Posts Tagged ‘Massey Shepherd’

“THE Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings”

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


Fr. Massey Shepherd said that today’s lesson describes “the saving, missionary work of the Messiah.”  This lesson from Isaiah is especially important as Christ read it publicly in the synagogue to announce the beginning of His public ministry in St. Luke iv.18-19.  Let’s take a closer look at it.

The 61st chapter of Isaiah begins:  THE Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me;

You can’t chose the prophetic mission; God chooses you.  When God gives a mission, he always provides the means to accomplish the mission.  The Lord does not make a promise that can’t be kept.  Like a priest and priestly gift of the Holy Ghost given in the sacrament of ordination, he who is called is given the necessary things to complete the mission.  St. Paul says in II Corinthians iii.5:  “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;”

Isaiah continues:  because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;

In telling of Christ reading the passage in the synagogue, St. Luke reads “poor” instead of “meek”.  In the early Third Century, the author Origen wrote, “By the poor He means the Gentile nations, for they were poor, possessing nothing at all, having neither God, nor Law, nor Prophets, nor justice, and the other virtues.”  This certainly agrees with the Great Commission, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”  Christ came to preach the Good News to the Jews first, but also to all nations.

Isaiah continues:  he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

The “brokenhearted” are wounded and need healing.  Psalm cxliii.3 reads:  “He healeth those that are broken in heart, * and giveth medicine to heal their sickness.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria said:  “He calls those broken hearted, who are weak, of an infirm mind, and unable to resist the assaults of the passions, and to them He promises a healing remedy.”  St. Basil agrees:  “He came to heal the broken hearted, i.e. to afford a remedy to those that have their heart broken by Satan through sin, because beyond all other things sin lays prostrate the human heart.”  In other words, the brokenhearted are those who are weak and infirm by sin and uncontrolled passions, which is the condition we all share until redeemed by God.

Isaiah continues:  to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

Proclaiming liberty to the captive is associated with the year of Jubilee.  Leviticus xxv.10:  “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”

Sometimes we think that liberty means that we can do whatever we like.  But liberty and restoration to God’s good order are intimately related; we were originally at liberty in the Garden before the Fall distorted our wills.

St. John Chrysostom sees this:  “But the worst captivity is that of the mind, of which he here speaks. For sin exercises the worst of all tyrannies, commanding to do evil, and destroying them that obey it. From this prison of the soul Christ lets us free.”

St. Luke reads “to set at liberty them that are bruised” instead of “them that are bound”.  St. Cyril of Alexandria explains:  “For the darkness which the Devil has spread over the human heart, Christ the Sun of Righteousness has removed making men, as the Apostle says, children not of night and darkness, but of light and the day. For they who one time wandered have discovered the path of the righteous. It follows, To set at liberty them that are bruised.

Isaiah continues:  to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God;

A liberal Protestant who commented on this verse said that the word “Vengeance” here is “dubious”.  But the Venerable Bede did not think so:  “After the acceptable year of the Lord, he adds, And the day of retribution; that is, the final retribution, when the Lord shall give to every one according to his work.”  Salvation and judgement go hand in hand.

Isaiah continues:  to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

Comforting those that mourn is prominent in Isaiah.  When those who came back from the Babylonian Exile returned, they had high hopes.  But what they found was chaos, degeneracy, and sin.  They mourned “in Zion”.  Isaiah spoke the good word of God to them, giving them hope.  And today, these words give hope to those who mourn as well.

The lesson concludes:  that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

“Trees of righteousness” will be what those redeemed and comforted become.  And why? “that he might be glorified”; so God might be praised.


We are glad at the Good News; joy rises in our hearts and out our mouths when we hear and experience it.  We are called to be righteous within the call of the Good News and inside the joy over the salvation which it proclaims to us.  Gospel, joy, righteousness, salvation:  They all go together.

If righteousness doesn’t come after the glad tidings and joy and salvation, then these had no effect.

Therefore, upon hearing the glad tidings with joy, we are to strive for that righteousness which is part of our salvation.  Not that we can do it all by ourselves, but the good news is that we are not by ourselves.  God speaks to us, and we are never the same.  We become a holy people consecrated for God.  We are set apart.  We are saved.  We are joyous.  And being changed, we must love and spread this good news, these tidings of salvation which causes joy and effects righteousness.  Our growing in righteousness, our joy, and our spreading the Good News are all intertwined.  We must grow both personally and together as a holy people, and we must share these glad tidings.  This is who we are.  We are people who are redeemed by God, because God came down from Heaven and became one of us.  We are forever changed when we look into the eyes of Christ.  The holy angels veil their faces to the presence of God in Heaven, but we look God full in the face in the person of Christ our Lord.

In today’s Collect, we prayed:  “Grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives.”  When put to the flame of God’s love, we ignite and become light by which others see God.

Nashotah House seminary has a prayer for those who are trained there:  “so penetrate them with your Spirit and fill them with your love, that they may go forth animated with earnest zeal for your glory; and may your ever living Word so dwell within their hearts, that they may speak with that resistless energy of love which shall melt the hearts of sinners to the love of you.”

When we hear the Good News of Christ and are filled with the Holy Ghost, we simply must pass on what we have experienced.  As Our Lady sings in that great hymn the Magnificat:  “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”  We burn without being consumed by the loving-kindness of God himself.  People will notice!

But hearing the glad tidings, hearing the Gospel of Christ forces a crisis.  You either believe or not believe.  You cannot punt on this decision.  You cannot split the difference or decide not to decide.  And to our shame, many of us did not believe at first.  We humans are weak.  We are scared creatures.  It is a big world and without God we are terribly afraid of death.  Even Churchmen struggle with the little deaths of humiliation and poverty and shame.  This is not good.  This is not right.  But there it is.  Telling what the Lord has done for us forces a crisis in the hearer.  For better or worse, it is done.

And yet, the joy in our hearts propels us to share it.  We tell our friends when we find a really great deal at the store.  We pass on the accomplishments of our children and grandchildren with our neighbors.  We will even complain about the government, about the weather, about our favorite television show getting cancelled.  But people balk when it comes to sharing the Gospel.

I think it is because so much is on the line, so much is at stake.  You can pass up a great deal or a free meal, but passing up eternal salvation is more important than that.  Or perhaps we think it rude to make someone else uncomfortable.  And if we are slapping people around with big ole floppy Bibles, then we’re not really sharing the Good News, are we?  No.  When we share those glad tidings which we have heard, which caused joy to erupt in our hearts, which changed our lives for the better, making us holier, more righteous, purer in heart, cleaner in thoughts, then we have to share it.  We are changed for the better.

I like to tell people how I have improved over the years.  It was awkward “coming out” as a minister when I was younger – people remembered me all too well from childhood.  One of the things I love about my relationship with my wife Angela is that she has known me for a long time.  Certainly not as long as some of you have known each other, but she and I have known each other for our entire adult lives.  And we’re pretty sure that we met and I offended her when we were teenagers.  But when things are difficult and down, she knows that I have grown in Christ.  I’m getting better.  As for me, watching her blossom in the Lord has been a beautiful thing.  Of course I love the Lord, for He has wrought such great works in our lives!  Not that I don’t still mess up.  Not that I don’t have bad days, painful days, difficult days.  Not that everything is wonderful all the time.

But I attest before you and the angels in Heaven that God showed me a “more perfect way”.  Christ has shown me loving-kindness without bounds.  Of course I will stand up and preach!  And when your life has been touched by the Lord, you too will tell of His greatness, His loving-kindness, His overwhelming and gracious forgiveness, and the joy that sings out from your heart.  I’m not saying you have to walk around with a stupid grin plastered on your face.  I’m saying:  When your life is better for Christ saving you, you should speak your mind in your own voice.  You should tell your story, your part of the Greatest Story Ever Told.

If you walk through those red doors which symbolize the Blood of Christ and walk out into the world, you will meet untold numbers of folk in ashes, who mourn, who know all too well the spirit of heaviness.  They long for relief.  They subject themselves to trivial nonsense to dull the pain and take attention away from despair.  They inoculate themselves with false hope so that the return of disappointment does not crush them.

But the good word of the Lord offers them “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness….”  They think that they live lives of their own making, selfishly thinking of themselves, but they, like us, are also called so “that they might be called Trees of righteousness.”  The Revised Standard Version, sounding mighty English, says instead “oaks of righteousness”.

Those mournful, despairing, confused people out there are called by God through you sitting here today that they might be sturdy oaks of righteousness so “that he might be glorified.”  We are made to praise the Lord.  This is the chief and highest end of man.  Why are we given free will, that is, why do we have conscious and reflective choice?  So that we may choose God.

But our wills, our minds, and our hearts are so damaged by the great Fall we experienced that we cannot begin to save ourselves.  “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.”  We are saved by the action of our loving Father in Heaven, who sent His only-begotten Son into the world, being born a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, so that He may save us from death, disease, and sin, by His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and then sent God the Holy Ghost to set us on fire to serve him in righteousness, joy, truth, and most especially loving-kindness.

I want you to commit to two things today:

First, believe the Good News in your heart and joyfully live it in your life.

And then, carry it out into the world and tell of those good tidings.


“THE Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings”

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



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“…the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”

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


Sacraments are efficacious means of sanctifying grace and bring interior sanctification to those who properly receive them.

Three things are necessary in order to worthily receive the Holy Communion:  Baptism, faith, and repentance.

Three things are most helpful in order to more enjoyably receive the Holy Communion:  Confirmation, fasting, and prayerful preparation

Under normal circumstances, the faithful Christian should receive every Lord’s Day, and by the canons of the Church must receive three times a year, of which Easter should be once.

Now, the Eucharist is a derivative sacrifice with no value except in relation to the Cross.  It truly represents and applies the sacrifice of Christ.  Christ’s Flesh is the veil through which we gain entrance by His Blood into the Holy of Holies with God.  We can truly participate in His holy sacrifice “and with Him to enter the Holy Place, through the veil of His flesh, and to sprinkle His blood, which has been once for all shed, on the heavenly mercy seat.”  The sacrament represents to us what Christ perpetually presents in Heaven.

We participate in Christ’s priesthood when we offer ourselves to Christ in worship, when we surrender ourselves freely to God.  We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, like as Christ offered Himself as the sacrifice for us all.

Since Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for all the sins by all men, the nature of priesthood has changed, as there are no more bodily sacrifices to offer.  But we still have spiritual sacrifices to offer.  We have the bloodless memorial of Jesus Christ, which we ought to participate in as often as possible.  Our feeding on His Body and drinking His Blood unites us to Christ in His perpetual offering of Himself to the Father, and we are joined with Him in Heaven in purity.  “We celebrate the Lord’s death until He comes again.”

Each Eucharist has the same priest, the same victim, and the same consecration:  Christ.  The connection between that once offered sacrifice and our earthly Masses is a great mystery.

The Blessed Sacrament is our individual and corporate offering of thanks and praise, of repentance and faith.  We offer both bread and wine to God, but as a symbol of offering ourselves to God.  However, we are unworthy to offer unto God any sacrifice.  We must join our insufficient sacrifices of ourselves to Christ’s most worthy sacrifice of Himself on Calvary.  Our sin, our separation from God, prevents us from making a worthy sacrifice to God.  Only Christ, Who is sinless, can be the unspotted Lamb Who was slain in this great eternal offering to the Father.  This was completely done on Calvary; there is no need for any other sacrifice and oblation to reconcile man to God.  But, to join in this sacrifice of Christ’s, we must be joined to Christ in faith and repentance.  Then, can we fully, if finitely, become united to Christ in this great Sacrament which He gave to us men for our salvation.  Christ’s sacrifice is acceptable; our sacrifice only becomes acceptable when it is united with Christ’s sacrifice.

We gather and eat His Body and drink His Blood because He opened Himself up and gave up His glory which is His by right to become not only one of us, but the least of us, dying the death of a criminal on an imperial instrument of torture and death.  He became the rejected of His people so that He could save the world.  We benefit from His distress, and our only proper response is to throw ourselves on our faces before Him, confess our sins, and worship the King.

When we eat His flesh and drink His blood in Holy Communion, we are first joined to God.  Then, we are joined to all our brethren throughout the world and throughout time who are also joined to God.  This is the mystical body of Christ, the blessed company of all faithful people.  It is only within this context of life in God with our brothers and sisters that we participate in that heavenly life for which we were created and through Baptism we have obtained the effectual pledge.  This limited and finite Church is perfected in Heaven, when we live with Christ and all who are united with Him perfectly.  Thus, this social aspect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the earthly center of all Christian unity and of each Christian’s spiritual life.

The Eucharist is our union with Christ, and the Church is the believers united in Christ.  The center of unity in the Church is the Blessed Sacrament, for it is Christ’s representation of Himself to us.  The Eucharist is Christ’s gift of Himself to us frail folk who gather to worship Him.  Christ gives Himself to us, and He gives Himself to the Father as a sacrifice on behalf of us who wander from the fold of God.  We experience God, creation, and each other more fully when we are united in this Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

St. Paul writes in I Corinthians x.17:  “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”  The celebration of this holy mystery has been connected to the maintenance of the fellowship of believers from the days of the Apostles up until the present day.  St Luke writes in Acts ii.42:  “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

In Baptism we die and rise again to become members of Christ’s Body.  It is a feeding on Christ’s Body and Blood whereby our union and vital communion in Him is renewed and celebrated.  But we do not do this singly or alone.  This sacrament is our common worship of the One Who has saved us and brought us into everlasting life.  It is our common holy life together, and it mystically sustains us in our common fellowship together.  For in this life, we repent of our sins, we grow in holiness, and we grow in love, both of God and of one another.  This holy fellowship is on the road of redemption together, and as such all members of it are brothers and sisters of each other.

Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father occurs perpetually in Heaven, but for us poor men our limited physical participation must be renewed.  Our own personal flaws showcase our need for frequent communion with our Lord Jesus Christ.  We should not just repent once every now and again, but every day.  We should also join ourselves in Christ’s sacrifice not every three months but at least once a week; more often is a greater aid to our wandering and imperfect attentions.

The Blessed Sacrament is known as “the food of immortality, for it nourishes that supernatural thing that was given birth in us in Baptism and which is the pledge of our future resurrection and glorification.”  It cleanses and nourishes the soul, akin to how a healthy meal acts in a hungry body.

Massey Shepherd writes:  “But the humble, lowly act of service performed by our Lord for His disciples may well be taken as a true and searching example of the kind of love of which the Eucharist is the supreme memorial and of the grace of humble charity the Eucharist was intended to nourish in the lives of those who claim Jesus as ‘Master and Lord.’”

It is precisely in His humiliation that He is glorified:  washing feet, dying on the Cross.  The things of God are strange to us, and we must be converted to them, for they are not natural to us.  We will not simply look inward and find God looking back at us.  We will hardly find ourselves there.  However, if we give up our pretenses and titles, our wealth and our position, our opinions and our prejudices, we may look down at the humble work the Lord has reserved for us and find ourselves beside Him.

C. H. Dodd writes:  “Past, present, and future are indissolubly untied in the sacrament.  It may be regarded as a dramatization of the Lord, which is at once His remembered coming in humiliation and His desired coming in glory, both realized in His true presence in the Sacrament.”

Once the elements of the sacrament are identified with Christ, they remain identified until they are destroyed.  So, though the Blessed Sacrament was instituted to feed the faithful on the Body and Blood of Christ, yet it too may be adored and reverenced as truly representing Christ.  This night, we shall move the Blessed Sacrament off our regular altar and take it to an altar of repose for watching and adoration until tomorrow comes, when we feed upon Christ again in the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified in the Good Friday Liturgy.


“…the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”

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

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