Let me tell you a personal story.
A few years ago, I was stricken with an allergic reaction. The doctors are still not sure what it was, but it was severe enough for me to go to the Emergency Room at the hospital. Everything was beginning to shut down and I got to the ER just in time.
As part of the treatment, I was given a sizeable shot of epinephrine which had quite a negative reaction on me. The scariest part was hearing a nurse say “He’s crashing!” Believe me, that’s not something you want to hear. I have no real memory of what was going on, except a lot of frantic to and fro from the staff, and my wife sitting by my gurney looking pretty grim.
When I saw her face, all I could think was “God, no matter what happens, take care of this wonderful woman, my wife.”
I’ll have to admit, I was scared.
I prayed again for the comfort of all my family and for their strength through what I thought was about to happen to me.
Then I looked to the foot of my bed, still asking for peace for my family, and I saw…someone standing there. It was not vivid enough to look like a person, but there was definitely an oval cloud around whomever or whatever was there.
The Blessed Mother, Mary.
That’s what immediately came to mind. And of course, the oval shape was the same as the Miraculous Medal I was wearing.
I relaxed. There was no talking, no message, no revelation, but simply a feeling of peace. I absolutely knew it was Mary, the Mother of God.
I relaxed. The frantic staff’s movement started to slow. One of the nurses patted me on the shoulder. Sue was holding my right hand. I felt OK.
To that moment in my life, Mary had been an enigma. Whenever I thought of her during my readings of the Liturgy of the Hours, it was with some sort of annoyance, I think occasioned by the type of language we find in the Vigil Gospel for today, when Jesus corrects a woman in the crowd saying, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” And the language Jesus uses at the wedding feast at Cana, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?”
I always had, if not a negative attitude toward Mary, then one of tolerance and annoyance.
I have no idea where it came from.
But I can tell you, from the day of my allergic reaction, my feeling for and about The Blessed Mother has changed completely.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” These words from today’s Gospel began my new quest to become acquainted with The Blessed Mother. I found that almost every reference to Mary in the Bible portrays a humble, pious, and truly blessed woman. One whom I now can truly see as “The queen (taking) her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.” One who, as we hear in The Annunciation readings, immediately accepts God’s grace and carries out his word. This woman, who is described in the first Reading as “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
Now I must confess that I’m a skeptic. Always have been. Need a two-by-four to get most messages…but that night, lying on the hospital gurney, ready for whatever was to come, I unquestionably had a visit from Mary whose unspoken message to me was “Everything is going to be all right.” That message was not that I was going to make it, but that everything was going to be all right. The Blessed Mother.
So as I hear today’s Readings, Psalm, Alleluia, and Gospel I am washed again in the peace which The Blessed Mother represents to us and her acceptance and understanding of whatever God is preparing for us.
And especially after the disturbing image of a ferocious and terrible dragon from Revelation, with the words
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.”
With those words, it is as if Mary is telling me, again, “Everything is going to be all right.”
So as we contemplate the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary, let us all draw comfort from The Star of the Sea who calms the waves and sends us peace as we travel these sundering seas.
Jesus, help us to go through life as your Mother did, praying and trusting in God’s mercy. Give us eyes to see her glory and ears to hear her silent words of comfort.
Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.
To understand this verse, we need to think through four truths:
- God has an eternal purpose and He is able to accomplish His purpose.
- God’s eternal purpose includes calling to salvation a people for Himself.
- God’s purpose for those whom He calls to salvation is their ultimate, eternal good.
- Knowing that God is working all things together for our good brings great comfort during difficult trials.
One of the most helpful things that you can learn about your Christian life is how to handle the trials that inevitably will come your way. Jesus explained that there are some who receive the word with joy, but their faith is only temporary. When affliction or persecution because of the word hits them, immediately they fall away. They didn’t expect affliction or understand how to handle it. They signed up for success, not suffering. They wanted prosperity, not persecution. So, they fell away when the trials hit. It is especially in times of suffering that Satan, whom Peter describes as a roaring lion, seeks to devour you. So, it is essential for your spiritual survival that you know and apply what the Bible teaches about trials.
Romans 8:28 is one of the most familiar verses on this subject. The NIV reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” All things don’t just happen to work out for good on their own. Rather, God providentially works all things together for good for His people according to His purpose. But while Romans 8:28 is a source of great comfort when it is properly understood, it is often misunderstood and misapplied. Some think that it teaches a positive outlook on life, that everything will turn out for our happiness in this life. But this denies or greatly minimizes the reality of suffering and evil. It insensitively says to those who are suffering: “Don’t worry, be happy, your loss isn’t really so bad.” But the verse isn’t saying that.
Sometimes well-meaning Christians recite Romans 8:28 to a person in the throes of grief, trying to help or comfort. But at the moment of loss, the grieving person mostly needs your presence and your help with practical matters. Later, if need be, you may be able to help him understand and apply this verse. But it will help us all to weather suffering better if we understand this verse before the storm hits.
All things are not good. It would be mockery to say that they are. The death of a child is not good. Cancer is not good, drug addiction is not good, war is not good, blasphemy is not good. Many of us have some salt with our meals. Table salt is made up of both sodium and chloride. By itself, sodium is a deadly poison, and so is chloride. Put them together, and you have table salt. Salt flavors food, and a certain amount of salt is necessary for health and life. We cannot live without some salt in our systems. God can take things that are bad and put them in the crucible of His wisdom and love. He works all things together for good, and He gives us the glorious, wonderful promise that He will do so.
We know that we have victory over sin and over Satan, but this verse in Romans teaches us that we also have victory over our circumstances. It says that all things work together for good. Many times, this promise has been trivialized. For example, someone may be driving down the road and a tire will blow out. The person may say, “Oh, well, the Bible says that ‘all things work together for good.'(1) Maybe there’s a sale on tires.” That isn’t what this verse means. The good is not to make us necessarily healthy or happy but to make us holy, to make us like Jesus. If the goal of our lives is not to be like Jesus, that goal is too small. Our goal must be to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. Whatever the circumstances that come to us, we can rely on God’s promise in Romans 8:28. No matter our circumstances, no one can take this verse out of the Bible–and may Satan never take it out of your heart.
Let’s ask ourselves these questions when we don’t understand how the situation at hand can be working for the good:
1: What are the most difficult trials that you have been through, and how may God be working these for our ultimate good.
2: Why does Romans 8:28 only work if God is sovereign over all the evil that happens? Why does denying that truth not help?
3: What does it mean to love God? Is it primarily a feeling? If it includes feelings, how can we keep our feelings passionate?
Lord, in your mercy give us the wisdom to understand that all things do work towards good for all who love you, help us to understand that You want good for Your people, and that we must be patient allowin You to put everything in the proper order so that good will happen in Your time. Amen.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and Our Creator.
Today the Church celebrates the life of Saint Martha who is often remembered alongside her sister Mary. Martha doesn’t appear to play a central role in the biblical narrative, we see her only twice mentioned in scripture; once complaining about her sister and the other when her brother Lazarus is raised from the dead. Today I’d like to take the liberty of discussing both of these episodes with you and what they mean to me and how they can help shape and guide our understanding of our Christian walk.
The first time we see Martha in our Bibles is in the Gospel according to Luke where we read:
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”
An interesting thought occurred to me when I read this scripture in preparation for this sermon that had never occurred to me before. Jesus entered the village and was welcomed by Martha; he wasn’t welcomed by a crowd, he wasn’t welcomed by Mary and Martha but instead by Martha alone who invited the Saviour to her home. When she got home she got busy preparing a meal and taking care of Christ’s needs and what happened? Mary, her sister, got all of the attention from the guest.
Have you ever brought a friend home and found that your family or a sibling took all of their attention? This is the situation Martha found herself in. When I think about this situation and my own reactions to it I can see that Martha’s actions in this scripture aren’t that out of the Ordinary and they case them in a different light for me.
In the past I have often looked at this incident and seen in Martha a certain negative, unwarranted jealousy that is rebuked by Jesus. However, when I think of the incident in the new terms I’ve highlighted I’m not sure that is really the case. I don’t believe that Martha is necessarily jealous of Martha in the usual sense, instead I think that she invited an honoured guest to her home and was expecting that she would labour to make him comfortable and receive his praise and attention for it. However, that’s not what happens and so she is upset that Mary, who has not laboured in His service yet, is getting the attention.
In this light the rebuke from Jesus is not necessarily about her jealousy or Mary’s having chosen the better method of service. Rather it is a rebuke of Martha’s being distracted, worried and troubled that she was not receiving the expected praise for her active service of God. In fact Jesus suggests that Mary’s service at his feet is just as important as Martha’s active service.
The lesson that I believe we can all take from this, and that I know I will take personally, is not to look at the way that others are serving God and to judge our service by it. We are each called to different forms of service in His name and each are just as valid as another. If we are serving God in our own way that is what is important. He who reigns above sees into our hearts and knows our desire to serve and will reward that loving service that we render in His name in due time.
The second place we see Martha (and her sister Mary) is in the Gospel of John when Jesus arrives at the tomb of their brother Lazarus:
Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”
This incident is somewhat reminiscent of the incident in Luke; Mary and Martha both react very differently to Jesus’ appearance at Lazarus’ tomb. Martha, having a more active style of service immediately rushes out to meet Jesus whilst Mary waits to be called by the Saviour.
Again in this meeting it is easy to take a very negative view of Martha and her words, however if we contemplate a little deeper and let the incident unfold to our spirits a new perspective on Martha can develop before our eyes.
At first glance it appears that Martha simply lacks faith; she essentially seems to be rebuking Christ and claiming that it is pointless his being there as there is nothing He can do. Now whilst this is true, that IS what she is saying, her words actually display great faith. Martha positively shows us that she has total faith that Jesus can heal from illness and even bring a person back from the brink of death. Instead of a lack of faith Martha shows a lack of understanding of who Christ is.
Martha’s response to the arrival of Christ shows that she is not aware of the full role and divinity of Christ. She knows that Lazarus will be raised from the dead in the resurrection but does not see that full divinity rests in Christ and that He can perform all that is within God’s power.
Jesus positively asserts His divinity in response to Martha’s misunderstanding removing any shadow of a doubt that He is God incarnate. As we know Jesus then goes on to show all present that He is “the resurrection and the life” by raising Lazarus from the grave.
Do you have total faith in Christ and in His divine nature? I know at times it is easy to be caught up in the daily work of the world, our ministry, our families, and Jesus can become an abstract ideal to us. However, we need to not fall into Martha’s trap and let our faith become an “it’ll be fixed when we meet God” or “when Jesus returns” type attitude. Jesus is real and alive today, He has the ability to perform great and glorious wonders this very day just as he did in the biblical narrative. We must all search the scriptures, search our hearts and take Martha as an example for us in ministry and developing our faith.
Let us pray together:
Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of Martha of Bethany: Open our hearts to love you, our ears to hear you, and our hands to welcome and serve you in others, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Feast of St James, Apostle and martyr
Reading 1:2 COR 4:7=15
R Psalm:PS 126:1BC=2AB,2 CD=3,4=5,6
Gospel: MT 20:20=28
We all know some people who have very high ambitions. It can range from wanting to win the lottery maybe, or getting a certain perfect job. Maybe a top-class car, a mansion or lots of wealth and possessions. Even in some churches, I have seen those whose only ambition is to become a Bishop, nothing else is good enough for them,the ambition of power and status.
Whilst some ambition is a good thing, if you are setting goals for yourself or for an organisation, it is when our ambition loses its balance and ignores the consequences for others, that ambition can become toxic and corrupt.
We have an example of over ambition in our Gospel reading today from Matthew. James and his brother John, who together with Peter are the three favoured apostles, approached Jesus together with their mother. According to Matthew, it was indeed their mother who asks Jesus to promise her sons would get the highest places in His heavenly Kingdom. Jesus responds directly to James and John and Jesus recognising the possibility of corruption in their ambition, Jesus puts a stop to it by asking them, “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” Without truly understanding what they had agreed to, they replied that they could. Jesus knowing full well what awaited them, concurred with their agreement. Just like a good parent will give their teenage children a realistic picture of what to expect in Adult life, Jesus tells them that indeed they will have much to suffer.
James the Apostle that we celebrate today, became the first Martyr amongst the apostles. Jesus knew that ambition wasn’t a bad thing in itself, and he didn’t wish to extinguish his apostles enthusiasm, indeed it’s an enthusiasm about eternal life, it’s a goal that each and every one of is should indeed have as great things are rarely achieved without both enthusiasm and suffering. Jesus just needed to refocus their ambition, so that they would truly understand not just the goal of eternal life, but also the true nature of the pathway that that is required to achieve this goal. Jesus knowing that the Apostles could possibly succumb to the temptations of personal ambition, gave the Twelve apostles a lecture on power and authority to remind them that authority in the kingdom must not imitate the authority that is ever so present in the world.
Jesus tells them that their role as his apostles =the first shepherds of His church, was not to rule but instead was to serve. Jesus didn’t only tell them to serve only each other and the lowly of the world, but offers himself as an example -revealing to them that he will go so far as to sacrifice his very life for the sake of all humanity. “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many”. Jesus is telling James, John and the other apostles that the ambitious are blessed, but that their ambition must not be driven by self=assertion, but by self=extinction. This message also goes the same for us today, that we always act with Thanksgiving and praise :Thanksgiving because all that we have, all that we are, all that we achieve =all of this is solely given to us by the Grace of God, and praise because all that we do must be for the Glory of God and not for ourselves.
Let us pray :
O Gracious God,
We remember before you today thy servant and Apostle James, the first amongst the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that Spirit of self=denying service by which alone they may have true authority amongst thy people, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.
Today’s Readings, Responsorial Psalm, and Alleluia show us the great comfort in believing and trusting in God.
Contrary to the “fire and brimstone” of some preachers, these words are like the gentle rain that falls from heaven. We can read them over and over as we search for peace and comfort. And they will always comfort us.
In fact, we can search scripture and holy writings for any emotion we are dealing with. And in today’s readings, those emotions cry out for solace and peace. It’s like an extended version of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who morn, for they shall be comforted.”
Sometimes we seek out a church so that we may go in to a holy place and pray for comfort. The familiar surroundings speak to us of love, and they ease our distress. Even when we have a grievous sin on our conscience a church helps to begin the path back to God.
And that’s what today’s readings can do for us, even if we are in able to find a sanctuary.
“…and with much lenience you govern us;…” “and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.”
“You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.”
“Brothers and sisters: the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness:…”
“Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.”
Pretty nice. Comforting. All the readings of this Mass designed to give us hope and consolation.
Isn’t that what Jesus said he would give us? “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Much of the New Testament is a lesson in accepting God, believing he can help us, and turning our whole life over to him and his grace. It is a blueprint for going through this valley of tears in a way that does not destroy us nor leave us alone and afraid.
And then along comes today’s Gospel. Feel a little uneasy? Not sure what the meaning of the parables is?
What about this passage:
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Well. What happened to all that gentleness we had before?
In fact, I was thinking of exactly this subject this week. In last week’s sermon I brought up the seed of God which is in all of us. One thought I left for later was “who are we to judge?” What about those who do evil?
There are some modern theologians who have proposed that there is no hell. That a loving God could not condemn someone to eternal damnation. That there must be a period of cleansing, such as Purgatory, that creates the reckoning, but without the “for ever” business.
But then we have today’s Gospel. Jesus is speaking these words. This is not a description written by an Apostle, these words are memorialized as a direct quote. “Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.”
And evildoers are the weeds, as he explains to his disciples.
This gives me pause. Does it to you?
“Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Just as Hamlet implies, we may all be in for it…
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
St. Thomas More went to his death rather than submit to an arbitrary king because he feared more for his mortal soul. In ages past, people really did believe that there was a hell as well as a heaven, that what we did here on earth would surely follow us to the afterworld and become evidence to be judged by a just God.
How did we lose this sense of righteousness, this idea of accountability? Are we all just here for the moment, then we go to God who will “comfort us in all our trials”? Why do we not fear God’s wrath and why is “fire and brimstone” just a quaint phrase of excitable preachers in tent revivals?
When I was young, the Roman Catholic Mass was in Latin. Then came Vatican II, the free speech movement, the era of peace and love, and a vast housecleaning of all that was taught about leading the life Christ showed us “or else!”… and everything seemed to change.
We don’t talk about consequences. We don’t hold people accountable. We seem to gloss over the idea of retribution. Maybe we’re just pulling the wool over our own eyes.
How many times have I heard “I really do hope there is a hell”? That tells me there is a longing for righteousness, that there is a sense of right and wrong, and that we shouldn’t expect to get away from this life scot-free.
That leaves me still with questions. Faith, hope, and charity are part of our culture. But “hope’ in this case is for a good final outcome. What if part of the meaning of “hope” is that those who mistreat us will get their comeuppance?
I guess we just have to go back to the direct quote of Jesus: “there will be a wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Lord, keep us from sin and error and protect us from the snares of the devil. Help us to trust in you and walk in your ways. And give us peace.
+In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, the Protectress of The Order of Preachers.
She has a special place in the history of the church as Mary Magdalene is honored as one of the first witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus, and received a special commission from him to tell the Apostles of his resurrection. It is for that reason that in Orthodox and Catholic tradition she is referred to as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”
I would today like to look at her in the light of one verse from 2 Cor 5:17.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
When Mary met Jesus, she was a new woman. But what was the old Mary like?
We first come across Mary Magdalene as the woman out of whom Jesus drove seven demons (Lk 8:1-3). St Luke records this as follows: “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another. The Twelve were with him, also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out—and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. (Lk 8:1-3)
She was obviously well off and supported Jesus in his ministry.
It was only at the end of the sixth century that it was first suggested that she was a prostitute
It was in Pope Gregory the Great’s homily on Luke’s gospel, dated 14 September 59, that he said this about Mary, “She, whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts.”(homily XXXIII)
Anyone know what unguent is?
An “unguent” is a semi solid paste – a bit like ointment.
Whether or not she really was a prostitute, we don’t know, but we do know that when she met Jesus her life was changed forever. We can relate to how Mary felt when her life was transformed by Jesus, as Jesus has that same effect on each and every one of us.
She is called Mary Magdalene to distinguish her from the other three Marys mentioned in the Gospel, possibly even four.
- i) Mary the mother of Jesus,
- ii) Mary the mother of James and Joses and
iii) Mary Salome the mother of the sons of Zebedee
And possibly she is also distinguished from Mary of Bethany, Martha and Lazarus’s sister – though some scholars think Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are one and the same.
She is Mary from the village of Magdala, which means in Aramaic,“a tower.” And what a “tower of strength” she was to the early Christian Community! She is the first to meet the risen Lord – and it was this meeting that transformed her from a frightened woman to a tower of strength. Uniquely, she is a witness to Jesus death, burial and the empty tomb.
It is said of Mary: Mary’s role as a witness is unusual because women at that time were not considered credible witnesses in legal proceedings. Because of this, and because of extra-biblical traditions about her subsequent missionary activity in spreading the Gospel, she is known by the title, “Equal of the Apostles”.
Through Jesus, Mary’s life was transformed. Our lives too can be totally transformed by Christ if we let Him into our hearts and live as new creatures in Christ Jesus!
Let me tell you a little story:
A few years ago, a clergy friend and mentor of mine knew of some personal struggles I was having and gave me a book entitled, “Loving Mercy.” He assured me reading this book would be an answer to my prayers. I thanked him and to be totally honest, I placed the book on my bookshelf at home and didn’t crack it open for a long time. Then one evening when I was feeling utterly overwhelmed by life, I happened to come across that book and I started to read it. It’s a book about how encountering Christ should transform us to care for others. In it, I found this fascinating story of Judson Cornwall, an American Pentecostal preacher who, after the war, was invited to speak at a renewal conference in Germany.
Let me quote you a little from that book:
“Remarkably, when his wife emptied the bin, she spotted the invitation, pressed it out and put it on his desk again. It haunted him for days as he shuffled around it. Finally, the Spirit won and he reluctantly agreed to go.
Arriving in Germany he was not relieved of his dis-ease and the Conference center turned out to be in the former headquarters of the SS, Hitler’s elite guard, which aroused all sorts of images and old hatreds in him. He spent two days before the conference praying and fasting and preparing – and avoiding the Germans.
On the first night of the Conference he went down to speak and took Umbrage at his translator, a somewhat stereotypical Aryan Ueberfrau – giant, buxom, blonde hair in a bun.
He spat out his sermon, so it was no surprise that it was badly delivered, badly received and died a death.
He returned to his room and decided to go back to America the next day. Full of humiliation and emotion he cried himself to sleep. In the night, he awoke to demons screaming in his mind; “You don’t belong here! You have no authority here! Go home! Experienced in spiritual warfare, Cornwall recognized the attack and figured it had to do with the demonic history of the SS in the building, and immediately rebuked the demons in Jesus’ name.
Three times the demonic voices woke him; three times he rebuked them.
After the third time, he got up and asked God what was happening and why his prayers weren’t sufficient and the demons kept returning.
The Lord spoke immediately:
“The demons are tormenting you because you really don’t have any authority here. You have no authority here because you don’t love these people. Your authority to minister is related to your love for those to whom you minister. Now you can go on hating these people, pack up and go home tomorrow or you can let me love them through you.”
Cornwall acknowledged his deep racism and prejudice. Too embarrassed to go home, he confessed his sin and asked God to love through him the Germans who he loathed. He knew he needed a miracle of grace. Immediately he was overwhelmed by the Spirit of God and filled with Christ’s love for the Germans. Having spent two days avoiding the Germans and refusing to eat with them, he could not wait for breakfast. He rushed downstairs to the queue for the breakfast and greeted and hugged everyone in the food line.
When he got to his translator he gave her a big kiss and hugged her. Immediately she pulled back and barked: “You hate us!”
“No, no”, he replied “That was yesterday, today I love you!”
Judson Cornwall preached that morning and the power of God was on his words.
At the end of the sermon there was a huge line of people wanting to speak with him personally, something he usually avoided, but he sensed God wanted him to be attentive to the people individually.
One by one, people came and thanked him for helping them to forgive the Americans, whether because they had lost loved ones in combat against them or in the bombing raids.
Cornwall saw pain and resentment cut both ways…but the obedience to the Spirit of Christ heals historic hurts and unites us in the love of God” (p.22-24 Loving Mercy : Simon Ponsonby)
It is our choice how we respond to Jesus. We should follow the example of Mary Magdalene who was transformed from a sinner to a saint. Mary Magdalene shows us that no one is too bad for the grace of God. You might ask, “How can I be a saint?”
St Paul addresses the Ephesian Church with these words:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God to the SAINTS who are in Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 1:1)
A Saint is simply someone who is sanctified – who has set himself or herself apart for follow God.
And we won’t always get it right as Judson Cornwall found out. But God will guide us in the right way, if we are willing to allow him to do so.
On this day of the Feast of St Mary Magdalene, may I challenge you that, as saints, you are ready to allow God to change you into the person He wants you to be.
Just as He did with St Mary Magdalene.
A couple of months ago I was visiting a friend from my college days. I had an enjoyable time with him and his wife, and we also participated in our College Glee Club’s annual spring concert: alumni are always invited at the end of the concert to sing some college songs and the Alma Mater. A marvelous evening, both musically and socially!
The next day, since my friend is very involved in the Society of Friends, we went to Quaker Meeting. Quaker Meeting, for those of you who might not know, is their equivalent of the Mass, with a mighty difference: there is very little talking…sometimes none…and no ritual, liturgy, hymns, or sermon. Quakers sit “expectantly waiting.” It is not a time for thinking or remembering the worldly distractions of the past week. It is not a time for intellectual exercises. It is a time to “come with mind and heart prepared,” to bring “neither a determination to speak nor a determination to remain silent.” If one is moved to speak, one ought to speak, because it may be the word of God moving in you.
So as I sat there, I began wondering what I was doing as an Old Catholic, and especially as a Dominican. It was a serious question, and I had no answer in those moments. So I prayed, and I asked for guidance in my mission.
And then my friend stood, moved by that still, small voice within, and began what is known as “spoken ministry.” He was worrying about the turmoil in the world today and what to do about those whom he felt were acting against others’ best interests, leading them, and us, down a sad and perilous path. “How do I react to them?” he said. “How do I love them, as I should?”
He went on to talk about an article he had just read, “The Seed of God” by Elizabeth Bathurst. In the article, he read that we all have the seed of God within us. With some, it is ignored or deliberately left untended. Others recognize it and cultivate it. But that seed is in everyone…it is from, and of, God.
And so, how can we condemn someone we think is doing harm? How can we censure them? If “that of God” is within them, who are we to judge?
I wasn’t moved to think about the answer to that question, but about the answer to my prayers…guidance in my mission.
There it was.
First, let’s look back at today’s first reading. “My word…shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” And then look at the Responsorial Psalm: “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” And the second reading that talks about creation, harvest, first fruits.
All of these horticultural references. And that comment I once heard: “God doesn’t call the prepared, God prepares the called.”
My mission. Our mission as friars and sisters in the Order of Preachers. That morning, God was cultivating his seed within me, tending, watering, nurturing.
Now comes today’s Gospel: A sower went out to sow.
Let me tell you that I was not sure how to present this experience I had at Quaker Meeting. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Should I write an article? Should I talk it over with our Prior? What do I do with it.
And then I was assigned the sermon for the 15th Sunday of Kingdomtide. “A sower went out to sow.”
Jesus has already told me what my mission is. I was called, and, as he has done time and time again, God is preparing me. (I must admit here I’m a pretty hard row to hoe…) God is telling me once again that my mission is, as he often says, to go out into the fields and work for the harvest.
I’m a farmer of souls. God has sown the seed in all of us, and I am called once again, to tend it, to water it, to cultivate the soil in which it lies, to fertilize, prune, and then to harvest the yield. I am a farmer in the fields of the Lord.
Aren’t we all just farmers? In our Order, we are proclaimers of the Word. But to proclaim effectively we must first till the ground and cultivate the seed of God that is already planted.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says that the seed of God is given to all. Some ignore it, some reject it, some are not even aware that it is there. But for those who hear the word of God and understand it the yield is a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
As I sat in Quaker Meeting I was being prepared for this Sunday’s sermon. I was shown that there is a seed in all of us. I was shown that there are garden tools in the shed. I was shown the fertilizer and the ground to fertilize. I am called to help those whose seed is on rocky ground, among thorns, threatened to be devoured by negative forces.
And still God prepares me. Because in the face of such a daunting task, who am I to help bring in such a harvest? I have been called, and I am still, and probably always, being prepared to go out into the fields.
- Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will have life forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Lord, in your mercy, bless our eyes and our ears that we may receive your word and understand it. Bless our path to the fields of the harvest. And bless our work to deliver the harvest to you, who live and reign with God and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.