Monday, July 28, 2014


One hundred years ago the First World War began and so rampaging would be the rivers of blood the map of the world would be re-drawn, empires would fall, oil would become a dominate factor in political alliances, seeds of hatred would be sown and the world reaps still the harvest of greed, hatred, retaliation and we are once more awash in the blood of our brothers and sisters.

Two friends phoned over the past few days and their words have given me pause.

The first told me she cannot handle watching the news anyone more because such intense emotions of discouragement and fear are triggered.

The second friend told me he keeps remembering the Holocaust and with the slaughtering of the innocents in the shooting down of the Malaysian jetliner, the mounting toll of killed and wounded in Gaza, and Israel, finds himself wondering where God is.

Where indeed!

How easily when confronted with the incomprehensible extent of our human capacity of evil hatred and violence we blithely ignore these are human actions and wonder where God is, after all, it IS His fault we human beings have freedom.

Irrespective of which side may objectively, in any conflict, be more or less the aggrieved party, both sides steadfastly maintain it is the other side who is the real perpetrator of violence.

Of course, in the end historians maintain it is the victor who writes history.


Certainly the victors tried that in the Paris post WWI peace conference.

How’s that been working out do you think?

Where is God?

The Hamas Islamists, and their ilk throughout the world, even while committing atrocities on a scale not seen since the Nazi or the Pol Pot regime, can be heard screaming that God is great – as if slaughtering His children could ever call down anything other than His anger – yet they are calling upon the same God as their Israeli opponents, as the Christians Islamists murder on a daily basis.

During the American civil war both President Lincoln and General Robert E. Lee sincerely believed they were God’s instruments and send hundreds of thousands of men and boys into battle as canon fodder – most of whom on both sides were practicing Christians, Protestants and Catholics alike.

Perhaps it can be argued that in the Old Testament God seemed to use human beings to achieve His purposes through battle, even at times appeared to directly intervene so ‘His” side would win.

This says more about the uninformed primitiveness of our ancestors than anything else.

Certainly once God entered human history through His Incarnation, life, death, resurrection, teaching us how to authentically live as children of the Father, waging war in the name of God is a non-starter.

True, we human beings are endowed by God with free will, free to use this freedom to choose love or hate, forgiveness or vengeance, life or death, war or peace.

If we choose love we may be hated, rejected, persecuted; if we choose forgiveness we may be mocked, held hostage, enslaved;  if we choose life we will be labeled anti-choice but we will stand before Him on the awesome day of judgement with our hands blood free.

If like my one friend the news discourages and frightens, if like my other friend the extent of violence and hatred tears at faith in a loving God likely it is because, or rather given what is happening across the world it seems to me, God simply has withdrawn for a time, left us to our own devices in our freedom.

I suspect He is waiting to see if, when we tire of the sounds of exploding ordnance and the screams of our brothers and sisters drowning in their own blood, we will once again be still, listen, hear Him knocking at the door of our being, will bid Him enter, will sit with Him, listen and follow and live out what He teaches us.

On the bus the other day the man sitting next to me watched a group of women and children, obvious with their mode of dress Muslim, and he complained at length about all these damn immigrants, spoken with vitriolic hatred.

One little cancer cell is not too dangerous but if it splits in two, or joins with another one, little by little cancer can spread and if not checked kill the human being, the person who body is infected.

One person with such hatred as that man on the bus when they find others of like mind begin to infect the whole body of a nation with xenophobia and disordered politicians can use this to insight disorder in a nation or between nations and the hatred spins out of control and innocent people flying overhead are shot down, or people just seeking to live out their daily lives are pounded by thousands of rockets fired by haters whose violence ends up subjecting their brothers and sisters, those who do not hate, do not fire rockets, to the terrible retribution which follows.

In his book, LIFE OF CHRIST, Ven. Sheen, commenting on the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes [Mt. 5], stresses that if anyone seeks to put the Beatitudes into practice that person will: “…draw down upon himself the wrath of the world…” because “…One way to make enemies is to challenge the spirit of the world.”

Comingled with hatred always there is greed: greed as lust for vengeance, land, power, control, ethnic or religious dominance, etc., with, in the end, the greedy in their lustful hatred becoming so enmeshed in what so quickly spirals out of control, develops a momentum of its own [ the First World War is a classic example of all the preceding] will find themselves in terms of chronological/historical time, trapped in a quagmire of unending violence and even if the violence should cease the poison of suspicion will spread until there is another conflict – and – in terms of eschatological time, that is Kairos, the Lord’s time, will find themselves more suddenly than expected before His awesome judgement seat, the blood of their brothers and sisters dripping from their souls and hearts, pooling at their feet, crying out to the Lord for justice.

Jesus, of the meek and humble Heart, throughout the Sermon on the Mount shows us clearly the alternative, reveals in the Beatitudes what is true courage, true humanity, true love, true life.

He calls us to the courageous beatitude of poverty of spirit, exemplified in that selflessness which seeks not more for me but generously gives to the hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the sick, the lonely, the stranger, the imprisoned – always having right order: God first, then my brother and sister and I am third.

Be it the one on one abuse of a family member or an act of violent crime such as purse snatching, drunk driving, bank robbing, bullying etc., or those larger hate-filled acts of violence from 9/11 to the actions of Boko Haram, ISIS, Hamas, Ukrainian rebels – rivers of the blood of our brothers and sisters soak the earth carrying the voices of our brothers and sisters crying out to God.

Jesus beatifies such pain and mourning, assuring comfort, the comfort only He can give, His peace in this life, His eternal embrace in the next.

Jesus stresses that not might but meekness ultimately, beatifically will triumph and such persons will inherit the earth; blessed, sacred fulfillment as persons comes not to extremist haters and terrorists but to those children of God who both hunger for and work for authentic righteousness which is the building of a peace-filled civilization of love through living out the Gospel of Life.

Each Beatitude is not only a promise of what the kingdom of heaven holds for us but of how reality can be, should be, the lived experience of life on earth within the human family.

The catastrophe, perhaps unimaginable but tangible already, is coming because we have chosen to drown in hatred and blood and the rivers are raging, the flood is spreading, the cold darkness is engulfing the earth.

Time is short.

Again from Ven. Sheen: “The Sermon on the Mount is so much at variance with all that our world holds dear that the world will crucify anyone who tries to live up to its values. Because Christ preached them, He had to die. Calvary was the price He paid for the Sermon on the Mount.”

How urgent it is we Christians begin to truly live the Gospel with our lives without compromise as living icons of Christ, of the Gospel of Life, icons of hope, peace, love.


Monday, July 14, 2014


Here in the heart of the city, where cement and asphalt are more prevalent than trees and lawns, unless you have a place to live, or can get inside the mall some dozen blocks away from where I write, shelter to cool off – alternately shelter in the winter to get warmed up – is rare and difficult to find.

Let most of us when I reflect upon the plight of the homeless my first thought is their need for shelter, food and water, water especially in this extreme heat and humidity which has endured for two weeks now.

Given the heat I go very early in the morning, usually just after dawn, for my walk.

It is a time not merely for exercise but to pray for everyone who lives in the neighbourhood, works in this area, trolls the alleys to dumpster dig for food or bottles that can be turned in at the recycle plant for some cash.

Many of the elderly people I chat with who dumpster dive do so to stretch their pension so they can pay rent or buy food.

It is mostly the younger ones who are seeking money to feed their addictions.

This area is a mixture of apartment buildings, halfway houses, and the usual sprinkling of small shops, crack houses, and, to use the old expression: ‘houses of ill repute’.

The city has been spending millions to spruce up the area, actually planting trees where there is a strip of grass between the curbs and the sidewalk and has held open house meetings for input from people who live here as the city finalizes plans to begin next spring when roads, sidewalks, streetlights, water and sewer lines will all be renewed, combined with a program called “in-fill”, where the small, very old pre-war houses, which occupy lots considered too big, are torn down and replaced with duplexes, in a effort to get more families into the area.

Walking past one of those new places with, literally, a white picket fence along the front I noticed the sign – the wording of which would be too harsh and gross to put here exactly, so an edited version:

Would you vile people stopping using this fence as a place to eat and relieve yourself.

I was stunned by how the very sharp style of handwriting contrasted with the harshness of the message.

More importantly I was struck by how, while knowing and trying to be faithful to the words of Jesus: “I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger….” I have never given much thought to some very human and basic needs of the homeless.

Always grateful for food, shelter, clothing I am not aware of having given thanks for access to a bathroom, to shower and clean myself, to, as we say ‘go to the bathroom’; access to machines, soap and water to clean my clothes; a refrigerator in which to keep food fresh, a stove to cook upon, plates and utensils to use while having a meal.

As terrible and stressing a thing as it is to be homeless, to scrounge  in dumpsters for food or empty cans and bottles to trade for food, how much like salt ground into wounds having no place for other basic bodily needs.

While giving thanks for what I have until now taken for granted, it is also time to pray cities will become inventively compassionate and establish safe and secure public washrooms especially in neighbourhoods where the homeless are, water fountains to slake their thirst in the hot days of summer.

This far north, cities do a rather good job of shelter in the winter, of roaming vans with hot soup, blankets, and sleeping bags – but even in winter a hot shower, a bathroom, a place to get or clean clothes would be such a gift.




Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Canada is a country born of conversation and compromise which led, 147 years ago, to a group of British colonies forming a confederation.

Canada is an ongoing project!

However over the near century an a half through wars and economic ups and downs a constitution has been forged, a charter of rights woven into the fabric of national life, the freedom which allows for diversity reflecting cultural origins, innumerable ways of religious expression, or none at all, form the vibrant mosaic of national pride and unity.

Our American cousins celebrate their national unity and joy on July 4th with Independence Day.

We celebrate on July 1st with the apt title: Canada Day.

It is the people’s day.

From the smallest village to the national’s capital, across the six time zones, coast to coast to coast the day of national pride and sheer joy culminates with fireworks, that explosion of colour and light which thrills children and allows adults to relax for a while and see the world through the eyes of a child.

My family has a great friend who invited us to join him for the evening to observe the fireworks high above the river valley in the heart of the city.

I emphasis high since the balcony sits some thirty-two stories up and I am terrified of heights.

However given we all entered the building several levels underground and the elevator moved quickly, smoothly, I did not really understand how high up we were until stepping not exactly onto the balcony but taking my place at the open balcony doors with my feet firmly planted inside the apartment!

When I was a boy I had no fear of heights, nor as an adult working a job which more often than I care to remember involved being on high rise roof tops trying my best to talk some troubled soul from jumping.

I never failed to rescue the potential jumpers, or rather I understand now, more accurately,  by grace, no one for whom I was the person on scene ever jumped.

It was after years of that work fear of heights took hold and last evening was the first time in almost thirty years I had even come close to being not merely up high but actually looking out from the height!

My family’s friend, my son and his wife, the three little grandchildren were all out on the balcony enjoying the view, watching fireworks from various outlying towns and villages light up the horizon as we all chatted and waited for the main event, the city’s fireworks, to begin.

The children were excited, sometimes running around the balcony or jumping up and down, occasionally the youngest was jumping up and down close to the railing – which made me rather more fearful.

You know how sometimes you have a thought meant to be inside the brain, and there only, yet that thought doesn’t stay there!

It escapes from the mouth!

Yep I blurted out at the youngest: “Stop that! You’re scaring the %#%#% out of me!”

Thankfully I realized immediately I needed to get a grip and was able to settle down.

Shortly thereafter the fireworks began.

Then something happened unexpectedly within me, or rather several things happened which I see now as grace: I forgot my fear and mingled with the booming of the exploding fireworks heard clearly the children expressing their delight and excitement, the adults too; at that height the marvelous kaleidoscope of  colours and shapes often seemed to be opening like huge arms inviting an embrace and I found myself filling with gratitude that I live in such a marvelous country, in such freedom while simultaneously being aware of He who IS Light from Light, who calls us to be, tells us we ARE, the light in the world.

After the show was over and we were preparing to leave my daughter-in-law and I had a brief chat and she looked at me, radiating love and beauty and said about my fear of heights – though my heart heard it as a word about all fear: “You have to let it go.”

It strikes me as a bit of a paradox that to overcome fear of heights I have to allow myself to be lifted up!

Lifted up as a little child, by Him, into His arms to be held next to His beating Heart.

Lifted up to be with Him on the Cross, the meeting place between us and the Divine Bridegroom.

This lifting up includes a willingness to lift up our hands in prayerful supplication, to lift up our hands to receive Light Himself in Holy Communion whereby His Risen Glorious Light permeates our beings more marvellously than those fireworks lit up the sky.

As the Apostle reminds us “…we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit.” [2Cor.3:18]