Hospitality: The Feast of St. Matthew ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1:EPH 4:1=7,11=13

R Psalm: PS 19:2=3,4=5

Gospel: MT 9:9=13

Today we commemorate the Feast of St Matthew the Apostle.

Today’s Gospel reading of the call of Matthew to follow Jesus is fascinating and we can learn much from it that is very applicable to our lives today.

If we look at verse 9, Jesus is walking along when he comes to a tax collector named Matthew who was sat doing his job. Jesus gives him an invitation “to follow him”, and without even a second thought, gets up and immediately follows Jesus. A simple call and a simple and immediate response. There was something in that moment that motivated Matthew to follow Jesus. We don’t know what this was, but we do know that Jesus called and Matthew immediately answered that call.

As the story in today’s Gospel reading unfolds, there is a main point which I feel is very important. This being the Hospitality of Jesus. If we look at verse 10, Jesus was sat having dinner with his disciples and many tax collectors and sinners arrived and we’re welcomed and joined in this dinner. The lesson from this is that Our Lord Jesus is comfortably at home with sinners and with outcasts on all levels and offers all his hospitality.

This is an extremely important message and lesson to each of us, because it clearly shows that Jesus shares his hospitality with us regardless of who we are, of messes and failures we have made in our past or indeed our present circumstances. Jesus does not judge us nor condemns us, he shares himself with us and also invites us to share with him.

Hospitality and love is at the very heart of God’s relationship with us=an essential spiritual gift for any church and every child of God who wants to reflect God in the local community and even thoughout the world.

God in Jesus invited those on the margins of life without judgement and in the same way, we as children and servants of God are to invite people into the home of both our church and our lives also without judgement, following Our Lord’s example, so that we can share hospitality with them and encourage them to partake in the hospitality of Jesus by sharing themselves with us.

Our God is an hospitable God of love=and we as both his church and his children should ensure just as Jesus did, that everyone feels welcome and unturned. Too many churches and Christians sadly only have a tendency to mix with their own kind, or pass judgement on others, making them unwelcome, but Our Lord Jesus’ approach is the exact opposite to this and our approach should mirror the example of Jesus. Some churches and Christians only welcome other others on “conditions” =that they will change their behaviours to fit in with their expectations, for example: “You are welcome at our table =as long as you change and play by our rules”. But the hospitality that Jesus shows is radically different and is how we should be.

Jesus loves everyone, and nobody is asked to change to fulfill expectations and rules at his table. This is truly how we as servants of the Lord should be, following His example and not mankind’s prejudices and rules. We ought to be showing the same the same hospitality, love and acceptance just as our dear Lord Jesus does.

May the Lord bless you on this feast of St Matthew.

 

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Blessed Francis Posadas

Few Dominicans have had more difficulty getting into the Order than Blessed Francis de Posadas, and he was one of the glories of the convent of the Scala Coeli, in Cordova. It is embarrassing for us to read that the reason for his exclusion was plain and simple snobbery on the part of the superiors of the convent of St. Paul, in Cordova.

Francis was born of a poor young couple who were war refugees, and who had been shunted from place to place until, when Francis was very small, his father’s health failed, and he died in Cordova. The young widow tried several types of work, and finally she was reduced to selling eggs and vegetables at a street stand. She tried to educate her child, for she knew he was very talented, but, without money, it simply was not possible to send him to school. She encourage him to go to the Dominican Church of St. Paul, and he served Mass there every morning from the time he was six or seven years old.

While he was still a very tiny child, he used to gather the other children together for rosary processions or other devotions. The smile of God seemed to rest upon him. For all his poverty, he was a very happy and attractive child, like by everyone; and he was a natural leader among his fellows. Twice during his childhood, he was miracuously saved from death. This fact and his undoubted piety, should have seemed sufficient reason for admitting him into a religious order. However, by the time Francis was old enough, there were two reasons to make his entry difficult: his mother had remarried, and the step-father would not permit him to enter. The Dominicans, moreover, would not have him. They said that they did not want the son of a street peddler.

Francis had friends in the Order, but the prior of the house he wished to enter took a violent dislike to him. It was several years before the young man could overcome the resistance of this man, who, having some influence with the provincial, was stubbornly determined that Francis should not be allowed to enter. Even when the fathers in the convent of Scala offered to take the boy and train him in Latin- so that he could qualify for clerical studies-the vindictive dislike of the prior followed him and almost prevented his acceptance.

Francis was finally accepted, made his novitiate, and gradually overcame all dislike and distrust by his charming manner and his unquestioned talents as student and preacher. After his ordination, he was sent out to preach, and he earned the reputation of being a second St, Vincent Ferrer. His talents as a preacher were rivaled only by his gifts as a confessor. He not only could read hearts and discover sins that had been willfully concealed, but sometimes he was called to one place or another by an interior spirit and shown someone badly in need of the sacraments.

Francis hated the thought of holding authority in the Order. When appointed prior of one of the convents, he remarked that he would much sooner be sentenced to the galleys. He twice refused a bishopric, and he skillfully eluded court honors.

Several remarkable conversions are credited to Francis Posadas. His last tears were a series of miracles wrought in the souls of his penitents. People followed him about to hear him preach, regarding him as a saint and miracle worker. One of his most noted converts was a woman more than one hundred years old- a Moor- with no intention of deserting Mohammedanism.

Francis of Posadas was the author of a number of books which he wrote to assist him in his apostolate. One was a life of St. Dominic. and several were biographies of other saintly people.

After a life filled with miracles, Francis died in 1713. Being forewarned of his death, he made private preparations, but to the last minute he was busy in the confessional before dying suddenly. By the time of his death, not only the Dominicans of Cordova, but the people of all Spain were happy to have him as a fellow countryman. He was beatified a century after his death, in 1818.

Born: Cordona in Spain in 1644

Died: In 1713 of natural causes

Beatified: He was declared Blessed by Pius VII in 1818

 

 

Blessed John of Massias

John Masias was born in Ribera, in Spain, and, when very small, he was left as orphan. He was adopted by a kindly uncle who set him to herding his sheep. The little boy was naturally pious, and passed his spare time in sayingthe Rosary. Our Lady and the Christ Child appeared to him several times, and he was often visited by his patron, St. John the Eveangelist, who once showed him a vision of heaven, telling him: “This is my country.”

When John was about twenty, he went to Mass in the church of the Dominicans in a neighboring city. For the moment, it seemed to him that vocation was joining the Friars Preachers now, but St. John appeared to him, telling him he must go elsewhere. In 1619 he embarked for the Indies, where many Spaniards were going, either to convert the natives or to seek a fortune. After a long and hazardous journey, he arrived in Lima.

There were at the time four convents of the Friar Preachers in Lima: the College of St. Thomas; the house of St. Rose, where Sister Rose of St. Mary had died just five years before; Santo Domingo or Holy Rosary, where the holy lay brother, Martin de Porres, was performing such astounding miracles; and the convent of St. Mary Magdalen, which was small and poor. John decided to enter St. Mary Magdalen and, in 1622, he received the habit of a lay brother there. On the night of his profession, devils appeared to tempt and reproach him. He was attacked bodily, and, although he was called on Jesus, Mary and Joseph for help, the demons continued what was to become twelve years of torture, by actually throwing him from one cloister to another.

John was appointed assistant to the porter, and lived in the gatehouse. There the poor came for food, and the rich for advice. He became adept at begging for the poor, always managing to find enough for the more than two hundred people who came daily for help. He had little use for the wealthy and curious, and would sometimes baffle them by simply disappearing while they were looking at hi,. Also, legend relates that he had a little burro that he would send out by itself, with a note asking for what was needed in one of the empty panniers on its back. Told where to go, the burro made his route faithfully; and if the rich man on whom he called was ungracious, or even hid himself to avoid giving alms, the little burro made quite a noise, and it quickly brought the desired results.

Rays of light streamed from the blessed’s face as he taught the catechism to the poor, or prayed by himself in the gatehouse. He said an amazing number of rosaries and made no less than twenty daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He is said to have liberated more than a million souls in purgatory, many of whom came back , while he was at prayer , to thank him for his help.

One day a certain ship captain came to the gatehouse and asked to look around. John took him by the arm and led him to the crucifix, warning him to look well on it and think of his sin. Terrified, the captain fell to his knees, confessing that he was an apostate religious, thirty years away from the sacraments, and he begged for a priest. On another occasion, the brothers were building a flight of steps and, having measured a beam wrong, they were annoyed because it did not fit. John took the beam in his hands and stretched it to fit their needs. These, and many other miracles, led people to venerate him as a saint during his lifetime. His recreation was to talk of the things of God with the other holy lay brother, Martin de Porres

At the time of his death, Our Lady, St. Dominic, his patron, St. John and many other saints, came to accompany him to heaven. They were seen by some of the brothers.

Born: March 2, 1585 at Ribera del Fresno, Estramadura, Spain

Died: September 16, 1645 in Lima, Peru of natural causes

Beatified: In 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI

 

 

The Cost of Forgiveness ~ The Rev. Dcn. Shawn Gisewhite

+In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Pope Francis’ recent  homily on today’s Gospel from March 2015 spoke to me.

The Holy Father writes:

“Asking forgiveness is another thing: it’s not the same as simply saying, ‘excuse me.’ Did I make a mistake? ‘Sorry, I made a mistake. But, ‘I have sinned!’ – that is different: the one has nothing to do with the other. Sin is not a simple mistake. Sin is idolatry: it is to worship the idol, the idol of pride, vanity, money, ‘my self’, my own ‘well-being’. So many idols do we have!

Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father in this way: ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’ If I am not able to forgive, then I am not able to ask for forgiveness. ‘But, Father, I confess, I go to confession ….’. ‘And what do you do before you confess?’ ‘Well, I think of the things I did wrong.’ ‘Alright’ ‘Then I ask the Lord for forgiveness and promise not to do those things again.’ ‘Okay…and then go to the priest? Before you do, however, you’re missing something: have you forgiven those who have hurt you?

This is what Jesus teaches us about forgiveness: first, asking forgiveness is not a simple apology, it is to be aware of the sin, of the idolatry that I have committed, of the many idolatries; second, God always forgives, always – but He asks me to forgive [others]. If I do not forgive, in a sense, I close the door to God’s forgiveness. ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

When I was living in Port Royal, PA I was assisting a non-denomination friend of mine with his church plant.  I knew this pastor for a while and although we didn’t always agree on theology, we respected the other’s views.  One day at a council meeting, the pastor decided that the church would no longer say the Lord’s Prayer during worship service.  Needless to say this ruffled quite a few feathers and I must admit I was shocked by such a statement.  After the meeting he and I sat for a little and chatted.  He explained to me that those in his flock did not fully understand what they were asking God.  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”  AS WE FORGIVE!  He went on to explain that unless they are actually forgiving those who have wronged them, then God will not forgive them of their own wrongdoing.  At first I thought maybe he lost his marbles, but then I began to realize what he was saying.  There was a pretty ugly rift going on in his small congregation and those in the pews were harboring a lot of resentment against others in their church family.  Until such time as they could learn to forgive, they should not ask God to forgive them as they forgive others.  If He did, their sins would not be forgiven.  This theory is echoed again in the above homily by Pope Francis.  For God to forgive us, we must first forgive others.

Now I will admit the timing of this homily is rather ironic for me.  Lately I have been feeling used by someone close to me.  I felt wronged.  I felt anger.  As I sit here writing this homily, I am forced to not just guide you and direct you my brothers and sisters down the path of righteousness, but to look inward and examine my own faults and shortcomings.  I pray the Lord’s Prayer daily.  Often many times in one day.  Until now, however, I just rattled the words off without weighing the importance of the words.  Without realizing that I too am asking God to forgive me the same way I forgive others.  That’s a scary thought really!

“But I’m right!  I was wronged!  I don’t deserve how I am being treated!  I did nothing to this person!  I do, do, do and in the end I get hurt!”  Sound familiar?  I’m sure it does.  We all think these things from time to time.  I know I have and to be honest still do.  But God is speaking to us through today’s Gospel and through the words of Pope Francis.  Forgive!  Forgive!  Forgive!  How often?  Seventy times seventy.  Forgiveness is not easy.  It hurts.  It’s hard.  It can make us vulnerable.  To be a Christian is to be “Christ like.”  No one said it was going to be easy.  In fact, the Gospels make it quite clear it will not be.  But if we want to be forgiven of our own sins, we must first and foremost forgive those who have sinned against us.  Whether they deserve it or not.  By this act of mercy, the Lord will be merciful unto us.

Amen.

 

The event commemorated in this festival is the appearance in the Dominican Convent of Soriano, in the extreme south of Italy, of a miraculous picture of Saint Dominic, which is still preserved, and is held in the utmost veneration even in our own day. A certain Father Vincent of Catanzara in Calabria, in the year 1510, was thrice commanded by Saint Dominic in vision to found a Convent of the Order at Soriano, a work which he accomplished in spite of considerable obstacles which were not overcome without miraculous intervention. It had been decided that the Convent should be built on the plain, but the cross which had been planted to mark the destined site was found to have been mysteriously removed in the night to the hill on which the building was eventually erected, and where it still stands. Several years later, on September 15, A.D. 1530, just as the religious were assembling to chant Matins at midnight, the Sacristan suddenly beheld three ladies of majestic aspect enter the church, which he knew he had left locked before retiring to rest. One of them addressed him, asking to whom the church was dedicated and whether it contained a picture of its patron. The Friar replied that the church was dedicated to Saint Dominic, but that, owing to the great poverty of the Community, only a badly painted fresco of the Saint was to be found upon its walls. Then the unknown lady put into his hands a roll of canvas, which till then she had carried in her hand, and bade him take it to his Superior, who bore the title of Vicar, the little Convent not having yet been erected into a Priory. The Vicar, astonished at the sight of the picture, which proved to be a portrait of Saint Dominic, hastened to the church to thank the giver, but all three mysterious visitors had disappeared, though the outer doors still remained locked. The following night Saint Catharine of Alexandria appeared to one of the Fathers, who had a great devotion to her, and told him, in answer to his prayers, that the donor of the picture was no other than the Blessed Virgin, and that the two who had accompanied her were the patronesses of the Order, Saint Mary Magdalen and herself.

In obedience to the express command given by Our Lady to the Sacristan when bestowing the picture, it was placed over the High Altar; but, as the wall against which it hung was extremely damp, the Fathers afterwards decided on removing it to another altar, near the door of the church. The following morning, however, the picture was again found hanging over the High Altar. The Vicar, believing that it had been removed thither by the Sacristan from a desire to execute to the letter the orders given him by the Mother of God, severely reproved him, and had the picture carried back to the altar agreed upon. The next day, it once more appeared over the High Altar. Again the Sacristan was charged with obstinacy and disobedience. In vain he protested that he had never touched the picture. The Vicar ordered it to be replaced near the door, and on the following night locked the church himself and kept the keys in his own possession. Nevertheless on the third morning it was again discovered over the High Altar. Convinced at length that its removal was the work of no human hand, the Vicar allowed it to remain in the spot which Our Lady had chosen for it, and where it has ever since remained, miraculously preserved from being injured by the damp.

When the picture was exposed to public veneration, a multitude of prodigies took place, the account of which fills volumes. No less than sixteen hundred of these miracles, juridically attested, took place within the space of seventy-eight years. Pope Innocent XII., in the year 1644, granted a festival in commemoration of this event and of the vast number of miracles vouchsafed before the holy picture. On September 15,1870, just five days before the sacrilegious occupation of Rome by the troops of Victor Emmanuel, a new prodigy took place at Soriano. A wooden statue of our holy Father, Saint Dominic, of life-size, had been exposed in the sanctuary on occasion of the festival, and was to be carried in procession in the evening. This statue was suddenly seen to move like a preacher in the pulpit ; it advanced and drew back ; the right arm rose and fell; the countenance became animated, sometimes assuming a severe and threatening aspect, at other times appearing sad, or again full of sweetness and reverence as it turned towards the picture of our Lady of the Rosary. This extraordinary spectacle lasted for an hour and a half, and was witnessed by about two thousand persons. Some of the bystanders, to satisfy themselves that there was no trickery in the matter, removed all the surroundings of the statue and completely stripped the table on which it was standing. These measures only served to place the miraculous nature of the occurrence beyond the possibility of a doubt. A juridical inquiry was held by order of the Bishop of Mileto, in whose diocese Soriano is situated, and the extraordinary event was announced to the Order in a circular letter by the Most Reverend Father Alexander Vincent Jandel, who was then General. In a private letter written by his Paternity shortly afterwards he says : ” I think our holy Father, Saint Dominic, meant to warn us of the impending scourges, and to summon us to do penance; but this warning is in itself an act of mercy on the part of Him who strikes only to heal.”

Prayer

O God, who hast vouchsafed to enlighten Thy Church by the merits and teachings of Thy blessed Confessor, our holy Father, Saint Dominic, grant at his intercession that it may never be destitute of temporal help, and may always increase in spiritual growth. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Commemorations

First Vespers:

Ant. O great Father, Saint Dominic, at the hour of death take us to thyself and while here regard us always graciously.

  1. Pray for us Blessed Dominic,
  2. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 

Lauds:

Ant. The body of a virgin, the mind of a martyr, the labors of an apostle, have at the end of thy course purchased for thee, O Mendicant of Christ, the reward of life.

  1. The just man shall blossom like the lily.
  2. And shall flourish forever before the Lord.

 

Second Vespers:

Ant. O light of the Church, doctor of patience, ivory of chasity, freely hast thou dispensed the water of wisdom: herald of grace, unite us to the blessed.

  1. Pray for us Blessed Dominic,
  2. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 

Prayer:

Let us Pray: O God, who didst vouchsafe to enlighten Thy Church by the merits and teachings of Blessed Dominic, Thy Confessor and our Father, grant through his intercession, that it may never be destitute of temporal help, and may always increase in spiritual growth. through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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Our Lady of Sorrows~Blessed Mother Mary ~ The Rev. Dcn. Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

The title, Our Lady of Sorrows, given to our Blessed Mother, focuses on her intense suffering and grief during the passion and death of our Lord. Traditionally, this suffering was not limited to the passion and death event; rather, it comprised the seven dolors or seven sorrows of Mary, which were foretold by the Priest Simeon who proclaimed to Mary, “This child [Jesus] is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.” (Luke 2:34-35).

Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady has its roots in Sacred Scripture and in Christian piety, which always associates the Blessed Mother with her suffering Son. Today’s feast was introduced by the Servites in order to intensify devotion to Our Lady’s Sorrows. In 1817 Pius VII — suffering grievously in exile but finally liberated by Mary’s intercession — extended the feast to the universal Church.

This feast dates back to the 12th century. It was especially promoted by the Cistercians and the Servites, so much so that in the 14th and 15th centuries it was widely celebrated throughout the Catholic Church. In 1482 the feast was added to the Missal under the title of “Our Lady of Compassion.” Pope Benedict XIII added it to the Roman Calendar in 1727 on the Friday before Palm Sunday. In 1913, Pope Pius X fixed the date on September 15. The title “Our Lady of Sorrows” focuses on Mary’s intense suffering during the passion and death of Christ. “The Seven Dolors,” the title by which it was celebrated in the 17th century, referred to the seven swords that pierced the Heart of Mary. It is dedicated to the spiritual martyrdom of Mary, Mother of God, and her compassion with the sufferings of her Divine Son, Jesus. In her suffering as co-redeemer, she reminds us of the tremendous evil of sin and shows us the way of true repentance. As Mary stood at the foot of the Cross on which Jesus hung, the sword of sorrow Simeon had foretold pierced her soul.

Below are the seven sorrows of Mary:

1. The prophecy of Simeon: “And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” – Luke II, 34-35.

2. The flight into Egypt: “And after they (the wise men) were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise and take the child and His mother and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him. Who arose and took the child and His mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and He was there until the death of Herod.” – Matt. II, 13-14.

3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple: “And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and His parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And not finding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking Him.” Luke II, 43-45.

4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross: “And there followed Him a great multitude of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him.” – Luke XXIII, 27.

5. The Crucifixion: “They crucified Him. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His Mother. When Jesus therefore had seen His Mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, He saith to His Mother: Woman: behold thy son. After that he saith to the disciple: Behold thy Mother.” – John XIX, l8-25-27.

6. The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross: “Joseph of Arimathea, a noble counselor, came and went in boldly to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And Joseph buying fine linen, and taking Him down, wrapped Him up in the fine linen.” – Mark XV, 43-46.

7. The burial of Jesus: “Now there was in the place where He was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein no man yet had been laid. There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulcher was nigh at hand.” John XIX, 41-42.

The Angelic Salutation (Hail Mary)
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, there were two feasts devoted to the sorrows of Mary. The first feast was insitituted in Cologne in 1413 as an expiation for the sins of the iconoclast Hussites. The second is attributed to the Servite order whose principal devotion are the Seven Sorrows. It was instituted in 1668, though the devotion had been in existence since 1239 – five years after the founding of the order.

Symbols: heart pierced with a sword; heart pierced by seven swords; winged heart pierced with a sword; flowers: red rose, iris (meaning: “sword-lily”), cyclamen.


Prayer to our Sorrowful Mother for a particular grace:

O, mother most holy and sorrowful, Queen of Martyrs, you who stood by your Son as He agonized on the cross; by the sufferings of your life, by that sword of pain that pierced your heart, by your perfect joy in heaven, look down on me kindly as I kneel before you, sympathizing with your sorrows and offering you my petition with childlike trust.

Dear Mother, since your Son refuses you nothing, ask of His Sacred Heart to mercifully grant what I ask, through the merits of His sacred passion, along with those of your sufferings at the foot of the cross.

Mother most merciful, to whom shall I go in my misery if not to you who pities us poor sinful exiles in this valley of tears? In our name, offer Jesus but one drop of His most precious blood, but one pang of His loving heart. Remind Him that you are our sweetness, our life and our hope, and your prayer will be heard.

Amen

 

Here are seven graces the Blessed Virgin Mary grants to souls who honor Her daily by saying seven Hail Marys and meditating on Her tears and Dolors. The devotion was passed to us by Saint Bridget.

  1. I will grant peace to their families.

  2. They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.

  3. I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.

  4. I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the Adorable Will of my Divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.

  5. I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.

  6. I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their mother.

  7. I have obtained (this grace) from my Divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and sorrows, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.


Get to Work! ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Doesn’t it always seem to happen that when we sit at Mass and listen to the readings, it is as if they are directed straight from the Lectionary to our hearts? Psalms, readings, the Gospel for the day, stories and words we have read or heard many, many times are sharpened, aimed, and strike us as if we had never encountered these messages before.

Today’s Alleluia verse:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ

And entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Let’s say I read this a year ago, which I probably did…OK, glad to be informed of this…all part of the ongoing message of the Bible…tuck it away with the other interesting things I’ve read.

But today, when it’s coupled with the readings from Ezekiel and Romans, the 95th Psalm, and the Gospel of Matthew, it takes on a new and definitely hortatory message: “Get up, get out, and get cracking!”

So much for sitting in the pew, listening to the Mass, relaxing on a Sunday morning!

I’m reminded of a discussion I had with my mother many years ago. I must have been around 12 years old. (Yes, before electricity was discovered…and the wheel…) She told me that we don’t go to Mass and just sit there. We don’t “attend” Mass. We don’t listen to the Mass. She told me and my siblings that we “assist” at the Mass, an active verb, indicating that we are as much a part of the action as the priest and the altar boys. We were not an audience, but players in a sacred rite of worship and praise.

And every so often, from that time on, she would ask us if we had assisted at Mass that Sunday. I wish you all could have met her. She was something else!

So what are we being asked to do on this Twenty third Sunday of Kingdomtide? I think there’s not much gray area here. It’s pretty black and white. And we really don’t have much choice in the matter.

Ezekiel says it right off: “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel.” And although this was written about 2,500 years ago, do you really think it does not apply to you, or to me, right now, today?

Now let me ask, are today’s readings just orders for us to get our kit together and hit the road, like Saint Dominic? We are assisting the priest as she performs the rites in memory of Jesus. So in one way, we are told this isn’t just an hour long-show we’re attending. No, today of all days, we are reminded that if we love our neighbor as ourselves we really have to do more than just wish him or her well. Love is an active verb.

Now Martin Luther, and those who ascribed to his new revelations, came up with the realization that to be saved, to be justified, all we had to do is accept Jesus Christ as our lord and savior and believe that he came to earth to save us. “That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law…. Faith is that which brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ.”

Luther was reacting to the corrupt practices of the Medieval Church which was selling indulgences and, he thought, preaching false doctrine in order to keep control over all Christians.

His preaching and writings on what has been called “sola fide”, by faith alone, is the theological doctrine that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and led to the variety of “Christian” beliefs that we find today all over the world. Discord, anger, rebellion, and bloodshed, all over two Latin words.

And so, we can find today discussions that say, from one extreme, that even the worst kind of sinner, as long as he or she “believes”, is forgiven and justified, to the other extreme that only those who commit their whole lives to good works are saved.

And so we can interpret today’s readings from one extreme to the other. And many have. But there is at play here just the age-old quest for power, for a desire to control others…to be the one in charge. “Do it this way, or you’re fired!” And to what end? What do we get if we rule the roost?

Now let’s go back and consider again the Alleluia from today:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ

And entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Entrusting.

Once again, we see that God is not the terrifying presence from some concepts in the Old Testament. God is within us. And part of us. And that still, small voice within.

We are partners with God in the ageless quest to bring us all to peace and love. And yes, though we recognize that we are “children of God” we also know that we are, by our intelligence, our compassion, and our calling to the Order of Preachers, that we are entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

So for me, and perhaps for you, today’s readings are like what sales organizations schedule for their sales crew: a quarterly motivational conference that gets us back on track and gives us a boost for the serious work of preaching the good news of salvation to all the world. Let’s go out and close some deals!

Lord, help us in our efforts to show the world your love and compassion. Let your good spirit flow over us and help us to bring solace to our troubled times.

Amen.