PALM SUNDAY March 24th, 2013
St. Columba’s (Anglican Use) Catholic Church
We have sung the praise of Him who came in the Name of the Lord. We have stood where the Jerusalem crowd stood, waving palms to Him who stands among us, and telling of His greatness as the fulfilling of the Law and the Prophets; for He cometh riding upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass.
Now we face a different procession, as we enter into this most holy and most solemn of weeks. It is not a week of sorrow, although there is that element in it. Rather, it is a week of triumph, of victory, of the lifting up of Man in response to the humbling of the Eternal Son. It is the invitation to be holy, as we see Him living out holiness. For throughout the centuries the voice of God has sought for the Man he had made in his likeness. “Where are you?” he cried out as He searched in Eden for the fallen Adam. “Where are you?” he has called throughout the empty centuries since, when there was none to answer Him. For all had sinned; all hid from Him. While Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked in faith, their descendants abandoned their path. Others tried to respond but to no avail. There was none left in the unmarred image of God, and only an echo of the cry until, one day, came the response: “Here am I; in the volume of the Book it is written of me, I am come to do thy will, O God.” “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus …who, being found in fashion as a man… humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” What was he doing? Why, resisting sin. For man had not resisted it. And so He came, as it was written. And He resisted. “ In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood,” says the Epistle to the Hebrews. Yet He became obedient “unto death, even the death of the Cross.” Is His Triumphant Entry magnificent? But it is nothing, nothing compared to his wonderful humility. It is nothing compared to this Sacrifice. Have you ever felt the oppression of sin? The remorse? The pain? The agony of the hurt we cause? He knew no sin, and yet took upon Himself the guilt and burden of the sin of all mankind; and so He became (sinless as He himself was) to bear the image of sinful Man – “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men…he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him…” Is it any wonder that the cry of the Father echoed through the centuries … “Where are you?” And His was not an empty echo throughout the universe, but a response to the will of the Father, that we should be found, that we should be clothed, that we should be restored to our right mind, that same mind that is in Christ Jesus, the image and likeness of God.
People speak of mankind as if there was nothing higher. Yet the Scripture speaks of us as something to which the Son of God had to leave His glory in order to enter; “He humbled himself!” Look at the scene in today’s Passion reading, of Jesus standing before Herod, that peacock of a king, so proud. He had long desired to see Jesus. He must have been greatly disappointed. Think what Herod would have to do, give up, to be like the figure in front of Him. For that is all that Herod could see, a rough carpenter who had the audacity to think he was Herod’s equal, a King of the Jews! Yet this week of solemn pain and suffering, sacrifice and horror, results in quite another picture of the suffering servant. For “God hath highly exalted him, and given him the name which is above every name; that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth…and that every tongue should confess JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father.
It is true that the eye of Man cannot see this thing which has come to pass. It is the eye of faith that so beholds Him. For if we mourn with Him this solemn week of glory, nay, if we live as he lived in this world, then we shall also see him as he is, and we shall be made like him as he is, exchanging the suffering for the glory. For here we carry the weight of sin, not ours only, but those of our friends, family, country, rulers, friends, enemies – we must bear it all, and yet continually offer all this in union with The Christ, praying for the will of the Father, that all mankind might be saved. So walk through this week that the Easter joy may surprise you once again. May you pray for that same mind to be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. And may you gladly bend the knee and confess that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father.
Let us pray.
BURIED with Thee in baptism, O Christ, our God:
Through Thy resurrection may we attain eternal life.
And at Thy coming again may we shout with joy:
“Hosanna to the Son of David.
Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.”
St. Columba Catholic Church (Anglican Use)
Lent IV (Mothering Sunday) 10 March 2013
By Michael Birch
“And the manna ceased on the morrow, when they ate of the produce of the land”
Today is another one of those days of Anglican Patrimony which is not supported by the readings of the Roman Eucharistic liturgy. It is hoped this situation will right itself within a year or so, but in the meanwhile we poor preachers have to try and reconcile the day we are keeping to the day we are not keeping, and there is no health in us! It helps also to remember that this Sunday also was called “Refreshment Sunday”, which helps in trying to bind all things together.
Let’s start with what our Anglican Patrimony had. The Collect spoke about the righteousness of God’s punishment of sinners, and begged that we might be relieved of that punishment. We then heard about “Jerusalem which is above is free, who is the mother of us all.” St. Paul went on to speak of a biblical allegory pertaining to the freedom of the children of God. The Gospel was of the feeding of the 5,000.
Today’s readings are not unsimilar. First we read of Joshua taking the Children of Israel into the Promised Land, for God had that day reconciled them to himself, and rolled away from them the reproach of Egypt. Our Epistle reading speaks of the new creation in Christ, in whom we are reconciled to God. The holy Gospel speaks to us of the reconciliation of the prodigal son with his father, and the great feast of thanksgiving held on that occasion. Not so different after all, are they.
The Children of Israel journeyed through the wilderness, the desert, for forty years to reach the Promised Land. There was no water, there was no food for the people, who cried out to the Lord in their distress, and grumbled at Moses, and asked, “Are there no graves in Egypt, that you have brought us out into this wilderness to die?” And so the Lord refreshed his people there, he provided food for the journey, and cared for them, although they grumbled and griped and complained and rebelled against the Lord all that time. He provided manna for them to eat; he provided water from the rock for them to drink; and, says St. Paul, that rock was Christ. He nourished his people; and as long as each one stayed in the flock of God, this nourishment continued day by day. And the day they were told to they would enter the Promised Land on the next day, that day was the last day on which the people ate the manna; the next day they feasted on the produce of the land, a land flowing not with water and manna only, but with milk and honey and all sorts of richness of taste and texture. So was Israel as a nuturing mother of the people those forty years, and God was their father; and Israel was the chosen spouse of God.
Well, no doubt you can see where this leads. For now we know that as Israel refused to be reconciled to God through Christ as the first-fruits of redemption, so was the Church brought into being as that first-fruits, made part of the new creation in Christ, and espoused to him. Thus are we who are in Christ become the Bride of Christ. Yet we are not come to the New Jerusalem as yet; we wander in the midst of those who are lost, and whose shepherd is death. We pass through this spiritual wilderness nourished by our holy mother the Church, having no permanent place nor citizenship here, for our citizenship is in heaven. We are provided with the Good Shepherd and those whom he appoints as Shepherds of eternal life, and we are nourished here with the Bread from Heaven, and the water become wine in the foretaste of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. And we look for the day when we are at last allowed to enter into that holy Fellowship, with Christ and The Twelve, with our Blessed Lady and all the Saints, with those we love and with our Pastors over the years at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. Our last day here before our first day there we shall (if we attend upon it that day) we shall receive our last Holy Communion. And thereafter we shall feed on the produce of the land of everlasting life, eating of the Tree of Life and drinking of the water that flows from the Temple, that is, from the throne of God.
Until that day, we are well nourished. We have God’s Word written. We have the prayers of the Church, with our Lady the type of the Church as with all those who have departed this life, whose hope was in the Word- made- flesh, the Church triumphant (or expectant) crying out for us “How long, oh Lord”. Now, these are not simply types and shadows of good things to come. The Sacrament that feeds us is of heaven, our Promised Land, and not something made up by us. The Cup of Blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The Bread which we break, is it not the communion of the Body of Christ? They are our manna and water, and assist us in our constant striving to travel home to God. For they become for us that of which they are a sign. But they have an end on the day when we attain to our end; the promised rest of God in his Kingdom.
Mothering Sunday is a remembering of all this. The Lord promised his disciples, his Church, his people, that they would not be left as orphans. The loving nuture of the Lord through his Church and Sacraments is kept always before us in the love of mothers for their children, a love which is not solely given to the obedient children of a family, but also to those who are wayward and difficult. We learn of Mary Mother of God to be both nurturing and obedient, as she was first mother and then faithful disciple. The Church learns from motherhood what kind of nurturing she is to give to God’s children in her care, that they both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also how to obtain grace and strength faithfully to fulfill the same. It is all of a piece and at the end peace, joy, love, as a weaned child with his mother. So teaches the Word of the Lord. So is our Mother the Church. We know this through the Spirit God has given us, that we are not left as orphans, but are truly Sons of the Father, children of a common mother, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.
Let us therefore on our journey to the land of eternal Promise, not be as Israel was, complaining bitterly at every step, but rather let us praise God with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs from all over the world, joining with the Angels and Archangels, with our Lady and all the Saints of God which shall swell up to praise him for ever and ever, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Sunday February 3 2013
“He Went Out, Not Knowing Whither He Went”
Father Peter sometimes reminds me that Father Roland Palmer, SSJE, lived by the motto: “No change, not even for the better!” It’s a wonderful motto from my point of view. I have never understood the motto, “Change is good.” However, while it may be that Fr Palmer’s motto is a firm rock by which to keep the Faith, I do not think it is one that God would encourage us to embrace with regard to our lives. For as with Abraham, so he often calls us into uncharted waters. He calls us by the Scriptures, by the Word preached by His Ministers, by the things which he puts before us in life that he calls to us to do something about. Often we refuse the challenge for whatever reason. But some people respond wonderfully, and rise to great heights, even if their “druthers” would have been to do otherwise. When the seed is sown, in some it bears fruit, some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred-fold.
Now I think we are in the midst of another major change, not one that we will relish, but there is no avoiding it. When Abraham went out from Haran, he went out at the Lord’s bidding to found new nation and people of God in the Land of Promise. There people would live according to the Laws of God; they would share a common culture and language and faith. And so it eventually came to be, although not in a straight line and an uncomplicated way. But eventually it came to be. However, because of the sins of the people, and their continuous rebelliousness against God and his Laws, he set up amongst them and from among them Prophets and holy men and women who called the people back to God, reminding them of His Commandments, and of their rebellious behaviour towards their God. The response of the people was very often one of scorn, of disbelief, of unjust treatment and even of the death of God’s Holy Ones: “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that stonest the Prophets and killest those that are sent unto thee.” We gloss over such readings as ancient history, I think. But it is not ancient history; it is a reminder of the sinful nature of Man. After all, what is sin but lawlessness, a state of rebellion against lawful authority, even the authority of the Lord our God. Reflect on those passages in the Scriptures when you come across them, all the condemnations directed to a stiff-necked people who would choose for themselves what was good and what was evil, and sneer at those who keep God’s Commandments.
I sometimes look back and wish we lived again in the seeming acceptance of Christian truth and the Church that existed in the 40s and 50s. Those of you who are my age or older will remember that Monday’s paper used to include a write-up about a sermon preached in one church or another, and reports of other Church activities over the week-end. Clergy were kept busy bustling about blessing things – new bridges, hospitals, cemetaries, breweries and the like. Now-a-days these things are done to the beating of tom-toms and the burning of sweet-grass; another very public sign of the falling away of people from the Christian Faith, and the low esteem in which the Church is held. Why is this?
Well, the Church falls into at least two categories these days, namely those religious bodies which uphold Scriptural truth and Catholic teaching, and those that do not. Those that do not simply accept those things of which society approves. They are neither an asset (who needs them), nor are they a threat. They can be ignored. Eventually, they will be indistinquishable from the unfaithful around them. However, those who do maintain the Faith, and seek to speak out against the things which society has changed to suit themselves( well aware that doing so puts them in conflict with the stated will of the Father), those Christians cannot be simply ignored. They cannot be ignored because they are a threat, because they cause feelings of guilt, they give people pause to reflect upon societal activities which they may then find wanting. And because the truth arouses often feelings of guilt amongst those who have disobeyed the teachings of God as, for example, one who has had an abortion, or performed one, or supports the pro-choice stance of this country, it aroused in them real rage. They want the voice of opposition to be stopped, they want Catholic truth to be silenced. We see this rage expressed in the Scriptures. Remember the story of Ahab and Jezebel and Elijah the Prophet. Jezebel worship the Baals, and she killed the prophets of the Lord, and Ahab did nothing about it. Elijah prophesied the end of Ahab and Jezebel because they were rebellious against the God of Israel. Yet Ahab, when he meets with Elijah, said to him: “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And led by God, Elijah sets up a contest with the prophets of Baal, and 400 of them are destroyed by the people, who turned to the Lord when they saw the display of his power. The rage of Jezebel knew no bounds. This proclaimer of God’s truth must be destroyed at all costs: “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow,” she swore to Elijah. We meet this same rage in Herodius, wife of King Herod. Because she had been married to his brother, according to the Law of God he could not have her as his wife, and John spoke out against it, saying that it is not lawful what Herod has done. Eventually she was able to manipulate the beheading of John the Baptist to punish him for speaking the truth, and no doubt to silence any qualms of conscience that she or her husband might feel.
As we approach this Lenten season, be aware that the same forces of evil are setting up in this country against those who hold to Christ. Use your time to deepen your faith; the suggestion last week of using the Epistle to the Hebrews for this purpose is a very good one. For the time will come, in the not distant future, when one will have to put up or shut up. People will not allow that we should speak out against their will and their actions. The tribunals are already there with regard to human rights, and if hauled before them you have no rights, no legal protection, no legal representation whatsoever. Many are already called before them simply because they have expressed a Christian belief in public. The sentences of these tribunals are harsher against Christians than against other folk. Pray for the hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world whose lives are in constant danger simply because they confess the Name of Jesus; pray for those who are in prison, or under the condemnation of death for their faith, as if you were one of them. And pay close attention to the words of St Peter (2 Peter 3:17): “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
The Feast of the Epiphany 2013
We . . . Are Come To Worship Him
When the wise men came from the East seeking Jesus, they said to Herod the King: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” Having received instructions as to where to look, they came to Bethlehem, and it is recorded that “when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Many years ago now, in the 50’s or early 60’s, the Rector of St. John’s, Shaughnessy in Vancouver (Don Malin’s old parish when he was a precocious boy!) asked the men’s group a very simple question. Now, let it be understood that St. John’s is in a very affluent area, and the congregation was made up of highly intelligent and highly educated people. The question that was asked was this, although perhaps not these exact words: “What do you think of Jesus? Who was he?” Now of course the question as I have posed it is in the past tense, which in itself is wrong to people who really know him as Lord and Saviour. Perhaps the question at St. John’s was not put in the past tense. BUT THE ANSWERS MOSTLY WERE. The men of St. John’s thought that Jesus had probably lived as is recorded; that he had been a great teacher, probably the greatest that ever lived; that the moral code he espoused should be upheld along with the Ten Commandments; and that it is too bad more people didn’t live according to what he had taught. Do you agree with the men of St. John’s of so long ago? If that is what Jesus WAS, then what is there to worship? I had one or two very good high school teachers, but I have always made a point of NOT worshipping them. The first thing worth our learning from the visit of the wise men is that Jesus is to be WORSHIPPED. And since we all have been taught from our mother’s knee, I hope, not to worship any one or any thing except God, then the manifestation here is one of the Divinity of Christ joined to human flesh, The Word Made Flesh as the Christmas Gospel told us. In the Epistle for Christmas Day from Hebrews we learn this: “…when he bringeth the first-born into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”
The second thing worth our learning is that he is sent not simply to God’s ancient people, the Hebrews, the Jews, but to the Gentiles also, which is to say, to the whole of mankind. This is made very plain when Paul writes, “I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles; if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given unto me for your sakes: … as it is now revealed unto his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ, by the Gospel…” Paul is announcing Good News to the Gentiles, that the promise of God to the Jews extends also to them. We perhaps more need reminding that the promises of God equally extend to the Jews, we have grown so used to thinking in other terms about them. The visit of these Gentile wise men show what is to come, when the nations of the earth shall own the kingship of our Lord, when all who seek the Lord shall find him, and shall worship him, and lay before him their treasures.
The third thing worth our learning must be to understand that these are the things which we do here, of course. For we the Church are called out of every nation and kindred and people, to become God’s people, owning him to be Lord and Saviour of ourselves “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven…” Acknowledging him to be both God and Man, we come to worship him, and to offer our treasures, our substance, “ourselves, our souls and bodies” in thanksgiving and praise to him who lives forever. We are those who cannot think of Christ in past tenses, or in terms of what he taught, but we must strive ever to know him as alive and present to us in Word and Sacrament, loving him for who he is and living by what he teaches. For as his glory was manifested to the Gentiles at the visitation of the Magi, so it is manifested in our very midst, as we see by the Spirit which he has given us the glory into which angels long to look. “The Lord hath manifested forth his glory: O come, let us worship.”
THE NATIVITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
I have discovered that one of the quiet joys of getting older is the realization of how much I don’t know, and of how much I don’t really need to know!
For example, did you know that on September the 8th in the year of Our Lord 994, the people of London were asking the prayers of our Lady against an impending Viking attack, and that (according to some) a well-known nursery rhyme refers to this?
London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
My Fair Lady.
The ‘Fair Lady’, of course, is the blessed Virgin.
Or, did you know that there is actually a definition of what ‘sunrise’ means? Apparently there is a book called the Nautical Almanac, and sunrise is defined there as “the moment when the upper limb of the sun appears to be on the horizon”.
But sunrise, however precisely defined, is always preceded by dawn, which is not a ‘moment’, but an incipient lightening, longer and more gradual, when, as the hymn says,
Earth’s gloom flees broken and dispersed,
By the sun’s piercing shafts coerced:
The day-star’s eyes rain influence bright,
And colours glimmer back to sight.
(Prudentius, Office Hymn for Wednesday Morning, E.H. 54}
And the peace and quiet of ‘rosy-fingered dawn’, waking the world, is very lovely.
As it is in the natural world, so it is in the supernatural, for God is the Author of both. Is it a co-incidence that the Orthodox and Western liturgies both sing the same Antiphon on this feast day of our Lady? “Thy Nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, hath proclaimed joyful tidings unto all the world, for from thee arose the Sun of Righteousness, even Christ our God: Who taking away the curse, hath bestowed a blessing, and despoiling death, hath given unto us life everlasting.”
In hindsight, says the Antiphon, the Virgin Mary’s birth proclaimed ‘joyful tidings’, ‘the good news’, ‘the gospel’. The woman whom the Father chose, the Son saved, and the Holy Ghost overshadowed; the woman whom the angel Gabriel greeted with his ‘Rejoice! thou who hast been filled, endued, endowed, with grace’; the woman whom S. Elisabeth, prompted by the Holy Spirit, cried out to as the ‘blessed among women’, ‘the Mother of my Lord’, and ‘she who believed’: that woman is born as on this day. She, ‘being obedient’, declares S. Irenaeus, ‘became the beginning of salvation for herself and the whole human race’. Why? Because ‘Mary’s soul was the place from which God was able to enter our humanity. In contrast to the great and mighty ones of earth, “she who believed”, who bore the Light of the world in her heart, changed the world from its foundation’ (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth, p. 288).
With her arrival on the scene, dawn is in the edges of the sky. Soon, very soon, to a world cloaked in darkness and stinking of death, the blessed Fruit of Mary’s womb would be a true rising sun, ‘the Dayspring from on high’, which, once risen, both from her virgin womb and later the sealèd tomb, would never set: for He is the Light of the world. When He appears to S. John on Patmos, the glorious Countenance of the Alpha and Omega is like the sun shining in its strength. And when S. John sees the Temple of the Lord opened in Heaven, and the Ark of the Covenant appears, it is a woman, ‘clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet’, for hers is a reflected glory.
And we are the children of that light. Once we were darkness, sleeping in death, as in the dark before the dawn. But now, even to us, the Sun of Righteousness is risen with healing in His wings, and we are light, in the Lord. For in Baptism we have risen from the dead and Christ has given us light; in Confirmation He has sealed us with ‘the kindly Light’ of His Holy Spirit; and soon, having fed us from the Eucharistic Sacrifice with His Body and Blood, we shall return from the altar with the very Sun of Righteousness in our hearts.
But that He may actually rise over the horizon of our lives with healing in His wings, repairing the broken bridges of our lives against the depredations of our supernatural foes, we must always have the same attitude, and always pray the same prayer, of that ‘Fair Lady’ who, as on this day, became the dawn, – “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word.”
Then, indeed, shall we walk as the children of light, — living members of Christ’s mystical Body, filled with His Holy Spirit, aided by the prayers of His Mother — travelling onwards to the waiting arms of the Father, and life everlasting.
Trinity 13 (Yr B) Sept. 2nd 2012
The Lord spoke to Israel through Moses about the Law of God, the Commandments, the statutes and the ordinances, which he had given them, saying to them, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Now, if there is any way we can mess it up, we will undoubtedly find it. God knew from experience with Man that we liked to add, subtract, multiply and divide God’s Word. Just take a little word from here, such as “don’t”, and add a little word there, such as “may”, and the Scriptures read much better than before. The first time this happened, I think, was in the Garden, when the serpent said to Eve: Did God say that there were any trees in the Garden of which you were not to eat the fruit thereof? And Eve replied Yes: of the fruit of the Tree in the midst of the Garden we were not to eat, nor were we to touch it! Now, nowhere is it recorded that God said “Do not touch it.” Eve added that; she made it worse than it was. Can’t eat of it; can’t even touch it, or we will die. And the serpent said, “You shall not die!” I can hear Eve now; what a nice serpent this is, so much nicer than God, who threatens to kill us! This fruit looks wonderful, and God won’t let us eat it!
St. James urges us as Moses urged Israel, “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” There, you see? Everything that comes from God is a gift, a peace offering from God the Father to us, the children he treasures even though we misbehave so. The Law was a gift, along with all the statutes and ordinances which governed the day to day life of the people of God. So Moses is able to say, “For what great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day?” These things were not a gift to all of mankind. They were rather a gift to those whom God called out of Egypt, out of a place of sin and death and hopelessness into a place wherein they were at liberty to worship the Lord their God and live as free men. Of course, any who have not renounced the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh, so that they will not follow nor be led by them; those people have no place in the Commonwealth of God, and cannot claim to be under his government and protection. Those people are given up by God to ungodliness and all that goes with it. As St. Paul writes to the Church at Rome: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, have been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. …and, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice …they are haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Oh, my. The choice is clear: leave these things behind and be governed by God’s laws and therefore protected from all this ungodliness and evil, or choose to ignore God’s ways, and be unprotected from these things. Those who come out of them and choose God, are as those who came out of Egypt, they have been redeemed by the Blood of Christ, whose sacrifice was forecast to Eve in Eden, and foreshadowed by the death of the first-born males of Egypt. Then shall those who repent be governed and protected by God unto eternal life.
Now, if all this trouble started with the decision to eat that which God had forbidden, so the rebelliousness of people today roots itself in the decision to refuse to eat that which God has given, namely the Bread of Eternal Life and the Cup of Everlasting Salvation, which is the fruit of Calvary’s tree. When asked what people must do to do the works of God, Jesus’ response was simple: “Believe on him whom he has sent.” The world now says that Christianity is “bad religion”. They do not want it, they want something “spiritual” instead. It is as from the beginning, that what God reveals Man rejects. So Jesus tells the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.” He goes on to speak that which St. Paul echoed in Romans: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”
Do not fall away and become as one of them, my brethren. You are those who have “come out of Egypt” through the waters of Baptism. You have received the Holy Spirit by the Laying on of Hands and the anointing of oil. You have been welcomed at the table of the Lord, that your daily bread may be supplied, and your souls washed by His Most Precious Blood. Never dare to think that you can safely live outside of this governance and protection of God, for people who think like that are people do not have eternal life dwell in them. But rather pray for them, that they may join us, and live forever to the Glory of God the Father.
O GOD, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake our Lord. Amen.
Fellowship of Bl John Henry Newman, Victoria, B.C.
Trinity Sunday (June 3 2012)
TRINITY SUNDAY 2012
The Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity is essentially bound up with our security and our peace. It is a perfectly logical belief, as well as being emotionally satisfying. But more importantly, it is true, it is a revelation of God about himself that leaps out here and there throughout the Scriptures, and must therefore be accepted by any who wish to claim that wonderful salvation offered to man in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us consider just a few of these things, for to consider the many would prove too long for the time allotted here.
First, the confidence and joy which Scripture gives us to entertain in the sacrifice of Calvary is grounded upon this, that the victim is a Divine Person. This lends an infinite dignity and value to all he did and suffered. “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins,” wrote the author of Hebrews. If we admit, in concurrence with mankind over so many centuries, that the principle of sacrifice is a true one, then what more blessed assurance could be given than that he who was the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his Person, by himself has purged our sins? The Unitarian scheme makes no provision that mercy and truth should meet together, cares nothing that the law given on Sinai with tremendous sanctions should lead to and be made honorable by the voluntary obedience of One who could have been under no obligation, or that God may not only threaten the punishment of sinners, but become the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. Unitarianism may provide an opiate for the conscience at best, and gives no basis for permanent assurance and peace.
Second, the Arian heresy offers yet another insurmountable difficulty. In this heresy, Christ is acknowledged as being a pre-existent Being, as is the high original glory which he enjoyed. It also acknowledges Christ’s atoning sacrifice. But it denies that he is very God, eternal God, equal to the Father in his Divinity. This must lead to difficulties in worshipping the Son, for whatever homage one pays to the Son, it must feel to some extent like idolatry. I once had a parishioner who told me that she could only pray to the Father, that it didn’t feel right or natural to her to pray to Jesus or the Holy Ghost. Yet she felt that she ought to pray to Jesus. When I pointed out Trinitarian truth, that we pray to the Father through the Son, and that because of Christ’s sacrifice and our acceptance of it and our baptism into him we had direct access always to the Father, she was much relieved. For she felt she was belittling Christ, and that she had no desire to do.
Third, apart from the catholic doctrine of Trinity in Unity, there is no God in whose permanent unchanging love we can have absolute confidence. The belief in a Supreme Being, Creator of the world (in contrast to the desolation of Atheism) becomes joy and peace only as it embraces belief in the Fatherhood of God. But the term Father implies a Son. If there is no Son begotten from eternity, there is no Father from eternity. It cannot then be said that God is Love, for there was a time when he was unloving, shut up in himself, with no Creation, and no other person of the Godhead for him to love. He was simply One Person according to such a theory. Yet love is the mutual interaction of persons. Thus according to a theory denying the Son, God’s creation of the world was not a product of love, and if he loves, it is something which he started to do at some particular time, and if that is true, then he could also stop loving at some particular time. There can be no certainty about the love of such a One. But there was never a time when he did not love. The eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ is no mere theory, not simply a scholastic dogma. Rather it entwines itself throughout all the emotions of the human soul, and is the only assurance of blessed and everlasting destinies. It determines the question whether God is Love essentially, unchangeably, active love from everlasting to everlasting. For if not, this “love” of God of which we speak is nothing more than a momentary emotion, a bright comet across the sky which may then flicker out and leave all as it was before, in desolation and blackness. If there be nothing existent but a creation which is the mere fiat of his will, no uncreated First-begotten and Only-begotten linked with us and linked with him, so ensuring its perpetuity; if God was alone contentedly for myriads of ages blessing no living thing and being blessed by none, then why would he not choose perhaps to return to that state which was his from eternity? Mark well what the Unitarian and Arian heresies do. They strike at the Son, but as surely they destroy the Father. They may give smiling assurance of their horror of pain and shrink from the thought of the sinfulness of sin and everlasting punishment; but they also with ease sweep away the only basis of repose in God, his everlasting Fatherhood and his character of love
As for the Holy Spirit, there are those who argue that He is not a person. I cannot take the time to debate that here, but let it suffice to point out that this is the same Holy Spirit who speaks in The Book of Acts chapter 13 verse 2: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, The Holy Ghost said, ‘Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Sounds like a person to me: what do you think? So is God revealed as three Persons, but one Godhead, one Divine Substance. And so we teach, and so we believe, that “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity.” Into this three-fold Name we are baptized, and ever after our Services, our devotions, our certitude in the love and forgiveness of God, revolve around our continuing in that three-fold Name. Thus exercising both our intelligence and our faith, we now ascribe unto the Father and unto the Son and unto the Holy Ghost all honour and glory, might, majesty, dominion and blessing, now, henceforth and for ever. Amen.
Sunday After the Ascension – 2012
‘Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?’ This was the question the Angels asked the disciples when our Lord returned to the Father.
They told the disciples that our Lord was truly ‘up there’. They also implied that the Disciples must now get to work under the new conditions Our Lord had inaugurated until He returned in glory.
To-day, if some theologians don’t deny the event entirely, they will say that we must no longer think of God as ‘up there’, or ‘out there’, but only of God ‘within us’, or as ‘the ground of our being’.
These two points of view – of the Angels at the Ascension, and of some modern theologians – are not necessarily contradictory. They only become so when one point of view is emphasized to the exclusion of the other.
Taken together, these two viewpoints are part of the paradox that lies at the very heart of our Catholic Faith. God is both ‘up there’ (the technical word is transcendent: i.e., He is external to the universe which He has created); and God is also ‘down here’ (the technical word is immanent: i.e., He is within the universe, His creation, and the source of the law by which it has its being and continued existence).
The traditional teaching about the Ascension of our Lord is a confirmation of this basic element of the Faith. Our Lord, having finished His visible work on earth, inaugurated a new method of ministry. Having taken our human nature from conception, to birth, to death, and on to Resurrection, He has now taken His glorified human body and soul into the immediate presence of the Father. Henceforth our Lord is the King, the Lord of the cosmos and of history; and He is the Priest, who ever lives to make intercession for us. The final age of the world has now arrived. And He is present in the Church on earth in the hearts of His people by His Holy Spirit, who helps us in this time of distress and trial, as we enter the struggles of the last days. He is both ‘up there’ and also ‘within us’.
Two results follow for us:
1. We must think, speak and act as if Christ’s life were living within us – as indeed it most certainly is! Everything we do must reflect the fact that we are saturated through and through with His life and love; and our thoughts, words, and deeds must reveal our association with Him.
2. On the other hand, since we are united to Him as living members of His mystical Body, and He dwells in Heaven at the right Hand of the Father – remember the Easter Day Epistle, ‘you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God’ – our hearts and minds must live up there. Why do you think the beginning of the great Eucharistic Prayer begins with the command ‘Lift up your hearts’? Lift them where? Remember the reply, ‘We lift them up unto the Lord’ – the original Latin is more blunt, ‘Habemus ad Dominum’, ‘We have them with the Lord’. And where is He? In Heaven, where we really live. We are citizens of that country. Here on earth we are only temporary visitors on a pilgrimage home through various trials and tribulations. At the Eucharist, with Angels and Archangels and all the company of Heaven, we are back home.
The question is, How do we maintain our correct status while living in both worlds? Certainly not by forgetting our real home and behaving as if this were all. Rather, by making our surroundings here as reminiscent as possible of home, our heavenly home. Soldiers in temporary stations or on campaign will set to work when they can and plant gardens, and generally make their environment as much like home as possible. So we can set about building a little bit of heaven around us here, and cultivating a garden of heavenly virtues, – especially faith, hope, and charity, – by relying upon, and co-operating with, the power of Christ, who has already returned to us in His Holy Spirit, and who receives us at His table in His Kingdom. How? The Kingdom is already present among us because every time the Eucharist is consecrated, the King is present. And where the King is, there is the Kingdom. The Eucharistic presence of Christ the King constitutes the Church as the Kingdom of God.
As the hymn says,
His manhood pleads where now it lives
On heaven’s eternal throne,
And where in mystic rite (the Eucharist) He gives
Its presence to His own.
Blessed, praised and adored be Jesus Christ
on His throne of glory in Heaven,
And in the most holy sacrament of the Altar,
And in the hearts of all His faithful people
In His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Preached at the Fellowship of Blessed John Henry Newman, Victoria B.C.
Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 29th) 2012
By Michael Birch, former Priest in Charge
The Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, are simply full of references to shepherds and sheep. St. Matthew, chapter 9.36: “When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Again, St. Mark 6.34: “As (Jesus) went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
Again, from Psalm 80: “Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; show thyself also, thou that sittest upon the cherubim. Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up thy strength, and come and help us. Turn us again, O God; show the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.”
Earthly Shepherds; Prophets, priests and kings, they have failed to look after the flock of God, and have enriched themselves and grown fat on that which the Lord provided for his people. The Book of Ezekiel is very condemnatory of the Shepherds, who will be removed. The Lord himself will become Israel’s Shepherd. In our former jurisdiction in the Anglican Church, at the Consecration of a Bishop this Charge was delivered by the Archbishop to the newly-consecrated Bishop: “Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd, not a wolf; feed them, devour them not. Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again the outcast, seek the lost. Be so merciful that you be not too remiss; so minister discipline, that you forget not mercy, that when the chief Shepherd shall appear you may receive the never-fading crown of glory.” Our own Peter Wilkinson was so charged; we now seek such care from Bishop Richard who, while not hearing those same words given to him, is bound by the same admonition, and our Ordinary-to-be, Jeffrey Steenson, we depend on for the same pastoral love and care. For without it, when it fails us, we are scattered upon the hills like sheep without a shepherd. We become harassed, helpless, spiritually lost. We all have felt like that in our last days in the Anglican Communion; we have been frightened to think we might be approaching that state again, until rescued by Anglicanorum Coetibus, and by the kindness of Bishop Richard and others, for which we thank God. For only in Christ’s Church can be found the Shepherds who are Christ’s voice, and hands and feet to teach, to bless, to heal.
So to our first reading. The Apostles Peter and John are being questioned about a healing which they performed in the name of Jesus at the Temple. The man used to sit daily at the Gate called Beautiful. He sat asking for alms, for he was, in the words of the Scriptures, “a man lame from birth.” The man was looking for a means of survival. Our downtown streets are full of such people, seeking only to survive; I’m afraid many of our homes are also; sheep who are self-pastored and so without holy guidance. So this man at the Beautiful Gate is simply doing that which human beings have done since the Fall of Adam. We seek to survive in a world which became for Man a hostile environment; “in the sweat of your brow you shall eat your bread,” said the Lord God to Adam. Life was no longer to be the enjoyments of Paradise, but a life of survival. Sometimes our prayers are simply prayers that we might survive. “Just let me get out of this, Lord, and I’ll do better next time.” Sometimes that’s all we can pray. We don’t see beyond that. But for the Christian, it is not enough; indeed, for a Christian to be in such straits is rather sad, and I say that having been in that place many times! So it is that when the beggar seeks alms from Peter and John, the Apostles give him not survival, but LIFE. Peter exercised what the Lord had charged him to do, “Feed my sheep, feed my lambs.” “Look on us. Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give thee; in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And the man did. He got to his feet, and he leapt in the air, and walked, and praised God. “I am come,” said Jesus, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
I will give you a more recent story. This was told by the Curate at the Anglican Cathedral in Vancouver some years ago. I still have to tell Anglican stories, we haven’t been around long enough in the Catholic Church to have a repertoire. But to continue: A young man in the parish was very ill, and was in hospital. The priest went to visit him, and when he arrived at the room the doctor and a nurse were coming out. The doctor said, “Well, Padre, it’s up to you now. I’ve done all I can for him, and I’m afraid we’re losing him.” The young man was unresponsive, so the priest sat at his bedside and prayed for him. Finally he said, “May I bring you the Holy Communion? If you would like to receive the Communion, try to squeeze my hand.” He thought (or hoped) that he felt a faint squeeze, so he told him that he would return early the next morning and give him the Sacrament. In those happy days clergy went to the hospital at 6 or 7 am, before breakfast, to administer the Eucharist. So it was; he said Mass at the young man’s bedside; be placed the host on a spoon which held the Blood of Christ, and he spooned it into the young man’s mouth. He blessed him, and departed.
He returned the next day to find the young man sitting up in bed, talking and taking nourishment. He asked him what had happened. This is what the young man told him. “I knew I was dying. I could feel my life slipping away, and I could do nothing to stop it. I could hear the doctors and nurses talking, and I knew they were gravely concerned, but I couldn’t speak to them. I prayed and prayed, and finally there came to me over and over these words: ‘Touch the hem of his garment.’ I had no idea how to do that. I knew what the quote meant, where it had come from. But I could neither speak nor move. What did it mean? Then you came in, and you offered to bring me the Holy Communion, and I KNEW! I knew what I had to do to touch the hem; but how to let you know? I tried to squeeze your hand, but I didn’t seem able to do it. Then you said you would come back, and I was overwhelmed with relief. And you came, and you administered the Sacrament. And at once I felt my life force returning to me. Within hours I was awake, and talking, alive again. Thank you!” The priest had nothing of his own to give this young man, but what he had, he gave. He gave him Christ’s healing power. The shepherd cared for the lamb.
These stories, and the myriad of stories like them over the centuries, ought to speak to us of the truth expressed in the Apostles’ Creed that we believe in The Resurrection of the Body. For the resurrection of Christ was not simply some kind of spiritual event, you know, “the Spirit of Jesus lives on” somehow. It was a physical event, in which the body which he inhabited on earth, a body which is of the substance of the Virgin Mary his mother, a body which is of the same substance as yours and mine, that body which was so marred and damaged that when men looked at him there was no beauty that we should desire him; that body which struggled to bear the Cross; that body which the Cross bore on Calvary; that body which Joseph of Arimathea laid in his own new tomb because Jesus had truly and physically died; that body received again the life of Jesus into it, and with Jesus was raised to life and saved from the corruption of the grave. The man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple would understand this, because the corruption of his ankle and foot knew this healing; the young man in the hospital would understand this, because he experienced life leaving and life returning to vivify his physical body. And so I am reminded of St. Paul’s words to King Agrippa and those of his court: “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” He is, after all, The Good Shepherd! He has prepared a table for us in the midst of, the presence of our enemies. Surely his goodness and mercy has followed you all the days of your life, and his promise is sure, that you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. For he has told us, “Fear not, little flock, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Thanks be to God.
THE RECEPTION OF ANGLICANS INTO FULL COMMUNION
ST. PATRICK’S BASILICA—OTTAWA, ONTARIO
ON DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
The Second Sunday of Easter–Year “B”–April 15, 2012
[Texts: Acts 4.32–35 [Psalm 118]; 1 John 5.1–6; John 20.19–31]
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life for evermore.”
Some scholars believe that Psalm 133 was used to dedicate the second temple. Clearly, God blesses unity, and God is pleased today. Today, the Body of Christ is a little more healed, a little more unified. Today, after half a millennium, separated brethren are separated no more! We are brethren, rejoicing at the same banquet table! Hallelujah!
In the opening words of his document Anglicanorum coetibus, Pope Benedict foretold this afternoon’s celebration:
“In recent times, the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately. The Apostolic See has responded favourably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization.”
After a long journey, we will soon receive a significant number of Anglicans into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. As you may know, Cardinal Thomas Collins is responsible for implementing Anglicanorum coetibus in Canada. Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson is head of the United States Ordinariate, with which Canadian Anglicans will be associated. I am overjoyed to be a part of your journey today and to welcome members of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
This celebration takes place on the eighth day of Easter, a solemn end to the first period of the “Great Fifty Days” during which the Church universal celebrates the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, until its conclusion at Pentecost. The chronology groups the early Church’s experience of the Risen Lord into three milestones: Jesus’ resurrection, his ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This follows Luke’s pattern in the Acts of the Apostles.
The Fourth Gospel emphasizes the underlying unity of these same mysteries of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s gospel notes that on the evening of the day of his resurrection, Jesus conferred the Spirit on the disciples and the authority to forgive sins in Jesus’ name.
In John the Evangelist’s perspective, Jesus’ new, risen life; the conferral of the Spirit; and the proclamation and celebration of the forgiveness of sins; are intimately connected. To anyone who thinks that the sacrament of penance is a bit of a downer, please note that it was given to the Church on the most joyous day in history!
The account of Jesus’ meeting with Thomas explores the notion of the healing of memories associated with forgiveness. When the disciples told Thomas of their meeting with Jesus, he could remember only Jesus’ suffering and death. This painful memory did not allow Thomas to grasp, and rejoice in, the resurrection.
On such an occasion as this, both Anglicans and Roman Catholics will have memories, painful or bittersweet, of communal and individual experiences. Please ask the Holy Spirit to heal those memories. The healing may be gradual, but it is an important part of the reconciliation process.
Thomas has done a favour to generations of believers prone to his outlook. Known as the Twin, Thomas appeared earlier in the Fourth Gospel. He presents himself as a loyal but pessimistic follower of Jesus, ready to die with him (John 11.16). At the Last Supper, he found it difficult to follow Jesus’ train of thought and plainly told him so (14.5).
Thomas’s doubt raises the issue of the link between seeing and believing. In his gentle handling of Thomas, we can see how Jesus addresses the doubts, fears and concerns of his disciples: “Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
The challenge to believe evokes from Thomas a most profound expression of faith in Jesus’ identity: “My Lord and my God!” It is a prayer that has found a place on the lips of Christians down the ages. Jesus’ response encourages Christians living in times after the Ascension: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
On April 30—the Second Sunday of Easter in the Great Jubilee Year 2000—in his homily at the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II declared that this Sunday “from now on throughout the Church will be called Divine Mercy Sunday.”
The liturgy points to the path of mercy. God’s mercy invites each person to go to Him. It also creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings.
In a meditative and circular style of presentation, the First Epistle of John captures the thrust of God’s infinite mercy. It speaks of a circuit of love moving between God and the one “born of God.” In his view, this dynamic interchange must overflow into love of one’s neighbour who, in turn, comes to love God.
The supreme expression of love is the self-sacrificing gift made by Jesus “who came by water and blood.” “Water and blood” can mean several things.
“Water” may represent Christian baptism and “blood” the Eucharist. These are the primary ways in which disciples encounter Jesus sacramentally.
“Water” and “blood” recall a controversy about how Holy Communion should be interpreted in the early church. This was reported by St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in North Africa, from about AD 249 until his martyrdom in 258.
In speaking of the Eucharist, Cyprian recalls the union of the people with their Lord. Cyprian suggests that the water in the cup represents the people of God. The wine, of course, is the shed blood of the Saviour. When the priest mixes the water with the wine in the cup, it depicts the unbreakable union of love that Christians have with one another and with their Lord. It is therefore improper to use either water or wine alone. Similarly, the bread that is broken consists of “wheat gathered and ground down and kneaded together” with water to form one loaf. For Cyprian, the Eucharist is a powerful experiential witness to the “sworn bond” (the sacramentum) that binds together believers as one body in Christ.*
This was important for Cyprian as he sought to deal with communities in the North African churches that departed from, but were later reconciled with, the full church. For Cyprian, the uniting of the community in Christ became the major function of the Eucharist, as it will be for all of us sharing in Holy Communion this afternoon.
I commend the courage and fortitude of our brothers and sisters of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada; your journey has not been easy. I commend your humility and your sacrifice; you have suffered much. I commend your tradition and your zeal; you will bless and strengthen the Roman Catholic Church by your presence.
You are not just favoured guests. This is your home. We love you. I love you. May our public witness of unity draw many from the edges of faith into God’s Kingdom, no longer subject to judgement but to Divine Mercy. Amen.
* Cf. HAYKIN, Michael A.G., Rediscovering the Church Fathers – who they were and how they shaped the Church [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Press, 2001], p.97.