Category: Sermon

~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

What’s that noise? Huh? Oh, that’s my alarm. It’s time to get up and start this day. I roll over and press the snooze button. Nine more minutes. I just get back to sleep and then that horrible noise starts again. OK OK Ill get up and get this day started. Its going to be a very busy day; a holiday; the one holiday every year that I look forward to with just a hint of dread and disdain. Thanksgiving: that wonderful family holiday where we eat delicious foods, catch up with family, listen to Uncle Bob’s horrible jokes and regret eating too many desserts. I head down to the kitchen while still trying to get my senses about me and anticipating that first cup of coffee. Looking over the day’s headlines on the local newspaper’s website, it seems that every time I scroll a little bit, there is another ad for a department store Black Friday Sale, TVs on sale, winter clothing on sale, cars and trucks on sale; anything you could imagine, desire, or ever want, could be had tomorrow for up to 70% off. Wow, I guess I will be staying home tomorrow and ordering Christmas gifts from Amazon and other online retailers because I have no desire to deal with the mayhem and carnage that is Black Friday.

Second cup of coffee and its time to start getting ready for the day’s adventures. I start getting ingredients our of the fridge and pantry to make the gastronomic delights that I am known for at these family gatherings. An apple pie, a pumpkin cheesecake, green bean casserole, and cranberry salad. My sister usually makes the deviled eggs, ambrosia, and a pumpkin roll, and my brother usually brings the macaroni salad and something that nobody can identify but it has whipped cream on top and is made of chocolate. Mom bakes the ham and the dinner rolls, and dad makes the mashed potatoes. I have about 4 hours to get everything done before my husband, the kids, and I head out on the 2-hour journey to mom and dad’s house halfway across the state. We need to leave by 10 am, 10:30 at the latest if we are going to get there by noonish.

As I am busy cooking and cleaning up as I go, my husband peeks his head around the corner and wishes me a good morning. He thanks me for letting him sleep in and asks me if I need any help. I tell him good morning, blow him a kiss, and tell him to go to the living room and I will bring him a cup of coffee and some toast. Things are progressing well in the kitchen and I am super pleased that I had picked up everything I needed at the store on Monday; I wasn’t running out of any ingredients, and it looked like all of my gastronomic delights are going to turn out beautifully.

Everything was finished, everything was packed in boxes for the journey to the parents’ house. I let the kids sleep until just about a half hour before it was time to leave. I woke them, got them a light breakfast, gathered up their stuff (things to keep them occupied on the trip to and from), loaded the car and we are right on time. As we drive out of our development I notice that many of the houses have more cars parked in front of them than usual, and some of the front yards have children playing in them where there usually are none. As we leave our town and get on the freeway, I notice the amount of traffic is much heavier than normal and traffic began to slow. A few minutes later we are moving so slowly that the speedometer isn’t even registering our speed. Soon we pass the cause of the slow traffic; it was a car wreck involving a tractor trailer and a car. My husband and I look at each other and I said how I hoped everyone were OK and we went on our way over the hills and through the woods. The remainder of the journey was without incident.

We arrived at my parents’ house just a few minutes after noon and were the first ones there. I immediately went to the kitchen with all the goodies I had created and began helping Mom with various kitchen things while my husband settled down in the living room with my dad in front of the television. The kids were on the couch with their cell phones and video games going full blast. Siblings and spouses began to arrive, and greetings were exchanged, and everyone just settled into their normal routines for these family gatherings. All the women in the kitchen fussing and flittering around the table making sure everything is as close to perfect as possible, all the men in the living room glued to the television watching the big game and arguing with each other who has the best quarterback and which team needs a better coach. Our kids and the nieces and nephews are all scattered around the house, some in the living room, some in the kitchen, and some have found quiet places to be alone in other rooms away from everyone so they could surf Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or whatever new app they used to socialize in relative peace.

The kitchen staff made the decision that it was time to get this affair started so we sounded the dinner bell and gathered everyone in the kitchen and dining room. The table was beautiful, the smells were amazing. We bowed our heads, and my father gave the blessing of the meal. He thanked the Lord for the bountiful meal before us and asked for His blessing on each one of the family members. Amen.

We ate, chatted, laughed, and reminisced about Thanksgivings past. Afterwards the men folk returned to the living room, kids back to where they had come from and the women folk cleaned up the mess and set the desserts out. Conversations resumed in the kitchen and arguments about football resumed in the living room.

 As the afternoon went on and early evening set in, family began heading home with little care packages of turkey, dressing, ham, desserts, and side dishes. Our two-hour drive began around 5:00 o’clock pm, which would put us home around 7:00 p.m. if traffic cooperated. Before we got back on the freeway we stopped for gas. At the gas station I was just looking around and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a young man sitting on the curb just staring down at the ground. Behind him was a backpack that was bulging and looked like it was about to burst. It probably contained everything he owned. Was this young man homeless? Had he been rejected by his family? Where was he from? Was he local? Was he passing through? Was he hungry? Did he even have family?

Right then I realized how lucky I am, how lucky my family is, and how blessed we are. We have everything we have simply because of God’s love for us.  But did we show our gratitude and thanks to The Lord today? No. We totally missed every opportunity. Each one of us could have said Thank You Lord for the roof over our heads, Thank You Lord for the food on our table, Thank You Lord for the family gathered around us today, Thank You Lord for keeping us safe in our travels today. We could even thank The Lord for the amazing technology that keeps us connected to each other. Did we? No, again we failed to realize that we are blessed daily.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life we get so caught up in life that we forget to take a few seconds to look around us and see all The Lord has provided for us. We have a home, food, clothing, friends, education, family, and most of all we have love. Love of our Lord and Savior. With all He has provided for us isn’t it only fitting that we should have taken time from our busy Thanksgiving meal to thank Him for all he has provided. How selfish of us to just keep taking and taking and taking and never giving Him thanks. So, this Thanksgiving Day take just a few moments and give thanks for all He has done for you.

The act of Thanksgiving isn’t only thanking The Lord for all we have, it can also be the act of giving back. We could have stopped at the accident scene this morning and offered prayers or assistance to the injured. We could have offered our take home goodies to the young man at the gas station. We passed by two nursing homes on the way to the parents’ house. We could have stopped and offered a few minutes of our time to someone who has no family and won’t be visited today. The Lord has blessed us with so much and there are so many with so little, shouldn’t we share our blessing with those who are less blessed than us? First Corinthians Chapter 1 tells us to give thanks to God, for he has enriched us in many ways. Most of all we should give thanks for God for giving us His only son to die for us and take away our sins. God has bestowed His grace upon us, the least we can do is give him thanks.   In the words of St. Paul:

Brothers and sisters:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, thank you for all you have given us and allowed us to have and experience in this beautiful world of Yours. We ask that you continue to bless us with your grace and as we continue to do your bidding, we ask that you show us your mercy in our lives.   Amen.

Christ Is King! ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: EZ 34:11-12, 15-17

Responsorial Psalm: PS 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

Reading 2: 1 COR 15:20-26, 28

Gospel: MT 25:31-46

Liturgical colour: White.

Brothers  and sisters in Christ,  may you be blessed on this Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!  This is the last Sunday of the Church year. This is the time when we focus on the final and glorious things to come!  It also means that next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent.

When we are saying that Jesus is the king, we are meaning several things. First, Jesus is our Shepherd. As our Shepherd He desires to lead us personally as a loving father would with his children. He wants to enter our lives personally, intimately and carefully. He never wants to impose Himself upon us,  rather, He is constantly offering Himself to us as our guide. The difficulty with this is that it’s very easy for us to reject this kind of kingship. As King, Jesus desires to lead every aspect of our lives and lead us in all things. He desires to become the absolute ruler and monarch of our lives and of our very hearts and souls. He wants us to come to Him for everything and to become dependent upon Him always. But He will not impose this sort of kingship upon us. Our Lord  Jesus wants us accept him freely and without reservation. Jesus will only govern our lives if we are freely willing to surrender ourselves over completely to him.. When we allow this to happen,  His Kingdom begins to become established firmly within us! And also through us in this worldly realm.

 Jesus wishes for His Kingdom to be established in our world. First and foremost this takes place when we become His sheep and thus become His instruments to help convert the world. However, as King, He also calls us to establish His Kingdom by seeing to it that His truth and law is respected within all of our society. It’s Christ’s authority as King that gives us the authority and duty as Christians to do all we can to fight worldly injustices and to bring about a respect and a love for every human person. All shall ultimately gain its authority from Christ alone since He is the one and only Universal King.

But many still within our world do not recognize Him as the King, so what should we do about these people? Should we “impose” God’s law upon those who do not believe? The answer is both yes and no. First, there are some things we cannot impose. For example, we cannot force people to go to Mass each Sunday. This would hinder a person’s freedom to enter into this precious gift willingly. We know Jesus requires it of us for the good of our souls, but it must still be embraced freely. However, there are some things that we must “impose” upon others. The protection of the, poor and vulnerable must be “imposed.” The freedom of conscience must be written into our laws. The freedom to practice our faith openly (religious liberty) within any institution must be “imposed” also. And there are many other things which could be  listed here. What’s vital to point out is that, at the end of all time, Jesus will be returning to Earth in all His glory and He will then establish His permanent and unending Kingdom. At that time, all peoples will see God as He is. And His law will become one with our worldly law. Every knee will bend before our great King and all will know His truth.  At that time, true justice will reign and every evil will be corrected.  What a glorious day that will be!

We should reflect, today, upon our own embrace of Christ as our King.  Does He truly govern our lives in every way?  Do we allow Him to have complete control over our  lives?  When this is done freely and completely, the Kingdom of God is established in our lives.  Let Him reign so that we can be converted and, through us, others can come to know Him as Lord of all also!

Lord, You are the sovereign King of the Universe.  You are Lord of all.  Come reign in our lives and make our souls Your holy dwelling place.  Lord, come transform our world and make it a place of true peace and justice.  May Your Kingdom come!  Jesus, we ttrust in You.

Reflectons ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski, OPI

Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Sebastian and Peregrine in Gevgelija~Republic of Macedonia

Thirty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, 15 November 2020

Wow, 33th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and this year is soon going to be over, but before saying good bye to ending year, and preparing for the blessings and grace and strength of endurance for the next year, in hope that God will be merciful to give us more days for reflection, repentant heart and contrition from our daily failures to prepare in a spiritual lent for the blessed season that soon will come the Advent season.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I am grateful to God that gave me all that is not in past, all what I have achieved, and I have missed. We don’t know what is in front of us, but we have the Hope for better tomorrow, for peaceful future, that today we are in a middle of great turbulence, adultery, and blasphemy. We must strive daily and to remind daily ourselves that we fight the dark forces under the sky, that daily tempted people to live a life of sin and corruption. We must remind ourselves daily that we want to be in Heaven, and that we must bring more people to the Truth, that soon or later our lives will end. So, we must be vigilant and to be in unending prayer in our spirit, in any time.

We are each one of us unique as God’s creation, so God gave skills, abilities and talents to each of us, so we are each and every one of us important in building God’s building even here on earth, which as each parts are the construction of the Body of Christ.

We need to practice those gifts, to study them, and to work on them, to get experience and to blossom the work in the crafting in any kind that each and every one has. Those who think that they don’t have any talents, so those are probably those who have buried in the soil.

Let’s stand up and start working on our skills, and God will bless the effort, and will bring in the proper time the harvest, depends how much we have been involving to work on Gods fields. Harvest is big, workers few, it’s the same like today’s Gospel reading, if we think that without working on ourselves to become better and growing from spiritual babies into growing mature man, it’s the same with growing in our gifts and talents, just we have to wake up, spiritual laziness and sleepiness is a dead man walking , and will not achieve the purpose of the calling and the eternal glory for Christ who redeemed us with His Passion, if we think it’s just enough to be saved, well you have to be born again, so awake up, find your talents, no matter how much they are, God will bless the work. Look the example of Saint Joseph the worker, there are so many examples.

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

Set A Reminder? ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

You can’t set a reminder in your phone, you can’t mark the date on your calendar, and you can’t ask your spouse to remind you when its going to happen. I have to have Michael remind me of things because I have my mother’s memory (or lack of it), and without fail if I forget to ask him to remind me of something, the date passes and I realize that I screwed up and missed an appointment, or some special show I wanted to watch on TV.

You won’t know the time or the day or the minute or the second, there will be no warning, CNN, FOX, or MSNBC wont have live coverage. The USA Today, or your local paper won’t have a full page add letting you know the details of the event. You say: “in this day and age how could a world event happen without planning? How come we didn’t get an invite on Facebook?” Well you did get an invite, you were warned, you were told to be prepared! Where? How? Well read Matthew 25:1-13. The Lord tells us to be prepared but only the Father knows the time.

The Gospel for today:

MT 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 
Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. 
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. 
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

The Gospel tells you to be prepared and bring oil with you. Have faith, trust in the Lord, and do as Jesus commanded us; Love one another as He Loved us. Simple instructions, easy as pie, can’t misunderstand these instructions.  Or can we?   Well, with everything that has been going on in the World and especially our country lately, are we really prepared for the second coming of our Lord and Savior? I don’t think so. I personally am ashamed of the state of the World and most especially the condition of the United States right now. Our homeless population is increasing every day, our prisons are overflowing, our widows and orphans are starving, children are going hungry, and our veterans are homeless and hungry. I don’t think this is what Jesus intended and I firmly believe that He is ashamed of us, His children. The parable that Jesus told warns us to be prepared. Be prepared by taking care of those who are unable to take care of themselves, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and protecting those in harms way.

From the Hebrew Bible today we read from the Book of Wisdom about the Key to Leadership:

Wisdom 6:12-16

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.

Every national leader exercises authority with an eye to history. Vanity demands leaders make their mark on the world and leave a legacy. Many kings and presidents have pondered the question: how will future generations judge me?

What is the key to a favorable legacy, as well as a peaceful and profitable rule? The author of the Wisdom of Solomon had his favorite answer: wisdom! In fact, he was so enamored with the virtue that he personified it in his writing. The image of wisdom the author painted was that of a young lover, a woman who waited eagerly by the gate to a man’s house (so the virtue was easily available), yet aloof enough to only be available to those who sought her. “Lady Wisdom” was no commoner; she was “resplendent and unfading..” Like a classy lover, the virtue was intimate and reliable, a confidant in need. This was a virtue of those groomed for position and power.

The Wisdom of Solomon was written in the so-called “inter-Testamental” period (200 B.C. to 150 A.D.). Composed by a Greek-speaking Jew (most likely in Alexandria, Egypt), the book was used to instruct young Jewish males in the ways of leadership.

Like the young Jews who heard these words, we, too, should seek wisdom as our guide to leadership. The comfort it brings far outweighs gains from turf battles or displays of ego. When we act wisely, we act for the good of all, not for the self.

Look upon the leadership in your community and church. How is that leadership exercised? With wisdom? How have you exercised leadership? How wise have you been in your dealings with others?

Lord in your mercy guide us into the coming days with love and wisdom and truth. Look upon our leaders with favor and guide their paths with your loving hand. Give them the wisdom and knowledge to lead us into a greater future. Amen

All Souls Day ~ The Rev. Dcn Igor Kalinski, OPI

Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Sebastian and Peregrine in Gevgelija ~ MACEDONIA

Beloved brothers and sisters, after the melancholy of the end of august and beginning of September that I personally experience throughout my life in changing seasons, as personally I am not a fan of summertime, holidays and vacation, even if might be in summer I would of search for woods and forests and mountains, to escape the heat that I can enjoy, it’s not for me.

With the official start of autumn, and the changing nature colors into golden red, give me such inner peace, in reflection through the jump of one novena to another, like in the end of September with the Little Flower St Theresa of Infant Jesus, Christ the King Sunday, to the very end of October, and in the steps of 1st November, when the nature is more dramatically changed, that what gives anxiety and pain in the summertime for those like me that have severe suffering, is a joyful grace from God, giving me days, giving me weeks, and more and more months, hopefully years too, to keep my mind into practice of good deeds, and having humble and meek heart, grateful for giving me another day to repent, a time for going back in order to fulfill my seven offices per day from the breviary, God gives strength and joy.

Beginning of this month, the month of my birthday, so in any liturgical season and aspect, we all of us are included as parts of the same body, and get in touch through the same Spirit, to have our own connection that give us growing in spiritual life, which is not easy, and is not  need a time for been moody, Jesus overcome all of this, he is doing the same within us.

Yesterday, we solemnly celebrated All Saints Day, wow what a beautiful day for reminding us, or uniting our favorite saints, that we collect as cards in our breviary, in our prayer corners in every catholic and orthodox devoted people and families, me personally I celebrate as my defenders those that are commemorated on my birthday date, and those that have impact and motivated and inspired me into my spiritual life and vocation.

In the eastern rite tradition, usually is the Sunday after Pentecost, Sunday of all saints, many various and liturgical churches, as orthodox, Episcopalian, Anglican, old catholic, roman etc. preserved in different dates, but the one and unified thing is that we all cry and petition and pray to them, to pray for us to God and to intercede for us. And now many brave heroic saints and martyrs  that proclaimed the gospel or stand firm to the death for Jesus are still unknow today, but not for God, who will not let any bone, any hair, any piece of human body to be forgotten or vanish, cos the death of His holy name and been sacrificed for his sake will never be forgotten. Church tradition in many various occasions as we read have miraculously and by vision or dream have appeared the relics of many saints, as we read daily for example in the Ohrid’s Prologue in those biographies and stories about the saints. Many are not officially canonized but are saints worshiping God in heaven.

We are all called to be saints, as every saint have a past and every sinner have a future. I know many that are gone now  from us, fell asleep, such as father Philip Gerboc, OFMI, sister Victoria Williams OFMI, sister Dollie Wilkinson OPI, sister Maria Blagodatna of Jesus and many how strived to live consecrated life, in human body, and been a good example in time of distress a comfort, and true friends and family that are all deeply missed. So today we cherish all those that are gone from us, reminding us that we will soon go to the same path as them, and in God is no difference from alive in earth and alive in heaven, for him are alive. Many from our deceased family members, brothers, friends, sisters, colleges, enemies, it’s time for us to reconcile us, to repent, to forgive them, and to pray for them, to offer masses for them, rosaries, good acts of charity for the soul of the departed, cos they can’t do nothing for themselves, but we can pray for them, and make charity acts, and they will pray for us to God as well.

The Saturdays is also a good time for us to say the office of dead for them, offer holy rosary, give food to the homeless, an act of charity, light candle, bring fresh flowers, and celebrate their lives, through reflection, praying for the souls and for the families that grieve, because they died in hope for resurrection and everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord, amen.

What Are You Wearing??? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints (also called All Saints Day).

All Saints’ Day, All Hallows Day, or Hallowmas is solemnly celebrated on 1 November by many Western Liturgical Churches to honor, literally, all the saints, known and unknown; those individuals who have attained Heaven; all the holy men and women who have lived their lives for God and for his church, who now have attained Beatific vision and their reward of Heaven.

 In early Christian history it was usual to solemnize the anniversary of a Martyr’s death for the Lord at the place of their martyrdom. Frequently there were multiple martyrs who would’ve suffered and died on the same day which led to multiple commemorations on the same day. Eventually, the numbers of martyrs became so great that it was impossible for a separate day to be assigned to each individually, but the church feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a feast day to commemorate them all on the same day.

The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to the month of May in the year 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  In the 730’s Pope Gregory III moved the Feast of All Saints to 1 November when he founded an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.”

From our Readings today, we hear of the vision of St. John from the Book of Revelation:

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice: 

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might

be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Who are these nameless saints?  Their anonymity teaches us that sainthood is not reached through great achievements or rare acts of bravery.  Sainthood comes from simply loving God and doing our best to live our lives in a way consistent with Jesus’ commandment.  I would dare say that none of the saints actually set out to be saints.  They simply loved God and lived their lives to follow Him. 

Revelation goes on to remind us that giving our lives over to God will not protect us or insulate us from hardship.  Living in, for, with, and through God, however, will make sure that we can and will endure whatever “great distress” comes our way.  In this passage of Revelation, John is speaking specifically of those who have given their lives for their faith.  Christians throughout the Middle East are being martyred by forces opposed to Christianity, but in reality, it is very unlikely that any of us will be called upon to sacrifice our lives for our faith. 

Our challenge, then, is to live for Christ, rather than to die for Christ.  Jesus does ask to lay down our lives for Him. Peter said to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for Your sake,” and he meant it (John 13:37). Has the Lord ever asked you, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” (John 13:38). It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God. We are not made for the bright-shining moments of life, but we have to walk in the light of them in our everyday ways.  For thirty-three years Jesus laid down His life to do the will of His Father. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

If we are true followers of Jesus, we must deliberately and carefully lay down our lives for Him. It is a difficult thing to do, and thank God that it is, for great is our reward.  Salvation is easy for us, however, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in our lives is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, “Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.” And Jesus says to us, “…I have called you friends….” Remain faithful to your Friend, and remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life.  We are called to remain faithful, despite the reasons the world gives us to not, despite the “great distresses” in our lives.

Who are these dressed in white robes?  It is my prayer to be counted among them.  What about you?

Do Unto Who What? ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

The Hebrew Testament for today comes from Exodus 22:20-26:

Thus says the LORD:  “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.  You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.   If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,  I will surely hear their cry.   My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;  then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.  “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him.   If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body.   What else has he to sleep in?  If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

In today’s environment and with our nation’s presidential election coming up in just a few days, this reading really hit home for me. “Close the border, build a wall, deport everyone who wasn’t born here, keep our country pure.” To those who really feel this way I have only one thing to say to you: READ ABOVE!!!!  From God’s lips, “You shall not molest or oppress an alien.” He is not talking about little green men from other planets (however, when they do finally show up here on earth – this will still apply). “Aliens” here is a reference to peoples from other lands. People seeking a better life for their family and their future. What would Jesus do? He would welcome all people of any color, creed, and ethnicity to our land without any second thought or reservation. Our forefathers were aliens in this land at one time and were welcomed by the original inhabitants.

 Regarding the widows and orphans: they are apparently incredibly special to the Lord. He commands us to take care of them and protect them from harm. Widows and orphans refer to the weak and frail among us. Orphans does not just mean fatherless or motherless, they are the ones who wander aimlessly without hope and guidance. Be their guide and direct them to the Lord, witness to them, preach to them, feed them, shelter them, and love them unconditionally. Leviticus 25:35-37 tells us : “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.” If you lend money to your neighbor, do not demand interest from him. Allow him to repay the money without hounding him and browbeating him. On the same level, if you accept your neighbors’ cloak as collateral, return it to him and trust in him to repay the loan. In Biblical times the cloak was one of the most important possessions a person could own. In many cases it was their only shelter and covering. If not returned to the owner, they could freeze to death and hence never be able to repay the loan. Again, the Lord says that if one cries out He will hear him because He is compassionate. Proverbs 19:17 says “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” The Lord will compensate you for your generosity and giving while taking care of His children.

What would it take for our society to follow these guidelines laid out by our Lord? How difficult would it be to pick up a few cans of food next time you are grocery shopping and donate that food to a local food pantry? Would it be such an imposition to clean out your closet and donate a couple of old blankets to the local homeless shelter? Could you spend a few hours one weekend a month visiting shut-ins or ministering at the local homeless shelter or battered women’s shelter. The consequences of failure to do these simple things are outlined in Matthew 25, 31:46 as follows:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Take a little bit of time from your busy day and life, follow the above guidelines for the sake of your eternal life.

Heavenly father give us the knowledge to know when to look beyond politics and prejudice, so that we may love one another the way you have commanded. Help us to understand how proud you will be when we do treat others as you would treat them. Amen.

Give What to Who? ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OP

Reading 1: IS 45:1, 4-6

Responsorial Psalm: PS 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10

Reading 2: 1 THES 1:1-5B

Gospel: MT 22:15-21

Liturgical colour: Green.

Let us begin by looking at our Gospel reading today in MT 22: 15=21:

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

So, what we are being told here?

Today, We are hearing about Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees and Herodians.

The Pharisees and Herodians were well known to have hated each other, but they were willing to put aside their differences to focus their energy  on working together with the purpose of bringing down Jesus.  They conspired together to attempt to trap him.  If Jesus said that they shouldn’t pay their taxes, he would  be arrested and imprisoned by the Romans.  But if he told people that they must pay the taxes,, he would’ve across as being unpatriotic to the people of Israel.  So what does he do?  He takes the coin and utters that timeless phrase: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”

Jesus focuses a lot on using images.  Caesar’s image was the image of the realm at that time.  Caesar’s image was the face of power, his face represented far more than just being Caesar, but  of the power of Rome itself.  It was the currency used by the great Roman Empire, and Roman coins were spread throughout the entire known world.  But ultimately, the empire ran it’s course and  eventually it fell apart.  Now, Roman coins are worth more for their rarity and antiquity than they are for their value.  Like Caesar’s coins, the things of this world are only  temporary in nature.  We know that we have a responsibility to render to the world those things that belong to it, like paying taxes, or voting, or maybe by buying things to provide comfort and flourishing for our physical lives here on earth.  These things are important to some extent, don’t get me wrong!  So go out there, and give to Caesar what  belongs to Caesar, give to the world what belongs  to the world, – but be assured that it is only temporary.

But as powerful as Caesar’s image may have been, or indeed the things of the world  currently  may be, there is another image that is even  far more powerful, and that carries far more responsibility – this is the image of God.  But it isn’t  upon coinage or upon the paper money of the world that bears the image of God, it our souls! Each of us, when we received the Holy sacrament of  our baptism, received an indelible, irremovable mark.  And that mark shows us that baptism doesn’t just make us card-carrying members of the Christian community.  It doesn’t just remove the stain from our original sin.  It also marks us, it seals us, with the mark of God, indicating that just as those coins bearing Caesar’s image belonged to Caesar, we ourselves belong to God!  And that mark won’t ever fade away with time like the Roman Empire, or today’s worldly things will be their temporary nature, This will last forever – we are God’s forever if we choose to be!!

I would say it is likely that the majority of us don’t have too many issues giving Caesar his due, and in fact, you’re probably feeling like you give him enough already.  That’s not the issue we are dealing  with here.  It’s the second part that is challenging.  It is the giving to God what is God’s – the living out of our baptismal dignity and making that indelible mark, that image of God on our souls actually mean something!  So what do we give to God?  What is it that belongs to God that we can give to God?  The answer is shown to us right here in the Cross of our Lordand saviour, Jesus Christ.  The gift that we can and indeed ought to give is the gift of ourselves.  It is a gift of self-sacrifice, a gift of self-emptying love!

“Give to God what belongs to God.”  This is the gift of a mother or father to their children, providing  them with clothes, shelter, education, faith, and despite the exhaustion and strain on the finances, doing it out of love. “Give to God what belongs to God.”  It’s the gift to the poor – whether this be the donating of food stuffs to the local food bank, or  whether it be offering days  working with a charity, to help those who are in need. “Give to God what belongs to God.”  It is putting God first in our lives, by taking that one hour to go to Mass, even if it is a busy day of  football games or doing other non essential things.  It’s about more than that hour! Much more! it’s about putting aside distractions, or tiredness,  to simply praise God, as he deserves!

As we approach the Lord in the Holy Eucharist today, we realize the need to live in the world, but we know in our hearts that we no longer in truth, belong to the world, the world is a temporary place we are merely passing through. We belong to God!!  May we have the grace to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what he truly deserves, the gift of our whole hearts, and lives!!

The Lord Will Provide ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

In today’s Hebrew Bible reading, the Psalm appointed for today, and the Epistle Reading (IS 25:6-10A;   PS 23; EPH 1:17-18)  we hear of how God provides everything we need.   In fact, there are approximately 170 places in scripture where we read of God’s promises of provision.  Of these verses, perhaps the most popular is today’s Epistle Reading, Paul’s words to the church at Philippi: “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19, NRSV). 

Well now.  What?  What about the Christian poor?  What about the homeless?  Those who go hungry?

It’s enough to make a person crazy, isn’t it?  You’re thinking, “But I need…..and God hasn’t…..”  In today’s society, it’s all about consumerism, money, wealth, and getting more and more and more… 

There is a belief in our culture that many people are deceived by what is called the “prosperity gospel.” It is a false teaching that in essence says, “If I am a Christian, God promises to bless me with great health, wealth, and prosperity.” This teaching is a great danger to those who believe it. What happens is people place their hope in what God gives even over and above God himself. The problem is God never promises a life of riches, comfort, and abundant prosperity, so when a person experiences suffering they feel as though God has lied to them.  We have to remember that Jesus was born poor, and he died poor. During his earthly tenure, he spoke time and again about the importance of spiritual wealth and health. When he talked about material wealth, it was usually part of a cautionary tale. 

And too, while prosperity seekers might always be looking for money or possessions to miraculously arrive, we should take a closer look at what God desires to provide for us.  God does not want us to see Him as a heavenly source of mere material possessions. Acquiring things is not the fundamental goal of this life.  God is not a genie to grant us wishes.  Luke 12:15 states:  15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

So, what then, exactly is it that God DOES provide?  I think, maybe, perhaps, probably that what we think we need, and what God knows we need are two completely different animals. First, God provides in all the ways people and Earthly possessions can’t: through perfect love. No person knows us as intimately and requires nothing of us like God does.  We have to remember, too, that in 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul writes: 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

So… the grace is sufficient. Hmmm. And His power is perfect in my weakness. Well that sounds promising.  Faith carries you even when it’s hard to smile, hard to remain positively positive. Falling on your face doesn’t negate faith. It strengthens it when you can stand back up and say, yes, I trust you. I know you are here. I know your word is true.

God is saying, in this verse, that he has enough grace to carry us through the storms of our lives. He is assuring us that He will not let go of us. That is what His grace is and it is more than enough to meet any challenge. Once we admit that we are weak, God is there, willing and more than able to carry us through the hard times.

Even if He doesn’t provide, really He does. Even when we can’t see, He can. Even when we don’t believe, He does.

Feast of the Guardian Angels ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

We often think of guardian angels as a special angel only for children, but the truth is that we all have a guardian angel for our entire lives. Our angels are a gift from God. They watch over us, aid us in prayer, enlighten us, guide us and protect us. Angels are mentioned in both the Old and New Testament and many saints have had visions of their guardian angels. We can hope that our Guardian Angel will help us during our journey to eternal happiness in Heaven. The Feast of the Guardian Angels is celebrated on October 2nd. Although Guardian Angels have been venerated since the early days of the Church, it wasn’t until the 17th century that Pope Clement X extended the feast day to the universal Church. It comes just two days after the Feast of the Archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael.

On this Feast of the Guardian Angels in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI said,

“Dear friends, the Lord is always near and active in human history, and follows us with the unique presence of His angels, that today the Church venerates as ‘Guardian,’ in other words those who minister God’s care for every man. From the beginning until death human life is surrounded by their constant protection.”

It is an established Catholic belief that each individual person has their own guardian angel assigned to watch over their soul. There are three important verses in the Catholic Bible from which this belief is drawn:

Psalm 90:11: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”

Matthew 18:10: “See that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”

Hebrews 1:14: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?”

These verses have led St. Jerome, one of our early Church Fathers, to conclude, “How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” Many others wrote about our guardian angels, including St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, and St. Thomas Aquinas. According to Aquinas, our guardian angels have a good influence over us, but they cannot control our free will. Guardian angels influence or guide us by acting upon our intellect through our senses and our imagination. When they do this, they are influencing our will to do good and avoid evil. So really, their job is to help you get to heaven. Thus guardian angels do not control us by any means, but they do greatly assist us in finding and doing God’s will. Our guardian angels are also able to protect us from danger as well as assist us in prayer and meditation on the divine things of God.

We don’t only have the Scriptures and the Early Fathers of the Church who tell us about our Guardian Angels. We also have the saints, some of which actually witnessed their guardian angel in action. In many cases their Guardian Angel was visible to them. These include St. Padre Pio, who could see his guardian angel, which would often send him on special missions; St. Faustina Kowalska, whose Guardian Angel accompanied her to observe the pains of the Holy Souls in Purgatory; and St. Gemma Galgani, to name a few. St. Gemma Galgani wrote much about her Guardian Angel in her autobiography, including this account:

“One evening, when I was suffering more than usual, I was complaining to Jesus and telling him that I would not have prayed so much if I had known that He was not going to cure me, and I asked Him why I had to be sick this way. My angel answered me as follows: ‘If Jesus afflicts you in your body, it is always to purify you in your soul. Be good.’”

Ask yourself this question today: How is my relationship with my guardian angel? Do I listen to him? Do I say good morning to him in the morning? Do I ask him: Watch over me when I sleep?’ Do I speak with him? Do I ask his advice? He is by my side. We can answer this question today, each of us: How is our relationship with this angel that the Lord has sent to watch over me and accompany me on my journey, and who always sees the face of the Father who is in heaven?So, today is the day to tell your guardian angel “Thank You” for their daily guidance, and to show gratitude to God for assigning a powerful heavenly protector for your personal care. It is also a good time to make the resolution to pray to your Guardian Angel daily as our Holy Father admonishes us.

As St. Bernard of Clairvoux plainly states in his sermon:

“‘He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways’. These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence; respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection. And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you.

But even if it is God who has given them this charge, we must nonetheless be grateful to them for the great love with which they obey and come to help us in our great need. So let us be devoted and grateful to such great protectors; let us return their love and honor them as much as we can and should. Yet all our love and honor must go to Him, for it is from Him that they receive all that makes them worthy of our love and respect. Even though we are children and have a long, a very long and dangerous way to go, with such protectors what have we to fear? They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray. They are always loyal, prudent, and powerful.

Guardian Angel Novena:

Loving God, you are so good that you gave me a Guardian Angel to protect my body and my soul. Help me to know and follow my angel so that, with their guidance, I will be worthy of being in Heaven with You!

My sweet Guardian Angel, you are my defender every day of my life. Protect me from sin and bodily harm. Help me to learn to defend and protect myself so that I can be the person that God is calling me to be.

You are with me all the time so you already know these my intentions that I ask you to deliver to the Lord. (Mention your intentions here…)

My guardian angel, my defender, protect me!