Trapped.

I urge you, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

It is said that a Sunday’s first reading and gospel deliver the same message. They closely follow the same theme. The Epistle however always seems to stand out as something different and apart.

The key to understanding the Epistle, the letters, is that they effectuate the Old Testament readings and gospels. Epistles are the game plan for how we are to carry out what God has given us. It is what we allow ourselves to be trapped into doing in accepting the great love of God.

Jeremiah laments the fact that God has given him a very hard message to proclaim. He has to preach the disaster that will come upon Israel if they will not turn away from their evils, their worship of false gods. 

In lamenting what he must preach, Jeremiah realizes that no matter how much he would wish it, he cannot hold it in. He has to do as God has asked. I will not mention Him, I will speak in His name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart. Jeremiah is trapped because the powerful love and truth of God are irrefutable.

Now, Peter thought he knew what he must say. After proclaiming Jesus to be God, Peter decides he is going to teach God. Jesus gives him a quick lesson which is also meant for us. If we wish God’s love, we must surrender. We must stop thinking our way and start thinking God’s way. We must be willing to hand it all over to God and be trapped up by and in Him.

Our instinct is to escape being trapped, to free ourselves and do as we please. Humans hate being trapped, we feel like we’re in the Poseidon, an overturned ship, trying to find a way out. Paul knew that, he realized it on the road when Jesus confronted him. His choice, allow himself to be trapped up into Jesus’ way, or get back on his donkey and live a valueless life.

Today, Paul tells us how we put those lessons from the first reading and gospel into action. We offer ourselves, our wills and ways sacrificially allowing ourselves to be trapped into the life of God. True love is to give oneself over. Once trapped in the life of God, we do His will, because like Jeremiah, we can do no other. We let our old ways dissolve as our minds are renewed. Getting rid of our ‘conformity to the as-is,’ allows us to be good and pleasing and perfect. In being trapped we are freed.

Say what?

Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord… As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word… So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

Modern sensibilities are often troubled when we get to these passages in Paul’s letters, today from his letter to the Church at Ephesus. Paul seems to pick at sensibilities all the time, and I imagine it felt that way, even in his allegedly unenlightened time. The Church, in picking readings for today, offers an alternative, a shorter Epistle without all that nasty ‘wives should be subordinate’ stuff. I guess sensibilities were upset.

One of the problems we face in understanding Paul, his text, and the communities he preached to, is that we layer our sensibilities, based on our experience, over what Paul was trying to say. For instance, a little study of the economic realities and relationships of Paul’s day would help us understand that when Paul spoke of slaves he was not referring to a slavery of horrors as was lived in America. There were different forms of slavery in that time, and in certain instances it was no more than an economic relationship between a worker and boss. More important than the form of slavery was how Christians were to treat each other.

Paul’s message was always countercultural. Slaves and masters were to treat each other differently because they had to live a new life in Christ. Both the slave/worker and master/employer were to act in accordance with their new life in Christ.

Today, Paul speaks of subordination and love. These are not to be mutually exclusive things, but in fact a unified whole. Wives and husbands, as with masters and slaves, are to live differently because of Jesus. The complete subordination, an emptying of oneself for the other, is key to life in Jesus. Give up to each other, don’t give in to evil.

This self-subordination, self-sacrificial love, is to mark the lives of Christ followers. Today’s Gospel clearly illustrates that. Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Exactly! Say what? Self-sacrifice, subordination, handing over one’s life to the community of faith offends modern sensibility. Let’s show today how wrong it is.

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Our Holy Church sets the month of June aside and encourages the faithful to pray for the clergy of our Holy Church and for an increase of vocations. We also remember those who spent their lives serving God and His people, being now retired and in need of our financial support.

The life of service within the Church is not without its occasional difficulties, but instead of focusing on temporary and occasional drawbacks, men who respond to Jesus’ call are strong, determined, brave, and faithful.

Are you ready to respond to God’s call, do you feel the support of family, friends, and a community praying for you? Now is the time to explore the possibilities of a life in the ministry of the Church. Whether you are married or single, a recent graduate, or on your second or third career, the Church encourages you to “Come and See”.

To find out more about vocations to the diaconate and the priesthood, please contact the Savonarola Theological Seminary of the Polish National Catholic Church, 1031 Cedar Ave, Scranton, PA 18505. School, (570) 961-9288, Office, (570) 343-0100.

Are You Observing Lent in Schenectady?

If you are, come and join with us and we can increase our Lenten prayer, sacrifice, fasting, charity, and forgiveness together.

ash_wednesdayThe season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, March 5th with our Service of Worship at 7:30pm at which ashes will be blessed and distributed. On this day we consciously receive ashes on our heads to symbolize penitence, humility and mortality. The powerful reminder in these ashes calls us into a Lent filled with sacred opportunities to return to a right relationship with Jesus.

We offer the Lenten Devotion of Stations of the Cross every Friday at 7:30pm – a great opportunity to add to your prayer life this Lent.

During Lent our Directed Giving program helps us to focus on sacrifice and charity as we gather food for those in need locally. Bring canned and dry goods each Sunday as an offering for those in need.

We also fast and abstain from meat every Wednesday and Friday in Lent and from Holy Wednesday through Holy Saturday. This practice helps us to remember Jesus’ sacrifice every time we sit down to eat a meal. By this small sacrifice we train with the easy stuff (but it seems so hard) so we can better fight the really tough things that try to draw us away from Jesus.

We hope and pray that you will join with us as we use these 40 very special days to the greatest possible good.