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Posts Tagged ‘Ascension’

“by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

“Good Fruit and the Mystery of Salvation”

Today’s Epistle shows us that by exchanging masters from sin to God, we thereby become something other than slaves – sons.  We have a new relationship.  Becoming the servant of God, we are given the gifts of the Spirit of God, which allows us to call God Abba, or Father.

Today’s Gospel shows us, in the words of Fr. Shepherd, that “…Not everyone who addresses Christ as ‘Lord’ really belongs to Him, but only those who bring forth in their lives the true faith of the Spirit.”  We show that we follow God’s will not by public declarations and extraordinary acts, but by humble “deeds of righteousness”.

So receiving the Spirit of adoption, we cry, Abba, Father.  We are made heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.  We are joined with Christ and presented by Him to the Father as part of Him, a member, a cutting away from sin which has been grafted onto the Body of Christ.  Yet as a grafted branch and member of Christ, if we do not produce good fruit, then Christ will claim not to know us on the last day.  The last verse of today’s Gospel and the next two verses of St. Matthew’s Gospel read,

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

How can we square this in our minds?  How can we take being elected heir of God the Father and yet not know him through our lack of good fruit?  This quandary speaks to the very heart of salvation.  We think of the charges alleged against Baptists, “once saved always saved”, wherein they can do wickedness after they are saved and still go to Heaven.  Martin Luther had a terrible time putting this together, so much so that he wanted St. James’ Epistle cut from the New Testament canon for “faith without works is dead”.  We also think of the Roman Catholics, against whom are alleged that they believe in “works righteousness”, wherein they do good works to be saved.  It is all a terrible mess.

But both of these things are true.  We are both grafted onto the Body of Christ through the action of the Holy Ghost and made joint-heirs with Christ and partakers of heavenly gladness and we might be chopped off that Lordly vine and thrown out to be burned if we do not produce good fruits.  We are adopted sons, but we are expected to do something with this gift.  We are given so much, and we ought to produce good works with what we have been given.

 

Let me explain this mystery of salvation, of justification and sanctification, this mystery of being “saved”.  For I call each and every one of you to both justification, or getting right with God, and to sanctification, or growing holy like God is holy.  We need both.  If you become a member of Christ’s Body, you are bound for eternal life with God.  But to live eternally with God, you must become perfect, become holy.  Both go together.

“Conversion”, “regeneration” or new birth, “strengthening with the Spirit”, and “good fruit” have a right relation to each other.  These relate to each other in Christ’s Body, Holy Church.  Since part of Holy Church, the Church Militant, is here on his earth right now, she, being the Body of Christ our Lord, gives us access in Christ to what we need to live with God forever.

God loves us.  He created us to live with him at the very beginning, but we rejected him.  He sent the Law and the Prophets, but we rejected them.  He sent His only-begotten Son into this world as one of us, to redeem us with His Precious Blood.  God in Three Persons loves us and wants us with him forever.

 

Let us take, for example, our friend the unbaptized sinner.  He wanders through this world hardly knowing right from wrong.  All that he does is tainted with sin both of deeds and of his sinful human nature.  But God as sovereign of the universe, through his angels and his saints, as creator of the world, prepares a path back to himself for the unwashed sinner.  God leads him to salvation in his prevenient grace.

Being thus led, let’s say this sinner sees God in the sky, or in song, or in the love of his fellow man.  His conscience is pricked, and he realizes he needs Christ.  He attends worship.  He learns of the things of God.  He believes in Christ and undergoes Holy Baptism.  He is born again, made regenerate.  He has new life, Christ’s life.  His old sinful self dies, and he is grafted onto the Body of Christ.

In this Sacrament of the Church, not through ritual magic but in the boundless merits of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, our friend here has his sins completely washed away.  The spiritual consequence of his misdeeds is undone.  Christ has taken away his sinful nature.  Yet our friend has not stopped being himself.  Unfortunately, he will walk out those red doors and sin again.  He is not yet perfect in Christ.

So our friend must be strengthened for the journey of our earthly pilgrimage.  He is currently a babe, a child in Christ.  He is a new Christian.  He may have many years on earth, but he is not spiritually mature.  He needs strength, maturity.  And so Holy Church has his bishop lay his hands upon him and confer the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The essence of Confirmation is not the recital of the Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed, or Decalogue.  The essence of Confirmation is not even that our friend reaffirms his Baptismal vow to live a Christian life.  The essence of Confirmation is the laying on of episcopal hands, anointing with holy oil, and the giving of the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost.

These gifts are understanding and wisdom so he can discern the truth and its value, are knowledge and counsel so he can apprehend and apply moral laws, true godliness for loving piety, ghostly strength for “courageous spiritual warfare”, and holy fear for the loving desire to please God.  With these gifts imparted, our friend is weaned from childish food and is ready for the holy meal.

So converted, Baptized, and Confirmed, our good friend receives for the very first time Holy Communion, the Blessed Sacrament, Christ’s gift of Himself to us.  This is his meat and drink for the spiritual life here on earth.  No one separated from Christ’s gift of Himself, His own Body and Blood, can sustain his arduous journey through this life.

Christ came to earth at the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, was born on Christmas Day, shed His first Blood at His Circumcision, fasted in the wilderness, taught Israel and beyond, and then carried His own Cross to His Crucifixion so that He might joyously rise again at His Resurrection and ascend into Heaven at His Ascension.  Christ did all this for you and for me.

Christ is not sitting around hanging out with the Father and the Holy Ghost in Heaven; He is interceding for you and me right now before God the Father.  Christ wants us with Him forever, as joint-heirs with Him to God the Father.  Christ wants us in His Baptism and to eat His Sacred Body and drink His Holy Blood.

Only now is our friend full up on the grace Christ would like to give him.  He has experienced conversion of heart.  He has experienced new birth in Christ.  He has received the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Ghost.  He receives the Body and Blood of Christ.  And yet….

And yet our friend may turn his back on God and walk away.  Our friend may decide, although it seems hard to imagine given all the trouble he has gone through, he may freely decide that he would rather follow his own thoughts back into unbelief, follow his own path instead of God’s calling to him, follow his own lusts and desires instead of living a holy and moral life.

Our friend is free.  Christ has freed him from sin.  Yet sin is all around us.  If sin were not so terribly enticing, it wouldn’t be a bother.  You see, sin is mighty tasty.  Sin is that peculiar notion, that third beer, that extramarital affair that seems so wonderful at the time.  Our friend may choose this over his loving Lord Christ.

But our friend still has a lot going for him.  He is grafted onto Christ’s living Body.  Christ would have him exercise his self-discipline and live a morally courageous life.  He could obey those Ten Commandments.  He could pray every day and study the Holy Scriptures.  He could love his enemies and turn the other cheek.

How can we know that our friend, now our brother is doing well?  Some of this holy striving to live a fruitful life is noticeable.

We would see our brother at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.  He would receive the Body and Blood of Christ at least on Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.

We would see our brother materially support his parish through the tithe.  We might see him at a library fundraiser, but his wife and the parish treasurer would know he was giving God that ten percent of his income that shows he is truly thankful for the blessings God has given him.

We would see our brother remain faithful to his wife.  No shenanigans for this fellow, no flirting with the ladies.  Entered into Holy Matrimony with his wife, his devotion to her through the grace of God will have grown since his conversion, Baptism, and Confirmation.

We would see our brother in line at Confession and see him learn from his mistakes as he paid close attention to his conscience.

We would see our good brother fast.  Mind you, he does not flaunt it or throw it in other people’s faces.  He is a good guest and eats what is set before him at other’s homes, but when you see him out for dinner on Fridays he is never at the steakhouse.  When you go to his home for dinner during Lent, you are served fish and vegetables.

Our good brother bears much fruit.  Having been converted, born again, strengthened for the journey, and nourished at the Lord’s Table, we see him in the parish and the community doing his Six Duties of Churchmen and so much more.  Like a patriarch of old, he is generous to the poor and needy, upright in his conduct, and faithful to his God.  He is not a perfect man, but he is preparing for everlasting life.

This our friend shall not be lopped off the living vine and tossed into the fire.  Our friend bears much fruit, and not a little of it is in setting a good example for the rest of us.

 

For those of us Baptized as infants, hopefully we may avoid our conversion experience.  Although infants are incapable of sin and therefore the washing away of committed sins by Baptism does not help infants, Holy Baptism does kill off the old sinful nature and put the robe of righteousness onto that little baby.  Growing up in the Church, that baby can grow into a lovely young lady.  Weaned off of childish things, she will be strengthened with the Holy Ghost at her Confirmation and receive the solid food of Holy Communion, of Christ’s Body and Blood, for the first time.  Raised properly and not being too contrary, she may never need to go through the time of rebellion from God that would require a conversion of heart.

But for those of us, like myself, who were Baptized as an infant but went through a time of rebellion from God, Christ’s life does not avail for us until we are converted.  Holy Baptism does suck your soul up into Heaven.  It makes us regenerate, but only with conversion of life.  Only the fruitful tree shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven.  We must respond in faith through good works to reckon with the call of Christ in our lives.

 

We were created in the image of God, and our natural and supernatural growth shall be in God’s image.  Therefore, we are to love perfectly.  St. Matthew v.48:  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Those that are written in the Lamb’s book of life, those who are undefiled, shall enter into the Heavenly Jerusalem.  Since we are washed clean of our sins in Christ, those who are undefiled are those who have been freed from their sins and made perfect in Christ.  He makes abundantly clear to us in the Holy Scriptures and in Holy Church that we are to improve from our sinful, broken, and alienated selves.  Christ wants us in Heaven with Him, but we cannot take our selfishness, idolatrous, and lying ways with us.  We have to grow in morality, in loving-kindness, and in holiness.  Our hearts must burn with loving-kindness for one another just like the Sacred Heart of Christ our Lord.  We may live our homely humble Anglican lives, but all our domestic virtue is but a sensible and decent overflow from the burning furnace of divine love in our hearts.

Here at St. Luke Church, we are more than our members, for we are members of Christ.  Even if we were the weakest and most sinful folk, Christ would still truly be here among us because He is God.  Still, Christ calls us to be perfect as He is perfect.  We, grafted onto Christ, are to become as pure and virtuous and holy as Christ.  We must each work on ourselves in this great community we have here.

The whole parish grows healthier and stronger the more we each grow healthier and stronger in the Lord.  The more we improve our lives, the more we fast according to the rule of Holy Church, the more we attend Mass as we ought, the more we say our prayers and read the Scriptures in between Sundays, the more we all grow.  The more we love our God and love our neighbors, our parish grows into a more loving parish.

Different members have different concerns, but there is one answer which addresses everyone’s concern:  Christ.  He is God come down amongst us to raise us up with Him to live with God the Father forever.  Our spiritual ancestors walked in the cool of the garden with God.  You and I will also walk with God after Christ returns.

But we mustn’t presume to be saved.  God has given us great work to do.  And in true Anglican manner, our great work is quite humble.  You and I are to look each other in the eye, to know one another, and to love each other.  You and I are to stand facing the same direction and worship God together.  We are not Hindus who look to wash in the River Ganges.  We are not Moslems who must visit the Black Stone in Mecca.  We are humble sinners, washed in the Blood of Christ, strengthened in the Holy Ghost, and we come together before the altar of God to eat the Body and Blood of Christ our Lord.

Through repentance of our sins, sacramental grace, and self-discipline let us cultivate our spiritual life according to Holy Church so that from the well-tended garden of our hearts comes forth those fruits of the spirit in which progress towards perfection declares itself.  To those who live in those fruits of the spirit come the blessings of the Beatitudes, which indeed are preliminary to the joys of the world to come.

 

“by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“BE ye doers of the word, and not hearers only”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

“Acting upon Your Living Faith in Christ”

This epistle forms a single reading with last week’s epistle, and together they are the readings for Thanksgiving Day.  Last week’s reading of St. James i speaks of hearing the Word of God.  This Sunday’s reading gets to acting upon what has been heard.

St. James begins by speaking of a mirror, or a glass.  He says that a man who looks at himself in the mirror sees but for a moment what manner of man he is and then straightway forgets once he turns away.  He is then free to deceive himself.  Instead of this temporary self-knowledge, we are to look to the “perfect law of liberty”.

But the law of liberty is very dangerous.  God intends freedom for us, but without the ordered practice of obedience to God in loving-kindness, our use of God’s freedom for us descends into selfish license.  We thereby use God’s gifts for our own sakes, not for God’s higher end.

This ties into this Rogation Sunday because we then become unthankful of God’s gifts.  Today we prayed for all things.  Yet we take the good things of this life for granted.  God gives us good gifts, and we are to return thanks unto God.  When we refuse to give thanks for what we have, we spiral out of control and into the error that we earned what we have, that we deserve good things in this life, that we are blameless for the wrongs we have committed, and that we may take vengeance for wrongs others have committed against us.  We live in a loveless, ungenerous, unthankful world of selfishness, pride, ego, loneliness, and self-destruction.

In the next chapter, St. James ii.14-20:

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

We must hear and receive God’s word, but we must obey it and act upon it also.  In days of old, we prayed to God on Rogation days to preserve our crops and guard us from volcanoes.  Today in our Litany, we pray for many and sundry things – all things necessary for a happy and holy life.  But all our prayers are in vain if we merely mouth the words without faith and action.

An annual theme in our society is the great preponderance of New Year’s resolutions that fall by the wayside so early in the New Year.  For instance, I have heard that gyms and fitness centers sell many memberships to people who never return to exercise.  How many times have we resolved to lose weight, or manage our money better, or improve our relationships with family, or pray and meditate more often?

All our faith in Christ our Lord is feeble, weak, and ineffectual without actual work for the Kingdom of God.  Foreign missions are important, but this does not mean that we must do mission work overseas.  Caring for vulnerable mothers in grave danger is a good thing, but this does not mean that we must volunteer at Augusta Care Pregnancy Center.

We need not do this or that special thing, but we must do some things.  And not just any things, but the right things for our place in God’s order.  St. James concludes today’s Epistle with:  “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  All Christians are obliged to do such things.

For Christ calls us to love our God and our neighbor.  Loving-kindness is not a feeling.  It is more akin to simple action than to raw emotion.  The love of Christ sat not still but rather propelled Him to suffer His Passion and die for our sins on Calvary.  We would not have the hope of eternal life, of forgiveness of sins, of communion with God, and of loving-kindness with all mankind without the love of Christ which moved Him to die for us and raise us with Him in eternal life.

Later this week, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord.  Christ’s great love and mighty action did not end on Easter morning when He defeated death rising from the grave.  Christ then ascended into Heaven, thereby opening up life in the presence of God the Father for us.  Christ did not rest then either.  On Pentecost, He sent us the Holy Ghost so that we would not be left without a comforter on our earthly pilgrimage.

Yet even then Christ did not rest.  According to the Epistle to the Hebrews x.19-22:

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Christ keeps open the way into Heaven for us, and we must “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith….”  Actions are terribly important.  They complete the faith in which they are undertaken.

I would like you to do two things this week, each of which is found in the Six Duties of Churchmen, which are the irreducible practice of the Christian Faith.  These Duties I consistently hold up as our practice here in this parish and teach in our Confirmation class.

First, we have the great privilege of participating in Holy Church’s special days of Rogation Monday, Rogation Tuesday, and Rogation Wednesday.  If you look on page li in the Roman numeral section at the beginning of your Prayer Book, you will see at the top A Table of Fasts, under which you will see the Rogation Days listed as days of Solemn Supplication.

Supplication means to petition God to do something.  Twice in Acts and elsewhere in the Bible, Christians fast and pray to God.  We are to abstain from high-quality food or other such pleasure, typically meaning meat, on these Rogation days.  We are also to pray God to provide his goodness towards us.

This morning’s Litany is a wonderful example of praying thusly.  Pray for your family, parish, community, nation, and world.  And if you do not abstain tomorrow on Memorial Day, remember nonetheless to pray for our war dead and then pick up your abstention on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Second, we have the last of our Springtime Holy Days of Obligation this Thursday.  Just as we are obliged to worship God every Sunday, so we are obliged to worship God this Thursday.  As usual, we will have noon and 6 pm Masses for your convenience on Ascension Day.  We will join in worshipping God in celebration of the great work He did for us by ascending with His human Body into Heaven, thereby opening Heaven up for us men.

Notice that both of these, prayer and abstinence on Rogation Days and worship on Ascension Day, are part of the Duties of Churchmen.  Part of the duty of Fasting is to keep the fasts of the Church, including the abstention of Rogation Days.  Part of the duty of Worship is to worship God in Church on Holy Days of Obligation.  These two things which I ask you today are concrete and godly ways to act upon your living faith in Christ.

 

“BE ye doers of the word, and not hearers only”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

St. Luke, the patron saint of our parish, writes plainly that the disciples saw Christ “taken up” and received in a cloud out of their sight.

At the end of the forty days after His Resurrection, Christ ascended into Heaven, where, as we say in the Apostles Creed, He “sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty:”

We know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is one person Who is both fully human and fully divine.

As we see in the post-Resurrection accounts of Christ disappearing before the eyes of the disciples and appearing suddenly within locked rooms, His body was a “transfigured and transformed” body, and He has brought His glorified human flesh into the presence of God the Father.  Christ promised us in the Gospels that He would prepare a mansion for us.  Truly, He has gone into Heaven so that we might follow Him there where He has prepared a place for us in the presence of God forever.

We also know that Christ is our great high priest Who has passed into the Heavens, and that as priest He intercedes on our behalf to God the Father forever.  St. John tells us that we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  Our prayers to God are lifted up by God Himself.  He Who loved us so much that He came down from Heaven to take on our frail flesh now intercedes on our behalf to God the Father.

Christ has ascended into Heaven to prepare a place for us with God for all eternity, and our same Lord, the great high priest, intercedes for us without ceasing in the courts of His Father.  Praise be to Christ!  Thank God for His Ascension!

 

“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth….”  Christ instructs the disciples that the Holy Ghost will become their teacher after He leaves them.  In leading them into all truth, the Holy Ghost will not teach new doctrine, because Christ Himself is all truth.  Rather, God’s continuing revelation of himself profoundly entered upon in Christ’s first Advent will not end but indeed continue after Christ’s Ascension after His Resurrection.

Christ promises in St. John viii.31-32:  “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  In accordance with Christ’s promise, the Holy Ghost speaks to and instructs us of the things of Christ, who received all He had from the Father.  Within the accord of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is all truth and goodness.  The Holy Ghost will lead us in the path of truth in accord with the promise of Christ.

What does this guidance look like which Christ has promised in the Holy Ghost?  A Scriptural example of being guided in the truth is found in the Acts of the Apostles viii.31:  The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Scripture without understanding it.  When St. Philip observed that he was reading Scripture, he asked the eunuch if he knew what it meant.  The Ethiopian replied, “‘How can I, except some man should guide me?’ And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”  St. Philip sat down with the reader of Scripture and showed him, guided him in understanding what it meant.  The apostle was not the Scripture, but showed him how to understand the Scripture.  This is an example of guiding in the knowledge of God.

Sometimes we experience fresh insight into the things of God or we “hear God’s voice” instructing and comforting us in our lives, perhaps in our distress.  We ought to be extraordinarily wary of attributing any internal thought or feeling to God the Holy Ghost.  Yet truly we might be hearing from the Holy Ghost.  We must ask ourselves:  “Is this thought or feeling in one accord with Christ and His Church?”  If not, then we ought to reject attributing the authority of God to what we have experienced.  But if it is in accord with Christ and His teaching, then we may carefully and humbly attribute it to God the Holy Ghost for our personal edification and instruction.  Let us remember that my particular inspiration is for me, and it is not for me to teach or instruct you.  For our common instruction, we have Holy Scriptures and the official dogma of Holy Church our mother.

 

Now, the Holy Ghost does not speak “for” himself, but on behalf of Christ.  Keeping in mind that he speaks not for himself but for Christ, let us look at St. John xii.49:  “For I [Christ] have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.”  Again in St. John xiv.10:  “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”

What Christ says about the Holy Ghost speaking on behalf of Him, Christ also says about Himself concerning the Father.  The Holy Ghost speaks for Christ, and Christ speaks for the Father.  Both the Holy Ghost and the Son of God do not speak for themselves but on behalf of another person of the Holy and ever-blessed Trinity.

Each person of the Holy Trinity is at unity with each other.  There is no division within God; there is no division within the three Persons of God.  The First Article of Religion, found in our Prayer Book, states that “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions;” and “in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

The Holy Ghost only speaks what the Son tells Him.  Christ says, “All things that the Father hath are mine:”  All that the Son has is from the Father.  Each member is in unity with each other; there is only one God.  When we are led and guided by the Holy Ghost, we are being led and guided by God.

 

Intriguingly, Christ says in today’s Gospel that the Holy Ghost “will shew you things to come.”  Does the Holy Ghost act like a sorcerer, giving us peaks into the future?  Will he give us next week’s lottery numbers?  Is this some strange new doctrine?  No.

We do not need knowledge of the future; what we need is a fuller understanding of the things of Christ.  Some of the things of Christ we will not understand or recognize in importance until future things come to pass for us, and at that time, the Holy Ghost will still be there for us and guiding us into all truth.

In the past, Christ sent his disciples the Holy Ghost after He left them.  And in the future, Christ will come again in power and great glory for the Last Judgement.  The time when the Holy Ghost will be with us is an interim time between the first and second Advents of Christ.

We should have great confidence because we are being led by the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.  We are not alone.  He shall “shew you things to come” – this is an on-going relationship we have with him, and he will be with us along our journey.  We can count on it, for Christ told us it is so.

We live in the tension between the gift of today and the promise of tomorrow.  Christ will come again; but we are also told to live thoroughly into the day we have been given.  Christ says in St. Matthew vi.34:  “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Unlike some Eastern and New Age religions, the Christian religion is one of both today and tomorrow.  We are not to live a moral life today so that we may live in Heaven tomorrow, we are to live in the presence of God all the time.  Today we live in the presence of God the Holy Ghost, tomorrow we live in the presence of the Son of God when He returns, and forever we live with God the Father in Heaven.  Thus, today we feel an inherent tension in living the Christian life.

The Holy Ghost directs the Bride of Christ, the Church, on this side of death until Christ returns.  He teaches no new doctrine, but explains us Christ’s doctrine as the ages roll by.  For instance, now we have more explicit notions of salvation through faith and the apostolic succession.  As new challenges face us, the Holy Ghost through the teaching office of Holy Church illumines Christ’s teachings so that we can face these new challenges, such as environmental pollution, embryonic stem cell research, and artificial birth control.

 

The Holy Ghost leads us into all truth.  The Holy Ghost does not speak for himself, but on behalf of Christ, Who in turn speaks of what the Father has given Him.  And the Holy Ghost will accompany us, speaking through the Church and in our hearts, from the day of Pentecost until the day Christ returns again.

 

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

Here are verses 16 through 19 of the Gospel lesson:  “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.  Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me:  and again, a little while, and ye shall see me:  and, Because I go to the Father?  They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while?  we cannot tell what he saith.  Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?”

There are three ways to interpret all these iterations “ye shall not see me” and “ye shall see me”.

First, some interpret this to mean that while Christ was dead, the disciples could not see Him, but they would see Him after His Resurrection.  Today’s lesson comes from the part of St. John’s Gospel which we call the Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper.  That is, this lesson comes right before Christ’s Crucifixion.

St. Augustine of Hippo held another way to interpret this.  After His Ascension, the disciples will not see Christ, but that after their deaths, they shall see Him in Heaven.

A third way, taken by many saints, interprets this recurring phrase to reference Christ’s Second Coming.  So the first “little while” is the time after Christ’s Ascension, and the second “little while” is until Christ’s return in glory.  The disciples could behold Christ with their eyes until He ascended into Heaven, thereby preparing a place for us, but removing Him from our sight.  And since we know that Christ will come again, we know that we shall all see Him then.

Like the Nicene Creed says:  “And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead;”

And lest we think that Christ’s saying “a little while” excludes the possibility of thousands of years passing from His Ascension to His Second Coming, let us consider the words of the Psalmist:  (xc.4):  “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, * and as a watch in the night.”  We do not experience time the same way God does.  “A little while” might mean a few minutes or a few days, or it might mean until the end of the age.

 

(Verse 20)  The next verse merits closer attention:  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

The disciples sorrowed when their Lord died, and they rejoiced after His Resurrection.  The world (those enemies of Christ who put Him to death) rejoiced when He died, while the disciples were sorrowing.  The experience of those faithful in Christ will be different from the experience of the world around us.

And this is something all believers should keep in mind when we push forward and strive through the tears and afflictions of the present in order to reach forward and grasp the joys eternal.  We have a promise:  “but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  No matter how bad life gets here on earth for the Christian, there are joys waiting for us in Heaven.  No matter what physical pain, what family conflict, what financial poverty, what oppression by the world, the flesh, and the devil, Christians will meet relief and joy when we pass on to Christ.

Therefore, we should weep for the world, we should weep for those who do not know Christ, and we should diligently study our faith, practice our faith, and share our faith with others.  The world has no hope of joys to come for all its delight is in the present hour.  This is all they have.  Only in Christ can we find eternal joy.

We must pass through the veil of sorrow to enter into the joy to come, like we must pass through the veil of Christ’s flesh in order to gain access to the Holy of Holies in Heaven.

This travail we experience is out entryway into life everlasting.  We must suffer the agonies of death so that we may live in the peace and goodness of Christ forevermore.

Why must we suffer so that we may have joy?  Why must we die so that we may live?  Remember the words of St. Paul in First Corinthians (xv.36):  “that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:”  In this world broken by the Fall, to pass on to life, one must first go through death.

All this talk of suffering and travail leads us to the next verse.

 

Verse 21:  “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.”

St. Alcuin of York wrote:  “The woman is the holy Church, who is fruitful in good works, and brings forth spiritual children to God.  This woman, while she brings forth, i.e. while she is making her progress in the world, amidst temptations and afflictions, has sorrow because her hour is come….”

Indeed, Christ says “for joy that a man is born into the world”, not “a boy” or “a child”, but “a man”.  That woman in travail is a figure of the Church, who is the Bride of Christ, our own mother, who brings forth spiritual children for God.

The Venerable Bede complements this understanding of the woman in travail being Holy Mother Church and the man who is born into the world being us:  “Nor should it appear strange, if one who departs from this life is said to be born.  For as a man is said to be born when he comes out of his mother’s womb into the light of day, so may he be said to be born who from out of the prison of the body, is raised to the light eternal.  Whence the festivals of the saints, which are the days on which they died, are called their birthdays.”

We are born to eternal life; then shall we see Christ and be glad.

 

The last verse (22):  “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

The disciples who were with Christ in the body were to miss Him, and then they would come to see Him again.  They would “weep and lament”, but then their “sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  They would undergo the travail of sadness before joy which “no man taketh from you.”  As we read in Psalm xxx (v. 5):  “heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

We must trust in Christ.  We will see Him face-to-face on that last great day, the day of doom; each one of us; you can count on it.  He gave His life for us, and He will judge us.  We must resolutely follow Him through death into the glory that awaits us on the other side.

 

“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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