St. Clare of Assisi

 

 
The Third Sunday After Trinity

June 12, 2016

Epistle Reading – I Peter 5:5-11

Gospel Reading – Luke 15:1-10

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he

may exalt you in due time; casting all your care upon him, for he careth for

you.” [I Peter 5:6-7]

Epistle:

God loves sinners, just as he loves the weak, the lost, the anxious, and

those in trouble.  God disdains the arrogant, the proud and those whose self-

confidence exudes the need for no one, but oneself.  Peter told us in today’s

Epistle that if we give our cares and worries and our sins to God: if we turn to

Him for repentance, He will help us share the weight.  He wants us to trust

Him and seek His help.  To carry our own sins and anxieties and struggle with

guilt on our own is a sign of arrogance and distrust in God: a God that will

never turn us away when we share with Him; a God who will give us all that He

has to offer when we turn to him; a God who wants us for his own.

Gospel:

Jesus gave us the message of the universality of God and His need to

accept everyone in our Gospel reading for today.  The reading begins with a

description of the arrogance the scribes and Pharisees had toward our Lord as

they whispered among themselves “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with

them.” [Luke 15:2] The over concern with cleanliness these religious leaders

had went well beyond the law they were so fond of preserving to include

avoidance of certain people whom they saw as unclean.  Jesus’ ‘in-your-face’

attitude toward the Pharisees illustrated that He cared nothing for arrogance,

legalism, and pride.  He knew the purpose of His ministry here on Earth was to

save sinners.  He cared little for what elitist leaders of the day thought, yet gave

them many examples and models for what they should be doing.   The parables

Jesus related to His audience underlined that God rejoices when He finds lost

souls and that each soul is valuable.

Example:

I recall a time back in the days when I was at Lookout Mountain (a

maximum secure correctional facility for adolescent boys)when a well-known

former football coach gave a motivational speech to our kids.  His talk began

well enough; however after a few minutes he paused, looked heavenward and

started to preach “the Word of God,” as only an evangelical Christian can,

complete with biblical quotations.  He told them that they were all sinners and

if they did not accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior they were going

straight to Hell.  He told them that they were doing time because they had

sinned grievously and that their salvation depended upon their repentance and

1

their acceptance of Jesus as Lord.  He concluded with an Altar Call where he

circulated through the group and told them to stand up if they accepted Jesus.

After his presentation, he proudly told several staff that he had saved nearly

two hundred sinners and brought them to Jesus for salvation.

When all was said and done, many members of the audience of

adolescent boys indicated that they were afraid not to stand up because they

feared they would be singled out by the speaker if they didn’t.  Some kids with

religious persuasions other than Christianity were offended, as was the Jewish

director of the facility. 

Application:

While the speaker may have tallied almost two hundred lost sheep in the

“found for Jesus section” of his record book, is this really what Our Lord had in

mind as he worked and commissioned us to work to save sinners and help

people to know that they can trust God?  Hell Fire and Brimstone preaching

certainly brings about an emotional response, but does it do what it is intended

to do?  We see some evidence that kids brought up on a diet of being labeled

sinners, told that they are going straight to Hell if they don’t repent, and given

a set of rigid and strict rules to live by, may turn into adults who reject religion

of any kind or turn into the hell raisers they have been told they are because

they see no chance of being anything other than a sinner.

Models for Saving Lost Souls:

Our Lord through his ministry on earth provided the models for us to

save souls. They didn’t involve large group intimidation or roasting in hell

tirades.  The models He gave us were models of teaching, building personal

relationships, and setting examples of acceptable behavior.  Jesus’ meetings

with large groups of people conveyed the information they needed for salvation

and how they might choose to change.  Love, rather than fear and threat,

permeated his large group presentations.  The relationships he developed with

all people, especially outcasts and sinners, and the behavioral examples He set

should serve as examples to us of the relationships and actions we, both clergy

and lay people, should be having with those we come in contact with if we are

going to bring lost souls to God.

Conclusion:

How we live our lives, what we do, and how we interact with others: do

they mirror the humility and humbleness Peter wrote about in today’s Epistle

or are they reflections of our own pride?  Can we give our worries, sins, and

doubts to God and trust Him to share our burdens or do we carry them on our

own shoulders in an arrogant distrust of God’s promises to us?  In our prayers this week, let us recognize that we are all sinners and as such loved by God. 

Let us cast our care upon Him and, as Peter told us, “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us in due time....and let us, through our example and the use of what God has given us, bring home the lost sheep.

  
· 
First Sunday After Trinity

May 29, 2016

Epistle Reading - I John 4:7-21

Gospel Reading - Luke 16:19-31

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear

hath torment.” [I John 4:18]

The Epistle-Love:

Love, or a derivative of Love, is mentioned 28 times in our Epistle for

today.  John wrote that “love is of God” [I John 4: 7] and that “God is love” [I

John 4:8] and went about proving this point throughout the Epistle.  The

message is, of course to love one another: those we know and those we don’t

know; to love thy neighbor as thyself, assuming that all of humankind is our

neighbor.  Another one of these easy to say, hard to do idealistic mandates of

Christianity.  Another one of those things we say we do, but in reality, may not

do so well at it as we think.

God’s Transition from Fear to Love:

The particular part of today’s Epistle which caught my eye was John’s

assertion that “there is no fear in love” [I John 4:7] and that love can replace

fear.   How well this sentence and statement that ‘God is Love’ [I John 4:8]

demonstrates the transition of people’s perception of the God of the Old

Testament to the God of the New Testament.  The fact that God loved his

people from the beginning of time is a given, yet, His strategies for

demonstrating His love were generally fear provoking.  Non-compliance was

severely punished by floods, famine, infestations and destruction.  His chosen

people were motivated to obey him through fear of punishment, yet his love for

them was evident in the promises he made and delivered on.   God’s revised

strategy of sending his only son to develop a new covenant and to die as an

offering for our sins was indeed an act of love and shifted people’s perceptions

of God from a wrathful authoritarian who must be obeyed at all costs, to a

loving, approachable God who asked relatively little of his people in exchange

for eternal salvation and everlasting life.

Fear as a Basis of Discrimination:

After all these years, people still have problems dropping their fears and

truly loving others.  It’s fear that forms the basis of discrimination and bias.    

During the past month, we’ve all probably read about discrimination charges in

several states.  Fear of folks some perceive as inferior, fear of change, fear of

being held accountable, fear that dropping stereotypes will point up their own

inadequacies, may underlie these situations.  Substitute discrimination against

women with discrimination against blacks, Hispanics, or any other racial,

ethnic, religious or group different from the group doing the discrimination and

1

·  you will probably find fear as a motivating factor.   The lack of understanding

of differences and our nature to highlight differences instead of emphasizing

similarities feeds our fears and leads to hate.

Example - DSW Synod:

I recall a Synod of the old Diocese of the Southwest many years ago. 

These were not usually events I looked forward to because of the

contentiousness between factions within the diocese.  While surface behaviors

were appropriate in most cases, there always seemed to be a lot of animosity

just beneath the surface, with much plotting and planning by one group

against the other.  This particular year was different because people were going

to vote about whether to dissolve the Diocese of the Southwest and join the

Diocese of the Missouri Valley.  Many expected a difficult time dissolving the

dioceses and accepting the Diocese of the Missouri Valley’s invitation to join

them, yet, when it was proposed, it passed without opposition.  Differences

between people seemed to fade and a spirit of cooperation and collaboration

was very much in evidence.  There was no mourning for the past, but a desire

to move ahead, experience a new beginning, yet retain the relationships

between the parishes which composed the Diocese of the Southwest.  The fear,

which at times bordered upon hatred, of ‘high’ church parishes by ‘low’ church

parishes which had been so much in evidence in the past had disappeared and

people seemed to exhibit the love that John wrote about in today’s Epistle.

The Gospel:

We need only look at today’s Gospel reading to see the results of not

loving and the torments of fear.  The beggar Lazarus, who desired nothing more

than the crumbs from the rich man’s table, died “and was carried by the angels

into Abraham’s bosom.” [Luke 16:22] The rich man also died and languished in

hell.  The rich man’s treatment of Lazarus when they were both alive was far

from loving.  The rich man, no doubt, feared Lazarus, because of his poverty

and the filth and diseases which developed from his poor state. Perhaps he

threw him a coin or a bit of food from time to time, but did little else to comfort

him.  Had the rich man shown Lazarus more love by taking an interest in him

and trying to help him improve his lot in life, their positions may not have been

reversed in the after-life.


 Conclusion:

We cannot afford to be like the rich man.  We cannot afford to fear the

differences in others.  Fear and love are incompatible.  In our hearts and our

behaviors, love must conquer fear and we must demonstrate our Christian love

by actively reaching out to others.  This week, let us focus upon what we fear

in others who are unlike ourselves, analyze that fear and look at strategies for

dealing with it.  Let us prove John’s point that “love casteth out fear, because

fear hath torment.” [I John 4:18]

 
 
The Feast of Pentecost 

May 15, 2016

First Reading - Acts 2:1-11

Gospel Reading - John 14:15-31

“...he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your

remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” [John 14:26]

The Holy Ghost:

This is the essence of the Holy Ghost: the spirit; the comforter; the

counselor which Jesus promised the Apostles His Father would send.  The Holy

Ghost that would come to motivate and help the early church take root.  The

Holy Ghost which would wrap around the persecuted and the martyrs to give

them courage and purpose for what they endured.  The Holy Ghost which

would guide the Church through periods of scandal and reform.  The Holy

Ghost who continues to be our guide and teacher: that entity who keeps Our

Lord’s teachings in our hearts and minds and can help us put them into action

in our daily lives

Dealing With The Reality of a Known Concept:

The concept of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God was not new to the

Apostles.  References to the Spirit abound in the Old Testament.  The Spirit of

God was considered a source of life and as working in specially chosen

individuals like Moses and Abraham who were given the power to perform

heroic feats by the Spirit. God’s Spirit was with the Prophets and is particularly

evident in prophesies about the coming of the Messiah.  Recall Isaiah’s

prophesy that “there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a

branch shall grow out of his roots.  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon

him the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” [Isaiah 11:1-2] Many of the

prophets addressed the Spirit of God as a gift given to everyone.  Thus, the

notion of the Spirit of God developed and matured as it passed from the Old to

the New Testament to become that commodity that God gave and continues to

give to all of the faithful in the community of believers.   Yet for the disciples, as

they listened to Jesus prepare them for His death, resurrection and ascension

to be with His Father, this concept of the comforter, the Holy Ghost, must have

been quite difficult to get their minds around.  Imagine the emotional shape the

disciples must have been in after Jesus’ Ascension.  They had interacted with

Our Lord after The Resurrection and knew His promises to be true, but think

of the fear and doubt they must have experienced in those days after Jesus

had left them to join His Father in Heaven.  Picture the twelve and a few others

huddled in that second floor room watching and waiting for something to

happen: waiting for some kind of a sign that only God knew what it would be. 

Then, suddenly they received what they had been waiting for on that day of

1

Pentecost and what they heard from Jesus: what we just heard in today’s

Gospel, began to make sense to them.

The Appearance of the Holy Ghost:

That day of Pentecost when the Holy Ghost manifest itself to the disciples

and others in Jerusalem had to be dramatic.  It had to get the attention of

those who were present.  It had to show the overwhelming and awesome power

of God.  Here were thousands of Jews in Jerusalem from all parts of the Roman

world to celebrate Pentecost: the traditional feast which took place fifty days

after Passover when the first products of the first harvest, two loaves of

unleavened bread, were presented to God in the Temple.  As we heard in our

first reading from the Book of Acts, “suddenly there came a sound from

Heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were

sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and they

were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” [Acts 2: 2-4] Although they were from many

nations and spoke a variety of languages, everyone understood each other. 

Talk about shock and awe!!!  The power of the Holy Ghost brought three

thousand converts to Christianity and established God’s one, holy Catholic and

Apostolic church on earth on that Pentecost day.

The Holy Ghost as a Teacher:

It became clear to the Apostles and disciples on that Pentecost day what

Jesus meant when he told them about Holy Ghost as a teacher: a teacher

about the power of God and the new Covenant He had made available to His

people.  A teacher who would expand the hearts and minds of the faithful if

they were open to learning.  A teacher who would provide such gifts as grace,

wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and true godliness if we

were open to receiving them.  A teacher who would support our growth in

Christ.  A teacher who would help us recall and understand the true meaning

and intent of Our Lord’s teaching.

Experiencing the Holy Ghost:

To be able to experience the Holy Ghost requires an openness and a

desire to receive the guidance and help it has to offer.  We’ve all probably been

in situations where we didn’t know which way to turn, when all of a sudden we

knew what to do.  At one time or another many of us have felt that our lives

were stagnant and sought other ways to go.  Not knowing what direction to

take at first, in time, we seemed to be guided to follow a particular path.  This

was indeed the Holy Ghost working in our lives.  We were aware of our

openness and its guidance during those times of indecision and difficulty when

we were searching for answers: when we let down our defenses and let go to let

God into our lives.   What about those other times, when things seem to be

going well?  Can we sustain that openness to be life-long learners about God

and what he has in store for us? Can we be open to be empowered by the Holy

Ghost to share what we know and what we believe with others?  Can we use

the power of recall of the Holy Ghost to preserve and apply the true meaning

and intentions of the teachings of Our Lord to guide our Church in today’s

2

world?

Misguidance:

That last one is a tough one as we see our brothers and sisters in Christ

justifying their behavior as influenced by the Holy Ghost.  Their reasoning is

that whatever the church teaches and whatever doctrine it formulates is

founded upon the direct teaching of Christ.  They think that although it may

not be in the scriptures or in tradition, it is the Holy Sprit that has brought it

into remembrance and has incorporated it into the Church of the contemporary

world.  After all, they say, it’s the Holy Ghost that provides the guidance and

teaching to perpetuate God’s Church and makes it relevant for people living

today.  How easy it is to deceive ourselves and mistake another voice, perhaps

the voice of Satin, for Christ’s.  How easy it is to make Christianity nice and

sweet and all-inclusive because we think it’s the Holy Ghost leading us in that

direction.  How easy it is to justify a self-serving direction by attributing it to

the Holy Ghost!

The Traditional:

3

Those of us who preserve and practice the traditions of the Church know

that our doctrines are based upon scripture and tradition and that the Holy

Spirit brings to our recall how things should be and what should be taught. 

We know that the practice of Christianity is hard and bittersweet in this life to

prepare us for the sweetness and pleasure of everlasting life in the next.  We

know that Christianity is all inclusive of those who love the Lord and

incorporate His commandments into their lives.  As Jesus told his apostles in

today’s Gospel, “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is

that loveth me, and he that loveth me shall be loved by the Father, and I will

love him, and will manifest myself to him.” [John 14:21] He didn’t say anything

about giving  people permission to work His teachings around to fit their own

agenda.   However, he did say that “He that loveth me not, keepeth not my

sayings.” [John 14:24]

Conclusion:

As we celebrate Pentecost, let us pray for the Holy Ghost to open us to

learning all we can about Our Lord and what He has done for us.  Let us pray

that the Holy Ghost can re-direct those who have mistaken another’s voice for

its own.  Let us pray for the Holy Ghost: the Holy Spirit to bring all things to

our remembrance that we may be guided in the truth and light of Our Lord

Jesus Christ.

 
​ 

 
The Feast of Pentecost - Whitsunday

May 15, 2016

First Reading - Acts 2:1-11

Gospel Reading - John 14:15-31

“...he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your

remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” [John 14:26]

The Holy Ghost:

This is the essence of the Holy Ghost: the spirit; the comforter; the

counselor which Jesus promised the Apostles His Father would send.  The Holy

Ghost that would come to motivate and help the early church take root.  The

Holy Ghost which would wrap around the persecuted and the martyrs to give

them courage and purpose for what they endured.  The Holy Ghost which

would guide the Church through periods of scandal and reform.  The Holy

Ghost who continues to be our guide and teacher: that entity who keeps Our

Lord’s teachings in our hearts and minds and can help us put them into action

in our daily lives

Dealing With The Reality of a Known Concept:

The concept of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God was not new to the

Apostles.  References to the Spirit abound in the Old Testament.  The Spirit of

God was considered a source of life and as working in specially chosen

individuals like Moses and Abraham who were given the power to perform

heroic feats by the Spirit. God’s Spirit was with the Prophets and is particularly

evident in prophesies about the coming of the Messiah.  Recall Isaiah’s

prophesy that “there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a

branch shall grow out of his roots.  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon

him the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” [Isaiah 11:1-2] Many of the

prophets addressed the Spirit of God as a gift given to everyone.  Thus, the

notion of the Spirit of God developed and matured as it passed from the Old to

the New Testament to become that commodity that God gave and continues to

give to all of the faithful in the community of believers.   Yet for the disciples, as

they listened to Jesus prepare them for His death, resurrection and ascension

to be with His Father, this concept of the comforter, the Holy Ghost, must have

been quite difficult to get their minds around.  Imagine the emotional shape the

disciples must have been in after Jesus’ Ascension.  They had interacted with

Our Lord after The Resurrection and knew His promises to be true, but think

of the fear and doubt they must have experienced in those days after Jesus

had left them to join His Father in Heaven.  Picture the twelve and a few others

huddled in that second floor room watching and waiting for something to

happen: waiting for some kind of a sign that only God knew what it would be. 

Then, suddenly they received what they had been waiting for on that day of

1

Pentecost and what they heard from Jesus: what we just heard in today’s

Gospel, began to make sense to them.

The Appearance of the Holy Ghost:

That day of Pentecost when the Holy Ghost manifest itself to the disciples

and others in Jerusalem had to be dramatic.  It had to get the attention of

those who were present.  It had to show the overwhelming and awesome power

of God.  Here were thousands of Jews in Jerusalem from all parts of the Roman

world to celebrate Pentecost: the traditional feast which took place fifty days

after Passover when the first products of the first harvest, two loaves of

unleavened bread, were presented to God in the Temple.  As we heard in our

first reading from the Book of Acts, “suddenly there came a sound from

Heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were

sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and they

were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” [Acts 2: 2-4] Although they were from many

nations and spoke a variety of languages, everyone understood each other. 

Talk about shock and awe!!!  The power of the Holy Ghost brought three

thousand converts to Christianity and established God’s one, holy Catholic and

Apostolic church on earth on that Pentecost day.

The Holy Ghost as a Teacher:

It became clear to the Apostles and disciples on that Pentecost day what

Jesus meant when he told them about Holy Ghost as a teacher: a teacher

about the power of God and the new Covenant He had made available to His

people.  A teacher who would expand the hearts and minds of the faithful if

they were open to learning.  A teacher who would provide such gifts as grace,

wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and true godliness if we

were open to receiving them.  A teacher who would support our growth in

Christ.  A teacher who would help us recall and understand the true meaning

and intent of Our Lord’s teaching.

Experiencing the Holy Ghost:

To be able to experience the Holy Ghost requires an openness and a

desire to receive the guidance and help it has to offer.  We’ve all probably been

in situations where we didn’t know which way to turn, when all of a sudden we

knew what to do.  At one time or another many of us have felt that our lives

were stagnant and sought other ways to go.  Not knowing what direction to

take at first, in time, we seemed to be guided to follow a particular path.  This

was indeed the Holy Ghost working in our lives.  We were aware of our

openness and its guidance during those times of indecision and difficulty when

we were searching for answers: when we let down our defenses and let go to let

God into our lives.   What about those other times, when things seem to be

going well?  Can we sustain that openness to be life-long learners about God

and what he has in store for us? Can we be open to be empowered by the Holy

Ghost to share what we know and what we believe with others?  Can we use

the power of recall of the Holy Ghost to preserve and apply the true meaning

and intentions of the teachings of Our Lord to guide our Church in today’s

2

world?

Misguidance:

That last one is a tough one as we see our brothers and sisters in Christ

justifying their behavior as influenced by the Holy Ghost.  Their reasoning is

that whatever the church teaches and whatever doctrine it formulates is

founded upon the direct teaching of Christ.  They think that although it may

not be in the scriptures or in tradition, it is the Holy Sprit that has brought it

into remembrance and has incorporated it into the Church of the contemporary

world.  After all, they say, it’s the Holy Ghost that provides the guidance and

teaching to perpetuate God’s Church and makes it relevant for people living

today.  How easy it is to deceive ourselves and mistake another voice, perhaps

the voice of Satin, for Christ’s.  How easy it is to make Christianity nice and

sweet and all-inclusive because we think it’s the Holy Ghost leading us in that

direction.  How easy it is to justify a self-serving direction by attributing it to

the Holy Ghost!

The Traditional:

3

Those of us who preserve and practice the traditions of the Church know

that our doctrines are based upon scripture and tradition and that the Holy

Spirit brings to our recall how things should be and what should be taught. 

We know that the practice of Christianity is hard and bittersweet in this life to

prepare us for the sweetness and pleasure of everlasting life in the next.  We

know that Christianity is all inclusive of those who love the Lord and

incorporate His commandments into their lives.  As Jesus told his apostles in

today’s Gospel, “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is

that loveth me, and he that loveth me shall be loved by the Father, and I will

love him, and will manifest myself to him.” [John 14:21] He didn’t say anything

about giving  people permission to work His teachings around to fit their own

agenda.   However, he did say that “He that loveth me not, keepeth not my

sayings.” [John 14:24]

Conclusion:

As we celebrate Pentecost, let us pray for the Holy Ghost to open us to

learning all we can about Our Lord and what He has done for us.  Let us pray

that the Holy Ghost can re-direct those who have mistaken another’s voice for

its own.  Let us pray for the Holy Ghost: the Holy Spirit to bring all things to

our remembrance that we may be guided in the truth and light of Our Lord

Jesus Christ.

 ​


​​​Sunday After Ascension-Mothers’ Day
May 8, 2016

Epistle Reading - I Peter 4:7-11

Gospel Reading - John 15:26-16:4

“And above all things, have fervent charity among yourselves, for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”[I Peter 4:8]

The Epistle:

Peter wrote his first epistle with a sense of urgency because he felt that the end times were near: the times when Jesus would indeed come again to judge the living and the dead. He began this portion of today’s first reading with the statement that “The end of all things is at hand” [I Peter 4:7] and
urged his readers to vigilant and sober in behavior and prayer.  Because many early Christians were mobile as they moved from place to place spreading the Gospel, Peter admonished those in the Church to “use hospitality one to another without grudging.”[I Peter 4:9] In other words, to freely and happily give housing and food to the itinerant disciples and offer the use of one’s home
as a place of worship.  He emphasized that virtue of charity.  For it was the charity: the love that forged the bond between the early Christians, the comradery and the sense that the faithful were living on the edge in readiness for anything that might come their way that was the attitude of the early church that led to its thriving and surviving. 

The Milieu:

In light of the political and social milieu of the early church, it’s no wonder that the followers of the Risen Lord would feel that the end of times was near.  Jesus told the Apostles in today’s reading from John’s Gospel that “They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”[John 16:2]  Recall how Saul,
before his conversion to the apostle Paul, felt that it was his God given duty to persecute Christians.  Recall that Peter was martyred during the time of Nero: the Roman emperor whose reign was a tribute to insanity and hedonistic  paganism.  Thus, in the face of rejection and persecution because, as our Lord related in our Gospel reading, “they have not known the father nor me,” [John
16:3] the early church not only survived, but thrived: thrived because individual Christians put into practice the charitable love and hospitality Peter wrote about.

To Mothers:

It’s those same qualities that are associated with charitable love and hospitality that help families survive and thrive.  Since today is Mother’s Day, I thought I’d comment about how apropos this reading from Peter is as we celebrate this day that honors Mom. It’s Mother to whom these characteristics are most closely aligned and it’s the degree to which Mom lives the attitude of
having “fervent charity” and truly believes that “charity shall cover the multitude of sins” [I Peter 4:8] that is a large factor in determining how well the family survives and thrives.  Just as the Church could not have survived the persecutions of the early days without mutual love, forgiveness, and true hospitality given from the heart, families cannot and do not survive without  those same qualities. The “fervent charity” that Peter wrote about in the Epistle is that resilient  and continuous love: that love that endures over time; that love that no matter what others do to shake it, persists from cradle to grave.  It’s the love of a Mother.

Love:

It’s the love that Paul wrote about to the Corinthians in that often quoted passage that concludes “Faith, hope, charity (or love) abide, but the greatest of these is love.”[I Corinthians 13:13]  It’s the love that Mary, the model of  Mothering, showed for her son, especially during those very down to earth moments: moments like when she and Joseph searched for their young son and found him trading wisdom with the rabbis in Temple in Jerusalem; when Mary told him how worried she and Joseph had been and he gave her a bit of early adolescent lip telling her that she should have known that he was ‘taking care of his father’s business.’  Moments like when, against His protests, she pushed him to perform his first miracle at the wedding in Cana.  Somehow moms know when to let their kids know how they feel; when to push; when to hold back; when to praise; when to criticize.  They, like Mary, want their kids to reach their full potential and can discern what really is from what seems to be.

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins-Example:

Mothers truly believe that love “shall cover a multitude of sins.”[I Peter 4:8]  It’s not that they are blind to all faults, but perhaps that they know that love atones for the sins of others.  Just as Christ loved sinners, Mom’s love for us continues no matter what we do or have done.  My mother continued to love me when I was eleven even after the time when her lady friends came over to house for their monthly card party and I had put loads in all of the cigarettes and concealed whoopee cushions in many of the chairs. Yes, I did receive some physical pain after the incident and only got out of my room to go to school for the next month, but she continued to love me: even through all the other stuff I did to generally harass her as a kid.  That love shall cover a multitude of sins
also implies forgiveness.   Somehow that initial “I can never forgive you for what you just did,” evolves into “I can forgive you for what you have done.  Yes, you will suffer the consequences for what you did, but I love and forgive you.”  And that’s what being a mother is about.

Application:

I don’t envy mothers.  Their job is monumental.  After nine months of what must be some discomfort of sharing their body with a developing person, they progress through the agony of labor and delivery and are faced with what seem to be interminable feedings, diaper changes, and crying; constantly shaping, teaching and nurturing a totally dependent being into an independent
individual.  If they’re lucky, Dad shares in the care-giving.  It’s mom who takes the blame if the kid, when he finally makes it to adulthood, does not meet normal expectations because she weaned or toilet trained him too early or too late; was too permissive or too restrictive; gave her too much or not enough food, or love, or emotional support.  It’s mom who receives the criticism for not
spending enough time with her child because she has to go back to work to make ends meet and for all of the other ills of society.  How wonderful it is that most times Mom is resilient and that the bond she has with her children survives and thrives through all she goes through.

Conclusion:

On this Mother’s Day, let us pray for all mothers that they may have the strength, the charitable love, and the generous hospitality they need to fulfill their role.  May we also look inwardly to assess how we live the love and charity that is the foundation of the Church: the love and charity which is the basis of  forgiveness because, as Peter wrote, “...charity shall cover the multitude of
sins.”[I Peter 4:8]

 


First Sunday After Epiphany
January 10, 2016

Epistle Reading - Romans 12: 1-5

Gospel Reading - Luke 2: 41-52


 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in the favour of God and man.” [Luke 2:52]

 The Gospel:

Our Gospel reading for today from Luke contains the only snippet any of the Gospels have about the childhood years of Jesus.  We can conclude from the reading that Mary and Joseph, like most parents of early adolescent kids, were giving their son some independence.  After making the required trip to Jerusalem for the seven day Passover festival, his parents realized that Jesus was not a part of the caravan back to Nazareth.  They re-traced their steps and found Him in the Temple courtyard in a question-answer-discussion session with a group of rabbis.  His retort to his frantic mother seemed to be typical of a twelve year old who has just been brought down to earth and made to deal with the reality of being missing.  This small glimpse of Our Lord as a youngster seems to illustrate that his attitude and behavior was quite similar to kids of that age throughout the years.  If we can recall the first time we took part in an adult discussion sometime during our adolescence and we were actually listened to, we’ve probably got a grasp of what Jesus was feeling. Remember how quickly that feeling of “I’m finally being respected for what I’m saying” disappeared when your mother came on the scene and brought you back to being a kid again.

His Attitude:

During his boyhood, Jesus most likely attended the synagogue school in Nazareth.  As a precocious youngster, he seemed to have a thirst for knowledge and to learn as much as he could about God and the teachings of the Old Testament.  Thus, when he had the opportunity during his trip to Jerusalem, he sought out those who could teach him more.  Although he realized later in his life that there was much these teachers of the law did not understand, Jesus attitude toward them at this stage of his development was one of respect for those who were looked upon to be interpreters of the truth of God.   He listened, answered their questions, and engaged in discussion and made a very positive impression upon those he was interacting with.  It’s interesting to note that the Gospel reading ends by making the point that Jesus was not only in favor with God: He had the friendliness and down to earth qualities that won him the favor of people.

Jesus’ Appeal:

Jesus was the anti-Pharisee who enjoyed his interactions with others and relished opportunities to be with people and offer them something the straight-laced and somber Jewish hierarchy couldn’t: the promise of salvation for all: not just the stringent keepers of the law.  His appeal to people caused men to put aside everything else and follow him: rough men; the blue collar folks of His time.  People who made their living the best way they could:  fisherman, prostitutes, tax collectors, the poor, the diseased, the lower echelons of society, sinners who had lost favor.  In essence, He seemed to be universally and genuinely liked by everyone except that small group who offered bitter opposition and eventually caused his death.  Mark’s Gospel tells us that “the common people heard Him gladly.”  

Why the Common People Heard Him Gladly:

The common people heard him gladly perhaps because they were fed up with being browbeaten with the seriousness of the law and the drabness of conventional religion.  The common people heard him gladly because Jesus was one of them: an individual who knew the importance of a relationship with God, yet knew and celebrated the joy of life.  We see His joy of life in John’s Gospel when Our Lord performs his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana.  He attended another feast to which Matthew, the tax collector, invited all of his friends.  We can assume that the guests were not from the upper crust of society.  Jesus also sat at a banquet in the home of Simon the Pharisee.  The Gospel of Matthew indicates that “the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they [his detractors] say ‘Behold a man gluttonous and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.’”[Matthew 11:19] How could such a man be the Messiah?  How could someone as worldly and friendly as Jesus be a king...the Savior of the World? No doubt those in power had a quite different perception of what a Messiah should be.

Losing Sight of Jesus Humanness:

At times we lose sight of the humanness of Jesus and forget about those qualities which endeared Him to those around him.  Some of us who are traditionalists and others who look at themselves as true Christians may tend to look at the practice of our faith as a hard inward discipline of the spirit and view religion as having little to do with the everyday matter of keeping human contacts warm and loving.  Some look at religion as a Sunday thing and focus upon the ritual rather than on the daily practice.  They forgot that true holiness and living a life devoted to God is found in how we live and deal with others.  Their images of Jesus may be as the baby in the manger and as Christ Crucified, rather than of a man filled with holiness and a zest for life.

The Epistle:

Paul, in Today’s Epistle, implied that we must not forget that combination of holiness and living that Jesus demonstrated in His life.  He wrote the Romans and us “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another.” [Romans 12:4-5] In essence, we are all interdependent and function in the world, rather than in isolation. 

Conclusion:

We are all different in our functions, yet we must function together as one unified body of Christ.  Like Our Lord who, in His humanness, attracted the diversity of humankind to Him, we must be attractive beacons to others through the way we live our lives and how we show our enjoyment of living.  May we, like Jesus, increase in our “wisdom and stature, and in the favour of God and man.” [Luke 2:52]


The Second Sunday After Epiphany
January 17, 2016

 Epistle Reading - Romans 12:6-16

Gospel Reading - Mark 1:1-11


“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” [Mark 1:3]

The Gospel-Paviors:

We heard about John Baptist’s role as a ‘Pavior’ in today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel.  A pavior: a perfectly good word meaning one who paves roads: one who straightens out the curves and prepares the way for those who will come after.  On a spiritual plane, John Baptist was a pavior who, as St. Mark wrote, “did baptize in the wilderness and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” [Mark 1:4] saying “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.” [Mark 1:7] He was, excuse the alliteration, the ‘Pavior for the Savior.’

Spiritual Paviors:

The tradition of the spiritual pavior began in the Old Testament with the prophets’ predictions of what was to come.  Tasked by God to bring His word to His Chosen People, the prophets preached repentance and tried to pave the way around the many disasters described in the Scriptures.  Their message to turn back to God and follow His Commandments fell on many deaf ears.  Throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons, our readings focused upon The Prophesies of Old Testament paviors about the coming of the Messiah: the king, the Savior of the World.  John Baptist’s words and his action of baptizing Jesus were a culmination of all that came before him: the Messiah was not coming: He was here.  ‘The time to repent is now!’

Repentance:

The repentance John preached was not a simple ‘I’m sorry for what I’ve done and I’ll try to do better’ repentance.  It was more than remorse: more than admitting mistakes; more than self-condemnation; more than penitence.  It was a moral and spiritual revolution:  the adoption of a new mind set: a turn-about to go in a new direction.  Repentance for John was a true and heartfelt admission that we have sinned against heaven and in the sight of God and a vow to turn our life around and live a new life. The urgency of John’s call for repentance stemmed from his sense of coming judgment: a judgment we can not only sense, but hear today in the noise of terrorists’ attacks and many of those around us scrambling for power, prestige and advantage. His message to those he baptized in the Jordan and to us many centuries later was to become paviors and straighten out our paths to God. 

The Epistle:

Paul, in today’s Epistle reading, wrote to the Romans and to us about how we can become paviors of our road to salvation: what we can do to accomplish that moral and spiritual revolution of repentance John Baptist preached about in ourselves.  Building upon last week’s Epistle reading that we are all interdependent members of the Body of Christ, Paul wrote about using the gifts we have to benefit others, thereby strengthening God’s church on earth. However, it’s more than just using our God-given talents which we all have: it’s the attitude in which we use them.  He wrote, “Let love be without dissimulation.” [Romans 12:9] In other words, let us not love one another conditionally and for what we can get out of the relationship.  The love Paul wrote about is found in our readiness to enter empathetically into the experiences of others: to not envy the success of others, but to “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” [Romans 12:15] The root of the list of characteristics and behaviors we heard about in the reading is love.  The attitude of love underlines our ability to “be kindly affectioned one to another,” [Romans 12:10] “fervent in spirit,” [Romans 12:11] and “rejoicing in hope.” [Romans 12:12] It permeates our need to be “given to hospitality” [Romans 12:13] and “patient in tribulation.” [Romans 12:11] Our foundation of love enables us to “bless them that persecute” [Romans 12:14] us and to “abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good.” [Romans 12:9] The loving attitude that accompanies the use of our gifts sets the tone for repentance and enables us to be paviors of our roads to God.

The Church:

The churches Paul wrote to in his Epistles were new to the concept of Christianity.  He, like John Baptist, played the role of pavior, preparing the way for early Christians to adopt new ways of living and instilling the true meaning of what repentance was all about.  It was that attitude of love and of putting into practice Paul’s admonition of being “of the same mind one towards another” [Romans 12:16] that brought a sense of unity to the early church.  How unfortunate that this sense of unity crumbled over the years because the scriptures, doctrines and traditions of the Church took a back seat to the needs of humans and their desire to pervert God’s truth to justify their behaviors.  Thus, we have the situation that God’s Church is in today and the growing feeling that, like John Baptist in today’s Gospel, we, as a part of the Traditional Anglican Communion, are that “voice of one crying in the wilderness.” [Mark 1:3]

Current Events:

Yet, it seems that our voice has been heard by those around us who want to re-build and unify God’s Church: those who recognize that there is wisdom for traditional Anglican Catholics to heal the man-made wounds of the past and join together.  We see this in the move toward re-unification of the Anglican Church of America with the Anglican Province of America, along with the Anglican Catholic Church and Diocese of the Holy Cross.  You may have noticed that our prayers for various parishes in our Diocese of the Missouri Valley each Sunday has again shifted to including both ACA and APA parishes as we continue the move toward a merger of these two jurisdictions and others which broke away from each other years ago.  Hopefully, this will be a trend as other jurisdictions who believe and worship in the same way we believe and worship realize that little can be accomplished by continuing the animosities that began years ago. To my mind, it was and continues to be God’s Will to have one church: that one body of Christ which Paul wrote about.  The creed we recite at each Mass doesn’t say ‘a multitude of holy catholic and apostolic churches’; it addresses “One.”  Thus, it’s incumbent upon us to fix what men ruined and bring it back together as God desires.

Conclusion:

Things are happening, with our Traditional Anglican Communion acting as the pavior: that straightener of the path for those who seek the unity our Lord intended us to have.  As we watch for further developments, let us pray that we may focus upon filling the role of pavior, preparing the way for our Lord for our salvation and the salvation of others.  Let us pray that we may experience true repentance and that the attitude of love may underlie all that we do.    

 
Septuagesima
January 24, 2016

 Epistle Reading - I Corinthians 9: 24-27

Gospel Reading - Matthew 20: 1-16


 
“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many may be called, but few chosen.” [Matthew 20:16]

 
Surface Interpretation:

Put this line from the end of today’s Gospel reading together with the beginning of today’s Epistle reading where Paul wrote the Corinthians “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?” [I Corinthians 9:24] and we’ve got some cause for concern.  Taken on the surface, our readings imply that few of us are going to receive salvation: few of us are going to receive the reward of heaven.  Our initial response may be ‘then why bother?  Why expend the extra energy in prayer and worship? Why spend Sunday morning in church when I can be doing more entertaining things, like sleeping or eating a leisurely breakfast?  Why love my neighbor and treat others with goodness and kindness?  Why follow the Ten Commandments?  Why do anything which bridles my baser instincts when my chances of salvation in the next life may be slim?’ 

Surface Interpretation of the Gospel:

Taken on the surface, when our Lord tells the vineyard workers in today’s gospel that the ‘last shall be first,’ does this not mean that if I find God late in life, I can live a life of sin until the time of my death bed confession and acceptance of Christ?  That I can have my cake in this life, and eat it in the afterlife?

The Epistle and Eternal Life:

If we look at today’s readings in a bit more depth they tell us what we need to be doing in this life to prepare for the next.  They tell us that we’re probably hedging our bets if we’ve been totally hateful people since day one then suddenly find The Lord when we are sure our lives are at an end.  They tell us that we can all be winners.  Paul uses an athletic analogy to relay that those who train win races.  He wrote, “I, therefore, so run, not as uncertainty, so fight I, not as one that beateth the air, but I keep under my body and bring it into subjection...” [I Corinthians 9:26-27] Likewise, those of us who spend our time spiritually training will win the ultimate prize of salvation.  Spiritual training which includes self-denial; practicing self-control; prayer; Bible Study; worship.  Spiritual training which involves sacrifice in this world to do what God wants us to do or denying ourselves of creature comforts, keeping in mind that our self-denial will be nothing when compared with our Eternal reward.  Spiritual training which we get another opportunity to engage in during the approaching the Lenten season when our focus again turns inward and we deny ourselves a portion of our comfort to remind ourselves of what Our Lord gave for us.

The Gospel and Eternal Rewards:

Jesus used a parable to bring his message about eternal rewards.  God, of course, was the owner of the estate and the vineyard workers were believers.  At the end of the day, all were treated similarly, whether they began work early in the morning or during the last hour.  Although they said that they would work for a certain amount of money, when they realized that everyone, no matter how long they worked received the same, those who began their work early complain of unfairness and felt that they deserved more.  The owner’s response to the workers was that they agreed to a wage, so why complain about unfairness.  After all, wasn’t the money his to dispense as he wished?  Peeling back the surface, Jesus was telling his listeners and us to stop feeling superior to others because of position or heritage.  Stop feeling superior because you’ve been believers since birth.  He was reassuring new believers of God’s grace and generosity and admonishing God’s Chosen People not to begrudge the faith to the gentiles: those who found God later in life.  He was saying that no one deserves eternal life, thus jealousy of others is wrongly placed.  Our focus should be on being thankful for God’s gracious benefits to us: for His love; His forgiveness; and His grace, without worrying about what He’s done for others.

Intro to Application:

This is tough stuff, this spiritual training: worship, prayer, self-denial; not being jealous of what others have; minding our own business.  All for some reward that we have no assurance of winning: for eternal life that we won’t even know we have until our lives in this world are over.  Are there no immediate payoffs for leading such lives? Is there no way of knowing whether we’re going the right way?

Basic Reinforcement Theory Application:

We know from the experience of working or bringing up kids or training a pet or doing well in school that the more we are rewarded or reinforced when we do certain things, the more we will do those things.  As kids, we were more likely to bring home good grades if we were praised.  Our dog was more likely to sit or lie down on command if he got a treat when he first did the behavior successfully.  We are more likely to put in a good day’s work if we receive a good day’s pay.  And so it goes through our lives, the behaviors we receive reinforcement for we are more likely to do.  Those behaviors that are not reinforced, we tend not to do.

God’s Reinforcement:

God knows the power of reinforcement and we are rewarded on our spiritual journeys.  We find prayers answered.  We find help from sources we cannot fathom.  We experience things in our lives which we can’t explain and, at times, feel the hand of God very directly in our lives.  All these are the immediate payoffs for going in the right direction and leading the kind of life which tells us that we’re going the right way.  The reinforcement God provides increases our prayer life and brings us to greater levels of closeness and intimacy with Him.

   

Conclusion:

Today is Septuagesima: seventy days before Easter; the beginning of the Pre-Lenten season.  For us it’s a signal that it’s time to plan our training to continue the spiritual race Paul discussed in today’s Epistle: a training which will take us through the self-denial of Lent to the Glory of Easter.  It’s a signal that it’s time to look at the rewards God has given us in this life to bring us to life everlasting: a signal that we need to look at our relationship with God and those around us  and to give thanks for His grace no matter when we began to work in his vineyard.

 
Sexagesima
January 31, 2016

 
Epistle Reading - II Corinthians 11: 19-31

Gospel Reading - Luke 8: 4-15


 
“Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” [Luke 8:10]

 
The Parable:

Many who heard our Lord relate the parable of the sower, which we just heard in today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel, probably thought it was a story about a farmer trying to plant his crop, missing the whole point of what Jesus was telling them.  When the Disciples, who were not the most educated of men, raised questions about the parable, we get a glimpse of our Lord as the patient teacher of those who would eventually spread His word and establish His church on earth.  When crowd dispersed, we can imagine Jesus taking his disciples off to the side and telling them “unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to others in parables: that seeing they might not see and hearing they might not understand.”[Luke 8:10].  In other words ‘I’m letting you in on something very special: something that sets you apart from those other folks.’  Indeed, the Disciples were special people: true believers. People who understood what they heard and saw.  People who, in the language of the parable, were the seeds that “fell on good ground and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold” [Luke 8:8]. People who had honest and good hearts and “brought forth fruit with patience” [Luke 8:15] and endurance.

Use of Parables:

If those around Him had problems understanding parables, why didn’t Jesus just say what He meant, instead of using obtuse stories to get his point across?  If we look at Matthew’s Gospel [13:14] we learn that the use of parables fulfills one of Isaiah’s prophesies: “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand. And seeing you will see and not perceive.  For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing and their eyes have closed.  Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears. Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them…” [Isaiah 6:9,10]  We see a similar theme in Ezekiel who prophesies “Son of man, you dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house which have eyes to see, but see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not, for they are a rebellious house.” [Ezekiel12:2]  Thus, our Lord used parables to find those who could hear the word, see it in action, and perceive Jesus as the Messiah.  He used parables to separate the wheat from the chaff: to find the good men and women who in their hearts and actions wanted to follow him to salvation.

First Category:

The placement of this particular Gospel reading during the pre-lenten season calls upon us check our spiritual senses before we journey through Lent.  Our Lord wants us to check our spiritual hearing and our spiritual vision and to look at where we are in our relationship to God.  As we look at the seed as a symbol of God’s Word, are we in the first category where the seed falls on the wayside to be trodden down and devoured by birds? Do we hear the word of God only to have the Devil enter our hearts to influence us to live other than Godly lives: to have beliefs that undermine our relationship with God and our chance of salvation?  Are we hardened to God’s word and will?  The fact that we are here today indicates that we have not let the Word of God fall to the wayside of our hearts, but how many people around us have done just that?  

Second Category:

How many people do we know who are in the second category where the seed falls on the rock and withers soon after it germinates because it fails to take root?  This describes people who hear the Word of God and initially accept it, yet are drawn away from it by temptation.  We have seen people embrace the traditional liturgy and beliefs, yet in a short time they’re gone.  The question we must ask ourselves is ‘how could we have picked that seed off the rock and put it into the rich soil of faith to grow and flourish?’ How could the example we set better demonstrate God’s Word and the beauty and attractiveness of what our traditional faith has to offer?

Third Category:

How many people do we know who fall into the third category where the seed is choked out by thorns and underbrush?  People who hear the Word of God, have all good intentions of putting it into practice, but are distracted by their cares, money, and the pleasures of life so that their spiritual potential never gets realized.   Perhaps people in this category have had their faith choked out by the thorns and underbrush of the false doctrines of some of the contemporary churches that have forsaken the fertile ground of the traditional.  These are people who may feel spiritually cut off because they cannot see a way through the thicket of heresy.   Perhaps this category hits closest to home! In the first case, if we let the seed be choked by weeds so that the fruit never reaches maturity, we keep opting for the worldly over the spiritual and putting our spiritual lives on the back burner.  In the second case, if we cannot offer those who are suffering a slow spiritual death among the thorns and underbrush of apostasy a way out, we are no better than folks who see an accident and drive by because they just don’t want to get involved.  

Fourth Category:

What about the fourth category where the seed “fell on good ground, and sprang up and bear fruit an hundredfold?”[Luke 8:8]  Perhaps we have not reached our full spiritual maturity; however, many of us are in that fertile field.  During the course of our lives we may at one time or another have been like the seed trodden down by the wayside, or withered on the rock, or trying to grow in the midst of weeds and briars, yet somehow we’ve been transplanted into good soil.  Through the nurturance of prayer, worship, learning, and maturity many of us work to attain that level of spiritual health that we can hear and understand and see what God meant for us to see.

 

 

The Epistle-an Example:

We don’t have to look much further than today’s Epistle reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians for a living example of Jesus’ parable of the sower. In the past, we’ve talked a bit about the church in Corinth and their proclivity for straying from the basics of Christianity.  Paul heard that they were listening to and following false apostles who were leading them down heretical paths (Interesting that the more things change the more things stay the same).  Paul used sarcasm in an attempt to (to use the symbolism of today’s Gospel reading) replant the seeds he had sown into fertile soil.  “Ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are so wise,” [II Corinthians 11:19] he wrote to put down the Corinthians who thought they knew so much and could discern fact from falsehood.  Paul then proceeded to use the same tactics of the false apostles who bragged about how they had suffered and their relationship with Jesus.  In essence, Paul saw the seeds he had sown falling by the wayside, landing on rocks, and being swallowed up by thorns and underbrush.  His words were intended to fertilize the Corinthian crop with the truth of faith and mature them for the harvest of salvation.

 

Conclusion:

We have another week and a half before the Lenten season: a period of forty days that many of us dread.  Let us look at Lent in a different way this year.  Perhaps we need to look at this period as a time for spiritual convalescence: a time to improve our spiritual vision; a time to ponder God’s word so that we may really hear and understand it.  Perhaps we need to look at Lent as a time to use our spiritual tools of reflection, fasting, and sacrifice to prepare our spiritual ground for the seed of God’s word, so that we, like the disciples may “know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” [Luke 8:10]