Posts Tagged ‘Duties of Churchmen’

“WE beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.”

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


“Purity, Holiness, and Loving-Kindness”


We can never rest easy in the Christian life.  Not that we are in constant jeopardy of losing our salvation, but that the Lord God of Heaven and Earth is a good God who loves us very much, and we ought to emulate him in all we think, do, and say.  And who among us is as holy and loving as Christ?  I have a long way to go.  So St. Paul might as well be speaking to me here as well as to the Thessalonians, and I can say that he’s speaking here to you as well.

1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

St. Paul beseeches and exhorts his fellow Christians to exceed their holiness so far attained, to keep striving forward, to continue to make progress.  St. Paul wants them to move forward not because of what they lack but because of what they have to gain.

We have been taught how to behave.  St. Paul here exhorts us to continue and grow in the way we are to behave.  We should do so willingly, as men freed from the bondage of sin.

How we “ought to walk and to please God” is a gift from God.  Being a gift from God, this moral knowledge is precious and holy.  We are to willingly embrace it and live it more fully every day, not as a burden, for sin was an actual burden, but as liberation and freedom to live eternally with God.

When we look back to life in sin, we see depression, desolation, darkness, and delusion.  We were “sunk” in sin, like trying to wade through a mire instead of marching on the dry, clean, high road of grace.  Even when we wanted to do the right thing, we were incapable of doing so.  But through the grace of God, his unmerited holy favor, we are freed from our sins and given the ability to walk on the King’s highway.

Abounding more and more is what Blessed John Keble preached, “that is a call, as serious as the heart of man could imagine, not to stand still, not to suppose they had done enough.”  We are unlike the beasts and the angels; we are created in the image of God.  God the Son did not manifest in Heaven as a holy angel.  God the Son did not come to earth as a dolphin or orangutan.  God the Son came down to earth and became a man amongst men.  We are made joint-heirs of God the Father through the adoption as sons.  We are joined in the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ to become one with God.  We are made tabernacles of the Holy Ghost.

We are called to holiness in a way no other creature in Heaven or on Earth is called.  The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Word of God, came down from Heaven and was born a baby Jewish boy of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a small Judean town called Bethlehem.  God now shares our flesh, and when Christ Ascended into Heaven, He took His human body with Him.  Human flesh now resides in the heavenly realms of glory as well as in this created world.  God has taken on man’s nature so that man can take on God’s nature.

We are called out of this world of sinful men and made righteous by God so that we may be sanctified and called holy, chosen, called out from the world, set apart for God.  We are to be given much so that we may abound and abound forever and ever.  This is the Christian calling:  To live with God in his kingdom for all eternity, lost in wonder, love, and praise, fulfilling our created nature more fully than any thought or dream could imagine.  We will never have enough goodness, for God is infinite, and we are created for God.

2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

Having renounced the world and the sinful pollution of following the ways of the flesh, we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God; and since God only accepts pure and holy sacrifices, we must live holy and blameless lives, removing all obstructions to holiness in our lives, putting far from us our worldly and fleshly ways.

Fornication defiles man.  By entering into sexual congress with others outside of God’s design and permission for us, we deface the beautiful image of God in us and others.  Purity and sanctification are utterly opposed to fornication and sins of the flesh.

Moreover, in today’s increasingly immoral society, Christians must be known as chaste.  Obeying the Church’s Law of Marriage is one of the Duties of Churchmen.  The world watches us to see if we are either hypocrites or true lovers of God.

All Christians ought to be of one of three states of sexual purity:  virgin, married, or widowed.  Alas, many Christians were not virgins when we married.  Many Christians do not live chastely after losing our spouse.  Many Christians do not live chastely with our spouse.  When we live sexually ordered lives, we live lives following the teaching of Christ and His Bride the Church.  We live lives of purity, reaching towards holiness and loving-kindness without the damage which impurity and sexual immorality brings us.

4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

By “lust of concupiscence”, St. Paul means all lusts of the flesh and the eyes which allure us to fleeting carnal delights and take our minds and bodies away from union with God.  Indulging in sinful pleasures disturbs us so that we are no longer temperate in our lives, we are out of balance in our relationship with the physical world, our inner composure with which we meet God is disturbed and unsettled.  When we give in to pursuit of these pleasures, we are knocked off our poise and made unsteady, so that we can no longer stand upright and face our Lord God.

But the lust of the eye and the wandering heart do not only touch our sexual lives.  Our economic lives are touched by this also.  Through envy and jealousy, our social lives are touched by concupiscence, the desire to draw the world into our selves.  We literally lust after the world, the pleasures of the flesh.  Gluttony is strongly allied with Lust and Greed.  They involve the desire to consume God’s good creation instead of relate to God’s creation the way he would have us relate to it – the good order of purity, holiness, and loving-kindness.

6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

St. Paul further exhorts Christians to do no injury to our brother.  Just as fornication is acting unjustly towards our neighbors, so too is fraud.  We must not act immoderately or unrighteously towards our neighbors.  We must love our neighbors as ourselves.  Lust and Greed are related in that they involve desiring the things of this world in unholy and unclean ways.  God will avenge those whom we harm while wickedly seeking from our fellows that which is not ours to take.

God will punish Christians who have holy knowledge and training in righteous living harder than those who have not heard the word of grace and live as best as they can in the muck and mire of the world of sinful men.  We ought to love our neighbors and show them the Good News of Jesus Christ rather than condemning their wickedness which they cannot understand without Christ.

We know better than to corrupt ourselves in unchastity and fraudulent behavior.  When we commit sins which we currently live in and do not repent of, we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ to our damnation, not to our salvation.  For we cannot partake of holiness when we choose to wallow in unholiness.  We cannot partake of our good God if we insist on dwelling in impurity.  We cannot bring our favorite sins into the presence of God.  If we insist on holding them close to us, we cannot approach him.

To “defraud his brother” is to seek gain at the expense of his brother.  We are not to trick and manipulate others for our own gain.  Tricking a virgin into fornication is the vileness of seduction.  We rightly condemn those who do this.  But tricking our brother into loss for our gain is the same sin in a different way.

We are not to use each other.  Each one of us is a unique individual lovingly created by Almighty God our Heavenly Father in his own image.  God beholds each one of us and finds us so precious and valuable in his sight that he sent God the Son into the world to become one of us, to die on the Cross, and to save us from our sins.  God blesses each one of us so that we may live with him in his kingdom for eternity.  If God did not love each one of us so much, he would not want us so close to him for so long.

Being each a unique and invaluable part of creation, we are to treat others and to be treated with great dignity befitting our rank as adopted sons of God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ and indwelt by God the Holy Ghost.  We are not to seduce, manipulate, or defraud those for whom Christ died to save from sin and death.  We are to honor and respect and love each other, following the way of Christ.  Purity, holiness, and loving-kindness all go together and all come from God.

7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

God has called us to holiness.  We must renounce the world of sinful men, the temptations of our fallen nature, and the supernatural evil which lurks about as a lion, seeking someone to devour.  We cannot have both sin and God, for sin is separation from God.

We place ourselves into grave danger when we trivialize our sins of the flesh, our little lusts, our wee gluttonies.  They are fun.  But they are contrary to God.  For instead of enjoying God, we enjoy God’s creation as if it were made as an end to itself and not for the glory of God.  We may enjoy the sexual embrace of our holy spouse as that embrace participates in the goodness of creation and glorifies God.  We may enjoy commercial intercourse with our fellow men as we trade goods and services so that we meet our needs and prosper, give alms to the poor, and generously give to Christ’s Body, Holy Church.  But when we pervert the goodness of creation to steal sexual embraces from those we are not in holy union with and to defraud those whom we interact, then we reject God.  When we embrace sin, we leave no room in our arms to embrace God.

8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

If by our unjust and unrighteous actions, we use and abuse other men, we have departed away from God.  Thus, if we despise men, we despise God instead.  God, who gave us his Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us, is well and truly despised by those who reject him.  We who sin against our fellow man despise God who dwells inside of us.  This tears us apart, and we are no fit vessels thereafter for the Holy Spirit of God.  Truly the Two Great Commandments go together:  To love God and to love our neighbors.


Little children, love your God, and love each other.  Live beautiful lives of holiness, purity, and loving-kindness.  Act justly to every person in your life, honor God, and love both God and your neighbor.  Worship Christ, and adore Him in His Body and His Blood.

This week, make an act of love to our Lord Christ every day.  Say to Him, “I love thee Lord Christ, and I want to love Thee more and more.”  Look inside your bulletins to the announcements on the inside right-hand side.  At the end of the announcements, you will see that sentence.  Say it with me:  “I love thee Lord Christ, and I want to love Thee more and more.”  One more time:  “I love thee Lord Christ, and I want to love Thee more and more.”


“WE beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.”

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


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“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

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


St. Paul clearly says in today’s Epistle both to strive and to gain an incorruptible crown.  Faith is a gift.  Growing into the likeness of God is a gift.  Salvation is a gift.  Yet our striving matters.  But it is a gift.  This confuses us.

Today’s Gospel lesson provides us a parable which helps explain this.  The goodman of the house goes out time and again to hire laborers for his field.  Despite the difference in time worked, he pays them all the same.  Each one of the laborers worked, but the pay they received said nothing about how much they worked and said everything about the generosity of the goodman.

We work with God in our salvation.  God esteems our labor, poor that it may be in his infinite majesty.  We must labor in order to get paid.  Yet we are not paid in accordance with our labor.

We live in a city of wreckage this Sunday morning, even after crews have been working to restore power and fix roads and houses for days.  The storm hit us very hard.  Thankfully, the earthquake seems to have caused no damage.

Among many, I am thankful for the out-of-town utility crews that have been fixing our power lines.  But we cannot simply rest easy and sit back while they come and restore our power.  Other things need to be done.  At the very least, we need to gather up sticks and put them aside for the county to pick up.  We must clean our refrigerators and freezers.  Even though the professionals are doing the heavy lifting, we must handle the small stuff.  Our homes are not back into good order without a little bit of elbow grease on our part.

So it is with the grace of God.  We are entirely stuck without power until he bestows upon us grace from beyond ourselves, grace which we cannot manage on our own.  And yet the job is not entirely done without our participation.

So God has chosen us and adopted us in Holy Baptism and given us grace upon grace in our lives.  But we must participate in this grace, we must work with this grace, but we may not work for this grace.  The distinction is between working in order to gain something and working alongside and in conjunction with something.

Isaiah tells a powerful story at the beginning of his fifth chapter.  Let me read it to you.

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard.  My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:  And he fenced it, and gathered out the stone thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein:  and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.  And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.  What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?  Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?  And now go to:  I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard:  I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste:  it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns:  I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.  For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant:  and he looked for judgement, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

Here, the Lord does everything but the people do not contribute their little part.  Isaiah shows that the Lord will prepare a great thing, but if the people do not do it, not only does it not get done, but the Lord will judge the contrary people.

The Lord gave all manner of goodness to Israel, and Israel spurned God’s love and pursued their own ends.  And lest we too quickly hasten to condemn Israel, we do this ourselves all too often.  We substitute what we want for what God has clearly communicated to us.  We substitute our fleshly desires over holy discipline.  We substitute sentimentality over truth and love.  We substitute feeling good and avoiding bad feelings over pursuing holiness.

God has given us good things.  He has communicated his will to us.  He has sent His only-begotten Son into the world to save us from our sins.  He has sent the Holy Ghost into the world to dwell in us, making us tabernacles of God himself.  And yet we run rampant, choosing our own way.  We say with our lips that we love God and our neighbor, but we act like strangers to both neighbor and God.

We ought to pray as Thomas Wilson, sometime Bishop of Sodor and Man, once prayed, “Grant that the end of all my actions, and designs, may be the glory of God.”

This glory of God for which we must strive St. Paul likens to the prize of an athletic contest.  Many of us have been watching – when we have electricity – the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.  In the Olympics, individuals and teams strive for the gold.  In ancient Greece, athletes strove for laurels, that is, a crown of olive.

St. Paul mentions the crown in II Timothy ii.5:  “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”

St. Peter mentions the crown in his first epistle:  “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

St. John mentions the crown in Revelation ii.10b:  “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

And again, St. Paul mentions winning the crown in today’s Epistle:  “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

These bring to my mind my favorite quote of St. John Vianney:  “All that we do without offering it to God is wasted.”  Indeed, all that we do without God is ineffectual.  While our cares and concerns may seem important now, time will wear away even the greatest of monuments, age will wipe away the most notable of lineages.  All that is worthy, all that is eternal, all that is virtuous is the Lord’s.

Either you have the crown or you don’t.  And the crown is bestowed upon you, it is not earned.

We need sustained discipline.  Christians are spiritual athletes, and if we are spiritually lazy, digesting poor spiritual food, and not exercising what God gave us, then we will be sorry spiritual athletes indeed.  We must exercise vigorously whether we feel like it or not, listen to our teachers and coaches, eat a proper diet, get enough sleep, and avoid harmful things.

We are not competing against one another.  Instead of a race with one winner, all who run the race swiftly and with vigor will win the crown which God alone bestows upon his elect.  But we must run.  We must run our hearts out.  We run a difficult course with treacherous obstacles and dangerous challenges.  In this race, some racers will be tempted to quit the course.

We must hold our bodies in subject to our wills and hold our wills in subject to God’s will.  The way of Christ is tough and exacting.  Soon enough, we will again walk the road to Calvary with Christ and intensely recall how difficult the Via Dolorosa has always been.  Running a race whilst carrying your cross is impossible without the grace of God, whose grace, thankfully, he freely bestows upon us.  He loves us.  He desires us to join in his victory.  He does not want a single one of us to turn from God and consort with the enemy.  He wants abundant life for us all.

So how do we run this race to the satisfaction of God?

The minimum that we can do are the Duties of Churchmen.  But these are not enough.  And there is no maximum that we can do.

But still, first we faithfully fulfill the Duties of Churchmen.  These duties are:

1. Worship God in Church every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation

2. Receive Holy Communion at least three times a year

3. Keep the fasts of the Church

4. Keep a clean conscience by confessing our sins and seeking righteousness

5. Tithe and give alms

6. Obey the Church’s Law of Marriage

In addition, we must regularly spend time with God in prayer:  adoration, thanksgiving, and confession.  Do not worry yourself about naming lists of loved ones to God.  Marvel at God, gaze upon him, and thank him.  Confess your sins and faults and grow close to him.  And here’s something important that we so often miss:  Slowly and thoughtfully pray the Lord’s Prayer every day.  You may always come to me and ask for more after you do that.

Finally, we must live righteous lives.  Are you living in a sinful situation?  Stop it.  Stop it now.  Don’t reason with evil – avoid it.  If you are living in fornication, or stealing from others, or shirking your duty, or disrespecting your parents, or greedily desiring more than you need, stop it immediately.  Follow the Ten Commandments and all Christian morality.

In all we do, we are to exercise our wills so that we may love our God and our fellow man more fully.  Virtue, communion with God, and righteous living all help us love God more fully and thereby love our neighbors more fully as well.

If you faithfully fulfill the six Duties of Churchmen, pray adequately and earnestly every day, and live a life of increasing righteousness, then you are well on your way to running the race worthy of a crown.  But remember, you never earn it.  You can never do enough to satisfy God.  God will grant you your crown of glory because he wants to, not because you feel – or don’t feel – like you deserve it.  In God’s open and free love does he give us all that we need for eternal life with him.  Accept the goodness and grace which flows from God and strive mighty hard to live a life worthy of Christ in the Holy Ghost.


“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”

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

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“that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;”

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


5K races have taken off in popularity.  All sorts of people who would never run the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta or the Boston Marathon will try to run their local 5K race.  But running a race is not a matter of rolling off your couch and hitting the road.  You have to have good legs and healthy lungs.  You have to get up and go.  Most importantly, even if you have the willingness and the ability to do it, you have to actually practice running in order to grow strong, fast, and hardy enough to run a race.

So it is with our salvation.  We are born again as new Christians through belief in Christ and the waters of Holy Baptism.  God’s grace comes upon us and wipes us clean of sin and sets in us a right mind to pursue the things of God.  Most starkly, instead of going to Hell, we now are going to Heaven.  We do not earn this; this blessing of blessings is given to us.  Like little newborns, we do not even have to earn any part of this gift of life; we are open and receptive and receive God’s goodness.

But as we mature, as we grow strong legs and strong lungs in the Lord, so must we exercise the good gifts which God has given us.  We cannot walk the walk of faith by resting on our hindquarters.  We must put our rear in gear and follow Christ with our legs of faith.  We need to live under the shadow of God’s grace and use it every day if we are to grow strong in the Lord.

Thus, if we are to exercise the good gift or charism of intercessory prayer, we need to get to the business of praying for others.  If we are to exercise the theological virtue of loving-kindness, that means we need to get to the business of loving the Lord our God and our neighbors through specific acts of love.  If we are to exercise Godly wisdom, that means we need to get to the business of obeying the commandments of God and living in love each day, every day.

We are made fit to enter Heaven when our sins are wiped away in Holy Baptism.  But for those of us who do not die immediately after our Baptism, we will sin again.  God expects that we will sin less and our consciences will be convicted of our sin when we do sin, but we will sin again.  I dare say that each adult here has sinned since Baptism.  We will not stay clean and holy in the eyes of God if we do not confess our sins.  In short, there is more to our salvation than God’s applying the merits of the Cross of Christ to us in Holy Baptism.

So it is that the instant act of new life in Christ is a necessary part of a larger movement of grace.  If we are to live in Christ, then we must necessarily grow in Christ.  This is what St. Paul is talking about here in his Epistle to the Colossians.


In this epistle, St. Paul says that he had not visited Colossae, and the Christians there did not know him except by reputation.  As Fr. Massey Shepherd wrote, “St. Paul’s intercession is cast in general terms about the theme of spiritual growth both in good works and in the knowledge of God.”

So this epistle is a rather impersonal exposition about life in Christ and growth in the Holy Ghost.  St. Paul mentions seven things which show maturity in the Christian faith:  Wisdom, spiritual understanding, walking worthy, fruit in good work, increasing in knowledge of God, strengthened with might, and giving thanks.

Like him and the Colossians, we are each to be entering into and growing in these activities.  Each one of us is a distinct creature made by God in his image, so each of us will not look exactly alike.  However, each of us ought to be showing evidence of growth and maturity appropriate to our calling.

Are we wise?  Do we show spiritual understanding?  Do we “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing?”  Do we “bringeth forth fruit?”  Are we “increasing in the knowledge of God?”  Are we “strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness?”  Are we “giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light?”

We do these things for the continued conversion of our soul and for the conversion of the souls around us, as well as the overflowing of God’s grace in our lives.  Our bearing the fruit of good work, our being strengthened with might, our giving thanks will be changing ourselves from sinfulness to godliness, noticeable to others and convicting of others, and glorifying to God.

Married couples and family members, even if all Christians, even if all serious Christians, and even if all members of the same parish, can be expected to jostle and bump into each other as they grow.  This is to be expected.  Love and patience are needed as different people grow in their own ways.

Spiritual growth is the maturity and continuation of our salvation.  As Christians, we are called to something, to a status, to a station, to a condition, to a way of being, not just to a person.  Or rather, being called to the Divine Person, we will be changed along the way.  Either way, sanctification is a real thing and one that is part of my journey and part of your journey.


Now, I am going to use five words which end in –ation.  You probably have heard of these.  If you are anything like me, then you also have a hard time remembering what they mean.  But these words help us gain understanding about salvation and growth in holiness, such as written in today’s Epistle.

These “-ation” words are justification, sanctification, consecration, purification, and assimilation.  Christ saves us in justification and sanctification.  Consecration, purification, and assimilation are aspects of sanctification.

Sanctification is thoroughly united with justification, even though St. Paul uses different vocabulary for them.  Sanctification is thereby tied to our salvation; our continued growth in holiness is connected with Christ’s saving us.  The two are inextricably bound.  This is one of the confounding aspects of both medieval and Reformation theology of salvation, or soteriology, where a host of different parties pried the two apart.  That is no good.

Now, sanctification has three aspects:  consecration, purification, and assimilation into the divine character.  That is, we are set apart as holy, or consecrated.  We are made clean from our sinful ways, or purified.  We are made to grow into the likeness of Christ, or assimilated.

To make holy, to sanctify, to consecrate is to set apart for God’s use.  Holy means set apart for God.  We are called out of the sinful condition of humanity and made Christ’s in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  We are set apart from the carnal, or fleshy, things of this world.  This is often spoken of with regards to our salvation, to our justification, to use St. Paul’s term.  To be set aside for God’s purposes is to be consecrated, so in consecration we are set apart for God.

This happens initially and powerfully in Holy Baptism.  But we are re-consecrated from time to time as well.  Each time we are given grace, whether in the Blessed Sacrament, in our marriage or ordination, or in our prayers, we are yet again set apart from the things of this world, we are set apart to be God’s.

But to be kept consecrated, we cannot sully ourselves with the stain of sin.  Therefore, we must also be purified of all sin.  This second aspect of sanctification called purification assists in the keeping of this first aspect of sanctification called consecration.

We must keep God’s will as it is known to us in Holy Scriptures, Holy Church, and in our conscience.  We are to remain chaste and free from sexual sin.  We are to live in loving-kindness with other people.  We must live our lives in self-discipline.  And we are to regularly confess our sins in our private prayers, in the Offices and Mass, and sometimes even in private with a priest.  We must remain free from sin.  We must remove all obstacles that keep us away from God.

We are to grow into the likeness of the divine nature of God as it has been revealed to us in Christ our Lord.  He is God incarnate; He is God with us.  As He lived, so are we to live.  He avoided all sin.  He lived in the will of God the Father.  He prayed often and alone, yet He also worshipped in the Temple.  He loved everyone He met.  He prayed for His persecutors and died for our sins.  This is the life we too must live.  This is the life which will let us live in the presence of God for all eternity.  This is the original image of God in which we were made.  We must join in the divine character of God.  We must assimilate into Godliness.

Only through this consecration, purification, and assimilation are we to be both justified and sanctified and fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.  St. Peter quotes:  “Be ye holy; for I am holy,” in I St. Peter i.16.  Christ says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” in St. Matthew v.48.  It is only in the participation of the divine life of God that we are meet to enter into Heaven.


We are called to be mature Christians.  We are called to be wise in the Lord, to live our lives with spiritual understanding, to walk worthy in the Lord, to show forth good fruit through good works, to increase in the knowledge of God, to be strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness, and to give thanks to the Father.

How are we to do this?  We can only do this by growing.  If we are to claim the Holy Name of Christ, then we cannot stay as we are.  That’s right:  We are not good enough.  But not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of God.  We are not acceptable.  We are made acceptable through Christ, but we must afterwards grow to be like Christ.  Consecrated for God, we must purify ourselves of all sin and grow into the likeness of Christ.

We do this in the same ways that we have considering for months now:  Weekly worship, frequent Holy Communion, regular fasting, tithing, confessing our sins daily, weekly, and as needed, and keeping ourselves chaste.  We will burst forth in holiness and prayer and thankfulness to our Lord God as we diligently apply ourselves to running the race which he has set before us.


“that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;”

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


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“Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

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


Christ is the High King of Heaven, but He is also our King.  We do not relate much to kings in our dear republic.  A king is a sort of father to his nation.  The nation is his to rule in authority, but he ought to rule in love.  As we may recall from our own Revolution and George III, a king does not always love his subjects as his children.  Christ the King always remembers that we are poor fallible creatures ever prone to sin.  But instead of berating us or damning us, God the Father sent God the Son into the world, taking up our human nature without in any way laying down His divine nature.

Christ loves us.  St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Ephesians:  “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”

Christ has earned His Kingship, His Lordship over us, but He did not have to earn it, because while Christ is Man, He is God as well, and as God He created the Heavens and the Earth.  We owe Him everything, because everything we have comes from Him.

We are His creatures.  We are His subjects.  And good faithful Christians are His good and faithful servants.

So:  What does it mean for us to be subjects of Christ the King?

Well, we must worship Him.  Worship means that we account Him as worthy; the word worship can be thought of as worth-ship.  We worship Christ every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation in the worship that is not created by His subjects out of our imaginations, but in the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Not only do we worship Him, we eat and drink Christ; we consume Him, and we become part of Him, just as He is part of us.  He says plainly in the Fourth Gospel:  “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”

Not only do we worship Him and commune with Him, we fast in remembrance of Him every single Friday of the year except in the Holy Season of His Nativity – Christmastide.  We fast before we receive Him in the Body and the Blood.  We abstain from meat because meat is fancier than vegetables and bread, and because Christ gave His own flesh for us.  When we fast, we do not simply refrain from eating something; we remember why we don’t eat something; we remember for Whom we do not eat something.

Not only do we worship Christ our King, commune with Him, and fast for Him, we also remember with our substance that He gave us our lives and everything that we have.  He gave us every single thing that own, both our lives and our possessions.  We are commanded in Scripture, in Malachi, to keep for our use nine-tenths of it.  We offer only a small token of our entire wealth – ten percent – as a memorial for the goodness and riches of God.

Not only do we worship, commune, fast, and tithe, in order to be loyal subjects – not even exceptional subjects, mind you – in order to be loyal subjects of Christ our King we must follow Christ in using our bodies only for God in keeping His Bride the Church’s Law of Marriage.  That is, we must keep ourselves chaste.  We must not commit adultery.  We must not commit fornication.  We must not sexually please ourselves with our own sex or with the opposite sex.  If we are married, we are married for our Lord and King and serve Him in our marriage with our bodies.  If He wills it, we raise up godly children in a godly household.  If we are not married, we remain single for our Lord and King and serve Him in our singleness with our chaste bodies as well.

Not only do we worship, commune, fast, tithe, and remain chaste, but we earnestly search our lives for any disloyalty to Christ our King in our words, our thoughts, and our actions.  When we sin, we commit high treason against the Lord God of the cosmos and against Christ, his only Son, the King of all that is and all that will be.  We confess our sins to Christ, in private, in public worship, and in private sacramental confession.

We confess to Christ, because Christ is not only our King, Christ is our great High Priest.  When we sin against God, we commit treason, have beaten and killed the only Son of the Father.  We have rejected life everlasting and eternal happiness by choosing, by committing, by aiding and abetting the rebellious side of rape, murder, and cancer.  Since we have voted with our selves, our souls and bodies, to kill Christ upon the Cross, we have wandered off by ourselves into the trackless desert of sin without water or shade, where we will surely die.  Christ offers Himself to the Father eternally in Heaven, and only through the Veil of His Holy Flesh can we enter into the Holy of Holies to live with God the Father in Heaven forever, enjoying the fullness of human happiness that we were intended to enjoy since the beginning of time.  Christ is King, and Christ is Priest.

This is why God gave His faithful the priesthood throughout the ages.  The Jews, the Chosen People, enjoyed the Aaronic priesthood.  In His Body, the Church, Christ has instituted the Sacrament of Holy Order and made some of his men into priests.  They are to love the children of God on Earth as he loves them from Heaven.  They are to re-present in divine worship the giving of Christ up to the Father.  They are to teach Christ’s teachings to His people.  They are to show forth the virtues of Christ and to live lives in the Holy Ghost which the people can look to for example.

But while I am a priest and I am your spiritual father here in Augusta, we are also a priestly people who live the life of Christ to the people of this fair city.  Just as we look into the eyes of Christ and see the Father, just as you look into my eyes and see Christ, so all your neighbors look into your eyes and see Christ; indeed, you look into each other’s eyes.

We turn our backs to treason, sin, and death and live fruitful, happy, loving, and productive lives for Christ, in Christ, and on Christ’s behalf.  This means that we obey happily and completely the six basic Duties of Churchmen – worship, communion, fasting, chastity, tithing, and confession.  We exercise and build up our spiritual lives through these Duties and through regular prayer and study of Scripture.  We love our neighbors as ourselves, and serve them as Christ came to serve us.  And in all this, we proclaim Christ’s advent, teaching, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven to the right hand of God the Father where right this very second He intercedes for each of us and each of those people out there.

But here’s the thing:  They don’t know that.  Oh, some of them do.  But most have no idea.  Or worse yet, they have just enough of an idea about Christ to think they know all about Him.  They don’t know about living in holiness as an offering or oblation of self to God.  They don’t know that by being stingy with God’s gifts that they dishonor God.  The culture around us tells these valuable people who are precious in the sight of God that all sorts of things are okay which yet dishonor themselves and their God.  The people around us moan and groan in the pains and disappointments of this life but do not have the consolation of the Holy Ghost.  They think that this is all there is.  They don’t think that they are the creatures of a mighty God who loves them, who sent his only-begotten Son into the world to save them.  They thirst for adventure, they hunger for meaning, they thirst for righteousness, when it is all right beneath their nose!

Serving Christ the King is neither comfortable nor convenient.  The only apostle not to be executed, to be martyred, for remaining loyal to Christ was St. John.  That’s a more than 90% mortality rate.  Three days ago I spoke to our missionary bishop of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Militias rage, pillage, and murder across the landscape of that country.  Entire parishes have been wiped out – our brothers, killed, our sisters, raped and killed.  These are not some faraway missionaries, these are Anglican Catholics whose bishop could not save them.  He has a Prayer Book, not an army.

Moslems kill Christians across the globe.  Our Diocese of the South is part of the Original Province.  The Second Province is the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, which keeps alive the traditional Anglican faith in south Asia.  The son of the Archdeacon of Pakistan keeps watch over his father saying Mass.  He holds an AK-47 in his hands lest they are attacked.  We are blessed to have a faithful old soldier keeping watch over our door, and that he does not need to be armed.

To worship Christ our King as good and faithful subjects, we must worship Him, give Him honor in chastity, generosity, and honesty, and receive His Blessed Sacrament.  But to truly honor Christ, we must look after our brothers and sisters in all their difficulties, from flat tires and unexpected pregnancy to war and famine, and attend to their needs.  Indeed, we must look after all those who do not know Christ enough to repent and be saved, by sharing with them the life-giving Gospel of Christ.  We owe our neighbors and brethren these things not for their sake, but for the sake of Him Who sent us, Who poured us out into the world to obey Him and carry His ministry of love and reconciliation to the ends of the Earth.

My children, Angela and I met our brethren from six of the seven continents this past week.  Looking into our American and Canadian dioceses, I can assuredly tell you that we have many wonderful and flavorful priests and lay folk here.  But all of them belong to one of two fundamental kinds of parishes:  Growing or dying.

Growing parishes have vibrant education and spiritual development.  Dying parishes have nothing but coffee hour.  Growing parishes give generously to missions both foreign and domestic.  Dying parishes scrounge and try to keep the lights on.  Growing parishes welcome every stranger who visits them without clinging to them, serving them in their need.  Dying parishes seek more warm bodies to fill essential positions and to give and pay the heating bill.  Growing parishes tend to be optimistic.  Dying parishes recount horror stories from people long gone.  Growing parishes look at new ways to serve their members and the community.  Dying parishes care primarily about their long-time members and preserving things the way they were.

In Deuteronomy, Moses solemnly charged the congregation of Israel:  “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”


“Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

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


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“MY brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

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


What are soldiers trained to do?  They are trained to endure, to obey, to keep moving on no matter how tired, uncomfortable, or discouraged they get.  Soldiers are trained to keep their tools and weapons in good working order, clean and ready for use.  Soldiers are trained to be courageous in the face of danger, yet they are taught not to take undue risk.  Soldiers are trained to make use of what they have, whether that be intelligence, strength, cunning, or stamina.  Soldiers are trained to never quit, not through false and sappy feelings, but through hard discipline.  Christians have a lot to learn from soldiers.

American Christianity for generations has been steeped in comfort, a victim of our own success.  We have air conditioning and heating.  Did anybody walk here today?  Take public transportation?  We all have cars.  One of my first congregations still had an outhouse 20 years ago, but we have two sets of restrooms here.  I do not ask Gladys or Sam, our treasurers this, and so I do not know for sure, but we would be in the majority of parishes if some of us did not tithe our income or make a strenuous effort to do so.

But our physical comfort is not near the temptation to sin that our spiritual comfort is.  When we sit in our favorite chair, complacent and self-satisfied with our relationship with God, we are at our weakest and most vulnerable to sin.  When we speak our personal feelings on religion as if they were the very word of God, we step off into the deep water of sin.  And all of our hot air won’t keep us afloat.

The freedom we enjoy is wonderful, especially when we consider state churches and persecution.  But we seldom use our freedom wisely.  Instead of hard discipline, we strongly prefer false and sappy feelings.  Anybody here who accomplished all the prayer and Scripture reading they set out to do this week probably has been putting some effort into making sure he did so.  For the rest of us, if we do not slog through the distractions of life and keep on keeping on in our prayers, we will never attain that level of personal devotion we know that we need.

For instead of hard-won discipline, most of us are content with pious feelings and simple understanding.  I do not mean child-like faith, which is pure and innocent, but I mean sloppy and ill-formed understanding.

One of my great frustrations every week is having to stop every so often when writing my sermon and look things up.  It disrupts the flow.  I already have a sense of what I want to say, or so I think.  But no one cares if my private train of thought is disrupted.  No one cares to hear what I have to say on my own.  Only by searching Scripture and the reflections of the saints and doctors of the Church do I keep myself from mistakenly spouting error and so keep myself growing in knowledge.

One of the profound dangers we face is when we substitute our soft fluffy and sappy feelings for a real relationship of trust, love, and obedience with Christ.  When we love our traditional liturgy more than we love Christ, we have worshipped an idol.  When we love our angel figures more than our guardian angel, we have loved wrongly.  When we love our traditional family Bible more than we love reading the Holy Scriptures, then we have missed the point.  When we love traditional marriage more than we love our spouse, we dishonor our vows made before God.

We love the soft and comfortable more than we love the actual and real because we want to remain in control.  Difficult things – unpleasant things – inconvenient things happen when we step off in faith and actually show Christian loving-kindness to our undeserving neighbor instead of opining about the undeserving wretches in society.  We are forced to change our comfortable ways when we look our estranged neighbor in the eye and actually listen to her.

In all this, we play a game of defense instead of a game of offense.  We play not to lose instead of playing to win.  If I stay within my aptly-named comfort zone, then I will not face uncomfortable challenges.  If I avoid my neighbor, then I will not face the consequences of my troublesome ways.  If I don’t read my Scripture, then I will not face my lack of spiritual understanding.  If I don’t examine my conscience, then I will not face my own sin.

We will jump through nearly any hoop to keep from confronting ourselves.  We trust ourselves more than Christ, even when we betray ourselves.

Most Christians throughout the years, even in St. Paul’s time, but especially in our own soft time, have preferred to cut and run rather than stand and fight.


Last week we saw Aileen Cappa receive strengthening in the Spirit and the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  To quote the Book of Common Prayer’s service of Confirmation:  “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and … the spirit of thy holy fear.”

She is now powerfully armed in this daily fight with sin and wickedness, and not only her, but all those of us who are Confirmed in our Holy Mother Church.  Yet if we do not daily practice prayer, perseverance, and supplication, then we might as well do as Job’s wife suggested to him:  “curse God, and die”.  The end result is the same.


It is no mistake that the Duties of Churchmen, being the irreducible minimum of Christian practice, are also good strong counsels for living mightily in the Lord and in resistance to the world, the flesh, and the devil.  If we worship our Lord Christ in the Holy Trinity every Sunday, we live under God’s might.  If we commune with Christ in the Holy Communion, then we eat and drink Christ.  If we fast, then we discipline our body to withstand temptation and live in loving-kindness.  If we tithe and give alms generously, we discipline our worldly life, submit ourself to our mighty God, and provide support for our Holy Church.  If we keep the Church’s law of marriage, remaining chaste in all our relations, then we discipline our bodies and temper our unruly passions.  If we examine our conscience and confess our sins, we keep ourselves squared-away and devoted to our Lord.

If you aren’t doing the basics required of you, then don’t fiddle around with trying to make up for it.  Do not worry about taking on additional fasts if you live in fornication.  Do not worry about attending extra services if you do not receive Holy Communion at least three times a year.  Do not try to make up in almsgiving your lack of soulful confession of sins.  Like good soldiers, good Christians must live out the basics before moving on to more advanced parts.  If you do not confess your sins, then you are not ready to teach.  If you do not attend Mass, you are not ready for Holy Orders.  If you do not fast, then you are not ready to govern.

A Christian without holy discipline is a Christian just waiting to wander out into sin without even realizing it.

I would rather us cancel Tuesday night prayer, supper, and Bible study and have every single one of us prayerfully examine our consciences every single day and confess our sins.

I would rather us cancel the Blessing of the Animals, Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, along with every special event and have every single one of us worship God in the Holy Mass every single Sunday without fail.

I would rather us cancel Sunday School and have every single one of us tithe as able and give alms.

I would rather us give up coffee hour and have every single one of us stay purely chaste in sexual holiness.

But there are no trade-offs like these.  We will keep our calendar the way it is, but we must remember that opening our lives up to Christ and following Him all the way to our own Calvary is not an option, that believing the fullness of the Gospel is not an option, that living a devoted, loving, and disciplined Christian life is not an option – these are essential.  Because in the end, nothing, nothing under Heaven, no, nothing at all shall separate you from the love of Christ.


“MY brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

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

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“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

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


In our modern era, we expect the boundaries of knowledge to push further and further out.  The NEAR Shoemaker probe actually landed on an asteroid.  The Huygens probe landed on Saturn’s moon Titan.  Our rovers on Mars have tremendously expanded our knowledge of our neighboring planet.  Our submarines have discovered the resting place of the Titanic and dived to the deepest part of the ocean.  Mathematics, biology, and physics all more closely describe the natural world in which we live.  Engineering marvels abound.  We are so used to hearing of new discoveries that we hardly pay attention anymore.

But as limitless as this new knowledge seems, it shrinks in comparison to the Maker of our world and all that is therein, he who created all that is from nothing.  The beautiful natural order we discover was first marvelously wrought by God.  Without his creating all these things, they would not be there for us to discover little bit by little bit.  As seemingly infinite are our discoveries, they are but the design of our truly infinite God.

But God did not merely make his creation and then stand idly by, as many of our Eighteenth-Century forebears thought.  God made another kind of progress – a truer kind of progress, if you will – a progress from death into life, a progress from sin into holiness, a progress from dark ignorance to the full light of truth.

Our bodies decay and die.  Our science has taught us so much about the ways our bodies break down.  But what natural science cannot tell us is what comes after.  Our Bible does not tell us the many ways of cancer in our bodies.  But it does tell us about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who came down from Heaven and became one of us, Who died on the Cross and rose again, defeating eternal death once and for all.  God’s plans for us far exceed our aging bodies and diminishing number of friends.  God’s plans for us include life forevermore.

“Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” means that God’s work is constant and exceeds our imaginations and our desires.  God’s work in us is but a small taste of the work God is doing in the universe around us, both amongst other men and in the physical and supernatural universe which do not see.

Life in eternity is different than life here.  I don’t know exactly what it will be like, but it will be different than here.  Our lives here, struggling with sin, learning to love one another, learning to believe in Christ, are a preparation for the wonders to come.  Christ’s love for us, even when we did not deserve it, is a sign, a foretaste of what everlasting life in the presence of God will be like.  We cannot begin to plumb the depths of such life.

Father Theodore O. Wedel said that “A personal relationship with the forgiving God is the privilege of each member.”  In Christ, we come to know God.  God knows us more and loves us more than the sparrows of the air.  Therefore, we should “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews iv.16).  Likewise, as mutual members of Christ’s Body, we may ‘come boldly unto’ each other.  We are brothers and sisters together.  We are not just calling each other that for the duration of our service here on Earth, like brothers in arms.  We are speaking of eternity, unto ages of ages.  Amen.  In Christ, we remain brothers and sisters one to another permanently.

If we were true to our Savior, the world would stand silently in awe of our love of each other.  I know most of you.  I have been here for a year now.  When you think that you are mouthing off in private, sometimes father is watching.  We do not love each other as we ought.  We criticize each other without mercy.  The Blessed Virgin weeps over the way we treat each other.  Christ again sighs deeply over the antics of His disciples.  The Holy Ghost groans.  God the Father is not amused.  We tell each other to go to Hell, either failing to understand that that is a curse beyond all curses or truly hating our brother in our hearts and on our lips.  We vie for respect.  We hold grudges in our hearts.  We conspire with our friends against our brothers and sisters.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  God wants us in Heaven with him forever, but we cannot take our favorite hatreds and sins with us.  We must change.


How are you living your new life of miraculous wonder?  Are you acting more virtuously in your daily life?  Do you trust more and more profoundly in Christ?  Can your neighbors and family bask in the reflected love of Christ in you?  Would a look at your finances reveal evidence that you are a faithful Christian?

Or how about this:  The Duties of Churchmen.  Do you invariably worship on Sunday and major holy days when you are able?  Do you receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at least three times a year?  Do you fast as you ought?  Do you go to our Lord constantly to keep your conscience clean?  Do you tithe and give alms as you are able?  Do you keep the Church’s law of marriage, abstaining from all sexual impurity and nurturing the relationship with your spouse?

If you are not doing at least your minimum duty, then you have concrete evidence that something is wrong in your spiritual life.  For Christ’s Church to show forth His glory, she must be a living body of his.  Her members ought to live lives of faith, love, and virtue.

I have only been here for a year, but I have heard stories of members of this parish who lived lives of faith, love, and virtue.  This week we keep the first anniversary of the death of our dear sister Margaret Staulcup, or her “year’s mind”.  Mrs. Margaret is a wholesome example of an intentional life lived for Christ, a life which showed glory to God in her family, in her parish, and in her community.

I personally knew Mrs. Dorothy Baker and her abiding faith in our Savior.  In ways small and large, she too showed forth God’s glory in her family, in her parish, and in her community.

Unless our Lord returns in power and great glory first, we too shall die.  When it comes your turn to die, will people speak in reverential tones of your faith, of your love, and of your virtue?


“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

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

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“Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

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


Six Sundays ago, the Gospel lesson included the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.  Those two, along with today’s Parable of the Prodigal Son, form the entirety of the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke.  Lost sheep, lost coin, lost son:  These form one common theme of joy in finding that which was lost.

The first parable is the lost sheep.  Hear this:  “And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.  I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”

The second is the lost coin.  “And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.  Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

The third is the lost son.  “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

These three parables show the joy of God when he finds one of his lost ones.


Although we call this the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the central figure is the father, who is a type for God.  He loves unconditionally and shows true mercy when it is not deserved.  He opens his arms both to the repentant sinner and the hard-hearted older brother.  The father loved both his sons even when they strayed from his love.  Indeed, it is the unconditional love of the father for the sinful son that allows the son to return home, to repent and be restored.

The younger brother felt hungry and ashamed when feeding the swine.  We ought not to absolve people of their shame.  It is uncomfortable to let people feel ashamed at their misbehavior, but to talk them out of it in order to reduce our anxiety over it might rob them of the spur needed for repentance.  Papering over conflict does not actually reconcile folks; we as Catholic and traditional Christians ought especially to respect that saving souls is more important than explaining away misbehavior, whether in ourselves or others.  If everything is going to be better soon, then we have no need to actually address the root of our problem – living for ourselves instead of God.

When we sin, we blame our alienation on God instead of on ourselves.  “God hates me.  Why has God rejected me?”  Or worse still, “God would not reject me just because of such-and-so”, with such-and-so meaning following your bliss.  If you put your favorite before God, then God is not your favorite.  You have excommunicated yourself, placed yourself under judgement, and damned yourself.  Do not blame God for your bad behavior.  Do not presume to tell God what he does or does not hold true.  Hearken to Scripture and the Church, for they will teach you about God.

The father’s welcome is immediate and overpowering.  It is not a pardon of offences past; it is an acceptance and welcome into the father’s home and family.  The father committed a positive act, not a negative one.  He did not cancel a debt; he restored a relationship.


The lost son’s realization of the disparity between his current misery and his former life on the farm are the beginning of his repentance.  This turning begins selfishly – his current life disgusts him and he grieves the loss of the life he once led.  From this urge he considers the facts and sees that he has hurt his father, and he regrets his treatment of him.  Without a doubt, the Holy Ghost can prompt the sinner’s conscience so that even selfish thoughts lead to holy thoughts.  God takes us where we are and works to make us right with him.  He knows that we cannot do it ourselves, because to convert and repent requires looking at oneself in a realistic and unflattering light.  This is a tall order, and we need God’s help to do it.  We must be able to criticize ourselves; otherwise we will always blame our moral failures on external sources and eagerly excuse ourselves.

St. Ambrose of Milan encourages us:  “How merciful! He, though offended, disdains not to hear the name of Father. I have sinned; this is the first confession of sin to the Author of nature, the Ruler of mercy, the Judge of faith. But though God knows all things, He yet waits for the voice of your confession….In vain would you hide from Him whom nothing escapes; and you may safely discover what you know to be already known. Confess the rather that Christ may intercede for thee, the Church plead for you, the people weep over you: nor fear that you will not obtain; your Advocate promises pardon, your Patron favor, your Deliverer promises you the reconciliation of your Father’s affection.”

We do not need first feel sorry for our sins to confess them to God, but we must acknowledge them and turn away from them.  After all, we can have most peculiar relationships with our most difficult and fatal sins.  Sometimes we can plainly look at the facts and know that we have to change, that we have to pry ourselves loose from this deadly sin that almost seems like it is a part of us.  Drunkenness can be like this.  Unchaste sexual behavior can be like this.  And those are just two examples:  I cannot peep into your soul and see what your most difficult sin is.  But when we can catch a bit of breathing space and plainly look at our sin, we know that we do not want to live that life anymore; we understand that we are squeezing something unholy between God and us; we understand that we cannot participate in the eternal and boundless love of God if we insist upon keeping this obstacle between him and us.  It just can’t go on.

And so we acknowledge our tough sin before God and turn away from it.  That is repentance.  We turn from our sin, we let go of our sin, we drop our sin, we pry ourselves loose from our sin.  Here we are, grabbing this awful thing tight with our arms, and we are so tired, we are so weary.  Without relief, it will drag us down to Hell.  But with the power of the Holy Ghost, we loosen up our cramped arms just barely enough to drop this awful heavy load so that we can turn from where we dropped it and reach out those aching limbs for our loving Heavenly Father to scoop us up in his loving arms.

This is the toughest battle we will ever fight:  Tougher than the Bulge, tougher than Khe Sanh, tougher than Fallujah.  This is tougher than giving birth, than standing trial, than losing your loved one.  This is so tough that the toughest of us can’t do it alone – and even though our Lord the Holy Ghost does the heavy lifting, even though our Lord Christ does the heavy reconciling, even though our Lord the Father does the heavy forgiving, it is enough to make the strongest of us weak in the knees.  But this is the way to forgiveness, the way to peace.  We have to fight the good fight to win the crown.

We are used to working.  We work and we earn our living.  Read it right there in Genesis; there it is:  “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”  But this is a different kind of work.  Indeed, this is our life’s work.  I don’t care if you are a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker:  Your real job on earth is to get right with God.  He wants you back.  He loves you.  He created you!  Throughout all of history God the Father has been creating and preparing you to come home to him so he can throw you a bigger feast than you can imagine.  He does not throw the feast to woo you back – he throws the feast because he is so glad that you are back safe and sound in his house.  He has missed you in all your wandering.  He wants to run across the fields and hug your neck as you both cry for joy.  Coming to terms with your sins was awful, but this homecoming makes it all worthwhile.  The choicest robe; a ring for your finger.  Man, will he be glad when you finally come home!

We must heed the call of repentance.  One of the six Duties of Churchmen is to keep a clean conscience.  We must examine ourselves for sin, and not just the quick and easy stuff either.  Lurking inside our as-yet-not-completely-sanctified selves is firmly rooted sin which cleverly disguises itself to look like virtue or something inoffensive.  But it stinks to Heaven where God hates it and hates how it is fooling us, using us, and abusing us.  We must carefully and prayerfully expose our souls to God with or without the aid of a priest and acknowledge our sins and turn away from them.  We must do this for the salvation and sanctification of our souls.  We must be ever vigilant to catch creeping sins before they take root in our souls, and when we do find sin, whether habitual or new, we root it out pronto.


Two things to sum up:

First:  Everyone, no matter how proud, lustful, greedy, glutinous, angry, envious, or indolent, who repents is welcomed with open arms by God, and everyone with a soul, however holy or wicked, will be welcomed with open arms here at St. Luke Church.

Second:  We need to turn away from our sins and return to God.  Our Heavenly Father will take care of the rest of it.  He will welcome us in his heavenly home.  The future with the fullness of God awaits us.  But we must repent and return to God.  Repent.  Return.


“Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

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

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