Want to Find Out More about St. Clare’s and Get to Know Us?Come visit us on Sunday. Our short Morning Prayer service of scripture readings and prayers begins at 9:40 AM. Mass is at 10:00 AM. Fellowship and refreshments follow Mass.
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News of Possible Communion with The Sea of Peter! Homily - October 24, 2009
St. Clare of Assisi Anglican Church
Rectory: Office: 303-909-0746
8170 Cody Ct. Rectory: 303-423-1846
Arvada CO 80005 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
March 17, 2013
Dear St. Clare of Assisi Parishioners and Friends:
Our Lenten Journey will soon end with the joy of Easter. I pray that the sacrifices you have made during Lent have helped you to examine and deepen your relationship with God and brought you closer to Our Lord.
Following is our schedule for Holy Week:
The Distribution of Palms and Palm Sunday Mass- March 24 at 10:00 AM.
Preceded by Morning Prayer at 9:40 AM
Maundy Thursday Mass – March 28 at 5:30 PM.
Good Friday observances – March 29 at 2:30 PM
Stations of the Cross followed by The Mass of the Pre-Sanctified.
Easter Sunday – March 31 - Morning Prayer 9:40 AM - Mass - 10:00 AM
For those of you who wish to receive the Sacrament of Holy Penance, I will be available to hear confessions on Thursday, March 28 (Maundy Thursday) between 4:45-5:15 PM. If you would like another time, please contact me at 303-423-1846 or 303-909-0746 to make an appointment.
I hope that you will be able to join us during Holy Week to re-live our Lord’s Passion. Please join us on Easter to renew our faith as we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord.
May God’s blessings upon you be bountiful!
Very sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Bill Wiener+
Worshiping at the Hover Community All Faiths Chapel
1401 Elmhurst Drive, Longmont, CO 80503
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The Second Sunday of Lent
March 16, 2014
Epistle Reading - 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-8
Gospel Reading - Matthew 15: 21-28
“For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” [I Thessalonians 4:7]
Temptations of the Flesh:
Recall last week’s Gospel reading from Matthew chronicling Jesus’ handling of the Devil’s temptations. Remember that our Lord had just completed forty day of fasting in the desert when Satan appeared to Him tempting Him with food, riches, and power. Recall that Satan approached Jesus at a time when He is most vulnerable. Recall our Lord’s strength when he sent the Devil packing: “Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thy serve.” [Matthew 4:10] Even the most casual of observations of our world today can lead us to conclude that Satan is still alive and well and choosing his opportunities to tempt us. The closer we get to God, the more active he becomes. Thus, it would seem that during the Lenten Season when our minds are on the sacrifice God’s Son made for us, which we reflect through the symbolic sacrifices we make during this period, that Satan’s desire to be a presence in our lives would be strong. Today’s readings look at temptations of the flesh.
Today’s first reading from Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians and us is specific about temptations of the flesh: not only those of a sensual nature, but those temptations which affect our dealings with others. Paul was writing to a newly established church which was composed mainly of gentiles: pagans who had worshiped Gods that encouraged promiscuity, satisfying sensual pleasures, and quenching fleshly temptations. It was into this milieu of immoral behavior that Paul and his companions, Sylvanus and Timothy, brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His promise of salvation. You can imagine the up-hill battle of developing the Church in Thessalonica, yet, after several months, a strong nucleus of pagan converts came together to form a growing band of Christians. In the face of persecution from both the Jewish and pagan communities of Thessalonica, the Church survived. Paul left Timothy with the Thessalonians as he continued his travels. Timothy’s reports to Paul were that the Church was continuing to grow. Paul’s first Epistle to the Thessalonians was one of encouragement and stressing moral behavior, reminding them that “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” [I Thessalonians 4:7]
Temptations of the Flesh Defined:
In essence, the temptations of the flesh Paul wrote about can result in sins of selfishness. They not only are the temptations of sexuality that Paul related to the Thessalonians, but a catalogue of sins which are self-satisfying and interfere with our relationship with God. The temptations of the flesh reside within each of us and the action we take with regard to temptation results in either sinful behavior or an act which is favorable to our relationships with God and those around us. Temptations of the flesh relate to the degree to which we are over-extravagant to the exaggerations we make and the lies we tell to preserve ourselves in an attempt to look good to others. Temptations of the flesh are related to hypocrisy; blame avoidance; how much discontent we have with our lives and status. Temptations of the flesh relate to jealousy; irritation with the prosperity of others; wishing ill upon others when things do not go our way. Temptations of the flesh relate to how we deal with those around us: holding grudges; deceiving them; refusing to help people who are really in need of help. Paul wrote that “no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such [I Thessalonians 4:6]...He, therefore, that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God.” [I Thessalonians 4:8] Thus, it’s in giving in to the temptations of the flesh that we satisfy our selfish needs and engage in behaviors which are contemptuous to God.
We don’t have to look much further than today’s Gospel to find an example of the results of temptations of the flesh. Look at Jesus’ and the disciples’ treatment of the Canaanite woman. This gentile woman, acknowledging Our Lord’s Messiahship, asked him for help for her daughter: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David...my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” [Matthew 15:22] Jesus turned a deaf ear and the disciples begged Him to send her away. Yet she persisted. Our Lord told her that His ministry was only for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” [Matthew 15:24] and added insult to injury by telling her that “it is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs.” [Matthew 15:26] In other words, ‘what I do is intended for the children of God, not for gentiles: especially not for you low life Canaanites.’ Yet the woman persisted and came right back at Jesus with a respectful, yet biting retort: “Truth Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” [Matthew 15:27] Jesus’ attitude changed as He recognized her as a person of great faith and assured her that the devil had been cast out of her daughter.
Why Jesus Changed:
Why did Jesus almost give in to a temptation of the flesh in his treatment of the woman? He knew that the Canaanites were enemies of the Jews and a people to be avoided by any good Jewish person. He knew that He had been sent by his Father to develop a new covenant with God’s chosen people which did not include Canaanites. Perhaps He treated the Canaanite woman as He did because during this interaction He realized that His ministry was intended for all people, rather than a select few. Perhaps He realized that the woman demonstrated more faith in Him than those whom He thought He had been sent to save. Perhaps He wanted to demonstrate to the disciples that the rejection of others to build up their own feelings of superiority was a sin resulting from a selfish temptation of the flesh. Perhaps he wanted the disciples to realize that no matter how unclean we perceive the individual, she was still a child of God, and, through her faith, eligible for salvation.
We are constantly being bombarded by temptations of the flesh in our daily lives and we constantly make choices about how we are going to respond to these temptations. Our reactions to everyday occurrences continue to make us susceptible to temptation. The utterly selfish response of a woman who couldn’t leave our parking lot quickly enough after she picked up her kid, nudged one of our maintenance people who was on parking lot duty with her car in an attempt to move him out of the way. When our employee stood his ground, the driver began to honk her horn. When this didn’t work, she got out of her car and began to curse him. This drew a crowd of other parents attempting to leave our lot. One parent told the woman to get back into her car and wait her turn to leave or he would physically put her back in it. She returned to her car, cursing all the way. Our maintenance man got her license number and she was cited vehicular assault. Unfortunately there is no citation for being obnoxious, setting a bad example for your child, and yielding to the temptation to be selfish and impatient.
The pull of ‘should I do what I need to be doing, or should I spend some time doing what I like doing’ no doubt hits all of us sometime during the day. I hypothesize that at least 80% of the time we give in to the temptation and rationalize our behavior. The woman in the example I just cited rationalized her behavior with a comment that she was running late to an appointment and had to exit our parking lot as quickly as she could. By virtue of her being a parent of one of our students, she felt had a right, above all other parents who have children attending our school, to move traffic along because where she was going was more important than other folks’ destinations. She did not admit to any wrong doing and indicated that the example she was setting for her child was to stand up for yourself and your rights.
We’re all human and, while we may pray that we not be led into temptation, we find ourselves being tempted and, at times, giving in. We are a long way from the immoral depravities that tempted the Thessalonians, yet, during this Lenten Season, we have a good opportunity to examine our temptations and the actions which result from them: a good opportunity to reflect upon our spiritual houses to see the application of Paul’s words to us that “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” [I Thessalonians 4:7]
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The First Sunday of Lent
March 9, 2014
Epistle Reading - II Corinthians 6:1-10
Gospel Reading - Matthew 4:1-11
“Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou worship.” [Matthew 4:10]
Recap of Gospel:
Today’s Gospel paints a vivid picture for us. Jesus, at the beginning of his public ministry, was coming off a forty-day fast in the desert. We can assume that He was hungry and tired and not in the mood to be trifled with: a fine time for Satan to make his entry: a time when Jesus was in need of physical comfort and a time when He appeared to be vulnerable. It’s at times like these that we’re all most vulnerable to temptation. It’s at times like these when we’re the weakest that we need to be our strongest. It’s at times like these that we’re most likely to sacrifice our status as children of God for the sake of creature comfort. Yet, it’s at times like these that we must recall what our Lord did in the face of temptation and follow His example. Jesus did not have to prove Himself to Satan by turning rocks into bread or throwing himself off a cliff to be caught by angels or worshiping him to gain power. Surely, He could have done all of these things, but He had no point to prove to the devil. He had no need to renounce his ‘sonship’ to God and turn away from God’s grace. Thus, Jesus’ message to Satan and to us is clear: live by the word of God and “Him only shalt thou serve.”[Matthew 4:10]
Writing off Satan:
Some of us may tend to write-off today’s Gospel as a biblical tale from the past with a message. Perhaps our Lord was hallucinating after forty days without food. There is no devil. Satan is something from biblical times and died out during the middle ages. Believing that there is a devil is the province of fundamentalists who offer the option of ‘repent or roast in Hell.’ Perhaps the best proof that Satan exists is the fact that through his power, he has convinced us that he doesn’t and that temptation is merely a figment of our minds solely attributable to internal, rather than external factors.
Existence of Evil:
Some of us have a hard time with the concept of the existence of Satan and the presence of an evil force. We tend to look at temptation and evil as having a psychological or physiological base from within the individual rather than caused by a- force-from-outside. From the serpent in the Garden of Eden to the Taliban and the Al Quida Network, to Assad in Syria, we’ve heard about or directly experienced a wide array of evil. We’ve seen the perpetrators of evil fall victim to the temptation of power. We’ve seen them reject the grace of God and become sons and daughters of Satan. We’ve also seen how they eventually fall and we conjecture about where they will spend their eternal lives. We’re exposed to a daily diet of evil and submission to temptation as we hear and read about senseless acts of violence and witness those who lie and twist the truth for their own advantage. Just this past week we’ve heard about a twenty-year-old who set an apartment complex on fire because his mother kicked him out; a man getting sentenced for killing his ex-wife’s ex-lover, and a prison inmate sentenced to life for clubbing a guard to death with a soup ladle. We generally chalk-off the behavior of evil doers past and present to a variety of factors ranging from bad genes to poor parenting. Granted, these may be contributing forces of evil behaviors, but let us consider that another factor may be Satanic. The need for power over others and the joy some experience from the suffering of others is certainly not Godly.
Consider the temptations we confront on a daily basis: the things we do to ourselves that may get in the way of our relationship with God. During the Lenten Season, many of us give something up: sacrifice something we enjoy. Those of us who can physically, recognize that the days of Lent are days of fasting and abstinence when we abstain from eating meat, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays, and eat smaller portions at meals throughout the period. The intent of our sacrifices is to keep the sacrifice our Lord made for us a primary focus of our minds. Yet, some of us cheat and let the devil of rationalization replace the power that God gives us every day to resist the temptations that abound. What a coincidence that the comfort things: the sweets, the feel good beverages and all the other stuff that we love to do are what we gave up for our Lenten Sacrifice. Yet, in the face of something stress producing, the ‘rationalization devil’ exerts its power when we say such things as: ‘my day has been so bad that a little scoop of this, or a little drink of that, or doing a little of this and that won’t hurt. After all, God wouldn’t want me stressed out and didn’t He put those things here for our enjoyment?’ Many of pray the ‘Our Father’ every day. We pray that He will “...lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” We pray that we, like our Lord, can have the power to say “Get thee hence Satan,” [Matthew 4:10] and not fall victim to the evil one’s ploy to distract us from focusing our attention on our heavenly Father and His Son. Thus, the temptation to do what we know we ought not to do and not do the things we know we should be doing is certainly not Godly. And if they’re not Godly, what force is motivating us? Our bad genes? The poor parenting we received? Or something else?
The Reality of Good V. Evil:
The tension between the forces of God and the forces of Satan may be subtle to us, but they are real. As Anglican Catholics who believe in and maintain the traditional faith, we are asked to do more and our way may be more difficult. When we look at our brothers and sisters who practice non-traditional forms of Christianity and see the essence of the faith eroding in their religious practice, how can we not believe that Satan is a powerful and real force?
Paul, in Today’ Epistle to the Corinthians and to us, admonished his readers to “...receive not the grace of God in vain.” [II Corinthians 6:1] We received God’s grace in Baptism when we became His adopted sons and daughters. We were given the power to conquer our inner sins and the power to maintain ourselves as God’s children. It’s temptation that threatens our status as redeemed sons and daughters of God. To “receive the grace of God not in vain” [II Corinthians 6:1] is to not succumb to the temptations which bombard us constantly. To “receive the grace of God not in vain” [II Corinthians 6:1] is to move from being a passive observer of God’s work to becoming a willing and active partner in the building of His church here on earth.
As we experience Lent over the next several weeks, let us reflect upon how we have received the grace of God and how we have used his grace to deal with temptations. Let us contemplate the temptations of our Lord: temptations which played upon his strength and his vulnerability. Satan knew Jesus had the power to turn rocks to bread and to take all into his possession if He wished. Jesus knew that Satan wanted to use his power to pervert it and maximize evil. As he tried to do with our Lord who he saw as hungry and tired, Satan knows our vulnerabilities and will lull us into believing that wrong is right. Let us, like Jesus, meet our temptations with the same resolve: “Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” [Matthew 4:10]
March 2, 2014
Epistle Reading - I Corinthians 13:1-13
Gospel Reading - Luke 18:31-43
“Receive thy sight….thy faith hath saved thee.” [Luke 18:42]
Today’s gospel gives us an interesting study of contrasts between the blindness of the disciples to what lay ahead and the restoration of sight to the beggar. The Gospel began with Jesus telling the Apostles that they were going to Jerusalem and that what the prophets had written about was about to come true: that he, the Son of Man, “shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated and spitted upon; and they shall scourge him, and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again.”[Luke 18:32-33] The Gospel went on to tell us that the Apostles “understood none of these things.”[Luke 18: 34] They were as blind to what Jesus was telling them as the blind man to whom our Lord was about to give sight. The blind man, when he learned that Jesus was walking past him, seized the moment. He had, no doubt, heard about the awesome powers of our Lord and may have hoped for the day: hoped for the moment when He would encounter him and perhaps be healed. Despite, the rebukes from the disciples, he wouldn’t be quiet and as Jesus approached him, the blind man acknowledged His Messiahship: “Thou, Son of David, have mercy on me.”[Luke 18:38] Jesus, recognizing a man of faith, did indeed have mercy upon him and gave him his sight.
The common thread between these two incidents in the Gospel is that type of love that Paul calls Charity in today’s Epistle. It’s not that romantic love that we commemorate on Valentine’s Day, but the love Our Lord talked about in the Summary of the Law when He told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It’s the selfless love of caring; of sharing; of concern about the welfare of others. It’s the love that Jesus had for his disciples when he tried to prepare them for what was going to happen on this final trip to Jerusalem. It’s the love that motivated our Lord to restore sight to the blind man. It’s the love that He gives to all of us who have hope for salvation through our faith in Him. It’s the love He has for us when we, like the beggar, seize the moment to get closer to Him through the charitable love we give to others.
Today’s Epistle reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is perhaps the most well-known of any of his writings. We’ve heard it countless times at weddings, anniversary celebrations and any time a reading is needed about the many facets of love. It was not Paul’s intention to write a beautiful treatise on love. His intent in writing to the Corinthians was to address the factionalism in this early church and correct some of its members’ apparent motivation to do things for the church and for others to build their ego and bolster their own status. He told the Corinthians and us that without charitable love as a motivator, all of our acts are meaningless. Paul wrote that charitable love “suffereth long and is kind.” [I Corinthians 13:4] No matter how much garbage someone gives us; no matter how many put downs come our way; no matter how much pain we endure, we must respond in kindness and continue to love the individual. It’s the love Jesus demonstrated for his persecutor. It’s the love we feel when we’ve wronged someone and they forgive us.
Charitable Love II:
Paul said that charitable love “envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.”[I Corinthians 13:4] In other words, this type of love doesn’t envy, nor does it make a big deal out of what I have in relationship to what you have, nor is it given to conceit. It’s the kind of love that says: ‘I don’t care if your car’s better than mine, or that you’ve got more money than I have. I don’t subscribe to the notion that if you’ve got it flaunt it and I don’t think that I’m God’s gift to humanity.’ Humility underlies this kind of love.
Charitable Love III:
Paul wrote that this type of love “doth not behave itself unseemingly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.” [I Corinthians 13:5] To demonstrate charitable love means to behave appropriately toward others; to not engage in self-serving acts; and not feel rage or bitterness when things don’t go our way. It’s the antithesis of a ‘don’t get mad-get even’ philosophy. Revenge and get-back games are foreign to charitable love. Openness and honesty are components of this type of love. Paul indicated that charitable love “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. It beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”[I Corinthians 13:6-7] Those who demonstrate this type of love do not brood over wrongs. They seek to right injustices and delve for the truth. They are always forgiving, trusting, hopeful, and patient. They know that when everything is crumbling around them, love never fails. This is the love we pledge in our marriage vows when we promise to love, comfort, honor, and keep our spouse in sickness and in health. This is the love Our Lord has for each and every one of us: the love He wishes us to extend to others; the love which, because of our human frailties, is so difficult exhibit.
Faith, Hope and Charity:
Paul concluded today’s Epistle by citing the three virtues of faith, hope and charity and emphasizing that the “the greatest of these is charity”[I Corinthians 13:13]: charitable love. It’s only by living a life where charitable love is our motivator that we begin to receive our spiritual sight. The Apostles on the road to Jerusalem were still trying to figure this out. Although Jesus just told them what lay ahead, just as he had done on several other occasions, the twelve, whose faith and hope in Him were unquestionable, had not developed in charitable love and were blind to what he was telling them. They still bickered among themselves about who was the greatest of them. Some, like Judas, may have been shaky in their loyalty. If they had developed charitable love, would they have told the beggar to be quiet and not to bother Jesus? It took their denial of our Lord, the horror of the crucifixion, and the Glory of the Resurrection to make the Apostles true practitioners of charitable love.
Some of us dread the Lenten Season: sacrifice, abstinence, fasting, yuk. For others, it’s a time to seize the moment, like the beggar in today’s Gospel, to receive our spiritual sight: to reach out and grab the time we have over the forty-days of Lent for reflection and contemplation of our relationship with God and to grow in charitable love. May we truly receive our sight and insight during this Lenten Season because our faith, hope, and charitable love has saved us.
February 23, 2014
Epistle Reading - II Corinthians 11: 19-31
Gospel Reading - Luke 8: 4-15
“But that on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it and bring forth fruit with patience.” [Luke 8:15]
The insight both Jesus and Paul had on human-kind which echoes through the ages and is as true today as it was when it was said and written never ceases to amaze me. Our Lord’s use of parables challenged his disciples and us to think beyond the obvious to gain a greater understanding God and our relationship with Him. It’s the curiosity to dig deeper to meet a need to understand that increases our faith and make us like the disciples whom Jesus told “unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God” as compared to others who, when confronted with opportunities to go beneath the surface and increase in insight, move onto something else less taxing and requiring little commitment. To use Our Lord’s words, these are the folks “that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” [Luke 8:10]
On one level, our Gospel reading presents stereotypes of the reactions of people who are exposed to the Word of God. Jesus explained that the first group, represented by the seed that fell by the wayside, are those “that hear, then cometh the devil and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” [Luke 8:12] These are people who see themselves as the down-trodden: the ‘have-nots’ who are victims of the ‘haves’ and the system. These are people whose outlook is often cynical and bitter: people whose hearts need to be softened to enable them to hear, understand, and incorporate God’s Word and promise into their lives. The second group, the seed that falls on rock and lacks adequate root, represent those, “which for a while believe and, in time of temptation, fall away.” [Luke 8:13] These are folks who are all talk and no action whose lives may be shallow facades, having little substance. These people may have difficulty making commitments and may find searching their inner selves as a frightening activity to be avoided at all cost. Their initial appearance as ardent believers may soon fade; yet, through the power of God, there is hope that they will develop a relationship Him and become more firmly rooted in faith. The third group, the seed that fell among thorns, “are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life and bring no fruit to perfection.” [Luke 8:14] These people are overtaken by the ‘weeds’ of everyday life and feel the need to engage in everything that they encounter. They have difficulty differentiating between good and evil and function in the ‘here and now’ with no thought given to what needs to be done to prepare for the next life.
On another level, our readings for today focus upon the ever present tension between good and evil: between the Word of God and the insidious work of Satan. When Jesus described how the Word of God is received by different people, He’s addressing detractors from God’s Word: temptation; temporal cares and pleasures; the Devil himself. He raises the question about the fertility of our soil to receive God’s Word when the distractions from other sources are so great.
Context of Epistle:
We see a similar theme in our Epistle reading for today. On the surface, this excerpt from Paul’s second Epistle to the Corinthians seems little more than a recitation of his hardships; however, if we put it in context, we get some insight into Paul’s humanity, his dedication to spreading the Word of God, and the insidious power of Satan. Establishing the church in Corinth was a priority for Paul. Corinth was a relatively new city which lay between the Aegean and Adriatic seas. It was a center of trade, had several industries, and was a hub of social life in Greece during the middle part of the first century. It took some time and effort to build a church in Corinth and Paul felt that church he had developed there had a firm foundation. After he left and went about his ministry, Paul learned that all is not well in Corinth. The appearance of several individuals claiming Apostleship who advocated a different gospel and a different view of Jesus from what Paul had taught attempted to take over the Corinthian Church. These ‘apostles’ tried to discredit Paul and boasted of their own demonstrations of faith and their relationship with the Apostles. Probably what hurt Paul the most was that the Corinthians did little to defend him.
The portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we heard today was written in frustration, anger and disillusionment. Paul used sarcasm and the boastful tactics used by the false apostles to convince the Corinthians of the truth of his Apostleship. He wrote, “Ye suffer fools gladly, seeing yourselves so wise.” [II Corinthians 11:19] In other words ‘You idiots think you’re so smart that you’ll believe anything anyone tells you and you’ll put up with anything they do to you.’ He goes on to compare himself to these false apostles and proceeds to recite a litany describing what he has been through for the glory of God: deeds and sufferings which surpass the claims of the false apostles.
The bottom line of what Paul was relating to the Corinthians comes a bit before today’s reading. He wrote “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”[2 Corinthians: 11:13-15]
Difficulty in Conceptualizing and Visualizing Evil:
Thus, today’s readings present us with the tension and ever presence of good and evil: God and Satan and examples of how we can be led astray. But isn’t that old stuff? The Corinthians are gone and few of us are sowers of seed. As far as the Devil is concerned, isn’t he just an abstraction, far removed from reality, and isn’t evil really just in the eye of the beholder? We can conceptualize Jesus. We can see Him on the cross and visualize Him quite concretely as we read the Gospels. We can see Him as the essence of truth and goodness and perfection: the embodiment of God’s Word. Satan; however, may be harder to grasp and visualize.
Examples of Good and Evil:
Militant Muslims view democracy as evil and an insult to Ala and look at those who blow themselves up in car bombs as martyrs who are on the fast track to heaven. We say we are the essence of good and Muslim fanatics are evil incarnate. They say the opposite. Who, in God’s eyes, is right? Ask a Palestinian about the intentions of the Israelis or an Israeli about the Palestinians and I’m confident that each side will judge the other as evil incarnate. Are Assad, the Al Quida Network, and Muslim extremist groups evil? After all, aren’t they doing what they perceive to be God’s work? Weren’t the Crusaders of the 15th Century and those involved in the Spanish Inquisition doing God’s work, too? It seems that evil is indeed in the eye of the beholder and perhaps it is the work of Satan to confuse the issue of good and evil.
Discerning Good and Evil:
If we use the filter of the Scriptures, we can discern the good from the evil. We can see Satan in those who would use their power to subjugate others for personal gain. A walk through the centuries indicates that the faces associated with evil have changed, but the essence remains the same. The evil of the false apostles Paul wrote about in today’s Epistle had a similar intent as those who went a different way during the Reformation and those who seek to divide God’s one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church today. The face of good has been a constant since the time Our Lord related the most important commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
We begin the Lenten season in about a week and a half. It’s a tough time because we’re called upon to make sacrifices, fast, and think about our relationship with God. It’s a time to look at our lives, attempt to discern evil from good and the truth from what is false. It’s a time to re-dedicate ourselves to following God’s Word. It’s a time to find out where the seed: the Word of God our Lord talked about in today’s gospel has fallen for us. It’s a time to replant it if it’s fallen by the wayside and Satan has taken it out of our hearts. A time to re-root it if temptation has made our belief in God’s word wither. A time to prune the thorns of the cares and pleasures of worldly things that may have detracted from it. It’s a time to read it, contemplate it, apply it and assure that our hearts are honest and good, so that ‘having heard the Word, we may keep it and bring forth fruit with patience.’[Luke 8:15]
January 5, 2014
Epistle Reading – Ephesians 3:1-12
Gospel Reading – Matthew 2:1-12
“...to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” [Ephesians 3:9]
Today our celebration is the Feast of the Epiphany: The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Our Gospel for today recounts the arrival of the three wise men from the orient to Bethlehem to pay homage to Jesus. After a brief stop in Jerusalem and a few questions from Herod, who hid his upset about the rumors that a king was born to rival his authority, the three followed the star to our Lord and “fell down and worshiped him.” [Matthew 2:11] The Magi, later identified as Melchior, an elderly Persian who brought frankincense, Caspar, a young Indian, who offered gold, and Balthazzar, a black Arabian who presented myrrh, were living proof of the fact that Jesus was so much more than the King of the Jews. They acknowledged that he was the universal king of Jew and gentile; believer and non-believer; and that his birth signaled a new beginning with the kingdom of God available to all people of faith.
The Wise Men:
The three wise men were foreigners, unfamiliar with the prophesies of the Old Testament, who made a hazardous journey. As astrologers, scientists of their time, the motivation for their travels may have been the appearance of that bright star and their inquisitiveness. More likely, their journey was also one of faith to find a greater meaning for their lives. Their trip from the orient, no doubt, brought them encounters with natural dangers along the way and with the human peril presented by Herod as they passed through Jerusalem. Yet, they pressed on and were more than amply rewarded when they reached their destination. They had indeed found much more than they were looking for and they presented their new king with their best: gold, perhaps to represent the gift of substance: the material that can be used for the betterment of mankind or to further man’s greed; frankincense, because it’s scent can stimulate the inner treasure of thought and prayer to deepen faith; and myrrh, the bitter gum resin valued for its curing attributes, to bring to mind the bitterness and sorrows of this life and the healing power of the next. Gifts that were suitable for a king: gifts symbolic of what we all strive for.
The Epistle-The Fellowship of the Mystery:
The wise men knew in their hearts and in the very fiber of their being that they had encountered God through his son, Jesus. They, as gentiles, knew the meaning of what Paul wrote about to the Ephesians and us in our Epistle for today. They saw and felt the “fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” [Ephesians 3:9]The mystery that salvation was not a gift available only to those who kept Mosaic law, but a reward available to everyone who believed in the saving power of Jesus the Christ: everyone from the most pious keeper of the law and the most powerful of human beings to the worst sinner and the most humble of humanity. The gifts they brought to our Lord paled in comparison to the gift He gave to them.
Unlike the Magi whose journey was full of unknowns and dangers who didn’t quite know what the end result of their travels would be, we have the benefit of their experience: we know they found what they were looking for. They had no road map, save a star and their faith. We have all the maps and guidance we need in the Holy Scriptures and the traditions of the Church. We have a guide for living in the Gospels and the Epistles. We have the goal of salvation which we should be moving toward. With all we have, why are many of our individual journeys so difficult? Why can we not accept the gift God has for us without question and know that He has our best interests in mind?
The truth of the matter is that we have to ask the questions before the answers mean anything to us. We have to take that dangerous journey toward faith to get faith and an understanding and appreciation of the gift God gave to us through His son. Recall the math books we all had in school that had the answers to the problems in the back. For those of us who found math to somewhat less than our best subject and whose teachers were not the sharpest in the world, those answers were a Godsend. Our homework was usually correct and all we had to do to pass the chapter tests was to memorize the answers from the back of the book. This worked fine for many of us who had better things to do than math until we met that teacher who made up her own problems and her own tests: who left the book and went off on her own to stretch the minds of the kids in her class. It didn’t take long for us to realize that although we thought we knew the answers, we didn’t even know the questions and the long and sometimes painful journey through arithmetic and its applications to algebra and geometry began. Just as math is more than rote memorization of answers and processes, the revelation of God and becoming a Christian is more than reciting creeds, prayers, and responses.
To Know God:
To know God and to realize the magnitude of His gift to us is so much more than knowing about God. It’s experiencing many of the same things and asking many of the same questions people have asked and experienced beginning with Adam and Eve and throughout the Old and New Testaments. It’s seeking answers to the questions that are meaningful to us in the Scriptures. It’s using the answers we have found to deal with day-to-day living. It’s developing a set of values and ways of behaving that move us from sin and toward increasing faith. It’s dealing the Herods in our lives in ways which would be acceptable to God.
The three Wise Men knew God both personally and spiritually. Their journey ended in joy and a sense of fulfillment. They presented gifts to our Lord and, through their faith, received a gift from Him which was far beyond anything they could imagine. This was their epiphany: the revelation that the saving power of God was available to all, not just a select few. The highway billboard that says “Jesus is the answer” is meaningless until we have formulated our own questions and, like the Magi and Paul, who had his epiphany on the road to Damascus, have had our individual epiphanies to come to the realization that “the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” [Ephesians 3:9] That the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is available to us and to all people.
First Sunday After Epiphany
January 2, 2014
Epistle Reading - Romans 12: 1-5
Gospel Reading - Luke 2: 41-52
“So we being many, are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another” [Romans 12:5]
Gems in The Epistle:
Today’s epistle from Paul to the Romans and us gives us much to digest. With so many gems of wisdom presented in this short passage, the challenge is in the selection of which one to address. We could talk about the importance of service to the church and to others which Paul emphasizes as he writes about offering “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” [Romans 12:1] We could talk about the importance of learning which Paul focuses upon as he tells his readers “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind...” [Romans 12:2] We could talk about the perils of being egotistical as Paul admonishes the Romans that an individual should “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think...” [Romans 12:3]
The Body of Christ:
Perhaps the most outstanding facet of today’s epistle, which incorporates many of the points I just mentioned, is Paul’s discussion of the Corporate Body of Christ. He related that “we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function. So we, being many, are one body in Christ and individual members in one another.” [Romans 12:4-5] Paul enlarged upon what he wrote to the Corinthians: “For by one spirit we are all baptized into one body: whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink in one spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.”[I Corinthians 12:13-14]
The notion of the Corporate Body of Christ says that through our baptism, we became a part of the body of Christ. Just as parts of our physical body must work together to help us function, we as members of the body of Christ must work together to function as a healthy, vibrant unit: The Church. Just as each part of our body has its own function, each of us as a member of the body of Christ has his or her own function, unique to the individual, but so important to the health of the whole. Just as when a part of our body becomes hurt or defective it affects us negatively, our inability to carry out our function within the body of Christ has an adverse effect on all other members.
Thus, we are all interdependent with a unified mission to be productive members of the Body of Christ: to use the unique gifts each of us has to the benefit of others. It makes no difference whether we are lay or clergy, we are all members of the same body and we must all contribute to its unity and health. “But,” you may ask, “What is my role? What makes me unique? How can I contribute?”
Paul gave us some sound advice about how we can find the answers to these questions in today’s Epistle reading. First, he talked about “reasonable service.”[Romans 12:1] We know that Jesus was the humble servant to others and we must follow his lead. Thus, in our own unique ways, we can provide service to others to make ourselves functioning members of the Body of Christ. The service we offer can be through our physical labor which benefits others, listening to others, caring for others, contributing our time, talent and treasure to the Church and in a myriad of other ways which suit us and help others.
Renewing the Mind:
Next, Paul wrote that we will be transformed by the “renewing of your mind.” [Romans 12:2] Jesus gave us a prime example of this in today’s Gospel reading. Being a precocious child and quite enthralled with anything to do with religion, He never joined the caravan home because He became attracted to a discussion between scholars, which was a daily occurrence in the Temple courtyard. His intellect and knowledge of the scriptures, along with the novelty of his youth, made him quite acceptable to his older colleagues. Perhaps, for the first time in his life, he felt that he was no longer a subjugated kid, but a young adult who found his elders listening to him, rather relegating what he had to say to the realm of childish nonsense. This interaction was a renewing of His mind and helped to jell what his role would be, just as study, reading, learning and becoming a life-long learner helps us to define our role. Openness to learning brings into focus the kinds of things that make us unique individuals because it has the power to enlarge upon our natural talents and refine how we may contribute to the Body of Christ. Learning improves ourselves and teaches us how we may be of greater service to God and to others.
Thirdly, Paul cautioned us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to. Self-accolades, egotistical behavior or, as it is written in the Book of Proverbs “...to seek one’s glory is not glory,” [Proverbs 25:27] hurt our relationships with others and are detrimental to our membership in the Body of Christ. We saw a bit of egotistical behavior from Jesus, in today’s gospel reading after his parents finally found him. In response to his mother’s frantic: “Why hast thou thus dealt with us? Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”[Luke 2: 48] Jesus, probably feeling more than a little embarrassed by his mother for giving him grief in front of his new associates, gave back a little ‘smart mouth:’ “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” [Luke 2:49] In essence, ‘why were you looking for me....I can get home just fine. Remember, I’m the Son of God and I need to be getting on with what He wants me to do.’ As He discovered as an adult, and as all have come to find out, humility and humbleness, rather than behaving in ways to let others know how valuable we are, are favored as members of the Body of Christ.
The realization that we are interdependent, yet at the same time autonomous, should give us some pause for reflection: reflection about how each of our behaviors have an effect upon those around us either positively or negatively. Some of those with whom I work with see themselves as islands of autonomy only recognizing the need for interdependence when they need others to meet their needs. While they give lip service to the concept of one unified organization, their ability to provide ‘reasonable service’ to the organization as a whole is hampered by their egotism and inability to see the negative impact their behaviors have upon those around them. Just as I will remind them of the essence of Paul’s words to the Romans, let us all be mindful of the fact that “…we being many, are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another” [Romans 12:5]
The Second Sunday After Epiphany
January 19, 2014
Epistle Reading - Romans 12:6-16
Gospel Reading - Mark 1:1-11
“Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” [Mark 1:11]
The Gospel as a Fulfillment of Prophesy:
Our Gospel reading for today recounted the baptism of Our Lord which marked the beginning of his public ministry. We can visualize the roughness of John: unkempt; clothed in a camel hair garment with a wild look in his eye as he preached a message of repentance in fulfilment of the prophesy of Isaiah who told of “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” [Isaiah 40:3] You can almost see him ministering to the many he baptized, telling them that “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the lachet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.” [Mark 1:7] John was indeed the individual the prophet Malachi was talking about when God told him “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant whom ye delight in.”[Malachi 3:1] We can see Jesus in our mind’s eye, stepping into the Jordan River with John, rising from the water and the heavens opening up with great brilliance. We can almost feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit descending upon him and hear the voice of God proclaiming: “Thou are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”[Mark 1:11]
What God Knew:
God knew what lay ahead for his son. He knew that Jesus was about to be tempted by Satan during His forty-day stay in the desert. He knew all about what his ministry would be like: how He would attract the multitudes to Him through the miracles He would perform and message He would convey. He knew how much Jesus would irritate the Jewish hierarchy and that He would present a threat to their authority which they would have to deal with. God knew that His only son would die upon the Cross as the sacrifice for the sins of not only those who lived in his time, but for everyone in the generations to come. He knew about His son’s resurrection: how, through His son, He would make a new covenant with all people: a covenant which would make us His sons and daughters and give us eternal life in return for our faith, love, our attempts to avoid sin, and our ability to forgive. For what He had already seen in his Son and for what He knew his son would do, God gave Him His praise as John brought Him out of the baptismal water: “Thou art my son in whom I am well pleased.”[Mark 1:11]
What would God say to us as individuals, as members of various groups, and as a society? Would he say ‘Thou art my sons and daughters in whom I am well pleased’ or would He say something else? Paul, in today’s reading from his Epistle to the Romans and us, gave us a number of benchmarks to determine how we’re keeping our part of our covenant with God: how we’re living up to His expectation for us to be his daughters and sons. Paul reminded his readers that “having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us.”[Romans 12:6] we must use them to the benefit of others. He told them to give to others “with simplicity” [Mark 12: 8] and to show “mercy with cheerfulness.”[Romans 12:8] Recall the outpouring of financial aid from many countries to victims of natural disasters like the Tsunamis and earthquakes that disrupt and destroy thousands of lives, along with aid to refugees from places like the Sudan and other lawless societies, seem to give high marks in this area. The multi-billion dollar scams which seem to pop up every few months, as well as smaller scale schemes like selling vacant houses to unwitting buyers, prey upon the good will of others to feed the personal gain of a few. The misdirection of some of the aid from those who are displaced and live in squalor to benefit individuals and groups who are not among the most needy, indicate that Satan is alive and well and that some people would rather be his sons and daughters than children of God.
Paul wrote, “Let love be without dissimulation....Be kindly affectioned one to another in brotherly love.” [Romans12:9, 10] That benchmark of love without deceit or deception; that concept of demonstrating love for all; of blessing “them that persecute you.” [Mark 12:14] is a tough one meet. Yet, it’s love that has the power to transform every human relationship. It underlies the whole of God’s redemptive activity and is the foundation upon which the church was built. Love must be sincere, not mere sentiment and sympathy. It accepts others as individuals and can discern the potential for good from evil. Jesus had no illusions about the people he interacted with. Like others, he saw Mary Magdalene as a woman totally in the grasp of evil forces, but he detected in her what others didn’t see: the potential to be a saint. He saw in Zacchaeus, the publican, a man to whom salvation might come. As people with the potential to become the sons and daughters of God do we use the power of love to forgive? Do we use the power of love to look past the outer shell of behavior we may dislike in others to recognize another child of God?
Paul encouraged empathy to “rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep.” [Romans 12:15] He advised his readers to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation.”[Mark 12:11-12] In essence, he advised us to put up with the hassles of the day and to serve the Lord through expressing the gifts He has given us in our daily lives because hope of better things in this life or the next may come to pass.
Thus, it’s through what we do, how we do it, and our mind set while we’re doing it that are keys to attaining the status becoming a daughter or son of God. In today’s world in most work situations, we’re faced with on-going assessment and measurable outcomes to determine our success as individuals, members of departments, or as an organization as a whole. Outcomes impact upon our salary, organizational effectiveness, and whether or not we and our organization survive. The catalogue of Christian characteristics that we found in today’ epistle combined with our Lord’s teachings throughout the Gospels are the guidelines for our on-going assessment. We can discern our outcomes as we examine the positive or negative impact of our relationships with others and how we perceive our growth and understanding of our relationship with God. It will be in our next life that we will come to realize that the only outcome which has any meaning is whether God tells us, as he told His Son, ‘Thou art my beloved son or daughter in whom I am well pleased.’
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St. Clare of Assisi
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Hover Community All Faiths Chapel
1401 Elmhurst Drive, Longmont, CO 80503
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