Sunday, October 31, 2010
Of course, Christians from many different institutional backgrounds observe this feast in some way, and as an Anglican, one can respect this common heritage among churches. However, it seems to me that the Anglican perspective on this celebration and on the general theme of the saints is special. Although we have had some differing opinions and emphases among us, Anglicans have a sense of continuity with the best from the Church of all ages. We incorporate the witness of the saints of the past through the calendar, the liturgy, the historic creeds and the apostolic ministry. At the same time, Anglicans have deliberately avoided the excesses of the medieval cult of the saints, especially some ideas associated with theories about a treasury of merits from the saints and popular practices about relics. So on the theme of the saints, it seems that Anglicanism does represent a reasonable and pious middle way, via media, that retains the best of the Christian heritage of all ages.
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
The second part of today's Gospel (St. Matthew 18:23-35) has been called the parable of the unjust or unmerciful servant. In it, a servant owes his king an enormous debt, a billionaire's debt. He and his family are about to be sold into slavery. The man begs for an extended payment plan, and the king writes off the whole debt. Rather than being humble, grateful and kind, the servant goes out and ruthlessly tries to get every penny from a fellow servant who owes him a comparatively minuscule debt. When the king hears of this lack of mercy, he revokes his previous decision and punishes the unjust servant to the full extent of the law.
Then our Lord adds the key conclusion: So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every man his brother their trespasses.
All the debts that human beings owe each other are minuscule in comparison to what we owe our heavenly King. We can never repay God for what He has given and forgiven us. Our trespasses are enormous offences against divine goodness, and we are dependent upon divine mercy. So we must show mercy by forgiving others. As we pray repeatedly, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Knowing so little about these two apostles gives us occasion to think about the nature of the apostolic ministry. Even for those apostles about whom we have more information (such as Saint Peter and Saint Paul), the important point is not their personal biographies and accomplishments. The important point is always their faithful witness to and service for Jesus Christ and His Church. It is enough to recall that Simon and Jude believed, followed and served Christ. And that is what all bishops, priests, deacons and lay persons are called to do from the first century till the end of the age.
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
When the official first approaches, our Lord rebukes the Galilean crowd for their superficial faith based on impressive externals ("Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe"-4:48). However, the official, possibly a Gentile serving Herod Antipas, is different. He loves his son, and he truly believes in Jesus. So our Lord addresses him differently ("Go thy way; thy son liveth"-4:50). In a unique way, Christ's power reaches out at that very moment to heal the man's son who is miles away. For the man and his household, this miracle is a sign. They move from belief in Jesus as a great healer to a more general faith in Him as the Christ.
John calls this miracle a sign, the second sign performed in Cana (the first was the water into wine). As important as the physical healing of a sick family member is, this sign means even more. It points to Jesus as the Christ, the divine Redeemer. In John's Gospel, this sign is a prelude to what follows over the next few chapters where it becomes more and more evident that Jesus is much more than a prophet and faith-healer. He is the unique Son, sent from the heavenly Father. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Personally, I find these early Christian traditions regarding Luke interesting and reasonable. In any case, today we give thanks for the mission of the early Church in the Gentile world and for the divine inspiration which gave us the Gospel according to St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
ALMIGHTY God, who calledst Luke the Physician, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist and Physician of the soul: May it please thee, that by the wholesome medecines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed; through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
ALMIGHTY God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
In the Gospel from St. Matthew 22:1-14, Christ compares the kingdom of God to a wedding feast. Speaking of redemption as a great feast or heavenly banquet was a common Jewish image of the Messianic age, and there is a similar parable recorded in St. Luke 14 (read at the Eucharist on Trinity II). In today's selection from St. Matthew 22, the imagery is a bit more extended. People are invited to the king's wedding celebration for his son. They give all sorts of excuses, and some even attack the messengers. The king punishes those evil people but is still determined to have a feast. So his servants go out into the streets to find new guests. Among the new guests, there is one who does not come properly attired; he does not respect the greatness of the occasion. The king has him cast out to be punished. The conclusion is realistic and somber: For many are called, but few are chosen (St. Matt. 22:14).
Although the imagery and dynamics of the parable are different from the epistle, the reality and application end up being rather similar. The reality is that much of the world is not interested in God's offers to redeem human life. People are too caught up in their materialistic pursuits to value the divine king's spiritual feast. Some are preoccupied or indifferent; some are downright hostile. Despite such reponses, God is not deterred. The feast will take place, and new guests from a variety of backgrounds continue to be sought. Nevertheless, regardless of their previous backgrounds, even these new guests must come in the right way. They must respect the host enough put on righteousness, and if they do not, they too will be cast out to punishment.
As Christians, we can fit into the parable in two distinct ways. 1) We are the king's servants who are sent to invite others to the feast. We are to bear witness to God's gracious offer. And even if doing so exposes us to worldly hostility, we are to keep looking for more guests. 2) We are also guests who have been invited to the spiritual feast with God. We come from a variety of backgrounds, but as we come to the feast, we must show respect for the invitation by putting on the appropriate garments of righteousness. The divine host does not cast us out for what we have been in the past, but He may have us cast out for not appreciating His offer.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
This ability to pronounce forgiveness is precisely the point that Jesus wishes to make. The Messianic Son of man is God's earthly representative (actually of course, He is God incarnate) and has the power to forgive sins. This is a new power at work in Christ's ministry. The Gospel brings forgiveness, and Christ's power to declare forgiveness is shared with His apostles, and through them with the whole Church, especially with bishops and presbyters. From the earthly ministry of Christ till the end of the age, God's forgiveness is at work in the world in a powerful new way that cannot be found apart from Christ.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
In the second section of today's Gospel, St. Matthew 22: 41-46, Jesus turns the tables by asking the Pharisees about the interpretation of Psalm 110. They accepted this Psalm as a Davidic Psalm and believed that it pointed to the Messiah. However, Jesus brings up a question on the text that they do not want to face. How is it possible for the great king David to call the Messiah, who would be his descendant, "my Lord"? Such a situation has a significant implication: that the Messiah is greater than David and more than his mere human descendant. In other words, the Psalm points to the divinity of the Christ, and the Pharisees are not going to acknowledge such an interpretation.
Each of the sections of our Gospel from St. Matthew 22 is rich in itself. Each section can tell us much about Christian belief and its implications for Christian living. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of these two sections can point us to even broader truth: Christian discipleship is rooted in the Jewish tradition, but it also makes affirmations about Christ that go beyond the Jewish tradition. Jesus makes dramatic claims about Himself. He is the Davidic Messiah, but He is also much more.
Like the Pharisees, many contemporary Christians want to avoid this issue. Many self-professed Christians want to reduce Jesus to a bland religious teacher who just says to honor God and be nice to everybody. However, such a bland view of Jesus ignores claims that Jesus makes about Himself in the Gospels. He presents Himself as more than a teacher, more than even the greatest king of Israel; He is divine Lord who shares the heavenly Father's nature. And to be true disciples, we must believe this about Him.