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Daily Scripture reflections
by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing

Rev. Anthony Man-Son-Hing is a priest of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. Born in Georgetown, Guyana on 23 November 1965, Anthony moved to Canada along with his family in 1974.

He attended elementary and secondary schools in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and received a Bachelor of Arts at Wilfrid Laurier University (1988), He pursued Theology studies at Saint Augustine's Seminary in Toronto (1988-1993) and was ordained to the priesthood on May 14, 1993 for the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. Fr. Anthony is currently serving as Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima and Ste-Marie parishes in Elliot Lake, Ontario as well as Pastor of Ste-Famille parish in Blind River, Ontario.

— The following content is reproduced with permission of Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing

His Word Today: Instil confidence

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
20 July 2018, 7:51 am
Good morning everyone,

Today we hear the words that we all want to hear from our God whenever we come to Him with our prayers.  Whether we have joyful news to share or whether we have some question or favour to present, deep in our hearts, we all want to hear Him say in response: I have heard your prayer (Is 38:5).

These are words of compassion and understanding.  These are the words of a Father who loves us and who wants only the best for us.  These few words instil a level of confidence in us because we know that someone is listening: someone who cares for us, someone who wants only the best for us.

Picture for a moment how these few words have the power to put us at ease, then ask yourself how many times you have been in such a position: seeking such assurance.  Have you always received it?  And how many times have you been on the other side: in situations where others seek assurance from you that you have heard their plea?  Have you always done what you can to build confidence and trust between them and you?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Rest

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
19 July 2018, 7:37 am
Good morning everyone,

One of the greatest gifts that comes from a regular routine of prayer is the ability that we discover: while we are at prayer, we can rest in the presence of the Lord.  This rest is meant to refresh our hearts and our souls and to give us the spiritual energy we need in order to be faithful disciples.

When we are able to rest in the presence of the Lord, we begin to grow in trust because we discover the truth that the name of the Lord is the deepest desire of our souls (Is 26:8).  Prayer is nothing more than resting in the presence of the Lord, opening our hearts and our souls to be present to Him and to allow Him to be present to us.

Especially during these days when the regular routine of our lives has relaxed a bit, it might be worthwhile to pray for the grace to discover the great gift of being in the presence of our God, not worried about the words we speak, but rather merely being present and basking in the presence of Him who feeds our souls with special food.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Pruning

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
18 July 2018, 7:00 am
Good morning everyone,

In these days of summer, farmers and gardeners are hard at work: watering and irrigating crops, flowers and herbs; weeding and deadheading flowers so that there will be room for future blooms to mature and to blossom.

There is a reminder in today's reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah that the Lord does precisely this with us as well while we are still living in this world and preparing for life in heaven.  The prophet says: the Lord of hosts will send among his fat ones leanness, and instead of his glory there will be kindling (Is 10:16).

Such reminders are always useful for the life of missionary disciples as we make our pilgrim journey.  If we were to content ourselves with life in this world, we might be seduced into thinking that the accepted norms of the society in which we live should all be accepted at face value, but when such norms do not defend the dignity of the human person, when such norms have the potential to lead us to self-centredness rather than openness to the needs of others, when such norms pave the way to ignoring the presence of the frail and the needy among us ... we must never forget that we are Jesus' disciples; the work we are called to do is about building up His kingdom and not ours.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Encourage

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
17 July 2018, 6:43 am
Good morning everyone,

There are times when even though we know what needs to be done, we are still hesitant to do the things we know we should.  At such times, it is always good to have someone by our side who is willing to encourage us, someone who believes in us, someone who can cheer us on.

Isaiah speaks today of one such moment in his own life, when he heard the Lord encouraging him to Go ... let not your courage fail (Is 7:3-4).  This is the mark of a true leader: the ability to recognize potential in others and to encourage them until they themselves can believe in their own possibilities.  Our God is so good that He always sees what we are capable of.  He knows what we can do and he believes in us.

If today we are feeling unsure of ourselves, if today we have reason to doubt, perhaps we should ask the Lord to encourage our hearts so that we can set out on the journey knowing that we are never alone, but rather that he is always with us, seeing what we are capable of even if we ourselves are unsure of our own capabilities.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Conversion

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
16 July 2018, 7:10 am
Good morning everyone,

How many times have we told ourselves that we need to change ... and then stopped short of actually bringing about the change that we know we should?  Intentions are great but they remain just that until we actually make concrete steps to effect the change that we know needs to happen.

Such change can apply to many facets of our lives, including the relationship we cultivate with our God.  The prophet Isaiah reminds us today that if we insist on being half-hearted about our commitment to living according to our faith, God will quickly grow tired, but he will always wait for us.  He longs for us to show signs of genuine conversion:Wash yourselves clean! ... he urges us ... Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.  Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow (Is 1:16-17).

Each of these suggestions speaks to another way that we can demonstrate the sincerity of our desire to live as authentic disciples.  Even if we were to begin by focusing on one of these, we would already be making strides toward the conversion that we need, and as long as we show at least the desire for such conversion, God will help us to bring it about.

Have a great day.

Travel light

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
15 July 2018, 8:21 am
Dear friends, once again, we have come through the doors of the school of discipleship and gathered at the feet of the Master, but we are not meant to stay here for long.  Saint Mark tells us that Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out ... (Mk 6:7).  This is what Jesus does with us as well: he calls us together so that he can teach us how to be his disciples; he feeds us with special food and then he sends us out into the world so that we can share the good news with those we encounter.

Discipleship is a journey that lasts a lifetime, but we must be careful not to burden ourselves with too much baggage, otherwise our journey will be weighed down and arduous.  As he said to the disciples, so Jesus says to us: take nothing for the journey except those things that are absolutely essential (cf Mk 6:8).  Pope Francis has repeatedly invited us to be missionary disciples.  It is our mission in life to spread the joy of the gospel.  Every day, we are invited to enter into people’s lives, to spend time with them, sharing our friendship and the experience of following in the footsteps of Jesus (cf Mk 6:10).

At first glance, it might seem that the task set before us is daunting, but we have the examples of many others who have gone before us, like Amos.  He was very aware of his own limitations, but he also knew that the Lord had sent him out, saying: Go, prophesy to my people (Amos 7:15).

In the same way as the Lord gave Amos the conviction to share his faith with others, so he gives us everything we need so that we too can be missionary disciples, able to tell the men and women of our time that the Lord has destined us for adoption as his precious children (cf Eph 1:5).  Think about that for a moment: you and I are precious children of our God.  What an amazing privilege that is!  Our God is not someone who is distant and remote.  He is here in our midst, speaking with us now through His word, instructing our hearts and souls and encouraging us to realize how deeply we are loved, how precious each one of us is in His eyes.

This is exactly what he has done with each one of his precious children, beginning with the disciples and continuing throughout the centuries that have come and gone.  Then he sends us out – not to live isolated lives of faith, but rather to travel together along the road, celebrating one another’s victories and encouraging one another as we walk along ... until the time that we can gather once again in His presence to learn, to be fed and to be sent out once again.

His Word Today: Veiled

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
14 July 2018, 9:02 am
Good morning everyone,

The prophet Isaiah speaks today of a vision of angels who stand in the presence of the Lord.  They veil their faces and feet with wings (cf Is 6:1-2).  The common belief has traditionally been that if mortals were to look upon the face of God, they would surely die.  Even the angels have to veil their faces in His presence, yet Jesus came to live among us in order to show us God's willingness to be close to us.

We will not look upon God's glorious face until the day that we see Him in heaven, but even as we make our way through this life, we have the immense privilege to look upon him in the Eucharist, to touch him and to consume him so that he is present within us!

What a gift this is!  What a privilege we have been given!

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Return

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
13 July 2018, 6:58 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the prophet Hosea reminds us that it's never too late for us to return ... to the Lord (Hosea 14:2).  The first time I remember hearing these words, I was a relatively young and I remember wondering what these words meant: I was fortunate in my youth to have generous and loving guides who introduced me to a life of faith, but I had not yet come to know how easy it is to wander away from God.

Some of us have known such experiences, and perhaps we have wandered away over the years, or perhaps we know of others who were once introduced to a life of faith and who have now made choices that have led them down different paths.  Luckily for us, our God is so loving and patient with us that He is willing to wait - sometimes for entire lifetimes - for us to recognize our need to come back.

There has been a long-standing tradition in the Church that associates Fridays with the practice of penance.  Psalm 51, which is part of the prayer of the Church for this day, begins with the words: Have mercy on me God in your kindness (Psalm 51:1).  Every Friday morning, these words are repeated, inviting us to ask the Lord to forgive all iniquity - to forgive us for our sins (cf Hosea 14:3).

Sometimes it takes a while for us to hear these words, and even longer for them to resonate in our hearts: to remind us that we all need to return to the Lord.  Even if they do manage to reach our hearts, we sometimes will spend a long time trying to block them out, but our God is always calling to us, gently inviting us to come home.  When will we return?

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Vulnerability

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
12 July 2018, 7:20 am
Good morning everyone,

The relationships we develop with other people are meant to be sources of joy, love and satisfaction for each of us, but in order for us to realize the true depth of these gifts, each one of us must make ourselves vulnerable to another person.  It happens on occasion that two people fall in love and then one of those two comes to realize that the depth of commitment and vulnerability is not as profound for all parties concerned.  If this is the case, the result is that the one who has been committed more deeply ends up feeling cheated and used.

These same sentiments are also possible in the relationship between God and his children, except that we are always the ones who go astray.  God has loved each one of us since the day we were conceived in our mothers' wombs, but His love for us goes back generations before that.  Out of Egypt I called my son (Hos 11:1).  In other words, even from the very beginning of the relationship that God established with his chosen people, He has always loved us, and His love has remained constant even though our ancestors in faith have turned their backs on many occasions (Hos 11:2-4).

It is good for us to hear these words from the heart of our God: to be reminded again of the deep abiding love that God has for each of us ... and it is also important that we come to understand that God's love is perfect: that He will never abandon hope for each of us.  He is the Holy One, present among us (Hos 11:9) who will always look out for us and protect us.  This is the secret to true love: being able to make ourselves entirely vulnerable to the Other because He has first made himself vulnerable to us.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Benedict of Nursia

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
11 July 2018, 7:11 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Benedict of Nursia (a Latin name which is usually translated as Norcia) whose birthday is traditionally observed on 2 March 480 and who is believed to have been the twin sister of Saint Scholastica. 

At the age of 20 years, Benedict could have become a Roman noble.  He went to Rome to study but did not enjoy city life so he returned to the countryside - to Enfide (Affile) - forty miles from Rome and two miles away from Subiaco.  Not far from Enfide, on the road leading to Subiaco, there is a cave located high up on a mountain, and it was here that Benedict lived in relative solitude for approximately three years.

The prophet Hosea says that it is time to break up ... a new field, for it is time to seek the Lord (Hosea 10:12).  This is precisely what Saint Benedict discovered atop that mountain.  Eventually, he established twelve communities of monks dotted throughout the Umbrian countryside.  It was after this period that he moved to Monte Cassino, located in the mountains of southern Italy, the place where he formally established the Benedictine Order.

In every generation, God calls his disciples to identify the new fields that need to be tilled so that His Word can water the earth and make it fertile.  Let us pray today for the eyes of faith that will allow us to give thanks for the fertile fields that have made it possible for us to know and love the Lord, and let us pray also for the grace to do our part to plant seeds of faith so that God's work can continue to bloom in the hearts of those we meet.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Mere things

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
10 July 2018, 6:32 am
Good morning everyone,

There is a television programme which, I believe, is still in production.  The show focuses on antiques.  People line up for what seem to be hours in order to have expert appraisers examine their hidden treasures in an attempt to discover whether there is any value attached to their possessions or not.

Whether we realize it or not, the Catholic Church has a treasure, and it has nothing to do with the value of goods on any market.  Our greatest treasure is the presence of the living God.  Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament.  Inside every tabernacle, He sits quietly, waiting for us to come to him.  When we do, when we sit or kneel in His presence, He is always willing to listen to our prayers ... and if we develop a discipline of visiting with Him in this way, before we know it, we are drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of a special relationship of love.

Those who have discovered the gift of this relationship know that when we walk into other places that are customarily used for worship, but where this special presence of God is not present, the space feels different.  The prophet Hosea warns that we should be careful not to fall to the temptation to believe that mere things are worthy of worship (cf Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13).  It seems to me that once we have discovered the real treasure that lies silent within the tabernacle, worship of mere things can never be enough to satisfy the longing within our souls.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: How close?

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
9 July 2018, 6:32 am
Good morning everyone,

A very wise person once told me that if we want to truly understand the relationship we are meant to have with God, we need to fall in love.  When we fall in love, we want to do everything we can to find more and more time to spend in the company of the one we love.  When we fall in love, we want to give everything we have so that the other person will be happy.  This is the way our God wants to live with us.

The prophet Hosea tells us today that God wants to lure us away, to lead us into the desert and speak to our hearts (Hos 2:16).  The biblical image of the desert speaks of a place where God can be alone with us - like someone with whom we have fallen deeply in love.  The desert is a place where there are no other distractions, where God can speak tenderly to our hearts.

What a wonderful image: it speaks of God as the One who has already fallen hopelessly in love with each one of us.  If only we would accept the invitation, perhaps we too would fall in love with God.  This thought should excite us, even if it might scare us at the same time ... but I think it's worth the risk because God is infinitely patient with us and will never harm us.  Falling in love with God simply means that we will grow closer in our relationship, more trusting, more loving, and we will discover a deeper level of personal happiness and fulfillment.

Have a great day.

Prophets among us

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
8 July 2018, 8:29 am
On Monday of this past week, we received news of the death of Monsignor John Caswell, a priest of our diocese who has served in various parts of our diocese from the time of his Ordination in 1962 until many years after his retirement from active ministry in 2006.  Cas – as he was most fondly known – had a keen eye for finding innovative ways of being present to people, which also gave him opportunities to preach the gospel.  He skated with a group of priests from Northern Ontario who were known collectively as the Flying Fathers, and entertained thousands by playing hockey games against local teams in many of the cities and towns dotted throughout this part of the province. 

At first glance, someone may think: what does playing hockey have to do with preaching the gospel? The genius of this approach was that it allowed a group of priests to enter into the minds and hearts of so many people, not by speaking words but rather by demonstrating through recreation, antics and good sportsmanship that it is possible to be prophets – to speak the word of God - to all generations; we just have to find the right way to do it.

Later on in his priesthood, he was instrumental in bringing the weekly liturgy to the sick and shut-ins.  In this case, and in many other endeavours, there was skepticism at first.  When the Mass for Shut-ins began, it was a relatively new form of media and so many people were unsure about whether it would work.  This is often the case when new approaches are introduced: the natural tendency is to react with skepticism, much like those who were astonished by the words they heard Jesus speaking in the synagogue (Mk 6:2).  Thankfully Cas continued his efforts for many years and made it possible for many people – most of whom he probably never met - to be fed by the word of God.

I had the privilege of living with Monsignor Caswell at Christ the King in the latter years of his active ministry.  Even then, his creativity was only outmatched by his wit and wisdom.  God had indeed sent him to the children of Israel (Ez 2:3) and he always accepted the challenge.

Saint Paul speaks today of the fact that in order to keep him from being too proud about the good news that he had received, a thorn was given him in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7).  Many years before I knew him, Father Caswell had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.  As a result of the operation that granted him an extension of his years among us, his dietary restrictions had to be followed with great rigor, but he never allowed this to stop him from sharing the joy of the gospel with those he met.

This is the secret to evangelization.  All of Christ’s disciples have received the precious gift of a personal relationship with Jesus, and all of us are capable of sharing the joy that this gift brings with those we meet, whether the message we speak is welcomed by others or not.  Let us give thanks today for the gift of this holy priest, for his courage and willingness to find new ways to share the gospel with others, and let us ask him to inspire us by his intercession so that we in turn can do the same.

His Word Today: Restoration

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
7 July 2018, 7:04 am
Good morning everyone,

On days when we feel downtrodden and forgotten, we should listen to the words that the prophet Amos speaks today: I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel; they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits (Amos 9:14).

Our God has given us a precious gift: we were once far from our God but He came in search of us because he has always loved us.  He has always desired to live in union with us and has gone to great lengths to rebuild the relationship that we enjoy.  Who else can say that we have had such lavish gifts presented to us?

Every day, our God gives us the strength of faith that we need in order to be His witnesses in the world.  His deepest desire is that we will realize the fact that He lives among us.  He is constantly at work, planting his word in our hearts and preparing the best of wines for us to celebrate the gift of his love.  Give thanks today for these gifts and rejoice in the fruits of the faith that is the gift of our God.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Famine

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
6 July 2018, 5:17 pm
Good morning everyone,

Perhaps you are aware of the Church's ancient discipline of fasting.  Usually, we tend to think of fasting in terms of reducing the amount of food that we consume, but fasting can also apply to reducing other usages as well.  During the period of Lent, it is not unheard of for people to reduce the amount of time they spend watching television or surfing the internet, but what might it be like if God were to fast from making himself known to us?

This possibility is presented to us in the words of the prophet Amos: the days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord (Amos 8:11).  How different life would be if we were suddenly to be subjected to such a famine.

It is true that sometimes we are not aware of the good things we have until they have been taken away from us.  Let this not be the case with the relationship we enjoy with our God.  Rather, let us pray today in thanksgiving for the goodness of God, for his constant presence and for his infinite capacity for mercy.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: a prophet speaks

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
5 July 2018, 7:28 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, we hear the words of Amos which affirm the call that the Lord has addressed to him:  I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.' Now hear the word of the Lord!' (Amos 7:14-15).

The authenticity of our call to be disciples of Jesus is born in the fact that it is Jesus who has called us.  It is his work that we attempt to accomplish, not our own.  In fact, if we try to only focus on our own desires and preferences, our efforts echo emptily whereas if we strive to do the will of One who is much larger than we are, someone who loves us more deeply and more intently than we could ever love ourselves, there is another, deeper meaning to the words we speak and to the acts of love that we undertake.

Today, relish the thought that it is not we who call ourselves to carry out our own plans.  Rather we have been called by the Lord, taken from among our peers and sent to speak prophetic words to the world.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Elizabeth of Portugal

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
4 July 2018, 7:45 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church observes the optional Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.  Elizabeth was a Spanish princess who was given in marriage to King Denis of Portugal at the age of twelve. She was very beautiful and very lovable. She was also very devout, and went to Mass every day. Elizabeth was a holy wife, but although her husband was fond of her at first, he soon began to cause her great suffering. Though a good ruler, he did not imitate his wife's love of prayer and other virtues. In fact, his sins of impurity gave great scandal to the people.

Later, to make matters worse, the King believed a lie told about Elizabeth and one of her pages by another page, who was jealous of his companion. In great anger the King ordered the one he believed guilty, to be sent to a lime-burner. The lime-burner was commanded to throw into his furnace the first page who came. The good page set out obediently, not knowing death was waiting for him. On his way he stopped for Mass, since he had the habit of going daily. The first Mass had begun, so he stayed for a second one. In the meantime, the King sent the wicked page to the lime-burner to find out if the other had been killed. And so it was this page who was thrown into the furnace! When the King learned what had happened, he realized that God had saved the good page, punished the liar, and proven Queen Elizabeth to be innocent.

This amazing event helped greatly to make the King live better. He apologized to his wife in front of everyone and began to have a great respect for her. In his last sickness, she never left his side, except for Mass, until he died a holy death. Saint Elizabeth lived for eleven more years, doing even greater charity and penance. She was a wonderful model of kindness toward the poor and a successful peacemaker between members of her own family and between nations.

Through her intercession, may this holy woman help us to seek good and not evil, so that we may live (Amos 5:14).

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Thomas, the Apostle

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
3 July 2018, 11:35 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast day of Saint Thomas, the Apostle - who is also referred to in the gospels as Didymus (the twin) (cf Jn 11:16; 20:24; 21:2).

Thomas is the one who was not present when Jesus first appeared to his disciples in the Upper Room after his resurrection. So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord'. But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the marks, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe' (Jn 20:25).  I love Thomas because his lack of faith helps me to believe that even when my faith seems weak, there is always hope.

After Jesus' Ascension, Thomas is said to have travelled far outside the Roman Empire, preaching the gospel in Tamilakam: the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in present-day India.  According to tradition, Thomas reached Muziris, (modern-day North Paravur and Kodungalloor in the state of Kerala, India) in AD 50 and baptized several people, founding what today are known as Saint Thomas Christians.

While that would have been an absolutely immense amount of space to cover - and indeed, Thomas should be admired for that accomplishment alone - we can almost hear him speaking in words that would not have been dissimilar to those Saint Paul wrote to the Christian community at Ephesus: You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone (Eph 2:19-20).

Today, let us ask Saint Thomas to pray with us for the gift of fervent conviction so that we too can joyfully share the gift of our faith with those we meet.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Be grateful

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
2 July 2018, 7:16 am
Good morning everyone,

Yesterday we in Canada celebrated our country's national day. Citizens of this country and those who live here have many and varied ways of celebrating this day, but regardless of the ways in which we mark this day, we must always remember that Canada is a country where we enjoy many blessings.   On an occasion such as Canada day, it is fitting that we should pause just for a moment to be mindful of the many reasons why we should be grateful for our country.

As we think of our country with gratitude, perhaps our hearts also turn to other reasons to be thankful: for the people who are part of our lives, for our parents, for other elders, and for all those who have helped us to become the people that we are ...  no matter how successful we become, we should never forget those who have helped us along the way.

The prophet Amos reminds us in today's first reading that even God hopes that we will remember the goodness that he has shared with us (Amos 2:6-16).  Our God is infinitely patient, so I would like to think that he would never become resentful about the fact that we might forget all the goodness that he has shared with us. Amos' advice is a warning for us to always remember and to always be grateful.

Have a great day.

Little girl, get up!

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
1 July 2018, 7:26 am
Last weekend, parishioners were asked to cast their ballots in order to determine the name of a new patron saint for the parish that will serve as the spiritual home for all Catholics in Elliot Lake.  Voting was extended until Wednesday of this week in order to allow those who could not be present on the weekend to participate.  On Wednesday afternoon, I myself counted the ballots, and then I sent a note to the Bishop.  Before sharing the results of the vote, I wanted to be sure whether he was ok with me telling you now or whether he preferred that the name of the new parish be revealed only when the official decrees are published.  And what was the result?, you ask.  The parish in Elliot Lake will be known as ... Saint Bernadette.

As I read the readings for this Sunday’s Mass, I began to notice an interesting connection between the choice of this new patron saint and the images presented in the scriptures.  The gospel account places us with Jesus at the point when he met Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders – a man of great importance who fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly: ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her so that she may be made well and live' (Mk 5:22-23).  As the story continues, the official’s daughter – the one who is weak and dying - becomes the focus of the story.

Bernadette Soubirous was the first-born daughter of François and Louise Soubirous.  She had eight brothers and sisters.  Her father was a miller by trade, but her family was not rich.  As a toddler, Bernadette contracted cholera – an infection of the lower intestine that often causes diarrhea, vomiting and muscle cramps.  She also suffered from severe asthma.  Like Jairus, I am sure that Bernadette’s parents often prayed for Bernadette, asking God to come and lay his hands on her so that she may be made well and live.

Saint Bernadette’s life provides us with an example of the goodness of our God who though he was rich ... for our sakes became poor so that by his poverty, we might be made rich (2 Cor 8:9).  The physical poverty experienced by the Soubirous family did not stop them from loving one another.  Even in her own frailty, Bernadette learned about God who made himself poor so that he could be close to us.  What a wonderful image, what consolation she must have found in knowing that he was always close to her.  We too can find comfort in this knowledge: our God made himself poor so that he could come close to us.

None of us might ever have heard about Bernadette and her family except for the great gift that God granted to her: the grace of seeing a young lady who Bernadette herself only ever referred to as aquero (a word which means: that).  In total, she saw the lady seventeen times, but it was only on the sixteenth of these visits that the lady told her: I am the Immaculate Conception.

Bernadette eventually moved to Nevers, where she entered the Sisters of Charity.  Her incorrupt body (Wis 2:23) still lies in the chapel of the Motherhouse of her Order.

The parishes of Our Lady of Fatima and Ste-Marie will continue to exist until canonical decrees are published, at some time in the future, but even now, we can begin to ask Saint Bernadette to pray for us: that we may always recognize our own poverty and human weakness ... and that God may share with us the great abundance of his riches.

His Word Today: Saints Peter and Paul

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
29 June 2018, 7:22 am
Saints Peter and Paul
Oil on canvas by El Greco, c. 16th century
Good morning everyone,

Today there is great rejoicing in Rome, for this is the liturgical Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

Saint Peter (also known as Simon) was one of the apostles.  According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified by the order of Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar sometime between AD 64 and 68.  He was crucified upside down at his own request since he thought himself unworthy to die in the same way as Jesus had been put to death.  His mortal remains were buried on the Vatican hill and soon afterward, the early followers of the Way built a chapel over the place of his burial.  That chapel has been re-built many times.

The present-day Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican stands over the spot where Saint Peter was buried.  Mortal remains believed to be his lie below the high altar inside that Basilica to this day.

Saint Paul, otherwise known by his Jewish name - Saul of Tarsus - was also an apostle, though not one of the original twelve, who taught the gospel of Christ in the first century AD.  He is believed to have lived between the years AD 5 and AD 64 or 67.

According to writings in the New Testament, prior to his conversion, Paul was dedicated to persecuting the early disciples of Jesus in the area of Jerusalem. In the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul was traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem when the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a great light. He was struck blind, but after three days his sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus and Paul began to preach that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God.  He travelled extensively through the known world proclaiming the Gospel, but he ultimately returned to Rome and spent two years living there under house arrest before his death.

Both Peter (cf Acts 12:1-11) and Paul (cf 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18) knew what it was to be bound and imprisoned, but all earthly attempts to silence them were unsuccessful.  Their martyrdoms continue to speak to us today as testimony to the fact that Jesus, who rose from the dead, has promised to prepare a place for each of us in the Father's house.  May these two faithful followers of Jesus intercede for us and may God grant us the grace to be fervent examples of faith for those we encounter.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Saint Irenaeus

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
28 June 2018, 7:27 am
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, a Bishop who lived in the second century A.D (died about 202).  Saint Irenaeus was probably from Smyrna, a city in Asia Minor, in present-day Turkey.  He was a priest of the Church of Lyon (France) but was actually in Rome while many of his brother priests were imprisoned under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180).  Following the death of Saint Ponthinus, the first Bishop of Lyon, it was Irenaeus who was chosen to succeed him.

As a Bishop, he spent much of his energy combatting Gnosticism (the belief that the material world was created by an act of God by which a divine spark was trapped within the human body).  To counter the doctrines of the Gnostics, it was Irenaeus who proposed three pillars for the orthodoxy of the Church: Sacred Scripture, the Tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles, and the teachings of the Successors of the Apostles.

The second Book of Kings describes the brief reign of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, who ultimately surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-17).  God's people have known both times of suffering and times of prosperity.  Thanks to the persistence of heroes of faith like Irenaeus, the Church continues its reliance on three sources which maintain our orthodoxy.  Be proud of your faith today and ask Saint Irenaeus to help you to be firm in your convictions.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: The Law of God

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
27 June 2018, 7:44 am
Good morning everyone,

The episode that is recounted in today's first reading (2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3) speaks of the wisdom of God that is passed on to his people though the Law (which is also known as the Torah).  The Book of the Law is composed of the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers.

As it was then, so in our days, the wisdom contained in these Books of the Bible are shared every time that we gather and read from them - as we are doing during the Masses that are celebrated in these weeks.  The guidance given in these pages is meant to help us to nourish our own relationships with our God, to strengthen us in our faith and to help us to be examples of God's love for the benefit of those we meet.

Pope Francis has - on repeated occasions - suggested that we should all carry a small copy of the gospels in our pockets or in our purses, so that we can read a few words of scripture each day.  These words will allow us to spend time with God every day and spending time in the presence of God will help us to learn about him and to grow closer to him.  The Law of the Torah might be a good place to start - so that we can get to know the person of God ... he has so much to share with us, if only we would come close to him and allow him to teach our hearts.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Pray with confidence

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
26 June 2018, 7:45 am
Good morning everyone,

When you pray, do you pray with conviction?  Do you pray with the certainty that God is indeed listening?  This is the difference between reciting prayers and truly praying: entering into a conversation with a divine friend who loves us, who cares for us and who always wants to help us.  When we pray with conviction, and if we are attentive, we will soon discover that our prayers do indeed reach the ears of someone who is listening.

Proof of this is found repeatedly in the stories that dot the Old Testament (and also the New Testament).  In the first reading for today's liturgy, we find Hezekiah, the king of Judah in the temple of the Lord and praying: Incline your ear, O Lord and listen (2 Kings 19:16), and a few verses later, the answer to Hezekiah's prayer is given: I have listened! (2 Kings 19:20).

When you pray, dare to believe that your prayers are heard, that someone (God) is listening, and that whatever you ask for will be granted, if it is for your good.  Then watch for the wonderful ways that God answers our prayers.

Have a great day.

His Word Today: Follow the rules

by Fr. Anthony Man-Son-Hing
25 June 2018, 7:27 am
Good morning everyone,

As we begin the final week of classes for elementary students, perhaps it is the teachers and support staff who are uttering their prayers this morning: Help us ... Lord (cf Psalm 60).  Help us to be patient with the students for a few more days; help us to be living examples of your love for them (and for one another).  Help us to always remember that you are the one who is our teacher.

Our God has always been a patient teacher.  Ever since the first days when he walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, he has always been trying to teach us how to live and love as he does.  How many times have we been the ones who have chosen not to follow the rules (cf 2 Kings 17:5-18), preferring to think that we can change the rules to suit ourselves or that we can make up the rules on our own with little if any regard for the wisdom that the teacher wanted to impart?

We can turn to the Lord and ask for help; our prayers will always be heard and the help will always be given.  Perhaps today, we can look back over the past little while and be thankful for the lessons that we have learned from our heavenly teacher.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if all students could?

Have a great day.

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