Category: Sermon

Jesus Hulks Out ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Super heroes are a thing.  When we were (much) younger, my brother was into body building and his end all be all was The Hulk.  In case you don’t know who The Hulk is, well, he’s green, he’s way feet tall, and he’s bulging with pounds and pounds of muscle. He’s the Incredible Hulk, hands down one of the coolest comic book heroes ever created. You don’t want to make him mad, because as he often warns, “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets!”  His anger and strength have entered the common lexicon of today in the phrase “Hulk out.”  According to The Urban Dictionary, to hulk out means “To become enraged; to lose one’s temper, clothing and power of coherent speech before embarking on a spree of violence and wanton destruction.

In today’s Gospel, we read of a time when Jesus sort of kinda hulked out:  Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money  changers seated there.  He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,  and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.  (John 2:13-17)

Well now.   This little bit of Scripture is problematic for a lot of folks because we have been taught that Jesus was this meek and mild-mannered little guy who preached love and patience and turning the other cheek and instructs us to be slow to anger.  I can assure you that Jesus did, in fact, teach us those things, but I can also assure you that Jesus was far, FAR from being “this meek mild mannered little guy,”  and we should not confuse “meek” with “weak.”

We are inundated from all sides by ads and commercials urging us to get more physically fit, to build muscle on top of muscle, to be perfect specimens of humanity.  I figure that Jesus pretty much fit that physical description.  Jesus as a hunk?, you ask?  Well… yeah.  Think about it for a minute.  Here was a man of great stamina who walked everywhere between the villages of the Holy Land in his ministry of salvation, and there is no record in the New Testament that he ever rode a horse, a camel, or a carriage, (though he did once enter Jerusalem on a donkey, but that’s a sermon for another time.)  He regularly traveled over hills and climbed mountains. We know that Jesus was either a carpenter or a stone mason, and there were, at that time, no power tools, so He was surely lean and muscular.  We have further evidence of Jesus’s physical fitness from reading of His passion.  The torture that he underwent killed many men.

Another reason that this particular bit of Scripture is problematic is that we imagine Jesus to be angry, and remember He was all about the “preaching love and patience and turning the other cheek and instructing us to be slow to anger.”  An angry Jesus???  Isn’t anger a sin???  People look at this episode and say, “Shame, shame. Jesus ignored His own teachings by getting angry and not forgiving those moneychangers. He really lost his cool, didn’t He?” 

At the same time other people view this episode as proof that it’s okay for us to get angry, and even take violent action if necessary, in doing God’s will.

So, who is right?  And the answer to that stunning question is, NEITHER. 

Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and St. Paul clearly teaches in his letter to the Galatians that “outbursts of fury” are the result of our sinful nature. So what’s the deal here? Did Jesus give in to the sinful nature when He got angry in the Temple, or what?

First, we have to understand that Jesus did not have a sinful nature. There have only been three sinless people in history: Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and my mother.  (OK, OK, my momma wasn’t perfect.  Give a guy a break, tho.)

There is a very fine line between “righteous anger” and “self-righteous anger.” Jesus’ anger was completely righteous. Those merchants were making a mockery of God’s holy temple. They were taking advantage of the average person’s sincere faith. Motivated by greed, they forced the believers to pay obscene sums in order to have their worship rituals labeled as “proper.”

You wonder what Jesus’ reaction might be if He appeared today and observed the behavior of Wall Street bankers and Washington politicians. Just sayin’.

Jesus is the only person in history completely controlled by the Spirit. He never gave in to the sinful human nature. The rest of us should avoid anger because we don’t have our sinful human nature under control like Jesus did.

The Gospel reading of Jesus clearing the Temple really should have a disclaimer. In big bold letters the Bible should say: “Jesus is a professional. Do not try this at home.” When people cite this episode as justification for getting angry, often they truly have a righteous goal in mind. But it doesn’t take long for that righteousness to slide into self-righteousness. The next thing you know, some looney toon is bursting into an abortion clinic with a rifle, sincerely convinced that God wants him to kill people to prevent people from being killed, or participating in insurrection at the nation’s capitol to impede the government, or blowing up gay bars, all in Jesus’s name. 

And all the while Satan is howling with glee. He just loves to see us get so worked up over a righteous cause that we become consumed with self-righteous anger. As C.S. Lewis wrote: “The devil would be quite content to see your chilblains cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer.”  In a way, anger, especially self-righteous anger is cancer. It’s spiritual cancer. For those of us who have not yet reached Jesus’s level of spirituality (which means ALL of us), we are susceptible to this disease. Only Jesus can handle anger without contracting the spiritual cancer of self-righteousness.

We mere mortals do not yet share in Jesus’ spiritual perfection. As such, we are not capable of handling anger properly. Good intentions quickly become evil.   When our anger is out of control we can say and do things that hurt others.  Anger in the hands of we sinful people, to paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, is like whiskey and car keys in the hands of teenage boys. It’s just too dangerous.

So what then, do we do when we are angry?  In our daily lives, for most of us those times where anger would be justified are likely pretty rare.   As with all things, follow the Spirit.  Paul, in Galatians 5:20-21, instructed “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” In 1 Corinthians 13, we are directed that love is patient and kind and does not dishonor others and is not easily angered. It can be reasoned that anger is contrary to charity, if it is spontaneously meant to dishonor our neighbor.  Proverbs 15:18 tells us a “hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.”

The Bible seems to place anger as the last response to the circumstances of life.  We as Christians are to be peacemakers and find a solution before allowing an incident or conflict to escalate.    Breathe.  Pray.  Act in love.  And remember, we are, none of us, The Hulk.  Amen.

Homily for 28 February in lent II from the Dominican Oratory in Macedonia ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski

Dear brothers and sisters, with sincere and divine peace in our hearts, abstinent from the worldly allure and the devil’s attacks, we are in peace and joy with the shining sunlight and blossom the nature with the first flowers, announcing the longer and sunny days, fruits, and all that God is giving for our living in this earth. I want and I pray for all of you with God’s blessings to experience his mercy and grace.

But let me tell you something about that, we first need to be fully given to God to use us as clay, to make good vessels for His plans, and that is dividend with daily prayer, things of our strongholds and fallen nature, with the spiritual lent, less food for those that can bear, but for all of us weak or stronger, the spiritual abstinence of all evil and rotten devil allurements.

Penance, with reclusive time for reading the Scripture or any good spiritual book that you like, and compassion always as a good Samaritan, that’s the way, and that is impossible with our faithfulness of prayer, God is doing in us.

I am happy that today when I went to the Priory group of our Order, just to see in case what I should be inspired to share with the rest of us, I want to say that our official web site is refreshed and is dedicated one  chapter space for our never forgotten and dearly beloved deacon Dollie Wilkinskon OPI, and after long time spend in silence, God blessed us with new brother from Serbia that join the Postulancy of Order. Many are called, few are chosen. Don’t lack don’t lose interest of Gods knocking of your heart, Will be not given other time, catch the time, now is the time of salvation.

Please pray for increasing for holy priests and religious to eb given to us from our Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Lent: Our Spring ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I : Gn 9:8-15

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Reading II: 1 Pt 3:18-22

Gospel: Mk 1:12-15

Liturgical colour: Violet.

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ:

The season of Lent in the Church Liturgical year has begun. The purpose of Lent is for each and every one of us to prepare ourselves for the upcoming sacred days of Holy Thursday with the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday with the Lord’s Passion, and Holy Saturday with the Lord’s triumph, the Easter Vigil and with the resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday.

Now the word ‘Lent’ itself means ‘springtime!’ “but Springtime so early?” you well may ask. The answer is “Yes!” In ancient English, the word ‘lent’ is short for the meaning of ‘lengthening,’ as in ‘when winter’s darkness begins to give way to the ever-lengthening light of day.’

Lent, then, announces to us the beginning of the Church’s springtime season.

Whilst Lent is, indeed, a season of penitence — a season of calling us to turn our lives around and to bring our hearts back to God — it’ should not become a time for us to moan and groan or to feel shame for our past sins and for our present failings.

Rather, Lent is a time for us all to rise up and to prepare ourselves to greet the dawn of the new season of hope and of joy.

Lent is first and foremost the celebration of the presence of the Lord among us. For our Lord has come indeed, and he has come to stay: to live with us, to suffer with us, even to die to the past and rise with us to embrace a newness of life together. This saving grace of Jesus, and his redeeming presence, are with us again, and always, as is spoken in the Holy Scriptures, “His love is everlasting.”

What, then, are the works that we are called to do during this Lenten Season — we who are called to change the world?

How small and insignificant are we, and hardly able for the task. And yet, consider for a moment the size of the ant.

When I was a young girl, on a summer’s night, I loved to sneak out of bed, run outside and gaze at the ants busily going about their busy lives, ants, the smallest of the smallest of God’s creatures. I’d gaze and look upon how they darted about every-which-way, but filling my eyes with wonder and flooding an empty heart with new hope and dreams.

So too, must we learn from the ants, and let our good works shine forth and we ought to dart about showing the light of Christ and the warmth of his love in this often-dark world in which we now live, and listen to the words of Jesus our Lord, “Let your light shine before others, so that seeing the lovely things you do, they may give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Since ancient times there have been only three basic works common to a proper Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Prayer, for the good of our soul:

A return to a daily, intimate dialogue with God our Father, speaking and listening with the heart, experiencing His presence and love not only in the safety of our own solitude but in the work of building up a community of love with each other — remembering his words, “Wherever two or three of you are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of you.”

For this, during this sacred season, we must search out quiet places and, even more importantly, we must learn to sit still!

Fasting, for the good of the body:

Fasting to feel and share in the experience of the hunger of the breadless poor and to taste the tears of those who live on the edges of despair. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice sake” … those who work for the growth of peace and harmony, for the righting of wrongs, for the breaking down of barriers and for a new birth of compassion, understanding and love in this world…

Yes, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice sake, for they shall be satisfied.” Christ is one with them when he cries out from the cross: “I thirst.” Who, if not we, are listening? Who, if not we, are to respond? Take courage: For as it is written: “In the chaos of learning to love, we are redeemed.”

Almsgiving, for the good of our neighbour:

To take upon ourselves personal responsibility for helping a brother or sister in need is to reach out and touch God Himself. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, this you do unto me.” (Matthew25:40)

Let us finish with this prayer from Dimitrii of Rostov:

Come, My Light

Come, my Light,

and illumine my darkness.

Come, my Life,

and revive me from death.

Come, my Physician,

and heal my wounds.

Come, Flame of divine love,

and burn up the thorns of my sins,

kindling my heart

with the flame of thy love.

Amen.

Dirty Foreheads, Clean Lives~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Fine, powdery, dark gray and black ashes, smudged onto our foreheads in the shape of a cross, for all the world to imagine what we’ve been doing, looking like we bumped our heads while cleaning out the fireplace, and forgot to wash that part of our faces…
Just a few ashes…symbolizing more than most of us realize as we go through the motions of Ash Wednesday. What do we say to people who ask us the obvious question: What IS that on your head? Why do you have black stuff on your face?
Why WILL we participate in this strange custom this evening? What DOES it mean? The spiritual practice of applying ashes on oneself as a sign of sincere repentance goes back thousands of years. Frequently in the days of the Old and the New Testament, when someone had sinned, he clothed his body with sackcloth and covered himself with ashes. [Jer. 6:26] The sacramental that we are observing today arises from that custom, the spiritual practice of observing public penitence. Church history tells us that the liturgical practice of applying ashes on one’s forehead during the Lenten Season goes back as far as the eighth century. This was accompanied by different forms of fasting, prayer, sacrifices, charity towards others, etc… The writings of St. Leo, around 461 A.D., tell us that during the Lenten Season, he exhorted the faithful to abstain from certain food to fulfill with their fasts the Apostolic institution of forty days. In the days of the Old Testament, many tore their clothing as a sign of repentance.
Today, we use the ashes as a reminder of who we are. The Bible tells us
that we came from the dust and to the dust we shall return. The first
human was formed out of the dust of the earth by God and then God breathed
life into that dust. That is a powerful image. One that is meant to
remind us that without the breath or Spirit of God moving in us, we are
just like these ashes: lifeless – worthless.
The ashes that many of us will wear tonight are meant to be for us symbols of our repentance and signs that we truly seek to follow in God’s path.
The people in the Biblical stories probably put the ashes on top of their
heads – so why do we, instead of putting these ashes on our heads, put them
in the sign of the cross on our foreheads?
We do so because it is a reminder of how we are sealed for Christ. In most
churches when a baby is baptized the minister or priest uses oil to mark
the child with the sign of the cross. The mark of the cross is a mark of ownership. These ashes tonight remind us that we are Christ’s – that he died so that we might live. These may be just a few ashes but they mean a lot. They are a symbol of our need for God. We are nothing but dust and ashes apart from God.
But what about Lent itself? What is it? Why do we have this season? Most of us were taught that the lengthy period of Lent was one of penitence and fasting, a time provided for those who were separated from the church by their sins, so they could be reconciled by acts of penitence and forgiveness.
For most of us, Lent is the time of sometimes painful self-examination, during which we scrutinize our habits, our spiritual practice, and our very lives – hoping to make ourselves better, trying to make ourselves worthy of the love of God. We “step up” our prayer, fasting, and self-denial in order to remove worldly distractions from our lives. And we take on Bible study, classes, and service projects in order to add meaning and depth to our existence. For some children, Lent means no sweets, for teenagers, less time on Facebook. For adults, it may be consuming less meat or alcohol, or attending that Lenten course offered by the Church.
However we go about it, the goal is pretty much the same: Lent makes us ready for Easter. Quite simply put, we are better able to appreciate Resurrection joys come Easter Day by enduring these Lenten disciplines now.
The Old Testament Lessons, the Psalm appointed for today, and today’s Gospel Reading all tell us the “how” and “why” of Lent. But then, there is Paul. Saint Paul tells is, right off the bat, in the very first verse of the Epistle for today, to “BE RECONCILED TO GOD.” Nowhere does he say, “Observe a Holy Lent, THEN be reconciled to God.” Not after enduring a forty-day fast. Not after lengthy Bible study. Not even after prayer, but now, here, today: Be reconciled to God. Paul not only invites us to be reconciled to God, he actually beseeches us. That is, he pleads, implores, presses, begs, and demands. “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. … Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.”
If we but recognize this, if we are but reconciled to our God NOW, and THEN work toward our Lenten goals of fasting, of prayer, and of penitence, if we seek to discipline ourselves during Lent, and make those disciplines into daily habits, we will not only most assuredly have the Holy Lent we all desire, but will come to live a more holy life in general. And isn’t that, really, what Lent is all about in the first place? Amen.

THE COMPASSION OF CHRIST~ The Rev.Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

(MARK 1:40-45)

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, 
touched him, and said to him, 
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. 

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest 
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Before we unpack what was unusual about the encounter in Mark 1:40-45, the OT book of Leviticus gives us a biblical-contextual understanding of who this leper was and what leprosy was about. Understanding the Old Testament allows us to understand the New Testament and the gospels in the fullness of their biblical-historical context. One of the best ways to read and understand the Bible is therefore through the lens of the Bible itself. The table below breaks down the key points of the passage:

Back to Mark 1:40-45: this leper who approaches Jesus should by all accounts be required to live in isolation apart from his community. He is a societal outcast, quite literally an untouchable. Luke 5:12 even tells us that this man was “full of leprosy”!

By now it should become clear why the encounter between the leper and Jesus was unusual. Jesus whose status was that of a common Jew, was inside of society, while the leper was outside of society! Their paths were not supposed to cross under any circumstances.

Given the culture at the time, some might describe this leper’s actions as audacious. Such a scenario may be hard to imagine in Singapore as ethnic and community tensions are somewhat mitigated by social cohesion policies that are put in place by the government. Somewhat. In many countries around the world such discrimination and drawing of fault lines still exists. India’s Dalits, or untouchables, are one example, and discriminatory segregation between black South Africans and African Americans is another. 

Perhaps an equivalent would be someone in torn clothes smelling of sweat and urine walking into a fancy restaurant in MBS and asking one of the diners to do something for them. What would you do if someone like that walked into your air-conditioned church and asked around for a favour, perhaps even for someone to pray for them? Before they can even open their mouth to ask, I’m not proud to say that the majority of us, myself included, would probably tend to judge them on their appearance. Friends, would a leper be accepted in your church?

But here’s another way to look at it: the  leper’s actions in Mark 1:40 can be thought of as desperate rather than audacious. On one hand, he’s desperate, but on the other, also hopeful, trusting and deferential. His actions (i.e. kneeling, imploring) and what he says display faith in Jesus, rather than an arrogant challenge to Jesus’ power. Hear his words! “If you will, you can make me clean”.

So whose will is the leper focused on for his cleansing? Note that he begins his request by saying ‘If the Lord is willing’. Jesus’ ability and His power are not even in question. How often do we find ourselves praying “Your will be done”? There are churches that teach that God just cannot wait to pour out His healing upon us and our unbelief is in fact preventing God from working His healing power! So all we have to do is to receive. Just name it and claim it.

But is that really what the Bible teaches? We see here that the leper did not say to Jesus ‘I declare that there shall be healing in your name or that I am safe from all harm and affliction’. Instead he says “If you will, you can make me clean”. We should not be in any doubt about God’s power to save or to heal. But we should not presume God’s prerogative to deliver that healing.

In some ways, the leper’s posture of submission to the will of God over his circumstances gives us an example of how we are to come before God. The leper recognized the authority and the power of Jesus Christ – and in faith, asked Jesus to make him clean. Friends, do we adopt the same posture that this leper – one whom our hearts would be quick to ostracise and judge – adopts? We have much to learn.

3 details stand out immediately (Mark 1:41) from Jesus’ response – (i) First, Jesus was moved with pity; (ii) Second, he stretched out His hand to touch the leper; and (iii) Third, He cleanses the man by the power of His word.

If Mark is in such a hurry, why does he emphasize the first two details? “He stretched out His hand to touch the leper” take up 9 precious words of bible real estate amid the urgency of Mark’s gospel. He could have just said something like “…and Jesus made the man clean”. It’s also interesting that Jesus doesn’t always lay hands on those that He is healing. Therefore when He does we should ask if it has any significance.

The answer is in Lev 13 – remember that lepers were not supposed to come into contact with anyone. Anybody who came into contact with a leper became ceremonially unclean. Even Jewish rabbis, who were supposed to teach and model godly behavior for the people, have been known to despise and shun anything to do with a leper’s presence. If you think about it, the only way you can touch someone or something unclean and not become unclean yourself is if you make the other person or thing clean. You can’t both stay the same. The people at the time knew this. There were only two logical outcomes for a person who had the audacity or the misfortune to touch an unclean leper – they either became unclean, or it must have been God Himself.

Only God Himself, pure and holy, could choose to touch this leper in order to demonstrate His power and His divinity. And notice that His power was demonstrated by his word. “Be clean”. Therefore, when Jesus reaches out to touch this leper, He cleanses the diseased man instead of becoming defiled by him. With one touch He reveals His identity, and implicitly reveals Himself as the fulfilment of the Law. This should be apparent to the priests in the temple!

In Lev 14, there are certain prescribed ways for lepers to re-enter the community. On the rare occasion that they recover, they had to approach a priest for re-examination and perform a whole bunch of other rites as part of their purification and re-entrance into the community. The priest also has to affirm the leper’s recovery. This was clearly set out in the Law.

Therefore, Jesus’ instructions in Mark 1:43-44 can be explained by two main reasons: the first was quite clearly to enable the man’s reconciliation or reintegration into the community. Basically, what Jesus told him in Mark 1:44 is i.e. “don’t make a big fuss out of this, go straight to the temple and let the priests examine you. Then do what the Law commands and offer the sacrifices that you need to offer for your cleansing”. This will be a proof to the priest. We see that this was a priority for Jesus because He sternly charged the man with this instruction and sent him away at once. Jesus cares about the restoration and the reconciliation of the lost and outcast. 

The key to understanding the second reason is right at the end of Mark 1:44 – “for a proof to them”. What ‘proof’ did Jesus intend the priesthood to have? Another word for proof is also testimony – the man was to go straight to the priests to get himself examined and restored to the community, but more importantly, so that having been cleansed, he would give testimony of the one who had cleansed him. The one they call Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ power and the miracles that He performed pointed to His divinity. The message for the priesthood would have been loud and clear – the Messiah has come; the Kingdom of God is at hand. And He had come not to overturn the Law, but to fulfill it! So the second reason for Jesus’ instruction to the man was that it was intended to reveal Himself to His people, specifically, to the priests and the religious leaders, the shepherds of God’s people, as the Messiah.

Praise the Lord Anyway! ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

How many times have we heard, “I’ve been through alot this past year and I’ve always wanted to believe in God.. I’ve tried.. but I don’t understand why there’s so much suffering in the world.. why do people beg and plead and pray to God to not let loved ones die.. and they die anyway? What kind of God would allow that? The horrific things people go through and see while praying to God for help.. I don’t get it and saying it’s a part of God’s plan or you just have to have faith doesn’t work for me either.. I’ve prayed about it and listened and tried to understand but I just don’t.. I’m an open-minded person and I respect everyone’s beliefs but I’m just not able to accept that a loving God would let good people suffer.”?

This question is as old as humanity.  First of all, God does not ‘give’ us the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things that happen in our lives.  Life happens.  Crap happens.  People make poor choices.  Natural disasters occur.  We get sick.  Nowhere does Holy Writ support the claim that any of these things is God’s doing.  What kind of God would we worship if he, indeed, sent us all the trials and tribulations and suffering and horror for which He is blamed?

We have to remember that, even though God is firmly in control, Satan has power and he fights against our Lord.  Ephesians 2:2 says:  “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1–2, emphasis added). In this text the apostle Paul describes Satan first as a “prince” with power, because he has authentic power in the world (1 John 5:19). This power has been given him by God (Luke 4:6). Satan has power over some illnesses (Luke 13:16; see also 2 Corinthians 12:7—it’s unknown if Paul’s “thorn” was an illness or something else). In some sense, Satan has power over death (Hebrew 2:14). The reason Satan is called a prince rather than a king is because there is only one King—Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:15).

Satan also has power over some people. The “sons of disobedience” referred to in Ephesians 2:2 are those who have not trusted Christ as Lord and Savior (cf. Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 13:12). The demons are also under the rule of Satan (Matthew 12:24), and one of his titles is “prince of demons” (Matthew 9:34). Satan has a kingdom (Matthew 12:26) and a throne (Revelation 2:13). Satan is called a prince because he is a ruler and possesses power to manifest evil in the world through influencing people and commanding demons.

“The air” in Ephesians 2:2 may refer to the invisible realm above the earth where Satan and his demons move and exist. This space, of course, is the location of the earth’s atmosphere or “air.” In Ephesians 6:12, Paul writes, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” This evil realm called the “air” could be an actual locality, but it could also be synonymous with the “world” of John 12:31. This whole world is Satan’s domain (Matthew 4:8–9).

Although Satan has power and authority in the current world system in which we exist, his power is limited, always under the sovereign control of God (Job 1:12), and it is temporary (Romans 16:20). God has not revealed all of the why’s and when’s concerning Satan’s rule, but He has made it clear that there is only one way to escape the power of Satan’s dominion, and that is through His Son, Jesus (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13–14). It is Jesus who, speaking of the impending cross, declared victory: “Now the prince of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31).

Now, when Satan has so much power, what are we left with?  The Bible DOES say that that he will, when we are suffering temptation provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). But never does it say that God will not give us more pain and suffering than we can handle.

Many Christians have suffered to the point of death at the hands of executioners, (consider the Holy Martyrs.) Many suffer to the point of death at their own hands. All we can say is that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). This may not solve our depression, but it does give us perspective. Even if our depression has caused us enormous doubt, this can be helpful. 

When “bad” things happen to any of God’s children, God is grieved and suffers with us, and this was experienced most vividly in the hurt and suffering of Jesus Christ for all humanity. Any “bad” thing which happens is never the last word. Rather, God is the deepest and last word, and that word is love and eternal life with God.

The Bible clearly teaches that God does not cause us to suffer. For example, the Bible says that when we go through trials, it would be a mistake to say: “I am being tried by God.” Why? Because “with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) In other words, God never causes the trials we face or the suffering that follows. To do so would be wicked, but “God does not act wickedly.” (Job 34:12.)

If God does not cause us to suffer, then who or what does? Sadly, humans are often victimized by other imperfect humans. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Additionally, we may face calamities because of “unexpected events”—that is, because of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) The Bible teaches that ultimately “the ruler of this world,” Satan the Devil, is responsible for human suffering, for “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (John 12:31; 1 John 5:19) It is Satan—not God—who causes people to suffer.

God is aware of our suffering. From the very start of human suffering, not a single teardrop has gone unnoticed by our loving Father, whose “watchful eyes” see everything. (Psalm 11:4; 56:8) For example, when his worshippers in ancient times were being oppressed, God said: “I have certainly seen the affliction of my people.” But was he only vaguely aware of their pain? No, for he added: “I well know the pains they suffer.” (Exodus 3:7) Many people have found comfort in that truth alone—the thought that God is aware of everything we suffer, even the trials that we or others may not be aware of or fully understand. (Psalm 31:7; Proverbs 14:10.)

God feels for us when we suffer. Our Heavenly Father is not only aware of human suffering but also deeply moved by it. For example, God was sincerely troubled when his ancient worshippers faced trials. “During all their distress it was distressing to him,” says the Bible. (Isaiah 63:9) Although God is vastly superior to humans, he feels empathy for those who suffer—as if their pain were in his heart! Indeed, “Our Heavenly Father is very compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11) Additionally, Our Heavenly Father helps us to bear our suffering. (Philippians 4:12, 13.)

We must also remember that our Lord Jesus knows what it is to suffer, to mourn.  He wept at the grave of Lazarus, he wept over Jerusalem, and he suffered horrifically during His Passion.

God will end all human suffering. According to the Bible, God will bring an end to the suffering of every human on the planet. By means of His Heavenly Kingdom, God will drastically change the human condition—for the better. Regarding that time, the Bible promises that God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) What about those who have already died? God will bring them back to life here on earth so that they too can enjoy life free from suffering. (John 5:28, 29) Will anyone be plagued by painful memories of past suffering? No, for Our Heavenly Father promises: “The former things will not be called to mind, nor will they come up into the heart.” (Isaiah 65:17.)

Jesus could have come and healed Lazarus when he was still alive.

Instead, He waited to raise him from the dead when he was already in his grave.

God could have made David become king the day after he was anointed.

Instead, He waited 15 years to rise to the throne, many of those years spent fearing for his life, hiding out and running away from his own father-in-law.

God could have spoken to Moses in the desert about sending him to help free His people from slavery 40 days after he ran away from Egypt.

Instead, He made him wait for 40 long years.

God could have gotten Joseph out of prison one year after he was sentenced there.

Instead, he was stuck in that dungeon for 10 years before he was finally set free.

God could have given Abraham the son He promised him when he was still a young man.

Instead, He waited until he was 100 years old and because of physical reasons would have a more difficult time conceiving at that age.

God could have answered prayers and met the needs of these men of God much quicker, but He didn’t.

He made them wait instead.

And He often makes us do the same.

He makes us wait for healing to come after we’ve been praying for years and there is no sign of recovery.

He makes us wait to fulfill His call in our lives after He puts the desire and passion in our hearts to serve Him in a certain way.

He makes us wait to give us the desires of our hearts, whether it’s a baby, a spouse, or a new job.

He makes us wait for direction when we are stuck at a dead end and we don’t know where to go or what to do.

He could answer that same prayer that you’ve been praying for years every night in a millisecond.

That same prayer that has been bringing you to tears.

That same prayer that the longer that it goes unanswered, the more it makes you question whether He even hears.

He kept Moses in a desert for 40 years.

Joseph in a prison cell for 10 years.

Abraham without a child for 100 years.

David on the run for 15 years.

And maybe He is keeping you right where you’re at for the same reason He kept these men for so many years: to build your faith.

To build your faith in a dungeon cell, during the valley in your life where it’s too dark to see and too hard to believe.

To build your dependence on Him when you are barren and empty to see if He is truly all you desire and all you need.

To see how well you will trust and serve Him when you are still stuck in the background somewhere, doing seemingly nothing too significant for Him.

To build your trust in Him when the storm keeps raging, the battle keeps going and breakthrough and victory doesn’t seem near.

That we grow in faith.

That we learn to only depend on Him.

What are you waiting for today?

What longing do you have that seems so far from ever being fulfilled?

What prayer do you keep on praying that seems to never reach God’s ears?

I want to remind you that God is not deaf to your prayers.

He is not blind to your constant tears, to your desires, and to your needs.

IF He is making you wait, there is a very good reason for it.

If He is telling you “no” today, maybe it’s because He has a better “yes” waiting for you tomorrow.

If He is keeping you in the same place you’ve always been today, maybe it’s because He’s helping build your faith before you enter your Promised Land tomorrow.

If He is not healing you or bringing you victory today, maybe it’s because you will have a greater testimony when He waits to help you be an overcomer tomorrow.

Wherever you are at today know that God is right beside you and that there is a purpose for you. Even if that purpose is to wait.

Don’t give up just because you don’t see anything happening today.

Maybe there is nothing physically happening that your eyes can see but there is definitely something happening in the spiritual realm as you learn to rely on Christ.

Don’t allow your waiting period to make you hopeless about what tomorrow will bring.

Instead, let it build your faith and give you even greater hope for what God has prepared for you.

He made some of the greatest men of faith wait.

Don’t be discouraged if He makes you wait as well.

He will come through for you, just like He came through for them.
“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” – Psalm 27:14

I Will Follow Him ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

After Daddy’s mesothelioma diagnosis was deemed critically terminal, one of his great comforts was chewing gum.  He went through at least a pack a day.  I’ll never forget this conversation between he and Momma when Daddy was in the hospital:

Daddy:  Did I ask you to bring me some gum?

Momma:  Yes, Honey.

Daddy:  Did you bring me some gum?

Momma:  Yes, Honey.

Daddy:  Then why ain’t I achewin’ it?

And we all laughed, Momma gave Daddy his gum, he began “achewin’ it” and all was as right as it could be under the circumstances.

The Responsorial Psalm appointed for today comes from Psalm 25. Here it is:

R.  Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.

R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your love are from of old.  In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD.

R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way.  He guides the  humble to justice  and teaches the humble his way.

R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

And the Gospel for today comes from Mark 1:   As he (Jesus) passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.  Jesus said to them,  “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”   Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.  He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They too were in a boat mending their nets.  Then he called them.  So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Now, you ask me, what in the world does Daddy’s gum have to do with those scriptures?  I’m gonna tell ya.  Momma was prepared.  She had done Daddy’s bidding, but just hadn’t quite followed through with it yet.  How many of us are like that when it comes to doing our Lord’s bidding?  Like the Psalmist, we have all of us asked “Teach me your ways, O Lord.”  But have we followed through?

In the Gospel reading for today, we read of Jesus calling Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow him.  And they did.  We have many of us been called to follow Christ.  And we do.  Mostly???  Sort of???  Kind of???  In a round about way???

In the past few weeks, how many of us have said/posted/read/agreed with things that would most definitely not be considered Christ-like?   How many of us have let our personal political beliefs get in the way of acting like the “little Christ” we are called to be?  Sure we can disagree, often vehemently, but under no circumstances can we allow ourselves to allow those differences of opinions to get in the way of our witness for our Lord.  (You gotta remember that even Peter and Paul argued, but they didn’t let that stand in the way of building Christ’s Kingdom.)

Let us not forget that in many cases, we are the only Bibles that many folks will ever read, and we are the only Jesus that some folks will ever see.  It is up to us to see the Jesus in everyone, regardless of political belief, race, creed, color, sexual orientation, whether we cheer for Duke or for Clemson, or anything thing else that can be used to divide us.  We are all of us HIS people, the sheep of HIS pasture, and we have far more in common than we do the things that divide us, if we truly identify as HIS.

As Christians, have we lost our focus of what is truly important?  Regardless of politics, of whether we are ‘blue’ or ‘red’ or ‘rainbow,’ we are to remain focused on the one thing that really matters in this world and the next:  Spreading and sharing the love of and for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  No matter who sits in the Oval Office, our job, our mission, our focus, has not changed and will not change:  We are called to love and to serve the Lord with gladness and singleness of heart.  We are called to care of each other, regardless of our politics.  We are commanded to ‘bless those who persecute us’ and we are called to ‘pray for our enemies.’  We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless. (Matthew 25:31-46). 

I think we all of us are familiar with the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”  And what is the next line?  Yep.  “And let it begin with me.”  Isn’t it time we lived up to that?   What are we doing to bring about change?  To bring about equality?  To bring about that healing this country so desperately needs? 

It is up to each of us to conduct ourselves in a manner fitting our faith.   Look at what you say.  Look at what you post.  If you were accused of being a Christian, would your timeline bear witness to the fact?

In the movie “Sister Act” the nuns sing another song that we’re all familiar with.  “I Will Follow Him.” 

 I must follow him, ever since he touched my hand I knew that near him I always must be And nothing can keep him from me He is my destiny. (Songwriters: Arthur Altman / Franck Pourcel / Jacques Plante / Norman Gimbel / Paul Mauriat)

So, having said all of the above, shouldn’t we, like the nuns, like Peter and James and John and Andrew and Paul actually do what we are called to do?

Follow Him.  In every word that we speak.  Follow Him.  In every post that we make.  Follow Him.  In every action we take.  Follow Him.  Amen.

Whose Disciple Are You? ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

Disciples of Jesus or Disciples of a man?

John 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.

In just the last ten days we have seen violence, hatred, anarchy, and just plain disobedience. Our country is in deep trouble because of how a few followers of one person have acted out and caused such turmoil. These are disciples of a man. A small man. A bitter man. Someone who needs his giant ego stroked and requires praise and worship. NOT TRUE CHRISITIANS! True Christians are those people who follow Jesus, Act Like Jesus, and bring others to Jesus. Riots, mayhem, and violence are not the ways of our Lord.

Who do you follow? Who have you become disciple of? Are you disciples of a certain politician? Are you disciples of money? Are you a disciple of a boy band singer or a movie actor or actress? Do you spend more time searching the internet for videos of these people than you do reading your Bible? If so you need to step back and look at your life and the way you are living it. The last four years in the United States has been the scariest I can remember in my life. Racial violence, pandemics, political violence, and just general hatred to fellow humans seems to be the norm now, but that is not what our Lord wants for us. All these things can go away and all it would take would be for each of us to act and be the Jesus that others see. Love on another the way Jesus loved us – after all – He commanded this of us in John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

What does it mean to be a Christian these days? Who do you follow? Your preacher, the politician with the most charisma, the current popular rock singer, or Jesus? Open your eyes, open your hearts, open your lives. Be a disciple of Christ, not the newest fad or politician. Spread love and peace, not hatred and discourse. Be a fan of Jesus and not that football player or baseball star. John Wesley said: “The church changes the world not by making converts, but by making disciples.” Live your life making disciples and being the Jesus others see.

Heavenly Father: show us how to be disciples and how to guide others to your Son Jesus Christ. Give us the knowledge and wisdom to know that Your son Jesus Christ is the only one we need to follow and be disciples of. Amen

Water, Water, Everywhere ~ The Baptism of Our Lord ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

The Baptism of Our Lord.

Reading I: Is 42:1-4, 6-7 OR: Is 55:1-11

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10 OR: Is 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

Reading II: Acts 10:34-38 OR: 1 Jn 5:1-9

Gospel: Mk 1:7-11

Liturgical colour: White.

Let us begin by looking at today’s Gospel Reading:

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: 

“One mightier than I is coming after me.

I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.

I have baptized you with water; 

he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee 

and was baptized in the Jordan by John.

On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open 

and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.

And a voice came from the heavens, 

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

In this reading from the Gospel of Mark, we see the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It begins with John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River and God proclaiming that Jesus is the Beloved Son. Our baptism reminds us of who God created us to be. It joins us to the Body of Christ, gives us freedom, and commits us to following the way of Christ. But we don’t do this alone. Our baptism bonds us all in the Christian Church.

We all came into the world as the individuals which God created.  We came into the world with love and mercy that each and every one of us,  were created to give and to receive.  We are all intentional creations of God.

Unfortunately, over time, we forget that part of who we are.  The memory of that loving heart is exchanged with worries about what others may think of us:  we may think, Are we good enough?  Are we successful enough?  Are we enough?

In the beginning…God created.  In the beginning…John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus.  In the beginning…Jesus set forth on his mission to save the world.

The Gospel of Mark doesn’t begin in the same way as the gospels of Matthew or Luke.  There is no genealogical history.  There is no account of Mary and Joseph wrestling with this strange news that will change the course of their lives.  There is no birth narrative…no manger….no shepherds…no wise men….  Mark’s Gospel begins at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

John the Baptist is described pretty as the messenger prophesied by Isaiah.  John’s out in the wilderness baptizing people who repent of their sins.  Mark’s description of him makes him a man on a mission, literally, he on a mission, a mission from God. He’s focused.  He’s doing what God has called him to do.  He’s not a self-promoter.  He’s baptizing people with water to receive forgiveness of their sins.

But John the Baptist tells us that he’s just the messenger…that God is sending another, more powerful man.  This man will call down the Holy Spirit to baptize us.

Then Jesus appears on the scene and is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.  And, for Mark, this is a new beginning, not only for Jesus, but for the whole world.  Mark says:  “And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’.”

For Mark, it’s not the birth of Jesus that rearranges all of history.  It’s the baptism of Jesus.  In that moment, “the heavens are torn apart!”  The veil is lifted and heaven and earth are one again, just like at the beginning of Creation.

In this moment of Jesus’ baptism in Mark, God’s love and the Holy Spirit break into this world to declare that Jesus is the Beloved Son.  And just as God proclaimed that creation was “good,” God proclaims the goodness of the Son.

Mark makes clear that Jesus isn’t just a prophet, Jesus is God walking around this world in the flesh, in all its joy and sorrow and fragility.  Jesus is the one the world has been waiting for.  The one who will bring God’s kingdom to earth.  This is a new beginning.

Baptism is a new beginning for us, too.  When we’re baptized, we take part in the rite that uses the outward and visible signs of water, oil, the cross, the Paschal candle, and the people of God.  All of these things connect us to the Body of Christ, to all of those people who have gone before us, walk with us now, and will follow us on the journey of following Jesus.

This is our birth into the church as Christians.  It’s our proclamation that we will strive to bring love and justice and mercy to the world.  But we know that we can’t do it alone.  We need God to walk with us on this path.  We need Jesus to show us the way and the Holy Spirit to guide us.  And we need God’s people to walk with us.

When we’re baptized, the waters that are poured over us are the very waters that were present at creation.  They’re the waters upon which God breathed and creation began.  These are the same waters that baptized Jesus, that announced to everyone that the Saviour was in the world, offering a new beginning. These are the waters that create new life in us, too.

Baptism is also referred to as our “new life in Christ.”  This new life doesn’t mean that who we were before wasn’t good enough.  It’s not like we aren’t God’s children before we’re baptized.  We’re God’s children from the moment God creates us.

Baptism is when the veil between heaven and earth parts and we remember who God created us to be…each and every one of us.   Through Baptism, we receive freedom.  We make the commitment to be who God created us to be.  We return to that person God created us to be with new awareness and dedication and connection.

Our Baptism and the renewal of our baptismal vows reminds us of that loving and merciful person that God created us to be.  It reminds us that because God created us and loves us, we are good enough.

Let us pray:

God of all wilderness wanderers, you sent John to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, your beloved son. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us so that, like John, we may proclaim the time to turn from sinfulness and the good news of your grace; through Christ, the water of life. Amen.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: 1 Jn 3:22–4:6

Responsorial Psalm: 2:7bc-8, 10-12a

Gospel: Mt 4:12-17, 23-25

Liturgical colour: White.

Today is the Memorial of my Dominican Order Name Saint, that being St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

 This particular Saint was given as my order Name Saint because my Bishop noticed there seemed to be many similarities between the life of St Elizabeth Ann Seton and the life of myself. We both share the fact that we have both overcome many life traumas and adversities, but yet, we both always  have remained strong of faith regardless of the things life has thrown at us.

Mother Seton founded the first American religious community for women, named the sisters of charity, and so she was a keystone of the American Catholic church. Mother Seton also opened the first American parish school, and the first American Catholic orphanage. All this, she had accomplished by the age of 46, whilst also raising her own five children.

Mother Seton is a true daughter of the American Revolution, she was born on Aug 28th 1774, which was only two years prior to the declaration of Independence.

By both birth and marriage, Mother Seton was linked to the first families of New York and enjoyed the rich fruits of high society, but this situation wasn’t to last.

Mother Seton suffered the early deaths of both her mother in 1777, and of her baby sister in 1778, but far from letting it get her down, she faced each new ‘holocaust’  as she called it, with a hopeful cheerfulness.

At only aged 19, she married a handsome wealthy businessman named William Magee Seton and they had five children together. But William’s business failed, and he died of Tuberculosis when Elizabeth was aged 30, leaving her widowed, penniless and with five young children to support. Many of her family and friends rejected her when she converted to the Catholic faith in March 1805.

As a means to support her children, mother Seton opened a school in Baltimore which always followed a religious community pathway and her religious order of the sisters of charity was officially founded in 1807.

The thousands of letters of Mother Seton reveal the development of her Spiritual life from that of a person of Ordinary goodness, to one of heroic sanctity. She suffered many great trials within her life yet with her strong faith, she overcame them all. Trials of sickness, of misunderstanding, the deaths of her loved ones (mother, baby sister, husband, and even two of her own children), and the heartache of having a wayward son.

St Elizabeth Anne Seton died on January 4th 1821, she became the first American=born citizen to be beatified in 1963, then Canonized in 1975. She is buried in Emmitsburg in Maryland.

Let us pray:

O Father, the first rule of our dear Saviour’s life was to do your will. Let His Will of the present moment be the first rule of our daily life and work, with no other desire but for it’s complete accomplishment. Help us to follow it faithfully, so that doing your Will may be pleasing in your sight.

Amen.