Ascension? Huh? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

While Ascension Day is a Day of Holy Obligation, it is one of the most neglected feast days of the Christian church. This is sad enough in itself, but in ignoring the festival, the opportunity is lost for reflecting on what the Ascension means.

Maybe we tend to ignore Ascension Day because it normally falls on a weekday.  Is this the reason it doesn’t get the attention it deserves? This is a pity because it is full of significance in the historical life of Jesus when on Earth – and his continuing ministry for us in heaven. As a weekday event it reminds us that Christianity isn’t just something for Sunday – it’s an experience for every day.  As Christians, we are to celebrate Our Lord every day, every second of our being.  If we gloss over its truth we rob ourselves of a most important doctrine, for without the Ascension, the work of Christ would be incomplete.  Because we do not place as much emphasis on the Ascension, we miss the tremendous truth of the Ascension.

St. Augustine, the great fifth century theologian, called the ascension the most important Christian festival of the year, more important than Christmas, more important than Pentecost, even more important than Easter. For the ascension reminds us just how high Jesus was raised, and what that means.

‘This is that festival which confirms the grace of all the festivals together, without which the profitableness of every festival would have perished. For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven, his Nativity would have come to nothing…and his Passion would have borne no fruit for us, and his most holy Resurrection would have been useless.’

What Saint Augustine says here resonates with the passage in Ephesians 4:10, where Saint Paul says that ‘He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things’ – i.e.; that by ascending into Heaven, and taking our human nature up with Him into the heavenly places, He completed the process of redemption by reclaiming His place as rightful sovereign of the universe, so that He might be present to us in a different way. If He had not so returned, the process would not have been completed, and as Jesus said in John 16:7, ‘it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’.

The gospel writer Luke is renowned as a careful historian. When he recorded the birth of Jesus he rooted the event in its historical setting within the Roman Empire. He continues that same preciseness at the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry by recalling the place of the Ascension – at Bethany. He dates the event – 40 days after the resurrection on Easter Day. He emphases the presence of eyewitnesses – the Ascension took place he writes “before their very eyes” (Acts 1:9). Yes, the Ascension was a real event of history.

Some people are puzzled as to why Jesus waited around on Earth 40 days after his resurrection, but that period is no accident, and Jesus had things to do.

Jesus had endured the Devil’s temptation for 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his public ministry, but now the tables were turned. In the period after Jesus’ resurrection, He triumphantly paraded his victory over the Satan. During this time, the conqueror of death displayed his supremacy before his faithful followers so that they might share in the joy of his victory. But there was another reason. Those 40 days of his appearing after the resurrection were of immense value to the believers for they established the reality of his lordship. A single sighting of the risen Christ may have been open to question, but his continuous encounters with the disciples would remove the doubts of the most skeptical among them and assure them of his power and authority.

The resurrection of Jesus marked the ending of a chapter in his earthly life. Things could never be the same again and it was essential that there should be a clear-cut event to bring the chapter to a close. It’s true that Jesus was making a series of appearances to his followers, but they couldn’t go on forever.

It would have been odd if Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances had grown fewer until finally they just stopped – that would only cause confusion and even loss of faith. No, there had to be a single, miraculous occurrence, separating the time when the Jesus of Earth would become the Christ of heaven. The Ascension was the only fitting conclusion to the life of Jesus on Earth.

Luke tells us of the disciples with their eyes straining to catch the last glimpse of the cloud bearing up their Lord. But then they were quickly brought back to earth. It would seem that with their eyes heavenward they didn’t notice the two heavenly beings that slipped quietly alongside them until they spoke: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking unto heaven?,” as if to remind the disciples of the work that they had been given to do.  The angels, for angels they were, had to tell the disciples to get to business.

And so it is with us.  Ascension Day reminds us of the Mystery of Faith: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

Christ will come again.  And as we await the “coming again” of Christ, we, like the disciples, have a job to do, business to attend to.  Although we live in the time between Jesus’ Ascension and his coming again, we have something to do now.   In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, “Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,  and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.”

Where do we start?   Jesus has the answer for that, too.  In John 13 Jesus says to us, “ But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you.  If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”  We are to continue to change the world in the work that Jesus has given us to do by helping others to see Jesus through and in us, by showing that love that he demonstrated, by bringing that love to everyone.

Jesus told us to love everyone.  Love.  Everyone.  Period.   Not just those whose politics are the same as ours.  Not only those whose religion is the same as ours, not only those whose lifestyles are the same as ours.  Love.  Everyone.  Period.

We would all of us do well to pray:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

Love.  Everyone.  Period.

Come Lord Jesus.

Amen.

Living for Jesus ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski, OPI

My beloved brothers and sisters, dear family of our risen Lord Jesus Christ, as we have passed the middle of Eastertide season, and we are approaching closer to the feast of Ascension of our Lord in Heaven, we have all experienced, during every Gospel story during His presence among His disciples, from the very moment of the devoted women who first have seen the open tomb and sow the Angel, Saint Thomas, the two people going home in Emmaus, and Jesus explaining all the Scripture, braeking the bread, preparing the meal beside the lake.

We believe all these events that have occurred, strengthening their faith as ours too, passing every liturgical season in the calendar, growing in our faith.

Let us strive to preach the risen Christ our Lord, with our daily prayers, for the conversion of sinners and for all blasphemies against His Sacred Heart.

Let us preach the Gospel through our daily little acts of piety and affection to our neighbors, spend one hour with those that are lonely and that need our attention or company, when we don’t have what to offer for their material benefit, we still can sacrifice of our time for them, even we maybe are passing turbulent times, we can still help each other, to one to another with our confession of confidence, if we build this true connection in purity and sanctity with them, that will help a lot to bear the good and the negative of one to another, and even give a good advice we are gifted  from God , a beg that all of us can give good and prudent advices.

We always can pray and petition those vulnerable people, sign the names, and offer in the daily offering of mass, or recited the office of dead for those that they might lost.

Let testify to them, with all the respect to them.

I see so many lonely people around, that are with no friends, or family members, like strangers, forgotten from the society, let us be that light, to bring them good energy, to spend time, even when we are not capable facing our own demons, , I will sacrifice that one hour, so that can feel that we are here always for them in good or in negative, always when they need our company, we can share our support, visiting the elderly  and the disabled, make some nice shopping, spend nice time with tea or coffee, talking about anything that they prefer.

I do not force Jesus to them, I just act in a most modest and humble way, and my preaching is through the action and true friendship.

We must petition for the needs of all of them.

As a deacon, is not so much that I can offer, like the holy sacraments, but with God’s grace and authority of the Holy Mother Church, volunteer work , the Divine Office prayer, , the visitations to the disabled and elderly, and those that seek advice, or are searching for deeper understanding, or having vocation, those in need of advice and prayer.

As we are striving the Dominicans to study and the fruits from what we study to put into action to the world around us, and those that seem to be sanctified and to live a holy life.

Always to hold the truth, to live the Truth and to endure within the Truth. Veritas-Truth- devoted life in absolute integrity with God, who is Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen

Deacon Igor Kalinski OPI; Dominican Oratory of St’s. Sebastian & Peregrine in Gevgelija/N. Macedonia

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled ~ The Rev. Dcn. Dollie Wilkinson, OPI

Today, our country, and our world are experiencing an epic crisis. And we were not prepared. This disaster finally has a name — Covid-19. It is a pandemic that doesn’t discriminate. Young, old, black, white, rich or poor, are all vulnerable. Everything was shut down but essential business, schools closed, and churches became empty. Hundreds of thousands have died, and many more remain sick. Everyone is required to stay six feet apart. But there is hope. Many are now recovering, and there is a vaccine in the works.

At the height of the pandemic, when Christians could not worship in their own churches, many asked, “Where is God? Why are we left alone to suffer?” But God has not abandoned us.

John 14:1-4 (NKJV) is often read at funerals, as a way to offer comfort to The loved one’s left behind.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

Even Jesus’ disciples had doubts about the full grace of God. After many years of traveling with Him, learning His teachings and bearing witness to many miracles, they became very troubled when He spoke of leaving them. Just like some questioning , “Where is God during this crisis?”.
In John 14:5-12, Jesus tries to reassure them they are not being abandoned.
“Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

Poor Philip is thoroughly confused and feels lost. He wanted to see the Father, so Jesus had to patiently explain to him that he’s been traveling with the Father all along.
“Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”.

In the midst of crisis we all seek out a savior, a super hero, someone to say, “It will be ok, I’ve got this!”. But a simple prayer can offer us comfort no matter what we are facing.

Lord,
You are my Shepherd, you watch over me and tend to the needs of my heart. Help me to trust your guidance in this time of uncertainty.  It is so hard to look ahead and not see a clear vision for my future. Please help my heart to trust in your timing. Let my mind seek your will. Fill my soul with peace knowing that you are the one true God.  You are,“…my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2, NIV).  Thank you for watching over me and all my loved ones. In your name I pray,
Amen.

Daily Walking With the Shepherd ~ The Rev Dcn Igor Kalinski, OPI

Jesus our Good Shepherd, leading his flock through many tribulations, and at the beginning of the new life after our natural death, we will experience our meeting with him in our true homeland, that many unfortunately are seeking here, many of them even all these tragedies and human and animal agonies and abuses cant realize that here is the valley of tears, and in heaven  God is going to wipe away our tears of the eyes in a place without sorrow.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, let us strive to sanctify our lives, praying daily for all unhappy and desperate people and for the sick. Let us voluntarily do our gospel readings to transform into action to all that well meet, even if it  only soul that is lost or confused, or is stuck in the worlds labyrinths, whatever hardship they face daily, we are those that cans how them, that they are loved and appreciated, because on such peoples is the kingdom  of God.

Repent, examine daily our conscience, pray and petition to the Lord, and we will reveal his power and love to them with our sincere prayer and affection of charity to them. Our preaching to be our action, and prayer our words.

To teach the mankind, how good shepherd is Jesus, who search for the lost one and gather back into the flock.

Be faithful to our Lord, be obedient to our holy mother church. The flock inside the fence find secure shelter as in Gods house.

Let us daily pray for our daily change in Gods manner, to give place to God, to walk in our lives with the Holy Spirit as our bodies are His holy temple. Keep yourself from sins against your own body.

Let us strive for the sanctity, to sanctify ourselves daily, so the people might see Gods change within us.

Stay in fidelity with God and in divine integrity.

Let us strive for sanctity and for the conversion of the sinners.

Pray for the lost sheep, and do not forget to pray for the persecuted Christians throughout the world, for peace in the world and especially for the Christians that suffer in China.

Please pray for the vocations into priesthood and religious life, because the harvest is huge and laborers not so many, for the work of God and His glory who is Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen

St. Joseph ~ The Rev Dcn Igor Kalinski, OPI

Homily for 01.V.2020 Festivity of St Joseph the Worker

Oratory of Sts.  Sebastian & Peregrine in Gevgelija, North Macedonia

Deacon Igor Kalinski OPi

First Friday in the month, we remind ourselves of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ who did on the Cross for the salvation of all those that will accept and follow Him in their lifes, preaching to those that haven’t heard about him, praying for all the sinners and humanity, for their conversion.

This Friday we commemorate St Joseph the Worker, the foster-father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Most Chaste Heart of Joseph, a model for imitations of his meek and humble heart, working as carpenter, taking care for the Holy Family. He was a chaste in his heart, humble believer, who feared the Lord and have been obedient to travel as refugees in Egypt, he was a listener of Gods voice.

Saint Joseph is a model for a good father, grandfather, We can learn from him, by imitating his actions and embrace for our spiritual life. His herpic virtues are many, courageous defender of the Holy Family, wisdom and experience, doing his ministry with the work and providing for his family.

Today dear brethren, dear father and elders, strive to be like him in your daily routine.

You my dear brethren and sisters in religious orders , lets learn from his humility and chastisement. To take his virtues and to incorporate into our hearts.

Ask Saint Jospeh in prayer, pray daily to him, a short prayer or the litany to him.

He is one of favorite saints. The Holy Mother the Church have dedicate October month to him, so we can nourish in spiritual journey, to deepen our relationship with him in prayer.

I pray to god through the intercession of Saint Joseph, to make our hearts similar to his most chaste heart, to learn meekness and obedience and perseverance for the rest of our earthly lifes for better understanding of God, and for deepen relationship with Him through the example of St Joseph, that we can share in our daily life, transform into action, because everyone that well meet have to treat as Jesus Himself who is Father , Son and Holy Ghost

Gevgelija/Macedonia 23.IV.2020

Saint Catherine of Siena

She was the youngest but one of a very large family. Her father, Giacomo di Benincasa, was a dyer; her mother, Lapa, the daughter of a local poet. They belonged to the lower middle-class faction of tradesmen and petty notaries, known as “the Party of the Twelve”, which between one revolution and another ruled the Republic of Siena from 1355 to 1368. From her earliest childhood Catherine began to see visions and to practice extreme austerities. At the age of seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ; in her sixteenth year she took the habit of the Dominican Tertiaries, and renewed the life of the anchorites of the desert in a little room in her father’s house. After three years of celestial visitations and familiar conversation with Christ, she underwent the mystical experience known as the “spiritual espousals”, probably during the carnival of 1366. She now rejoined her family, began to tend the sick, especially those afflicted with the most repulsive diseases, to serve the poor, and to labor for the conversion of sinners. Though always suffering terrible physical pain, living for long intervals on practically no food save the Blessed Sacrament, she was ever radiantly happy and full of practical wisdom no less than the highest spiritual insight. All her contemporaries bear witness to her extraordinary personal charm, which prevailed over the continual persecution to which she was subjected even by the friars of her own order and by her sisters in religion. She began to gather disciples round her, both men and women, who formed a wonderful spiritual fellowship, united to her by the bonds of mystical love. During the summer of 1370 she received a series of special manifestations of Divine mysteries, which culminated in a prolonged trance, a kind of mystical death, in which she had a vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, and heard a Divine command to leave her cell and enter the public life of the world. She began to dispatch letters to men and women in every condition of life, entered into correspondence with the princes and republics of Italy, was consulted by the papal legates about the affairs of the Church, and set herself to heal the wounds of her native land by staying the fury of civil war and the ravages of faction. She implored the pope, Gregory XI, to leave Avignon, to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States, and ardently threw herself into his design for a crusade, in the hopes of uniting the powers of Christendom against the infidels, and restoring peace to Italy by delivering her from the wandering companies of mercenary soldiers. While at Pisa, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, 1375, she received the Stigmata, although, at her special prayer, the marks did not appear outwardly in her body while she lived.

Mainly through the misgovernment of the papal officials, war broke out between Florence and the Holy See, and almost the whole of the Papal States rose in insurrection. Catherine had already been sent on a mission from the pope to secure the neutrality of Pisa and Lucca. In June, 1376, she went to Avignon as ambassador of the Florentines, to make their peace; but, either through the bad faith of the republic or through a misunderstanding caused by the frequent changes in its government, she was unsuccessful. Nevertheless she made such a profound impression upon the mind of the pope, that, in spite of the opposition of the French king and almost the whole of the Sacred College, he returned to Rome (17 January, 1377). Catherine spent the greater part of 1377 in effecting a wonderful spiritual revival in the country districts subject to the Republic of Siena, and it was at this time that she miraculously learned to write, though she still seems to have chiefly relied upon her secretaries for her correspondence. Early in 1378 she was sent by Pope Gregory to Florence, to make a fresh effort for peace. Unfortunately, through the factious conduct of her Florentine associates, she became involved in the internal politics of the city, and during a popular tumult (22 June) an attempt was made upon her life. She was bitterly disappointed at her escape, declaring that her sins had deprived her of the red rose of martyrdom. Nevertheless, during the disastrous revolution known as “the tumult of the Ciompi”, she still remained at Florence or in its territory until, at the beginning of August, news reached the city that peace had been signed between the republic and the new pope. Catherine then instantly returned to Siena, where she passed a few months of comparative quiet, dictating her “Dialogue”, the book of her meditations and revelations.

In the meanwhile the Great Schism had broken out in the Church. From the outset Catherine enthusiastically adhered to the Roman claimant, Urban VI, who in November, 1378, summoned her to Rome. In the Eternal City she spent what remained of her life, working strenuously for the reformation of the Church, serving the destitute and afflicted, and dispatching eloquent letters in behalf of Urban to high and low in all directions. Her strength was rapidly being consumed; she besought her Divine Bridegroom to let her bear the punishment for all the sins of the world, and to receive the sacrifice of her body for the unity and renovation of the Church; at last it seemed to her that the Bark of Peter was laid upon her shoulders, and that it was crushing her to death with its weight. After a prolonged and mysterious agony of three months, endured by her with supreme exultation and delight, from Sexagesima Sunday until the Sunday before the Ascension, she died. Her last political work, accomplished practically from her death-bed, was the reconciliation of Pope Urban VI with the Roman Republic (1380).

Among Catherine’s principal followers were Fra Raimondo delle Vigne, of Capua (d. 1399), her confessor and biographer, afterwards General of the Dominicans, and Stefano di Corrado Maconi (d. 1424), who had been one of her secretaries, and became Prior General of the Carthusians. Raimondo’s book, the “Legend”, was finished in 1395. A second life of her, the “Supplement”, was written a few years later by another of her associates, Fra Tomaso Caffarini (d. 1434), who also composed the “Minor Legend”, which was translated into Italian by Stefano Maconi. Between 1411 and 1413 the depositions of the surviving witnesses of her life and work were collected at Venice, to form the famous “Process”. Catherine was canonized by Pius II in 1461. The emblems by which she is known in Christian art are the lily and book, the crown of thorns, or sometimes a heart–referring to the legend of her having changed hearts with Christ. Her principal feast is on the 30th of April, but it is popularly celebrated in Siena on the Sunday following. The feast of her Espousals is kept on the Thursday of the carnival.

The works of St. Catherine of Siena rank among the classics of the Italian language, written in the beautiful Tuscan vernacular of the fourteenth century. Notwithstanding the existence of many excellent manuscripts, the printed editions present the text in a frequently mutilated and most unsatisfactory condition. Her writings consist of

the “Dialogue”, or “Treatise on Divine Providence”; a collection of nearly four hundred letters; and a series of “Prayers”.

The “Dialogue” especially, which treats of the whole spiritual life of man in the form of a series of colloquies between the Eternal Father and the human soul (represented by Catherine herself), is the mystical counterpart in prose of Dante’s “Divina Commedia”.

A smaller work in the dialogue form, the “Treatise on Consummate Perfection”, is also ascribed to her, but is probably spurious. It is impossible in a few words to give an adequate conception of the manifold character and contents of the “Letters”, which are the most complete expression of Catherine’s many-sided personality. While those addressed to popes and sovereigns, rulers of republics and leaders of armies, are documents of priceless value to students of history, many of those written to private citizens, men and women in the cloister or in the world, are as fresh and illuminating, as wise and practical in their advice and guidance for the devout Catholic today as they were for those who sought her counsel while she lived. Others, again, lead the reader to mystical heights of contemplation, a rarefied atmosphere of sanctity in which only the few privileged spirits can hope to dwell. The key-note to Catherine’s teaching is that man, whether in the cloister or in the world, must ever abide in the cell of self-knowledge, which is the stable in which the traveler through time to eternity must be born again.

HIdden in Plain Sight ~ The Rev. Dcn Scott Brown, OPI


LK 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

 

Jesus walked with his disciples and disguised his appearance. Why? Did he want to know what they would say about him? Did he want to hear if they would gossip about him? Was he testing them? Was he just curious? We don’t know why he did this but, we can speculate that he wanted to take the temperature of his followers and disciples to see how they were reacting to his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. Three days after his resurrection he must have been all the talk about the town. There couldn’t be much more interesting to talk about.

It is believed that Jesus remained on Earth for 40 days and the biblical narrative written by Luke in Chapter 1 of the Acts of the Apostles takes place 40 days after the resurrection. Acts 1 describes a meal at which Jesus commands the disciples to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. I believe that Jesus felt he had unfinished business here on earth; he continued to appear to his disciples and continued to teach them and let them know of the Fathers plans to come.

Acts 1:1-9

1In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

 

The two followers were walking along the road, heading to Emmaus, deep in solemn and serious discussion, when Jesus met them. They could not recognize Jesus and saw him as a stranger. They did not, in fact, have faith in him, yet they were talking about him. The Lord, therefore, appeared to them but did not show them a face they could recognize. In this way, the Lord enacted outwardly, before their physical eyes, what was going on in them inwardly, before the eyes of their hearts. For inwardly they simultaneously loved him and doubted him; therefore the Lord was outwardly present to them, and at the same time did not reveal his identity. Since they were speaking about him, he showed them his presence, but since they doubted him, he hid from them the appearance by which they could have recognized him.

Jesus let them tell about their anxieties and pains; he let them grieve and mourn by expressing the root causes. Jesus emphatically listened to them, who poured out their crises and doubts, and used scriptures so that they could better understand “suffering and glory”. During the journey to Emmaus Jesus patiently guided the two disciples “from hopelessness to celebration” and also intended to nourish the two disciples’ faith to such an extent that they can see “his real presence in the breaking of the bread”.

So by hiding his true identity from them he allowed them to be themselves and express their true feelings. Through this action, the Lord wanted to communicate to His disciples that He is the truth, the way, and the life, and that His work of redeeming mankind had been successfully accomplished, and so they needn’t doubt, but should resolutely follow Him in their future path.

 

Lord, Have Mercy! Divine Mercy Sunday ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Divine Mercy Sunday

Reading 1: ACTS 2:42-47

Responsorial Psalm: PS 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

Reading 2:1 PT 1:3-9

Gospel: JN 20:19-31

Liturgical colour: White.

Today we come together to honour and to celebrate the Divine Mercy of Our Lord.

We live in a worldly society in which mercy at times, is seen to be a detached idea. All too many sadly today, think that Mercy means that God doesn’t count our sins as being of importance. But Mercy is indeed a necessity because as humans, we are indeed all desperate sinners.

But the truth is that the fact of The Lord’s mercy means that sin does exist and is indeed important to God! Thanks be to God for the Glory, for the beauty, and for the wonderful gift of His Divine mercy for us!  Without it, we certainly don’t stand a chance. I for one, am certainly aware that I’m going to need much grace and mercy to make it to eternal life, how about you?.  It is only through this grace and mercy that can we be truly freed from our sins and healed from its effects, or ever hope to enter the presence of God’s Glory  with Him in Eternal Life.

Mercy does not mean that there will be no judgement; mercy indeed exists because there is a day of judgement. Mercy does not mean that Hell doesn’t truly exist; mercy exists because Hell exists.  Without mercy we are all  forever totally lost. With it we stand a chance, but only if we accept our need for it.

Lord, Have Mercy upon us!

Let us look at today’s Holy Gospel reading:

JN 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,

when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,

for fear of the Jews,

Jesus came and stood in their midst

and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,

and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,

was not with them when Jesus came.

So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them,

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands

and put my finger into the nailmarks

and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside

and Thomas was with them.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked,

and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,

and bring your hand and put it into my side,

and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples

that are not written in this book.

But these are written that you may come to believe

that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,

and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

 

As we know from the  Gospel  today,  The room where the Apostles are gathered in fear;  has it’s doors locked. These are indeed  broken, troubled, and disturbed men. All of them but John had fled, deserting the Lord. One of them had (Peter), had even denied knowing Jesus, not once but  a total of three times. Here they are,  feeling humiliated, downcast, and without faith. Never mind that Jesus had told them on numerous occasions that He would rise on the third day. Even though several women and two disciples from Emmaus had said they had seen Him alive, on this the third day, these men persist in rejecting this news that conformed to His promise. Yes, we enter a locked room of fearful men who are downcast, disgraced, and disbelieving.

The Lord  appeared in their midst and says to them, “Peace be with you.” Now I don’t know about you, but if I had been hiding away, was denying Him, and was running from my responsibility at the critical moment, and then suddenly the Lord whom I had let down and offended appeared, I would be  more than a little nervous, wouldn’t you? But what does the Lord say to these embarrassed and dejected men?  The Lord says, “Peace be with you!”

The Lord does not merely say to them, “I will not punish you for what you have done.” He says, “Between you and my Father there is now peace, there is wholeness, there is completeness, there is present in the relationship all that should be there, there is justice.” The Lord does not merely overlook what a mess we indeed each are, He makes us whole and makes us pleasing to His Father.

All is well, all is complete, all that is necessary is supplied by my atoning death and resurrection!

Such  Divine mercy, such a grace, such a wonderful gift!!

This is no mere passing happiness. This is  total abiding astonishment at the sheer gift of God’s mercy and grace. The Apostles  do not just feel happy for that moment; they are given the gift of   a stable, peaceful, confident joy=the unfathomable gift of God’s mercy and goodness. They had sinned and yielded to fear; they had run from the Lord and ignored His teaching; but the Lord stands before them and says “Shalom, Peace be with you. May the full favour of the Lord be with you. May you experience that God is pleased that you are well and seeks to draw you more deeply into His love.”

Here is mercy; sweet, beautiful, soul-saving mercy; and astonishing and unexpected grace! There is shalom; there is peace; there is deep, abiding, and confident mercy. It is a joy and mercy that is unmerited. It is stable because it is rooted in the stable and abiding love of God.

However, one of the Apostles, Thomas, was missing. Here was the most wounded of all the Apostles, he felt so wounded that he drew back from the only place  where true mercy could be found. Thomas blocked his blessings.

Will we call on our merciful Lord and saviour? There is only one requirement for mercy, it is that we ask for it. Jesus says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20). The door to our heart and to repentance must be opened from the inside. The Lord will not force His mercy. This is why there is a Hell. Without God’s mercy we are all doomed; we don’t stand a chance. His mercy is free for each of us except for this single price: we must surrender our pride, admit our need, and open the door.

Thanks be to God that St. Thomas did not persist in his impenitent stance, but instead rejoined the community where mercy and the Lord were to be found. Sure enough, where two or three were gathered the Lord appeared once again and St. Thomas found mercy. The Lord rebuked Thomas’ lack of faith but rewarded his penitence.

St. Thomas opened the door from deep inside of his heart. The Lord lovingly entered and built up his faith so that never again would Thomas think that he could find the Lord on his own terms. Rather, Thomas would seek the Lord where He could be found: in the Church, among those gathered in His name. Mercy is found where God is found. He knocks but it is we who must open the door and receive Him into our hearts on His terms not ours.

St. Thomas fell to his knees, astonished by the Lord’s mercy; such mercy, such a glorious gift. “My Lord and my God!” The Lord never stopped calling Thomas. The Lord did not give up but waited until Thomas answered the door. “Peace, Shalom, Thomas. I am glad you are here. Now never again stop believing in my mercy and love for you. Never again draw back thinking I am lost to you. I love you with an everlasting Love. I have called you and you are mine. Peace to you, and mercy, Thomas.”

Mercy! So great, so divine, so perfect. It is a mercy that does not deny the need for its own existence. When humbly received, it conveys peace through the common priesthood that Christ Himself established for each of us. It is a mercy which, as a prerequisite, respectfully knocks and waits for our “yes.” Lord, give us your perfect mercy.

Let us pray:

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

He’s Alive???? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

He’s Alive!!!!

Really? How so?  Honestly, had I not been raised as a Christian, had I not had the example of loving, devout parents, had I not experienced firsthand the miracle that is Jesus, I have great doubts that Easter would mean a hill of beans to me.  He’s alive?  There are so many folks who are anti-church, anti-christian, anti God, and ya know, I really can’t blame them.   Prove to me that Christ is alive and well in the midst of this pandemic outbreak, and show me just how so very many of our “Christian leaders” are following Christ’s words, “As I have loved you, love one another.”   Certainly not by the following:

The Bishop of Springfield, MA has decided that, because of the corona virus, there will be no Anointing of the Sick or last rites given to the faithful who are dying.

Franklin Graham’s emergency hospital  group asks health care workers and volunteers to adhere to a statement of faith, which opposes same-sex marriage and will refuse to treat gay patients.

Then there is the Christian-owned craft store Hobby Lobby that refused to shut down stores to protect their workers from COVID-19 unless states forced them to do it. CEO David Green even cited a dream about God that his wife had in making his decision to keep stores open.  Now, in a move as cowardly as it is ruthless, the store has fired dozens of workers — via email — at some of its Oklahoma stores. These terminations are permanent, even after the shelter-in-place rules are lifted.

The House of Representatives finally passed a coronavirus relief bill this past Monday night, but one Republican,  Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), refused to vote for it because he said it “redefined family” by including sick leave to care for an unmarried partner’s children.

Pastor Steven Andrew, who claims to have “shared the Gospel with over 80 million people,” made the comments in a press release last week, the Advocate reports.  “God’s love shows it is urgent to repent, because the Bible teaches homosexuals lose their souls and God destroys LGBT societies,” Andrew said. “Obeying God protects the USA from diseases, such as the coronavirus.”  He added: “Our safety is at stake, since national disobedience of God’s laws brings danger and diseases, such as coronavirus, but obeying God brings covenant protection. God protects the USA from danger as the country repents of LGBT, false gods, abortion and other sins.”

A reverend who leads a weekly White House Bible study drew backlash after he appeared to suggest that gays and lesbians are among those to be blamed for the coronavirus pandemic.  Rev. Ralph Drollinger wrote in a blog post the United States “is experiencing the forsaking wrath of God” because of homosexuals, environmentalists, atheists and “depraved minds.”  “The coronavirus could be a form of God’s cataclysmic wrath,” he wrote.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., went on Fox & Friends to falsely compare COVID-19 to the flu. Falwell also blamed Trump’s political critics, initially refused to cancel classes at Liberty University, and called one parent a “dummy” for asking questions on Twitter.  The New York Times is now reporting that multiple Liberty students now have coronavirus.

Televangelist Jim Bakker tried to peddle fake coronavirus cures.

A televangelist who supports conversion therapy and the death penalty for homosexuality said that God will “turn off” receptors in cells that allow in the virus that causes COVID-19… for people who are good enough Christians.  Andrew Wommack is the founder of Andrew Wommack Ministries and Charis Bible College and hosts daily Gospel Truth television and radio shows. He said, “We were promised that no sickness would even come nigh our dwelling” and discussed a reference to “sickness” in the Old Testament.

It is up to EVERY one of us who is not in it for the money, in it for the fame, in it for the power, to prove to the world that He is, indeed, alive.  It is up to EVERY ONE of us who proclaim Christ as our Savior to counteract, countermand, and prove to the world that Jesus is who He says he is, that Jesus is who WE say He is…….So here we go…

He’s Alive!!!!

Really? Is he? How can we prove this to the world? In what way do our lives reflect this? It is so easy for us to celebrate Easter, with all the accompanying fanfare, the music, the bunnies and chicks and eggs and ham….. We dress up in our best, go to church, and celebrate. And then what happens on Monday? We talk about how nice Easter was and go back to business as usual.

If Christ is alive as we proclaim he is, if Christ rose again from the grave to save us from our sins, to change our lives, then should our lives not reflect a profound change? One that is visible to all with whom we come into contact?

If Jesus Christ is the very God we claim, come in the flesh of humanity, if He is the Lord “through Whom all things were made,” as we recite in the Nicene Creed, it is up to us to proclaim this with all that we are, with all that we do. Think about those whom Jesus had following Him: sailors, insurgents, tax-farmers, prostitutes, widows, lepers, and, on occasion wealthy folks. Rulers, workers, and the dregs of society. Young and old. Their lives were changed in such a drastic measure that they died for their faith. Many of them left all that they had, the security of their homes, their jobs, their families, to follow Jesus. Would you? Our Christian brothers and sisters are under attack in the Mid East, in the Philippines, in Africa. Many of them have died in order to proclaim their faith. Would you do as much? Would you die for Christ?

If then, the answer is yes, would you not LIVE for Christ? You say to me, “Bishop Michael, how do you expect us to do that?” The answer to that was given to us by our Lord, Himself:

“As I have loved you, love one another.” He lived out the ultimate example of what this means. Then he said, “No greater love hath any man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Then He did just that. But it was not only to save us from our sins, though it was most assuredly that. It was the sign, the seal, that proved He was Who He said He was and that His word was true.

If He really is risen, then we have an obligation one to another to serve our fellow man as He served us. And we have an obligation to share this Good News with our fellow man. We have to make the blessings we have gained available to every human. And we have an obligation to show that there really is truth to the old song, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” We have an obligation to reflect Christ’s goodness, His holiness, in our lives. By our speech, by our actions, by our very thoughts.

He is alive! Let us allow Him to live anew through our lives, reflecting His love and His promise in all that we do, in all that we say, in all that we are. He is alive!!!!! Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday ~ John 18:1-19:42

18:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.18:2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples.

18:3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.  

18:4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?”

18:5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.

18:6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground.

18:7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

18:8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”

18:9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.”

18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.

18:11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

18:12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.

18:13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.

18:14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

18:15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest,

18:16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.

18:17 The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

18:18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

18:19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching.

18:20 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.

18:21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

18:22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

18:23 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

18:24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

18:25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”

18:26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”

18:27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

18:28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.

18:29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”

18:30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”

18:31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”

18:32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

18:34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

18:35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

18:37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

18:38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.

18:39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”

18:40 They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

19:2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe.

19:3 They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.

19:4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.”

19:5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

19:6 When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.”

19:7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

19:8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever.

19:9 He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.

19:10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”

19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

19:12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

19:13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha.

19:14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!”

19:15 They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”

19:16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;

19:17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

19:18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

19:19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

19:20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.

19:21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'”

19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

19:23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 19:24

So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

19:25 And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

19:26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”

19:27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

19:28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”

19:29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.

19:30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

19:31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed.

19:32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.

19:33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

19:34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

19:35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.)

19:36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.”

19:37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

19:39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

19:40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

19:41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.

19:42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.