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The Roman Catholic Church in The Bahamas is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope. The diocese was elevated to a full diocese, as the diocese of Nassau in June 1960. On June 22nd, 1999, the diocese was again elevated as the new Archdiocese of Nassau.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

St. Thomas More Parish 2012 Lenten Reflection

Picture it, Sicily 1922. Oh sorry wrong forum.

Now that I have your attention, I hope you are able to stay with me here tonight. I have my eyes open for those who are thinking of falling asleep.

A very pleasant good evening to all. Fr. Anselm, Deacon Mackey thank you both for entrusting me with the task of reflecting during this 2012 Lenten season. Fr. Knowles, Fr. Tobin, and Deacon Hutcheson it is good once again that you are here with us.

I wish to start by sharing a story with you. Can I see the hands of all those who were in attendance at our Lenten Mission a few weeks back. Very good, so this is a familiar story, but is still worth telling. Please indulge me as I refresh your memories then, and to everyone else, let's see if this story resonates with you. I'm calling it "the camel story"

There once was a baby camel and his mother and the baby camel had many questions for her. I'm sure we all remember those days when our children would bombard us with so many questions when they were just learning to speak, most of them ended their question with "but why, but why." Sometimes we just wanted to scream.

The story is told like this:

So the baby camel says to his mother:  "mommy, why do we camels have such big flat three toed feet?" And mother camel looks at baby camel and says "son, so that when we cross the desert we won't sink in the shifting sands."
Hmm, so baby camel says again: "mommy, why do we camels have long thick eyelashes?" and mother camels looks at baby camel again and says "so when we cross the desert, the sand won't come in our eyes and blind us."
Hmm, the baby camel thinks to himself, then asks a third question: "mommy, why do we camels have a big hump on our back, why, mommy?" and mother camels looks at baby camel and says "so that when we cross the desert we will have enough food, enough fat stored in us, we won't go hungry, we won't go thirsty."
At that moment baby camel looks at mother camel and says: mother I think I understand; big feet, we won't sink, thick eyelashes, we won't go blind, huge hump, we won't go hungry or thirsty. And then baby camel looks at mother camel and says, "but mother if that's really true what on earth are we doing in the Toronto zoo?"

We all laughed the first time we heard it, but when you stop and think for a moment you probably can see yourself in that story. I can definitely relate to the long eye lashes, but the hump and the big flat three toed feet, no, sorry. But on a more serious note though,  I know I sometimes feel like baby camel; trapped by fear and anxieties. We've all at some point or another felt trapped, not able to break free of whatever may be imprisoning you, and this is why we've been journeying together for the last few weeks. Jesus wants to shed us of all that imprisons us. As we traveled around the Church tonight and for the past 5 weeks or so, we are reminded of why this time of the Church's calendar is so significant to Christians today. From the very first station to the last, the center of every imagery that we see and hear about told in the narration mentions Jesus. Jesus willingly journeyed through pain and suffering for one purpose and one purpose only; to give us the gift of FREEDOM. Jesus broke that bondage to slavery and gave us freedom, so that unlike baby camel we will not be held trapped any longer. There's some who are probably thinking right now, "yeah Mr. Knowles, you can say that, but you're not walking in my shoes." you don't have the bills I have, or have to deal with the people at work that I have to deal with, or married to this man or this woman. I will have to say like I heard a priest say before: " Don't worry about the future, you can't control it anyway, you don't know what's going to happen. The devil can implant millions and millions of scenarios in your mind to make you so afraid that you won't take a step forward." Has that ever happened to you, well I'm here to say that you're not alone, but there is hope for Jesus looked at them (his disciples) in Matthew 19:26 and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

At each of the stations we are reminded of the big mystery in the gift of Freedom that God has given to us, but we all at times forget because of our human nature that drives us. And so here we are again,  journeying together during Lent. This is why we need to journey back with baby camel to the desert. We constantly need to be cleansed and the desert does just that, it cleanses. I was doing some research on the desert for tonight and it's amazing how even the pharmaceutical and health and beauty  industry see the need to add the word "desert" to their products. They identify with the works of the desert and know that the public can easily relate to it.

Poor baby camel has all of the body parts to benefit him in the desert, but he finds himself stuck in a zoo. Do you sometimes feel trapped, uncertain and unsure of where your life is headed. Well let me say that God knows exactly where you are headed and where he wants you to go, for He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11-13
"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart."

It's that easy, but we get trapped in the moment that we forget to call out to God. May I see the hands of everyone who use Facebook! don't be shy, Fr. Anselm and Fr. Knowles are not taking any notes. Well my wife shared a quote the other day that I thought was so appropriate especially when we can find ourselves caught up in technology.

It goes like this:
"Jesus has no phone, but I still talk to Him.
Jesus has no Facebook, but He's still my friend.
Jesus has no Twitter, but I still follow Him."

Now doesn't that just hit the nail on the head. It's that simple, come to Him as you are. Find a quiet place to sit and listen, journey back into the desert where you can meet Jesus and be cleansed. No long distance phone calls to be made, no running to the corner to purchase a phone card because you ran out of minutes.  Jesus is waiting on that call, but it's simpler than we think. The best way "is to sit and listen." We talk so much and ask for too much, that we do not take the time to stop and hear what Jesus is telling us and desires of us.

Jesus has a plan and a vision for each of us, to draw us deeper into His life to allow us to reach out and touch the lives of others.  With such an assurance we are able to put ourselves into His care. And so I wish to go back in time to a year ago where we joined together at the Loyola Hall for our 2011 Lenten Mission. It was there that we took a journey into the deep waters of human suffering. With scuba gear on we arrived at the depth of Jesus' suffering, that we found ourselves like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who blurted out "Did not our hearts burn within us". As we walked by each Station  tonight did our hearts burn within us as we contemplated the suffering that Christ endured for us? Were you trapped in the sound of the person's voice who did the reading and tried to pick up on every little detail mistake that they may have made, or were we deep into thought and contemplative prayer as we listened?

As the saying goes, "No Pain, No Gain" and so just as Christ had to suffer, so too must we endure some suffering, so we have to go into the deep waters? But, why not shallow waters? Well for me there are two reasons, the first being, we can stand in shallow water where we will still want to be in control and secondly because there are no big fish in shallow waters. So how many of you love the boats? Believe it or not, I'm not crazy about them, but in order to catch big fish, the deep is where we must venture. The disciples of Jesus were known for fishing. They probably knew all of the great fishing spots, but this one evening they went out and kept coming up empty handed. In a sense we can see ourselves in this familiar story where we put ourselves out there into the world and continue coming up empty handed and not accomplishing anything. But what does Jesus tell them? What does Jesus say to the disciples to do? He tells them: "Put out into the deep, go out into the deep waters." We all know what happened when they did what Jesus told them! They caught an abundance of fish, so here too we can see how if we place our lives in the care of Jesus he will take care of our necessities.

I believe the deep waters would truly be a turning point in my life if I was taken out physically and left there. Who, but God alone can I turn to.  Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a boats-man. If I do happen to go in a boat, I would have to be able to see land or I'm ready to head back. My job takes me over miles and miles of ocean, but I am nit afraid, my fear is if I am forced to land on the sea and left there for the rescue team. The deep waters can be a very scary place, but like the disciples who listened to Jesus and cast their nets into the deep and came up with a huge catch we can have assurance that God has a plan for our lives if we just commit to his will. He's just waiting for us to put our complete faith and trust in Him.

There are so many distractions and noises today that it has become so difficult to hear God speaking to us. My views are that even if we believe that we hear Him speaking to us we put a deaf ear to it because it will take us away from everything that is going on in our lives now. It is at this time that we need to find ourselves being lead into the desert with baby camel. At some point and time in our lives we will recall or identify with an event that brought you closer to Jesus, but it does not just end there; your passion then is to bring others to Him. That is the call for each of us, to be witnesses for Jesus. By sharing  our stories of faith with others you allow them to get to know you, and by knowing you they know God. We have a responsibility as Christians to use the gifts and talents given to us by God. When was the last time you engaged them? My journey into the deep ocean and into the desert has continued since almost loosing my son 4 years ago, but I realize that we can not stay there for too long, for we are all called to work in the vineyard of the Lord.

There's no guessing needed to know what role you can play to spread God's message. As I mentioned earlier, God has a plan for you. You know your gifts and talents, your strengths and weaknesses. My faith and love for God has grown by leaps and bounds, and I'm not saying that to gloat or come across as holier than though, but rather I'd be the first to admit that I am a sinner, daily.

To refresh  your memory about my journey, I promised God that I would give Him my life if He spared my son and from that day on He has not forgotten to remind me of my promise. I guess it can be likened to discerning "the call." Do you ever wonder what made you do something that you normally would not do, or say something that you would not normally say.  God is calling each of us to hear and answer His call to service. God has given each of us gifts and talents, even if only one and we will have to give an account as to how we used it.

I am going to share one of my gifts with you tonight, and hopefully you can see that even the smallest of talents can help build up God's Kingdom. Many of us spend much of our time on the Internet, either because of work or because our Internet ready cell phones are glued to our hands and we have nothing else to do but surf. I did not get a great response when I mentioned Facebook, but do you know that FaceBook can be used to express your faith to others besides posting what you're cooking, what you're eating or just to spy on how other people's lives are going. I love my Catholic faith and wanted to do my part locally to share my story with others, so I did some research, looked over many great websites and blogs and felt a tug to use my gift to make this happen. It was right after my son got better, so since 2009 I started my very own blog. I should ask you: are you in or are you out?  Rev 3:15-16 says “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.* I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." What strong words from a God who is love, but we can not forget that He is also a just God. We can not half heartily commit our lives to God. There is no room for spectators, those who prefer to sit by and watch things happen rather than helping things to happen.

I'm not very comfortable being up here doing this, even though you may think so, but I was asked and I couldn't let my Church down. We should not assume that because the Priest is the shepherd and we are the sheep, then we should leave everything up to the Priest? If we see a fellow sheep looking ill or down do we just continue grazing and say "the Shepherd" will deal with them. My friends, our Priests need our help and we,  by virtue of our baptism are called to be our brothers keeper. Everything happens in life for a reason, and my life and your life is no accident or coincidence. As I continued my journey to follow Jesus, there have been numerous events that I have concluded to be the works of the Holy Spirit. You may not see, recognize or understand them at first, but in time the puzzle comes together.

Fear and anxiety is the devil's tool against humanity. Looking back over the last 4 years of my life I believe I can point to many events that have made me realized that I am a servant of God who desires to use me in small ways to touch the life of someone. Was I fearful and afraid to step into the unknown and unfamiliar; you better believe it, but I knew it was not of my doing and so I accepted the tasks that were placed in front of me. I am also thankful to God for my wife, who has stood behind me 100% even though there were times when she may have said that I take on too much, but now I'm the one telling her to slow down. Having a strong bonded marriage in Christ makes all of the hard times feel like a walk in the park. Nowadays when I say Jesus she says "Christ" or when I say let's pray she starts Our Father. We, (and I am referring to all married couples), we can not allow any loopholes in our marriages that would make way for Satan to enter. I would be lying if I said there will never be trials or tests, but as long as we stay the course and place Christ at the center of your marriages you can take on the deep sea even when the seas seems rough.

It seems that lately there are more and more divorces these days than ever before. The devil is having a field day, touchdown he blurts out. Good marriages are the foundation of solid families. If Satan can successfully destroy the marriage, then we can almost be assured that it will have a devastating impact upon the rest of the family. Satan knows that if marriages fail then everything starts to go downhill from there. Satan is working very hard to destroy the family.

The destruction of families and marriages is nothing new. The initial attack on family occurred in the Garden of Eden where satan worked his evil deception on Eve. In disobeying God, Adam and Eve plunged themselves, and all families thereafter into slavery. The attack on family has continued up to today. There are signs of it all around us. Some of us have experienced it, or know friends and relatives who have experienced it. Can't we see how Satan has been manipulating the rate of divorce, as the acceptance of common-law relationships, and the legalization of same gender marriages goes on the rise. His intentions are to deprive us of the blessings that marriage brings to the family.

When we spend time together as a family in God's Word, allowing Him to speak to our hearts, we are sure to exemplify Christ likeness thereby drawing our children's heart to God. Believe it or not, children begin to grave for such devotion and reverence to God when it is consistent and even question when there is lack of. When you act in accordance to God's word as a family, His truth and love are poured out for our friends, neighbors and relatives, so they too can be drawn towards Him.

This Lenten season, I encourage each and everyone of you, families or single individuals; take a good look at what transpired some 2000 years ago and for what cause; to give us the FREEDOM that I spoke about earlier. God wants to free us all from the bondage of sin. Sometimes we need to take a journey into the deep waters to allow the blood and water from the side of Christ to wash our hearts and minds, or journey back to the desert where we can be cleansed of all impurities as we sit in isolation to hear His call to us. When we surrender ourselves then the Holy Spirit will lead and guide and then fear will not be an option. Allow the Holy Spirit to take control.

I am proud to say that I have been happily married to my wife, my friend, my confidant for almost 18 years. We have had our ups and downs as do many couples and you would be lying if you said that your marriage is perfect, but needless to say, we have kept the faith and have taken our role as husband and wife very seriously. By putting Christ at the center of our marriage we've learned to pray together, become faithful members of our faith and Parish in order that we can weather the storm of conflict and challenges. Recognizing the necessity to be open and honest with each other we avert the desire to run away when the going gets rough and tough. We have no issues in correcting each other when either one does or says something against God's truth. And we have no problem with being corrected by one another. We recognize that we are both sinners and rely on each other to stay the course. Satan lurks and wait for the opportunity to plant the seed of angry, hate and jealousy within marriages.

In closing I wish to say once again that "everything in God's time." In just over a week we will come together to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, who took on our humanity, to suffer and die that we might be FREE, free from the bondage of sin. During the Easter Vigil service Catholic Churches throughout the world will welcome new members into the Church. Here at St. Thomas More we have been doing our part to instruct those wishing to come in full communion. I am pleased to now introduce to you the individuals who have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. We have McKenzie, D'Andria Miller and I'm a proud husband, like watching my bride walking down the aisle for the first again, my wife Rochelle Knowles. To God Be the Glory, great things he hath done.

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