Pastor’s Corner

July 8, 2018

As we celebrate our births as independent nations here in North America in this month of July we are reminded of how blessed we are in so many ways especially when close by we see confusion, turmoil, violence and a seeming disregard for the plight of millions. This past World Refugee Day we were reminded that 68.5 million people in the world are forcibly displaced at the moment, that 44,400 people must flee their home every day!  I firmly believe that one of the main reasons is the continued growing disparity between the rich and the poor both internally in our own countries as well as in the world as a whole. That’s not the world which God is creating but man’s inhumanity disregarding a fundamental aspect of our humanity, that of our common solidarity with one another. There will always be rich and poor people but we must work, and work hard in many different ways, to change our attitudes and our political, social and economic structures so that for the common good we narrow the existing gap. It just happens that on Canada Day one of the Scripture Readings reminded us of what we as Christians are asked to do and live. It is Paul who in  2 Corinthians 8: 7-15 writes to an economically comfortable community and makes a pitch for them to share with other less fortunate Christians. He does so by appealing to their faith. He says, “you people have received  abundant gifts through your faith in Christ (elsewhere he names those gifts of healings, of knowledge, of wisdom, of solidarity), well now it is your turn to use your energy and persistence to help others. He bases his appeal on who God is for us (one who shares God self with the whole of creation) and on the gift of Jesus’ self-offering: Jesus “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor so that by his poverty you might become rich….in what lasts, the divine gift of grace!” So, Paul encourages the Corinthians and, of course, all of us to follow Jesus’ example and share from their and our abundance. To be called Christians, that is Christ-like, we must not just believe in Jesus but we must also act and live like Jesus in all our relationships. In fact Paul reminds us that our faith community here in Saanich Peninsula Parish is not an independent, isolated community that practices our faith among our own, in a kind of ghetto environment. The blood of Christ unites us all and we cannot ignore the needs of our sisters and brothers, the common good, even in a world which is so often centered on self, personal and communal self. We cannot ignore the common good! That’s the reason we are a church united with the whole Church; that’s the reason we are united with the rest of the Diocese, with the people living and dying on our city streets, with the people struggling in Eritrea & South Sudan, with the people in Pasobolong, Zamboanga City, with the people in Timor Leste. But Paul also reminds us that giving and sharing isn’t a one-way street; the poor & oppressed, the disenfranchised have an abundance to share with us: hospitality, family values, hard work and self-sacrifice, joy and happiness and satisfaction with few possessions, and especially with faith in God. As Paul says: “it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.” Let us remember the reports we receive from time to time from our many ministries in the Parish: from a person who found new hope at  Anawim, from the joy and peace shared accompanying the sick and the dying, from serving soup or welcoming strangers with a smile, from the outreach to the poor by sharing with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, etc.  In the Gospel of Mark 5:21-43 Jesus restores a socially and religiously outcast woman to the family of God’s people by touching and healing her; Jesus out of compassion gives life to a dead child and makes the family whole again. Each Sunday we come together to touch and be touched by Christ who reaches out a hand to raise us up. Despite our failings we know that we are healed by a merciful God and truly blessed with forgiveness and peace. And as Easter people of hope we in turn are asked to reach out and touch those who are wounded, outcasts and outsiders and to be touched by them in return. In that way God makes us all whole again as persons and as a community. Thanks be to God. Have a great summer!

Summer 2018

June 17, 2018

Soon school is out, graduation celebrations are or have taken place, and summer time is with us, a time in which we are hopefully more relaxed, enjoying the good weather, the beauty of God’s creation around us, visits from family and friends, outdoor picnics and games, and especially each other’s company. It is a special time in which we celebrate and strengthen the fact of living in community, a community of faith.  Your Parish Council has tried over the years to put a face to that community life here in Saanich Peninsula Parish, always in collaboration with other entities. Groups such as the Catholic Women’s League, Knights of Columbus, Samahan Fellowship, Friendly Hours, Religious Education, St. Vincent de Paul, Development and Peace, El Shaddai, Hanti Sedra, Pasobolong, Taiji Qigong, the music groups, the visiting the sick groups, various liturgy and worship, prayer groups, etc., they all organize events so as to bring the community together in celebrations, to strengthen the bonds of faith and love between us. That is why we see all these as ministries rooted in Jesus, in which we try to live concretely the message of the Gospel, to share our faith, care and compassion and thereby become the living, visible presence of God’s love and care, of God’s justice and compassion.   Sometimes these groups do this on their own. More and more the need is to do so in collaboration with others, to include others in whatever is being organized so that other members of the community can also contribute to the success of an event. People do not necessarily want to belong to a specific group but they do wish and are only too happy to contribute to the life of the community. We need to give people that opportunity, that grace, by including them. I again call upon all the various ministries in our Parish to see how they can reach out to others. We all know that the best way is to personally ask someone to become involved, to personally approach a person to welcome them to the parish as a visitor or as a new member, to invite them to stay for coffee, tea and cookies!!  Journeying in life is like the pilgrimages of old (just think of journeys to the Holy Land, to Canterbury, Lourdes Compostella, etc.): we do so with others, praying as we go, supporting one another as we face the challenges on the way. Our caring and reaching out need to go beyond our inner circle of family, friends or organized group and include all people, and especially those who are on the fringes or those who think they have nothing to offer but need an opportunity to do so. All too often we, and I include myself as pastor, we do not do enough to reach out, to be that discreet presence which may bring a person to find the joy and peace of ministering to others.  The summer is a good time for us for some reflection and self-examination, for discernment, for a new start, for new beginnings. Maybe enjoy a book from our Parish library; there is something for everyone there. Or take a favorite Bible story or the Scripture readings of the week or of the Sunday and meditate on them to discern in what way we are called to respond. Let us not be like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (remember the prodigal son who despite his failings, sins, betrayals, is welcomed back with open arms by his parents and most of his family in Luke 15:11-32), watching from the outside the circle of warmth and community open to him. Or take the story of the Emmaus disciples (Luke 24: 13-35) who little by little rediscover the richness of their tradition and the promises fulfilled in Jesus and the Gospel handed over to them to proclaim. Luke 10: 38-42 tells us not to be distracted by our many tasks but to take the time to be at the Lord’s feet, to be open to his presence, listening. Jesus himself knew the importance of silence and prayer. Luke 11: 1-13 shows Jesus connecting with God in prayer in order to find guidance and strength for his mission.  A true disciple must nurture that personal relationship with God which is like that of a parent with a son or daughter, like that of two spouses with each other, like that of a daughter or son with a parent, like that of an individual member with his/her faith community. Let us also help our children, as well as ourselves, during this summer time to abandon from time to time whatever gadget or plaything that captivates them/us and to reconnect to silence and listening, to awe and wonder, to gratitude and sharing. Have a great nurturing and replenishing summer. Shalom.  Fr. Rolf, OP 

“Money must serve, not rule!”

May 27, 2018

In the present world our everyday lives are heavily influenced by economic and financial decisions and happenings. Ever since the 19th century several Popes have written a number of Encyclicals touching on these; Pope Francis has not shied away from doing so, just read his Encyclical Laudato Si. Well, on May 17th last the Vatican published a 36 page document on the economy and finance entitled  “Oeconomicae et Pecuniariae Quaestiones” or “Considerations for an Ethical Discernment on Certain Aspects of the Present Economic and Financial System.”  You will find the entire text at: info@zenit.org The Document reiterates what Popes have said over and over again: that all economic and financial systems and structures to be legitimate must be at the service of humanity and that they must promote integral human development (“what truly humanizes man”) for all people and peoples and for every human community in the world. To be truly legitimate economic and financial systems must thrive not only through the quantitative development of exchange but even more by promoting the development of the entire person and of every person. Since pope Francis there is now within the Vatican governing structures a Dicastery for the Service of Integral Development with Cardinal Peter Turkson as its Prefect. In the introduction of the document we read: “What is needed, on the one hand, is an appropriate regulation of the dynamics of the markets, and on the other hand, a clear ethical foundation that assures a well-being realized through the quality of human relationships rather than merely through economic mechanisms that by themselves cannot attain it. This ethical foundation needs to inform a range of persons but especially those working in the fields of economy and finance. In this situation a synthesis of technical knowledge and human wisdom is essential. Without such synthesis, every human activity tends to deteriorate. But where it exists, it can foster progress towards the integral and concrete well-being of the human person, what truly humanizes man … (and later) the well-being of every person, of every human community, and of all people, which is the ultimate horizon of the common good that the Church …seeks to advance.” The document which is addressed to all men and women of good will reminds us that “with a view towards the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life … because there can be no area of human action that legitimately claims to be either outside of or impermeable to ethical principles based on liberty, truth, justice and solidarity.”  It is all too evident in what we are living today at all levels that the common good is often not at the center of our discussions and decisions. The document deplores “a profound amoral culture within which one doesn’t hesitate very often to commit offenses when the foreseen advantages outweigh the fixed penalties” and it criticizes the “morally unacceptable situations, the ethical violations, the “economic cannibalism,” and egoism. The document gives the concrete example of the recent financial crisis which should have “provided the occasion to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and a new regulation of financial activities that would neutralize predatory and speculative tendencies and acknowledge the value of the actual economy. Although there have been many positive efforts at various levels which should be recognized and appreciated, there does not seem to be any inclination to rethink the obsolete criteria that continue to govern the world. On the contrary, the response seems at times like a return to the eights of myopic egoism, limited by an inadequate framework that, excluding the common, also excludes from its horizons the concern to create and spread wealth, and to eliminate the inequality so pronounced today. At stake is the authentic well-being of a majority of the men and women of our planet who are at risk of being “excluded and marginalized” from the development and true well-being while a minority, indifferent to the condition of the majority, exploits and reserves for itself substantial resources and wealth. Therefore, it is time to initiate the recovery of what is authentically human, to expand the horizons of minds and hearts, to recognize faithfully the exigencies of the true and the good without which no social, political and economic system could avoid bankruptcy, failure and , in the long term, collapse. Selfishness, in the end, does not pay while it makes everyone pay a high price; hence, if we want the real well-being of humanity, “Money must serve, not rule!”  The document also shows appreciation for business and financial professionals and institutions and expresses hope for their positive impact to help others. It calls for sustainable policies and perspectives far beyond the short term in the regulation of markets, speculation, credit, consumption, savings, fiscal system, offshore sites, public debt, and the banking system. It calls for “the creation of ethical committees within banks”, for “a minimum tax on the transactions accomplished offshore… to resolve a great part of the problem of hunger in the world.” It pleads for regulations, for financial transparency and invites each one “as sentinels, to watch over genuine life and to make ourselves catalysts of a new social behavior, shaping our actions to the search for the common good, and establishing it on the sound principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”  “In front of the massiveness and pervasiveness of today’s economic-financial systems, we could be tempted to abandon ourselves to cynicism, and to think that with our poor forces we can do very little. In reality every one of us can do so much, especially if one does not remain alone.” May the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us all guide us and encourage us. Shalom.