Category: Sermon

Be Prepared for a Life of Miracles! ~ Br. Brenden Humberdross, Novice

Feast of the Annunciation 2017 Reading: Luke 1:26-38

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and our Redeemer.

Today is a most blessed day for those of us who find ourselves with the Catholic branch of the Christian family; on this day Churches of both the East and the West celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. Today, all of the Catholic work can forget the divisions amongst us and come together to celebrate the visit of the Archangel to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her humble submission to God’s will.

I’ve heard many a sermon preached on this day over the years and many of them have focussed on what, for many, seems like the obvious message of today’s Gospel but I’m going to take us on a little bit of a different track. However, first for those of you who may not have heard a “traditional” Annunciation sermon I will highlight the usual points.

Tradition tells us that Mary was but a young girl at the time that these events took place and from scripture we know that she was unmarried but betrothed (think of it as engaged), it’s stated clearly twice and implied another time in today’s reading that she was a Virgin. Can you imagine for a second that you’re a young girl, engaged to an older man, in a society with a strict moral code and a penchant for stoning harlots to death and someone tells you (albeit an angel) that you are going to fall pregnant? What would you do? I can tell you what I would do…after changing my soiled clothes I’d either pack up and get out of there or run away screaming thinking I’d lost my mind (and from Gospel stories we know how the mad were treated!). But is that what Mary did? She didn’t, to her credit she appears to have listened calmly to the message, maybe she played it over in her mind and she replied with a resounding “May it be done to me according to your word”.

The traditional Annunciation sermon will often branch of now to talk about how we must all strive to have the faith of Mary; how we too must be ready to answer the call when God comes knocking. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely idea for a sermon and it is one message that can be taken from this event in the life of the Blessed Virgin and our Saviour, however there is a much deeper message to be found within the words of today’s gospel that goes right to the heart of what it is that we believe as Christians and it is this that I want to draw out today.

There are two truths that the Archangel Gabriel’s message highlights in today’s reading; one is that Mary will conceive in her womb, she will find herself with child, and the second is that the child she will bear will not be that of her future husbands but will instead be the very son of God. Now I know right now you’re all thinking I’m a bit loopy, we all know that the reading says that, we all heard it and we all believe it, but it really hasn’t always been the case.

In the days of the early Church there was a Bishop called Nestorius who was Patriarch of Constantinople one of the great leadership roles in the early Church. Nestorius however, did not believe that Jesus was born the Son of God. Nestorius taught that when Jesus was conceived in the womb he was a man human, like you and I; it wasn’t until later that the Son of God, something divine, came down from heaven and joined with the human Jesus. Now, to the rational of mind this might sound more rational, Jesus was born the normal way and then he got a super spiritual hit of Holy Ghost from God to become our Saviour, no need to reject what we know about human conception. However, is this what the scriptures tell us? Is this the faith that the Apostles and Early Christians bled and died for? It most certainly is not!

The Archangel said to Mary, “”The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” The Archangel did not call Jesus the Son of Joseph, nowhere in the accepted teaching of the Church has this ever been the case. The child that was conceived in the womb of Mary was a miracle, the product of God’s divine intervention in this world. As Christians we need to not be afraid of standing up for this long held and defended belief.

Some of you may know that amongst other things, I am a science teacher, and as someone with a love for the natural sciences we need to not be afraid of saying things that seem “odd” not everything in the world can be explained by Science. In fact, take the idea of the Big Bang, do you know that it was first suggested by a Catholic Priest of the Roman Church? His name was Georges Lemaitre and Einstein thought his physics was atrocious though now many accept his work as truths.

It may shock some of you to know that I have actually heard clergy deny the idea of the Virgin Birth, that it was even possible. It seems to me that we are all too quick to try and explain the miraculous away with rationalism. Nowhere in the Scriptures and words of Christ are we told that our God is a rational God who only works according to our finite understanding of the universe! Instead, we see evidence of a God that is bigger than us all, a God who stands outside of the realms of our finite minds and is the author of the laws of this Universe. I’m most sure that when we stand before his throne we will be amazed at the natural laws that exist that we have no idea about.

So there are two things that I want you to take away from today’s celebration of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first is that it was indeed a real event, that the Church has always taught it and that if we are to be true to our Christian heritage we too must accept it and keep teaching it. The second is to always be open to the miraculous, Mary knew that her faith in God could not be limit by her finite understandings, she didn’t need to question the miraculous, she understood that all our finite minds can do is say yes to God and be prepared for the life of miracles that is sure to follow.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

R 1: 2 SM 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16

R Psalm: PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 & 29

R 2: ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22

Gospel: MT 1:16, 18-21, 24A

 

St Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we commemorate today, was a very humble and a Holy man. He was chosen by God our heavenly Father, to be the earthly step-father, guardian and protector, alongside Mary, of his only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Although we know little about the life of Joseph, we know that by occupation that he was a carpenter, for it tells us in Matt 13.55, about people asking of Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter’s Son?”

Both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, tell us that Joseph’s ancestry was of David. (Matt 1:1=16 and LK 3:23-38).

Joseph supported Mary when he found out she was pregnant. He did not wish to disgrace her, so decided to divorce her quietly, but he had a dream from an Angel who reassured him about Mary’s pregnancy and that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and the child would be the Son of God. Joseph accepted the news from the angel and accepted both Mary and the then Unborn baby and after Jesus was born, Joseph brought him up as his own

Joseph was the embodiment of true faith and without question he was obedient to all that the heavenly Father asked of him.

When an angel visited Joseph a second time after the birth of Jesus, to tell him of the danger his family was in, he immediately obeyed, left everything he owned and took his family to the strange land of Egypt, where they remained until an angel visited a third time to tell Joseph it was safe for the family to return. (Matt 2:12=23).

Can you imagine when in LK 2:41=52, when Jesus was found in the Temple after going missing, how anxious and worried Joseph (as well as Mary), must truly have been? Here was Joseph, who had spent many years moving his family and hiding them to keep Jesus safe, only to suddenly find him missing on an annual Passover? I can well imagine very mixed feelings upon finding him, relief, and joy to name just two!!

Joseph represents the true meaning of faith, of integrity, obedience, and of the vital role of fatherhood that God had entrusted to him.

As Joseph is not mentioned in the Holy Word of God during Jesus’ public ministry, we can only assume that Joseph had died prior to this time. We don’t know when Joseph was born or died, but we do know about his character :”He was a righteous man” (Matt 1:18).

Joseph is a perfect example of fatherhood and there is much we can learn from him about how to bring up our children in a righteous way, as well as learning in our lives  from his examples of faith and obedience.

Joseph is the Patron Saint of Fathers, carpenters and Social justice, he is also classed as the Father of the Universal church, and the Patron Saint of the dying.

 

 

Thirst No More ~ Br. Michael Marshall, Novice

First Reading: Exodus 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?”
So Moses cried out to the LORD,
“What shall I do with this people?
a little more and they will stone me!”
The LORD answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people,
along with some of the elders of Israel,
holding in your hand, as you go,
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink.”
This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah,
because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the LORD, saying,
“Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

  1. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
    Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
    let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
    Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
    R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
    Come, let us bow down in worship;
    let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
    For he is our God,
    and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
    R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
    Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
    “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
    as in the day of Massah in the desert,
    Where your fathers tempted me;
    they tested me though they had seen my works.”
    R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Second Reading: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Gospel: John 4:5-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned,
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another,
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment
and gathering crops for eternal life,
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;
others have done the work,
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

 

As we have come to the third Sunday in Lent, we are half way through of this journey in the desert.  The desert is not a pleasant place to be because the lack of water and one can die of lack of hydration really fast without water.  I personally have not seen one while traveling through the desert of the Southwest, but I have heard of an oasis existing in deserts – an isolated source of water in the middle of desert.  Travelers who are dying of thirst only pray they come across an oasis.

As we read in the First Reading, we see the Israelites have been led into the desert by Moses.  Their journey through the desert has an end objective of being free of slavery and a journey back home to their own land, which this journey has taken a toll on them.  They begin to lament to Moses as to why they have been led into the desert; extremely concerned that they and their livestock will die of thirst unless they soon find water.  This lamenting is like someone praying they find an oasis.  Moses turns to God seeking help in order to find water, and God provides the life-sustaining water by instructing Moses to strike the rock.  This striking of the rock parallels with a significant event during the Passion; the parallel is the piercing of Jesus’ side during the Passion.  Yet we do not need to get too far ahead of ourselves because we are still in this season of Lent.

In the Gospel, we read the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well seeking water.  This story contains themes on various levels; the issue of there should not be interaction between two different cultures is the most obvious, but I am going to discuss another theme.  The theme I am going to discuss is how the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is another parallel to God providing water to the Israelites while out in the desert.

We see in the Gospels Jesus referring to himself as the Bread of Life many times, but we read Jesus referring to himself in a different way in this story from the Gospel of John.  In the dialogue between Jesus and the woman, he refers to himself as the Living Water.  This conversation leads to the belief that Jesus is the Messiah.

Our forty day journey through Lent is not an easy one, but it is a journey in which we eventually come to find the Living Water at Easter, after being in the desert.  God provides us, just as he provided the Israelites if we choose to believe and follow the message of Jesus like the woman and Samaritans did.

We have heard it over and over regarding Lent being a time of preparation and conversion, but it cannot be expressed too many times.  Just because we eventually come to find the Living Water at the end of these forty days does not mean we can turn back to our own ways, but rather we have to take Lent seriously to continue remain changed, or we will continue to remain thirsty.

Father, as we continue our Lenten journey, may we be reminded that this journey is a time to grow and change. It may be a hard journey in the desert, but help us recognize that you gave us Living Water, and that we may always believe in this Living Water to spread the message of Jesus.  This we ask through Christ, Our Lord.  Amen.

Called to Transfigured Service ~ The Rev. Dcn. Mark G. Dickson-Patrick, Novice

Reading 1 – Genesis 12:1-4A

The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. “I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.  All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”  Abram went as the LORD directed him.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22

  1. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
    Upright is the word of the LORD, and all his works are trustworthy.  He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
    R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
    See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, To deliver them from death
    and preserve them in spite of famine.
    R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
    Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield.  May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you.
    R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
     

Reading 2 – 2 Timothy 1:8B-10

Beloved:  Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.  He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works ut according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Gospel – Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the great foundress of the Missionaries of Charity who ministered to the sick, the poor, and the dying in the streets of Calcutta, India, has inspired thousands of people through her life of service to the outcast. Many have been inspired to take up her mantle and continue her work as a member of her order or through their own acts of charity and outreach to the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed. Many thought that her good works were done in order to help people, that she was called to help people. To this claim, the great saint said, “Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus.” This saint who experienced spiritual darkness for a vast majority of her religious life, and yet still devoted her life and the life of her community to aiding the poor stated that her vocation is “the love of Jesus,” her whole being and calling in life was geared to the love of Jesus alone. How beautiful!

To what are we called? What is our vocation? In our readings today, we are given a good visualization to help us to evaluate our own personal individual calls, our vocations, and how they are lining up with what we are doing in our lives. Are we doing what God is calling us to do? In our first reading, we hear the calling of Abraham, previously known as Abram, as God tells him “I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Abraham’s calling was to be a great nation, a blessing to all the world. Called to be a Dominican deacon on the road to priesthood, I am called to prayer, study, preaching, and teaching in the spirit of St. Dominic de Guzman.

St. Paul tells Timothy in our second reading that we are to “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Because of our salvation, our Lord calls us to a life of particular service to the Kingdom of God. How do we discern this? This is something that my husband, Alex, struggled with particularly as he got involved with the local Church. Through prayer and invitation of the Holy Spirit, he has discovered that he really loves teaching little kids in Sunday school. That is where he finds his inspiration, his niche for the growth of the Kingdom of God. Praise God!

Whatever our calling, whether it be to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, teaching, lay reader, preaching, or any other form of service to the Kingdom of God, I propose today that we are called to live a life of transfigured service. In our Gospel reading, our Lord takes Peter, James, and John atop the mountain and is there transfigured before them, gleaming white and giving them a foretaste of His resurrection and life after the resurrection. In doing so, our Lord called them and so too calls us, to life of transfigured service, transfigured by His grace and His love and bringing that gift to all people.

Let us ask the Lord to daily transfigure us by His goodness, love, mercy and grace, that we might discover and fully live out the duties of our callings in this life, that we might enter our heavenly reward having accomplished all that the Lord has put before us and we are welcomed home, as the Lord says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest, prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.”

Ashes Thou Art ~ Ash Wednesday ~ Br. Brent Whetstone

2017020141col_ash_wednesday_1200x550
Lack of proper catechesis is killing the church. Today begins a season of self-reflection on our mortality. It is supposed to be a time where we focus inwardly on who we are as Christians, demonstrated by one act, one ancient act of repentance and holiness:  the act of the imposition of ashes. This one act shows the world that we are followers of Christ. It is not to draw attention to ourselves…but to the sacrifice he made for us.

Sadly, however, this incredibly holy day in the church year, like most things in the church, has been hijacked. It has been hijacked by attention seekers and the one-uppers. From glitter ash…. apparently made from the souls of dead unicorns and used to promote an agenda, to ashes to go, and drive-through services, the solemnity of the observance of Ash Wednesday has been thrown out the window to make way for special interest groups to have the spotlight thrust upon themselves for all the world to see.

It bothers me greatly to see that this solemn day is being used as a day to draw attention away from Christ. Don’t get me wrong, there is some good that can come from ministers being out in the town square with ashes to go. I know that some, like my friend David and his church are out doing ministry and meeting people where they need to be met, but there must be limits, and this holy day should not be used for secular purposes.

Now that we know what Ash Wednesday is not, I want to talk a little bit about what Ash Wednesday is and why Lent is 40 days long.  According to the Gospels, Jesus spent the 40 days in the desert fasting. It was there that he was tempted by Satan and overcame those temptations. As Christians, we make preparations for Easter by fasting for the 40 days of Lent. To begin this 40 day fast we have a service called the Ash Wednesday service, where palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned and the ash is used by the priest to mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.

But why ashes? Ashes being used as a sign of repentance or of sorrow actually have a biblical basis at its roots. In the Old Testament, we see several examples of this.  From the book of Job: ” I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying: “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes.” Both of these instances are outward signs of repentance using ashes.  Ashes as a sign of repentance is not only something found in the Old Testament.  We see ashes used in the New Testament as well; as a matter of fact, both in the Gospel of Saint Matthew and the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus speaks of the practice, “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago (sitting) in sackcloth and ashes.”

Ashes are an important sign of our repentance. Ash Wednesday is the day that we mark our 40 day journey of repentance with a simple of act that has so much power and meaning behind it. When the priest or minister takes his thumb and dips it in the ashes and makes the sign of the cross on our foreheads we are acknowledging our willingness to start the journey to the cross with Christ. To reflect on our own faults, to strive to be better Christians, to outwardly say we are sinners in need of a savior. There is nothing political about Ash Wednesday. The only focus should be on those words, “you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Let us pray: Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

 

Birds and Flowers and Faith ~ Br. Chip Noon, Novice

birdsinthesky

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” This is from today’s Gospel.

The last several weeks have been a particular trial for me…physically and emotionally. It has seemed like there is no anchorage. I felt helplessly adrift, even having fleeting thoughts of calling my mother for advice…my mother who has been gone these last six years.

I, who usually know exactly what I’m doing and what I will do, I who have been asked innumerable times during my life, “So what is your advice here, Chip?”

Adrift and alone in an endless ocean with no lighthouses, harbor buoys, or navigation by the stars.

And then, in preparation for this homily, I turn to the USCCB site for the readings for February 26th and what do I find? “I will never forget you,” says the Lord.

He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold.”

Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time…”

The word of God is living and effective;
discerning reflections and thoughts of the heart.”

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

And as has happened so many times before, a mantel of serenity descended upon me and left me comforted.

Every single one of today’s readings has the same message: I am loved and all I need do is trust in God.

Then why do we kick against the traces? How is it we are lured down the path of worry and anxiety? What does being ill at ease gain us?

Well, in my case, if I examine the past few weeks, I think, and erroneously, that that path will lead me to something or someone who will say, “It’s OK, Chip.” I suppose when times get tough, we may get going but we also look for comfort from external sources: spouses, parents, friends, strong leaders. We can’t help it…we’re human, after all. I remember reading several biographies of General George S. Patton from World War II. He was tough, competent, aggressive, and yet he constantly had to tell himself, “Do not take counsel of your fears.” We are all children at our core.

But that’s a biological truth. We are all children. Even to our dying day. We are all seeking comfort, peace, protection. So if that’s the case, that we are all like this, then it must be a gift…or a curse…from God. A curse if we don’t pay attention to what God tells us time and time again: “Quit worrying…I’ve got your back.”

But a gift if we do pay attention, if we adopt a daily exercise of admitting our childhood state, then it’s a part of that exercise to ask God for help. “I’m your child. I need your help.”

There, how hard is that? “I’m your child. I need your help.”

Oh…there’s one other part of the exercise…we have to wait for God’s help with all trust and anticipation. Because as he tells us, “…for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Lord, make us like little children who want to be held. Help us to turn our will over to you who provide all things for all of us. And Lord, help us to seek first your kingdom and find it everywhere we are.

Amen.

St. Polycarp: Counting the Cost ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

 

polycarp-miracle

Reading 1: SIR 5:1-8

R psalm: PS 1:1-2, 3, 4+6

Gospel: MK 9:41-50

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.(MT 10:28 NIV)

We are not of this world if we are of Christ, and are only temporarily passing through. The world does not understand us and has hate for us. To be truly of Christ means that like he did, we must take up our crosses and follow him no matter what the world thinks of us. The minimum we are likely to get is to be called heretic, but at the worst, we could be called to suffer death to follow our Lord, and this is what happened to St Polycarp who we commemorate today.

Polycarp was a disciple of John the Apostle and it was John who consecrated Polycarp as Bishop of Smyrnia. Together with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is regarded as one of the three chief Apostolic Fathers.

Polycarp was 86 years old when he was called to give his life for the Lord. It was a time in Rome, when the Roman Emperor was seen as a God and was worshipped, but Polycarp refused to denounce Christ and to follow this false God.

Polycarp was threatened by the men of Caesar that he would be thrown into a pit of wild animals if he did not denounce Christ, but Polycarp refused to budge. He escaped and hid on a farm and it was there that he had a dream about his pillow catching fire, and he knew it meant the Lord’s will for him was to be burned alive. Polycarp was resigned to his fate and in prayer, he even thanked God and praised him.

Polycarp was found, arrested, tied, and the fire was lit to burn him, but the flames formed an arch over him and his body was untouched. Instead of the expected look and smell of burning flesh, Polycarp glowed like golden baking bread and the fragrance was sweet like perfume. Because the fire didn’t touch him, they then stabbed Polycarp with a dagger, he succumbed to bodily death, and his blood poured and extinguished the flames of the fire.

After the death of Polycarp, his bones were stolen from the remains of the fire to celebrate his martyrdom. Polycarp gained the Crown of martyrdom on February 23rd 156.

Polycarp is an excellent example of living for God, accepting his will and trusting in him completely. He knew that Christ by giving his own earthly life for our salvation, meant that whilst the body may be harmed, the Spirit is eternal for a true follower of God and that there is nothing to fear.

Let us take the example of Polycarp into our lives, and fully live the will of God without complaint and with joy of thanks and praise to our heavenly Father.

Let us pray:

Saint Polycarp, sometimes Christ seems so far away from us. Centuries have passed since he and the Apostles walked upon the earth. Help us to realize that he is close to us always and that we keep him close by imitating his life as you did.

Amen.