Our Lady of Fatima Parish Fiftieth Anniversary
[Sirach 35:15-17, 20-22; Psalm 34; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14]
I am honoured and grateful to have received the invitation to join with you all in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. Last night we held a wonderful celebratory dinner. This morning we gather for another banquet, a wondrous one – the Eucharist, in which we thank God for the countless blessings He has bestowed upon the parish throughout its fifty-year history. Yesterday evening many good words were spoken. Now, here at mass, we hear God speak His Word to us. In this homily, I would like to explore with you that divine message. What is God saying to us as we mark this historical milestone in the life of our beloved parish?
That message emerges as we ponder the example of our pioneers, those who came from the homeland to settle in Canada and begin a new life for their families. Pioneers are those who go before others to explore unfamiliar territories, forge new pathways, and chart fresh directions for the future. As the pioneers of this parish settled in their new land, they knew that among the highest of their priorities had to be the establishment of a community of faith for people of the Portuguese language. They expended great effort, often at enormous personal sacrifice, to work with the Archdiocese for the creation and growth of Our Lady of Fatima parish. As we look back over the years and consider all that has unfolded here, we realize the great debt of gratitude we owe to the pioneers, and today we thank God for them, their legacy, and their example.
The question they would put to us today is this: how is God calling us to be pioneers in our time? What new pathways must we carve out as we look to the future and prepare the way for coming generations? The circumstances in which we ponder these questions are much different from those faced by our parish pioneers. They faced the challenge of re-settlement – uprooting themselves from home, emigrating to a new country, and settling down in a new one. We face the challenge of “un-settlement”. What I mean by this is the general situation in which society is being uprooted from what is true, and is emigrating away from traditional certainties without being able to settle down into new ones. Many things once held as true with common conviction have now been reduced to question marks for which an individual must find his or her own answer. Things are generally unsettled, a situation which is very unsettling and the primary reason for the anxiety felt by many today, especially our young people.
This is the strange new land in which we now find ourselves. To be pioneers in these circumstances means to settle down into Jesus Christ, discover in him the answer to every question and the resolution of all uncertainty, and joyfully invite others to do the same. It means forging new pathways by which the proclamation of the Gospel of truth and hope can make inroads in our culture. While our pioneers once cleared or purchased land in this city for a secure family dwelling, we must now work to prepare human hearts to be inhabited by Christ and thus become once again an abode of peace. This is what it means in our day to be pioneers in the faith. This is the legacy we have inherited from those who came before us.
God’s Word reaches us in this present context. It makes clear what enabled the pioneers of the parish to accomplish what they did, and what we need, too, in our day, to be pioneers of the Gospel, and it is simply this: humble reliance upon God.
In the parable recorded by Saint Luke in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus is warning us not to trust in ourselves. He does this by contrasting a Pharisee with a tax collector. The Pharisee attempts to justify himself before God by telling God what wonderful deeds he has done, such as fasting and tithing. The tax collector, however, merely confessed before God that he was a sinner in need of mercy. The Pharisee trusted in himself; the tax collector trusted in God. The Pharisee was proudly living an illusion; the tax collector lived humbly in truth.
We in this parish, in this Archdiocese, have received from the first parishioners a pioneering legacy. It is a daunting challenge, yet we can embrace it if we, like our first pioneers, humbly recognize our dependence upon God and His mercy, and in faith ask the Lord to give us all the gifts we need as they are needed. Sirach assures us that such humble prayer “pierces the clouds” and reaches God, who will not fail to respond. By humble reliance upon the grace of God, who stood by Saint Paul and gave him strength to proclaim the Gospel, and who will do the same for us, we and our succeeding generations can settle peacefully into a new life, one grounded securely in the truth of God’s love, revealed in Jesus Christ.
The divine love and mercy we need reaches us anew every time we celebrate the Eucharist. By the grace of this sacrament, may we be gifted with all we need to accept the legacy we have inherited, and be the new pioneers of faith in this time and place.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Our Lady of Fatima Parish
October 23rd, 2022