Category: Lesson

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

Reading 1: JER 15:10, 16-21

Responsorial Psalm: 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18

Gospel: JN 11:19-27

Liturgical colour: White.

 

Today, we come together to celebrate The Memorial of St Martha.

Let us begin by looking at what the Holy Gospel is telling us today?

 

JN 11:19-27

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.”

 

The feeling of Sorrow and grief is that dark feeling of trauma and distress that comes to us all after experiencing a loss or tragedy. Such an experience can often be all consuming. As children of God, our hearts ought to be filled with a genuine sense of compassion and care for our troubled brother or sister in their times of suffering and pain. We ought to love them (Rom. 12:10), cry with them (Rom. 12:15) and pray for them (James 5:13).

We have all felt this grief of loss of a dear loved one at some point in our lives. I personally have experienced it so many times. So, we can imagine exactly how Mary and Martha were feeling and the  painful heavy grief atmosphere that they were experiencing within their family home. We can also understand their deep yearning that their dear brother would’ve been cured of his illness before it came to the point of his death.

 

In today’s Holy Gospel, we can clearly see a demonstration of the care Jesus showed toward Mary and Martha in the midst of their grief. When it comes to the death of God’s people the Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

 

The loss of a loved one naturally produces much grief and anguish within our hearts. When Martha, the sister of Lazarus and a close friend of Jesus, heard that Jesus was coming to pay his respects for the loss of Lazarus who had by then been dead for 4 days, she immediately went out to meet him before he could get to her house. What was it which compelled Martha to leave their home where Lazarus lay in death in order to seek Jesus out?  I personally believe the reason could well have been two=fold in nature. I believe the companionship and consolation of her dear friend who also loved her brother deeply was one reason, as was that Martha recognized in Jesus the hope that God would restore life.

Martha, like many Jews, believed in the eternal life to come. The loss of her brother did not diminish her hope in the resurrection in the least. She even gently chides Jesus for not coming soon enough to save her brother Lazarus from his untimely death. Jesus does something unexpected and remarkable with  the intention of both strengthening her faith and  hope in the life to come and also to give her a sign of what he was to accomplish through his own death and resurrection. Jesus gave to her belief a new and profound meaning: He came from the Father to defeat all sin and death for us and to restore life to all who believe in him.

 

Jesus states unequivocally that he himself is the Resurrection and the Life. The life he offers is abundant – life which comes from God the Father himself. And also gives everlasting life – the fullness of life which is without end. Do we truly seek that abundant and eternal life which Jesus offers to all who believe in him?

 

“Lord Jesus, you are the Resurrection and the Life. Strengthen our faith and hope in your promises that we may radiate the joy of the Gospel to others.”

 

Psalm 126:1-6 NIV

 

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Sion,

we were like those who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,

our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

3 The Lord has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.

 

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,

like streams in the Negev.

5 Those who sow with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

6 Those who go out weeping,

carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy,

carrying sheaves with them.

 

Let me finish with The voice of life and joy that awakens the dead, by Athanasius of Alexandria (295-373 AD):

“I am the voice of life that wakens the dead. I am the good odor that takes away the foul odor. I am the voice of joy that takes away sorrow and grief.… I am the comfort of those who are in grief. Those who belong to me are given joy by me. I am the joy of the whole world. I gladden all my friends and rejoice with them. I am the bread of life”

 

Wisdom and Who Matters ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael R. Beckett, OPI

Long ago in a galaxy far away….no.  Wait!  I mean…..Long ago in a COUNTRY far away….yeah, that’s better… there was a young king.  And said young king, (we’ll call him Sol, coz that was his name) wasn’t really sure about this king-business.  He was a good and responsible young man, but he just wasn’t sure he had what it took to do king stuff, you know, like run a country, protect his people, all that stuff.  He lost sleep over it.  One night, he actually managed to get to sleep and he had this dream……and in this dream, God appeared to him and said, “Solomon, ask for anything you want, and I will give it to you.”

Now, Sol, like we said, wasn’t really sure about his king-stuff he had goin’ on, and he recognized that this was his chance to be able to handle it, so he said, “Lord God, I’m your servant, and you’ve made me king in my father’s place. But I’m very young and know so little about being a leader.  And now I must rule your chosen people, even though there are too many of them to count.  Please make me wise and teach me the difference between right and wrong. Then I will know how to rule your people. If you don’t, there is no way I could rule this great nation of yours.

God said:  DUDE!!!!!  I’m pleased that you asked for this. You could have asked to live a long time or to be rich. Or you could have asked for your enemies to be destroyed. Instead, you asked for wisdom to make right decisions. So I’ll make you wiser than anyone who has ever lived or ever will live.     1 Kings 3:5;7-12 (the Bible translation according to me)

So….We have the leader of a great nation who has asked for and been granted wisdom.  Solomon, also called Jedidiah, was, according to the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament), Quran, and Hadiths, a fabulously wealthy and wise king of the United Kingdom of Israel who succeeded his father, King David. The conventional dates of Solomon’s reign are about 970 to 931 BCE. According to the Talmud, Solomon is one of the 48 prophets. In the Quran, he’s considered a major prophet, and Muslims generally refer to him by the Arabic variant Sulayman, son of David.  The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) identifies him as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem,  beginning in the fourth year of his reign, using the vast wealth he and his father had accumulated. He dedicated the temple to Yahweh, the God of Israel.  He is portrayed as great in wisdom, wealth and power beyond either of the previous kings of the country.

We all know the saying, “As wise as Solomon.”  So, what is wisdom?  According to the dictionary, wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.  The whole of Proverbs 8, tells us what wisdom is and it is Wisdom (Jesus) who speaks to us.  Verses 12 and 13 (especially 13) are especially important:  12 “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;   I possess knowledge and discretion.  13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil;  I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior, and perverse speech.  Isn’t that, yet again,  a paraphrase of The Golden Rule?  Lemme repeat that for ya:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  (Matthew 7:12)  And again in Matthew 22:37-40:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)  That, my friends, is wisdom according to Jesus.

When we live out the golden rule, and truly love others, we are a witness for the gospel because we live in a way the world doesn’t because the world doesn’t give without getting.  The world doesn’t really care.  According to the world, NO lives matter.  We must live our lives and be a  witness to the power of the gospel.  When we live out the Golden Rule, we also promote peace and societal flourishing. In other words, we make the world a better place, and give others a glimpse of what the world to come will look like simple by doing unto others what we would have them do to us.  Live so that every person with whom you come into contact realizes that they matter, regardless of who they are.  Prove to the world that we believe what Jesus said.   Throughout his earthly ministry:

Jesus said, “Samaritan lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Children’s lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Gentile lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Jewish lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Women’s lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Lepers’ lives matter.”

Prove to the world that we, as followers of Jesus, are wise enough to believe that:

Black lives matter.

Gay lives matter.

Indian lives matter.

Trans lives matter.

Homeless lives matter.

Republican lives matter.

Democrats lives matter.

Police lives matter.

Protesters lives matter.

Jesus died for all of us.  Jesus died for you.  Shouldn’t we, in all wisdom, act accordingly?

Amen.

 

 

Unity: The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski, OPI

 

Hello my dear family and friends.  You know I am witnessing and living my vocation serving The Old Catholic Unified community in my town Gevgelija and all around  Macedonia, serving as a Dominican friar to the poor, marginalized and LGBTQ communities.

As a Dominican friar I want to share that today we celebrate the legacy, the life and the ministry with her example of serving of this holy mother Mary Magdalene, equal to the apostle.

Many centuries ago, the General  Chapter of our Order Dominican declared her as a Defender and Protector of our order.

Me living in such a conservative and anti LGBTQ society makes me motivated through her example and intercessions for all of us as a very close friend of Jesus.

She faced daily struggles of rejection, not acceptance and bigotry, because she was honored to be the very first human creation to see the empty tomb and our risen Lord Jesus.

She was the first ever to talk to Jesus on the resurrection morning.

While the humanity in that age treated the woman badly, Jesu embraced her, accepted her, blessed her and gave her authority to preach the gospel even in Rome to the emperor.  In the eastern European tradition, she was the first lady to paint a red egg and to announce the resurrection gospel to the world.  (Red represents the blood of Christ and it’s the most important color when painting eggs.)

Do you think it was easy in that time? Certainly not easy.  It was very difficult, and there was much suffering because of the gender inequality with which she struggle.  Even the apostles laughed at her and did not believe her when she told them what she sow and with whom she talked.

Are we not the same today? Racial hatred, LGBTQ phobia, divisions in the nations?  This is not t God’s agenda.

Our goal and our agenda is acceptance, integrity, equality and integration.

I have learned a lot through her example and suffering.

I fight daily for improving of this marginalized people toward  equality for everyone.

Its still the same today like in that time, people still want us to be put in box, just because they have built themselves to hate. Is that correct?

Is that the Gospel of Jesus?

NO!

Our goal and ministry is to be fully integrated, regardless of gender, sexuality, races.  We are taught in Galatians 3:28 that there is “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.  We are all equal in Gods eyes.

By the way, Mary Magdalene is considered to be the first woman priest in Christian.  This is only a part of the legacy of this great woman who fought hatred in the ancient times.  We are called to do  the  same.

But for God, all genders are equal, and we have to work to be improved this for the better common life. Jesus wants us before we go in heaven, to build  heaven in our hearts and our societies.

If we heal division and embrace diversity, and love all our neighbors we can improve all of our common and private lives.

So I pray through her intercession about these divisions, Its time for us to live as true Christians.  We are only one human race, and we are all equal. If the church does not preach this is a dead church.

I will never stop fighting for this people, that’s why I’m a Dominican.

St Mary Magdalene pray for us.

Love God. Love People. Say What? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael R Beckett, OPI

Our Old Testament Reading today comes from the book of Wisdom, or as some call it, The Wisdom of Solomon.  Now, most scholars agree that King Solomon, did not, in fact, write this book, but say that it was written in honor of him, using things he did write and things he said.   During the Reformation, Martin Luther discarded this book of the Bible, along with others, whilst the more Liturgical churches retained them.   Melito of Sardis in the 2nd century AD, Augustine (c. 397 AD) and Pope Innocent I (405 AD) considered Wisdom of Solomon as part of the Old Testament. Athanasius writes that the Book of Wisdom along with three other deuterocanonical books, while not being part of the Canon, “were appointed by the Fathers to be read”.  In Matthew 12 Jesus quotes from this book.  SO….having said all that, this is today’s reading:

There is no god besides you who have the care of all, that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.  For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.  For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved; and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.  But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.  And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope  that you would permit repentance for their sins.   WIS 12:13, 16-19

At the risk of being accused of “cherry picking,” I want to focus on these verses:  For your might is the source of justice, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind;

So let’s think about that.  The author(s) of the Book of Wisdom, in praising God have said that God judges with clemency, he judges with leniency, and has taught us that those who are just must be kind.

Well now…….Three key words:  clemency, leniency, kindness.  Clemency is defined as “mercy.”  Leniency is defined as “quality of being more merciful or tolerant than expected.”   Kindness is defined as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.”

How many times must it be repeated?  Be merciful.  Be kind.  Show love.  It’s pretty much one of the key recurring factors of Jesus’s ministry.  Love God.  Love people.  Love God.  Love people.

Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”    How do we show that love?  Again, Jesus tell us, and again, very specifically in Matthew 25:35-45:   For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’   “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’   “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The least of these….who then, are ‘the least of these’ in today’s society?   Probably those who make many of us uncomfortable.  The homeless?  People who are a different color?  People who are of a different color?  Sexual orientation?  Ethnicity? Who are “the least of these” to you?

Stephen Mattson writes:

Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed that he did, indeed, love everyone, even to the point of dying for their sins, but you know,  he went out of his way to intentionally help specific groups of people — the alienated, mistreated, and those facing injustice.  Throughout his earthly ministry:

Jesus said, “Samaritan lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Children’s lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Gentile lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Jewish lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Women’s lives matter.”

Jesus said, “Lepers’ lives matter.”

Christians must recognize that our society today is filled with numerous groups and communities facing systemic oppression, and we must act. We must be willing to admit and address the complex realities within our world that create such problems,  and avoid the spiritual laziness that tempts us to rely on generic excuses and solutions.

Christians do a disservice to the gospel message by removing the cultural context from Jesus’s ministry and watering down his message to one of religious platitudes. We like to generalize the words of Jesus and transform his life into a one-size-fits-all model that can apply to all of humanity.  He intentionally, purposefully, and passionately addressed very specific causes. He radically addressed the diverse and complicated conflicts of the time and shattered the status quo.  Are we, as Christians, not called to do the same?  By addressing racism, immigration, gender equality, and a litany of other issues, we are following in the steps of Jesus.

Justice.  Mercy.  Kindness.  Love God.  Love people.

Amen.

 

Faith and Doubt: The Feast of St. Thomas ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: EPH 2:19=22

R psalm: Mark 6:15

Gospel: JN 20:24=29

Today’s we come together to commemorate the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle, often nicknamed ‘Doubting Thomas’,because on Easter Sunday after Mary had seen Jesus, he went to the room where the disciples were and suddenly appears to them despite locked doors and they could clearly see the wounds to His hands and side. Jesus tells them, “Peace be with you”. The disciples believed.

Thomas however, wasn’t with the other Apostles when Jesus had appeared to them, and when Thomas arrived after Jesus had left them, the other disciples told Thomas about Jesus visiting them, but Thomas didn’t believe, he told them, “Unless I see Jesus for myself, and can touch His wounds, I won’t believe.” I can easily imagine that Thomas may have thought the other apostles were teasing him; or why wouldn’t Jesus have stayed long enough until he had managed to arrive?

The next week however, the disciples are gathered together again, this time Thomas was with them. Jesus suddenly appeared and told Thomas to put his hands on His and to feel his wounds. Thomas does so, and Jesus asked Thomas, “Do you believe because you have seen me?” and he tells him, “Blessed are those who do not see yet believe.”

Can you imagine what it would be like to be mainly remembered by many because of our greatest moment of doubt? Haven’t we all doubted at one time or another? I can tell you that I have once or twice. Thomas therefore, is the disciple to whom all of us can relate. Most of us have experienced what it is to live between faith and doubt at some point.

Most people tend to think that Faith and doubt are opposites, but in true fact, it is often a part of our faith journey. It is a stop, or a bump in the road that most of us would’ve made more than once on our journey. This doesn’t make us bad Christians or believers. Indeed, rather, it can be seen as a sign that we take our relationship with God seriously that we allow ourselves to walk the journey of faith without knowing for certain through what we will be travelling.

Christian tradition tells us that Thomas set sail for India and indeed was the first to spread Christianity there. He is the Patron Saint of India.

The doubt that Thomas previously had, was what brought him faith and that faith was such that he brought the message of Christ to many.

We all have times of doubt, at least all of us that see faith as a true journey, not a one=time stop gap. Doubt can actually propel us to faith, and can be what gives us the shake up we may at times need. It can be what sends us out of our comfort zones and into a new and better world. Doubt can act like a ticket that starts us truly on our journey to a whole new life of faith. It can be a sign of not the absence of God as many may think, but rather of God working within us to do something new.

Let us pray:

O Glorious St Thomas, your grief for Jesus was such that it wouldn’t allow you to to believe that he had risen until you saw him and touched his wounds. But your love for Jesus was equally great and it led you to give up your life for Him.

Pray for us, that we may grieve for our sins which were the cause of Christ’s sufferings. Help us to spend our lives in His service and so to be Blessed, which Our Lord Jesus applied to those who would believe in Him without seeing Him.

Amen.

The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul: We Can Be Saints, Too! ~ The Rev. Deacon Igor Kalinski, OPI

During this month June, in this very difficult year for all the humanity, I have realized how miserable, hypocrite, unfaithful to myself after all that I have passed during this life in a very conservative environment, and above all I found again Jesus , the ultimate love, and that is impossible to please God, if you don’t support all groups of people that share and endure daily struggle of acceptance, bigotry, and the rejection of some leading churches towards liberty and freedom of all people regardless , their color skin, sexual identity.

I realized that is not only that you should stick to the tradition, so that we can worship our heavenly Father, forgetting that “mercy I seek not holocaust” if God is love, and indeed He is, lets follow the example of these greatest among apostles and martyrs for Christ, Saints Peter and Paul.

How many hardships, beatings, arresting, assassinations attempts had occurred to them?

How many time Peter failed?

Paul was training over Christians.

But God revealed to Him in full power and might, in His majesty, then he became blind.

How many times Peter denied Jesus?

Believe me, I am worst sadly of failures, daily denials, and above all not having love for the people as they did all love and lately payed with their lives.

Let us preach the Gospel of the love, the gospel of acceptance, lets strive to bear one another these hardships and struggles, bold as Peter and steady as St Paul.

The bible has many holy books written from St Paul. We can nourish ourselves daily in his epistles, to study and pray, that’s pure Dominican charism, study and later preach from the fruits of your study.

Let us be penitent like St Peter that after he denied Christ and have the repentance and meek heart of Paul, that after sinful evil way of having been a religious fanatic, to become brave barefoot preacher of the nations.

St Peter and Paul apostles pray for us. Amen

 

Who Comes First?~ The Rt. Rev. Michael R. Beckett, OPI

Saint Dominic carried the Gospel of Matthew with him wherever he went.  That is the reason that we see a book in most of the representations of St. Dominic, both in statue and paintings.  Our Gospel today comes from the Gospel According to St. Matthew:

Jesus said to his apostles:  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.   Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.  Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:37-42

So, just what is Jesus saying here?  When you get right down to it and boil it down to its most simple terms, Our Lord is saying what he says in Matthew 22:36-40:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

There you have it.  Put God first.  Love people.    It kind of reminds me of that old comedy skit, “Whose On First?”  Only now, the question tends to be, “Who do you serve first?”  Sounds simple, right? God first, right?  Then people.  Umm…not so much.  In today’s world, with a global pandemic, racial tensions and protests, what are we doing to show who we  love best?  God?  Our politics?  Our nation?  What people believe our Constitution says?  What we want to believe?  Or, again, does our God come first?

Again, Our Lord speaks to us in Matthew 25:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Can we not apply these words to what is going on in our country today?  Perhaps if Jesus were in the middle of us here, he would be saying, “You saw me oppressed and discriminated against and did nothing.  You saw me vulnerable and refused to follow health guidelines”

We were, all of us, created with that pesky little thing called ‘free will,’ that allows us to choose how to behave, how to act.  God is not going to force any of us to do anything, just as He does not force us to believe in Him, worship Him, or follow Him.  It is time to stop giving lip service to our faith and actually live it.  If we truly believe that God comes first in our lives, then it is time for us to, as they say, “put up or shut up.”   It is up to each of us to conduct ourselves in a manner fitting our faith.    We cannot profess to be a Christian and then sit back and do nothing to heal our nation, our society, and our brothers and sisters.

How, you ask?

Lobby for changes to discriminatory laws.  Actively seek out social justice.  Keep the conversation going.  Educate yourself.  Make your voice heard.  Donate.  Protest.   Don’t avoid the discomfort you’re feeling.  The past few weeks have been uncomfortable. We are supposed to be uncomfortable.  Recognize that the ability to quickly move past the feelings that have been brought up in response to the things happening in our country and world is an absolute privilege, one that many people don’t have. The people who move past them are those who don’t harbor continual fear over the same thing happening to themselves or to their loved ones.  Systematic injustices can only become invisible if they don’t affect you.  Sit with the discomfort you’re feeling instead of ignoring it. Reflect on your own privilege and how you can do better for ALL people in the future. And then decide which actions you’re going to take going forward.

Ask yourself, what comes first, your politics, your race, your nationalism, your guns, or your God?

“But,” you say, “if I do those things, what if I make some people mad?  What if I lose friends?”  Again, I will refer you to what our Lord says:  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.   Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “

Isn’t it time that we, as Christians, start putting Christ first, start putting his people first?  Isn’t it time that we as true followers of the Jesus that we proclaim learn to treasure what we have been given?   Work for justice.  Work for peace.  Work for understanding. Fred Kaan, the lyricist, has written a hymn that is especially meaningful for today:

 

Put peace into each other’s hand and like a treasure hold it;

protect it like a candle flame, with tenderness enfold it.

Put peace into each other’s hand with loving expectation;

be gentle in your words and ways, in touch with God’s creation.

Put peace into each other’s hand like bread we break for sharing;

look people warmly in the eye:  Our life is meant for caring.

Give thanks for strong yet tender hands, held out in trust and blessing.

Where words fall short, let hands speak out, the heights of love expressing.

Put peace into each other’s hand he is love’s deepest measure;

in love make peace, give peace a chance and share it like a treasure.

Let us pray:

God, we pray that Your Spirit may rule over all things.  May Your Spirit rule over kings and presidents over prime ministers and generals over CEOs and party bosses over the legislature and over the bureaucrats over all citizens.  May Your Spirit guide us on the way of peace on the way of honest dialogue on the way of reconciliation between peoples on the way of disarmament and justice on the way of freedom and life for all.

May Your Spirit lead us on the journey of blessings shared with all on the journey of educational  opportunity for all our children on the adventure of research and study that helps all men and women on the road to meaningful work for all people on the path of solidarity and love between all our brothers and sisters.

May Your Spirit help us to speak up with courage to share what we have and what we are to challenge the powers that be to offer a message of liberation and life. We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord.   Amen

 

 

 

 

 

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist ~ The Very Rev Lady Sherwood, OPI

 

Reading 1: IS 49:1-6

Responsorial Psalm: 139:1B-3, 13-14AB, 14C-15

Reading 2: ACTS 13:22-26

Gospel: LK 1:57-66, 80

Today, we as a church come together to commemorate the birth of St John the Baptist, often called the ‘Forerunner’.

John was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. In the Gospel of Luke, we are told that Zechariah was told beforehand about the birth, and that he was to be named John. The name John means “God is Gracious” (LK 1 :8=2:3).

John whilst still within his mother’s womb, instantly recognised the presence of Our Lord Jesus, who was also still in his mother’s womb, when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth (LK 1 :41). John leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb as soon as Mary and Elizabeth met, and this is when John was cleansed of original sin. This came to pass just as the Angel Gabriel had previously promised Zechariah in LK 1 :15.

When John was older, he left the home of his parents and went to live his life in the desert. He wore only a garment made from camel skin and only had Locusts and wild honey to eat. John would preach in the desert (MK 1:6; Matt 3:4).

John went about preaching and proclaiming about the Kingdom of God and of a time of upcoming judgement. He invited those who wanted to repent, to allow him to baptise them as a sign of their repentance.

John, just like the  prophets, disturbed the comfortable and gave much comfort to the disturbed. The message of John soon spread far and wide. The Gospel of Mark tells us that all peoples of both Jerusalem and Judea travelled to him to confess their sins as John baptised them in the river Jordan (MK 1:5).

John shows his humility clearly to us because he never wanted any attention for himself, he always directed people to Jesus. Some wondered if John was the Messiah, but John reassured them that indeed he wasn’t the messiah, and he declared that his ministry was merely a preparation for the coming of the Messiah. John said, “I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” (MK 1:8)

Then Jesus himself came to John to be baptised and John immediately recognised Jesus as the Messiah and he declared, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. (JN 1 :29). This statement from John is still used in Mass prayer today, when the Priest holds up the sacred Host as we prepare for the Holy Eucharist, as the Priest says, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world…”.

It was after being baptised by John, that our Lord Jesus began his Earthly ministry. When John had been baptised by John, John again showed his humility as again, he turned his attention to Jesus, declaring, “He must increase, I must decrease”(JN 3:30).

St John the Baptist is an excellent example that we as Christians should take much notice of within our lives of faith. Just as John always showed his humility by turning his attention away from himself and towards our Lord Jesus, we too, also need to show this same humility if we are truly to serve and follow the Lord. We also, must turn attention away from ourselves and towards Jesus. Just as John himself declared, “He must increase, I must decrease”.

Let us pray:

O glorious St John the Baptist, greatest prophet among those born of woman, although you were sanctified in your mother’s womb and lived a most innocent life, nevertheless, it was your will to live in the wilderness of the desert, there to devote yourself to the practice of austerity, penance and humility;

Obtain for us by your intercession, the grace of the Lord to be wholly detached within our hearts, from earthly goods and self attention. Increasing our humility and service, by making ourselves far lesser and in the never ending increasing, to be ever greater within our hearts and lives.

Amen.

 

Guest Post: Fear Is the Greater Evil Than Evil Itself ~ The Rev. Shawn Gisewhite, ThB


Scripture Reference:  Mt. 10:26-33

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

FEAR.  A word we can all relate to, especially now.  Fear if you are a woman.  Fear if you are black.  Fear if you are Gay.  Fear if you are an “illegal alien.”  The list goes on and on.

St. Francis de Sales said, “Fear is a greater evil than the evil itself.”  (“Letters to Persons in the World”, 6, 12)  How true this is.  Although fear is our body’s natural reaction to the bad things all around us, God tells us we are not to fear.  As we are more often than not, not able to do anything about what we fear in the first place, why be afraid at all?  God is in control.  Even if we fear that terrible things will happen to us, God is there to keep us safe.

Listen to today’s Gospel.

26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known.

27 What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops.

Nothing that man can conjure up in the dark, hidden from the eyes of men, is hidden from the eyes of God.  God will take care of you and me.  The day will come when we will see all evil for what it is, a passing vapor of terror, then, it will be no more.  The eyes of faith will see this.  The deeds of darkness will be uttered in the light.

Again, it is St. Francis de Sales who said, “It will be quite enough to receive the evils which come upon us from time to time, without anticipating them by the imagination.”  (“Letters to Persons in Religion,” 4, 2) How true this is, as it echoes the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount.

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Many fear those with guns and clubs and swords.  We see the most dangerous things as those things which can hurt our human bodies.  Nevertheless, Jesus calls us to a higher understanding.  Yes, the body is important, and we would not want to say that it is not important, because we are a whole creature, body and soul together.  Yet, some people are more concerned about the body than their eternal souls!

Jesus says, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  That is, we should not have a false fear, a fear of only those who may kill our bodies, but, a true fear (standing in awe of God), who alone can cast the body and soul into Hell.  Our fear of God should be the “fear” of “respect” for our King.  (St. Matthew)

Why is this so?  Because, God cares for you and for me.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will.

30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Of sparrows there are many.  God numbers these.  Jesus says that not one of them dies, or falls to the ground, that the Father does not know of… and you and I are of more value than a whole flock of sparrows.  Jesus is mercy toward us.  John 3:16; Philippians 2 — these are the passages that declare how much God so loved the world (humankind).

Most of us have hair on our heads.  Yet, there are some, like myself, who seem to suffer a loss of hair every day.  Yet, God numbers the hairs of our heads.  God CARES for us with or without hair!

God looks most closely to the hearts of people. How do we acknowledge (confess) God before men?

Do we do so fearfully, thinking we may suffer a loss of our social standing, if we are too “extreme” in our view and confession of Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior?  Well, Jesus has something to say about our confession of Him before other people.

32 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven;

33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

This is an important issue for us.  We take an interesting quote from the Roman Breviary, Feasts of Confessors (Ambrosian, 6th century):
“Jesu, eternal Truth sublime,

Through endless years the same!

Thou crown of those who through all time

Confess Thy Holy Name.”

How important this is for all of us to remember the passionis, mortis et resurrectionis Jesu Christi (passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ)!

It is my purpose to CONFESS (acknowledge) Jesus before all men.  I fear no one, because I know that God is faithful, that God cares for me.

Let us take up this Cross with Jesus, our Great Confessor!

“This confessor of the Lord Whose triumph

Now all the faithful celebrate, with gladness,

Erst on this feast day merited to enter into His glory.

Saintly and prudent, modest in behavior,

Peaceful and sober, chaste was He, and lowly,

While that life’s vigor, coursing through His members,

Quickened His being.”

(From Roman Breviary, Feasts of Confessors, Hymn Iste confessor Domini colentis, 8th century)

May we be like Him!

Amen.

The Sacred Heart ~ The Rev. Dcn. Sister Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

Everyone everywhere knows that the “heart” is a symbol of love.  So it is with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart is the greatest symbol of love there is. And today, it is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As a Catholic, you’ve seen the image of Jesus depicted in many ways–kneeling in prayer, surrounded by children, as a child in the arms of St. Anthony, and dying on the cross. One of the most recognizable images is the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It’s the image of Jesus with His heart exposed, surrounded by thorns, with flames and a cross emerging from the top. This image of Jesus is striking and powerful. In honor of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let’s take a look at the meaning of this image. What does it symbolize? Why do we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Also, who was Margaret Mary Alacoque and what was her connection to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

The sacred heart of Jesus Christ is a symbol that entered the world through the mystical experiences of several Roman Catholic nuns to whom the pierced Heart of the Savior appeared in visions. Yet it was Saint Mary Alocoque who perceived, through many supernatural visions of Christ’s passion, the symbol of the inflamed pierced heart, encircled with thorns. This vision is known as the “great apparition”, which occurred during the octave of Corpus Christi, in June of 1675.

In this vision Jesus entrusted Saint Mary with the mission of propagating the new devotion. Jesus continued to appear to Margaret Mary and made revelations to her until 1675. It wasn’t until 1856, that Pope Pius IX decreed that the feast should be regularly celebrated throughout the world.

What Does the Sacred Heart Symbolize?

Catholics (and people in general) are visual people. Jesus knows this about us that’s why in addition to using parables to give us messages, He uses images to convey His messages. Seeing an image of the Heart of Jesus with thorns and the cross and flames certainly grabs our attention and speaks to us. He is saying, look at My Heart and see what I am feeling. The thorns around His heart are a representation of our sins and how our sinning pierces His heart. The flames and the cross serve as a reminder of the suffering He endured for our salvation and of His burning love for us. The dripping blood represents the blood Jesus shed for our salvation. That’s a pretty powerful message! But let’s explore this image in depth, to understand it fully.

The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, and bleeding. Sometimes the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart.

Elements:

Heart: The heart is the center of being, both physical and spiritual. The heart represents compassion, understanding, love and charity. It also represents the temple of God, His Divine Center and dwelling place. The heart is the spiritual center of a being. The pierced and bleeding heart alludes to the manner of Jesus’ death and reveals to us Christ’s goodness and charity through his wounds and ultimate sacrifice.

Crown of thorns: A crown is a symbol that represents sovereignty, victory, honor, dignity, reward, the highest attainment, dedication, completeness, the circle of time, of continuity and endless duration. For Christians it is also a symbol of the righteous, blessing and favor, and victory over death. Yet the crown that was placed on Christ’s head was made of thorns to deliberately parody the crown of roses worn by the Roman Emperor. The crown of thorns has thus become the symbol of the Passion and martyrdom of Jesus Christ.

Cross: In Christianity, the cross is a symbol of salvation through Christ’s sacrifice. It is redemption, atonement, suffering and a symbol of faith.

Flames or Fire: Transformation, purification, renewal of life, power, strength, energy. Fire facilitates change or passage from one state to the other. Fire manifested as flame symbolizes spiritual power and forces. Fire and flame both represent truth and knowledge as consumers of lies, ignorance, illusion and death.

Light: Light is a symbol of life, truth, illumination and a source of goodness. Radiance emitted by light symbolizes new life from divinity and the power of dispelling evil and the forces of darkness. It also embodies the aspects splendor, glory and joy. When illustrated the straight line usually represents light and the undulating line is symbolically heat; light and heat are symbolically complementary and polarize the element of fire.

In conclusion:

The sacred heart is a symbol of great self sacrifice and unconditional divine love for all beings captured in the actions and deeds of Jesus Christ. When our love and compassion overcomes and sacrifices our own ego, our spirit will be liberated and transform our entire being into a holy one. If we align ourselves with meaning of the Sacred Heart and the liberating vibration of Christ consciousness, this great symbol can become a gateway for us to change the world through our expression of unequivocal, genuine love. So, let us love one another unconditionally.

As my Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.  — John 15:8