Less God?

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

It is the question of the ages, Who do you say that I am? This question, to the Apostles, should not have been a surprise. It is the same question God presented to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Judges, kings, and prophets. In each instance, Who do you say that I am?

Peter answers in the same way the rest would answer. He answers in the same way the faithful have always answered. In faith (which is the rock), he clearly stated that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. You are God, my God.

As with the rest of the Apostles, and as was done before them by the prophets, judges, kings, and every person on earth, we quickly go from proclamation to a failure to follow through. We somehow lose touch with the fact that we just proclaimed God to be our God, and suddenly consider Him ‘less God.’

It happened to Peter right after this bold proclamation, He suddenly saw Jesus as ‘less God.’ He told Jesus He believed Him to be God, then told Him – You’re wrong.

This is our predicament as Christians. We are really asked to do very few things. Proclaim salvation in Jesus. Accept Him in faith, live the gospel message by doing love, and give God the worship. All Church laws and dogmas come down to that. We worship Jesus, who is God, and do what He said, for that is the perfection of truth; God’s wisdom laid out before us. All we have to do is take up and do what God said, but we don’t.

When we proclaim the creed, we will attest to the fact that Jesus is true God and true man. He is not half-and-half, more of one, less of the other. He is the fullness and completeness of both. So, His words and example are the way to live. His is the way we are to follow. Perfect instruction.

Consider the question of faith; our desire to cling to and fully believe: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Let us ask ourselves whether our lives speak the truth of our belief. Is Jesus God for me, or is He ‘less God?’

Much seems to get in the way. What does for us? Desires, politics, personalities, angers, having it our way, hypocrisy, thinking we are right, property over people, nation over God, the need to state our opinion? It is the question of the ages. If He is nothing less than God, let us put all that aside and live like He really is our God.

I brought dinner.

But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” 

Yesterday, after Holy Mass for the Dormition, I had the opportunity to spend time with our friend, Bishop Judy Murphy-Jack, Miss Adrienne from Team Esteem, and the Hon. Owusu Anane, a member of Albany’s Common Council. We sat on Bishop’s porch in a beautiful neighborhood on a great day and strategized ideas to address the serious matters pressing on the people of our region and the city. While weighty matter, just spending time on a porch in an old school way and talking with people of faith uplifted us and gave us renewed hope.

The Canaanite woman had serious weighty matter to discuss with Jesus. She wanted to sit on his porch and tell Him about her daughter and her needs. In hope, she sounded the age-old cry of people of faith, “Lord, help me.”

Jesus’ response was not welcoming. He basically said, Look, I brought dinner, but it is not for you. He referred to her as a dog, a Jewish term of contempt for Gentiles. Yet, He would not concede to the disciples request to send her away. He left the door open as He had in prior encounters with the Gentiles. Jesus leaves the door open to all who want to come onto His porch, to talk with Him, and to eat at His table, but we must take action.

In Jesus’ day, Canaanite was an ancient term for a people who did not know God, worshiped false gods, and were God’s enemies. This Canaanite woman, at face value a false god worshipper, needed to show the truth of her faith; Jesus could not just snap His fingers and make her a believer. She does and hangs on through Jesus ignoring her and telling her that the dinner was not for her. She does not take silence or “no” for an answer. She takes the action necessary to show herself as God’s faithful daughter, not an enemy of God. Jesus then grants her request.

Sophia comes here today as an outsider and will leave as one who will now have the opportunity to fully grow into a person of faith, a believer. It won’t just happen, no magic finger snapping here. To help her grow and enjoy porch time with Jesus and the dinner Jesus brought will take work. Sophia, those who brought her, and we commit to taking on the work of building her into a faithful daughter. Let us all commit to helping her become that woman of wisdom who hears Jesus say: “O woman, great is your faith!” and whose hope is constantly renewed.

Victory
cost.

Brothers and sisters: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.

Last week we met Zacchaeus and found in his encounter with Jesus one reborn to new life. We found great hope and promise because each person has the opportunity to be reborn into new victorious life in Jesus.

This week we meet a different group, people who at great cost kept faith, did not falter through every cruelty, and persevered in the new lives they knew they had in the Kingdom.

These last few weeks of the Church year are dedicated to contemplation of the Eschatological moment, the end times, Jesus’ victorious return and our being caught up with Him. These are topics of wonder, so the Holy Church lays before us teaching that shows us the way.

Our starting point is the encouragement of God, called to mind by St. Paul. Our hope is not temporary nor is it fleeting. What we have is everlasting. Having come to Jesus by faith and confession of sin, we have new life. We have the promise of victory and we must not take it lightly. Let us study, read, pray, mutually encourage and be steadfast in our faith and in the expectation of Jesus’ return.

You know, it isn’t easy. The world and even other churches are throwing every distraction before people. Like the mother and seven sons, we must face torments that attempt to pull us away from the Kingdom life into abandonment of God. For us, these things may not be as outright as others face, but know Christians face these sorts of things daily in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Among us, it is not so obvious, more insidious.

I encourage you to read 2nd Maccabees. In Chapter 6 we see this: The Gentiles filled the temple with debauchery and revelry; They also brought forbidden things into the temple so that the altar was covered with abominable offerings. This is literally happening today on the altars of St. Peter’s in Rome and other Roman churches. Where is faith being kept? It is kept here!

Keep faith in these last days where the costs are high. Keep faith here and in your hearts. Jesus reminds us not to fret over the detail or the cost but maintain the hope that is our promise of victory – everlasting life.

Strong in
prayer.

The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.

Jesus presents us with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, both gone to the temple to pray. He draws a distinction in the manner of prayer offered by each.

The Pharisee takes his position (his entitled place, reserved just for him) and prays to… himself.

The tax collector takes the position of everyone, of no one in particular and in great humility seeks mercy.

It is easy for us to see the difference. Bad Pharisee, presumptive and arrogant, and poor tax collector, presumptive and humble. Our hearts close to one and open to the other. Wait, did you just say both were presumptive? Factually, yes.

The Pharisee was presumptive in the most negative way possible. He judged himself to be worthy. He had no need to pray to God because all was already settled. He spent his time in temple with himself. On the other hand, the tax collector presumed to pray in the first place, that God was merciful enough not to strike him down for his sins right where he stood. He spent his time in temple with God. Presumption in and of itself was not the problem, rather it was the focus of the presumption, the expected outcome.

For the Pharisee, the expected outcome was more of the same. In the end, Jesus points out, that presumption lost him the little he had. The tax collector’s outcome was change and that presumption won mercy, salvation, and justification.

In our New Testament lives, we need to modify our presumptions. Consider what they are and adjust. Our primary presumption in prayer must be relationship with God followed by trust in His promises. Our prayer is not a mere speaking to ourselves about needs, but full knowledge that our prayers pierce the clouds; does not rest till it reaches its goal. Indeed, our presumptions must be based on what Jesus taught, and He taught the strength and power of prayer. Jesus reminds us to constantly to set our hearts on Him in faith, not to despair, and to know that our prayer reaches the throne of God and is effective. Presume that!

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who will judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

Paul is once again charging Timothy to remain strong and faithful in his ministry to his people. Paul reminds Timothy, as he has been doing, of what he learned. Paul does these recaps before he enters into the strong charge his listeners are called and recalled to.

Paul tells Timothy: Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it

Now Paul was not necessarily referring to himself – you’ve got to get this, believe it, and live it just because I took the time to teach you. Paul never stood on his own words. Rather, Paul is helping Timothy to remember that his heart was touched, his soul was moved, by the Holy Spirit who imparted God’s word to him. This word – the Gospel of Jesus – has affected your life from the beginning. It has changed the course of your life and outcomes you would have otherwise been destined for.

Because God’s word comes to us by proclamation, through the insistence of faithful teachers, by the example of mentors, in ways that are ever human and ordinary, we can easily miss Who it is that is imparting the word. Paul reminds Timothy and us – you know from whom you learned it.

If we realize the source, the rest of Paul’s set of directives becomes easy: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. If this thing I have, that we have, is from God it will prosper by our persistence and dedication, by our patience and teaching.

Jesus brings this all home. He uses the example of the worst of the worst doing right to show us how much more our great, powerful, all just, all merciful God will do for His faithful. He will prosper our proclamation, teaching, persistence, in good times or bad, work. All we need do is ask with faith.

What we ask in faith is not just some poor request from an underling – please support me if You get a moment God. No, it is a word of power from us who remain in Jesus. Jesus guarantees we will see it done speedily. Believe that!  

Who by
faith.

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

What do you have?

Last week we spoke of introspection, and the necessity of getting out of ourselves, of looking up and out. We spoke of using the power God has given us to draw in many to know, love, and serve God, to build up a storehouse of treasures God will be proud of. It is what we have.

Today, St. Paul drives the power of faith home in a long illustration of faith history. We only heard a part of it, from Chapter 11 of Hebrews. If we take the opportunity to read the whole thing, we will see illustrations from every age of people who stood in the breech. These people did great and amazing things all founded upon faith in things unseen and only promised. Paul tells us that this kind of faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. It is what we have.

The people of the old Israel kept faith alive in the midst of every challenge. Even when they had to worship in silence and hiding, they did not stop, and because of this, God brought them to victory. This is not just then, or a tale of old. This kind of faith lives today. We see illustration of the Church in hiding through the days of communism – a Church emerging intact from behind the iron curtain, and these people too are well attested. We see it wherever bravery and perseverance are called for.

We have these examples of faith alive in our hearts, in our stories, in our reflections and prayers. They live in the way we face daily challenge and resistance to the worldly.

In just the past two weeks persecution has touched our Church. Fr. Franciscus Urban, a priest in Sweden, a former Marine, and an educator, was fired from his teaching job because of his faith. The headmaster said: “I can see no possibility for you to stay. Your ‘values’ do not meet with the school’s ‘value foundation’”

Walking by faith has never been unchallenged, nor unchallenging. Yet, in living faith out we gain the greatest attestation available, the blessing of God and the assurance of the kingdom. Jesus drove the point home, saying: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Let us take confidence acting in Him. This faith is what we have!

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.

Jesus’ disciples gathered around him, and he taught them: I tell you not to worry…

Matthew 6:25

I believe we often wonder whether Jesus is really speaking to us. Are those particular words meant for me? The answer is always yes, and reflecting on our passage for this month, we can certainly see how it applies to us. Jesus’ friends and followers got together, and He COMMANDED them: Chill out! Indeed, Matthew 6:25, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, is a direct command from Jesus to His followers. His language was not a suggestion or a recommendation, or an option. If you are following me, you need to relax, chill out, throw out all fear and anxiety. If we experience God, church, family, and everyday life from a perspective of fear and anxiety we are missing the blessings of a true relationship with Jesus and each other. Instead of living in Jesus – life to the fullest – we are just functioning and killing ourselves. Fear, worry and anxiety are a wall, a thick, high, deep, and strong wall that blocks the way between me and Jesus. We look at those walls, and our instinct is not to break through the wall, after all. who am I? Rather, we start immediately to make the wall bigger, stronger, higher, and deeper. We forget the dynamite we really have. The power we have is faith as small as a mustard seed. Go to the local supermarket or spice store. Find a jar of mustard seed, and look how small those seeds are. Buy that jar, and then go find a big ‘ol wall – a brick or stone one, and take one of those seeds. just one, and throw it at the wall. In our minds and hearts, see that wall explode and fall. That’s the power we have in Jesus. That is the order He has given us. With the simplest of faith, the least amount of faith, the wall of fear, worry and anxiety is destroyed. When we come to church, let us use the opportunity to stand up and follow Jesus’ order. He’s speaking to us. Destroy the wall. Relax the shoulders, throw out the obligation, and step over the broken parts of that wall. See Jesus for real, no fear.

Join us in June for the fullness of the Holy Spirit experience. Confirmation and Installation, Father’s Day BBQ, all done in a chill out manner with faith in Jesus who overcomes all. Plus check out all the great upcoming national and local events now and throughout the summer.

Read more in our June 2019 Newsletter.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 4

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation

Three Sundays ago, we met St. Dismas. We learned who he was. We considered what brought him to the life he led. We began considering questions about those times when we, like Dismas, turned from God, let temptation win. Then we set on the road to repentance. We set to take the same opportunity Dismas had; to ask ourselves questions and use those questions to grow into better and better images of Jesus.

We discussed the issue of equality and possibility; our call to rightly measure both.

We recognize inherent equality in human dignity. The image of God is in all. Dismas, like every other person around the cross, is us. None deserves hatred. None is less than we are. In our equality we acknowledge that we are all presented with the same possibility Dismas and Gestas had. Like Dismas, we are called to come to Jesus and be saved.

While we have that ability to come and be saved, we tend to get caught up in our weakness and fear. Fear is compounded when we face God’s absolute honesty. Dismas wasn’t strong enough and lived a sinful and destructive life even in the face of God’s truth. Until. Like Dismas, we must have the courage to grab the chance. We must not forego the chance like Gestas did. We are called to see the full honesty of God – truth and mercy that provides each of us the chance to grow and produce even in the direst of moments.

Dismas, on the cross, examined his life, asked questions, saw his innate dignity, the possibility before him. He overcame fear without neglecting Jesus’ truth, and grabbed the chance to grow and become, even in the last moment of his life.

Dismas, in his encounter with Jesus, spoke the prayer of faith. He spoke to be saved. In this short moment, Dismas acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus, admitted his sin, and asked for salvation. Dismas lived the parable of the Prodigal by coming back and received eternal life. We are called to do exactly the same. Our Lenten journey with Dismas is a model to be followed. If we follow it, take hold of Jesus’ promise, and live in Him, we are recreated as disciple ambassadors, ever new.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood

The words above are taken from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 20, verse 28. St. Paul is meeting with the elders – the Bishop and leadership of the Church in Ephesus. Paul speaks of how he was plotted against, how he held to the truth, and how he preached repentance. Paul focused on the example he set. He is telling the leadership to follow that example – to live it. In other letters, Paul spoke of how he worked for his own bread, how he battled temptations, and how he went willingly into the unknown for Jesus.

Many Roman Catholic faithful have been shocked and disturbed by recent and past revelations of evil doing, abuse, and how those acts have been covered over/covered up for decades. You may be among them, asking: ‘What happened to the example laid down by Paul and the other Apostles?’

All Christian faithful are supposed to live, first are foremost, the life of Jesus. We are all called to walk in the footsteps of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints. Paul did that! We ask again: ‘Shouldn’t the leadership of the worldwide Roman Church be on the same page?’

We feel for you and are sad for your experience. It is heartbreaking to have one’s trust broken repeatedly, to see one’s role models and leaders fall so hard by their own fault.

You may feel conflicted because we are all taught to forgive, to reconcile, but we know there are lines we cannot cross. We know that calls to prayer and fasting among the faithful laity are not enough. Real change is needed now. Meetings months from now isn’t soon enough. Committees and focus groups cannot be left to debate issues without real resolution. Vows of sorrow and pleas for forgiveness do not really change anything unless it is followed by action and significant change. You do not want to just sit in a pew for weeks, months, and years awaiting change. No reasonable person would.

Brothers and sisters,

We offer you an invitation. If you are looking to get away, to take a break for awhile, we can help. We offer you that break, a time away for peace, quiet, and prayer. We offer you solid Catholic worship and a chance to take a step away for healing.

We are not asking you to join our parish, or to leave the Roman Church. Come, pray and worship in surroundings that are comfortable and safe. Then, when you are ready, go back to start anew.

Note that Roman Catholics are allowed to receive the sacraments in our parish under the provisions of Canon 844.2 of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law. Canon 844.2 states that the sacraments are lawfully received from a priest in the National Catholic Church: “Whenever necessity requires, or, a genuine spiritual advantage requires it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ’s faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a [Roman] Catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-[Roman] Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.”