Maundy Thursday and Good Friday reflections on Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death and resurrection.


There’s an interesting parade of people throughout Matthew’s account of the last supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  Everyone, whether individually or as a group, display a wide range of behaviours and reactions.

  • Jesus’ disciples, notably Judas Iscariot, Peter, James and John, who waver between faithfulness and fear.
  • There are the religious and civil authorities who try to discredit Jesus, desperately seeking out false witnesses and questioning Jesus’ authority.
  • The two convicted robbers who are crucified alongside Jesus, join in the mockery.
  • Charged with enforcing the decision of Pontius Pilate, the derisive soldiers and centurions play between mockery and belief.
  • In contrast, there are weeping women and Simon of Cyrene who show compassion to Jesus amid a boisterous, mocking crowd of people, some of whom were waving palms in adoration and praise of Jesus just a few days before.

I believe that the need to be right was at the root of all these reactions.

Being right is based on our understanding of what we believe to be true.

During Lent, Christians spend much time reflecting on the ways to deepen their understanding of God’s truth to support our quest to live and thrive in a right relationship with God.

Seeking the truth and the desire to be right very often means we must release beliefs that don’t serve us.  Releasing can involve resistance or surrender, or both.

Resistance to declaring the truth we already know, is based on the fear of the consequences of integrity.

  • Peter knew who Jesus was and vowed to never deny his association with Jesus. When confronted with making the choice to associate with Jesus in His most unpopular hour, Peter let fear conquer his conviction.  He would later regret this, but courageously reclaimed and proclaimed the truth about his identity as Jesus’ disciple.


  • Pontius Pilate, despite all the evidence, condemned Jesus to death by crucifixion. His decision was based purely on public opinion.  Public opinion can be shaped by loud misguided voices that are devoid of truth and integrity.  Leading with integrity requires an unwavering commitment to the truth.  Pilate knew this.  He had the courage to declare his own truth but feared the consequences.   He saw that he was getting nowhere, but rather that a riot was breaking out, he took water and washed his hands [to ceremonially cleanse himself of guilt] in the presence of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this [righteous] Man’s blood; see to that


Surrendering on the other hand, very often leads us to the truth we are seeking.  It is hard, because it is the way of faith and accepting the Wisdom of uncertainty.

Surrendering requires us to change our perspective on the circumstances in our lives.  Rather than resisting adversity, we are better off embracing it with a deepened desire to know the truth about ourselves and to understand God’s will.

Amid the chaos of shouting crowds, Judas’ suicide, Jesus’ death, and an earthquake, there was a group of women who looked on from a distance and stayed by Jesus’ grave, not knowing what was going to happen next.

Being faithful in the face of uncertainty, led to the revelation of the fulness of the truth that Jesus taught them.  He had to die for our sins and then rise in proof that He is the Son of God and Savior of the world.

  • The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.  He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said [He would]. Come! See the place where He was lying. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee [as He promised]. There you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

The act of surrendering to God’s will not only benefits us as individuals but may also influence the lives of other people. 

By surrendering to God’s will, Jesus’ death and resurrection gave credibility to everything Jesus taught and to the way He lived and died.  Even though none of Jesus’ detractors liked his teachings, many of them were converted and accepted the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

  • The centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”


I really believe that our life here on earth is a journey of constant learning.  We evolve to our highest level of spiritual awareness and understanding when we commit to  understand God’s truth for us and for all humankind.  Add Bible study, prayer and meditation to your daily routine.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters!



A Prayer for Ash Wednesday


Almighty God, from the dust of the earth You have created us.

May these ashes be for us a sign of our mortality and our penitence

And a reminder that only by Your gracious gift

Are we given eternal life

Through Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen


Accomplish in us O God,

The work of Your salvation

That we may show forth Your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of Your Son, our Lord,

Bring us with all Your saints to the joy of His resurrection.


Christ in us, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters.

A Tribute to the Franciscan Sisters in Jamaica

ICHS Campus

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

So said St. Francis of Assisi

True to this guiding principle, three Franciscan Sisters endured a long trans-Atlantic voyage from Glasgow, Scotland to serve in Jamaica.  This was in 1857, barely 20 years after the emancipation and abolition of slavery.  With only two shillings and six pence in their possession, the Franciscan nuns were not daunted by the challenges that lay ahead. For them, true to the teachings of their patron Saint Francis, with faith in God, they would start by doing what was necessary.  There was a need, a dire need to educate, to build communities, to proclaim the Gospel in word and in deed.

By January 1858, the Sisters opened the Immaculate Conception Academy, now Immaculate Conception High School and Immaculate Preparatory School.  Alvernia in Cross Roads was later acquired where the Franciscan Sisters established the St. Francis All-Age School, St. Joseph’s Teacher’s College and Alvernia Preparatory School.

Twenty years later, in 1879, when the Franciscan Motherhouse in Scotland was no longer able to send any more Sisters to Jamaica, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, New York, a young, fledgling Community, graciously responded to an appeal from the Vicar Apostolic of Jamaica.  In January 1879, three Sisters bravely set sail from New York Harbour to become the first American Sisters to undertake foreign missionary work.

In later years, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany would establish other schools – St. Aloysius Primary, Marymount and Mount Alvernia High Schools, to name a few.  In the over 160 years in Jamaica, the Franciscan Sisters have extended their ministry to the vital areas of healthcare, feeding assistance programmes and community development projects in rural areas and in inner cities.

In a day and age when the success of educational institutions is measured by examination scores of the graduating cohorts, it is very easy to praise the performance of students without acknowledging the contribution of those who have laid the foundation and traditions in these institutions.

Beyond the academic excellence of ICHS, of which we are extremely proud, we the Class of 1978 fully understand that none of this matters without strength of character, where discipline, integrity and service to God and community are at the core.

We are the beneficiaries of the Franciscan Sisters’ mission to live the Gospel, to witness God’s Love in the Franciscan tradition of living in community and in harmony with all creation while joyfully serving others, especially those who are poor and marginalized.

Today, we salute the Franciscan Sisters for the role they have played in creating here at ICHS, an environment where goodness and honesty are exemplified and promoted, where excellence is encouraged and the potential of each individual is patiently nurtured, ensuring an enriching educational experience which in turn generates competent, virtuous and happy citizens.

While attending ICHS, we were provided with opportunities to reach out to those less fortunate.  We were inspired and encouraged to be good stewards of God’s creation, evidenced by the beauty of our school campus.  We were motivated to excel academically with the purpose of developing our unique talents to benefit the world.  We were taught Christian values and principles, essential to building our character and directing our ethical and moral choices.

We are eternally grateful for the Franciscan foundation and traditions here at ICHS.  In lasting tribute to the work and witness of the Franciscan Sisters, the Class of 1978 presents this painting of St. Francis of Assisi against the backdrop of our beloved school, and set in the natural beauty of our campus.

This tribute was read at a special event to honor the Franciscan Sisters during the 40th anniversary reunion of the Class of 1978, on Friday 29 June 2018 at the Immaculate Conception High School, Kingston, Jamaica.

Christ in me, the hope of glory! 


There is Enough for all of Us: My Views on Persistent Poverty, the Prosperity Gospel and Social Justice

Karen's mountains

It was in the dimming sunlight of dusk that I had a moment of enlightenment.

I was late for an appointment but lucky enough to find a parking space on a crowded street. Even though I had enough money to pay for the thirty minutes I needed, I didn’t have the right coins to put in the parking meter.  There were no shops nearby to ask for change, only people scurrying by.

Bewildered and frantic, I rushed up to a couple and asked if they could exchange my dimes and nickels for two quarters.

“Sorry,” he said, as I felt my racing heart sink.

“But here’s my receipt for forty minutes remaining on my space in the parking lot over there,” he continued.

“How much do I owe you for that?” I asked in disbelief.

“Nothing.  Please take it.  I’m sure you need it more than we do,” he responded.

In that instant, as I saw the remaining rays of sunset slide below the horizon, I could feel my heart warm with gratitude for Divine Providence.  I got more than I asked for, unexpectedly and right on time.

But my “aha moment” didn’t end there.

I made it to my appointment, but the person who I was to meet didn’t show up and my meeting was postponed to another day.  I chose not to be disappointed.

My takeaway from all this was that we can get more, even when we don’t need it as there is an inexhaustible supply of everything we need in the Universe!

There is ample evidence that there is more than enough for everyone in this world.

Abundance is more of a problem than scarcity

Oxfam reported that there is enough food to feed the world.  In fact the world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. The International Federation of the Red Cross reported in 2011 that there are 1.5 billion people worldwide classified as obese.  However, 925 million go to sleep hungry every night.  I can accept that nutrient-poor foods may be the main contributor to obesity.  The truth is that there is more food available in the world than we are led to believe. There is enough and more for everyone. The problem is the inequitable distribution of wealth.

Poverty is being alleviated, but…

The United Nations reports that the international community has made significant strides towards lifting people out of poverty, with extreme poverty rates cut in half since 1990.  However, the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income and the richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.

Persistent poverty is real.  Breaking generational cycles of poverty continues to be elusive.

The divide between those who have more and those who have less or nothing at all is widening. This is happening in spite of the myriad people, initiatives and organizations undertaking projects to alleviate poverty.  Throughout the year, I receive all kinds of requests for donations ranging from money to build vital infrastructure to gifts in kind such as food, clothing and Christmas gifts.

Giving the excess from those who have to those who don’t have, doesn’t always bridge the divide

There are many willing volunteers who want to help, but they lack the knowledge and skills required to be effective. I’ve heard stories about water wells that don’t work after the foreign aid workers have left; poorly built walls that have to be redone; and gift toys that children have no clue about how to use.

Too often the gifts and donations of the “haves” do not empower the “have nots.”   

A constant stream of donations disempowers people and creates dependency on others.  In my own experience, most people in need want to develop their talents, find sustainable employment and become self-sufficient to support their families.

None of this darkens the revelations of my “aha moment.”

Religious teachings about prosperity

Some Christian religious denominations glorify poverty as an honourable spiritual and material state that is sanctified by God.  There are others who teach a “prosperity gospel,” claiming that excessive financial wealth and excellent health are always in the will of God.

I don’t find either of these approaches to be satisfactory as they can be used to oppress people in one way or another.

On one hand, glorifying poverty leads people to passively accept poverty and deprives them of the opportunity to make the required effort to achieve financial independence and a better standard of living. On the other hand, those who do not achieve financial success or are in ill-health may be led to believe that they are inadequate, sinful or not following God’s will.

While I don’t believe that God intends anyone to live in poverty and that there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to have as much as we want and more, I believe that social justice has to be the guiding principle in the quest for personal and collective prosperity.

Social justice bridges poverty to prosperity

The inexhaustible resources of the Universe are available to all of us. It’s our commitment to social justice that will bridge the divide between poverty and prosperity.  Just like the man who offered me the parking receipt with the excess time he didn’t need, we should always think of ways in which we can use what we have and don’t need more of, to enable and empower others to get to a better place.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters!


Identity, Inclusion and Love – Thoughts on Baptism and Black History Month

Approximate reading time: 20 minutes

The following is the text of a sermon delivered by Camille N. Isaacs-Morell on 19 February 2017 at the Anglican Parish of St. Andrew and St. Mark, Dorval, Québec, Canada.


Today we are celebrating Black History Month and the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  Both these events cause us to focus on the themes of identity and inclusion.  Through baptism a person is identified as a child of God and welcomed into the family of Christian believers.  Black History Month celebrates the identity and contribution of persons of Black African descent.

Today, Ella will be marked with water, a sign that Ella belongs to God, is a follower of Christ and a member of the fellowship of Christians.

Like Ella, I was given my Christian identity through the sacrament of baptism and the promise made by my parents and godparents that I would follow the way of Christ. Like Ella I am female and a citizen of Canada.  But there are other names to identify me that are different from Ella’s.

I am the descendant of Black African slaves who worked on sugar plantations in Jamaica centuries ago.  Among my ancestors are Jewish, Irish and German free men who made their way to Jamaica two centuries ago to seek their fortune.  I identify as a Black person with cultural ties to Jamaica.

Finding one’s identity is a personal and public issue.  Being who you are and who you associate with can be problematic – especially if you are a Muslim worshipping in a mosque in Quebec City or if you are a Black male living anywhere in the United States of America.

The questions of identity are not new.  At the time of Paul’s writing, the early Church in Corinth was dealing with identity issues.  The Church in Corinth was a wealthy congregation comprised of persons of diverse backgrounds, religious experiences and affiliations.  In the verses we read today from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, he warns Christians there against basing their identity on affiliations with human leaders and creating factions and alliances built on human definitions.  Paul instructs them to base their identity on Christ and on Christ alone, as Christ is the foundation of the Church.

Laws also play an important role in defining who we are.  Laws that govern nations, define religious behaviour and create associations and clubs, shape the way people behave, think and act.  In our reading from Leviticus, when Moses receives the law, God establishes the people of Israel’s identity as a reflection of God’s essence.  They are to be holy as God is holy.  The people of Israel, God’s people, are to differentiate themselves from all other people by adhering to the law that requires them to respect their parents, honour the Sabbath, give to the poor and the stranger, refrain from stealing, abstain from profanity, oppression, injustice, hate and revenge.

By following God’s law, the people of Israel claim their identity as God’s chosen, holy people, set apart and favoured by God.

And here comes the big, huge, hairy problem of “us” and “them” that inevitably arises when we address questions of identity and the complex maze of diversity through which we are called to journey together as we build an inclusive society that ensures justice and respect for all of its citizens.

So although laws intrinsically define the identity of nations, religious groups and associations, laws also have the potential to exclude and discriminate against “them” who are different from “us”.  And exclusion and discrimination lead to ignorance, stereotyping and injustice.  This is why and how racism insidiously thrives in many social institutions.


Black History Month was established in 1926 with the aim of overcoming the issues of identity and exclusion of people of Black African descent, whose 12 million ancestors were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean where they were enslaved for more than three centuries.  Here we are, 90 years later, with valid reasons justifying the need to have Black History Month.

The economic contribution of slave-based labour and the slave trade to the world is still conspicuously absent from mainstream history books. The financial proceeds of trading in slaves lined the pockets of plantation owners and fuelled the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Slavery was a highly profitable investment which yielded rates of return that compared favourably with most investment opportunities in manufacturing.  For example, a study conducted by Alfred Conrad and John Meyer and reported in The Economist magazine, indicates that slave capital yielded a return on investment as high as 13% compared to a yield of 6% to 8% on the railroads.

We still need Black History Month because the many inventions and accomplishments of persons of Black African descent have yet to be widely acknowledged and publicized beyond the four weeks in February every year.

  • Did you know the first Canadian to be awarded the Victorian Cross for gallantry was Alexander Roberts Dunn, a Black soldier from Nova Scotia, who served in the Crimean War?
  • There’s Elijah McCoy, the Black Canadian inventor and engineer.  His 57 patents including lubrication devices for steam engines greatly contributed to workers’ safety, transportation systems and industrial development in Canada.
  • In more recent times, we have Henry T. Sampson, the inventor of the cell phone.  There’s the trio of Black women mathematicians – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, whose work at NASA contributed significantly to space travel safety.

The Church also needs Black History Month. Eurocentric interpretations of the Bible have generally failed to acknowledge the presence and role of Black people in Biblical history, in Jesus’ ministry and in the spreading of the Gospel.  There is Moses’ wife Zipporah and the Queen of Sheba among several Old Testament personalities.  There is Simon of Cyrene, the Black man who helped Jesus carry his cross.  Mary Magdalene was in Jesus’ entourage.  The Ethiopian eunuch, a man of great influence, accepted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Saviour and continued on his way back to Africa, where I am sure he spread the Good News.

The systemic exclusion of the contribution, presence and truthful history of Black people has served to perpetuate negative perceptions of the Black race and has undermined the progress of Black people everywhere.

Black History Month is a valiant effort to highlight the on-going need for the inclusion of the missing pages in the world’s history books and seeks to remind us and educate us about how we came to this place….together.

But Black History month is not enough.

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement championed the need to enact anti-discriminatory laws and affirmative action.  These laws acknowledge the presence of visible minorities and legislate the prevention of exclusion from economic opportunity and social participation on the basis of race.

The recent emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and its militant demands for formal dialogue and recognition tell us that the war on identity and inclusion is still being waged.  Race riots, reports of racial profiling and the disparities in the economic and social conditions of visible minorities are persistent reminders that anti-discriminatory laws don’t guarantee inclusion and justice.

So laws are not enough because they only provide minimum standards and cannot bring us up to be the best we can be.


Turning to today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is preaching His Sermon on the Mount, where he declared earlier that He has not come to abolish Roman Civilian Law or the Religious Law upheld by the Prophets.  We hear Jesus refer to Religious Law – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – straight out of the book of Deuteronomy.  He then refers to Roman Civilian Law which gives a person of high social rank the right to use his left hand to slap the cheek of the person of lower social rank.  Jesus also refers to the law allowing a Roman soldier to force a citizen to carry a Roman soldier’s heavy coat for a maximum of one mile.

Both Religious Law and Roman Civilian Law are exact and clearly define their versions of justice and the rights of persons.

Jesus surprisingly instructs His listeners to do more than what these oppressive laws permit.  We are to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and above all, we are to love our enemies.  He says that it is by loving our enemies that we become perfect like God.  Perfect love is God’s true identity.  If our identity is founded on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our lives must reflect the love of God.


And what is love?  Regardless of how you define it, love always points us to the highest good.  Love is given full expression in the way we treat people, individually and collectively.  So we cannot speak about love without speaking about inclusion, justice and the rule of law.

I must admit that it took me a really long time to understand Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek.  But on the day that I did understand it, I gained a whole new perspective on how Christians should respond to oppressive laws and acts of injustice.

As I mentioned earlier, under Roman law at the time of Jesus’ ministry, persons of higher social rank had the right to slap the face of a person of lower social rank – but the slap had to be given with the left hand as the right hand was reserved for religious actions and could not be defiled.  So if someone wanted to slap another person in the face with their left hand, they would have to deliver the blow to the right cheek.  If the person receiving the slap were to turn his left cheek as Jesus suggested, the slapper would have to use their right ‘holy’ hand to deliver the blow.  By following Jesus’ suggestion to turn the left cheek to be slapped, it would mean that the oppressor would have to stop and think before striking again.  He would have to consider firstly, if he should defile his right ‘holy’ hand.  Secondly, and more importantly, he would hopefully question himself as to whether or not his action was right and fair to the other person.


So what I understand is that Jesus was advocating a radical form of nonviolent action as the line of defense to oppressive laws and injustice.  This principle of nonviolent protest and moral suasion is meant to appeal to the conscience of the oppressor to consider whether or not the law is fair and serves the highest good of all citizens – regardless of their race, gender, religion or any other differentiating criteria.


The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. applied Jesus’ principle of nonviolent protest and moral suasion in the Civil Rights Movement.  Under Dr. King’s leadership, millions of Black persons took to the streets for peaceful protests as well as acts of civil disobedience.  A major factor in the success of the movement was the strategy of protesting for equal rights without using violence.  And where did this lead to?  Thankfully racial discrimination was outlawed and laws forbidding injustice and upholding racial equality were enacted.

Enshrined within Jesus’ radical teaching on nonviolent protest and moral suasion is the principle of love, which is the spirit of the law and the foundation of justice.  Love is the guiding principle of the law that God gave to Moses.  I daresay that laws in free and fair societies are enacted to uphold the principles of justice and the highest good of its citizens.

But in spite of anti-discriminatory laws, racism and injustice still persist.  Why?

The answer is simple.  Love cannot be legislated.  Genuine love cannot be enforced by the law.  Love comes from the heart and motivates right actions that go beyond the limits and requirements of the law.

Jesus is calling us, His people, to enshrine the principle of love in all our actions.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love never fails.”  When all else fails, love, like God eternal, never fails.  When everything else is lost, God’s love is all we have left.  Paul also tells the Christians in Rome that “God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”  The capacity to love comes from God.  Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.  We are channels of God’s love.

For my part, as a Black person who has had to confront racism and injustice, I am reassured that my identity as a Christian, is founded and built on the love of God.  Like the crucified Christ, I must forgive and love those who don’t know that what they are doing is not loving, respectful or inclusive.  This means that I must love and forgive the Christian woman I overheard saying that the ‘N’ word is not at all offensive.  I must love and forgive the defense lawyer and judge who attempted to entice me to play the race card in a court of law.  I must love and forgive the city official who considers my outrage at the selective removal of racist graffiti on public property as being my problem, not hers or the city’s.  I must love and forgive Canadian border agents who harass me when I am travelling alone, but welcome me without any problem when I am travelling with my White Canadian husband.  I must love and forgive my co-worker who openly declared that I need to trade in marijuana in order to give credibility to my Jamaican identity.

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit empowers me to love and forgive.

Black History Month reminds me that the love of God conquers all.

It is the love of God that sustained my enslaved foreparents throughout their journey to freedom.  It is the love of God and respect for human dignity that motivated the Christian Abolitionist movement.  It is the love of God that motivated the Civil Rights Movement, led by Dr. King who enlisted the support of persons of other religions and races to advocate for inclusion and equal rights for all.  It is the love of God that motivates us here today as a fellowship of Christian believers to build an inclusive Church, nation and world.


Today, as Ella is marked with the water of baptism, she receives the mark of her Christian identity, which is the love of God.  We join with Ella’s parents Amanda and Mark and all of her family, to make a commitment to nurture Ella in the ways of God’s love that transcends race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, health status and all the other social identifiers.

As we lovingly encircle Ella and her family today, it doesn’t matter one bit that there are differences in our racial or cultural identities.  We are affirming our common identity as God’s people – a people committed to love, justice and the highest good of all.

As we kneel at the altar to partake in Holy Communion, let us remember that Jesus’ death is the greatest act of love ever committed for all humanity.  For this reason, we come to the Lord’s Table as equals, loved unconditionally by God and as members of the whole human race.

I end with the words of Nelson Mandela –

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Thanks be to God and to you for giving me the opportunity to speak this morning.

I love you. May God bless you all!  Amen.