February 20, 2021
Good morning everyone.
It was a great pleasure to welcome everyone back to church on Wednesday for Mass and the sprinkling of ashes. I was not sure how it was going to unfold and was pleasantly surprised to be profoundly moved by the experience. Sometimes, I think we are so used to doing things a certain way, and when we experience it anew in a new form, its meaning leaps back at us. There was something very intimate in watching parishioners bow their heads and receive the tiny grains on the crown of their head where the Chrism at baptism is received. All of us together in humility remembering that we are on a journey to the Lord. Placing ourselves under the merciful care of our Lord, we begin the Lenten season to take stock, re-focus and be rid of the clutter and distractions that take us from the tasks that this journey demands. Lynette and I joined the schools virtually for their celebrations later in the morning. They were prayerful and presented very well the inner spiritual journey of Lent and the outward call to bring compassion and kindness. St. Vincent students are embarking on a Lenten project of writing to seniors in retirement and nursing facilities. St. Luke students and staff are embarking on a food drive for our friends at the Good Shepherd Centre. At St. Thomas Aquinas, Adrianna, the chaplain and I pre-recorded a service and began a conversation for staff and students about taking time to listen for the still small voice of the Lord during Lent. This will be a weekly event until Holy Week which I am looking forward to.
Parents who are looking for something to use on Sunday with their children to explore the season of Lent as a familywill find this Salt and Light TV series for children useful. Each episode is built around the gospel for Sunday. I’ve had the opportunity to watch the first episode and found it to be very informative and child friendly. The music is very good as well. It can be found here (scroll down to the bottom of the page to the link for the first episode) https://slmedia.org/programs/yeslord Our children are well taken care of and we are so grateful for the creativity of the principals and staff and the work they do with joy.
For all of us at Saint Andrew’s, this weekend is very special as we finally begin the One Heart, One Soul Campaign. I hope that you have received a card inviting you to a dedicated website where you can view the videos from the diocese and parish which explain the campaign and our parish goals for it. If you have not received it yet, here is the link: https://www.oneheartonesoul.ca/standrewoakville Over the next few weeks you will be hearing more about the campaign and receiving the complete package with all of the information in the mail.
This weekend, we also begin our Lenten reading series with the first of six articles by Fr. Ron Rolheiser OMI. Each is chosen to focus on the goal of Lent which is to lead us to a deeper encounter with Jesus and the paschal mystery as we experience it during Holy Week. In it he introduces us to the idea of liminal time or space, the time and space between. I especially like his reference to Job and the fact that, old, middle age or young, Gethsemane awaits all of us. You might well ask, why, in the midst of all that is happening around us, do we begin with Gethsemane? The answer may well be in the beautiful last paragraph. Sit with it for a while. Give it space and time. Part one of this series is attached.
Pope Francis, following a tradition of each of his predecessors, has written a beautiful letter for Lent this year. In it, he also draws our attention to Holy Week and Easter and writes: “In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who ‘humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the ‘living water’ of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.” The full text follows. We gave everyone attending Mass on Wednesday a card with suggestions for fasting from Pope Francis. It is also attached. You may recognise elements of it in the penitential rite that we use at the beginning of Mass for the Sundays of Lent.
The Word on Fire program with Bishop Barron will begin a new series today that will look at the Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues. If you do not receive the email with the link to the program, please contact Tony Cestra at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will add you to the list. The first of two versions of the Stations of the Cross are now on our website at https://www.standrewoakville.com/live-stream/ The Video Series for Lent 2021 from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops with Bishop Gerard Bergie and Archbishop Marcel Damphousse offers reflections on the Sunday readings for Lent and is available for the week beginning on Monday. The link is here: https://www.cccb.ca/evangelization-catechesis-catholic-education/video-resources/journey-through-lent/
As people trickled into church for Mass on Wednesday, they seemed to happily adjusted to the new steps that are in place. The seating plan is new and the ushers will ask for your name and telephone number and assign you to a numbered seat in the church. (Please remain in that seat during Mass). The seat in front and behind is left empty. Parishioners who are at Mass on their own will be asked to sit at the end of a designated pew which will have the required two-meter distance between the person at the other end. You will notice questions similar to what is asked before you enter any office or store at the entrance to the church. Please follow the instructions carefully. Again, if we pull together, all will be well. Regular weekday Mass will resume on Tuesday at 12.05 and continue on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 9.00 am. Thursday remains a day for those who wish to drop by for a visit from 9.00 am until 2.00 pm.
The Knights of Columbus make an appeal each year for new members. The organization was founded by Blessed Father Michael J McGivney in 1882 to provide for the needs of its members and their families, parishes and their community. In Oakville the Marian Council has been providing charitable works for its members and Oakville parishes, the Oakville community and the world since 1954. They are a large council and are always seeking to increase their membership so that they can continue their good works for many years. All the men in the parish, 18 years and older are invited to join and this year until June 30th, you can join online for free by going to this website
https://www.knights.net/en/index.html and entering the promo code MARODRIGUEZ.
Many of us were very surprised that the assisted dying bill before the Senate was approved so quickly and by so many on Wednesday. The amendments to the original government bill approved by the senate go back to parliament again for another vote. If it they are approved, there is much speculation that we are in for many years of legal back and forth with the courts on the issue. I highly recommend that you watch this intervention by Senator Denise Batters from Saskatchewan. Thirteen minutes long but well worth it for her clear arguments and caution that “you have put in motion a runaway train, and the consequences will be dire.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7empfv36HM&feature=youtu.be
Mass will continue to be recorded on Saturday evening and is available online later on Saturday evening and all day on Sunday. It is found here: https://www.standrewoakville.com/sunday-masses-online/ Mass is no longer live streamed on Wednesday at 5.00 pm.
Finally, a time to pause. I tweeted this beautiful recording of Psalm 51 on Wednesday afternoon. (Miserere Mei Deus, composed around 1630 by Allegri) It is ten minutes of bliss. Take a pause this weekend and allow the haunting music and gentle words of mercy to sooth and comfort you during these sacred days of Lent. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcWo1hKHu40&feature=youtu.be
Gethsemane As Liminal Space
By: Fr. Ron Rolheiser OMI
There’s never a good time to die, to bid final good-byes, to lose health, to have a heart attack, to be diagnosed with terminal cancer, to lose friends, to be betrayed, to be misunderstood, to lose everything, to be humiliated, to have to face death and its indescribable loneliness. That’s why there’s a powerful resistance inside us towards these things.
We can take consolation in knowing that this was the case too for Jesus. He didn’t face these things either without fear, trembling, and the desire to escape. In the Garden of Gethsemane “he sweated blood” as he tried to make peace with his own loss of earthly life.
The Garden of Gethsemane is, among other things, “liminal space”. What is this? Anthropologists use that expression to refer to special times in our lives when our normal situation is so uprooted so that it is possible precisely to plant new roots and take up life in a whole new way. That’s usually brought about by a major crisis, one that shakes us in the very roots of our being. Gethsemane was that for Jesus.
It’s significant that Jesus didn’t go straight from the last supper room to his crucifixion. He first spent some time readying himself. What’s incredible in his story is that he had only one hour within which to do this inner work.
Imagine this scene: You’re relatively young, healthy, and active. You’ve just enjoyed a festive dinner with close friends, complete with a couple of glasses of wine. You step out of the dining room late at night and you now have one hour to ready yourself to die, one hour to say your final good-byes, to let go, to make peace with death. Sweating blood might be a mild term to describe your inner turmoil. This would surely be an intense hour.
And so it was for Jesus. That’s why his liminal time is often called his “agony in the garden” (an apt term to describe real “liminal space”.) What’s interesting too is what scripture highlights in his suffering in Gethsemane. As we know, it never emphasizes his physical sufferings (which must have been pretty horrific). Instead it emphasizes his emotional crucifixion, the fact that he is betrayed, misunderstood, alone, morally lonely, the greatest lover in the world, with God alone as his soul mate.
And what’s burning up his heart and soul in Gethsemane? Jesus, himself, expresses it in these words: “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me!” His resistance was to the necessity of it. Why death and humiliation? Couldn’t there be some other way? Couldn’t new life somehow occur without, first, dying?
In the Garden, Jesus comes to realize and accept that there isn’t any other way, that there’s a necessary connection between a certain kind of suffering, a certain letting go, a certain humiliation, and the very possibility of coming to new life.
Why that necessity? What do we ultimately sweat blood over? Perhaps Job put it best: “Naked I came into this world and naked I leave it again.” We are born alone, without possessing anything: clothing, a language, the capacity to take care of ourselves, achievements, trophies, degrees, security, a family, a spouse, a friend, a reputation, a job, a house, a soul mate. When we exit the planet, we will be like that again, alone and naked. But it’s precisely that nakedness, helplessness, and vulnerability that makes for liminal space, space within which God can give us something new, beyond what we already have.
There are times when we sense this, sense its necessity, and sense too that one day, perhaps soon, we will, like Jesus in the Garden, have to make peace with the fact that we are soon to exit this life, alone, but for our hope in God. That’s Gethsemane, the place and the experience.
Our own prayer there, I suspect, will be less about necessity than about timing: “Lord, let this cup be delayed! Not yet! I know it’s inevitable, but just give me more time, more years, more experience, more life first!”
To feel that way is understandable and, if we’re young, even a sign of health. Nobody should want to die or want to give up the good things of this life. But Gethsemane awaits us all. Most of us, however, will not enter this garden of liminal space voluntarily, as did Jesus (“Nobody takes my life, I give it up freely!”). Most of us will enter it by conscription, but just as really, on that day when a doctor tells us we have terminal cancer or we suffer a heart attack or something else irretrievably and forever alters our lives.
When that does happen, and it will happen one way or the other to all of us, it’s helpful to know that we’re in liminal space, inside a new womb, undergoing a new gestation, waiting for new birth – and that it’s okay to sweat a little blood, ask God some questions, and feel resistance in every cell of our being.
(Part one of a six part series for Lent 2014)
Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.