mu-sing /ˈmyo͞o′zĭng/ (noun) : a period of reflection or thought.
On this page will be posted random reflections and thoughts about the Catholic Faith and it’s practice. Nothing written here is meant to be profound, though I hope each piece will be somewhat edifying. Something new should be posted about once per week so please check back. Thank you! Fr. Paul Beutell
December 13, 2017 (St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr)
You are likely familiar with the Christmas song “Mary did You Know?” It was written by Mark Riley (lyrics) and Buddy Greene (music), and first recorded by Christian music artist Michael English in 1991. Since then it has been covered by artists like Kenny Rodgers with Wynonna Judd, and Clay Aiken. It became popular in the mainstream when a cover version was released by the a cappella group Pentatonix in 2014.
Before going any further let me say the song is beautiful; well the music is. I’m most familiar with the Pentatonix version, but have listened to others, using good ol’ You Tube, and like it. But, the lyrics are not Biblically and theologically correct. This is important for a Christian song.
What is the problem? Well, you see Mary did know!
From the Annunciation (St. Luke 1:26-38) onward, the Blessed Virgin Mary did know that her Son, Jesus, would: save our sons and daughters, has walked where angels trod, when she kissed Him, she kissed the face of God, is Lord of all creation, will one day rule the nations, is heaven’s perfect Lamb and is the great I AM. The Archangel Gabriel told the Blessed Mother she would name of her Son Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew), meaning Savior. Gabriel declared “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (v. 31-33). In v. 35 the Blessed Virgin is told “…that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Her cousin St. Elizabeth said to her “…Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (St. Luke 1:42, 43).
As a faithful Jewish woman, aware of the Old Testament Scriptures, and more so who was full of grace (“highly favored” in the KJV) Mary knew, she understood, what Gabriel said. She knew details like Jesus’ one day healing the blind and walking on water (that He was Lord over the seas) from knowing Isaiah 42:1-7 and 63:1. She likely did not understand the “hows”; how Jesus would be the Son of God (both fully God and fully Man), or how is earthly ministry would unfold, but she knew He was the Son of God and Ruler of the universe! By faith she did know!
Ultimately the song “Mary did You Know?” sells the Blessed Virgin short. What it fails to recognize is what it means to be “highly favored.” It fails to understand the power of grace, and what happens when a person fully cooperates with it (St. Luke 1:38).
A practical way to understand what this means is to compare Zacharias, the father of St. John Baptist, with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Zacharias was a faithful temple priest and therefore one who knew the prophecies of the coming Messiah and His forerunner (Malachi 3:1). But when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him in the Temple, he doubted (St. Luke 1:18, 19). In his defense, Zacharias was not filled with grace. He had knowledge of God’s Word and some level of faith, but was not filled with grace.
In contrast, as the Church’s Tradition teaches, the Blessed Virgin was filled with grace in her mother’s womb (compare to St. Luke 1:15). So when Gabriel appeared to her she responded with faith, believing what the angel told her would come to pass (St. Luke 1:45). Mary did ask “how” God would accomplish what Gabriel prophesied to her, but she did not question “if” God would or could accomplish it as Zacharias had. Instead she replied to Gabriel “…Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.” Even before Jesus taught us how to pray, Mary was praying “…thy kingdom come, thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” (St. Luke 11:2). From before the foundation of the world, God had chosen her to be the mother of His eternal, divine Son and prepared her for that incredible calling by preveniently filling her with grace. Mary responded to that grace and in doing so is blessed among women (St. Luke 1:28).
Before Jesus was born, as she pondered Gabriel’s and Elizabeth’s words to her, as well as her own prophecy (the Magnificat, St. Luke 1:46-56), she knew what God was doing in and through her, and the Messianic ministry her Son would fulfill. She knew Jesus was God, the great I Am. She knew He was Lord. She knew He was the Savior.
When I hear the song “Mary did You Know?” I don’t rend my clothes, plug my ears with my fingers and shout “La, la, la” to block out hearing it. I don’t think anyone needs to. But I do listen to it with a super-sized grain of salt, enjoying the melody and rhythm of the lyrics, but understanding its theology is not sound. I would never use it in a service of the Church, which I understand some Roman parishes do.
Mary did know. And now you do too!
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
December 7, 2017 (St. Ambrose Bishop, Confessor and Doctor)
Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell…The Four Last Things. These are the traditional themes for each of the weeks of Advent.
Death is the result of sin. God did not intend for man to die, but when Adam ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he brought death upon himself and the race of man (Romans 5:12). For all except those who are alive on the Day Jesus returns, death is inevitable. The hope now is to not partake of the “second death”, eternal damnation in hell (Revelation 2:11). The only way we can avoid the second death is by living a life of faith in Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:6).
Judgment occurs after death. There are actually two judgments; the particular judgment which takes place right after death and the general judgment that takes place at the end of time.
The particular judgment is a judgment of faith. At death the soul separates from the body, ending our time to respond to the grace God has given us during our earthly life. Those who have responded to grace with faith in Jesus are judged righteous and go to Paradise, the Bosom of Abraham. Those who’ve rejected grace by not responding with faith in Jesus go to the “place of torments”, Sheol. The details of the particular judgment are not given in Scripture, but that there is a separation of the righteous from the damned is taught by Jesus in St. Luke 16:19-31.
The general judgment is described in St. Matthew 25:31-46. At this judgment, Jesus will divide the sheep (on his right hand) from the goats (on his left). Those on the right will enter into eternal heaven. Those on the left will enter into eternal hell. At this judgment every part of our life will be shown to us and all the questions we have about “why this happened” or “what happened as a result of that” will be answered. For His sheep, God will wipe away every tear, remove all regret and give us an everlasting peace (Revelation 21:1-7).
In describing Judgment I’ve already described the final two themes of Advent; Heaven and Hell. All I would add here is that both are real. Heaven is an actual place. There are times when we will experience peace and contentment in this life, but that is not heaven! Heaven is a place we have to go to (St. John 14:2, 3). Most people believe there is a literal heaven, but many do not believe there is a literal hell. That’s scary! Hell is a literal place (St. Matthew 10:28). Some think that a loving God could not send anyone to hell. That is true. God does not send anyone to hell. Each person sends themselves there! How can we send ourselves to hell? By rejecting the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for the payment of our sin debt. Rejection of the finished work of Jesus for “my” sins is the greatest sin we can commit. But if we receive His finished work by faith, and live our lives in this truth, then we receive God’s greatest gift: eternal life in Christ (Romans 6:23).
The Four Last Things…Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Each is real. Each is true. Each is worthy of meditating upon during Advent. After all, our Christmas celebration doesn’t start until December 25th, right?
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
November 30, 2017 (St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr)
Do I have to “feel” like a Christian in order to be right with God?
I often wonder about this.
I became conscious of my Christian faith on March 6, 1984 when I had a “crisis conversion.” From that day, the faith I was raised in, the faith that surrounded me through my whole life, entered into me. “The Faith”, became “my faith”. Jesus was no longer “the Saviour”, He was “my Saviour”.
For the next 20-plus years that’s how it was. I lived my faith by feelings and the “signs” God was gracious enough to provide. Looking back, maybe my faith was immature and I needed those things? Through that time I read the Bible and in time learned how to study it systematically. Later I went to seminary and learned theology and Church history. Through that time my faith did not dwindle into a detached Biblicism or become merely academic. There were still feelings, though now there was greater substance than what feelings can provide. 2 Peter 1:4-8 was being fulfilled in me.
But then in 2008 things changed when I found myself in the midst of what I can best describe as a “Dark Night of the Soul.” I knew God was there but I did not feel Him. I prayed, but more so out of discipline than love. I felt kind of like I think Job felt; a lot of questions and not being satisfied by God’s answers. For the first time since my conversion, practicing my faith became a struggle. I had to do what God’s Word says Christians are to do without feeling it! There were days, and sometimes days upon days, when prayer, study and living (three of the visible components of faithfulness) were like slogging through knee deep sand. Were it not for my mother-in-law introducing me to Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest, I may not have made it through that period in the desert.
But eight months later I did. I did not do anything; no verse of Scripture, no special pilgrimage, no ritual. Just one day, like Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:34-37, I once again felt God’s presence. What a relief!
Since then my ability to “feel God” ebbs and flows. Sometimes I do, often I do not. My faith is certainly far less emotions-based. I don’t get many signs from Him. I think (hope) where He has me at relates to what St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I hope I’m becoming a “man” in Christ.
Her biographers say that Mother Teresa of Calcutta went decades without feeling God’s presence; without knowing His comfort or Him giving her a sign. Wow! To accomplish what she did for Christ and the Gospel, dying to herself and serving the poor without any earthly reward is, well, remarkable. And yet she did.
Nowhere in Scripture, that I know of at least (I’m willing to be corrected), does it say we know we are a Christian because we feel we are. Jesus says if we love Him we will keep His commandments (St. John 14:15). And those who love Him keep His words, and in keeping them, He and the Father will make their abode in that person (St. John 14:23). St. James states doers of the Word are those who are being saved, and that if we hear only and do not do, we deceive our own selves (St. James 1:22). In these later years of my Christian life I’m starting to see this.
No doubt, I’d like to feel more of God and have more emotion in my relationship with Him, but that does not seem to be what He wants for me…at least right now.
When I question this I think about Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus did not “feel” the Father through His passion and death. In fact He cried out asking “…Why hast thou forsaken me!?” (St. Mark 15:34). And yet for the joy, the peace that passes understanding, that was set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, thinking little or nothing of the shame He felt being “cut off” from God.
Here is my example. I now more than ever see the need to actually take up my cross… and follow Him. Endure whatever the Father has for me to endure, even if I am feeling “forsaken” by Him.
When I do not feel God’s presence and yearn for it, I need to look unto Jesus the One who has authored and will finish “my faith.” Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). If I always see it, if I always feel it, is it really faith? Jesus told St. Thomas “…because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (St. John 20:29). Must I always see in order to believe?
I think I’m answering my own question here. I don’t have to “feel” like a Christian to be right with God. I do have to believe like a Christian…I do have to do what Christians, in Scripture, are told to do. But I don’t have to feel it. I’d like to, but I don’t have to.
This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.
November 22, 2017 (St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr)
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful.
Thankful for family and friends, thankful for the health we have (even if it’s not as good as we would like), thankful for the blessings we have as Americans.
What are those blessings? The Founding Fathers summarized them this way in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Blessings given not from man to man, but from God to man. Christians receive these blessings in a greater way than our nation could ever hope to.
God is the author of life. Ephesians 1:3-14 states that in Christ, God has granted us the gift of life. Physical life, yes, but moreso eternal life. All who are baptized are predestined in Christ to the hope of eternal life. If we respond to the grace we are given in the Sacraments and through reading the Word and prayer, that hope becomes a reality! We become partakers of eternal life (Colossians 1:12).
The meaning of liberty is becoming lost in our day. What today is called liberty is actually license. Liberty does not mean being able to do whatever “I” want! Liberty means being able to do what God calls us, in Christ, to do. Liberty enables us to do what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous (Philippians 4:8, 9). Liberty means being enabled to do that which pleases God. Outside of Christ we are not able to please God, but in Him (in Christ) we can. In Christ we are free to do what pleases God.
For Christians, joy is a better word to use than happiness. Happiness is an emotion; it is fleeting. In the midst of the same circumstance we can at one moment feel happy and the next not. Joy is different. We can be joyful even when we are not happy. St. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians is the “Epistle of Joy.” In that Epistle, St. Paul uses the words “joy” and “rejoice” fifteen times, exhorting the Philippians to be joyful in the midst of life’s changing circumstances. His thought is summed up in 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Christian joy allows us to be moderate, balanced and steady, not anxious, thankful and peaceful in the midst of the ups and downs, ins and outs of life. It exceeds happiness.
As Christians living in the United States of America we should be thankful for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We should be thankful we live in nation that recognizes God has granted these to all men.
Moreover we should be thankful that in Christ these three surpass what this nation recognizes. The life, liberty and joy we have in Christ is for this world and that which is to come.
For these we should be thankful.
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
November 14, 2017 (Bestowal of the American Episcopate)
The Church of England first established itself in America in the early 17th century. The first recorded Eucharist was celebrated in Jamestown in 1607. In the 1720’s a missionary effort was launched by the Church of England’s Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which ordained men raised in the Colonies and then sent them back to establish the Catholic Church in the Colonies. The efforts of these men produced much fruit. Despite much persecution from Puritans, many converts were made and parishes established.
By 1783, about two years after the Revolutionary War ended, the American Church was established but shepherd-less; she had no bishops. All of the bishops in England had sworn loyalty to the crown and therefore would not serve the Americans. Therefore the clergy of Connecticut elected Samuel Seabury to be their first bishop. He first traveled to England to be consecrated, but was rejected because Parliament refused to lift the oath of loyalty to the crown, which no American could take without being charged with treason.
So bishop-elect Seabury went to Scotland, where he was consecrated by the primate of the Church of Scotland, Robert Kilgour in Aberdeen, the arch see of the Scottish church, on November 14, 1784. The American church had her first bishop! In 1786, the English Parliament dropped its oath requirement and allowed two men to be consecrated: William White of Pennsylvania and Charles Provoost of New York. In 1789 the three united as the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States was formed and organized.
Bishops are icons of unity for the Church. They are not mere symbols of unity; they are the “sacrament” of unity. The Episcopate establishes what it symbolizes. St. Cyprian wrote “The episcopate, of which part is held by each bishop severally and jointly, is one.” Though bishops are set over various jurisdictional sees, they establish one Faith; the Catholic Faith and one order; Catholic order.
This was St. Paul’s charge to St. Titus, the first bishop of Crete in Titus 1:4,5 “To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:”
The Church is faithful when her bishops are faithful to this charge and the clergy and people follow them.” St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote: “You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” Ignatius (AD 107) established the Church’s belief on the centrality and unifying ministry of the Episcopate. As the saying goes, “No Bishop, no Churuch.”
The apostolic succession established for the Church in Thirteen Colonies in 1784 with Samuel Seabury, strengthened by the additions of White and Provoost in 1786 and James Madison of Virginia in 1789, remains today in the Continuing Church. The spirit of those men is alive in the bishops of the Joint Synod churches, who are working to unify the Continuum and others who are willing to fully embrace the Catholic faith and the historic Anglican order. We “Continuers”, like the Colonist-Anglicans of the 1700’s are established, but scattered. Our shepherds are gathering us together into one flock.
From a humble beginning in 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church became “America’s Church.” Sadly, beginning in the 1960’s, unfaithful bishops, clergy and laity threw what was gained away. But, apostolic succession has not been lost! It lives today in the Bishops of the Continuum.
Let us pray our bishops continue to exercise their office faithfully, fulfilling their purpose given in Ephesians 4:11-16. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.
November 8, 2017 (All Anglican Martyrs and Saints)
One of the churches I pass when I am commuting back and forth to St. Peter’s has had the following statement on their sign “God doesn’t have a Plan B.”
Hmm, I’m not sure about that…?
As I understand it, God has one will, but many plans. His will is singular; to bring every person to eternal salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ (St. John 3:16). In the prayer Jesus taught us, He says we are to pray “…thy will be done…” (St. Matthew 6:10). His plans are the multitude of ways He accomplishes His will in the life of each person. God has as many plans as there are persons (Jeremiah 29:11).
God’s will is for us to be justified, sanctified and glorified in Christ (Romans 8:29, 30). He gives us the grace needed for this to be accomplished through the Sacraments. In Holy Baptism He gives the grace that justifies us. In Confirmation He gives the grace that sanctifies us. In Holy Communion and Penance He gives the grace that renews us in that sanctification. If we respond to this grace by faith and remain in Christ by obeying His Word, we will one day be glorified. Our justification, sanctification and glorification in Christ is [sic] God’s will for us. It is the reason He sent Jesus into the world.
How God accomplishes His will, how His will is worked out in each of our lives, are His plans. God has as many plans as there are people, and He “adjusts” that plan as necessary to account for our misuse of free will. As we follow God’s plan; the opportunities He gives, the doors He opens or shuts, the people He places in our lives, we obey God’s will. But even when we do not follow God’s plan; when we go our own way, live our own life, His will does not change! He still wills for us to be saved!
In his book The Way of Serenity Fr. Jonathan Morris tells the story of a television show he watched where an artist invited children to scribble on his canvass. The artist then took that scribble and made it into something artistic and beautiful. This is an example of how God works His plans in our lives. He gives us a canvass; life, and an instrument to draw on it with; free will. He then takes our scribble and turns it into something artistic and beautiful; eternal life.
As fallen men and women, we will regularly mess up God’s plan. We will resist Him. We will disobey Him. We will sin. As we do, He will fix it and make it into something beautiful. Our ‘mess ups’ do not affect God’s will for us. Only a rejection of grace, the rejection of the finished work of Jesus as the payment for our sins can affect God’s will. So long as we receive His grace, believe upon Christ by faith, and strive for obedience, His will for us will not be thwarted! He who has begun His good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
Maybe this is a matter of semantics? But I think differentiating between God’s will and God’s plan is a helpful distinction. Thankfully, God does have a Plan B!
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
November 2, 2017 (All Souls)
I celebrated mass for the Feast of All Souls today. The Anglican Missal allows for three masses to be celebrated on this day (which one priest may celebrate, with his Bishop’s permission). When I was the assistant at St. Mary’s, Akron, OH we celebrated all three: one at 9:00 a.m., one at Noon and one at 6:00 p.m. I usually celebrated the second mass.
All Souls is the day when the Church commemorates those persons who have died. Each mass celebrated on this day is a form of a requiem; a mass celebrated for the repose of the soul of the baptized-departed person(s) the mass is celebrated for. Typically at an All Souls Day mass the names of members of the parish, family and other loved one’s of parishioners, and other persons known in the parish are read as the intention of the mass. Often included are the “holy souls who have no one to pray for them.”
Why should we commemorate the departed by praying for them at mass? Because those who have passed on from the Church Militant to the Church Expectant are still part of the Church! They are still part of the Body of Christ! While their eternal destiny has been settled, for we believe they are in paradise (St. Luke 16:19-31) and will one day be in heaven (St. Matthew 25:31-46, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), we can and should still pray for them.
What should we pray for? The same thing we pray for the living; that they will continue to grow in grace, and in their knowledge and love for Christ (Ephesians 3:14-21). After physical death, only a very select few are ready to see Jesus face to face (the Beatific Vision). The rest of us need a time of further preparation. As souls living in paradise; pure spirits unencumbered from the flesh, the departed have a renewed opportunity to grow. This is where we, those living in the flesh, are to direct our prayers.
Some say “prayers for the dead” are wrong. But are they? 2 Maccabees 12:42-45 gives the account of a collection Judas Macabeus took for faithful Jews who had died in battle. Judas sent the money to Jerusalem to be offered for the repose of their souls. 2 Maccabees 12:43-44 states “…doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous (unnecessary) and vain to pray for the dead.”
Judas sent the offering because it is not vain to pray for the departed! Why is it not vain to pray for the departed? Because of the hope of the resurrection! The Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4 states “But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken as misery…but they are at peace…For though they be perished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality.”
I know, I know Maccabees and The Wisdom of Solomon are deuterocanonical books. But what we must remember is that those books (all of the Apocrypha) were in the Bible Jesus used; the Septuagint. Jesus celebrated Hanukah, which is taught in Maccabees (2 Maccabees 10:1-8), not in the Canonical Old Testament. Because prayers for the departed are not taught directly in Canonical Scripture they are not dogma (must be believed), but they are allowed and encouraged by the Church. It is not “Roman” to do so. It is Patristic. Up until the Reformation it was done “always, everywhere and by all.”
So then I think we should pray and celebrate mass for the repose of the departed… at least on this one day per year. When I pass on from this world to the next (hopefully to paradise!), I hope someone will be praying for me.
This is my musing for today. For those who check the website each week, sorry it was a day late. Thanks for reading it.
October 24, 2017 (St. Raphael, Archangel)
I don’t know what to think about the Reformation…I’m conflicted.
I mean, I know reform was necessary. In the early 16th century Western catholics believed redemption could be bought! People could buy indulgences in order to gain less “time” in purgatory for themselves or loved ones. That goes against the Gospel! That had to be corrected! And the Roman Church refused to do so. Their Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17) didn’t correct it.
So on October 31, 1517 the Roman Catholic monk Martin Luther did…
But Luther went too far. He erred in eliminating ecclesiastical order (bishops, priests, deacons). He erred in eliminating five of the Sacraments (he initially taught Penance is a Sacrament, but later changed his mind). He erred in saying marriage should be regulated by the state and not the Church. He erred in opening the door for Calvin and Zwingli, and the radical Anabaptist movement. Mainly he erred in introducing teaching that salvation is anthropocentric (man and experience-centered) not theocentric (God and His objective work-centered).
The English Reformation was birthed out of the Lutheran. Prior to Henry VIII’s decision to break from papal rule (1533), Thomas Cranmer and other prominent English ecclesiastics studied in Germany. The theology of the Augsburg Confession (1530) is seen in the first eighteen articles of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. The primary author of the Augsburg Confession, Philip Melancthon, would have been brought to England as a visiting professor except King Edward VI died and Queen Mary (“Bloody Mary”) took the English throne.
Fortunately, Cranmer and the English reformers were not as radical as the Germans. They maintained ecclesiastical order and, at least initially, the seven sacraments. While Henry was king, reform in the English Church was quite conservative; “Rome minus the Pope”. It became more progressive under Edward. Cranmer bowed under the political weight of Edward’s proctor Edward Seymour, and made the Catholic Church in England more Continental-Protestant. The beauty of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer devolved into the 1552 and then the 1559.
Elizabeth I (1558-1603) wasn’t too concerned about religion. Her primary concern was her subject’s loyalty to the throne and national unity. Theologically the church was infused with ecclesiastics who had fled to Continental Europe during Mary’s five year reign and returned greatly influenced by Calvin and Zwingli. The price for their return was paid in the 17th century. James I and more so Charles I (Charles the Martyr) sought to restore Catholic faith and order to the Church of England, but were stopped by Oliver Cromwell and the Civil War of 1642.
By the 18th century the Church of England was a church divided into parties: Catholic and Protestant, “high,” “low,” and latitudinarian. At times revivals occurred, and there were always faithful Christians in England, but the Church herself drifted into an institution, more political than spiritual. Were it not for nationalism and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, it may have collapsed.
Of course there are good things to take from the Reformation in England. There is Patristic, not papal, polity. There is the emphasis on Scripture, interpreted by Tradition and godly Reason. There is the emphasis given to the Church Fathers and Seven Councils. There is the dogmatic theology of the Carolines and Tractarians. There is the Prayer Book. Most importantly; salvation by grace through faith, unto good works (Ephesians 2:8-10, St. James 2:14-26) is taught and believed, with no belief in indulgences.
In saying I’m conflicted about the Reformation; I’m not saying I wish it hadn’t happened! I am grateful it did. It liberated England from Romish errors; past and current.
I just wish it hadn’t developed the way it did. I wish the Reformers would’ve have been more discerning; wiser, in determining what needed reform and the right level to take that reform.
I just wish the Church wasn’t in the mess it is in.
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
October 18, 2017 (St. Luke, Evangelist)
I played two years of football in high school. I was an offensive tackle, number 77. For both years I had the same offensive line coach. His name was Bruce Heinrich. He was also my 9th grade algebra teacher. We didn’t live too far from each other, so most days he would drive me from practice to his home and I’d walk from there. He was a solid Catholic and mentor for young men. Kind, but very intense on the field.
Coach Heinrich had what I think was a unique philosophy for his lineman. No matter what your blocking assignment was on a given play, if a defensive player crossed in front of you, you were to block him. “If he crosses your face, you block him!” I can still hear him screaming that at me. There were no exceptions to that rule. To get benched, all I needed to do is break that rule.
It makes sense. If I was pulling out to trap or set up a screen (both of which take place further away from the quarterback) if I encountered a defensive player on my way to fulfilling my designed assignment, even if he wasn’t “my man,” if I didn’t block him, he would have the ability to disrupt, if not stop, that play before it could be fully set up.
“If he crosses your face, you block him!” This philosophy is useful for living the Christian life.
Our Father in Heaven has a wonderful will for our life. That will is to bring us to eternal salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. He will do whatever is necessary for His will to be accomplished in us. There is nothing He will not allow happen or make us go through in our lives: gain or loss, health or illness, peace or sadness, in order to bring us to Him for eternity. God is results orientated and eternal life is the ultimate end game.
Our Father in Heaven also has a wonderful plan for our life. Whereas His will (to bring us to eternal salvation) is singular; is the same for all men and women, His plan; the way He fulfills His will, is different for each of us. Using a football analogy, God has a different “playbook” for each of us. The purpose (His will) is the same…to “win the game,” to be saved and inherit eternal life. But the “plays” He calls for each of us to fulfill His purpose (His plan) is different, based on our ability and circumstance.
As we live our life in Christ, following the plays from the playbook the Father has for us, we will encounter disruptions. People or circumstances will cross into our lives unexpectedly. When this happens we need to use Coach Heinrich’s philosophy and “…block them!” Not literally, of course! But we need to minister to that person or circumstance, working with or through it.
There are times we know what God wants us to do. We understand the play He has called and are executing it properly. But then, like a linebacker who breaks through a football play that’s developing, someone or something crosses our face and we are faced with a choice. When this happens we can avoid that person or situation, or minister to it. We can ignore that linebacker, sticking with our assignment, or block him. God wants us to block him. It’s wrong for us to ignore or go around it.
There are also times when life seems to be in chaos. We’re in the midst of a “broken play” and we don’t know what our assignment is? Here again, what we need to do is block the next man that crosses our face…minister to the next person or situation placed in front of us.
In football there are offensive and defensive coaches calling plays against one another. In life God is both. He calls the plays for the offense and the defense. He is the Master strategist. Paul Brown couldn’t hold a candle to Him. True, Satan and his demons break loose and disrupt plays, but God knows and allows this too. More often though, He places situations and people in our lives, testing us to see if we will obey His command to block them, or ignore them and just finish our assignment. Coach Heinrich did that in practice. He’d have a defensive player do something completely out of character to test us lineman and see how we’d react; to see if we would block that player. God does the same.
Of course like all analogies this one falls short. Parallels can be drawn between my football playing experience and life’s experiences, but they are not exact. Far from it. But I do think Coach Heinrich’s philosophy for his lineman is helpful. Or it can be.
As we go through our day today, someone or something unexpected will be placed in front of us. Someone or something we do not anticipate based on the day’s game plan will cross our face, will come into our lives. When that happens what will we do?
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
October 11, 2017 (Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
I attended the Joint Anglican Synod in Dunwoody, GA last week.
At the Synod, four of the Continuing Anglican churches: the Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Church in America, the Anglican Province of America and the Diocese of the Holy Cross signed a communio in sacris agreement. Sadly, the Anglican Province of Christ the King was absent. Hopefully the mind of their Archbishop will soon be moved to join the other four.
This agreement recognizes each other’s sacramental ministry, allowing for members of each to commune at each other’s altars, for clergy to transfer without conditional ordination, and for parishes to have joint sacramental services. This agreement is the first step towards what will prayerfully become organic unity in the future.
I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere at the Synod. It was genuine. Each person I talked to from the churches involved expressed a desire, as well as the need for unity.
Before becoming an Anglican Catholic, I was in a traditional Episcopal church. In those ten years I attended several meetings where the bishops of that church signed concordats with other churches. From what I could discern they were just agreements between prelates; worth little more than the paper they were printed on.
What happened at the Joint Synod is different. It is genuine. The signing of the agreement was really a formality. It had already been signed in the minds and spirits of the Bishops. Their agreement was reflected in the clergy and laity of each church. Surely the Holy Ghost is at work!
What should an organically united, Joint-Synod-Church strive towards? Here are my thoughts.
First, it should be Catholic in the Patristic sense. It should continue the Theology and Tradition of the Church when she was visibly one (essentially AD 33 through AD 1054). The via media (middle way) should be between West and East, not Rome and Augsburg or Geneva. This will mean some dovetailing with Rome and Constantinople, but it should not become too much of either. It should remain distinctly Anglican. The Anglican-Catholic (aka Catholic Anglican, Anglo-Catholic) understanding of the Faith is found in the 17th thru early 20th centuries.
Second, it should preserve the Book of Common Prayer tradition (1549-1928). The Prayer Book makes us distinctly Anglican-Catholic and not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. It teaches the Patristic Catholic faith (lex orandi, lex credendi). For almost 90 years the 1928 American edition has helped preserve Biblical and Catholic orthodoxy among those who use it. The Prayer Book tradition, more than any other instrument, distinguishes us as Anglican-Catholics. I think the Altar Service Book should be supplemented by the Anglican or American missal, but the core of our worship should be the 1928 Prayer Book. Since it would be a global church, the versions of the Prayer Book approved for each country should be the standard in each.
Particular attention should be given to ordering liturgical rubrics and impressing upon their value for orderly worship (1 Corinthians 14:40). While the mass does not need to be celebrated exactly the same in every parish, celebration should not be too diverse. The “high church” vs. “low church” distinction needs to be dissolved. It is not helpful and hopefully no longer necessary. If the doctrine of a unified Continuing Church is essentially Catholic, the level of ritual can vary without reviving the high v. low distinction.
Third, theological education for clergy (priests and permanent deacons) should be a priority. A substantial seminary program both for men who can attend a full-time residential seminary and for those who cannot should be established. Greater emphasis should be given to vetting postulants and to priestly formation. Standards need to be established and upheld.
Fourth, there will need to be canonical revision and organizational restructuring. I do not know what the particular canonical differences between the four are, but Bishop Paul Hewett (Diocese of the Holy Cross) has pointed out some of them in his book The Day-spring from on High. Organizationally some areas of the Joint-Synod-Church will need to be streamlined and some strengthened. If “miteritis” (priests coveting purple) has truly been eradicated, restructuring should not be too difficult. It will fall upon the priests and laity to accept the restructures the Bishop’s determine to be best.
I have one thought of caution as this process moves forward. At the Joint Synod there were observers representing other Anglican and Episcopal churches who have various levels of interest in joining the Joint-Synod-Churches. I think it would be unwise to allow any other church to become involved in this process until the Joint-Synod-Churches are organically united. Organic unity and standards need to be established and stabilized before allowing other voices in the mix. Other Anglican and Episcopal churches should know exactly what a united Anglican-Catholic-Church body believes, and how it will practice that belief.
These are my initial thoughts on what a Joint-Synod-Church should strive for. I willingly submit my thoughts to the wisdom of the Bishops and the collective mind of that Church-to be.
I firmly believe a substantial first step towards organic unity has been taken. From what I saw in Dunwoody, the Joint-Synod-Churches are submitting to the lead of the Holy Ghost. I am praying we will submit to Him as each next-step is taken.
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
October 2, 2017 (Holy Guardian Angels)
This past Saturday I attended a presentation given by Dr. Roberta Bayer, editor of The Anglican Way magazine. It was titled The Anglican Way: Reformed and Catholic. Both her talk and the discussion that followed got me thinking…
What is the “Anglican Way?” Or, as I’ve also heard it described, “Classical Anglicanism?” Dr. Bayer posited some very interesting thoughts on the 16th century founding components of the Anglican Way. But do they apply today, and if so, how much of it?
Years ago the presiding bishop of an Anglican church I conversed with online said (taking from the movie Forrest Gump) “Anglicanism is, as Anglicanism does.” How true! There are five “Anglican” churches in the Roanoke Valley: one no longer uses a historic Prayer Book and promotes immorality, one uses a version of a historic Prayer Book but has priestesses, one is reformed-Protestant, one is contemporary-Evangelical, and one is the ACC. Are they all part of the Anglican Way?
I spent my first decade as an Anglican trying to find the Anglican Way in the 20th-21st centuries. Was it found in recapturing the late Henrecian-early Edwardian (1533-51), the Elizabethan, the Caroline, the Tracterian, or some other era? Alone, each fell short. Was it found in blending those eras, seeking to “Prove all things; hold(ing) fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)? That too fell short.
In his book Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice, Archbishop Mark Haverland wrote “Classical Anglicanism is now preserved only in its Anglo-Catholic form and within the Anglican Catholic Church and the movement that it leads.” In my 23 years as an Anglican (in two different churches) I have found this to be true. I would add, and I think the Archbishop would agree, the “movement” the ACC leads includes our “sister churches” in the Continuum: the Anglican Church in America, the Anglican Province of America, the Diocese of the Holy Cross and the Anglican Province of Christ the King. Within these churches the last remaining remnant of the Anglican Way is continued and being advanced. Outside of that movement, some form of “Episcopalianism” is being preserved.
The foundation of the Anglican Way is Scripture, Tradition and Reason (Richard Hooker). It is Biblical, Patristic and Systematic. Being Biblical is not contemporary Protestantism’s “Bible Only”. It is Prima Scriptura, Scripture first (Ephesians 2:20). Tradition is the proper instrument for interpreting Scripture. It does not rely on “private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20), but the Vincentian Rule; that which has been believed “always, everywhere and by all.” Reason is used to apply Scripture properly. It is not worldly reason! It is reason as St. Paul defines it in 1 Corinthians 2:12-16. It is having “the mind of Christ,” a conscience formed by Scripture and Tradition; the Bible, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and the Church Fathers, embodied in Dogmatic Theology (i.e. Darwell Stone and F. J. Hall).
In the 21st century the Anglican Way is best called the “Anglican- Catholic-Way”. I’m not limiting this to the Anglican Catholic Church! It also describes our sister churches in the Continuum, each of which is Anglican and Catholic. If I were to diagram it grammatically, “Catholic” is the noun and “Anglican” the adjective that describes that noun. The essence of this Way is “Catholic” (in the Patristic sense). The ethos of this Way is “Anglican,” (the “…characteristic spirit of [the English] culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations”).
The Anglican-Catholic-Way is the “middle way” between Rome and Constantinople (and Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria). Because the Anglican-Catholic-Way was birthed in the Catholic Church in England in 1532, we cannot ignore the politics, history and diverse doctrinal positions that have influenced it since. We also cannot ignore its historical lineage as a party (the Anglo-Catholics) within the Protestant Episcopal Church. But it must go further (earlier) than both. It must go back to Scripture, the Fathers, the Councils and the Undivided Church. And while Augsburg and Geneva influenced the Church of England in the early years after her break from Rome, in the 21st century their influence is of little help to defining this way.
Those who were in the Episcopal Church prior to 1978 may disagree with this. I respect that. I came to Anglicanism seeking a more faithful form of Catholicism, having been raised Roman Catholic. Eventually I found it in the Anglican-Catholic-Way; the Continuum. Those raised Episcopalian may have come into this Way seeking something else.
Dr. Bayer’s presentation certainly got me thinking again about the Anglican Way. One thing’s for sure, more healthy discussion of its substance is important for us to engage in. After the joint synod of Continuing Churches being held this week in Georgia, hopefully such a discussion will include the voices of all five churches of the Anglican-Catholic-Way, the churches of the Continuum. I hope we continue to discuss it within our own part of that Way. I pray one day we will speak with one voice. We need to know who we are and teach it to our own, before we can give it to the world around us.
This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.
September 25, 2017 (Bl. Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop and Confessor)
“To be a priest! A great thing indeed! The priest will never understand fully what he is, except in heaven. If he understood on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love.” -St. John Vianney, 19th century.
What is a priest? He is a minister of the Word (2 Corinthians 3:4-6), a presbyter, a sacerdos. He is an intercessor, a man of prayer, a confessor. He is a father, a brother, a servant. He is an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20), an alter Christus; ministering in the persona Christi (2 Corinthians 2:10). He is a doctor, administering the “medicine of immortality,” the Holy Eucharist (Ignatius of Antioch) and the oil of Unction (St. James 5:14, 15). A priest has been given a share in the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:1-6).
A priest is each of these and likely others. There are many facets to the priesthood, some simple and visible, some complex and hidden. Each facet is given to him from the Holy Ghost; infused indelibly upon his soul. Even if he was to “quit” or have his faculties removed, he is still a priest. He may no longer function in the Church, but his soul and life are still marked, set apart, by God.
Holy Orders is one Sacrament in three folds or measures; deacon, priest and bishop. A man consecrated bishop remains a priest and a deacon. This is why those pseudo-Anglican bodies that purport to ordain women to the diaconate and priesthood, but bar them from the episcopate show they have no understanding of Holy Orders! Holy Orders is one Sacrament, not three.
Jesus Christ is the true minister of every Sacrament and the One whom a priest represents in his sacramental functions. A priest stands in Christ’s stead, particularly at the altar during mass. He is the icon of Jesus in the Church. Because Jesus is the groom and the Church is His bride, a priest must be male (one more reason why the Church must defend Traditional marriage). This is by Biblical precept and example, as well as the universal practice of the Church.
For a Sacrament to be properly administered three things must be in place: proper matter, proper intention and proper form. In Holy Orders the three are: a male (matter), the purpose to make that male a priest (intent), and the laying on of hands from a Bishop in Apostolic Succession (form). If any of these three is lacking, the Sacrament of Holy Orders has not been administered, no matter what a church body may say.
A priest is a great blessing to the Church. It cannot function properly without him. In the years after the Communist takeover of Poland, the people would gather in the remnants of their church buildings and lay the priestly vestments upon the altar, weeping and pleading with God to restore the priesthood to their country. Would the same happen today?
There was a time when priests were held in high esteem. But the more the priesthood came to be seen as a profession than a vocation; some “hirelings” took advantage and corrupted it. Priests today, those innocent of such charges, pay for the sins of the hirelings. Their actions are viewed with suspicion. They are not given the benefit of a doubt. They are not offered forgiveness and reconciliation when they err and repent. This is sad. Sinful really.
A priest is a man. He is human. While he is given the necessary grace to discharge his duties faithfully (2 Timothy 1:6) he will make mistakes. While he is to discharge his duties blamelessly (1 Timothy 3:2) he will not do so perfectly. Hopefully his mistakes and imperfections will not be in the teaching of doctrine. No priest is infallible. No priest is inerrant. Only the Church, the whole Church; Eastern and Western is infallible…when her bishops stand united upon Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
No priest is all-wise on political, societal or business matters, and should likely stand aside unless those matters directly affect faith and morals. At times he must assert himself as father and shepherd. Doing this takes wisdom and balance that none possess perfectly. Because these are so, he should be humble.
Ordination does not grant a priest perfect social skills. He will make mistakes. At times he will do what is right, but may do it the wrong way (Acts 15:36-41). At times he will act weak (Galatians 2:11-14). A priest’s duties make him vulnerable to isolation, even if he is married. Who really understands his calling, his charge from Christ; his wife, his children, his friends? Other priests should, or at least they should try, but that is not always the case. Sometimes fellow priests are the first ones to leave their brothers out in the cold. Priests need the support of the laity.
In 1971-72, when I was in the third grade, my class was given an assignment to write a paper on what we wanted to be when we “grew up.” I wrote I wanted to be one of two things: a priest or a police officer. God has blessed me with the opportunity to be both.
I was ordained a priest in the Anglican Catholic Church on October 2, 2004; the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. It is a great blessing to be set apart for the ministry. I have one desire in this office; to feed the flock that God (through His bishop) has placed me over (1 Peter 5:1-3). I do so imperfectly. I am a sinful man. Yet by God’s grace I am what I am (1 Corinthians 15:10). May God judge me faithful on the Last Day.
Please pray for me. Please pray for all priests.
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
September 20, 2017 (St. Theodore, Bishop and Confessor)
I was doing some online research about abortion in the United States and was troubled by what I found. A 2017, Pew Research poll states 59% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That is amazingly sad given the majority of Americans (70%) claim to be Christian.
The real issue of abortion in the United States is abortion on demand and its demonic compadre abortion for profit. The vast majority of abortions are elective, when a child is deemed inconvenient to the birth mother. It is also big business for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, which promotes abortion to make money off the fees they charge and from selling fetal body parts.
Abortion is used primarily as a post-sex means of contraception; a means to allow men and women to have sex freely and “without consequences.” Heterosexual fornication, sex outside the confines of marriage, is beyond rampant, it’s accepted. Even among many unmarried Christian couples. Many parents wink at it. Movies and media openly promote extramarital sex. More than 85% of abortions are performed on non-married women.
God is prolife. He has created man (male and female) to be “a little lower than the angels” in the creative order. Man is the only creature made in God’s image and likeness. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity became a man, the man Jesus Christ, to redeem and save man.
Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition teach prolife casuistry (moral theology). Scripture is the Word of God in print as Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. That the Word of God would contradict the Person of God is absurd! Both are “the same yesterday, and today and forever.” This is why we must understand Scripture through Sacred Tradition, Catholic Tradition: “quod semper, quod ab, omnibus credituni est” (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all). It keeps us from being confused by those who try to pervert Scripture and the mind of its Author, the Holy Ghost.
Because God is prolife and His Word is prolife, I am prolife. I cannot be anything other than prolife. I do not see how anyone can say they are Catholic (Christian) and support abortion on demand? The Anglican Catholic Church is prolife. It is stated plainly in our Canons.
I do though believe in choice! I believe women have the choice to not get pregnant! I believe men have the choice to not impregnate women! Does that mean I support the use of contraception? I do not. The answer is abstinence and chastity, not contraception. Abstinence is the only certain way to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.
So then what about those (very rare, about 1%) cases when a woman does not have a choice: rape and incest? The best way I can answer that is to tell you a true story…
When I was a police officer I was assigned to respond to a local hospital to take a rape report. Usually we had specially trained officers respond to those calls, but it was about 2:00 a.m. in the summer months and none were available, so I was assigned since the crime occurred in my patrol zone. The victim was a 17 year old white female who had been raped at a house party by a 19 year old black male. She was an excellent student at an all-girl local Roman Catholic high school. She was going to be a senior and planned to go to college.
I was in an exam room with the victim and her mother taking their statements, when a nurse came in to offer her a D & C (“morning after” forms of abortion were not being used yet). She immediately, without looking to her mother, said “No!” The nurse tried to convince her otherwise, but she remained bravely steadfast. When the nurse left, she told her mother “I trust whatever God decides to do…”
And she did. About a year later I saw her at a local city festival. She came up to me and I remembered her immediately. She told me she gave birth to a girl and gave her over for adoption. She considered raising her, but knew it was best for her baby to be raised in a more stable home than she could provide. Her parents supported her decisions. She had graduated high school, with honors, and was on her way to college in the fall. She said her senior year had been “interesting”, but she never regretted the decision she made that night in the hospital. I told her I usually would not have been assigned to take that report, but believed God sent me there that night to see the testimony for life she gave. I thanked her for approaching me and letting me know the outcome. Later that night I thanked God too.
I realize I am not a woman. I also do not know what it is like to face an unplanned pregnancy. What I do know is abortion is not the answer! It is not the answer for the innocent child. It is not the answer for the mother. It is not the answer for the father of the child. It is not the answer for any society. There are other answers, answers that support life, just as that young woman testified to me.
The 40 Days for Life, Fall 2017 Campaign begins across the world on Wednesday, September 27 and concludes on Sunday, November 5. The Roanoke, VA vigil site is the Planned Parenthood office located on Peter’s Creek Rd. You can go to 40daysforlife.com/Roanoke for more information and to become a vigil participant. Amazing things happen when God’s people pray! Come and see!
This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.
September 13, 2017 (Feria)
The Cross is the most distinct, and powerful, symbol of the Christian Faith. When we see the symbol of a cross, we think of Jesus. We best know Jesus by the Cross. And we should. It was on the Cross the world’s salvation, our salvation, was accomplished.
But the Cross is more than a symbol. It is more than a decoration; something to be worn around the neck, on pierced ears, or tattooed on bodies. The Cross needs to be burned into our minds, into our souls and into our lives.
Were it not for the Cross, we could not be saved. Period. This truth cannot be stated too strongly. When I hear Christians say God may save people outside of faith in Jesus’ finished work on the Cross, I shutter! Jesus ties salvation to the Cross in St. John 3:14-16. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 St. Paul writes “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The Cross is the only way of salvation we can proclaim to others (1 Corinthians 2:2). Belief in the Cross is essential to salvation and to the Christian Faith. If it is not necessary for salvation, then Jesus died in vain…and so is our faith!
But Jesus did not die in vain! His death upon the Cross was vindicated by His bodily resurrection and bodily ascension into heaven. Both prove the Father’s plan of salvation is perfect and complete. It is the “…narrow way that leadeth to eternal life…” (St. Matthew 7:14).
We must travel on that way. Jesus’ taking up of His Cross is both the means of our salvation and His example to those He is saving. I must take up my cross and follow Him. Jesus is very clear about this.
In St. Matthew 16:24 Jesus says “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” In St. Matthew 10:38 He says if we do not take up our cross we are not worthy of Him. In St. Luke 9:23 He says we must do this daily. And in St. Luke 14:27 Jesus says: “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” The Cross is both undeniable and unavoidable, if we are to be saved.
In taking up our cross, Jesus is saying we must die unto ourselves and take up a new identity. It is personifying Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” It is Galatians 5:24 “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” It is Galatians 6:14 “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
Being crucified with Christ is a process. Even St. Paul states he had yet to fully attain it (Philippians 3:8-14). But like St. Paul this must, daily, be what we are striving for, doing so within the context and boundaries of the life we have been given in Christ. We need to be men and women, spouses, parents, workers, retirees, students, priests who are striving to be “made conformable to [Jesus’] death.”
We need to be conscientious partakers of the divine nature infused into us when we were regenerated, given a new nature, in Christ at Baptism. God sowed the seeds of faith into our soul at Baptism.
From there we must build, following the way marked out for us in 2 Peter 1:4-7: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (love).”
If we will do this, St. Peter states in v. 8 “…ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (in the knowledge of the Cross). If we will not do this, St. Peter warns in v. 9 “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (by the power of the Cross). If we lack the will to strive for the virtues of the divine nature, we forget the message of the Cross, and in truth forget Jesus.
The cross we wear around our neck, on our ears, or on our body must be more than a symbol. It must be a “sacramental”; an outward symbol of what the Holy Ghost is working within us. If the Cross is not in our hearts, souls, strength and mind then we wear the symbol in vain.
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
September 6, 2017 (Feria)
Today is a Ferial day on the Anglican Catholic Church’s kalendar (correct spelling). Monday and Tuesday were ferial days too. A ferial day, or feria is a day where no feast or fast day is appointed. Other than in Lent and Advent, it is rare to have back to back ferial days, never mind three in a row.
The kalendar is filled with feast and fasting days. There are feasts of our Lord, feasts of the Apostles, feasts for the greater saints and lesser saints, feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and feast that commemorate events, such as the Bestowal of the Episcopate in America. Some days have two feasts, usually for saints, celebrated on it. There are also a number of fasting days, most of which are in Lent. At the back of the People’s Anglican Missal there is an index of the saint’s days and their dates. The Anglican Breviary is an excellent resource for learning something about many of these men and women.
The question often asked is “Do Catholics worship the saints?” The answer is an emphatic “No!” At least we are not supposed to. We do though venerate the saints. We revere them. We regard them with great respect. But we do not worship them. Worship is to be given to the Persons of the Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Ghost alone!
In Catholic Tradition, the Greek word latria (worship) is used exclusively for the Persons of the Trinity, and dulia (honor) is used for the saints. There is also a practice within Catholicism to ascribe hyper-dulia (high honor) to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother and chief of saints.
There are many Christians who say it does not matter what the Catholic faith calls it, we should not even venerate the saints. They say it’s “not Biblical…” I disagree. Hebrews 11 is the “Faith Chapter” in the Bible. It begins with St. Paul defining what faith is (“…the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”). He then gives a roll call of Old Testament saints; the faith of Abraham, Noah, Moses and even Rahab. At the end of the chapter, verses 33-38, he describes the many feats of the saints and how, by faith, they overcame great obstacles in life.
St. Paul is saying “Look at the example of these men and women and honor what they have done. These are your examples of faith and faithfulness! Emulate them.” This is what we are doing when we venerate, offer dulia, to the New Testament saints. We are honoring them in hopes of emulating them, their love for Jesus and their courage to stand for and live the Faith.
But what about praying to the saints? Is that proper? It is as proper as me asking you to pray for me. That is, unless we believe the saints have no awareness of what is going on here on earth. Hebrews 12:1 states they do have awareness, when St. Paul calls them “witnesses.” A witness is someone who sees an event and reports what happens. The saints see what is going on here on earth and “report it” to God (of course God is omniscient, knowing all things).
When we pray to the saints we are asking them to pray for us. Again, this is no different than if I ask you to pray for me. When I ask someone to pray for me I presume two things: first, they are living in the state of grace and therefore have not cut themselves off from God, and two, they will actually pray for me. We already know the saints are in the state of grace, their holy lives testify to this. We also know they pray for us here on earth. Revelation chapters 4-8 give several references to the faithful departed souls praying around the throne of God in heaven. If we trust those here on earth, whom we have to presume are right with God and will pray, to pray for us, why should we not, even more so, trust the saints who have attained the beatific vision and whom Scripture states are praying, to pray for us?
What we must never do is ask any saint to answer our prayers. For example, we should not pray for “Saint So and So” to find my keys. No! That’s not correct! We can pray, “St. So and So, please pray that by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the direction of my angel guardian, I will find my keys.” That’s correct.
The Anglican Missal has many beautiful examples of the proper way to pray to the saints. Here are two: “O Lord, who dost satisfy the hungry soul with bread from heaven: we beseech thee; defend us by the prayers of thine Apostles against all adversity. Through Jesus Christ…” (Post- communion collect for the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul). “We beseech thee, O Lord; mercifully to forgive the sins of thy people; that we, who of ourselves can do nothing acceptable unto thee, may be succoured (assisted in distress) by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Who liveth and reigneth with thee…” (Collect for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary).
In both of these examples, and in all true prayers to the saints, we petition the Father, through Jesus to answer our prayer, and ask that the intercession of the saint(s) invoked would be directed to our needs. This is called “comprecation,” a “praying together” with the saints.
We can also ask a saint to pray for us directly “Saint So and So, pray for me.” This is direct intercession. So long as we do not ask a saint to answer the prayer, to make the thing we pray for happen, it is okay.
Whoa, I’ve gotten off on a bit of a tangent there, haven’t I? Sorry.
The point I want to make is, celebrating feast days enriches our faith. It reminds us that we truly are encompassed about by a great cloud of witnesses. It reminds us the three parts of the Church: the Church Militant (the living), the Church Expectant (the faithful departed in Paradise) and the Church Triumphant (those already experiencing the beatific vision) are one body, the Body of Christ. St. Cyprian is as much my Christian brother as my blood brother, who is a Christian, is my Christian brother. The Blessed Virgin Mary is as much my Christian mother (see St. John 19:26, 27) as my birth mother, who is a Christian, is my Christian mother! If I honor the Christian faithfulness of my blood brother and birth mother (and ask them to pray for me), why should I not honor the faithfulness of my brother Cyprian and my mother Mary?
I could go on…
This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.
August 30, 2017 (St. Rose of Lima)
Last week I went to visit family and friends in Ohio. During the week I had the opportunity to talk with two priests and a grade school classmate who is active in her parish. Our discussions naturally drifted to parish life, and one of the questions we banged around was “What is the purpose of a parish?” Or in other words, “What should the function and activity of a parish be?”
A parish is a spiritual “enterprise.” Using a banking analogy, it’s the local “branch” of the Church’s deposit of the Faith (de fide). Its “business” is the cure and care of souls. Its activity should be spiritual. Its goal should be faithfulness. It should be ministry.
There are five ministries a parish should be engaged in to fulfill its purpose: Proper Worship, Discipleship, Fellowship, Evangelism and Missions.
Proper Worship is worship conducted in spirit and truth (St. John 4:24), with decency and order (1 Corinthians 14:40), in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 29:2), and unto the edification of the faithful (1 Corinthians 14:26). It follows the Apostolic Tradition of Acts 2:42. It is Eucharistic. Jesus Christ is at the center, which is why mass is properly celebrated ad orientum (facing East), facing the altar and tabernacle where Jesus is Present. Proper worship is never man-centered. In proper worship our hearts are lifted up unto the Lord (Revelation 1:10, 4:8) and our eyes are fixed upon Him (Hebrews 12:2).
Discipleship, teaching the Faith, is very important to the life of a parish. Jesus’ Commission to the Church is to convert and disciple, “Teaching them to observe all those things whatsoever I have commanded you;” (St. Matthew 28:20). The faithful need to be taught the Faith so we can grow in virtue and impact the world (2 Peter 1:5-8, Acts 17:6). Sunday school, weekday Bible study, Christian book study and other forms of teaching are to be used to accomplish this.
As we focus on Proper Worship and Discipleship, Fellowship will be genuine. Fellowship is a very important aspect of parish life. St. Paul states “…know them that labor among you…” (1 Thessalonians 5:12). But since the 1970’s, the focus of fellowship has often shifted from God-first to community-first. What has been lost in this shift is the fact the Church is a spiritual body whose fellowship must be built upon the Faith. When fellowship becomes separated from the Faith, the parish becomes a social organization with the spiritual impact of a local Rotary Club! When grounded in the Faith, fellowship helps build the faithfulness of the parish community.
Because we live in a post-Christian era, Evangelism is different today than at any time in American history. The world we live in is secular, paying lip service to “God” while practicing neo-paganism. Therefore the task of the parish is different, and at times difficult. Many people just “don’t wanna hear it…” We can no longer presume people believe in God, particularly the God taught in Scripture, the Church’s Creeds and the unalterable moral standard He has decreed. This should not cause us to lose heart! We are in great company, the company of a man like St. Paul who encountered a similar culture in Acts 17:15-34. He recognized the Athenians had a desire to find God, but missed the mark and worshiped idols.
This is a good model for apologetics today. The Church needs to once again point people to the “Unknown God” (v.23). Evangelism is bringing Christ to people and people to Christ. As we do, we will find the Holy Ghost will use us to win souls for Christ and gain converts to the Catholic Faith.
Mission ministry is very important to parish faithfulness. St. Paul emphasizes it in his epistles, especially to the Corinthians (i.e. 2 Corinthians 10). A parish should support local as well as international mission ministries. In doing so we do not want to limit our involvement to writing checks! When possible we need to put our “boots on the ground.”
Proper Worship, Discipleship, Fellowship, Evangelism and Missions is the answer to the question “What is the purpose of a parish?” A parish finds its purpose in being actively engaged in each of these five. How that engagement takes shape; how we flesh each of the five out (other than worship, which in is set by the Prayer Book and Canons) will be determined by human, logistical and financial resources. It is not results based. Results are up to God. We are called to be faithful.
This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.
August 23, 2017 (Vigil of St. Bartholomew)
“What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (St. Matthew 26:40). These are the words Jesus said to St. Peter as he napped with St. James and St. John in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus endured His Passion.
Their instructions from Jesus were clear and simple, “Watch and pray…” (v. 41). Jesus had gone into the garden to pray, and He expected His Apostles, especially the “Big Three” who had been with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration and there heard the voice of the Father say “This is my beloved Son, hear Him,” would listen to what He said.
They didn’t. They fell asleep.
Jesus’ admonition to St. Peter is one we in the Church should continue to take to heart. We should be watchful in prayer. I also think Jesus’ use of “one hour” is a guide, if not an admonition, to the Church. We should strive to spend at least one hour per day in prayer. Does this mean we should pray for an hour straight every day? Of course we could, but not necessarily. We can divide the hour up into times of prayer in order to fulfill our Lord’s charge. Psalm 55:18 speaks of praying three times per day; morning, noon and evening.
Here is an example of how we can divide our daily prayer into “hours” or times of prayer:
What if we begin each day with ten minutes of prayer? Right as we get out of bed, before we do anything else (well we may have to do one thing….) we pray. We can use a daily devotional(s) or books of prayers such as the St. Augustine Prayer Book, the Anglican Breviary (to read about the Saint of the day and pray the collect), or books written by such worthies as Thomas ‘A Kempis, Lancelot Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor or others. We should use something orthodox, and if possible Catholic, but what really matters is we become mindful of the presence of God in our life as we begin our day. “It is a question of giving the first moments of the day to our Lord, or to the enemy. And the whole day bears the reflection of this first choice.” (Dom Marmion, OSB)
Then about mid-morning we can pray the Order of Daily Morning Prayer. Morning Prayer (and Evening Prayer) is a most excellent prayer order and takes about 20 minutes. It includes all four parts of Biblical prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (prayer for our self and others). The Psalter (pgs. 345-525) enables us to pray all 150 Psalms every 30 days. The daily lectionary (pgs. x-xlv), while not perfect, brings us through large portions of the Scriptures through the year, and matches what we are reading to the liturgical seasons of the kalendar [sic], keeping our spiritual fingers on the pulse of the Church.
In the early part of the evening we can pray Daily Evening Prayer. If we don’t want to repeat all of the prayers used in Morning Prayer we can add prayers from the sections of Prayers and Thanksgivings (pgs. 35-53) and Additional Family Prayers (pgs. 594-600) to broaden the scope. These prayers are actually good to use to supplement either Office, or on their own. The Litany (pgs. 54-59) can also be used alone or combined with the offices.
Then to close out our day, the final thing we can do before we get into bed is take another ten minutes for prayer. At this time we may want to choose something meditative, maybe the Office of Compline from the Scottish Prayer Book or the rosary. If we can rest our mind quietly, contemplating God without falling to sleep, then we can do that…be quiet before God, praying extemporaneously. Using 3 x 5 cards with known Scripture verses or passages from the teachings of the Church’s Father is another good tool. At this prayer session we may want to avoid things that will get our mind racing, preventing sleep. We want to end our night peacefully. “I will both lay me down in peace, and take my rest: for it is thou, Lord, only that makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
So then using this example, we pray for 10 minutes when we wake up + 20 minutes at mid-morning + 20 minutes in the evening + 10 minutes before bed = 60 minutes! We have spent one hour of the day watching with our Lord in prayer. Wow, that was easy!
Of course the time does not have to be divided up this way. It needs to fit our schedule. We can also take 10 minutes to pray with our spouse, 10 minutes with our children and 40 minutes alone. The purpose is to be watchful and prayerful, spending quality “one on one” time in conversation with God each day. This is what prayer is, a conversation with God. Conversations include speaking and listening, which is why we want to include reading Scripture and holy writings in our prayer time, and not just ramble off a “laundry list”.
If you’re thinking, “But I don’t have an hour!” Maybe you don’t…I mean, I’m not living your life. But I think giving one hour to prayer is often an issue of priority not possibility.
Jesus said to St. Peter, “…could you not watch with me one hour?”
Is He saying the same to us?
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.
August 15, 2017 (The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
The New Testament Lesson in Morning Prayer for Monday after the Seventh Sunday after Trinity is St. Luke 13:1-9. Since reading that passage one verse has stuck with me, verse 3. In St. Luke 13:3 Jesus says “I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” He repeats this in verse 5. The word “except” in vss. 3 and 5 caught my attention, it sort of jumped off the page.
Jesus’ point in this passage is, in order to be saved there are certain things God expects from us. Please, hear me out…
Jesus’ once-and-for-all sacrifice on the cross is the propitiation for all sin (1 John 2:1, 2) and a gift of God, not of works, so no man can say he in anyway saved himself (Ephesians 2:8, 9)! But the grace given to us through His sacrifice must be responded to. God expects a response from us in order for us to procure the salvation wrought by Jesus alone.
This brings us back to the word “except” and why I think it jumped out at me.
In the King James Version of Scripture the word “except” is ean me in Greek. It means “unless”. This is the way most good contemporary versions translate the Greek. Jesus uses this word “except” to say we cannot procure the salvation He has wrought for us, and freely offers to us, “unless” we respond a certain way.
The way He expects us to respond is given to us in six verses in the Gospels. Here they are:
- St. John 3:3 “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus says unless we are born again of water and the Spirit (3:5) we cannot see His Kingdom. In other words, we must receive the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Baptism is the normative way of entry into the kingdom of God. In Baptism the guilt of Original Sin, that which we inherited from Adam in the Fall, is washed away and we are infused with the Holy Spirit. Except we have these, we cannot enter God’s Kingdom.
- St. Luke 13:5 “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” I referred to this verse (and 13:3) above. We must repent. How often? Daily. Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father…forgive us our trespasses…” This is why the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer teach us to confess our sins at the beginning and conclusion of each day. How often? Each Sunday before we receive the Holy Eucharist at mass. Jesus is pretty clear about the necessity of this in St. Matthew 5:23, 24. How often? As often as necessary in the Sacrament of Penance. In this Sacrament we have assurance of God’s absolution of our sin (St. John 20:22, 23 and 2 Corinthians 2:10), which is important to keep a healthy relationship with Him. Except we repent we will die in our sins.
- St. Matthew 18:3 “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says we must be converted! Conversion is a change of the will, a change of thinking, a turning back to Christ. It’s what St. Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 2:25 “For ye were like sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” We all stray from the righteousness infused in us at Baptism, therefore we must be converted. Our will must turn back to obedience. We must return to Jesus. It’s no accident Jesus says we need to turn back to being child-like. We were baptized as children and need that type of innocent faith. Except we do, we cannot enter Jesus’ Kingdom.
- St. John 6:53 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian Life. In it we encounter and feed upon the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, the One who is Life. Christians can only gain life through Him who is life. Jesus is objectively present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the consecrated elements. When we receive the Eucharist, we feed upon Jesus. Nothing we do makes this occur. In the Eucharist He is made known (St. Luke 24:30-32). The effect, the virtue (virtus sacramenti) received is subjective. When we open our hearts to His Presence, we receive the Holy Sacrament to our comfort, our blessing, our feeding upon the One who is Life. The manner in which we receive determines the effect the Eucharist has in us; whether we receive it unto life or unto death (1 Corinthians 11:30-32).
- St. Matthew 5:20 “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Religion is important, but it is not the way of righteousness. In Romans 4:3 St. Paul writes “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” We are accounted righteous by faith in Christ, not by religion. We are blessed to be in the most wonderful of religions, the Catholic Religion. It gives us a structure that keeps us from being tossed to and fro by every fad of doctrine and practice that happens to blow through Christianity. It helps keep us on the narrow way that leads to eternal life. But it cannot save us! It was never meant to. Faith in Jesus, made evident by works, is what saves us. Except we exceed our religion we cannot enter into God’s Kingdom.
- St. John 15:4 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” When we cut a healthy branch off a tree, what happens? It dies. At first it looks okay. The leaves are still on it and it’s still green inside. But in time, sooner than later, the leaves fall off, it withers and turns brown. So it is with us. Today we are spiritually healthy (hopefully we are). But if we cut ourselves us from the vine, from Jesus, we will first whither and then die. We need to be attached to the life of Christ through the Church and Sacraments if we are to have a vital faith and strong spiritual life. This is one reason why the saying “I’m spiritual but not religious” is non-sense. We stay connected to the Vine through the Church! St. John 15:5 “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” I’d say that pretty well sums it up.
I hope you can see why the word “except” caught my attention as I read St. Luke 13:1-9. It is not an idle word! It is a word packed with meaning for our salvation! It is both inclusive and exclusionary at the same time! By using the word “except” Jesus is saying when we respond to grace the right way, we will receive everlasting life (inclusive). If we do not respond the right way, we will not receive everlasting life (exclusionary).
This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.
August 9, 2017 (The Feast of St. John Vianney)
In this life, in this fallen world, we (each of us) will suffer. Our suffering may take the form of physical suffering, mental or emotional suffering, financial suffering, or suffering for the sake of Christ and the Gospel; social and / or physical persecution. No matter which of these forms the suffering we encounter takes, we will suffer.
This shouldn’t surprise us. In St. John 16:33 Jesus says “In this world ye shall have tribulation…” In 2 Timothy 3:17 St. Paul states “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” In this life, suffering is a given. Maybe even more so for Christians?
Knowing we will suffer gives us three choices. There are three ways we can react to, or better yet act upon suffering. Those three are Resistance, Acceptance or Redemption. Let us examine each.
Resistance. When we receive a diagnosis; cancer let’s say, one thing we can do is get angry with God. “Why me…?” we may ask. This is resistance. Not the question itself, asking the question is human nature, but the emotion behind it; “Why ME…?!” Our spirit rails against God as if He is to blame. He’s not. What the Fall and sin have done to our physical, human nature and our environment is to blame. The choices we make using our free will are to blame. Satan is to blame, not God. God is not the author of evil.
Could God prevent us from suffering? Of course He could. And there are many times when He, knowingly to us or not, does so. But He doesn’t always do so. Why not? Who can answer that question better than through the mystery of the Cross and the sufferings of Jesus? The Father allowed (actually decreed) Jesus to suffer and die the cruelest of deaths in order to bring out the greatest good for man: redemption from sin and eternal life! Therein lays the best answer to the question “Why?”
Even knowing this at some level there is still great temptation to fall into resistance. We want to dig our heals in, railing at God and saying “Oh no You don’t!” “Not with me You don’t!” “How could you?!” But what does railing actually get us? Where does resistance actually take us? Away from God, that’s where. And that is the last place we need to be when we are suffering.
In talking about resistance, I’m not saying we should not fight. For instance the cancer example. I am not saying we should not use all reasonable means necessary to seek a cure! Of course we should! In Acts 5:15 people laid the sick on mats in the street in the hopes St. Peter’s shadow would fall on them and they would be healed. If we are persecuted, we can use the courts to seek relief as St. Paul did at the end of the Acts of the Apostles. Resistance is railing against God. That’s what we should not do. But it is a choice God allows us to make.
The second reaction is Acceptance. Acceptance is submitting ourselves under the hand of Almighty God, knowing that all things are working together for our good, because we love God and are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We can only claim the first part of this passage (“All things work together for good”) if we love God. When we love God, His calling upon our lives, infused into us at Holy Baptism, is living and active in us. What we need to do from there is “work out” what God has “worked in” (Philippians 2:12, 13). As we do, we see we are the called according to His purpose.
Acceptance doesn’t mean we stop asking God questions or that we will gain absolute peace in our suffering. A good Biblical example of acceptance of suffering is Job. Job still questioned. Job still hurt. But Job submitted Himself under God’s hand, knowing He could heal him, and would redeem him in the end. Job had his goods, his children and then his health taken from him. And we know from the text Job was innocent. God allowed Job to be tested to show Satan a man could endure suffering and not rebel against Him. God has given us the example of Job to show us we can too! In the end, God vindicated and healed Job. And He will heal us too; if not in this life, in the one that is to come.
Redemption is the ultimate reaction (actually it is an action) we can have to suffering, and what we should strive for. Redemptive suffering puts us on the offensive! It is pro-active. Redemptive suffering sees suffering as an invitation from God to join ourselves to Jesus, and the perfect sufferings He endured in His passion, for the glory of God and the sake of the Body of Christ.
St. Paul speaks of his invitation in Colossians 1:24 “(I) now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:” St. Paul suffered in so many ways. He provides a list of them in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. It’s a worthwhile read. Yet instead of railing against God (Resistance) or just accepting it from God (Acceptance), St. Paul embraced the invitation God gave Him and joined his imperfect sufferings to the prefect sufferings of Jesus, for the sake of the Church (Redemptive).
2 Corinthians 1:3-7: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”
Wow, what a statement! What encouragement! The God of all comfort comforts us in our sufferings, so that we can comfort others in their sufferings, giving them both consolation and redemption! How this works is a mystery. It is the “mystery of redemptive suffering.” But St. Paul states it is real! It is participating in the life of Christ at the level St. Paul speaks of in Philippians 3:10 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” This may be what he means when he says he is “…crucified with Christ…”? (Galatians 2:20)
Redemptive suffering works for those whom we know as well as for those who do not. In his book The Promise God’s Purpose And Plan For When Life Hurts, Fr. Jonathan Morris, a Roman Catholic priest, maps out the way our sufferings can have the effect St. Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. It is done by prayer.
The first part of the prayer is to accept God’s invitation and enter into the mystery. The prayer is “Jesus, I offer my suffering up to You, out of love for You.” With this prayer we accept God’s invitation to suffer for His glory. We need to be willing to do this for it must be an act of our frre will. God does not force redemptive suffering upon us. This is the ultimate “Take up your cross and follow me” invitation. Jesus suffered out of love for the Father and obedience to His will. This must be our first aim in redemptive suffering.
As we gain strength and peace in glorifying God with our suffering, we can go further, asking God that the suffering we endure would be for the redemption of others. Here is that prayer from Fr. Morris: “Jesus, I offer this suffering up to you, out of love for you, and for the sake of __________, a member of your Church.” We can name a specific person(s) or say “for the sake of any member your Church”, allowing God to determine whom it will affect.
When we enter into this mystery and live a life of redemptive suffering, we will begin to know we never suffer alone or suffer uselessly! This is not only comforting for us and those who watch us suffer (family, loved ones, friends), it is also powerful for the comforting and redemption of others!
In this world we will have tribulations, we will suffer, we will be persecuted for our faith. The question is, what will we do with it? How will we act? Will we resist? Will we accept? Or, will we redeem?
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.