Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Peregrine and Sebastian in Gevgelija, Republic of Macedonia, Europe in the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Beloved family and friends, beloved sisters and brothers in Christ our Lord and Redeemer, in today’s mass readings from Deuteronomy, Hebrews and Gospel according to Saint evangelist Mark, I will try to give my little brief of how the Holy Scriptures reflect this to us as ultimate truth for understanding better the meaning and the message, and for our daily devotional spiritual food.
We read here “days…prolonged, Moses’ concern is that successive generations maintain the obedience to God’s laws that ensures life and prosperity, in 6:3 : a land flowing with milk and honey: a description that includes the richness of the land which the Israelites were soon to possess, in 6:4 has become the Jewish confession of faith, recited twice daily by the devout, the intent of these words was to give a clear statement of the truth of the monotheism, that there is only one God. The most important passage is that those commandments in 6:6 shall today be on our hearts. Such a beautiful message, inspirational, and we have to give that to our children, in our family members. Since the relationship such as this of love for God could not be represented in any material way as with idols, if had to be demonstrated in obedience go God’s law in daily life.
In the epistle of St. apostle Paul to the Hebrews we read: “also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them, that mean that by the authority invested to them the priests in the old testament , after the establishment of the Mosaic law, the Levitical priests collected tithes from their fellow Israelites, and the submission was not to honor the priest but to honor the law of Moses. Melchizedek not only received a tithe from Abraham , but he also blessed him, and this prove Melchizedek superiority and another superiority is that of our Lord Christ’s divine and holy character as proof for superiority of His priesthood. In 7:26 in His relationship with God , Christ is holy , he is harmless without evil or malice, in relationship with himself He is undefiled, free of contamination, separate from sinners, He had no sinful nature, which will be source for any act of sin, so He is without sin , higher that heaven, how marvelous is to have such a priest, and we have to watch as in daily mirror to put these words in our heart, and to be faithful in daily attendance of mass, where alter Christus the priest is offer his daily sacrifice in the Holy Mass.
In the Mark’s gospel we read that vinedressers were greedy because they wanted the entire harvest and the vineyard for themselves and would stop at nothing to achieve that end , they plotted to kill the owner’s son. Because Jesus had achieved such a following, the Jewish leaders believed only the way to maintain their position and power over the people was to kill Jesus.
The owner of the vineyard will execute the vinedressers, thus serving as a prophesy to the destruction of Jerusalem. So also another attribute, prophet, for Jesus King, Prophet and Priest.
According to Matthew if I can little include this verdict was echoed by the chief priests, scribes, and elders, Matthew 21:41 “give the vineyard to other” those others dear beloved family and friends are all of us the Gentiles, , this was fulfilled in the establishment of Christ’s church and its leaders who were most Gentiles. In Mark 12:10 the stone which the builders rejected, those builders that typically rejected stones until they found one perfectly straight in lines that could serve as the cornerstone, that is critical for the stability of the building. So here Jesus is metaphor He Himself is the stone, the builders were the Jewish religious leaders rejected Him, as crucified Him. But the resurrected Christ is the cornerstone, and the chief priests, scribes and elders were completely aware that Christ was condemning their actions, but it only aroused their hatred, not their repentance.
So what we learned from today’s Gospel? We can be servants as the stones that support the cornerstone, to be bold, and steady to the end, always confession our Lord, if we want to be recognized from Him in Heaven as his family, so don’t be afraid to make the proper sign of the cross in public, or before you eat in public restaurant, when we usually pray, we always have to be not people who hide privately the faith, that’s not what Jesus would do.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
As you know I live in Serbia (Balkan). In my country there is something interesting related to the practice of receiving gifts and that is showing excessive gratefulness for every single thing that we get. Even a small one. I think this is similar culture and in N. Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro. People feel a bit uncomfortable when receiving gifts. This phenomenon dates back to many periods when people were very poor and had to literally sacrifice a lot to get a small regular gift for someone. The thing that we may often experience while giving gift to a Yugoslav person is hearing many times ”thank you”, but we should not be surprised if we get some other gift back in order to show thankfulness. This culture is specific for this part of the world. Why I started this sermon with talking about gifts getting practice in my country is related to what I read in today`s Bible reading. This inspired me thinking about the salvation that we get as a free gift. And while meditating on that I found out that people somehow feel uncomfortable with getting the gift of salvation. Seems that we often would like to add a bit of our own deeds or our own sacrifice to the most holy sacrifice that Jesus did for the sake of the forgiveness of all sins ever. In Hebrews 5:1-6 we read:
”Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. ”And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.””
Here we read that Jesus is a priest forever. We can see that in the past Israel people had many priests, one of them was Aaron who had that honor to bring many sacrifices to God. But when the time came, it was clear that human deeds, human sacrifices and all the goodness that a single human could provide was never enough to please God and to cover sins of a fallen human. There had to be a perfect sacrifice, a spotless lamb and that was Jesus.
Of course today we have bishops, priests, deacons as it was founded by apostles and we can learn a lot of all those brothers and sisters, but only Jesus is the one who saved us by grace through His mercy. In Serbia and neighbor countries people bring big bouquets of expensive flowers, they buy and bring to Christian temples expensive candles made of purest bee wax and bring many gifts to the churches which sometimes look to me (as a person looking from aside) that they believe they could add something to salvation and they can add their own gifts to the perfect gift of Jesus` sacrifice.
We sometimes fast, sometimes pray to saints and Holy Mary (to assist us in prayer to God and to pray for us) and we try to live morally and to be good people as a result of being saved by grace, by faith in Jesus and all that he has done for us. Holy Eucharist is here to remind us on the Sacrifice of Jesus. All these things are necessary and they are good but what is not God is having fear of our loving God which would lead us to depression and feeling that we will never be saved. Nowadays I also read that some number of people (so called anti-vaxers) are afraid of anti-covid 19 vaccines that billions of people have received and are receiving for almost a year. They believe that there is some satanic chip in the vaccine and that if they get it they may lose Christ and they may lose the salvation. I met many Christians in several denominations believing in these conspiracy theories and I really feel sad about that.
So today I wanted to share that as Christians we should know that God is our father and he is not some scary god who is willing to put us all in hell and who is calculating our sins. Christianity is about joy, spiritual joy of saved people. It is about feeling saved, feeling safe and feeling that God will always be here with us and for us. With all that lightening candles, incense, praying with rosary, giving charity and all other activities we do can make our lives much happier. We cannot earn salvation and all the things we do should be the result of previously being saved. And remember that it was written you are saved by grace it was not written you become perfect and sinless. Unfortunately we will make some sins in the future and during our lives. And yes we should always repent and try not to repeat them. But please don`t feel lost and depressed because of that.
From time to time we might feel week and sinful or we may feel that God is far away from us. This is all normal and in this situation we should not doubt in the gift of salvation. We all experience ups and downs, but our salvation was given as a gift when we gave our hearts to Jesus. What I would also like to emphasize here is the importance of prayer. The prayer is always powerful. Especially when we fall in sins it is very useful to pray. Or if you feel in a bad mood ask your Christian brother and sister to pray for you, ask Holy Mary, or some saint or holy angels to pray for you and with you. Jesus hears your prayer, he knows how you feel and he knows what situation are you in at the moment. He will listen.
In today`s Gospel we also read the story when Jesus healed blind man in Jericho. Mark 10:46-52
“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”
As many times in Bible, Jesus emphasizes the importance of faith. Here we should remember these words: ”your faith has healed you”. Every time when we ask for something we should have faith. Jesus did not tell him ”your gifts given to the local church, expensive flowers and candles, Greek expensive incense and the money you donated has healed you”. He simply stated that the faith is what he counted. Because our God is God of Mercy. I pray today for all of us to have faith and to be thankful for the mercy that God is giving us. Amen.
I must admit that when I read the Gospel for today, my first reaction was, “Oh no!” This is one of the more misinterpreted and argued about reading in all the religious world. It has the disastrous effect of making many wiggle uneasily in their seats while others settle back into theirs in self-righteousness.
Neither answer is right. One of the purposes of Christianity is, after all, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Here we have chance to do both.
To the comfortable, let us remind each other that in God’s sight no sin is greater than the other. Sexual sin is not worse than any other, despite what the media might have us believe. Just because we may be stronger in an area to prevent one sin does not make us better than our Christian brother or sister who is not. And for some pride or vindictive actions could be your cross. Remember – God is displeased with the proud but gives grace to the humble. There, but for the grace of God, go I.
To the stricken, those of us who struggle uncomfortably in our seats, let me say something very important: God loves you. He knows that you are divorced, and he loves you. Divorce is not one of the unforgivable sins.
I’m going to repeat myself because there are many, and I’m sad to say, particularly in the church, who will oppose this message. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin.
God in his great mercy can forgive all sins, including those that cause divorce. So, if you are divorced, know that God still loves you. (Remember everyone sins and if you’re not divorced you have another one).
In fact, I’m going to say something, and some will not agree: Divorce is not a sin. Now before you get upset and walk out and never return take a minute and listen. I am not condoning divorce. Divorce is horrible. I’ve been through it. It’s really, ugly. I’m not saying for one instant that divorce is anything less than terrible and outside of God’s will. But not, itself, a sin.
It’s the result of sin. And that’s different. It is not sin in the same way that going to jail is not crime. It is the result of a crime.
I have worked in the jail and been in and out taking people there for various reasons. God created a world where there was no need for jails or prisons, and there will be none in heaven. But we live in a fallen world and because of free will there is a need for jails. Being in jail itself is not sin, what you did was the sin. Ending up in jail was the result of sin. In the same way, I would argue, divorce itself is not sin. The little things or the dozen huge things that caused the marriage to fall apart were the problem. Divorce was the consequence.
Let’s make sure we base our thinking on what the Bible says about divorce, not what we think it says. We don’t have time right now to examine all the verses, but I would recommend that you take time to do a careful study. And it may surprise you. (It surprises me every time.)
Throughout the Bible you will see a repeat. In Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Ezekiel, divorce is cited in a matter-of-fact way, as something that happens, with no judgement. In Isaiah and Jeremiah, it is the faithlessness that causes divorce that is rebuked. In Malachi 2 God says he deplores divorce and I totally agree. If you read the entire chapter, you know that God is referring to the sin. Divorce is the result of the transgression, and it’s the transgression that is the result.
In the New Testament, Jesus has strong teaching about divorce. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, its repeated so we know it’s important. But look carefully. Jesus does not say “don’t get divorced”. Really, he doesn’t. He is, however, very clear about the seriousness of divorce. In the rest of the verses, he restates Gods original purpose for marriage, as a life-long union; not something to be dismissed when troublesome or when someone more intriguing comes along.
You may know that it was a common practice in the days of the New Testament to allow divorce on the most unimportant of grounds, based on Deuteronomy 24, and that’s what Jesus is criticizing against in today’s reading. Jesus is stressing that marriage is a serious commitment and not to be taken, or ended, lightly. He’s differing treating marriage like the latest phone, which you can swap when the next model comes out, instead of like a heart pacemaker, which is supposed to be with you for life.
Jesus acknowledged, however, that there are times when divorce is the less of two evils in an imperfect world. Which would you rather face, an earthquake or a volcano? The debris from that earthquake smashes families and hits friends, hurts children and wrecks relationships for years and years – even when we have confessed and been forgiven. But sometimes in real life we have a choice between bad and worse. And God knows this. We don’t live in Eden anymore. Divorce is never part of God’s plan for the best, but so is much of life. And God is bigger than any of our messes and bad decisions.
So, is divorce always bad? Yes. Always bad. Is it sin? I would say it is the result of sin, and God, in his incomprehensible mercy, forgives sin.
If you are living with the pain of broken marriage, firstly, I understand. You are not alone in this. Secondly. God understands. Really, he does. He knows all the hidden bits of you and still loves you. Let that sink in. Try reading Ps 51 or Ps 139 and tell your Loving Lord all the nasty stuff. He knows it anyway, so you won’t shock him. Then let his forgiveness wash you clean for a fresh start.
We often think of guardian angels as a special angel only for children, but the truth is that we all have a guardian angel for our entire lives. Our angels are a gift from God. They watch over us, aid us in prayer, enlighten us, guide us and protect us. Angels are mentioned in both the Old and New Testament and many saints have had visions of their guardian angels. We can hope that our Guardian Angel will help us during our journey to eternal happiness in Heaven. The Feast of the Guardian Angels is celebrated on October 2nd. Although Guardian Angels have been venerated since the early days of the Church, it wasn’t until the 17th century that Pope Clement X extended the feast day to the universal Church. It comes just two days after the Feast of the Archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael.
On this Feast of the Guardian Angels in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI said,“Dear friends, the Lord is always near and active in human history, and follows us with the unique presence of His angels, that today the Church venerates as ‘Guardian,’ in other words those who minister God’s care for every man. From the beginning until death human life is surrounded by their constant protection.”
It is an established Catholic belief that each individual person has their own guardian angel assigned to watch over their soul. There are three important verses in the Catholic Bible from which this belief is drawn:
Psalm 90:11: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Matthew 18:10: “See that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”
Hebrews 1:14: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?”
These verses have led St. Jerome, one of our early Church Fathers, to conclude, “How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” Many others wrote about our guardian angels, including St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, and St. Thomas Aquinas. According to Aquinas, our guardian angels have a good influence over us, but they cannot control our free will. Guardian angels influence or guide us by acting upon our intellect through our senses and our imagination. When they do this, they are influencing our will to do good and avoid evil. So really, their job is to help you get to heaven. Thus guardian angels do not control us by any means, but they do greatly assist us in finding and doing God’s will. Our guardian angels are also able to protect us from danger as well as assist us in prayer and meditation on the divine things of God.
We don’t only have the Scriptures and the Early Fathers of the Church who tell us about our Guardian Angels. We also have the saints, some of which actually witnessed their guardian angel in action. In many cases their Guardian Angel was visible to them. These include St. Padre Pio, who could see his guardian angel, which would often send him on special missions; St. Faustina Kowalska, whose Guardian Angel accompanied her to observe the pains of the Holy Souls in Purgatory; and St. Gemma Galgani, to name a few. St. Gemma Galgani wrote much about her Guardian Angel in her autobiography, including this account:
“One evening, when I was suffering more than usual, I was complaining to Jesus and telling him that I would not have prayed so much if I had known that He was not going to cure me, and I asked Him why I had to be sick this way. My angel answered me as follows: ‘If Jesus afflicts you in your body, it is always to purify you in your soul. Be good.’”
Ask yourself this question today: How is my relationship with my guardian angel? Do I listen to him? Do I say good morning to him in the morning? Do I ask him: Watch over me when I sleep?’ Do I speak with him? Do I ask his advice? He is by my side. We can answer this question today, each of us: How is our relationship with this angel that the Lord has sent to watch over me and accompany me on my journey, and who always sees the face of the Father who is in heaven?” So, today is the day to tell your guardian angel “Thank You” for their daily guidance, and to show gratitude to God for assigning a powerful heavenly protector for your personal care. It is also a good time to make the resolution to pray to your Guardian Angel daily as our Holy Father admonishes us.
As St. Bernard of Clairvoux plainly states in his sermon:
“‘He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways’. These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence; respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection. And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you.
But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need. So let us be devoted and grateful to such great protectors; let us return their love and honor them as much as we can and should. Yet all our love and honor must go to Him, for it is from Him that they receive all that makes them worthy of our love and respect. Even though we are children and have a long, a very long and dangerous way to go, with such protectors what have we to fear? They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray. They are always loyal, prudent, and powerful.
Guardian Angel Novena:
Loving God, you are so good that you gave me a Guardian Angel to protect my body and my soul. Help me to know and follow my angel so that, with their guidance, I will be worthy of being in Heaven with You!
My sweet Guardian Angel, you are my defender every day of my life. Protect me from sin and bodily harm. Help me to learn to defend and protect myself so that I can be the person that God is calling me to be.
You are with me all the time so you already know these my intentions that I ask you to deliver to the Lord. (Mention your intentions here…)
My guardian angel, my defender, protect me!
The liturgy celebrates the feast of these three archangels who are venerated in the tradition of the Church. Of the seven archangels, only three are named in Scripture. Michael (Who is like God?) was the archangel who fought against Satan and all his evil angels, defending all the friends of God. He is the protector of all humanity from the snares of the devil. Gabriel (Strength of God) announced to Zachariah the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary, the birth of Jesus. His greeting to the Virgin, “Hail, full of grace,” is one of the most familiar and frequent prayers of the Christian people. Raphael (Medicine of God) is the archangel who took care of Tobias on his journey.
Angels are pure, created spirits. The name angel means servant or messenger of God. Angels are celestial or heavenly beings, on a higher order than human beings. Angels have no bodies and do not depend on matter for their existence or activity. They are distinct from saints, which men can become. Angels have intellect and will, and are immortal. They are a vast multitude, but each is an individual person. Archangels are one of the nine choirs of angels listed in the Bible. In ascending order, the choirs or classes are 1) Angels, 2) Archangels, 3) Principalities, 4) Powers, 5) Virtues, 6) Dominations, 7) Thrones, 8) Cherubim, and 9) Seraphim.
The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew, who is like unto God? and he is also known as “the prince of the heavenly host.” He is usually pictured as a strong warrior, dressed in armor and wearing sandals. St. Michael the Archangel is mentioned more than any other angel in the Bible. His name appears in Scripture four times, twice in the Book of Daniel, and once each in the Epistle of St. Jude and the Book of Revelation. From Revelation we learn of the battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels combatting Lucifer and the other fallen angels (or devils). We invoke St. Michael to help us in our fight against Satan; to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of the Jews in the Old Testament and now Christians; and to bring souls to judgment.
This day is referred to as “Michaelmas” in many countries and is also one of the harvest feast days. In England this is one of the “quarter days”, which was marked by hiring servants, electing magistrates, and beginning of legal and university terms. This day also marks the opening of the deer and other large game hunting season. In some parts of Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, and Austria, a special wine called “Saint Michael’s Love” (Michelsminne) is drunk on this day. The foods for this day vary depending on nationality. In the British Isles, for example, goose was the traditional meal for Michaelmas, eaten for prosperity, France has waffles or Gaufres and the traditional fare in Scotland used to be St. Michael’s Bannock (Struan Micheil) — a large, scone-like cake. In Italy, gnocchi is the traditional fare.
Patron: Against temptations; against powers of evil; artists; bakers; bankers; battle; boatmen; cemeteries; coopers; endangered children; dying; Emergency Medical Technicians; fencing; grocers; hatmakers; holy death; knights; mariners; mountaineers; paramedics; paratroopers; police officers; radiologists; sailors; the sick; security forces; soldiers; against storms at sea; swordsmiths; those in need of protection; Brussels, Belgium; Caltanissett, Sicily; Cornwall, England; Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee Florida; England; Germany; Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama; Papua, New Guinea; Puebla, Mexico; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Sibenik, Croatia; Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington; Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Symbols: Angel with wings; dressed in armour; lance and shield; scales; shown weighing souls; millstone; piercing dragon or devil; banner charged with a dove; symbolic colors orange or gold.
Prayer: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
St. Gabriel’s name means “God is my strength”. Biblically he appears three times as a messenger. He had been sent to Daniel to explain a vision concerning the Messiah. He appeared to Zachary when he was offering incense in the Temple, to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. St. Gabriel is most known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation, to announce to mankind the mystery of the Incarnation.
The angel’s salutation to our Lady, so simple and yet so full of meaning, Hail Mary, full of grace, has become the constant and familiar prayer of all Christian people.
Patron: Ambassadors; broadcasting; childbirth; clergy; communications; diplomats; messengers; philatelists; postal workers; public relations; radio workers; secular clergy; stamp collectors; telecommunications; Portugal; Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington.
Symbols: Archangel; sceptre and lily; MR or AM shield; lantern; mirror; olive branch; scroll with words Ave Maria Gratia Plena; Resurrection trumpet; shield; spear; lily; symbolic colors, silver or blue.
Prayer to St. Gabriel:
O Blessed Archangel Gabriel, we beseech thee, do thou intercede for us at the throne of divine Mercy in our present necessities, that as thou didst announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, so through thy prayers and patronage in heaven we may obtain the benefits of the same, and sing the praise of God forever in the land of the living. Amen.
Our knowledge of the Archangel Raphael comes to us from the book of Tobit. His mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveller with the youthful Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda. His name means “God has healed”.
Patron: Blind; bodily ills; counselors; druggists; eye problems; guardian angels; happy meetings; healers; health inspectors; health technicians; love; lovers; mental illness; nurses; pharmacists; physicians; shepherds; against sickness; therapists; travellers; young people; young people leaving home for the first time; Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa; Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington.
Symbols: Staff; wallet and fish; staff and gourd; archangel; young man carrying a staff; young man carrying a fish; walking with Tobias; holding a bottle or flask; symbolic colors, gray or yellow.
Prayer to St. Gabriel:
O Raphael, lead us towards those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us! Raphael, Angel of happy meetings, lead us by the hand towards those we are looking for! May all our movements, all their movements, be guided by your light and transfigured by your Joy.
Angel guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled face you are privileged to gaze. Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of earth, we feel the need of calling to you and of pleading for the protection of your wings, so that we may not be as strangers in the province of Joy, all ignorant of the concerns of our country.
Remember the weak, you who are strong–you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene, and bright with the resplendent glory of God.
Collect: O God, who dispose in marvelous order ministries both angelic and human, graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us as they minister perpetually to you 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.
THE DOMINICAN HERMITAGE & ORATORY OF STS SEBASTIAN AND PEREGRINE in GEVGELIJA, MACEDONIA, EUROPE
Dear brothers and sister, reading today’s Gospel of Mark about our carnal temptations through the parables of expression of our Lord Jesus Christ, made me think first of myself.
What an example I am to the people that surround me, my relatives, neighbors, grocery people, my virtual friends, my close members of the family and my cousins .
Where is at first my own integrity when I have to appear to the sanctity throne on the foot of our home altars, going through the long time , many months in spiritual desert, negative overthinking thoughts that eat us from inside.
Jesus is very practical in his words of the example to cut that what stop us to walk in to the path of sanctity, our spiritual eyes, our spiritual hands, and our carnal hands, cut, not in the literal words to butcher and destroy our bodies, but turning our direction to a different way, if I so much make sins through my hands, than I would need the two hands to unite in prayer, if my eyes makes me to make a sin through seeing , than I might open the Holy Scripture, and read the holy sentences, just to distract with positive practices that will benefit in our future life.
Today we live in a world too modern, but we have to nourish ourselves into these words, our tradition, if we search and collect from the source of the truth, then we will be like the wise virgins who had enough oil to welcome the long-waited bridegroom.
I just want that parable to include in today’s Gospel readings in gospel of St Mark, chapter 9.
I am not example for sure, I am already buried in my daily burdens of this valley of tears, I do sins, I am too carnal too, and this words today speak for myself, that I have to make my first step to the foot of the altar and begging God to be merciful on me sinner, to give me renewed strength and brave heart to start overcoming the stumbling rocks that I need to jump.
We need to make effort for the sin, God have to see our initiative, we can’t overcome by ourselves , but our effort to sweat and give blood, and God will give us his grace when he sees our faithfulness.
So cut your hands , eyes, and feet that walks to sin , transforms same parts of your body for the Gods holy act of work for the salvation of the mankind,
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen
The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski OPI
Today we commemorate Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist. I will start this sermon with today’s reading from the Gospel. Let us remember who was Saint Matthew and how Lord’s calling of Matthew into holy service happened. We can read that in: Matthew 9:9-13.
”As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
As we see in this paragraph Saint Matthew was the same ordinary human as we are. He was a sinner and he was sitting with tax collectors and other sinners. He was not super religious nor extra moral. However Jesus chose him to be one of His apostles. I remember the time when I was younger at my early 20ies when I was an orthodox novice. Many people in the local church are doing their best to maintain extra moral life. They don’t smoke cigarettes (or shisha), they don’t drink alcohol. Even not a single beer in the hot summer day. They wear clothes covering their entire body even in the summer. They try to represent themselves as super Christians. With no sin at all. But I remember that they were usually judging others who were not that super-visibly religious. After I grew a bit older and started attending local Protestant churches’ services I remember the same or similar situation. Many people were trying to show how Jesus acts in their life. They were trying to represent themselves physically as super-Christians. The biggest sin in their point of view was smoking cigarette or drinking alcohol. Other than that, going out or going to the party with your friends was another so called sin that people should hide in the church. As a result I remember that very small number of church members were youngsters. Usually older people were going to those churches. This people looks like modern Pharisees. They display so called righteousness. They don’t drink or go to the disco, they don’t smoke, and they dress up in a modest and humble way covering their entire body. Women do not use make up or not a lot of it considering that to be the sin but they are the first to judge people who do go to the disco, or smoke, or drink beer, or girls wearing short skirts, or Christians who do not talk about Jesus non-stop and as a result those people who are aware that we are ’sinners’, we feel unwanted in those churches. We do not feel love and acceptance. And what Jesus told Pharisees is the same that He is saying and today through The Bible –
‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’
Through the example of Saint Matthew we can learn that there is not a stage ’good enough’ for Jesus that we have to reach in order to be Christian. He does not expect us to be super-sinless Christians who will by our own deeds show that we are saved. This is why we are saved by grace. Some Christians believe that they should earn their own salvation or justify it by doing deeds in their own effort. I advise them let us leave the Holly Spirit complete it in us. We are saved by grace as Jesus said and we cannot earn it.
Another story that we read on this day answers the question that Hypocrites would now probably ask: Does it mean that because we are saved by grace only we can now do what we want? The answer is NO! And we will take a look at Ephesians 4:1-7 and Ephesians 4:11-13. The first paragraph talks about the Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ.
”As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. ”
Here we can see that the emphasis is not on the way we look. If we dress up like this or like that, if we have a tattoo, if we smoke a cigar or drink vodka. If we don`t use make up, face cream, or even deodorant. Here the emphasis is on the way that we treat others. It was written ”Be gentile and humble, be patient, bearing with one another in love”. And these are the things that Christians should do. Look at the last sentence here, saying each one of us grace has been given. This was said in order to prevent what is happening in many churches today. It seems that people mistakenly interpret such paragraphs in a way that we must do some deeds to earn or justify our own salvation. What we actually need to do is –TO LOVE. The biggest commandment is Love God and Love people. I pray that today we all put our focus on love and rejoice in Salvation that we received as a gift by grace through Lord’s mercy. And remember that we are not all the same in the church. In addition to the paragraph mentioned above it is written:
”Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
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.
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.
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