lost! And one way that we can begin to have victory over temptation to sin is to change the way that we think about temptation itself.

Temptations are nothing to be ashamed of, because we all experience them. But often our temptations can become a large source of shame. I often like to remind people that “temptations are neither good nor bad- they just are.” It’s how we respond to temptation that matters. Do we try to do it on our own? Or do we invoke God’s protection and help, and ask for his grace to overcome temptation, and grow in holiness?

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, speaking about Jesus’ temptation, writes: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As we begin this Lenten Season, let us approach our Lord, and ask for his grace to overcome whatever temptations we face, so that we may know the Lord’s grace and help in our time of need.

 

–Father Steven

 

Wow! Lent is already here! I’ve heard that so many times lately. This Wednesday is indeed Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our annual Lenten journey of preparation for the celebration of the great events of our faith, Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Many Christians take Lent as an opportunity to practice an act of penance, by giving up something they like or adding something to their daily routine. I encourage you to choose some practice that will help your spiritual growth.

Our readings this weekend offer us some guidance, both for our internal disposition and our relationship with others. Paul reminds the Christian community in Corinth that they are God’s temple, that God’s Spirit is dwelling in them. And in our first reading, God tells Moses to say to the Israelites, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” So we can ask ourselves what we can do to grow in holiness. Perhaps spending extra time in prayer would be the key. We can do this with a Lenten meditation booklet, or by coming to daily Mass, or in so many other ways. In that same passage God also says that we are not to bear grudges; perhaps this Lent is the time to let go of the hurts and resentments that most of us carry around in our hearts. In our Gospel passage, we continue to hear Jesus in the “Sermon on the Mount”; today he reminds each of us that to be authentic disciples we are to go above and beyond what societal norms say. Rather than seeking revenge, we are to give abundantly of our time and resources. We are to love all people, whether neighbour (friend, family) or enemy. In other words, I think Jesus is saying that we are to recognize how each and every one of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit, worthy of respect. In fact, our readings this week give some clear guidelines for being an intentional disciple. Let us pray that our
relationship with Christ grow ever stronger, and that we may choose always to follow him who is our life.

Many people ask what the practices for Canada are during the Lenten season. According to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB):

  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of Fast and Abstinence. (All Catholics aged 18-60 are to have only one meal, with an additional two smaller meals or snacks permitted. All Catholics aged 14 and above are to abstain from meat.)
  • Fridays throughout the year (including Lent) are officially days of Abstinence; however, the CCCB allows Catholics to substitute special acts of charity or piety (such as almsgiving or prayer) in place of abstaining from meat.

Happy Lent!

 

One year ago this weekend, I was in the midst of preparing to celebrate my First Masses as a Priest at Assumption Church. It’s hard to believe that it has already been one year since my Priestly Ordination!

It’s hard to sum up in a few short words what the experience of this past year has been like. Every time I start to write, all that I can think of are the many times that I have been overwhelmed by the support that I have received from the Parishioners here at Assumption as I began my Priestly Ministry. I am also awestruck by the many ways in which God has been at work in my life.

St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians in today’s Second Reading speak to me powerfully as I reflect on celebrating my First  Anniversary of Ordination. St. Paul writes: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” In one sense, these words are speaking to us about the promised Kingdom of Heaven, which we all hope to enter at the end of our earthly life. But I believe that they also speak to us about the ways in which God is at work in our lives here and now.

When the Bishop laid his hands on my head at my Ordination a year ago, I had no way of knowing how my life would unfold, or what shape my Priestly Ministry would take. I wondered how I would know what to say when faced with grieving  families, or when celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I quickly found, however, that the Holy Spirit, which is  conferred in a powerful way upon the Priest in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, is indeed powerfully at work in the life of a Priest.

When I cannot find the words to say, I am constantly amazed by the way in which the Holy Spirit speaks through me, and guides me to find the right words to say. The experience of Priesthood has been far beyond what I ever could have  imagined it to be. New things about my life as a Priest are revealed to me by the Spirit each and every day- and that revelation helps me to recognize that I am still learning: still seeking to grow in my own service of God, and striving always to become a holier Priest each and every day of my life.

So I want to thank you again for all of your prayers and support over this past year. I look forward to continuing to serve this community of faith in the years to come!

-Fr. Steven Huber, CSB

 

This past week the staffs from our three parishes met for the first time to talk about the upcoming Family of Parishes. There each person was able to share their hopes and fears about the future. Hearing them encouraged me greatly. Here are a few things that people said:

  • This can be a new beginning; we have tremendous
    opportunities to improve on things we’re doing well and stop doing things that aren’t fruitful.
  • We can learn from the other parishes and communities.
  • We hope we can accept change and use our gifts to help those who don’t have the same gifts.
  • A sense of community could lead to ministry and volunteerism like never before.
  • Our baptismal call is unifying ground: this can strengthen our understanding of our call.
  • I fear we will get bogged down with details and miss the opportunity for spiritual renewal.
  • The identity of family may not accurately reflect the
    richness and unique characteristics of the individual
    communities.

Those are such important things for us to consider, as hopes to strive for and fears to avoid. As we move forward, we will be communicating our progress each step of the way. Soon we will have the transition team formed, with pastoral ministers and representatives of the councils of each parish and community. I look forward to your input as well.

In this weekend’s gospel passage, Jesus tells his disciples that they are to be salt for the earth and light for the world. Salt was quite important before refrigeration; it was how you kept and preserved food, so it was a life sustaining commodity that drove many economies. If you accepted salt from someone you were considered in their service. The word salary comes from the word salt, since people were often paid with it. And when night descends, light provides security and comfort. Both of these improve the quality of life. So it seems to me that Jesus was actually telling his disciples that he wants them to be agents of life change, improving the quality of life in our parishes and in those we serve. Now as we move forward  towards the activation of our Family, I’m glad I have Jesus to keep encouraging me and strengthening me to really be salt and light for others. I encourage each of you to be beacons of hope, of discipleship, and of mercy to others.

We can work together so that these changes will be life giving for our communities. Join me in praying that through the intercession of Our Lady of the Assumption, Saints Alphonsus, Angela, Benedict, and  Daniel Comboni, our Family may be salt and light in Windsor.

 

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people
Israel.”

There is a definite sense of relief in these words that Simeon utters in today’s Gospel. Finally, after years of waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled, Simeon recognizes that the little baby in Mary’s arms is the Saviour of the World. His long life of waiting, and helping others to keep their faith in God, is now over. He can rest in peace, knowing that his work has ended.

The prophetess Anna also demonstrates a great deal of joy when she sees the Christ Child present in the Temple. Here is the hope that the Jewish people had longed for. Here is the one who will bring salvation- not only to the Jewish people, but to the entire world. This is certainly a bold proclamation, which would have no doubt shocked all those who heard it- especially Mary and Joseph!

As shocking as the words of Simeon and Anna may have been, there’s a lot that we can learn from these two figures. Both of them kept faith in God’s promises, even in the midst of oppression and despair. Both of them proclaimed Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Both of them witnessed to their belief in God by their very lives- and in doing so, both of them give us a model of Christian living- of a life devoted to the service of God. This is an example that all of us can follow, no matter what our state in life may be.

Today, we also celebrate the World Day for Consecrated Life. This is a special day of prayer for all the men and women throughout the world who are members of religious orders, and other institutes of consecrated life. Like Simeon and Anna, the men and women who live lives of consecrated service to God give a unique prophetic witness to the world. They challenge all of us to give ourselves totally to Jesus in our work, our lives, and in all we do.

As Basilians, we offer special prayers of Thanksgiving for the life and work of all of the members of our religious community. We pray also that young men and women might respond to the call to serve God in the Church in this unique and special
vocation of total consecration to God.

-Fr. Steven Huber, CSB

With Fr. Maurice away, he asked me to prepare the bulletin message for this week.

In our gospel this weekend, we see Jesus calling Peter and the disciples … there’s very little in the gospel about what was said.Simply … “Come, follow me and I will make you fish-ers of people”doesn’t seem to be enough to convince these men to leave “immediately”… leave their homes, their jobs, their families and follow this itinerant carpenter. But whatever was said, it must have been spectacular.

This of course, wasn’t just an invitation … it was a call … any of us can be called … a call comes from God.I remember the day I was called to be a deacon … it was in 1997 and my pastor asked me to stay after a meeting and said, “Have you ever thought of becoming a Deacon?”.Well I had … there was certainly a call within me, a call to serve.But here’s the kicker, permanent deacons weren’t yet approved for our diocese and wouldn’t be for a few years yet and there were no Deacons around.And so I bargained a bit with God … if you’re calling me, show me what this Deacon thing is about.

A couple months later, I went on a pilgrimage to the holy land.We were travelling with some people from California … and one of them was a Deacon. I traveled with him for the next 10 days and found out everything I needed to know and ulti-mately the Diocese decided to ordain Deacons.Am I busy as a deacon … yes.Do I work hard … yes.Do I meet a lot of peo-ple with needs … yes!

But I would do it again in a minute!So my question for your consideration today is “Are you being called” …this could be to the priesthood, religious life, or to become a Deacon. It might be time to find out … Applications for deacons are accepted every two years for the 5 year program of discernment and study. Many men are in their fifties when they find the time to hear and answer the call.

There will be meetings with the diocese in April and May that you would have to attend.Meanwhile, feel free to connect with me at As-sumption or Deacons Gerard or Cap at St. Alphonsus and we’ll just meet for coffee and talk about ministry.

Are you or some-one you know being called?

—Deacon Paul Bezaire

Welcome back to Ordinary Time! I love the pace of this season. Each year the Church allows us to work our way through a gospel—this year it’s Matthew—as we get to know Jesus through one set of eyes. Occasionally there are a few “excursions” into another gospel, and today is one of them. Last week we heard Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism, and today we hear from John’s gospel of the moment just after the baptism. John the Baptist saw “the Spirit descend and remain” on Jesus, and thus knew that Jesus is the One, the Son of God. When the Church gives us two readings in a row that describe the same scene, I think we need to pay attention to the message.

So what is that message? It has to do with the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of the first believers even thought that it wasn’t until that moment that Jesus “became” God’s Son. (Of course, under the guidance of that same Spirit the Church came to profess that Jesus was always God, that his humanity and divinity are inseparable.) Nevertheless, the early Church was emphatic that with God’s Spirit we receive a mission and the strength to carry it out. It was after his baptism that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, as we will hear in Lent, and then on to his public ministry.

After the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Charismatic movement grew up, emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our prayer. Yet the Spirit is not just for Charismatics. Each of us receives the Spirit at our own baptism. Each of us who is confirmed receives the Spirit yet again, giving us strength to be witnesses to the faith. The Holy Spirit enables us in each new Christian adventure. Now as we move toward our transition to being a “Family of Parishes”, the role of the Spirit will be essential in our journey. We on the Transition team need guidance; we need wisdom, and faith, and courage. All those are gifts of the Spirit. Yet it is not just the ordained, or the Transition Team, who have received the Holy Spirit: all of us who have been baptized have received the same Spirit, and all of us will have a role to play.

And as you read this I will be away for my annual retreat, and some vacation days. I count on your prayer while I am away, and assure you of mine. Pray for Fr. Steven and Fr. Leo and all our parish team. It is reassuring to go away knowing that you are in such capable hands. May the Spirit we receive in baptism guide and strengthen us.

One of my aunts was so proud that I was a priest. She loved introducing me to people as her nephew, Father Maurice—with a little pause before the word “Father”, so that people would be listening. It was always a bit embarrassing for me to hear that, yet it would always give me a little “push” to do the best I could.

I can’t help but think of that as I read this weekend’s gospel passage. In describing Jesus’ baptism, Matthew tells us that “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” Think about that for a moment.

Jesus, even though he was always fully God, didn’t start his ministry until after he saw the Spirit of God descending on him and heard the voice of the Father proclaim to the people that Jesus is his Son, that he loves Jesus, and that he is pleased with him. It is in the strength of that affirmation that Jesus has the courage and strength to go out into the desert and then to begin his ministry. I like to imagine that it was the memory of that baptismal event that would give him the extra push he needed to keep at his ministry when he was being rejected and misunderstood. In my own life and ministry it has often been those affirmations by others, whether from my aunt letting others know that I was “her nephew the priest”, to Bishop Fabbro  having the confidence in me to ask me to be pastor of our upcoming Family of Parishes, and so many other instances.

It makes me wonder as well just how often I affirm others with whom I relate. Sometimes a public “You are appreciated” can make a big difference in a person’s life. Even a private word of praise can buoy a person up. How about you? Perhaps there is someone in your life who would benefit from hearing, especially in front of others, that you appreciate them, that you care for them. Jesus’ baptism is a turning point. In his life, it marked the beginning of his public ministry. In the Church, the feast marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of “Ordinary Time”. Could your affirmation of someone, your acknowledgment of your care, be the beginning of something new?

And as we look to the beginning of something new for our parishes, I ask your prayer and your support as we begin our transition phase to becoming a “Family”. I ask for your prayer, look forward to your input, and promise you my prayer as we journey forward.

 

 

 

The Epiphany of the Lord—January 5, 2020Happy 2020! We’ve made it through another calendar year. I am deeply grateful to all of you for bringing us to this point. We had wonderful celebrations of Christmas and New Year. So many people gave hours and hours of their time; others shared their talents and skills, and still others their financial resources to create a spectacular setting for our first holidays back in our historic church. Still others prayed so earnestly for our restora-tion, for the flourishing of the parish, and for the glory of God. To each of you, whether your contribution was filling a spot in a pew, decorating, reading, making music, doing unseen service like cleaning or counting the collection, I can only say a heart-felt THANK YOU!We are all blessed in so many ways.As most years, this first Sunday of the year is Epiphany.

While we quaintly move our statues of the Magi closer in at the man-ger scene, this feast has so much to teach us. The gospel story tells us that wise men came from the East. They would have been non-Jews, people from a different culture and religion, speaking a different language. They traveled far and found the “king of the Jews” in a humble setting in a little backwater town of Judea, not far from Jerusalem. He was not in a palace; he was not in an important city. The Greek word “epiphaneia” means an appearance, a glorious display. God’s Son made an appearance to these foreigners as a helpless little child in hum-ble surroundings.And today, some 2000 years later, God is still making appear-ances among us, in places where we might least expect it. It is so easy to find God in the Blessed Sacrament, or inside the church building. We sometimes see God in the “important” people who lead us. Yet at the end of this Church year we will hear the final judgment passage from Matthew’s gospel, where the risen Christ reminds us that he is to be found in the thirsty, the hungry, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned.

For me, that is the difficult part of my faith. If I am to find the Christ in the child Jesus, in a manger, then I am also called to find him in other humble surroundings: in people with addictions, the homeless, those with mental illnesses. But even that can be romanticized. I also need to find Christ in the one who bothers me, who wants too much of my time. Perhaps Christ is in that person I just tried to avoid seeing in the supermarket or the one I passed on the street.As we begin this year, I invite you to spend a moment in front of the Nativity scene in church or in your home, and to ask our loving God where else he might be making an epiphany. Could it be in the person right next to you?