The God who sends

  New Year’s Homily,2016

Cathedral Chapel, Roseau

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. It is also designated by the Church as the World Day of Peace. It is New Year’s Day.

I would like to invite you on this special day, amidst its three-fold designation, to reflect with me on the theme: The God who sends. The basis of my reflection is today’s Second Reading in which Paul writes: “When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted sons” (Gal.4:4-5). Here we are presented the purpose of the Incarnation: God sending his Son to be born of human stock in order to carry out his work of redemption, and so, enable us to become adopted children. This redemptive action by our God is in effect a belonging process – a process of becoming his sons and daughters. What a privilege we have!

The text continues by stating: “The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts: The Spirit that cries, “Abba, Father”, and it is this that makes you a son … and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir” (Gal.4:6-7). Here we have it. What more could God do for us, except to make us heirs—persons with the power of inheritance. Have you ever given thought to the fact that heaven is where you belong; that you are heir to God’s kingdom? I know it is a mind-boggling idea for creatures such as we are.

Brothers and sisters, this text is more profound than we can imagine or fathom. It presents God as the one who sends: a God who commissions; a God who spurs people into action for the greater human good. In that way, today can be coined as the Universal Day of Christian Commissioning. By this, I mean that, for us Christians, it represents the call to enter the realm of God’s missionary agenda. Truly, our God is one who sends!

The Holy Scriptures attest to the fact that God sent his Son Jesus, so that, after his followers had imbibed his message, they would in turn be sent themselves. The whole church is one which is sent; it is a Church on mission. It is by its very nature, missionary. In the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus, before parting with his apostles, saying to them: “Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” (Mat.28:19-20). However, one of the biggest challenges we face as Church today, is that, many of us believe that only a few people are sent. In fact, our Baptism primarily, and all the other sacraments, secondarily, are various ways by which we are commissioned to carry out the divine plan to renew the face of the earth. What do I mean by that?

Of what significance, for example, is our baptism? It is a call to live a holy life in this world to prepare ourselves for the Kingdom. So, our entire life is itself the living of our baptism. Any form of sin, is failure to live up to our baptismal promises. Therefore, it is less a question of how we were baptized, or the amount of water which was used. It is rather more a question of the quality of life that ensues as a consequence of those signs at the initial sacramental encounter.

Another important example, on which the human family depends, is marriage. How is it a missionary mandate for those who commit themselves to each other in holy matrimony? God has provided this important structure for faithful conjugal life and the proper raising of children with kingdom values. The family union is meant to enhance the proper formation of the young and to guard them from the dangers of the world and all its cravings. You and I know that in our culture today, this structure is not a perfect one. Ours is the responsibility to continue the struggle, with the help of God, to perfect it. Husbands and wives, are you aware that you are called to mission in your family? To what extent are you a missionary disciple in your home?  Is your home really a Domestic Church?

The same can be said of those who take Holy Orders: deacons, priests and bishops. We too, by our ministry, are called to faithful and selfless service to the kingdom, and to be models of righteousness to Christ’s flock. We can also apply the principle to all confirmed Christians who are essentially called to witness to their faith; and those who are called to commune at the Lord’s Table, sustaining themselves for the long journey. Paul’s analogy of the body, in his Letter to the Corinthians (1Cor.12:12-30), is very useful in helping us understand the indispensable role of each Christian in the divine arrangement. In short, it reminds us that together, we are the body of Christ, and as separate parts, by our gifts and shortcomings, we affect each other both positively and negatively.

New Year’s Day, therefore, should be a day of recommitment to our particular missionary task. We often speak of New Year’s resolutions. They can be viewed as the practical measures which we take to carry out our individual missionary tasks. These are in themselves indications that we do not have it altogether. We are often so overwhelmed by our shortcomings that we narrow down those resolutions to manageable and achievable goals. However, more often than not we limit our potential, and we measure ourselves lower than we really are. That may not always be a bad thing if it is out of our humility before God.

However, as Christians, we must begin to see ourselves as persons who are sent; sent by God on mission. Pope Francis reminds us that we are missionary disciples. A Christian is not simply a receiver; he/she is more of a giver. I guarantee you, brothers and sisters, that if we were better givers, the Church as whole, would never be in want. I am always reminded of the words of the saintly Mahatma Gandhi who said: “There is enough food in the world to satisfy human need, but there is not enough to satisfy human greed.”  Sometimes, and maybe too often, we are too stingy with God and with ourselves. Our Church should be doing much better than it is doing presently. See the number of you assembled here this morning. Imagine all these gifts being harnessed for the collective good of the Body of Christ. It is absolutely important that every Christian gets involved in the well-being of the Church, otherwise it becomes more of a gas-station where we come to fill up our spiritual tanks until the next moment of exhaustion. Everyone can and needs to get involved in the Church in order to make it what it ought to be. On a practical level, for example, we should not be short of musicians for the Church in a country such as ours; our choirs should be bursting at the seams, altar servers should be more plentiful because parents teach their children the value of service from a tender age; visitations to the hospitals and homes, especially those of the poor and underprivileged, should be abounding. No catholic should have to leave the Church because they feel uncared for by their members. We need to build a believing community which cares. Our God is a God who sends. Everyone is sent to do something for God!

This missionary thrust of today’s liturgy is also present in the Gospel text. The evangelist Luke tells us: “When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception” (Lk.2:21). The name Jesus is a missionary name – it means Yashua – Saviour. Jesus was sent by God to make salvation possible for all of humanity. Today we refer to ourselves as Christians—meaning that, we are Christ bearers—Christophers; people who, by baptism have put on Christ. By this very fact, therefore, ours also is a salvific mission. In the context of today, we should all ask ourselves: What am I doing to help save the world? Does my present lifestyle help to edify others: my spouse and children, my neighbours and co-workers, my Church community and country? What specifically am I doing to renew the face of the earth?

I am certain, my dear friends, that there are some who are already so deeply involved in the Church that they never think of themselves as doing anything extraordinary. They simply see it as their duty. But, I am also certain that there are many who are not pulling their weight, and consequently, the body of Christ, the Church, suffers. And mind you, it is that group of persons who complain most about the short-comings of the Church. Let us, today, ask ourselves: Am I responsible for the suffering of the body of Christ? The answer my friends must come from within, and that answer has implications for every aspect of Church life.

Within the last year, we have instituted in the Diocese, various missionary groups, through which the faithful members of all ages can be more involved. They are part of the missionary thrust of the Church universal under the umbrella of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

The goal of the Pontifical Mission Societies is to foster a universal missionary spirit among the people of God. For the children, up to the age of 14 years, there is the Missionary Childhood Association, with its motto, “Children Helping Children.” Children from the St. Ann’s Day Care, all our Catholic Pre-Schools, Catholic Primary Schools and Parishes are involved in praying for and supporting children here and throughout the world.

For those 15 to 19 years old, there is the St. Peter the Apostle Society. Part of their mission is to empower other youth and pray daily for seminarians and young men and women in formation for the priesthood and religious life.

The Young Adults on Mission are currently registering young men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 years. They will empower and pray for all young adults and engage in missionary work in our Diocese and beyond.

For the empowerment of family life, there are the Men on Mission, Women on Mission and Couples on Mission Societies. Among other activities, members pray daily for family life. Two of these societies were commissioned during liturgical celebrations recently.

More than one hundred Catholic teachers throughout the Diocese are members of the Catholic Teachers’ Prayer Network. Members pray daily for Catholic and other teachers here and throughout the world and are expected to visit retired and ailing teachers in their various communities.

Approximately 450 men and women from every Parish Church and Chapel community of the Diocese, are members of the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious Prayer Network. They pray daily for priests and religious brothers and sisters throughout the world among other spiritual activities.

For the sick, elderly and house-bound, there is the Pillars of Love Prayer Group. Members offer their suffering for the success of the work of evangelization in the Church. You are all invited to share the mission of any of these groups. They are open to all.

Currently, we have a vibrant group of young people who took the initiative to form the Hospitality Committee of the Cathedral Chapel. They established a trained group of ushers, so that the faithful will feel welcome when they walk through the doors of our Church. These groups are not designed to replace the good works of St. Vincent de Paul Society or the Legion of Mary, or any other which already exists.  Everyone, every group has a particular mission for the common good—for the good of the Church.

The work of the Church is never ending. There is place for all in the body of Christ. We need people to work with married couples who are struggling in their relationships; we need adult mentors and guides for our youth; they need our protection from the abuses that are so rampant in our society today. We need more catechists, persons who are properly formed to teach the faith. We need parents who can pass on the faith to their children, those who do not simply leave it up to the church to educate their children, but rather take personal interest in their faith formation. Just incidentally, as a Diocese, we are in the process of reviewing our catechetical programme to include adults and parents in the formation of the young. We need good teachers in our schools who can pass on the Catholic faith to our young; we need more people with a vocational mindset.

Our God is truly a God who sends. Everyone is sent to do something good for the world. We all dream of that world where peace will abound. The commissioning of today, the World Day of Peace, is to do just that. However, it is not going to happen if you are not part of it. Everyone likes to be part of a success story. What will you contribute to make the Church—your Church, a success story?

At Christmas, we celebrated Jesus as the God who came; today we are celebrating him as one who is sent so that we too might be sent. Brother and sisters, if we can imitate Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, and play our part in this salvific process, we can truly have a little heaven down here. Everyone will be happy and everyone will be at peace.

Song:

The time to be happy is now

The place to be happy is here

And the way to be happy is to make others happy

And we’ll have a little heaven down here

 

And so, in God’s word to Moses, I pray that:

The Lord will bless you and keep you

That the Lord will let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you

That the Lord will uncover his face to you and bring you peace!

 

Peace to your heart, peace to your home, peace to your Church community, peace to      our nation and peace to the world!

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The Challenge of Christmas

Christmas Midnight Mass 2016

OLOFH Cathedral Chapel , Roseau

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, over the many years of Christian history, Christmas has become so common-place in our thought and practice, that we sometimes lose sight of its purpose. I wish to begin my sharing today by affirming that this unique festivity represents everything that humanity should strive for. I say this on the basis of St. Paul’s pronouncement to the Roman community when he states: “What proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8). This same text, of course, can be applied to his birth, which we celebrate today in grand style.

In the midst of all our celebration, when the dust settles, and we allow ourselves to reflect just a little on what we are doing, we come to the realization that ours is an invitation to happiness. All aspects of this celebration, from one culture to another, demonstrate the fact that deep down in the human psyche is the desire for happiness. Do you desire happiness? In what ways are you searching for it?

As weak human beings, we sometimes seek after that happiness in ways which are less than constructive, or even downright destructive. Nevertheless, the desire of every human heart is the attainment of that experience of wellbeing. It is for this reason that I choose as the subject on which I invite you to reflect with me: The Challenge of Christmas. Let us therefore explore its contents.

The first challenge posed by the reality of the nativity of the Christ-Child is its simplicity. In his attempt to make salvation possible for us, how much simpler could God become, except to be born as a feeble human being like ourselves? It is not because we deserved such abasement on God’s part, but rather, it was the only means by which we could come to that complete divine encounter. This is testimony to the fact that our God is not one who remains in the heavens to remotely look upon us with pity. His is one of total identification; one who was capable of pain and rejection; one who experienced hunger and thirst like us; one who was able to love and be loved.

Every aspect of Jesus’ life is a lesson. They challenge us to measure ourselves against perfection. The absolute simplicity which surrounds the birth of our Blessed Lord is testimony to our vocation to simplicity. You and I know that sin in all its forms, be it greed or selfishness, hatred or impurity in its varied forms, self-destruction or lies, are the conditions that rob us of the innocence which the birth of Christ came to provoke in us. In fact, all the sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Sacraments of the Sick, Holy Order and Matrimony, which are essentially divine invitations to live the mystery of Jesus in the world, are the constant calls to a simple love-affair with God, so to speak. Unfortunately, we complicate it with our sins. Today, in the simplest way possible, through the birth of the Christ-Child, God is saying to us, it does not have to be so. We do not have to continue in our sins! That we can live forevermore because of Christmas day!

The second attribute of Christmas, which can be for our generation a challenge, is its ability to communicate absolute joy. It is not without reason that the angel greeted the shepherds with these words: “Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people” (Lk. 2:10). Joy is an indispensable divine gift for those who are destined for salvation. In our culture, the very thought of Christmas, lights up the faces of many people. The carolling and the gift-sharing, the decorations and the delicacies, the home-coming and home visitations, especially to the weaker ones of our community, the Advent preparation, all the liturgical celebrations associated with the season, and so many other things, spice up the lives of many around this time. But these are only symbols of the real thing – only glimpses of the great divine encounter to which we are called.

Thoughts of our divine destiny are always associated with the experience of joy. The question for us is, from the inspirations engendered by this festivity, how can we dispose our lives in such ways that we generate joy for others and consequently for ourselves? There lies the challenge. You will agree with me that the world in which we live, it seems, is more disposed to the creation of sadness rather than being a producer of joy. There are so many sad and long-faced people in our world. There are troubles and trials in all circumstances of life, so many people are living on the brink of despair and hopelessness; wars loom between peoples and nations; divisions exist domestically, politically and otherwise. Christmas, therefore, is the one event in history which happened precisely to cut through these potentially harmful aspects of the human condition. Here, I reiterate the words of St. Paul alluded to earlier: “What proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8). Christmas came about while the world was still in turmoil—when it needed a Saviour. Therefore, the repeated celebration of this event is indicative of what God wants to continue to do for us until the consummation of the world. Our God does not give up!

The disposition which is required of us to help quicken the process while still on earth, is found in today’s Second Reading, in which St. Paul writes to Titus. He advises thus: “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus” (Tit. 2:1-13). This is the fulfillment of Christmas. All our festivities should be a reflection of our desire to attain this level of Christian-encounter. Our celebration of the Christ-birth must be aimed at fulfilling that requirement.

Efforts at living good and religious lives contribute to the happiness we desire and enable us to experience and share the peace and the joy of the Lord. How ready are you, dear friends, to live in the Lord? The challenge is ours today!

Christmas challenges and warns us to save ourselves from the pursuit of fleeting joys. In many ways, this is reflected in the secularization of the festivity to the detriment of its religious purpose. Isn’t it odd that the very day on which the Church celebrates its salvation, that the numbers at worship are less because many people are still preparing for what satisfies the senses? Some avoid coming to the Mass because they are too tired from all the physical preparations. Therefore, the meaning and purpose of the very event for which we are preparing unfortunately eludes us. And then we are the poorer spiritually on January 1st and the rest of the coming year. Christmas, dear friends, challenges us to seek after the things that last.

This takes us to the third challenge, and that is, the call to greatness and the fullness of life. During his ministry on earth, reminding his followers of the purpose for his coming, Jesus said to them: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). This is what, God in Christ, came to do for us – to make us great. However, it is very important to note the method he chose to do so. He came as a baby, starting small, going through the pains of growth, facing all the challenges that a tainted world offers and coming out victorious. The Jesus-method is no less than a model for human development. It follows the natural rhythm of life. It is a challenge to our modern age because even some versions of Christianity sometimes seek to jump the loops of natural development into quick-fixes for the many problems of our time.

This is especially so because our present age is very impatient with incremental growth. Our children are no longer allowed to be children, as the calypso of Tasha P reminds us. In more traditional societies there is the rite of passage to every stage of human development. Today, for us, it seems like we move suddenly from infancy to adulthood. It is not surprising that many of our adults today are psychologically and emotionally unprepared to carry out their roles in life. Such situations only produce a sense of false-ripeness in our people. My dear friends, our Blessed Lord came as a baby to teach us how to grow into greatness—into a greater awareness of God. Yes, indeed, to teach us to grow!

Today we want things to just happen. We all want our answers immediately. Unfortunately, this is how we see and treat God too. He is often seen as the big man who sits there with the great magic wand to satisfy our every need, perceived and real, instantly.

In modern times, Churches are becoming like fast-foods joints and religion as an optional extra. The Church is no longer the place where people learn to grow spiritually, from infancy, to youthfulness and to adulthood. Religion is less and less the structure that creates for the faithful a living tradition that gives them a foundation on which they can build. It is becoming more of an option for the highest bidder, when we consider the fluidity of movement among Christian Churches. Our society is filled with a sense of restlessness.

The truth is, dear friends, Christmas is designed to cut through all the potential negativities that surround us. It is designed to right whatever is wrong in our world. Christmas is always a glimmer of hope in a hopeless world. It is so because even the poorest of the poor can enjoy this moment. Even the tiniest baby knows that something is different when Christmas comes around. Christmas is everything that can bring us the peace that every heart longs for. Christmas is Christ! Christmas is salvation.

It is only because of Christmas that the words of Isaiah can come true: “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light, on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone” (Is. 9:1). And the Gospel crowns it with the word: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11). Believe it or not, brothers and sisters, this is what has happened today. It is meant to be the impetus for all our Christian life. This is why we celebrate – this is why we make merry and have a good time, not simply to fill our bellies, but rather, because we are on the way to eternity – we are on the way to salvation. Let us not disappoint our God. Let us resolve to stay on that journey with him. Today is Christmas!

A Blessed one to you and your family! Amen!!

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Solemnity of Christ the King

Solemnity of Christ the King

Closing of Extraordinary Year of Mercy

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Homily

My dear sisters and brothers in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the Universal King. It coincides with the closing of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. You will recall that the Jubilee Year opened on December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is not without reason that the Holy Father used those two major feasts on the Catholic calendar to usher in and to bring to a climax this Extraordinary moment of grace for the Church.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of humanity. ‘After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave us alone in the struggle with evil. So, he turned his gaze on our Blessed Lady, who was holy and immaculate in love’ (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the mother of our Redeemer.’[1]

Today’s celebration, the Solemnity of the kingship of Jesus, on which we seal the Holy Door of Mercy, we approach with a deep sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to God for having granted us this extraordinary time of grace. It presents us the opportunity to entrust the life of the Church, all of humanity, and the entire universe to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future.[2] It is my hope that through this year’s experience, we are all in some way more steeped in God’s mercy, so we can go out to every person, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God. I wish to commend all the various groups, parish and otherwise, that made pilgrimages to the four Churches in the Diocese where the Holy Door was instituted. It indicates that you took seriously the Holy Father’s invitation.

The scripture readings for today’s feast[3] help us to deepen our reflection on the significance of Christ’s Kingship, as it relates to his mercy towards humanity. The Gospel text (Lk 23:35-43), for example, with which we are all familiar, places us in the context of Good Friday – a scene that is filled with pain, sorrow, despondency and disappointment. However, it is within these apparently negative sentiments that God’s greatest act of liberation is exercised; in this apparently repulsive situation is found God’s greatest act of mercy – the death of God for human salvation. The story also tells us of the immediacy of God’s forgiveness in the face of a human act of contrition.

It is therefore worthwhile to replay in our minds the scenario and in so doing visualize the action of God in the face of Jesus’ sharing in the punishment deserving of criminals. The text reveals to us that ‘the people stayed there before the Cross, watching Jesus. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. The soldiers mocked him too, and offered him vinegar to drink. Then the two criminals on each side of Jesus, having been justly condemned to death, had different views about the crucified Jesus. Only one of the two had things right. The first, like the rest of the onlookers, abused Jesus: “Are you not the Christ?” he said. “Save yourself and us as well.”  But the other rebuked him, saying: “Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case, we deserve it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” So, in perfect contrition, he pleaded with Jesus: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The punchline, therefore, lies in the immediacy of God’s forgiveness and the transformation of this criminal from sinner to saint: “Indeed, I promise you,” Jesus replied, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Cf. Lk 23:39-43). What a privilege! What a great God we have!

Dear friends, this is exactly how God treats his sons and daughters who come to him with that disposition, no matter how heavy the sin is. This is precisely what we celebrate today – the victory of Jesus over sin. The invitation, therefore, is for his victory to become our victory.

The two thieves on the Cross, in so many ways represent us. Sometimes we find ourselves overcome with daunting challenges that cause us to complain; we sometimes blame others for our shortcomings, we make excuses for not being as kind and holy as we should be. We make excuses for not practicing our faith with greater fervor and resolve. We even sometimes feel that we are not worthy of God’s mercy, and we find ourselves with a poor sense of being a child of God. Sometimes we see ourselves simply overwhelmed by sin.

At other times, we muster the courage to say I’m sorry. Occasionally we might allow the grace of God to lead us to the point of acknowledgement of our faults to say: ‘Lord I need your help; I need the help of my brothers and sisters.’  Sometimes, when the moment is right, we feel a little more drawn to the Church and its mission, wishing that it would be more sustained and therefore become the norm for us. This shows that we all want to do good and be good, but we find it difficult. The reason for today’s feast, my dear friends, is for all of us will come to the realization that God is on our side; that he has given his word and his word is true. The Holy Father, in his wisdom, called this Jubilee Year of Mercy to help augment that realization in each one of us. It is my hope that we would all have benefited from it, so that moving forward we will retain the humble disposition which will allow Jesus to be the king of our hearts, our lives, our community and our homes.

What is most telling, however, is the fact that our participation in the kingship of Jesus has to do with the Cross. It challenges us never to lose sight of the cost of God’s love and mercy. As is often said, the grace of God is free, but it is not cheap. You and I know how hard it is for us to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply. Many hurts happen within the family; some as you know, go very deep. Husbands and wives hurt each other. Children disappoint their parents; siblings are often caught up in feuds of one kind or another. There is also the disappointment that one experiences when he/she feels that God is not listening to his/her prayers. All these, dear friends, are the different types of crosses we encounter in our daily lives which we are required to overcome. Today’s solemnity, gives us the assurance that all these forms of disappointment and the sense of unworthiness find victory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. All bitterness, hatred, pride, envy, jealousy, addiction, immorality of one kind or another, absolutely do not have to keep us enslaved – indeed, they do not have to keep us enslaved. They can be overcome at the foot of the Cross.

Pope Francis, in the Bull of Indiction in which he introduced the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, reminded us that “we need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy, for it is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation, he says, depends on it … Mercy is the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brother and sister on the path of life. Mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”[4]

 The Holy Father stresses further that “pardoning becoming the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians, it is a requirement from which we cannot excuse ourselves. At times, how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully.”[5]

“Mercy,” the Holy Father continues, “is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love …  the Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy …  and when she brings people close to the source of the Saviour’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser.”[6]

My dear brothers and sisters, today’s liturgy, I think, provides the perfect recipe for a renewed Diocese, a renewed vicariate and a renewed parish; let alone our homes and ourselves individually.

The first reading from Second Book of Samuel (2Sam. 5:1-3), offers us a sense of identification with the God we believe in. Referring to the of anointing of David as King, all the tribes of Israel recognized him as their ‘own flesh and blood’ (2Sam. 5:1). They found a king with whom they could identify. We too are called to see in Christ our King, a descendant of David, one who is indeed our own flesh and blood. What is the meaning of the Eucharist if not that kind of identification? In fact, in the Eucharist Christ invites us every day, in the words of St. Augustine, to “be what we receive;”[7] that is, to be his body to the world; to be his blood to the world; to be his mercy and compassion to our families, our friends and even our enemies. Be what you receive at the Lord’s banquet. St. Augustine goes even further to say that, since we are the body of Christ, essentially “what we consume is ourselves.”[8]

This, to my mind, has deep implications for what happens in the believing community. The faithful feed on the love of each other so that nobody is left in want: for love, compassion, food; shelter; in short the basic essentials of the physical and spiritual life. This is what existed in the early Christian communities: no one was in want. All needs were met. Can we ever aspire to such a level as we contemplate the meaning of our participation in the kingship of Jesus?

The Psalmist in today’s liturgy exclaims: “I rejoiced when I heard them say: “Let us go to God’s house” (Psalm 112: 1). Brothers as sisters, it is in God’s house that we find his mercy; it is in God’s house that we find his compassion; it is in God’s house that we experience his love. By this I do not mean this physical structure, although it does not preclude it. By God’s house I mean, anywhere that a compassionate person dwells; anywhere love is exercised; anywhere the poor and voiceless find a welcome; anywhere the wounds of loneliness are healed; anywhere human care and concern for another is unmistakably evident; anywhere people take responsibility for the church to which they belong, as the real body of Christ. God’s house is absolutely any and everywhere. We recall the words of Jesus to the Samaritan Woman when he said: “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem … the hour is coming – indeed is here already – when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:21&23). We should all, therefore, rejoice on this great solemnity for the opportunity to be together in God’s house and at the same time to create a house for the Lord in our hearts, where he can be king.

At this point, dear friends, we should ask ourselves individually: how can I more fully participate in the Kingly office of Jesus? For one thing, our second Reading today already reminds us that Jesus is the First-Born in all things, and therefore, he can only be the object of our emulation. In other words, we can only rise to his standard – he ought to be our only measure. We imitate and participate in Christ kingship by our service to the human community in the manner that he did. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many,” (Mat 20:28) the Gospel tells us. Practically speaking, each of us ought to find something to do in the Church in order to build up the Body of Christ. No one is exempt; no one has any excuse. For if we don’t, the entire Body of Christ will be deprived; and the kingdom of God is rendered unable to come among us in the manner and the urgency with which it should. There is absolutely no reason why the Church should be lacking of anything. We are all alive and gifted. God has endowed us with plenty. I believe it pains God when he sees his Church struggling for lack of commitment and lack of zeal; when he sees, his faithful people becoming self-consumed and refusing to participate in a fuller way in building his body, the Church.

Brothers and sisters, to really imitate the kingship of Christ is the learn the art of giving, to learn the art of giving all, for this is what he did. This is why we are assembled here around his table – the table of sacrifice, the table of immolation, the table of genuine love, the table of mercy. Today’s feast tells us that God is not satisfied with mere tokenism. God want the real thing – real commitment, real giving, real participation. In so doing we will be contributing to the establishment of a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of in justice, love and peace.

To God be the Glory! Amen!

 

[1] Cf. Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, No. 3.

[2] Cf. Ibid. No. 5.

[3] 2Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43.

[4] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, No. 2.

[5] Ibid. No. 9.

[6] Ibid. No. 10.

[7] St. Augustine, —–

[8] St. Augustine, Sermo., 229 , PL. 38, 1103;

Gabriel Malzaire, Eucharist & The Poor, 251.

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Good Friday

Good Friday

Service of the Lord’s Passion

March 25, 2016

 Lord Teach Me How To Die.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, Good Friday, is the celebration of the greatest paradox in Christian history. A paradox is a statement or proposition that despite reasoning from acceptable evidence, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable or self-contradictory. This is the essence of what we celebrate today; complete absurdity, so to speak. The entire language of today’s liturgy seems completely illogical, and yet so attractive to many; hence our presence here this afternoon in such numbers. It pronounces death and yet engenders life in such abundance.

Throughout his entire ministry, Jesus used this form to communicate the divine mysteries. From his preaching on the Beatitudes to the lessons communicated by his death on the Cross, his invitation to his disciples was one to discover the possible in the impossible. So, from the outset, he came to transform the negativities of human existence to the positive. Despite all the efforts of God through the ages to involve humanity in the process of salvation, no one was found suitable for the task. Only in Jesus, His only Son, did he find the credentials necessary to right the wrongs of the humanity. Jesus was immaculately pure and beyond reproach. He was the only one capable of taking our place – and he accepted it with all its brutality. Not once did he claim his rights. He simply gave it all up so that you and I would have a second chance, or a third, or a fourth.

The prophet Isaiah who pre-figures the true Suffering Servant puts it so well. He says:

As the crowds were appalled at seeing him-so disfigured did he look that he seems no longer human … without beauty, without majesty we saw him, no looks to attract our eyes; a thing despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering a man to make people screen their faces … Yet he was pierced for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace and through his wounds we are healed” (Is 52:14-53:5).

Oh what congruence we find in Jesus! What, therefore, makes something so apparently negative and even contemptable, and yet so attractive to the human spirit? My own deduction is that it has to do with divine solidarity; that is, the attempt by God to identify most perfectly with the human situation. The important value of the celebration of Christ’s passion in this modern age is that it continues to speak to the current situations of our world. In other words, the Passion of Jesus as experienced two thousand years ago, remains significant because the conditions and situations which brought it about still exist today.  As long as human sin in its varied forms exists, the redeeming work of Christ continues: the wars, the hatred between nations and peoples, divisions – religious, political and otherwise, the social ills of all dimensions. These situations always keep Jesus on the Cross. And none of us is exempt from the cause.

But how ought we to approach this reality in the context of our celebration today? I began my reflection by indicating that this very celebration is the commemoration of the greatest paradox of Christian history. As followers of Christ, therefore, it is our duty to sustain this paradox. Our presence in this world is to give a glimmer of hope in situations that seem hopeless, to bring beauty in a world that constantly defaces itself into ugliness, to being joy even in painful situations. The Christian in this world has, of necessity, to be a point of contradiction. By this I mean, like his model, Jesus, he is called to go to places where others would rather not go, to get involved in social engagements that others find contemptible and below their standards. The Christian has to be a beacon of light in every possible area where darkness reigns. The life of the Christian is never comfortable!

Believe it or not, brothers and sisters, Christianity in the present world has largely become domesticated. In the early centuries Christians had to fight for their faith. Today, this fight has translated into faith-hunting or rather Church-hunting; to discover which one makes Christianity most palatable and comfortable. No one seems to want a challenge today. We seem to want the message presented on a platter, and choice menus with it as well, so we can choose which one suits us best. No era in Christian history has witnessed the multiplicity of Churches than this present age. Unfortunately, the motivation to this trend is not always wholesome. In light of this, I think is it is quite legitimate to question whether our world is on an upward swing because of this trend?  Is the world becoming better because more people and groups of people are shouting the name of Jesus? I let you come up with your own answer!

My dear brothers and sisters, I believe that today’s ceremony is God’s ultimate invitation to all of us, for whom he sacrificed his only son, to learn how to die. Christianity itself, believe it or not, is the art of knowing how to die. I know this sounds like intolerable language, especially since all our efforts in this life are geared towards the acquisition and sustenance of life. Jesus, the author of life, gave it all up so that we may have it, and have it abundantly. But this is also what the Christian is called to. This reminds me of a story I read many years ago. In fact, I don’t remember all the details of that story, but the punchline, I think, is very significant for our edification in today’s context. The story goes somewhat like this:

Once a great spiritual leader paid a visit to a man of noble birth. His mansion was situated on a very large property. The man of noble birth ventured to escort his guest on a tour of his grand estate: all his buildings, his well-manicured gardens, the fruit trees of all kinds, the automobiles and livestock; his servants and assistants, you name it, he had everything a person could ever dream of having. At the end of the tour, the host asked his guest what he thought of the tour and all that he had seen. It is obvious that the man was trying to impress the great spiritual leader with all he possessed. In the end the spiritual leader said to his host: “These are the things that make it difficult for us to die.” I thought this response very profound and true. Yes, brothers and sisters, today’s ceremony is an invitation by our Blessed Lord to learn how to die!

Learning how to die essentially means, learning how to perceive the true value of our existence in this world. And the prime reason is to attain salvation. Unfortunately, for many of us, salvation is a secondary matter. Even if we claim that we want it, our actions and decisions do not indicate that we want it enough; because if we do, we will put effort into it; if we do, there will not be such ignorance about our faith. We will certainly put a little more effort and energy in the search for deeper faith. This man of noble birth may have wanted salvation, and even thought that he had it within his grasp, in all the things that he possessed, but even if the story did not say so, I would be surprised if he had peace of mind. The very fact that he was using his possession as the object of his boast means that it also represented his real treasure. As we are reminded by Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” St. Paul also said in his First Letter to the Corinthians 1:31: “If anyone wants to boast, let him boast of the Lord.”

Brothers and sisters, I put this question to you today, on this beautiful Good Friday afternoon: Are you ready to die? I can hear the resounding NO, because you think I am speaking of physical death, although it does not preclude it. But my question pertains primarily to the elements of our lives that can be the cause of our eternal death: the greed, the envy, our pride, our selfishness, our many vices, our hatred and anger one against the other, the grudges that we hold, and many others. Are we ready to die to these, so as to allow Jesus a resurrection in our lives? The truth is, if we do not die to these, even our physical terminus can be accelerated. So either way it is to our benefit that learn the art of dying by giving up all sources of hindrance to a true life in Christ.

May your pray on this Good Friday be: “Lord, teach me how to die so I can enjoy fullness of life in you.”

A happy and Holy Good Friday to everyone!

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Holy Thursday Mass

Holy Thursday Mass

March 24, 2016

Cathedral Chapel, Roseau

 

The Foot-washing Church

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s gospel, Jesus says to Peter, “If I do not wash your feet, you can have nothing in common with me” (Jn 13:8). With these words, Jesus was setting a spiritual but practical platform on which his followers were to build the Church which he had come to found. I would like to refer to this Church as The Foot-washing Church. This, to my mind, is the one to which we are called; hence today’s celebration.

In the same text, Jesus was putting before his disciples what would become the major temptation associated with the apostolic ministry; that is, the sense of entitlement. Once, when Jesus was teaching about the difficulties of getting into the kingdom, as related in the nineteenth chapter of the gospel of Matthew, it was Peter again who impetuously responded by saying: “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What are we to have then?” (Matt 19:27). Peter was, in essence indicating that, after all, there should be some perks associated with so noble a ministry.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were seeking special favours from the Lord, because of their inadequate understanding of Jesus’ messiahship. They thought he had come to found a kingdom in the ordinary sense – on the pattern of the world to which they were familiar. Jesus concluded the discourse by saying: “The Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). He had already detected the opportunistic tendencies and the love for money in Judas Iscariot when, in John 12:3-6, Mary the sister of Lazarus brought a pound of costly ointment to anoint the feet of Jesus. She poured the ointment of his feet and wiped them with her hair. At the sight of this Judas said: “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (Jn 12:5).  The text indicates that “Judas said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contents” (Jn 12:6). Think of it, Jesus knew that Judas was a thief and yet kept him as one of his close associates?

On a few occasions Jesus had told his disciples that he was going to his fate and they would all leave him. Again the impulsive Peter assured Jesus that he would never leave. And Jesus said unto him: “this very night before the cock crows twice you will have disowned me three times” (Mk 14:72). To a would-be follower who said to Jesus: “I will follow you wherever you go,” he said: “Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt 9:58).

All these examples, and more, brothers and sisters, simply confirm the fact that during his earthly ministry, Jesus was surrounded by a band of weak followers. But the time had come for him to share with these same disciples the necessity for the ultimate sacrifice which would become the impetus for the radical faithfulness to discipleship which would be demanded them. Jesus had to share with them the kind of Church he had come to found. In other words, the posture of the community of disciples that he was going to form; and Sacrifice and service were to be the hallmark of that community. In the end, as we know, the one who was unable to stand the heat, excluded himself from the kitchen. Judas, unfortunately brought upon himself his own fate, as we ourselves often do.

Both the First and Second Readings of today’s liturgy attest to that hallmark. In the text from the book of Exodus, the blood of lambs and goats was given up to bring about the salvation of the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. St. Paul relates his encounter with the sacrificial Christ who is the true lamb that takes away the sins of the world. This is the way he puts it: “This is my body, which is for you; do this in memorial of me. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me” (1Cor 11:24-25). The text concludes by saying: “Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death” (1Cor 11:26). Death, the most abhorrent thing, but in Jesus, it has become the most life-giving instrument.

My dear friends, in the light of this philosophy, one of the greatest temptations faced by the Church in the modern era is to change the teachings of Jesus to what is more expedient and comfortable. By this I mean that, Jesus, in his ministerial style created a demarcation between the foot-washing gospel and the prosperity gospel – between the foot-washing Church and the prosperity Church. In our present time, the prosperity type seems more attractive: it gets things done without much effort, its faithful give out of their surplus rather than out of a sacrifice; and parables such as the widow’s mite are of no little spiritual value. In fact, if the Church operated by the principle of the Widow’s mite it would never be in want, because its members would give till it hurts. It was Mother Theresa who said that the true Christian gives until it hurts. The reason for giving, in the modern mindset is more often with the intention of receiving a blessing in return.

It is not at all surprising that our Eucharistic theology on which the entire spirituality and mission of the Church is based, is changing so radically. People come to Church with the primary intention of receiving rather than to give. This is a theology which is contrary to what the Eucharist is about. You will recall that the three synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke, recount the institution of the Eucharist by presenting it in the manner that Paul in today’s Second Reading relates it; that is, by taking bread and wine as the representation of God’s sacrificial giving. On the other hand, John’s account of the Eucharistic scenario is a demonstration of the real meaning of the Eucharist. Jesus presents it as a foot-washing sacrament; a sacrament of absolute humility, a sacrament of total giving. It represents the fact that on the altar of God, a divine person, Jesus himself, who was without sin, took our place and gave it all up. He did so as a model, as a pattern, as a modus operandi – the manner of operation for Christians. The last segment of today’s gospel could not be clearer: “If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” (Jn 13:14-15).

This foot-washing gesture has a great deal to say about vocation, and I mean vocation of all types; not only religious and priestly vocation. In fact, every vocation is essentially religious. Every vocation is ordained by God. One’s vocation is essentially the manner in which God has chosen to save that human person. In other to live up to its demands, it must fit within the principle of the divine master. Every vocation, therefore is a foot-washing vocation. If that vocation has not found its niche in the God, it is doomed to eventual failure. A good Christian marriage, for example, of necessity, has to be a foot-washing marriage. So it is with a political leader, a professional, a religious, a priest, a bishop too and a pope. Very rapidly growing in our society is the philosophy of absolute self-affirmation, to the detriment of community values. We may ask ourselves, why are there so many wars and divisions in the world? Why is there a breakdown in family life, which leaves our children uncared for, unformed, uneducated in the true sense of the word, and unmannered, all breeding a culture of violence, crime and discord? Brothers and sisters, unless our Churches, our society, our region, and our world, become foot-washing in their disposition, we should not be surprised at the growth in the ISIS and the Boko Harams of the world; and on the local level the escalation of theft, armed robberies, abuse of our children, domestic violence of all kinds and all forms of societal ills. They always begin on the level of man’s inhumanity to man, from the minutest social structures.

Our invitation today is to embrace the foot-washing way of Jesus. It may be the most unpopular way, but Jesus is presenting it to us today once again as the way, the truth and the method to true life.

It is important to remember that the gesture of foot-washing which has come down through the Christian centuries remains only a gesture. It is a sign of something else – a sign of the manner in which a Christian community should treat its members and the way in which individuals in that community should treat each other. In other words, it is meant for everyone. Therefore, today’s demonstration will be with a difference. In the footsteps of our Holy Father Francis, we have decided to select a group which is truly a representation of the entire believing community; a mixture of both male and female, of youth and adults. Until now we have had a group of men, representing the twelve apostles. However, in the true sense, the entire Church is apostolic and as a gesture we all are called to treat each other with a foot-washing disposition.

Let us pray that this Holy Thursday, the Eucharist will have a new and more profound meaning for us, and that we all will seek to live up to its demands in our daily lives by washing each other’s feet.

A happy Holy Thursday to everyone!

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Chrism Mass

Chrism Mass

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cathedral Chapel, Roseau

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to the second significant moment in our celebration of this most Holy Week of the liturgical year – the Chrism Mass. The first moment was the celebration of the Passion of our Blessed Lord on Palm Sunday. We enter this moment today with the distinct intention of renewing our commitment to priestly service, the blessing and consecration of oils to facilitate the sacramental life of the Church; and additionally to recommission the lay Associates in Pastoral Care, who support the clergy in their pastoral ministry. However, let me begin by first acknowledging the persons who collaborate with me in the ministry of the Church in the Diocese.

First, I thank His Eminence, Cardinal Felix, for his unwavering contribution to the works of the Diocese. He continues to be a source of inspiration to all of us Clergy and Religious, and of course the entire people of God in this local Church. I suppose it’s not too early to congratulate His Eminence on the eve of his 60th anniversary of ordination to the holy priesthood. The actual date was April 8th 1956, the Sunday after Easter that year, or Low Sunday as it was called in those days. We look forward to the grand celebration with all the Bishops of the Antilles and many others who will come from other parts of the world to celebrate with him on April 17th. We continue to enjoy the privilege of having the first and only Cardinal in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Secondly, I say special thanks to all the Clergy working in the Diocese; those attached to parishes and those who are in various ministries in the Diocese: the FMI Fathers, the Redemptorist Fathers, the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales and the Diocesan Priests. I take this opportunity to say special thanks to Fr. Charles Michael Raj, one of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, and Assistant Priest of St. Andrew’s Parish, Vieille Case. He will be leaving us on April 5th to return to India. We wish him safe travels and fruitful onward ministry. I also thank Fr. Callistus St. Louis, who has been serving at the Cathedral parish for the past year and a few months. He will be leaving us on the 30th of this month. We trust he will able to return to serve with us. Special thanks to Fr. Jason Biscette from the Archdiocese of Castries who has been here at the Cathedral for the past three months. He is due to leave us on April 1st. We wish him God’s abundant blessings in his future ministry. I thank our two Deacons Alvin and Curtis, and also Deacon Pershing Waldron who render generous service to the Diocese.  I take this opportunity to announce that Mr. Jeffers Paul, who followed the formation programme for the Diaconate will be receiving the ministries of Lector and Acolyte on Sunday, April 3rd during 9:00 a.m. Mass. All going well he will be ordained to the permanent diaconate later this year. We pray for him and his family as they continue to discern the Lord’s will.

Thirdly, I express deep appreciation to the Religious Sisters and Brothers who contribute to the work of the Diocese in so many ways: to the Dominican Sisters based in Canfield, the Presentation Sisters and their companion Miss Jean O’Neil, based in Salisbury and working in Portsmouth, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM Sisters) based in Goodwill, the Daughters of Jesus (D.J. Sisters), based in Roseau, Sr. Mary Gallagher of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, based in Portsmouth, We say special welcome to Sr. Marlene Valmont of the Kalinago Territory, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. Thanks to our two Christian brothers James DePero and Raymond Philogene, and our Redemptorist Brothers, Bro. Sam, Bro. George and Bro. Gerard, for the assistance to the Diocese through their work at the Holy Redeemer Retreat Centre. We welcome Bro. Ronald Rombult who just returned to the diocese after some years away. He will be assisting with the work of CARE & CALLS in Portsmouth.

Fourthly, to all the Chancery and Diocesan staff, I express my sincere gratitude for their assistance in keeping the various Diocesan institutions functional; not forgetting the Principals and Staffs of our Catholic Schools, for their invaluable work in helping to give a Catholic Education to give our young ones. I also recognize the work of all our Catholic teachers in non-Catholic schools. They make a valuable contribution to the lives of the children of our nation.

Fifthly, thanks to our Lay Associates in Pastoral Care, some of whom will be re-commissioned later during this ceremony, for their support to the ministry of our Priests in the various parishes in our Diocese.

Finally, I thank all our parishioners from every part of the Diocese and in particular, those here present.  Among them are fifteen (15) representatives of the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious Prayer Network. They represent each parish of the Diocese. They are part of a network of a little more than 400 members in the Diocese presently. We trust that the numbers will grow.

My dear parishioners, your contribution to the growth and sustenance of the parochial and Diocesan Church is deeply appreciated. Without you there will be practically no Church.  Your witness to the gospel no doubt enlivens the Body of Christ.

I now invite all you here present, and those listening via radio, to reflect with me on the theme: “Embracing again the Mission of Christ in this Jubilee year of Mercy.”

Every modern organization in the world today presents itself to its membership and its clientele through a mission statement. Such a statement, in the most succinct way, tells of the purpose of the existence of that organization. So it is with the Church, but with a difference. She does not have Her own mission statement, due to the fact that She exists neither of Herself nor by Herself. Her mission is that of the one for whom She exists; and that is Jesus Christ. This is so true that two of the readings for today’s ceremony refer to that statement. And only by that statement is the Church bound:

The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me,” it says, “for he has anointed me,

He has sent me to being good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives

And to the blind new sight,

to set the downtrodden free,

And to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

 

This was the inaugural address of Jesus regarding his pastoral presence in the world to which he was sent by the Father. It is remarkable that both Isaiah and Jesus saw this as the primary function of the prophet in both the Old and New Covenants. In the New Covenant, however, the Church finds its role as ambassador of Christ. An ambassador, as you know, is one who speaks on behalf of and witnesses to the philosophy of the one who commissions him. The Church, therefore, takes her cue only from Christ; thus providing the reason for today’s ceremony.

As indicated earlier, the purpose of today’s ceremony is three fold. The first two aspects, that is, the renewal of our priestly commitment to the service of the Church and the blessing and consecration of the oils to facilitate the sacramental life of the Church, meet the required from of the celebration. The third has to do with the collaboration of the faithful in the pastoral life of the Church through the institution of the Lay Associates in Pastoral Care. However, the purpose of all three meet at the common juncture of Christ’s mission statement, which the Church rightfully adopts and embraces. It is indeed the principle by which every ecclesial ministry must to be measured. The mission of the entire Church, therefore, is one of witnessing to the Good News, to liberate those in captivity, to give sight to those who are lacking it, to free those who feel downtrodden and who suffer the contempt of the world, and to announce the Lord’s favour to the human community.

We all know the varied circumstances in the daily lives of our brothers and sisters which render necessary the exercise of these liberating moments. Pope Francis, in this Year of Mercy, summarizes them in two very familiar categories: The Corporal and Spiritual works of Mercy; namely, giving food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothes to the naked, welcome to strangers, visit to prisoners, healing to the sick, and burial for the dead; all these in their varied forms. The spiritual works include: giving council to the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, forgiving offences, bearing patiently those who do us ill, and praying for the living and the dead. There are seven in each category, the biblical symbol of completeness. It is also symbolic of the extent to which the Christian is called to go for the sake of the other.

In fact, the entire priestly ministry, be it ministerial or the priesthood of the people of God, finds its meaning and value in this mission statement. Our priestly re-commitment today, therefore, is meant for us to set ourselves more resolutely on the road to salvation in service of the people of God; so profoundly that, like Jesus, we may one day be able to say: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” This is essentially what we promised on the day of our ordination, that is, to configure ourselves unto Christ. On that day the ordaining bishop said to each of us:

Impart to everyone the word of God which you received with joy. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

What a privilege we have, dear brothers, to develop that intimate relationship with Christ! Therefore, the extent to which we even attempt to do so, is the extent to which we are seeking to fulfill God’s pastoral will for the world. When we hear the faithful utter words such as: “he is a good priest, he is a prayerful man and a hard worker; he is always there for us,” and other positive phrases which normally should be associated with the priestly ministry, they are essentially saying that they see the Gospel being fulfilled before their very eyes. These are the comments that are most heart-warming and edifying for any Christian community. A bishop loves to hear those kinds of words being said about his clergy. Unfortunately, it is not always so. You and I know the extent of the negative news we are exposed to in our culture. We can certainly do with some more good news. So we continue the journey.

The blessing and consecration of oils, dear friends, is meant to assist in our priestly ministry; to touch the lives of those among us who are weak, to initiate new members into the Church, to confirm young adults in the faith, to consecrate new Churches and chapels, and to ordain ministers of the Church for the perpetuation of the body of Christ. This is the life of the Church and we are all privileged to be part of it.

The ministry of Deacons, Lay Associates in Pastoral Care and the general body of the faithful speaks to the vibrancy of the Church when all these efforts conjoin towards the advancement of the Kingdom which our Blessed Lord came to establish. Today’s Second Reading attests to that reality. Speaking to the seven Churches of Asia in the Book of the Apocalypse, John the evangelist says: “Grace and peace from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the First born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power forever and ever. Amen” (Rev 1:5-6). John is here endorsing our share in the kingly and priestly mission of Christ.

What better time to renew our commitment to the call of God for this work of salvation than this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Everything about Jesus speaks of God’s mercy. Our Holy Father, Francis, invites us to work at augmenting that disposition of Mercy which really is proper to the Church and its ministry. It leaves each of us with the absolute responsibility to respond adequately to our brothers and sisters in need, mindful of our own need for divine mercy.

As we come to a close, dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to pray for us your clergy. These are the men whom God has called to be your shepherds. And for the Religious too. You may wish that they were better persons, more holy men, or better packaged; and that’s okay; but these are the ones whom God has provided. However, your constant prayers on our behalf can certainly make a difference for the greater holiness of God’s Church. It is for this reason that I commend the establishment of the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious Prayer Network organized by the Pontifical Mission Societies. I must let you know that the evil one has decided not to take a holiday from its battle against the Church, the Body of Christ, neither should we take a holiday from our responsibility to storm the gates of heaven for the sanctity and salvation of the Church.

May the Diocese of Roseau grow from strength to strength because we are all part of it. And may the Lord who is always merciful continue to lead us so that the good work he has begun among us will be brought to its completion.

 

A Happy and fruitful Holy week to everyone!

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Youth Rally- 2015

Diocesan Youth Rally

Saturday, March 28, 2015

St. Luke’s Parish, Pointe Michel

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

Blessed are the Pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)

 My dear sisters and brothers in Christ since his election as the Holy Father in 2013, Pope Francis has been focusing on the Beatitudes to provide themes for the World Youth Days. Last year we were called to focus on the first Beatitude: “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” This year we are invited to reflect on the sixth Beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

It should not be a surprise to anyone that the Holy Father has chosen these texts of the Sacred Scriptures to challenge the youth of the entire world to aspire to becoming their best selves. In fact, in more ways than one this has been the message during his short pontificate.  I am convinced that the Holy Father understands the youth very well: their idealism, their desire for clarity, their search for meaning, their curiosity and the inquisitiveness of their minds. All these augur well for the quest for perfection. And I concur with his conviction that the Beatitudes is the perfect place to start. Even at the time of Jesus they were meant to stretch the abilities of his followers to work towards perfection.

The Beatitudes are in themselves are paradoxical affirmations, in that, they demand the very opposite of what the world demands of the human person; and the youth, without exception. They are unfathomable in that there is no limit to the height of perfection which they can take you. In a word, the measure of the Beatitudes is God himself. To be beatific is to be Godly; to be beatific is to be holy; to be beatific is to be blessed. In certain biblical translations the word “Blessed” is used inste4ad of “happy.”

It is unfortunate that today the word “Blessed” is used in a way that has become quite banal. Frankly speaking, it is more often than not a cliché which has little substance and depth. The reason is, if we are to compare our flippant utterances vis-a-vis what the Gospel demands, it will not take us too long to realize that we need to re-think our reason for saying that we are “blessed.” My suspicion is that, stemming for the Protestant ethic of personal salvation, we begin to develop the idea that we are specially privileged by God, something that is deserving of advertisement and a boast. It lacks any semblance of humility to my mind. But what is being presented in today’s theme is far beyond any cliché or fad. It is rather an invitation to perfection; and that is a challenge; hence the significance of today’s celebration of the Lord’s Passion.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” says the sixth Beatitude. This, to my mind, draws us into the mind of God, making us aware of the purpose of our existence. To the question: why did God make you?, the Penny Catechism of old, with which many of the young of today would not be familiar, responds: “God made me to know him, to love, to serve in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.” It is clear in this definition that the end of the human person is God and happiness; and rightly so too.

Happiness is the one thing that every person seeks after, and therefore the youth are not exempt. In fact, it is the prime quest of every young person. But for many people happiness is equated with bodily pleasure: the reality of feeling good. The beatitudes, while they do not overlook the reality of feeling in the human condition, they do not limit happiness to bodily sensations. Happiness or blessedness for the Christian is a state of mind that stems from the level of a relationship with God. It is a relationship which is accessible to everyone, young or old.

My dear friends, what God wants for you and for me is perfection. As Matthew’s version of the Sermon of the Mount puts it: “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). He wants us to be our best selves because he knows that only there is found real happiness. We are all familiar with the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus asking what he must do to attain eternal life. The story is recorded in the Gospel of Mark 10:17-22. Jesus said unto him, you know the commandment: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud: Honour you father and mother.” And the young man said, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go sell everything you own and give the money to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.”

It was the response of St. Anthony of Egypt to text in the 3rd century in the Christian era, which engendered the introduction of monasticism in early Christianity. In other words, the monastic tradition in the Church has its basis in this text. Because of his tremendous faithfulness to that word and his numerous achievements in light of the Word he is known as St. Anthony the Great.

My dear young people, how often have you found yourself going away sad because you have felt that God did not enter into your little world to satisfy your private little needs; whether it was your success in school, getting you friends to really like and accept you, getting a visa to travel abroad, maybe.? How often have you felt the frustration of your own family, not having as much as rest of your peers? How often have you desired to be more popular in the sight of your pairs? How often have you sought to achieve great things with as little effort as possible and feeling that God is absent? How often have you wanted God to be the magic worker in your life when you feel abandoned? Most of us at some point have found ourselves walking away sad for lack of fulfillment to our plans and desires; we have found ourselves walking away with shattered dreams of the bright future we have formed in our own minds.

The challenge of today’s theme is purity of heart. In the case of the rich young man to which we referred earlier, his purity of heart, according to the text, could be attained by selling what he owned, giving to the poor and to simply follow Jesus. I wonder if we could not use this story as a model of the struggle of the youth today in their quest for true happiness.

This text presumes that we all are rich in one way or another. Truthfully, we all have gifts and talents.od has endowed us with them to be invested in a positive way for the sake of the salvation and advancement of the entire world. The question however is how do we propose to invest them? Investing our gifts and talents is tantamount to selling or giving ourselves. It means that we do not hoard the talents to ourselves but place them at the disposal and service of others. It is only in so far as we give of ourselves that we can truly follow Jesus. “Lose yourself in me,” the hymn says, “and you will find yourself.” Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains only a single grain, but if it dies it yields a rich harvest” (John 12:24). Essentially we do not belong to ourselves, but we belong rather to the community of believers working together towards eternal salvation.

What would the quest for the purity of heart mean to the youth in this twenty-first century? I am sure when we hear the phrase, at first we believe it is absolutely a tall order; something which is proper only to the saints. I suppose ultimately it is so. However, it is people like you and me who are called to be saints. And those who became such did not get there overnight. Seeking after the purity of heart begins with a very practical approach to life; it begins with the very things that the young are struggling with today. If you take the time to look at them closely I am sure you will realize how attainable they are. For example, every young person today can stay away from drugs, can’t they? Every young person can refrain from using foul language, can’t they? Every young person today has the ability to refrain from the abuse of alcohol; don’t they? Every young person can avoid a care free and promiscuous life, can’t they? Now, in the world in which we live it sometimes calls for one to go against the prevailing current of enticements. These will certainly pose a challenge, but they are not impossible to overcome. And if for one reason or another you should fall, all you got to do is  pick yourself up, dust yourself off and continue the journey to sanctity; not forgetting the confessional. The one important way to sanctity is through the confessional.

Now on the more positive level, we all can make efforts to give God his due by observing our Christian obligation of worshipping Him every Sunday and holy days of obligation; we can all do something for the poor; we all have the capacity give love and receive love; we can all make little sacrifices for the sake of others. So many things we can do, and we find ourselves doing already. Only this morning you went on mission to the homes of the parishioners of Pointe Michel to pray and share the scriptures. Don’t wait till there is another Youth Rally to do so. If you practice such works of mercy at the social institutions in your country and in your neighborhood, you will be surprised at the changes that will take place in you.

As you grow in the ability of avoid those things that hinder you from encountering the fullness of life, and you continue to take the baby steps to improve your love for God and your neighbour, you will find yourselves better able to take grater responsibilities. Then you can move into the more mature steps such as giving yourselves in marriage to a beloved or to the total giving of self in the service of others through the holy priesthood or religious life. Brothers and sisters, on the path to holiness only God is the limit. On that level, we begin to understand our vocation as the place where God chooses to bring us to his eternity. Vocation, therefore, is not simply a choice that we make ourselves, but rather, it is a matter of finding the space that God has already created for each one of us to find our true life.

My dear young people and dear friends, if you make God both your point of departure and your point of return, you will see him with your eyes of faith. He will reveal himself to you in so many ways and you will find a peace that surpasses any human understanding. Try your utmost not to limit God in your life. As Paul would say to the Church in Thessalonica: “Do not suppress the Spirit” (1Thess 5:19). Ask him to show you the way to sanctity, the way to happiness, that way to perfect fulfillment. You are not too young to give God all you’ve got. God is counting on you to make the difference in the world. Without your effort, the world is deprived.

And may the Lord who has begun this good work in you bring it to its completion.

Amen!

Easter Vigil – Homily

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

April 4, 2015

 

In tonight’s liturgy, my dear brothers and sisters, we have made a journey through the whole gamut of salvation history, beginning from Genesis, through the stories of the kings, the Judges and the prophets, unto their fulfillment in person of Jesus. Notwithstanding the primordial times in Genesis, we have spanned almost 2000 years of biblical history unto Christ; and now we are into another 2000 years of Christian history. Now we await the final consummation when Christ will come again in his glory.

While on that preparatory journey in this New Covenant, God has provided for us the means by which we can enter more deeply into his eternity. He has given us the sacraments.  Very key among them are the sacraments of Initiation for entry into the family of the Church; namely, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. These three sacraments will be celebrated during today’s liturgy, the liturgy of liturgies.

In a few moments, we will be witnessing the baptism of three adults (Zackiyanna Barry, Rudolph Henry and Kriston Joseph) and the Confirmation and Communion of an additional two (Marvlyn Edwards and Ken George). For those to be baptized, after requesting entry into the family of the Church some months ago, they started being instructed in the faith in order to have a better understanding of what they are about to undertake.  At the beginning of Advent last November, which was the beginning of the Church’s year, they were accepted as Catechumens, that is, candidates preparing for baptism through instructions. On the First Sunday of Lent this year, after having received a better understanding of the Catholic Faith the candidates were enrolled as the Elect. This was symbolized with the candidates actually writing their names in a register. At the liturgies of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent the Elect underwent the three Scrutines, which involves, the request for prayers by the community on their behalf, a prayer of exorcism on each occasion, requesting God’s protection from the evil one, and the laying on of hands by the celebrant upon the elect.

Tonight is the night of sacrament; the night of decision, at this the liturgy of liturgies. It involves: the presentation of the candidates, the invitation to pray, the Litany of the Saints, the blessing of the water to be used for Baptism, the Renunciation of Sin and the Profession of Faith and then the ceremony of Baptism. This will be followed by the Sacrament of Confirmation; and then together we will bring the ceremony to a climax at the sacrament of Communion.

Very significant to note in tonight’s liturgy is that, it is a communal experience. We are on the path to salvation together. We are welcoming our brothers and sisters, through these three sacraments of initiation to be part with us on this pilgrim journey to the Kingdom. Therefore, it is not an “I” thing; it is a “We” experience. Christianity is always a “we” experience.

So let us pray that as we go through this encounter, it may be for each one of us a source of grace.

The final period of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is what is known as the post-baptismal catechesis or Mystagogy. It is the time for the community and the newly baptized (neophytes) together to grow in deepening their grasp of the Christian life and making it part of their lives through meditation on the Gospel, sharing in the Eucharist, and doing works of charity. To strengthen the neophytes (newly baptized) as they begin to walk in newness of life, the community of the faithful, their godparents, and their parish priest should give them thoughtful and friendly help. That period comes to a close at Pentecost when the newly baptized will be able to witness to Christ on their own. Therefore, between now and Pentecost we are to give them all the support they need to live faithfully the Christian life.

And so, dear friends, let us proceed to welcome our brothers and sisters in the family of the Church.

Amen!

 

Service of the Lord’s Passion

Good Friday,

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

April 3, 2015

Poor Judas

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we come to the most serious time of the liturgical year, the celebration of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even the word passion communicates the reality and the sentiments that surround the event. In our turn, however, it is an invitation to deep reflection and questioning; reflection on what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and questions to ourselves and what we have done to merit this salvific plan of God for us.

In our attempt to do so, and to aid the process, I invite you to focus with me on the figure of the man, Judas poor Judas. This will be my theme for today’s reflection: “Poor Judas.”

The figure of Judas in the passion scene is one which engenders much wonder; even to the point of asking, if Jesus knew what kind of man he was, why did he include him among his disciples? This in itself says a great deal about Jesus and his openness to all human beings, much better than anyone of us can be. Then we have the text of John 12:1-11 which relates the story of Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who had brought a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, as it is described, to anoint the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her hair. At that gesture, the text says, Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?” To this question, this comment is made in the negative: “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions.” Didn’t Jesus know all that? Maybe he did. However, all we can confirm from the scriptural evidence is that despite what we now know of Judas, he was a follower of Jesus right up to the end.

But the bigger question is what kind of follower was he? And what does the gospel mean when it describes Judas as a betrayer? Did Judas really betray Jesus in the ordinary sense as we understand it? What we see coming through the gospels is that Judas, like the other disciples, was very impressed with Jesus and his actions. They were taken by the way he moved people, the marvelous works that he did, and the potential for tremendous benefits by their allegiance to this wonder-worker. It could be that Judas was only a type which described what was going on in the mind of the other disciples.

This can be substantiated in the story of James and John, the sons of Zebedee who came to Jesus asking for special favours. They said to Jesus, when you come into your kingdom, allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory. Jesus said unto them: “Do you know what you are asking? Can you drink the cup that I must drink, and can you be baptized with the baptism with which I must be baptized? They replied, “We can.” And Jesus said unto them, “The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptized you shall be baptized, but as for seats on my right hand or on my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those for whom they have been allotted” (Mark 10:35-40).

This text like the Matthew’s version, which has the mother of James and John coming forward on their behalf, are indications that the disciples were loaded with motives regarding their following of Jesus – some were good and some were not so good.

We also have the example of Peter who, in his cowardice, according to all the gospel accounts, denied Jesus. And more so, Jesus had very shortly before, predicted its occurrence.

Judas, like the other disciples, as I alluded to earlier, had great admiration for Jesus, so to say that Judas betrayed Jesus needs to be qualified. The truth is, Judas’ betrayal had nothing to do with his hatred for Jesus. On the contrary, he enjoyed the company of Jesus.  In his close association with Jesus he had witnessed him making many narrow escapes from his opponents and enemies. Because of the powers he knew that Jesus had, Judas expected Jesus to make another escape. But this time he was tricked – he allowed himself to be fooled.

This is simply an indication that Judas was a follower but not a disciple. It reminds me of the story of the professor of great renown who was told that a certain young man was boasting about having been his student. The professor turned around and said: “He may have attended my classes, but he was not my student.” To be a real student of a great professor pays dividends; and it is seen by the extent to which he/she has emulated the conduct and philosophy of the professor.

From this analogy, it is becoming clearer that Judas was not a true disciple; his motive for following Jesus was not very pure – he was after the money. He was certain that if Jesus had escaped from the clutches of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law this one last time, the benefits for him would be great. In his mind Jesus would be a superstar, he would have many followers and he, Judas, would be collecting the proceeds, as was already his job; money: that tainted thing, as the Scripture calls it. It can make us lose our souls.

Judas was not a true disciple because all the teachings of Jesus about his imminent death had escaped him. All the teaching of Jesus about his kingdom not being of this world, had escaped him. All the teaching about the sign of Jonah had escaped him. Yes, Judas was a deeply-motivated follower, but not a true disciple. Unfortunately, it can be the same with us.

Truthfully, my dear friend, Judas is a model which challenges every Christian today. Today we are all challenged to discover the Judas in us. I remember, when I was growing up, Good Friday was a sad and serious day for my family. We were on Ps and Qs as to what we could do or couldn’t do. If we had done anything contrary to what our parents expected of us, they would call us, in the kwyon term, Jida. And that was a real bad name. No one wanted to be called Jida. But our reflection today indicates that we all are Jidas. We are all packed with motives, some of which are not so good; otherwise we would have a pure Christian society in Dominica; we would have the most loving Church in the world; and we would be the most genuine group of people one can find. But you and I know it is not so.

But here is our opportunity. As much as we would not want to be called Jida, if we continue as if it is business as usual, viewing the whole period of Lent and the Glorious celebration of Easter merely as a fixture of a Catholic calendar and do nothing to change our relationship with God and our neighbour, we will be nothing less than Jida. But fortunately for us, today is a day of salvation; today is a day to say I forgive you; today is the day to say I want to make a fresh start. This is why Holy mother Church commands that every Catholic Christian ought to make his/her Easter duties, meaning that, none of her faithful should allow Easter Sunday to meet him/her in deep sinfulness. That is tantamount to playing with our souls. The holy scriptures indicate to us in more ways than one that the normal way to heaven, as instituted by Christ himself is through the confessional.

We can deepen our state of Jida-ness, so to speak, by allowing our pride, coloured by all kinds of excuses, not to profit from the grace of sacramental confession. That too was the real problem of Judas. The difference between him and Peter is that when Peter heard the cock crow, he wept in remorse and guilt. This was his way of saying “I’m sorry.” However, after Judas found himself tricked by the resignation of Jesus, his pride didn’t allow him to say “I’m sorry.” He preferred to hang himself. So often in our lives, by our actions and decisions, we allow ourselves to be hung by our sins than to admit that we have messed up and we need help. Brothers and sisters pride is a terrible thing. It prevents us from forgiving, it prevents us from asking for forgiveness, it prevents our hearts from loving, it makes us cold, allowing us to see only the wrongs in people and to exonerate ourselves into the deeper trap of sin, so that it is not only Poor Judas but also “Poor me”.

Today our invitation is to deal with the Judas in us. With the blood of Jesus to help us, let us fight him with all our might to bring about the required change in each one of us; for if we don’t we will hang ourselves in absolute destruction. Today, brothers and sisters is indeed the day of salvation!

O that today you would hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Amen!

 

 

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Holy Thursday

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

April 2, 2015

The Eucharist is everything

Dear brother and sisters in Christ, this evening we come to that moment when we celebrate both in symbol and in reality the fullness of God’s revelation to humanity – the Eucharist. It is understandable why this day is considered as the day in which both the priesthood of the Church and the Eucharist were instituted. It, therefore, places an inseparable bond between the priesthood and the Eucharist. This also brings us to the conclusion that there is no Eucharist without the priesthood and there is no priesthood without the Eucharist; hence the affirmation of the eminent French theologian, Henri DeLubac when he says: “the Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist.”

Beginning with the message of today’s first reading from the book of Exodus, here is presented a prefiguration of the Eucharist. It depicts the means by which God chose to save his people from the slavery of Egypt. It was the first Passover; that is, the passing of the angel of God over the houses of the Israelites marked with blood on the two doorposts and their lintel. In this way the unmarked houses of the Egyptians met the wrath of God. In this text, which is a type or symbol of the Eucharist, the Egyptians under Pharaoh represent the reality of sin, while the Passover represents the absolute determination of God to save his people by the blood of the lamb. Even then blood was the symbol which sealed the covenant between God and his people.

Brothers and sisters, this is what we celebrate – the ultimate and absolute saving act of God which finds its climax in Christ. He is indeed the fullness of God’s communication with our race. It is no surprise that St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians describes Jesus Christ as “the visible image of the invisible God and the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible” (Col 1:15-16). From his theology of encounter, Paul also relates in today’s Second Reading the insight he had come to with regard to salvation in Christ. He says: “This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memorial of me. In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memorial of me.” This corresponds to the synoptic gospels’ account of the institution of the Eucharist, that is, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, in today’s gospel, the Gospel of John, Jesus uses a demonstrative method.

In the three readings given for today’s liturgy, we see a movement from pre-figuration to the symbolic or sacramental and then to the practical or social.  Today I wish to focus on the practico/social dimension of the Eucharist. The sacramental is what we perform every day when we come to the liturgy.  John in his gospel used a very simple gesture; a gesture which every Jew in his time was able to understand as it was within their culture to do feet-washing as an accepted from of hospitality. But the point of that gesture as it relates to today’s message is “who” was doing that feet-washing. It was not normal for a Master or Rabbi to wash the feet of disciples in that culture. Only servants and slaves washed feet. Jesus in that instance reversed that order; hence his question: “Do you understand what I am doing to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”

In the Eucharist, demonstrated in the Feet-washing gesture, Jesus reversed the order of Jewish hospitality – the Master becomes the slave. This philosophy of Jesus is alluded to in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2: which we read only last Sunday, Passion Sunday. In that text he says:  “Though His state was divine, yet Christ Jesus did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are, and being as all men are, he was humbler yet and even to accepting death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).

The text, brothers and sisters, is an example which indicates where the Eucharist should lead us. The sacramental dimension, as good as it is, if it does not have a corresponding social dimension, is tantamount to mere sacramentality and can even be a mockery. It is not without reason that Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel tells us: “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, (let alone, you having something against your brother), leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Mt. 5:23-24).

The Christian life, my dear friends is a very practical life. The sacramental dimension must lead us to a deeper life in relation to our society, our work and our neighbor. You will agree with me that it is always the practical dimension of the Eucharist which poses greatest difficulty for all of us. The simple reason for this is that we are often better at theory than practice. We are better at profession of creeds rather than living out the tenets or demands of those creeds. Somehow, we are better at sacramentals and signs than with what is real and true. Truth can be a real challenge for us sometimes. We can become very scrupulous about the Eucharist and yet we treat our neighbour and co-worker very badly. We can make sure that we are seen to be doing all the Churchy things – what we deem required to be seen as a reasonably good person, while we can entertain bribery, fraud and all sorts of misconduct. Externally we can seem to be practicing our faith but inwardly we can be enslaved by greed, selfishness and pride.

For the Catholic Christian, the Eucharist, to my mind is everything. It is indeed the measure of our relationship with God and with our neighbour. It is the greatest source of liberation. But conversely it can be the greatest means of condemnation if our lives are not congruent to its demands. As a source of liberation its effects are seen when a transposition is made from the sacramental to the practical. Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:35). He never said if you pray or come to Church, etc. Not that these are not important, but Jesus always focused on the practical side of the good life. Love one for another is always an indication that the gospel message and the Eucharist has taken root in the life of the Christian.

When St. Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, in Chapter 2 verse 20, ” I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me,” he is emphasizing the need for the Christian to be an image of Christ in the world, especially outside the Church, where life really happens. In more ways than one, the walls of the Church protect us. It is a place where we are permitted to pretend. But in the social world we cannot pretend. Even if we do, at some point it catches up with us.

Take for example, a parent, a professional, teacher, a priest or bishop, who does not do his/his or her job as he/she should, at some point, sooner or later it will show up. We can even us this analogy to judge the world in which we live. Are we satisfied with our present society? Are we satisfied with our families and the varied configurations in which they exist today?  Are we satisfied with the work ethic that exists in our country? What have we to say about crime and violence in our little nature Isle? Do people treat their jobs as a vocation, or are they simply marking time for a salary or promotion or a title? In other words, everything we do today begs the question, what is my purpose in life. Am I living authentically or am I just a make believe?

The Eucharist, brothers and sisters invites us to greater truth and authenticity. God did not spare his own Son, but gave him all up so that we may learn how to live. Now this is a challenge for all of us, clergy and faithful alike. We are all called to configure ourselves and our intentions to that of Christ – and that is unfathomable. There is no limit to goodness – there is no limit to the Eucharist – there is no limit to love. The Eucharist is the most perfect demonstration of God’s love for humanity. If we can measure up to it, salvation is already ours.

I say this because the Eucharist is essentially the place where heaven and earth meet. Of course, there are several instances where heaven and earth met in the history of salvation. The first was at creation, the second was in the Incarnation, celebrated at Christmas when God became man in the person of Jesus; and the third is at the Eucharist in which the God-man Jesus is given totally for our sanctification. These meetings of heaven and earth are demonstrative of God’s absolute love for humanity. Therefore, every time we partake of the Eucharist, in reality we are tasting heaven. This might sound difficult to grasp because of the simplicity of its nature. Our minds don’t do very well with simple things, especially when they pertain to God. But in fact this is the nature of God – simplicity. God, in Jesus Christ, presents himself to us in the simplest and most accessible way possible – in the form of bread and wine. If we do not profit from God’s accessibility – that which he is offering us, we are deprived. But if and when we do so, its translation in a practical Christian life has untold effect on the social order; meaning our world, society, home, and our individual lives.

Therefore my dear friends, the call of Jesus in the feet-washing gesture of today’s liturgy is the means by which we can make the world in which we live truly Christian. If we are not satisfied with that world, let us remember the song of St. Francis of Assisi in which he prays: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Let us go forth and wash each other’s feet!

Amen!!

 

 

 

Chrism Mass

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me:

An invitation to participate in God’s anointing

 Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, only one year ago we were assembled here to perform the liturgical acts by which we seek to enter more deeply into the reality of the Church’s mission here in this portion of the God’s Kingdom; namely, the renewal of our commitment to Priestly Service and the blessing and consecration of the oil to facilitate the sacramental life of the Church. However, before delving into my reflection on the significance of today’s celebration, let me make some acknowledgements of the persons who collaborate with me in the ministry of the Church in the Diocese.

First, I wish to thank, Cardinal Felix, who, despite being in his emeritus state, continues to be a source of inspiration to all the Clergy, Religious and the entire Diocese. We thank God for his service and witness to God’s people here in the Diocese. We all enjoy the privilege of knowing that Roseau is the only Diocese in the Antilles Conference graced with the presence of a Cardinal to con-celebrate on this very special day. And he does so with such humility.

Secondly, I wish to thank all the Clergy working in the Diocese; those attached to parishes and those who are in various ministries in the Diocese: the FMI Fathers, the Redemptorist Fathers, the Fathers of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales and the Diocesan Priests. Among these I want to single out Fathers Charles Michael Raj and Sebastian Roberts who arrived late last year and are serving the parish of St. Andrew in Vieille Case and its surrounding communities. We continue to pray for the full recovery of Fr. Sebastian who was involved in an accident four weeks ago. I thank all the persons who have taken such good care of him during his hospitalization and convalescence. I also thank Fr. Callistus St. Louis, who came to us from Canada since last November. He is a St. Lucian by birth and is incardinated in the Diocese of Kingstown, St. Vincent. We are grateful for his service to the Cathedral and the Diocese. I thank our two Deacons Alvin and Curtis who render generous service to the Diocese.  Special welcome to Fr. Alister Elias who is visiting from St. Lucia.

Thirdly, deep appreciation is due to the Religious Sisters and Brothers who labour in the vineyard of the Diocese: the Dominican Sisters who are based in Canfield, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, based in Portsmouth, the Presentation Sisters and their companion Miss Jean O’Neil, based in Salisbury and working in Portsmouth, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM Sisters) based in Roseau, the Daughters of Jesus (D.J. Sisters),  based in Roseau,  and Sr. Mary Gallagher the only Sister of Charity of Cincinnati on mission here. I thank the Christian brothers, especially Brother James DePiro who arrived late last year to join Brother Raymond Philogene. He is presently the Vice Principal of St. Mary’s Academy. Thanks to the Redemptorist Brothers, Brother Sam and Brother George for the assistance to the Diocese through their work at the Holy Redeemer Retreat House.

Fourthly, to all the Chancery and Diocesan staff, I express my sincere gratitude for their assistance in keeping the various Diocesan institutions afloat; not forgetting the Principals and Staffs of our Catholic Schools for their invaluable work in seeking to give our young ones a Catholic Education. I also recognize the work of all our Catholic teachers, teaching in non-Catholic schools. They make valuable contributions to the lives of the children of our nation.

Fifthly, thanks to our Lay Associates in Pastoral Care, some of whom will be commissioned or re-commissioned later during this ceremony, for their support to the ministry of our Priests in the various parishes in our Diocese.

Finally, I thank all our parishioners from the various parishes of our Diocese and in particular, those here present.  You are “the Church on the spot”.  Your faithful witness to Christ’s love strengthens our Church.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, I invite you to reflect with me on the theme: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me: An invitation to participate in God’s anointing.”

The priesthood of Jesus in which we share, has its origin in the Old Testament. Under the Old Covenant, the priesthood had the singular role of offering sacrifices on behalf of the community of the People of God; and for this there was a special anointing. Kingship and prophetism in Israel were separate roles which required their own anointing. The King was to both shepherd the people and administer his kingdom on God’s behalf, while the prophet functioned as God’s mouthpiece. His mission was centered on the word of God.

In Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, all these varied roles come together; hence the prayer of anointing during our baptism ceremony at which the baptizing minister says: “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” In this text is found the vocation of both the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the people of God. The Church founded by Jesus Christ shares in the triple graces of the ministry of priest, prophet and king. However, we are called to live out those graces in different functions and capacities.

For those of us who share these graces in the ministerial sense, the truth just mentioned, brings to the fore the significance of the first part of today’s ceremony, which involves the renewal of our commitment to Priestly Service. It is, in essence, the recommitment of the priests of the Church to the sacred ministry to which they are called. You will agree with me that this is no simple gesture. In every Catholic Diocese in the world, at some point during this week, before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, all the priests of the world will renew their commitment. This will be done, as always, in the presence of large gatherings of the faithful people of God. Besides what this moment could mean for the individual priest who recommits himself to the service of God and his Church, the large gathering is always indicative of what the people of God expect of the anointed ones – the men of the cloth, as we are sometimes called. Their belief in the holy priesthood is such that they expect from us the kind of leadership and witness that will facilitate their own quest and desires for holiness; that our priestly witness will enhance rather than hinder the path to sanctity which every Christian is called to take. My dear friends, this is an enormous responsibility placed on the shoulders of the priest.

In the face of this daunting task we are always consoled by the words of the letter to the Hebrews, which is so pertinent and should be kept closely in mind by every bishop, priest and deacon. It advises thus: “Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin; and so he can sympathize with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitation of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was” (Heb. 5:1-4). The truth of this text, of necessity, should engender a disposition of humility towards this priestly office. It makes it clear to us that it is not because we merit this gift, but because God in his graciousness has called each priest to participate in the priesthood of his son, Jesus; thus  making it clear that the priesthood does not belong to us. It is totally and absolutely gratuitous; it belongs to Christ. We are only humble partakers of this office. And if we live it well, of course the people of God are edified. If we don’t, unfortunately, the opposite happens – they are scandalized.

At the end of his much talked about Christmas message to the cardinals at the Curia last December, after he had spelt out the fifteen illnesses and malfunctions of the institution, the Holy Father summed up his message in these words, he said: “I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticize them and few pray for them. It is a very nice phrase,” he said, “but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church.” The people of God, my dear fathers and deacons, Religious Sisters and Brothers, deserve the best from us; hence the necessity of the renewal of our commitment to the ministry of the Church, as will be done this evening.

And for you dear faithful people, how do you live your baptismal anointing? You are priests of God in your own rights. Think of what the Church would be like if everyone lived with the consciousness of being anointed. We often overlook it just as much as we overlook the significance of our baptism.  Did your baptism come to an end when water was poured on your head as a baby and anointed with Chrism many moons ago or has it afforded you the power to live as Christians in this world today?  Personally, I think it has. This is exemplified in the many ways you witness for Christ, and the varied ways you keep the faith alive in this secular world. However, today I urge you, not to limit yourself in light of your capacity for sanctity. God wants to make you the best you; the best professional, the best lawyer, the best doctor, the best parent, the best politician; and the list goes on. I urge you, not to give up your baptismal anointing for the trivialities which the world offers. In fact, the Christian ethos in the world today is dependent on your witness. Go on carrying out your daily Christian duties with simplicity, diligence and love and the Lord will be pleased with you.

The second segment of today’s ceremony is the blessing and consecration of oils for the sacred ministries of the Church. The oil of the sick is meant to help the Church respond to the needs of the sick among us and also those preparing to meet the Lord at the point of life’s final common denominator – death. The anointing with the oil of catechumen assists those on the road to baptism to cast out the power of Satan’s spirit of evil in their lives and to claim them for Christ through the sacrament. Holy Chrism has the most diverse usage in the sacramental life of the Church. It is used to administer the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the consecration of sacred spaces for divine worship. It is well to note that all the three sacraments administered through the use of Holy Chrism cannot be repeated in the Catholic Church – Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. The anointing at each instance carries with it a character, which puts an indelible mark on the recipient – it cannot be erased. Moreover, it claims the person for Christ with a particular mission. The mission attached to Baptism is to live the Christian life in the context of the world unto eternity. Confirmation strengthens the Christian to witness for Jesus Christ in the social order, and Holy Orders prepare the priest or bishop for the threefold responsibility of sanctifying, governing and teaching. The ministry of the Deacon, in that regard, is always associated with that of the Bishop and by extension the presbyterate.

These three anointings of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, have one thing in common; they are all given for the primary purpose of service to God’s people so that together we can work toward the salvation of all. This is to say that God’s anointing is never simply for self. It is always for the Church as a whole. This may sound strange because it is always received by an individual. The truth is, brothers and sisters, God always uses individuals for his divine purpose. Salvation is always meant for the entire community and not simply for the individual. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me to bring Good News to others….. The community comes before the individual. This is why no one has a claim on the gift of God. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans puts it well when he says: “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord” (Rom 14:7-8). The Bishop, the Priest, the Deacon, the Christian for that matter, always belongs to a bigger picture. And the Catholic Church is structured in such a way that the bigger picture is always set before us; thus the individual is always part of a family, the family is always part of a community, the community is always part of a parish, the parish is always part of a diocese, and the Diocese always belongs to Church universal; all at different levels seeking to serve the one true God. Therefore the anointing of the individual is meant for the salvation of the whole community of the people of God. The ministry of priest is always in relation to the Body of Christ – the Church; not outside. It does not stand on its own.

Towards the end of today’s ceremony we will be highlighting yet another dimension of the participation in the anointing of Christ, so to speak. We will be commissioning some members of the laity who have been trained to share more deeply in the ministry of the priest in the parish. Like the priesthood itself, it is to be embraced with the singular disposition of service to the people of God, under the authority of the Parish Priest. The Lay Associates in Pastoral Care are being singled out to carry out services in the Church in the absence of the priest. In this way they serve the community of faith and at the same time lives up to their baptismal call. And so I reiterate, every Christians is called to live out their baptismal anointing in whatever walk of life that God places him/her.

My dear people of God, I ask you to pray for your priests and deacons, pray for the Lay Associates in Pastoral Care, who despite their family and professional obligations give committed service to the Church. Pray for the entire people of God that we may build a community that is worthy of the name Christian. And pray for me too, that I may live up to my calling to serve well in the office of Bishop.

And may the God who has begun this good work in us bring it to completion. Amen!

 

New Year’s Homily 2014
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

MY VISION OF THE TIMES

Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, we come once again to this mysterious moment called New Year’s Day. I say mysterious because, year after year, we gather at the feet of the Lord, wondering what is in store for us; wondering how the year will unfold:—with fortunes or the contrary? Some of us come with our own lists, to tell the Lord what we would like to achieve in the coming year, and asking him to lend a hand in bringing them to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that, for many of us, even before the first month is over, we unwittingly find ourselves abandoning all the beautiful resolutions we have made, as we get caught up with the demands of the New Year.

I, on my part, ask the Lord for a word—a word which will speak to the hearts of his people, on this very important day, this New Year’s Day; an anointed word; a word which will say only what the Lord wants to say to his people. As with the prophets of old, the Lord always inspired a word in them, but in accordance with the signs of the times in which they lived. The word of God always speaks to a particular context. What, therefore, does the Lord want to say to his people in 2014?

In my vision of the times, what do I see, what do I hear? I see possibilities for things great, possibilities for success possibilities for accomplishments. I see the absolute desire of our God to take hold of the world in which we live. But I also see that all can be lost; if there is no individual and collective embrace of the present moment; of the opportunities being presented us by the Lord himself. In my vision of the times, I hear the Lord earnestly seeking our cooperation in making Dominica and the world what they ought to be.

In my vision of the times, I hear Pope Francis, through his recent Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, beckoning the entire Church to a new evangelisation, a new zeal for the Kingdom. I hear him beckoning us to be a different kind of Church; to posture ourselves to attend to the hungers and thirsts of God’s people. I hear him calling us all to be:

  • A church that is characterised by the joy of the gospel – a joy that is ever new and a joy that is delightful and comforting when it is shared;
  • He call us to an evangelization which is addressed to all and shared by all;
  • He calls us to be a church that goes forth with a mission that comes from the heart of the gospel;
  • He calls us to be a Church which is a mother with an open heart; a church ready to face the challenges of today’s world, saying:
    • No to an economy of exclusion;
    • No to the idolatry of money;
    • No to a financial system which rules rather than serves;
    • No to the inequality which spawns violence.

If we are not convinced by the Holy Father’s invitation, we need only to recall that our own Diocese, a little over three years ago, convened a synod, under the theme: Disciples on Mission, Gifted and Called, out of which a pastoral plan was drawn. Representatives of the people of God in this Diocese came together and raised the issues, the concerns and the challenges faced by the local church, and devised a plan of action to make its ministry more viable, whether on the level of the parish, the family, the youth, the liturgy, social involvement, education, pastoral charity, etc. Each year, so far, we have focussed on a particular sub-theme to help us bring to fruition what we thought the Lord was asking of us in this historical time. This year, the third leg of our pastoral engagement, we see the need to Go and make Disciples. This is our year’s theme. What is evident is the absolute correspondence there is in the Holy Father’s invitation and what our own local Church has discovered to be the present need.

Brothers and sisters, I cannot be more convinced of the truth of what seems to be resonating in the deepest sentiments of the universal Church, and therefore, the local community. On November 30, 2013, all the Bishops of the Antilles Conference met in Trinidad with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. In his address to the Bishops, the Cardinal underscored the principal challenges faced by the Church in the Antilles, as seen, of course, from the viewpoint of head office. This is an extract from what he had to say, and I quote:

After the enthusiasm following the Second Vatican Council, which affirmed the importance of local cultures in the life of particular Churches, their liturgies and pastoral programs, there was a period of disenchantment, which resulted in a drop in vocations, a diminution in the numbers of priests and religious, a decline in the number of Catholics and a decrease in their zeal for the faith, and a significant reduction in financial resources available for the sustenance of the Dioceses. These difficulties are linked to the impact of secularization and hedonism, more prevalent in this part of the missionary world then in some others […] These challenges have been a source of discouragement for many of you, especially after many attempts to confront them with different programs for which economic resources were not spared. It would therefore be opportune to take to heart the words of Pope Francis to the Bishops gathered in Brazil this past July: “never yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman, that “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand.” We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint.

While this may seem like a bleak view of the Caribbean reality, it provided us an opportunity to look at ourselves and to decide how we are going to make the necessary turn around, in response to the evangelical call. Very prominent in the Cardinal’s presentation is what is perceived as part of the cause of the present situation in the Caribbean Church, Catholic or otherwise. I speak of the influence of secularization and hedonism. My dear people, in our contemporary culture, believe it or not, the fear of God and the respect our fellow human beings are under serious threat. The absolute value given to the quest for pleasure and egotistical pursuits is nothing less than frightening. In Europe and the United States, the statistics are showing that fastest growing group of people are those who have no religious affiliations. While in the Caribbean people may still claim some form of allegiance, I am surely afraid that we are not too far behind. The number of people who just don’t go to Church for the most part of the year is growing at an alarming rate, starting with our adults, men especially, and overflowing to our youth. And it is not because the word of God is not being preached. On the contrary, there has never been a time in our history when there were more Churches per square mile than this present time. Therefore, Jesus is always on the air, but whether he is finding his way to the human heart, is the bigger question. Too often Churches in the modern world are being seen as objects of selfish pursuits and financial gains. It is nothing but a scandal to the gospel of Jesus. Too often we use the gospel to justify our gullible tendencies.

What therefore, ought we to do to turn things around? One thing I am certain is that whatever we do, has of necessity to include everyone. I want you my dear brothers and sisters, to see yourselves as part of the new evangelisation that is being called for by the Church universal. The Church is not a gas station where persons come to fill up their spiritual tanks. It is rather a living community; a community persons of all types: race, colour, creed and class; all with their varied concerns. And together we exist to carry out our individual and collective roles, working towards our heavenly eternity.

This is why, dear friends, in my vision of the times, I saw the need for us as a people, to fight with all our might, against the causes of crime and violence, in all their dimensions. In that regard, I have no doubt that this coming year is going to be a challenging one. Our growing impatience in tolerating each other, our inability to solve conflicts through dialogue and negotiations, needs to be addressed. Resorting to physical means is nothing but the cowardly option that too many of our people are taking. It adds nothing to the spiritual health of a nation. That too is a responsibility of all. We must be determined to bring perpetrators of crime to justice, otherwise the gospel message; the gospel of peace, will make little sense. Without justice there will be no peace.

In my vision of the times, I see what seems like a very active year in the bid for the political directorate of the Nature Isle. Experience seems to indicate that this contest could engender a great deal of division among our people. Oh how I wish to be proven wrong! Unfortunately, what has happened in times past has a way of repeating itself, unless a new and more hopeful method is adopted. These are the signs of the times in which we live, dear friends. And as would happen, after the calm, some people might be too angry with others to significantly push forward the new evangelization which is being proposed and which is in such great demand. In that regard, therefore, I rather present this coming political year as a challenge; one which would be based on dialogue, on the search for truth and the general well-being of our country’s citizens.

In my vision of the times, I hear St. Paul reminding us in today’s epistle, that we are yet God’s children. He says to us:

The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you son, you are not a slave anymore; and if God has made you son, then he made you heir.’ It simply means you have a right to an eternal inheritance.

Brother and sisters, let us work earnestly, not to allow ourselves to be enslaved in any form or fashion during this coming year, whether spiritually, socially, physically, politically or otherwise.

In my vision of the times, I see our Lady, on this her Solemnity as Mother of God, adopting the most perfect disposition towards what had happened to her; that is, embracing her vocation of motherhood. The shepherds who were led by providence to her humble abode,

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

We too, dear friends, as we enter this New Year, even in what can be regarded as a hostile climate, are being called to develop a pondering disposition, in the likeness of Our Lady. Ours is such a hasty world in which we all caught. We all want our needs to be satisfied instantly. We lack patience with others and even with ourselves. The great theologian, Karl Rahner, of happy memory, used to say that, in order for the Christian of today to survive this world he/she must be a mystic. A mystic is one who ponders on the things of life; one who seek ultimately to contemplate the immensity of God in all he says and does. Let us enter this New Year seeking that disposition, so we can at least hear what the Lord is saying in our time. May this year be one of listening, so that our actions may always build and not destroy; that they may fan the flame of hope in each of us, individually, in our families, in our community and in our nation!

It is not without reason that the first lesson chosen for today’s celebration is the Blessing of Numbers. It is therefore fitting that I place the vision for 2014 under God’s divine guidance. And so I pray, dear friends:

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you His peace! Amen!

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

New Year’s Homily 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

 

MY VISION OF THE TIMES

 

Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

 

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, we come once again to this mysterious moment called New Year’s Day. I say mysterious because, year after year, we gather at the feet of the Lord, wondering what is in store for us; wondering how the year will unfold:—with fortunes or the contrary? Some of us come with our own lists, to tell the Lord what we would like to achieve in the coming year, and asking him to lend a hand in bringing them to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that, for many of us, even before the first month is over, we unwittingly find ourselves abandoning all the beautiful resolutions we have made, as we get caught up with the demands of the New Year.

 

I, on my part, ask the Lord for a word—a word which will speak to the hearts of his people, on this very important day, this New Year’s Day; an anointed word; a word which will say only what the Lord wants to say to his people. As with the prophets of old, the Lord always inspired a word in them, but in accordance with the signs of the times in which they lived. The word of God always speaks to a particular context. What, therefore, does the Lord want to say to his people in 2014?

 

In my vision of the times, what do I see, what do I hear? I see possibilities for thingsgreat, possibilities for success possibilities for accomplishments. I see the absolute desire of our God to take hold of the world in which we live. But I also see that all can be lost; if there is no individual and collective embrace of the present moment; of the opportunities being presented us by the Lord himself. In my vision of the times, I hear the Lord earnestly seeking our cooperation in making Dominica and the world what they ought to be.

 

In my vision of the times, I hear Pope Francis, through his recent Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, beckoning the entire Church to a new evangelisation, a new zeal for the Kingdom. I hear him beckoning us to be a different kind of Church; to posture ourselves to attend to the hungers and thirsts of God’s people. I hear him calling us all to be:

·         A church that is characterised by the joy of the gospel – a joy that is ever new and a joy that is delightful and comforting when it is shared;

·         He call us to an evangelization which is addressed to all and shared by all;

·         He calls us to be a church that goes forth with a mission that comes from the heart of the gospel;

·         He calls us to be a Church which is a mother with an open heart; a church ready to face the challenges of today’s world, saying:

o   No to an economy of exclusion;

o   No to the idolatry of money;

o   No to a financial system which rules rather than serves;

o   No to the inequality which spawns violence.

 

If we are not convinced by the Holy Father’s invitation, we need only to recall that our own Diocese, a little over three years ago, convened a synod, under the theme: Disciples on Mission, Gifted and Called, out of which a pastoral plan was drawn. Representatives of the people of God in this Diocese came together and raised the issues, the concerns and the challenges facedby the local church, and devised a plan of action to make its ministry more viable, whether on the level of the parish, the family, the youth, the liturgy, social involvement, education, pastoral charity, etc. Each year, so far, we have focussed on a particular sub-theme to help us bring to fruition what we thought the Lord was asking of us in this historical time. This year, the third leg of our pastoral engagement, we see the need to Go and make Disciples. This is our year’s theme. What is evident is the absolute correspondence there is in the Holy Father’s invitation and what our own local Church has discovered to be the present need.

 

Brothers and sisters, I cannot be more convinced of the truth of what seems to be resonating in the deepest sentiments of the universal Church, and therefore, the local community. On November 30, 2013, all the Bishops of the Antilles Conference met in Trinidad with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. In his address to the Bishops, the Cardinal underscored the principal challenges faced by the Church in the Antilles, as seen, of course, from the viewpoint of head office. This is an extract from what he had to say, and I quote:

 

After the enthusiasm following the Second Vatican Council, which affirmed the importance of local cultures in the life of particular Churches, their liturgies and pastoral programs, there was a period of disenchantment, which resulted in a drop in vocations, a diminution in the numbers of priests and religious, a decline in the number of Catholics and a decrease in their zeal for the faith, and a significant reduction in financial resources available for the sustenance of the Dioceses. These difficulties are linked to the impact of secularization and hedonism, more prevalent in this part of the missionary world then in some others […] These challenges have been a source of discouragement for many of you, especially after many attempts to confront them with different programs for which economic resources were not spared. It would therefore be opportune to take to heart the words of Pope Francis to the Bishops gathered in Brazil this past July: “never yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman, that “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand.” We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint.

 

While this may seem like a bleak view of the Caribbean reality, it provided us an opportunity to look at ourselves and to decide how we are going to make the necessary turn around, in response to the evangelical call. Very prominent in the Cardinal’s presentation is what is perceived as part of the cause of the present situation in the Caribbean Church, Catholic or otherwise. I speak of the influence of secularization and hedonism. My dear people, in our contemporary culture, believe it or not, the fear of God and the respect our fellow human beings are under serious threat. The absolute value given to the quest for pleasure and egotistical pursuits is nothing less than frightening. In Europe and the United States, the statistics are showing that fastest growing group of people are those who have no religious affiliations. While in the Caribbean people may still claim some form of allegiance, I am surely afraid that we are not too far behind. The number of people who just don’t go to Church for the most part of the year is growing at an alarming rate, starting with our adults, men especially, and overflowing to our youth. And it is not because the word of God is not being preached. On the contrary, there has never been a time in our history when there were more Churches per square mile than this present time. Therefore, Jesus is always on the air, but whether he is finding his way to the human heart, is the bigger question. Too often Churches in the modern world are being seen as objects of selfish pursuits and financial gains. It is nothing but a scandal to the gospel of Jesus. Too often we use the gospel to justify our gullible tendencies.

 

What therefore, ought we to do to turn things around? One thing I am certain is that whatever we do, has of necessity to include everyone. I want you my dear brothers and sisters, to see yourselves as part of the new evangelisation that is being called for by the Church universal. The Church is not a gas station where persons come to fill up their spiritual tanks. It is rather a living community; a community persons of all types: race, colour, creed and class; all with their varied concerns. And together we exist to carry out our individual and collective roles, working towards our heavenly eternity.

 

This is why, dear friends, in my vision of the times, I saw the need for us as a people, to fight with all our might, against the causes of crime and violence, in all their dimensions. In that regard, I have no doubt that this coming year is going to be a challenging one. Our growing impatience in tolerating each other, our inability to solve conflicts through dialogue and negotiations, needs to be addressed. Resorting to physical means is nothing but the cowardly option that too many of our people are taking. It adds nothing to the spiritual health of a nation. That too is a responsibility of all. We must be determined to bring perpetrators of crime to justice, otherwise the gospel message; the gospel of peace, will make little sense. Without justice there will be no peace.

 

In my vision of the times, I see what seems like a very active year in the bid for the political directorate of the Nature Isle. Experience seems to indicate that this contest could engender a great deal of division among our people. Oh how I wish to be proven wrong! Unfortunately, what has happened in times past has a way of repeating itself, unless a new and more hopeful method is adopted. These are the signs of the times in which we live, dear friends. And as would happen, after the calm, some people might be too angry with others to significantly push forward the new evangelization which is being proposed and which is in such great demand. In that regard, therefore, I rather present this coming political year as a challenge; one which would be based on dialogue, on the search for truth and the general well-being of our country’s citizens. 

 

In my vision of the times, I hear St. Paul reminding us in today’s epistle, that we are yet God’s children. He says to us:

 

The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you son, you are not a slave anymore; and if God has made you son, then he made you heir.’ It simply means you have a right to an eternal inheritance.

 

Brother and sisters, let us work earnestly, not to allow ourselves to be enslaved in any form or fashion during this coming year, whether spiritually, socially, physically, politically or otherwise.

 

In my vision of the times, I see our Lady, on this her Solemnity as Mother of God, adopting the most perfect disposition towards what had happened to her; that is, embracing her vocation of motherhood. The shepherds who were led by providence to her humble abode,

 

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

 

We too, dear friends, as we enter this New Year, even in what can be regarded as a hostile climate, are being called to develop a pondering disposition, in the likeness of Our Lady. Ours is such a hasty world in which we all caught. We all want our needs to be satisfied instantly. We lack patience with others and even with ourselves. The great theologian, Karl Rahner, of happy memory, used to say that, in order for the Christian of today to survive this world he/she must be a mystic. A mystic is one who ponders on the things of life; one who seek ultimately to contemplate the immensity of God in all he says and does. Let us enter this New Year seeking that disposition, so we can at least hear what the Lord is saying in our time. May this year be one of listening, so that our actions may always build and not destroy; that they may fan the flame of hope in each of us, individually, in our families, in our community and in our nation!

 

It is not without reason that the first lesson chosen for today’s celebration is the Blessing of Numbers. It is therefore fitting that I place the vision for 2014 under God’s divine guidance. And so I pray, dear friends:

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you His peace! Amen!

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

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Easter Vigil- 2015

Easter Vigil – Homily

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

April 4, 2015

 

In tonight’s liturgy, my dear brothers and sisters, we have made a journey through the whole gamut of salvation history, beginning from Genesis, through the stories of the kings, the Judges and the prophets, unto their fulfillment in person of Jesus. Notwithstanding the primordial times in Genesis, we have spanned almost 2000 years of biblical history unto Christ; and now we are into another 2000 years of Christian history. Now we await the final consummation when Christ will come again in his glory.

While on that preparatory journey in this New Covenant, God has provided for us the means by which we can enter more deeply into his eternity. He has given us the sacraments.  Very key among them are the sacraments of Initiation for entry into the family of the Church; namely, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. These three sacraments will be celebrated during today’s liturgy, the liturgy of liturgies.

In a few moments, we will be witnessing the baptism of three adults (Zackiyanna Barry, Rudolph Henry and Kriston Joseph) and the Confirmation and Communion of an additional two (Marvlyn Edwards and Ken George). For those to be baptized, after requesting entry into the family of the Church some months ago, they started being instructed in the faith in order to have a better understanding of what they are about to undertake.  At the beginning of Advent last November, which was the beginning of the Church’s year, they were accepted as Catechumens, that is, candidates preparing for baptism through instructions. On the First Sunday of Lent this year, after having received a better understanding of the Catholic Faith the candidates were enrolled as the Elect. This was symbolized with the candidates actually writing their names in a register. At the liturgies of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent the Elect underwent the three Scrutines, which involves, the request for prayers by the community on their behalf, a prayer of exorcism on each occasion, requesting God’s protection from the evil one, and the laying on of hands by the celebrant upon the elect.

Tonight is the night of sacrament; the night of decision, at this the liturgy of liturgies. It involves: the presentation of the candidates, the invitation to pray, the Litany of the Saints, the blessing of the water to be used for Baptism, the Renunciation of Sin and the Profession of Faith and then the ceremony of Baptism. This will be followed by the Sacrament of Confirmation; and then together we will bring the ceremony to a climax at the sacrament of Communion.

Very significant to note in tonight’s liturgy is that, it is a communal experience. We are on the path to salvation together. We are welcoming our brothers and sisters, through these three sacraments of initiation to be part with us on this pilgrim journey to the Kingdom. Therefore, it is not an “I” thing; it is a “We” experience. Christianity is always a “we” experience.

So let us pray that as we go through this encounter, it may be for each one of us a source of grace.

The final period of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is what is known as the post-baptismal catechesis or Mystagogy. It is the time for the community and the newly baptized (neophytes) together to grow in deepening their grasp of the Christian life and making it part of their lives through meditation on the Gospel, sharing in the Eucharist, and doing works of charity. To strengthen the neophytes (newly baptized) as they begin to walk in newness of life, the community of the faithful, their godparents, and their parish priest should give them thoughtful and friendly help. That period comes to a close at Pentecost when the newly baptized will be able to witness to Christ on their own. Therefore, between now and Pentecost we are to give them all the support they need to live faithfully the Christian life.

And so, dear friends, let us proceed to welcome our brothers and sisters in the family of the Church.

Amen!

 

Service of the Lord’s Passion

Good Friday,

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

April 3, 2015

Poor Judas

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we come to the most serious time of the liturgical year, the celebration of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even the word passion communicates the reality and the sentiments that surround the event. In our turn, however, it is an invitation to deep reflection and questioning; reflection on what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and questions to ourselves and what we have done to merit this salvific plan of God for us.

In our attempt to do so, and to aid the process, I invite you to focus with me on the figure of the man, Judas poor Judas. This will be my theme for today’s reflection: “Poor Judas.”

The figure of Judas in the passion scene is one which engenders much wonder; even to the point of asking, if Jesus knew what kind of man he was, why did he include him among his disciples? This in itself says a great deal about Jesus and his openness to all human beings, much better than anyone of us can be. Then we have the text of John 12:1-11 which relates the story of Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who had brought a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, as it is described, to anoint the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her hair. At that gesture, the text says, Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?” To this question, this comment is made in the negative: “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions.” Didn’t Jesus know all that? Maybe he did. However, all we can confirm from the scriptural evidence is that despite what we now know of Judas, he was a follower of Jesus right up to the end.

But the bigger question is what kind of follower was he? And what does the gospel mean when it describes Judas as a betrayer? Did Judas really betray Jesus in the ordinary sense as we understand it? What we see coming through the gospels is that Judas, like the other disciples, was very impressed with Jesus and his actions. They were taken by the way he moved people, the marvelous works that he did, and the potential for tremendous benefits by their allegiance to this wonder-worker. It could be that Judas was only a type which described what was going on in the mind of the other disciples.

This can be substantiated in the story of James and John, the sons of Zebedee who came to Jesus asking for special favours. They said to Jesus, when you come into your kingdom, allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory. Jesus said unto them: “Do you know what you are asking? Can you drink the cup that I must drink, and can you be baptized with the baptism with which I must be baptized? They replied, “We can.” And Jesus said unto them, “The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptized you shall be baptized, but as for seats on my right hand or on my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those for whom they have been allotted” (Mark 10:35-40).

This text like the Matthew’s version, which has the mother of James and John coming forward on their behalf, are indications that the disciples were loaded with motives regarding their following of Jesus – some were good and some were not so good.

We also have the example of Peter who, in his cowardice, according to all the gospel accounts, denied Jesus. And more so, Jesus had very shortly before, predicted its occurrence.

Judas, like the other disciples, as I alluded to earlier, had great admiration for Jesus, so to say that Judas betrayed Jesus needs to be qualified. The truth is, Judas’ betrayal had nothing to do with his hatred for Jesus. On the contrary, he enjoyed the company of Jesus.  In his close association with Jesus he had witnessed him making many narrow escapes from his opponents and enemies. Because of the powers he knew that Jesus had, Judas expected Jesus to make another escape. But this time he was tricked – he allowed himself to be fooled.

This is simply an indication that Judas was a follower but not a disciple. It reminds me of the story of the professor of great renown who was told that a certain young man was boasting about having been his student. The professor turned around and said: “He may have attended my classes, but he was not my student.” To be a real student of a great professor pays dividends; and it is seen by the extent to which he/she has emulated the conduct and philosophy of the professor.

From this analogy, it is becoming clearer that Judas was not a true disciple; his motive for following Jesus was not very pure – he was after the money. He was certain that if Jesus had escaped from the clutches of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law this one last time, the benefits for him would be great. In his mind Jesus would be a superstar, he would have many followers and he, Judas, would be collecting the proceeds, as was already his job; money: that tainted thing, as the Scripture calls it. It can make us lose our souls.

Judas was not a true disciple because all the teachings of Jesus about his imminent death had escaped him. All the teaching of Jesus about his kingdom not being of this world, had escaped him. All the teaching about the sign of Jonah had escaped him. Yes, Judas was a deeply-motivated follower, but not a true disciple. Unfortunately, it can be the same with us.

Truthfully, my dear friend, Judas is a model which challenges every Christian today. Today we are all challenged to discover the Judas in us. I remember, when I was growing up, Good Friday was a sad and serious day for my family. We were on Ps and Qs as to what we could do or couldn’t do. If we had done anything contrary to what our parents expected of us, they would call us, in the kwyon term, Jida. And that was a real bad name. No one wanted to be called Jida. But our reflection today indicates that we all are Jidas. We are all packed with motives, some of which are not so good; otherwise we would have a pure Christian society in Dominica; we would have the most loving Church in the world; and we would be the most genuine group of people one can find. But you and I know it is not so.

But here is our opportunity. As much as we would not want to be called Jida, if we continue as if it is business as usual, viewing the whole period of Lent and the Glorious celebration of Easter merely as a fixture of a Catholic calendar and do nothing to change our relationship with God and our neighbour, we will be nothing less than Jida. But fortunately for us, today is a day of salvation; today is a day to say I forgive you; today is the day to say I want to make a fresh start. This is why Holy mother Church commands that every Catholic Christian ought to make his/her Easter duties, meaning that, none of her faithful should allow Easter Sunday to meet him/her in deep sinfulness. That is tantamount to playing with our souls. The holy scriptures indicate to us in more ways than one that the normal way to heaven, as instituted by Christ himself is through the confessional.

We can deepen our state of Jida-ness, so to speak, by allowing our pride, coloured by all kinds of excuses, not to profit from the grace of sacramental confession. That too was the real problem of Judas. The difference between him and Peter is that when Peter heard the cock crow, he wept in remorse and guilt. This was his way of saying “I’m sorry.” However, after Judas found himself tricked by the resignation of Jesus, his pride didn’t allow him to say “I’m sorry.” He preferred to hang himself. So often in our lives, by our actions and decisions, we allow ourselves to be hung by our sins than to admit that we have messed up and we need help. Brothers and sisters pride is a terrible thing. It prevents us from forgiving, it prevents us from asking for forgiveness, it prevents our hearts from loving, it makes us cold, allowing us to see only the wrongs in people and to exonerate ourselves into the deeper trap of sin, so that it is not only Poor Judas but also “Poor me”.

Today our invitation is to deal with the Judas in us. With the blood of Jesus to help us, let us fight him with all our might to bring about the required change in each one of us; for if we don’t we will hang ourselves in absolute destruction. Today, brothers and sisters is indeed the day of salvation!

O that today you would hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Amen!

 

 

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Holy Thursday

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

April 2, 2015

The Eucharist is everything

Dear brother and sisters in Christ, this evening we come to that moment when we celebrate both in symbol and in reality the fullness of God’s revelation to humanity – the Eucharist. It is understandable why this day is considered as the day in which both the priesthood of the Church and the Eucharist were instituted. It, therefore, places an inseparable bond between the priesthood and the Eucharist. This also brings us to the conclusion that there is no Eucharist without the priesthood and there is no priesthood without the Eucharist; hence the affirmation of the eminent French theologian, Henri DeLubac when he says: “the Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist.”

Beginning with the message of today’s first reading from the book of Exodus, here is presented a prefiguration of the Eucharist. It depicts the means by which God chose to save his people from the slavery of Egypt. It was the first Passover; that is, the passing of the angel of God over the houses of the Israelites marked with blood on the two doorposts and their lintel. In this way the unmarked houses of the Egyptians met the wrath of God. In this text, which is a type or symbol of the Eucharist, the Egyptians under Pharaoh represent the reality of sin, while the Passover represents the absolute determination of God to save his people by the blood of the lamb. Even then blood was the symbol which sealed the covenant between God and his people.

Brothers and sisters, this is what we celebrate – the ultimate and absolute saving act of God which finds its climax in Christ. He is indeed the fullness of God’s communication with our race. It is no surprise that St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians describes Jesus Christ as “the visible image of the invisible God and the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible” (Col 1:15-16). From his theology of encounter, Paul also relates in today’s Second Reading the insight he had come to with regard to salvation in Christ. He says: “This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memorial of me. In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memorial of me.” This corresponds to the synoptic gospels’ account of the institution of the Eucharist, that is, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, in today’s gospel, the Gospel of John, Jesus uses a demonstrative method.

In the three readings given for today’s liturgy, we see a movement from pre-figuration to the symbolic or sacramental and then to the practical or social.  Today I wish to focus on the practico/social dimension of the Eucharist. The sacramental is what we perform every day when we come to the liturgy.  John in his gospel used a very simple gesture; a gesture which every Jew in his time was able to understand as it was within their culture to do feet-washing as an accepted from of hospitality. But the point of that gesture as it relates to today’s message is “who” was doing that feet-washing. It was not normal for a Master or Rabbi to wash the feet of disciples in that culture. Only servants and slaves washed feet. Jesus in that instance reversed that order; hence his question: “Do you understand what I am doing to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”

In the Eucharist, demonstrated in the Feet-washing gesture, Jesus reversed the order of Jewish hospitality – the Master becomes the slave. This philosophy of Jesus is alluded to in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2: which we read only last Sunday, Passion Sunday. In that text he says:  “Though His state was divine, yet Christ Jesus did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are, and being as all men are, he was humbler yet and even to accepting death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).

The text, brothers and sisters, is an example which indicates where the Eucharist should lead us. The sacramental dimension, as good as it is, if it does not have a corresponding social dimension, is tantamount to mere sacramentality and can even be a mockery. It is not without reason that Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel tells us: “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, (let alone, you having something against your brother), leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Mt. 5:23-24).

The Christian life, my dear friends is a very practical life. The sacramental dimension must lead us to a deeper life in relation to our society, our work and our neighbor. You will agree with me that it is always the practical dimension of the Eucharist which poses greatest difficulty for all of us. The simple reason for this is that we are often better at theory than practice. We are better at profession of creeds rather than living out the tenets or demands of those creeds. Somehow, we are better at sacramentals and signs than with what is real and true. Truth can be a real challenge for us sometimes. We can become very scrupulous about the Eucharist and yet we treat our neighbour and co-worker very badly. We can make sure that we are seen to be doing all the Churchy things – what we deem required to be seen as a reasonably good person, while we can entertain bribery, fraud and all sorts of misconduct. Externally we can seem to be practicing our faith but inwardly we can be enslaved by greed, selfishness and pride.

For the Catholic Christian, the Eucharist, to my mind is everything. It is indeed the measure of our relationship with God and with our neighbour. It is the greatest source of liberation. But conversely it can be the greatest means of condemnation if our lives are not congruent to its demands. As a source of liberation its effects are seen when a transposition is made from the sacramental to the practical. Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:35). He never said if you pray or come to Church, etc. Not that these are not important, but Jesus always focused on the practical side of the good life. Love one for another is always an indication that the gospel message and the Eucharist has taken root in the life of the Christian.

When St. Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, in Chapter 2 verse 20, ” I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me,” he is emphasizing the need for the Christian to be an image of Christ in the world, especially outside the Church, where life really happens. In more ways than one, the walls of the Church protect us. It is a place where we are permitted to pretend. But in the social world we cannot pretend. Even if we do, at some point it catches up with us.

Take for example, a parent, a professional, teacher, a priest or bishop, who does not do his/his or her job as he/she should, at some point, sooner or later it will show up. We can even us this analogy to judge the world in which we live. Are we satisfied with our present society? Are we satisfied with our families and the varied configurations in which they exist today?  Are we satisfied with the work ethic that exists in our country? What have we to say about crime and violence in our little nature Isle? Do people treat their jobs as a vocation, or are they simply marking time for a salary or promotion or a title? In other words, everything we do today begs the question, what is my purpose in life. Am I living authentically or am I just a make believe?

The Eucharist, brothers and sisters invites us to greater truth and authenticity. God did not spare his own Son, but gave him all up so that we may learn how to live. Now this is a challenge for all of us, clergy and faithful alike. We are all called to configure ourselves and our intentions to that of Christ – and that is unfathomable. There is no limit to goodness – there is no limit to the Eucharist – there is no limit to love. The Eucharist is the most perfect demonstration of God’s love for humanity. If we can measure up to it, salvation is already ours.

I say this because the Eucharist is essentially the place where heaven and earth meet. Of course, there are several instances where heaven and earth met in the history of salvation. The first was at creation, the second was in the Incarnation, celebrated at Christmas when God became man in the person of Jesus; and the third is at the Eucharist in which the God-man Jesus is given totally for our sanctification. These meetings of heaven and earth are demonstrative of God’s absolute love for humanity. Therefore, every time we partake of the Eucharist, in reality we are tasting heaven. This might sound difficult to grasp because of the simplicity of its nature. Our minds don’t do very well with simple things, especially when they pertain to God. But in fact this is the nature of God – simplicity. God, in Jesus Christ, presents himself to us in the simplest and most accessible way possible – in the form of bread and wine. If we do not profit from God’s accessibility – that which he is offering us, we are deprived. But if and when we do so, its translation in a practical Christian life has untold effect on the social order; meaning our world, society, home, and our individual lives.

Therefore my dear friends, the call of Jesus in the feet-washing gesture of today’s liturgy is the means by which we can make the world in which we live truly Christian. If we are not satisfied with that world, let us remember the song of St. Francis of Assisi in which he prays: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Let us go forth and wash each other’s feet!

Amen!!

 

 

 

Chrism Mass

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me:

An invitation to participate in God’s anointing

 Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, only one year ago we were assembled here to perform the liturgical acts by which we seek to enter more deeply into the reality of the Church’s mission here in this portion of the God’s Kingdom; namely, the renewal of our commitment to Priestly Service and the blessing and consecration of the oil to facilitate the sacramental life of the Church. However, before delving into my reflection on the significance of today’s celebration, let me make some acknowledgements of the persons who collaborate with me in the ministry of the Church in the Diocese.

First, I wish to thank, Cardinal Felix, who, despite being in his emeritus state, continues to be a source of inspiration to all the Clergy, Religious and the entire Diocese. We thank God for his service and witness to God’s people here in the Diocese. We all enjoy the privilege of knowing that Roseau is the only Diocese in the Antilles Conference graced with the presence of a Cardinal to con-celebrate on this very special day. And he does so with such humility.

Secondly, I wish to thank all the Clergy working in the Diocese; those attached to parishes and those who are in various ministries in the Diocese: the FMI Fathers, the Redemptorist Fathers, the Fathers of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales and the Diocesan Priests. Among these I want to single out Fathers Charles Michael Raj and Sebastian Roberts who arrived late last year and are serving the parish of St. Andrew in Vieille Case and its surrounding communities. We continue to pray for the full recovery of Fr. Sebastian who was involved in an accident four weeks ago. I thank all the persons who have taken such good care of him during his hospitalization and convalescence. I also thank Fr. Callistus St. Louis, who came to us from Canada since last November. He is a St. Lucian by birth and is incardinated in the Diocese of Kingstown, St. Vincent. We are grateful for his service to the Cathedral and the Diocese. I thank our two Deacons Alvin and Curtis who render generous service to the Diocese.  Special welcome to Fr. Alister Elias who is visiting from St. Lucia.

Thirdly, deep appreciation is due to the Religious Sisters and Brothers who labour in the vineyard of the Diocese: the Dominican Sisters who are based in Canfield, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, based in Portsmouth, the Presentation Sisters and their companion Miss Jean O’Neil, based in Salisbury and working in Portsmouth, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM Sisters) based in Roseau, the Daughters of Jesus (D.J. Sisters),  based in Roseau,  and Sr. Mary Gallagher the only Sister of Charity of Cincinnati on mission here. I thank the Christian brothers, especially Brother James DePiro who arrived late last year to join Brother Raymond Philogene. He is presently the Vice Principal of St. Mary’s Academy. Thanks to the Redemptorist Brothers, Brother Sam and Brother George for the assistance to the Diocese through their work at the Holy Redeemer Retreat House.

Fourthly, to all the Chancery and Diocesan staff, I express my sincere gratitude for their assistance in keeping the various Diocesan institutions afloat; not forgetting the Principals and Staffs of our Catholic Schools for their invaluable work in seeking to give our young ones a Catholic Education. I also recognize the work of all our Catholic teachers, teaching in non-Catholic schools. They make valuable contributions to the lives of the children of our nation.

Fifthly, thanks to our Lay Associates in Pastoral Care, some of whom will be commissioned or re-commissioned later during this ceremony, for their support to the ministry of our Priests in the various parishes in our Diocese.

Finally, I thank all our parishioners from the various parishes of our Diocese and in particular, those here present.  You are “the Church on the spot”.  Your faithful witness to Christ’s love strengthens our Church.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, I invite you to reflect with me on the theme: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me: An invitation to participate in God’s anointing.”

The priesthood of Jesus in which we share, has its origin in the Old Testament. Under the Old Covenant, the priesthood had the singular role of offering sacrifices on behalf of the community of the People of God; and for this there was a special anointing. Kingship and prophetism in Israel were separate roles which required their own anointing. The King was to both shepherd the people and administer his kingdom on God’s behalf, while the prophet functioned as God’s mouthpiece. His mission was centered on the word of God.

In Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, all these varied roles come together; hence the prayer of anointing during our baptism ceremony at which the baptizing minister says: “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” In this text is found the vocation of both the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the people of God. The Church founded by Jesus Christ shares in the triple graces of the ministry of priest, prophet and king. However, we are called to live out those graces in different functions and capacities.

For those of us who share these graces in the ministerial sense, the truth just mentioned, brings to the fore the significance of the first part of today’s ceremony, which involves the renewal of our commitment to Priestly Service. It is, in essence, the recommitment of the priests of the Church to the sacred ministry to which they are called. You will agree with me that this is no simple gesture. In every Catholic Diocese in the world, at some point during this week, before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, all the priests of the world will renew their commitment. This will be done, as always, in the presence of large gatherings of the faithful people of God. Besides what this moment could mean for the individual priest who recommits himself to the service of God and his Church, the large gathering is always indicative of what the people of God expect of the anointed ones – the men of the cloth, as we are sometimes called. Their belief in the holy priesthood is such that they expect from us the kind of leadership and witness that will facilitate their own quest and desires for holiness; that our priestly witness will enhance rather than hinder the path to sanctity which every Christian is called to take. My dear friends, this is an enormous responsibility placed on the shoulders of the priest.

In the face of this daunting task we are always consoled by the words of the letter to the Hebrews, which is so pertinent and should be kept closely in mind by every bishop, priest and deacon. It advises thus: “Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin; and so he can sympathize with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitation of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was” (Heb. 5:1-4). The truth of this text, of necessity, should engender a disposition of humility towards this priestly office. It makes it clear to us that it is not because we merit this gift, but because God in his graciousness has called each priest to participate in the priesthood of his son, Jesus; thus  making it clear that the priesthood does not belong to us. It is totally and absolutely gratuitous; it belongs to Christ. We are only humble partakers of this office. And if we live it well, of course the people of God are edified. If we don’t, unfortunately, the opposite happens – they are scandalized.

At the end of his much talked about Christmas message to the cardinals at the Curia last December, after he had spelt out the fifteen illnesses and malfunctions of the institution, the Holy Father summed up his message in these words, he said: “I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticize them and few pray for them. It is a very nice phrase,” he said, “but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church.” The people of God, my dear fathers and deacons, Religious Sisters and Brothers, deserve the best from us; hence the necessity of the renewal of our commitment to the ministry of the Church, as will be done this evening.

And for you dear faithful people, how do you live your baptismal anointing? You are priests of God in your own rights. Think of what the Church would be like if everyone lived with the consciousness of being anointed. We often overlook it just as much as we overlook the significance of our baptism.  Did your baptism come to an end when water was poured on your head as a baby and anointed with Chrism many moons ago or has it afforded you the power to live as Christians in this world today?  Personally, I think it has. This is exemplified in the many ways you witness for Christ, and the varied ways you keep the faith alive in this secular world. However, today I urge you, not to limit yourself in light of your capacity for sanctity. God wants to make you the best you; the best professional, the best lawyer, the best doctor, the best parent, the best politician; and the list goes on. I urge you, not to give up your baptismal anointing for the trivialities which the world offers. In fact, the Christian ethos in the world today is dependent on your witness. Go on carrying out your daily Christian duties with simplicity, diligence and love and the Lord will be pleased with you.

The second segment of today’s ceremony is the blessing and consecration of oils for the sacred ministries of the Church. The oil of the sick is meant to help the Church respond to the needs of the sick among us and also those preparing to meet the Lord at the point of life’s final common denominator – death. The anointing with the oil of catechumen assists those on the road to baptism to cast out the power of Satan’s spirit of evil in their lives and to claim them for Christ through the sacrament. Holy Chrism has the most diverse usage in the sacramental life of the Church. It is used to administer the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the consecration of sacred spaces for divine worship. It is well to note that all the three sacraments administered through the use of Holy Chrism cannot be repeated in the Catholic Church – Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. The anointing at each instance carries with it a character, which puts an indelible mark on the recipient – it cannot be erased. Moreover, it claims the person for Christ with a particular mission. The mission attached to Baptism is to live the Christian life in the context of the world unto eternity. Confirmation strengthens the Christian to witness for Jesus Christ in the social order, and Holy Orders prepare the priest or bishop for the threefold responsibility of sanctifying, governing and teaching. The ministry of the Deacon, in that regard, is always associated with that of the Bishop and by extension the presbyterate.

These three anointings of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, have one thing in common; they are all given for the primary purpose of service to God’s people so that together we can work toward the salvation of all. This is to say that God’s anointing is never simply for self. It is always for the Church as a whole. This may sound strange because it is always received by an individual. The truth is, brothers and sisters, God always uses individuals for his divine purpose. Salvation is always meant for the entire community and not simply for the individual. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me to bring Good News to others….. The community comes before the individual. This is why no one has a claim on the gift of God. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans puts it well when he says: “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord” (Rom 14:7-8). The Bishop, the Priest, the Deacon, the Christian for that matter, always belongs to a bigger picture. And the Catholic Church is structured in such a way that the bigger picture is always set before us; thus the individual is always part of a family, the family is always part of a community, the community is always part of a parish, the parish is always part of a diocese, and the Diocese always belongs to Church universal; all at different levels seeking to serve the one true God. Therefore the anointing of the individual is meant for the salvation of the whole community of the people of God. The ministry of priest is always in relation to the Body of Christ – the Church; not outside. It does not stand on its own.

Towards the end of today’s ceremony we will be highlighting yet another dimension of the participation in the anointing of Christ, so to speak. We will be commissioning some members of the laity who have been trained to share more deeply in the ministry of the priest in the parish. Like the priesthood itself, it is to be embraced with the singular disposition of service to the people of God, under the authority of the Parish Priest. The Lay Associates in Pastoral Care are being singled out to carry out services in the Church in the absence of the priest. In this way they serve the community of faith and at the same time lives up to their baptismal call. And so I reiterate, every Christians is called to live out their baptismal anointing in whatever walk of life that God places him/her.

My dear people of God, I ask you to pray for your priests and deacons, pray for the Lay Associates in Pastoral Care, who despite their family and professional obligations give committed service to the Church. Pray for the entire people of God that we may build a community that is worthy of the name Christian. And pray for me too, that I may live up to my calling to serve well in the office of Bishop.

And may the God who has begun this good work in us bring it to completion. Amen!

 

New Year’s Homily 2014
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

MY VISION OF THE TIMES

Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, we come once again to this mysterious moment called New Year’s Day. I say mysterious because, year after year, we gather at the feet of the Lord, wondering what is in store for us; wondering how the year will unfold:—with fortunes or the contrary? Some of us come with our own lists, to tell the Lord what we would like to achieve in the coming year, and asking him to lend a hand in bringing them to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that, for many of us, even before the first month is over, we unwittingly find ourselves abandoning all the beautiful resolutions we have made, as we get caught up with the demands of the New Year.

I, on my part, ask the Lord for a word—a word which will speak to the hearts of his people, on this very important day, this New Year’s Day; an anointed word; a word which will say only what the Lord wants to say to his people. As with the prophets of old, the Lord always inspired a word in them, but in accordance with the signs of the times in which they lived. The word of God always speaks to a particular context. What, therefore, does the Lord want to say to his people in 2014?

In my vision of the times, what do I see, what do I hear? I see possibilities for things great, possibilities for success possibilities for accomplishments. I see the absolute desire of our God to take hold of the world in which we live. But I also see that all can be lost; if there is no individual and collective embrace of the present moment; of the opportunities being presented us by the Lord himself. In my vision of the times, I hear the Lord earnestly seeking our cooperation in making Dominica and the world what they ought to be.

In my vision of the times, I hear Pope Francis, through his recent Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, beckoning the entire Church to a new evangelisation, a new zeal for the Kingdom. I hear him beckoning us to be a different kind of Church; to posture ourselves to attend to the hungers and thirsts of God’s people. I hear him calling us all to be:

  • A church that is characterised by the joy of the gospel – a joy that is ever new and a joy that is delightful and comforting when it is shared;
  • He call us to an evangelization which is addressed to all and shared by all;
  • He calls us to be a church that goes forth with a mission that comes from the heart of the gospel;
  • He calls us to be a Church which is a mother with an open heart; a church ready to face the challenges of today’s world, saying:
    • No to an economy of exclusion;
    • No to the idolatry of money;
    • No to a financial system which rules rather than serves;
    • No to the inequality which spawns violence.

If we are not convinced by the Holy Father’s invitation, we need only to recall that our own Diocese, a little over three years ago, convened a synod, under the theme: Disciples on Mission, Gifted and Called, out of which a pastoral plan was drawn. Representatives of the people of God in this Diocese came together and raised the issues, the concerns and the challenges faced by the local church, and devised a plan of action to make its ministry more viable, whether on the level of the parish, the family, the youth, the liturgy, social involvement, education, pastoral charity, etc. Each year, so far, we have focussed on a particular sub-theme to help us bring to fruition what we thought the Lord was asking of us in this historical time. This year, the third leg of our pastoral engagement, we see the need to Go and make Disciples. This is our year’s theme. What is evident is the absolute correspondence there is in the Holy Father’s invitation and what our own local Church has discovered to be the present need.

Brothers and sisters, I cannot be more convinced of the truth of what seems to be resonating in the deepest sentiments of the universal Church, and therefore, the local community. On November 30, 2013, all the Bishops of the Antilles Conference met in Trinidad with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. In his address to the Bishops, the Cardinal underscored the principal challenges faced by the Church in the Antilles, as seen, of course, from the viewpoint of head office. This is an extract from what he had to say, and I quote:

After the enthusiasm following the Second Vatican Council, which affirmed the importance of local cultures in the life of particular Churches, their liturgies and pastoral programs, there was a period of disenchantment, which resulted in a drop in vocations, a diminution in the numbers of priests and religious, a decline in the number of Catholics and a decrease in their zeal for the faith, and a significant reduction in financial resources available for the sustenance of the Dioceses. These difficulties are linked to the impact of secularization and hedonism, more prevalent in this part of the missionary world then in some others […] These challenges have been a source of discouragement for many of you, especially after many attempts to confront them with different programs for which economic resources were not spared. It would therefore be opportune to take to heart the words of Pope Francis to the Bishops gathered in Brazil this past July: “never yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman, that “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand.” We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint.

While this may seem like a bleak view of the Caribbean reality, it provided us an opportunity to look at ourselves and to decide how we are going to make the necessary turn around, in response to the evangelical call. Very prominent in the Cardinal’s presentation is what is perceived as part of the cause of the present situation in the Caribbean Church, Catholic or otherwise. I speak of the influence of secularization and hedonism. My dear people, in our contemporary culture, believe it or not, the fear of God and the respect our fellow human beings are under serious threat. The absolute value given to the quest for pleasure and egotistical pursuits is nothing less than frightening. In Europe and the United States, the statistics are showing that fastest growing group of people are those who have no religious affiliations. While in the Caribbean people may still claim some form of allegiance, I am surely afraid that we are not too far behind. The number of people who just don’t go to Church for the most part of the year is growing at an alarming rate, starting with our adults, men especially, and overflowing to our youth. And it is not because the word of God is not being preached. On the contrary, there has never been a time in our history when there were more Churches per square mile than this present time. Therefore, Jesus is always on the air, but whether he is finding his way to the human heart, is the bigger question. Too often Churches in the modern world are being seen as objects of selfish pursuits and financial gains. It is nothing but a scandal to the gospel of Jesus. Too often we use the gospel to justify our gullible tendencies.

What therefore, ought we to do to turn things around? One thing I am certain is that whatever we do, has of necessity to include everyone. I want you my dear brothers and sisters, to see yourselves as part of the new evangelisation that is being called for by the Church universal. The Church is not a gas station where persons come to fill up their spiritual tanks. It is rather a living community; a community persons of all types: race, colour, creed and class; all with their varied concerns. And together we exist to carry out our individual and collective roles, working towards our heavenly eternity.

This is why, dear friends, in my vision of the times, I saw the need for us as a people, to fight with all our might, against the causes of crime and violence, in all their dimensions. In that regard, I have no doubt that this coming year is going to be a challenging one. Our growing impatience in tolerating each other, our inability to solve conflicts through dialogue and negotiations, needs to be addressed. Resorting to physical means is nothing but the cowardly option that too many of our people are taking. It adds nothing to the spiritual health of a nation. That too is a responsibility of all. We must be determined to bring perpetrators of crime to justice, otherwise the gospel message; the gospel of peace, will make little sense. Without justice there will be no peace.

In my vision of the times, I see what seems like a very active year in the bid for the political directorate of the Nature Isle. Experience seems to indicate that this contest could engender a great deal of division among our people. Oh how I wish to be proven wrong! Unfortunately, what has happened in times past has a way of repeating itself, unless a new and more hopeful method is adopted. These are the signs of the times in which we live, dear friends. And as would happen, after the calm, some people might be too angry with others to significantly push forward the new evangelization which is being proposed and which is in such great demand. In that regard, therefore, I rather present this coming political year as a challenge; one which would be based on dialogue, on the search for truth and the general well-being of our country’s citizens.

In my vision of the times, I hear St. Paul reminding us in today’s epistle, that we are yet God’s children. He says to us:

The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you son, you are not a slave anymore; and if God has made you son, then he made you heir.’ It simply means you have a right to an eternal inheritance.

Brother and sisters, let us work earnestly, not to allow ourselves to be enslaved in any form or fashion during this coming year, whether spiritually, socially, physically, politically or otherwise.

In my vision of the times, I see our Lady, on this her Solemnity as Mother of God, adopting the most perfect disposition towards what had happened to her; that is, embracing her vocation of motherhood. The shepherds who were led by providence to her humble abode,

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

We too, dear friends, as we enter this New Year, even in what can be regarded as a hostile climate, are being called to develop a pondering disposition, in the likeness of Our Lady. Ours is such a hasty world in which we all caught. We all want our needs to be satisfied instantly. We lack patience with others and even with ourselves. The great theologian, Karl Rahner, of happy memory, used to say that, in order for the Christian of today to survive this world he/she must be a mystic. A mystic is one who ponders on the things of life; one who seek ultimately to contemplate the immensity of God in all he says and does. Let us enter this New Year seeking that disposition, so we can at least hear what the Lord is saying in our time. May this year be one of listening, so that our actions may always build and not destroy; that they may fan the flame of hope in each of us, individually, in our families, in our community and in our nation!

It is not without reason that the first lesson chosen for today’s celebration is the Blessing of Numbers. It is therefore fitting that I place the vision for 2014 under God’s divine guidance. And so I pray, dear friends:

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you His peace! Amen!

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

New Year’s Homily 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

 

MY VISION OF THE TIMES

 

Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

 

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, we come once again to this mysterious moment called New Year’s Day. I say mysterious because, year after year, we gather at the feet of the Lord, wondering what is in store for us; wondering how the year will unfold:—with fortunes or the contrary? Some of us come with our own lists, to tell the Lord what we would like to achieve in the coming year, and asking him to lend a hand in bringing them to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that, for many of us, even before the first month is over, we unwittingly find ourselves abandoning all the beautiful resolutions we have made, as we get caught up with the demands of the New Year.

 

I, on my part, ask the Lord for a word—a word which will speak to the hearts of his people, on this very important day, this New Year’s Day; an anointed word; a word which will say only what the Lord wants to say to his people. As with the prophets of old, the Lord always inspired a word in them, but in accordance with the signs of the times in which they lived. The word of God always speaks to a particular context. What, therefore, does the Lord want to say to his people in 2014?

 

In my vision of the times, what do I see, what do I hear? I see possibilities for thingsgreat, possibilities for success possibilities for accomplishments. I see the absolute desire of our God to take hold of the world in which we live. But I also see that all can be lost; if there is no individual and collective embrace of the present moment; of the opportunities being presented us by the Lord himself. In my vision of the times, I hear the Lord earnestly seeking our cooperation in making Dominica and the world what they ought to be.

 

In my vision of the times, I hear Pope Francis, through his recent Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, beckoning the entire Church to a new evangelisation, a new zeal for the Kingdom. I hear him beckoning us to be a different kind of Church; to posture ourselves to attend to the hungers and thirsts of God’s people. I hear him calling us all to be:

·         A church that is characterised by the joy of the gospel – a joy that is ever new and a joy that is delightful and comforting when it is shared;

·         He call us to an evangelization which is addressed to all and shared by all;

·         He calls us to be a church that goes forth with a mission that comes from the heart of the gospel;

·         He calls us to be a Church which is a mother with an open heart; a church ready to face the challenges of today’s world, saying:

o   No to an economy of exclusion;

o   No to the idolatry of money;

o   No to a financial system which rules rather than serves;

o   No to the inequality which spawns violence.

 

If we are not convinced by the Holy Father’s invitation, we need only to recall that our own Diocese, a little over three years ago, convened a synod, under the theme: Disciples on Mission, Gifted and Called, out of which a pastoral plan was drawn. Representatives of the people of God in this Diocese came together and raised the issues, the concerns and the challenges facedby the local church, and devised a plan of action to make its ministry more viable, whether on the level of the parish, the family, the youth, the liturgy, social involvement, education, pastoral charity, etc. Each year, so far, we have focussed on a particular sub-theme to help us bring to fruition what we thought the Lord was asking of us in this historical time. This year, the third leg of our pastoral engagement, we see the need to Go and make Disciples. This is our year’s theme. What is evident is the absolute correspondence there is in the Holy Father’s invitation and what our own local Church has discovered to be the present need.

 

Brothers and sisters, I cannot be more convinced of the truth of what seems to be resonating in the deepest sentiments of the universal Church, and therefore, the local community. On November 30, 2013, all the Bishops of the Antilles Conference met in Trinidad with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. In his address to the Bishops, the Cardinal underscored the principal challenges faced by the Church in the Antilles, as seen, of course, from the viewpoint of head office. This is an extract from what he had to say, and I quote:

 

After the enthusiasm following the Second Vatican Council, which affirmed the importance of local cultures in the life of particular Churches, their liturgies and pastoral programs, there was a period of disenchantment, which resulted in a drop in vocations, a diminution in the numbers of priests and religious, a decline in the number of Catholics and a decrease in their zeal for the faith, and a significant reduction in financial resources available for the sustenance of the Dioceses. These difficulties are linked to the impact of secularization and hedonism, more prevalent in this part of the missionary world then in some others […] These challenges have been a source of discouragement for many of you, especially after many attempts to confront them with different programs for which economic resources were not spared. It would therefore be opportune to take to heart the words of Pope Francis to the Bishops gathered in Brazil this past July: “never yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman, that “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand.” We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint.

 

While this may seem like a bleak view of the Caribbean reality, it provided us an opportunity to look at ourselves and to decide how we are going to make the necessary turn around, in response to the evangelical call. Very prominent in the Cardinal’s presentation is what is perceived as part of the cause of the present situation in the Caribbean Church, Catholic or otherwise. I speak of the influence of secularization and hedonism. My dear people, in our contemporary culture, believe it or not, the fear of God and the respect our fellow human beings are under serious threat. The absolute value given to the quest for pleasure and egotistical pursuits is nothing less than frightening. In Europe and the United States, the statistics are showing that fastest growing group of people are those who have no religious affiliations. While in the Caribbean people may still claim some form of allegiance, I am surely afraid that we are not too far behind. The number of people who just don’t go to Church for the most part of the year is growing at an alarming rate, starting with our adults, men especially, and overflowing to our youth. And it is not because the word of God is not being preached. On the contrary, there has never been a time in our history when there were more Churches per square mile than this present time. Therefore, Jesus is always on the air, but whether he is finding his way to the human heart, is the bigger question. Too often Churches in the modern world are being seen as objects of selfish pursuits and financial gains. It is nothing but a scandal to the gospel of Jesus. Too often we use the gospel to justify our gullible tendencies.

 

What therefore, ought we to do to turn things around? One thing I am certain is that whatever we do, has of necessity to include everyone. I want you my dear brothers and sisters, to see yourselves as part of the new evangelisation that is being called for by the Church universal. The Church is not a gas station where persons come to fill up their spiritual tanks. It is rather a living community; a community persons of all types: race, colour, creed and class; all with their varied concerns. And together we exist to carry out our individual and collective roles, working towards our heavenly eternity.

 

This is why, dear friends, in my vision of the times, I saw the need for us as a people, to fight with all our might, against the causes of crime and violence, in all their dimensions. In that regard, I have no doubt that this coming year is going to be a challenging one. Our growing impatience in tolerating each other, our inability to solve conflicts through dialogue and negotiations, needs to be addressed. Resorting to physical means is nothing but the cowardly option that too many of our people are taking. It adds nothing to the spiritual health of a nation. That too is a responsibility of all. We must be determined to bring perpetrators of crime to justice, otherwise the gospel message; the gospel of peace, will make little sense. Without justice there will be no peace.

 

In my vision of the times, I see what seems like a very active year in the bid for the political directorate of the Nature Isle. Experience seems to indicate that this contest could engender a great deal of division among our people. Oh how I wish to be proven wrong! Unfortunately, what has happened in times past has a way of repeating itself, unless a new and more hopeful method is adopted. These are the signs of the times in which we live, dear friends. And as would happen, after the calm, some people might be too angry with others to significantly push forward the new evangelization which is being proposed and which is in such great demand. In that regard, therefore, I rather present this coming political year as a challenge; one which would be based on dialogue, on the search for truth and the general well-being of our country’s citizens. 

 

In my vision of the times, I hear St. Paul reminding us in today’s epistle, that we are yet God’s children. He says to us:

 

The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you son, you are not a slave anymore; and if God has made you son, then he made you heir.’ It simply means you have a right to an eternal inheritance.

 

Brother and sisters, let us work earnestly, not to allow ourselves to be enslaved in any form or fashion during this coming year, whether spiritually, socially, physically, politically or otherwise.

 

In my vision of the times, I see our Lady, on this her Solemnity as Mother of God, adopting the most perfect disposition towards what had happened to her; that is, embracing her vocation of motherhood. The shepherds who were led by providence to her humble abode,

 

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

 

We too, dear friends, as we enter this New Year, even in what can be regarded as a hostile climate, are being called to develop a pondering disposition, in the likeness of Our Lady. Ours is such a hasty world in which we all caught. We all want our needs to be satisfied instantly. We lack patience with others and even with ourselves. The great theologian, Karl Rahner, of happy memory, used to say that, in order for the Christian of today to survive this world he/she must be a mystic. A mystic is one who ponders on the things of life; one who seek ultimately to contemplate the immensity of God in all he says and does. Let us enter this New Year seeking that disposition, so we can at least hear what the Lord is saying in our time. May this year be one of listening, so that our actions may always build and not destroy; that they may fan the flame of hope in each of us, individually, in our families, in our community and in our nation!

 

It is not without reason that the first lesson chosen for today’s celebration is the Blessing of Numbers. It is therefore fitting that I place the vision for 2014 under God’s divine guidance. And so I pray, dear friends:

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you His peace! Amen!

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

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Good Friday – 2015

 

Service of the Lord’s Passion

Good Friday,

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

April 3, 2015

Poor Judas

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we come to the most serious time of the liturgical year, the celebration of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even the word passion communicates the reality and the sentiments that surround the event. In our turn, however, it is an invitation to deep reflection and questioning; reflection on what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and questions to ourselves and what we have done to merit this salvific plan of God for us.

In our attempt to do so, and to aid the process, I invite you to focus with me on the figure of the man, Judas poor Judas. This will be my theme for today’s reflection: “Poor Judas.”

The figure of Judas in the passion scene is one which engenders much wonder; even to the point of asking, if Jesus knew what kind of man he was, why did he include him among his disciples? This in itself says a great deal about Jesus and his openness to all human beings, much better than anyone of us can be. Then we have the text of John 12:1-11 which relates the story of Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who had brought a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, as it is described, to anoint the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her hair. At that gesture, the text says, Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?” To this question, this comment is made in the negative: “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions.” Didn’t Jesus know all that? Maybe he did. However, all we can confirm from the scriptural evidence is that despite what we now know of Judas, he was a follower of Jesus right up to the end.

But the bigger question is what kind of follower was he? And what does the gospel mean when it describes Judas as a betrayer? Did Judas really betray Jesus in the ordinary sense as we understand it? What we see coming through the gospels is that Judas, like the other disciples, was very impressed with Jesus and his actions. They were taken by the way he moved people, the marvelous works that he did, and the potential for tremendous benefits by their allegiance to this wonder-worker. It could be that Judas was only a type which described what was going on in the mind of the other disciples.

This can be substantiated in the story of James and John, the sons of Zebedee who came to Jesus asking for special favours. They said to Jesus, when you come into your kingdom, allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory. Jesus said unto them: “Do you know what you are asking? Can you drink the cup that I must drink, and can you be baptized with the baptism with which I must be baptized? They replied, “We can.” And Jesus said unto them, “The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptized you shall be baptized, but as for seats on my right hand or on my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those for whom they have been allotted” (Mark 10:35-40).

This text like the Matthew’s version, which has the mother of James and John coming forward on their behalf, are indications that the disciples were loaded with motives regarding their following of Jesus – some were good and some were not so good.

We also have the example of Peter who, in his cowardice, according to all the gospel accounts, denied Jesus. And more so, Jesus had very shortly before, predicted its occurrence.

Judas, like the other disciples, as I alluded to earlier, had great admiration for Jesus, so to say that Judas betrayed Jesus needs to be qualified. The truth is, Judas’ betrayal had nothing to do with his hatred for Jesus. On the contrary, he enjoyed the company of Jesus.  In his close association with Jesus he had witnessed him making many narrow escapes from his opponents and enemies. Because of the powers he knew that Jesus had, Judas expected Jesus to make another escape. But this time he was tricked – he allowed himself to be fooled.

This is simply an indication that Judas was a follower but not a disciple. It reminds me of the story of the professor of great renown who was told that a certain young man was boasting about having been his student. The professor turned around and said: “He may have attended my classes, but he was not my student.” To be a real student of a great professor pays dividends; and it is seen by the extent to which he/she has emulated the conduct and philosophy of the professor.

From this analogy, it is becoming clearer that Judas was not a true disciple; his motive for following Jesus was not very pure – he was after the money. He was certain that if Jesus had escaped from the clutches of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law this one last time, the benefits for him would be great. In his mind Jesus would be a superstar, he would have many followers and he, Judas, would be collecting the proceeds, as was already his job; money: that tainted thing, as the Scripture calls it. It can make us lose our souls.

Judas was not a true disciple because all the teachings of Jesus about his imminent death had escaped him. All the teaching of Jesus about his kingdom not being of this world, had escaped him. All the teaching about the sign of Jonah had escaped him. Yes, Judas was a deeply-motivated follower, but not a true disciple. Unfortunately, it can be the same with us.

Truthfully, my dear friend, Judas is a model which challenges every Christian today. Today we are all challenged to discover the Judas in us. I remember, when I was growing up, Good Friday was a sad and serious day for my family. We were on Ps and Qs as to what we could do or couldn’t do. If we had done anything contrary to what our parents expected of us, they would call us, in the kwyon term, Jida. And that was a real bad name. No one wanted to be called Jida. But our reflection today indicates that we all are Jidas. We are all packed with motives, some of which are not so good; otherwise we would have a pure Christian society in Dominica; we would have the most loving Church in the world; and we would be the most genuine group of people one can find. But you and I know it is not so.

But here is our opportunity. As much as we would not want to be called Jida, if we continue as if it is business as usual, viewing the whole period of Lent and the Glorious celebration of Easter merely as a fixture of a Catholic calendar and do nothing to change our relationship with God and our neighbour, we will be nothing less than Jida. But fortunately for us, today is a day of salvation; today is a day to say I forgive you; today is the day to say I want to make a fresh start. This is why Holy mother Church commands that every Catholic Christian ought to make his/her Easter duties, meaning that, none of her faithful should allow Easter Sunday to meet him/her in deep sinfulness. That is tantamount to playing with our souls. The holy scriptures indicate to us in more ways than one that the normal way to heaven, as instituted by Christ himself is through the confessional.

We can deepen our state of Jida-ness, so to speak, by allowing our pride, coloured by all kinds of excuses, not to profit from the grace of sacramental confession. That too was the real problem of Judas. The difference between him and Peter is that when Peter heard the cock crow, he wept in remorse and guilt. This was his way of saying “I’m sorry.” However, after Judas found himself tricked by the resignation of Jesus, his pride didn’t allow him to say “I’m sorry.” He preferred to hang himself. So often in our lives, by our actions and decisions, we allow ourselves to be hung by our sins than to admit that we have messed up and we need help. Brothers and sisters pride is a terrible thing. It prevents us from forgiving, it prevents us from asking for forgiveness, it prevents our hearts from loving, it makes us cold, allowing us to see only the wrongs in people and to exonerate ourselves into the deeper trap of sin, so that it is not only Poor Judas but also “Poor me”.

Today our invitation is to deal with the Judas in us. With the blood of Jesus to help us, let us fight him with all our might to bring about the required change in each one of us; for if we don’t we will hang ourselves in absolute destruction. Today, brothers and sisters is indeed the day of salvation!

O that today you would hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Amen!

 

 

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Holy Thursday

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

April 2, 2015

The Eucharist is everything

Dear brother and sisters in Christ, this evening we come to that moment when we celebrate both in symbol and in reality the fullness of God’s revelation to humanity – the Eucharist. It is understandable why this day is considered as the day in which both the priesthood of the Church and the Eucharist were instituted. It, therefore, places an inseparable bond between the priesthood and the Eucharist. This also brings us to the conclusion that there is no Eucharist without the priesthood and there is no priesthood without the Eucharist; hence the affirmation of the eminent French theologian, Henri DeLubac when he says: “the Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist.”

Beginning with the message of today’s first reading from the book of Exodus, here is presented a prefiguration of the Eucharist. It depicts the means by which God chose to save his people from the slavery of Egypt. It was the first Passover; that is, the passing of the angel of God over the houses of the Israelites marked with blood on the two doorposts and their lintel. In this way the unmarked houses of the Egyptians met the wrath of God. In this text, which is a type or symbol of the Eucharist, the Egyptians under Pharaoh represent the reality of sin, while the Passover represents the absolute determination of God to save his people by the blood of the lamb. Even then blood was the symbol which sealed the covenant between God and his people.

Brothers and sisters, this is what we celebrate – the ultimate and absolute saving act of God which finds its climax in Christ. He is indeed the fullness of God’s communication with our race. It is no surprise that St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians describes Jesus Christ as “the visible image of the invisible God and the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible” (Col 1:15-16). From his theology of encounter, Paul also relates in today’s Second Reading the insight he had come to with regard to salvation in Christ. He says: “This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memorial of me. In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memorial of me.” This corresponds to the synoptic gospels’ account of the institution of the Eucharist, that is, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, in today’s gospel, the Gospel of John, Jesus uses a demonstrative method.

In the three readings given for today’s liturgy, we see a movement from pre-figuration to the symbolic or sacramental and then to the practical or social.  Today I wish to focus on the practico/social dimension of the Eucharist. The sacramental is what we perform every day when we come to the liturgy.  John in his gospel used a very simple gesture; a gesture which every Jew in his time was able to understand as it was within their culture to do feet-washing as an accepted from of hospitality. But the point of that gesture as it relates to today’s message is “who” was doing that feet-washing. It was not normal for a Master or Rabbi to wash the feet of disciples in that culture. Only servants and slaves washed feet. Jesus in that instance reversed that order; hence his question: “Do you understand what I am doing to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”

In the Eucharist, demonstrated in the Feet-washing gesture, Jesus reversed the order of Jewish hospitality – the Master becomes the slave. This philosophy of Jesus is alluded to in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2: which we read only last Sunday, Passion Sunday. In that text he says:  “Though His state was divine, yet Christ Jesus did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are, and being as all men are, he was humbler yet and even to accepting death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).

The text, brothers and sisters, is an example which indicates where the Eucharist should lead us. The sacramental dimension, as good as it is, if it does not have a corresponding social dimension, is tantamount to mere sacramentality and can even be a mockery. It is not without reason that Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel tells us: “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, (let alone, you having something against your brother), leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Mt. 5:23-24).

The Christian life, my dear friends is a very practical life. The sacramental dimension must lead us to a deeper life in relation to our society, our work and our neighbor. You will agree with me that it is always the practical dimension of the Eucharist which poses greatest difficulty for all of us. The simple reason for this is that we are often better at theory than practice. We are better at profession of creeds rather than living out the tenets or demands of those creeds. Somehow, we are better at sacramentals and signs than with what is real and true. Truth can be a real challenge for us sometimes. We can become very scrupulous about the Eucharist and yet we treat our neighbour and co-worker very badly. We can make sure that we are seen to be doing all the Churchy things – what we deem required to be seen as a reasonably good person, while we can entertain bribery, fraud and all sorts of misconduct. Externally we can seem to be practicing our faith but inwardly we can be enslaved by greed, selfishness and pride.

For the Catholic Christian, the Eucharist, to my mind is everything. It is indeed the measure of our relationship with God and with our neighbour. It is the greatest source of liberation. But conversely it can be the greatest means of condemnation if our lives are not congruent to its demands. As a source of liberation its effects are seen when a transposition is made from the sacramental to the practical. Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:35). He never said if you pray or come to Church, etc. Not that these are not important, but Jesus always focused on the practical side of the good life. Love one for another is always an indication that the gospel message and the Eucharist has taken root in the life of the Christian.

When St. Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, in Chapter 2 verse 20, ” I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me,” he is emphasizing the need for the Christian to be an image of Christ in the world, especially outside the Church, where life really happens. In more ways than one, the walls of the Church protect us. It is a place where we are permitted to pretend. But in the social world we cannot pretend. Even if we do, at some point it catches up with us.

Take for example, a parent, a professional, teacher, a priest or bishop, who does not do his/his or her job as he/she should, at some point, sooner or later it will show up. We can even us this analogy to judge the world in which we live. Are we satisfied with our present society? Are we satisfied with our families and the varied configurations in which they exist today?  Are we satisfied with the work ethic that exists in our country? What have we to say about crime and violence in our little nature Isle? Do people treat their jobs as a vocation, or are they simply marking time for a salary or promotion or a title? In other words, everything we do today begs the question, what is my purpose in life. Am I living authentically or am I just a make believe?

The Eucharist, brothers and sisters invites us to greater truth and authenticity. God did not spare his own Son, but gave him all up so that we may learn how to live. Now this is a challenge for all of us, clergy and faithful alike. We are all called to configure ourselves and our intentions to that of Christ – and that is unfathomable. There is no limit to goodness – there is no limit to the Eucharist – there is no limit to love. The Eucharist is the most perfect demonstration of God’s love for humanity. If we can measure up to it, salvation is already ours.

I say this because the Eucharist is essentially the place where heaven and earth meet. Of course, there are several instances where heaven and earth met in the history of salvation. The first was at creation, the second was in the Incarnation, celebrated at Christmas when God became man in the person of Jesus; and the third is at the Eucharist in which the God-man Jesus is given totally for our sanctification. These meetings of heaven and earth are demonstrative of God’s absolute love for humanity. Therefore, every time we partake of the Eucharist, in reality we are tasting heaven. This might sound difficult to grasp because of the simplicity of its nature. Our minds don’t do very well with simple things, especially when they pertain to God. But in fact this is the nature of God – simplicity. God, in Jesus Christ, presents himself to us in the simplest and most accessible way possible – in the form of bread and wine. If we do not profit from God’s accessibility – that which he is offering us, we are deprived. But if and when we do so, its translation in a practical Christian life has untold effect on the social order; meaning our world, society, home, and our individual lives.

Therefore my dear friends, the call of Jesus in the feet-washing gesture of today’s liturgy is the means by which we can make the world in which we live truly Christian. If we are not satisfied with that world, let us remember the song of St. Francis of Assisi in which he prays: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Let us go forth and wash each other’s feet!

Amen!!

 

 

 

Chrism Mass

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me:

An invitation to participate in God’s anointing

 Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, only one year ago we were assembled here to perform the liturgical acts by which we seek to enter more deeply into the reality of the Church’s mission here in this portion of the God’s Kingdom; namely, the renewal of our commitment to Priestly Service and the blessing and consecration of the oil to facilitate the sacramental life of the Church. However, before delving into my reflection on the significance of today’s celebration, let me make some acknowledgements of the persons who collaborate with me in the ministry of the Church in the Diocese.

First, I wish to thank, Cardinal Felix, who, despite being in his emeritus state, continues to be a source of inspiration to all the Clergy, Religious and the entire Diocese. We thank God for his service and witness to God’s people here in the Diocese. We all enjoy the privilege of knowing that Roseau is the only Diocese in the Antilles Conference graced with the presence of a Cardinal to con-celebrate on this very special day. And he does so with such humility.

Secondly, I wish to thank all the Clergy working in the Diocese; those attached to parishes and those who are in various ministries in the Diocese: the FMI Fathers, the Redemptorist Fathers, the Fathers of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales and the Diocesan Priests. Among these I want to single out Fathers Charles Michael Raj and Sebastian Roberts who arrived late last year and are serving the parish of St. Andrew in Vieille Case and its surrounding communities. We continue to pray for the full recovery of Fr. Sebastian who was involved in an accident four weeks ago. I thank all the persons who have taken such good care of him during his hospitalization and convalescence. I also thank Fr. Callistus St. Louis, who came to us from Canada since last November. He is a St. Lucian by birth and is incardinated in the Diocese of Kingstown, St. Vincent. We are grateful for his service to the Cathedral and the Diocese. I thank our two Deacons Alvin and Curtis who render generous service to the Diocese.  Special welcome to Fr. Alister Elias who is visiting from St. Lucia.

Thirdly, deep appreciation is due to the Religious Sisters and Brothers who labour in the vineyard of the Diocese: the Dominican Sisters who are based in Canfield, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, based in Portsmouth, the Presentation Sisters and their companion Miss Jean O’Neil, based in Salisbury and working in Portsmouth, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM Sisters) based in Roseau, the Daughters of Jesus (D.J. Sisters),  based in Roseau,  and Sr. Mary Gallagher the only Sister of Charity of Cincinnati on mission here. I thank the Christian brothers, especially Brother James DePiro who arrived late last year to join Brother Raymond Philogene. He is presently the Vice Principal of St. Mary’s Academy. Thanks to the Redemptorist Brothers, Brother Sam and Brother George for the assistance to the Diocese through their work at the Holy Redeemer Retreat House.

Fourthly, to all the Chancery and Diocesan staff, I express my sincere gratitude for their assistance in keeping the various Diocesan institutions afloat; not forgetting the Principals and Staffs of our Catholic Schools for their invaluable work in seeking to give our young ones a Catholic Education. I also recognize the work of all our Catholic teachers, teaching in non-Catholic schools. They make valuable contributions to the lives of the children of our nation.

Fifthly, thanks to our Lay Associates in Pastoral Care, some of whom will be commissioned or re-commissioned later during this ceremony, for their support to the ministry of our Priests in the various parishes in our Diocese.

Finally, I thank all our parishioners from the various parishes of our Diocese and in particular, those here present.  You are “the Church on the spot”.  Your faithful witness to Christ’s love strengthens our Church.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, I invite you to reflect with me on the theme: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me: An invitation to participate in God’s anointing.”

The priesthood of Jesus in which we share, has its origin in the Old Testament. Under the Old Covenant, the priesthood had the singular role of offering sacrifices on behalf of the community of the People of God; and for this there was a special anointing. Kingship and prophetism in Israel were separate roles which required their own anointing. The King was to both shepherd the people and administer his kingdom on God’s behalf, while the prophet functioned as God’s mouthpiece. His mission was centered on the word of God.

In Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, all these varied roles come together; hence the prayer of anointing during our baptism ceremony at which the baptizing minister says: “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” In this text is found the vocation of both the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the people of God. The Church founded by Jesus Christ shares in the triple graces of the ministry of priest, prophet and king. However, we are called to live out those graces in different functions and capacities.

For those of us who share these graces in the ministerial sense, the truth just mentioned, brings to the fore the significance of the first part of today’s ceremony, which involves the renewal of our commitment to Priestly Service. It is, in essence, the recommitment of the priests of the Church to the sacred ministry to which they are called. You will agree with me that this is no simple gesture. In every Catholic Diocese in the world, at some point during this week, before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, all the priests of the world will renew their commitment. This will be done, as always, in the presence of large gatherings of the faithful people of God. Besides what this moment could mean for the individual priest who recommits himself to the service of God and his Church, the large gathering is always indicative of what the people of God expect of the anointed ones – the men of the cloth, as we are sometimes called. Their belief in the holy priesthood is such that they expect from us the kind of leadership and witness that will facilitate their own quest and desires for holiness; that our priestly witness will enhance rather than hinder the path to sanctity which every Christian is called to take. My dear friends, this is an enormous responsibility placed on the shoulders of the priest.

In the face of this daunting task we are always consoled by the words of the letter to the Hebrews, which is so pertinent and should be kept closely in mind by every bishop, priest and deacon. It advises thus: “Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin; and so he can sympathize with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitation of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was” (Heb. 5:1-4). The truth of this text, of necessity, should engender a disposition of humility towards this priestly office. It makes it clear to us that it is not because we merit this gift, but because God in his graciousness has called each priest to participate in the priesthood of his son, Jesus; thus  making it clear that the priesthood does not belong to us. It is totally and absolutely gratuitous; it belongs to Christ. We are only humble partakers of this office. And if we live it well, of course the people of God are edified. If we don’t, unfortunately, the opposite happens – they are scandalized.

At the end of his much talked about Christmas message to the cardinals at the Curia last December, after he had spelt out the fifteen illnesses and malfunctions of the institution, the Holy Father summed up his message in these words, he said: “I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticize them and few pray for them. It is a very nice phrase,” he said, “but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church.” The people of God, my dear fathers and deacons, Religious Sisters and Brothers, deserve the best from us; hence the necessity of the renewal of our commitment to the ministry of the Church, as will be done this evening.

And for you dear faithful people, how do you live your baptismal anointing? You are priests of God in your own rights. Think of what the Church would be like if everyone lived with the consciousness of being anointed. We often overlook it just as much as we overlook the significance of our baptism.  Did your baptism come to an end when water was poured on your head as a baby and anointed with Chrism many moons ago or has it afforded you the power to live as Christians in this world today?  Personally, I think it has. This is exemplified in the many ways you witness for Christ, and the varied ways you keep the faith alive in this secular world. However, today I urge you, not to limit yourself in light of your capacity for sanctity. God wants to make you the best you; the best professional, the best lawyer, the best doctor, the best parent, the best politician; and the list goes on. I urge you, not to give up your baptismal anointing for the trivialities which the world offers. In fact, the Christian ethos in the world today is dependent on your witness. Go on carrying out your daily Christian duties with simplicity, diligence and love and the Lord will be pleased with you.

The second segment of today’s ceremony is the blessing and consecration of oils for the sacred ministries of the Church. The oil of the sick is meant to help the Church respond to the needs of the sick among us and also those preparing to meet the Lord at the point of life’s final common denominator – death. The anointing with the oil of catechumen assists those on the road to baptism to cast out the power of Satan’s spirit of evil in their lives and to claim them for Christ through the sacrament. Holy Chrism has the most diverse usage in the sacramental life of the Church. It is used to administer the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the consecration of sacred spaces for divine worship. It is well to note that all the three sacraments administered through the use of Holy Chrism cannot be repeated in the Catholic Church – Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. The anointing at each instance carries with it a character, which puts an indelible mark on the recipient – it cannot be erased. Moreover, it claims the person for Christ with a particular mission. The mission attached to Baptism is to live the Christian life in the context of the world unto eternity. Confirmation strengthens the Christian to witness for Jesus Christ in the social order, and Holy Orders prepare the priest or bishop for the threefold responsibility of sanctifying, governing and teaching. The ministry of the Deacon, in that regard, is always associated with that of the Bishop and by extension the presbyterate.

These three anointings of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, have one thing in common; they are all given for the primary purpose of service to God’s people so that together we can work toward the salvation of all. This is to say that God’s anointing is never simply for self. It is always for the Church as a whole. This may sound strange because it is always received by an individual. The truth is, brothers and sisters, God always uses individuals for his divine purpose. Salvation is always meant for the entire community and not simply for the individual. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me to bring Good News to others….. The community comes before the individual. This is why no one has a claim on the gift of God. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans puts it well when he says: “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord” (Rom 14:7-8). The Bishop, the Priest, the Deacon, the Christian for that matter, always belongs to a bigger picture. And the Catholic Church is structured in such a way that the bigger picture is always set before us; thus the individual is always part of a family, the family is always part of a community, the community is always part of a parish, the parish is always part of a diocese, and the Diocese always belongs to Church universal; all at different levels seeking to serve the one true God. Therefore the anointing of the individual is meant for the salvation of the whole community of the people of God. The ministry of priest is always in relation to the Body of Christ – the Church; not outside. It does not stand on its own.

Towards the end of today’s ceremony we will be highlighting yet another dimension of the participation in the anointing of Christ, so to speak. We will be commissioning some members of the laity who have been trained to share more deeply in the ministry of the priest in the parish. Like the priesthood itself, it is to be embraced with the singular disposition of service to the people of God, under the authority of the Parish Priest. The Lay Associates in Pastoral Care are being singled out to carry out services in the Church in the absence of the priest. In this way they serve the community of faith and at the same time lives up to their baptismal call. And so I reiterate, every Christians is called to live out their baptismal anointing in whatever walk of life that God places him/her.

My dear people of God, I ask you to pray for your priests and deacons, pray for the Lay Associates in Pastoral Care, who despite their family and professional obligations give committed service to the Church. Pray for the entire people of God that we may build a community that is worthy of the name Christian. And pray for me too, that I may live up to my calling to serve well in the office of Bishop.

And may the God who has begun this good work in us bring it to completion. Amen!

 

New Year’s Homily 2014
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

MY VISION OF THE TIMES

Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, we come once again to this mysterious moment called New Year’s Day. I say mysterious because, year after year, we gather at the feet of the Lord, wondering what is in store for us; wondering how the year will unfold:—with fortunes or the contrary? Some of us come with our own lists, to tell the Lord what we would like to achieve in the coming year, and asking him to lend a hand in bringing them to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that, for many of us, even before the first month is over, we unwittingly find ourselves abandoning all the beautiful resolutions we have made, as we get caught up with the demands of the New Year.

I, on my part, ask the Lord for a word—a word which will speak to the hearts of his people, on this very important day, this New Year’s Day; an anointed word; a word which will say only what the Lord wants to say to his people. As with the prophets of old, the Lord always inspired a word in them, but in accordance with the signs of the times in which they lived. The word of God always speaks to a particular context. What, therefore, does the Lord want to say to his people in 2014?

In my vision of the times, what do I see, what do I hear? I see possibilities for things great, possibilities for success possibilities for accomplishments. I see the absolute desire of our God to take hold of the world in which we live. But I also see that all can be lost; if there is no individual and collective embrace of the present moment; of the opportunities being presented us by the Lord himself. In my vision of the times, I hear the Lord earnestly seeking our cooperation in making Dominica and the world what they ought to be.

In my vision of the times, I hear Pope Francis, through his recent Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, beckoning the entire Church to a new evangelisation, a new zeal for the Kingdom. I hear him beckoning us to be a different kind of Church; to posture ourselves to attend to the hungers and thirsts of God’s people. I hear him calling us all to be:

  • A church that is characterised by the joy of the gospel – a joy that is ever new and a joy that is delightful and comforting when it is shared;
  • He call us to an evangelization which is addressed to all and shared by all;
  • He calls us to be a church that goes forth with a mission that comes from the heart of the gospel;
  • He calls us to be a Church which is a mother with an open heart; a church ready to face the challenges of today’s world, saying:
    • No to an economy of exclusion;
    • No to the idolatry of money;
    • No to a financial system which rules rather than serves;
    • No to the inequality which spawns violence.

If we are not convinced by the Holy Father’s invitation, we need only to recall that our own Diocese, a little over three years ago, convened a synod, under the theme: Disciples on Mission, Gifted and Called, out of which a pastoral plan was drawn. Representatives of the people of God in this Diocese came together and raised the issues, the concerns and the challenges faced by the local church, and devised a plan of action to make its ministry more viable, whether on the level of the parish, the family, the youth, the liturgy, social involvement, education, pastoral charity, etc. Each year, so far, we have focussed on a particular sub-theme to help us bring to fruition what we thought the Lord was asking of us in this historical time. This year, the third leg of our pastoral engagement, we see the need to Go and make Disciples. This is our year’s theme. What is evident is the absolute correspondence there is in the Holy Father’s invitation and what our own local Church has discovered to be the present need.

Brothers and sisters, I cannot be more convinced of the truth of what seems to be resonating in the deepest sentiments of the universal Church, and therefore, the local community. On November 30, 2013, all the Bishops of the Antilles Conference met in Trinidad with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. In his address to the Bishops, the Cardinal underscored the principal challenges faced by the Church in the Antilles, as seen, of course, from the viewpoint of head office. This is an extract from what he had to say, and I quote:

After the enthusiasm following the Second Vatican Council, which affirmed the importance of local cultures in the life of particular Churches, their liturgies and pastoral programs, there was a period of disenchantment, which resulted in a drop in vocations, a diminution in the numbers of priests and religious, a decline in the number of Catholics and a decrease in their zeal for the faith, and a significant reduction in financial resources available for the sustenance of the Dioceses. These difficulties are linked to the impact of secularization and hedonism, more prevalent in this part of the missionary world then in some others […] These challenges have been a source of discouragement for many of you, especially after many attempts to confront them with different programs for which economic resources were not spared. It would therefore be opportune to take to heart the words of Pope Francis to the Bishops gathered in Brazil this past July: “never yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman, that “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand.” We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint.

While this may seem like a bleak view of the Caribbean reality, it provided us an opportunity to look at ourselves and to decide how we are going to make the necessary turn around, in response to the evangelical call. Very prominent in the Cardinal’s presentation is what is perceived as part of the cause of the present situation in the Caribbean Church, Catholic or otherwise. I speak of the influence of secularization and hedonism. My dear people, in our contemporary culture, believe it or not, the fear of God and the respect our fellow human beings are under serious threat. The absolute value given to the quest for pleasure and egotistical pursuits is nothing less than frightening. In Europe and the United States, the statistics are showing that fastest growing group of people are those who have no religious affiliations. While in the Caribbean people may still claim some form of allegiance, I am surely afraid that we are not too far behind. The number of people who just don’t go to Church for the most part of the year is growing at an alarming rate, starting with our adults, men especially, and overflowing to our youth. And it is not because the word of God is not being preached. On the contrary, there has never been a time in our history when there were more Churches per square mile than this present time. Therefore, Jesus is always on the air, but whether he is finding his way to the human heart, is the bigger question. Too often Churches in the modern world are being seen as objects of selfish pursuits and financial gains. It is nothing but a scandal to the gospel of Jesus. Too often we use the gospel to justify our gullible tendencies.

What therefore, ought we to do to turn things around? One thing I am certain is that whatever we do, has of necessity to include everyone. I want you my dear brothers and sisters, to see yourselves as part of the new evangelisation that is being called for by the Church universal. The Church is not a gas station where persons come to fill up their spiritual tanks. It is rather a living community; a community persons of all types: race, colour, creed and class; all with their varied concerns. And together we exist to carry out our individual and collective roles, working towards our heavenly eternity.

This is why, dear friends, in my vision of the times, I saw the need for us as a people, to fight with all our might, against the causes of crime and violence, in all their dimensions. In that regard, I have no doubt that this coming year is going to be a challenging one. Our growing impatience in tolerating each other, our inability to solve conflicts through dialogue and negotiations, needs to be addressed. Resorting to physical means is nothing but the cowardly option that too many of our people are taking. It adds nothing to the spiritual health of a nation. That too is a responsibility of all. We must be determined to bring perpetrators of crime to justice, otherwise the gospel message; the gospel of peace, will make little sense. Without justice there will be no peace.

In my vision of the times, I see what seems like a very active year in the bid for the political directorate of the Nature Isle. Experience seems to indicate that this contest could engender a great deal of division among our people. Oh how I wish to be proven wrong! Unfortunately, what has happened in times past has a way of repeating itself, unless a new and more hopeful method is adopted. These are the signs of the times in which we live, dear friends. And as would happen, after the calm, some people might be too angry with others to significantly push forward the new evangelization which is being proposed and which is in such great demand. In that regard, therefore, I rather present this coming political year as a challenge; one which would be based on dialogue, on the search for truth and the general well-being of our country’s citizens.

In my vision of the times, I hear St. Paul reminding us in today’s epistle, that we are yet God’s children. He says to us:

The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you son, you are not a slave anymore; and if God has made you son, then he made you heir.’ It simply means you have a right to an eternal inheritance.

Brother and sisters, let us work earnestly, not to allow ourselves to be enslaved in any form or fashion during this coming year, whether spiritually, socially, physically, politically or otherwise.

In my vision of the times, I see our Lady, on this her Solemnity as Mother of God, adopting the most perfect disposition towards what had happened to her; that is, embracing her vocation of motherhood. The shepherds who were led by providence to her humble abode,

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

We too, dear friends, as we enter this New Year, even in what can be regarded as a hostile climate, are being called to develop a pondering disposition, in the likeness of Our Lady. Ours is such a hasty world in which we all caught. We all want our needs to be satisfied instantly. We lack patience with others and even with ourselves. The great theologian, Karl Rahner, of happy memory, used to say that, in order for the Christian of today to survive this world he/she must be a mystic. A mystic is one who ponders on the things of life; one who seek ultimately to contemplate the immensity of God in all he says and does. Let us enter this New Year seeking that disposition, so we can at least hear what the Lord is saying in our time. May this year be one of listening, so that our actions may always build and not destroy; that they may fan the flame of hope in each of us, individually, in our families, in our community and in our nation!

It is not without reason that the first lesson chosen for today’s celebration is the Blessing of Numbers. It is therefore fitting that I place the vision for 2014 under God’s divine guidance. And so I pray, dear friends:

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you His peace! Amen!

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

New Year’s Homily 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

 

MY VISION OF THE TIMES

 

Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

 

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, we come once again to this mysterious moment called New Year’s Day. I say mysterious because, year after year, we gather at the feet of the Lord, wondering what is in store for us; wondering how the year will unfold:—with fortunes or the contrary? Some of us come with our own lists, to tell the Lord what we would like to achieve in the coming year, and asking him to lend a hand in bringing them to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that, for many of us, even before the first month is over, we unwittingly find ourselves abandoning all the beautiful resolutions we have made, as we get caught up with the demands of the New Year.

 

I, on my part, ask the Lord for a word—a word which will speak to the hearts of his people, on this very important day, this New Year’s Day; an anointed word; a word which will say only what the Lord wants to say to his people. As with the prophets of old, the Lord always inspired a word in them, but in accordance with the signs of the times in which they lived. The word of God always speaks to a particular context. What, therefore, does the Lord want to say to his people in 2014?

 

In my vision of the times, what do I see, what do I hear? I see possibilities for thingsgreat, possibilities for success possibilities for accomplishments. I see the absolute desire of our God to take hold of the world in which we live. But I also see that all can be lost; if there is no individual and collective embrace of the present moment; of the opportunities being presented us by the Lord himself. In my vision of the times, I hear the Lord earnestly seeking our cooperation in making Dominica and the world what they ought to be.

 

In my vision of the times, I hear Pope Francis, through his recent Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, beckoning the entire Church to a new evangelisation, a new zeal for the Kingdom. I hear him beckoning us to be a different kind of Church; to posture ourselves to attend to the hungers and thirsts of God’s people. I hear him calling us all to be:

·         A church that is characterised by the joy of the gospel – a joy that is ever new and a joy that is delightful and comforting when it is shared;

·         He call us to an evangelization which is addressed to all and shared by all;

·         He calls us to be a church that goes forth with a mission that comes from the heart of the gospel;

·         He calls us to be a Church which is a mother with an open heart; a church ready to face the challenges of today’s world, saying:

o   No to an economy of exclusion;

o   No to the idolatry of money;

o   No to a financial system which rules rather than serves;

o   No to the inequality which spawns violence.

 

If we are not convinced by the Holy Father’s invitation, we need only to recall that our own Diocese, a little over three years ago, convened a synod, under the theme: Disciples on Mission, Gifted and Called, out of which a pastoral plan was drawn. Representatives of the people of God in this Diocese came together and raised the issues, the concerns and the challenges facedby the local church, and devised a plan of action to make its ministry more viable, whether on the level of the parish, the family, the youth, the liturgy, social involvement, education, pastoral charity, etc. Each year, so far, we have focussed on a particular sub-theme to help us bring to fruition what we thought the Lord was asking of us in this historical time. This year, the third leg of our pastoral engagement, we see the need to Go and make Disciples. This is our year’s theme. What is evident is the absolute correspondence there is in the Holy Father’s invitation and what our own local Church has discovered to be the present need.

 

Brothers and sisters, I cannot be more convinced of the truth of what seems to be resonating in the deepest sentiments of the universal Church, and therefore, the local community. On November 30, 2013, all the Bishops of the Antilles Conference met in Trinidad with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. In his address to the Bishops, the Cardinal underscored the principal challenges faced by the Church in the Antilles, as seen, of course, from the viewpoint of head office. This is an extract from what he had to say, and I quote:

 

After the enthusiasm following the Second Vatican Council, which affirmed the importance of local cultures in the life of particular Churches, their liturgies and pastoral programs, there was a period of disenchantment, which resulted in a drop in vocations, a diminution in the numbers of priests and religious, a decline in the number of Catholics and a decrease in their zeal for the faith, and a significant reduction in financial resources available for the sustenance of the Dioceses. These difficulties are linked to the impact of secularization and hedonism, more prevalent in this part of the missionary world then in some others […] These challenges have been a source of discouragement for many of you, especially after many attempts to confront them with different programs for which economic resources were not spared. It would therefore be opportune to take to heart the words of Pope Francis to the Bishops gathered in Brazil this past July: “never yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman, that “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand.” We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint.

 

While this may seem like a bleak view of the Caribbean reality, it provided us an opportunity to look at ourselves and to decide how we are going to make the necessary turn around, in response to the evangelical call. Very prominent in the Cardinal’s presentation is what is perceived as part of the cause of the present situation in the Caribbean Church, Catholic or otherwise. I speak of the influence of secularization and hedonism. My dear people, in our contemporary culture, believe it or not, the fear of God and the respect our fellow human beings are under serious threat. The absolute value given to the quest for pleasure and egotistical pursuits is nothing less than frightening. In Europe and the United States, the statistics are showing that fastest growing group of people are those who have no religious affiliations. While in the Caribbean people may still claim some form of allegiance, I am surely afraid that we are not too far behind. The number of people who just don’t go to Church for the most part of the year is growing at an alarming rate, starting with our adults, men especially, and overflowing to our youth. And it is not because the word of God is not being preached. On the contrary, there has never been a time in our history when there were more Churches per square mile than this present time. Therefore, Jesus is always on the air, but whether he is finding his way to the human heart, is the bigger question. Too often Churches in the modern world are being seen as objects of selfish pursuits and financial gains. It is nothing but a scandal to the gospel of Jesus. Too often we use the gospel to justify our gullible tendencies.

 

What therefore, ought we to do to turn things around? One thing I am certain is that whatever we do, has of necessity to include everyone. I want you my dear brothers and sisters, to see yourselves as part of the new evangelisation that is being called for by the Church universal. The Church is not a gas station where persons come to fill up their spiritual tanks. It is rather a living community; a community persons of all types: race, colour, creed and class; all with their varied concerns. And together we exist to carry out our individual and collective roles, working towards our heavenly eternity.

 

This is why, dear friends, in my vision of the times, I saw the need for us as a people, to fight with all our might, against the causes of crime and violence, in all their dimensions. In that regard, I have no doubt that this coming year is going to be a challenging one. Our growing impatience in tolerating each other, our inability to solve conflicts through dialogue and negotiations, needs to be addressed. Resorting to physical means is nothing but the cowardly option that too many of our people are taking. It adds nothing to the spiritual health of a nation. That too is a responsibility of all. We must be determined to bring perpetrators of crime to justice, otherwise the gospel message; the gospel of peace, will make little sense. Without justice there will be no peace.

 

In my vision of the times, I see what seems like a very active year in the bid for the political directorate of the Nature Isle. Experience seems to indicate that this contest could engender a great deal of division among our people. Oh how I wish to be proven wrong! Unfortunately, what has happened in times past has a way of repeating itself, unless a new and more hopeful method is adopted. These are the signs of the times in which we live, dear friends. And as would happen, after the calm, some people might be too angry with others to significantly push forward the new evangelization which is being proposed and which is in such great demand. In that regard, therefore, I rather present this coming political year as a challenge; one which would be based on dialogue, on the search for truth and the general well-being of our country’s citizens. 

 

In my vision of the times, I hear St. Paul reminding us in today’s epistle, that we are yet God’s children. He says to us:

 

The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you son, you are not a slave anymore; and if God has made you son, then he made you heir.’ It simply means you have a right to an eternal inheritance.

 

Brother and sisters, let us work earnestly, not to allow ourselves to be enslaved in any form or fashion during this coming year, whether spiritually, socially, physically, politically or otherwise.

 

In my vision of the times, I see our Lady, on this her Solemnity as Mother of God, adopting the most perfect disposition towards what had happened to her; that is, embracing her vocation of motherhood. The shepherds who were led by providence to her humble abode,

 

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

 

We too, dear friends, as we enter this New Year, even in what can be regarded as a hostile climate, are being called to develop a pondering disposition, in the likeness of Our Lady. Ours is such a hasty world in which we all caught. We all want our needs to be satisfied instantly. We lack patience with others and even with ourselves. The great theologian, Karl Rahner, of happy memory, used to say that, in order for the Christian of today to survive this world he/she must be a mystic. A mystic is one who ponders on the things of life; one who seek ultimately to contemplate the immensity of God in all he says and does. Let us enter this New Year seeking that disposition, so we can at least hear what the Lord is saying in our time. May this year be one of listening, so that our actions may always build and not destroy; that they may fan the flame of hope in each of us, individually, in our families, in our community and in our nation!

 

It is not without reason that the first lesson chosen for today’s celebration is the Blessing of Numbers. It is therefore fitting that I place the vision for 2014 under God’s divine guidance. And so I pray, dear friends:

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you His peace! Amen!

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

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Holy Thursday 2015

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Holy Thursday

April 2, 2015

The Eucharist is everything

Dear brother and sisters in Christ, this evening we come to that moment when we celebrate both in symbol and in reality the fullness of God’s revelation to humanity – the Eucharist. It is understandable why this day is considered as the day in which both the priesthood of the Church and the Eucharist were instituted. It, therefore, places an inseparable bond between the priesthood and the Eucharist. This also brings us to the conclusion that there is no Eucharist without the priesthood and there is no priesthood without the Eucharist; hence the affirmation of the eminent French theologian, Henri DeLubac when he says: “the Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist.”

Beginning with the message of today’s first reading from the book of Exodus, here is presented a prefiguration of the Eucharist. It depicts the means by which God chose to save his people from the slavery of Egypt. It was the first Passover; that is, the passing of the angel of God over the houses of the Israelites marked with blood on the two doorposts and their lintel. In this way the unmarked houses of the Egyptians met the wrath of God. In this text, which is a type or symbol of the Eucharist, the Egyptians under Pharaoh represent the reality of sin, while the Passover represents the absolute determination of God to save his people by the blood of the lamb. Even then blood was the symbol which sealed the covenant between God and his people.

Brothers and sisters, this is what we celebrate – the ultimate and absolute saving act of God which finds its climax in Christ. He is indeed the fullness of God’s communication with our race. It is no surprise that St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians describes Jesus Christ as “the visible image of the invisible God and the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible” (Col 1:15-16). From his theology of encounter, Paul also relates in today’s Second Reading the insight he had come to with regard to salvation in Christ. He says: “This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memorial of me. In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memorial of me.” This corresponds to the synoptic gospels’ account of the institution of the Eucharist, that is, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, in today’s gospel, the Gospel of John, Jesus uses a demonstrative method.

In the three readings given for today’s liturgy, we see a movement from pre-figuration to the symbolic or sacramental and then to the practical or social.  Today I wish to focus on the practico/social dimension of the Eucharist. The sacramental is what we perform every day when we come to the liturgy.  John in his gospel used a very simple gesture; a gesture which every Jew in his time was able to understand as it was within their culture to do feet-washing as an accepted from of hospitality. But the point of that gesture as it relates to today’s message is “who” was doing that feet-washing. It was not normal for a Master or Rabbi to wash the feet of disciples in that culture. Only servants and slaves washed feet. Jesus in that instance reversed that order; hence his question: “Do you understand what I am doing to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”

In the Eucharist, demonstrated in the Feet-washing gesture, Jesus reversed the order of Jewish hospitality – the Master becomes the slave. This philosophy of Jesus is alluded to in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2: which we read only last Sunday, Passion Sunday. In that text he says:  “Though His state was divine, yet Christ Jesus did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are, and being as all men are, he was humbler yet and even to accepting death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).

The text, brothers and sisters, is an example which indicates where the Eucharist should lead us. The sacramental dimension, as good as it is, if it does not have a corresponding social dimension, is tantamount to mere sacramentality and can even be a mockery. It is not without reason that Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel tells us: “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, (let alone, you having something against your brother), leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Mt. 5:23-24).

The Christian life, my dear friends is a very practical life. The sacramental dimension must lead us to a deeper life in relation to our society, our work and our neighbor. You will agree with me that it is always the practical dimension of the Eucharist which poses greatest difficulty for all of us. The simple reason for this is that we are often better at theory than practice. We are better at profession of creeds rather than living out the tenets or demands of those creeds. Somehow, we are better at sacramentals and signs than with what is real and true. Truth can be a real challenge for us sometimes. We can become very scrupulous about the Eucharist and yet we treat our neighbour and co-worker very badly. We can make sure that we are seen to be doing all the Churchy things – what we deem required to be seen as a reasonably good person, while we can entertain bribery, fraud and all sorts of misconduct. Externally we can seem to be practicing our faith but inwardly we can be enslaved by greed, selfishness and pride.

For the Catholic Christian, the Eucharist, to my mind is everything. It is indeed the measure of our relationship with God and with our neighbour. It is the greatest source of liberation. But conversely it can be the greatest means of condemnation if our lives are not congruent to its demands. As a source of liberation its effects are seen when a transposition is made from the sacramental to the practical. Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:35). He never said if you pray or come to Church, etc. Not that these are not important, but Jesus always focused on the practical side of the good life. Love one for another is always an indication that the gospel message and the Eucharist has taken root in the life of the Christian.

When St. Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, in Chapter 2 verse 20, ” I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me,” he is emphasizing the need for the Christian to be an image of Christ in the world, especially outside the Church, where life really happens. In more ways than one, the walls of the Church protect us. It is a place where we are permitted to pretend. But in the social world we cannot pretend. Even if we do, at some point it catches up with us.

Take for example, a parent, a professional, teacher, a priest or bishop, who does not do his/his or her job as he/she should, at some point, sooner or later it will show up. We can even us this analogy to judge the world in which we live. Are we satisfied with our present society? Are we satisfied with our families and the varied configurations in which they exist today?  Are we satisfied with the work ethic that exists in our country? What have we to say about crime and violence in our little nature Isle? Do people treat their jobs as a vocation, or are they simply marking time for a salary or promotion or a title? In other words, everything we do today begs the question, what is my purpose in life. Am I living authentically or am I just a make believe?

The Eucharist, brothers and sisters invites us to greater truth and authenticity. God did not spare his own Son, but gave him all up so that we may learn how to live. Now this is a challenge for all of us, clergy and faithful alike. We are all called to configure ourselves and our intentions to that of Christ – and that is unfathomable. There is no limit to goodness – there is no limit to the Eucharist – there is no limit to love. The Eucharist is the most perfect demonstration of God’s love for humanity. If we can measure up to it, salvation is already ours.

I say this because the Eucharist is essentially the place where heaven and earth meet. Of course, there are several instances where heaven and earth met in the history of salvation. The first was at creation, the second was in the Incarnation, celebrated at Christmas when God became man in the person of Jesus; and the third is at the Eucharist in which the God-man Jesus is given totally for our sanctification. These meetings of heaven and earth are demonstrative of God’s absolute love for humanity. Therefore, every time we partake of the Eucharist, in reality we are tasting heaven. This might sound difficult to grasp because of the simplicity of its nature. Our minds don’t do very well with simple things, especially when they pertain to God. But in fact this is the nature of God – simplicity. God, in Jesus Christ, presents himself to us in the simplest and most accessible way possible – in the form of bread and wine. If we do not profit from God’s accessibility – that which he is offering us, we are deprived. But if and when we do so, its translation in a practical Christian life has untold effect on the social order; meaning our world, society, home, and our individual lives.

Therefore my dear friends, the call of Jesus in the feet-washing gesture of today’s liturgy is the means by which we can make the world in which we live truly Christian. If we are not satisfied with that world, let us remember the song of St. Francis of Assisi in which he prays: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Let us go forth and wash each other’s feet!

Amen!!

 

 

 

Chrism Mass

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me:

An invitation to participate in God’s anointing

 Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, only one year ago we were assembled here to perform the liturgical acts by which we seek to enter more deeply into the reality of the Church’s mission here in this portion of the God’s Kingdom; namely, the renewal of our commitment to Priestly Service and the blessing and consecration of the oil to facilitate the sacramental life of the Church. However, before delving into my reflection on the significance of today’s celebration, let me make some acknowledgements of the persons who collaborate with me in the ministry of the Church in the Diocese.

First, I wish to thank, Cardinal Felix, who, despite being in his emeritus state, continues to be a source of inspiration to all the Clergy, Religious and the entire Diocese. We thank God for his service and witness to God’s people here in the Diocese. We all enjoy the privilege of knowing that Roseau is the only Diocese in the Antilles Conference graced with the presence of a Cardinal to con-celebrate on this very special day. And he does so with such humility.

Secondly, I wish to thank all the Clergy working in the Diocese; those attached to parishes and those who are in various ministries in the Diocese: the FMI Fathers, the Redemptorist Fathers, the Fathers of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales and the Diocesan Priests. Among these I want to single out Fathers Charles Michael Raj and Sebastian Roberts who arrived late last year and are serving the parish of St. Andrew in Vieille Case and its surrounding communities. We continue to pray for the full recovery of Fr. Sebastian who was involved in an accident four weeks ago. I thank all the persons who have taken such good care of him during his hospitalization and convalescence. I also thank Fr. Callistus St. Louis, who came to us from Canada since last November. He is a St. Lucian by birth and is incardinated in the Diocese of Kingstown, St. Vincent. We are grateful for his service to the Cathedral and the Diocese. I thank our two Deacons Alvin and Curtis who render generous service to the Diocese.  Special welcome to Fr. Alister Elias who is visiting from St. Lucia.

Thirdly, deep appreciation is due to the Religious Sisters and Brothers who labour in the vineyard of the Diocese: the Dominican Sisters who are based in Canfield, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, based in Portsmouth, the Presentation Sisters and their companion Miss Jean O’Neil, based in Salisbury and working in Portsmouth, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM Sisters) based in Roseau, the Daughters of Jesus (D.J. Sisters),  based in Roseau,  and Sr. Mary Gallagher the only Sister of Charity of Cincinnati on mission here. I thank the Christian brothers, especially Brother James DePiro who arrived late last year to join Brother Raymond Philogene. He is presently the Vice Principal of St. Mary’s Academy. Thanks to the Redemptorist Brothers, Brother Sam and Brother George for the assistance to the Diocese through their work at the Holy Redeemer Retreat House.

Fourthly, to all the Chancery and Diocesan staff, I express my sincere gratitude for their assistance in keeping the various Diocesan institutions afloat; not forgetting the Principals and Staffs of our Catholic Schools for their invaluable work in seeking to give our young ones a Catholic Education. I also recognize the work of all our Catholic teachers, teaching in non-Catholic schools. They make valuable contributions to the lives of the children of our nation.

Fifthly, thanks to our Lay Associates in Pastoral Care, some of whom will be commissioned or re-commissioned later during this ceremony, for their support to the ministry of our Priests in the various parishes in our Diocese.

Finally, I thank all our parishioners from the various parishes of our Diocese and in particular, those here present.  You are “the Church on the spot”.  Your faithful witness to Christ’s love strengthens our Church.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, I invite you to reflect with me on the theme: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me: An invitation to participate in God’s anointing.”

The priesthood of Jesus in which we share, has its origin in the Old Testament. Under the Old Covenant, the priesthood had the singular role of offering sacrifices on behalf of the community of the People of God; and for this there was a special anointing. Kingship and prophetism in Israel were separate roles which required their own anointing. The King was to both shepherd the people and administer his kingdom on God’s behalf, while the prophet functioned as God’s mouthpiece. His mission was centered on the word of God.

In Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, all these varied roles come together; hence the prayer of anointing during our baptism ceremony at which the baptizing minister says: “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” In this text is found the vocation of both the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the people of God. The Church founded by Jesus Christ shares in the triple graces of the ministry of priest, prophet and king. However, we are called to live out those graces in different functions and capacities.

For those of us who share these graces in the ministerial sense, the truth just mentioned, brings to the fore the significance of the first part of today’s ceremony, which involves the renewal of our commitment to Priestly Service. It is, in essence, the recommitment of the priests of the Church to the sacred ministry to which they are called. You will agree with me that this is no simple gesture. In every Catholic Diocese in the world, at some point during this week, before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, all the priests of the world will renew their commitment. This will be done, as always, in the presence of large gatherings of the faithful people of God. Besides what this moment could mean for the individual priest who recommits himself to the service of God and his Church, the large gathering is always indicative of what the people of God expect of the anointed ones – the men of the cloth, as we are sometimes called. Their belief in the holy priesthood is such that they expect from us the kind of leadership and witness that will facilitate their own quest and desires for holiness; that our priestly witness will enhance rather than hinder the path to sanctity which every Christian is called to take. My dear friends, this is an enormous responsibility placed on the shoulders of the priest.

In the face of this daunting task we are always consoled by the words of the letter to the Hebrews, which is so pertinent and should be kept closely in mind by every bishop, priest and deacon. It advises thus: “Every high priest has been taken out of mankind and appointed to act for men in their relations with God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin; and so he can sympathize with those who are ignorant or uncertain because he too lives in the limitation of weakness. That is why he has to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God, as Aaron was” (Heb. 5:1-4). The truth of this text, of necessity, should engender a disposition of humility towards this priestly office. It makes it clear to us that it is not because we merit this gift, but because God in his graciousness has called each priest to participate in the priesthood of his son, Jesus; thus  making it clear that the priesthood does not belong to us. It is totally and absolutely gratuitous; it belongs to Christ. We are only humble partakers of this office. And if we live it well, of course the people of God are edified. If we don’t, unfortunately, the opposite happens – they are scandalized.

At the end of his much talked about Christmas message to the cardinals at the Curia last December, after he had spelt out the fifteen illnesses and malfunctions of the institution, the Holy Father summed up his message in these words, he said: “I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticize them and few pray for them. It is a very nice phrase,” he said, “but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church.” The people of God, my dear fathers and deacons, Religious Sisters and Brothers, deserve the best from us; hence the necessity of the renewal of our commitment to the ministry of the Church, as will be done this evening.

And for you dear faithful people, how do you live your baptismal anointing? You are priests of God in your own rights. Think of what the Church would be like if everyone lived with the consciousness of being anointed. We often overlook it just as much as we overlook the significance of our baptism.  Did your baptism come to an end when water was poured on your head as a baby and anointed with Chrism many moons ago or has it afforded you the power to live as Christians in this world today?  Personally, I think it has. This is exemplified in the many ways you witness for Christ, and the varied ways you keep the faith alive in this secular world. However, today I urge you, not to limit yourself in light of your capacity for sanctity. God wants to make you the best you; the best professional, the best lawyer, the best doctor, the best parent, the best politician; and the list goes on. I urge you, not to give up your baptismal anointing for the trivialities which the world offers. In fact, the Christian ethos in the world today is dependent on your witness. Go on carrying out your daily Christian duties with simplicity, diligence and love and the Lord will be pleased with you.

The second segment of today’s ceremony is the blessing and consecration of oils for the sacred ministries of the Church. The oil of the sick is meant to help the Church respond to the needs of the sick among us and also those preparing to meet the Lord at the point of life’s final common denominator – death. The anointing with the oil of catechumen assists those on the road to baptism to cast out the power of Satan’s spirit of evil in their lives and to claim them for Christ through the sacrament. Holy Chrism has the most diverse usage in the sacramental life of the Church. It is used to administer the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the consecration of sacred spaces for divine worship. It is well to note that all the three sacraments administered through the use of Holy Chrism cannot be repeated in the Catholic Church – Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. The anointing at each instance carries with it a character, which puts an indelible mark on the recipient – it cannot be erased. Moreover, it claims the person for Christ with a particular mission. The mission attached to Baptism is to live the Christian life in the context of the world unto eternity. Confirmation strengthens the Christian to witness for Jesus Christ in the social order, and Holy Orders prepare the priest or bishop for the threefold responsibility of sanctifying, governing and teaching. The ministry of the Deacon, in that regard, is always associated with that of the Bishop and by extension the presbyterate.

These three anointings of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, have one thing in common; they are all given for the primary purpose of service to God’s people so that together we can work toward the salvation of all. This is to say that God’s anointing is never simply for self. It is always for the Church as a whole. This may sound strange because it is always received by an individual. The truth is, brothers and sisters, God always uses individuals for his divine purpose. Salvation is always meant for the entire community and not simply for the individual. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me to bring Good News to others….. The community comes before the individual. This is why no one has a claim on the gift of God. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans puts it well when he says: “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord” (Rom 14:7-8). The Bishop, the Priest, the Deacon, the Christian for that matter, always belongs to a bigger picture. And the Catholic Church is structured in such a way that the bigger picture is always set before us; thus the individual is always part of a family, the family is always part of a community, the community is always part of a parish, the parish is always part of a diocese, and the Diocese always belongs to Church universal; all at different levels seeking to serve the one true God. Therefore the anointing of the individual is meant for the salvation of the whole community of the people of God. The ministry of priest is always in relation to the Body of Christ – the Church; not outside. It does not stand on its own.

Towards the end of today’s ceremony we will be highlighting yet another dimension of the participation in the anointing of Christ, so to speak. We will be commissioning some members of the laity who have been trained to share more deeply in the ministry of the priest in the parish. Like the priesthood itself, it is to be embraced with the singular disposition of service to the people of God, under the authority of the Parish Priest. The Lay Associates in Pastoral Care are being singled out to carry out services in the Church in the absence of the priest. In this way they serve the community of faith and at the same time lives up to their baptismal call. And so I reiterate, every Christians is called to live out their baptismal anointing in whatever walk of life that God places him/her.

My dear people of God, I ask you to pray for your priests and deacons, pray for the Lay Associates in Pastoral Care, who despite their family and professional obligations give committed service to the Church. Pray for the entire people of God that we may build a community that is worthy of the name Christian. And pray for me too, that I may live up to my calling to serve well in the office of Bishop.

And may the God who has begun this good work in us bring it to completion. Amen!

 

New Year’s Homily 2014
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

MY VISION OF THE TIMES

Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, we come once again to this mysterious moment called New Year’s Day. I say mysterious because, year after year, we gather at the feet of the Lord, wondering what is in store for us; wondering how the year will unfold:—with fortunes or the contrary? Some of us come with our own lists, to tell the Lord what we would like to achieve in the coming year, and asking him to lend a hand in bringing them to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that, for many of us, even before the first month is over, we unwittingly find ourselves abandoning all the beautiful resolutions we have made, as we get caught up with the demands of the New Year.

I, on my part, ask the Lord for a word—a word which will speak to the hearts of his people, on this very important day, this New Year’s Day; an anointed word; a word which will say only what the Lord wants to say to his people. As with the prophets of old, the Lord always inspired a word in them, but in accordance with the signs of the times in which they lived. The word of God always speaks to a particular context. What, therefore, does the Lord want to say to his people in 2014?

In my vision of the times, what do I see, what do I hear? I see possibilities for things great, possibilities for success possibilities for accomplishments. I see the absolute desire of our God to take hold of the world in which we live. But I also see that all can be lost; if there is no individual and collective embrace of the present moment; of the opportunities being presented us by the Lord himself. In my vision of the times, I hear the Lord earnestly seeking our cooperation in making Dominica and the world what they ought to be.

In my vision of the times, I hear Pope Francis, through his recent Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, beckoning the entire Church to a new evangelisation, a new zeal for the Kingdom. I hear him beckoning us to be a different kind of Church; to posture ourselves to attend to the hungers and thirsts of God’s people. I hear him calling us all to be:

  • A church that is characterised by the joy of the gospel – a joy that is ever new and a joy that is delightful and comforting when it is shared;
  • He call us to an evangelization which is addressed to all and shared by all;
  • He calls us to be a church that goes forth with a mission that comes from the heart of the gospel;
  • He calls us to be a Church which is a mother with an open heart; a church ready to face the challenges of today’s world, saying:
    • No to an economy of exclusion;
    • No to the idolatry of money;
    • No to a financial system which rules rather than serves;
    • No to the inequality which spawns violence.

If we are not convinced by the Holy Father’s invitation, we need only to recall that our own Diocese, a little over three years ago, convened a synod, under the theme: Disciples on Mission, Gifted and Called, out of which a pastoral plan was drawn. Representatives of the people of God in this Diocese came together and raised the issues, the concerns and the challenges faced by the local church, and devised a plan of action to make its ministry more viable, whether on the level of the parish, the family, the youth, the liturgy, social involvement, education, pastoral charity, etc. Each year, so far, we have focussed on a particular sub-theme to help us bring to fruition what we thought the Lord was asking of us in this historical time. This year, the third leg of our pastoral engagement, we see the need to Go and make Disciples. This is our year’s theme. What is evident is the absolute correspondence there is in the Holy Father’s invitation and what our own local Church has discovered to be the present need.

Brothers and sisters, I cannot be more convinced of the truth of what seems to be resonating in the deepest sentiments of the universal Church, and therefore, the local community. On November 30, 2013, all the Bishops of the Antilles Conference met in Trinidad with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. In his address to the Bishops, the Cardinal underscored the principal challenges faced by the Church in the Antilles, as seen, of course, from the viewpoint of head office. This is an extract from what he had to say, and I quote:

After the enthusiasm following the Second Vatican Council, which affirmed the importance of local cultures in the life of particular Churches, their liturgies and pastoral programs, there was a period of disenchantment, which resulted in a drop in vocations, a diminution in the numbers of priests and religious, a decline in the number of Catholics and a decrease in their zeal for the faith, and a significant reduction in financial resources available for the sustenance of the Dioceses. These difficulties are linked to the impact of secularization and hedonism, more prevalent in this part of the missionary world then in some others […] These challenges have been a source of discouragement for many of you, especially after many attempts to confront them with different programs for which economic resources were not spared. It would therefore be opportune to take to heart the words of Pope Francis to the Bishops gathered in Brazil this past July: “never yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman, that “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand.” We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint.

While this may seem like a bleak view of the Caribbean reality, it provided us an opportunity to look at ourselves and to decide how we are going to make the necessary turn around, in response to the evangelical call. Very prominent in the Cardinal’s presentation is what is perceived as part of the cause of the present situation in the Caribbean Church, Catholic or otherwise. I speak of the influence of secularization and hedonism. My dear people, in our contemporary culture, believe it or not, the fear of God and the respect our fellow human beings are under serious threat. The absolute value given to the quest for pleasure and egotistical pursuits is nothing less than frightening. In Europe and the United States, the statistics are showing that fastest growing group of people are those who have no religious affiliations. While in the Caribbean people may still claim some form of allegiance, I am surely afraid that we are not too far behind. The number of people who just don’t go to Church for the most part of the year is growing at an alarming rate, starting with our adults, men especially, and overflowing to our youth. And it is not because the word of God is not being preached. On the contrary, there has never been a time in our history when there were more Churches per square mile than this present time. Therefore, Jesus is always on the air, but whether he is finding his way to the human heart, is the bigger question. Too often Churches in the modern world are being seen as objects of selfish pursuits and financial gains. It is nothing but a scandal to the gospel of Jesus. Too often we use the gospel to justify our gullible tendencies.

What therefore, ought we to do to turn things around? One thing I am certain is that whatever we do, has of necessity to include everyone. I want you my dear brothers and sisters, to see yourselves as part of the new evangelisation that is being called for by the Church universal. The Church is not a gas station where persons come to fill up their spiritual tanks. It is rather a living community; a community persons of all types: race, colour, creed and class; all with their varied concerns. And together we exist to carry out our individual and collective roles, working towards our heavenly eternity.

This is why, dear friends, in my vision of the times, I saw the need for us as a people, to fight with all our might, against the causes of crime and violence, in all their dimensions. In that regard, I have no doubt that this coming year is going to be a challenging one. Our growing impatience in tolerating each other, our inability to solve conflicts through dialogue and negotiations, needs to be addressed. Resorting to physical means is nothing but the cowardly option that too many of our people are taking. It adds nothing to the spiritual health of a nation. That too is a responsibility of all. We must be determined to bring perpetrators of crime to justice, otherwise the gospel message; the gospel of peace, will make little sense. Without justice there will be no peace.

In my vision of the times, I see what seems like a very active year in the bid for the political directorate of the Nature Isle. Experience seems to indicate that this contest could engender a great deal of division among our people. Oh how I wish to be proven wrong! Unfortunately, what has happened in times past has a way of repeating itself, unless a new and more hopeful method is adopted. These are the signs of the times in which we live, dear friends. And as would happen, after the calm, some people might be too angry with others to significantly push forward the new evangelization which is being proposed and which is in such great demand. In that regard, therefore, I rather present this coming political year as a challenge; one which would be based on dialogue, on the search for truth and the general well-being of our country’s citizens.

In my vision of the times, I hear St. Paul reminding us in today’s epistle, that we are yet God’s children. He says to us:

The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you son, you are not a slave anymore; and if God has made you son, then he made you heir.’ It simply means you have a right to an eternal inheritance.

Brother and sisters, let us work earnestly, not to allow ourselves to be enslaved in any form or fashion during this coming year, whether spiritually, socially, physically, politically or otherwise.

In my vision of the times, I see our Lady, on this her Solemnity as Mother of God, adopting the most perfect disposition towards what had happened to her; that is, embracing her vocation of motherhood. The shepherds who were led by providence to her humble abode,

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

We too, dear friends, as we enter this New Year, even in what can be regarded as a hostile climate, are being called to develop a pondering disposition, in the likeness of Our Lady. Ours is such a hasty world in which we all caught. We all want our needs to be satisfied instantly. We lack patience with others and even with ourselves. The great theologian, Karl Rahner, of happy memory, used to say that, in order for the Christian of today to survive this world he/she must be a mystic. A mystic is one who ponders on the things of life; one who seek ultimately to contemplate the immensity of God in all he says and does. Let us enter this New Year seeking that disposition, so we can at least hear what the Lord is saying in our time. May this year be one of listening, so that our actions may always build and not destroy; that they may fan the flame of hope in each of us, individually, in our families, in our community and in our nation!

It is not without reason that the first lesson chosen for today’s celebration is the Blessing of Numbers. It is therefore fitting that I place the vision for 2014 under God’s divine guidance. And so I pray, dear friends:

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you His peace! Amen!

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

New Year’s Homily 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

 

MY VISION OF THE TIMES

 

Readings: Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

 

Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ, we come once again to this mysterious moment called New Year’s Day. I say mysterious because, year after year, we gather at the feet of the Lord, wondering what is in store for us; wondering how the year will unfold:—with fortunes or the contrary? Some of us come with our own lists, to tell the Lord what we would like to achieve in the coming year, and asking him to lend a hand in bringing them to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that, for many of us, even before the first month is over, we unwittingly find ourselves abandoning all the beautiful resolutions we have made, as we get caught up with the demands of the New Year.

 

I, on my part, ask the Lord for a word—a word which will speak to the hearts of his people, on this very important day, this New Year’s Day; an anointed word; a word which will say only what the Lord wants to say to his people. As with the prophets of old, the Lord always inspired a word in them, but in accordance with the signs of the times in which they lived. The word of God always speaks to a particular context. What, therefore, does the Lord want to say to his people in 2014?

 

In my vision of the times, what do I see, what do I hear? I see possibilities for thingsgreat, possibilities for success possibilities for accomplishments. I see the absolute desire of our God to take hold of the world in which we live. But I also see that all can be lost; if there is no individual and collective embrace of the present moment; of the opportunities being presented us by the Lord himself. In my vision of the times, I hear the Lord earnestly seeking our cooperation in making Dominica and the world what they ought to be.

 

In my vision of the times, I hear Pope Francis, through his recent Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, beckoning the entire Church to a new evangelisation, a new zeal for the Kingdom. I hear him beckoning us to be a different kind of Church; to posture ourselves to attend to the hungers and thirsts of God’s people. I hear him calling us all to be:

·         A church that is characterised by the joy of the gospel – a joy that is ever new and a joy that is delightful and comforting when it is shared;

·         He call us to an evangelization which is addressed to all and shared by all;

·         He calls us to be a church that goes forth with a mission that comes from the heart of the gospel;

·         He calls us to be a Church which is a mother with an open heart; a church ready to face the challenges of today’s world, saying:

o   No to an economy of exclusion;

o   No to the idolatry of money;

o   No to a financial system which rules rather than serves;

o   No to the inequality which spawns violence.

 

If we are not convinced by the Holy Father’s invitation, we need only to recall that our own Diocese, a little over three years ago, convened a synod, under the theme: Disciples on Mission, Gifted and Called, out of which a pastoral plan was drawn. Representatives of the people of God in this Diocese came together and raised the issues, the concerns and the challenges facedby the local church, and devised a plan of action to make its ministry more viable, whether on the level of the parish, the family, the youth, the liturgy, social involvement, education, pastoral charity, etc. Each year, so far, we have focussed on a particular sub-theme to help us bring to fruition what we thought the Lord was asking of us in this historical time. This year, the third leg of our pastoral engagement, we see the need to Go and make Disciples. This is our year’s theme. What is evident is the absolute correspondence there is in the Holy Father’s invitation and what our own local Church has discovered to be the present need.

 

Brothers and sisters, I cannot be more convinced of the truth of what seems to be resonating in the deepest sentiments of the universal Church, and therefore, the local community. On November 30, 2013, all the Bishops of the Antilles Conference met in Trinidad with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. In his address to the Bishops, the Cardinal underscored the principal challenges faced by the Church in the Antilles, as seen, of course, from the viewpoint of head office. This is an extract from what he had to say, and I quote:

 

After the enthusiasm following the Second Vatican Council, which affirmed the importance of local cultures in the life of particular Churches, their liturgies and pastoral programs, there was a period of disenchantment, which resulted in a drop in vocations, a diminution in the numbers of priests and religious, a decline in the number of Catholics and a decrease in their zeal for the faith, and a significant reduction in financial resources available for the sustenance of the Dioceses. These difficulties are linked to the impact of secularization and hedonism, more prevalent in this part of the missionary world then in some others […] These challenges have been a source of discouragement for many of you, especially after many attempts to confront them with different programs for which economic resources were not spared. It would therefore be opportune to take to heart the words of Pope Francis to the Bishops gathered in Brazil this past July: “never yield to the fear once expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman, that “… the Christian world is gradually becoming barren and effete, as land which has been worked out and is become sand.” We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint.

 

While this may seem like a bleak view of the Caribbean reality, it provided us an opportunity to look at ourselves and to decide how we are going to make the necessary turn around, in response to the evangelical call. Very prominent in the Cardinal’s presentation is what is perceived as part of the cause of the present situation in the Caribbean Church, Catholic or otherwise. I speak of the influence of secularization and hedonism. My dear people, in our contemporary culture, believe it or not, the fear of God and the respect our fellow human beings are under serious threat. The absolute value given to the quest for pleasure and egotistical pursuits is nothing less than frightening. In Europe and the United States, the statistics are showing that fastest growing group of people are those who have no religious affiliations. While in the Caribbean people may still claim some form of allegiance, I am surely afraid that we are not too far behind. The number of people who just don’t go to Church for the most part of the year is growing at an alarming rate, starting with our adults, men especially, and overflowing to our youth. And it is not because the word of God is not being preached. On the contrary, there has never been a time in our history when there were more Churches per square mile than this present time. Therefore, Jesus is always on the air, but whether he is finding his way to the human heart, is the bigger question. Too often Churches in the modern world are being seen as objects of selfish pursuits and financial gains. It is nothing but a scandal to the gospel of Jesus. Too often we use the gospel to justify our gullible tendencies.

 

What therefore, ought we to do to turn things around? One thing I am certain is that whatever we do, has of necessity to include everyone. I want you my dear brothers and sisters, to see yourselves as part of the new evangelisation that is being called for by the Church universal. The Church is not a gas station where persons come to fill up their spiritual tanks. It is rather a living community; a community persons of all types: race, colour, creed and class; all with their varied concerns. And together we exist to carry out our individual and collective roles, working towards our heavenly eternity.

 

This is why, dear friends, in my vision of the times, I saw the need for us as a people, to fight with all our might, against the causes of crime and violence, in all their dimensions. In that regard, I have no doubt that this coming year is going to be a challenging one. Our growing impatience in tolerating each other, our inability to solve conflicts through dialogue and negotiations, needs to be addressed. Resorting to physical means is nothing but the cowardly option that too many of our people are taking. It adds nothing to the spiritual health of a nation. That too is a responsibility of all. We must be determined to bring perpetrators of crime to justice, otherwise the gospel message; the gospel of peace, will make little sense. Without justice there will be no peace.

 

In my vision of the times, I see what seems like a very active year in the bid for the political directorate of the Nature Isle. Experience seems to indicate that this contest could engender a great deal of division among our people. Oh how I wish to be proven wrong! Unfortunately, what has happened in times past has a way of repeating itself, unless a new and more hopeful method is adopted. These are the signs of the times in which we live, dear friends. And as would happen, after the calm, some people might be too angry with others to significantly push forward the new evangelization which is being proposed and which is in such great demand. In that regard, therefore, I rather present this coming political year as a challenge; one which would be based on dialogue, on the search for truth and the general well-being of our country’s citizens. 

 

In my vision of the times, I hear St. Paul reminding us in today’s epistle, that we are yet God’s children. He says to us:

 

The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you son, you are not a slave anymore; and if God has made you son, then he made you heir.’ It simply means you have a right to an eternal inheritance.

 

Brother and sisters, let us work earnestly, not to allow ourselves to be enslaved in any form or fashion during this coming year, whether spiritually, socially, physically, politically or otherwise.

 

In my vision of the times, I see our Lady, on this her Solemnity as Mother of God, adopting the most perfect disposition towards what had happened to her; that is, embracing her vocation of motherhood. The shepherds who were led by providence to her humble abode,

 

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

 

We too, dear friends, as we enter this New Year, even in what can be regarded as a hostile climate, are being called to develop a pondering disposition, in the likeness of Our Lady. Ours is such a hasty world in which we all caught. We all want our needs to be satisfied instantly. We lack patience with others and even with ourselves. The great theologian, Karl Rahner, of happy memory, used to say that, in order for the Christian of today to survive this world he/she must be a mystic. A mystic is one who ponders on the things of life; one who seek ultimately to contemplate the immensity of God in all he says and does. Let us enter this New Year seeking that disposition, so we can at least hear what the Lord is saying in our time. May this year be one of listening, so that our actions may always build and not destroy; that they may fan the flame of hope in each of us, individually, in our families, in our community and in our nation!

 

It is not without reason that the first lesson chosen for today’s celebration is the Blessing of Numbers. It is therefore fitting that I place the vision for 2014 under God’s divine guidance. And so I pray, dear friends:

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you His peace! Amen!

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

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