Honouring the Cross of Christ: Exaltation of the Cross ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Liturgical colour: White.

Reading 1: NM 21:4B-9

Responsorial Psalm: PS 78:1BC-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

Reading 2: PHIL 2:6-11

Holy Gospel Reading: JN 3:13-17

Today we come together to celebrate the symbol of our Christianity,  We have marked ourselves with it upon entering the Church. We begin Mass with it. We end Mass with it. We begin almost every period of prayer with it. Most likely, every one of our homes has them in pride of place adorning our room walls. People wear it around their necks in necklace form, From clergy,  to pop stars, to housewives, to newly baptized babies. The priest holds his arms in the shape of it during each Eucharistic prayer. And it is the centre and focal point of every Christian Church. We of course, are talking about the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. . The Cross is the greatest summary of our faith. St. Francis of Assisi used to call it his “book,” where he learned all of his wisdom. The Cross is also the key which opens wide the doors of heaven for us. St. Rose of Lima, the first saint of the Americas, said, “Apart from the Cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” If we wish to get to eternal life with God, we must climb up with Jesus by means of the Cross. We celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross each year on September 14th, because this is the day in 335 when the relics of the true Cross that had been miraculously rediscovered nine years earlier were brought outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem for public veneration. Because September 14 falls on a Sunday on average only once every seven years, only daily communicants regularly celebrate this feast liturgically. But all of us indeed are called to celebrate this feast existentially, We need to allow its meaning to penetrate our the whole of our daily lives. In order to do so, however, we first need to grasp better the shocking aspect of what we’re doing.

To those who do not have faith and believe, to celebrate the feast of the Cross makes no  absolutely no sense whatsoever. They may even sadly see it as being sheer lunacy. To those who don’t believe, the Cross is merely a symbol of pain and o a  horrendous death. Crucifixion was the worst and indeed the cruelest death imaginable in the ancient world. The modern day equivalent would be the electric chair. To the mind of the unbelievers, celebrating or “exalting” the Cross would be likened to our “lifting up the electric chair” in jubilation. To centre every Church with an image of Christ’s suffering on the Cross would be likened to constructing a place of worship in which one would put a gruesome image of someone convulsing and dying in an electric chair or placing a sculpture of someone baying and broiling at being burned at the stake. We’ve become so used to seeing the Cross that we’ve become somewhat anaesthetized to the normal shock that should be any person’s first reaction to it and we need to recover a little of the initial human horror we should have before the Cross.

St. Paul wrote that Christ on the Cross is “a stumbling block to the Jews and is foolishness to the Gentiles.” The pagans used to mock the early Christians for worshipping someone who was killed on the Cross, someone who suffered such a horrendous death. Because that derision was still happening even centuries after his death, many of the first Christians were somewhat embarrassed by the Cross and didn’t use it as the main Christian symbol until the 300s. Today, there are sadly still some Christians who are embarrassed by the Cross. We see it in those places such as in Christian schools who have removed the Cross from their classrooms just in case anyone would be “offended.” by it’s  presence. We’ve seen similar happen in some hospitals who have removed crosses from the patients’ rooms even though in the hospital people need to derive meaning from their sufferings from uniting them to Christ’s. We’ve seen them in various “modern” Church parishes that, instead of putting up a Crucifix in the sanctuary as is required in every Church, they erect an image of the Risen Jesus, as if that “book” of St. Francis no longer had anything to teach. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, too, but there’s a reason why the Church requires a Crucifix instead of a sculpture of the Resurrected Jesus: it’s because the Risen Jesus is a sign of the fact of his triumph over sin and death but a Crucifix is the image of his unbelievable love for us.

The true message of the Cross

The Cross, for all who believe, is not merely a symbol of pain, but rather, is mainly the symbol of the great Love for us of Our Lord  and Saviour  Jesus Christ that made even that much suffering worth it. Jesus said during the Last Supper, “No one has any greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” and that’s precisely what Jesus as our Good Shepherd did for each and  every single one of us, when he gave his own life on the Cross so that we, might live. The Cross is a picture not principally of agonizing suffering but of this mind-blowing love of God for us. St. Paul — after he stated that the Cross is a scandal to the Jews and a folly to everyone else — declared that “to those who are called, the Crucified Christ is the ‘power of God and the wisdom of God.’” Christ on the cross manifests the power of Christ’s love and the wisdom of God’s plan of salvation

We can clearly this message of love in today’s Holy Gospel Reading of JN 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“No one has gone up to heaven

except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,

so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him might not perish

but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,

but that the world might be saved through him.

Each one of Jesus’s  wounds are clearly telling saying to each of us, “I love you this much!” God’s love was so great that he was willing to bear such torture and death for each of us. The Cross is the great sign of God’s humility. Real love is willing to do anything for the beloved, and God was willing not just to come down from heaven and take on our human nature, but to allow those he created, those he was about to redeem, to torture, abuse and kill him in order to save them and us. Jesus was willing out of love to undergo everything we might undergo as human beings, and much worse. Whatever pain we might suffer, Christ has suffered more. Whatever injustice we might bear, Christ bore it before us. Whatever loneliness we experience, Jesus felt it, too. This is what led the writer of the Letter of the Hebrews to exclaim one of the most consoling truths in all of Sacred Scripture: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in every way that we are, yet he never sinned.”

The cross marks the victory of Our Lord and Saviour. On Calvary, those who mocked him would say to him: ‘If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross’ (cf. Mt. 27,40). But the opposite was true: precisely because he was the Son of God, Jesus was there, on the cross, faithful to the end to the loving plan of the Father. It is precisely this reason why God ‘exalted’ Jesus (Phil. 2,9), conferring on Him a universal kingship.”  Each of us should prayerfully look at Jesus on the Cross. “What do we see, then, when we turn our gaze towards the Cross where Jesus was nailed? We contemplate the sign of the infinite love of God for each and every one of us and the roots of our salvation. From that Cross flows the mercy of the Father who embraces the whole world. Through the cross of Christ, evil is overcome, death is defeated, life is given to us, hope is restored.”

Let us pray:

O God, who willed that your Only Begotten Son should undergo the Cross to save the human race, grant, we pray, that we, who have known his mystery on earth, may merit the grace of his redemption in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Strive to Enter the Narrow Door to Salvation~The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: IS 66:18-21

Responsorial Psalm: PS 117:1, 2

Reading 2: HEB 12:5-7, 11-13

Holy Gospel Reading: Luke 13:22-30

Liturgical colour: Green.

 

In today’s Gospel we are told that Jesus is travelling from town to town, “teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem,” . During these travels, on one occasion, somebody asked him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”  Let us notice his response. He turns the question around: “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Jesus won’t let us leave our religious questions at arm’s length. He always brings the matter directly home to us. “You ask about other people. ‘Will they be saved?’ But what about you? Will you be saved? Take heed, repent and believe, lest you be lost, shut out at the end.”

Jesus does it this way, he turns the question around. He does this many times in the gospels. For examples of thism let us think of the lawyer who wanted to justify himself, and so limit the “Love your neighbour ” commandment, and who asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” But Jesus turned the question around with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and he basically ends up asking the lawyer, “Are you being a neighbour to the person in your path, to the one in need?”

Or let us think of the woman at the well. When Jesus starts to get too close with his knowledge of her sinful life, she tries to deflect the conversation into a discussion about at which mountain to worship. But Jesus doesn’t let the conversation stay in deflected. He wants this woman to repent and to realize her thirst to receive the living water.

Or maybe we can think of the people who ask Jesus, “What about those Galileans who were massacred at the temple?” His response? “Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Jesus turns the question around, and he redirects the questioners to their own spiritual need.

So also in our Gospel reading for today. Someone asks Jesus, “Will those who are saved be few?” He answers, “What about you? Will you be saved? Strive to enter through the narrow door.”

And today, In answer to this question, Jesus would say the same thing to each of us: “Will you be saved? God’s Word always is meant to be applied personally, to reach deep into our hearts and into our lives, calling each one of us to repentance and to faith.

Jesus is speaking to you, to me, and to all  today when he says, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”  you may well ask, “what’s this business about ‘striving’? I thought salvation was a matter of grace, not works. And what’s this thing about ‘the narrow door’? I thought salvation was open to everyone, open wide, not narrow.”

Well, glad you asked those questions. Let’s deal with them one by one. First, “strive.” “Strive to enter,” Jesus says. How can he say that? Here’s how. Yes, salvation is a matter of grace, God’s free gift in Christ to each and everyone of us.  All who are saved are saved purely and exclusively out of the free grace of God in Christ, and not by our own merit in any way whatsoever.

So what does Jesus mean here when he says, “Strive to enter”? I think it’s helpful if we look at this word “strive.” The Greek word here in our text is “agonizomai,” from which we get our English word “agonize.” “Agonizomai” means to strive, to struggle, to exert enormous effort. It’s the word the Greeks used to describe athletic contests for example. And this is the word that’s used here when Jesus says, “Strive,” agonize, “to enter through the narrow door.”

We don’t contribute anything to our salvation by our striving. No, because we have been given this as a free gift. But as we come to Christ and enter through that narrow door, it will involve a struggle. There will be much agonizing along the way.

We all know that living the true Christian life is not easy. There are all these forces  which constantly pull against us, to attempt to keep us from entering through that narrow door. We have got Satan, we have the world, and we have our own sinful flesh working against us. It’s like a tag-team wrestling match, and those three are on the other side, tagging in and out, each taking a turn to see if they can defeat us and pin us to the mat. So it is a struggle.

Satan, the world, and the sinful flesh–that’s who we’re agonizing against. Satan will assault us and assail us. He will lure us with temptations. He’ll whisper in our ears lies that say, “God doesn’t love us. Look at what’s happening! Give up.”

Then there’s the world. Listen to the lies of our culture: “There often doesn’t seem to be sin anymore as these things have become commonplace. Everything is seen as OK by the world. We are told by the world that we don’t need to repent. The world questions even if there’s a God out there anyway? As long as you’re a good person, that’s what counts is often the worldly belief.”

And if the issues with Satan and the world aren’t enough, we each have got our own sinful flesh to contend with: “ I know what I want, and I’m going to get it. I won’t listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice telling me otherwise. No, I want to make my own decisions type of thing! And if I’m going into sin, and I know it–well, I’ll just repent later on, I suppose. This way I can keep doing what I want, and I can rationalize it all away.”

So see what we’re up against. It is indeed a struggle, an agonizing, to live as a Christian and to keep the faith. It’s like St. Paul says in Acts 14, “that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Being a Christian is not easy. It does call for a constant striving, and so Jesus says here, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”

And then there’s this “narrow door”. What does Jesus mean by that? To say that the door is “narrow” is telling us that there’s just one way in. There are not many doors. There are not many roads that lead to the Kingdom of God. There is only one way. It’s through Jesus, through faith in him alone, and in nothing else!  Jesus says in John 14, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Or again, in John 10, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” The narrow door is Jesus!

This door is narrow, is telling us it’s the only one, but this door is indeed always wide open! Jesus has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Trust in him, and we will be saved! This is all because of that “journey to Jerusalem” Jesus was on. There, in Jerusalem, Jesus’ “arms’ length” extended far and wide when he stretched out his arms on the wood of the cross. Those arms, those arms of Jesus, took in all the sins of the world, including yours and mine. Whatever we have done wrong, our sins against God and mankind, the ways we have disobeyed God and hurt the people around us–all these are paid for, paid in full, by Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, dying sacrificially for us, so that we now are forgiven.

And having done this, Jesus rose from the dead, showing us what is in store for us through faith in him. Eternal life! Jesus’ arms are extended to embrace us and to welcome us as a brother or sister in God’s kingdom. The door is open. Enter in!!

There is a great feast waiting for each of us there. And we will be joining many, reclining at the table at the wedding feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which has no end–with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and a whole multitude coming from the east and the west, the north and the south. Will you be there, seated with them at the feast of salvation? If we had to answer on the basis of our works or merit, we’d have to say no. But Jesus turns the question around in a good way and answers with a great big yes!!!  Jesus is our Lord and  Saviour, He wins the victory for us.

“Strive to enter through the narrow door.” Today this narrow door is open, and it is open wide!! Enter through Jesus, and we shall be saved

Facts and Myths: The Life of Mary Magdalene ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: SGS 3:1-4B OR  2 COR 5:14-17

Responsorial Psalm: PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Gospel: JN 20:1-2, 11-18

Liturgical colour: White.

Today is the day when we honour the Feast day of Mary Magdalene, who was a very dedicated follower of Jesus. There are many Legends around about the life of Mary Magdalene. In fact, Mary Magdalene is probably most well-known for false details and unproven facts in her life.  Mary is often identified as a former prostitute, but there is no evidence in the Bible that substantiates this. Too often, people identify her with being the sinful woman from the city that anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. But there are is no Biblical evidence in the Holy text as to the actual identity of that woman, and as such, there is no true reason to believe that it might be Mary Magdalene. Sometimes, Mary Magdalene has been confused with Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ and Martha’s sister, but biblical evidence has Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene as two totally different people. There are also some biblically unsubstantiated myths of Mary Magdalene being married married to our Lord Jesus that are spread around. I have also seen on some church websites, that Mary Magdalene was thought to be the author of the Fourth Gospel, that we call the gospel of John, and that she was actually the “beloved disciple” described in that gospel, but yet again, true biblical text accounts certainly do not support this stance. So besides learning that we can’t believe everything which we may read on the internet, what can we learn about Mary Magdalene?

Well, she wasn’t a prostitute, highly likely she didn’t anoint Jesus’ feet,  she wasn’t married to Jesus, and she didn’t write the Fourth Gospel, so what do we really know about the Truth of the life of Mary Magdalene? Very little of her life is known to us by the texts of the Bible.  We can assume that her name “Magdalene” refers to Magdala, a town near Tiberias (in present day Israel), where she must have lived or grown up, but we don’t even know that for certain.

The most personal story about Mary Magdalene from the Bible is from Luke chapter 8. Mary Magdalene is identified in a list of women who provided for Jesus and the disciples out of their own resources. Mary Magdalene was freed from seven demons (accdg to the text), but it is not clear exactly what kind of bondage she was freed from. It could’ve been from anything. Mental illness? Physical illness? Other sin? We just don’t truthfully know. What we do know, was that Mary was restored to health when she was freed and given new life in Jesus.

Mary Magdalene loved Jesus very deeply –  possibly even maybe more deeply than anyone else. She held a very important place in both his life and his ministry – she was present both at Jesus’ crucifixion and at his burial. She was one of the devoted women who came early in the morning to the empty tomb that first Easter Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene was the first one to actually see the resurrected Jesus, according to John, and the one who ran to tell the others.   Mary Magdalene can teach us how to love Jesus completely by her example. So what can we learn from Mary Magdalene’s devotion to Jesus?

Firstly, we can learn persistence from Mary. She was the first one to be at the tomb that morning. For three days after burial, the custom was to visit the tomb of a loved one. When Mary arrived at Jesus’ tomb, she was stunned. The huge rock, which was supposed to seal the tomb, was gone. Immediately, she went to go get help, as she believed that the body had been stolen. After the disciples came and saw it for themselves, they went back home. Only Mary Magdalene remained at the tomb, not wanting to leave the tomb. Somehow, she could not give up. She didn’t expect to see Jesus, but this persistent woman couldn’t pull herself away either.

Sometimes we give up on God far too easily. We pray a quick prayer asking God to help, and when we don’t hear a positive answer in our own timing, we wonder why God had ignored our prayer. Or we may ask God to intervene in a situation and then we solve the problem ourselves or take it into our own hands. We can tend to move on too quickly when there’s no immediate action. Mary Magdalene persisted. She waited. She didn’t let outward appearances deter her from what she was seeking. She wanted to see Jesus even though it looked impossible, so she stayed. Mary Magdalene was persistent.

The Second thing we can learn from Mary Magdalene is Sincerity. Mary did not put on false airs and graces or act her way through this situation. We can see Mary’s heart all the way through in her actions. When a man who she assumed to be the gardener asked what she was looking for, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” This woman sincerely believes that she can carry Jesus’ adult male body back to the tomb. She knows that if she found his body, she would find the strength to carry him back to his tomb, no matter how impossible it seemed. Mary Magdalene was totally sincere when she offered to carry Jesus’ body back to the tomb where it belonged.

At times, we as Christians tend to put on a good show. When someone dies, we want everything to look good, so we cover up our true feelings. Rather than admitting that this is tragic and nobody can understand it, we parade around patronizing platitudes: “I guess God missed her too much,” or “She’s in a better place now,” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Instead of acknowledging the senselessness of some loss, we try to give answers that we have no business giving. Mary Magdalene did not hide how she felt. She did not give explanations that she couldn’t know. She just opened her heart and said what she felt. Mary single-heartedly sought the return of the body of Jesus whom she loved. Mary Magdalene was sincere.

Thirdly, we can learn enthusiasm from Mary Magdalene. Once she realized to whom she was speaking, once she recognised the gardener as her precious teacher (“Rabboni”), once Jesus told her to go share the news of his resurrection, nothing could stop her from telling others. Bernard of Clairvaux called Mary Magdalene the “Apostle to the Apostles”, because of her role in telling Jesus’ disciples about the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene brought the news to the disciples: “You’ll never believe it, but I have seen the Lord!” Then she told them what she had seen and experienced. She was the only one who stayed at the tomb, and she was the only one who saw Jesus. But Mary was so excited she could not keep her enthusiasm to herself. She was bursting at the seams to share the best news she had ever heard. Mary was enthusiastic.

Mary Magdalene holds a very unique place in the history of  Our Lord Jesus. She was the first one to find the empty tomb on Easter and the only one, in the gospel of John, to meet Jesus face to face. We can learn a lot from her, but especially, we can learn from her persistence in waiting for Jesus, her sincerity in searching for Jesus, and her enthusiasm in telling others about the good  news of Jesus. Her witness to us is inspiring. Though she’s got with some people a bad reputation through evidenceless myths throughout the years, Mary Magdalene has a lot to teach us about how we are deeply to love Jesus, to wait on Jesus timing persistently, and to search for Jesus in our hearts sincerely. We ought to Enthusiastically tell others about our dear Lord and Saviour, Jesus. And our devotion to Jesus should shine forth in the world in everything we do and say.

Love Your Who? Say WHAT?? ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

“Go and do likewise.”

Four words upon which kingdoms have fallen, thousands wounded or killed, the message of Jesus torn to shreds and replaced by…what? Hate, contention, violence, and many seriously nasty things.

Martin Luther, who, along with other dissenters of his time, insisted that “by faith alone” (sola fide) are people saved. In fact, this Gospel alludes to that when we hear:

“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”

We can interpret this to mean that we don’t have to perform good works, buy indulgences, or do any physical thing to achieve salvation. Luther was wrestling with his faith and understanding of the Bible for a long time – and quite fervently – when he happened upon this concept as a new door opened for him by the Holy Spirit. “By faith alone.”

Well, it turns out that Luther added the word “alone” (allein in German in which he was later writing to explain his epiphany. He said that he had to add it because that was how colloquial German would say it. This is a long historical/philological argument that we don’t have to delve into here. Let Luther sum it up by saying that in his reading, both Ambrose and Augustin used the word “alone.”

And so, back and forth for ages is the concept bantered. And fought over. And worse. But I was struck by Jesus’ command, “Go and do likewise.” And where did this phrase come from? It came from the scholar of Jewish law when he asked “And who is my neighbor?”

Thus, the parable of The Good Samaritan.

So then if we are to be saved, we must treat our neighbors as ourselves. And in this example, the Samaritan tends to the victim, takes him to an inn, continues to care for him, and then gives money to the innkeeper to continue to care for the man.

What then? Is it sola fide or do we have to perform acts in following the law?

Even the readings for today are not definitive. Moses says we already have this love of the Lord in our hearts and in our mouths. “In our mouths” implies to me that we have to act and profess what we believe. Take an action.

In the Psalm, God will protect us and rebuild the cities. But also “Turn to the Lord in your need and you will live.”

And in the Second Reading…but wait, now I’m even getting caught up in the maelstrom.

Look, we can sit in our warm studies and contemplate God and never see or talk to another person…so long as we love the Lord our God we’ll be saved. But if we see a person in need, we must help her or him.

Yet for the Love of God, we cannot go out and do battle to make others believe as we do! We cannot kill in God’s name. We cannot lay cities waste to get our point across. We cannot not love our neighbor as ourselves.

And one more thing from today’s Gospel: We really shouldn’t try to test Jesus our God. We are the only ones who may need testing.

Lord, today help us to recognize our neighbor in everyone we meet, and yes Lord, help us to find ways to help our neighbor.

Amen.

 

Shepherds and Leaders ~ Br. Chip Noon, OPI

Brothers and Sisters this is a homily after the Gospel. But sometimes it is necessary for those who are shepherds to give some advice to the sheep who are lost. Take it or leave it.

All throughout the Bible, salvation history is giving us lessons about our place in the world. Some of these lessons are hard to take. Some easy. Today’s lesson is a little of both, I think.

Let me jump to today’s times. If we look around at our town, neighborhood, faith community, there seem to be those who are turning this message a bit on its head. What I mean is that there are some people who are waiting for the shepherd to come and help them. They are in trouble or in difficulty or just angry at what’s happening and they want a strong shepherd, leader, father-figure to fix things. I sometimes wish for this as well.

I am the good shepherd, says the Lord,
I know my sheep, and mine know me.

This is today’s Alleluia from the Apostle John.

“In verdant pastures he gives me repose,” from the Psalm. “In good pastures I will pasture them…” from the First Reading.

Now who is doing this pasturing, feeding, protecting, leading? The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. And we, who are shepherds, are enjoined to go out and find lost sheep and take care of them. Not just the clergy, not just religious…everyone is responsible for the lost sheep. Who among us will not go out and find the sheep that is lost?

But today I fear that some of us are waiting for the shepherd to come and save us. The strong man, the leader, the capable woman, the boss, the politician…somebody who is going to fix the disordered world we find ourselves in today. It’s in every headline, every news story or broadcast, every political missive that comes in our mail or on our smart phone. “We need someone who can fix these problems! We need a leader!”

And then, “I am someone who can fix these problems! Make me your leader!”

You know where this is going. So let me get back to reality. All of today’s readings tell me one thing. I am a shepherd and I need to take care of my sheep. The One I trust, as it says on our coins, is God. There is no message that anyone other than God will save us. No matter what’s going on in our lives, everywhere, not just in the readings, we are urged to take matters into our own hands. Yes we are to rely on God, but here where we are temporarily living, we need to rely on ourselves.

No, I am not speaking as one who thinks there should be no help from others. I am saying that the shepherd is ourselves, not some politician, boss, or pastor. When we begin to take charge of our own lives, with God’s help, then we are fulfilling the lessons of today’s Gospel. We are the sinners. We must repent. And we must tend to our own sheep, our own neighbors.

And if you remember the Gospel of Luke, you know who your neighbor is. Sometimes we are the fallen man needing help, sometimes we are the Samaritan. But Jesus tells us that help is given by those who can and not to be expected from anyone but God.

So maybe I need forgiveness for venturing into a quasi-political diatribe. But today’s readings have led me down that path. Then if I need forgiveness, please forgive. If I need applause, please rejoice.

In all cases, let us rely on the Lord to show us the path. And then let us assist those we find on the path with us.

Lord, Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Amen.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi~The Body and Blood of Christ ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Liturgical colour: White.

Reading 1: GN 14:18-20

Responsorial Psalm: PS 110:1, 2, 3, 4

Reading 2: 1 COR 11:23-26

Gospel: LK 9:11B-17

When many think of The body and blood of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, they usually think of the Holy Eucharist we take during Mass. Yes of course the Holy Eucharist is indeed one important part, but is by no means all that today’s Solemnity represents.

In our Catholic Tradition we use the term ‘ The Body Of Christ’ in three totally separate but yet interconnecting ways. The first way we use it is to refer to Our Lord Jesus himself, we stress the full humanity of the Incarnate Son of God. He was formed in his mother’s womb, He was born and grew just as we do. He touched the untouchable leper with his human yet godly hands. He walked through the towns, villages and fields of his native land. He spoke God’s word in a human way. He ate and drank as we do. He suffered like we do. He was tortured, he was crucified for our sins and he was suffered bodily death and burial.

But Our Lord Jesus is no longer dead, He is Risen and is glorified in his body. He is no longer bound by earthly  time as we are, and as he himself was in his earthly life. He is alive and with us. He is the Lord actively reigning in his own creation.

The second usage we have is to refer to the humanity, the men and women and children who form the embodying of the life of Jesus in each and every generation, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus, our living Lord, is the Head of his Body the Church. By baptism every Christian has the serious vocation of being the embodying of Jesus in whichever place, situation and time of their own lived life. Through our human bodies we are to make present his kingdom and to reveal his presence. As Christians, we are not here  to say that ‘we are here in place of Christ’ but rather that ‘In this place where we are, Christ is also  in this place’.

What is true of the individual Christian is even more vibrantly true of the complete Body of Christians who are under the active Headship of the Risen lord Jesus. Every church community, or any other gathering of Christians, has the on-going duty of being an embodying of Jesus in this particular place and in this particular time. It is the individuality of each Christian life that is essential in the building up of the Church and of the fruitfulness of its mission

But how are we to be able to live up to this our calling unless we are constantly nourished by Jesus himself? Hence our third usage of ‘The Body – and Blood – of Christ’ is to refer to the celebration of the Eucharist at the heart of every Christian community. ‘The Eucharist makes the Church, and the Church makes the Eucharist’. The Eucharist is medicinal and healing, it is also the power for our mission. Whereas other food is eaten so that it becomes us, with this food which Jesus himself gives us we become him because it is him which we are truly receiving.

So all three meanings come together, three separate but united parts..three in one, in a similar way to the three in one of The Holy Trinity. Our Lord Jesus which we read about in the gospel, truly gives himself to us so that we might become him and we become members one of another in the holy communion and mission of his Holy Church:

As I who am sent by the Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.

This communion and mission is itself embodied in our Tradition history as the one holy catholic and apostolic church we proclaim in the Creed. We are not just in communion with those we who are currently present in our church or at our work, but with all the men and women whom we will never meet, those who speak in languages which we will never understand, who are praying for us as we are praying for them in the one Body of Christ. And as Jesus is Lord of both the living and the dead, so the dead too form one Body with us.

At the heart of this communion is the sacrifice of Calvary, the broken, tortured, crucified body and the shedding of the blood of Christ’s love for the world. This sacrifice of Calvary can never cease in its power. It eternally throbs through every atom of creation and throughout every second of time. But Jesus’s priestly work continues. He is our Eternal High Priest and the Everlasting Victim for our sins, enabling our salvation. In our sacrifice of the Mass we repeatedly re-enter into Our Lord’s self offering to the Father. In the prayers around the consecration of the Eucharist, we place our prayers of thanksgiving and of petition for the living and the dead into his one Calvary Prayer. Within our worship of the Body and Blood of the Lord present on the altar, we place our own self-offering sacrifice of our Christian bodily life.

I appeal to you dear brothers  and sisters by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom 12.1)

All our Christian activity is taken up into the Eucharist just as the Eucharist is at the same point the nourishment of our hope and our courage and our salvation ‘until the Lord returns’. Our daily prayerfulness within Christ includes all creation as we pray ‘in the name of everything under heaven’ and we pray

Father may this sacrifice which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world.

Three In One??? Trinity Sunday ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Today is Trinity Sunday.

Trinity Sunday is a difficult day for priests, who often feel they have to try to explain the idea of God as Trinity. It’s sometimes an even more difficult day for our parishioners, because they have to listen to us priests, trying to explain the Trinity. It’s a difficult day for priests because we find we have to talk about God. You may think we are always talking about God, but in my experience most of us actually talk rather little about God. We talk a lot about what God wants of us. We talk even more of what God has done for us and is doing for us. That, after all, is the Gospel. But we don’t talk very much about who God is. Perhaps they leave that to the liturgy and the hymns, which probably do it better than sermons usually can.

Have you ever tried to express your feelings when you feel something very deeply? That’s what usually happens when we talk about God, really talk about God, actually trying to say who God is – this is one of those times when language fails us. The only words you can find are terribly makeshift, totally inadequate, and not at all what you want to express, but you must use what you’ve got and try to express yourself. Not to say anything would be worse. You must say what you can and hope the words point to what you can’t really say. So it is with the Trinity. There are several Christian ways of trying to say who God is. The one that says the most about God is the one we use in the creeds, when we say we believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God is those Three and the Three are one God. The Christian shorthand for that is: God is Trinity. But if that says the most about God, it is also the most difficult thing Christians say about God.

How to explain the Trinity? We haven’t done that yet, simply because we can’t wrap our heads around the concept. The story is told of St Augustine of Hippo, the great philosopher and theologian. He was preoccupied with the doctrine of the Trinity. He wanted so much to understand the doctrine of one God in three persons and to be able to explain it logically. One day he was walking along the sea shore and trying to understand just how one God can be in three persons. Suddenly, he saw a child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup with sea water, ran up and emptied the cup into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and went and poured it into the hole. Augustine drew up and said to her, “Little child, what are you doing?” She replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.” “How do you think,” Augustine asked her, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?” She answered back, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared.

The doctrine of the inner relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in such a way that each of them is fully and equally God, yet there are not three Gods but one, cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind. It is a mystery. But, we continue to try. St. Patrick certainly did it his best. He gave us a visual example in the shamrock or three leaf clover. As the shamrock is one composed of three, so, he said, is the Trinity: Three in One and One in Three. In the story of salvation we usually attribute creation to the Father, redemption to the Son and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, though they are distinct as persons, neither the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Spirit ever exists or acts in isolation from the other two persons of the Godhead, just as a three leaf clover without all three leaves is incomplete.

If we expected today’s readings to give us a clear and elaborate presentation of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, we have found out that they simply do not. The doctrine of three persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality, is not explicitly spelled out in the Bible. In fact the very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Early Christians arrived at the doctrine when they applied their God-given reason to the revelation which they had received in faith. Jesus spoke about the Father who sent him (the Son) and about the Holy Spirit whom he was going to send. He said that the Father had given him (the Son) all that he has and that he in turn has given to the Holy Spirit all that he has received from the Father. In this we see the unity of purpose among the three persons of the Trinity.

We believe in the Triune God, and to embrace a doctrine we cannot fully comprehend or explain. It is another thing entirely to base our understanding of God on what we see God doing. So, let me make the most important statement about the Trinity that I can make, and that is — Our understanding of the Trinity, or as much as we can understand of the Trinity, is based on what we see God has done and is doing in the world. Let me give you some examples.

In the Old Testament, God is Creator of both the world, and of the nation of Israel through whom he will bless the world. Of course, God is present as Spirit, and the Messiah is both prophesied and foreshadowed in various theophanies (appearances of God, such as the angel who wrestles with Jacob). But primary on the stage of the unfolding drama of the Old Testament is the God of Israel, Yahweh, El-Shaddai, Elohim, Adonai, and all the other names by which God is called and worshipped.

In the New Testament Gospel accounts, the emphasis is upon Jesus — his birth, his baptism, his message, his life, his death, and his resurrection. But God the Father approves his Son, and the Holy Spirit descends upon — anoints — Jesus for ministry.

In the New Testament Book of Acts and the epistles, the Holy Spirit is at the forefront, equipping, enabling, guiding, empowering the early church. In the Book of Revelation, God the Father, Son, and Spirit are all present, each featured in a way that is both consistent with the Old Testament, witnesses to the New Testament, and brings fully into being the Kingdom of God in its closing chapters.

Okay, that surveys the “What is the Trinity?” question, even though I am sure you probably have more questions now than when we began. But to keep this from being merely an academic exercise, we need to turn our attention to “Why do we care?” This is what’s important and what we need to understand. Doctrine is important, but doctrine comes from the lived experiences of God’s people as they interpret the work of God in the real world. First, the reason we should care about the Trinity, and be aware of the uniqueness of the One-in-Three and Three-in-One is this: Without a balanced view of all three persons of the Trinity, we can misinterpret the work of God in this world. For instance, if we emphasize some aspects of God in the Old Testament, and subordinate Jesus and the Spirit, then we come away with a picture of a god of wrath and judgment, who has little compassion. One very well known Baptist preacher did just that after destructive tornadoes, when he compared the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma with the story of Job who lost all of his children to a mighty wind that collapsed Job’s house. If we emphasize the person of Jesus to the exclusion of God the Father and the Holy Spirit, we miss out on the fact that God sent Jesus because “God so loved the world…” The purpose of God is to redeem the world, not just the individuals in it. Salvation is the work of God, and that salvation extends not just to individuals but to God’s creation as well. Another famous and trendy preacher was quoted as saying that Jesus is coming back to burn up the world, so he can drive a huge SUV because he’s not worried about this physical earth. Not a good theological position, in my estimation. Finally, if we emphasize the Holy Spirit, and the charismatic experiences and gifts of the Spirit, it it is easy to loose sight of God as Creator, Son as Redeemer, and the role that the Holy Spirit played and plays in both of those aspects of God’s work.

Who is God? He is our heavenly Father who made us, takes cares of us and calls us his dear children.
Who is God? He is Jesus Christ who gave his life on the cross to re-establish our relationship with God. He reveals the way to God and to eternal life.
Who is God? God is the Spirit in you giving you faith in God and guiding you in your daily walk as a Christian.
Faith in the Triune God acknowledges the might and majesty of God but at the same trusts in a God who cares. Amen.