We Are Never Alone

imagesAnd so, after all these long weeks of Lent, of quiet contemplation, we come to this, the darkest of places. We were beckoned by the bombast of John the Baptist to the shores of the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized. We learned of the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well, saw him extend his love and care to her when others would not. We witnessed with wonder when he raised Lazarus from his sleep of resignation. We spent time with Jesus in the mountain, where he was named by the spirit of God. And we walked with him, with trepidation for what would happen, through the gates of Jerusalem, from cheering crowd to angry mob, to arrest and condemnation. And we come here, now, if we are brave enough, to stand with him in the shadow of the cross.  As we look upon his nailed hands, and his broken body, and the crown of thorns, in this moment, what do we see?  Not God’s love or humanity’s charity.  Not peace. Not grace. We see a man alone, as if forgotten. We hear a man wondering out loud whether God has abandoned him. We see death, in someone who should live. We see suffering. Continue reading

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The Selflessness of True Love

imagesWhat is the definition of selflessness? This act of giving, or sacrificing for another. If selfishness – the act of seeing inward – is our animal instinct at work, then selflessness – this looking outward even at cost to ourselves –is what makes us human. It is something that weighs on us, perhaps this evening, as we know what is coming – the grace-filled selflessness, this terrible, mysterious sacrifice by Jesus. Continue reading

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The Challenge of Hope

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This week, I learned about “uppgivenhetssyndrom.” Perhaps you have heard of it? It is specific, it appears, to Sweden, and translates to “resignation syndrome.” According to a story in the New Yorker this week, it is afflicting the refugee chi
ldren there, who, upon
learning that their family will be deported from Sweden, go up to their beds and fall asleep, like Snow White. One 13-year boy Georgi, who eventually woke from one of these long sleeps, described it as lying in a coffin under water; if he moved or broke the glass, the water would come rushing in. Continue reading

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“Open my eyes, so that I may see clearly.”

xeyegrid.png.pagespeed.ic.62F7J8WjkdPierre-Paul Thomas was born blind – indeed he was a lot like the blind man in our gospel story this morning.

He grew up in a family of nine brothers and sisters in a small town about 100 kilometres north of Montreal, in the 1940s. Mr. Thomas learned to see with his fingers. He repaired bikes, and worked in a bakery, kneading dough. But he lived in a grey world of shadows, walking with a white cane.

And then, a miracle. Continue reading

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“Jesus crumbles up the stereotype in front of everyone watching and tosses it down the well”

stereotypeBethany Blount had come into work early to interview a candidate for a new job at her tech company. As the story in the April edition of The Atlantic Monthly tells it, Bethany held a senior position with the company, and she sat down with the job applicant looking the part of a Silicon Valley tech manager – that is, a hoodie, jeans, and sneakers. But the interview went strangely: the young man looking for work was rude and dismissive. He’d seen her job title, she knew, and he had to know she would decide whether he moved on to the next level or not – still he acted like he couldn’t be bothered to speak with her.  Later, a vice president at the company said she’d had the same experience. For fun, Bethany sent in a junior staffer who needed practice reviewing applicants and happened to be a man, and you can guess what happened: Continue reading

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This Is What We Know!  This Is What We Learn!

Unknown.jpegThis what we know: Abdelkim Hassane was 41 years old, a father with three children, who worked for the provincial government. Khlaed Belkacemi was 60 – he had two children and taught at the University of Laval. Abounbaker Thabit was 44, a pharmacist. He had three children. Ibhahima Barry, who came to Canada from Guinea, had four children and worked for the health insurance board of Quebec. Mamadou Tanou Barry had two children, and was supporting his family back home in Africa. Azzeddine Soufiane was a grocer and a butcher. He had three children.

So this is what we learn: This week, 17 children lost their fathers, violently and suddenly. Their families are suddenly and irrevocably torn apart. Continue reading

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The Truth of the Gospel

stereotypes.jpgA Muslim woman is seen reading a book in Arabic on an airplane and detained by authorities. An African-American man is seen at the door of a middle-class neighborhood in New York; the police are called and he is arrested. In fact, neither of those stories is what it seemed. The African- American man was a professor; it was his house. He had mislaid his keys and was trying to get in. The woman on the airplane was Faizah Shaheen, a British psychotherapist, and one who works, in fact, to prevent the radicalization of youth in her country. The book she was reading was called Syria Speaks; it is collection of essays challenging the violence in Syria.

In neither of these cases were things as they seemed. Perceptions, racism, stereotypes – all combined to lead people away from seeing the truth. Our brain can’t help it: Continue reading

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