From Fr. Peter's Desk

4th Sunday of Advent

December 20, 2020

Advent is coming to a close. We call it a season of waiting. Aren’t you tired of waiting? This has been an awful season of waiting while the virus has taken almost 314,000 lives in the States, 14,000 in Canada, 107 in Saskatchewan, and 1.7 million worldwide.

When will we get the vaccine? How long will it take for all of us to be vaccinated? What about the poor countries in this planet, will their populations also be vaccinated? Are you as tired as I am of this waiting and worrying? People are still sick, hungry, homeless and unemployed. When will relief come?

Here is something else that calls us to wait, but with a sure promise of fulfillment. During Advent we await Christ’s coming. We will celebrate his coming in the flesh in five days, even while all the other waitings drag on! There’s more: we also await his final return! What should we do during this waiting time? Certainly not sit content in our private bubbles, isolated the way those professional athletes are before their big games. The scriptures give us guide and encouragement as we wait.

Today we hear Gabriel announce to Mary her coming pregnancy. We are reminded that the baptized are also pregnant with the life of Christ. I know the thought of being pregnant with God may be an uncomfortable description for us men to ponder. But still, by the same overshadowing of the Spirit Mary experienced, we also bear the life of Christ with us and give birth to him in the world by our words and actions.

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." The very same promise is spoken to us as well. The Spirit has been planted in us; new life given us. How shall we nurture it? Where and when shall we give birth to it? Thoughts to ponder as we approach the Christmas celebration.

Mary can be our guide for the opportunity for renewal of Christ’s coming promises. Luke tells the Annunciation story in the pattern of other similar biblical accounts (Gen 16:7-16, Judges 13:2-7). These stories alert us to the importance of the child to be born.

For example, by telling us that Joseph was "of the house of David," Luke is showing us that what is happening to the seeming insignificant couple in a remote village fits God’s plan for Israel. Once again God is reaching out to benefit humanity through the poor and fragile, people of no social rank.

Why is Mary "greatly troubled?" Well, she is single and pregnant – that could cost her life. Could it be because those who were favored by God in Israel’s history often had to suffer for their calling? Consider the fate of the prophets. Mary believes the angel’s news, but the issue is: how will all this happen, she is a virgin? The Spirit will come upon her with power, just as God’s presence came upon and stayed with Israel during its 40 year desert journey.

Luke is not just portraying a young woman who agrees to bear the Son of God. From the very first chapter of his gospel, he depicts her as a disciple. Not because, like the other disciples, Jesus called her from her daily life to follow him. She hears the good news the angel announced to her and responds to it. For Luke, a true disciple is one who hears and acts on the Word of God. From the beginning of the gospel Mary fits this description.

Mary gives her consent to be part of God’s plan for redemption. Besides the previously mentioned dangers, she could have thought, "I am just an insignificant woman with no power, or authority in the world." She had plenty of reason to decline the angel’s invitation. But the messenger called on her faith in the God of Israel, and she decided to throw her lot in with God.

As the angel reminds Mary, after telling her of the pregnancy of her elderly cousin Elizabeth, "For nothing will be impossible for God." Notice the good news is about the present and the future. God comes among us now and journeys with us into our unpredictable and sometimes scary future.

Mary is not only depicted as a true disciple, she is also commissioned as a prophet. She hears God’s plan for humanity and accepts her role in it. By her consent she will give witness to God’s activity in the world.

Though she is promised that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, the future will not be easy. But she trusts the angel’s assurance that God’s presence will be with her. The same assurance we have by our baptism. When the Holy Spirit also "comes upon" us, we become hearers of God’s Word and are invited to trust in the overshadowing presence of God’s Spirit with us. Which is what Mary did.

We may be fed up and ready to quit our waiting. But God is not fed up and ready to quit on us. God, who created something out of nothing, can do it again: be creative when there is so little to work with. When we think we are done, God is just beginning. If these days feel too much for us, today’s gospel reminds us that we are not on our own.

Once again God has noticed a needy people and is doing something about it. We may not be able to handle what’s happening in our lives, but God can. Is this false optimism? Pie in the sky? With Mary we can pray, "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

God bless you and Stay Safe.

Father Peter Pham


You can find Father Peter's previous sermons here. There is a gap between November 1 and December 20.

Easter Message from the Pastor

April 4, 2021

Take the Stone Away!

The Orthodox Church has an interesting Easter custom. At the end of services on Easter Sunday, eggs are blessed and distributed to everyone in the church to show that all share in the blessings of this great feast. The members then greet one another and crack their eggs together. When one egg cracks, the owner cries: “Christ is risen!” The other person answers: “Truly He is risen!”

Cracking the egg represents the breaking open of the grave of Christ. The egg shows new life. Inside the egg is the material which will make a tiny, new chicken. That new life comes forth when the chick breaks out of the egg.

My dear friends and members of St. Martin de Porres Parish,

Christ’s coming forth from the grave is something like that. Christ was totally dead before He came to life again. The egg seems dead before it brings forth life. The egg reminds us of the tomb in which Jesus was buried. The chick breaking forth from the egg reminds us of Jesus breaking forth from the tomb.

We are happy at Easter because Jesus rose from the dead and because He promised that we will rise from the dead at some future date. But our happiness is even greater when we realize that we can rise from the grave. – TODAY. There are many kinds of tombs and many kinds of resurrections. Every one of us can rise from a tomb – TODAY, because everyone of us can rise to a better and higher life – TODAY.

The Good News on Easter Sunday read: “the stone was taken away.” By God’s power, Christ’s grave was opened. By God’s power the stone that holds you and I buried can be taken away. What are these stones that weigh us down? First, there is the stone of selfishness, being concerned only with our own good. The risen Christ will help us roll that stone away by becoming interested in doing what pleases God and what helps our neighbor.

There is the stone of greed, the stone of gluttony. How these weigh down both body and soul! The stone of indifference or lack of love keeps us from trying to please God, keep us from trying to do good to our neighbor. On this glorious day, at the resurrection when we re-live the story of God’s love for us, we can break out all this indifference, this lukewarmness, with the strength of our risen Savior.

What is the stone you would like to have taken away so that you can come forth with Christ, bright and powerful? Is it impurity, dishonesty, laziness, pride, anger, envy? With the help of Christ throw it off and Easter will be a much happier day for you.

The main reason for our joy today is that Jesus rose and that He promised we will rise. But there is special joy in each of the resurrections we talked about. May our heavenly Father “bring us – all of us – to the glory of the resurrection,” as we pray after Holy Communion. The Blessed Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit –are living within us, ready to share with us the happiness of having the stone rolled away. That is the kind of Happy Easter I wish to all of you.

God bless you and Stay Safe!

Father Peter Pham