Hello again! Three years ago this past week we celebrated World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, an event that many Canadians are unlikely to forget for a long time.
In the six months leading up to that celebration of Catholic faith, youthful dynamism and just plain good will, the Toronto Sun invited me to write a weekly column, allowing me to share with you the unfolding of World Youth Day 2002 and the touching meeting of an old Pope with his young friends, who came from every corner of the Earth to our city.
Two of the "refrains" that kept showing up in the thousands of messages I received from Sun readers over those many months were, if I may paraphrase them: "I am not a very good Catholic, but somehow your column and this great event brought me back to life as a Catholic and a Christian" and "though I am not Catholic, John Paul II is my Pope too because he is a man of goodness and peace and was capable of bringing forth so much goodness from everyone".
I thank the Sun for all it did for the Church in 2001-2002 as we prepared for World Youth Day and how it covered the passing of Pope John Paul II earlier this year and the election of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.
The Sun's editors recognize that there is a hunger and thirst out there for faith, religion and spirituality.
So once again the Sun has invited me to write a weekly column about what it means to look at the world through the eyes of Jesus Christ. To such a unique invitation, I can only say "yes." I will try to speak simply and openly to you about Jesus Christ, for He is central to who I am and what I do as a priest and a teacher of Scripture.
I hope to carry on a conversation with you about looking at the world with the lens and mind of Christ.
What do I mean by that and is it the same thing as asking what has always struck me as the rather trivial question: "What would Jesus do?" that we see emblazoned on trinkets, coffee mugs, and a whole clothing line?
To me, the answer is clearly no. However well-intentioned, "WWJD" questions often lead to a sentimental reading of history, the equivalent of a biblical trip down memory lane.
A lot has happened since Jesus Christ walked through ancient Palestine in the first century. Two thousand plus years of divine inspiration under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, events of church history and community experience have impacted on the way that we ask the Jesus question today.
Many of us know a lot of things about Jesus, but have we really understood who he was and what he did?
Contrary to many popular opinions and interpretations, Jesus did not come as a social revolutionary. He denounced injustice by confronting it with love.
Indeed, it is striking how many of his parables assume situations of injustice, not to condemn the injustice, but to show the zeal, ingenuity and perseverance of the unjust as a model for those who would live by love.
Still, those who lived by injustice made no mistake when they recognized in Jesus and in those who followed him a fundamental challenge to their way of life.
One of the things I would like to do as we begin our conversations about faith is to write from time to time about the parables of Jesus. How do these simple yet layered stories confront the Church community and respond to some of our own burning questions about the presence of God in our lives and the crises we face as followers of Christ in a complex world? How can we look at the world through the lenses, mind and heart of Christ?
How can this new vision bring us peace of mind and heart, and help us to be better people in the world today?
I welcome all people of good will into into this discussion, not just those who share my faith. And I look forward to hearing from you and receiving your questions and thoughts.
It's good to be back with you in the Sun.