Category: Sermon

Be Bold In Faith ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor P. Kalinski, OPI

Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Peregrine and Sebastian in Gevgelija, Republic of Macedonia, Europe in the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Beloved family and friends, beloved sisters and brothers in Christ our Lord and Redeemer, in today’s mass readings from Deuteronomy, Hebrews and Gospel according  to Saint evangelist Mark, I will try to give my little brief of how the Holy Scriptures reflect this to us as ultimate truth for understanding better the meaning and the message, and for our daily devotional spiritual food.

We read here  “days…prolonged, Moses’ concern is that successive generations maintain the obedience to God’s laws that ensures life and prosperity, in 6:3 : a land flowing with milk and honey: a description that includes the richness of the land which the Israelites were soon to possess, in 6:4 has become the Jewish confession of faith, recited twice daily by the devout, the intent of these words was to give a clear statement of the truth of the monotheism, that there is only one God. The most important passage is that those commandments in 6:6 shall today be on our hearts. Such a beautiful message, inspirational, and we have to give that to our children, in our family members. Since the relationship such as this of love for God could not be represented in any material way as with idols, if had to be demonstrated in obedience go God’s law in daily life.

In the epistle of St. apostle Paul to the Hebrews we read:  “also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable to save  to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them, that mean that by the authority  invested to them the priests in the old testament , after the establishment of the Mosaic law, the Levitical priests collected tithes from their fellow Israelites, and the submission was not to honor the priest but to honor the law of Moses. Melchizedek not only received a tithe from Abraham , but he also blessed him, and this prove Melchizedek superiority and another superiority is that of our Lord Christ’s divine  and holy character as proof for superiority of His priesthood. In 7:26 in His relationship with  God , Christ is holy , he is harmless without evil or malice, in relationship with himself He is undefiled, free of contamination, separate from sinners, He had no sinful nature, which will be source for any act of sin, so He is without sin , higher that heaven, how marvelous is to have such a priest, and we have to watch as in daily mirror to put these words in our heart, and to be faithful in daily attendance of mass, where alter Christus the priest is offer his daily sacrifice in the Holy Mass.

In the Mark’s gospel we read that vinedressers were greedy because they wanted the entire harvest and the vineyard for themselves and would stop at nothing to achieve that end , they plotted to kill the owner’s son. Because Jesus had achieved such a following, the Jewish leaders believed only the way to maintain their position and power over the people was to kill Jesus.

The owner of the vineyard will execute the vinedressers, thus serving as a prophesy to the destruction of Jerusalem. So also another attribute, prophet, for Jesus  King, Prophet and Priest.

According to Matthew if I can little include this verdict was echoed by the chief priests, scribes, and elders, Matthew 21:41 “give the vineyard to other” those others dear beloved family and friends are all of us the Gentiles, , this  was fulfilled in the establishment of Christ’s church and its leaders who were most Gentiles. In Mark 12:10 the stone which the builders rejected, those builders that typically rejected stones until they found one perfectly straight in lines that could serve as the cornerstone, that is critical for the stability of the building. So here Jesus is metaphor He Himself is the stone, the builders were the Jewish religious leaders rejected Him, as crucified Him. But the resurrected Christ is the cornerstone, and the chief priests, scribes and elders were completely aware that Christ was condemning their actions, but it only aroused  their hatred, not their repentance.

So what we learned from today’s  Gospel? We can be servants as the stones that support the cornerstone, to be bold, and steady  to the end, always confession our Lord, if we want to be recognized from Him in Heaven as his family, so don’t be afraid to make the proper sign of the cross in public, or before you eat in public restaurant, when we usually pray, we always have to be not people who hide privately  the faith, that’s  not what Jesus would do.

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

The Gift of Salvation ~ Br. Milan Komadina, Novice

As you know I live in Serbia (Balkan). In my country there is something interesting related to the practice of receiving gifts and that is showing excessive gratefulness for every single thing that we get. Even a small one. I think this is similar culture and in N. Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro. People feel a bit uncomfortable when receiving gifts.  This phenomenon dates back to many periods when people were very poor and had to literally sacrifice a lot to get a small regular gift for someone. The thing that we may often experience while giving gift to a Yugoslav person is hearing many times ”thank you”, but we should not be surprised if we get some other gift back in order to show thankfulness. This culture is specific for this part of the world.  Why I started this sermon with talking about gifts getting practice in my country is related to what I read in today`s Bible reading. This inspired me thinking about the salvation that we get as a free gift. And while meditating on that I found out that people somehow feel uncomfortable with getting the gift of salvation. Seems that we often would like to add a bit of our own deeds or our own sacrifice to the most holy sacrifice that Jesus did for the sake of the forgiveness of all sins ever. In Hebrews 5:1-6 we read:

”Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. ”And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.””

Here we read that Jesus is a priest forever. We can see that in the past Israel people had many priests, one of them was Aaron who had that honor to bring many sacrifices to God. But when the time came, it was clear that human deeds, human sacrifices and all the goodness that a single human could provide was never enough to please God and to cover sins of a fallen human. There had to be a perfect sacrifice, a spotless lamb and that was Jesus.

Of course today we have bishops, priests, deacons as it was founded by apostles and we can learn a lot of all those brothers and sisters, but only Jesus is the one who saved us by grace through His mercy. In Serbia and neighbor countries people bring big bouquets of expensive flowers, they buy and bring to Christian temples expensive candles made of purest bee wax and bring many gifts to the churches which sometimes look to me (as a person looking from aside) that they believe they could add something to salvation and they can add their own gifts to the perfect gift of Jesus` sacrifice.

We sometimes fast, sometimes pray to saints and Holy Mary (to assist us in prayer to God and to pray for us) and we try to live morally and to be good people as a result of being saved by grace, by faith in Jesus and all that he has done for us. Holy Eucharist is here to remind us on the Sacrifice of Jesus. All these things are necessary and they are good but what is not God is having fear of our loving God which would lead us to depression and feeling that we will never be saved. Nowadays I also read that some number of people (so called anti-vaxers) are afraid of anti-covid 19 vaccines that billions of people have received and are receiving for almost a year. They believe that there is some satanic chip in the vaccine and that if they get it they may lose Christ and they may lose the salvation. I met many Christians in several denominations believing in these conspiracy theories and I really feel sad about that.

So today I wanted to share that as Christians we should know that God is our father and he is not some scary god who is willing to put us all in hell and who is calculating our sins. Christianity is about joy, spiritual joy of saved people. It is about feeling saved, feeling safe and feeling that God will always be here with us and for us. With all that lightening candles, incense, praying with rosary, giving charity and all other activities we do can make our lives much happier. We cannot earn salvation and all the things we do should be the result of previously being saved. And remember that it was written you are saved by grace it was not written you become perfect and sinless. Unfortunately we will make some sins in the future and during our lives. And yes we should always repent and try not to repeat them. But please don`t feel lost and depressed because of that.

From time to time we might feel week and sinful or we may feel that God is far away from us. This is all normal and in this situation we should not doubt in the gift of salvation. We all experience ups and downs, but our salvation was given as a gift when we gave our hearts to Jesus. What I would also like to emphasize here is the importance of prayer. The prayer is always powerful. Especially when we fall in sins it is very useful to pray. Or if you feel in a bad mood ask your Christian brother and sister to pray for you, ask Holy Mary, or some saint or holy angels to pray for you and with you. Jesus hears your prayer, he knows how you feel and he knows what situation are you in at the moment. He will listen.

In today`s Gospel we also read the story when Jesus healed blind man in Jericho. Mark 10:46-52

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

As many times in Bible, Jesus emphasizes the importance of faith. Here we should remember these words: ”your faith has healed you”. Every time when we ask for something we should have faith. Jesus did not tell him ”your gifts given to the local church, expensive flowers and candles, Greek expensive incense and the money you donated has healed you”. He simply stated that the faith is what he counted. Because our God is God of Mercy. I pray today for all of us to have faith and to be thankful for the mercy that God is giving us. Amen.

Divorce, Sin, and Jesus ~ The Rev. Frank Bellino, Novice

I must admit that when I read the Gospel for today, my first reaction was, “Oh no!” This is one of the more misinterpreted and argued about reading in all the religious world. It has the disastrous effect of making many wiggle uneasily in their seats while others settle back into theirs in self-righteousness.

Neither answer is right. One of the purposes of Christianity is, after all, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Here we have chance to do both.

To the comfortable, let us remind each other that in God’s sight no sin is greater than the other. Sexual sin is not worse than any other, despite what the media might have us believe. Just because we may be stronger in an area to prevent one sin does not make us better than our Christian brother or sister who is not. And for some pride or vindictive actions could be your cross. Remember – God is displeased with the proud but gives grace to the humble. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

To the stricken, those of us who struggle uncomfortably in our seats, let me say something very important: God loves you. He knows that you are divorced, and he loves you. Divorce is not one of the unforgivable sins.

I’m going to repeat myself because there are many, and I’m sad to say, particularly in the church, who will oppose this message. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin.

God in his great mercy can forgive all sins, including those that cause divorce. So, if you are divorced, know that God still loves you. (Remember everyone sins and if you’re not divorced you have another one).

In fact, I’m going to say something, and some will not agree: Divorce is not a sin. Now before you get upset and walk out and never return take a minute and listen. I am not condoning divorce. Divorce is horrible. I’ve been through it. It’s really, ugly. I’m not saying for one instant that divorce is anything less than terrible and outside of God’s will. But not, itself, a sin.

It’s the result of sin. And that’s different. It is not sin in the same way that going to jail is not crime. It is the result of a crime.

I have worked in the jail and been in and out taking people there for various reasons. God created a world where there was no need for jails or prisons, and there will be none in heaven. But we live in a fallen world and because of free will there is a need for jails. Being in jail itself is not sin, what you did was the sin. Ending up in jail was the result of sin. In the same way, I would argue, divorce itself is not sin. The little things or the dozen huge things that caused the marriage to fall apart were the problem. Divorce was the consequence.

Let’s make sure we base our thinking on what the Bible says about divorce, not what we think it says. We don’t have time right now to examine all the verses, but I would recommend that you take time to do a careful study. And it may surprise you. (It surprises me every time.)

Throughout the Bible you will see a repeat. In Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Ezekiel, divorce is cited in a matter-of-fact way, as something that happens, with no judgement. In Isaiah and Jeremiah, it is the faithlessness that causes divorce that is rebuked. In Malachi 2 God says he deplores divorce and I totally agree. If you read the entire chapter, you know that God is referring to the sin. Divorce is the result of the transgression, and it’s the transgression that is the result.

In the New Testament, Jesus has strong teaching about divorce. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, its repeated so we know it’s important. But look carefully. Jesus does not say “don’t get divorced”. Really, he doesn’t. He is, however, very clear about the seriousness of divorce. In the rest of the verses, he restates Gods original purpose for marriage, as a life-long union; not something to be dismissed when troublesome or when someone more intriguing comes along.

You may know that it was a common practice in the days of the New Testament to allow divorce on the most unimportant of grounds, based on Deuteronomy 24, and that’s what Jesus is criticizing against in today’s reading. Jesus is stressing that marriage is a serious commitment and not to be taken, or ended, lightly. He’s differing treating marriage like the latest phone, which you can swap when the next model comes out, instead of like a heart pacemaker, which is supposed to be with you for life.

Jesus acknowledged, however, that there are times when divorce is the less of two evils in an imperfect world. Which would you rather face, an earthquake or a volcano? The debris from that earthquake smashes families and hits friends, hurts children and wrecks relationships for years and years – even when we have confessed and been forgiven. But sometimes in real life we have a choice between bad and worse. And God knows this. We don’t live in Eden anymore. Divorce is never part of God’s plan for the best, but so is much of life. And God is bigger than any of our messes and bad decisions.

So, is divorce always bad? Yes. Always bad. Is it sin? I would say it is the result of sin, and God, in his incomprehensible mercy, forgives sin.

If you are living with the pain of broken marriage, firstly, I understand. You are not alone in this. Secondly. God understands. Really, he does. He knows all the hidden bits of you and still loves you. Let that sink in. Try reading Ps 51 or Ps 139 and tell your Loving Lord all the nasty stuff. He knows it anyway, so you won’t shock him. Then let his forgiveness wash you clean for a fresh start.

Cut Off Your… Really? ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski, OPI

THE DOMINICAN HERMITAGE & ORATORY OF STS SEBASTIAN AND PEREGRINE in GEVGELIJA, MACEDONIA, EUROPE

Dear brothers and sister, reading today’s Gospel of Mark about our carnal temptations through the parables of expression of our Lord Jesus Christ, made me think first of myself.

What an example I am to the people that surround me, my relatives, neighbors, grocery people, my virtual friends, my close members of the family and my cousins .

Where is at first my own integrity when I have to appear to the sanctity throne on the foot of our home altars,  going through the long time , many months in spiritual desert, negative overthinking thoughts that eat us from inside.

Jesus is very practical in his words of the example to cut that what stop us to walk in to the path of sanctity, our spiritual eyes, our spiritual hands, and our carnal hands, cut, not in the literal words to butcher and destroy our bodies, but turning our direction to a different way, if I so much make sins through my hands, than I would need the two hands to unite in prayer, if my eyes makes me to make a sin through seeing , than I might open the Holy Scripture, and read the holy sentences, just to distract with positive practices that will benefit in our future life.

Today we live in a world too modern, but we have to nourish ourselves into these words, our tradition, if we search and collect from the source of the truth, then we will be like the wise virgins who had enough oil to welcome the long-waited bridegroom.

I just want that parable to include in today’s Gospel readings in gospel of St Mark, chapter 9.

I am not example for sure, I am already buried in my daily burdens of this valley of tears, I do sins, I am too carnal too, and this words today speak for myself, that I have to make my first step to the foot of the altar and begging God to be merciful on me sinner, to give me renewed strength and brave heart to start overcoming the stumbling rocks that I need to jump.

We need to make effort for the sin, God have to see our initiative, we can’t overcome by ourselves , but our effort to sweat and give blood, and God will give us his grace when he sees our faithfulness.

So cut your hands , eyes, and feet that walks to sin , transforms same parts of your body for the Gods holy act of work for the salvation of the mankind,

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

23.IX.21 Gevgelija

The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski OPI

 

The Feast of St. Matthew ~ Milan Komadina, Novice

Today we commemorate Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist. I will start this sermon with today’s reading from the Gospel. Let us remember who was Saint Matthew and how Lord’s calling of Matthew into holy service happened. We can read that in: Matthew 9:9-13.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

As we see in this paragraph Saint Matthew was the same ordinary human as we are. He was a sinner and he was sitting with tax collectors and other sinners. He was not super religious nor extra moral. However Jesus chose him to be one of His apostles. I remember the time when I was younger at my early 20ies when I was an orthodox novice. Many people in the local church are doing their best to maintain extra moral life. They don’t smoke cigarettes (or shisha), they don’t drink alcohol. Even not a single beer in the hot summer day. They wear clothes covering their entire body even in the summer. They try to represent themselves as super Christians. With no sin at all. But I remember that they were usually judging others who were not that super-visibly religious. After I grew a bit older and started attending local Protestant churches’ services I remember the same or similar situation. Many people were trying to show how Jesus acts in their life. They were trying to represent themselves physically as super-Christians. The biggest sin in their point of view was smoking cigarette or drinking alcohol. Other than that, going out or going to the party with your friends was another so called sin that people should hide in the church. As a result I remember that very small number of church members were youngsters. Usually older people were going to those churches. This people looks like modern Pharisees. They display so called righteousness. They don’t drink or go to the disco, they don’t smoke, and they dress up in a modest and humble way covering their entire body. Women do not use make up or not a lot of it considering that to be the sin but they are the first to judge people who do go to the disco, or smoke, or drink beer, or girls wearing short skirts, or Christians who do not talk about Jesus non-stop and as a result those people who are aware that we are ’sinners’, we feel unwanted in those churches. We do not feel love and acceptance. And what Jesus told Pharisees is the same that He is saying and today through The Bible –

 ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ 

Through the example of Saint Matthew we can learn that there is not a stage ’good enough’ for Jesus that we have to reach in order to be Christian. He does not expect us to be super-sinless Christians who will by our own deeds show that we are saved. This is why we are saved by grace. Some Christians believe that they should earn their own salvation or justify it by doing deeds in their own effort. I advise them let us leave the Holly Spirit complete it in us. We are saved by grace as Jesus said and we cannot earn it. 

Another story that we read on this day answers the question that Hypocrites would now probably ask: Does it mean that because we are saved by grace only we can now do what we want? The answer is NO! And we will take a look at Ephesians 4:1-7 and Ephesians 4:11-13. The first paragraph talks about the Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Here we can see that the emphasis is not on the way we look. If we dress up like this or like that, if we have a tattoo, if we smoke a cigar or drink vodka. If we don`t use make up, face cream, or even deodorant. Here the emphasis is on the way that we treat others. It was written ”Be gentile and humble, be patient, bearing with one another in love”. And these are the things that Christians should do. Look at the last sentence here, saying each one of us grace has been given. This was said in order to prevent what is happening in many churches today. It seems that people mistakenly interpret such paragraphs in a way that we must do some deeds to earn or justify our own salvation. What we actually need to do is –TO LOVE. The biggest commandment is Love God and Love people. I pray that today we all put our focus on love and rejoice in Salvation that we received as a gift by grace through Lords mercy. And remember that we are not all the same in the church. In addition to the paragraph mentioned above it is written:

Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Lift High The Cross! ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Feast of The Exaltation of The Holy Cross The Cross of Love and Salvation.

Reading I: Nm 21:4b-9

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

Reading II: Phil 2:6-11

Gospel: Jn 3:13-17

Liturgical colour: Red.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy  Cross.

Today’s feast is the time that the church commemorates the event of our dear Lord and Saviour, Christ’s Paschal Mystery, that very event in which God, in Christ, accepted the human experiences of the worst kind of suffering, of torture and of sacrificial death, and in which he allowed himself to be at one totally with us in our humanness.

The first Scripture for today of Nm 21:4b-9,  shows us of the enormous power of the cross to effect healing.

In this reading, we hear how Moses was instructed to create the image of a bronze serpent and to mount it upon a pole. Those who looked upon this pole were then healed from all the effects of the snake venom.

 What the cross affects is our healing—it is not simply only from such as in the venom of snakes  that are healed by the cross, but the power of sin and death itself over us!

In our second Scripture reading of Phil 2:6-11, we hear about how Our Lord Jesus accepted death on the cross—not because he deserved any  extremely horrifying torture,  indeed he deserved no punishment whatsoever, but our Lord Christ accepted it so that he could use it as a means by which he would unite his divine life to us as humans, he accepted it in all that would befall him, even unto suffering, torture and even to his death.

For us as Christians, because of God in Christ, suffering and death are not just sad, hurtful, and inevitable facts of being human; they indeed became, in Christ, the only route of access to God and to our Salvation. Even in these experiences, God is ever present with us and  is ever working through and for us, and even through these experiences, God can accomplish his will which is to save and to redeem.

In the Gospel reading today of Jn 3:13-17,  Our Lord Jesus tells us that he has not come into this world to condemn humanity but to reconcile us back to God.

Christ used the cross to accomplish exactly this!

The cross shows to us in the most terrifyingly of ways, the deepest and darkest side of our human nature. Christ did not deserve any of the horrendous actions that were done to him prior to, and also when he was upon the cross. It was us in our dark human nature, that imposed the cross upon him out of total evil cruelty. What we deserve for the cross is nothing short of God’s worst wrath— The fact is that simple! The cross, which could never be the end of Christ, should have meant the end of us if we had been given what our human actions truly had deserved.

But our end, our destruction, is not what the cross was intended to accomplish, as Instead, Christ showed the willingness of God to forgive us in the most astounding and wonderous way that was possible.

The cross reveals to us that the great covenant that God makes with us in Christ offers us forgiveness and salvation. This grace of God is certainly not deserved by any of us, but it is nevertheless given out of the love that God has for each and every single one of us. The love that God our Father, truly has for all his children whom he created. The cross is the ultimate symbol of the sacrifice of God in Christ, this ultimate and pure Love which is our salvation. 

We can receive this grace in the partaking of the Blessed Sacrament—and also in all the sacraments of the Church. Once we have received this for ourselves, Christ asks that all we have been graciously given by his sacrifice for us, we then instill the same within our relationships with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, and within our total existence —imitating what Christ has done for us in the love and forgiveness that we are to share with one another.

All that horrendous suffering and torture, then death that  Our Lord Christ went through upon that cross, taking on all the sins and burdens of all  humankind,  to give salvation for every single one of us, for the people who lived in Jesus’ time, for us in our present time, and for all peoples yet to be born. This Cross was and is still, the ultimate sacrifice of Christ’s Love and Salvation which was given freely for all.

Let us pray:

O God, who willed that Your Only Begotten Son should undergo the Cross to save the human race, grant, we pray, that we, who have known his mystery on earth, may merit the grace of his redemption in heaven.  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.

Take Up Your Cross ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: Is 50:5-9a

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Reading II: Jas 2:14-18

Gospel: Mk 8:27-35

Liturgical colour: Green.

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, 

Let us first take a look at what the Holy Scriptures are telling us in The Gospel reading today of Mk 8:27-35:

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.   Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”   They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of  the prophets.”   And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.”  Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.  He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatlyand be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.   He spoke this openly.  Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.   At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”   He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

If you have ever been on social media, which most of us have, it is sadly all too common to see posts that say things like, “If you believe in Jesus, type amen, and money will come your way within 72 hrs”, or maybe “say click like and type amen and you will get the desires of your heart.” This is complete nonsense! There are sadly within the world many who still believe that to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, means to instantly receive wealth, power, property, good fortune, etc. They are thinking in a worldly way,  in a similar way to such as Peter did in the Gospel Scripture for today. We see that Jesus rebuked him strongly for doing so, and said, “Get thee behind me Satan”.. Our Lord is not a personal Genie for our own purposes, nor indeed a quick and easy route to gaining worldly things. Temporary worldly things and the need for them are not Godly.

We are asked to take up our cross and to follow Jesus. We are to leave behind all our worldly thoughts, wants and desires. To leave behind the wealth, the power, the property and anything else which is worldly and to follow Jesus. Our Lord Christ was mocked and ridiculed, disbelieved, subject to torment, hate from those who saw only through worldly eyes. He was tortured and died on the cross to pay for all our sins. He is the only way to eternal salvation. 

It isn’t an easy road to follow Jesus, nor indeed should it be. Earthly wealth, and happiness can only ever be temporary in nature, as this world itself is temporary.  We are to leave all things of this world behind, to truly take up our cross and to follow Jesus.

Will there be troubles and people who will reject us or even to possibly kill us for taking the path of the Lord? Yes, it is possible, it happened to Jesus, so we should be willing to accept the same if necessary.

To take up our cross and follow Jesus, is to accept all the bad things that the world may throw at us, and yet to carry on firm in faith. Jesus and the way of his cross, are the only way to true salvation, and to eternal peace and happiness. 

Worldly things will pass away, The Lord’s kingdom is eternal, and shall never pass away.

Are we willing to take up our crosses and truly follow Christ as we ought to do, or are we too stuck in the pleasures of worldly things? Do we store up our riches on earth to only lose them at the time of the grave? Or do we follow and store up eternal salvation and riches such as joy and peace which even the grave cannot destroy, because of the sacrifice Jesus has paid for us by his death on the cross in payment for all our sins?

Let us pray:

Father, we thank you or sending your son Jesus to die for our sins on the cross at Calvary. Lord, help us follow in His footsteps and take up our crosses daily. Help us nail our flesh to that cross so that we can deny ourselves every day and truly follow him.. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

BartholomWHO?: The Feast of St. Bartholomew, The Anonymous Apostle ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading I: Rv 21:9b-14

Responsorial Psalm: 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18

Gospel: Jn 1:45-51

Liturgical colour: Red.

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Bartholomew the apostle. Bartholomew is a relatively difficult saint to celebrate because we hardly know anything truly about him. There are some who may believe that Bartholomew is the same person as Nathaniel –scholars have been known to argue about the truth or otherwise of this. What we do know is that In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke,  that Bartholomew is listed as being one of the twelve Apostles of the Lord.  

Ancient writers on the history of the Christian faith write that Bartholomew was an apostle to India – possibly is the region of Mumbai (Bombay). Along with his fellow apostle Jude, Bartholomew is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century. By tradition, Bartholomew is said to have been flayed alive, before being crucified upside down, thus becoming the patron saint of Leather-workers. In painting and sculpture, Bartholomew is often represented as holding a knife, with his own skin neatly draped over his arm. Bartholomew has also always been associated with healing, so there are a number of hospitals which have been named after him.

Bartholomew is also believe to be associated with the small Italian Island of Lipari, where he may have been buried. During World War II, the regime looked for ways to finance its  activities, and ordered that a silver statue of Saint Bartholomew from the cathedral in Lipari was to be melted down. But when the statue was weighed,  it was found to only actually weigh just a few grams so it was returned to its place in the Cathedral of Lipari. However,  In reality, this same statue is made wholly of solid silver and therefore should indeed be very heavy in weight. This is a fairly recent miracle that has been associated with St Bartholomew. 

About Bartholomew himself we know almost nothing,  except that he was an Apostle of Jesus. Far from being a negative thing, I think this is the most important thing about this rather mysterious and anonymous apostle. For this teaches us that the call to serve is not really anything whatsoever to do with worldly status or fame. If we Look around us today,  we will see much evidence of the reign of ego and of worldly fame, perhaps it is media stars and celebrities which tend to be the best known for this. An increasing number of children, when asked what they want to do when they grow up, say that they want to be famous, to be a celebrity or a star–  and that the goal of reaching fame has become for them their vocation. Some of our politicians can also seem rather the same way. But the church isn’t entirely exempt either: we see evangelists on religious tv stations, pastors of megachurches, and, unfortunately,  some bishops and clergy who just love being in the spotlight, have who love self-publicity. I once heard someone say that their church was OK but it was hard to see God because the Vicar always got in the way. It’s a temptation clergy are aware of and must always resist – our job is to point people to God, not towards ourselves.

So Bartholomew’s anonymity shows us ‘it’s not all about us’. Our job as Christians is to get out of the way and to enable people to catch a glimpse of the God and Father whom we serve. We also know, from the life of this mysterious and anonymous apostle, that we actually don’t need worldly fame, because God loves us, and that is all we need – we ought to need no other adulation than that!!

Each and every one of us eventually will join the ranks of anonymous Christians who have served God throughout the ages. In 2000 years’ time – and most likely long before that – we will all have been forgotten, except perhaps by the odd ancestor hunter who might still be digging our names out of archives and searching church registers to find historical information.

This might seem rather disheartening, but it definitely needn’t be such, because we know we are each p of God’s creation and of his redeeming: we are each loved by God more than we could ever hope imagine!  Part of our job as Christians, is to try to discover more of this love as we go about living our lives. When we truly understand even a little bit of this love that God our Father and our creator, truly has for us, our anxieties about worldly status, worldly importance and worldly fame, begin to lose their hold over us. In God’s love we truly have everything we need.

So often we see the lives of the rich and famous descend into tragedy or disaster. Worldly riches and fame often don’t bring true and lasting happiness. The ordinariness of our lives is something which we as Christians should celebrate, if, like Bartholomew, our lives are built on the rock of faith and we have the knowledge of God’s true and eternal love, like a hidden jewel, burning deep inside of us.

So Bartholomew is one of us:  he is a follower, a disciple, and a servant of Our Lord Jesus Christ. An anonymous, unshowy person who gave of his best. Bartholomew may well be Someone we don’t know all that much about, but we do know that his soul is now residing with God where that great love will, at last, be fully known.

That is all that is needed. All that truly matters. Amen

To Whom Shall We Go? ~ Milan Komadina, Novice

In today`s Bible story in Ephesians 5:21-32 Jesus gives some instructions for Christian Households. He`s teaching us that we should serve and love each other in the name of Christ. A special emphasis is given here on the partnership. He teaches that wives should submit themselves to their husbands and likewise husbands should love their wives as Jesus loves His Church. Marriage or partnership is really sacred according to the Bible. And once we find the right person (regardless of gender) to share our life with there should be nothing more beautiful and more sacred than obeying what Lord teaches us through these verses.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Another Bible story for today is written in John 6:60-69. This is a very useful chapter for all of us who sometimes feel lazy or a bit tired of praying and maintaining regular live relationship with Jesus. We all experience this from time to time. Let us read this chapter.

 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

We can see in verse 66 that many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Jesus. Those were people who had direct relationship to Jesus. Face to face. And yet they stopped following Him. I remember the time when I started my postulant period 7 months ago how hard it was to me. I was enthusiastic but also afraid. I had a strong desire to become a Dominican Independent. However, I was struggling with negative thoughts. My thoughts were saying the same or similar thing that was mentioned above in verse 60 “ This is hard, who can accept it? “. I was thinking that I was not good enough because I was thinking that God wants us to be super good and super religious. Father Michael helped me realize that it is not like that. Jesus wants us now and here. There is not the right time we should be waiting for, nor the right procedure that we need to fulfill in advance to be good enough for building our bond with the heavenly father. There is no the right age we should reach in order to serve God. He wants you now and here. When I read this chapter I can see a wise sentence that Simon Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go“. This is exactly what I realized after deep thinking of the right time to become a postulant. And I found out that always is the right time. Even if we spend the whole life waiting for the time to become good enough for Christ that would never happen. `Cause we will never be good enough. Based on this chapter I would heartily advise you not to be like those disciples who turned their back to the Lord. Even if that happens sometimes, keep getting back to Jesus. Bear on mind what Peter says in today`s chapter “To whom shall we go“. Remember Jesus is the beginning and the end. The alfa and omega. Let Him be glory with the Holy Spirit and Father. Amen.

Got Bread??? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Carbs.  Ugh!  Carbs!  YUM!  Carbs!  Not so very many years ago, I lost a heap of weight by cutting out most carbs.  THAT didn’t last.  Pasta!  How can anyone live without pasta?  And yes, I know all about spaghetti squash and zoodles and wheat pasta (major yuk) and anything else that can be substituted for the honest to goodness yumminess that is pasta.  And then there’s bread!  BREAD!  We have three bread machines and Scott has become a true Bread Guru.  Egg bread, white bread, rye bread, oat bread, honey bread, and the list goes on and on and on.  And very rarely does any of said bread go to waste.  We like bread. 

Sadly, though, no matter how much or how often we eat bread, or pasta, or bread, or cake, or bread, we get hungry again.  Our bodies crave that fuel that keeps us going.  We’ve all seen the Snickers Bar commercials.  Not feeling like yourself?  Eat.  Have something to celebrate?  Eat.  And hey, in SO many restaurants, what do they bring to the table as soon as you’re seated?  Yup.  Bread. 

So, what is bread? Basically, it’s a paste of flour and water, cooked over or surrounded by heat.

According to history, the earliest bread was made in or around 8000 BC in the Middle East, specifically Egypt. The quern was the first known grinding tool. Grain was crushed and the bakers produced what we now commonly recognize in its closest form as chapatis (India) or tortillas (Mexico). 

And we all of us know about manna, the bread from heaven the slaves from bondage in Egypt ate whilst they meandered in the desert looking for the Promised Land.  In fact, bread is mentioned at least 492 times in the Bible beginning in Genesis and continuing right through Revelation with a variety of meanings and symbolism.

So.  Bread.  We know our bread.  Jesus even talked about bread.  Several times.  In the single most important sacrament we have, that of the Eucharist, bread becomes the body of Christ. 

In today’s Gospel, John 6:41-51, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

So what’s up with this?  What does Jesus mean?  At that point in history, especially in Jesus’ culture, bread would have been understood as a nutritional necessity.  Bread was one of the most accessible foods for people of all wealth and social status, even the poor had bread. 

Now, for Jesus to say He IS bread?  What’s up with that?  Jesus is explaining to the crowds gathered around Him, and to us, just who He is.  And a lot of folks weren’t exactly impressed.  The Bible tells us of  the people complaining, and even some of His disciples leaving, unable to understand the metaphor, or unwilling to accept Jesus’s explanation of who He is.  So what DOES Jesus mean?  Simply put, if we put our faith in Him, then we will have eternal life.  When Jesus says He is the bread of life, He is saying that He is essential to our salvation.  Salvation is essential to human existence and necessary for eternity. When Jesus says He is the bread of life, He is saying He is essential, that HE is the means to our Salvation and eternal life. 

Jesus identified Himself as the bread of life, the way. He did not present Himself A source of salvation but as THE only way to salvation. Without Him, without the bread of life, there is no hope for salvation. By identifying Himself as the source of forgiveness, Jesus makes the path to repentance and a relationship with God, plain, simple, and available for everyone. 

So what do we do?  You say to me, “But I’m a good person.  I try to do the right thing.”  Well, yeah, you are and that’s awesome, but as Paul’s letter to the Romans teaches us, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

John also says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

We have to believe it.  We have to live it.  The Bread of Life will sustain the us, we who believe.  In our daily lives, in order to continue to be fed by Him, we must pray regularly.  We must study the Word. 

We must do our best to live according to what Jesus has taught us.  And reckon wonder, how do we do that?  Love as Jesus loved.  As I have said over and over and over again, ad infinitum, you are the only Bible some folks will ever read, the only Jesus some folks will ever see.  And I’m gonna add a new one:

For some folks, you are the only server who brings the Bread of Life to the table. 

As Jesus said to Peter in John 21:15-17:     So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”  He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.””

Can we be, or do, less?  Again, for those in the back, for some folks, you are the only server who brings the Bread of Life to the table. 

That kinda puts a new spin on the closing sentence of the prayer, “Let us serve Him with gladness and singleness of heart.”

So let us do that.  Let us “serve” Him, the Bread of Life, with gladness and singleness of heart.   Amen.