Back in 2003, as the US was preparing to invade Iraq, many people both inside and outside the Church were debating the morality of the upcoming war. Were there WMDs? Even if there were, could a pre-emptive strike be legitimized? Did this meet the criteria of the just war theory? In the midst of all the questioning, a student at the seminary in Houston (where I was teaching) had a bumper sticker made, that read: I think when Jesus said to love your enemies he didn’t mean to kill them. For me, that said it all.

Just two years ago, in his message for the 50th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis surprised many by stating: “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching ‘is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This “more” comes from God’”. This is the same God who, in Jesus’ proclamation of the Beatitudes, reminded us that peacemakers are blessed. It reminds me, as well, of the early Christians who refused to serve as soldiers or to go to war.

Several years ago I became convinced that Jesus was a practitioner of creative nonviolence; this weekend’s Gospel passage reminds me of that. It also reminds me that I need to bring this nonviolence home. It is easy to point fingers and to say that “the world” needs to learn nonviolence. We need to stop having wars. “They” need to change. The reality, though, is that I need to change, too. I need to pay attention to how I respond to people. Or, as Pope Francis said in his Peace Day message, “Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: ‘As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts’”.

As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts.” I feel indicted by that statement. It is so easy for me to write these words, to say beautiful things from the pulpit, or to repost Facebook memes about being people of peace. It is much harder to break cycles: to respond to a harsh word with gentleness, to answer cynicism with kindness, injustice with justice, evil with goodness. Won’t you join me in trying?

As I write this message, I am sitting at my parent’s house in Albuquerque, New Mexico, reflecting on the wonderful events that have taken place over this past weekend. Many people have asked me how I felt, and what was going through my head throughout the celebration of the Ordination and my First Mass as a Priest.
 
Truth is, it is very hard to put into words the range of emotions that I felt throughout the course of this past weekend. However, throughout the course of all of the celebrations, there was one thing that was abundantly clear: God was present throughout all of it. There were moments that brought tears to my eyes, and moments where I was grinning from ear to ear. There were reunions with friends that I hadn’t seen in years, and celebrations with family members- all of it thanks to the Grace and Mercy of God.
 
As I was offering my reflections at the end of my First Mass, I remarked that it is God who calls each of us to our vocation in life, and who equips us to do the work that he is calling us to do. The question that we are called to ask ourselves is this: are we placing our trust in the Lord? Or are we trying to “go it alone” and trust only in ourselves?
 
Our First Reading from the Prophet Jeremiah this weekend warns us of the dangers of trusting only in ourselves, while at the same time showing us the blessings that those who trust in the Lord will receive. This is a very fitting passage for me to reflect on as I begin my Priestly Ministry. It reminds me that the work that I have undertaken is not for my own glory, but for the Lord’s.
 
The challenge here is the same for me as it is for all of us: to allow the Lord to work through us, so that his blessings may fill not only us, but all those we meet. This is where cultivating a regular discipline of prayer is important. It is in prayer that we learn to hear the voice of the Lord, and answer his call.
 
And so, I ask you to continue to pray for me, as I will continue to pray for you. May the Lord help all of us to continue to listen to his call, and lead us to more faithfully place our trust in him.
 
—Fr. Steven Huber, CSB

Moments like that have been truly life-giving for me. I am in awe that I can be a minister of God’s love and forgiveness to another person. Each of us has sinned, therefore each of us is in need of God’s forgiveness. The key is to realize it. In all three of this weekend’s readings there is a recognition of sin and a type of forgiveness: Isaiah is a man of unclean lips, yet the seraph blots out his sin and guilt with a live coal from the altar of God. Paul is as one “untimely born”, who persecuted the Church of God, yet he works through the grace of God that is with him. Peter falls down before Jesus saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”, and Jesus responds by calling him to be a disciple.

So often I find it easy to gloss over my own sinfulness. I tell myself, “You try hard enough; you do so much better than many others; you don’t really have any sins worth confessing.” The thing is, though, that until I actually admit my need for God’s forgiveness and ask for it, I don’t feel it. Each time that I humble myself—and we’ll be looking at humility during our Lenten series called “Attitude Adjustment”—recognizing my sins, God is there offering forgiveness and liberation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation feeling completely renewed. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities we’ll be offering during Lent to acknowledge your sin and to receive God’s forgiveness. In that grace, there is life!

And on a completely different note: Next weekend Father Steven Huber will be presiding and preaching at all the weekend Masses, and we will have hospitality after each one. Plan on attending; bring a friend, and congratulate Fr. Steven.

 

If you’ve ever attended a wedding, chances are good that you heard this weekend’s second reading proclaimed. Paul’s passage on love from the First Letter to the Corinthians is one of the most popular readings there is, and it’s a beautiful way to wrap up our homily series we’re calling the “Secrets of Every Happy Family”. There is so much grace that is needed to truly love… and so much grace we receive, I think, when we love as God would have us do.

Think about the words Paul writes: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. … It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” As nice as those words sound, they can be a bit theoretical. It’s easy for me to feel good about myself when I see them, and think, “Sure. I’m patient and kind and not envious. I’m not arrogant or rude. I believe, hope, and endure. I’m doing pretty good.” But when I get concrete about things, I can squirm a bit. Think for a minute about translating Paul this way: Love is putting up with somebody even when they just don’t get it! Love is having a good word to say to your next-door-neighbour even when their visitor blocked your driveway. Love is being happy when your friend got that new TV set that you’ve always wanted but can’t afford. Love means helping out a homeless person quietly and not letting anyone else know about it. Love means you always find the good qualities in a person. Love means keeping your mouth shut when you really want to tell that person to stop talking. Love means putting up with your elder mother who has dementia and has just asked you something for the fifth time. Love means that even when your family is having difficult times, you believe in the possibility of healing and growth. Love means that your commitment to your spouse is steadfast, even when you’ve been let down. What a source of grace it is to love in those circumstances! And, as a Christian, that is what I am called to do; and that is what builds up families.

On a somewhat different note, next weekend Steven Huber will be ordained to the priesthood at his home parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As his pastor, I will be there as well, so I ask you to show a concrete example of love and acceptance to Frs. Bill Capitano and Seejo John, who will be covering the Masses. And I invite you to make plans on being at one of the Masses on February 16-17, as Fr. Steven celebrates for the first time with our parish community.

I have always been fascinated by the passage in this weekend’s gospel. It is Jesus’ “mission statement,” his own description of who he is and what he came to do. He tells the people in the synagogue at Nazareth—and us—that God’s Spirit is upon him, and that he has been sent to bring good news to the poor, release to captives, “recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. And perhaps just as importantly, he leaves something out. In Chapter 61 of Isaiah, this ends with “…and the day of vengeance of our God”. Jesus, who presumably was quite knowledgeable of Scripture, is quite selective in what he quotes. Think about it: the bible, although divinely inspired, reflects the context of the time in which it was written, and the hand of the one who wrote it down. All those passages about a “warrior God”, a God of vengeance and punishment are areas that Jesus chooses to ignore. In its place, he gives us this quote from Isaiah about healing and liberation; he tells us parables of forgiveness; he tells us not to judge.

I think that is why it is so important to learn more than just the words written down on paper; we have to know context and meaning. Thus in our first reading from Nehemiah we hear, “So the Levites read from the book, from the Law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” For two millennia now the Church has gathered in worship on the Day of the Lord. We do this because we need each other’s presence and support; we also do it because, as a community, we need to give context and interpretation to God’s word. And gathered in community we listen to the word, we hear it interpreted, we are nourished by the Word in sacramental form, and we are sent forth into the world with hearts renewed by God’s grace.

In our homily series called “The Secrets of Every Happy Family” we’ve been reminded of three characteristics in happy families: accepting their messiness, having mutual respect, and serving a purpose beyond themselves. The Christian community gathered for Sunday Eucharist is a real way in which families serve a purpose beyond themselves. In focusing on this greater purpose, we receive grace and strength. As Ezra said so may years ago, the joy of the Lord is our strength. I pray that we may share in the Lord’s joy as we are filled with grace—and that those we meet may come to know the Lord’s joy by encountering our joy.

 

After graduating from high school, I went to college for a couple of years, and then moved back home and worked. At one point a neighbour invited me to become roommates with him and share a house in the area that was for rent. I talked with my mom about it, and she told me, “Honey, you’re my son, and you can stay here as long as you want. But when you move out, make sure you can afford to stay out, because you won’t be able to move back here.” She went on to explain that she was not saying that to be hard, but rather because if I moved out I would develop my own “rules” and lifestyle—and that if I moved back in with her, I would once again have to conform to “her rules” and that it would be difficult for both of us. My mother was a wise woman. In the end, I moved out, and then back in for three months before entering the seminary, to save money. She was right! Those three months were hard for both of us, yet they confirmed that she had been parenting me to follow God’s purpose, to take up my own role in society.

I like to think that the interplay between Mary and Jesus in this weekend’s gospel is something similar to what I experienced with my mother. In this beautiful passage from the Gospel according to John about the wedding feast at Cana, there is something that is easy to overlook: At the beginning of the passage, John tells us that Mary was there, along with Jesus and his disciples. Then towards then end of the passage he tells us that Jesus went down to Capernaum along with his mother and the others. In other words, this is the moment when Jesus “moves out of his mother’s house”, as it were. John is careful to tell us that this is Jesus’ first sign. It is the event that sets him on an irrevocable path, which leads eventually to his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. No wonder Jesus seems to be a bit reluctant to start it! Before that act, Jesus was there as his mother’s son; afterwards, he was his own person. Mary’s role was an important one, in setting Jesus on his path, in parenting him so that he would fulfill the role his Father had destined for him.

This week in our series on the “Secrets of Every Successful Family” we look at the key role of the mother, especially as one who prepares children to assume their rightful places as adults, following the purpose that God has for them. That will require grace and forgiveness, which we will address in the next two weeks. Join us, and invite a friend!

 

Last weekend Deacon Paul started off our homily series looking at “Secrets of Every Happy Family”. He mentioned how three of those “secrets” are accepting messiness or imperfection, having mutual respect, and a commitment to a larger purpose. Now we bring that further and look at the role of the father. As the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord, this “bridge” feast that ends the Christmas season and begins Ordinary Time, we hear from Jesus’ Father: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Those words are important. God the Father is telling Jesus—in his humanity—that he loves him and is pleased with him. Can you imagine how many times Jesus must have looked back on that experience, especially as times got tough in his ministry?

Of course, the fathers we grow up with aren’t perfect, like God the Father is. I recently heard an interview where a Canadian doctor was talking about the importance of a father’s approval and affirmation. He pointed out how several noted politicians, like Barak Obama, lacked the presence of a father in their lives and how so much of their success was in search of the approval they didn’t receive as a child. I was fascinated by the conversation, and kept thinking of my own father. I always knew my dad loved me, and yet when it came to approval and affirmation, that was harder to get. He was quick to point out my flaws. Secretly, I longed to hear him tell me how good I was doing. At least, though, I had a father at home, and I knew that he loved our family deeply. Many families today are fatherless. Most of us, I would guess, fall somewhere in between: our lives have a certain messiness, and imperfection. None have the perfect father—and that’s okay. I think what we can do is to appreciate what we do have, to accept what we never got, and to be sure that we ourselves are free to be blessings to others, expressing abundant praise.

On another note, yet certainly within the category of the messiness of life, I want to express my appreciation to Fr. Mark Gazin for the service he has given to Assumption Parish for the past few months. There is a real shortage of priests in the  diocese, and Fr. Mark has graciously accepted an invitation to serve at St. Theresa and St. Vincent de Paul. He will still be living here at Assumption, and will help out occasionally. Soon, of course, we will have Fr. Steven added to our team! I invite you to pray for Fr. Mark as he begins his new ministry, and for Deacon Steven as he prepares for ordination.

I hope 2019 has begun well for each of you reading this! On this first weekend of the new year the Church invites us to cele-brate the Epiphany of the Lord, this feast when Jesus is re-vealed to us as a light to the nations. He is not just for the Jew-ish people, but rather for the whole world. Matthew tells us that “wise men from the East” came to honour Jesus. Tradition says that their home was Persia—today known as Iran. The actual place doesn’t matter; the fact that they were foreigners is what is important to the evangelist. God’s coming to earth is a matter of import to the world, not just the sleepy little village of Beth-lehem or even Jerusalem. This year I’ve been thinking a lot about those “wise men”.

When I was 16 my mother took my sisters and me to Belgium for the summer; we stayed about a week with each of my aunts and uncles, and I met them and my cousins. It was the first time I had ever left Texas, and it changed my life. I realized that the world was so much bigger than what I had known previously. I encountered people speaking a different language, eating a dif-ferent style of food, living in houses built very differently than those in southeast Texas—and I thought some of it was better than what I had known before! I’ve had that experience each time I’ve moved, too, whether it be to Canada or Colombia or Italy, or Israel/Palestine.

These wise men from the East traveled far and encountered the Christ child. They encountered God, not only in humility, but also in a culture and language different than theirs. That chal-lenges me to recognize something special in all the cultures and people I encounter, whether I travel to another land or whether I meet them here where I live. I think that is partly why I feel so privileged to be a part of Assumption parish. We are so multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Being the son of immigrants, and having lived in so many different places, I am fascinated by so many Windsorites who have roots here that go back many gen-erations, some to the early French settlers, or even to the Indig-enous peoples of this land. And then we are enriched by Ital-ians, Filipinos and other Asians, Africans, Indians, Latin Amer-icans, Arabs, and people from various parts of Europe and around the world! I don’t have to travel all over the world to encounter these wonderful people and their cultures; I find them all here! I pray that this year be filled with blessings and growth for each of us, and that we may become ever more aware of how much that person who is “different” or “other” may be gift

Every year the Church gives us this celebration of the Holy Family on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year. Advent, the season of hope, has given way to Christmas, the season of joy and blessing. We are called not only to rejoice at Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago, but also to rejoice at his coming into our hearts, offering us new life yet again. God challenges me to find Jesus born in weakness and humble surroundings—both in the crib at Bethlehem and in each of our lives. Those words from this weekend’s second reading from the First Letter of John, are so powerful and yet so difficult to grasp: “Beloved: See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now….”

This feast is such an appropriate way to end the calendar year. I am deeply grateful to and for each and every one of you, who have truly become family for me. Even though my weaknesses and sin cause me to forget from time to time, John reminds us that we are all God’s children—which makes us family, sisters and brothers to one another. And you, my sisters and brothers, have been my teachers yet again over these past 12 months, challenging me to grow in love and compassion, in grace and humility.

And as we go from the season of hope to the season of joy and blessing I want to thank Paul Mullins for the work he has done and continues to do to make the restoration of Assumption church a reality. What began as a distant and unlikely hope is quickly turning into joy for many of us! Although we have not yet “arrived”, it seems more and more likely that at one point in the future our parish ministry will be based out of the historic church. As a parish, I think any of us who have been here for a few years have experienced the entire liturgical year, but beginning with Lent: We have each experienced the death that comes with the closing of a church home and a parish. Holy Name of Mary parishioners experienced new life (albeit under the name of Assumption Parish) when we moved to McEwan Ave. We have all been living in hope, and now we experience joy and blessing.

Know that each of you are in my prayer; I thank God for you and ask the newborn Christ Child to fill you each with joy and blessing.

Last year, I had an opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the  Holy Land. While travelling around in our nice, air-conditioned bus, I couldn’t help but take notice of the geography of the land in which Jesus lived. Much of the land is desert, and when we were there, it was hot!  In our nice air-conditioned bus, we could travel from Jerusalem to Galilee in about three hours. In our Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, however, Mary would not have had those luxuries!

That’s part of what makes Mary’s resolve to travel to visit her cousin Elizabeth “in haste” so remarkable. This journey was not one that could be taken lightly. The trip probably would have taken two or three days, either on foot, or riding on the back of a donkey- not an easy task for a young girl who has just found out she is pregnant with the Savior of the World!

And yet, Mary’s willingness to go to her cousin in her hour of need speaks to the importance of relationships in our daily lives. It reminds us that “no person is an island,” and that in order to truly grow and flourish, we need to support and care for others, and also allow others to support and care for us.

To do this requires an investment of our time and resources. We are called to give freely to others, so that we can receive freely in return. Our challenge, as we have mentioned throughout this Advent season, is to remember that we can’t have meaningful relationships with every single person that crosses our path. We are called to discern, with God’s help, which relationships to invest in and cultivate. Ideally, these relationships will bring us joy, just as Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth caused her great Joy!

It is also important to cultivate our relationship with Jesus as well. Especially at this time of year, our hearts can often be like the Town of Bethlehem: There is no room for Jesus at the Inn!  My hope is that as we remember and celebrate the Birth of Christ in history this Christmas, we can all take some time to invite Jesus to dwell in our hearts, and to invest in our  relationship with him, so that we may grow in holiness, and be prepared to meet him when he comes in glory.

On behalf of the entire Parish Staff, Merry Christmas! May you be abundantly blessed by the Lord, who comes to dwell among us.

-Deacon Steven Huber, CSB