This week's second reading is the closing of a letter attributed to St. Peter, addressed to Christians in Asian Minor (the majority of modern-day Turkey), composed probably between 70 and 90 A.D. The encouragement is deeply rooted in the certitude of faith and in the power of hope. How wonderful for us whose journeys can be quite challenging at times, for whom the stuff of daily life is not always easy.
We are not alone. Indeed, incredible things are happening deep inside us, and, in the end, Christ has the last word, in the end, we are victorious in divine love. We are assured, "if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you" and exhorted, "humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you" and promised that "the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you." Restoration and support and strength and establishment: what more can we ask? As the letter/reading concludes, "to Him be power for ever and ever. Amen!"
Yours in Christ,
Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (this Sunday’s gospel: (John 14:15). So, we must prove our love for Jesus?!? No pressure!
Or, is Jesus saying something else? I would venture to say that, although love must translate into action, and this only occurs if we choose, more than proving our love, Jesus is inviting us to choose to participate in His love. And, this we do, in a special way, in loving one another.
In the previous chapter 13, Jesus gives the new commandment: “that you love one another”, to which one may understand Him to be referring here. This love with which we are to love one another is the divine love, the “charity” (to use a more traditional term) deposited in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And thus, as St. Thomas Aquinas articulates in his treatise on charity, when we exercise this love, “created charity”, we participate in the life of the Holy Spirit, “uncreated charity.
If I may appeal to the saints (as I have been known to do!), our sisters and brothers in Christ, wise companions for the journey, to hear their insights regarding such love for one another: Dismiss all anger, and look a little into yourself. Remember that he of whom you are speaking is your brother, and, as he is in the way of salvation, God can make him a Saint, notwithstanding his present weaknesses. You may fall into the same faults or perhaps into a worse fault. But supposing that you remain upright, to whom are you indebted for it, if not to the pure mercy of God?
~St. Thomas of Villanova (+1555)
Be as gentle always as possible; and remember that you will catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar. Such is the nature of the human mind; it rebels against severity, but gentleness renders it amenable to everything. A soft word appeases anger, as water extinguishes fire. No soul so ungrateful, but kindness can make it bear fruit.
~St. Francis of Sales (+1622)
Love the worst men, love in them the remains of faith which they still preserve, or, if they have lost it all, love the virtues of which they are bereft, love the sacred image they bear, love the Blood of Christ with which you believe them to have been redeemed.
~St. Ignatius Of Loyola (+1553)
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. ~Mother Teresa of Calcutta (+1997)
Yours in divine love,
In this Sunday’s gospel, John 14:1-14, Jesus says to his anxious disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” The remedy to anxiety, per Jesus, is faith. If, by faith, we are joined to God, then faith brings peace, and peace, of course, evacuates anxiety. By faith, we are at home (“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”), and are thus secure. “Peace be with you”, Jesus says repeatedly. In other words, “Welcome home.”
I cannot insist enough that we have the gift of faith—even when we doubt. I know that I must sound like a broken record! As my favourite seminary professor would say, “You don’t lose your faith like you lose your car keys!” The gifts of God are irrevocable.
When anxious, exercise the gift: “Lord, I believe in you.” Keep doing so, no matter what, no matter what feelings may or may not precede or follow. It is not a matter of feelings. St. Augustine tells us that wanting to believe is to believe. It is that simple. It is that accessible.
Speaking of faith, allow me to quote four big friends of it:
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
~St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274)
I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind. ~St. Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153)
Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.
~St. Augustine (+430)
It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future.
~St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (+1622)
Yours in our Risen Lord,
Dear fellow parishioners, and friends,
Following the arduous work of the Discernment Committee, and that of the Vestry, and your many months of prayer and conversation, Walter Vance, our Senior Warden, confirmed the call of me as your Rector this past Sunday. This call ultimately comes from Jesus. Jesus, of course, does not call us because we are perfect, but because He loves us. And, all He really asks is a willing heart. In His graciousness, Jesus has asked that I continue this sacred journey with you, as the one, imperfect though I may be, to lead the parish to verdant pastures: rich prayer and liturgy, engaging fellowship, enriching formation and service to the broader community. This is a collaborative venture with you, and I willingly and gratefully accept.
I receive this responsibility with trust in the faithfulness of our Lord in my personal life and to our parish, with joy and with a sense of gravity. More than a hire, this is a call. More than a contract, this is a covenant. Ours is a covenantal relationship rooted in the love of Christ that binds us to one another beyond all of the familiar categories. The words of St. Paul (Galatians 3:28) ring ever so true: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” I will need your help in realizing and maximizing the abundance that we have at Ascension and St. Agnes. Our Lord, in whom, in all our diversity, we are one, is eager to bless us. We can, therefore, be certain that the road ahead is a hopeful one. All we must do is yield to His love and light, and therein seek to be lavishly welcoming of one another and all those who pass through our doors, and all those to whom our Lord will send us.
I will also be counting on your prayer. I will be counting on your honest dialogue. Please know that my door is always open. And, know of my prayer for you. Again, it is my great wish that we grow personally in faith, hope, and love, and, as a parish, together and in number. It is my great wish, along with St. Peter (I Peter 1:23) that “we love one another deeply from the heart” always bearing in mind that we “have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed”. Imperishable seed: God’s irrevocable gift of grace, ours for the journey. Let us rejoice in our merciful Lord Who is indeed watching over us.
Yours in Him,
From the desk of the Rector