Metropolitan Borys Gudziak led an online Lenten mission
Upon the invitation of Bishop Brian Bayda, Metropolitan Borys is leading an online Lenten mission for the Ukrainian Catholic faithful in Canada (and for anyone who is interested) entitled: “Brothers and sister of Jesus. Children of God the Father”. The first three sessions (March 14, 15, and 16) were in English. The sessions in Ukrainian will be broadcast on March 21, 22, and 23 (7-8:30pm).
We encourage you to listen to the retreat and share with you an outline;
Session 1.Uniqueness and radicalness of God’s love for us
- The COVID period is accelerating change, which is getting more rapid and radical.
- We Christians are living increasingly at the margins. In Canada, the US, many European countries 50-70 years ago, our faith and our Church life were part of the culture. Today we find that we are pushed aside and considered a little bit strange. COVID is making the marginalization of the Christian worldview a more rapid phenomenon. We, as a Church, have a problem with that. Many Christians experience fear, intensified by the lockdown experience when much of activity in churches is closed down.
- Can we use this experience for the development of our faith? Can we see these challenges as blessings? We can, and we should because there is no time when God is not working in history. It is fruitless to live nostalgically, thinking that there was a golden past. Neither should we escape into fantasies regarding the future. The Lord is working in our lives, here and now.
- We who are raised as Ukrainian Catholics should be mindful of what most of our Church went through—incredible persecution. In the second half of the twentieth century, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was obliterated as a visible, public, legal institution. After two generations of relentless persecution, from 1945 to 1989, it seemed destined to disappear. Fifty years of war and persecution reduced its 3000 priests in 1939 to 300 aged priests in 1989. Brutal reductions have happened in the past. But today, our Church is alive. So if you feel that you are alone, swimming against the current, you are experiencing a reality that many Christians have faced in different times and different places. Ultimately, that marginal status was the reality of the Son of God. Christ is with us where we are, when we are alone, anxious, and in pain.
- We are living at a time when society and the culture around us force us to become more deeply conscious of the gift of faith, the content of faith, and the ultimate meaning of the Gospel. It either will be a vital, alive relationship with God, or it will be stripped away from us. The proposal of the Lord is fantastic — God who created the universe and holds it in His right hand and who created our incredible microcosm – loves each and every one of us 7 billion individually and wants us to be with Him.
- The time of Lent is a time when we can name our sins and put them in the context of the truth that God reveals to us. He created us because He loves us. The story of salvation is a story of God bringing us back home. We should focus on God’s preoccupation with us. The Father is sending the Son to our world so that Jesus can be our brother and we can be His sisters and brothers.
- Important question: what do I believe about Jesus Christ? Do I really open myself up to the radicalness of His proposal? Am I responding to it? Is that my focus? Do I live my life in light of God’s presence?
Session 2. Jesus Christ, fully God and fully human
- How God came to the decision to send His Son is a mystery to us. I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but this question often comes to me. Could not God have done it differently? Could not God have done it in an easier way? Did the Son of God have to suffer?
- Maybe salvation could have been accomplished differently. But if God appeared to each and every one of us—in a dream, in a vision—would we feel that God understands us? Our lives, our work, the stages of our development, the fear of illness and death we have?
- We have a history that speaks to us through the Scriptures, by the liturgical tradition of the Church, interpreted by the Fathers and Mothers of the Church. The history of our salvation is a history in humanity: with a concrete place, time, body, culture, with real-life humanity. God wants to show that He is close, close to you and me.
- Jesus lived a human life. A boy, a teenager, a carpenter. Knocking off a nail off his finger, enduring not only the pain of work but the joy of human creativity given to us by God. He would go to weddings, he would go to the synagogue and he learned to pray through human categories. The Son who was inseparable from the Father—not confounded, but one in the Godhead—condescended to our human condition so that we could be raised to the life of God.
- The challenge of our faith is to accept that Jesus Christ is God and man. Fully God and fully man. The Lord took our humanity because this is a unique way to communicate to you and me. This communication is a communion, so what is being passed on is not just words nor just information about God. This communication happens through the Incarnation of the Son, through the life of Jesus, in a profound way through his death and resurrection, and our Baptism into this Paschal mystery.
- In the Gospels, Jesus is an infant As an adolescent he goes with his parents on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He cures children, even raises them from the dead. He touches us as a member of the human race. He does it in a fraternal relationship as a brother to us, who are his brothers and sisters.
- Any of us who reads the Scriptures in a prayerful way knows how the word of God becomes alive in prayer. It is the word inspired by the Holy Spirit. And it lives in us, it speaks to us. Jesus speaks to us through Scripture, He speaks to us through the Sacraments. He feeds us with His Body and Blood. That is a human relationship as well as a divine one.
- We are called into union with Jesus the Lord. It is a personal relationship. This is essential because God is the perfect communion of Three Persons. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We are persons and our relationships have the quality of persons in relationship.
- How are we related to Jesus? Through Baptism. Ultimately, when we take our spiritual life seriously, we are all brothers and sisters. We are brothers and sisters of the Son of God. God who entered our human race. And we, by His Grace, are invited to identify with Him, become His brothers and sisters.
Session 3. Fatherhood.
- I encourage you during Holy Week to look at the passion narrative, read it, and live through the point of view of Jesus. The Son who out of the obedience to the Father goes through the salvific suffering on the Cross and enters into a salvific death.
- I encourage you to go through a difficult exercise of recognizing who in your life have been the Judases, the high priests Caiaphas, the cynical king Herods or the tawdry ambitious little Pilates. Who have been those that have sold you out? Chances are that among those who betrayed you, who made you suffer, who put you down, there were many people whom you trusted. They may have been father figures, and because of that now you might have a distorted image of the Father. Recognizing where we were hurt helps us understand our fear and lack of trust, which can keep us from being fully open to the Father.
- I encourage you to recognize our sinfulness and God’s mercy. To recognize that we are created in God’s image and likeness with freedom, with a power to create life, with personhood, with the capacity to be in relationships like the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- The only way to open oneself is to open ourselves to the blessing of God. It is not only a psychological process, it is the grace, the gift of God.
- Sin is not only something we did; it’s something that distorts who we are. It turns us away from the focus on the primary relationship—that with God. It also damages our relationship with our brothers and sisters. Lent is a time when we realign our lives to look carefully, to recognize who we are, how we live, and to more fully surrender to God.
- Who are we? Where are we? We really sell ourselves short when we do not, in great humility, recognize the magnitude of God’s love, the quality of God’s love, the personal nature of God’s love. Jesus reveals to us the Father, and this is the heart of Jesus’ mission: to reveal to us the love, patience, creativity, and mercy of the Father so we can dive into it, and we can rejoice in it. This is not merely one possible lifestyle. It should be the way we live but more importantly who we are. Jesus makes us His brothers and sisters. In Baptism we are identified with Christ. With Him, we become sons and daughters of the Father.
- Trusting God allows us to receive our identity as children of the Father. We cannot do it ourselves; we need grace, the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the sign of your daughterhood or your sonship. We’re called to live it and to share it. We can’t share it if we don’t authentically live it.
Notes were taken by Kylyna Kurochka, Halyna Vasylytsia, and Mariana Karapinka