Category: Sermon

The Holy Cross ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

The Exaltation of The Holy Cross.

Reading 1: NM 21:4B-9

Responsorial Psalm: PS 78:1BC-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

Reading II: PHIL 2:6-11

Gospel: JN 3:13-17

Today, we come together to commemorate the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross. We celebrate this each year on September 14th of each year.

Today’s Feast day was originally established to celebrate the anniversary of the finding of the True Cross of Jesus in Jerusalem on September 14, 326 by St.Helen, who was the mother of the Emperor Constantine.

The cross is an amazing and wonderful symbol of contradiction.  The cross has become the most recognized religious symbol in the world, it is the ultimate symbol of God’s love, forgiveness and redemption. In the ancient Roman world, historically, the cross was the symbol of degradation, suffering and death. Death by crucifixion was extremely brutal. Now the cross is the greatest symbol of God’s love and of our salvation.

Today the Church gives all of us the place at which we ought we ought to stand – by the cross of Our  Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And from there we can move not only the earth, but heaven as well!

From the cross of our Lord, the gates of hell are shattered, the devil and his angels are disarmed of their power and death is destroyed.

From the cross- the people who dwell in darkness see a great light – the glory of God shining forth from the face of Christ;

From the cross – a host of captives are set free and the ancient gates are lifted up high.

From the cross- sin will be pried from our hearts and our minds lifted to heaven.

So must the son of man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (Jn: 3:15)

In our first reading today, we get the description of how God healed the complaining Israelites through the brazen serpant. In the second reading, we see how St.Paul explains how God Exalted Jesus for his self-emptying on the cross for our salvation by granting him resurrection.

In todays Gospel, answering the question raised by Nicodemus, Jesus explains how he is going to save the world by his death on the cross. Jesus cites the example of how brazen serpant raised by Moses representing the healing power of God, saved the Israelites in the desert from snake bites.

So comparing his cross to the serpent of bronze lifted up by Moses, Jesus tells us that those who are bitten by the serpant of sin can be healed by a look of faith to the ever forgiving cross.

At the cross of Jesus there were three men looking at him: two sinners, the criminals hanging in crucifixion near him, and an unbeliever, the centurion. One of the criminals asked him: “ Aren’t you the Messiah? Then save yourself and us. “ But the other one rebuked him: “ Have you no fear of God, seeing you are under the same sentence? We deserve it after all. We are paying the price for what we’ve done, but this man has done nothing wrong”. The he said: “Jesus remember me when you enter upon your reign”. And Jesus replied this: I assure you; this day you will be with me in paradise”. Notice the two looks: the look of the impenitent and the look of the repentant. The third one who looked at Jesus on the cross was the centurion. We read in the Gospel according to saint mark: “ the centurion who stood guard over him, on seeing the manner of death, declared: ‘clearly this man was the son of God” ( Mk 15:39)

The feast of the exaltation of the cross provides us with the opportunity to remember, in a special way, Jesus’ passion, and the significance of his death for us upon the cross. Through the Holy Cross, God has entered into our suffering. The good news is that when we suffer those earthly trials and crosses from which it is humanly impossible for us to escape, Jesus our Lord is intimately there with us in the midst of all our sufferings.

The cross is the hope of Christians. The cross is the staff for the lame. The cross is the deposing of the proud. The cross is the hope of those who despair.  The cross is the haven for the bestormed. The cross is comfort for those who mourn. The cross is the glory of mankind. The cross is the crown of elders. The cross is the light for those who sit in darkness. The cross is freedom for slaves, it is the wisdom for the ignorant. The preaching of prophets and the joy of priests. The foundation of the church. The cleansing of the lepers, the rehabilitation of the enfeebled. Bread for hungry , a fountain for the worst thirst.

How splendid and wonderful is the cross of Christ!

It brings life, not death

Light, not darkness.

Paradise, not its loss.

It is the wood on which Our Lord and Saviour, like the greatest of warriors, was wounded in hands and feet and side , but who thereby healed all our wounds.

A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life.

Growing Seasons ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski, OPI

Marshal Tito 157

1480 GEVGELIJA

MACEDONIA

Homily for 30 August, Twenty second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Blessed Sunday day dear brothers and sisters.

I feel this melancholic frontier between the end of summertime and beginning of autumn, the mix of refreshing nights, shorter days, but still so hot during the low sunshine here. Nature is slowly changing in golden shape. We are changing too, physically and spiritually, in a good and in a negative way, too.

The golden, red color of the trees’ leaves as they are falling on the ground, is a remarkable story. The leaves from green and young, to the red and golden colors, saying goodbye, dying and fertilizing the ground for the next generation of seeds and plants.

We people are the leaves, the tree is the mother church, we physically die, and be buried.

Through our lives, we grow, we get green and inexperienced and young, and we learn from our mistakes and sins, we learn to follow and recognize the voice of our God. He provides us through his graces in a spiritual journey with his sacred sacraments. Our Holy Mother Church.

The tree is our diocesan bishop, cos every bishop is an image of Jesus, every autocephalous bishop is church based on the tradition and teachings of the Holy fathers. In this modern 21 century world, the church is witnessing the same unique story of God’s love for the people.

I know the spiritual life is not easy in a way, but our weakness and our sacrifice for God let us offer all that pain and struggle, with pure intentions and prayers, we can transform the society when we learn what is Gods will, what is good and pleasant to do.

If we can lose our life, it’s not lost in God, be brave, God have future for all of us. He will never leave us. Let’s take daily our own cross and go forward as a servant of Jesus.

God will provide for the rest. He never leaved us, and He will embrace us all in the end of our journey.

Stay faithful and passionate for Christ Risen.  Amen.

Faith Unto Death: John the Baptist ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1:1 COR 1:26-31

Responsorial Psalm: 33:12-13, 18-19, 20-21

Gospel: MK 6:17-29

Liturgical colour: Red.

Dearest  brothers and sisters in Christ, Today we come together to honour the Passion of St John the Baptist.  The life of St. John the Baptist was indeed a very dramatic one. Even in his mother’s womb, he leapt with joy when Mary greeted Elizabeth at the Visitation.  At John’s birth, there was an amazing occasion= that of the choosing of his name which  was that which restored the power of speech of his father Zechariah, and which also left the astonished local people wondering who he would he grow up to be.  John’s appearances at the river Jordan preaching repentance and baptising people earned him the reputation of “the Baptist” and he was even the one who baptised our Lord Jesus himself.

John had a very illustrious ministry. Yet in essence, he was a prophet and his greatest action as a prophet was to point out to all that Jesus was indeed the Lamb of God.  And as a prophet, he had fulfilled his ministry mission by proclaiming the ways of the Lord to all, and pointing out  to them, their sin and evil ways, and calling for their repentance and  for their conversion.   St. John the Baptist paid the consequence for pointing out Herod’s sin, as for doing this, he was captured and was imprisoned in Herod’s fortress.  If the life of John the  Baptist was dramatic and illustrious, his death was equally very dramatic, and it was also a death which was  extremely gruesome in it’s nature.

John’s death by being  beheaded, reveals the true character of person of Herod, of Herodias, of her daughter, and also of all the guests that were present, as they did nothing and said nothing to stop the heinous act.  For a great prophet like St. John the Baptist who had such a dramatic and illustrious life and ministry, his death was so humiliating, yet indeed, so terrible of nature.

Yet, today, we the Church come to  honour him. Over and above all else, we honour him for his faithfulness to God and  also for his  great courage in the acceptance and fulfilment of his mission of being God’s prophet.  Even for us, in all the drama of  our lives,  whether in times of spills and thrills, or whether in times of being mundane and monotonous, what counts for us will be our faithfulness to God.  Because in the end, it will be the depth and strength of our faithfulness to God that mattered.  This mattered to St. John the Baptist. It also matters to God and it should indeed be what matters to us!

The life and ministry of John the Baptist, and his willingness to die for his faith and  devout service to God, is an excellent example of how our lives as Christians, and as children of God should be. There is much we can take from John the Baptist and can and should, live by such within our own lives.

Let us pray:

O God, who willed that St John the Baptist

should go ahead of Your Son

both in his birth and in his death,

grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice,

we, too, may fight hard

for the confession of what You teach.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,

who lives and reigns with You

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

Guest Post: The Church Shall Endure Forever ~ The Rev. Shawn Gisewhite, BTh

Gospel:  Matthew 16:13-20
Title:  The Church Shall Endure Forever

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I want each of you this morning to think about your hometown; the place where you grew up.  I’m sure there was a business or a park or a building of some importance in your childhood.  A place that floods your mind with fond memories.  For most of us that place is no longer there.  Torn down to make room for a new park or a new building, or maybe just a parking lot.  Heartbreaking isn’t it?

One of the most heartbreaking things to me is the sight of a vacant church all boarded up.  Worse yet, is seeing a church converted into something like a restaurant or a brewery.  Over the years, many churches have closed and have been torn down as well.  The ones that remain require constant upkeep and maintenance, like front roofing projects which have gone on way too long or new water heaters.  All churches are built and dedicated to the glory of God, but they’re all susceptible to fire, decay, and ruin.  Jesus today speaks of a different type of Church, a church that will always prevail and will never succumb to the ravages of time or anything else.

When we think about the church, we usually think about a building or the services that are held there.  In His discussion with Peter and the rest of the disciples, Jesus gives us another definition, one that can include the buildings we see around us, but not necessarily.  Jesus asserts, “On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  The rock that Jesus is talking about is the belief behind the confession of Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  The Church is found wherever Jesus is clearly proclaimed as the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Sadly, not all churches faithfully proclaim the fullness of this confession, but this confession must be the foundation of any church if it is to be part of the Church.

The confession of Peter is the rock upon which the Church is built and it’s the message that must be shared because most people don’t know it.  Jesus had spent the last two years or so, teaching and performing miracles, but it’s clear that the people don’t understand Him.  Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  To which they replied, “John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah”.  These men had all been faithful prophets who did good things, but Jesus was more.  He is more!

This is our confession and you must make this confession every day.  You daily confess that Jesus is more than a nice man, more than a good man, more than a teacher or a magician.  If He’s nothing more than a good teacher, He does nothing for us.  But as the Son of the Living God, He is more than a prophet. He’s the Savior.  We confess Jesus as the Savior because it helps us remember who He is.  It’s easy to lose sight of Jesus and what He’s done for us.  It’s easy to push Him into the background.  So instead we voice our confession in our prayers and conversations.  We proclaim who Jesus is, to tell others and to remind ourselves.

To confess Jesus is to do more than stating a fact.  A fact is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This doesn’t take faith.  To confess that Jesus is the One who died for you, to forgive you all your sins, this takes faith.  This faith is formed when you hear God’s Word and take it to heart.  As Jesus told Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  This faith takes ahold of Jesus as the one and only Son of the Living God.  This is the rock upon which Emmanuel, and the Church is built upon.

It doesn’t always look this way though does it?  It seems like the Church is constantly wearing down, or being torn down.  Attendance wavers and wanes.  Families move away.  Bigger and so-called better congregations pilfer members from the smaller ones.  Rifts develop.  Conflict raises its ugly head.  Some congregations suffer horrible scandals.  Churches run out of money and close, leaving members heartbroken.  Overseas, Christians are slaughtered, pastors are hauled off to “re-education camps”, their buildings bombed.  Who would blame faithful Christians for wondering if the Church will endure?

It’s true that we have no guarantee from Jesus that the local churches, the congregations which we belong to will survive.  And they won’t, you know that.  Christ’s Church though will stand forever!  Jesus promises, “On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Christ’s Church will never fall because it’s not a physical building, nor is it limited to a particular place.  The Church is the communion of all believers.  All the faithful make up the Church of Christ, and they’re spread far and wide.

The Church built on the confession that Jesus is the Son of the Living God will never succumb, it didn’t in the past and it won’t in the future.  Oh, Satan has tried to take it down.  He has thrown all the strength of Hell against Christ and the Church, but to no avail.  He attacked Jesus repeatedly, doing all he could to stop the forgiveness that Jesus promised.  His attacks culminated as Jesus hung on the cross, taunted by those who hated Him.  The Devil and the whole evil host of Hell thought that they had done their worst, but Jesus rose from the dead and proved that nothing can stop Him or His Church.

Satan couldn’t stop Jesus and he can’t stop the Church, but he hasn’t stopped attacking you and me as members of the Church and he certainly still attacks local churches and congregations.  He introduces strife and conflict.  He causes hatred and dissension.  He leads pastors and people into scandalous sins.  These churches will struggle, but through all this, do you know what has happened?  Christ’s Church, the one that He built with His body and blood has grown even stronger.  His Church will stand even as steeples fall and doors are nailed shut.

Christ’s Church will never fall because it has an important task, the most important task since the one Christ took upon Himself, it must use the keys to the kingdom.  It must proclaim the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  Contrary to what our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters believe, Jesus didn’t give the keys only to Peter.  Jesus used the plural form of “you.” He gave the keys to all the disciples as the first members of the Church.  These same keys have come down to us as the Church as we faithfully confess Jesus to be the Son of the Living God.

The authority that the Church has from possessing the keys to the kingdom of Heaven is unlike any other kind of authority.  The Church has no authority to tell you where to shop or who to vote for, although some sadly try.  The Church can’t tell you to take Fr. Shawn out for Lunch to the local Chinese Buffet, although it’s a great idea. Hint Hint! The Church can’t, and won’t, dictate where you work or what you do with your paycheck.  So, what authority does the Church have?

The Church’s authority comes from Christ’s command to forgive sins.  I proclaim to you, I promise you…that as you sit here crushed by sorrow over your sins, repenting of your sins, you ARE forgiven.  There aren’t any conditions to being forgiven, you just are, right now.  I exercise the keys to Heaven when I speak Christ’s words to you and when I give you His body and blood.  You are forgiven so now the gates of Heaven stand wide open to you.  Heaven’s no longer off limits, but it’s yours, now.

The authority that Christ gives the Church has another side, and that’s the authority to not forgive sins.  If you are sinning and don’t care, if you’re rejecting God’s Word, if you’re snubbing Him, you’re unrepentant and the forgiveness that Christ offers through His Death is withheld.  In this case the gates of Heaven are barred to you.  We see happen in I Corinthians where a Christian man is having an affair with his stepmother.  The congregation knows about it and they’re turning a blind eye.  When he finds out, Paul wields the keys that have been given to the Church.  He calls for the man to be expelled from the congregation for an unrepentant life.

This sounds harsh.  It sounds judgmental.  And it is.  The Church is to judge the behavior of its members, and in this case, Paul acted accordingly.  Do you know what happened after this?  Did the man storm off and join another congregation?  Did he gossip and speak ill of Paul and the Church?  He did the complete opposite.  He confessed his sins and he was restored to the Church.  He repented and heard the loving words of forgiveness as Heaven was once again opened to Him.

This is why the Church proclaims the full extent of God’s Word.  We don’t leave the parts we don’t like out.  We don’t change what Jesus teaches or what we believe about Him.  We preach the Word of God and use the authority that Christ has given us.  We preach the Law which condemns sin and sinful behavior, and we preach the Gospel which forgives all sin and sinful behavior.  Those who are heartbroken for their sins, those who can’t forgive themselves, those who admit that they are sinners, find forgiveness in Christ.  The Church belongs to Christ.  Christ’s authority belongs to the Church.  So it is here in your local church and in a community of Christian faithful, that you can find the gates of Heaven being opened by Christ Himself.

Churches will come and go.  I hope The Unified Old Catholic Church is here for a long time.  There is a need for us and there is so much we can do for the Body of Christ. I pray that it is here until Christ returns, but if it closes, the Church goes on.  The Church of Christ, founded by Him, watched over by Him, and guided by Him, will always survive.  The gates of Hell couldn’t stop Jesus and they sure won’t stop His Church.  His Church will never be toppled because it confesses, because we confess, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Amen.

Observe and Do ~ The Rev. Dcn Scott Brown, OPI

A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah (56:1,6-7)

Thus says the LORD:  Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.  The foreigners who join  themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants— all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Let’s look at this, shall we?

Thus says the LORD:  Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.

Well there you have it: the Lord couldn’t make it any clearer than that! Observe what is just and do what is right. In the turbulent times we are living in right now this passage couldn’t be any more fitting. I don’t want this to sound political by any means, only a very select few people know my political views and it will stay that way. But, I believe this passage instructs you to search your own heart and do what is right for the world and for all of God’s children. People are rioting for equal rights and equal justice, people of color are fighting STILL for the right to be treated with the same respect and dignity as other races. We have politicians that want to build walls around our countries and refuse to allow foreigners on our soil. There are politicians who want to tamper with our most sacred process, the election of our leaders, for political and financial gain. Our planet’s environment is in crisis and some of those same politicians are refusing to do what is just, fair, and right for our planet and for future generations for the sake of a fatter wallet.

The Lord promises to return to us in this passage and I for one believe his return is very close. But does that mean that we are beyond hope and we should just give up and let things (forgive me for putting it this way) go to Hell in a handbasket? NO! we as Christians need to stand up against the injustices that are happening in our country and our world today. The most effective thing you can do right now is to be the Jesus that this world needs. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, pray for all the above, and most importantly pray for our country, our world, and especially our leaders. Pray for your family members, pray for the groups that are in distress, pray for your black neighbor, your native American neighbor, your gay neighbor, your straight neighbor, your Muslim neighbor, all your neighbors, and all the people of the world.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants— all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.

I think this is truly clear, needing very little explanation but here goes with my interpretation. Those who join with the Lord, praising him, singing joyful songs unto him, and being his faithful and loyal servants, he will bring to his mountain and make them happy in his house. God is simply telling you that if you praise him faithfully, put your trust in Him, and respect his laws, then you will be rewarded with everlasting peace and joy. Well that not asking a lot is it? Is it? I do not think so! Our time on earth is very brief compared to eternity: do not screw it up and forfeit your spot in God’s eternal plan for a spot in Hell.

their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar,

The Lord will accept your offering and sacrifices at his altar does not mean that we need to sacrifice a lamb or a goat or a living creature. What this means is that we should sacrifice our time and our abilities to build God’s kingdom and do his work here on earth. Give your time, give your money, give your aid and help to those who need your guidance. Teach others to pray, show others how to live a Christian life, sacrifice your time and your knowledge for the sake of the Lord.

for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Again. here is something that needs very little explanation but here goes cause I’m on a roll here. The front doors to the Lords house are open to everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, criminal background, or anything that we as humans feel are disqualifiers. God does not disqualify anyone or reject anyone from his house. If you truly have a repentant heart, and love the Lord with all your might, you will be welcome with open arms in the Lords house forever.  Period.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, teach us to do what is right and just so that we may be brought to Your holy mountain where we may worship and praise you for eternity. Please accept our sacrifices and our offerings, and make us truly thankful for all the blessings you have bestowed upon us. Amen

 

That Still Small Voice ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.  First Kings 9, 11-13

I say to Michael (Bishop Beckett) all the time “did you hear that?” he says, “hear what?” Everybody hears and listens differently. Some people can hear grass grow, and some people cannot hear bombs going off next to them. But this is not the kind of listening God was telling Elijah to use. I believe God wanted Elijah to listen with his heart, not with his ears. When you want to hear what God has to say to you, just shut the rest of the world out and listen with your mind and heart. God was showing Elijah that He was not in the crushing rocks, or the earthquake, the fire, or anything else that was happening around him. God wanted Elijah to clear his mind, relax, and open his mind up to God. God was in the whisper, that little tiny voice you hear when you lay down in bed at night and start going to sleep. God is in that voice you hear when you are sitting by a quiet lake just enjoying nature; that little voice in the back of your head that gets you thinking about things. That is God talking to you. He is not going to open the clouds up and be a booming loud voice that shakes the ground and knocks acorns out of trees. I believe that God reserves that booming voice for when He is upset or giving out laws and orders for all His people. Instead of the booming voice, that little whisper is when He is speaking directly to you. When He is speaking directly to you, you are the only one that can hear Him. You could be in a football stadium with 30,000 other people, and you will still be the only one who hears Him. Some people call it your conscience: well possibly when your conscience is bothering you that could be God telling you something. Listen to that conscience voice and reflect on it and think about what it is telling you.

The point of God speaking in the still small voice was to show Elijah that the work of God need not always be accompanied by dramatic revelation or manifestations. Divine silence does not necessarily mean divine inactivity. Zechariah 4:6 tells us that God’s work is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” meaning that overt displays of power are not necessary for God to work. I have always heard that “God works in mysterious ways.” Wouldn’t hearing quiet whispers be more mysterious than a loud booming voice coming from the heavens. I believe the loud booming voice would be scary, while the quiet whisper would be comforting.

The difference between God speaking through the thunder and the whirlwind, than through the still, small voice, can be also considered as showing the difference between the two dispensations of law and grace. The law is a voice of terrible words and was given amidst a tempest of wind, thunder, and lightning, attended by an earthquake (Hebrews 12:18–24), but the gospel is a gentle voice of love, grace, and mercy, of peace, pardon, righteousness, and the free gift of salvation through Christ. The law breaks the rocky hearts of men into pieces, shakes their consciences, and fills their minds with a sense of God’s fiery wrath and the punishment they deserve, and then the Gospel speaks gently to them of the peace and pardon available in Christ.

Listen to the little whisper, the quiet voice, that little voice in your head, it is most likely the Lord giving you some advice, encouragement, or guidance. The point is not how God speaks to us, but what we do with what he tells us. Do not ignore it; listen with all your heart.

Father, teach us to open our hearts and listen to the small still voice; teach us to hear your words of encouragement and guidance. Let us learn to be still and quiet so that we can hear that tiny whispering sound in the still of the night that is Your calming voice reassuring us that we will be loved and comforted by you. Amen

 

The Feast of Our Holy Father St. Dominic

“A man who governs his passions is master of his world. We must either command them or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.”

– Saint Dominic

Founder of the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominican Order; born at Calaroga, in Old Castile, c. 1170; died 6 August, 1221. His parents, Felix Guzman and Joanna of Aza, undoubtedly belonged to the nobility of Spain, though probably neither was connected with the reigning house of Castile, as some of the saint’s biographers assert. Of Felix Guzman, personally, little is known, except that he was in every sense the worthy head of a family of saints. To nobility of blood Joanna of Aza added a nobility of soul which so enshrined her in the popular veneration that in 1828 she was solemnly beatified by Leo XII. The example of such parents was not without its effect upon their children. Not only Saint Dominic but also his brothers, Antonio and Manes, were distinguished for their extraordinary sanctity. Antonio, the eldest, became a secular priest and, having distributed his patrimony to the poor, entered a hospital where he spent his life minis ministering to the sick. Manes, following in the footsteps of Dominic, became a Friar Preacher, and was beatified by Gregory XVI.

The birth and infancy of the saint were attended by many marvels forecasting his heroic sanctity and great achievements in the cause of religion. From his seventh to his fourteenth year he pursued his elementary studies tinder the tutelage of his maternal uncle, the archpriest of Gumiel d’lzan, not far distant from Calaroga. In 1184 Saint Dominic entered the University of Palencia. Here he remained for ten years prosecuting his studies with such ardour and success that throughout the ephemeral existence of that institution he was held up to the admiration of its scholars as all that a student should be. Amid the frivolities and dissipations of a university city, the life of the future saint was characterized by seriousness of purpose and an austerity of manner which singled him out as one from whom great thin might be expected in the future. But more than one he proved that under this austere exterior he carried a heart as tender as a woman’s. On one occasion he sold his books, annotated with his own hand, to relieve the starving poor of Palencia. His biographer and contemporary, Bartholomew of Trent, states that twice he tried to sell himself into slavery to obtain money for the liberation of those who were held in captivity by the Moors. These facts are worthy of mention in view of the cynical and saturnine character which some non-Catholic writers have endeavoured to foist upon one of the most charitable of men. Concerning the date of his ordination his biographers are silent; nor is there anything from which that date can be inferred with any degree of certainty. According to the deposition of Brother Stephen, Prior Provincial of Lombardy, given in the process of canonization, Dominic was still a student at Palencia when Don Martin de Bazan, the Bishop of Osma, called him to membership in the cathedral chapter for the purpose If assisting in its reform. The bishop realized the importance to his plan of reform of having constantly before his canons the example of one of Dominic’s eminent holiness. Nor was he disappointed in the result. In recognition of the part he had taken in converting its members into canons regular, Dominic was appointed sub-prior of the reformed chapter. On the accession of Don Diego d’Azevedo to the Bishopric of Osma in 1201, Dominic became superior of the chapter with the title of prior. As a canon of Osma, he spent nine years of his life hidden in God and rapt in contemplation, scarcely passing beyond the confines of the chapter house.

In 1203 Alfonso IX, King of Castile, deputed the Bishop of Osma to demand from the Lord of the Marches, presumably a Danish prince, the hand of his daughter on behalf of the king’s son, Prince Ferdinand. For his companion on this embassy Don Diego chose Saint Dominic. Passing through Toulouse in the pursuit of their mission, they beheld with amazement and sorrow the work of spiritual ruin wrought by the Albigensian heresy. It was in the contemplation of this scene that Dominic first conceived the idea of founding an order for the purpose of combating heresy and spreading the light of the Gospel by preaching to the ends of the then known world. Their mission having ended successfully, Diego and Dominic were dispatched on a second embassy, accompanied by a splendid retinue, to escort the betrothed princess to Castile. This mission, however, was brought to a sudden close by the death of the young woman in question. The two ecclesiastics were now free to go where they would, and they set out for Rome, arriving there towards the end of 1204. The purpose of this was to enable Diego to resign his bishopric that he might devote himself to the conversion of unbelievers in distant lands. Innocent III, however, refused to approve this project, and instead sent the bishop and his companion to Languedoc to join forces with the Cistercians, to whom he had entrusted the crusade against the Albigenses. The scene that confronted them on their arrival in Languedoc was by no means an encouraging one. The Cistercians, on account of their worldly manner of living, had made little or no headway against the Albigenses. They had entered upon their work with considerable pomp, attended by a brilliant retinue, and well provided with the comforts of life. To this display of worldliness the leaders of the heretics opposed a rigid asceticism which commanded the respect and admiration of their followers. Diego and Dominic quickly saw that the failure of the Cistercian apostolate was due to the monks’ indulgent habits, and finally prevailed upon them to adopt a more austere manner of life. The result was at once apparent in a greatly increased number of converts. Theological disputations played a prominent part in the propaganda of the heretics. Dominic and his companion, therefore, lost no time in engaging their opponents in this kind of theological exposition. Whenever the opportunity offered, they accepted the gage of battle. The thorough training that the saint had received at Palencia now proved of inestimable value to him in his encounters with the heretics. Unable to refute his arguments or counteract the influence of his preaching, they visited their hatred upon him by means of repeated insults and threats of physical violence. With Prouille for his head-quarters, he laboured by turns in Fanjeaux, Montpellier, Servian, Béziers, and Carcassonne. Early in his apostolate around Prouille the saint realized the necessity of an institution that would protect the women of that country from the influence of the heretics. Many of them had already embraced Albigensianism and were its most active propagandists. These women erected convents, to which the children of the Catholic nobility were often sent-for want of something better-to receive an education, and, in effect, if not on purpose, to be tainted with the spirit of heresy. It was needful, too, that women converted from heresy should be safeguarded against the evil influence of their own homes. To supply these deficiencies, Saint Dominic, with the permission of Foulques, Bishop of Toulouse, established a convent at Prouille in 1206. To this community, and afterwards to that of Saint Sixtus, at Rome, he gave the rule and constitutions which have ever since guided the nuns of the Second Order of Saint Dominic.

The year 1208 opens a new epoch in the eventful life of the founder. On 15 January of that year Pierre de Castelnau, one of the Cistercian legates, was assassinated. This abominable crime precipitated the crusade under Simon de Montfort, which led to the temporary subjugation of the heretics. Saint Dominic participated in the stirring scenes that followed, but always on the side of mercy, wielding the arms of the spirit while others wrought death and desolation with the sword. Some historians assert that during the sack of Béziers, Dominic appeared in the streets of that city, cross in hand, interceding for the lives of the women and children, the aged and the infirm. This testimony, however, is based upon documents which Touron regards as certainly apocryphal. The testimony of the most reliable historians tends to prove that the saint was neither in the city nor in its vicinity when Béziers was sacked by the crusaders. We find him generally during this period following the Catholic army, reviving religion and reconciling heretics in the cities that had capitulated to, or had been taken by, the victorious de Montfort. it was probably I September, 1209, that Saint Dominic first came in contact with Simon de Montfort and formed with him that intimate friendship which was to last till the death of the brave crusader under the walls of Toulouse (25 June, 1218). We find him by the side of de Montfort at the siege of Lavaur in 121 1, and again in 1212, at the capture of La Penne d’Ajen. In the latter part of 1212 he was at Pamiers labouring, at the invitation of de Montfort, for the restoration of religion and morality. Lastly, just before the battle of Muret. 12 September, 1213, the saint is again found in the council that preceded the battle. During the progress of the conflict, he knelt before the altar in the church of Saint-Jacques, praying for the triumph of the Catholic arms. So remarkable was the victory of the crusaders at Muret that Simon de Montfort regarded it as altogether miraculous, and piously attributed it to the prayers of Saint Dominic. In gratitude to God for this decisive victory, the crusader erected a chapel in the church of Saint-Jacques, which he dedicated, it is said, to Our Lady of the Rosary. It would appear, therefore, that the devotion of the Rosary, which tradition says was revealed to Saint Dominic, had come into general use about this time. To this period, too, has been ascribed the foundation of the Inquisition by Saint Dominic, and his appointment as the first lnquisitor. As both these much controverted questions will receive special treatment elsewhere in this work, it will suffice for our )resent purpose to note that the Inquisition was in operation in 1198, or seven years before the saint took part in the apostolate in Languedoc, and while ie was still an obscure canon regular at Osma. If he was for a certain time identified-with the operations of the Inquisition, it was only in the capacity of a theologian passing upon the orthodoxy of the accused. Whatever influence he may have had with the judges of that much maligned institution was always employed on the side of mercy and forbearance, as witness the classic case of Ponce Roger.

In the meantime, the saint’s increasing reputation for heroic sanctity, apostolic zeal, and profound learning caused him to be much sought after as a candidate for various bishoprics. Three distinct efforts were made to miss him to the episcopate. In July, 1212, the chapter of Béziers chose him for their bishop. Again, the canons of Saint-Lizier wished him to succeed Garcias de l’Orte as Bishop of Comminges. Lastly, in 1215 an effort was made by Garcias de l’Orte himself, who had been transferred from – Comminges to Auch, to make him Bishop of Navarre. But Saint Dominic absolutely refused all episcopal honours, saying that he would rather take flight in the night, with nothing but his staff, than accept the episcopate. From Muret Dominic returned to Carcassonne, where he resumed his preaching with unqualified success. It was not until 1214 that he returned to Toulouse. In the meantime the influence of his preaching and the eminent holiness of his life had drawn around him a little band of devoted disciples eager to follow wherever he might lead. Saint Dominic had never for a moment forgotten his purpose, formed eleven years before, of founding a religious order to combat heresy and propagate religious truth. The time now seemed opportune for the realization of his plan. With the approval of Bishop Foulques of Toulouse, he began the organization of his little band of followers. That Dominic and his companions might possess a fixed source of revenue Foulques made him chaplain of Fanjeaux and in July, 1215, canonically established the community as a religious congregation of his diocese, whose mission was the propagation of true doctrine and good morals, and the extirpation of heresy. During this same year Pierre Seilan, a wealthy citizen of Toulouse, who had placed himself under the direction of Saint Dominic, put at their disposal his own commodious dwelling. In this way the first convent of the Order of Preachers was founded on 25 April, 1215. But they dwelt here only a year when Foulques established them in the church of Saint Romanus. Though the little community had proved amply the need of its mission and the efficiency of its service to the Church, it was far from satisfying the full purpose of its founder. It was at best but a diocesan congregation, and Saint Dominic had dreamed Of a world-order that would carry its apostolate to the ends of the earth. But, unknown to the saint, events were shaping themselves for the realization of his hopes. In November, 1215, an ecumenical council was to meet at Rome “to deliberate on the improvement of morals, the extinction of heresy, and the strengthening of the faith”. This was identically the mission Saint Dominic had determined on for his order. With the Bishop of Toulouse, he was present at the deliberations of this council. From the very first session it seemed that events conspired to bring his plans to a successful issue. The council bitterly arraigned the bishops for their neglect of preaching. In canon X they were directed to delegate capable men to preach the word of God to the people. Under these circumstances, it would reasonably appear that Dominic’s request for confirmation of an order designed to carry out the mandates of the council would be joyfully granted. But while the council was anxious that these reforms should be put into effect as speedily as possible, it was at the same time opposed to the institution of any new religious orders, and had legislated to that effect in no uncertain terms. Moreover, preaching had always been looked upon as primarily a function of the episcopate. To bestow this office on an unknown and untried body of simple priests s seemed too original and too bold in its conception to appeal to the conservative prelates who influenced the deliberations of the council. When, therefore, his petition for the approbation of his infant institute was refused, it could not have been wholly unexpected by Saint Dominic.

Returning to Languedoc at the close of the council in December, 1215, the founder gathered about him his little band of followers and informed them of the wish of the council that there should be no new rules for religious orders. Thereupon they adopted the ancient rule of Saint Augustine, which, on account of its generality, would easily lend itself to any form they might wish to give it. This done, Saint Dominic again appeared before the pope in the month of August, 1216, and again solicited the confirmation of his order. This time he was received more favourably, and on 22 December, 1216, the Bull of confirmation was issued.

Saint Dominic spent the following Lent preaching in various churches in Rome, and before the pope and the papal court. It was at this time that he received the office and title of Master of the Sacred Palace, or Pope’s Theologian, as it is more commonly called. This office has been held uninterruptedly by members of the order from the founder’s time to the present day. On 15 August, 1217, he gathered the brethren about him at Prouille to deliberate on the affairs of the order. He had determined upon the heroic plan of dispersing his little band of seventeen unformed followers over all europe. The result proved the wisdom of an act which, to the eye of human prudence at least, seemed little short of suicidal. To facilitate the spread of the order, Honorius III, on 11 Feb., 1218, addressed a Bull to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, and priors, requesting their favour on behalf of the Order of Preachers. By another Bull, dated 3 Dec., 1218, Honorius III bestowed upon the order the church of Saint Sixtus in Rome. Here, amid the tombs of the Appian Way, was founded the first monastery of the order in Rome. Shortly after taking possession of Saint Sixtus, at the invitation of Honorius, Saint Dominic begin the somewhat difficult task of restoring the pristine observance of religious discipline among the various Roman communities of women. In a comparatively short time the work was accomplished, to the great satisfaction of the pope. His own career at the University of Palencia, and the practical use to which he had put it in his encounters with the Albigenses, as well as his keen appreciation of the needs of the time, convinced the saint that to ensure the highest efficiency of the work of the apostolate, his followers should be afforded the best educational advantages obtainable. It was for this reason that on the dispersal of the brethren at Prouille he dispatched Matthew of France and two companions to Paris. A foundation was made in the vicinity of the university, and the friars took possession in October, 1217. Matthew of France was appointed superior, and Michael de Fabra was placed in charge of the studies with the title of Lecturer. On 6 August of the following year, Jean de Barastre, dean of Saint-Quentin and professor of theology, bestowed on the community the hospice of Saint-Jaques, which he had built for his own use. Having effected a foundation at the University of Paris, Saint Dominic next determined upon a settlement at the University of Bologna. Bertrand of Garrigua, who had been summoned from Paris, and John of Navarre, set out from Rome, with letters from Pope Honorius, to make the desired foundation. On their arrival at Bologna, the church of Santa Maria della Mascarella was placed at their disposal. So rapidly did the Roman community of Saint Sixtus grow that the need of more commodious quarters soon became urgent. Honorius, who seemed to delight in supplying every need of the order and furthering its interests to the utmost of his power, met the emergency by bestowing on Saint Dominic the basilica of Santa Sabina.

Towards the end of 1218, having appointed Reginald of Orléans his vicar in Italy, the saint, accompanied by several of his brethren, set out for Spain. Bologna, Prouille, Toulouse, and Fanjeaux were visited on the way. From Prouille two of the brethren were sent to establish a convent at Lyons. Segovia was reached just before Christmas. In February of the following year he founded the first monastery of the order in Spain. Turning southward, he established a convent for women at Madrid, similar to the one at Prouille. It is quite probable that on this journey he personally presided over the erection of a convent in connexion with his alma mater, the University of Palencia. At the invitation of the Bishop of Barcelona, a house of the order was established in that city. Again bending his steps towards Rome he recrossed the Pyrenees and visited the foundations at Toulouse and Paris. During his stay in the latter place he caused houses to be erected at Limoges, Metz, Reims, Poitiers, and Orléans, which in a short time became centres of Dominican activity. From Paris he directed his course towards Italy, arriving in Bologna in July, 1219. Here he devoted several months to the religious formation of the brethren he found awaiting him, and then, as at Prouille, dispersed them over Italy. Among the foundations made at this time were those at Bergamo, Asti, Verona, Florence, Brescia, and Faenza. From Bologna he went to Viterbo. His arrival at the papal court was the signal for the showering of new favours on the order. Notable among these marks of esteem were many complimentary letters addressed by Honorius to all those who had assisted the Fathers in their vinous foundations. In March of this same year Honorius, through his representatives, bestowed upon the order the church of San Eustorgio in Milan. At the same time a foundation at Viterbo was authorized. On his return to Rome, towards the end of 1219, Dominic sent out letters to all the convents announcing the first general chapter of the order, to be held at Bologna on the feast of the following Pentecost. Shortly before, Honorius III, by a special Brief, had conferred upon the founder the title of Master General, which till then he had held only by tacit consent. At the very first session of the chapter in the following spring the saint startled his brethren by offering his resignation as master general. It is needless to say the resignation was not accepted and the founder remained at the head of the institute till the end of his life.

Soon after the close of the chapter of Bologna, Honorius III addressed letters to the abbeys and priories of San Vittorio, Sillia, Mansu, Floria, Vallombrosa, and Aquila, ordering that several of their religious be deputed to begin, under the leadership of Saint Dominic, a preaching crusade in Lombardy, where heresy had developed alarming proportions. For some reason or other the plans of the pope were never realized. The promised support failing, Dominic, with a little band of his own brethren, threw himself into the field, and, as the event proved, spent himself in an effort to bring back the heretics to their allegiance to the Church. It is said that 100,000 unbelievers were converted by the preaching and the miracles of the saint. According to Lacordaire and others, it was during his preaching in Lombardy that the saint instituted the Militia of Jesus Christ, or the third order, as it is commonly called, consisting of men and women living in the world, to protect the rights and property of the Church. Towards the end of 1221 Saint Dominic returned to Rome for the sixth and last time. Here he received many new and valuable concessions for the order. In January, February, and March of 1221 three consecutive Bulls were issued commending the order to all the prelates of the Church-. The thirtieth of May, 1221, found him again at Bologna presiding over the second general chapter of the order. At the close of the chapter he set out for Venice to visit Cardinal Ugolino, to whom he was especially indebted for many substantial acts of kindness. He had scarcely returned to Bologna when a fatal illness attacked him. He died after three weeks of sickness, the many trials of which he bore with heroic patience. In a Bull dated at Spoleto, 13 July, 1234, Gregory IX made his cult obligatory throughout the Church.

The life of St. Dominic was one of tireless effort in the, service of god. While he journeyed from place to place he prayed and preached almost uninterruptedly. – His penances were of such a nature as to cause the brethren, who accidentally discovered them. to fear the effect upon his life. While his charity was boundless he never permitted it to interfere with the stern sense of duty that guided every action of his life. If he abominated heresy and laboured untiringly for its extirpation it was because he loved truth and loved the souls of those among whom he laboured. He never failed to distinguish between sin and the sinner. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, if this athlete of Christ, who had conquered himself before attempting the reformation of others, was more than once chosen to show forth the power of God. The failure of the fire at Fanjeaux to consume the dissertation he had employed against the heretics, and which was thrice thrown into the flames; the raising to life of Napoleone Orsini; the appearance of the annals in the refectory of Saint Sixtus in response to his prayers, are but a few of the supernatural happenings by which God was pleased to attest the eminent holiness of His servant. We are not surprised, therefore, that, after signing the Bull of canonization on 13 July, 1234, Gregory IX declared that he no more doubted the saintliness of Saint Dominic than he did that of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Born: 1170 at Calaruega, Burgos, Old Castile

Died: August 6, 1221 at Bologna

Beatified: July 13, 1234 by Pope Gregory IX at Rieti, Italy

Patronage: astronomers; astronomy; prelature of Batanes-Babuyanes, Philippines; diocese of Bayombong, Philippines; Dominican Republic; falsely accused people; scientists

Representation: chaplet, Dominican carrying a rosary and a tall cross; Dominican holding a lily; Dominican with dog and globe; Dominican with fire; Dominican with star shining above his head; rosary; star

The Transfiguration of the Lord ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

 

Reading 1: DN 7:9-10, 13-14

Responsorial Psalm: 97:1-2, 5-6, 9

Reading 2: 2 PT 1:16-19

Gospel: MT 17:1-9

In the Name of the Father +, and of the Son +,  and of the Holy Spirit+!

Today, my dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, we come together as the church to commemorate the miraculous occasion of when our Lord’s human nature was transfigured by the Holy Spirit, which proceeded from Our Heavenly Father.

This miraculous and wondrous occasion shows us firstly that both the human and the divine natures of Our dear Lord Jesus Christ are indeed both united in the One Person, secondly, it shows that therefore, there cannot possibly be any unity without the Holy Spirit, and thirdly that our Saviour and Lord, dominates over both Life and over Death, for prophet Moses, who died, and prophet Elijah, who did not die, both came to worship Him on the Mount, which was The Mount Tabor.

The tiniest of details of this miraculous and  wondrous event is, indeed, full of a profound significance to us as Christians. Today, I would like to mention the aspect of this Feast which is  very often overlooked: the symbolical meaning of Mount Tabor, the Mountain where the Transfiguration actually occurred. This Mount Tabor is for us a figure of repentance., but also one of hope. I note that, like for the disciples in biblical history, in order for us to see the transfiguration or to hope to be transfigured ourselves, we will first have to climb the Mountain, from our present condition. Otherwise any transfiguration or change for the better in our lives is impossible…

Our transfiguration and salvation is like Mount Tabor: however hard we try, we will not be guaranteed salvation through a fast, if strenuous, climb within a day, a week, a month or a year. . To climb our Mountain to Salvation takes a us our whole lifetime, it is an exceedingly long climb up an extremely long and ever upwards  steep slope. Salvation is a long struggle which requires our determination, our perseverance, and patient longsuffering…

Our spiritual progress is not one of a sudden and dramatic nature. There are will be so many obstacles along our path within our daily life’s climb. At times, even to pick up our prayer books in the morning and again in the evening may be a struggle, and there are always those pesky hindrances in our lives such as having meals to prepare, or trains to catch, phones to answer or chores to do, or maybe even unpleasant appointments to do in our day. Our Christian life, is indeed made up of little sacrifices,  and obstacles to overcome: there are prayers to be said, fasts to be kept, a donation to be made where we are able, the washing-up to be done, flowers to be bought, our homes to be cleaned, a job to go to, a vigil service to be attended, a hospital visit to do, a homeless or vulnerable person to help.

We may well ask ourselves what little sacrifices  we have made since the Feast of Transfiguration last year? How far have we ascended on our journey  to salvation climbing up our own  individual Mount Tabor? How have we changed over the past year? What have we done to lead a better life since  that of a year ago? How have we improved? What have we given to God that we had not given Him previously? It is this that we call progress: in what way are we a better Christian than we were a year ago?

In our faith we are called to struggle  on a daily basis, whatever the rocks or pitfalls in our way: whether they be issues of pride or selfishness, maybe those of lust or of discouragement, maybe issues of envy or of being judgemental to others, – we have to struggle to ascend our personal Mount Tabor, we have to fight for our personal transfiguration.

We must constantly remember that it is possible to both climb up and also to climb down a slope. We can spiritually progress, but it is also possible to spiritually regress. We can continually stride forward so we will be transfigured by the love of God or we can let ourselves be disfigured and stranded  by the love of worldly sin. And just as in making progress, regression also is not a sudden and dramatic thing, regression, too, is  like a slope, indeed, it is a very slippery slope.

Let us, therefore, take heed and continually strive to climb our faith mountain to our salvation and transition, and give God what He really wants from us – our hearts and minds to be continually spiritually progressing.

May Our Lord and Saviour bless you!

Amen.

NOT the Will of God. ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael R. Beckett, OPI

AAAAARRGGGHHHH!  If I hear, one more time, “It’s God’s Will,” or “God’s gonna save me from this virus,” or “God is punishing this country,” or “God has abandoned us,” or …and this is the BIG one:  “I can’t believe a loving God would let this happen,” or anything even vaguely related to those things, I may just have to……….well…….I dunno…..do something.  It makes me crazy….craziER???

I’m gonna say it one more time for those folks in the back who seem to have difficulty getting the message:   We are not puppets.  God does not control us.

How many times have we heard, “I’ve been through a lot 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?

Remember ‘The Church Lady’ and ‘The devil made me do it’ and her “Could it be…mmmm…. Sataaan?”  Well, yeah, it very well COULD be Satan!  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.”  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).

So yeah, 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 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.

And perhaps, most importantly, is our reading from Romans today:

Brothers and sisters:  What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?  No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (ROM 8:35, 37-39)

Nothing.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.  Not Corona virus.  Not cancer.  Not politics.  Not social unrest.  Jesus loves you.   Jesus will help you get through whatever it is from which you are suffering.  He gives us strength.  He gives us perseverance.  He gives us patience.  He gives us his love.  Won’t you accept that love?

 

 

The Feast of St. Martha ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: JER 15:10, 16-21

Responsorial Psalm: 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18

Gospel: JN 11:19-27

Liturgical colour: White.

 

Today, we come together to celebrate The Memorial of St Martha.

Let us begin by looking at what the Holy Gospel is telling us today?

 

JN 11:19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary

to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,

she went to meet him;

but Mary sat at home.

Martha said to Jesus,

“Lord, if you had been here,

my brother would not have died.

But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,

God will give you.”

Jesus said to her,

“Your brother will rise.”

Martha said to him,

“I know he will rise,

in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus told her,

“I am the resurrection and the life;

whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,

and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

Do you believe this?”

She said to him, “Yes, Lord.

I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,

the one who is coming into the world.”

 

The feeling of Sorrow and grief is that dark feeling of trauma and distress that comes to us all after experiencing a loss or tragedy. Such an experience can often be all consuming. As children of God, our hearts ought to be filled with a genuine sense of compassion and care for our troubled brother or sister in their times of suffering and pain. We ought to love them (Rom. 12:10), cry with them (Rom. 12:15) and pray for them (James 5:13).

We have all felt this grief of loss of a dear loved one at some point in our lives. I personally have experienced it so many times. So, we can imagine exactly how Mary and Martha were feeling and the  painful heavy grief atmosphere that they were experiencing within their family home. We can also understand their deep yearning that their dear brother would’ve been cured of his illness before it came to the point of his death.

 

In today’s Holy Gospel, we can clearly see a demonstration of the care Jesus showed toward Mary and Martha in the midst of their grief. When it comes to the death of God’s people the Bible says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

 

The loss of a loved one naturally produces much grief and anguish within our hearts. When Martha, the sister of Lazarus and a close friend of Jesus, heard that Jesus was coming to pay his respects for the loss of Lazarus who had by then been dead for 4 days, she immediately went out to meet him before he could get to her house. What was it which compelled Martha to leave their home where Lazarus lay in death in order to seek Jesus out?  I personally believe the reason could well have been two=fold in nature. I believe the companionship and consolation of her dear friend who also loved her brother deeply was one reason, as was that Martha recognized in Jesus the hope that God would restore life.

Martha, like many Jews, believed in the eternal life to come. The loss of her brother did not diminish her hope in the resurrection in the least. She even gently chides Jesus for not coming soon enough to save her brother Lazarus from his untimely death. Jesus does something unexpected and remarkable with  the intention of both strengthening her faith and  hope in the life to come and also to give her a sign of what he was to accomplish through his own death and resurrection. Jesus gave to her belief a new and profound meaning: He came from the Father to defeat all sin and death for us and to restore life to all who believe in him.

 

Jesus states unequivocally that he himself is the Resurrection and the Life. The life he offers is abundant – life which comes from God the Father himself. And also gives everlasting life – the fullness of life which is without end. Do we truly seek that abundant and eternal life which Jesus offers to all who believe in him?

 

“Lord Jesus, you are the Resurrection and the Life. Strengthen our faith and hope in your promises that we may radiate the joy of the Gospel to others.”

 

Psalm 126:1-6 NIV

 

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Sion,

we were like those who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,

our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

3 The Lord has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.

 

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,

like streams in the Negev.

5 Those who sow with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

6 Those who go out weeping,

carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy,

carrying sheaves with them.

 

Let me finish with The voice of life and joy that awakens the dead, by Athanasius of Alexandria (295-373 AD):

“I am the voice of life that wakens the dead. I am the good odor that takes away the foul odor. I am the voice of joy that takes away sorrow and grief.… I am the comfort of those who are in grief. Those who belong to me are given joy by me. I am the joy of the whole world. I gladden all my friends and rejoice with them. I am the bread of life”