Sun, 1 July 2018
A meditation on Romans 10:9-10: If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Enjoy the show!
Sun, 24 June 2018
In this (short, Summer) homily for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Fr. Anthony reflects on Romans 6:23; "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Enjoy the show!
Sun, 10 June 2018
It was such a blessing to be back at St. Michael's in Woonsocket. The homily builds on St. Paul's words "there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:11; a wonderful line to remember on "All Saints of [Your Nation] Day") to put the BIG QUESTIONS of the day into perspective.
Sun, 3 June 2018
Sunday of All Saints
Lives of the Saints: every day is an opportunity to learn, and then to remember.
One thing you will notice right away is that the saints were not the same. Some were martyrs, some were soldiers, some were preachers, some were bakers, some were known for their fasting, others for their courage, others for their patience, others for their charity. Some for their piety and others for their dedication.
This is encouraging because we are not all the same. The call to sainthood is not a call to become exactly the same. Growing up, many of us had Mother Theresa as a great example of sainthood; and she is an awesome saint, but could she have been a warrior saint? She certainly had the tenacity and courage, but did she have the physical strength?
Saints are all different because people are all different. Society's need for variation does not go away as it becomes more holy. The Church is the new humanity – the old humanity restored through Christ. But the new humanity still needs to eat, so it has to have virtuous farmers and bakers; it still needs protection so it has to have virtuous soldiers and police; it still needs to learn about the world so it has to have virtuous teachers, peoples' needs still need to be identified and met so we need entrepreneurs and investors. People still get sick so we need medical professionals and administrators.
The thing that makes the lives of the saints different is not what they did or do, but the Spirit in which they do it. The motivation of the saint is not greed or fear or power or attention. The motivation of the saint is to manifest the will of God in every moment. To see what each moment requires and satisfy it with virtue.
The moment requires something different from the baker that from the soldier; something different form the child than from the parent.
So the first charge to you, the saints, priests, and pastors of this parish is to know yourself: and especially your vocation and strengths – and work with God to perfect you and your service.
Perfection is not just some kind of warm fuzzy – I've got God living in my heart – but the ability to bring perfect intent and action into the world.
This leads to the second charge: listen to the moment – and then transform it with perfect action.
You won't always get it right, but if you work at it, you'll get better over time. And it is this kind of grace in action that will save your soul and bring salvation to those around you.
Tue, 22 May 2018
Bible Study #36: Ruth
The Book of Ruth
Ruth was a Moabite. Moabites were descendants of Lot. They lived on the East side of the Dead Sea. This history takes place during the time of Judges, about 1300 BC. Ruth, a Gentile, is the great-grandmother of David (and thus an ancestor of Jesus Christ).
Chapter One. The death of husband and sons.
St. Paulinus of Nola. Daughters as a metaphor for The Big Choice. Next pass with eager eyes to Ruth, who with one short book separates eras—the end of the period of the judges and the beginning of Samuel. It seems a short account, but it depicts the symbolism of the great conflict when the two sisters separate to go their different ways. Ruth follows after her holy mother-in-law, whereas Orpah abandons her; one daughter-in-law demonstrates faithlessness, the other fidelity. The one puts God before country, the other puts country before life. Does not such disharmony continue through the universe, one part following God and the other falling headlong through the world? If only the two groups seeking death and salvation were equal! But the broad road seduces many, and those who glide on the easy downward course are snatched off headlong by sin which cannot be revoked.
St. Ambrose of Milan. Ruth as an example for us in the Church. Ruth entered the church and was made an Israelite, and [she] deserved to be counted among God’s greatest servants; chosen on account of the kinship of her soul, not of her body. We should emulate her because, just as she deserved this prerogative because of her behavior, [we] may be counted among the favored elect in the church of the Lord. Continuing in our Father’s house, we might, through her example, say to him who, like Paul or any other bishop, [who] calls us to worship God, your people are my people, and your God my God.
Chapter Two. Ruth and Boaz meet.
Ruth's virtue include hard work and humility; but they worked with grace to bless her.
Romans 11:19-24. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.
Ephesians 2:11-16. Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall[a] of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.
The Orthodox Study Bible argues that the meal Ruth is invited to represents the Eucharist (ft 2:14).
What a beautiful blessing; “And Na′omi said to her daughter-in-law, 'Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!'” Ruth 2:21.
Chapter Three. The Threshing Floor.
St. John Chrysostom. Virtue. Those things which happened to Ruth should be seen as figures. For she was an outsider and had fallen into extreme penury; but Boaz, seeing her, did not despise her on account of her poverty, nor was he horrified on account of her impiety; even as Christ received the church, who was both a stranger and laboring, in need of great good things. Ruth is not joined with her consort before forsaking her parents and her nation and her native land: never was anyone so much ennobled by marriage. Thus the church was not made loveable to her spouse before she had forsaken her prior customs. The prophet says, “Forget your people.”
Chapter Four. Happily ever after.
Ephraim the Syrian. In praise of virtue. Let Tamar rejoice that her Lord has come, for her name announced the son of her Lord, and her appellation called you to come to her. By you honorable women made themselves contemptible, [you] the One who makes all chaste. She stole you at the crossroads, [you] who prepared the road to the house of the kingdom. Since she stole life, the sword was insufficient to kill her. Ruth lay down with a man on the threshing floor for your sake. Her love was bold for your sake. She teaches boldness to all penitents. Her ears held in contempt all [other] voices for the sake of your voice. The fiery coal that crept into the bed of Boaz went up and lay down. She saw the Chief Priest hidden in his loins, the fire for his censer. She ran and became the heifer of Boaz. For you she brought forth the fatted ox. She went gleaning for love of you; she gathered straw. You repaid her quickly the wage of her humiliation: instead of ears [of wheat], the Root of kings, and instead of straw, the Sheaf of Life that descends from her.
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Sun, 20 May 2018
Homily: the Sunday after Ascension
At the end of today's Gospel, Jesus – the Son of God – tells us that He has taken all the love and teaching that His Father – God – gave Him and shared it with the people of the world so that they may have true joy “fulfilled in themselves.”
God wants to give us the skills and power so that we can be good and joyful NO MATTER WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND US. His Son had those skills and that power – He got them from His Father. He was so skilled and powerful that He held onto that true joy even through the many sacrifices He made on His heroic journey, even through His suffering on the Cross.
We need that power and we need those skills because life is hard. It's easy to be joyful, patient, and good when life is all warm and fuzzy. But what about when it's cold and sharp like needles? How long does our patience and goodness last when the thorns start poking into our skin? When the cold and wet has made its way into our bones?
It is in hard times that we learn how weak we are in goodness; we lash out at others – the ones whom we were called to help as the thorns and cold hurt them adding to the damage that they sustain – we or retreat into our shell – making the world even colder and doing nothing to heal the pain of those around us.
This is not what we were made for. We were made to be the heroes that beat back the ravaging thorns; the courageous medic – like Private Desmond Doss of Hacksaw Ridge – who continue to save those in need despite the great risk and damage to their own bodies.
We were made to have that kind of courage – that is the kind of courage the world needs to help with its groaning. The Lord wants all His children to have joy – but He sees that they suffer. So first He gave His Son the necessary skills and power – and now His Son wants to pass them on to us.
What are those skills? What are those powers? How can we get them?
It takes training: the continuous repetition of useful actions.
Part of that training is Confession. Today we welcome S____ and L____ into the Training Academy for courageous warriors and medics of virtue and power.
How does confession work? It keeps us good and healthy so that we can wield power correctly.
The body needs water to sustain itself. If that water is full of good vitamins and minerals, then it's even better.
What happens when we drink dirty water? Soldiers have to keep their canteens and cups clean and drink only potable water. Dirty cup + clean water? No good. Clean cup + dirty water? No good (the cup is no longer clean). Confession is how we keep the cup clean.
Every bit of anger, impatience, mean-ness, jealousy, laziness, and disrespect puts a chunk of dirt into that canteen. You can shake it out on your own and continue to drink from it, but you can see how that might still make you sick. And being sick, you just become more likely to get angry, mean, jealous, and disrespectful – and your cup just fills up with clumps of dirt even faster.
What would you do if your cup was so dirty it made you sick? You'd clean it.
The Lord tells us that He will give us “Living Water”. This is to drink, but it is also to clean.
Thanks to you confession, your cup is now clean. Repentance has allowed God's “Living Water” to wash it out. You can now drink that “Living Water” without polluting it. You can now resume your training, so that you can grow into warriors and medics of virtue and power.
The world needs you to be good. It needs you to be powerful. It needs you to be courageous.
God wants you to be good, to be powerful, and to be courageous.
He has given you your families and the Church to train you and give you the power and skills you need.
May God bless your service to Him for many, many years!
Tue, 8 May 2018
Bible Study #34: Joshua and Judges
Map of Tribal Divisions from bible-printables.com: Twelve Tribes = Twelve Sons = Twelve Places ???
Warming up with some Tidbits from the Rest of Joshua:
On the Varying Inheritances (St. Jerome)
Why did two tribes and a half dwell on the other side of Jordan, a district abounding in cattle, while the remaining nine tribes and a half either drove out the old inhabitants from their possessions or dwelled with them? Why did the tribe of Levi receive no portion in the land but have the Lord for its portion? And how is it that of the priests and Levites, themselves, the high priest alone entered the Holy of Holies where were the cherubim and the mercy seat? … If you do away with the gradations of the tabernacle, the temple, the church, if, to use a common military phrase, all upon the right hand are to be “up to the same standard,” bishops are to no purpose, priests in vain, deacons useless. Why do virgins persevere? Widows toil? Why do married women practice continence? And yet if we repent of our sins, we are all brought to the level of the Apostles.
Joshua 17:13. This is a fulfillment of Genesis 9:27 (props to St. Ephraim the Syrian).
Joshua 17:16-18 (generalizable). For if at last we come to perfection, then the Canaanite is said to have been exterminated by us and handed over to death [through the mortification of the flesh]... to clear the woodland that is in us means cutting useless and unfruitful trees out of us so as to renew it so that we can reap fruit “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mt 13:8,23) from it. (Origin)
Joshua 20:1-9. The refugee cities. The length of the sentence only makes sense as a prophecy of Christ . (St. Ambrose of Milan). St. Jerome points out that sins committed in ignorance are still sinful.
Joshua 22:32-34. The purpose of the temple is suspected, clarified, then celebrated.
Joshua 24:12. God used wasps?! (St. Augustine gives literal and symbolic meanings)
Joshua 23: 12, 13 & 16. Joshua warns the people vs. intermarriage (do you remember Balaam?).
Joshua 24: 14-28. Joshua warns the people about idolatry. What does the stone symbolize?
[A Note on Bashan and the giants of the coast? Maybe later.]
Judges 2. A summary of what is to come.
From St. John Cassius (on why the conquest was not done by God all at once).
And if we may illustrate the incomparable mercy of our Creator from something earthly, not as being equal in kindness but as an illustration of mercy: if a tender and anxious nurse carries an infant in her bosom for a long time in order sometime to teach it to walk, and first allows it to crawl, then supports it that by the aid of her right hand it may lean on its alternate steps, presently leaves it for a little and if she sees it tottering at all, catches hold of it and grabs at it when falling, when down picks it up, and either shields it from a fall or allows it to fall lightly, and sets it up again after a tumble, but when she has brought it up to boyhood or the strength of youth or early manhood, lays upon it some burdens or labors by which it may be not overwhelmed but exercised, and allows it to vie with those of its own age; how much more does the heavenly Father of all know whom to carry in the bosom of his grace, whom to train to virtue in his sight by the exercise of free will, and yet he helps him in his efforts, hears him when he calls, leaves him not when he seeks him, and sometimes snatches him from peril even without his knowing it.
Ending prayer/hymn: Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem! / The glory of the Lord has shone on thee. / Exult now, and be glad, O Zion! / Be radiant, O pure Theotokos, / in the Resurrection of thy Son!
Next Week: Let's meet some Judges!!!
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Heiser, M. S. (2015). The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (First Edition, p. 205). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. Chapter 25.
Sun, 6 May 2018
Homily on Sowing
The metaphor of agriculture.
1 (Introduction). You have to reap when the crop is ready. If it's ready and you don't reap it – what happens?
2. (The Word) The Samaritans were a crop that was ready for the harvest.
St. Cyril of Alexandria
The spiritual sowing indicates those who tilled beforehand by the voice of the prophets. The multitude of spiritual ears is those brought to the faith that is shown through Christ. But the harvest is white, in other words, already ripe for faith, and confirmed toward a godly life. But the sickle of the reaper is the glittering and sharp word of the apostle, cutting away the hearers from the worship according to the law and transferring them to the floor, that is, to the church of God. There, they are bruised and pressed by good works and shall be set forth as pure wheat worthy of the divine harvest.
It is important to realize that if Christ and the apostles did not reap the harvest, then these people – and their souls - would be lost
3. (Conclusion – the Application) The world is the field of the Lord; the Church is the place where the transformation of wheat into the Living Bread occurs.
In today's Gospel, the Lord shows how this work is done. It is work we are called to. If we don't do it – if we as a parish and we as believers – don't give our time connecting with the Samaritans and Hellenists of our time – then they will be lost. And us? We will have failed in the One Thing the Lord commanded us to do and we will be worse than lost.
Let us now commit ourselves to the transformation of ourselves into the children of God so that we may become the evangelists of that transformation – the ones that plant, tend, and gather - and this parish into the place where the gathered souls are themselves transformed.
Sun, 29 April 2018
Sunday of the Paralytic
Prologue: the Gospel only makes sense within its context.
Rules for living well:
The paralytic exhibits this way of life:
How is it even possible not to sin? It only makes sense within the context of Gospel: the Lord had the power to forgive sins, because He knew we would continue to sin even after He ascended into glory at the Ascension, He gave that power to the ministers of the Church;
“Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20: 21-23).
The paralytic was doing the best he could; Christ offered Him a better way that would not only heal him, but provided for his continual improvement.
We have to follow his example. We are trying hard to live a good life, but is it really the best we can do? Christ is offering the real path – our attempt to improve our lives should include listening to Him and following His instructions. When we mess up – and we will mess up – He has offered a way for us to recover and get back on track: we have to own our mistakes, repent, and get right back on track.
Tue, 24 April 2018
Bible Study #32: The Curse of Jericho
Warm up question:
The Curse of Jericho
From Origen. Don't Pollute the Faith.
This is what John also sounds with the trumpet of his epistle, saying, “Do not love the world or the things that are in the world.” And likewise Paul: “Do not,” he says, “be conformed to this world.” For those who do these things accept what is anathema. But also those introduce anathema into the churches who, for example, celebrate the solemnities of the nations even though they are Christians. Those who eagerly seek the lives and deeds of humans from the courses of the stars, who inquire of the flight of birds and other things of this type that were observed in the former age, carry what is anathema from Jericho into the church and pollute the camp of the Lord and cause the people of God to be overcome. But there are also many other sins through which anathema from Jericho is introduced into the church, through which the people of God are overcome and overthrown by enemies. Does not the apostle also teach these same things when he says, “A little leaven spoils the whole lump”?
Notice that the “solemnities of the nations” seem to be rituals associated with old gods. The dialogue about what previous symbols etc. can be incorporated and blessed and what can't is always interesting. For the Jews there were two mechanisms involved: 1) intentionally breaking commands that *God Himself* had given and 2) doing rituals and holding onto idols of foreign gods.
A Reminder on the Concept of Herem (taboo).
Joshua 7:1-5. What Happened at Ai – Episode I.
From Origin. The Tongue of Gold.
But let us also see what sort of sin this person did. He stole, it says, “a tongue of gold” and placed it in his own tent.
I do not think so great a force of sin was in that theft of a little gold that it defiled the innumerable church of the Lord. But let us see if a deeper understanding does not reveal the enormity and severity of the sin. There is much elegance in words and much beauty in the discourses of philosophers and rhetoricians, who are all of the city of Jericho, that is, people of this world. If, therefore, you should find among the philosophers perverse doctrines beautified by the assertions of a splendid discourse, this is the “tongue of gold.” But beware that the splendor of the performance does not beguile you, that the beauty of the golden discourse not seize you. Remember that Jesus [Joshua] commanded all the gold found in Jericho to be anathema. If you read a poet with properly measured verses, weaving gods and goddesses in a very bright tune, do not be seduced by the sweetness of eloquence, for it is the “tongue of gold.” If you take it up and place it in your tent, if you introduce into your heart those things that are declared by the [poets and philosophers], then you will pollute the whole church of the Lord.
St. John Chrysostom. How Bad for Us?
Where then there is such impiety as this going on, what dreadful calamity must we not expect? And to be assured how severe vengeance they incur who are guilty of such sins as these, consider the examples of old. One single man, a common soldier, stole the sacred property, and all were struck. You know, doubtless, the history I mean? I am speaking of Achan the son of Carmi, the man who stole the consecrated spoil.…
On account of all these things, let us take heed to ourselves. Do you not see these wars? Do you not hear of these disasters? Do you learn no lesson from these things? Nations and whole cities are swallowed up and destroyed, and myriads as many again are enslaved to the barbarians.
If hell does not bring us to our senses, yet let these things. What, are these too mere threats, are they not facts that have already taken place? Great is the punishment they have suffered, yet a greater still shall we suffer, who are not brought to our senses even by their fate.
Sylvian the Priest of Marsailles. How the Taint Works.
Joshua 7:19-26. The Confession and Punishment of Achen.
St. Jerome. Why so Harsh? The same reason that the nations were given over to the sword.
Joshua 8. What Happened at Ai – Episode II. They won. Completely. With tactics.
Teaching Point: Do what God instructs even when the end result is not clear.
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Malul, M. (1999). Taboo. In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible. Brill; Eerdmans.