Letter from Fr. Keith (June 12)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

During the Masses this week, our first reading—with the exception of Thursday’s memorial of St. Barnabas—has been taken from the Old Testament “First Book of Kings.” From First Kings, we have been hearing about Elijah. Elijah lived some 800 years before the time of Jesus, and is considered among the first of the prophets. (You can find the entire Elijah story in 1 Kings 17-19, 21 and 2 Kings 1- 2:12.)  Elijah figures prominently, as well, in the New Testament. A tradition had grown up among the Jews that Elijah would return to herald the arrival of the Messiah. Recall John the Baptist being mistaken for him. Remember the disciples telling Jesus that some people thought he was Elijah. Atop Mount Tabor, Elijah, with Moses, appears at the Transfiguration talking to the radiant Jesus as Peter, James, and John look on in amazed wonder.

Speaking truth to power, Elijah often found himself in more than a peck of trouble. This week we’ve come upon him on the run, and about ready to throw in the towel as God’s mouthpiece. Friday’s episode is particularly familiar (1 Kings 9: 11-16). Attempting to put some distance between himself and God, he makes his way to Mount Horeb, the same mountain where Moses had received the Ten Commandments—though it’s called Mount Sinai in that story.

God doesn’t give up on him. On the mountain top, the word of the Lord comes to him, as he settles for the night in a cave. Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by, he’s told by the heavenly messenger. Obedient, the prophet begins to make his way toward the entrance. Suddenly, a mighty wind, so strong it split the rocks in pieces. On the heels of the wind, the awesome power of an earthquake, followed immediately by a fire. In neither wind nor earthquake nor fire was the Lord. One would expect the Lord of power and might and splendour and majesty to be revealed in these potent forces of his creation. But no, says the story.

All of this followed by a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him. We are to understand it to be the voice of God. In response, Elijah recites his tale of woe: the infidelity of the people, their desecration of God’s altar and the slaying of his prophets. Elijah is the last man standing! God’s answer? I’m paraphrasing here, “Be on your way, Elijah. I have more for you to do, and if you don’t finish it, no worry. Anoint Elisha to take your place.”

The Lord, the mighty, the valiant, says Psalm 24 about God. The voice of the Lord full of power; the voice of the Lord full of splendour... The voice of the Lord flashes flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness, recites Psalm 29. How could Elijah not have expected God to be revealed to him in wind, earthquake and fire? But no! Rather, in the apparent emptiness of sheer silence.

Elijah invites us to consider many things, of course. One of them might be “Where do we least expect God to be found—in our present lives, our personal history, in the life of the world? Whatever our answer to that question might be, look for God there. Expect to find God where we least expect. Be prepared, out of that unanticipated encounter to have God chart out direction for our lives, our participation in the mission of Christ. And not to worry, if we don’t get it all done, someone will come along to fill in behind us, as Elisha eventually did for Elijah.

Where do we least expect God to be found? Maybe in the midst of COVID-19, as we navigate our way through its various stages? God not sending its unique misery, but showing us the way through—as individuals, communities, a global family—giving us opportunities to learn and to grow and to respond. 

Our weekday masses continue this week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 9 am, downstairs in Glastonbury Hall. The limit, for now, is 15—including me. Please refer to last week’s letter with its link to the diocesan protocol for important details. If you’d like to attend, send an email to massatstdunstans@gmail.com or telephone 902-894-3486, and leave a message. You will be contacted in response to your request.

On Thursday, provincial officials announced Phase Four will begin June 26. Indoor gathering size will increase to 50. There will be details next week as to how that will impact our celebrations of the Eucharist.

We plan to livestream Mass for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ this Sunday at 10:30 am from SDU Place. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/stdunstansbasilica

I hope if you have loved ones in long-term-care that you’ve been able to have a visit. My sister and I saw our mother again this week, and found her more engaged this time. Public Health, in one of its recent updates, spoke of visits being arranged for inside if everything continues to go along well. The rain this week heightened the many shades of green (40, the Irish say!), and watered the newly sprung gardens. In the red soil and the green growth, one can find the origins of the Island tartan.

Let us pray this week in gratitude for our many blessings, and in intercession for the needs we recognize in our community and our world. Let us pray, too, for the grace to live responsibly and hopefully in our present reality—our feet on the ground, our hearts raised to glory.

I will pray for you. Please pray for me.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

ELIJAH, INSPIRE US!

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