Be Humble.

“For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Welcome and thank you for joining us this day in our worship of, and dedication to, the Lord.

Last week we spoke of the distinction between listening and hearing. We heard Jesus tell us that the one who listens and walks the gospel way, i.e., does the work Jesus speaks of, will recline at table in the kingdom of God. Today we hear Jesus referencing another table, the one that was in front of Him in the home of one of the leading Pharisees.

We are introduced to the scene hearing that Jesus was being observed closely and carefully.

The ironic part of Jesus being observed carefully was that it had nothing to do with respect or honor. Rather, it was people lying in wait for a mistake, so they could take charge and destroy Jesus.

Jesus confronts this situation by speaking of humility. How can one rightly order their lives in relation to God and other people?

We all have that automatic detection system, the red light that goes on when someone with false humility starts talking about – themselves. We know how hard our own humility can be. Even stating that one is humble calls attention to oneself, magnifies oneself.

The temptation as I prepared this homily was to use examples from my life – oh how humble I was – and speak about how we can all effectuate humility in our lives – by following the thing Fr. Jim does. Yikes, humility is hard. That was a lesson for me.

For us, humility is the way we follow Jesus, how we walk in His gospel way. Jesus lays out examples for us today.

It starts with showing up when invited, making the effort, then placing oneself in the lowest position, doing the things that need doing while not calling attention to oneself. Then when the party begins, taking the lowest place.

Jesus also instructs us to avoid doing anything for self-gain. If we are throwing the party, invite those who never get invited. If we are playing a sport or game, pick those who never get picked.

Those are practical examples of humility in action. Doing those things helps us to live humble lives, to exemplify Christ. The truly humble person is not only a listener and doer of Jesus’ gospel but more-so a person totally committed to emptying oneself for Jesus Christ.

What this means is to finally extricate ourselves from God’s throne, to stop pushing Him aside so we can decide. It is about living up to all those commitments we made before God at our baptism and confirmation, in marriage, and in every other way – living only for God and others so to be exalted in heaven at God’s table.

This week’s memory verse: And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

Luke 10:39
  • 8/21 – Proverbs 25:12
  • 8/22 – Proverbs 22:17
  • 8/23 – 1 John 4:5-6
  • 8/24 – Malachi 2:7
  • 8/25 – John 9:31
  • 8/26 – Proverbs 1:33
  • 8/27 – Jeremiah 6:10

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, Grant that I may listen to Your word attentively, with joy and pleasure, and effectuate it by walking in Your gospel way. Amen.

Hear and Listen.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

Welcome and thank you for joining us this day in our worship of, and dedication to, the Lord.

I’m sure that at one time or another we have all heard the comparison between hearing and listening. We hear parents tell their children: ‘You’re hearing me, but you’re not listening.’ Or ‘I’m making sounds, but nothing is happening.’ It is a frustration employers, workers, parents and children, friends, and nations all have.

Merriam-Webster defines hearing as the “process, function, or power of perceiving sound; specifically: the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli.” Listening, on the other hand, means “to pay attention to sound; to hear something with thoughtful attention; and to give consideration.”

Today, God speaks to us about hearing and listening

God confronts the people of Israel in Isaiah 66, who having returned from exile and having rebuilt the Temple are being warned against a materialistic view of worship. We know the system of sacrifices and offering at the Temple. In the past, Israel had profaned their own sacrifices by doing evil, making a sacrifice to allegedly clear the evil, and then going right back to doing evil. God rather wants a people with true hearts. God knows the people’s works and thoughts and they must listen and be clean. So, to prove His goodness, God says He will gather in the nations, the Gentiles, us – and He will even make some of us priests. He will raise up our dignity, for we will listen, astounded by God’s great mercy toward us.

God asks all He calls to stay on message, to truly hear what He says and to follow it. Jesus shows the leaders of Israel that they will end up as outsiders if they do not listen and stay true to God’s Word, if they would not recognize Who was before them and among them.

The writer to the Hebrews, specifically addressing Jewish believers, once again reminds them that they must stay true to the salvation they received in Jesus, that they should not backslide – that what they heard and received, i.e., listened to, is the way to go. Do not forget or you will be counted as only hearers, not doers, the doers James 1:22 reminds us we must all be.

It comes down to us whom God has included. We are called to listen – to hear with thoughtful attention; and to give consideration.

We have already been called into the Kingdom. We have that privilege. Listening and walking the gospel way is the work Jesus speaks of – entering through the narrow gate. It takes strength and endurance. If we indeed listen and do, we shall recline at table in the kingdom of God.

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Today we triumphantly celebrate the repose of the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It would seem that this event would be sad and mournful, because we are remembering death, the death of someone so very special. Why should we rejoice on this day of the Dormition of the Mother of God? Why is her death specially celebrated this day?

Before the coming of Christ on earth, death was frightening, because it snatched us away — irretrievably — and there were no means of escape, for sin reigned over people and we alone could not overcome our sin. But after the Lord’s coming and His victory over sin and death, the horror of death disappeared; it became as if a peaceful sleep, after which dawns the joyous morning of the Resurrection.

To the measure that each of us conquers the sin that still lives in us, the fear of death disappears, so that triumphant conquerors of sin meet death with joy, and no longer die but rather peacefully fall asleep. We see the clearest example of this triumph over death in the Dormition of the Most Blessed Mother Mary. She reclined in her grave with joy for she was confident in what awaited her as a fellow and perfect conqueror of sin. Similarly, we see the apostles, martyrs, and all the saints, meeting death as a joy, as a birth to new life, eternal blessed life because they overcame sin in their lives.

So today the Holy Church adorns itself in garments of triumph, rejoices and exalts, and calls all people to do the same.

Like all human beings, the Mother of God died on this day. But she, like all the saved, understood death differently; differently because fear has been broken by Jesus. The Son of God and Son of Mary provided Mary and all us Christians with new consolation. By Jesus’ death and Resurrection, the sting of death was destroyed. Death, once something terrible and painful, has become for all who follow Christ something joyful and blessed.

Mary fully understood this. We have no factual accounts of Mary’s death, exactly what occurred and how. There is pious tradition surrounding the event, but that is so very unimportant. It matters not one bit because how Mary died is not the point. The point is how she lived and that because of her gospel life she is in heaven. Of that there can be no doubt.

Mary was more than just mother. Mary was not just a servant of Jesus. Rather, she was that faithful and perfect disciple who walked the gospel path Jesus laid out. Her love of God caused her to trust and say yes to Him. Her faith in her Son made her fearless. Her listening, serving, praying, presence to others, and learning brought about one absolute for Mary – a constant pointing to Jesus, to His message, to His instruction, to the building of the Kingdom. That is why we know she is in heaven.

In all this Mary offers us a path to follow. Like her, our love of God should constantly cause us to say yes to all He asks of us. We too should be fearless in our faith and focused on the listening, serving, praying, presence to others, and learning necessary to be better and better disciples while we strive to build God’s Kingdom here and now. If we do all that, we can await the sleep of death in peace and confidence like Mary.

Amen.

This week’s memory verse: I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

Romans 16:17
  • 8/14 – Titus 3:10
  • 8/15 – 1 Corinthians 1:10
  • 8/16 – Ephesians 5:11
  • 8/17 – Jude 1:17-19
  • 8/18 – 2 John 1:10
  • 8/19 – Proverbs 14:12
  • 8/20 – John 8:32

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, Grant that I not be a source of division and conflict, but by my life in You I represent fully the truth of Your gospel no matter the cost. Amen.

Division and conflict?

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus

Welcome and thank you for joining us this day in our worship of, and dedication to, the Lord.

Today we face one of Jesus’s stronger instructions to His followers (that includes us). He said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three.

The question for us is how do we deal with this? How does this make sense for us who work very hard to walk Jesus’ gospel path?

We could start by reading Jesus’ message backward. He says there will be division and conflict, so let’s be all about that. Let’s foment division and conflict especially by being self-righteous and judgy. See someone, especially a family member, doing something inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching – let them know all about it, how wrong they are, and in the process send both them and us to hell.

No, that makes no sense. Factually that is inconsistent with Jesus’ gospel way just as much as any other sin is.

Perhaps we should start by just accepting every sin, or at least looking the other way. Well, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Everyone is free to just be themselves. Live and let live. Anyway, I don’t want anyone to dislike me.

No, that makes no sense. Factually that is also inconsistent with Jesus’ gospel way just as much as any other sin is. It is just another kind of division and conflict.

Jesus does not want us to be indifferent or generators of conflict. The lesson from Jeremiah and from Jesus is that our agreement with God’s truth may cause us to suffer. We need to accept that fact and be willing to offer ourselves if called upon to do so.

The writer to the Hebrews gives us the solution – the key to how we are to live the gospel life.

We are to look to the great cloud of witnesses, both those like today’s martyrs in the Middle East and Africa, particularly right now in Nigeria, as well as those who came before us. Model their lives and their all for Christ.

We are to set aside sin, freeing ourselves therefrom with the help and guidance of the Church.

Willingness to witness and walking away from sin we are to be people who persevere, look constantly to Jesus, and live out His gospel way, unashamed, uncompromising, and resolute recalling He sees all we do.

This week’s memory verse: Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

Psalm 127:1
  • 8/7 – Proverbs 24:3-4
  • 8/8 – Isaiah 32:18
  • 8/9 – Psalm 91:1-2
  • 8/10 – Proverbs 3:33
  • 8/11 – John 14:1-2
  • 8/12 – 2 Corinthians 5:1-10
  • 8/13 – Matthew 6:33

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, Grant that my work be solely directed toward the spread of the Kingdom and my heart on Your Father’s promise of a heavenly home that surpasses all we can know. Amen.

Measuring Home.

They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.

As you are all aware I have been on the road a lot this summer with more to come. I remember the old days of traveling with my family to various locales whether to visit extended family or to go to some great park like Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

Back in those days we measured the distance from our home to where we were going and back in both time (are we there yet) and AAA TripTik pages. It is much like that today. On an airplane you can bring up the flight’s website and see how far you’ve gone and have left to go. Our phones and GPSs tell us much the same thing – and even give us expected arrival times.

The writer to the Hebrews talks about distance and time today. Abraham and the Prophets saw the coming of the Messiah and the ushering in of the Kingdom from afar. Over the span of thousands of years, they likely would have used up all the TripTik pages ever printed and would have worn out technology. The key learning for us is that those afar off did not lose faith nor hope, but rather invested their entire lives in the hope that was pointed to in faith.

Abraham’s journey is used as a prime example. Abraham knew where he came from, Ur of the Chaldeans. In fact, at an absolute minimum, Abraham, his family, and all their herds, livestock, and servants walked 1,551 miles in straight line distances to get to where God directed them. Because there were no straight roads from place-to-place it was much further than that! Knowing where he came from, Abraham could have opted to go back, yet his faith kept leading him forward. He never quit.

Abraham’s faith and hope were focused on the better homeland, God’s promise of heaven to His faithful who stick to His will and carry out His plan.

Jesus encourages us to be like Abraham, resolute in faith and hope. We have the Kingdom present among us. We are its citizens. Jesus asks us to keep our eyes focused on the road ahead. We are to see what is promised to us and await it with hard work and constant expectation.

A great self-check this week is to ask ourselves: Where is my home and my focus? Will I live as a stranger and alien or be at home with how things are? Am I using all given me to be the image of God and a bearer the Kingdom to those who are outside of it? Much is indeed required of us.

This week’s memory verse: Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5
  • 7/31 – 1 Timothy 6:10
  • 8/1 – Luke 12:15
  • 8/2 – 1 Timothy 6:9
  • 8/3 – Matthew 6:24
  • 8/4 – Proverbs 11:24
  • 8/5 – 1 John 2:16
  • 8/6 – James 5:1-6

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, I praise You for the gifts in my life. Grant that I may properly prioritize those gifts for the service of others. Destroy all covetousness in me.

How much? Too much!

He said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.

I am so thankful that we have joined together in worship this Sunday.

St. Basil the Great wrote a homily of about thirty pages in seven sections on today’s gospel. St. Basil took the time and the effort because the issue of social justice and equitable distribution was not just important to him, but was much more so, important to God.

Basil famously wrote: Now, someone who takes a man who is clothed and renders him naked would be termed a robber; but when someone fails to clothe the naked, while he is able to do this, is such a man deserving of any other appellation? The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear mouldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes. The silver that you keep hidden in a safe place belongs to the one in need. Thus, however many are those whom you could have provided for, so many are those whom you wrong.

Basil saw the accumulation of things as theft. If one takes and stores up more than what is necessary one is stealing from those in need. 

Basil also saw the provision of earthly goods as a test. He recalled that Saintly Job had a lot. The question, What would happen when it was all taken? Scripture tells us that throughout his suffering and loss Job never lost faith, never rejected God. 

The harder temptation is to have much. Having much, over abundance, is a test as well. The question, What would happen if we have much and more again? The rich man in the parable is not judged until his riches and stuff become his faith. The rich man relies only on himself so his life is demanded of him.

In Basil’s diocese of Caesarea, he created the Basilidad. It was a community of prayer that saw to the needs of the sick and dying, the starving and naked. Those who worked there, ordinary people and religious, gave up that extra coat, those shoes in the closet, the bread, and the silver to do God’s work. They shared what they had equitably. Others saw it and gave generously. We have an abundantly generous family here. We are a mini-Basilidad in seeing to the needs of our community and that is why we are blessed.

Yet, we must always be careful and aware of the test. Let’s try an experiment. Let us look at our closets – do we need extra storage space (larger barns). Try to count every article of clothing we have. How many days could we go without needing to do laundry? If our conscience calls to us, let us do what we can help another with what we have in abundance.