PASTOR’S MESSAGE:  (February 2018)

Lent

Lent offers us all a very special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to a way of life, rooted in our baptism.  In our busy world, Lent provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon our lives and to pray more deeply.  

There are as many ways to pray, but a few prayer methods can help us in particular to spiritually prepare ourselves during Lent:

1.  Make your abstinence a prayer-in-action.
As Catholics we are called to give up something for Lent.  Chocolate, coffee, that extra helping of dinner, etc.  Whatever it is, you can make what you're giving up for Lent a prayer as well:  a prayer-in-action.  Whenever you encounter the object you are abstaining from or the time of day that you would normally enjoy it, take a moment to say a prayer in recognition of your wholeness in God even without what you have given up.  Thank God for the freedom to be completely yourself without this and, at the same time, acknowledge the gift of its existence in the world.

2.  Pray the Stations of the Cross.
One of the most common traditions of Lent is to pray the Stations of the Cross.  This prayer helps us reflect on the passion and death of Christ in preparation for Good Friday observance and the Easter celebration.  This special devotion allows us to follow Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary.  The Stations is one of the most important devotions honouring the passion of Jesus.

What matters most in the Stations of the Cross is to follow Jesus Christ in his passion and to see ourselves mirrored in him.  Whether we know it or not, we bear the imprint of his cross.  We are judged unjustly, we fall, we find life's journey hard, we know the mystery of death, and we recoil from it.  To face life's dark side in ourselves and in our world, we need images of hope, and Jesus offers images of hope in his passion.  By accompanying him on the Way of the Cross, we gain his courageous patience and learn to trust in God who delivers us from evil.

3.  Reflect deeper on your liturgical prayer.
When you attend Mass during Lent, be conscious of and meditate on the words you pray in the liturgy.  For example, the Eucharistic Prayer, the highlight of each Mass, has special significance during Lent.  After receiving communion, you may want to sit and reflect more deeply on this great prayer of the Church.

4.  Start a practice of daily prayer that will last after Lent.
Perhaps the best prayer advice is to use Lent as a time to instil prayer habits that will last long after Lent has concluded.

Beginning of Lent

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.

The Church emphasizes the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday by calling us to fast and abstain from meat.  Catholics who are over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no food in between.  Catholics who are over the age of 14 are required to refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat, on Ash Wednesday.

This fasting and abstinence is not simply a form of penance, however; it is also a call for us to take stock of our spiritual lives.  As Lent begins, we should set out specific spiritual goals we would like to reach before Easter and decide how we will pursue them-for instance, by going to daily Mass when we can and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often.

Ashes

Ashes are an ancient symbol of repentance.  The distribution of ashes reminds us of our own mortality and calls us to repentance.  In the early Church, Ash Wednesday was the day on which those who had sinned, and who wished to be readmitted to the Church, would begin their public penance.  The ashes that we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness.

The distribution of ashes can also be linked easily to the death and resurrection motif of Baptism.  To prepare well for the day we die, we must die now to sin and rise to new life in Christ.  Being marked with ashes at the beginning of Lent indicates our recognition of the need for deeper conversion of our lives during this season of renewal.

Why do we put ash on our forehead?
Ashes are applied to our forehead in the sign of the cross as the words, "Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return" are spoken to us.  This act symbolizes our mortality as well as our need for ongoing repentance.  It is a reminder that this life is short and merely a foreshadowing of what we shall become through the redemption of Jesus Christ on the cross.  The work of our redemption will not be complete until we are raised from the dead, in resurrected bodies like His own and called to the eternal communion of heaven.

Where do the ashes come from?
The ashes for Ash Wednesday normally are made from blessed palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday.  The ashes are sprinkled with Holy Water and incensed before distribution.

When do I wash the Ashes off my face?
There is no specific instruction on how long ashes are to be worn.  You can, in fact, wash them off immediately after the service if you want.  Many people choose to wear their ashes for the remainder of the day both as a reminder of their own mortality and as a witness before those around that they are a follower of Christ and are entering into a season of examination and abstinence.

What is the significances of the 40 weekdays before Easter?
The 40 days of Lent, which precedes Easter is based on two Biblical accounts:  the 40 years of wilderness wandering by the Israelites and our Lord's 40 days in the wilderness at which point He was tempted by Satan.

Each year the Church observes Lent where we, like Israel and our Lord, are tested.  We participate in abstinence, times of fasting, confession and acts of mercy to strengthen our faith and devotional disciplines.  The goal of every Christian is to leave Lent a stronger and more vital person of faith than when we entered.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice.  These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies and pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works)." (CCC 1438)

When does Lent end?
Lent officially ends on Holy Thursday.  That is when the "Triduum", great three Days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday occur leading to Easter.  Easter is not only a day but an Octave (eight day) celebration leading to a Season of the Church, Easter Season, which ends on Pentecost.

Giving something up
For most older Catholics, the first thought that Lent brings to mind is giving something up.  Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life.  That always involves giving up sin in some form.  The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent, but to root sin out of our lives forever.  Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ.  For catechumens, those preparing to be received in the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil, Lent is a period intended to bring their initial conversion to completion.

Scrutinies:  Examining Our Lives
The primary way that the Church assists the catechumens (called the elect after the celebration of the Rite of Election on the First Sunday of Lent) in this conversion process during Lent is through the celebration of the rites called Scrutinies.  These ritual celebrations on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent are communal prayers celebrated around the elect to strengthen them to overcome the power of sin in their lives and to grow in virtue.  To scrutinize something means to examine it closely.  The community does not scrutinize the catechumens; the catechumens scrutinize their own lives and allow God to scrutinize them and to heal them.

All of us are called to continuing conversion throughout our lives, so we join with the elect in scrutinizing our own lives and praying to God for the grace to overcome the power of sin that still infects our hearts.

Many parishes today seek to surface the concrete issues that the elect need to confront; these issues then become the focus of the intercessions during the Scrutinies.  Every Catholic should spend some time reflecting on what obstacles to gospel living exist in his or her own life.  Then when the Scrutinies are celebrated, we will all know that the prayers are for us as well as for the elect.

Taking seriously this dynamic of scrutiny and conversion gives us a richer perspective on Lenten "giving up."  What we are to give up more than anything else is sin, which is to say we are to give up whatever keeps us from living out our baptismal promises fully.  Along with the elect we all need to approach the season of Lent asking ourselves what needs to change in our lives if we are to live the gospel values that Jesus taught us.  Our journey through these forty days should be a movement ever closer to Christ and to the way of life he has exemplified for us.

Scrutinies and Penance
The elect deal with sin through the Scrutinies and through the waters of the font; the already baptized deal with sin through the Sacrament of Penance.  The same kind of reflection that enables all members of the community to share in the Scrutinies can lead the baptized to celebrate this Sacrament of Reconciliation to renew their baptismal commitment.

Lent is the primary time for celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, because Lent is the season for baptismal preparation and baptismal renewal.  Early Christian teachers called this sacrament "second Baptism," because it is intended to enable us to start again to live the baptismal life in its fullness.  Those who experience the loving mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation should find themselves standing alongside the newly baptized at Easter filled with great joy at the new life God has given all of us.

Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving
The three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  The key to renewed appropriation of these practices is to see their link to baptismal renewal.

Prayer
More time given to prayer during Lent should draw us closer to the Lord.  We might pray especially for the grace to live out our baptismal promises more fully.  We might pray for the elect who will be baptized at Easter and support their conversion journey by our prayer.  We might pray for all those who will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with us during Lent that they will be truly renewed in their baptismal commitment.

Fasting
Fasting is one of the most ancient practices linked to Lent.  In fact, the paschal fast predates Lent as we know it.  The early Church fasted intensely for two days before the celebration of the Easter Vigil.  This fast was later extended and became a 40-day period of fasting leading up to Easter.  Vatican II called us to renew the observance of the ancient paschal fast: "...let the paschal fast be kept sacred.  Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind" (Liturgy, # 110).

Fasting is more than a means of developing self-control.  It is often an aid to prayer, as the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God.  The first reading on the Friday after Ash Wednesdaypoints out another important dimension of fasting.  The prophet Isaiah insists that fasting without changing our behaviour is not pleasing to God.  "This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:  releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own"  (Is 58:6-7).

Fasting should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures, those who are in need for any reason.  Thus fasting, too, is linked to living out our baptismal promises.  By our Baptism, we are charged with the responsibility of showing Christ's love to the world, especially to those in need.  Fasting can help us realize the suffering that so many people in our world experience every day, and it should lead us to greater efforts to alleviate that suffering.

Abstaining from meat traditionally also linked us to the poor, who could seldom afford meat for their meals.  It can do the same today if we remember the purpose of abstinence and embrace it as a spiritual link to those whose diets are sparse and simple.  That should be the goal we set for ourselves-a sparse and simple meal.  Avoiding meat while eating lobster misses the whole point!

Almsgiving
It should be obvious at this point that almsgiving, the third traditional pillar, is linked to our baptismal commitment in the same way.  It is a sign of our care for those in need and an expression of our gratitude for all God has given us.  Works of charity and the promotion of justice are integral elements of the Christian way of life we began when we were baptized.

Blessed Palms
As we near the end of Lent, we celebrate Passion (Palm) Sunday.  At the beginning of the liturgy, we receive palms in memory of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  As a symbol of triumph, the palms point us toward Christ's resurrection and might remind us of the saints in heaven "wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands" (Rev 7:9).  The white robes remind us of baptismal garments, and the palms suggest their triumph over sin and death through the waters of Baptism.

Prayer for Lent
Dear Lord, we are now in the holy season of Lent.  We begin to realize anew that these are the days of salvation, these are the acceptable days. 

We know that we are all sinners.  We know that in many things we have all offended your infinite majesty.  We know that sin destroys your life in us as a drought withers the leaves and chokes the life from the land, leaving an arid, dusty desert. 

Help us now, Lord, in our feeble attempts to make up for past sin.  Bless our efforts with the rich blessing of your grace.  Make us realize ever more our need of penance and of mortification. 

Help us to see, in our ordinary difficulties and duties, in the trials and temptations of every day, the best opportunity of making up for past infidelities.  Every day we are so often reminded in field and wood, in sky and stream, of your own boundless generosity to us. 

Help us to realize that you are never outdone in generosity, and that the least thing we do for you will be rewarded, full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and flowing over. 

Then we shall see, in our own souls, how the desert can blossom, and the dry and wasted land can bring forth the rich, useful fruit that was expected of it from the beginning.  Amen.


Rev. Dr. Stephen Liang M.D.
Pastor, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish
Priest-Moderator, Sheng Shen (Holy Spirit) Chinese Catholic Church





PASTOR'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE:  (December 2017)       
 
                In the Christmas event, we discover the true mystery of the Incarnation:  out of compassion for his created, out of love for each one of us, God enters human history and embraces our human condition in all its messiness, confusion, anxiety, and anguish. 
Emmanuel —“God with us.”  Christ’s birth manifests the constant and inexplicable love of God for us; his ministry as Messiah teaches us how we can transform our dark nights of despair and sin into the eternal day of God’s peace and wholeness; his embracing of the cross is the ultimate victory of life over death, of good over evil, of hope over despair.  It is nearly impossible for us to fathom the depth of God’s love to become one of us, not for God’s sake, but for our sake.  God takes on our life so that one day we might be recreated in his.
 
                A certain king was rich and very powerful.  But he was most unhappy, for he desired a wife.  Without a queen, his vast palace was empty. One day, while riding through the streets of a small village, he saw a beautiful peasant girl.  Her grace and beauty immediately captured the heart of the king. The king wondered how he might win her love.  First, he thought of issuing a royal decree commanding her to be his bride — but he soon realized that, if she were forced to obey a royal decree as a loyal subject, he could never be certain that she actually loved him. Next he considered calling on this woman in person, overwhelming her with diamonds and gold and every finery — but he knew he would always wonder whether she had married him only for the riches and power he could give her. Then he thought he would dress as a peasant and meet her in disguise — but such an approach would be too dishonest for a king. The king finally decided to put aside his royal robes, abandon his castle and go to the village and actually become one of the peasants.  He lived and worked and suffered alongside of them.  And in time the king won the young woman as his bride. The great Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard used this parable to describe the mystery of Christmas: that the almighty Creator of all could love us enough to become one of us in order to bring us to himself.  Mary and Elizabeth, in their exchange of greetings, are among the first to understand exactly what is to happen.  It is the mystery of Emmanuel — “God is with us.”   As the great second century bishop Irenaeus preached:  “Because of his great love for us, Jesus, the Word of God, became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”
 
                As we read in the Gospels, the light of Christmas can appear in unexpected places, in the middle of long, hopeless nights. The light that is Christ breaks through our grief, our hurts, our divisions, our hopelessness - if we but raise a candle to catch its flame, if we open a small window in our hearts to let that light into our lives. The true gifts of Christmas that Christ gives and enables us to give transform the hearts and lives of those we love : gifts of sharing our wisdom and experience, of compassion and reconciliation, of forgiveness and affirmation.  As we celebrate the dawning of the Messiah this holy night, may we not only grasp the light of God's love but may we seek to become mirrors of that light on every dark night, in every winter.
 
               I wish you God's blessings, peace, and happiness throughout this Christmas Season and in the New Year, 2018.
 
Fr. Stephen Liang M.D.
Pastor

 
  
Sept 2017
 
 
WHY DO YOU GO TO MASS?


Every Sunday we make the same journey regularly to Church to attend Mass, yet we miss the beauty that is before our eyes. Why do you go to Mass? How many Catholics do you think would answer by saying, “Because I want to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.”? I think most people would answer, “Because going to Mass is an ‘obligation’.” Indeed, it is…if you desire to encounter Jesus.

The Eucharist is a tangible reminder of God’s love, and receiving Communion is a call to work to build the body of Christ by loving others and shunning all that sows division within a community, Pope Francis said. The Eucharist should “heal our ambition to lord it over others, to greedily hoard things for ourselves, to foment discord and criticism,” Pope Francis said. “May it awaken in us the joy of living in love, without rivalry, jealousy or mean-spirited gossip.

If you want to become more intentional about encountering Jesus in the Mass, here are three things to keep in mind.

1. The Mass represents Jesus’ passion, sacrifice, and resurrection through the signs of bread and wine. Why is this important? Because we all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, there is nothing we can do to pay the price for our sins, but justice still has to be served. So, instead of enduring the price of divine justice with our own lives, Jesus paid it on our behalf.

2. Jesus wants us to remember his sacrifice on the cross; therefore, he instituted the Mass at the Last Supper as a means by which we remember his acts on Calvary Hill.

3. Finally, Jesus teaches that the bread and wine become his real body and blood (John 6:51-58). The God of the universe desires to be intimately part of your life. After receiving Communion, go back to your seat and thank Jesus for His gift to you. Fight every tendency to rush to the car. Can you imagine attending a loved one’s dinner and rushing out the door as soon as you are satisfied without acknowledging the sacrifice she endured to prepare the evening? Acknowledge Christ’s sacrifice.

I encourage you to encounter Jesus in the Mass. Don’t pass him by.




Rev. Fr. Stephen Liang M.D.
Pastor







Why go to church?


If you're spiritually alive, you're going to love this! If you're spiritually dead, you won't want to read it. If you're spiritually curious, there is still hope!

A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday or Saturday He wrote: "I've gone for 30 years now, and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons, but for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time, the preachers and priests are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all".
 
This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column.
Much to the delight of the editor, it went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:
"I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today.  Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!"





Message from the Pastor

 
Pastor's Christmas and New Year's Message (December 2015):
 
The true mystery of Christmas is that God became one of us, lived among us and came to birth through our moments of joy, grief, despair, anger and fear.
 
Here, in the Christ Child, the sacred is not some abstract concept of theological theory: the love of God takes on a human face, the Word of God becomes "enfleshed" in the child Jesus, enabling us to transform our hearts in that love and re-create our world in that Word of justice and compassion.
 
Our God knows that our lives are filled with disappointment, pain and despair; he has lived through the storms and crises we all live through; he has given us hope in our world by promising us life in his world.
 
The challenge of Christmas is to continue to make that love incarnate in our own lives and in the lives of those we love.  
 
This is the season when families come together. But for many families, it takes more than a festive Christmas dinner. Bringing a family together requires the patience to listen, the selflessness to forgive, the commitment to heal and mend. To be a family is to seek out and bring back whoever is lost, to look beyond behavior to understand what is prompting such anger, bitterness or disaffection, to put aside one's own expectations to respect another's perspective. The Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and the Child understood all too well the struggles and challenges of staying together as a family in their time and place. 
 
May we give thanks this Christmas Sunday for the gift of family and, in the New Year, 2016, take on, out of love and care for those we love, the hard, Christ-like work of being family to one another.  
 
Rev. Dr. Stephen Liang M.D.
Pastor
 
 
 
Alta Vista Christmas Concert : Appreciation and Thanks to IHM parish choir and contributors:
 
The Alta Christmas Concert held on Sunday, December 6, 2015  was an overwhelming success. It was a magnificent performance. It was splendidly organized, orchestrated, and brilliantly executed by Francine Brisebois, Choir Director; her associate, Joslyn Brodeur; and the organizing committee members headed by Bill and Cathy Rowe, with the participation of Anthony Churko and Suzan Guirguis responsible for pre-concert fundraising and accounting.
 
The members of our parish choir sang with angelic voices. Dr. Sephora Tang, Psychiatrist, played the violin as an instrumental accompaniment. It was simply magnificent! Thank you to all our singers and musicians for their dedicated and outstanding performance.
 
Special thanks goes out to our musical guests : tenor soloists Dr. Fraser Rubens and his son Zachary Rubens, the singers of the Kanata Choral Society, the Ottawa Catholic School Board Chamber Choir, and the Instrumentalists of the Ottawa Wind Ensemble.
 
I wish to express my profound gratitude and thanks to all our participants, as well as my sincere appreciation and admiration for such an enjoyable and awe-inspiring performance. The IHM Choir is a credit to our whole parish.
 
Our Concert’s success is attributed to a combined team/parish effort consisting of many contributors with numerous talents and skills. Special thanks go out to Monique Jobin, Bob Power, and Brendan Reidand their volunteers' team for their collaboration in  setup tasks and parking lot duties; Suzanne Carr for  decorations; and Helen McGurrin, Moira Matthews and their volunteers' team  for overall reception and hospitality duties.
The Concert supported a very worthy cause, namely our local Heron Emergency Food Centre.
 
Congratulations to all for a job well done! You have much to be proud for.
 
Best wishes and God bless!
 
Fr. Stephen Liang M.D.
Pastor