Our Lady of the Rosary ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Liturgical colour: White.

Reading 1: JON 1:1–2:1-2, 11

Responsorial Psalm: JONAH 2:3, 4, 5, 8

Holy Gospel Reading: LK 10:25-37

Today, we come together as the Church to honour The Blessed Virgin Mary in her Title as Our Lady of The Rosary. May I extend my wishes of a blessed Feast of Our Lady of The Rosary to you all!

Let me begin by going through the beginning of the History of The Rosary:

On October 7th, in the year of1571 a fleet of ships assembled by the combined forces of Naples, Sardinia, Venice, the Papacy, Genoa, Savoy and the Knights Hospitallers fought an intense battle with the fleet of the Ottoman Empire. The battle took place in the Gulf of Patras located in western Greece.  Though outnumbered by the Ottoman forces, the so-called “Holy League” possessed of superior firepower would win the day. This victory would severely curtail attempts by the Ottoman Empire to control the Mediterranean, causing a seismic shift in international relations from East to West. In some respects, and I do not want this claim to be overstated, the world that we know came into being with this victory. This event is known to history as the “Battle of Lepanto.”

Pope Pius V, whose treasury bankrolled part of this military endeavour, ordered the churches of Rome to be opened for prayer both day and night, to encourage faithful to petition the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the recitation of the Rosary. When word reached the Pope Pius of the victory of the Holy League, he added a new feast day to the Roman Liturgical Calendar- October 7th would henceforth be the feast of Our Lady of Victory. Pope Pius’ successor, Gregory XIII would change the name of this day to the feast of the Holy Rosary.

It  was not until the fifteen century that the Rosary was divided into three Chaplets of 50 Hail Mary’s each and that the mysteries were added to each Chaplet. By the sixteen century, the fifteen mysteries had become accepted by all as the proper way of reciting the Rosary. During that period of time, the second half of the Hail Mary was added and the “Glory be to the Father” was used to close each decade of the Rosary. In 1569, Pope Pius V officially approved the Rosary as it is known today.

Four years later, he established the Feast of the Rosary in thanksgiving to Our Lady to commemorate the naval victory of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. On that same day, the first Sunday of October, while the members of the Rosary confraternity made their procession in Rome, Don John of Austria defeated the Turkish fleet.

Following the request of the Dominican Order, in 1573, Pope Gregory XIII allowed this feast to be observed in all the Churches that possessed an altar dedicated to the Holy Rosary. In 1671, Pope Clement X extended the observance of this feast to the whole of Spain. Afterward, in recognition of the victory over the Turks by Prince Eugene on August 6, 1716, at Peterwardein in Hungary, Pope Clement XI commanded that the Feast of the Rosary be celebrated throughout the world.

Now let’s discuss The purpose of The Rosary:

The purpose of the rosary is to help us to meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. Pius XII called it a compendium of the gospel. The main focus is on Jesus—on his birth, his life, his death, and his resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that Jesus’ Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Marys remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of his earthly and heavenly existence. The Glory Bes remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity.

The rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We sense that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever.

Let us pray:

To Our Lady of the Rosary

O Blessed Virgin Mary, grant that the recitation of thy Rosary may be for us each day, in the midst of our manifold duties, a bond of unity in our actions, a tribute of filial piety, a sweet refreshment, an encouragement to walk joyfully along the path of duty. Grant, above all, O Virgin Mary, that the study of thy fifteen mysteries may form in our souls, little by little, a luminous atmosphere, pure, strengthening, and fragrant, which may penetrate our understanding, our will, our heart, our memory, our imagination, our whole being. So shall we acquire the habit of praying while we work, without the aid of formal prayers, by interior acts of admiration and of supplication, or by aspirations of love. I ask this of thee, O Queen of the Holy Rosary, through Saint Dominic, thy son of predilection, the renowned preacher of thy mysteries, and the faithful imitator of thy virtues. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Long, O Lord, How Long??? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

In today’s Old Testament Reading, we hear the prophet lament:

How long, O LORD?  I cry for help  but you do not listen!  I cry out to you, “Violence!”  but you do not intervene.   Why do you let me see ruin;   why must I look at misery?   Destruction and violence are before me;   there is strife, and clamorous discord.   Then the LORD answered me and said:   Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,   so that one can read it readily.   For the vision still has its time,   presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;   if it delays, wait for it,   it will surely come, it will not be late.   The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, He made him wait for 40 long years.

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

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

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

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

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

He made them wait instead.

And He often makes us do the same.

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

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

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

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

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

That same prayer that has been bringing you to tears.

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

He kept Moses in a desert for 40 years.

Joseph in a prison cell for 10 years.

Abraham without a child for 100 years.

David on the run for 15 years.

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

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

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

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

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

That we grow in faith.

That we learn to only depend on Him.

What are you waiting for today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He made some of the greatest men of faith wait.

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

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

 

 

Being A True Steward for God: The Unjust Servant ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Readings and Responsorial psalm:

Reading 1: AM 8:4-7

Responsorial Psalm: PS 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8

Reading 2: 1 TM 2:1-8

Liturgical colour: Green.

 

The Parable of the Unjust Servant which we are told about in Today’s Holy Gospel readings, is not the first occasion that Jesus has used a Parable about an unrighteous person to illustrate the point which he’s telling us in regard to righteousness. The Parable of the Unrighteous Judge in Luke 18:1-8 is an example of another such case of usage. But to fully understand Jesus’ point, we need to break down the symbolism to see the true principle which is being illustrated.

The Lord in this Parable is recognized easily as being the Lord Our God. To Our Lord and Saviour, every one of us are the earthly stewards of His creation and of the blessings God our Father lovingly grants to us. When God created the earth, He gave mankind dominion over it. “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth”” (Genesis 1:28).

A steward is a fit description of our roles upon earth. A steward owns not the things which they manage. In the same way God gives us our lives to manage, but our lives and  indeed everything that we have belongs to God. “And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:42-48).

With the blessings God has granted to each  and every one of us comes a varying amount of skills, talents and abilities. We each have our different given blessings to use and God expects us to use those abilities well and for God’s purpose. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (I Peter 4:10). One of the major duties God has given us as Christians is the spreading of the gospel. “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:1-2).

We naturally expect that a servant entrusted with a master’s possessions and given critical tasks would be faithful in fulfilling the trust which the master placed in the servant. But how many of us are truly faithful stewards of God? Have we not all wasted precious time on the job, time that could have been profitably used in the Master’s service at some time within our lives? We have all bypassed opportunities that could have brought great profit to our Master. Instead, we often apply our talents toward things that our Master is not interested in. In short, we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Just like the man in today’s parable, each one of us are in truth unjust stewards.

The unjust steward in today’s Parable didn’t want to work for a living; he was too lazy to put in much effort. Doesn’t that describe you and I at some stage of our life? How many of us would prefer to seek the easiest way out, the way that requires least effort from us? The unjust steward refused to beg;  because he had too prideful. Here too most of us are guilty at some point of our lives.

Being forewarned that he is about to lose his job, the unjust steward brilliantly provides for himself by making use of his Lord’s resources. But note carefully that the lord doesn’t commend the mismanagement of his possessions. “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly” (Luke 16:8). Jesus is not praising his unrighteous actions. The admiration is for the brilliant planning.

We too have been warned that we don’t have much time left for our stewardship upon the earth as our earthly Life is short. It is merely passing through and will not last forever. “For what is our life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). In real terms, it won’t be long before we will have to stand before our Lord and give an account of our stewardship. “And as it is appointed for mankind to die once, but after this  to have the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). “So then each of us shall give account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:12).

All parables are aimed toward illustrating to us a particular point. They start to break down when they are stretched too far or applied to the wrong point. In essence, Jesus is stating that the ungodly people in this world know the ways how to achieve the most from the worldly things that, in truth, they don’t even own; but, the so-called godly people don’t know how to get the most from spiritual things of God. “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8). The Pharisees were squandering precious resources. There were people in their midst who needed to be brought back to God and they refused to see their value.

Application

If we are to receive praises from God in the time of our Judgement, we need to make the most of the resources that God has given us, to His purpose. We are not aiming for a better life in this world because our life here is only of a transient nature. We won’t be around long to enjoy it. The only lasting treasure is our eternal heavenly home. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Importantly, what benefits God also benefits us in the long run. If we use God’s gifts to us to provide for ourselves in the hereafter, then we are not wasting our Lord’s resources; we are fufilling God’s will.

“And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home” (Luke 16:9). The friends of whom Jesus is speaking are not worldly friends, but are indeed spiritual friends, for they are awaiting to receive us into our eternal heavenly home. As children of God, we need to use the things of this physical world to accomplish the spiritual goals of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:17-19). It is our obedience to Christ that creates a lasting friendship with him. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14).

Jesus also informs us that God is watching all that we do with the smaller things that He gives us in our judge if we are faithful enough to handle the more important things. “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12). We use this principle in business. You don’t put a young person, fresh from college or training, to be in charge of your company. You start them out on small jobs. If they can handle it, you promote the person. The fact is that people tend to behave in the same way, whether dealing with little or bigger things. A person who is willing to steal small change will have not have any restraint if an opportunity arises to steal a larger fortune. Thus, we can view this life as a test for promotion to the next and eternal life. “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and they will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29). If we can’t make profitable use of our borrowed lives from God, why should we be given eternal life?

The Pharisees and scribes true problem was that they were too caught up in their current lives. They had lost the true perspective. They had lost sight of the spiritual goal and had made their priority living in the earthly realm. “No servant can serve two masters; for either they will hate the one and love the other, or else they will be loyal to one and will despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13). Something must give. You have to make a choice regarding who you will serve.

What will you do with the earthly life God has loaned to you?

Let us pray:

God, Creator and Giver of all that is good, we thank you for our many blessings. Mindful of your generosity, we acknowledge that all that we have is from you. Daily, we offer you thanks and praise for the beauty of the earth, our work, our family and our loved ones.

In the dawning of a new day, You are with us. In each dark hour, You are here. Blessed by Your grace, we show gratitude by sharing what we have. By serving our brothers and sisters, we serve You.

As You protect and guide us on our journey, we, Your stewards, remain ever grateful for Your constant love.

Amen

 

 

The Feast of S. Matthew ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Liturgical colour: Red.

Reading 1: EPH 4:1-7, 11-13

Responsorial Psalm: PS 19:2-3, 4-5

Holy Gospel Reading: MT 9:9-13

The Life of St. Matthew

Before hearing the voice of Christ and leaving all to follow Him, Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors in those days worked for the Roman government, and were hated by the Jewish people. So Christ’s calling of Matthew represents the calling of people from even the worst walks of life. The offering of salvation to all mankind—the transforming power of the Grace of God. The Tradition says that at Christ’s call St. Matthew acknowledged his sinfulness, repaid fourfold anyone he had cheated, and he distributed his remaining possessions to the poor, and he followed after Christ. He listened to the Words of Christ, he witnessed His many miracles, and he knew from experience that this was the Son of God who had come to earth for the salvation of mankind. Having received the grace of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, St Matthew preached in Palestine for several years. At the request of the Jewish converts at Jerusalem, he wrote his Gospel describing the earthly life of the Saviour, before leaving to preach the Gospel in faraway lands. His Gospel manifests itself as proof that Jesus Christ is the Messiah foretold by the prophets, and that there would not be another (Mt. 11:3). The holy Apostle then brought the Gospel of Christ to Syria, Media, Persia, Parthia, and finished his preaching in Ethiopia with a martyr’s death. This land was inhabited by tribes of peoples with primitive customs and beliefs. The holy Apostle Matthew converted some of the idol-worshippers to faith in Christ. He founded the Church and built a temple in the city of Mirmena, establishing his companion Platon as the bishop there. But the ruler did not want his people to become Christians and to cease worshipping the pagan gods. He accused St. Matthew of sorcery and gave orders to execute him. They put St Matthew head downwards, piled up brushwood and ignited it. When the fire flared up, everyone then saw that the fire did not harm St Matthew. Then the ruler gave orders to add more wood to the fire, and frenzied with boldness, he commanded to set up twelve idols around the fire. But the flames melted the idols and flared up toward the king. The frightened Ethiopian turned to the saint with an entreaty for mercy, and by the prayer of the martyr the flame went out. The body of the holy apostle remained unharmed, and he departed to the Lord. The ruler, Fulvan, converts to Christ, leaves his throne to be a priest, and later replaces Platon as bishop of Ethiopia.

And so our calling is…

What are we being called to as follows of Christ by the example of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew? To be an Apostle of Christ, we must first be His disciples. Disciples follow the Master, learn from His life and teachings, and strive daily to grow closer to Him and to be more like Him in every way. In other words, the first step in the life of an Apostle of Christ is a fervent engaging of the ascetic life laid out in the teachings of Christ in the Gospel. Love the Lord your God, Love your neighbour, to avoid sin, to increase virtue. And at some point in the lives of the disciples of Christ, some were appointed to be Apostles. Christ chose 12 of His disciples, known by Him from the beginning, to be Apostles and leaders of the Church. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent.” So Christ chooses 12 to go into the world as leaders—building up the Body of the Church, teaching the Gospel, and converting souls to Christ. But also, in the pages of the New Testament, we see very clearly that the 12 Apostles were not the only ones sent to the world. All Christians, as followers of Christ, are called to be apostles. We’re not all chosen to be bishops or priests or even leaders in our local parishes. But all Christians are sent into the world to share Christ with those in need. “Let your light so shine before men that seeing your good works men will glorify your Father in Heaven.” Always be prepared, St. Paul tells us, to share the reason for the joy and the hope that we have in us as followers of Jesus Christ. We represent Christ to the world around us. We should always be happy to share out faith with others, bring them to the Church, introduce them to what it means to be a follower of Christ. This is what all Christians in all places do—we struggle to live according to Christ, and in doing so we issue the call to others—come and see the great things the Lord has done for me. St. Matthew calls us to be disciples, he calls us to be apostles, and he calls us to be martyrs. In following Christ we give up everything—we give up our passions and our sins, our wants and our desires, we give up all the things that the world tells us makes us who we are. But in giving up everything, in becoming a martyr—a witness to Christ by abandoning the way of this world—in this type of martyrdom we find Christ. As long as we hold on to our will, our wants, our sins—as long as we hold on to these things, we can never grasp hold of Christ But in setting our own will to the side, we can clearly see Christ and accept His salvation. As we celebrate the patronal feast of this mission, and as we enter into the season of the Nativity Fast, let us rededicate ourselves to letting go of all of the things keeping us from a fuller relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Just as St. Matthew gave up everything—first his career, then his ability to direct his own life, and finally even his life—are we willing to sacrifice everything for sake of our Lord? As we struggle to be better disciples, let us also embrace our calling to be apostles and even martyrs for the sake of the Gospel. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Let us pray:

Through the intercession of St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, may we always put aside worldly distractions and follow You, O Lord, as quietly as St Matthew left his work and immediately became one of Your disciples. By his example and prayers help us to follow You without counting the cost and to always remain faithful in Your service.

Lord hear us, Lord graciously hear us.

Amen.

Honouring the Cross of Christ: Exaltation of the Cross ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Liturgical colour: White.

Reading 1: NM 21:4B-9

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

Reading 2: PHIL 2:6-11

Holy Gospel Reading: JN 3:13-17

Today we come together to celebrate the symbol of our Christianity,  We have marked ourselves with it upon entering the Church. We begin Mass with it. We end Mass with it. We begin almost every period of prayer with it. Most likely, every one of our homes has them in pride of place adorning our room walls. People wear it around their necks in necklace form, From clergy,  to pop stars, to housewives, to newly baptized babies. The priest holds his arms in the shape of it during each Eucharistic prayer. And it is the centre and focal point of every Christian Church. We of course, are talking about the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. . The Cross is the greatest summary of our faith. St. Francis of Assisi used to call it his “book,” where he learned all of his wisdom. The Cross is also the key which opens wide the doors of heaven for us. St. Rose of Lima, the first saint of the Americas, said, “Apart from the Cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” If we wish to get to eternal life with God, we must climb up with Jesus by means of the Cross. We celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross each year on September 14th, because this is the day in 335 when the relics of the true Cross that had been miraculously rediscovered nine years earlier were brought outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem for public veneration. Because September 14 falls on a Sunday on average only once every seven years, only daily communicants regularly celebrate this feast liturgically. But all of us indeed are called to celebrate this feast existentially, We need to allow its meaning to penetrate our the whole of our daily lives. In order to do so, however, we first need to grasp better the shocking aspect of what we’re doing.

To those who do not have faith and believe, to celebrate the feast of the Cross makes no  absolutely no sense whatsoever. They may even sadly see it as being sheer lunacy. To those who don’t believe, the Cross is merely a symbol of pain and o a  horrendous death. Crucifixion was the worst and indeed the cruelest death imaginable in the ancient world. The modern day equivalent would be the electric chair. To the mind of the unbelievers, celebrating or “exalting” the Cross would be likened to our “lifting up the electric chair” in jubilation. To centre every Church with an image of Christ’s suffering on the Cross would be likened to constructing a place of worship in which one would put a gruesome image of someone convulsing and dying in an electric chair or placing a sculpture of someone baying and broiling at being burned at the stake. We’ve become so used to seeing the Cross that we’ve become somewhat anaesthetized to the normal shock that should be any person’s first reaction to it and we need to recover a little of the initial human horror we should have before the Cross.

St. Paul wrote that Christ on the Cross is “a stumbling block to the Jews and is foolishness to the Gentiles.” The pagans used to mock the early Christians for worshipping someone who was killed on the Cross, someone who suffered such a horrendous death. Because that derision was still happening even centuries after his death, many of the first Christians were somewhat embarrassed by the Cross and didn’t use it as the main Christian symbol until the 300s. Today, there are sadly still some Christians who are embarrassed by the Cross. We see it in those places such as in Christian schools who have removed the Cross from their classrooms just in case anyone would be “offended.” by it’s  presence. We’ve seen similar happen in some hospitals who have removed crosses from the patients’ rooms even though in the hospital people need to derive meaning from their sufferings from uniting them to Christ’s. We’ve seen them in various “modern” Church parishes that, instead of putting up a Crucifix in the sanctuary as is required in every Church, they erect an image of the Risen Jesus, as if that “book” of St. Francis no longer had anything to teach. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, too, but there’s a reason why the Church requires a Crucifix instead of a sculpture of the Resurrected Jesus: it’s because the Risen Jesus is a sign of the fact of his triumph over sin and death but a Crucifix is the image of his unbelievable love for us.

The true message of the Cross

The Cross, for all who believe, is not merely a symbol of pain, but rather, is mainly the symbol of the great Love for us of Our Lord  and Saviour  Jesus Christ that made even that much suffering worth it. Jesus said during the Last Supper, “No one has any greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” and that’s precisely what Jesus as our Good Shepherd did for each and  every single one of us, when he gave his own life on the Cross so that we, might live. The Cross is a picture not principally of agonizing suffering but of this mind-blowing love of God for us. St. Paul — after he stated that the Cross is a scandal to the Jews and a folly to everyone else — declared that “to those who are called, the Crucified Christ is the ‘power of God and the wisdom of God.’” Christ on the cross manifests the power of Christ’s love and the wisdom of God’s plan of salvation

We can clearly this message of love in today’s Holy Gospel Reading of JN 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“No one has gone up to heaven

except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,

so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him might not perish

but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,

but that the world might be saved through him.

Each one of Jesus’s  wounds are clearly telling saying to each of us, “I love you this much!” God’s love was so great that he was willing to bear such torture and death for each of us. The Cross is the great sign of God’s humility. Real love is willing to do anything for the beloved, and God was willing not just to come down from heaven and take on our human nature, but to allow those he created, those he was about to redeem, to torture, abuse and kill him in order to save them and us. Jesus was willing out of love to undergo everything we might undergo as human beings, and much worse. Whatever pain we might suffer, Christ has suffered more. Whatever injustice we might bear, Christ bore it before us. Whatever loneliness we experience, Jesus felt it, too. This is what led the writer of the Letter of the Hebrews to exclaim one of the most consoling truths in all of Sacred Scripture: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in every way that we are, yet he never sinned.”

The cross marks the victory of Our Lord and Saviour. On Calvary, those who mocked him would say to him: ‘If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross’ (cf. Mt. 27,40). But the opposite was true: precisely because he was the Son of God, Jesus was there, on the cross, faithful to the end to the loving plan of the Father. It is precisely this reason why God ‘exalted’ Jesus (Phil. 2,9), conferring on Him a universal kingship.”  Each of us should prayerfully look at Jesus on the Cross. “What do we see, then, when we turn our gaze towards the Cross where Jesus was nailed? We contemplate the sign of the infinite love of God for each and every one of us and the roots of our salvation. From that Cross flows the mercy of the Father who embraces the whole world. Through the cross of Christ, evil is overcome, death is defeated, life is given to us, hope is restored.”

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.

Strive to Enter the Narrow Door to Salvation~The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: IS 66:18-21

Responsorial Psalm: PS 117:1, 2

Reading 2: HEB 12:5-7, 11-13

Holy Gospel Reading: Luke 13:22-30

Liturgical colour: Green.

 

In today’s Gospel we are told that Jesus is travelling from town to town, “teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem,” . During these travels, on one occasion, somebody asked him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”  Let us notice his response. He turns the question around: “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Jesus won’t let us leave our religious questions at arm’s length. He always brings the matter directly home to us. “You ask about other people. ‘Will they be saved?’ But what about you? Will you be saved? Take heed, repent and believe, lest you be lost, shut out at the end.”

Jesus does it this way, he turns the question around. He does this many times in the gospels. For examples of thism let us think of the lawyer who wanted to justify himself, and so limit the “Love your neighbour ” commandment, and who asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” But Jesus turned the question around with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and he basically ends up asking the lawyer, “Are you being a neighbour to the person in your path, to the one in need?”

Or let us think of the woman at the well. When Jesus starts to get too close with his knowledge of her sinful life, she tries to deflect the conversation into a discussion about at which mountain to worship. But Jesus doesn’t let the conversation stay in deflected. He wants this woman to repent and to realize her thirst to receive the living water.

Or maybe we can think of the people who ask Jesus, “What about those Galileans who were massacred at the temple?” His response? “Do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Jesus turns the question around, and he redirects the questioners to their own spiritual need.

So also in our Gospel reading for today. Someone asks Jesus, “Will those who are saved be few?” He answers, “What about you? Will you be saved? Strive to enter through the narrow door.”

And today, In answer to this question, Jesus would say the same thing to each of us: “Will you be saved? God’s Word always is meant to be applied personally, to reach deep into our hearts and into our lives, calling each one of us to repentance and to faith.

Jesus is speaking to you, to me, and to all  today when he says, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”  you may well ask, “what’s this business about ‘striving’? I thought salvation was a matter of grace, not works. And what’s this thing about ‘the narrow door’? I thought salvation was open to everyone, open wide, not narrow.”

Well, glad you asked those questions. Let’s deal with them one by one. First, “strive.” “Strive to enter,” Jesus says. How can he say that? Here’s how. Yes, salvation is a matter of grace, God’s free gift in Christ to each and everyone of us.  All who are saved are saved purely and exclusively out of the free grace of God in Christ, and not by our own merit in any way whatsoever.

So what does Jesus mean here when he says, “Strive to enter”? I think it’s helpful if we look at this word “strive.” The Greek word here in our text is “agonizomai,” from which we get our English word “agonize.” “Agonizomai” means to strive, to struggle, to exert enormous effort. It’s the word the Greeks used to describe athletic contests for example. And this is the word that’s used here when Jesus says, “Strive,” agonize, “to enter through the narrow door.”

We don’t contribute anything to our salvation by our striving. No, because we have been given this as a free gift. But as we come to Christ and enter through that narrow door, it will involve a struggle. There will be much agonizing along the way.

We all know that living the true Christian life is not easy. There are all these forces  which constantly pull against us, to attempt to keep us from entering through that narrow door. We have got Satan, we have the world, and we have our own sinful flesh working against us. It’s like a tag-team wrestling match, and those three are on the other side, tagging in and out, each taking a turn to see if they can defeat us and pin us to the mat. So it is a struggle.

Satan, the world, and the sinful flesh–that’s who we’re agonizing against. Satan will assault us and assail us. He will lure us with temptations. He’ll whisper in our ears lies that say, “God doesn’t love us. Look at what’s happening! Give up.”

Then there’s the world. Listen to the lies of our culture: “There often doesn’t seem to be sin anymore as these things have become commonplace. Everything is seen as OK by the world. We are told by the world that we don’t need to repent. The world questions even if there’s a God out there anyway? As long as you’re a good person, that’s what counts is often the worldly belief.”

And if the issues with Satan and the world aren’t enough, we each have got our own sinful flesh to contend with: “ I know what I want, and I’m going to get it. I won’t listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice telling me otherwise. No, I want to make my own decisions type of thing! And if I’m going into sin, and I know it–well, I’ll just repent later on, I suppose. This way I can keep doing what I want, and I can rationalize it all away.”

So see what we’re up against. It is indeed a struggle, an agonizing, to live as a Christian and to keep the faith. It’s like St. Paul says in Acts 14, “that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Being a Christian is not easy. It does call for a constant striving, and so Jesus says here, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”

And then there’s this “narrow door”. What does Jesus mean by that? To say that the door is “narrow” is telling us that there’s just one way in. There are not many doors. There are not many roads that lead to the Kingdom of God. There is only one way. It’s through Jesus, through faith in him alone, and in nothing else!  Jesus says in John 14, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Or again, in John 10, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” The narrow door is Jesus!

This door is narrow, is telling us it’s the only one, but this door is indeed always wide open! Jesus has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Trust in him, and we will be saved! This is all because of that “journey to Jerusalem” Jesus was on. There, in Jerusalem, Jesus’ “arms’ length” extended far and wide when he stretched out his arms on the wood of the cross. Those arms, those arms of Jesus, took in all the sins of the world, including yours and mine. Whatever we have done wrong, our sins against God and mankind, the ways we have disobeyed God and hurt the people around us–all these are paid for, paid in full, by Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, dying sacrificially for us, so that we now are forgiven.

And having done this, Jesus rose from the dead, showing us what is in store for us through faith in him. Eternal life! Jesus’ arms are extended to embrace us and to welcome us as a brother or sister in God’s kingdom. The door is open. Enter in!!

There is a great feast waiting for each of us there. And we will be joining many, reclining at the table at the wedding feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which has no end–with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and a whole multitude coming from the east and the west, the north and the south. Will you be there, seated with them at the feast of salvation? If we had to answer on the basis of our works or merit, we’d have to say no. But Jesus turns the question around in a good way and answers with a great big yes!!!  Jesus is our Lord and  Saviour, He wins the victory for us.

“Strive to enter through the narrow door.” Today this narrow door is open, and it is open wide!! Enter through Jesus, and we shall be saved

Facts and Myths: The Life of Mary Magdalene ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Reading 1: SGS 3:1-4B OR  2 COR 5:14-17

Responsorial Psalm: PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Gospel: JN 20:1-2, 11-18

Liturgical colour: White.

Today is the day when we honour the Feast day of Mary Magdalene, who was a very dedicated follower of Jesus. There are many Legends around about the life of Mary Magdalene. In fact, Mary Magdalene is probably most well-known for false details and unproven facts in her life.  Mary is often identified as a former prostitute, but there is no evidence in the Bible that substantiates this. Too often, people identify her with being the sinful woman from the city that anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. But there are is no Biblical evidence in the Holy text as to the actual identity of that woman, and as such, there is no true reason to believe that it might be Mary Magdalene. Sometimes, Mary Magdalene has been confused with Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ and Martha’s sister, but biblical evidence has Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene as two totally different people. There are also some biblically unsubstantiated myths of Mary Magdalene being married married to our Lord Jesus that are spread around. I have also seen on some church websites, that Mary Magdalene was thought to be the author of the Fourth Gospel, that we call the gospel of John, and that she was actually the “beloved disciple” described in that gospel, but yet again, true biblical text accounts certainly do not support this stance. So besides learning that we can’t believe everything which we may read on the internet, what can we learn about Mary Magdalene?

Well, she wasn’t a prostitute, highly likely she didn’t anoint Jesus’ feet,  she wasn’t married to Jesus, and she didn’t write the Fourth Gospel, so what do we really know about the Truth of the life of Mary Magdalene? Very little of her life is known to us by the texts of the Bible.  We can assume that her name “Magdalene” refers to Magdala, a town near Tiberias (in present day Israel), where she must have lived or grown up, but we don’t even know that for certain.

The most personal story about Mary Magdalene from the Bible is from Luke chapter 8. Mary Magdalene is identified in a list of women who provided for Jesus and the disciples out of their own resources. Mary Magdalene was freed from seven demons (accdg to the text), but it is not clear exactly what kind of bondage she was freed from. It could’ve been from anything. Mental illness? Physical illness? Other sin? We just don’t truthfully know. What we do know, was that Mary was restored to health when she was freed and given new life in Jesus.

Mary Magdalene loved Jesus very deeply –  possibly even maybe more deeply than anyone else. She held a very important place in both his life and his ministry – she was present both at Jesus’ crucifixion and at his burial. She was one of the devoted women who came early in the morning to the empty tomb that first Easter Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene was the first one to actually see the resurrected Jesus, according to John, and the one who ran to tell the others.   Mary Magdalene can teach us how to love Jesus completely by her example. So what can we learn from Mary Magdalene’s devotion to Jesus?

Firstly, we can learn persistence from Mary. She was the first one to be at the tomb that morning. For three days after burial, the custom was to visit the tomb of a loved one. When Mary arrived at Jesus’ tomb, she was stunned. The huge rock, which was supposed to seal the tomb, was gone. Immediately, she went to go get help, as she believed that the body had been stolen. After the disciples came and saw it for themselves, they went back home. Only Mary Magdalene remained at the tomb, not wanting to leave the tomb. Somehow, she could not give up. She didn’t expect to see Jesus, but this persistent woman couldn’t pull herself away either.

Sometimes we give up on God far too easily. We pray a quick prayer asking God to help, and when we don’t hear a positive answer in our own timing, we wonder why God had ignored our prayer. Or we may ask God to intervene in a situation and then we solve the problem ourselves or take it into our own hands. We can tend to move on too quickly when there’s no immediate action. Mary Magdalene persisted. She waited. She didn’t let outward appearances deter her from what she was seeking. She wanted to see Jesus even though it looked impossible, so she stayed. Mary Magdalene was persistent.

The Second thing we can learn from Mary Magdalene is Sincerity. Mary did not put on false airs and graces or act her way through this situation. We can see Mary’s heart all the way through in her actions. When a man who she assumed to be the gardener asked what she was looking for, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” This woman sincerely believes that she can carry Jesus’ adult male body back to the tomb. She knows that if she found his body, she would find the strength to carry him back to his tomb, no matter how impossible it seemed. Mary Magdalene was totally sincere when she offered to carry Jesus’ body back to the tomb where it belonged.

At times, we as Christians tend to put on a good show. When someone dies, we want everything to look good, so we cover up our true feelings. Rather than admitting that this is tragic and nobody can understand it, we parade around patronizing platitudes: “I guess God missed her too much,” or “She’s in a better place now,” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Instead of acknowledging the senselessness of some loss, we try to give answers that we have no business giving. Mary Magdalene did not hide how she felt. She did not give explanations that she couldn’t know. She just opened her heart and said what she felt. Mary single-heartedly sought the return of the body of Jesus whom she loved. Mary Magdalene was sincere.

Thirdly, we can learn enthusiasm from Mary Magdalene. Once she realized to whom she was speaking, once she recognised the gardener as her precious teacher (“Rabboni”), once Jesus told her to go share the news of his resurrection, nothing could stop her from telling others. Bernard of Clairvaux called Mary Magdalene the “Apostle to the Apostles”, because of her role in telling Jesus’ disciples about the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene brought the news to the disciples: “You’ll never believe it, but I have seen the Lord!” Then she told them what she had seen and experienced. She was the only one who stayed at the tomb, and she was the only one who saw Jesus. But Mary was so excited she could not keep her enthusiasm to herself. She was bursting at the seams to share the best news she had ever heard. Mary was enthusiastic.

Mary Magdalene holds a very unique place in the history of  Our Lord Jesus. She was the first one to find the empty tomb on Easter and the only one, in the gospel of John, to meet Jesus face to face. We can learn a lot from her, but especially, we can learn from her persistence in waiting for Jesus, her sincerity in searching for Jesus, and her enthusiasm in telling others about the good  news of Jesus. Her witness to us is inspiring. Though she’s got with some people a bad reputation through evidenceless myths throughout the years, Mary Magdalene has a lot to teach us about how we are deeply to love Jesus, to wait on Jesus timing persistently, and to search for Jesus in our hearts sincerely. We ought to Enthusiastically tell others about our dear Lord and Saviour, Jesus. And our devotion to Jesus should shine forth in the world in everything we do and say.