Say what?

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “I will not believe.”

As usual, on this Low Sunday, we consider the consternation St. Thomas faced when confronted by the news of the resurrection.

The consternation St. Thomas faced is what we might call ‘say what-ed-ness.’ We all do that, don’t we? Someone tells us something and we proclaim, ‘Say what?’ We shake our heads in a state of perpetual disbelief. I don’t get it. I can’t accept it. This is too foreign to me.

If you ever want to test your own or others ‘say what-ed-ness,’ tell them what the Church teaches in truth and power. Jesus is God and man – He is not just a nice teacher. His words are the Word of God and must be obeyed. We must take up our cross and follow Him, walking the gospel path. All people are the children of God, and each of the baptized are co-heirs with Jesus to the promises of the Father. The Church’s teachings are not just an option but required belief. Say what?

Within the first three Chapters of the Book of Acts we learn that: The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

We do not even have to imagine the ‘say what’ reaction of the people who witnessed the life of the early Church. The reaction of the established leadership was negative. It is well recorded throughout Acts and the Epistles. We can hear the voices: What do you mean? They sell everything they have and share in the proceeds equally? They proclaim Christ without fear, with no apprehension, but publicly and with great power? Say what? We need to shut them up. That still rings true today.

Our ability to elicit ‘say what-ed-ness’ from the worldly is founded upon the power we have as recorded in St. John’s writings: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God… Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

As a people empowered by the salvation and inheritance we have in the risen Jesus – the God-man who overcame for us – we need to be a people of resolute faith, a people who truly believe and own, within our hearts as well as shown by our actions and words, the power of the Risen One.

We are called then to go out, dressed in Easter joy, with power, to challenge the ‘say what-ed-ness’ of the world. We are called to proclaim truth and liberty, freedom from death in sin to life in the resurrected Christ. The next time we hear ‘say what?’ let us respond with ‘Let me tell you about Jesus.’ “My Lord and my God!” He lives. In Him we have life. Come and believe.

Are we
hungry enough?

They all ate and were satisfied.

Last week, we discussed the hungry Jesus and His chief hunger, unity of life with the Father and Spirit and our participation in that reality, that meal where love is perfected. It is the meal to which We have gained access. We were left with the question: Are we hungry? Are we hungry enough to participate in God’s life?

Today we continue the celebration that began this past Thursday, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Holy Church sets aside special Octaves, eight days of celebration that follow special moments in our collective faith life. We celebrate Octaves after Christmas, the Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi. You have to love a Church that focuses on celebrating!

Today’s Gospel tells us that crowd ate and were satisfied. Now we’ve all had plenty of meals where we ate, and remained unsatisfied, perhaps even disappointed.  Yet, when Jesus feeds us we find only satisfaction. The Gospel goes on to tell us that the leftovers filled twelve baskets– in other words, Jesus feeding us leads to an overflowing abundance.

Sunday, in the Octave, is a great moment to reflect. Do we really believe this? Does receiving this bread and wine really make us whole and satisfied? Does this activity, have any real meaning and reality? Do we have any overflowing abundance coming from this feeding? Are Jesus’ promises real?

Father, what are you saying? You’re confusing me. I’ve said that myself to people who called me to express what I really believed.

That is the question, not whether I am confusing you, but taking this very important moment, this eight-day period, and the rest of our lives to come to terms with what we really believe of God’s reality. We can read words – This is my Body. This is My blood. Do this… but reading alone will not move us from disbelief and unbelief and going-through-the-motions, to full faith and overflowing abundance.

If we do anything, as we meet the reality of Jesus’ Body and Blood today, as He passes us in procession, let us make an absolute affirmation of true faith and belief. Let us say and believe: He is here, and I am hungry for Him. Let us eat and be satisfied. Then with that realization of faith, come to see all His promises fulfilled in our lives to overflowing.

Who lit the
fire?

“In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

There are many jobs that require a moment’s notice to be ready. Included are emergency workers, utility crewmen, soldiers and sailors. Today, Jesus speaks of the end of the world. Telling what it will be like, He reminds us that we too have to be ready at a moment’s notice. We will talk today about what we should be ready for and what we should do to prepare.

Our preparation must be centered on belief in Jesus. More easily said than done! It is very difficult for the people to believe in Jesus, not just today, but even when He walked among us. The world questioned and still questions His abilities, background, and leadership. True belief lived begets dedication, proclamation, and a deepening of relationship. We must check in to make sure our belief is doing that in our lives.

If we know Jesus, if we are growing in relationship with Him, we should consider ourselves specially blessed – and be thankful. Jesus promised that He would raise those who do believe in Him on “the last day.” What a great gift, an everlasting gift, a gift for everyone no matter who we are – as long as we believe in the Name of Jesus; no matter where or when, a gift just for us.

What we should be ready for are those things Jesus laid out for us. There is and will be tribulation. There are choices to be made, and we want to be in the group of his elect.

If you have looked into the history of our Church, you would note, as some do with a bit of humor, that our organizer, Bishop Hodur, ‘extinguished the fires of Hell.’ Well not exactly (some took it that way). What he did rather was work to remove fear of Hell fire as the motivator for preparation. We must not have fear as our motivator. Our motivator must be to grow in belief through more intimate knowledge of the grace and glory of God – to know Him, to experience the Holy Spirit, so to desire preparation for what is to come: Us on fire with belief, ready for that moment’s notice, and thankful to be so.

About-the-Trinity1

I believe in
— —.

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Jesus’s words found at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel account give us great comfort. He is ascending, but will remain with us always.

But, why should His words give us comfort? Even those we consider close friends can sometimes offer words, but fail to follow-through. Why are Jesus’ words supposed to give us any more comfort than any other person’s words?

This is where we get down to brass tacks as Christians. What is at the center of our faith? From where do we derive our confidence? How can we prepare ourselves to do what St. Peter asks of us when he says: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you”?

Standing where we are today, and having recited the creeds of the faith as our parents, grandparents, and ancestors have through the centuries it is easy enough to say – God. God is the reason for our hope. We are confident in Jesus’ words because Jesus is God and God cannot speak falsehood. If He said He would be with us always it is obviously and categorically true.

It wasn’t always that way. The Church had to work and fight long and hard, for centuries, to proclaim the truth about God, to settle it all based on what Jesus taught and the Apostles witnessed firsthand. Others came along with theories and opinions – Jesus was not really a man, He was not really God, the Holy Spirit wasn’t a person. These were called heresies – untruths – falsehoods.

The various creeds were written to clearly covey the truth of Who and What God is in opposition to those heresies. What we believe, as is stated in the Athanasian Creed, is the baseline necessary belief for every Christian. God is Three Co-eternal, Uncreated, and Almighty Persons of One Substance.

We have to be very careful to proclaim this truth. If we do not, our baptism in the name of the Trinity is worthless, our prayer is useless, and our hope is baseless. Jesus words are just the words of another faulty human. The Holy Spirit is just a breeze or a warm fuzzy feeling, He has no personhood. The Father – who knows?

Our task this Trinity Sunday is to reconnect ourselves to the truth of God and in doing so recognize the great promise and power that is ours.

Reflection for Low Sunday 2014

Remove Doubt

Jesus, help me to
see!

Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Jesus is here; right now saying, “Peace be with you.”

The world challenges our faith constantly. As we discussed on Easter, the guards at the tomb had a choice. Would they declare the truth or take the bribe and ignore what really happened? We can imagine that having seen what had happened, taking the bribe was not going to be quite satisfactory. Truth has a way of pushing against our consciences – prompting us to moments where we cannot be peaceful.

Jesus is the reality of heavenly perfection, grace, and truth intersecting with earth. In saying, “Peace be with you.” Jesus is giving a blessing, reassurance, and an instruction to His followers.

The blessing of peace is not a blessing that protects us from all earthly harm or sadness – after all, the apostles all faced struggles, imprisonment, and almost all were martyred for the faith. Jesus’ peace overcame the apostles’ post-crucifixion sadness and remained with them. For us, His blessing of peace surpasses understanding. It is greater than anything we might face. His peace is given to us and is something we own; it is ours forever. His peace is constant and remains with us regardless of what we have faced, have done, will face, or will do. Not even the very depths of pain and sadness can overcome His peace if we believe.

Jesus’ peace is reassuring. The apostles did some pretty horrible things – they abandoned Him, denied Him, were unsure of Him, and may have very well lost all faith in Him. They sit in a locked room, afraid. His peace is their reassurance of forgiveness. We sin in big and small ways – yet Jesus is always prepared to welcome us back and impart His peace if we believe.

The instruction is that His peace will be with us if we acknowledge the truth – the truth of that intersection between heaven and earth. The truth that God sacrificed His Son for us and because of His obedience raised Him from the dead. The truth that, by an act of faith, those regenerated in the waters of baptism were buried with Christ so that they may rise with Him.

When we are faced with challenges, when we fail in sin and error, when we are confronted by the doubt and denial so active in the world, let us recognize the gift of peace Jesus gave us. If we, like the guards, do not feel peaceful then something is wrong in our belief and how we see. Let us “not be unbelieving, but believe” and have His peace.