Our Cathedral has a Chapter Room to the east of its sanctuary. It was added during the Cathedral’s reconstruction after the Murrah bombing. A chapter room is a part of a cathedral, monastery, or collegiate chapel in which meetings are held. When such a room is attached to a cathedral, a “chapter” of clerics (the cathedral’s dean and its canons) may meet there for administrative functions. A monastic community would meet daily in this room to hold “chapter” for readings or to hear the exhortations of the abbot. Since many cathedrals were originally monasteries, it is common for a chapter room or chapter house to be located nearby. Academic deans and canons of a college also met in chapter rooms. In medieval times, monarchs on tour of their territory would often take over the chapter room for audiences. As occurs in our Cathedral’s chapter room, seating was built into the walls of the room with the central space left open. It was often the practice to build the windows too high to prevent a view in from the outside to avoid eavesdroppers. Altars, thrones, and fireplaces are often found in older chapter rooms.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Following the American revolution, our country needed its own prayer book, and the first American BCP was ratified by the first General Assembly of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1789. Subsequent changes required the approval of two successive General Assemblies. The first book relied heavily upon the 1662 Anglican prayer book (which continues to be the official prayer book for the English church) as well as the Scottish Eucharistic rite of 1764 (in deference to America’s first bishop being consecrated by Scottish bishops when English bishops refused). The Scottish influence resulted in the inclusion of the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) during the Eucharistic prayer (absent from the English prayer rite). Following approval of that first prayer book, alterations were made in 1892, 1928, and in 1979 (our present Book of Common Prayer). Currently, our prayer book contains a church calendar and services for four types of daily offices. Collects and propers for the church year as well as special days, Eucharistic prayers, the offices of morning and evening prayer, and burials can be found in both contemporary (Rite II) and traditional (Rite I) language. Our current Book of Common Prayer is the first one that includes services for baptism and family devotions.
~ Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Lectio Divina is the ancient method of prayerfully reading the Bible. Its origins were in monastic orders, but now the practice has become an important part of the lives of many Christians from many different traditions. The method enables the reader to contemplate God and God’s will which deepens the reader’s relationship with God. When beginning a lectio divina of the Bible, the reader is not concerned with study to increase his knowledge or with an expectation of some extraordinary experience. Instead the reader is attempting to listen to what God has to say, to know God’s will, and to live more deeply in allegiance with Jesus Christ. The recommendation of Eli to Samuel is appropriate in this context: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” The practice of lectio divina does not depend on the effort of the reader, but entirely on God’s freely-made decision to dialogue with the reader. Like any meditative practice, the right surroundings facilitating attentive listening are important. In addition, the reader must ask what the words actually say, what does the text specifically say to the reader, and what does the text lead the reader to say to God?
~Dr. Gil Haas
St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Fr. Anthony Moon
Sunday, August 16, 2020
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It sounds like we have two distinct and separate stories being told here in this morning’s Gospel reading. How they are linked is not immediately obvious, so if you’re unsure we will visit this aspect of the lessons soon and come to learn about this.
In the first story, we hear Jesus declaring that all foods are clean and edible. The Jewish people listening to Jesus that day were up against some very strict purity laws, laws that told them precisely what they could and could not eat. Jesus was moving away from that boundary, teaching that, on the contrary, all foods are edible. “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person,” Jesus says, “but it is what comes out to the mouth that defiles.” Jesus was less concerned about what people consumed—what they put into their mouths—and more concerned about what came out of their mouths. Jesus describes what comes from the mouth as coming from the heart, the deep intention of a person. Jesus names the result of evil intentions: murder, adultery, fornication, theft and so forth.
To apply this part of today’s reading to our 21st century American culture, it zeros in with distinct accuracy. As a culture, we are extremely concerned with what we eat, what goes into our bodies. Many, if not most of us adhere to or at least pay homage to, some form of diet or dietary lifestyle. And in some instances, we do so with a fervor that puts the observance Jewish purity laws to shame! As a culture, we are obsessed with reading packaging labels and with what we eat. As a culture, we are much less disciplined about what we express, however. We are much less disciplined with what “proceeds from the heart,” as Jesus says. A simple and convincing witness is to look at the comment section of most anything posted on-line. There we see murder in the form of character assassination; adultery or theft in the form of taking over and contorting others’ ideas; false witness and slander abounds. Perhaps these expressions of the heart are not so much linked to what we eat or refuse to eat, but the ideas and attitudes we consume; the ideas and attitudes we feast on every day. Wouldn’t it be a different world if we were as aware and discerning about our psychological and spiritual diet of ideas, attitudes, positions and entitlements, as we are about our food choices? Now that’s an idea worth chewing on!
But fear takes over, worry takes over, and we become victimized by this or that concern. Sooner or later we find ourselves fighting to get out of a corner that too often we place ourselves in. We see ourselves as victims wanting to fight our persecutors, whether that persecutor is a situation, a circumstance, another person—or, even ourselves. When we feel that sense of becoming a victim, that is a good time to take a step back, or as one author on leadership says, ‘step away from the action that confronts us on the dance floor, and go up into the balcony for a different perspective.’[i] In other words, get some distance from the situation to experience it more clearly, less threateningly. Go up into the balcony and look down on the crisis we find ourselves in—or maybe go up even higher, from the balcony to a heavenly perspective; try seeing the situation through God’s eyes.
Now, this situation may be very real—like the threat of the pandemic, racial strife, illness or financial strife—or it may actually be contrived by our own perceptions and beliefs. We can be guaranteed, however, that staying in a victim mindset will not allow us any room to resolve either the issue or our feelings about the issue. When we can take a step away from the real or imagined drama we find ourselves in—and take a deep breath—we are closer to being able to respond rather than only react. And, when we are in a position to respond, we are in a position to ask God for help. I think of the words of Albert Einstein, when he said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” And I think of the words of Jesus when he warned us several times, “Fear not!”
So, Jesus pushes the boundary of Jewish purity laws and tells his followers that all food is edible, thereby loosening the binding chains of those laws. Jesus also pushes his physical boundaries when he moves away from Galilee to the district of Tyre and Sidon. There Jesus encounters a woman from another race and religion. Now while the pagans had no issue with talking with a Jewish person, Jewish law forbade them from making contact with a person of another race or religion.[ii] Although Jesus was trying to operate in secret without recognition for his miracles, his reputation preceded him. The woman spots Jesus and begins to beg Jesus to heal her daughter. The woman begins to shout at Jesus, pleading for her daughter. While we commonly see Jesus responding with compassion to the oppressed or anyone in need, this time we see Jesus not responding at all—a strange response for Jesus, but given the customs of the day, understandable. The disciples become concerned about all the shouting and the scene the woman is creating and ask Jesus to send her away. Jesus explains his silence. He says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” So, his silence is connected to his awareness of his mission and is a result of his fidelity to the law. Jesus’ silence worries the woman who disregards the law that binds Jesus. She ramps up her demand of Jesus, throwing herself at his feet, begging, “Lord, help me!” This woman of another race and religion now claims Jesus as her “Lord.” And, Jesus only responds with a one-sentence parable: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Concretely stated, the children are the Jewish people and the dogs are the pagans.
The woman’s commitment to her daughter, and her unwavering faith that Jesus is the sure answer to this impending tragedy, causes her to reply, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” She wasn’t even asking for a full portion. Similar to the woman who knew if she only touched the hem of Jesus garment she’d be healed, this woman knew that even a crumb from Jesus would be enough. It is at this point, I believe, Jesus is opened to a renewed mission, a clearer engagement of God’s direction to be of service and draw all people to God. Jesus shifts from disregarding the pagan woman, to remarking on her faith: “Woman great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed immediately.
These two stories are linked by intelligent and spiritual responses to boundaries. Jesus presses a boundary on what is consumed in favor of a more meaningful boundary of what is expressed. Even more to the point, the more specific boundary that Jesus is speaking of, is the boundary of the heart: What do we let in there, and what do we turn away? What do we allow our heart and soul to consume, and what do we reject? Just as a heart muddied with evil which is expressed through evil intentions, a pure heart will express our holy intentions.
The other boundary that Jesus was pressed up against was the boundary that rejects others based on who they are, where they’re from. In this story, race and religion were the bases for rejection.
Today, I invite you to become aware of the boundaries in our lives. Become aware of how they serve us—such as in discerning what we allow into our hearts and what we reject. Do the work to strengthen these boundaries. Also of consideration is exploring boundaries that serve neither God nor humankind—such as rejecting others for who they are. Have courage to reject these boundaries. Doing this kind of soul work of discovering, strengthening and correcting boundaries takes patience with ourselves; it takes awareness and it takes discipline. Doing the work of strengthening healthy boundaries brings us into unity with God. And discovering boundaries that need correction is critical, as these are the boundaries that separate us from God’s love. These are the boundaries that serve only as a wedge between us and God.
[i] Ronald Heifetz.
[ii] Helpful reflections were provided by Lectio Divina of the Carmelite brothers at https://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-20th-sunday-ordinary-time
The Nicene Creed states that Jesus is “eternally begotten of the Father”, meaning that the relationship between God the Father and God the Son has occurred throughout all eternity - past, present, and future! In other words, the event was not limited to a single moment in time when the Holy Spirit incarnated Jesus in Mary’s womb. The Creed then reiterates the difference between “making” and “begetting” when it states that Jesus is “begotten, not made...”. C.S. Lewis wrote: “We don’t use the word begotten much in modern English. To beget is to become the father of - to create is to make. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers. If (a man) is a clever enough carver, he may make a statue which is very like a man. But, of course, it is not a real man. What God begets is God (‘very God of very God’); just as what man begets is man. Contrariwise, what God creates is not God.” (“Let us make man in our image - Genesis 1:26). God is incapable of creating something that is of Himself...He must beget it.
~ Dr. Gil Haas
The early Church developed a fairly uniform Eucharistic prayer or anaphora (“offering”). These anaphora could be divided into: 1) introductory dialogue (our Great Thanksgiving); 2) preface (unique for each Sunday of the church year); 3) Sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy...”); and 4) anamnesis (an all but untranslatable Greek word which means a past event that is made present here and now). Usually Christ’s passion, resurrection, and ascension are “brought to the present”. The words of institution (the “moment of consecration” in Catholicism when the bread/wine become the body/blood of Christ) are in the anamnesis. The invocation of the Holy Spirit, or epiclesis, is the “moment of consecration” in Orthodox Churches. An epiclesis was not present in Roman or Anglican anaphora, but it has been in all Episcopal anaphora since 1789. This may be because Samuel Seabury (the first American bishop) was consecrated by Scottish bishops whose anaphora contained an epiclesis. Many Episcopal theologians believe that the entire anaphora taken as a whole completes the consecration. In this theology, the congregation robustly completes the anaphora said for them by the celebrant with the Great AMEN (printed in the Book of Common Prayer in all capital letters to encourage enthusiasm).
~Dr Gil Haas
The Anglican version of the Catholic rosary was developed in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas as an aid to daily prayer. An Anglican prayer bead set consists of thirty-three beads divided into four groups of seven beads called Weeks with four large Cruciform beads separating the four groups. Attached to one Cruciform bead is a cross and a single Invitatory bead. Each type of bead is associated with a different prayer by the user. The user begins at the cross saying, “In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.” moving on to the Invitatory Bead where the user says, “O God make speed to save me, O Lord make haste to help me, Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” The first Cruciform bead is next where the user prays, “Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon me”. The user moves to the right, through the first set of seven beads, and at each bead the user prays, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The user then moves to the next Cruciform bead, and so on continuing around the circle.
~Dr. Gil Haas
As a priest dons his/her stole, the cross on the stole’s neckpiece is kissed acknowledging the yoke of Christ - the yoke of service. A bishop’s stole hangs straight down allowing space for a pectoral cross (often worn by bishops) to be symbolically close to the bishop’s heart. From the seventh century until the reforms of Vatican II, a priest’s stole crossed the chest (right arm of the stole over the left), and the position of the stole visually separated priests from bishops. In this paradigm, when a deacon was ordained to the priesthood, the ordaining bishop would swing the stole which was crossed on the former deacon’s right side to where the stole’s arms crossed over the newly ordained priest’s heart. The reforms of Vatican II stated, “The stole is worn by the priest around his neck and hanging down in front.” Some theologians have argued that this canon does not prohibit a priest from crossing the stole, and a crossed stole may be an attractive “fill-in” in lieu of a pectoral cross. Anglican theologians argue that whether the stole is crossed or hanging down in front is a matter of personal preference.
~ Dr. Gil Haas
“I am the Vine, You are the Branches”
Variation in the Vineyard
Sermon delivered by The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
71st Annual Convention
the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma
Text: St. John 15:1-11; II Corinthians 4:1-10
Recently, I have been taking some vacation time to engage in a little rest and recreation. As part of the R& R, I was encouraged by one of my mentors to visit some of the wineries that have emerged in our state within the past five years. I don’t know if you are aware of it, but in Oklahoma “where the wind comes sweeping down the plains,” not California’s Napa Valley, boasts some fifty-five wineries occupying some five hundred acres. Now, you don’t have to be a gardener to know that grapes, raisins and wine come from grape vine that’s the easy part. But, as one whose early in life was transplanted as it were from the dark and loamy soil of South side Chicago to the sometimes thick clay-like dirt of Oklahoma. This is in addition to the fact that I was raised in a household with a mother who was an elementary school teacher and with a father who was a National Baptist minister.
So, the concept of strong drink was relegated to Welch’s sparkling grape juice, and needless to say the inner workings of a vineyard were foreign to me. So to assuage my thirst -- for knowledge and to do adequate preparation for this sermon, I decided to hunt out some of these vineyards.
The vineyards I visited ranged from two acres to ten. Some were unkempt with old and straggly tendrils running every which way; while, others had neatly manicured vines and straight paths. It was at one of these off the beaten path yet lush vineyards that new vistas of God’s grace would be opened in front of my very eyes. As I looked at this vineyard with its twenty-four rows each stretching 500 ft. in length scattered over five acres, I was told that here some twenty-four tons of grapes would manifest themselves in over ten varieties of wine, ranging from Syrah and Merlot to Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. It was then that I asked, “What does the vine grower have to do to produce a plentiful and healthy harvest?”
He reminded me that first and foremost gardening is like faith—it is never an armchair activity. It’s a full-time job with few who are willing to do it. Oh, it’s easy to pick the fruit, but the thinning, spraying and pruning is laborious beyond belief. One day you may have grapes on the vine, the next day grape berry moths may suck all of the juice from the fruit reducing your crop to a big box of “Sun Raisins.”
A vine grower must posses not only a knowledge of botany, horticulture and chemistry, but he or she must have the tenacity of nails and the patience of Job. Each day as you walk into your vineyard beginning at one end and working your way down the rows, you check and see that the two woody trunks of each and every vine are securely tied to the stakes. You ask yourself, “Are the branches which extend from the cordons three feet to the right and left of the plant in need of pruning?”
The dead branches growing downward that are sucking away the life-giving force of the vine must be pruned. The branches that are just not strong enough to hold the weight of the fruit must be cut, lest breakage occurs. The branches that just don’t seem able to hold up to the early appearance of heat or the dryness of the season must be sheared. And some vines must be grafted to another more viable variety to make them stronger with the hope for the new fruit that will come.
It does not seem like an easy job to be a vine grower. You have to know what a healthy vine looks like and when to prune. You can’t prune in the spring or summer because pruning causes bleeding and weakens the vine. If you make a mistake and prune too late you know there is no cure for the sap bleeding that occurs. “What do you think? Could you do this job?”
It was later as I reflected upon this vineyard with its unique and varied products, I wondered if two-hundred and twenty four years ago that bold and courageous worker in God’s vineyard named Samuel Seabury—whom we commemorate today as being the first Episcopal bishop ordained for our shores—looked upon the vast vineyard of these Americas and had the audacity of hope and the prophetic insight, to foresee the fledgling yet vivified vine of the Episcopal Church. A church producing in abundance 7095 parishes in various vineyards that have 2,154,572 branches attached to the “True Vine”?
Could Bishop Seabury have envisioned a day when an African-American Lutheran minister would be preaching at a Diocesan Convention with the installation of a Canon to the Ordinary who is a Cuban-Irish-American?
Well, if he couldn’t see it, God did, and for that we give praise and glory! My brothers and sisters, we see unfolding before our very eyes “Unity in Diversity” and “Variation in the Vineyard”. But you ask, “What might all this mean for understanding the Gospel today?”
Our gospel picks up on Jesus at a low point in his ministry but, before he goes to mount the gibbet of the Cross, he takes the time to paint a vivid picture upon the easel of eternity for those disciples then and us today. In this passage from John’s gospel the image of a vinedresser and vineyard is utilized to describe the interdependent or symbiotic relationship between God-the-vine dresser, Jesus-the-Vine and believers-as-branches.
In fact, throughout Jewish history the Hebrew Scriptures contain a plethora of images portraying Israel as the vine or vineyard in God’s good creation.
When that great Jewish historian, Josephus described Herod’s temple in his Antiquities of the Jews he said, “Under the crown work was spread out a golden vine, with its branches hanging down from a great height, the largeness and the workmanship of which were an astonishing sight to the spectators.”
So when Jesus picks up on this all too familiar image and describes himself as “a Vine”—“the true, reliable, sturdy and dependable Vine”—all ears perk up. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. … Abide in me as I abide in you. … If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Good news! Comforting and encouraging words! Jesus is the vine and we are the branches – what a powerful model for the Christian life. It sets things straight as to how we are to be and what we are to do. But is that all? So often this seems to be the sense of this lesson, indeed of the entire Gospel message and of Jesus. But there’s more to it than that. If we stop with the comforting words, we miss the message. This passage also includes the message of pruning. That is the part we often don’t hear, but yet as I found out, the pruning is so very important to the well-being of the vine.
My friends, that’s the challenge which is set before us today. Indeed, that’s the challenge that lies ahead of Jose. My brother, there are choices to be made. It is difficult work. But, the end result promises that we are not all headed for gloom, doom, destruction and judgment, but a more fruitful mission and ministry in the world.
For I am persuaded that just as the Apostle Paul reminded those followers in Corinth as recorded in the Epistle just read to us, so we pass on to you “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
Jose, faint not in proclaiming Jesus “the Vine” who one day was planted high on the rocky hill of Golgotha—so that we might have the love of God planted deeply in our hearts.
Jose, faint not in proclaiming Jesus “the Vine” who was tied to the wooden stake of the Cross and had his strong arms stretched to the left and right—so that his reach might embrace all of humanity.
Jose, faint not in proclaiming Jesus “the Vine” whose sinless body was crushed in the winepress of the world until his blood gushed forth like red wine—so that all might be saved.
Jose, faint not in proclaiming Jesus” the Vine” who took on our humanity so that we could have the sucker branches of our old sinful self which weighs us down pruned off—and in so doing have the promise of fruitfulness and the assurance that just as Jesus abides in us, we abide in Jesus.
Jose, faint not in proclaiming Jesus “the Vine” who though once was dead, now lives again and continues to nourish us—his dependant branches—with the life-giving sap of his body and blood.
For it is in your proclaiming “Jesus the Vine,” that you will help us all proclaim the glorious mercy and grace that we “treasure in earthen vessels.” Amen.
August 02, 2020
Proper 13 / Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” The Gospel verses immediately prior to our lesson for today tell us of the death of John the Baptist by beheading—this is what Jesus had just heard and, today’s verses in Matthew’s Gospel pick up with Jesus’ response, to find respite in a place far from any town or others. The crowd he’d just been teaching and healing, however, follow him to this deserted spot. When Jesus sees them, he has compassion for them, and puts his personal plan to be alone, aside. He accepts them where they are, and steps into this crowd, healing their sick.
The day is filled with this—with people, a lot of people…over 5,000, and with Jesus interacting with this large crowd. The day finally winds down, and Jesus’ disciples come to him with a practical concern. “It is getting late,” they say, “so send the crowds away to town so they can buy food for themselves.” This is one practical solution. But this is not the solution Jesus seizes upon. “You give them something to eat,” Jesus replies. This must have felt like a splash of cold water in their faces! The disciples stick with their own reality when they give a factual report: “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” This is a completely impossible proposition—to feed 5,000 plus with so little. Like the disciples, I’m sure it is, and I’ll bet you’re sure it is! …Jesus, however, saw something different!
We know the rest of this miracle story. Jesus asks that the five loaves and two fish be brought to him. Instead of asking the crowd to leave, he asks them to sit. Jesus then blesses and breaks the loaves and asks his disciples to distribute them. And they do. The disciples distribute and share and give away loaves and loaves and loaves, and fishes and fishes and fishes to a crowd numbered at 5,000 men, plus women and children—let’s just guess a crowd somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 people—the size of the town I grew up in. And when they are finished eating with Jesus, the disciples gather the leftovers into twelve baskets.
Yes. This is an amazing story! The actual event was so incredible, as a matter of fact, that this is the only gospel story recorded by all four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Aside from just being an amazing story, an incredible story, this story is a lesson that holds insights into Jesus and keys for us today. The insight into Jesus, I believe, is that Jesus truly was both God and man. At the news of his cousin’s death, Jesus responds humanly—to get away, to process his grief; to be alone and to recover. The Godly Jesus, however was not solely driven by this tragic news and grief, but opened his heart to feel compassion for the people who followed him. The God in Jesus was fully capable of healing their sick and more than that, capable of mysteriously multiplying this small amount of food to feed thousands.
The keys in this story, I believe, are that Jesus met the crowd as they were—seeking, sick, and eventually hungry. He had no threshold to impose. Jesus never expected that to be in his company you must be “good company,” that is, clever, attractive, well-off, or healthy. Jesus accepted people where they were in his days on earth and Jesus does so now. Jesus accepts us where we are—worried, frightened, anxious, confused, weary, tired of today’s issues: the pandemic, national strife; separation, isolation, oppression; a saging economy and threatening personal finances; death.
As well-meaning and yet, short-sighted as the disciples were, if they were alive today, if this whole vignette was replayed today with today’s issues, I think the disciples might come to Jesus and say, “It is getting late and these people are hungry for peace and for reassurance. Why don’t you tell them, Jesus, to go away so they can get their needs filled?” And, loving Jesus would respond, “Why don’t you fill them with what they are seeking?”
As a disciple of Jesus, my initial response is just as realistic and just as limited as my ancestor disciples. “How can I do that? I have a little of what they need… but the need is so great, and what I have to offer is so small in comparison.” And the Jesus in my heart and mind, the Jesus of my soul, responds—just like the Jesus that was sitting right in front of those disciples that day in that deserted place where they were surrounded by a hungry multitude. I know Jesus will say the same thing to me as he said to those disciples, “Bring me what you have.” And when I act in faith, and bring Jesus my talents and thoughts, my God-given gifts—some of which I tend to overlook, when I bring Jesus my attitude of service, and my physical possessions, Jesus blesses and multiplies these.
Now, maybe this multiplication is done by giving me a sense of greater strength or ability—a confidence to succeed at helping; maybe it is done by connecting me with others whose interests, skills, talents and abilities mirror or compliment my own; and maybe it is done as mystery—mystery that I will never understand, nor need to.
Having met Jesus, here I stand now, with a basketful to give, rather than only the handful that I thought I had. And multiply those basketsful by the number of people in this church, multiply those basketsful by the number of Christ followers in this land, multiply them by the number of Christians in this world, and there is a power there for the negative forces of the world to reckon with. With the power of Jesus, we are not weak victims, only capable of recoiling from the next wave of bad news. …and there is bad news in the world—I’m guessing there is as much bad news today as there has ever been, but listen: This is the nature of the world.
Since humans got involved, the world has not been a garden of peace. While there is good in the world—after all, God created it—there is enough negativity, evil and strife to undo the goodwill of the most well-meaning person. Together, with God-Jesus and with each other, we can make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others. Holding nothing but an intention to love God, self and others, we can make a difference. Treating others as we would like to be treated, we can make a difference. Yes, if we only fulfill the promises we made when we became Christians, those promises at our baptism, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, we can make a difference; to strive for justice and peace among all people, we can make a difference; to respect the dignity of every human being, we can make a difference.
To feed them, the disciples gathered up what amounted to crumbs compared to the size of the crowd. They didn’t falter and say, “Stop. This is ridiculous.” Their inner voice and talk with each other must have been more like, “This seems impossible. I can’t wait to see how Jesus our Master will transform this!”
So here’s a little spiritual practice for this coming week: Look for those times—and I don’t think you’ll have to look far—when things seem difficult or impossible, and rather than just accept how you perceive it, bring what you have to Jesus—yes, the situation, but also your willingness to listen and learn, your gifts, strengths, talents, abilities, your faithfulness and try something new—like feed several thousand with what you’re holding in your hands. Trust in Jesus to transform the situation. Allow Jesus to work in our lives. Allow divine transformation to happen!
~Fr, Tony Moon