Jesus Loves the Little Children! ~ The Rev. Dcn. Dollie Wilkinson

This week marks the beginning of another school year for many children, my granddaughter included. She starts kindergarten this year, which means a new school, new friends, and a new routine. I imagine she is quite nervous her first day, but probably not as nervous as her Mom. As a grandmother, I admit to also being nervous. Will she like school, or her teacher? Will she make friends easily, or will the other kids make fun of her because she is different (being of mixed-race)? I also admit to fearing for her safety. Though school systems now have multiple safety measures and protocols in place, I imagine a lot of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, will worry about their little ones. But there is someone who is always looking out for our children-Jesus.

I remember when I was little, attending a baptist church in West Virginia, one of the first songs we learned was “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, written by C. Herbert Woolston (1856-1927). The tune for the hymn was composed by George F. Root. It goes something like this:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
Of the world.”

Such a simple little tune, but it carried a big message. We all knew, from the youngest toddler to the oldest teenager, that no matter what, Jesus loves us! Doesn’t matter the color of our skin, if we are rich or poor, if we sometimes act out, we are always loved and cherished. This is illustrated so clearly in Mark 10:13-16:

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”

What a powerful vision ~ this holy man, the Son of God, welcoming the little children to sit with Him a spell. For many children, I’m sure this is the first time they saw Jesus, who must have seemed like a stranger to them. Yet, they gladly went up to Him, as if they knew there was not anything to fear.

Even today, many children are eagerly seeking a personal relationship with Jesus. There was a movie out recently (based on the bestselling book), “Heaven Is For Real”. Its about the story of a 4-year-old boy named Colton Burpo. Colton claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience. He shares his story about Heaven with his curious father, Todd Burpo. Of course, Colton’s family is not at first sure what to think of his story and his visit to Heaven. What I found interesting about this story is it also makes mention of a young Lithuanian girl, who felt compelled from a very young age, to draw the face of Jesus. This extraordinary little girl is Akiane Kramarik. At age 4, Akiane painted her vision of Jesus Christ, which is replicated in the film. Born in 1994 in Mount Morris, Illinois, to two Atheist parents, Akiane was seeing visions of God, Jesus and Heaven. What first began as pencil drawings, Akiane kept replicating these visions into beautiful expressions of art and moved to pastels. By 6 years of age, Akiane switched to acrylic paint and then oils. What an awesome example of Jesus’ words, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them”.

Here are just a couple of examples from the Bible of Jesus showing His love and mercy for the little ones:

John 4:46-52 (NIV)

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see signs and wonders, Jesus told him,“you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”

Luke 8:40-56 (NIV)

Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”  Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,”Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.”

We now know that Jesus truly does love all the children of the world. Over the course of His ministry, Jesus often presented children as an example of the type of faith adults are to have. When Jesus blessed the children, He told His disciples, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15). In another instance, when the disciples were fighting about who would be the greatest in God’s kingdom, Jesus brought a child to stand in their midst. He then chided His disciples: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2–4). According to Jesus, the qualities of children, including humility and simple acceptance were crucial for anyone who wishes a closer relationship with our Father.

Peace ~ The Assumption of the Virgin Mary ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Let me tell you a personal story.

A few years ago, I was stricken with an allergic reaction. The doctors are still not sure what it was, but it was severe enough for me to go to the Emergency Room at the hospital. Everything was beginning to shut down and I got to the ER just in time.

As part of the treatment, I was given a sizeable shot of epinephrine which had quite a negative reaction on me. The scariest part was hearing a nurse say “He’s crashing!” Believe me, that’s not something you want to hear. I have no real memory of what was going on, except a lot of frantic to and fro from the staff, and my wife sitting by my gurney looking pretty grim.

When I saw her face, all I could think was “God, no matter what happens, take care of this wonderful woman, my wife.”

I’ll have to admit, I was scared.

I prayed again for the comfort of all my family and for their strength through what I thought was about to happen to me.

Then I looked to the foot of my bed, still asking for peace for my family, and I saw…someone standing there. It was not vivid enough to look like a person, but there was definitely an oval cloud around whomever or whatever was there.

The Blessed Mother, Mary.

That’s what immediately came to mind. And of course, the oval shape was the same as the Miraculous Medal I was wearing.

Mary.

I relaxed. There was no talking, no message, no revelation, but simply a feeling of peace. I absolutely knew it was Mary, the Mother of God.

I relaxed. The frantic staff’s movement started to slow. One of the nurses patted me on the shoulder. Sue was holding my right hand. I felt OK.

To that moment in my life, Mary had been an enigma. Whenever I thought of her during my readings of the Liturgy of the Hours, it was with some sort of annoyance, I think occasioned by the type of language we find in the Vigil Gospel for today, when Jesus corrects a woman in the crowd saying, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” And the language Jesus uses at the wedding feast at Cana, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?”

I always had, if not a negative attitude toward Mary, then one of tolerance and annoyance.

I have no idea where it came from.

But I can tell you, from the day of my allergic reaction, my feeling for and about The Blessed Mother has changed completely.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” These words from today’s Gospel began my new quest to become acquainted with The Blessed Mother. I found that almost every reference to Mary in the Bible portrays a humble, pious, and truly blessed woman. One whom I now can truly see as “The queen (taking) her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.” One who, as we hear in The Annunciation readings, immediately accepts God’s grace and carries out his word. This woman, who is described in the first Reading as “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

Now I must confess that I’m a skeptic. Always have been. Need a two-by-four to get most messages…but that night, lying on the hospital gurney, ready for whatever was to come, I unquestionably had a visit from Mary whose unspoken message to me was “Everything is going to be all right.” That message was not that I was going to make it, but that everything was going to be all right. The Blessed Mother.

So as I hear today’s Readings, Psalm, Alleluia, and Gospel I am washed again in the peace which The Blessed Mother represents to us and her acceptance and understanding of whatever God is preparing for us.

And especially after the disturbing image of a ferocious and terrible dragon from Revelation, with the words

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.”

With those words, it is as if Mary is telling me, again, “Everything is going to be all right.”

So as we contemplate the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary, let us all draw comfort from The Star of the Sea who calms the waves and sends us peace as we travel these sundering seas.

Jesus, help us to go through life as your Mother did, praying and trusting in God’s mercy. Give us eyes to see her glory and ears to hear her silent words of comfort.

Amen.

Faith, Doubt, Tiny Voices, and Peace ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

“There was a tiny whispering sound.”

“I will hear what God Proclaims; the Lord – for he proclaims peace.”

“…and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

“…my soul waits for his word. Alleluia, alleluia.”

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

These snippets from today’s readings speak to me. Do they speak to you?

And a calm descended…that is what I feel as I hear these words spoken in today’s Mass. A calm that passeth all understanding.

Well, that is fine for all of the readings but the Gospel. There, we are told of a storm, a near drowning, a helping hand at the last moment. None of us who have been in a life-threatening situation feels calm afterwards. The adrenaline rush takes over and we are at the height of our senses. Life-threatening events evoke strong and heavy winds crushing rocks, and earthquakes, and fire.

But Jesus lays his hand on us and all is calm. Is that the tiny whispering sound?

This week, as I am wont to do, I pondered my role as a Dominican. “The Order of Preachers.” First, “Order” and second, “Preachers.” In my mind, that used to mean getting up on a soap box and spouting off to all who would listen. Winning souls to Christ.

But in Jesus’s teachings, do we ever find the concept of a battle to make others believe…or to help them believe? Don’t we just find Jesus speaking from the heart to our hearts?

“O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

An exhortation to arms? A call to battle?  No, simply a question: can’t you already see that God is at hand? Right here, right now?

Of course, when we are in a calm place, a quiet retreat, we can hear the tiny voice. We can imagine and experience the calm. But what about when we are actually in the maelstrom? How easy it is to focus on that, on the danger, on the problems. We make plans, build barriers, put on the armor we need to fight the battle.

But then, as is also common with me…and maybe you…here comes St. Paul speaking to the Romans, and to me:

“…my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.”

So how did the prophet, experiencing hunger, chains, prison, beatings, how did he keep hold of that tiny voice? Perhaps it was his direct experience with the Risen Christ. Surely it was his deep understanding of and attachment to the message of Jesus. Whatever it was, that tiny voice was all he needed to get him through his many trials.

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So back to my “order” and “preacher” idea: There is nothing stern, no fire and brimstone, no mountains rending nor earth erupting. There is the simple message of Jesus inviting us to listen to the tiny voice that he says is already at work in us.

And although it is wrongly attributed to St. Francis, I still like the admonition: “Preach the Gospel always. When necessary, use words.” Which is to say, how I live my life is as much an act of preaching the Gospel as going from village to village proclaiming the Good News.

But it is not only to our role as Preachers that these readings speak. They also tell us that within ourselves, when we are in distress for whatever reason, there is comfort in knowing that the peace we seek is already within us, if only we could put aside the anxiety for a while and listen. And even if we begin to sink into the depths of despair, Jesus is there with his hand to hold us up, just as he held up St. Peter on the stormy waters.

Lord, open our ears that we may hear you calling to us. Help us to listen to your tiny voice amidst the noise and clamor of this world. Let us take comfort in receiving your benefits that are ours for the taking. In Jesus name, Amen.

For the Good of It All ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI


ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

To understand this verse, we need to think through four truths:

  1. God has an eternal purpose and He is able to accomplish His purpose.
  2. God’s eternal purpose includes calling to salvation a people for Himself.
  3. God’s purpose for those whom He calls to salvation is their ultimate, eternal good.
  4. Knowing that God is working all things together for our good brings great comfort during difficult trials.

One of the most helpful things that you can learn about your Christian life is how to handle the trials that inevitably will come your way. Jesus explained that there are some who receive the word with joy, but their faith is only temporary. When affliction or persecution because of the word hits them, immediately they fall away. They didn’t expect affliction or understand how to handle it. They signed up for success, not suffering. They wanted prosperity, not persecution. So, they fell away when the trials hit. It is especially in times of suffering that Satan, whom Peter describes as a roaring lion, seeks to devour you. So, it is essential for your spiritual survival that you know and apply what the Bible teaches about trials.

Romans 8:28 is one of the most familiar verses on this subject. The NIV reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” All things don’t just happen to work out for good on their own. Rather, God providentially works all things together for good for His people according to His purpose. But while Romans 8:28 is a source of great comfort when it is properly understood, it is often misunderstood and misapplied. Some think that it teaches a positive outlook on life, that everything will turn out for our happiness in this life. But this denies or greatly minimizes the reality of suffering and evil. It insensitively says to those who are suffering: “Don’t worry, be happy, your loss isn’t really so bad.” But the verse isn’t saying that.

Sometimes well-meaning Christians recite Romans 8:28 to a person in the throes of grief, trying to help or comfort. But at the moment of loss, the grieving person mostly needs your presence and your help with practical matters. Later, if need be, you may be able to help him understand and apply this verse. But it will help us all to weather suffering better if we understand this verse before the storm hits.

All things are not good. It would be mockery to say that they are. The death of a child is not good. Cancer is not good, drug addiction is not good, war is not good, blasphemy is not good. Many of us have some salt with our meals. Table salt is made up of both sodium and chloride. By itself, sodium is a deadly poison, and so is chloride. Put them together, and you have table salt. Salt flavors food, and a certain amount of salt is necessary for health and life. We cannot live without some salt in our systems. God can take things that are bad and put them in the crucible of His wisdom and love. He works all things together for good, and He gives us the glorious, wonderful promise that He will do so.

We know that we have victory over sin and over Satan, but this verse in Romans teaches us that we also have victory over our circumstances. It says that all things work together for good. Many times, this promise has been trivialized. For example, someone may be driving down the road and a tire will blow out. The person may say, “Oh, well, the Bible says that ‘all things work together for good.'(1) Maybe there’s a sale on tires.” That isn’t what this verse means. The good is not to make us necessarily healthy or happy but to make us holy, to make us like Jesus. If the goal of our lives is not to be like Jesus, that goal is too small. Our goal must be to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. Whatever the circumstances that come to us, we can rely on God’s promise in Romans 8:28. No matter our circumstances, no one can take this verse out of the Bible–and may Satan never take it out of your heart.

Let’s ask ourselves these questions when we don’t understand how the situation at hand can be working for the good:

1: What are the most difficult trials that you have been through, and how may God be working these for our ultimate good.

2: Why does Romans 8:28 only work if God is sovereign over all the evil that happens? Why does denying that truth not help?

3: What does it mean to love God? Is it primarily a feeling? If it includes feelings, how can we keep our feelings passionate?

Lord, in your mercy give us the wisdom to understand that all things do work towards good for all who love you, help us to understand that You want good for Your people, and that we must be patient allowin You to put everything in the proper order so that good will happen in Your time. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Memorial of Saint Martha 2017 Br. Brenden Humberdross, OPI

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and Our Creator.

Today the Church celebrates the life of Saint Martha who is often remembered alongside her sister Mary. Martha doesn’t appear to play a central role in the biblical narrative, we see her only twice mentioned in scripture; once complaining about her sister and the other when her brother Lazarus is raised from the dead. Today I’d like to take the liberty of discussing both of these episodes with you and what they mean to me and how they can help shape and guide our understanding of our Christian walk.

The first time we see Martha in our Bibles is in the Gospel according to Luke where we read:

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

An interesting thought occurred to me when I read this scripture in preparation for this sermon that had never occurred to me before. Jesus entered the village and was welcomed by Martha; he wasn’t welcomed by a crowd, he wasn’t welcomed by Mary and Martha but instead by Martha alone who invited the Saviour to her home. When she got home she got busy preparing a meal and taking care of Christ’s needs and what happened? Mary, her sister, got all of the attention from the guest.

Have you ever brought a friend home and found that your family or a sibling took all of their attention? This is the situation Martha found herself in. When I think about this situation and my own reactions to it I can see that Martha’s actions in this scripture aren’t that out of the Ordinary and they case them in a different light for me.

In the past I have often looked at this incident and seen in Martha a certain negative, unwarranted jealousy that is rebuked by Jesus. However, when I think of the incident in the new terms I’ve highlighted I’m not sure that is really the case. I don’t believe that Martha is necessarily jealous of Martha in the usual sense, instead I think that she invited an honoured guest to her home and was expecting that she would labour to make him comfortable and receive his praise and attention for it. However, that’s not what happens and so she is upset that Mary, who has not laboured in His service yet, is getting the attention.

In this light the rebuke from Jesus is not necessarily about her jealousy or Mary’s having chosen the better method of service. Rather it is a rebuke of Martha’s being distracted, worried and troubled that she was not receiving the expected praise for her active service of God. In fact Jesus suggests that Mary’s service at his feet is just as important as Martha’s active service.

The lesson that I believe we can all take from this, and that I know I will take personally, is not to look at the way that others are serving God and to judge our service by it. We are each called to different forms of service in His name and each are just as valid as another. If we are serving God in our own way that is what is important. He who reigns above sees into our hearts and knows our desire to serve and will reward that loving service that we render in His name in due time.

 

The second place we see Martha (and her sister Mary) is in the Gospel of John when Jesus arrives at the tomb of their brother Lazarus:

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

This incident is somewhat reminiscent of the incident in Luke; Mary and Martha both react very differently to Jesus’ appearance at Lazarus’ tomb. Martha, having a more active style of service immediately rushes out to meet Jesus whilst Mary waits to be called by the Saviour.

Again in this meeting it is easy to take a very negative view of Martha and her words, however if we contemplate a little deeper and let the incident unfold to our spirits a new perspective on Martha can develop before our eyes.

At first glance it appears that Martha simply lacks faith; she essentially seems to be rebuking Christ and claiming that it is pointless his being there as there is nothing He can do. Now whilst this is true, that IS what she is saying, her words actually display great faith. Martha positively shows us that she has total faith that Jesus can heal from illness and even bring a person back from the brink of death. Instead of a lack of faith Martha shows a lack of understanding of who Christ is.

Martha’s response to the arrival of Christ shows that she is not aware of the full role and divinity of Christ. She knows that Lazarus will be raised from the dead in the resurrection but does not see that full divinity rests in Christ and that He can perform all that is within God’s power.

Jesus positively asserts His divinity in response to Martha’s misunderstanding removing any shadow of a doubt that He is God incarnate. As we know Jesus then goes on to show all present that He is “the resurrection and the life” by raising Lazarus from the grave.

 

Do you have total faith in Christ and in His divine nature? I know at times it is easy to be caught up in the daily work of the world, our ministry, our families, and Jesus can become an abstract ideal to us. However, we need to not fall into Martha’s trap and let our faith become an “it’ll be fixed when we meet God” or “when Jesus returns” type attitude. Jesus is real and alive today, He has the ability to perform great and glorious wonders this very day just as he did in the biblical narrative. We must all search the scriptures, search our hearts and take Martha as an example for us in ministry and developing our faith.

Let us pray together:

Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of Martha of Bethany: Open our hearts to love you, our ears to hear you, and our hands to welcome and serve you in others, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

Ambition and Service: The Feast of St. James ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

The Feast of St James, Apostle and martyr

Reading 1:2 COR 4:7=15

R Psalm:PS 126:1BC=2AB,2 CD=3,4=5,6

Gospel: MT 20:20=28

We all know some people who have very high ambitions. It can range from wanting to win the lottery maybe, or getting a certain perfect job. Maybe a top-class car, a mansion or lots of wealth and possessions. Even in some churches, I have seen those whose only ambition is to become a Bishop, nothing else is good enough for them,the ambition of power and status.

Whilst some ambition is a good thing, if you are setting goals for yourself or for an organisation, it is when our ambition loses its balance and ignores the consequences for others, that ambition can become toxic and corrupt.

We have an example of over ambition in our Gospel reading today from Matthew. James and his brother John, who together with Peter are the three favoured apostles, approached Jesus together with their mother. According to Matthew, it was indeed their mother who asks Jesus to promise her sons would get the highest places in His heavenly Kingdom. Jesus responds directly to James and John and Jesus recognising the possibility of corruption in their ambition, Jesus puts a stop to it by asking them, “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” Without truly understanding what they had agreed to, they replied that they could. Jesus knowing full well what awaited them, concurred with their agreement. Just like a good parent will give their teenage children a realistic picture of what to expect in Adult life, Jesus tells them that indeed they will have much to suffer.

James the Apostle that we celebrate today, became the first Martyr amongst the apostles. Jesus knew that ambition wasn’t a bad thing in itself, and he didn’t wish to extinguish his apostles enthusiasm, indeed it’s an enthusiasm about eternal life, it’s a goal that each and every one of is should indeed have as great things are rarely achieved without both enthusiasm and suffering. Jesus just needed to refocus their ambition, so that they would truly understand not just the goal of eternal life, but also the true nature of the pathway that that is required to achieve this goal. Jesus knowing that the Apostles could possibly succumb to the temptations of personal ambition, gave the Twelve apostles a lecture on power and authority to remind them that authority in the kingdom must not imitate the authority that is ever so present in the world.

Jesus tells them that their role as his apostles =the first shepherds of His church, was not to rule but instead was to serve. Jesus didn’t only tell them to serve only each other and the lowly of the world, but offers himself as an example -revealing to them that he will go so far as to sacrifice his very life for the sake of all humanity. “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many”. Jesus is telling James, John and the other apostles that the ambitious are blessed, but that their ambition must not be driven by self=assertion, but by self=extinction. This message also goes the same for us today, that we always act with Thanksgiving and praise :Thanksgiving because all that we have, all that we are, all that we achieve =all of this is solely given to us by the Grace of God, and praise because all that we do must be for the Glory of God and not for ourselves.

Let us pray :

O Gracious God,

We remember before you today thy servant and Apostle James, the first amongst the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that Spirit of self=denying service by which alone they may have true authority amongst thy people, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,

Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Comfort and Consequences ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Today’s Readings, Responsorial Psalm, and Alleluia show us the great comfort in believing and trusting in God.

Contrary to the “fire and brimstone” of some preachers, these words are like the gentle rain that falls from heaven. We can read them over and over as we search for peace and comfort. And they will always comfort us.

In fact, we can search scripture and holy writings for any emotion we are dealing with. And in today’s readings, those emotions cry out for solace and peace. It’s like an extended version of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who morn, for they shall be comforted.”

Sometimes we seek out a church so that we may go in to a holy place and pray for comfort. The familiar surroundings speak to us of love, and they ease our distress. Even when we have a grievous sin on our conscience a church helps to begin the path back to God.

And that’s what today’s readings can do for us, even if we are in able to find a sanctuary.

“…and with much lenience you govern us;…” “and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.”

“You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.”

“Brothers and sisters: the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness:…”

And

“Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.”

Pretty nice. Comforting. All the readings of this Mass designed to give us hope and consolation.

Isn’t that what Jesus said he would give us? “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Much of the New Testament is a lesson in accepting God, believing he can help us, and turning our whole life over to him and his grace. It is a blueprint for going through this valley of tears in a way that does not destroy us nor leave us alone and afraid.

And then along comes today’s Gospel. Feel a little uneasy? Not sure what the meaning of the parables is?

What about this passage:

The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Well. What happened to all that gentleness we had before?

In fact, I was thinking of exactly this subject this week. In last week’s sermon I brought up the seed of God which is in all of us. One thought I left for later was “who are we to judge?” What about those who do evil?

There are some modern theologians who have proposed that there is no hell. That a loving God could not condemn someone to eternal damnation. That there must be a period of cleansing, such as Purgatory, that creates the reckoning, but without the “for ever” business.

But then we have today’s Gospel. Jesus is speaking these words. This is not a description written by an Apostle, these words are memorialized as a direct quote. “Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.”

And evildoers are the weeds, as he explains to his disciples.

This gives me pause. Does it to you?

“Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Just as Hamlet implies, we may all be in for it…

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

St. Thomas More went to his death rather than submit to an arbitrary king because he feared more for his mortal soul. In ages past, people really did believe that there was a hell as well as a heaven, that what we did here on earth would surely follow us to the afterworld and become evidence to be judged by a just God.

How did we lose this sense of righteousness, this idea of accountability? Are we all just here for the moment, then we go to God who will “comfort us in all our trials”? Why do we not fear God’s wrath and why is “fire and brimstone” just a quaint phrase of excitable preachers in tent revivals?

When I was young, the Roman Catholic Mass was in Latin. Then came Vatican II, the free speech movement, the era of peace and love, and a vast housecleaning of all that was taught about leading the life Christ showed us “or else!”… and everything seemed to change.

We don’t talk about consequences. We don’t hold people accountable. We seem to gloss over the idea of retribution. Maybe we’re just pulling the wool over our own eyes.

How many times have I heard “I really do hope there is a hell”? That tells me there is a longing for righteousness, that there is a sense of right and wrong, and that we shouldn’t expect to get away from this life scot-free.

That leaves me still with questions. Faith, hope, and charity are part of our culture. But “hope’ in this case is for a good final outcome. What if part of the meaning of “hope” is that those who mistreat us will get their comeuppance?

I guess we just have to go back to the direct quote of Jesus: “there will be a wailing and grinding of teeth.”

Lord, keep us from sin and error and protect us from the snares of the devil. Help us to trust in you and walk in your ways. And give us peace.

Amen.