Category: Member Posts

I Hate People ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

I have a really hard time with bigots.  With ultra right folks.  With folks who preach hate under the cover of their ‘christianity.’  I have a really hard time with child abusers, with spousal abusers.  I have a really hard time with habitual criminals and crooked cops.  Animal abusers.  With politicians who say one thing and do another.  And the list goes on.  And on.  And on. 

I have a hard time with those who profess to be my friends, but prove themselves otherwise.  With those who say they love me, but do whatever they can to denigrate those whom I love and prove themselves to be the antithesis of loving. 

And sometimes I have a hard time with people in general.  In the musical “Scrooge” by Leslie Bricusse, Scrooge sings, “I Hate People:”

Scavengers and sycophants and flatterers and fools

Pharisees and parasites and hypocrites and ghouls

Calculating swindlers, prevaricating frauds

Perpetrating evil as they roam the earth in hordes

Feeding on their fellow men

Reaping rich rewards

Contaminating everything they see

Corrupting honest me like me

Humbug! Poppycock! Balderdash! Bah!

I hate people! I hate people!

People are despicable creatures

Loathesome inexplicable creatures

Good-for-nothing kickable creatures

I hate people! I abhor them!

Sadly, I think we all of us feel that way about people at times. 

But then, there’s this little quote that springs to mind: 

You will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love. 

Now, doesn’t that just knock the wind out of my sails and punch me right in the gut.  In spite of everything, God loves those folks that we have a hard time with.  God loves those whom we really, really have a hard time with.  God loves those whom (gasp!) who don’t love US. Pretty humbling, huh?

The Scriptures appointed for today drive that point home.  In our first reading today (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48) we hear St. Peter teaching the Jewish Christians that the Gentiles are God’s people just as much as the Jewish ones.   In our second reading,  ( 1 Jn 4:7-10) St. John says to us  “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”   And in our Gospel reading for today, Jesus pulls no punches, spares no feelings, and takes no prisoners when he says, flat out:  “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”  Notice, not a suggestion.  Not a subtle hint.  A COMMANDMENT. 

Oops.

SO, all those folks that I have a really hard time with?  Love ‘em anyway.  All those folks who have a hard time with me?  Love ‘em anyway.  Jesus teaches us to “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke 6:28). 

And it’s HARD.  Living our lives as Jesus would have us to do ain’t no picnic at times.  Not when we really and truly strive to be like Christ. 

So, what IS this love?  St. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 13 that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Oops again.  More often than I want to admit, I fail at this.  I seem to forget all about that “love” that I’m supposed to be showing.  I don’t think Jesus, Paul, or Peter, expected us to be all buddy-buddy, welcome-to-my-inner-circle, be-my-best-friend with everyone, especially those folks with whom we have such a hard time.  But what Jesus expects of us is to love everyone with that same love God loves us.  And I’m not talking about that “love the sinner, hate the sin” crap.  That, more often than not, is just an excuse for bigotry.  What I AM talking about is this:  We are called, as Christians, to love.  Period. 

Notice, I said “love,” not “like.  There is a vast difference in the two. But what does it mean to love others? All too often, I’m afraid, we confuse liking someone with loving them. In other words, we think loving someone is similar to liking them, only much stronger. And this isn’t necessarily wrong, as far as it goes; a husband should genuinely like his wife and enjoy being in her company.

Does this mean we can’t love someone who’s difficult to like? No, it doesn’t, not if we understand the kind of love God has for us. God loves us not because we’re perfect, or even likeable, because we aren’t. We fall far short of what He wants us to be, yet the Bible says He still loves us.  

So, reckon wonder, what do we do????  How do we love those folks we can’t stand? 

Remember how much Jesus loves you. Read through the stories of his crucifixion and regain that sense of awe at all he gave up to secure your freedom.

Confess the limitations of your own love. Jesus knew none of us would measure up. That’s why he sent his Spirit to pour out his love in our hearts (Romans 5.5).

Surrender the difficult relationship to him. Place the person’s negative responses to you in his hands. Ask God to heal any emotional scarring you have from this person and enable you to totally forgive them.

Ask him to show you how to manifest his love to them. You don’t have what it takes, but he does. Trust that his Spirit will give you the words to say in times of conflict, and that he will show you what actions you can do to demonstrate his love.

And above all else, and perhaps the hardest to do is to: 

Choose love. When pain and frustrations with this person surface, you need to choose to depend on the Spirit’s power to bless and not curse, to sacrifice your time and energy and not just retreat for self-preservation.

Choose love. 

Let us pray. 

Father, I have to thank You for looking beyond my faults and for loving me unconditionally. Forgive me when I fail to love others in the same way. Give me eyes to see the needs of the difficult people in my life, and show me how to meet those needs in a way that pleases You.  Help me to love as you love.  Help me to keep uppermost in my mind that we are, all of, your children.  Help me to choose love.  Amen.

THE FEAST OF ST PHILIP AND JAMES ~ The Rev. Dcn Igor Kalinski OPI

Saint Philip and James – witnesses of Jesus’ miracles

Whenever we celebrate the feast of an apostle, we are overwhelmed by the desire to learn as much as possible about his life. But this desire can only be modestly granted in this world because the information about most of the apostles is rather meager. This also applies to St. Philip and James the Younger, which we celebrate together today.

We find both apostles on all four apostolic lists in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and in the Acts of the Apostles. Philip is in fifth place, and James the younger, son of Alphaeus, in ninth place. According to the Gospel of John, Philip, like Andrew and Peter, came from Bethsaida on the Lake of Gennesaret. He is mentioned in five places in the Gospel of John.

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. However, he met Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me!’ Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Peter and Andrew. Philip met Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the Law, and the Prophets too! This is Jesus, the son of Joseph of Nazareth. ‘-‘ Can anything good come out of Nazareth? ‘Nathanael told him. “Come and see,” replied Philip “(Jn 1: 43-46). Philip was a youthful friend of the writer of the fourth gospel, with whom he belonged together to the discipleship of John the Baptist. That is why in his Gospel he erected this wonderful monument to him, which speaks of Philip’s first encounter with Jesus, as well as of his zeal to win another zealous disciple for Jesus as the promised Messiah. In his Gospel, John brings Philip to the stage and describes how Jesus miraculously fed five thousand people.

Then Jesus lifted up his eyes, and when he saw a great multitude coming to him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ Sam knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred loaves of bread would not suffice for everyone to get a little” (John 6: 5-7). It is also a very beautiful scene in the gospel when the Gentiles seek Jesus. “Among the pilgrims who came to worship on the feast were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Lord, we would like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew. Andrew and Philip went to tell Jesus ”(Jn 12: 20-30). And finally, at the farewell with the disciples, here again Philip comes to the fore. Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me. If you knew me, you would know my Father. You already know him and have seen him! Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we have had enough.’ He who has seen me has seen the Father. So how do you say: Show us the Father! Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me? I do not speak for myself the words that I say to you: The Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me: I am in the Father and the Father is in me! If not, believe because of the works themselves ”(Jn 14: 6-11).

According to later tradition, Philip lived with his three daughters in Hierapolis in Asia Minor, where he died. Archaeologists even think they found his grave there. According to the church writers Polycrates and Papias, quoted by Eusebius, Philip’s daughters had the gift of prophecy. The relics of St. Philip the Apostle are worshiped in Rome in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles, where the General Curia of the Franciscan-Conventuals is today.

St. James the Younger, son of Alphaeus, himself a writer of a New Testament scripture, except in the list of the apostles, is nowhere specifically mentioned in the Gospels. Sv. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians mentions him as one of the most eminent figures of the early Church, while in the Acts of the Apostles he stands out as the bishop of Jerusalem. His message is very serious. It is full of admonition, rebuke and threat. In its 108 lines we find 60 imperatives. It can always serve us as a very useful and saving spiritual reading against the hardening of our conscience.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

28.IV.2021 GEVGELIJA/MACEDONIA Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s  Sebastian and Peregrine

Grapes and Raisins ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Are you a grape or are you a raisin?  And before you decide that I’m nuts, bear with me and lemme do some ‘splainin’ here.  Ever grown grapes?  Been to a vineyard?  Seen a grape vine?  Grapes grow in bunches on vines…the vines come out of the ground and provide the nutrition and things that are needed to produce the fruit. Grapes have to stay attached to the branches and vines for them to keep growing. Right?

Now, what would happen if one of these grapes fell off of the vine and sat in the sun for a while? It wouldn’t be fresh and juicy anymore, would it? In fact, it would sort of wither and shrivel up…kinda like raisins!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like raisins, and they’re great for cookies or cereal or a quick snack, but again, stick with me here.  Compared to big beautiful grapes though, raisins look pretty sad and icky, don’t they?

In today’s Gospel, (John 15:1-8) Jesus talks about vines and branches.  People in those days knew a lot about farming and planting, and a lot of folks had vineyards where they grew grapes. Jesus said that He was the vine, and that we are the branches.  What’s up with that?  Jesus was explaining how important it is for us to stay connected to Him. Just as the vine provides nutrition that helps fruit grow on a plant, Jesus gives us all that we need to grow in our faith. The branches on a grape vine have to stay connected to the vine so that they can produce delicious fruit. Otherwise, they’ll dry up and wither like sad little raisins. If we walk away and abandon faith, we’ll “shrivel up”, too!

We need to stay close to Christ so that He can produce “fruit” in us.   Spiritual fruit refers to things that help others and show that Jesus lives in and through us.

We are taught in Paul’s letter to the Galatians that  things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). How do we make sure we are connected to Jesus? We read God’s Word and study the Bible. We pray, talking to God and listening, too. We go to church so we can be connected with other “branches” that also abide in Him. Most importantly, we recognize that Jesus is doing the work and producing fruit through us. We don’t have to do a special set of tasks or have “enough faith.” We stay connected to the “vine” of Jesus and let the Holy Spirit develop its fruit. We trust in God and rely on Him for all things, staying close to Him and thanking Him for giving us life and hope.  In other words, we actually become disciples of Christ. 

“Now,” you say, “I’m a Christian already.”  Nuh huh.  Nope.  Not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about being a disciple, not a Christian.  My friend, Rainbow Joseph, explained it best when he wrote:

“You were called by Christ to be a disciple, not a Christian.  A disciple is an apprentice. A disciple learns from a teacher how to be like the teacher. A disciple learns by doing. A disciple practices the skill that is learned, over and over, improving a little more each day.  Jesus THE Christ has called you to be a christ to those around in your own personal Israel.  If you are not the Christ to those around you, then you do not serve THE Christ and you have learned nothing.  If you are not the Christ to those around you, then you are not a disciple, and if not a disciple, you are certainly not a Christian.”

Like I’ve said before, you are the only Jesus some people will ever see.  You are the only Bible some people will ever read.  SO… are you a grape, or are you a raisin?  Amen.

Saint Catherine of Siena

   

She was the youngest but one of a very large family. Her father, Giacomo di Benincasa, was a dyer; her mother, Lapa, the daughter of a local poet. They belonged to the lower middle-class faction of tradesmen and petty notaries, known as “the Party of the Twelve”, which between one revolution and another ruled the Republic of Siena from 1355 to 1368. From her earliest childhood Catherine began to see visions and to practice extreme austerities. At the age of seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ; in her sixteenth year she took the habit of the Dominican Tertiaries, and renewed the life of the anchorites of the desert in a little room in her father’s house. After three years of celestial visitations and familiar conversation with Christ, she underwent the mystical experience known as the “spiritual espousals”, probably during the carnival of 1366. She now rejoined her family, began to tend the sick, especially those afflicted with the most repulsive diseases, to serve the poor, and to labor for the conversion of sinners. Though always suffering terrible physical pain, living for long intervals on practically no food save the Blessed Sacrament, she was ever radiantly happy and full of practical wisdom no less than the highest spiritual insight. All her contemporaries bear witness to her extraordinary personal charm, which prevailed over the continual persecution to which she was subjected even by the friars of her own order and by her sisters in religion. She began to gather disciples round her, both men and women, who formed a wonderful spiritual fellowship, united to her by the bonds of mystical love. During the summer of 1370 she received a series of special manifestations of Divine mysteries, which culminated in a prolonged trance, a kind of mystical death, in which she had a vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and heard a Divine command to leave her cell and enter the public life of the world. She began to dispatch letters to men and women in every condition of life, entered into correspondence with the princes and republics of Italy, was consulted by the papal legates about the affairs of the Church, and set herself to heal the wounds of her native land by staying the fury of civil war and the ravages of faction. She implored the pope, Gregory XI, to leave Avignon, to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States, and ardently threw herself into his design for a crusade, in the hopes of uniting the powers of Christendom against the infidels, and restoring peace to Italy by delivering her from the wandering companies of mercenary soldiers. While at Pisa, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, 1375, she received the Stigmata, although, at her special prayer, the marks did not appear outwardly in her body while she lived.

    Mainly through the misgovernment of the papal officials, war broke out between Florence and the Holy See, and almost the whole of the Papal States rose in insurrection. Catherine had already been sent on a mission from the pope to secure the neutrality of Pisa and Lucca. In June, 1376, she went to Avignon as ambassador of the Florentines, to make their peace; but, either through the bad faith of the republic or through a misunderstanding caused by the frequent changes in its government, she was unsuccessful. Nevertheless she made such a profound impression upon the mind of the pope, that, in spite of the opposition of the French king and almost the whole of the Sacred College, he returned to Rome (17 January, 1377). Catherine spent the greater part of 1377 in effecting a wonderful spiritual revival in the country districts subject to the Republic of Siena, and it was at this time that she miraculously learned to write, though she still seems to have chiefly relied upon her secretaries for her correspondence. Early in 1378 she was sent by Pope Gregory to Florence, to make a fresh effort for peace. Unfortunately, through the factious conduct of her Florentine associates, she became involved in the internal politics of the city, and during a popular tumult (22 June) an attempt was made upon her life. She was bitterly disappointed at her escape, declaring that her sins had deprived her of the red rose of martyrdom. Nevertheless, during the disastrous revolution known as “the tumult of the Ciompi”, she still remained at Florence or in its territory until, at the beginning of August, news reached the city that peace had been signed between the republic and the new pope. Catherine then instantly returned to Siena, where she passed a few months of comparative quiet, dictating her “Dialogue”, the book of her meditations and revelations.

    In the meanwhile the Great Schism had broken out in the Church. From the outset Catherine enthusiastically adhered to the Roman claimant, Urban VI, who in November, 1378, summoned her to Rome. In the Eternal City she spent what remained of her life, working strenuously for the reformation of the Church, serving the destitute and afflicted, and dispatching eloquent letters in behalf of Urban to high and low in all directions. Her strength was rapidly being consumed; she besought her Divine Bridegroom to let her bear the punishment for all the sins of the world, and to receive the sacrifice of her body for the unity and renovation of the Church; at last it seemed to her that the Bark of Peter was laid upon her shoulders, and that it was crushing her to death with its weight. After a prolonged and mysterious agony of three months, endured by her with supreme exultation and delight, from Sexagesima Sunday until the Sunday before the Ascension, she died. Her last political work, accomplished practically from her death-bed, was the reconciliation of Pope Urban VI with the Roman Republic (1380).

    Among Catherine’s principal followers were Fra Raimondo delle Vigne, of Capua (d. 1399), her confessor and biographer, afterwards General of the Dominicans, and Stefano di Corrado Maconi (d. 1424), who had been one of her secretaries, and became Prior General of the Carthusians. Raimondo’s book, the “Legend”, was finished in 1395. A second life of her, the “Supplement”, was written a few years later by another of her associates, Fra Tomaso Caffarini (d. 1434), who also composed the “Minor Legend”, which was translated into Italian by Stefano Maconi. Between 1411 and 1413 the depositions of the surviving witnesses of her life and work were collected at Venice, to form the famous “Process”. Catherine was canonized by Pius II in 1461. The emblems by which she is known in Christian art are the lily and book, the crown of thorns, or sometimes a heart–referring to the legend of her having changed hearts with Christ. Her principal feast is on the 30th of April, but it is popularly celebrated in Siena on the Sunday following. The feast of her Espousals is kept on the Thursday of the carnival.

    The works of St. Catherine of Siena rank among the classics of the Italian language, written in the beautiful Tuscan vernacular of the fourteenth century. Notwithstanding the existence of many excellent manuscripts, the printed editions present the text in a frequently mutilated and most unsatisfactory condition. Her writings consist of        

the “Dialogue”, or “Treatise on Divine Providence”; a collection of nearly four hundred letters; and a series of “Prayers”.

    The “Dialogue” especially, which treats of the whole spiritual life of man in the form of a series of colloquies between the Eternal Father and the human soul (represented by Catherine herself), is the mystical counterpart in prose of Dante’s “Divina Commedia”.

    A smaller work in the dialogue form, the “Treatise on Consummate Perfection”, is also ascribed to her, but is probably spurious. It is impossible in a few words to give an adequate conception of the manifold character and contents of the “Letters”, which are the most complete expression of Catherine’s many-sided personality. While those addressed to popes and sovereigns, rulers of republics and leaders of armies, are documents of priceless value to students of history, many of those written to private citizens, men and women in the cloister or in the world, are as fresh and illuminating, as wise and practical in their advice and guidance for the devout Catholic today as they were for those who sought her counsel while she lived. Others, again, lead the reader to mystical heights of contemplation, a rarefied atmosphere of sanctity in which only the few privileged spirits can hope to dwell. The key-note to Catherine’s teaching is that man, whether in the cloister or in the world, must ever abide in the cell of self-knowledge, which is the stable in which the traveler through time to eternity must be born again.

Born: March 25, 1347 at Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Died: April 29, 1380 of a mysterious and painful illness that came on without notice, and was never properly diagnosed

Canonized: July 1461 by Pope Pius II

Representation:  cross; crown of thorns; heart; lily; ring; stigmata

Patronage:  against fire, bodily ills, diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA, Europe, fire prevention, firefighters, illness, Italy, miscarriages, nurses, nursing services, people ridiculed for their piety, sexual temptation, sick people, sickness, Siena Italy, temptations

I Am The Good Shepherd ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

I am The Good Shepherd.

Reading I: Acts 4:8-12

Responsorial Psalm: 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

Reading II: 1 Jn 3:1-2

Gospel: Jn 10:11-18

Liturgical colour: White.

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today, the 4th Sunday of Easter, is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. 

The Good Shepherd is the topic which our Holy Gospel is telling us about today.

Let us firstly look at today’s Gospel reading:

John 10:11-18 (NIV)

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Let us take a closer look at what we being told in John 10:

Christ is telling us what it means for him to be our shepherd and for us to be his sheep in seven wonderful ways.

1. Christ has received you as a gift from the Father.

“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29)

Christ’s sheep are a gift that he receives from the Father.

Now how would you know if you are one of Christ’s sheep? How would you know if you have been given by the Father to the Son?

The identifying marks of Christ’s sheep are stated clearly in this verse: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (10:27). But what does it mean to hear his voice?

Jesus says earlier, “You do not believe because you are not among my sheep” (10:26). So it follows that believing is a distinguishing mark of the sheep given to the Son by the Father. Christ’s sheep hear his voice, they believe his Word, and they follow him.

So, if you believe and follow Jesus Christ, you are one of Christ’s sheep. You have been given by the Father to the Son.

2. Christ knows each and every one of us completely.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father…” (10:14-15)

Jesus Christ knows us all completely! There is never a time when we are ever a mystery to Christ.

In the Psalms we read, “The Lord knows our frame…” (Psalm 103:14). Christ knows our temperaments, our moods. He knows what lifts us up, and he knows what gets us down.

There is nothing any of us could ever tell Jesus about ourselves that he does not already know completely.

Here is the joy of following Jesus Christ. Because he knows us so completely, he is able to lead us effectively. The good shepherd knows exactly what we need, and he is able to give us what we need at precisely the time that we need it.

3. Christ gave himself for each and every single one of us.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.…I lay down my life for the sheep.”(John 10:11, 15)

This is something so very wonderful: The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Everything Jesus endured in his passion was for us. When he gave himself into the hands of the arresting party in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was for us. When he was scourged and beaten, it was for us. And when he was condemned to death, it was for us.. When he hung on that cross in agony, it was for us.

We must never ever forget that our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, chose to suffer and die for each one of us. This was not imposed on him. He gave himself willingly. “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (10:18).

Jesus accomplished everything he had come to do and then he gave himself into death. And this is what he has done for us.

4. Christ called us and brought us to himself.

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” (John 10:16)

How does he bring us to himself and make us his sheep? “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (10:3). The sheep who are called by name in John 10:3 are the same sheep who enter by the door in John 10:9. And Jesus says, “I am the door.” Christ is the door, and “if anyone enters by the door, he will be saved”(10:9).

We each come through the door when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But when we believe, we will very quickly have an awareness that there was something going on beyond our believing. Somehow he called us. Somehow he brought us. He did not stand back and wait to see if we would come to him. Like the shepherd who went out to find the lost sheep, he laid us upon his shoulders and brought us back home.

5. Christ owns all of us and will never ever abandon us.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…My sheep hear my voice…”(John 10:14, 27)

What a marvellous thing to be owned by the Son of God! The contrast here is with the hired hand. The hired hand “does not own the sheep” (10:12). The hired hand has no real investment in the flock. He shepherds the flock because he is paid to do so. The hired hand has to calculate whether it is worth the effort and risk of doing this job for what he gets paid. There is a point when the hired hand may say, “It’s just not worth it.” There are limits to his commitment.

Christ does not care for us because of what he can get out of us. That would be the spirit of the hired hand. Christ cares for us because we truly are his. There will never be a time when he will say, “we aren’t worth it.” He made us his own, at the cost of his life and, having made us his own, he will never leave us; he will never forsake us.

With such a shepherd committed to us for life, what do we indeed truly have to fear?

6. Christ gives us eternal life.

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish…” (John 10:28)

Jesus does not say, “I will give them eternal life at some time in the future.” He says, “I give them eternal life!” If Christ is indeed our  shepherd, this precious gift of eternal life is already given to us.

And notice the word give. In other words, we did not earn this priceless gift.Eternal life is freely given by the shepherd and is freely received by his sheep, simply because he is the shepherd and we are the sheep.

The life Jesus gives is eternal. Eternal life, by definition, is a life that never ends, and if we have this life, it’s ours forever!

7. Christ guards us and will keep us forever.

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)

What reason do we have for confidence as a Christian when all the pressure of life stands against us? Can what is ours in Christ ever be taken away?

Christ’s sheep are in his hand. That’s the answer! And as if that wasn’t enough, our Lord adds, “No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (10:29-30).

The hand of Christ is beneath us, and the hand of the Father is above us. Thus we are forever safe and secure.

Are these things true of your life? Have you accepted the Lord as your Shepherd?

Let us pray:

O Lord Jesus Christ,

good Shepherd of the sheep,

you came to seek the lost

and gather them to your fold.

Have compassion on those who have wandered from you.

Feed those who hunger,

make the weary lie down in your pastures,

bind up those who are broken in heart,

and strengthen those who are weak,

that we rely on your care,

find comfort in  your love,

and abide in your guidance to our lives’ end;

for your name’s sake.

Amen.

Told Ya! ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Do you remember when we were kids and our parents would tell us to not do that thing because if we did, we would cause all manner of problems AND get into trouble?  And because we were us, we went right ahead and did that thing and we caused all manner of problems and got into trouble.  And our parents said, “I told you so.”

And, poor Scott.  Sometimes I feel so bad for him.  He has it rough.  You see, he lives with me.  And one of my very, very, very favorite things to say to him is, “I told you so.”  (Scott is much smarter and a heckuva lot wiser than I am, but do you think I’d let HIM know that?  Uh unh.  I ain’t doin’ it.)

And of course, there are those (infrequent, oh so very infrequent!) times Scott gets to say to me, “I told you so.”  (I hate that.)

So why do we not listen?  Why do we not accept what we are told?  Why must we, in our (self-centeredness) have to learn the hard way that what God says, He means?  Or do we ever learn?  As many of you know, Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 are two of my very favorite verses of Scripture.  Both of them give us assurance that God has things well in hand and that we really don’t need to worry about things.  And God has proved himself over and over and over and over ad infinitum in my life.  He has cared for me when I had nothing else.  He has shown Himself faithful and true and proved to me that I have no need to worry.  So WHY do I worry?  Why can I not get it through my head that I have no need to worry, I have no need to doubt?  I would dare say that many of you have had similar experiences.

Whatever the answer to that question is, we are in good company.    Over and over and over again, throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures both, we continually hear God tell us, “Have I not told you…  I told you….”  In the Gospel reading for today, when Cleopas and another disciple are on their way to Emmaus, Jesus appears to them and teaches them and says to them (are you ready) “I told you so.”  (Well, actually, according the NIV  He said,  “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Luke 24:25)  They recognized Jesus and he disappeared and then they hightailed it back to Jerusalem, straight to the disciples.  And as they were telling the disciples what had happened, Jesus appeared to them all. They were, of course, amazed, frightened, excited!!!!!  And what did Jesus say?  He said, “I told you so.”  (NIV:  “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Luke 24:44)  Now, these weren’t your every day, run of the mill, ordinary disciples.  These were THE DISCIPLES;  hand-picked by Jesus, his closest companions.  They who had witnessed miracles firsthand.  And they had trouble getting with the program and believing.  But ya know, Jesus then gave them yet another chance, kinda started from the beginning again, and did a reteach.  (NIV:  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.  And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:45-48)

How awesome is that?  Even after all the things the disciples had seen, had witnessed, had had first- hand experience with, Jesus taught them yet again.  And so it is with us.  When we truly desire to increase our faith, when we truly seek another chance to learn the lessons that Christ teaches us, He will always, always give us another chance to try again.  It is up to us to continually open ourselves to learning those lessons.  The hymnist, Clara H. Scott certainly had the words right when she wrote in 1895:

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!

Open my ears, that I may hear

Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;

And while the wave notes fall on my ear,

Everything false will disappear.

Silently now I wait for Thee,

Ready my God, Thy will to see,

Open my ears, illumine me,

Spirit divine!

Open my mind, that I may read

More of Thy love in word and deed;

What shall I fear while yet Thou dost lead?

Only for light from Thee I plead.

Silently now I wait for Thee,

Ready my God, Thy will to see,

Open my mind, illumine me,

Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let me bear,

Gladly the warm truth everywhere;

Open my heart and let me prepare

Love with Thy children thus to share.

Silently now I wait for Thee,

Ready my God, Thy will to see,

Open my heart, illumine me,

Spirit divine!

It is my hope and prayer that each of us open ourselves to learn the lessons that God teaches us, and that we do our utmost to learn, and to live those lessons.  Amen.

Simplicity and Peace, God’s Peace ~ Milan Komadina

Sisters and brothers today we commemorate the Second Sunday of Easter. There are several useful chapters from the Bible that I would like to share with you and we can actually learn and remember some very useful things. Let us read.

Jn 20:19-31

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

We live in the chaotic time. Every day is so busy. Run to work, run home, run to meet your friends or family members and all of the activities that we do on a daily level are taking away our inner peace. Let us pray sisters and brothers for a moment and let us remember who was the one that can give us peace – Lord Jesus. As we read the first thing that Jesus said when he appeared in front of his disciples after the resurrection were: Peace be with you! Remember anytime when you feel chaotic, nervous, exhausted and stressed you can find your peace in Jesus.

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Look at the apostle Tomas. He does not believe that Jesus is alive and that He really resurrected. Oh, this is such a familiar feeling my dear. I remember those many times when I am spiritually down or when I feel so over worried about my earthly problems – the feeling is like Jesus is not real. It is a feeling like I want to touch him, I want to hug him and I want his real material presence here in my life. This story from the Bible reminds us that we are not the only one. Maybe at the moment you don’t feel that he is here. And similarly to Thomas you would like to feel Him even closer and even more material. Maybe your life is so difficult or you have many problems and it seems like Jesus is far away. Remember, dear sister and brother he is here. He is always here.

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In the last part of this short sermon I would like to share one more story from the Bible with you. Something that teaches us about the way we should be acting toward each other. Let us read.

Acts 4:32-35/1

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Here we could remember how important is not to be in love with all the material things that surround us. Wanting to have a lot of money, expensive clothes, expensive car, a luxurious house etc. actually produces bigger and bigger desire to have more. Because people are never satisfied. This is human nature. But what we really need is some clothes, a bed to sleep, a roof above our heads, a plate to eat and a glass to drink. This is all so simple and this is the thing which Christians who were living in the first century knew very well. They were sharing everything. They were modest and humble. I pray for all of us to be like them. But not because Bible says so, but because believe me we would be happier, we would be more grateful and we would appreciate this life much more. Because the life is a gift from God and it is beautiful by itself. There is no need for material wealth to be happy. And here is one more short story:

Jn 5:1-6

The Healing at the Pool

Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

An important wisdom about our health is to be aware that God is our only real doctor. Sometimes we are sick or sometimes we suffer some health related issues and we desperately want and pray for Jesus to heal us – right now and very quickly. In this story we learnt that this man was sick for 38 years. Hey, 38 years of hope to recover. That is a long period of time. I just want you to remember this thing whenever you feel sick or even weak, or mentally exhausted. Maybe Jesus will not intervene right now, maybe you should wait for some time. In order to be patient or to learn something. Because the life is the lesson. And everything happens with the reason. Even the sickness. Let us all remember that. But I hope that you all will be healthy and happy and that in joy and peace we will celebrate today`s holyday. Peace be to you all in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Resurrection Living ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

I have seen the Lord!  What a testimony!  What wouldn’t we give to be able to say those words?  And yet, Mary was greeted with disbelief.  No one expected Jesus to rise from the dead.  In fact, one of the common elements of the resurrection stories across the gospels is that NO ONE expects the resurrection. Even though Jesus predicted his death … and resurrection … several times across his ministry, no one greets the news that God has raised Jesus from the grave and defeated death and the devil by saying, “Praise God!” No one shouts “Hallelujah” when they hear that their friend and Lord has been raised to life. And absolutely no one, upon hearing the news that death itself could not hold the Lord of Glory captive, says, “I knew it – just like he said!”

How often do we do the same?  We, like the disciples, actually deny the resurrection.  How so you ask?  We actually deny the resurrection every time we talk poorly about someone, refuse to serve our neighbor, refuse eye contact with someone who is different, fail to smile at a stranger…..every time we lose our patience, get frustrated when someone doesn’t get what we’re saying right off the bat, every time we act with less than love.

That’s right – we do that. 

However, like the disciples, we can change that.  In the Resurrection Story, no one expects the resurrection and no one, quite frankly, believes it at first. This is true, as I said, across the gospels, and it is certainly apparent in Luke. The women come to the tomb expecting to anoint Jesus’ dead body. That is, they have no expectation that he has been raise. In fact, only when they are reminded by the “two men in dazzling clothes,” do they recall Jesus’ promise.

Energized by this encounter, they run back to tell the rest of the disciples … who greet their tale with utter skepticism. In fact, Luke says that those who received the testimony of the women regarded their message as an “idle tale.” That’s actually a fairly generous translation of the Greek work leros. That word, you see, is the root of our word “delirious.” So in short, they thought what the women said was crazy, nuts, utter nonsense.

Resurrection, in other words, throws off the balance, upsets the apple cart, and generally turns our neat and orderly lives totally out of whack. Which is why I think that if you don’t find resurrection at least a little hard to believe, you probably aren’t taking it very seriously! And, truth be told, I suspect that’s where most of us – we’ve heard the story of resurrection so often it hardly makes us blink, let alone shake with wonder and surprise. Which is rather sad, when you think about it, because this promise, as difficult as it may be to believe initially, is huge, and when it sinks in and lays hold of you, absolutely everything looks a little different.

And isn’t seeing the world a little differently what being a Christian is all about?  The prayer often attributed to St. Francis sums it up nicely:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

Like the disciples, like the women at the tomb, let us proclaim the resurrection by living our lives so that others see that we are, in reality, living the fact that the Lord is Risen!  The Lord is Risen indeed!

Amen

Holy Saturday ~ Br. Milan Komadina

Sisters and brothers, today we commemorate the day when Our Savor, Lord Jesus was in the tomb. The saddest day for Christians along with the Holy Friday. On this day people literally put God in the tomb. Jesus Christ, Our Lord was sacrificed. In the Old Testament scarifying was regular religious practice. But there is one story where God showed that He does not need human sacrifices (like pagans do). What he needs is a perfect sacrifice and this is why His perfect son, was sacrificed. Let’s read this story, Gn 22, 1-18:

Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”. “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you. ”Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”

What we learnt through this story is that God really doesn’t need our sacrifices. Remember that in the time when Abraham lived scarifying children was not a big scandal. Pagans were doing that as their rituals. But still God wants us to be obedient. It is true that we are saved by grace only but it doesn’t mean that now we should do nothing. Remember that we are salt to the World. We should obey God’s commandments especially the biggest 2 – to love God and to love people. Sometimes we may feel like Abraham that it is too demanding and too hard for us to do what God wants us to. Sometimes we may misunderstand God’s plans in our lives. But remember Is 55:8:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord.

Let us always trust God and feel calm because everything that is happening in our lives, it is here with some reason. We should be glorifying God always because he is always good. Is 54:10:

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Let’s see what Bible says about God’s commandments in Bar 32:4-4:

She is the book of the commandments of God, the law that endures forever. All who hold her fast will live, and those who forsake her will die. Turn, O Jacob, and take her; walk towards the shining of her light. Do not give your glory to another, or your advantages to an alien people. Happy are we, O Israel, for we know what is pleasing to God.

God promises life. And even though we know that on this day Jesus was in tomb, we also know that the next day he will be resurrected into eternal life. Abraham knew that being obedient brings life and he also believed that his son will live even though he was ready to sacrifice him. And as we all know, he really lived. Is there anyone of you that is not afraid of death? I guess we all are. But see what God says Ezekiel 18:28

Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die.

Jesus died for us to show us that we will never die if we stick to God. He was buried on this day but the next day we will be celebrating his resurrection. Rom 6:5-11

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

This is how life functions to all of us. Sometimes we feel sad and lost. We have problems and stress but then God always brings the light, the resurrection as always there is the Sun after the rain. In the end of this sermon I would like to take a look at Jesus’ Resurrection and take a look at Mk 16:1-7

 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.  But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

Good Friday ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: Is 52:13—53:12

Responsorial Psalm: 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25

Reading II: Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Gospel: Jn 18:1—19:42

Liturgical colour: Red.

Today on The Passion of The Lord (Good Friday), we hear John’s Gospel account of Jesus’ victorious death upon the cross. Victorious death you may ask? Yes, the cross is where the path of faithfulness leads. Jesus is victorious in his faithfulness to the end. Especially in the Gospel of John, we are told that Jesus knew about the betrayal, the abandonment, the suffering, and his death that was to come in his last days. Jesus knew the danger that was to come, and he continued directly to it. To die on the cross was to triumph. It is the central reason Jesus had come down to earth. Jesus’ death is key in Jesus’ victory and in our Salvation.

John writes that. Jesus has foreknowledge of what is to come and is confident in continuing his mission, knowing that mission leads to his death.

Let’s consider a few examples of Jesus’ faithful confidence from the Gospel of John. After Jesus enters Jerusalem with palm branches waving on Palm Sunday, he declared, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” and speaks of his death as the falling of a grain of wheat which dies and bears much fruit. He continues to tell us of the hour of his death as the reason for which he has come. As he preaches this, the crowds hear affirmation in the thunder of God’s voice. In today’s Holy gospel, when the Roman soldiers  come to arrest Jesus in the garden, Jesus does not fight back or run away, rather he declares, “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Jesus carries his cross to the site of the crucifixion.. Even John’s description of Jesus’ death emphasizes Jesus’ powerful choice to follow through with his mission: “When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30). Jesus “gave up his spirit” in the active voice: Jesus is not a passive victim in this gospel. John paints a portrait of one who knows what is to come and desires to follow through with it. Jesus chooses to suffer and die for our Salvation.

As John tells of Jesus’ passion, he lifts up meanings for his community and also for us. Kingdom and power emerge as major themes.

The major exploration of kingdom and power begins as Jesus is brought before Pilate, the governor of Judea. Pilate has heard Jesus has been called the “king of the Jews” and questions him about his kingship. Jesus replies that his kingdom “is not from this world.” Jesus’ kingdom is greater than this world, it existed even before this world was ever brought into being. Jesus declares that Pilate’s power is dependent on a greater power. Pilate is both fearful and scornful.

When the crowd outside Pilate’s headquarters gets involved, the debate about kingship expands to a reflection of whose leadership we follow. The faithful response is to acknowledge God alone as the one to whom we owe allegiance. But, instead of declaring “God is our king,” the chief priests declare “we have no king but the emperor.” They reject the promised king that God has sent. Many Christians have done violence to modern Jews because of John’s portrayal of their rejection. But that was not his point. Rather, John was reflecting on the rejection his Christian community felt from the Jewish communities in which they worshipped and with whom they identified. For us today, the religious authorities’ rejection invites us to consider our rejection. When God acts other than we expected, when we don’t get what we think God should give us, when other people or things look more likely to give us life and security, do we also reject God? Do we also claim another as our king?

Pilate twists and mocks the idea of Jesus as being king. He has Jesus dressed in a royal purple robe and crowned with thorns. Jesus is shackled and is beaten then is condemned to death. As he hangs on the cross, Pilate’s royal declaration hangs above: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Pilate sees crucified Jesus as the furthest thing from an image of a king.

The cross is the throne which Our Lord Jesus ascends. Humility is the path which he chooses. But his kingship is sure. Jesus is one with the God the Father whose power is greater than all. Jesus sets aside power in his incarnation and death. Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning testifies to the kingship and power that rightly belong to him. Pilate intends to mock the powerless king, but Jesus proves his victory in setting aside power. Jesus is ruler of a different kind of kingdom, in which the powerful one gives up themself for the sake of the weakest.

The cross is the moment of Jesus’ victory. But what is it Jesus is victorious over?

Jesus is victorious over sin, over death, and over the devil. Jesus breaks the powers of this world that hold us captive and separated from God. Jesus opens his kingdom to all people.

The powers of evil, and of death, were broken when they tried to claim Jesus. From the beginning of the gospel, John wants us to know that Jesus is the word of God, Jesus is from God, Jesus is God. Jesus Christ is present at the creation, bringing life into being, making light out of darkness, creating out of where there was nothing. So when this Jesus Christ enters into the darkness of death, and death tries to turn him into nothingness, death fails in his task. The one who creates life, light, and creation  cannot be conquered by death. Jesus makes light in the midst of the darkness of death and turns the nothingness of death into full life and eternal life. Jesus emerges from suffering death fully restored in newly created life.

So what does all this mean for you and for me?

The cross is the place of victory for Jesus, and also the place of Victory for each of us who truly love, believe and follow. Jesus draws all peoples to himself as he is raised up on the cross. We who have been united with Jesus through baptism are united with Jesus in his death. Jesus’ death breaks apart the kingdom of this earthly world that is opposed to God and firmly establishes the kingdom of God. We are brought into the kingdom of God.

This means that you have been freed from all those things which take life away. From eternal Death, fear, greed, the need to live up to other’s expectations or ways of valuing life- none of these things have a hold on us anymore. Jesus has won us away from these powers.

This night, we welcome the cross into our midst. We honour the cross as the symbol and place of Jesus’ victory, in doing so, we glorify our Lord Jesus who died there. As Jesus transforms the world with his kingdom, Jesus has transformed the cross from a place of shame to a place of victory.

Easter Sunday, the empty tomb, and the risen Jesus Christ are the final affirmations to Jesus’ victory on the cross. We know that the cross was a battle won because Jesus emerges from death. We celebrate Jesus’ faithfulness to the cross and God’s faithfulness in providing life. We rejoice in Jesus’ death, because we know that it is not the end of the story. On Easter morning, we will celebrate the bloom of the seed of victory planted this day.

Let us pray:

We remember today, the pain and suffering of the cross, and all that Jesus was willing to endure, so we could be receive salvation. He paid the price, such a great sacrifice, to be victorious over sin and death, and to win us the gift of eternal life.

Help us never to take for granted this huge gift of love on our behalf. Help us to be reminded of the cost of it all. Forgive us for being too busy, or distracted by other things, for not fully recognizing what you freely gave, what you have done for us.

Thank you Lord that by your wounds we are healed. Thank you that because of your huge sacrifice we can live free. Thank you that sin and death have been conquered, and that your Victorious Power is everlasting.

Thank you that we can say with great hope, “It is finished…” For we know what’s still to come. And death has lost its sting. We praise you for you are making all things new.

Amen.