Pastoral Musings

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

May 16, 2018 In the Octave of Ascension

Iran, North Korea, China, Russia. We all know these names. Each of these nations contributes to making the world in this 21st century dangerous.  Being aware of these threats is important, and yet Scripture helps keep even legitimate concerns in balance.

Psalm 2:2-4 states “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”  The Father and His anointed, the Lord Jesus, look down upon what the leaders of nations do to gain power with great amusement.

God is sovereign. He rules over the nations. When it looks like a nation is getting away with evil and gaining power, God says “Not so fast!” Psalm 75 speaks to this truth. Verses 4-10 states: “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are [weak]: I bear up the pillars of it… I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn… For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another…All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.”

I know this, and yet at times I find myself feeling anxiety about international affairs. Psalm 37:1-3 provides an answer for that anxiety: “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”  Simply put, Christians are to go about their lives; living life in Christ, trusting that God has everything under His sovereign control. If we keep our lives pure and unspotted from the world (St. James 1:27) and love fervently, covering a multitude of our own sinfulness (1 Peter 4:8) then we can trust the Lord will provide all our needs (St. Matthew 6:33,34).

For me the greatest beauty of the Ascension is how it teaches us that Jesus is today, right now, at this very moment seated at the Father’s right hand mediating and advocating for us. I love Daniel 7:9-14 (it’s the Evening Prayer lesson for Ascension Eve). This is Daniel’s vision of Christ’s ascension. Verse 14 states that upon His arrival in heaven Jesus was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom. “…his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Jesus’ dominion has begun. He has dominion right now. His dominion will never end!

The kingdoms and rulers of the world (including our own) can plot and scheme all they want, but God is not impressed. He certainly is not worried! He is all knowing and all powerful. All is under His control. As He did with Pharaoh in the days of Moses (Romans 9:17), God uses the nations for His glory and the salvation of His people. Even in times of persecution and injustice, God is ever saving those who believe and remain faithful. As Jesus told the Apostles in St. John 16:33 “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” 1 St. John 5:4, 5 states “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

May 9, 2018 St. Gregory Nazianzus; Bishop, Confessor and Doctor (Vigil of the Ascension)

The duty of the Church and each baptized member therein, is to declare the evangel, the Good News to the world. Most simply that Good News is the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. By implication it includes the truth about who the One, True God is; a Trinity in Unity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost and that the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ is fully and completely God and Man; two complete natures in One Person.

This is what the members of the Church are to believe and tell the world. Of course we cannot do this of our own selves, but only by the power of the Holy Ghost working in us by grace through faith.   No man can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Every member is to participate in this commission Jesus has given to the Church, and yet not every member has the same calling, gifts and opportunities to fulfill it. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 St. Paul states each member of the Church is given different gifts.

So if each member is to participate in the commission Jesus has given to the Church, but not all have the same calling, gifts and opportunities, how can each member be obedient to the commission? By understanding there are four “levels” (there is probably a better word for it, but right now I can’t think of it) to evangelism.

Level one is to Defend the Faith. In St. Matthew 10:32-38 Jesus says “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven… He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” In this passage Jesus says plainly that we must be willing to defend the Faith, and our faith in Jesus. No matter who may challenge us, no matter who may come to hate us, no matter who may betray us, we must be willing to defend the Good News!  Every Christian has this calling; each has the grace of this gift, and will likely be given the opportunity to evangelize in this manner at some point in their life.

Level two is to Answer for the Faith. 1 Peter 3:15, 16 states “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” At this second level we need to have faith that is true and lively enough to be able to respond to the questions others may ask about why we live the way we do (in the world but not of the world) and what Jesus means to us (what He means to me, personally). This level of evangelism still takes a “defensive” posture; an apology (defense) for the Faith. We are going about our business, living faithfully, seasoning our conversation with salt here and there (Colossians 4:6, St. Matthew 5:13) and someone asks us “Why?” Why do we live and believe the way we do. If the question is asked, we need to be ready to answer.

Level three is Tell the Faith. The example of this in Scripture is St. John 20:17, 18 “Jesus saith unto her (Mary Magdalene), Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” St. Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the resurrected Jesus, and what He had  told her. Jesus did not ask Mary Magdalene to know and be able to explain the theology of the resurrection. He simply told her to tell what she knew to those whom she knew. She knew she had seen Jesus alive, risen from the dead. She knew He had spoken to her and what He had said to her. This is all Jesus expected her to tell the Apostles.  All Jesus expects us to do is to tell what we know to those whom we know. We know Jesus has risen from the dead and we know what He has done in our lives. This is what Jesus expects us to tell those whom we know.

Level four is to Go with the Faith. In St. Mark 16:15 Jesus said “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” At this level of evangelism a calling may be involved. Not ordination necessarily, lay persons are very effective at this level, but the gift of evangelism. This is presenting the Faith in an offensive (contrasted with defensive) manner. We look for opportunities to put our self in places and situations to proclaim the Good News to anyone who will listen.

Every baptized member of the Church has a duty to declare the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. At the most elementary level we must defend the Faith and should be able to express the hope we have in Christ. Being able to tell what we know to those we know is a great asset. Praying for the gift of the calling to “Go…” is a worthy petition.

Romans 10:14, 15 states “How then shall they (unbelievers) call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Verse 17 adds “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

It is the duty, really the privilege, of each member of the Church to tell the Good News to others. Let embrace this privilege and bring that Good News to others!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

May 2, 2018 (St. Athanasius, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor)

What’s in a name? It could be a lot. Names mean something. Names have meaning.

For example, Athanasius means immortal (his theology is “immortalized” within the Church). Saul means big while Paul means little…God knew what He was doing when He changed the Apostle’s name. Joseph means increase. Mary means wished for. Elizabeth means abundance.

Names can have meaning in another way. People are named after other people. Fathers tend to name their first son after themselves. Often time children are given the names of relatives or other people who had an impact upon their life or whom they’d like to honor. This gives the name meaning; it means they are to carry on a family legacy or live a life that honors the person whom they are named for. For some children that’s a heavy burden.

In the paradox between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, I wonder where the naming of children fits. We know that every child born is known of God from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), but what about their name? God chose the name of Adam, and allowed Adam to name Eve. He named Jesus, but then Jesus is His only begotten Son. Being omniscient, God certainly knows in advance what each child’s name will be, but I wonder if He influenced the names of at least some like Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Esther or David?

Let me use myself as an example. My name is Paul Thomas. I was named after my father’s older brother (I’m actually Paul Thomas, II). That was my dad’s motive in naming me, but did God have another? Both Paul and Thomas were apostles. Paul means little, which I must be daily reminded of by the Holy Spirit and Thomas means twin. I often see myself in the twin spiritual dispositions described in Romans 7:7-25. Did God allow me to be named Paul Thomas because He knew what my struggles would be and wanted me to know that He knows, so I know He is with me in those struggles? I don’t know? Really, I’m speculating (and maybe hoping).

I think it’s important to know the meaning of our name. We should know its etymological meaning (i.e. Joshua / Jesus means salvation) and its family significance. I think we should also know what our name means to the Church. For example, someone named Francis (male) or Frances (female) should do a little research and learn about the saint they were named for. They can then adopt that saint as a patron or patroness and seek to emulate their faith principles in their own life and ask their intercession. If you do not have a Christian name (for example my eldest son has two Hebrew names), then adopt a saint as a patron or patroness and name yourself after them (my son took Francis Xavier as his confirmation name).

Getting back to my original thought, names have meaning. My wife and I have three sons. We prayed and thought about the names of each one. Your parents named you for a reason. If you have children, you did the same. God knows our name. He knew what it would be before we were born! He may have asserted some divine influence in the name we were given.

Knowing the meaning of our name, especially its etymology and meaning to the Church, is one of those little things that can be helpful to us in our faith-walk. It can be encouraging or sobering.  It can remind us to keep going, or warn us to make a change. Like Athanasius, it could be our legacy. Either way, it has significance.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

April 25, 2018 (St. Mark, Evangelist and Martyr)

I heard it once again the other day; the expression Christians often use that drives me crazy: “Well, all we can do is pray!” While sometimes this is true, prayer should not be seen merely as a “last resort.” Instead, prayer should be the first action, the continuous action and the last action of everything we do.

Philippians 4:6 states “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  The word “supplication” in Greek means to “ask, seek, entreat in the time of need.”  This is St. Matthew 7:7, 8 where Jesus tells us we must “ask, seek and knock” in our prayers. We are not to just ask once and then go silent, seek for a minute and then move on, knock once and stop. The implication is to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking; we are to entreat the Lord!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 states we are to “Pray without ceasing.”  This does not mean we are to spend all our time physically upon our knees in prayer, but it does mean we are to be praying continually throughout our day. We can be on our knees in our hearts, humbling ourselves before God all the time. Praying without ceasing means we converse with God continuously, throughout our day. It is beginning all actions with prayer, continuing all actions with prayer and concluding all actions with prayer (“Direct us, O Lord…that in all our works begun, continued and ended in thee…” BCP pg. 49)… These do not have to be pre-composed prayers, just sincere conversations with Him.

If we’ve never tried to pray without ceasing and we’d like to start, there are some simple ways to do so using the tools we have as Anglican Catholics.  First, we need to commit ourselves to praying Morning and Evening Prayer. This will help us develop discipline in prayer and will also teach us how to pray by giving us both prayers to pray and the structure of prayer (to the Father, through the Son, by / in the Holy Ghost). Second we should add wake up and bed time prayers, so our first and final thoughts of each day focus on our dependence upon God and our need for Him to lead us in all things. We can use the Prayer Book for these, use other books with prayers, or they can be extemporaneous. Using the Psalm appointed for a particular day from the daily lectionary, or favorite Psalms, are excellent forms. Remember, we pray the psalms, not read them! Third, add a time of mid-day prayer. There are some good written prayers, like the Angelus, which can be used for this time, but extemporaneous prayer is good too. Of course we should already be praying before all our meals.

When we have all five of these times of prayer in place, we will have built a solid prayer frame for our life. Then all we need do is fill in the frame with small little prayers, what the 17th century English Divines called “ejaculatory prayers”; prayers that come from the heart, written or extemporaneous, to fit particular situations. If our life is built upon Scripture and Tradition (Ephesians 4:1-16), then we will have set this frame upon a sure foundation which will not fall when the storms of life beat against it (St. Matthew 7:24-27).

God always answers prayer!  Always! He may not always answer the way we want, or time His answers to when we want, but He does answer. As a parent I know that “No,” and “Wait” are answers! Not the answers our children may want, but real answers none the less.

St. Ignatius Loyola reportedly taught “Pray as if it all depends on God, Work as if all depends on you.” We are to do these two; pray and work simultaneously. As we do all we can to bring an answer to our own prayers, we are to be praying all we can for God to bring an answer to them. We cannot first do all we can, leaving God out and then, after we’ve done what we can, turn to God in last-ditch desperation. Instead, we are to be praying desperately before and during everything we do.

Maybe we don’t pray the way we should because we lack confidence that God will agree with what we are praying for? If the desire of our prayers is to glorify God, and all of our prayers end with “Thy will be done”, then what Jesus promised in St. John 16:23 is assured (see 1 John 5:14).

There are certainly going to be times when all that can be done in a given situation is pray. But if we start in prayer, pray throughout and, do whatever we can possibly do too, then some of the desperation is taken out. Prayer will then become the “be all and the end all” of our relationship with God in Christ, not a last resort.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

April 17, 2018 (St. Stephen Harding, Confessor)

Our Lord Jesus Christ has given His Church Seven Sacraments. While some categorize them into two “greater” or “dominical” (instituted directly by Christ) and five “lesser,” or “ecclesiastical” (instituted by the Church), there are none the less seven of them.

The Sacraments are Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders and Unction. Each is equally a means of grace. This is what makes them Sacraments. They are not mere signs, but signs that effect what they symbolize.

Baptism’s sign is water. Holy Communion’s is bread and wine. Confirmation’s is the laying on of hands. Penance’s is the words of absolution. Matrimony’s is the exchange of vows (and the blessed rings). Holy Orders’ is also the laying on of hands. Unction’s is oil.

The Sacraments effect what they symbolize.  Baptism washes the soul from the guilt of original sin (and any actual sin in adults). Holy Communion feeds the soul with the Body and Blood of Christ. Confirmation seals the soul with the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost. Penance absolves the soul of sin. Marriage gives the grace needed to fulfill the vows given and received. Holy Orders gives the grace necessary to fulfill each office. Unction heals; sometimes the body and always the spirit. The Sacraments are real means of grace.

There is a difference between say, the waters of Baptism and the water in the holy water stoop at the entrance to the nave. Baptismal water regenerates, the holy water reminds us we have been made regenerate. The sign of the cross placed upon the one being baptized indelibly marks the soul and body for Christ. The sign of the cross we make with the holy water says we are still manfully fighting under Christ’s banner. The holy water in the stoop is a helpful reminder. The baptismal water is the power of God (Titus 3:5)!

What the Word is for the ears and the mind, the Sacraments are for the rest of the senses and the body. St. Augustine taught the Sacraments are the “Word made visible.” Both are objective means of grace. What is true about the Word in Isaiah 55:11 “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” is true about the Sacraments.

For example, Romans 6:3, 4 “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” The sign of baptism buries and raises us in Christ. Or, St. John 6:55, 56 “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” When we partake of the Holy Eucharist we feed upon the Body and Blood of Christ. Yes, the Sacraments truly effect what they signify. They are the verbum visibium.

Armed with this knowledge we should take full advantage of the grace God provides in the Sacraments. Baptism and Confirmation are indelible, so they should never be repeated. But when we doubt, we should remember them. We should know those dates (mine are 06-16-1963 and 11-18-1976) and use them to remind ourselves we belong to Christ. When our soul is hungry we should feed on Christ’s Body and Blood. When it needs forgiveness we should receive priestly absolution. When it is sick we should receive unction.

The Anglican Catholic Church is a Sacramental church. Yes, we are a Church of the Scriptures; we uphold the Prima Scriptura (Scripture first) principle of the Church Fathers. But also like them we are Sacramental. Our daily life is a life of Word and Sacrament, beautifully woven into the fabric of our being, our essence, like a fine tapestry.

Let us contemplate, utilize and thank God for our sacramental fabric and by it hold fast unto everlasting life!

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

April 10, 2018 (Easter Feria)

I wonder how many of the followers of Jesus must have felt today?  It was twelve days after Jesus’ crucifixion and nine days after His resurrection.

When I say Jesus’ followers, I don’t mean the Twelve, or St. Mary Magdalene and the other holy women that were close to Jesus, or even the Seventy whom Jesus sent out to preach and heal. I mean those who were followers at a greater distance. Those in the smaller towns and villages who saw and heard Jesus preach once or twice, believed what they were able about Him, but were not called to leave all and be with Him, and returned to their homes, jobs and families filled with hope the Messiah had come!

There was no radio or television in those days. There were no phones or texting. There was no internet, no Google or Facebook, no Twitter or Instagram. News traveled slowly; mouth to ear or in written letters carried by messengers on foot or by donkey. Those who lived in a town or village far from Jerusalem would have to wait days for news to get there.

Let’s say I lived in Tyre along the coast of the Mediterranean, on the far northwest end of Judea. It would take a long time for news from Jerusalem to reach me, and that news would be spotty at best. At first I would’ve heard Jesus had been crucified…and then, likely a few days later, that His disciples were saying He had risen from the dead but the Pharisees were saying the disciples stole the body!  What was I to believe? Like Cleopas my hopes would at first be dashed, but then after hearing Jesus had risen they would be…? The contradictory news of crucifixion and resurrection, the lack of eyewitnesses in a town so far from Jerusalem or Galilee…again what was I to believe?

As Christians, two thousand and eighteen years removed from the day of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, we need to be mindful that there are still many people today who don’t know what to believe. Their reasons are different; it’s not that the information is not available. But there is still a lot of contradiction, often coming from Christians themselves!  We can be inconsistent in our testimony. We can be inconsistent in our witness. Often worse, our testimony and witness can contradict each other.

Those who would like to believe, but don’t know what to believe, are looking to us (to Christians) to learn what they need to know and believe. What are our words and our actions, what are our lives saying to them? Do they see and hear contradictions? Are we at mass every Sunday, but the rest of week living worldly? Do our mouths speak the praises of God in church, and then speak like a soldier on the battlefield outside it? Do we talk about love for our brothers and sisters, but never show that love to anyone, accept maybe to those who love us first?

Before His Ascension, Jesus told the Apostles “…ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). As members of the Church Catholic, baptized and confirmed in the Apostolic faith, we have a share in and a responsibility to fulfill this charge!

We are to be witnesses for Christ!  But if our witness is nothing but contradictions…if our lips and lives are not in sync, then we become nothing but a “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Eighteen days after Jesus’ crucifixion, it is understandable why a follower of Jesus, or any citizen of Tyre, would have been confused about what happened in Judea during the first Holy Week. Miles away from Jerusalem, and with the slow and spotty way news traveled, it would have been difficult for them to get a consistent, confirmed witness.

We don’t have that excuse today.

Christians know what happened that week. We know Jesus was crucified, that He lay dead in the tomb for three days and then arose from the dead!  Further we know that over 500 people saw Him alive, and that at least the Twelve, if not more, saw Him ascend into heaven. We know He appeared to St. Paul and called him to be an apostle. We know all these things…but what are we witnessing to others? What news are we telling them? Is it the Good News?

Is our witness consistent or a contradiction. Is our message steady or mixed? Jesus has declared that faith will be born in unbelievers through hearing the word of God preached (Romans 10:17). Not just by the clergy, but by all Christians. And today, what we preach with our mouths must be backed up by what we live. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi we need to “Preach the Gospel, use words if necessary.”

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

April 3, 2018 (Easter Tuesday)

“And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.” (St. Luke 24:35)

That is the last verse of the Gospel Lesson for Easter Monday (St. Luke 24:13-35). You probably know it as the “Road to Emmaus” account. In this account, a man named Cleopas and a companion (in Tradition his name is Simon) were walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem on the afternoon of the Resurrection. As they did, they discussed the events that had occurred in Jerusalem over the past three days; Jesus’ crucifixion and death, and His reported resurrection. They were puzzled by it all. They didn’t understand why Jesus, the one they thought was going to redeem Israel, had suffered and died? And then the reports of His resurrection! It overwhelmed them.

At one point in that seven mile journey, Jesus came along side of them and asked what they were talking about. Scripture states they were “holden” (restrained) and did not recognize Him. After telling Him what had occurred, and that their hopes appeared dashed, Jesus continued to walk with them, teaching them from Moses through all the prophets how the Christ had to suffer and die in order to redeem Israel. Despite being taught the Scriptures by Jesus Himself and having their hearts burning within them as He taught (can you imagine that Bible study!), their ability to see it was Jesus teaching them remained restrained. Eventually they reached Emmaus and the two men invited Jesus to stay and dine with them. He accepted. You know the rest…As they sat at the table, Jesus took bread, blessed and break it. When He did, the eyes of Cleopas and Simon were opened and they saw, they knew, it was Jesus that had been teaching them!

Cleopas and Simon were disciples of Jesus. Eusebius wrote Cleopas was a brother of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus. The point is, he would have known Jesus had his eyes not been restrained. Yet he did not recognize Him, nor understand Him as He taught. He didn’t understand that is, until Jesus celebrated the Eucharist!

You and I, and each of Jesus’ disciples have likely been in a similar situation as Cleopas was. We’ve wrestled with what God is doing in our lives or in the world, and just cannot understand. Like him we are sad, frustrated, bewildered; possibly even angry. What is God doing? Because we are His disciples we are in the Scriptures. We are reading them, meditating upon them and asking God for us to see answers in them, but like Cleopas we are not getting an answer. At least not one that is clear.

What are we to do when this happens?

We are to go see Jesus in the Eucharist!  There, as the Eucharist is celebrated, the eyes of our understanding will be opened. There Jesus is, standing at the Table (the altar) in the person of the celebrant priest, blessing and breaking the bread, which is His Body. There, Jesus will be made known to us just as He was to Cleopas.

He might not expound all we are searching the Scriptures to know, but in revealing Himself to us we will know He has truly risen from the dead; which is really all that matters!  We prayed Psalm 2 in Morning Prayer this past Easter Sunday morning. It gives God’s answer to the many sinful things going on in the world, and what God has done about it: He has sent Jesus, His anointed, to deal with it all!  Jesus died for it (for us) all and He now lives to overcome all that the world can conjure up. Sometimes this is all God allows us to know. Sometimes He restrains us from knowing more.

In 1 Corinthians 10:16 St. Paul states “…The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” The word communion in Greek is koinōnia. It means fellowship, intercommunion, (spiritual) intercourse even. When we receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist we have all three with Jesus!  He is made known to all five of our senses, and then comes to dwell in us in, and we in Him!  There is nothing more spiritually intimate for us to partake in on this side of heaven.

1 Corinthians 11:26 states “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Each time we partake of the Eucharist we proclaim the Gospel, and as we proclaim the Gospel we receive the promise Jesus gave in St. Matthew 28:20 “…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Reception of the Eucharist assures us Jesus is always with us, and in us.

It is not unusual for a disciple of Jesus to struggle to understand Scripture. In fact, the proof we are truly His disciple is that we are struggling to understand. We’ve not given up. We’re willing to ask, seek and knock. When we struggle, let us be sure to seek Jesus in the breaking of bread; in the Holy Eucharist. He will be made known to us there. He will give answer to our need, even if that answer is “…my grace (given in the Holy Sacrament) is sufficient for thee…” (2 Corinthians 12:9). That may very well be the best answer we can ever receive?!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

March 26, 2018 (Monday Before Easter)

In my formation for the priesthood I was taught it is best to not preach a sermon within the masses celebrated on the weekday’s during Holy Week, save on Maundy Thursday. And on Maundy Thursday the sermon should be more of a homily; a brief address on one point of the holy day, not a time to “preach.”

Some may think this is because the Scripture lessons appointed for those days are long and, particularly in this 21st century, people’s attention span are the opposite. But that is not the reason.

I was taught the reason is, during this week it is best to allow God’s Word to do its work. The lessons appointed foretell through Isaiah, comment through St. Paul (on Easter Even, St. Peter) or report through the Gospel Evangelists the saving actions of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. What more can any preacher add to what the Holy Ghost has given those writers to say?

During this week the priest should, more than any other week, trust what God says in Isaiah 55:11: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”  During this week the priest should step aside and let the Holy Ghost, through the Word, do His work.

The Gospel lessons in particular are most powerful. Each is part of the Passion narrative; the specific events that won salvation for us!  They are God’s word on this matter. They tell man what He wants us to know His Son, Jesus, did for us to save us from our sins. They are not “theology” per se, yet they are didactic; possibly the most didactic portion of Scripture? They teach through the facts they report.

If we know nothing else about Jesus, we must know this! 1 Corinthians 2:2 states “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” In 1 Corinthians 1:18 we are told: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” We must, by faith, receive the powerful message of Christ crucified if we are to be saved!

Therefore we would be wise to take the time to read the Passion Narratives. If mass is offered and we can hear them there, all the better! But if not, at home we can still “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest…” them (see the Collect for Advent 2).  After we have heard and / or read them we should meditate upon them; looking for little details we may have overlooked or have not connected to other details. Remember, this is God’s record of those events! Everything He has decreed necessary to know about Jesus’ passion and death are recorded in those narratives. On our part, we must pay attention!

It’s easy to think, “But I know this stuff.” Do we? Yes we know the overview, but do we know the details? Have we connected the dots? For myself I’d say, not as I should. But that can change. We can take the time to read those narratives again, as if we were reading them for the first time.

We can wrestle with them the way Jacob wrestled with the “man” (likely a theophany) in Genesis 32:24-32. Jacob would not let go until the man had blessed him. We can do the same with these narratives! Of them St. Leo I wrote “Let us toil in thought, let us fail in insight, let us falter in speech; it is good for us to feel how inadequate is the little we are able to express concerning the majesty of God.”

There are good Catholic and Orthodox commentaries, and even whole books, that can give us new insight into them, but first we should start with knowing the narratives themselves. Just “Joe Friday” them (you remember, from Drag Net “…Just the facts…”). And then let those facts resonate in our spirit, allowing the Holy Ghost to fill us with the wisdom and power of God. Our efforts will not return void, but will prosper for our salvation!

Have a blessed Holy Week.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

March 20, 2018 (St. Cuthbert, Bishop and Confessor)

A verse from the Gospel Lesson of Lent III has remained with me since that Sunday. It’s St. Luke 11:17. Jesus says “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.” How true this is. Of course it is true. Jesus said it!

The application of this passage is broad-ranging, but I’ve been thinking about it in the context of the Anglican Continuum…

For almost its entire forty years the Continuum has been a house divided. What began with great hopes and aspirations broke apart almost immediately. Some of it could have been expected. The “tent” was too big. In the 20th century (and now in the 21st) it’s a lot to ask for people with broadly-diverse understandings of doctrine to remain united. We’re too tribal.

The surprising, and sad, thing is that the Catholic portion of the Continuum divided. I joined the Continuum after all the splits had occurred, so I am not a veteran of those “wars.” As an outsider looking at the Continuum, I tried to determine the differences between the churches. I found few. But then there could be factors I’m not aware of. From what I saw, some preferred the Prayer Book over the Missal, some more or less ritual, or some give greater weight to the Articles of Religion, but the essential doctrines and practices were the same. I couldn’t understand why they were divided, other than ecclesial politics and men wanting to be “popes.”

I’m not alone in what I saw. Others have seen this too. I am glad to see it’s ending if not over.

Five years ago the presiding bishops of four of the six continuing churches began discussions about co-operating with each other. Over time, those talks turned towards the possibility of unifying the four in some form. That unity took a first big step this past October when those four bishops signed an agreement establishing full communion (Communio in sacris) with one another.

Since that historic day, the unity discussions have continued. This is more than a paper agreement. Later this year the bishops of the G-4 churches (as they are being called) will discuss issues of polity, diocesan boundaries and canons. There will likely be another joint synod in 2020. The process continues. There is much yet to do.  And yet the foundation has been laid.  I hope the bishops continue to proceed cautiously, letting each step in the process settle before adding more to it.

When the intercommunion agreement was signed, one of the bishops declared “We are now one!” That statement echoes the words of Jesus in St. John 17: 20, 21 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee…” Our Lord Jesus Christ wants His Church to be one.

Psalm 133:1, 2 states “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;” The anointing referred to was Aaron’s consecration to the Old Covenant high priesthood (Exodus 40:13). How fitting for the bishops, our “high priests,” to be anointing us with the oil of unity.

Ephesians 4:3-5 states the Church is to “Endeavour (ing) to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” The G-4 churches are working in this direction.  We have no ability to unite the whole Church, or even all of what is called “Anglicanism,” but we can be instrumental in uniting the Continuum.

Our parish is blessed to be on the “front lines” of the unity process. One of our new sister parishes, an APA parish, is located 10 miles away. In this past year the two parishes have become acquainted with each other. In this coming year we will have two joint worship services, the first of them being a joint Easter Vigil service, within which we will receive the Eucharist together. I sense our relationship is genuine.

I don’t think it is too much to say that this is the direction the Holy Ghost is leading Continuing Anglicanism in the 21st century. Lord willing, this next generation will realize what those who gathered in St. Louis in 1977 and Denver in 1978 prayed for. We must continue to pray, but we also must do the work. Bishops, clergy and laity must be willing to humble themselves and serve each other for the cause of Christ, the Gospel and historic Anglicanism. If Archbishop Haverland is correct (and I think he is) that “Classical Anglicanism is now preserved only in its Anglo-Catholic form…” then the results of this effort might just make or break “Anglicanism”?

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

March 13, 2018 (Lenten Feria)

How often do we say something like “Oh yeah, I know…”, or “Yeah, I’m friends with…”?

Of course both may be true. But often we may have only met that person (and in that sense know them), or have a friendly relationship with them (but are not actually friends). Yet we still say we know them or are friends with them.

Are we doing the same with Jesus? Are we saying we know Him and are friends with Him, when really we only know of Him and are only on “friendly terms” with Him?

The difference is very important.

In life saying we know someone, or are friends with someone, whom we really do not know or are not really friends with, can hurt our credibility. Saying we know or are friends with Jesus, when we only know of Him and are not really His friend, can cost us everything!

Saying, “I know Jesus” means something.  Saying, “I’m friends with Jesus” means something specific. Both mean something very real. They say we know Jesus personally.

In St. John 15:14 Jesus says “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Jesus’ friends obey Him. He’s the Lord of their life. He has dominion over their thoughts, words and deeds.

What does Jesus command us to do? Scripture, each verse, tells us (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). St. Luke 10:27 summarizes it for us “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Love summarizes what Jesus commands of us. In St. John 13:34 Jesus says “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Jesus commands us to love Him and to love one another. As we do them both, we show we are truly His friend.  We prove we truly know Him.

In St. John 14:15 Jesus says “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” And in v. 23 he reiterates: “…If a man love me, he will keep my words:” Loving Jesus means we know and obey His Word. They are synonymous.

Let’s go a little deeper shall we? In Philippians 3:10 St. Paul defines his understanding of knowing Jesus: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” When we know the affect of Jesus’ resurrection upon all of creation, and especially in redeeming man, when we can fellowship with Him at the level of His sufferings, when we are one with Him in His sacrificial death, then we really know Jesus. Then we really are His friends.

In St. John 15:13 Jesus says “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus’ closest friends lay down their lives for His sake and that of the brethren. They “take up their cross” and follow Him (St. Luke 9:23). This kind of friendship denies itself, its ego, for Christ. Galatians 2:20 says “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.”

The more we identify with Christ. The more we understand the power His resurrection can have over our life. The more we identify with His sufferings, saying with St. Paul in Colossians 1:24 “Who 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:.” The more we allow Jesus to draw us to the Cross (St. John 12:32), losing ourselves in Him to suffer for His glory and the salvation of others, then we truly know Jesus and are His friends.

None of us can know Jesus perfectly. None of us can be the perfect friend to Him, He is to us. And yet by grace we are to strive towards perfection. Philippians 3:14 states “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus has set the bar high, yet we are called to strive towards it. By grace we can certainly attain to whatever Jesus has called us to.

A familiar song states: “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear…Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?”

It’s easy to say we know Jesus and to say we are His friend. But do we really know Him? Are we truly His friend?  Scripture will let us know. Obedience will be the evidence.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

March 6, 2018 (SS. Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs)

This date is special to me. March 6. It is the date of my conversion back to the Christian Faith. The year was 1984, thirty-four years ago today. I remember it as if it were yesterday…

I woke up that morning like any other. I had little hope and few expectations. Like today, it was a Tuesday. I did not have to work. At the time I handled the food prep and was an assistant manager at a local pizza restaurant in Ohio. I was 20 years old.

During the previous four-plus years my life had either spun in circles or spiraled down. At 16, I started to lose my faith in the Church (Rome at that time). By 18, I had lost my faith in faith. I still thought there was a God, but was fading away from Him. The only prayer I could say was the Lord’s Prayer.

I started to dabble in Buddhism and by the time I was 20, I had been to Lexington, KY for meditation instruction. A local martial arts instructor was my teacher. I practiced Tibetan Buddhism, which is a most evil form. I used the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a guide. Dangerous stuff.

On the outside things might have looked okay. I kept my job and even advanced a little. My boss talked of making me the manager when I turned 21. But on the inside I was so lost! Failed relationships, erratic behavior, alcohol and drug use. It was bad. Give me a night or two off with the wrong people and I’d get myself into trouble.

It got so bad my mother, saint that she is, had to kick me out of her house (my father died when I was ten).  I was disrupting the household and setting a very bad example for my two younger sisters and my younger brother. It had to break her heart, but tough love was her only option. She, like St. Monica the mother of St. Augustine, must have been working overtime in prayer for me. I was a great disappointment.

Two times during the months I lived in an efficiency apartment, I put my life in jeopardy. Not on purpose. I was never suicidal or a nihilist. I was just stupid. I had relinquished control of my life to Satan. Buddhism is the “beautiful side of evil.” In the first brush with death I rode on the top of a van at 50 mph, nearly falling off several times. The second, I could have died like Keith Moon of The Who. My guardian angel was with me and I woke up face down.

That scared me. Thank God something finally did! I begged my mom to let me move back home, promising I’d obey her rules. It was January 1984.

And I did. I did not drink or take drugs. I was only out late if I was closing the pizza shop. My mom had a room built for me in our basement so I would not wake her or my siblings up when I came home from work late. There was a full bathroom in the basement too. It was a simple room; a bed, a desk and a dresser. Oh, and a three foot ceramic statue of Buddha!

I worked in the afternoon and evening, so I was home in the mornings. My mom, though Roman Catholic, watched the 700 Club television show. I wouldn’t watch it, but would hear it in the background while eating breakfast. I heard testimonies of men and women who had messed up their lives like I was doing, but called out to Jesus and their lives changed. I didn’t understand the theology behind it. I was ignorant of Scripture, having never really been taught beyond Bible stories. But the testimonies I heard sounded real. They touched my spirit. I heard those testimonies here and there for about six weeks. Then, on March 6, 1984 everything changed!

As I said, the day started out as usual. I got up and ate, and then got ready to drive to the bank to cash my pay check. Before I left I got the mail, which was usually delivered first thing in the morning in my neighborhood.

I received a letter in that day’s mail. It put all my failures right in my face. As I drove to the bank at 10:30 a.m. in my 1974, yellow Olds Delta Eighty-eight that letter was on my mind. My sins of the past four years crashed in upon me. Tears welled up and I cried out to God. I didn’t think to pray to Jesus or in His Name. I just cried out to God. And He heard me!  I cried so hard and prayed from such groaning and pain in my spirit that I don’t remember a good portion of that drive to the bank. To this day I can remember, I can picture it as I write this, where I was on my driving route when I cried out. I said something like “God, I’ve messed up my life. If you can still do something with me, please do so!” The next thing I remember I was parked in the lot of the bank. A warm peace flooded my spirit, my mind and my body. My life had changed!

I went home immediately afterwards and went to my room. I took my Buddha statue and smashed it on the driveway! I took all my books and notes on Buddhism and burned them in our incinerator!  Months later I learned the Ephesians had done the same thing when they were converted (Acts 19:18, 19). My mom was out when I got back, but when she returned I told her I had turned my life over to Jesus. By then I knew He was the One who heard me as I drove. We cried and then prayed together.

That was thirty-four years ago today. Since then I’ve put the Lord to the test and grieved Him more times than I’d like to admit. But, I have not let Him go again. I know He is real and He will never leave me nor forsake me. He had not walked away from me when I was 16, and He will not now.

I’ve recounted all this here today in hopes that if someone who reads it is lost as I was, they might know there is Someone who can restore their hope and their life. His name is Jesus Christ. I’ve also written this for those who have a family member or a friend who is lost, and they are praying for them. Keep Praying!  Don’t give up!  My mother didn’t, thanks be to God!

Jesus Christ is God. He is the Son of God. He is Way, the Truth and the Life. He is my Lord and Savior.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

February 27, 2018 (Lenten Feria)

St. Joseph Barsabas.  Who is he you might ask?

St. Joseph Barsabas, surnamed Justus, was a candidate along with St. Matthias (whose feast day we celebrated on February 24) to replace Judas Iscariot in the Apostolic College after Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin and then hung himself in the “field of blood.” His name is mentioned only once in Scripture, in Acts 1:23.

Both Joseph Barsabas and Matthias were disciples of Jesus from the time of His baptism in the Jordan River through the day of that election (Acts 1:21, 22). He was a witness to many of Jesus’ teachings and miracles, and to the Resurrection. Eusebius (AD 260-340) states he was one of the seventy disciples Jesus sent throughout Judea to evangelize and heal the sick recorded in St. Luke 10:1-24. He was in the circle of Jesus’ disciples just outside of the twelve Apostles.

What happened to Joseph Barsabas after that election? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but Tradition does. Well at least a few things.

After Joseph Barsabas was not elected he continued to evangelize. He suffered much in his efforts, primarily at the hands of unbelieving Jews. Papias (AD 60-130) states he was forced to drink poison and miraculously survived (see St. Mark 16:18).  He was later consecrated Bishop of Eleutheropolis, a city which was outside of Hebron in what was once the kingdom of Judah. According to the historian Josephus, Eleutheropolis (then known as Betaris) was ransacked by the Roman Emperor Vespian in the Jewish War of AD 68.  It is likely Bishop Joseph Barsabas was martyred at that time. His feast day is kept on July 20.

Things could have gone much differently for Joseph Barsabas. He could have rejected the election of Matthias, claiming the Holy Ghost was not present in the assembly of Apostles and 120 believers gathered for it. He could have denigrated them, saying Satan was in their midst, if not in their hearts. I mean, the casting of lot’s was essentially a roll of the dice! Didn’t he equally and possibly more than Matthias, deserve to take Judas’ seat in the Apostolic College? Why didn’t the 120, the Apostles and then the Holy Ghost Himself, who inspired the Apostles to cast lots, choose him?

Joseph Barsabas could have done any of those things, but he didn’t. He humbly accepted Matthias’ election as the choice of the Holy Ghost working through the 120, the Apostles and the casting of lots. Instead of quitting the Church, creating a schism or going off in a pout, he continued to serve Jesus and the Church with great, fervent zeal.

Psalm 75:5-7 states “Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck. For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”  No doubt as a faithful disciple of Jesus, Joseph Barsabas knew this Psalm. And on the day the successor to Judas Iscariot was chosen, he accepted the decision with humility as God’s will.

In the history of Continuing Anglicanism, too often men have not acted the way Joseph Barsabas did. If they were not chosen to be a candidate for an Episcopal election, or they were a candidate but were not elected, instead of accepting the decision of the jurisdiction or diocese as the decision of the Holy Ghost working through the clergy, laity and canonical process, they rejected it in the strongest of terms and harshest of ways. In doing so they essentially said the Holy Ghost was not present amongst the electorate or its process. Wow!

Unlike Joseph Barsabas, who accepted the process and the decision as the work and will of the Holy Ghost and the Church (i.e. Acts 15:28) and went on to serve in the manner Christ called him to (see Ephesians 2:10) until the day of his martyrdom, these men have disrupted and disturbed the peace of their jurisdiction or diocese, creating unnecessary hurt and schism, and suffocating evangelism!

This is a great scourge on the witness of Continuing Anglicanism.

Hopefully today this scourge has come, or at least is coming, to an end. As the various Joint Synod churches (and I pray soon the APCK) unite, the prayer is that the Holy Ghost will guide the Bishops, other clergy and laity of each jurisdiction (and one day as an organically united body) to elect men who seek to serve Christ and His Church as bishops; men who do not have “mitreitis” (lust for the bishop’s mitre).

Equally so, the prayer is that those who are not elected would accept the result as the work of the Holy Ghost. As Hebrews 5:4 states “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” That is what Joseph Barsabas did.  He accepted the decision of the Holy Ghost and the Church, and Christ crowned him with martyrdom and later the Church canonized him.

Let us Pray…St. Joseph Barsbas Justus, intercede for the Church, in particular the Continuing Anglican branch. May we all exercise the humility you did, and in doing so build up the Church. To the glory of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

February 20, 2018 (Lenten Feria)

When people think of Lent, most think in terms of “giving something up.” People give up a certain type of food or beverage. Some give up a certain television show. Others give up cell phone obsession.

Giving up things is good, especially things we will continue to give up once Lent is over. After Lent, we may not need to be as strict as we are in Lent. For example, we could occasionally partake of that certain food or beverage, we could occasionally watch that television show, and there may be a day when circumstances dictate being attached to our phone. During Lent we will have broken the habit and shown ourselves we can live without that thing, so after Lent we can partake of it in a healthy way, in moderation. Of course there may be something we give up during Lent that is so destructive to our faith that we should never partake of it again!

If we didn’t prepare for Lent during the “Gesima season” by praying for guidance from the Holy Ghost, and had to make a last minute decision on what discipline to practice for Lent, then “giving something up” is often the default decision .

But in Lent we should really do more than give something up. We should also add something. Ephesians 4:22-24 states “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” St. Paul uses the terms “put off” and “put on” to describe the best way to grow our faith in Lent; really, the best way to grow our faith year ‘round. We should not only give up something (“put off”), we should add something (“put on”).

In Ephesians 4:25-32 St. Paul provides a list of things we can put off and put on. He puts equal emphasis on both. We are to stop lying and speak the truth. We are to stop stealing and labor for the things we need. We must not only let go of bitterness, wrath and anger, we need to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving. We see the Apostle’s point.

Both in Lent and in life, growing in our faith is more than finding ways to put off ways we sin. In fact, if we were able to accomplish that we would leave a vacuum which Satan could fill with far worse sin (St. Luke 11:24-26)! We need to fill the vacuum left by what we put off, by putting something on. We need to add to our faith!

2 Peter 1:4-8 states “…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. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  After we have escaped the world’s lusts (see 1 St. John 2:15-17) we need to add certain things to our faith; if that is, we want to be fruitful in our love and knowledge of Jesus.

That’s really the crux of the matter isn’t it? Do we do the religious things we do; you know, give up things during Lent, attend mass, pray or serve in order to (so we think) “avoid hell”? Or, do we do religious things because we want to love and know Jesus our Savior better? Do we want to merely “put off hell”, or do we want to “put on heaven?”

St. Paul and St. Peter say we need to both put off sin and put on love and knowledge. Loving, serving and growing in Christ are accomplished with what we put off and what we put on. If all we do is put off sin, but never add anything to our faith we will not grow in our love for and knowledge of Jesus. Or, if all we do is put on. If we practice perfect discipline during Lent, become perfect in our mass attendance, pray the daily offices and serve tirelessly, but do not stop habitual sin, we will not grow either. We need to put off. We need to put on.

As we continue in this Lenten season, let us rethink our disciplines in light of what we see in the instructions of SS. Paul and Peter. If the things we put off and put on are truly life changing, these remaining weeks of Lent will be just the beginning!

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

February 13, 2018 (St. Kentigern, Bishop and Confessor / Shrove Tuesday)

I was a “rink rat” growing up.

In the winters I would hang out at the city ice rink. I’d have my skates with me and would look for any opportunity to get on the ice. On Friday and Saturday nights I’d drag my equipment with me to see if the guys renting the ice after public skating needed a goalie. Nine of ten times they did and I’d get to play.

As a kid I remember seeing what I affectionately think of as “church rats” at the local parish. They were typically older men and women, likely retired, who seemed to be somewhere on the parish property all the time (I’d cut through it a lot on my way to other places). Usually I’d see them pulling weeds, caring for the priest’s vegetable garden, throwing salt on the walkways or just puttering around the grounds and sanctuary.

Then there were other times when I saw them inside the church praying. Back in those days the church’s doors were open through the day. I’d stop in to get a drink of water or warm up as I cut through, and I’d see them kneeling or sitting in a pew just praying, no one else around. Mass was not about to begin nor had it recently ended. It was just them, alone, with God. I admired this, a lot.

In St. Luke 2:25-38 we are told about two great “church rats” Simeon and Anna.

Simeon was a devout man and a prophet. He was daily at the Temple praying for the “consolation,” the redemption, of Israel. The Holy Ghost was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Christ face to face. Once he saw the infant Jesus’ face, his work as a prayer warrior was finished and he proclaimed he was ready to depart in peace.

Anna was a prophetess and a widow who lived at the Temple.  For eighty-four years she was day and night inside the Temple gates, praying and fasting. When she saw Jesus, she praised God and told everyone that salvation had come to Israel.

We don’t have many “church rats” today. In part this is because, for safety purposes, our churches are not open like they used to be.  But even if they were, few would likely take advantage of it. We’re busy (doing what I don’t know?) so few have time to putter around the church or sit in the sanctuary to pray. I think the Church has really lost something.

But we don’t have to be on the property of our parish to be a “church rat.” Unlike Israel we don’t have one, centralized place of worship. Jesus told the woman at the well “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father…But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” (St. John 4:21, 23).

Church buildings where orthodox, Biblical, sacramental worship takes place are important, but they are not essential the way the Temple was. If it became necessary, we, like the early Church, could worship God fully and properly anywhere. All we need is a proper priest, bread and wine (and a table would be nice), and we can worship and commune with Jesus (St. Luke 24:30-32).

How then can we be “church rats” in this 21st century? We can live with the attitude and desire of Simeon and Anna. We can set our hearts, minds and desires on Christ and His Church.

Every morning we can begin our day with prayer, and then pray Morning Prayer too. Throughout the day we can keep our mind on the things of God (“pray without ceasing”) and when opportunities arise to worship, work at or serve our parish, or our fellow parishioners, we can be the one who is there. We can end our day with Evening Prayer and then pray again before we go to sleep. If we awake during the night, we can pray (Psalm 36:4).

We may not be able to be physically at the church day and night like Anna or daily like Simeon, but our hearts and minds can be on it like theirs was. We can pray for the consolation of the Church. We can pray for the ACC, the other Joint Synod churches, and our parish. We can pray for our bishops and other clergy. We can pray for lay readers and those who serve before, during and after mass. We can pray for our musicians and singers. We can pray for our church school teachers. We can pray for our fellow parishioners and for those who may visit (and pray more will visit!). The point is, we don’t have to be physically at the church to be a “church rat.” But, we do need to have the spirit and desire of one.

The benefits of being a “church rat” are great. Look at Simeon and Anna. For all their love, care and prayers for the Church, they got see Jesus face to face! Well worth their effort, wouldn’t you agree?

Have a holy and blessed Lent!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

February 6, 2018 (St. Titus, first Bishop of Crete, Martyr)

I find that one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines to practice is being still before God.

Psalm 46:10 states “Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 4:4 states “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah”

Throughout the Book of Psalms that word Selah appears, always at the end of a verse. While its meaning is not certain, it is believed to mean stop and listen or pause and think. Taking time to stop and listen or pause and think is something we can use to strengthen our personal relationship with God.

When I muse about this, 1 Kings 19:9-18 comes to mind. The prophet Elijah had just finished calling fire down upon the sacrifice he offered to God upon Mount Carmel and ordering the slaughter of 950 priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40). King Ahab and the evil Queen Jezebel were in hot pursuit of Elijah, and he sought refuge in the cleft of a rock on Mount Horeb.

There on the mount, after fasting 40 days, the Lord spoke to Elijah and instructed him on what he was to do next. Where did Elijah hear the Lord? It was not in a fierce mountain wind. It was not in an earthquake. It was not in fire. It was in a still, small voice. As Elijah sought God in stillness, God spoke to him and instructed him.

God will instruct us too, but we have to get still before Him and listen for His voice in the stillness.

Getting still before God is harder than ever in our day. There is so much noise! Radio, television, computers, and the worst of all…cell phones!  Some have come to think they must have their cell on or at least near them all the time. They have to receive the next text, Tweet, Facebook update or e-mail immediately. Aargh!

We need to find a place, or make a place, where we can be alone and get still before God. A room in our home where we do nothing other than pray and study is ideal. But if we do not have a room we can use exclusively for prayer and study, we at least need a place without a television or radio.  If a television or radio has to be in that room, put the remote in another room until you’re finished. The room can have a CD player to play quiet music, though I think total silence is best. Our cell phone CANNOT be in that room with us! CANNOT! Put it in another room and silence it!

Once we are in our place we need to become still. We don’t need a particular technique to do this. It may take practice to find our way to stillness, especially if we’ve not been still before God in a long time. We should have our Bible next to us. While hearing from God does not require reading Scripture, the Holy Spirit may lead us to look up a passage(s) to give us insight and answers. God’s direction is heard most reliably through His Holy Word (Psalm 119:105).

As we become still, we then fill our thoughts with the things of God. Use prayers or verses of Scripture you already know to get your thoughts on Him. Psalm 139 can be very helpful or something as simple as “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:9, 10). The first prayer on pg. 594 of the BCP is a good one to use. The Luminous Mysteries of the rosary may be helpful. Once our thoughts are on God, all we need to do is listen. Be still. Be quiet. Let God speak. Think on Him. Contemplate Him. Meditate on Him.

Christian meditation is different from the Eastern forms. The latter calls the practitioner to totally empty the mind of all thoughts. Christian meditation calls us to totally fill our mind with thoughts of God. This is what we want to do, fill our thoughts with God. Just be still and listen for His voice. He will be there.

Being still before God takes practice. All good things do. Don’t get discouraged. There is no right or wrong way. The only goal is stillness. Feel your way, allowing the Spirit to guide you. Don’t worry about time; how long or how short you are still, or when you need to finish. The Spirit will let you know. If there is a clock in the place you use, try to face away from it. Don’t wear a watch. Get one on one with God who is outside of time. If you are time restricted, set a timer in another room that you can hear at your place.

These are just ideas. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. This is very personal, so make it personal.

On Wednesday nights during Lent, between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, the sanctuary at St. Peter’s will be open for quiet time before our Lord, Really Present in the Tabernacle. See the schedule page on this website for more information. This is an opportunity to prime our ability to get still before God.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

January 30, 2018 (Blessed Charles Stuart, King and Martyr)

The Church uses four colors to symbolize the primary liturgical seasons of the kalendar. White is used for festive seasons like Eastertide and Christmastide. Violet is used for the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent. Green is used for Epiphanytide and Trinitytide. Red is used for Pentecost. There is also black for Good Friday, All Souls and on requiems, and gold can be used for the high feasts like Easter, Christmas, Epiphany and Christ the King.

We are in pre-Lent, the “gesima-Sundays.” In this season violet is the traditional color, though Rome uses green and calls it “ordinary time” (?). But if I was “in charge” of liturgical colors, I’d propose using a different color for pre-Lent: Yellow! Not bright yellow, like the sunshine, but yellow-orange, caution-yellow, the yellow used in traffic signals.

I’d use caution-yellow because pre-Lent is a cautionary season. Its purpose is to remind, if not warn, us that Lent is coming and we need to prepare for it.

How do we prepare for Lent? By deciding what our Lenten discipline will be. We should not wait until Shrove Tuesday to decide “I’ll give….up for Lent.” That sort of knee jerk decision will almost certainly fail. Unless of course you decide to give up brussel sprouts, and since you hate them already, you can easily keep it!

If, as we should, we want to practice some form of increased discipline during Lent we should, today, start to decide what that will be. There are two weeks to go before Ash Wednesday. Each day until then we should ask the Holy Ghost to guide us in determining what discipline we should practice during Lent. If we ask, He will answer. And He knows what we need most to grow spiritually (Romans 8:26). That’s what Lent is for, to plant seeds for spiritual growth, not to just “give something up” for 40 days.

It could be we need to pray more often? It could be we need to pray more fervently, meaning not in a rush or by setting up a prayer closet (a “war room”), away from as many distractions as possible? It could be we need to start using a devotional to guide our spiritual walk? It could be we need to start using our spiritual gifts? It could be we need get more involved in our parish? It could be we need to become involved in works of service and mercy? It could be we need to attend Sunday mass more consistently, eliminating excuses? It could be we need to attend mass on each of the Prayer Book holy days or weekday masses? It could be we need to begin to study our Bible and not just read it? Or, it could be we need to give up chocolate?

The Holy Ghost will let us know if we need to do any of what I’ve listed, or something else, in order to continue to grow spiritually.

The best thing about asking the Holy Ghost to guide us in determining what our Lenten discipline should be is, He will tailor it to our exact needs and abilities. We won’t be too hard or too easy on ourselves. We won’t get caught doing something others are doing, but really isn’t for us to do. If we approach this petition with honesty, willing to do what the Spirit guides us to do, He will show us exactly what we need, and help us find the will and strength to do it.

The Epistle lesson for Septuagesima Sunday is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Here St. Paul uses the analogy of a marathon race for the Christian life. Like a seasoned racer we need to grow in temperance. We need to run with greater certainty, fighting through the aches and pains (spiritual and physical), the “side-stitches” and “cramps,” in order to obtain the prize waiting for us at the finish line: the crown of everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

St. Paul uses this same analogy in Hebrews 12:1-4. Here we are encouraged to run with patience, laying aside the weight of sin that can so easily derail our spiritual growth. But in doing this we are not alone!  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, the saints that have gone before us who intercede for us as we run. More so we have Jesus to look unto!  He is the One who initiated our faith at Baptism, and He is the One who will complete our faith with a holy (not necessarily an easy) death. We need to look unto Him!

As the Israelites, when they journeyed to the Promised Land, were told to look upon the bronze serpent on the pole to be healed from the bite of the fiery serpents that infected the camp (Numbers 21:4-9), so we must look unto Jesus, lifted up on the cross (St. John 3:13-15) and now ascended in heaven (Acts 7:55-60), to heal us of the bites of the fiery serpents: Satan and his demons, we encounter on our journey, our marathon, to the Promised Land of Heaven.

We are already in this race, but are we engaged in it? Are we giving it our best? Are we running with certainty? Are we fighting the enemy or shadow boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26)? The Holy Ghost will assuredly let us know.

Really, I don’t want caution-yellow to be the actual color for pre-Lent!  But it is a good reminder and warning for us to prepare for Lent. And, like a caution-yellow signal at an intersection we can heed it or ignore it.  It’s our choice.

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

January 24, 2018 (St. Timothy, Bishop and Martyr)

What is the “Catholic Church”?

The word “catholic” means universal, so in the fullest sense the body of believers founded by Jesus, endued with the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, and entrusted to the twelve Apostles to build “into all the world” (St. Mark 16:15) is the Catholic Church, since there are Christians throughout all of the world.

But today the Catholic Church needs to be defined more specifically. The early 20th century Church of England theologian Darwell Stone states this Church has two marks: universality and communion with those bishops consecrated in the episcopal succession that can be traced back to the apostolic church. I call this the Catholic Church Proper (CCP).

Scripture defines the Church Jesus founded as a visible body of baptized men and women who continued in the fellowship of the Apostles, met together to hear God’s Word preached and taught, receive the sacraments, and worship God (Acts 2:42). The Church was one body; with one Lord, one faith and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5) as its foundation for membership.

This one Church was visibly one, what Stone calls “subjective unity,” until AD 1054 when the Eastern and Western parts split. From that point through today the Church only has “objective unity”, which is unity with Christ as her head. Subjective unity, what we today call intercommunion, has been lost. Subjective unity was further severed when the Western Church subdivided at the Reformation. Since then the Church has continued to divide into smaller and smaller pieces, to the point where subjective unity has all but disappeared.

Yet objective unity remains. The Church, all parts that maintain Biblical doctrine, is still One Church, with one Lord, faith and baptism. But is this the Catholic Church Proper?

I say no, since for so many there is no desire to have the episcopal ministry. In fact for the vast majority of Protestants there is nothing but disdain for the episcopal office, even though Scripture plainly teaches it (1Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9) and the need for the succession to be perpetuated (Acts 1:15-26, 1 Timothy 5:17-22, Titus 1:5)!

The CCP maintains both marks, universality and the episcopal succession. Herein we have the best way to answer the question “What is the Catholic Church?”

In this 21st century there are four churches, or four branches, of the CCP: the Eastern or Orthodox, the Roman, the Anglican and the Old Catholic. These four branches have maintained the two marks of the CCP. Sadly, much of the Anglican branch (and Old Catholic) has surrendered its apostolicity due to the “ordination” of women, but the Anglican branch remains alive through the Continuing Anglican churches.

These four branches each maintain universality; they are present throughout the world and in communion with bishops that have maintained the apostolic, episcopal succession and the sacramental ministry that flows forth from it. Each has objective unity with Christ. What the four lack is subjective unity with one another.

This lack of intercommunion is the cause of many problems for the CCP. Objective unity is the essential unity of course, but subjective unity is important too. If nothing else, it is essential to the witness of the Church. St. Paul scolded the Corinthians for being “of Paul”, “of Cephas (Peter)”, “of Apollos” (1 Corinthians 1:12).  The CCP should not be divided! Yet she is.

So then what can done to restore subjective unity? I think there are few initial things:

First, each branch must maintain orthodoxy. Straying from truth is straying from Christ. The Church is unfaithful when she tries to be relevant to the zeitgeist. When orthodoxy is lost, objective unity (unity with Christ) is lost. Without objective unity there can be no subjective unity. An example of this is the intercommunion Orthodox churches sought with the Canterbury, Anglican Communion in the 1970’s and 80’s which was stopped by the heresy of the “ordination” of women. Second, each branch must be who they are. While each branch should draw upon the others’ spirituality, each needs to remain true to themselves. This is where diversity is good. The Body cannot be all an eye or all an ear, etc. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Each has something to contribute to the whole. Third, each branch needs to stop diminishing, if not invalidating, the others’ sacramental ministry. It can be shown that each of the four has a true part of the episcopal succession that dates back to the apostles, and has the proper matter, intent and form in their sacramental ministry. We need to focus on what we have in common, not what makes us different. Last, each branch needs to stop having “ecclesiastical pissing matches.” Often clergy, and laity, act like dogs running about marking trees in a city park to claim superiority. How is that helpful? How is that Christian? How is that Catholic?

The CCP will not regain subjective unity by becoming all of one branch (all Roman, Orthodox, Anglican or Old Catholic). We will regain subjective unity by using our spiritual gifts to maintain the portion of Christ’s vineyard we’ve been given and working towards using those gifts to compliment, instead of compete with, each other.  Each branch has something very valuable to contribute to the whole.

I do not know if there has ever been a more deeply divided body than the Continuum? And yet as we have seen over the past four years, when churches (led by their bishops) are willing to submit to the will of the Spirit, dialogue openly and with charity, work together to resolve differences and focus on what is common, subjective unity is possible! And it can be achieved without compromising orthodoxy. In fact, it can actually strengthen it. This example is sounding a witness throughout those Anglican and conservative Episcopal churches that have maintained some level of internal orthodoxy.

The Catholic Church Proper has the ability to regain subjective unity. She can once again be the Catholic Church. She can regain it, because the presence of the Holy Ghost dwells within each branch, and He desires nothing more than for the CCP to be one, as the Holy Trinity is One (St. John 17:22).

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

January 16, 2018 (Bl. William Laud, Bishop and Martyr, Transferred)

The mid 17th century was a tumultuous time in England. The ecclesiastical peace set by Elizabeth I had faded, and factions within the church had again risen to prominence.

Puritanism had arisen, threatening to pull the Church of England into Continental Protestantism. But King James I, and more so his son Charles I (Charles the Martyr) would not  allow this to happen unchallenged. They were Catholics and knew the Church of England was a catholic church, Protestant only in the sense it had separated from Rome’s particular errors.

Charles needed an Archbishop willing to do the heavy lifting necessary to restore Catholic faith and order to England. He found him in William Laud. Laud served as archbishop from 1633-1645 (the last four years he was in prison). During this time he spent all his energy trying to restore order to the church against the extreme protestantism of the Puritans.

Ordained a priest in 1601, Laud steadily climbed to the top of the ecclesial order of the church gaining a reputation as a man of holiness, prayer and great learning (his book of private prayers is quite beautiful). In 1626 he succeeded the holy and learned Lancelot Andrewes as the bishop of Bath and Whales. When Charles I succeeded his father to the throne in 1629, Laud became one of his closest advisors. When Archbishop George Abbot died, Laud succeeded him (1633).

Laud did his best to revive the faith and practices of the Church of England in the catholic direction, but was violently opposed by the Puritans. At times his methods were seen as “heavy handed”, yet in retrospect, given the age, they were often necessary. The Puritans did not desire to find some kind of middle ground, so Laud would not compromise either.

Under Laud two great Anglo-catholic principles were formulated: Laudianism and Caroline spirituality. Laudianism has to do with ecclesiastical and liturgical order; essentially the assertion of the three fold clerical order, Canon Law and the Book of Common Prayer. Caroline spirituality is the teachings of the Caroline Divines; Andrewes (the one who birthed the movement), John Cosin, George Herbert, Mark Frank, Jeremy Taylor, et al.  Both of these principles remain relevant to Catholic-Anglicans today.

Despite his efforts, Laud was not successful. He was martyred, by beheading, on January 10, 1645.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” This is true of Laud. His blood planted seeds that have borne fruit; first in 1833 in the Oxford Movement and then again in 1977 in the Continuing Anglican Movement.

Laud’s life teaches us the Anglican Catholic faith is worth defending. It is worth our being ostracized by Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. It is worth our efforts to preserve and perpetuate it. It is a living faith, relevant in the English speaking world today.

Throughout history, God has raised men to take a stand for the faith and order of the Church. William Laud was one of those men. We should thank God for him.

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

January 10, 2018 (Of the Octave of Epiphany)

The first Anglican parish (actually it was a traditional, Episcopal parish) I joined was named Church of the Epiphany. It was in the fall of 1994.

I’m still embarrassed to admit this, but I had no idea what the Epiphany was, never mind what the word meant. Despite 12 years of Roman Catholic school and being in that church longer than that, I had never heard of the Epiphany…at least I don’t remember hearing of it.

I remember when I was given my first Book of Common Prayer. I paged through it and… lo and behold… there on page 107 saw “The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.” I read the Collect and the Lessons, and had my own epiphany! For the first time I knew which event in the life of Christ the Epiphany was.

Over the years I have met many people who have the same ignorance of the Epiphany I had. This is understandable. Non-lectionary churches rarely teach on the event, never mind its message. And many lectionary churches do not emphasize it, most often moving it to the Sunday closest to the Feast. For the latter it’s a “chicken or egg” like situation. I’m not sure if the Church stopped emphasizing the Feast, so people stopped attending mass on the day, or the people stopped attending mass on the day so the Church stopped emphasizing the Feast? Either way, it “is what it is.”  Churchmen are ignorant of this feast.

That’s unfortunate…really, it is. The message of this feast is fundamental to the message of the Catholic Faith! That message can be summed in two words: Revelation and Worship. The message of the Epiphany is the message of revelation and worship.

The Gospel lessons of Epiphanytide (which can be as many as six Sundays, this year it’s three) each give an account of ways Jesus was revealed as the Messiah. First to the magi by the star. Then by Jesus’ own testimony to Joseph and Mary in the Temple. Then by the testimony of St. John the Baptist. Then by His miracles and teaching. God has revealed to man, to the world, that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior the world had been waiting for.

In the reaction of the magi to seeing the toddler Jesus, the reaction of St. John Baptist (St. Matthew 3:13-15) and the reaction of the leper (St. Matthew 8:2 see Epiphany 4), we see the second message of the Epiphany: worship!  When they encountered Jesus, the magi, the Baptizer and the leper each worshiped Jesus!

This message we learn from Scripture; the message of Revelation and Worship, is a life-message!  You and I should reveal Jesus and worship Jesus! We should do these with our lips and in our lives. We should do them formerly at mass and actively in life.

First, as Anglican Catholics we should want, really want, to worship Jesus!  He is our Lord, He is our Savior. There should be nothing more important in our lives than going to mass where we enter into and receive Jesus. With the Psalmist we should say “I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1). When we are there, we should bow, kneel and fall prostrate before Him, Really Present in the Tabernacle. Or do we not really believe He is Present…?  We should sing (even if, like me, we’re not good at it). We should participate in the prayers and responses attentively. We should be heard especially when we say the “Great Amen” at the conclusion of the Canon (very bottom of pg.81 in the Prayer Book).

Second, our worship should lead us to reveal Jesus to others. We need to “manifest” Christ to others. To who should we reveal Him? To the next person God gives us the opportunity to. We can manifest Christ in our words and our actions. We can manifest Him directly and indirectly.  Directly by telling others about Him and spreading the Good News verbally. Indirectly by loving and serving the brethren; always prepared to share why we do what we do.

Anglican Catholics should not be ignorant about the Epiphany! There just is no excuse for it! We should know the Biblical-historical event it celebrates and the message Scripture teaches about revelation and worship, yes, but we also need to live that message formally and actively!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

January 3, 2018 (Octave of St. John the Evangelist)

Salvation is by grace, through faith, unto good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). God gives man grace. That grace, when nurtured births faith. That faith brings forth good works unto salvation.

God gives grace through three primary means: Scripture, the Sacraments and prayer. All three are part of the baptismal rite; Scripture is read, the Sacrament (water) is administered and prayers are offered. Through all three grace is given; grace that regenerates the soul, infusing it with the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5-7). It is a gift from God, not of works, so man can make no claim to it. Infant baptism is the greatest proof of God’s mercy. Before the infant boy or girl can do anything good or bad, God gives the initiating grace necessary to be saved!

The Person of the Word, engrafted into the soul through the written Word and the sacramental Word needs to be received by faith (St. James 1:21).  This is on us. We are responsible for doing this. God will not do it for us. Grace is received by faith formally at Confirmation. In this second Sacrament, belief in Jesus that has been engrafted in the heart is confessed with the mouth unto salvation (Romans 10:9, 10). When that profession is made, the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord) are sealed upon the soul. These gifts are necessary to strengthen faith unto eternal life. The third Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, provides the spiritual nutrition the soul needs for these gifts to strengthen; the result being holiness and everlasting life (Hebrews 12:14).

In Baptism we are saved (1 Peter 3:21). In Confirmation we are saved (Romans 10:9, 10). In the Eucharist we are saved (St. John 6:54). These are “positional” truths. In other words, through each of those Sacraments, God gives the grace necessary to be saved. The recipients can claim this salvation, they can claim they are a Christian, because God is faithful and always ministers grace through the Sacraments, which are the “word made visible” (St. Augustine).

The question, or issue, then is how the Word: the Person, the Written and the Sacramental, is received? Have we received it by faith? Or has it fallen upon shallow, rocky or thorn-filled soil in our soul (St. Mark 4:1-20)?  What is done formally at Confirmation must be done daily for the rest of our lives. We must show forth our faith in Christ with our lips and in our lives each day with our words, our actions and our deeds.

We show forth our faith with words by confessing it each day. When we pray Morning and Evening Prayer we must say the Apostle’s Creed! Don’t skip it! Rehearse the Articles of the Faith every day. We also show forth our faith with our words by defending it and by sharing it. Jesus said if we refuse to confess Him before men, He will refuse to confess us as one of His to His Father on the Day of Judgment (St. Matthew 10:32). St. Peter said we must always be prepared to give an answer to all who ask, the reason for our hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).

We show forth our faith in our actions through weekly, faithful reception of the Holy Eucharist. St. Paul wrote “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:26).  Mass attendance (more correctly “assisting at mass”) is an obligation. Remember what Jesus said about the reaction the Lord of the feast had to those who refused to attend His banquet for superficial reasons (St. Luke 14:16-24). Yet we shouldn’t go for juridical reasons! We should go because we know Jesus is particularly Present, in a manner He is not present in any other way here on earth, and we want to be with Him.

We show forth our faith in our deeds. These are our good works. St. James says poignantly, faith without works is dead; it is not faith at all! Works are the fruits of faith. Others will believe our faith by our works. Not just our benevolent works! Even those not being saved do them. Our faith is proved by our moral works; how we conduct ourselves in day to day situations, when we think no one else is watching, what we say and how we say it, how we “love the brethren” (1 St. John 3:10). Those good works show to God, and to others, we are being saved.

Let us thank God for grace, faith and good works. Grace is the power that makes faith and works possible. Faith is the way we can “feel” we are being saved, for by faith we know God’s presence within us in every situation. Works prove we have faith; to God and to man, including ourselves.

Have a blessed 2018!

This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.

 

December 27, 2017 (St. John, Apostle and Evangelist)

Christmastide is a time of great joy in the Church. In this season we celebrate Emmanuel, God with us. We celebrate the great truth that the Second Person of the Eternal Trinity has come to earth as Man, the man Jesus of Nazareth!

But should we celebrate Jesus’ Presence with us only during Christmastide?  

Jesus came to earth for a specific purpose; to redeem us from sin. The Godhead had determined that since a man, Adam, had sinned; only a man, Jesus the perfect man, could redeem from sin. That’s exactly what Jesus did…

By the mystery of His holy Incarnation; by His holy Nativity and Circumcision; by His holy Baptism, Fasting and Temptation, Jesus has redeemed us!  By His Agony and Bloody Sweat; by His Cross and Passion; by His Precious Death and Burial and by His Glorious Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus has redeemed us! (see the Litany, pg. 55 in the 1928 BCP).

After His Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and today sits at the right hand of His Father in glory. Does this mean He is no longer with us? Does this mean Emmanuel, God with us, was only relevant for Christians from 0 to 33 A.D.? Of course not! Before He ascended, Jesus told us “…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (St. Matthew 28:20).

But how? By the Holy Spirit, yes (St. John 14:16-18). But also in a more particular, and if you will, personal, way in the Eucharist! Jesus is with us; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist!

On the night He instituted the New Covenant Passover on Holy Thursday, Jesus said “This is my body…This is my blood.”  In St. Luke 24:30-35 we are told Jesus is made known to us “…in the breaking of bread.”

This truth gives us great cause to celebrate! And we should! We should celebrate Jesus’ Presence among us as often as we can. The Apostolic Church celebrated it daily (Acts 2:42). As Anglican Catholics we should celebrate it at least weekly on the Lord’s Day. Being in the Real and Particular Presence of Jesus should be meaningful to us, more meaningful than anything else in this world!

Think of it…Our God and Savior loves us so much that He provides and offers us a way to meet Him “face to face” to dine with, and in our hearts by faith, upon Him!  What He feeds us with is the true manna, the bread which came down from heaven, the Word of God made flesh…His very Self!

As awesome a mystery as Jesus’ Incarnate Presence is, His Eucharistic Presence is equally so. That God is Present to us today is…how can it be described? It is incredible!  True it is a veiled presence. But who of us, sinful as we are, can look upon His unveiled glory and live (Revelation 1:12-17)?

Now some get distracted by the veil, saying Jesus’ presence is a mere memorial. Some say He is present spiritually, but not Really (as if the two can be distinguished!). The truth is, veiled beneath the bread and wine is the Body and Blood (Soul and Divinity too) of Jesus! He said “my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed.” (St. John 6:55). The word “indeed” in Greek means “truly, of a truth, in reality, most certainly.” Jesus is the One who says the consecrated Bread and Wine of the Eucharist are “indeed” His Body and Blood. As Catholics we don’t dispute it, we believe it!

It is, then, not just “Oh yeah, God is with us.”  It is “GOD IS WITH US!!” We have just as great a reason to celebrate God’s Presence with us as those living during the 33 years Jesus lived and walked this earth did. God is still with us!  Jesus still comes to us! He remains Emmanuel! Why would we not want to be with Him?

When Christmastide ends, Jesus remains Emmanuel! He is with us always, and will be with us unto the end of this age…in the Holy Eucharist!

Let us celebrate His Presence, each Sunday and any day mass is celebrated!

This is my musing for today. Thank you for reading it.

 

 

Advertisements