Category: Lesson

Lift High The Cross! ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Feast of The Exaltation of The Holy Cross The Cross of Love and Salvation.

Reading I: Nm 21:4b-9

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

Reading II: Phil 2:6-11

Gospel: Jn 3:13-17

Liturgical colour: Red.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy  Cross.

Today’s feast is the time that the church commemorates the event of our dear Lord and Saviour, Christ’s Paschal Mystery, that very event in which God, in Christ, accepted the human experiences of the worst kind of suffering, of torture and of sacrificial death, and in which he allowed himself to be at one totally with us in our humanness.

The first Scripture for today of Nm 21:4b-9,  shows us of the enormous power of the cross to effect healing.

In this reading, we hear how Moses was instructed to create the image of a bronze serpent and to mount it upon a pole. Those who looked upon this pole were then healed from all the effects of the snake venom.

 What the cross affects is our healing—it is not simply only from such as in the venom of snakes  that are healed by the cross, but the power of sin and death itself over us!

In our second Scripture reading of Phil 2:6-11, we hear about how Our Lord Jesus accepted death on the cross—not because he deserved any  extremely horrifying torture,  indeed he deserved no punishment whatsoever, but our Lord Christ accepted it so that he could use it as a means by which he would unite his divine life to us as humans, he accepted it in all that would befall him, even unto suffering, torture and even to his death.

For us as Christians, because of God in Christ, suffering and death are not just sad, hurtful, and inevitable facts of being human; they indeed became, in Christ, the only route of access to God and to our Salvation. Even in these experiences, God is ever present with us and  is ever working through and for us, and even through these experiences, God can accomplish his will which is to save and to redeem.

In the Gospel reading today of Jn 3:13-17,  Our Lord Jesus tells us that he has not come into this world to condemn humanity but to reconcile us back to God.

Christ used the cross to accomplish exactly this!

The cross shows to us in the most terrifyingly of ways, the deepest and darkest side of our human nature. Christ did not deserve any of the horrendous actions that were done to him prior to, and also when he was upon the cross. It was us in our dark human nature, that imposed the cross upon him out of total evil cruelty. What we deserve for the cross is nothing short of God’s worst wrath— The fact is that simple! The cross, which could never be the end of Christ, should have meant the end of us if we had been given what our human actions truly had deserved.

But our end, our destruction, is not what the cross was intended to accomplish, as Instead, Christ showed the willingness of God to forgive us in the most astounding and wonderous way that was possible.

The cross reveals to us that the great covenant that God makes with us in Christ offers us forgiveness and salvation. This grace of God is certainly not deserved by any of us, but it is nevertheless given out of the love that God has for each and every single one of us. The love that God our Father, truly has for all his children whom he created. The cross is the ultimate symbol of the sacrifice of God in Christ, this ultimate and pure Love which is our salvation. 

We can receive this grace in the partaking of the Blessed Sacrament—and also in all the sacraments of the Church. Once we have received this for ourselves, Christ asks that all we have been graciously given by his sacrifice for us, we then instill the same within our relationships with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, and within our total existence —imitating what Christ has done for us in the love and forgiveness that we are to share with one another.

All that horrendous suffering and torture, then death that  Our Lord Christ went through upon that cross, taking on all the sins and burdens of all  humankind,  to give salvation for every single one of us, for the people who lived in Jesus’ time, for us in our present time, and for all peoples yet to be born. This Cross was and is still, the ultimate sacrifice of Christ’s Love and Salvation which was given freely for all.

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.

Take Up Your Cross ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: Is 50:5-9a

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Reading II: Jas 2:14-18

Gospel: Mk 8:27-35

Liturgical colour: Green.

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, 

Let us first take a look at what the Holy Scriptures are telling us in The Gospel reading today of Mk 8:27-35:

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.   Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”   They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of  the prophets.”   And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.”  Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.  He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatlyand be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.   He spoke this openly.  Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.   At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”   He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

If you have ever been on social media, which most of us have, it is sadly all too common to see posts that say things like, “If you believe in Jesus, type amen, and money will come your way within 72 hrs”, or maybe “say click like and type amen and you will get the desires of your heart.” This is complete nonsense! There are sadly within the world many who still believe that to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, means to instantly receive wealth, power, property, good fortune, etc. They are thinking in a worldly way,  in a similar way to such as Peter did in the Gospel Scripture for today. We see that Jesus rebuked him strongly for doing so, and said, “Get thee behind me Satan”.. Our Lord is not a personal Genie for our own purposes, nor indeed a quick and easy route to gaining worldly things. Temporary worldly things and the need for them are not Godly.

We are asked to take up our cross and to follow Jesus. We are to leave behind all our worldly thoughts, wants and desires. To leave behind the wealth, the power, the property and anything else which is worldly and to follow Jesus. Our Lord Christ was mocked and ridiculed, disbelieved, subject to torment, hate from those who saw only through worldly eyes. He was tortured and died on the cross to pay for all our sins. He is the only way to eternal salvation. 

It isn’t an easy road to follow Jesus, nor indeed should it be. Earthly wealth, and happiness can only ever be temporary in nature, as this world itself is temporary.  We are to leave all things of this world behind, to truly take up our cross and to follow Jesus.

Will there be troubles and people who will reject us or even to possibly kill us for taking the path of the Lord? Yes, it is possible, it happened to Jesus, so we should be willing to accept the same if necessary.

To take up our cross and follow Jesus, is to accept all the bad things that the world may throw at us, and yet to carry on firm in faith. Jesus and the way of his cross, are the only way to true salvation, and to eternal peace and happiness. 

Worldly things will pass away, The Lord’s kingdom is eternal, and shall never pass away.

Are we willing to take up our crosses and truly follow Christ as we ought to do, or are we too stuck in the pleasures of worldly things? Do we store up our riches on earth to only lose them at the time of the grave? Or do we follow and store up eternal salvation and riches such as joy and peace which even the grave cannot destroy, because of the sacrifice Jesus has paid for us by his death on the cross in payment for all our sins?

Let us pray:

Father, we thank you or sending your son Jesus to die for our sins on the cross at Calvary. Lord, help us follow in His footsteps and take up our crosses daily. Help us nail our flesh to that cross so that we can deny ourselves every day and truly follow him.. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

BartholomWHO?: The Feast of St. Bartholomew, The Anonymous Apostle ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: Rv 21:9b-14

Responsorial Psalm: 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18

Gospel: Jn 1:45-51

Liturgical colour: Red.

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Bartholomew the apostle. Bartholomew is a relatively difficult saint to celebrate because we hardly know anything truly about him. There are some who may believe that Bartholomew is the same person as Nathaniel –scholars have been known to argue about the truth or otherwise of this. What we do know is that In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke,  that Bartholomew is listed as being one of the twelve Apostles of the Lord.  

Ancient writers on the history of the Christian faith write that Bartholomew was an apostle to India – possibly is the region of Mumbai (Bombay). Along with his fellow apostle Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century. By tradition, Bartholomew is said to have been flayed alive, before being crucified upside down, thus becoming the patron saint of Leather-workers. In painting and sculpture, Bartholomew is often represented as holding a knife, with his own skin neatly draped over his arm. Bartholomew has also always been associated with healing, so there are a number of hospitals which have been named after him.

Bartholomew is also believe to be associated with the small Italian Island of Lipari, where he may have been buried. During World War II, the regime looked for ways to finance its  activities, and ordered that a silver statue of Saint Bartholomew from the cathedral in Lipari was to be melted down. But when the statue was weighed,  it was found to only actually weigh just a few grams so it was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. However,  In reality, this same statue is made wholly of solid silver and therefore should indeed be very heavy in weight. This is a fairly recent miracle that has been associated with St Bartholomew. 

About Bartholomew himself we know almost nothing,  except that he was an Apostle of Jesus. Far from being a negative thing, I think this is the most important thing about this rather mysterious and anonymous apostle. For this teaches us that the call to serve is not really anything whatsoever to do with worldly status or fame. If we Look around us today,  we will see much evidence of the reign of ego and of worldly fame, perhaps it is media stars and celebrities which tend to be the best known for this. An increasing number of children, when asked what they want to do when they grow up, say that they want to be famous, to be a celebrity or a star–  and that the goal of reaching fame has become for them their vocation. Some of our politicians can also seem rather the same way. But the church isn’t entirely exempt either: we see evangelists on religious tv stations, pastors of megachurches, and, unfortunately,  some bishops and clergy who just love being in the spotlight, have who love self-publicity. I once heard someone say that their church was OK but it was hard to see God because the Vicar always got in the way. It’s a temptation clergy are aware of and must always resist – our job is to point people to God, not towards ourselves.

So Bartholomew’s anonymity shows us ‘it’s not all about us’. Our job as Christians is to get out of the way and to enable people to catch a glimpse of the God and Father whom we serve. We also know, from the life of this mysterious and anonymous apostle, that we actually don’t need worldly fame, because God loves us, and that is all we need – we ought to need no other adulation than that!!

Each and every one of us eventually will join the ranks of anonymous Christians who have served God throughout the ages. In 2000 years’ time – and most likely long before that – we will all have been forgotten, except perhaps by the odd ancestor hunter who might still be digging our names out of archives and searching church registers to find historical information.

This might seem rather disheartening, but it definitely needn’t be such, because we know we are each p of God’s creation and of his redeeming: we are each loved by God more than we could ever hope imagine!  Part of our job as Christians, is to try to discover more of this love as we go about living our lives. When we truly understand even a little bit of this love that God our Father and our creator, truly has for us, our anxieties about worldly status, worldly importance and worldly fame, begin to lose their hold over us. In God’s love we truly have everything we need.

So often we see the lives of the rich and famous descend into tragedy or disaster. Worldly riches and fame often don’t bring true and lasting happiness. The ordinariness of our lives is something which we as Christians should celebrate, if, like Bartholomew, our lives are built on the rock of faith and we have the knowledge of God’s true and eternal love, like a hidden jewel, burning deep inside of us.

So Bartholomew is one of us:  he is a follower, a disciple, and a servant of Our Lord Jesus Christ. An anonymous, unshowy person who gave of his best. Bartholomew may well be Someone we don’t know all that much about, but we do know that his soul is now residing with God where that great love will, at last, be fully known.

That is all that is needed. All that truly matters. Amen

To Whom Shall We Go? ~ Milan Komadina, Novice

In today`s Bible story in Ephesians 5:21-32 Jesus gives some instructions for Christian Households. He`s teaching us that we should serve and love each other in the name of Christ. A special emphasis is given here on the partnership. He teaches that wives should submit themselves to their husbands and likewise husbands should love their wives as Jesus loves His Church. Marriage or partnership is really sacred according to the Bible. And once we find the right person (regardless of gender) to share our life with there should be nothing more beautiful and more sacred than obeying what Lord teaches us through these verses.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Another Bible story for today is written in John 6:60-69. This is a very useful chapter for all of us who sometimes feel lazy or a bit tired of praying and maintaining regular live relationship with Jesus. We all experience this from time to time. Let us read this chapter.

 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

We can see in verse 66 that many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Jesus. Those were people who had direct relationship to Jesus. Face to face. And yet they stopped following Him. I remember the time when I started my postulant period 7 months ago how hard it was to me. I was enthusiastic but also afraid. I had a strong desire to become a Dominican Independent. However, I was struggling with negative thoughts. My thoughts were saying the same or similar thing that was mentioned above in verse 60 “ This is hard, who can accept it? “. I was thinking that I was not good enough because I was thinking that God wants us to be super good and super religious. Father Michael helped me realize that it is not like that. Jesus wants us now and here. There is not the right time we should be waiting for, nor the right procedure that we need to fulfill in advance to be good enough for building our bond with the heavenly father. There is no the right age we should reach in order to serve God. He wants you now and here. When I read this chapter I can see a wise sentence that Simon Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go“. This is exactly what I realized after deep thinking of the right time to become a postulant. And I found out that always is the right time. Even if we spend the whole life waiting for the time to become good enough for Christ that would never happen. `Cause we will never be good enough. Based on this chapter I would heartily advise you not to be like those disciples who turned their back to the Lord. Even if that happens sometimes, keep getting back to Jesus. Bear on mind what Peter says in today`s chapter “To whom shall we go“. Remember Jesus is the beginning and the end. The alfa and omega. Let Him be glory with the Holy Spirit and Father. Amen.

Got Bread??? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Carbs.  Ugh!  Carbs!  YUM!  Carbs!  Not so very many years ago, I lost a heap of weight by cutting out most carbs.  THAT didn’t last.  Pasta!  How can anyone live without pasta?  And yes, I know all about spaghetti squash and zoodles and wheat pasta (major yuk) and anything else that can be substituted for the honest to goodness yumminess that is pasta.  And then there’s bread!  BREAD!  We have three bread machines and Scott has become a true Bread Guru.  Egg bread, white bread, rye bread, oat bread, honey bread, and the list goes on and on and on.  And very rarely does any of said bread go to waste.  We like bread. 

Sadly, though, no matter how much or how often we eat bread, or pasta, or bread, or cake, or bread, we get hungry again.  Our bodies crave that fuel that keeps us going.  We’ve all seen the Snickers Bar commercials.  Not feeling like yourself?  Eat.  Have something to celebrate?  Eat.  And hey, in SO many restaurants, what do they bring to the table as soon as you’re seated?  Yup.  Bread. 

So, what is bread? Basically, it’s a paste of flour and water, cooked over or surrounded by heat.

According to history, the earliest bread was made in or around 8000 BC in the Middle East, specifically Egypt. The quern was the first known grinding tool. Grain was crushed and the bakers produced what we now commonly recognize in its closest form as chapatis (India) or tortillas (Mexico). 

And we all of us know about manna, the bread from heaven the slaves from bondage in Egypt ate whilst they meandered in the desert looking for the Promised Land.  In fact, bread is mentioned at least 492 times in the Bible beginning in Genesis and continuing right through Revelation with a variety of meanings and symbolism.

So.  Bread.  We know our bread.  Jesus even talked about bread.  Several times.  In the single most important sacrament we have, that of the Eucharist, bread becomes the body of Christ. 

In today’s Gospel, John 6:41-51, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

So what’s up with this?  What does Jesus mean?  At that point in history, especially in Jesus’ culture, bread would have been understood as a nutritional necessity.  Bread was one of the most accessible foods for people of all wealth and social status, even the poor had bread. 

Now, for Jesus to say He IS bread?  What’s up with that?  Jesus is explaining to the crowds gathered around Him, and to us, just who He is.  And a lot of folks weren’t exactly impressed.  The Bible tells us of  the people complaining, and even some of His disciples leaving, unable to understand the metaphor, or unwilling to accept Jesus’s explanation of who He is.  So what DOES Jesus mean?  Simply put, if we put our faith in Him, then we will have eternal life.  When Jesus says He is the bread of life, He is saying that He is essential to our salvation.  Salvation is essential to human existence and necessary for eternity. When Jesus says He is the bread of life, He is saying He is essential, that HE is the means to our Salvation and eternal life. 

Jesus identified Himself as the bread of life, the way. He did not present Himself A source of salvation but as THE only way to salvation. Without Him, without the bread of life, there is no hope for salvation. By identifying Himself as the source of forgiveness, Jesus makes the path to repentance and a relationship with God, plain, simple, and available for everyone. 

So what do we do?  You say to me, “But I’m a good person.  I try to do the right thing.”  Well, yeah, you are and that’s awesome, but as Paul’s letter to the Romans teaches us, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

John also says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

We have to believe it.  We have to live it.  The Bread of Life will sustain the us, we who believe.  In our daily lives, in order to continue to be fed by Him, we must pray regularly.  We must study the Word. 

We must do our best to live according to what Jesus has taught us.  And reckon wonder, how do we do that?  Love as Jesus loved.  As I have said over and over and over again, ad infinitum, you are the only Bible some folks will ever read, the only Jesus some folks will ever see.  And I’m gonna add a new one:

For some folks, you are the only server who brings the Bread of Life to the table. 

As Jesus said to Peter in John 21:15-17:     So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”  He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.””

Can we be, or do, less?  Again, for those in the back, for some folks, you are the only server who brings the Bread of Life to the table. 

That kinda puts a new spin on the closing sentence of the prayer, “Let us serve Him with gladness and singleness of heart.”

So let us do that.  Let us “serve” Him, the Bread of Life, with gladness and singleness of heart.   Amen.

The Transfiguration of the Lord

by Milan Komadina

Dear sisters and brothers, today our Holy Church commemorates The Transfiguration of the Lord. At the beginning of this sermon let us pray and read from the Bible about Transfiguration.

Mark 9:2-10 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

Many times when I meditate on this chapter from the Bible I found impressive a few things. When I think about Jesus I am impressed by the fact that he was displaying himself to people around him in a very modest and humble way. He rather liked to be seen as a servant than as a Son of God. The transfiguration has shown the real nature of Our Lord. His heavenly father confirmed from above that Jesus is His beloved Son. Yet Jesus seems to be a bit shy. He did not have the proud as we do. We, who are sinners tend to show our pride for the small things we do or achieve in our lives. But Jesus did not show pride. He didn`t say like “I am the Son of God, look how glorious I am“. What he did is saying his friends and disciples not to talk about what they saw. I always try to learn something from Jesus and I always try to understand certain paragraphs from the Bible in order to use them in my daily life. What I think is a good approach is to stick to the rule – whatever we do, whatever we achieve who ever we are – give praise to the Lord. Do not be so proud and self-confident because everything could be changed and we can lose all very easily. Even our own selves.

The second interesting part which I love regarding The Transfiguration is the fact that Elijah and Moses were there with Jesus. I grew up in a traditional orthodox Christian environment and when I was younger I was regularly attending protestant churches. But what I always found personally very beautiful, spiritually useful and relaxing is a prayer to the Holy Mother of God and the saints. In Transfiguration story I can see how Jesus actually like sharing his glory with his saints. He was not there alone. There were Elijah and Moses. Sometimes I also pray to St. Elijah, sometimes to St. Moses and most often to Holy Mother of God. Some people believe that saints cannot hear our prayers. Some people believe that a prayer to saints is worshiping them. However through Bible we just know that this kind of prayer is the same like asking our friends to pray for us. We do not worship them, but we ask their prayers. Also, they can hear us and Transfiguration shows that saint who died are still alive.

The last part of the Transfiguration story is talking about the resurrection. And this is something what I also like to meditate about. How this is amazing. We are all afraid of death. We are suffering when our family members or friends die. But still we do have hope and we do have promise. And this promise is that the same as Elijah and Moses who died and were displayed alive we will also live after we die. We will see and be together with all of those who we loved and who passed away. Our family members, friends, neighbors,…

Hungry??? ~ The Rev. Frank Bellino, Novice

As a seminarian, and even now as priest, one of the questions, people would ask me at first meeting is why I decided to become a priest.

Early in my formation I would immediately say: ‘Because I wanted to serve God and God’s people.’

But then I thought, I don’t have to be a priest to serve God and his people. So now I would say: ‘I don’t know, or I am not really sure why I wanted to become a priest.’ Only God knows, I’m sure.

But there are a couple of things that really drew me to the priesthood.

First, I just loved to be able to celebrate Holy Mass, and second, I just wanted to hold the most precious body and blood of our Lord at Consecration.

However, now that I am a priest and have celebrated the Holy Eucharist many times, I realized that what drew me to the priesthood is more than just celebrating Holy Mass. I still love celebrating the mass. It’s always special for me.

But I realized now, why I wanted to be a priest is because of my hunger to get closer to Jesus and because Jesus wants to get closer to us.

And we all have this hunger. St Augustine is one testimony on this in his famous acclamation: ‘My heart is restless until it rests in thee my God’.

In our lives, we experience this hunger in our longings for things we think can give us satisfaction, but then once we’ve obtained them, or experience them, we feel something still is lacking, we feel a deeper longing that nothing in this world can satisfy. This is spiritual hunger and spiritual thirst.

Friends, brothers and sisters, spiritual hunger and thirst can never be satisfied and quenched with material things.

First, to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst, we need to get closer to Jesus and let him get closer to us.

Why? Because as he told us in the gospel ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.’

It is always a challenge when we get closer to Jesus because the closer we are to him, or the closer he is to us, the more real the cross in our life, the heavier the cross becomes.

When we get closer to Jesus, we realized that he does not only comfort the afflicted, he also afflicts the comfortable.

Say for example in that scene in the Gospel today when he bluntly said to the crowd: “You are not looking for me because you have seen the signs, but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.” That’s a bit harsh of Jesus, isn’t it? It’s just like saying: ‘You only think with your stomach.’

But in saying that, Jesus is challenging them to go beyond the food/bread that he provided them and look up to the one who gave them the food in the first place. He is challenging them to focus not so much on the bread that is given, but on the giver of the bread (i.e., personal relationship with Jesus, with God).

Second: to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst, we need to regularly examine our lives if we live according to what God wills for us. Our deeper longing oftentimes is an expression of what St Paul in the second reading calls as the ‘spiritual revolution’ in us, that is our conscious effort, willingness and regular resolve to fight against our ‘old way of life [in sin] our old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires.’

At times though, we may feel frustrated in our efforts because we tend to go back to our old ways (in sin). But let us never despair and never lose hope, because even if at times we tend to abandon God, God never abandons us.

The story of the Israelites in our first reading today is a great example.

The Israelites were freed from the slavery of Egypt by God.  They were taken to the desert. But unfortunately, when they felt hungry and thirsty, they wished they were still slaves in Egypt when they ‘can sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to [their] heart’s content.’

But God never gives up on us. He gave the Israelites manna from heaven. He gave them meat from quails. In doing this, God now served them, tended their wounds, and caring for their immediate and most basic need.

Third, to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst, let us live as one Eucharistic community—Eucharistic people means we act as gifts to one another, a blessing to each other, broken and shared. The Eucharist is our community- our common unity. So let us take our every celebration as a family celebration, people who care for one another.

Let us begin it now by talking to the person you may not know. You might be sitting on the same spot every time you come to mass, and the new person here is also sitting in the pews but you might not have introduced yourselves, introduce yourself. Try to remember the name. Ask: ‘Can we be friends?’ And keep in touch.

Friends, brothers and sisters, this gesture might be uncomfortable or not our “cuppa tea’’ so to speak, but as Christians, we are called to be Eucharistic community, that is, we get out of our comfort zones, being the gift to one another, a blessing to one another, to be broken and vulnerable even if need be and be shared.

Christ is the answer to our spiritual hunger and thirst. As Christians, let us be instruments of Christ to help satisfy the spiritual thirst and hunger of others. Amen.

Cats, Loaves, and Fishes ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Our poor cats.   I starve them.  Or, according to THEM, I starve them.  Only one inch of food in their bowl?  Heaven forbid!!!  There must be at least two inches or Binx will howl, meow, and otherwise fuss until said bowl is at the proper cat food level.  And canned food?  It’s not like they get canned food every morning of their lives.  All four of them will peer at me shamelessly every morning until they each have their allotted portion of Ocean Whitefish, which seem to be the favorite of the moment.  So…Nope.  Scott and I are terrible providers for our critters.  Bless their furry little hearts.  Ha!  Funny, isn’t it, that no matter how much they have, even when they have enough, they want more.  

So….  What about us?  How much is enough?  The answer to that question is usually, “Just a little bit more.”  Or just, “More.”  And once we get that “More” we still want “just a little bit more.”  And when THAT happens, whilst we are well provided for, what do we frequently do?  We want more and look down on those who have not reached that “more” status.

This kinda presents a problem for those of us who profess to love Jesus.  In the Gospel appointed for today, we hear of Jesus feeing the 5000.  We know now that there were many more than 5000, coz the Bible tells us there were about 5000 MEN.  There had to be women and children there as well.   That’s a heap of folks to feed with 5 loaves and two fish.  The story of Jesus feeding the 5000 is one that’s puzzled sceptics and believers too. Sceptics dismiss the miracle story or explain it away. Perhaps what ‘really’ happened, they say, is that many people had brought food with them to the event and realized that others hadn’t – so the ‘real’ miracle was the miracle of sharing.  Personally, what do I think?  I really think I’m not smart enough to explain the ”hows” of Jesus’s miracles, and I’m smart enough to believe that Jesus accomplished what He set out to do. 

However….. (Isn’t there always a “however” when I write stuff like this???)  However, what we CAN take away from this is Jesus fed folks.   It has been said and written over and over and over again, that Jesus will give us what we need.  And I believe this with all my heart.  And again, in this day and age Jesus will accomplish what He sets out to do.  Now, the trick is, just how does Jesus accomplish this taking care of needs and things when He isn’t right on hand to pass out the goods?  Uh oh. 

Jesus also said, “So send I you.”  In Matthew 25 we read: 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

So……  Jesus isn’t here walking on this earth in da flesh any more….  And it would seem that with the “So send I you” thing He has goin’ on….  Well, looks like it’s up to us to be feeding the hungry, and clothing those who are in need.  It’s up to us to continue the Lord’s work here.  Once again, I will say, sometimes you are the only Jesus some folks will ever see.  You are the only Bible some folks will ever read. 

So many times we hear folks talking about the homeless.  Sure, I’ll grant you that many of them are homeless due to addiction to one thing or another, or could do something about their situation, or could reach out for help, or….  or…..  or……..   But I don’t know these people as individuals, I don’t know their stories, and who am I to judge?   My Daddy….oh how I miss him…  Daddy was always giving out a five here or a buck there to those who were “less fortunate” than he and Momma.  Many years ago, someone once said to him, “Bill, you know they are just gonna buy alcohol or drugs with that money.”  Daddy’s reply???  He said, “Well, ya know, that says more about them than it does me.  Jesus told me to give,  not to tell folks what to do with what I give them.”  That stuck with me.

No, we can’t provide for everyone we meet.  But we can donate to a homeless charity or a program that feeds the less fortunate.  We can volunteer at one of those organizations.  We can do a lot of things to alleviate the problems these folks face. 

The question isn’t “should we?”  it’s will we?   

So y’all, there ya have it.  My thoughts on one of Jesus’s great miracles.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have cats to feed.

Lessons for Life: The Feast of St. Mary Magadlene~ The Very Rev.Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: 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.

My dearest brothers and sisters -in-Christ,

There are a many Marys within the Holy Scriptures —the New Testament mentions six altogether! The Mary we know as Mary Magdalene, whose memorial we celebrate today, draws her title from Magdala,  the city of her origin. Luke tells us that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). Afterward, she became His disciple.

John’s Gospel tells us that she was one of the Marys present at the crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus:”Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25, NIV).

And Mary Magdalene was also the very first witness to the Lord’s resurrection:  Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.  They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’  ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’  Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’  She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (John 20:11–16, NIV).

Mary’s devotion to the Lord Jesus put her in the spotlight of several writings told to us within the Holy Gospels. The life and the faith of Mary Magdalene, both have such a lot to teach us about following Jesus. Here are three lessons we can learn from Mary Magdalene.

1. We don’t have to be defined by our past:   There’s a lot of speculation about Mary’s background. Many People have tied Mary to the sinful woman in Luke 7:36–50. Many also assume that Mary was a prostitute or a woman of ill repute. But there truly isn’t any biblical evidence whatsoever for portraying Mary in that light.

As Luke tells us, Mary had seven demons cast out of her. Whatever her background had been before she met Jesus, as is also true for the rest of us even today, Mary isn’t defined by who she was before meeting the Lord. All that is important is who Mary became after discovering Him.

Like Mary, we don’t have to let our pasts dictate how we see ourselves, nor should dictate how others may see us. Paul explains it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)!

2. Jesus should be the center of our lives:  After Mary’s first encounter with Our Lord Jesus, Luke tells us:

“After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;  Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:1–3, NIV).

Not only did Mary follow the Lord Jesus and His disciples from town to town, but she and some other women also helped to support Christ and the disciples financially. This role continued throughout His earthly ministry.

Matthew tells us that they were present at the crucifixion, and followed Jesus all the way to Galilee to take care of Him:  “Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons” (Matthew 27:55–56, NIV).

It’s no surprise then, that Mary Magdalene would find herself in a prominent position at the Lord’s resurrection, also.

We should live our lives by  following Mary’s example. When we encounter Jesus, we shouldn’t  return to the life we previously lived.  Our Lord and Saviour changes everything!  Our whole life ought to become about following and serving Him until—like Mary—our story becomes intertwined and indistinguishable from His own.

3. Jesus uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong:  In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about the gospel as being foolishness. The world doesn’t understand it, so they discount and dismiss it.

According to Paul, God did that on purpose:  “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).

We see a perfect example of this principle in Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene. In a time when women were seen as second class citizens with no real authority, Jesus demonstrated a special tenderness and care for women. We see this in His choice to reveal Himself to Mary first after the resurrection. 

This is the most critical event in history, and Jesus made a woman the first witness. He even encourages her to tell the disciples (John 20:17). The irony is that they didn’t believe Mary and the other women (Luke 24:11).

We need to be extremely careful in our lives, to ensure that we never dismiss things that don’t follow our human expectations, because Jesus doesn’t always do things in the way in which we may expect. Our Lord delights in working out His plan in the most wonderful, yet unlikeliest of ways. He did that through Mary, and if we let Him, He’ll do such through us, too!

Shepherds, Sheep, and Scary Stuff ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Momma had “that look” when we did something we probably shouldn’t have done.  We sorta kinda knew we were in trouble.  Oops!  Now, Daddy had “THAT look,” which was different from Momma’s.  Y’all know the one?  The one that said, “You have done messed up, prepare to die.”  I hated that look.   It was scary!  Speaking of ‘scary,’ in one of the Scriptures appointed for today, we find, to me, the scariest, most terrifying words in the Bible.   Here ya go:

In Jeremiah 23:1-6m we have, to me, probably the most terrifying scripture in the whole of Holy Writ.  “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.   Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people:

You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.  You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.   I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply.  I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.” 

Why is this so dreadfully frightening?  Imma tell ya in a minute, but first we need to back up a bit and talk about shepherds.  In our lives today, we don’t really understand how common and important shepherds and sheep were in ancient times.  At that period in history, shepherds and sheep were as common as Wal-Mart, telephones, and convenience stores.  So, what IS a shepherd?   

Simply put, a shepherd is the man or woman who takes care of the sheep and goats.  Easy enough.  But what does this mean?  What did it mean in Biblical times for a shepherd to care for his sheep?  The duties of a shepherd in an unenclosed country like Palestine were very onerous. In early morning he led the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time did stray from his watch and wandered away from the rest, he would have to seek diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose had to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness or furnish them with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labors always end with sunset. Often, he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief.

Shepherds in ancient Israel likely worked with, among others, the broadtail Syrian variety of sheep, which have large fatty tails and a thick fleece. The rams of this breed are horned, and the ewes are not. These docile animals are easily led and completely at the mercy of their environment and predators.

 Shepherds also cared for goats. The goats were uniformly black or brown. Their long, flapping ears easily got torn on thorns and briar bushes as they clambered on rocky hillsides and grazed on shrubbery.

The shepherd faced the ongoing challenge of teaching the sheep and goats to obey his commands. Even so, good shepherds took tender care of the animals in their charge, even giving them names to which they would respond. —(John 10:14, 16.)

It was a tough job. 

Great men such as Abraham, Moses, and King David were shepherds.  The image of the shepherd as one who cares for flocks and people is one that is pretty easy to understand and runs deep in the imagery of ancient times.  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….

As a bishop, it’s my responsibility to take care of my flock.  And ‘my flock’ consists of many of you who actually read my stuff and try to get some good out of it.  Your soul, your spirituality, your eternity, becomes my responsibility.  It’s my job to see that you have everything you need to live as Christ wants you to live.  Heavy stuff, that!  Sometimes we have to make really hard decisions, and sometimes we have to be more stern than we’d like to be.   My daddy said, when I was little and having to be punished, “It hurts me more than it does you.”  I was always skeptical of that, until I had to be more stern than I wanted to be with clergy.  Sigh….Anyway, I digress…0

But, this not only applies to Bishops, but to any church leader, pastor, priest, deacon, or Christian.  And I’m here to tell you that those Christian leaders who have turned people away from Christ will suffer for all of eternity.  My heart breaks almost daily when I read or hear of so many of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who have turned their backs on God because of the teachings of “the church.”  And it’s not just LGBTQ folks.  There are SO many who have been either led astray or sent away by church leaders who have twisted and cherry-picked scripture to meet their own agenda.  Woe to them. Woe to those who have so muddled the message of Christ that people have decided that the church equals hate!

So, what about you?  Now that we’ve had Sheep 101 and Bishop 101, what does this mean for each of you?  I would bet that you never thought of yourself as a shepherd.  But you are.  You ARE!  Think for a minute.  Who is your flock?  Who are those folks who look to you for advice, for guidance?  Who is that that you influence?  Your children?  Your families?  Co-workers?  Neighbors?  The kids you eat lunch with and have classes with?  The folks on your sports team?  Your golf buddies?  What about those people who see you but don’t know you?  Those folks in the line with you at the grocery store? 

I have said it time and time and time again:  YOU are the only Bible some folks will ever read.  YOU are the only Jesus some folks will ever see.  While it is true that it is the job of the clergy to lead the church, what about you?  Saint Peter teaches us that “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5-9).

Is this who you are?  Who is your flock?  Who are your sheep?  What kind of shepherd are you?  Do you, by your words and actions, reflect the Gospel?  Where are you leading your sheep?

Let us pray:  Gracious God, we welcome the presence of Jesus, our Good Shepherd and pray that you help us to accept the mission of Jesus, that we be good shepherds and bring the good news to the world.  By our baptismal vows we have committed to living the Gospel.  Inspire us to live our lives leading our own flocks to you.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.