Homily while in training - Saint Paul University Seminary - S.P. Institute of Pastoral Studies - St. Elizabeth Parish, Ottawa - Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 22, 1981

Well, it looks like God is making us an offer we can’t refuse: it’s either unending happiness or unending pain and loneliness. At first hearing, that sounds pretty scary! But as we give it more time, it seems as though Jesus is really telling us something about belonging. We often experience belonging, but we don’t often think about it.

With something like hunger, it’s different: we know that the empty feeling and the growling in our stomach won’t go away until we have something to eat. Or when our mouth is dry; it won’t feel better until we have something refreshing to drink. Now that the days re chilly, we wear sweaters and turn on the stove or furnace to keep warm. A lot of these things we can get for ourselves, but when new receive them from someone who cares about us, we really feel that we belong. And when we go without them for a long while, we begin to feel that we don’t belong to anyone – “Nobody really cares about me!”

Chances are, though, that we can remember at least one time in our life when we felt we belonged to someone, to a very special person. Perhaps it was the handshake, or a smile, that really gave a warm feeling inside. Perhaps it was a gentle kiss, a loving embrace, or a great big bear hug! Maybe someone tucked us into bed at night with a favorite fuzzy. It’s good to belong to someone special. That’s an offer that’s too good to refuse. It’s someone offering themselves that makes a difference.

At times, we might know someone who’s lonely or cold, and we feel badly for them. Like Jesus, we know what it’s like to feel hungry or tired, afraid or rejected. This is the moment to let that person know somehow that we care; that we’re ready to go out of our way for them. If we do, it becomes possible for them to feel that they belong. This is how the Father lets us know that we’re loved, that we belong – through the little caring things of every day.

In a way, our God is terribly weak, almost helpless. For 1000’s of years people have called him King, and he is. And yet he needs us to let people know that they are loved…. Have you ever met someone who is suffering, hurt or angry? If you try to tell them about God’s love and no one has ever cared for them it won’t take long for them to tell you where to go! It’s very difficult for us to know God loves us if we haven’t first felt the caring touch of another’s love.

The Father depends on us to let others know they are loved…. He depends on others to let us know we are loved… and He gives us the same strength He gave to Jesus: a Love so strong that it gives life that lasts forever. This love is a seed that sprouts in us – after we die, it will become fully grown and bear much fruit – and even now it is rowing, showing some flowers and even some fruit.

Jesus loves us first – He is the first One, our older brother – and his Spirit meets us in the quiet of our heart: that place where we can decide to care for someone, or not to care. We don’t have the strength ourselves to love as well as we would like, but Jesus gives us the strength to try. His Love within us only becomes real for others when we let it come out and touch someone – especially when it’s hard to do, or if it’s for someone we don’t like…. And when we do, that’s when we belong to Jesus the most. His Kingdom is about the giving of life… and we proclaim him our King when we share his love that wells up within us with one another. Jesus is the first of many brothers and sisters.

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© 2006-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2006-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

Homily while in training - Saint Paul University Seminary - S.P. Institute of Pastoral Studies - St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Nov. 17, 1981

 The Kingdom Is Now

Le désir d’appartenir est universel, et notre foi allume en nous le feu qui guette le Royaume. À tout âge ils nous sont donnés des signes indicateurs de sa présence, dans les personnes et les événements de chaque jour. Arrêtons-nous et soyons attentifs, dans la solitude comme dans le partage, aux moments d’humour et de larmes, d’angoisse et de joie, de faiblesse et d’amour : - pour y voir les signes; pour y découvrir le Royaume qui nous précède.

The striking personal differences in persons that we know invite from us an equally personal response; which either brings us together or sets us apart. There comes a moment of truth. Remember the baseball fever that gravely afflicted some of us a month ago, or the far-out costumes that some of us brought to life at Hallowe’en: from the Wicket Witch to the Happy Clowns. We laugh and sing about our differences, or accept them after some difficulty; because, “After all, variety is the spice of life!”

On a deeper level, we are moved when a person’s whole being is filled with sadness, anger, pain – for them a searching moment of truth; or elated by friends who are married, give birth to a child, or return from a retreat – as they overwhelm us with a joy they cannot contain… a beautiful moment of truth.

Such is the experience of Eleazar – a 90-yer-old man still filled with awe for the Almighty. This intimate relationship, enfleshed in the tradition he received as a boy, continues to fill his life with meaning and peace. He is glad to tell the world; - even if his friends don’t understand and the henchmen beat him; it is his moment of truth.  We see here an old man caught up in a powerful vision of the Kingdom – a vision which his friends cannot share – reluctant as they are to endure the same death. Remember Pontius Pilate who later found himself equally reluctant to share Jesus’ vision of the truth; - he heard only the words.

Zacchaeus experiences the unexpected; - “What they say is too good to be true!” Bored with life, he boldly displays his eagerness to catch sight of this Jesus; - who immediately under-stands him as he sits in the tree. The door to the Kingdom swings open, and Zacchaeus joyfully enters in! – surprising yet longed-for moment of truth – giving his life new value and purpose. Yet the joy of this encounter touches no sympathetic chord in his onlookers; only self-righteous annoyance and jealousy.

The Kingdom is here: waiting behind the doors of every person, moment and space, every encounter and inner experience. The doors aren’t always open to our awareness, and the door that opens is often unexpected. As Master of the House, Jesus knows which doors are the most accessible for us, and He opens them… even catching us by surprise. Others might not see the opening at all, but our heart beckons us on…. What joy waits for us there. What greater joy there is when we also see others enter the Kingdom through their experiences – how enriching to let their vision strengthen our own as we journey…. God as we worship – in Spirit and in truth.

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© 2006-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2006-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

Homily while in training - Saint Paul University Seminary - S.P. Institute of Pastoral Studies - St. Elizabeth Parish, Ottawa - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 11, 1981

 “How can I thank You, Lord?” “Listen… and let Me love you!”

Jesus once said his Father in heaven has sent him to bring us Good News. There are many of his words that really pick us up – they are Good News. Now, what about this story he tells us today – how does it strike you? Do you feel good about it? Maybe something struck you and your mind wandered… thinking about what happened before you came here, or about what you’ll do when you leave, or thinking about someone…. Or maybe like I’ve often done, you couldn’t help but put yourself in the place of the poor guy without the wedding garment. Can you imagine following the crowd and finding yourself in a wedding hall where you don’t know anyone and realizing you’re not even dressed for it? How embarrassing! It takes time to get ready for a wedding, and the more you love the newlyweds, the more time you take to make yourself look beautiful and joyful.

Still, it’s easy enough to get psyched up for a wedding. What about Thanksgiving that our society celebrates this weekend? It’s easy enough to feel grateful and to thank a person right away when they gift me with something, with their time or with themselves. It wouldn’t be proper to wait for this occasion once a year to thank all those people who all year give me life and make me feel special. So how can we celebrate thanksgiving? Maybe right now it’s difficult for me to find something to be thankful for… maybe someone I love is having a hard time for some reason, and I’m praying for something good to happen, but right now, I’ve got nothing to feel thankful for. So now what?

Isaiah the prophet, about 2,500 years ago – that’s a long time! – he felt close to God, and he was convinced that the Lord’s hand rested on the mountain where Jerusalem is built – he was convinced that God would prepare a banquet there for his people. Do you think they’re still waiting? His people were exiles, refugees you might say, but God kept his promise: they returned to the holy mountain – the place where God meets his people. God cares about his people. What about Israel today? What about Ireland? El Salvador? What about all those people at war or under oppression? What about us? Does God care about us, about our suffering? How do we know that He cares?

Do you think we can ask Him?... “Lord, if you really care about us, please let us know so we can feel thankful in our heart. Amen.” 

Jesus tells us that the Father is constantly inviting us to accept from him the gift of life – the joy of the wedding feast. So, who’s getting married, already?... would you believe us and God?

St. Paul boasts that there is nothing he cannot master with the help of the One who gives him strength? He must have been getting a lot of strength! And yet, Paul cares enough to thank the Philippians for having kindly remembered him at a time when the Roman police were giving him a hard time. Where was Jesus for them? In Paul’s own heart giving him strength; in his friends showing that they care; in Paul – letting them know he appreciates their gesture of caring. Where is God in our life? In the lives of those we love, those we meet?

Isaiah told his people that God would soon save all peoples: delivering them from exile, destroying death, wiping away their tears and taking away their shame. In the Psalm today, we ourselves prayed to the Lord as the One who provides, who revives, who guides and comforts, who prepares a banquet and anoints with oil, who blesses forever.

In what ways then, is the Lord doing these things? Think for a moment of a wedding you attended or a happy person you know. The bride and groom are really joyful… what do they do with this joy? They spread it around, don’t they? Just to be there, and for them to look at you, makes you feel like a whole new person!

Well it’s the same with God and us: in Jesus God is s close to us as the Groom and his Bride – they just know they are loved – they see it in each other’s eyes! The Breath of God in our hearts invites us to look to him with the eyes of our heart – He wants us to know we are loved, to feel his presence in our lives. He invites us to take a few moments each day to slow down, to listen to our heart, even if it’s upset; - underneath the tiredness, hurt or anger, Jesus is there, looking at us with eyes of love…. Yes, but sometimes I have “icky” thoughts or feelings in my heart and I’m embarrassed to pray! Jesus sees all that, and it makes him love us even more, because we need his love all the more.

To be without a wedding garment means not to care about the Bride and the Groom. For our love relationship with God, in Jesus, not to care means not to take the time to listen to Him in our heart. To take the time means to accept the not-so-nice things we might find in our heart – because Jesus loves us and wants to give us the strength to look at these things, to accept that they’re mine… and slowly, He’ll help us make our heart a more beautiful place for everyone to be and to feel welcome we’re the Bride of God. He wants to make us happy, and he wants us to help him to wipe away those tears on the cheeks of someone close by. He wants us to help him share with someone the Good News that their life means something to us. He wants us to have a lot to be thankful for….

“How can I thank You, Lord?”

“Listen to Me in your heart… let Me love you and let Me love others with you. Let Me give you Life in My Family!”

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© 2006-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2006-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

Like John the Baptist, God is with us to prepare the way for Jesus to touch other people's lives through us. - Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, June 24th, 2021 - S + L Mass at MQW Cathedral downtown Montreal

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