One Bread, One Body: The Feast of Corpus Christi~The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Well y’all….  I have a confession to make.   You know how I talk about showing love all the time?  In a lot of ways I’m preaching to myself.  Loving is HARD.  I find myself making snarky comments, cracking on folks, getting angry at people who don’t share my views (really they should know better, but still,) and not being as loving as I should.  I have to remind myself that there is not ONE person on this planet who God doesn’t love.  I need to do better.   SO much better. 

What has brought this on, you ask?  Well, lemme put on my mitre (pointy bishop hat) and I’ll tell ya.

Today is a great Feast Day in the life of the liturgical church throughout Christendom:  The Solemnity of Corpus Christi.  This day is celebrated in recognition of the Eucharist, and everything the Eucharist is and means.  Today we celebrate, literally, the Body of Christ.  We all know that the Eucharist was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper.  We all know that we, as Catholics, believe that the bread and the wine become the body and blood of Our Lord.  We all know that our Protestant brothers and sisters believe that the bread and the wine are symbolic of the body and blood of our Lord.  We all know that wars have been fought over these two basic, yet entirely different, beliefs.  We also know that from many, if not most, of the liturgical pulpits in the world, the Word will be proclaimed concerning the Eucharist.  Today, however, I would like to put a different spin on Corpus Christi.  I would like for us to leave the upper room of Christ and the disciples, and jump ahead a few years to Corinth, and to listen to what the Apostle Paul has to say about “the body of Christ.”

12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into[c] one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 

We, the Church, we, the people of God, we, puny imperfect people that we are, WE are the body of Christ.  Some of us dress funny.  Some of us talk funny.  Some of us have emotional issues.  Some of us just have issues.  But we, ALL of us, together, make up the body of Christ.  Warts and all.  Some of us are wildly and multiply talented.  Some of us are incredibly intelligent.  Some of us have been blessed with physical beauty.  Some of us have been blessed with spiritual beauty.  Be we, ALL of us together, make up the body of Christ.

Because we are all of us different, it can be said that we make up different parts of the body of Christ.  We each of us have different gifts.  Some make up the head, some the heart.  Others are the feet and the hands of the body of Christ.  Granted there are parts of the body of Christ that we would rather keep hidden, under wraps.  But are these parts any less important?  Do these parts not serve a major and important function in the working of the body?  I believe that they do.

My point, here, folks, if I haven’t made it already is simply this:  WE, all of us, make up the body of Christ.  What one person brings to the table may not be of particular interest or value to another person, but there is someone at that table who needs just that.  Perhaps we feel that this person or that person isn’t quite what we would like to see in our church, or in our family, or in our lives, but to someone, somewhere, that person is exactly who is needed.  The very person whom we consider to be “less than worthy” to represent Christ and His church may just be the exact one who is needed in certain situations.

There has been much made of certain politicians being excluded from receiving communion because of their political beliefs.  Who are we, as clergy, to deny anyone the Body of Christ?   I would ask these folks, ‘Did Jesus not sit down and break bread with Judas?’  Who are we to judge wo is worthy, if we, all of us, are a part of the body of Christ?  It’s a puzzle to which I certainly do not have the answer.  I do, however, think that the artist, John Michael Talbot, sums it up nicely:

One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless.

And we, though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.

Gentile or Jew, woman or man, no more.   Many the gifts, many the works, one in the Lord of all.

Grain for the fields, scattered and grown, gathered to one, for all.

One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless.  And we, though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.

As we go along in our daily lives, let us remember the lessons of today, this Feast of Corpus Christi, that we all of us make up the One Bread, the One Body, the One Cup, that is the Body of Christ.  Amen.

1+1+1=1 Or Why Math Makes Me Crazy~The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

There are a few things about which I could not be more certain:  Scott loves me truly, madly, deeply (I really like that song.)  My Daddy was the wisest man on the planet.  My Momma was the bestest woman to ever draw breath.  Jesus loves me, and my salvation is secure. 

And, conversely, there are things in life that I will never, never fully grasp.  Like, why do some people think it’s OK to wear stripes and plaid together?  Pi or upper-level mathematics?  How things travel a zillion miles a minute in space?  Why chocolate isn’t its own food group?

And  then, there’s the Holy Trinity.  The Holy Trinity is a mystery that we will never fully understand; never even come close to understanding.  We believe that the God of the Bible is one God. God has one essence – one substance. In other words, one “stuffness.” However, God exists in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Each Person in the Trinity (or the Godhead) is fully God and fully a Person. They are equally eternal, powerful, sovereign, and worthy of worship. But they are one God.

Got that?  Me, neither, but it is central to our faith. 

Many theologians and holy men and women of God have attempted to explain just how this Trinity Thing works.  One God, Three Persons.  Three in one and one in three.  They have, of course, failed.  It has been said that if you try to explain the Trinity, you will lose your mind. But if you deny it, you will lose your soul.  There are several popular analogies often used to explain the Trinity, but, they don’t work and in reality are heresies.   (Uh oh!)  Here they are:

God is like water. Now, we know that water can be in three different forms:  Liquid, Ice, and Vapor.  But this doesn’t work and this particular heresy is called “modalism.”  Modalism expresses the belief that God is not, in fact three separate persons, but one God expressed in three different forms.  Now, if this were the case, then and the Trinity really is like water, then the story of Jesus (the Son) praying to the Father all those times in the Bible, is just Jesus talking to Himself.  This belief denies something central to God that makes Him God. So comparing God to water isn’t really as helpful as one might think.

It’s also been said that The Trinity is like a man:  A father, who is a son, who is a husband.  Nope.  Same as modalism.  Won’t work.

Then there is the age-old story-legend-myth of St. Patrick using the shamrock.  Or the more modernized versions using an egg or an apple.  The shamrock has 3 leaves to make one whole plant, the yolk, shell, and white make up one egg, or the peel, flesh, and core of an apple make up one fruit.  Umm…no.  Won’t work, because any of these three things that make up one thing will not stand on their own to be a complete thing?  Know what I mean?  The egg yolk, shamrock leaf, and apple peel don’t make one complete whole.  And this particular heresy is called Partialism.  Sigh……

Moving on…

The sun has been used to explain the Trinity.  This example says that the Father is like the sun. The Son is like the light rays that visibly reveal the sun, as Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God.  The Holy Spirit is like the heat that emanates from the sun, unseen yet powerful and effective in making the sun felt.  This makes sense, right???  Nope. Sorry.  This explanation is fatally flawed in that is describes the Son and Spirit as creations of the Father. This is the error of Arianism (not to be confused with Aryanism, which is also bad).  In Arianism, the Son is not eternally equal with the Father, but was the Father’s first and best creation. This would make Jesus something less than fully God.  This little gem of heresy is called Subordinationism and was first espoused by Arius who lived in the late 200s/early 300s, and whose modern-day followers are now known as  Jehovah’s Witnesses.

A couple more illustrations of the Trinity that aren’t quite so bad, but aren’t great either are these:

American Christian pastor, speaker, author, and widely syndicated radio and television broadcaster in the United States, Tony Evans, has said that the pretzel is a good illustration because it consists of one piece of dough with three holes. Take away any one of the holes and the pretzel isn’t really a pretzel anymore. (According to some people, the pretzel was actually invented in Europe several hundred years ago by a monk who wanted to illustrate the Trinity to the children of his village, so he took some dough, looped into the familiar three-hour shape, based it, and gave it to the children as an edible object lesson.)

Or this from noted scientist Dr. Henry Morris. He notes that the entire universe is trinitarian by design. The universe consists of three things: matter, space, and time. Take away any one of those three and the universe would cease to exist. But each one of those is itself a trinity.

Matter = mass + energy + motion

Space = length + height + breadth

Time = past + present + future

Are we having fun yet?  No?  OK, I’ll bring this to a close.  In so doing I’m gonna end where I started. The Trinity is a doctrine that all Christians believe but no one really understands. That much should be clear from this message. If you try to explain the Trinity, you will lose your mind. But if you deny it, you will lose your soul.

Someone asked Daniel Webster, who happened to be a fervent Christian, “How can a man of your intellect believe in the Trinity?” He said, “I do not pretend fully to understand the arithmetic of heaven now,” he replied. How kewl is that little phrase???  “The arithmetic of heaven.”

The Trinity should cause us to bow in humble adoration before a God who is greater than our minds could ever comprehend.

Today, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, we rejoice that we have a Triune God who has provided for a Trinitarian salvation. When we were lost in sin, our God acted in every Person of his being to save us. The Father gave the Son, the Son offered himself on the Cross, and the Holy Spirit brought us to Jesus. We were so lost that it took every member of the Godhead to save us.

In 1774 a man named Ignaz Franz wrote a hymn of praise to the Trinity: Holy God, We Praise Your Name. This is the fourth verse:

“Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, Three we name you;

While in essence only one, undivided God we claim you.

Then, adoring, bend the knee, and confess the mystery.”

Let us pray.

Holy God, above us, among us, within us: we rejoice this day that while you might have chosen to be unknown to us, you have revealed yourself in many ways. Each encounter with you calls us to return blessings with worship, compassion, and service. As we worship you today, we do so in gratitude for all your parental care for us through your creation.  As we worship you today , we do so because, in love, you gave us Christ, that through him we might find eternal life. As we worship you today  your Spirit leads your church to reach out in compassion, mercy, and grace to all your children everywhere. In gratitude, we celebrate you, three and yet one. Amen.

Fired Up! Pentecost~The Rev. Frank Bellino

You’ve likely heard the joke about how you make holy water, right? How do you make holy water? You take water, and you…boil the hell out of it! But have you heard what you get when you mix holy water and…vodka?  A holy…spirit! This day celebrates a different type of holy spirit: God’s sustaining Spirit in our world!

Bottom line: The Holy Spirit creates, heals and sustains. We only have to open our hearts to the fire of his love:

How many of you know this prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love…” What is this fire?

Let’s start at the beginning. Fire creates. Even those with basic modern physics know this. There was a time when the universe was ity-bitty, smaller than an apple. Scientists have a theory that says the cosmos lacking in size it made it up for in temperature: trillions and trillions of degrees. The numbers are beyond imagining – higher even than our national debt! Anyway, from this primitive fire comes the material to make up the galaxies, stars and planets, including our own.

So, fire creates. The Holy Spirit prayer says, “Kindle in us the fire of your love,” and adds, “send forth your Spirit and they shall be created…” The fire of the Holy Spirit creates us.

Addition to creating, fire purifies. Later this summer we have our parish picnic. The Altar Society will grill chicken and sausage. The fire not only gives the meat a delicious taste but also kills harmful bacteria. Fire likewise purifies gold or silver. Just so the Holy Spirit burns away the greed, lust and bitterness that poison our hearts.

Because fire creates and cleanses, we pray, “kindle in us the fire of your love”. Fire also sustains. We hear today how the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles in tongues of fire. Before receiving the Holy Spirit, they were uncertain and fearful. The Holy Spirit gave them courage and directed them.

We need the Holy Spirit to keep going. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel blue and discouraged – even paralyzed or frozen. Sometimes rage or guilt will well up and I feel powerless. Like Shakespeare says, “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.” But you know at precisely that moment something amazing happens, it’s a weird solace. Like that old spiritual, “Sometimes I feel discouraged and feel my work’s in vain but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”

It can be something simple like the Holy Spirit reminding me what I have to be grateful for. Or maybe he directs my attention on the other person and his need. It may be something more complicated like when I worry, I have hurt someone by what I said or did. I can’t do anything direct so I pray the spirit would touch that person’s memory. I’ve been amazed at how the Holy Spirit heals memories.

We need the Holy Spirit. We need him so much that Jesus says it is good that he goes away so he can send the Advocate. We live now in the age of the Holy Spirit.

When we began the Easter Season, we heard Jesus say, “Peace be with you…Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit enables a person to believe, that is to trust Jesus. Then take the decisive step of touching his Body. The Holy Spirit is behind what we do. For example, when I extend my hands over the bread and wine, it’s by the Holy Spirit they become the Body and Blood of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is the life of the Church. In baptism we see water; the reality is the Holy Spirit. So, it is in all sacraments. So, when we take time to pray – the Spirit prays in us. The Holy Spirit creates, heals and sustains. If only we would open our hearts to the fire of his love: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and it will be built, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

The Feast of the Ascension~The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

While Ascension Day is a Day of Holy Obligation, it is one of the most neglected feast days of the Christian church. This is sad enough in itself, but in ignoring the festival, the opportunity is lost for reflecting on what the Ascension means.  Because of this, the church in her wisdom has moved the actual celebration of The Feast of the Ascension to Sunday.  Sadly.

Maybe we tend to ignore Ascension Day because it falls on a weekday.  Is this the reason it doesn’t get the attention it deserves? This is a pity because it is full of significance in the historical life of Jesus when on Earth – and his continuing ministry for us in heaven. As a weekday event it reminds us that Christianity isn’t just something for Sunday – it’s an experience for every day.  As Christians, we are to celebrate Our Lord every day, every second of our being.  If we gloss over its truth we rob ourselves of a most important doctrine, for without the Ascension, the work of Christ would be incomplete.  Because we do not place as much emphasis on the Ascension, we miss the tremendous truth of the Ascension.

 St. Augustine, the great fifth century theologian, called the ascension the most important Christian festival of the year, more important than Christmas, more important than Pentecost, even more important than Easter. For the ascension reminds us just how high Jesus was raised, and what that means.

‘This is that festival which confirms the grace of all the festivals together, without which the profitableness of every festival would have perished. For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven, his Nativity would have come to nothing…and his Passion would have borne no fruit for us, and his most holy Resurrection would have been useless.’

What Saint Augustine says here resonates with the passage in Ephesians 4:10, where Saint Paul says that ‘He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things’ – i.e.; that by ascending into Heaven, and taking our human nature up with Him into the heavenly places, He completed the process of redemption by reclaiming His place as rightful sovereign of the universe, so that He might be present to us in a different way. If He had not so returned, the process would not have been completed, and as Jesus said in John 16:7, ‘it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’.

The gospel writer Luke is renowned as a careful historian. When he recorded the birth of Jesus he rooted the event in its historical setting within the Roman Empire. He continues that same preciseness at the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry by recalling the place of the Ascension – at Bethany. He dates the event – 40 days after the resurrection on Easter Day. He emphases the presence of eyewitnesses – the Ascension took place he writes “before their very eyes” (Acts 1:9). Yes, the Ascension was a real event of history.

Some people are puzzled as to why Jesus waited around on Earth 40 days after his resurrection, but that period is no accident, and Jesus had things to do.

Jesus had endured the Devil’s temptation for 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his public ministry, but now the tables were turned. In the period after Jesus’ resurrection, He triumphantly paraded his victory over the Satan. During this time, the conqueror of death displayed his supremacy before his faithful followers so that they might share in the joy of his victory. But there was another reason. Those 40 days of his appearing after the resurrection were of immense value to the believers for they established the reality of his lordship. A single sighting of the risen Christ may have been open to question, but his continuous encounters with the disciples would remove the doubts of the most skeptical among them and assure them of his power and authority.

The resurrection of Jesus marked the ending of a chapter in his earthly life. Things could never be the same again and it was essential that there should be a clear-cut event to bring the chapter to a close. It’s true that Jesus was making a series of appearances to his followers, but they couldn’t go on forever.

It would have been odd if Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances had grown fewer until finally they just stopped – that would only cause confusion and even loss of faith. No, there had to be a single, miraculous occurrence, separating the time when the Jesus of Earth would become the Christ of heaven. The Ascension was the only fitting conclusion to the life of Jesus on Earth.

Luke tells us of the disciples with their eyes straining to catch the last glimpse of the cloud bearing up their Lord. But then they were quickly brought back to earth. It would seem that with their eyes heavenward they didn’t notice the two heavenly beings that slipped quietly alongside them until they spoke: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking unto heaven?,” as if to remind the disciples of the work that they had been given to do.  The angels, for angels they were, had to tell the disciples to get to business.

And so it is with us.  Ascension Day reminds us of the Mystery of Faith: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

Christ will come again.  And as we await the “coming again” of Christ, we, like the disciples, have a job to do, business to attend to.  Although we live in the time between Jesus’ Ascension and his coming again, we have something to do now.   In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, “Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,  and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.”

Where do we start?   Jesus has the answer for that, too.  In John 13 Jesus says to us, “ But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you.  If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”  We are to continue to change the world in the work that Jesus has given us to do by helping others to see Jesus through and in us, by showing that love that he demonstrated, by bringing that love to everyone.

Jesus told us to love everyone.  Love.  Everyone.  Period.   Not just those whose politics are the same as ours.  Not only those whose religion is the same as ours, not only those whose lifestyles are the same as ours.  Love.  Everyone.  Period. 

We would all of us do well to pray:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

Love.  Everyone.  Period.

Come Lord Jesus. 

Amen.

Saved by Grace~Br. Milan Komadina

Salvation is a notion that Christians often meditate about. We think about what it will be like. We know from the Bible that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead and we know that the salvation is by our faith. It comes as a gift from God. In Revelation we find some description of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the place where all of the saved will be dwelling and living in the close presence of God, forever. Today we read Revelation 21 chapter and I would like to read verses 10-14 and 22-23 where the apostle John talks about the vision of what it would be like. Hence, let us read:

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

When we read about the Holy Heavenly Jerusalem everything looks just perfect and it seems that all of us would be happy to get there. Being with Jesus the entire eternity and living the fullness of being saved by grace. I would need to notice one thing about the experience I had in my life while talking to various Christians from various denominations. I saw that not many of them feel the certainty of being saved by grace. Especially in Orthodox Church where I belonged for a long period of time of my life almost 12 years ago, I remember that many people believe that they are not saved by grace. Intentionally I use present simple here like it is used in the Bible, as it says you are saved, indicating something that has already happened. I also remember some brothers and sisters talking about their fear of hell. Sadly, but how can we love our sweet Jesus believing that he would count us as goats and not as sheep. Some people tend to create wrong interpretation of who will be judge in the future. We will be judge by our acts but people who have faith in Jesus and those who believe that Jesus took away their sins and died for them the only way they would be judged by act is the act of their faith. If we did the act of faith which we confess in the holy mass saying I confess my baptism for the forgiveness of our sins it means that we are forgiven. And this is the beauty of our faith. This is the power of Jesus` love. He saved us while we are still sinners. In the day of the Big Judge we will be judged and divided into those who believed and those who did not believe. We are all sinners. And normally we would all be sent to hell as with human deeds we cannot reach heaven and get salvation. But those who believed were given power to become God`s children. And as a children of God why should we be afraid?

Doing religious things like lighting a candle, burning the incense, kissing the orthodox icons or taking blessings from statues which I see sometimes in some churches might be helpful. It makes us more focused to prayer. But God does not need it. We need it. It seems that people naturally have this tendency to do some rituals in order to feel that they deserve something. In today`s reading we also read a part talking about the rituals that were mandatory in the Old Testament. Take a look (Acts 15:1, 2):

 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

To those living in the time of the Old Testament, when there were many customs and rituals that had to be done in order to potentially gain salvation and earn God`s mercy the idea of being saved by grace was probably hard to believe. But, now we live in the time according to the New Testament. Jesus came, took our sins, died for us and resurrected. Why do we still doubt?

Another interesting thing that I heard many times while preaching about the salvation through God`s grace and mercy is the ironic idea saying: `If you are saved by grace, it means you can be a very sinful person and still be saved`. I usually reply: `Technically yes, but practically no. Because you cannot lie God. If you truly believe in the Son, your father is heavenly Father and in your heart lives Holy Spirit and if you are truly saved you will not be doing sins`. This will not necessary mean that we are magically sinless and perfect. Still we would be doing sins because this is our sinful nature but our soul will be feeling differently each time we do something that opposes God. If a child loves his parent he would feel bad each time when he makes a mistake. This is why we have repentance and confession. If we accept Jesus as our Savor we would love Him and look what Jesus says about those who love Him, John 14:23-29:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.

A person who loves Jesus will be loved by the Father, the Holy Spirit had been sent at the day of Pentecost and we are all sealed with the Holy Spirit. Sealed for the day of Salvation. Let us never doubt in God`s love and His promises to His children. Love God and love people above all the other commandments those are the greatest.

Love Them Anyway~The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: Acts 14:21-27

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13

Reading II: Rev 21:1-5a

Alleluia: Jn 13:34

Gospel: Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35

Liturgical Colour: White

Love One Another as I have Loved You

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, firstly, let’s look at the Holy Gospel reading for today of Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35:

When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.  I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There are some people we as humans may find easier to love than others. This could be family members or maybe our friends, but we are being commanded to Love ALL people just as our Lord and Saviour loves us. That is not an easy thing to do. Some people may be very hard to love, but we must endeavour our utmost to love them anyway. The Apostles previously could see Jesus, so it was very easy to follow him. But now that our Lord and Saviour has returned to God The Father, until he returns again in Glory, which he will, we are charged to be the light and love of Christ until he returns.

This means we are to shine his love to all people just as Our Lord would if he could presently be seen upon the earth. We are Jesus’s hands and feet upon the earth, we are his representatives until He returns.

We need to love each and every single one of our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how hard it may be to do so. We are the only Lord Jesus that some people will ever see, all must be able to see Jesus through our love and through our actions. This is what we have been called to do..to Love one another.

We must see Jesus in every person we meet, no matter what the situation or the setting. Whether it be coming across a wealthy person in the finest of robes, or a naked person scrambling in the dust for titbits of food. We are to love all whether they live in large fancy mansions, to those living in the streets sleeping under torn pieces of cardboard. We are to love those who are kind to us, but we almost must love those who may may be unkind or whom may even hate us. Nobody is unloved by our Lord and Saviour and as such, nobody should be unloved by us either if we are truly doing what we have been called to do.

Only by our love and actions can our Lord Jesus Christ currently be seen upon the earth. We must be the love and light of our Lord to everyone, leaving out nobody from this love. By our love and our actions towards each other, is the way this world will know that we are truly the disciples of the Lord.

Are we truly loving others as we have been commanded to do? I think we as humans still have far to go in this area, especially with those whom it may be difficult to love. But we must strive ever harder to be the love of Christ throughout this world until Our Saviour returns as we have been commanded to do.

If someone is bad or hateful towards us, we must remember our Lord was hated by those he loved first, and like Him, we must love them regardless.

Let us pray:

Loving God, fill our hearts with the love that you freely give. Make love our first and last thoughts. May we love others and freely give to them. Make our spirit a spirit of joy, happiness, and love for both our friends and our enemies. Help us to love everyone as abundantly as you have loved us.  Amen.

On Being a Sheep~The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

“Don’t be a sheep!”  “Sheeple.”  “Like lambs to the slaughter.”  Geesh!

We have heard a lot about being ‘sheep’ lately.  Wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, and any other ‘going along with the crowd’ type thing, etc. etc. etc.  Sigh…..

So, let’s jump on that bandwagon, and talk about sheep.   

We get wool from sheep.  Female sheep are called ewes, male sheep are rams, and baby sheep are lambs and are cute.  Lambs show up on cue in the spring around Easter time, and Jesus is the Lamb of God.  One serves mint jelly when serving lamb.  When someone is called a “lamb” it is considered to be a compliment.  Sheep live in fields and herds and pens and are watched by a shepherd.

Sheep are gentle, quiet, animals and do not give their shepherds a lot of problems.  They are not aggressive; they are very docile animals. The word “docile” as described in the Webster’s dictionary means, “easily managed or handled, readily trained or taught.” Sheep love to follow the shepherd and can often be quite affectionate.

So, what about the shepherd?  The shepherd is the man or woman who takes care of the sheep and goats.  It’s that simple.  Christ as shepherd is a pretty easy analogy to understand.  We are his flock, and he takes care of us.  What I didn’t realize or know is that the analogy runs deep in the literature of the ancient world. In Mesopotamia, the region along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the model for kings was the shepherd. The king-as-shepherd was to “rule kindly, counsel and protect the people,” and “guide them through every difficulty.” Babylon’s Hammurabi, credited with the world’s first written law code, was described as a shepherd of his people. In ancient Egypt, the shepherd’s crook was used “as an insignia of kings, princes, and chieftains.” In the Iliad and the Odyssey from ancient Greece, ship captains are called “shepherds of ships.” Plato uses the shepherd analogy to define justice in the Republic, and in the “Statesman” uses the shepherd to symbolize the work of a good ruler.  And of course today, the shepherd’s crook is a symbol of our bishops, representing them as the shepherds of Christ’s flocks.

So, there we are.  Sheep and Shepherds 101.

Today’s Gospel, John 10:27-30 is a pretty simple one to understand:  Jesus said:

“My sheep hear my voice;  I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.”

And reckon wonder, just how are we supposed to be those ‘sheep who know their shepherd?’  Jesus tells us in pretty no uncertain terms and more than once:  Love.  Dig this:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34

This is my command: Love each other. – John 15:17

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. – Mark 12:30

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you – Matthew 5:44

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. – John 15:12

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you – Luke 6:27

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:35

If you love me, you will obey what I command. – John 14:15

Pretty simple, right?  Not so much.  Sometimes loving is hard.   What about those who disagree with your politically?  Those who talk trash about you?  Those who make your life crazy?  Those folks who you really, really, REALLY can’t stand?  Gotta love ‘em.  No, we don’t have to like ‘em, but love ‘em we gotta.   Just remember, you will never look into the eyes of someone God doesn’t love. 

As I’ve said a zillion times, we are called to love and to serve the Lord with gladness and singleness of heart.  We are called to tade care of each other, regardless of our politics and idealogies.  We are commanded to ‘bless those who persecute us’ and we are called to ‘pray for our enemies.’  We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless. (Matthew 25:31-46). 

I think we all of us are familiar with the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”  And what is the next line?  Yep.  “And let it begin with me.”  Isn’t it time we lived up to that?   What are we doing to bring about change?    To bring about that healing the world so desperately needs? 

It is up to each of us to conduct ourselves in a manner fitting our faith.   Look at what you say.  Look at what you post.  Look at what you do.  If you were accused of being a Christian, would your Facebook timeline bear witness to the fact?  

So, having said all of the above, shouldn’t we, as Christians, as the sheep of His fields and the flocks of his pasture,  do what we are called to do?

Love.  In every word that we speak.  Love.  In every post that we make.  Love.  In every action we take.  Love.  Amen.

Be Bold! Be True!~The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski, OPI

Third Sunday of Easter

Many fake teachings are cursed, with the letter without he Spirit, what is fake, there is not God’s leading, and there is not revival and repentance. Everything that is human teachings, religious rules made by men is a burden for people who seek and are thirst for God.

But where is God and His teaching, where is God’s commandments, there is also His blessing.

From today’s lection reading from the mass we learn something crucial for ourselves, for our neighbors and for all believers, that we have to be obedient of God’s word, and that He command us to proclaim to the world.

People will be saved if we give them the water from God’s spring, if in that water that is living water we put some drops of human teaching, or error, or spiritual poison, we make damage to the people who could of be saved, or not saved depending what kind of water we give them.

So what we shall do?  Fearless bold and fulfilled with His spirit we say and proclaim to the mankind what have been commanded to do directly from the source of Jesus.  Where is that living water? In religion? In the letter? Or in the Spirit? Well, the letter only kills, the religion gives burden and yoke who couldn’t bare the Pharisee teachers and leader, Jesus says that Spirit gives a life. I fear God and I will be obedient to preach and proclaim what have been told to me to do. How I know what I’ve been told to do? The answer and the spring of living water we find in the Holy Scripture, if we have healthy theology, we have the light the of Jesus, to be the light and the salt of this world. I am preacher of God Dominican, and I am telling you from the Bible, the tradition and religion of this world make people blind and can gain the salvation, it’s impossible with are dirty deeds to gain the salvation, but if we are faithful of His holy word, cos Jesus is the Word of God, if we read the Bible, and stick close to God and if we study like the church of Berea in the epistle of Thessalonians , when those early Christian fellows have been testing and investigating if what we heard is correct or not. In prayer and seeking God’s leadership through his Holy Spirit, we will not fear the people and we strictly say what have been commanded to us to do, in that case we can see the fruits of our working in the field. We will oppose not only Gamaliel leader of today’s world, the religious leaders of today’s organized religion, we have to be not different from today reading I Acts when the apostles have preached the truth ad only the truth. If we remain in God’s light, people will know we have His side of work. Let’s be Christians and servants and workers of God as the example of the Book of Acts, personally I won’t remain or pretend or stay in dead religion of spreading hate and yoke that nobody can handle.

God help us to be faithful to Your commandments, with our lifestyle, that’s the way for these thirsty and hungry people seeking only You, not the dead religion that so many people have hurt in human history.

CHRIST IS RISEN! He is alive, and we serve our living God. Amen.

The Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena ~ Milan Komadina, Novice

Today we commemorate St. Catherine of Siena (25 March 1347 – 29 April 1380), a lay member of the Dominican Order. She was a mystic, activist and author who had a great influence on Italian literature and on the Catholic Church. She was canonized in 1461, and she is also famous as a Doctor of the Church. As a teenager, she took a vow of perpetual virginity and gave herself over to prayer and worship. To thwart her family’s attempts to marry her off, Catherine cut her hair off, scalded herself, and became a nun. Catherine of Siena is one of only four women who were named doctor of the church, meaning that her writings, including the mystical The Dialogue and her prayers and letters, have special authority in Roman Catholicism. She was an important defender of the papacy (at that time) and a patron saint of Europe and of Italy. At the beginning of this sermon let us all pray to her saying – St. Catherine of Siena pray for us to Lord Jesus to encourage us in our everyday life and give us strength to live in the prayer and Christian purity. Amen.

When I was reading about the life of St. Catherine I remembered the time when I was 17 years old. The time when I started thinking of becoming a monk. I remember October 2004 when I was travelling over Greece visiting historical places. I visited orthodox monasteries in a place called Meteora. The Meteora (Μετέωρα [meˈteora]) is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, second in importance only to Mount Athos. This place is so beautiful. It makes you want to pray and it calms you down. In this place for the first time in my life I had a feeling that nothing material is as important as being with Jesus and having a prayer in your mouth. I remember that at that time I used to read eastern Christian books and the desire of becoming a monk was getting bigger and bigger. As I read in St. Catherine biography as a teenager she took a vow of perpetual virginity and gave herself over to prayer and worship. I remember that at that time, when I was a teenager visiting Greece I had the same desire.

Now, when I am 35 I am thinking about the fact that even though lost virginity we cannot be back, but – what about the lost prayer? As you can guess, prayer and worship we can always get back in our life. And this is a beautiful possibility available to everyone. We all have daily struggles, problems of various types. Sometimes this life routine can keep us away from prayer or to hold us a bit away from the Church. Sometimes even, in the opposite situation when everything is going great and when our life seems to be happy and complete we might also forget about prayer or even neglect the church. In each situation it is good to remember that the prayer is something we can always have. And this is what in my personal opinion gives very beautiful sense to our Christian life. Recently I experienced how prayer, believe in God and trust to God is a special gift from heaven. I had a difficult period because I lost my job. And in my country it is usually hard to get a new one. I had to cancel my rental and even go back to my parents` house. This might not be something very usual in the USA or in the UK but in Balkan countries we have this uncertainty and sometimes life can be very hard and full of negative surprises. What I would like to share to all of you today is how actually grateful to God I am. In my life I experienced various situations when I was feeling hopeless. Losing a so called stable job, losing the salary I make a living with, losing a loving family members or friends or even losing partner are situations when people can feel how everything is temporal. Everything has its expiry date. In this temptations I usually remember St. Job, the righteous man from the Old Testament. A man who lost all but had never lost his faith and prayer. I learnt a lesson from him and I try to believe that whatever is happening to us, it is happening with some deeper reason. It might seem to be illogic or unjust or painful. But God knows why it is good for. God is in control. Today`s Bible reading refers us to John 6:1-15 the story about how Jesus feed 5.000 people who were hungry. I would like to read together this paragraph and to meditate on this miracle. Let us read:    

Sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberius), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).  Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

After we read this paragraph from the Bible let us truly see what Jesus has done. He took five small loaves and two small fish and he feed five thousand people. What would happen if Jesus come today and we go with a crowd of five thousand people to hear His message and if there is no fast food restaurant around? Would we trust Jesus that we will be feed. Five thousand of us, with only two fish and five small breads (not to even mention that some of us are vegans, or gluten intolerant). This is a question that I would like us all to think about today? Think about our daily struggles. Maybe we are not only physically hungry but maybe we are hungry for righteousness, hungry for friendship, hungry for a new job, a life stability, or the thing I consider the most important – hungry for the love. If Jesus feed five thousand people. He can feed us too. Let us all remain faithful and trust to Jesus. May He bless us all with the prayer of St. Catherine of Siena.

The Feast of St. Mark ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: 1 Pt 5:5b-14

Responsorial Psalm: 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17

Alleluia: 1 Cor 1:23a-24b

Gospel: Mk 16:15-20

Liturgical Colour: Red.

Feast of At Mark The Evangelist

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

In the midst of our Church Easter season this year we now come together to  commemorate the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist.  Mark was not actually one of the twelve apostles, but from the Acts of the Apostles,  We know that he was a disciple of Saint Peter.

Saint Peter refers to Mark as “my son” in his first letter, which could mean that Mark had been baptized by Peter.  Mark was not an eyewitness to the actions and teachings of Jesus; he learned the details of Jesus’ Ministry which he put into his Gospel from Peter.  For this reason Saint Mark’s Gospel has sometimes been called the “Gospel of Peter”.  Saint Mark’s Gospel can be read easily in a single sitting, as it is the shortest of the four Gospels.  It wouldn’t be a bad thing for us all  to read his Gospel again ourselves today.

Mark also accompanied Saint Paul on a mission to Cyprus, after going from Jerusalem to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.  Saint Paul even speaks of Mark as his coworker and his consoler during his imprisonment in Rome.

According to the historian Eusebius, Mark ended his days as bishop of Alexandria.

 Saint Mark is the patron saint in Venice and his relics were brought there from Alexandria in the ninth century.  Atop the basilica is the figure of a lion because the lion is the symbol for Saint Mark’s Gospel.

Mark is represented as a lion because his Gospel begins with the voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness.  The voice of one crying in the desert: Make ready the way of the Lord.

The Lion is also a symbol of courage, and Saint Mark courageously faced a martyr’s death.  While he was celebrating Mass in Alexandria, his persecutors seized him, tied a rope around him and dragged him through the streets, then imprisoned and killed him.

We are today reminded of that which we were told by our Lord Christ in our Gospel reading today,  that being to  “Go out to the whole world, and preach the Gospel to all creation.”

May Saint Mark’s example and prayers help us all to carry out the Gospel of Christ throughout the world, proclaiming it to all creation, for the Glory of God and Salvation of souls.

Let us Pray:

O Glorious St Mark, through the grace of God our Father, you became a great Evangelist, preaching the Good News of Christ. May you help us to know Him well, so that we may faithfully live our lives as followers of Christ.

Amen.