Category: Sermon

Is God Calling You? The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe ~ The Rev. Shawn Gisewhite, OPI

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Luke 1:26-38

December 12th, 2018
Fr. Shawn E. Gisewhite, OPI

 

Today we are here celebrating our Lady of Guadalupe, who has also been proclaimed the patroness of the Americas, the Empress of Latin America, and the Protector of Unborn Children. Around the world, and especially in Latin Communities, Christians will bring their best to this celebration with great music including Mariachis, dancing, roses and candles, inspiring and moving readings, and traditional Latin foods. What an appropriate time in the life of our Country for our Lady to come and remind us that she is not a mellow, mute virgin, but that she is a warrior, who from the very beginning has challenged the establishment, the dark forces of the world.

Not only she has been a symbol of unification, she has also been an active participant in the fight, “la lucha,” against oppression, unfairness, and social injustice. She was present, “presente” in The Mexican War of Independence, and the Mexican Revolution. Both wars were led with flags including an image of our Lady of Guadalupe.

Guadalupe also served as an icon and a symbol for farm-workers in their fight to gain union representation and recognition of their rights. A fight led by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta. Referring to Guadalupe, Dolores Huerta Said that “she is a symbol of faith, hope, and leadership.”

We have also seen the Guadalupe image in the marches in Los Angeles, advocating for fair immigration reform, and against deportation.

In what we consider to be very challenging times for women, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ, and for people with disabilities…Guadalupe is ready for action!

In the US, elected officials, both Left and Right, are leading our country down a dark path.  Our political system if ripe with greed.

Greed is not a value of God’s world.  God’s world is full of love and compassion.  God’s economy is simply God’s plan to distribute itself into humanity.

In God’s intention to distribute itself to many people in mass production, and free of charge, God has also assembled its administration. The administration that God needs to bring itself into humanity.

I don’t know if you checked CNN or FOX News today, but God released a list of people in his Cabinet. God’s cabinet includes:

Chief Strategist: Jesus of Nazareth
Secretary of State: John the Baptist
Chief of Staff: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Secretary of Defense: Mahatma Gandhi
Secretary of the Department of health and human services: Desmond Tutu
Ambassador to the United Nations: Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Co-secretaries of Agriculture: Dolores Huerta and César Chavez

We are an integral part of God’s mass production system too, and to become active producers the qualifications that we need are two: Spiritual Poverty and Humility.

Today, both in the lesson and the Gospel, God gave us two examples of human beings like you and I who changed the world in response to God’s call.
God decides to incarnate, to become human among us in the person of Jesus, through this low-income teenager, who lived with her parents, and who was engaged to Jesus, and who was probably not that highly educated.

In the story of Guadalupe, we hear that Guadalupe chose Juan Diego- a farmer, native Indian, low-income, probably not that educated, to challenge the existing system of oppression represented by the conquerors, and the highly bureaucratic Church.

Were both of them expecting these calls? Apparently not from the way that they initially reacted.

The Gospel said that Mary was much perplexed by the words of the Angel, and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then she said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

And Juan Diego’s response to Guadalupe was “I earnestly beg you, my Queen, that it be one of the principle ones, those who are known, respected and esteemed, that you send to take your message, so it might be believed. Because I am a farmer from around there, I am rope, I am a ladder, I am the excrement of the people, I am a leaf.”

In this season of Advent, a season of expectancy, what is leaping inside you?

Is it is a desire to fight to overcome homelessness?  To protect the rights of women and children, the disabled, the LGBTQ Community, of legal immigrants?  A desire to give up what you have (fancy clothes, a comfy home, a luxury car, a prestigious job) to help those less fortunate?

If this is the kind of call that you are experiencing, like Mary and Juan Diego, you may ask ourselves, why Me? I can’t, these things are too big for me!
If you feel that desire to act, do not be afraid, I encourage you to answer like Mary and Juan Diego did:

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” “My dear Lady, I will not cause you affliction; I will go willingly to fulfill your will; in no way will I leave it aside nor will the task be difficult. I shall go to do your will, though I may not be listened to with a good Disposition. I will talk to them even if they don’t believe me”

Through Baptism we have all received the same Spirit that Jesus received to fulfill his mission, the same Spirit that moved Mary and Juan Diego to say yes to their call. So, we have what we need to accomplish our mission – the Spirit of God that was given to us by God’s grace.

Brothers and Sisters, if Mary and Juan Diego lived here in the USA now in December 2018, would they be fearful?  Would they be fearful because of who they are as a woman, minority, colored, low-income, and uneducated?  Sadly, I expect that the answer would be, “Yes.”

And today, not by chance, God has brought to us one of the key members of God’s cabinet, Chief of Staff Our Lady of Guadalupe, a warrior that through history has been at the forefront of the fight for social justice, for “la lucha.”

She does not want to be enclosed in an office. She is ready to walk with us in every march, and demonstration, resisting the dark forces that are threatening God’s economy of love and compassion.

Let us ask her to lead us in this difficult times in the life our country.

Amen

 

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Come Lord Jesus! The Meaning of Advent ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

 

Within the calendar year, there is another year:  the  great cycle of the liturgical year, revolving around the life and ministry Christ.  Each season of the liturgical year has its own particular focus, feasts, words, and colors, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus, his life, and his commission to His people to be a light to the world.

Since the 900s, Advent has marked the beginning of the church year, and is a season of great anticipation, preparation, and excitement, traditionally focusing on the Nativity of the Christ Child, when Jesus came as our Savior.  During Advent, we as Christians also direct our thoughts to His second coming as judge.

The word Advent is from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming,” and is celebrated during the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event.

Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we  participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent  reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment of sin, and the hope of eternal life.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for holy living, arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. As the church celebrates God’s Incarnation in the physical presence of Jesus Christ, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

We celebrate with gladness the great promise of Advent, yet knowing that there is also a somber tone as the theme of final judgment is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the Scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment of sin. This is also faithful to the role of the Coming King who comes to rule, save, and judge the world.

Because of the dual themes of judgment and promise, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isaiah 9).

Historically, the primary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the “Word made flesh” and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent.

In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “rejoice”). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season.

In recent times, however, Advent has undergone a shift in emphasis, reflected in a change of colors used in many non-Catholic churches. The penitential aspect of the Season has been almost totally replaced by an emphasis on hope and anticipation.  Many Protestant churches now use blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent. Royal Blue is sometimes used as a symbol of royalty. Some churches use Bright Blue to symbolize the night sky, the anticipation of the impending announcement of the King’s coming, or to symbolize the waters of Genesis 1, the beginning of a new creation. Some churches, including some Catholic churches, use bluish violet to preserve the traditional use of purple while providing a visual distinction between the purple or red violet of Lent.  However, it must be remembered that blue is not an approved liturgical color, for Advent or any other season, and it should not be the primary color in any Catholic liturgical celebration.

This does not eliminate any sense of penitence from the Season. With the focus on the Advent or Coming of Jesus, especially in anticipating His Second Advent, there remains a need for preparation for that coming. Most liturgical churches incorporate confessional prayers into the services of Advent that relate to a sense of unworthiness as we anticipate His Coming. It is appropriate even in more traditional services of worship to incorporate confessional prayers as part of the anticipation and preparation of the Season.

Even with the shift to blue for Advent in many non-Catholic churches, the vast majority of churches retain pink or rose among the Advent colors, and use it on the last Sunday of Advent. In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for “rejoice”), and it remains associated with Joy.

The Advent wreath is a popular symbol of the beginning of the Church year in many churches. It is a circular evergreen wreath with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. The circle of the wreath itself reminds us of God, His eternal being and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life.

The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.

The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

The light of the candles becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God’s grace to others (Isa 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the promise of long ago has been realized.

 

 

 

 Fishers of Men: The Feast of St Andrew, Apostle ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

 

Liturgical Colour: Red.

Reading 1: ROM 10:9-18

Responsorial Psalm: PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

Holy Gospel: MT 4:18-22

 

Today’s Holy Gospel Reading tells us this:

 

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,

Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,

casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.

He said to them,

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

At once they left their nets and followed him.

He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,

James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.

They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.

He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father

and followed him.

If you have ever been fishing, you will know how important it is to know the type of fish you are looking to catch, and how to attract it so that you can land it successfully. Before anyone goes fishing, it is a must to know which equipment to use, to have the knowledge of the surrounding habitat and the depth of the water of where you are intending to fish, It is also important to ensure you have the correct bait for the fish you are intending to catch, so that the fish will be interested in going after it. That is what is required if we go fishing in the usual sense of the word, but how do we relate this knowledge of going fishing, to us as Christian children of God being fishers of men?

God asks us to make disciples of all nations of the world (Matthew 28:18–20). Just as in preparation to go for an afternoon of fishing, we also need equipment to go fishing, we need the important equipment to be fishers of mankind. Putting on the armour of God is one way to be ready at all times with everything we need (Ephesians 6:10–18). Especially important are the shield of faith with which we ward off the opposition from the evil forces who don’t want to see mankind saved by the gospel of Christ (v. 16) and the sword of the Spirit, which of course, is the Word of God (v. 17). Without these two vital pieces of spiritual equipment, we will find fishing for the souls of mankind to be impossible.

Ok, so now we have the equipment, but just like in actual fishing, we must also know the fish we are trying to catch. Knowing the lost and needy condition of the people around us will help us to understand that, no matter how good we are at fishing, we will never “catch” the fish by ourselves. No reasoned argument will convert the soul of a darkened mind, because “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). But God can and frequently does penetrate the darkness with the glorious gospel, and He uses us to do it. He knows which “fish” are His; therefore, we are to seek out His wisdom and His guidance on all our fishing expeditions. Prayer is a must!!

Lastly we must offer the only effective net—the gospel of Jesus Christ. To us, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). The gospel message has the power to change people’s lives, to shine a light into the darkness, and deliver mankind from sin to eternal salvation. There is power in no other message than the Holy word of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and no other “net” which is able to catch the fish of God. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). This was Jesus’ message to Peter and Andrew—follow Me, learn of Me, know and understand My mission and My message. Only then will you be able to be fishers of men.

Let us pray:

Father, it is during times of discouragement, bewilderment, or delay that we find ourselves more attentive to godly instruction. It seems our hearts are more yielded and our minds more absorbing of the truths You want to convey when we’re no longer trying to take charge. Like the disciples who were fishing in the usual way expecting the usual results we also relate to such efforts.  But You are extraordinary and You do extraordinary work in our lives as we yield our will to Yours and heed Your instruction. Shape us into the most useful and enduring vessel that brings glory to You while we cast our nets for the great catch of men and women, boys and girls for the kingdom.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

 

Do You Know the King? ~ Fr. Brenden Humberdross, OPI

 

God Almighty bless us each with an open mind and an open heart to hear your word and to apply it in our daily walk through life.

I want to start today’s thoughts with a question; do you know the King?

Over the centuries many have tried to answer this question in a variety of ways. Some have sought out sages and mystics, some have run the desert to spend lives in prayer, whilst others have sought the King in the face of the poor and afflicted. The paths to knowledge of the King are many and varied but we are all called to tread them.

Before our reading today starts, Jesus is arrested by the leaders of the Jewish community and brought before the Roman Governor Pilate for trial and condemnation. Pilate, obviously having listened to the report of the Jewish authorities asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews. The response given is a rather cryptic one; “Do you say this of your own, or have others told you about me?”

When I first read this words I was a little puzzled by it, much like I imagine Pilate was. In Pilate’s mind, it should have been obvious to Jesus that he hadn’t ordered the arrest of Jesus. For this reason, it’s logical that Pilate would have spoken to the arresting authorities about what charges were being brought. So do these words of Jesus have another, deeper, meaning for those of us reading them?

To me, these words give us a clear indication of the only way that we can come to know Jesus, his role in our lives, and the place of his Kingdom. Jesus does not say to Pilate “you’ve been told all about me so you already know”. Instead, he asks Pilate if he has come to his own knowledge of Jesus, and this is the message to us. Have we taken what we have been told about Jesus and simply accepted it with a blind faith or have we walked the path as a seeker and come to a sure knowledge of who Jesus is, what he did, and what he continues to do for each and every one of us?

Jesus goes on to lay before Pilate some important teachings about himself, that he is a King but not of the world. And so it is for each of us, we are each called to come and listen to Christ as he unveils for us the mysteries of faith. I am sure that some of you are wondering what I mean by this, unlike Pilate we can’t stand physically before Christ so how are we to learn these mysteries.

The paths to understanding are many and varied but there are some key things that each and every one of us can do to progress on the path.

Firstly, each and every one of us has access to the Scriptures, here we can read the words of Christ and hear of the things that he did when walking upon the earth. In these pages we can learn much about Jesus and the mysteries that he taught his disciples. However, I know that often times when reading the scriptures things are not clear-cut and easy to understand, for this reason, prayer and meditation become another important key.

The life of the Church through the ages has been littered with mystics and saints called to a life of prayer and contemplation. These saints and sages have left us many methods of contemplating the word of God and calling the Spirit to work within us. Amongst these are Lectio Divina (a prayerful, meditative reading), Centering Prayer, the Daily Office, the Mass, and many others. Through these methods, the scriptures and the teachings of Christ within them can be opened up to us.

Throughout this coming week and through Advent I want to encourage each and every one of you to set some time aside to read the scriptures, and to pray and meditate to come to a deeper knowledge of Christ our Lord and King of the whole Universe.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, You have told us in Your word that if anyone lacks the knowledge and wisdom that we need we ought to ask You in faith because You have promised to give liberally to all who come to You trusting Your promises.

Lord, there are so many things that I do not understand and so much that is happening in our world that I come to You to ask for that precious gift of wisdom and knowledge. Your word says that Your people perish for lack of knowledge and I pray that You would supply me with all that I need to live the life that You would have me live – in spirit and truth –being as gentle as a dove but yet being as wise as a serpent.

Enlighten my understanding and provide me with the knowledge that I need each day so that I can step out into the future confident that I am in Your will. Lord I just ask that You provide what I need day by day, trusting You to oversee all my choices and praying that You would guide me along my life-path – to Your praise and glory.

As I search the scriptures daily I pray that You would teach me Your ways and empower me to stand firm in the evil day – knowing that Your grace is sufficient for ever eventuality that I may have to face – Thank You in Jesus name, Amen.

 

STOP! Give Thanks ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

Thanksgiving in my memory was always a wonderful holiday.

There was, of course, the food served around 2pm. Turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing (as we called the stuffing), cranberry sauce (the jellied kind and her own recipe with whole cranberries), celery, carrots, yams (or sweet potatoes), sometimes creamed corn, peas and pearl onions, and some other things that have escaped me. When we were little, she made elaborate dinners. Then she realized all we were eating was turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and dressing, so she simplified.

And then there were leftovers that night, including sandwiches of turkey, lettuce, dressing, and cranberry sauce.

Sometime in the next few days there was turkey noodle soup.

Along with all this eating there was as I remember it, the ceremony. Now that I recall, that wasn’t always so great because it involved slicing up the turkey, which I hated to do. But the rest of the day was the ceremony of doing the same thing year after year.

As we got older, somehow, Grace Before Meals, got left out most nights, but never on Thanksgiving.

In elementary school, the teachers made this a very special holiday. There was almost always some play or presentation involving the Pilgrims and the Indians, all sitting at a long table. The color of the classrooms changed from season to season, and at Thanksgiving they were orange, yellow, brown, some black, all mirroring the leaves and vegetation that had just disappeared.

And of course, we got Friday off…all through school and into my working days.

Those are my memories. And the routine has persisted up to the last few years. All except for the ceremonies and the meaning of the day.

It was just recently that I found out that Native Americans, especially the New England tribes of today, observe a day of sadness. Those wonderful stories that we were taught in school were mostly false and papered over the terrible wrongs inflicted on the Native Americans of that time.

Of course, it is still a national holiday. Great feasts are still held among families and friends. And mostly the story of the “Pilgrims” and the “Indians” is ignored, now to be celebrated by Black Friday.

But there remains the unsettling knowledge that the more we know, the more our world shifts from under us.

Jesus implied this in his message to the Pharisees and his disciples in today’s Gospel. We think we know the story. We want to find out when it’s going to happen and what we will see. We wait for the holiday, but that is a time in the future and really has no meaning. Because the holiday is already here. And those stories we’ve been telling each other may be completely wrong.

“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

The Thanksgiving we are waiting for cannot be observed as well. It is here among us, but we are looking at it the wrong way.

But why would Jesus tell this lesson? I think today’s reading from Paul might hold an answer. Instead of ordering Philemon and the others of the Colossian church to take Onesimus, a slave converted by Paul, back among them not as a slave but as a brother, he asks them to do it of their own accord. Truly a revolutionary concept at that time. As Jesus does not demand obedience, but talks in parables, nor does Paul force his will upon his followers.

And maybe that’s what we are being called to do on this Thanksgiving. Yes, we have our memories. I hope yours are as positive as mine are. But also, we have the real teaching of Jesus to instruct and guide us.

Thanksgiving for us should not, and cannot, be a celebration of the past and of our conquering of the New World and conversion of the savages. But it can be a day for us to give thanks to God, as Native Americans do each day in their understanding of our existence.

Perhaps this day should be a day when we stop all our running in pursuit of…of what? Perhaps we should not be looking for…for what? Perhaps this day should really be a day to give thanks to God for the blessings that surround us each day and everywhere.

Lord, help us remember the Alleluia of today’s Mass:

I am the vine, you are the branches, says the Lord:
whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.

Amen.

Saying Yes to God: The Presentation of the Blessed virgin Mary ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Liturgical colour: White.

Reading 1RV 4:1-11

Responsorial Psalm: PS 150:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6

Holy Gospel:LK 19:11-28

Today we commemorate the day, at only the tender age of 3 years old, when St. Joachim and St. Anne, out of thanks to God for their daughter, Mary, who they had late in life, dedicated their only child to the service of God, by presenting her to the temple in Jerusalem.  Mary would live in the temple, she would pray, read the Holy word of God, and would assist the High priest in certain ways. It was usual in those days, for the first born son of a family to be presented to the temple, but as females were often then seen as being insignificant,  or second class citizens, this was unique,it showed that Mary had already been ‘set apart  by God, for her future role as the chosen one to be the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ,  when he was to be born and to live on earth amongst us. Mary served in the chapel always with a spirit of faithful rejoicing.

From such a tender age, the faith of Mary was evident. Even at such a young age as she was, Mary said yes to God, just as she did throughout her life, accepting the Will of God for her life, and joyfully becoming the earthly mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. As we are adopted children of God our Father, and as such Jesus’ brothers and sisters, and co=heirs of Our Lord, Mary has also become our mother.

Mary is the perfect example of true devoted faithfulness, and we ought also to strive within our lives, to say yes to the Will of God in our lives. Like Mary, we should always strive to live our lives totally devoted to God and His will for us, and to say yes, with rejoicing, just as Mary did.

Here are some examples of how we can follow the example of Mary within our lives:

  1. Saying yes.

In Scripture, Mary’s story starts with her “yes” to God. It was an affirmative charged with plenty of questions, but she gave her assent to God.

What is God asking us to say “yes” to within our lives? What is that thing that seems difficult, scary, or even downright crazy to us that God keeps placing on our hearts? Is it a vocation in ministry perhaps, or maybe it’s a career change? Maybe we are being asked to move across the country, or even to changing countries all together?

We need to ask ourselves what God might be asking for us to do in our lives to fulfil his Will, and then to work on finding the courage to say “yes” to His will for our individual lives.

  1. Being  humble.

Where is God asking us to be more humble in our lives? It might look like doing a terrible chore (cleaning the cooker, doing dishes, maybe doing laundry), that no one else will notice, without us mentioning it. It might be holding our tongues, when we want to defend ourselves by speaking up when we are hurt by others. It might  simply just mean smiling when someone gives you a compliment and saying thank you.

Mary gave us an example of a perfect humility so we can turn to her as an excellent example to strive for, when we struggle in our lives.

  1. Sharing our love and joy with others.

Sometimes we can find it difficult to share in others’ joy when we’re hurting. Or we are hesitant to celebrate with others because we’re afraid they’ll think we are bragging about the good happening to us. Sometimes, we are less loving with othwe ought to be.

But to hide away our love and joy is to hide away the best parts of what makes us human. God made us to know love, sorrow and joy, and to experience these things in our community.

Mary is the perfect person to help us be courageous in sharing our  love and joy.

  1. Being confident in prayer.

Are we that confident in our prayer? Do we bring our troubles to our Lord Jesus and then leave them at His feet, believing that He’ll take care of them? What about in all aspects of our lives? Do we hang back from asking for what we want at work, at home, or with our friends because we’re scared someone will say no or we’ll be disappointed?

Let us pray for Mary’s intercession to be bold with our prayers and with our hopes. Jesus never lets us down!!

Let us pray:

Father,

Give us a heart like the Mary’s, willing to agree with Your Word, Your promises, and Your intent for our life. With Mary there was no negotiating, no hemming or hawing, no 24 hours to think about it, no keeping her options open. You simply spoke, and she unhesitatingly responded with a Yes.

You have an intent for us. That purpose will have its challenges, its high points and low points, its joys and sorrows, but Your plan is far and above the best plan for our short earthly life. May our soul be transformed into one that instantly obeys you, comes when You call, follows your lead, and believes Your Word even when we can’t fully comprehend it, for Your Word is Truth.

In Jesus’ Name Amen

 

 

The Scourge of God! St. Leo the Great ~ Fr. Shawn Gisewhite, OPI

In the November 10th, 2014 edition of “Catholic Exchange,” Sean Fitzpatrick wrote the following article on St. Leo the Great.

He was called the Scourge of God—Attila the Hun.

He raged with his barbarian horde through Italy like fire, leaving devastation and death behind him. Cruel in torture, ravenous in plunder, and insatiable in effrontery, he razed and ravaged and rushed upon Rome in the year 452.

Out from the ancient gates of Rome passed a white-haired ancient in resplendent raiment. A harmless old man come to meet the savage; prepared to parley, and, God willing, to save his flock. The aged Pope of Rome himself hobbled forth to hold conference with the wild Hun while all the world watched; and this, according to legend, is what the Pope said:

“The people of Rome, once conquerors of the world, now kneel conquered. We pray for mercy and deliverance. O Attila, you could have no greater glory than to see suppliant at your feet this people before whom once all peoples and kings lay suppliant. You have subdued, O Attila, the whole circle of the lands granted to the Romans. Now we pray that you, who have conquered others, should conquer yourself. The people have felt your scourge. Now they would feel your mercy.”

So spoke the venerable bishop under the gaze of the vicious tyrant. Then suddenly, Attila’s disbelieving eyes beheld two towering giants flanking the pontiff, one on his right and the other on his left. The apostles Peter and Paul appeared, wielding swords of flame over the gray head of the pope, who knelt in an attitude of humble submission. Back flew the invader in terror, when he then caught sight of a gleaming, glorious army—ten thousand times greater than his own—ranked in rows of flashing fire against the night sky. The pope’s plea echoed in his ears like a command, and he raved as one gone mad. Attila the Hun raised the pope to his feet, swore to an enduring truce, and fled away with his legions across the Danube.

The title “Great” was not first given to Pope Leo for small reason.

Pope Leo the Great held the Chair of St. Peter from 440 to 461, and from it proclaimed and projected the elect holiness of Rome, calling it a royal city and, by virtue of the See of St. Peter, the head of the world, ruling by moral faith and religion rather than military force and dominion. The voice of Leo was the voice of the eternal city, and it was the roar of a lion and a king: “Though enlarged by many victories, you have spread the authority of your rule over land and sea. What your warlike labors have attained for you is less than what the Christian peace has brought you.” Rome was, and yet is, the heart of the Kingdom of God on earth, and Leo thundered its praises despite the riches and renown of the fallen Constantinople, defending it as the Supreme Pontiff of Christ’s Church—as a lion with its peaceful poise, confirmed in supremacy, in papal and Petrine primacy.

Though his might was manifested in meekness at his famous embassy with Attila the Hun, Pope Leo’s assertive strength as the Vicar of Christ was a theological force during his remarkable pontificate. In 451, he gathered the largest group of bishops in history for the Council of Chalcedon: a council to muster strength and strategy against an epidemic of heresies arising from the East. Leo took up the destiny of the Church with a will that evoked a rare and robust trust in God and with such broadness of vision—as a lion overlooking his golden realm—that he is remembered not only as a guardian of the Faith but also as a savior of Western civilization. At the Council of Chalcedon, the existence of Jesus Christ’s dual nature in one Divine Person was defined, and finally dogmatized in Pope Leo’s magnificent epistle, called the Tome, which was read aloud at the Council. Upon this inspired articulation of the hypostatic union, the bishops reported, “Behold, this is the Faith of the Fathers. This is the Faith of the Apostles. This we believe. Peter has spoken through Leo.”

The Council, though a solidifying of truth within the Church, poured fuel on the growling fires of the East, where many bishops were yet chafing under the rise of Rome over Constantinople and resisting orthodox teaching with persistent and even rebellious heresy and schism. Pope Leo rejected the attempts of the Eastern Church to affirm its errors upon the Universal Church. The subsequent rivalry between Constantinople and Rome led to violent uprisings and the persecution and martyrdom of holy bishops in Alexandria and Egypt. But mobs or militia could not drown out the roar of Leo. He ever proved an inflexible adversary of heresy. Pope Leo gave instruction and assistance to the reeling government in Constantinople to suppress religious rebels. In the end, the imperial battalions were fortified and the heretics were overthrown.

The word “leo” means “lion” in Latin and “king” in Greek. St. Leo was both, and that is why he is called Great. Leo’s indomitable spirit and profound mind has ever continued to influence and inform the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries after his death on November 10, 461, when he was buried, according to his wishes, as close to the bones of Peter as possible. His sermons and Christological writings have been read for well over a thousand and a half years on the most beautiful and signal feasts of the Faith: Christmas, Epiphany, Pentecost, and the Ascension. Leo was a regal saint, a doctor of the Roman Church, a kingly pope serving the King of kings, and a Lion of God who roared out the glory of God—and his roar still echoes through the grandeur of Rome to this day.

My friends, think about the last line of this article.  St. Leo the Great was called “Great” because he was a Papal King who served the “King of Kings”, and a “Lion of God” who roared out the glory of God.

Less than a week ago, We, the American People voted to elect leaders to represent us as Citizens.  To represent our needs, our rights, our beliefs and our morals.  For thousands of years world leaders have been called “great.”  But for what reasons?  Americans speak of great men such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.  In Europe they speak of great monarchs going back to Charlemagne or as recent as Queen Elizabeth II.  Why are these men, and women, considered “great?”  Mostly it is because of their accomplishments.  How many battles they have won. How many peoples were subject to their rule.  How many cathedrals, libraries, palaces or colleges they built.  Or for their contribution to government and the freedoms that government ensures.  These are indeed reasons to call one great, yet they are not the reasons in the case of St. Leo.

St. Leo is a model for us today as to how we should live our lives.  How we too can be “great!”  Leo was great NOT because he was a  fierce ruler, but because he was a King who SERVED the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He was great not because of his ferocity on the battlefield, but for his mighty roar of evangelism.  St. Leo was proud to be a Christian.  He was proud to serve the Lord.  He was proud to defend Christian beliefs and Orthodoxy.  He was a servant who became a leader.  These are the types of leaders we should elect in our time.  Godly men and women who stand up for what is right, stand up for Orthodoxy, and are not afraid to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a mighty roar!

Let us always look to the example made by St. Leo the Great, and strive to live our lives in that greatness.

O Champion of Orthodoxy, and teacher of holiness,
The enlightenment of the universe and the inspired glory of true believers.
O most wise Father Leo, your teachings are as music of the Holy Spirit for us!
Pray that Christ our God may save our souls!

 

Amen.