Category: Member Posts
Sharing Your Gifts~Br. Christian Ventura, Novice
In the Name of Almighty God: ✠ Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
There is an old monastic joke that goes as follows–:
“There are only three things that God doesn’t know:
1. How many Franciscan Friars there are;
2. What in the world the Jesuits are doing;
And 3. What a Dominican Friar is saying when they’re preaching”.
And as for most Dominicans on the day of the Annunciation, (or the day after, in this case) it is hard to not fall into this stereotype, as we are often quick to get excited whenever we have an opportunity to preach on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Afterall, our habits are white to represent our protection under the mantle of our Blessed Mother, (and also because it was the cheapest material at the time), but we don’t lead with that.
We also carry a 15-decade rosary on the left side of our cincture to remind us to take up prayer instead of a sword. And if you didn’t already know, the modern rosary prayed by many today is believed to come from a Marian visitation to St. Dominic in his petition for peace during a time of death and despair. This 5-decade rosary is an abbreviated version inspired by the original 150 beaded Marian psalter given to St. Dominic.
But we aren’t the only monastics to wear a rosary as part of our habit. The Franciscans share this practice, as do many nuns, brothers, and monks of various other orders as well. Although this is usually due to a shared desire to represent our cinctured obedience to almighty God in our vocation(s).
Likewise, you’ll note that the Canticle of Mary or the Magnificat also has its roots in early monasticism. When we pray “my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior” during evening prayer, we join the voices of the benedictine monks in the monastery who have chanted it during evening vespers since the 6th century.
The veneration of Mary the God bearer as influenced by early monasticism is an integral part of our history as Christians, and we know it to begin as early as the story of the Annunciation. Where, an Angel of God visits our mother and says “hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women”.
But aside from the angelic imagery of this breathtaking event, what personally strikes me the most is Mary’s faithful consent to God in her special vocation. She says “behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word”.
Imagine a world where we all said yes to our callings from God. And even better yet, imagine a world where we supported everyone and their special calls. And no, not necessarily a call to be a monk or a nun, but rather our call to be a brother, a sister, a friend, mother, a beloved child of God. Our call to take up our cross, our call to be imitators of the Word made flesh that dwelt among us.
I urge you to take a moment to think about: what is God calling you to? What experiences, both good and bad, have placed you here– right where you need to be?
And, how can you say “yes!”? Lent is a phenomenal time to discern our own special vocations and deepen our relationship with God: where we fast from our own will to make room for God’s.
How are you called to share your special gifts and talents to help make it on earth as it is in heaven? Are you called to be a teacher, a healer, or a musician? Has God asked you to leverage your career in healthcare, law, hospitality, or leadership to help love your neighbors? Are you an artist? Do you cook? What are you really good at doing, and how can you use it to help bring peace, comfort, or joy to others?
Lent is a time to embrace our callings from God not in spite of our flaws, but partly because of them. Whatever God is calling you to, know that he is calling you in the fullness of who you are now, with the vision of who you will become.
Through the intercession of our Blessed Virgin Mary , Mother of God, may you come to hear your call and find confidence to say “yes”, and may our Loving Father help you bring it to fruition.
The Annunciation~Br Milan Komadina
The Annunciation (from Latin annuntiatio), also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of Our Lady, or the Annunciation of the Lord, is the announcement by the archangel Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son through a virgin birth and become the mother of Jesus Christ, the Christian Messiah and Son of God, marking the Incarnation. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Immanuel, meaning “God is with us”. In the Old Testament we could read the prophecy in Isaiah 7/13,14 saying: The moment that will change World’s history was announced in the Old Testament. Today we remember this moment by reading the New Testament and the fulfilment of this prophecy in Luke 1/26,38:
“Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.“
The moment that will change the World’s history was announced in the Old Testament. This prophecy was fulfilled in the coming centuries as we remember this moment by reading the New Testament Luke 1/26,38:
”In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. ”
The time of lent is the time when we abstain from meat and delicious food. But it is also a good time for practice of humility. As we read in the chapter above, Mary was full of humility. She carefully accepted angel’s words and she was ready to serve God. When we talk about Mary we may talk also about humility because she was a great example of it. I found tree tips for practicing humility and I hope that those will be very useful to all of us as we try our best to practice it.
- Do not interrupt when someone is voicing a concern. Instead of formulating a defense in your mind when confronted about a situation and jumping in with an excuse, simply apologize and move forward to mend the relationship. Give the other person their due apology without excuses.
- Be more aware of the needs of others. It is human nature to firstly look after our own physical, spiritual, or emotional needs. Self-preservation is a human instinct that must be tamed lest we act to the detriment of others.
- Be ready to put the needs of others ahead of your own and act with charity. Practice voluntary patience. Stand at the end of the line. Let other drivers go ahead of you at an intersection. Take the smallest piece or the last piece of the pie. Delayed satisfaction will help us train ourselves in patience, self-denial, and humility.
Lent is about connecting with Jesus in a deeper way and experiencing spiritual growth, you can try something new this year by forming a new habit rather than giving up an old one. Here are additional five ways you could participate in the Lenten season this year: 1. Read the Bible daily 2. Pray throughout the day. 3. Give money to a cause or local organization. 4. Do random acts of kindness. 5. Find your place to serve at church or with a local organization. My prayer for today is that we all may serve God in a perfect way as Mary did and to let the Holy Spirit come in our hearts.
Are You Blind?~The Rt.Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI
Y’all, I only have one more pair of contacts before I have to get new ones. That means, eye exam, new prescription, and hassle. Of course, I’m really thankful that contacts and glasses exist, because I am blind as a bat without my glasses or contacts. Without my glasses, I really am legally blind. Ugh.
In the Gospel for today, we read of Jesus and a blind man. Picture it: Jerusalem in A.D. 32 or so; Jesus is bee-bopping along with his disciples, and they see a blind dude and the disciples say, “What is up with this? Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
And Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” And what did Jesus do, you ask? He made a bit of mud with spit and dirt and applied it to the blind dude’s eyes, told him to go wash it off, and BOOM, the guy could see! Pretty kewl, huh?
Well, WE think so, but the Pharisees? Not so much. They were pretty bummed because they thought, like many evangelicals today do, that bad stuff happens to bad people, or that bad stuff happens coz God punishes folks who don’t toe the line, and, they say, “It says so in the Bible.”
Ummmmmm…….no. And not just ‘no,’ but NO. First of all, God does not ‘give’ us the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things that happen in our lives. Life happens. Crap happens. People make poor choices. Natural disasters occur. We get sick. Nowhere does Holy Writ support the claim that any of these things is God’s doing. What kind of God would we worship if he, indeed, sent us all the trials and tribulations and suffering and horror for which He is blamed? When “bad” things happen to any of God’s children, God is grieved and suffers with us, and this was experienced most vividly in the hurt and suffering of Jesus Christ for all humanity. Any “bad” thing which happens is never the last word. Rather, God is the deepest and last word, and that word is love and eternal life with God.
The Bible clearly teaches that God does not cause us to suffer. For example, the Bible says that when we go through trials, it would be a mistake to say: “I am being tried by God.” Why? Because “with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) In other words, God never causes the trials we face or the suffering that follows. To do so would be wicked, but “God does not act wickedly.” (Job 34:12.)
If God does not cause us to suffer, then who or what does? Sadly, humans are often victimized by other imperfect humans. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Additionally, we may face calamities because of “unexpected events”—that is, because of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) The Bible teaches that ultimately “the ruler of this world,” Satan the Devil, is responsible for human suffering, for “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (John 12:31; 1 John 5:19) It is Satan—not God—who causes people to suffer.
God is aware of our suffering. From the very start of human suffering, not a single teardrop has gone unnoticed by our loving Father, whose “watchful eyes” see everything. (Psalm 11:4; 56:8) For example, when his worshippers in ancient times were being oppressed, God said: “I have certainly seen the affliction of my people.” But was he only vaguely aware of their pain? No, for he added: “I well know the pains they suffer.” (Exodus 3:7) Many people have found comfort in that truth alone—the thought that God is aware of everything we suffer, even the trials that we or others may not be aware of or fully understand. (Psalm 31:7; Proverbs 14:10.)
God feels for us when we suffer. Our Heavenly Father is not only aware of human suffering but also deeply moved by it. For example, God was sincerely troubled when his ancient worshippers faced trials. “During all their distress it was distressing to him,” says the Bible. (Isaiah 63:9) Although God is vastly superior to humans, he feels empathy for those who suffer—as if their pain were in his heart! Indeed, “Our Heavenly Father is very compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11) Additionally, Our Heavenly Father helps us to bear our suffering. (Philippians 4:12, 13.)
We must also remember that our Lord Jesus knows what it is to suffer, to mourn. He wept at the grave of Lazarus, he wept over Jerusalem, and he suffered horrifically during His Passion.
God will end all human suffering. According to the Bible, God will bring an end to the suffering of every human on the planet. By means of His Heavenly Kingdom, God will drastically change the human condition—for the better. Regarding that time, the Bible promises that God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) What about those who have already died? God will bring them back to life here on earth so that they too can enjoy life free from suffering. (John 5:28, 29) Will anyone be plagued by painful memories of past suffering? No, for Our Heavenly Father promises: “The former things will not be called to mind, nor will they come up into the heart.” (Isaiah 65:17.)
So there’s that. Now, Jesus said that God would be glorified through Blind Dude’s gift of sight. It was a miracle! Whilst Jesus isn’t around in the flesh these days to make mud and lay on hands, our God has granted us the miracles (yes plural) of modern medicine. And I would imagine many of us have experienced a ‘miracle’ or two in our lives. I know I have, more than once. And for those blessings and miracles, we give thanks to God.
But we have to ask, in what ways are WE blind, spiritually speaking? What do we will ourselves not to see? The homeless? Inequality? Inequity? The poor? People who are “other” than we ourselves? I am reminded of a hymn by Clara H. Scott, “Open My Eyes That I May See.”
Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me. Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!
Like the Woman at the Well~The Rev. Frank Bellino, OPI
There can be times in this life when everything seems to be going wrong, or one massive problem is overshadowing everything else. It could be because of illness or grief, uncertainty, complicated or broken relationships. Whatever the cause, we can often feel swamped and unable to see any way through.
At times like that it doesn’t help to be reminded that things could be worse. Almost certainly they could be, but if you can’t cope with what’s happening now, the thought of going under completely is no support. And it’s no better to be told that someone else is in an even worse position. In fact, it can be quite distasteful to think that we should be taking comfort from the fact that someone else’s pain is even greater than our own.
The first reaction can often be to wish that the weight of what is troubling us could just be lifted, that by some miracle or magic the problems would dissolve. Problems can sometimes fade away but in most cases difficulties don’t disappear. Fairytale endings belong in fairytales not in real life.
So the only alternative is to try to find the inner strength or resources to be able to deal with what is facing us, the confidence to believe that things are not beyond us. That is not easy and one thing that can sometimes block our progress is looking for the solution in the wrong place, looking for the outside world to change instead of working for a change inside ourselves.
That confusion between changing the world and changing ourselves is what we see in the gospel story of the woman at Jacob’s well. She thought Jesus was referring to the water in the well and suggesting that she wouldn’t have to cope with carrying buckets or pitchers backwards and forwards every day. She didn’t realize he was talking about the resources that she could find in herself.
But how do we tap into these resources? Where do they come from? After all, it is precisely when we feel that we don’t have any resources left and that the problem is worse. I can only give a very personal answer, but I hope others can see echoes in their own lives too.
I often find I become too preoccupied with trying to sort out things which are really beyond me. I once heard a distortion of a common saying: when all else fails, lower your standards. We can become very depressed and dispirited if we constantly blame ourselves for not achieving the impossible. I think it is often better to take some pride and satisfaction in what we can achieve, even if that seems very little in the midst of the messy situations that life presents us with.
So perhaps the first step is to begin to let go of a pressing sense of being responsible for everything. If we do let go, I think it can have two effects. It can take some of the panic out of situations, leave us a little bit more relaxed and perhaps allow us to focus what little energy we have in the most productive way.
And then again it can give us space to notice support and help that we may have been too preoccupied to recognize. It is not a coincidence that the gospel story tells of the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus at a well. Wells were sources of water but they were also meeting places. People used to go there to do business, to catch up on gossip, even to meet their future partners.
So when Jesus told the woman she could have a spring welling up inside her, I don’t think he was just telling her that she could have a source of inner life and refreshment. I think he was also suggesting that she could have space to meet God inside herself, just as she had met Jesus at Jacob’s well. And meeting God, she could find support from God too.
If I take that seriously, it means that instead of constantly rushing against the odds to try and complete everything I expect of myself, I need to try and be still at times and make some space in my life, space to recognize what other people are already doing and allow space to bump into God and let God carry some of what I cannot carry myself. It can be effective relief.
Transfiguring~The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI
Y’all! The most exciting thing happened yesterday! I was out with Ginger (our Sheltie), and I saw a butterfly! I love this time of year here in the desert! Yes, the weather is wonky with snow one day and temps in the upper 60s the next, but we get signs that spring is well on its way! Our tulips are breaking ground and our irises are showing! Things are changing!
Speaking of changing, here we are in the second week of the Lenten season. For many folks, the weeks leading up to Easter are all about penance and “giving up something for Lent” and eating fish on Fridays. For others of us, these weeks are about working on making new and better habits, adding additional studies of the scriptures, and trying to be more and more like Jesus. At any rate and in any case, we focus on “changing” ourselves during Lent to make us better people, better followers of Jesus, and better “spreaders of His love.”
In other words, we work to transfigure ourselves. The dictionary tells us that the word “transfigure” means to transform into something more beautiful or elevated. Kinda like that butterfly I saw; you know, yucky worm like caterpillar to beautiful butterfly?
In the Gospel reading appointed for today, we read in Matthew of “The Transfiguration of the Lord”: Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Whoa. Can you even imagine seeing something like that? Of course, instead of constructing tents like Peter wanted to, we would quickly be updating our status on Facebook, or posting like a gazillion pics on Instagram. Or just as likely, our fingers would quickly be flying across our keyboards and phones, sending out Tweets about what an awesome time we had hanging out with Jesus.
When we talk about THE Transfiguration, we usually focus on Jesus and how he was “changed” for a bit into something more “dazzling and heaven-like.” Peter, John, and James witnessed a rare sight, the Transfiguration or change, of Jesus. Just as we strive to experience change during these days of Lent, so did Jesus on top of the mountain. But what I find interesting is that these men still recognized Jesus as, well, Jesus. Though He was clothed in “dazzling white”. He was the same teacher, and friend, that these gentlemen had always known. They recognized Him still, and were humbled by the change that manifested in Him at the time.
But how much more so were the disciples who were with Jesus changed? They witnessed Jesus’ Transfiguration, as well as a booming voice in the cloud declaring exactly who Jesus is, and are instructed to listen to Him. Whoa again. Can you imagine? No? Me either. Often times when the going gets rough and I’m walking on wobbly stones in my faith, I often ask God, “Give me a big ol’ sign, show me you are You.” Well as you can imagine, that doesn’t happen. And honestly, if it would, I wouldn’t be so sure that I could even believe my own eyes.
Yet, don’t we all strive to witness the true face of God, to see with our own eyes that He really is just who He says He is, and can do what He unequivocally declares to be done? As we read in the Bible, true visitations by our heavenly Father are rare. But He is still just as real to us today as He was so long ago on top of that mountain.
As we use this time to manifest changes in ourselves, as we strive to develop a deeper relationship with our blessed Father, let us never forget that He is right here with us. He is sitting at the kitchen table as you sip that first cup of coffee. He is standing in the checkout line at the store. He is in the car on our daily commute home in the evening. And, He is there when we finally decide to put our daily cares to rest, and before we close our eyes at night, whispering “Thank you God for another day.”
And, more importantly, He is expecting us to prove that He is with us to the folks with whom we come into contact every minute of every day of our lives. Remember, there is not one person on this planet who God does not love. Who Jesus didn’t die for. Yes, even that…….….fill in your own blank. Democrat? Yep. Republican. Yep. Trans person, gay person, bigot, other-race person, criminal, gossip, and irritating next door neighbor? Yep. Yes. Affirmative. Positively. Absolutely. Yep, and yes again. We who claim to love the Lord, must show that love. I’ll say it again, you are the only Jesus some folks will ever see, the only Bible some folks will ever read. We must show that we have, indeed, been transfigured.
Let us pray:
You met with Moses on the top of a mountain, and when he descended his face was shining. In your power he brought your laws to a needy people. You met with Christ on top of a mountain, and he was transformed with brightness and descended with renewed strength. Lord, we want to meet with you and be transformed by you, and to bring your transformation to the world around us. Help us to bring your presence to the lives of those burdened with sickness or pain,
and those weighed down with confusion or grief. Bring your healing touch to those lives today, nd let us support those we know who are in need with a constant friendship. Help us to bring your change to a troubled society, where people are unsure of so much and where change comes so fast. Give us the grace to understand people’s problems and anxieties and the strength to tackle difficult issues head on. Help us to work together to transform a needy world, whether through giving or educating or leading by example. Give us the wisdom to see through big and complex issues and the love that will keep us going when problems are overwhelming. Help us to always be a beacon for you, Individually and together. We don’t stand on any lofty mountain but we have a God who is changing us every day and through whom we can reach out to change a broken world. Be with us today Lord and help us take whatever step is next for us. We ask this through the power of your love.
The Devil Made Me Do It~The Rt.Rev.Michael Beckett, OPI
Those of you who are “of an age” will remember the comedian, Flip Wilson and his alter-ego, Geraldine. Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, Wilson turned “the Devil made me do it” into a meme. He was a hoot! Momma loved him. Wilson made frequent TV appearances in the 1960s before starring on his own Emmy Award-winning network TV show in 1970. He also made a slew of comedy albums, if you can remember what those were. You know, records. Vinyl.
Anyway, Wilson would do something outrageous in plain sight, then grin into the camera and say, “The Devil made me do it.” The audience would howl because everyone was in on the joke. We all knew that Flip was exploiting a bit of theology to avoid taking responsibility for his bad behavior. All you had to do was say, “The Devil made me do it,” and you got off the hook with your parents, your boss, your teacher, or your partner. It was a “Get out of Jail Free” card and Flip used it week after week. (Except in our house. No matter how many times my brother or I said, “The devil made me to it,” we still got into trouble. Le sigh….)
Wilson’s routine got us all to laugh at the idea that someone could acknowledge that they had done something terrible, but dodge responsibility by making a theological claim. Whether the subject had robbed a bank, cheated on his wife, or played hooky from school and gone joyriding with his friends, it was all the same. It wasn’t his fault because—all together now—“the Devil made me do it.”
This kind of devil-based theology includes an important but unstated message: When I’m a good boy (or girl), you can attribute my good acts directly to me and my sterling character. But if I behave in horrible, irresponsible ways, just blame it on the Devil, who is running the show.
Language is a powerful influence in our lives, not only in how our words affect others, but also in how our words affect US. Words affect the hearer; words affect the speaker. Our vocabulary very much becomes of a part of how we see the world. What we can put into words contributes to our forming a picture of what we see.
We chuckle at Wilson’s emphasizing that the devil made him do it, but we can be just as capable of blaming something or someone else for our attitudes or behavior. “He makes me so mad,” we might hear, or “that makes me so happy” a friend will bubble. The words reflect a worldview that things outside of us control our thinking. The words confirm our belief that things outside of us make us behave one way or another.
However…… There’s this little thing called “free will” or choice. We all have it. The ability to choose. And there’s thing concept called Choice Theory.Choice theory was created by Dr. William Glasser. Choice theory emphasizes the individual’s control over his or her feelings and actions. Conflict arises because we can only control our own behavior. The William Glasser theory teaches the concept that all behavior is chosen.
Choice theory reminds us that other people or circumstances don’t make us do anything. Circumstances may influence our decisions, but ultimately we choose a behavior that we think will best work for us at that moment. Choice theory also reminds us that the words we commonly use can help or hinder our mental health.
This is why Glasser loved verbs, even changing nouns to verbs as part of his desire to make a point. Instead of anger or being angry, Glasser explained how it is better to say “I am angering” or “I am choosing to anger.” WAIT! WHAT??? It is interesting how powerful our words can be and how much they can influence our perception of things. Choice theory accepts that angering is an option, we just need to accept responsibility for it and not blame someone or something outside of us for our attitude.
In the Gospel appointed for today, Jesus is being tempted by “the devil.” Over and over and over again, until Jesus says to Satan, “”Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” And so it is with us. The devil can “present allurements” and can “entice,” but although Flip Wilson says otherwise, the devil can’t make us do anything.
He certainly can’t separate us from God. That’s on us. Sin is anything that we CHOOSE to do or say that separates us from God. In the past few weeks, how many of us have said/posted/read/agreed with things that would most definitely not be considered Christ-like? How many of us have let our personal political beliefs get in the way of acting like the “little Christ” we are called to be? Sure we can disagree, often vehemently, but under no circumstances can we allow ourselves to allow those differences of opinions to get in the way of our witness for our Lord. (You gotta remember that even Peter and Paul argued, but they didn’t let that stand in the way of building Christ’s Kingdom.)
Let us not forget that in many cases, we are the only Bibles that many folks will ever read, and we are the only Jesus that some folks will ever see. It is up to us to see the Jesus in everyone, regardless of political belief, race, creed, color, sexual orientation, whether we cheer for Duke or for Clemson, or anything thing else that can be used to divide us. We are all of us HIS people, the sheep of HIS pasture, and we have far more in common than we do the things that divide us, if we truly identify as HIS.
As Christians, have we lost our focus of what is truly important? Regardless of politics, of whether we are ‘blue’ or ‘red’ or ‘rainbow,’ we are to remain focused on the one thing that really matters in this world and the next: Spreading and sharing the love of and for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No matter what our politics are, our job, our mission, our focus, has not changed and will not change: We are called to love and to serve the Lord with gladness and singleness of heart. We are called to care of each other, regardless of our politics. We are commanded to ‘bless those who persecute us,’ and we are called to ‘pray for our enemies.’ We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless. (Matthew 25:31-46).
So what’s it gonna be? Joshua says it best, I think: “Choose this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
I wish you a holy and blessed Lent. Amen.
Ashes to Ashes~The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI
Reading 1: Jl 2:12-18
Responsorial Psalm:’51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17
Reading II:’2 Cor 5:20—6:2
Verse Before the Gospel: See Ps 95:8
Gospel:’Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Liturgical Colour: Violet.
Today, we come to Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season.
On Ash Wednesday, I am always reminded of the words used at the committal
part of the Funeral service which goes, “Therefore we commit his/her
body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”
A type of form of those words were spoken for the very first time in the
garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve had eaten of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil. God said to them – “Dust thou art,
and to dust thou shall return.”
Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. A very stark reminder of from where we
Came and to where we shall eventually
return. We are all without God in our lives, by our human nature, and by our deeds – merely a walking, talking,
thinking, doing package of dust and ashes.
There is not much value in dust and ashes. Gardeners would know that fact but
they can be used to help grow plants – but basically for other than this, they are
And without the love, Grace, and Mercy of God, we likewise are worthless.
So then why do we bother today in the wearing of ashes upon our foreheads? Why
do we gather and remember exactly what we are?
Well – the answer is that while we gather to remember who we are,
we also gather to remember who God is – and all that God Our Father and creator has done for
us in and through Our Lord Jesus.
God has given us a way out of our plight of “ashes to ashes, dust
to dust”. The ONLY way- That is the way of the Cross. The death of Jesus was
God’s way of placing a sign of infinite value upon each of us and without this,
we would all otherwise have been worthless. Today it is for each of us to know and
to realise that God has chosen to give us a a totally different life than that
which leads to the dust heap and the ash pit.
And all that God asks of us in return is that we accept his love, Grace and mercy,
that we remember that we are indeed all sinners, and that we truly repent and believe in his
Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And he asks us too that we try to practice a piety that is based
on his love – instead of being motivated by thoughts of human
praise or reward, that we try to show a righteousness that is
based on His goodness – instead of being motivated by thoughts
of demonstrating our human virtue.
God has committed himself to each and every single one of us – and has given to us a sign of that commitment – the cross. Today, we come to take upon ourselves
that sign – we come to recommit ourselves to God and the way that
his Son has shown us.
We come to remember the words of the committal service, the words
that do not stop with “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to
dust”, but continue on to say “trusting in God’s great mercy by
which we have been born anew to a living hope through the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
These are words that we need to always remember – for we are born anew to a
living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ – a hope
that comes to us all because of the mercy and the love of God for his
people; a hope that comes because God has acted in and through
Jesus to open the way to new life to all who repent and believe
in the good news that he proclaimed.
Thanks be to God who gives us this victory.
Let us pray:
Blessed are You O Lord
who gives us life and all things.
Lead us into repentance and
renew our lives with your grace.
May the crosses of ashes that mark our
foreheads be a reminder that we belong to your Son.
May our worship and prayer be sustained
throughout these days of Lent.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Love and Commandments~Br. Christian Ventura, Novice
In the ✠ Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Being raised by a single parent for most of my childhood, I am no stranger to what we typically call “tough love”. As an adult, I try to stay away from using the controversial use of the words “tough love,” as parental relationships are complex and vary drastically in experiences for people. However, I do think there is some merit to the parental loving-kindness that comes from a sincere and tender heart that just wants the best for us.
Today’s excerpt from the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew frames a hopeful scene for Christ’s disciples, even if it is not immediately apparent. It may seem at first glance that Jesus holds lofty expectations for us, condemning actions of misjudgement that even we, as inevitable sinners, might find ourselves in the midst of. Although the firmness in Jesus’ language can be fearful for some, we can be put at ease to know that this is merely an interaction of God’s loving-kindness and compassion for each of us, much like a concerned parent that is eager to hold our hand as we navigate life’s tumultuous challenges. Specifically, Jesus places the letter of the law into context for us, providing an eloquent elaboration that goes beyond the language of the law and raises the spirit of the law, which essentially, is love. Love for God, and love for our neighbor.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
In the words of Anglican Bishop Michael Curry when preaching last November on loving thy neighbor, he says: “It’s a commandment! Not an option, not a nice idea. God didn’t say you have to like everyone. Liking is an emotion, Loving is a commitment”. And so I am optimistic that together we can hold each other accountable in keeping this commitment and commandment: to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Yet it begs asking how many times might we have personally neglected to love our neighbor for the sake of our own comfort? More times than we would like to admit I’m sure. Have we concealed a loved one’s identity from family and friends because it makes us embarrassed or ashamed, and we just rather avoid talking about it? Have we stayed silent during instances of injustice or inequality?
“But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven…. You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…”
We can see clearly how imperative loving God and loving our neighbor comprise the crux of the law. Personally, I am directly reminded of the quote from Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”: “to love another person is to see the face of God”.
So, my brothers and sisters, as we part ways for now, I bid you this farewell.
Behold what you are and Christ’s presence among you.
Be sure to see the Incarnate Word in our midst.
Do all things in remembrance of Him who died and rose again for you.
And, take careful notice of our continued call to be imitators of Christ: to love one another as Christ so graciously loves you.
Pure In Heart~The Rev. Frank Bellino, OPI
Today the Gospel reading is one of the most famous in St Matthew’s Gospel: The Beatitudes, or ‘blessings’, which open Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Faced by having to choose between trying to say something about all the Beatitudes in a small space or focusing on one of them, I am going for the second option.
Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.
This is surely the most often misunderstood of the Beatitudes. It is not, as so many people think, about sex. Purity of heart means something much more than just sexual purity. It means singleness of heart, integrity.
Devout Jews every day recite the Shema, the verse from the book of Deuteronomy:
You shall love the Lord with all your heart.
And in the psalms, we say:
Blessed are those who keep the Lord’s testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart. If you look at somebody lustfully, yes, it is a sin against ‘purity of heart’, it is so because doing that is failing to give yourself entirely to a person, not giving yourself to a person ‘with your whole heart’ is not serving God ‘with your whole heart’. If anything is more important than your fellowship with God fits just as well.
The good person is the person, who is wholly consecrated to the service of God and is about doing God’s will. As Jesus says later in the Sermon on the Mount,
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (“Matthew 6:21 KJV”)
The opposite of a ‘pure’ heart is a divided heart. (“Blessed Are the Pure in Heart | Open the Bible”) As we are told in the letter of St James, purify your hearts, you men of double mind.
And how often we are men – and women – ‘of double mind’! Quite a lot of our lives, in fact! Jews of Jesus’ time thought that what divides the heart is the evil inclination … something implanted in us by God and so far, good, but when not controlled, something divisive.
It can be very frightening to realize that one bit of yourself is working against the other bit, that your feelings and your ideals, your desires and your beliefs, are pulling in opposite directions … to realize that (to use the well-known biblical phrase) you are trying to serve God and Mammon. And these days it’s more difficult than ever not to end up doing just that very thing.
Jesus says that it’s the person with singleness of heart who will see God … which means that the people who are best prepared to share God’s life, to enter heaven, are not necessarily the people we would think – they are not necessarily the people who have busied themselves doing piles and piles of virtuous things, but are very conscious that they have done them, nor the people who have spent their lives metaphorically flicking the dust off their shoulders, the people who’ve never done anything wrong because they’ve never taken the risk that’s often involved in trying to do something right.
The people who are best prepared to share God’s life are, rather, the people who have singleness of heart: who are simple not in the sense of being stupid but in the sense that they are not full of contradictions – who have their priorities right and quietly listen to God.
What the Catholic doctrine of purgatory basically says to us is that, if really deep down we are friends of God, God will share his life with us, but entering God’s life means being separated from all in us that’s alien from God … and that can be painful, for we often want to cling to those things in us which are unlike God.
The people for whom journeying into Heaven is not something painful as long as the people who go to meet God are travelling light – not with a whole pile of ungodly clutter.
And those are the people who are ‘pure in heart’. Let’s pray that we may become people who are ‘pure in heart’.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Memorial~Br. Milan Komadina, Novice
Today we commemorate Saint Thomas Aquinas. He was born in Italy in 1225 (only four years after Saint Dominic’s death). In 1244, he entered the Dominicans and in 1245, he moved to Paris (and later to Naples, Rome, and Cologne) to study, teach and write. Written toward the end of his life, Thomas Aquinas’s most noted work is the Summa Theologica, in which he posits five arguments for the existence of God. But, Saint Thomas’s genius is attributed to much more than a single work. He is honored as a Doctor of the Church, and is the patron saint of scholars, schools, and students. Nearly eight-hundred years after his death, his legacy continues to teach much about grappling with truth, learning, and how both are essential to faith.
Today we read in Hebrews 11 about the importance of having faith. In our everyday life we encounter many problems. These problems could be health issues, financial or job insecurity problems, having a bad relationship with some friends or family members and so on and so forth. However, there is one thing that we, as Christians share and it could help us a lot in those hardships. This is called Faith. Faith in God does not only mean that we believe that there is God who created us. It also means that we believe that God is still present everywhere and at any time in our life. He is timeless and he has no limitation in existing at the same time in the past in the present and in the future. Sometimes we see that in the present the things in our life are not as we would like them to be. We hope we deserve better and we feel that our cross might be a bit bigger that we could carry. In those situations it is good to remember Hebrew 11:8-19 saying about Abraham who trusted God and who had full faith which means that he know that all the hardships he was struggling with were there for some reason. He moved to the Promised Land even though he could not know what this new land would bring him. But he trusted that God is in control of the future and he trusted that God had a plan. This chapter reminds us that God also has a plan for every single person. Especially the verses 11 and 12 –
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
This is what we could call the Faith in Action. I guess that we all have struggles with having strong faith in absolutely every period of the life. Sometimes we feel unjust, or we feel hurt or we feel that we do not deserve the things that are happening to us. But still, it is important to remember also that Job was the most righteous man of his time and God allowed the devil to make many temptations, loss and hardship to his life. Yes we know the past, and sometimes it can be hard to remember it, yes, we also live our present and we could sometimes feel blue about it, but what we do not know is the future. God is in the future and he knows why we have certain hardships or temptations. But he gave us the Bible and he thought us that we will always have the cross that we can carry. He gave us the faith and he thought us through Abraham what having faith means. As a perfect example of faith is the readiness of Abraham to sacrifice his own son. As we read in verses 17, 18 and 19 –
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
A God example of perfect faith is that Abraham knew that God could even get Isaac back from the death. The lesson about Abraham and the importance of strong faith is the lesson that we all should repeat in our everyday life. People tend to lose or minimize their faith in the moments of hardships. Many years after Abraham, Our Lord Jesus also experienced the lack of faith of his followers when he was sleeping on the boat while there was a storm coming. As we read in Mark 4:35-41. In verse 38 they asked –
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
This is the sentence we probably often ask when struggling with the storms of our everyday problems. We are not used to let us be guide by Jesus and trust him. But happy news are that we could always rely on Him because he was the one killing down the wind and calming the storm. And he wants us to be always reminded about the question he asked in verse 40 –
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
My prayer for today is that we all could have the faith as Jesus thought us. The faith strong as the one that Abraham had. And to always remember that God is in control. Amen.
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