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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

“Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

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

 

The Feast of the Annunciation is popularly called “Lady Day”, although it is a feast of our Lord.  The date derives from an ancient idea, that you died on the day of your conception.  Through figuring, early Christians thought that Christ died on March 25th, which meant His incarnation took place on March 25th.  This led to December 25th as His birthday and to June 24th as the date of the conception and death of St. John Baptist.  Despite early medieval attempts to move the feast outside of Lent, the original date prevailed.

From 1066 to 1752, the English held March 25th as New Year’s Day.  Blessed Richard Hooker in his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity during Elizabethan times wrote, “We begin therefore our ecclesiastical year with the glorious annunciation of his birth by angelical embassage.”  For nearly 700 years, New Year’s Day was today.  Can you imagine?

 

Our Lady was a woman amongst men, poor amongst powerful, young amongst those wizened in years, and unmarried amongst married.  She was faithful, but she was the least of the Jews.  And yet, through her faithfulness and obedience to God, she becomes the greatest of all people, men or women, who have ever lived who were not God Incarnate.

St. Gabriel tells her that God has “highly favored” her amongst all other people.  You see, God heaps blessings on those the world despises.  We see with the eyes of this world, of this culture, and yet God despises our order and our values except insofar as they conform to him.  God blesses those whom he finds worthy and not those whom the world bathes with awards, treasure, and honor.  “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” says Christ.  And again He says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”  And in the Old Testament, Isaiah lv.9:  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

St. Mary’s response in great faith made her in the Holy Ghost a vessel through which God the Father poured God the Son into the world.  The Blessed Virgin, though a creature, though our sister through Adam and Eve, became a vital and critically important part of God’s salvation of all the world and all mankind.  We owe a great debt of thanks to her, but she gave it all up to God, and she would have us give it all up to God.  When we submit ourselves to our loving and almighty God, the greatest things in Heaven and Earth can happen.  Again and again, we see in Sacred Scripture God raising up men and women to fulfill his righteous will amongst us.  Since we are created in God’s image and redeemed by God’s Son, we are important.  As obedient to God’s will, we act vitally important.

 

The Blessed Virgin’s obedience did not lead to happiness unbounded.  Remember her mourning at the Cross?  Remember St. Simeon in St. Luke ii.35 prophesying, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also”?  She gave birth, not in the inn, but in the stables.  They could only afford the sacrifice of the poor when they presented Christ to the Temple.  She and Joseph fled with Christ to Egypt to save His life.  She saw the priests and scribes conspire to kill Him.  And yes, she was there at Pentecost as well.  She lived a blessed life, but she lived neither a sumptuous or easy life.

We think that God’s blessing will bring prosperity and joy, but often God’s blessing brings hard, difficult, and painful work.  Death and suffering accompany us on the journey Godward.

Those with easy lives might think they have gotten away with a well-lived life, when they have done nothing.  Those who have faced an uphill battle through trial and tribulation may cry out for a rest, but may indeed have won a crown.

And note that heavenly visits inspire fear and wonder.  We want to see an angel to comfort us and to strengthen our faith, but indeed we may cower in fear upon the sight of one.  We pray for divine guidance, but find that truly divine guidance will lead us into danger and out of worldly prosperity.  Our simple earthly minds cannot fathom nor comprehend the immense and profound wonder that a heavenly being such as St. Gabriel would have upon us.

Never doubt the courage of the Virgin when she placed herself into God’s hands during the visit by the angel.  Such an overwhelming and scary experience for a young woman!  But perhaps this is what our Lord meant when He said that we had to become as little children to enter into the Kingdom of God.  He would have us remain innocent and open to fantastic experience, not hardened and jaded like we had earned every year of our life through hard work and bitter disappointment.

And if anything can happen, then what is next?  Probably not what we expect.  The faithful Christian should have a heart like St. Mary, open to the unbelievable possibilities of Almighty God, our Heavenly Father.  We must truly believe that the Holy Ghost can do all things.  We must truly believe that Christ is one of us and lived a life amongst us.  We must believe in miracles and goodness and holiness and not insist upon having things our way.

 

As we are all brothers of Christ through adoption, and since we enter into eternal life through Christ, so we may faithfully and truly say that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of us all.  Christ saying to St. John from the Cross, “behold your mother”, and saying to his mother from the Cross, “behold your son”, is the symbol of this truth.

Moreover, St. Mary had the Lord inside of her just as the Messiah was within Israel, and Christ came forth from His mother just as out of Israel the Messiah came forth.

As the Blessed Virgin Mary is our mother and as she is a type of Israel, so she is a type of Holy Church.  Through our mother Holy Church, we are birthed into new life.  Thus Christians may call St. Mary our mother as well.  It is as St. Mary as mother of us who through obedience allowed salvation into the world through Christ flips the work of Eve, who though mother of us all, allowed sin into the world through Adam.

 

In the lady parts of our Lady, God the Son became Incarnate Body and Blood, anticipating and prefiguring how this bread and wine shall become the Body and Blood of Christ for us to eat and drink on God’s altar in just a few minutes.  St. John Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb when he encountered our Lord Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  So we bow and kneel before Christ in His Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  And the Blessed Virgin helped make it happen.

If you love Jesus, you have to love His mama, for He certainly did.  If you would love like Christ loves, you would love the Blessed Virgin Mary.  But if somehow you love the Blessed Virgin more than Christ, she would be the first one to correct you and point you to her Son, for she followed Him, and obeyed Him, and was there at the Cross and on Pentecost.

 

The Blessed Virgin Mary shows us that God chooses the weak of this world, shows us that following God can be costly, and shows us that she is our mother as well as our sister.  But most importantly, the Blessed Virgin is the model for Christian discipleship.

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” This is the model of the humble and faithful Christian’s prayer, placing himself under God’s will.

Father Massey Shepherd said that St. Mary is the “perfect example of a humble acceptance of God’s favor and a ready and trusting obedience to His will.  Here, indeed, one witnesses in purest form the self-giving response of a human life to the redeeming purpose of God.”

St. Mary is told she will be the mother of the Son of the Highest, and yet she makes no grand claims.  She calls herself handmaiden, a servant, chosen by another.  How often does God give us something small and we claim something big?  How often do we boast of our station or wealth or knowledge or capabilities when it all came from our good God and we earned so very little of it?  Give God the glory!  We should learn from her.

And then she wishes that God’s will be done, foreshadowing Christ’s teaching of that in his prayer, “Thy will be done.”  The Blessed Virgin teaches us how to behave before our Lord God.  She is the prototypical Christian, our mother by example if our sister by birth.

St. Mary’s “yes”, as well as our “yes”, is only the beginning of a marvelous and gracious journey of faith.  In the Gospel and the mission of the Church, each moment opens with opportunities to follow Christ, obey God, and spread the Gospel.  Like St. Mary, our obedience to God should form our essential identity in Christ.

What St. Mary started at home one day by emptying herself to God before St. Gabriel culminated in Christ emptying Himself on the hard wood of the Cross that dark day upon the hilltop.  We empty ourselves for God, not negotiating and wheedling with him about what pet trifles we might keep.  Jesus says in St. Luke’s Gospel, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

We surrender all to God.  We obey God.  We follow God.  We empty ourselves for God.  God is all we have, for we and all we have come from him.

 

“Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

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

 

 

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From First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians:

“Christ is risen from the dead: and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death: by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Cor. xv. 20.

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

 

I can point to the empty tomb and say that the Incarnate God Who died for our sins defeated death instead and offers us everlasting life in wholeness and happiness.  To which I can hear three responses:  First, life everlasting after I die is a solution tomorrow for a problem today.  Second, a dead man defeating death is absurd.  And third:  Words, words, words.  All that is a lot of words, but what does it mean?

We are not right.  Something about us is wrong.  Even when we mean to do good by others, we fail our friends and hurt our families.  We think about ourselves and our desires too often at the expense of others.  Not even looking out into the world where people leave their parents out to rot in their old age, murder, unfaithfulness, thievery, lying, and envying what happiness others have, our own relationships are not what they should be.

Trust, correcting our errors, and redemptive suffering are the fundamental actions whereby we lead lives of more integrity.  But it is dangerous to trust others.  And suffering without meaning is simply horrible.  Each New Year, gyms reap a harvest from our pitiful failed efforts at self-improvement.  The only way to break out of the wrongness and suffering of our lives and this world is by touching the uncreated goodness which loved us enough to make this universe and ourselves in it.

But here’s the thing:  The principle of uncreated goodness which unifies everything is not a structure, or a concept, or a system of laws, but a person, or rather, a community of persons.  What makes people so different than the rest of the cosmos?  One can list the details, but it is that which makes us persons rather than things or vegetables or beasts.  If we obviously exist in the cosmos, why would the universal thing undergirding everything which is be any less than a person?

This unity which is persons are what Christians call the Trinity, the three in one and one in three.  From this transcendent or heavenly community, that wholeness and the health which is a divine person became one of us to provide the spiritual antidote to the sickness of the world.  And like all such medicines, it takes its time to wend through the system.  Only it wends through the entirety of persons, which honors the personhood of each of them, calling each of us out to trust wholly and completely, to turn from our errors and seek diligently to correct them, to share our burdens and suffering with each other, including with Him Who came down from Heaven.

This is the heart of the Gospel message.  “So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

God is love.  He loves us, so he gives himself to us.  God is three and God is one.  God the Father gave all things to God the Son so that through the veil of His flesh we may enter into the Holy of Holies.  He died, and taking death, defeated it.

The Good News of Christ Jesus is not the story of a heroic soul who risks everything to save his people, including facing down death itself, facing down the powers of sin and evil, only to die at the end of the story.  That would be a heroic yet tragic story.

Each of the four gospels end with His Resurrection from the dead.  If Christ is not risen, then there is no remedy against death.  If Christ is not risen, then we all face ultimate demise.  If Christ is not risen, there is no hope among us except to try to not hurt each other too much before old age, disease, or accident claims each of us.

Christ is risen from the dead.  Christ has vanquished the wolf at the door, the grim reaper, the fear that all this somehow counts for nothing when we look at the grave.  Christ has won the victory.  We have no work that we can do to gain heaven, for all that has been done for us.

In the course of three days, the world turned upside down.  The devil danced on Good Friday as the Son of God the Father cried out from the Cross and breathed His last.  Old Scratch could not tempt Christ to sin in the desert, but he could gleefully accept Christ’s death upon the Cross.  Down to Hell Christ went, where He broke down the doors and let the captives free.  Christ defeated death that Good Friday, which while cruel and horrible to behold, is good because health and wholeness and holiness radiate throughout the cosmos as a result of the one sacrifice once offered on the hard wood of the Cross.

Christ’s Resurrection from the dead challenges us.  U2’s lead singer Bono put it this way:

“[A]t the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one.  It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe.  I’m absolutely sure of it.  And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff.  Grace defies reason and logic.  Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”

In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, the murderous Misfit says,

“Jesus was the only One who raised the dead, and he shouldn’t have done it.  He thrown everything off balance.  If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can.”

The Good News of life everlasting presents us with a crisis.  We can either live for nothing or we can live for everything.  If we choose to believe that Christ’s dead body did not change into a living body, then we have nothing to do but enjoy the few moments we have left for ourselves, eating and drinking for tomorrow we die.  But if we choose to believe that Christ truly rose from the dead, we can never look at life the same way again, for every enemy can become our friend, every crisis can become our victory, and every suffering can be joined to the suffering of our great good God who became one of us and hung on the humiliating tree of salvation for us.

If we believe that Christ rose from the grave, then we are never alone, for we are grafted into the Body of Christ, and every other believer, no matter how peculiar, how weak, or how pathetic, becomes our brother and sister as well.

If we believe that God raised his Son from the dead, then we have everlasting life.  Death, rather than being an end, becomes our natal day into a glorified life without pain, without suffering, without hate, without fear.

Christ is risen!  No matter how unbelieving, despondent, or jaded we feel, nothing is the same.  Each of us has stepped onto the stage of the ageless drama.  Each of us must respond to this singular fact of the destruction of death and sickness and fear.  What shall we do with this?  What shall you do with this?

 

“Christ is risen from the dead: and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death: by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Cor. xv. 20.

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

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“Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”

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

 

When I read this Gospel story in St. Matthew, I am captivated by the Canaanite mother.  Her “daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.”  Since she approached Jesus not as a fellow Jew but as a foreigner and Gentile, she must have run out of options to get her daughter help.

Imagine if you will, this mother 2,000 years ago.  Her daughter is vexed with a devil.  This must be terribly disturbing, for other accounts show that others suffering from this are ravening mad or thrashing about.  That her daughter is grievously vexed shows that she was suffering horribly, perhaps like the man with an unclean spirit running around the country of the Gadarenes in St. Mark.

As horrible as it is for the daughter to suffer it, her mother suffers horribly on behalf of her.  Surely this Canaanite mother must have searched high and low among her own people for some cure for her daughter.  Being from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon by the sea, she no doubt knew neighbors and relatives who dealt with sailors and merchants who provided access for all manner of quacks and cures from overseas.  But she found no relief for her poor daughter.

Can you imagine what would it be like to worry and ache from watching your own daughter suffer grievously being vexed with a devil?  Would you feel vulnerable and naked to this dangerous and capricious world?  What anguish you would feel in not being able to do a thing to relieve your daughter’s misery!  It would make your very soul ache!  You would grasp at any straw if it means she would recover.

When the mother heard of a miracle worker, she dropped everything she was doing, even caring for her daughter, and rushed to fall at His feet and beg.  She cried after Him, saying:  “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil!”

This wondrous man would not even look at her; He answered not a word.  She was a complication and an awkward embarrassment to them all.  His disciples closed ranks around Him and urged Him, saying:  “Send her away; for she crieth after us.”  This wounded mother irritated them; yet she pressed her case.  He would have to either reject her entirely or heal her vexed daughter.

Like the widow who bothered the judge until he gave her justice, this mother of a troubled daughter was not going anywhere.  His disciples urged Christ to get rid of her.  Ignored, she simply begged:  “Lord, help me.”

How her ears must have stung and her cheeks redden when she heard Christ give His reply!  “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.”  She begs for her daughter, and this great man refers to her family as dogs!  How harsh!  What an insult coming from a Jew!

But she perseveres.  She wants only this one thing – the healing of her beloved daughter.  She does not just buckle up and soldier on.  No, she accepts His insult and, using her wits, turns it around:  “Truth, Lord:  yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

I bet that nobody spoke a whisper or made a sound during the silence which followed.

“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

Coming from that place inside herself from which she would rather die than retreat from, Christ hears her faith in Him.  Like the widow of the Widow’s Mite, the Canaanite mother gave all she had, and it was enough.

 

Christ explicitly commends her faith.  Her faith makes her daughter whole through Jesus Christ.  Faith in Christ is again celebrated as the fundamental relationship and orientation of man to God.  This woman has profound faith, and her faith is efficacious.

But this Canaanite mother is not only full of faith, she is full of other virtues we would do well to mark and emulate.

Our own Venerable Bede wrote:  “She had no small measure of the virtue of patience.  Although the Lord did not answer a word to her first request, she did not cease entreating him, but with a fuller earnestness she implored the help of his benevolence as she had begun.”

Yet, I recall what I saw at the hospital last year.  I was often called to the emergency room where I witnessed with my own eyes the immediate and overwhelming care given to the grievously wounded.

The radiology technicians stood out to me.  In the emergency room, they would roll and lift and manipulate people with broken limbs and horrible bloody injuries in order to take good pictures.  These pictures helped doctors make informed decisions regarding patient care which saved lives.  These firm deliberate actions caused great pain to some patients, but these actions needed to happen for their healing.

The word comfort means to impart strength.  Comforting someone means strengthening them.  Comfort can actually be painful.  Healing often hurts, although one is in a better state after the healing than before.

While I cannot understand why Christ would call her and her people dogs in the hour of her need, I can see that once the word “dogs” came out of His divine mouth, then she had a choice to make.  She could either get up off the ground, stop worshipping Christ, and take offense at His words, or she could keep going after her heart’s great desire, the healing of her daughter, and use His words to further entreat Him for her cure.

And so the Venerable Bede continues:  “This mother also had the characteristics of constancy and humility surpassing all others.  When the Lord compared her to dogs, she did not desist from the earnestness of her entreaty, and did not draw back her mind from hoping for the favor of [his] benevolence.  Having willingly embraced the indignity she had received, she not only did not deny that she was like dogs, but even continued with a comparison of herself to young dogs.  With this prudent argument she confirmed the Lord’s statement, but nevertheless she did not rest from the audacity of her request.… She very prudently demonstrated what great humility and what constancy she bore within her inmost heart.”

This Canaanite mother accomplished three great things that fateful day.  She worshipped Jesus Christ in person, she gained the complete healing of her demon-possessed daughter, and she gave us a marvelous example of living with Christ in prayer.

This mother was full of faith.  She was obedient and audacious.  She was submissive and tenacious.  She refused to let go of her entreaty, yet she never dared challenge Christ’s godly authority.  She knew her proper place in relationship to Christ as worshipper, but from that place she did not cease to beg for her daughter’s health.

The mother’s words to Christ were in one accord with the desire of her heart.  Because her whole self cried out to the Lord, she was able to hear His words in profound humility, and, in understanding them rightly, could use those same words to further make her case to the Lord.  She came to Christ with everything she had – her daughter, her love, her humility, her intellect, her wit, her constancy – and Christ responded to everything with which she petitioned Him and granted her most humble and most faithful and most loving and most witty request.

 

We think that we are wonderful in our own right, that we avoid sin and earn God’s grace due to our superior behavior, and that we have every right to stand impatiently in line for Heaven.  But the Canaanite woman of today’s Gospel shows us that one best approaches Christ with deep faith, profound humility, and complete constancy.

St. Paul writes in Philippians:  “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”  Yet we think these words of Sacred Scripture out of the pen of St. Paul to be too harsh for ourselves, though perhaps not harsh enough for others.  We resolutely refuse to esteem those around us as better than ourselves.  In doing so, we damn ourselves.  We send ourselves off to unending and eternal Hell through our pride.  We esteem ourselves superior to God’s Holy Writ because it offends us, it offends our notion that we are little godlings who have the right to lord it over each other, though out of politeness we deign to treat others almost as well as we treat ourselves.

This Canaanite mother had never heard the words of St. Paul to the Philippians, or any other sacred Scripture, in her entire life.  Yet she who was unschooled far exceeds the greatest of us in faith and humility.  This woman, pleading for her tortured little girl, approached the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and begged Him to heal her daughter.  When He calls her a dog, she agreed with Him and turned around and used the word to further make her case to Him:  “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  Seeing such great faith, hearing such great humility, and perceiving such great love, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ healed her daughter from afar, no doubt humiliating His disciples, who apparently needed this lady to teach them about true humility.  Like our great forebears in faith, we too need this lady, speaking to Christ through the ages in the words of St. Matthew, to teach us about true faith and true humility.

The Venerable Bede concludes:  “’It will help the purity of our prayer a great deal if in every place and time we restrain ourselves from forbidden acts, if we always check our hearing along with our speaking with regard to idle conversation, if we habituate ourselves to walking in the law of the Lord and scrutinizing his testimonies with all our heart.  Whatever things we are accustomed to do, speak, or hear most often, these same things will necessarily return to our mind most often as though to their accustomed and proper place.  And just as pigs are accustomed to frequent marshy wallowing places, and doves to frequent clear flowing streams, so too impure thoughts disturb an unclean mind, and spiritual thoughts sanctify a chaste one.  If, after the example of the Canaanite woman, we continue resolutely in our praying, and remain of fixed purpose, certainly the grace of our Maker will be with us to correct everything in us which is wrong, to sanctify everything unclean, and to make serene everything which is turbulent.  He is faithful and just, so that he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from every iniquity, if with the attentive voice of our mind we cry out to him who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for all ages and ages.  Amen.”

 

“Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”

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

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“AND when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.”

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

 

I was ten years old the first time I saw my mother cry.  Her father, my beloved grandfather, the man whom I am named after, had just died.  I knew his dying was bad and I knew that I hated to think of a life without him, but seeing her in tears broke my young heart and, frankly, scared me a bit.  When I read this passage of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and the passage where Christ wept for his friend Lazarus, I remember that heartbreak.  I think, This must be important, important indeed for our Savior, the very Word made Flesh, to shed tears, to weep, over the holy city of Jerusalem.  I must ask myself, why?  Why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem?

With human eyes, Jerusalem looked wonderful.  The city, then ancient, was teeming with people getting ready for a festival.  Holy men were everywhere, food vendors ready to sell to pilgrims, people coming in from the countryside just for the festivities.  But Jesus did not see with the eyes of a mere man.  He discerned that which a human eye left unaided cannot see.  First, He knows the heart of every man.  Second, He can see into the future.  Third, He can see the difference between a false peace and the peace which passeth all understanding.  Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, wept when He beheld the falsity, the arrogance, and the ignorance of Jerusalem.  Some of the people, whom the Pharisees called His disciples, acclaimed Him as He rode to Jerusalem, but the rulers of Jerusalem would have none of Him.  The chief priests and scribes and Pharisees were the smartest men in the room, the best and the brightest, but they could not see that it was the day of their visitation.

As is written in the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John:  “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.  He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

Jerusalem was the holy city, the place of the Temple, where God’s glory on earth dwelt amidst his chosen people.  And the people of Jerusalem did not acknowledge their Lord in heaven come down to earth among them.  This breaks His heart.  Jesus weeps over them, for their not acknowledging Him requires their judgement.

The people of Jerusalem lacked faith, and faith can never be proved, only dared.  We call the Blue Angels and other high-flying aerial acrobats ‘daredevils’ not because they foolishly take risks, but because they know all too well the risks they are taking and yet they take them anyway.  Faith is an act of unspeakable bravery, not an act of unmistakable foolishness.  There are many reasons why believing lacks irrationality, yet there remains no single undeniable proof to believe.  God does not want a few of our brain cells to clack together, working out a mathematical problem.  Instead, he wants our selves, our souls and bodies.

If you cannot trust in God unseen, how can you be able to stand in his presence?  If you cannot stand in his presence, then he has no part of you.  In St. John’s Gospel, “Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”  Faith embraces God.  Faith seeks growing closer to God.

“If thou hadst known”:  Jerusalem did not “get” the wonders of the glory of God, just as we do not “get” them, just as the apostles did not “get” them, just as Israel did not “get” them.  In 1st Samuel, Saul is told to do something and disobeys, trying to improve upon God’s will.  Peter tells Jesus that he would never let Him wash his feet, trying to keep our incarnate God from debasing Himself.  The Christian Jews at first insisted upon covenantal circumcision for new Gentile Christians, trying to make new Christians Jews first.

“If thou hadst known” is followed by “but now they are hid from thine eyes”.  When we go down the road which we ought not to go, we blind ourselves by immersing ourselves in the fog of infidelity, the haziness which lets us think that our own thoughts are best for us.  This is the principle of the spirituality of this age, that we know best for ourselves.  We don’t really need each other, and we certainly don’t need some God who will judge us.  Over and over and over again we decide for ourselves what is best for us, we hush God and go about our merry way into ever-increasing spiritual blindness.

In Romans, St. Paul writes, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  Bishop Mortimer writes, “For by faith, and by faith only, is [man] first brought into living contact with God.”

Like weeds in a sidewalk, open up just a little and give God space in which to grow – he will plant the seed.  Don’t pull the weed, and it will grow and widen the crack in your heart.  With the sunshine of his grace and the rainfall of his love, ere long you will have a burgeoning garden of faith.

How do we help God open up these little cracks of grace in our lives so that faith may flourish?  Regularly attend to your public worship.  Meditate quietly and privately on God’s word.  Pray frequently and fervently to the best of your ability.

Here’s an example.  Say you’re having a hard time and going through a dry spell.  So you say the Creed.  And believe it in your heart as you say it.  Now, if you don’t quite believe it, then want to believe it.  If you feel so dry that you can’t manage that, then want to want to believe it.

God loves you so very much.  God the Father sent God the Son to teach us, share Himself with us, and die for us so that we might live eternally.  God the Holy Ghost is with us now, in this very church.  The things of this world cannot solve the problems of eternity, but God’s things of eternity are available for us freely and generously.  Open up to that heavenly love flowing into you, and acknowledge your God and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

“AND when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.”

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

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