St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

A Personal God -Homily November 13, 2016

A Personal God                                                                                         -Homily November 13, 2016

 

Many times, we find in the Scriptures things that are not easy to accept. Sometimes because they are difficult to understand, other times because they demand from us a change: they challenge us in our opinions or in the way we live. The first reading speaks about condemnation if we do evil, the Psalm speaks about the Judgment Day, St. Paul commands us to work quietly, Jesus says that if we are good we will have problems and be persecuted… “Well, they also speak about good things.” So, what do we do: we get rid of the evil things and stay with what we like? Some people do that. But is that right?

 

Let me say something that may help us to reflect about this. I will speak first about what dialogue means, and then apply this to our problem.

 

1. We are proud to live in a culture of dialogue. Dialogue is a good thing, because it is based on the recognition of the dignity of every human person. That does not mean that everything is right just because a human person says it, but that we do not listen to people for who they are to our own eyes, but we listen to what they say. St. Thomas used to say: “It doesn’t matter who says it, but what they say.” He is not wrong because he is a foreigner, but because he is wrong. He is not right because he is my friend, but because he is saying the truth. Also, we are open to dialogue because we understand that we do not know everything, and that the other person may know something that we did not know.

 

One of the things you need to keep in mind in a dialogue is that the other person needs to be recognized as such, as a person. When we discuss with someone, the other person expects us to recognize that he or she is intelligent enough to understand what we say. The other person also expects us to listen to what he or she is saying. They want to be understood properly: they don’t want us to misinterpret them. Also, people don’t want us to impose our opinion on them: if the other person is good, he will accept the possibility that he could be wrong sometimes, but he wants us to convince him; he does not want to be forced to think as we do.

 

In other words, three things upset people: that we do not recognize them as persons, or for what they are as persons; that we attribute to them something they did not mean to say, and that we impose on them our own opinions by force.

 

2. Some people like to do this with God. They impose on God the opinions they have: they make a God according to what they need to hear from him. They create their own God, they make it in their own image, as they please: of course, it is not God, but a god, an idol. One of the problems they face is that this god can do nothing for them. That god depends on them. That god cannot be a father, because they made it; but it cannot even be a son: it is more like a toy. This is what happens to those who impose on God the opinions they have: they manipulate God, they do not respect him as a personal God.

 

Some people attribute to the Bible a meaning it does not have: they want God to have said things that he did not. God, as a personal God, has the right to be interpreted properly. We need to respect his ideas, try to listen to what he said, and not impose on his words a meaning they do not have.

 

We do not like to be misinterpreted. If a friend of yours goes around saying: “Did you hear? My friend said this and this” and it is not true, you would be upset. God does not like to be misinterpreted either. I don’t say that it is easy to understand what he says, but the least we can do is to make a little effort to understand him: he is not just a friend, he is our God: he is the only one who has “words of eternal life” (John 6:68) so we’d better listen and try to understand.

 

Some people, finally, do not allow God to disagree with them, they do not want to listen from him that they are wrong. In that way, however, it is impossible to dialogue. If we are not open to the possibility of being wrong, it is because we think we are God. Nobody is perfect. That is why we dialogue with other people: they may teach us something; engaging other people may help us to develop our own personality. Would it not be good to give God the opportunity to help us? Maybe God has a point! Maybe God knows more than me…

 

3. I am not suggesting that we can dialogue with God as if he were our equal. I am saying this: that it would be better to treat him as equal than to manipulate him and impose on him our own ideas. We do not do that with human beings, why should we do it with God? Is God not a personal God?

 

God created the world, he knows everything, and that is why to talk to him is the best we can do for ourselves. Because he does not only give the right information, he also helps us to do the right thing. He is not only a Teacher, but also a Father who encourages, a Doctor who heals, a Friend who loves. And even if he is not our equal, he does not wait for us to knock at his door to give us what we need. He approaches us first, he knocks at our own door, he comes to offer his truth and his love and all we need before we even ask for it. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

 

When people are so kind, we need to treat them well. Because one thing is that you go to visit your friend, and he welcomes you and treats you well. But a different thing is that your friend bothers to come to your own house, bringing a meal and a gift, so that you enjoy and do not have to worry about him. God is good, and he deserves to be welcomed. Let us listen to what he wants to say. Even if he is much more than us, he does not force us. He treats us as persons, he tries to convince us. He respects our freedom, but he wants us to use it well. Let us not be unkind to God. Let us treat him as a personal God. May we be open to what he wants to say, to each one of us, to our own ear. 

–Fr. Andrew

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170th Anniversary of the Founding of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Canada      November 12, 2016

The Mission Statement

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a lay Catholic organization whose mission is: To live the Gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and joy. The first conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Canada was founded on Nov. 12,1846. It was located in the Notre-Dame de Quebec cathedral( today the basilica). At the beginning the conference helped mostly widows with children. One hundred and seventy years later, the Society in Canada is present in all provinces as well as the North West Territories and Nunavut. With our 863 conferences and 116 councils we are an important organization with respect to helping the less fortunate. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul asks that members are committed to express their love of God through personal service to their neighbours in need. The service provided by a conference is usually concentrated on home visits-the person- to -person contact with the needy. This is a fundamental part of the Society's mission.

The group of volunteers in a parish form a conference. These members answer the calls that come on our phone line. Here at St. Michael's, there are sixteen members who serve the needs in our community.

 

This September our conference was 34 years old. It was established in 1982 when Fr. Peter Seabrooke was pastor and saw the needs in our town. Each week two Vincentians answer the calls and visit the people to bring them help. The average week may have more than a dozen calls. Thanks to your generosity, we are able to help those who call. At present, there is a St. Vincent de Paul in each parish along the Lakeshore from Courtice to Brighton. Campbellford is also included in this group. We remember our benefactors at each meeting. 

Please remember us as we reach out to those less fortunate.