Letter from Fr. Keith (August 21)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

The shorter days are telling us that summer is passing on toward fall. At last, the temperatures and the humidity took a dip this week. The start of a new school year is on the horizon. I recall a lot of mixed feelings about this time of year as I look back to what is now decades in the past. In 2020, adapting to COVID-19 is top of mind for parents, teachers, administrators, and no small number of students, no matter the level at which they find themselves in the system.

Relationships are a big part of every human endeavour. We’ve mentioned the start of school. Relationships: among friends and staffs, between teachers and students, between parents and their children’s schools. They’re an essential part of the whole enterprise of education.

The relationship between Jesus and his disciples is at the forefront of this Sunday’s gospel (Mt.16:13-20). The story ties into the theme of teaching and learning. Jesus asks the group of followers, who walked with him that long-ago day, who others say he is. He referred to himself as “the Son of Man.” They were quick to reply. They’d been paying attention to the comments they’d heard.

Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Those responses highlight the significance the crowds had attributed to him. All those mentioned were momentous figures in the culture and the faith-heritage of the people.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. “That’s fine,” he seems to say. “You’ve been attentive to what’s going on around you.” Then he quickly adds, But who do you say that I am? The opinions and assumptions and observations of others are significant, and are a necessary beginning, but what about you? It’s a bit like learning something in school. What others have discovered is always vital. But it’s a first step. Have many of us not had the experience of having to try to integrate what we’ve learned into our own persons if it is to become anything more than me with someone else’s information? It needs to become part of us. That’s true whether it’s Bible study or Canadian history or riding a bike or baking a pan of biscuits.

It’s also true about faith development, about our relationship with Jesus Christ, and with our brothers and sisters in him. Others have told us a lot about Jesus: our parents, our grandfathers, our friends, our catechism teachers, priests and sisters. We’ve read books that were part of courses we’ve taken. That’s the first question Jesus put to his friends that day. Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

Vital as is that first level of information, as foundational, he leads us further. But who do you say that I am? Have we thought much about how we’d answer that question? It’s like knowing about some well-known person—say, for example, (you fill in the blank), compared to actually knowing them, first-hand?

It’s to that kind of knowing that Jesus invited Peter and the others. It’s to that kind of knowing Jesus invites us. We respond a number of ways: thinking about him, reflecting upon what we’ve been taught, looking for his presence in our lives and in the world around us, mindfully celebrating the sacraments, reading the scriptures, praying and talking to him about our lives, embracing his life as the model for our own. The list of ways we get to know Jesus is long. Some we share in common. Others are unique to the particular person. Ultimately, we come to know Jesus because the Father, through the power of the Spirit, who teaches us all things (see Jn. 14:26), reveals him to us. Jesus affirms that to Simon Peter, after he recognizes him as the Christ, the Son of the living God: Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven (Mt. 16: 16, 17). Our thinking and praying and searching and reading and sacramental life and gospel living, while they are signs of his already- presence to us, are how we become prepared to meet him, to recognize him when that happens, and to grow in our familiarity with him within and around us.

Not an over-night occurrence—neither for Simon Peter nor for us—but a relationship that develops over the course of a life time—fueled by God’s grace and our openness to receive what is given. Along the way, lots of patience and honesty with ourselves is a daily call.

We continue to pray for the people of Lebanon, in the wake of the recent horrific explosion in Beirut. Donations may be put in a clearly marked envelope with your name and address, and left in the collection basket at Mass this weekend or next. You may also donate through the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, through their website www.devp.org Donations may also be mailed in the form of cheque or money order: Development and Peace, 1425 Rene-Levesque Blvd. West, 3rd Floor. Montreal, QC H3G 1T7. Please indicate Emergency Fund, Lebanon Crisis. For further info, see the diocesan website www.dioceseofcharlottetown.com

This Sunday at the 11 o’clock Mass, the bishop will celebrate Confirmation with our three candidates. Kindly pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them, their families, our parish community, and that the same Spirit may continue to renew the face of the earth.

I trust you, gardeners, are enjoying the fruit of your labours. Twice this week, I enjoyed roasted beets, onions, garlic, and carrots from my little patch. Lettuce and greens are still holding up. Delicious! Thanks be to God!

I’d be happy to be in contact with anyone who might like that. Please let me know.

Peace be with you,

Fr. Keith


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