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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hope where it is needed most

With news of wildfires in Alberta and having celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation with our young people this weekend, the community gathered in prayer.  Here is the reflection I shared, inspired by the scriptures for this weekend, to tie everything together.

Up in hope

Throughout this week, we have seen stunning images that have been streaming out of Fort McMurray.  Uncharacteristic Spring heat and a lack of rain in the area created conditions (unseasonable heat, lack of rain and powerful winds) that have led wildfires to spread at alarming rates.  As of Saturday morning, the fire has spread to more than 100,000 hectares; thousands of people have been displaced, carrying precious little with them because there was often no warning, and in many cases, everything that was left behind is now only ashes.

We have often heard in the past months about humanitarian efforts that are being expended in other parts of the world, but this is a concrete example of the need for humanitarian aid within our own country.  From this distance, how can people help?

First, we can pray for the more than 88,000 people who are affected by the wildfires, and for all those who are working to help in any way.  We heard in this afternoon’s (this morning’s) readings that after his suffering, Jesus presented himself alive to his disciples with many convincing proofs (Acts 1:3).  Let us pray that the Risen Lord will present himself to those who are suffering now and surround them too with many convincing proofs that they are not alone.

We can also help in concrete, tangible ways.  The Canadian Red Cross has launched an appeal for donations to help those who are in need.  For more information, please visit where you will find a button entitled Alberta Fires Appeal, Donate Now.

Today, the Church is celebrating the Ascension of the Lord.  The scriptures tell us that as he was preparing to leave his disciples, Jesus told them: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses (in all places, even) to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  This (yesterday) morning, young people from the various parishes in the city professed their belief in God the Father, in Jesus his son and in the Holy Spirit.  The bishop was present, and as a sign of confirming the faith that had been spoken by these young people, he anointed their foreheads with the Oil of Chrism and sealed them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The divine gifts of wisdom, understanding, judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence and wonder have now been bestowed upon them.  Throughout the rest of their lives, they will be able to rely on these gifts to guide their steps, but they also are relying on us to pray for them, to support them, to help them to recognize these gifts and to use them wisely.

Whether we are facing the tragic emergency of a wildfire or some other overwhelming reality, life can sometimes truly seem to be desperate, but with the gift of faith, there is always a reason to hope.  When times are challenging, we must never forget that we have been given special gifts by the Holy Spirit, including the advice we find in the words spoken in this evening’s (today’s) gospel: Christ suffered, and rose from the dead on the third day (Lk 24:46).  He also assured us that he would always be with us, so even in times of trial, we can worship him and we can be filled with joy (cf Lk 24:52).  We can bless him as we pray together in this place and we can go out into the world to tell others about the joy that is in our hearts.
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