~ SO THERE I AM in early May 1995, on stage at the 1945 VE Day event for the entire province, in front of 1500 veterans, family, and guests.. only to realize I’d left my carefully crafted sermon… AT HOME, 45 minutes away. [BRAIN SPAZZ!]
Breathe!.. think!.. I normally wrote out my sermons as I’d speak them, if not for my moderate stage-fright. No time for that.
I start writing it out on a spare piece of paper, hoping the service I helped compose & the other observances will take a few minutes… Phew!
One of the most awkward but most rewarding moments ever, for a young first-time parish minister, proud to represent my grand uncles, my great uncle Gren who died in WW2, and my Grandfather, who served in Burma. Together with the men & women in front of the stage, I refused to fail them all, as they did not fail us.
Current national misleader (and Remembrance Day avoider) Trudeau & his petty minions do not represent or speak for me, or for so many families of veterans, who boldly say, down the years “WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.” Do it.
God gave me enough to preach as I’d intended that day, and I’ve tried to honour the memory of my own family veterans long years since. I also let the vets have their pick of hymns for local Remembrance Day services, without fussing too hard, as some clergy did back then.
When you’re a baby-Christian, verses like the one of Jesus on the cross crying out in Aramaic “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” can really unsettle you. “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But how can the man Jesus, one person with God’s Incarnate Son, be forsaken by… Himself?!
Here’s The Thing
Maybe Jesus isn’t divine?
Maybe he was divine before he was made incarnate by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and then again after He rose again?
What is that about, verse, anyway?
OK, let’s back up. Way up.
After His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the risen Jesus speaks with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus:
“Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” [Luke 24:44]
That is, the teaching of Jesus is that He is the true subject and the fulfillment of the whole of Israel’s history, her longing in the Prophets, and her Scriptures and holy writings. Even the ancient hymns called Psalms are prophetic, pointing to Him; they are His prayer-book, revealing the inner life & meaning of His mission, death, and resurrection.
So when we find out that “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?” is a quotation from the Psalms (22), it helps to understand that Psalm verse– spoken from the cross– is a window into the mind & heart of the dying King Jesus, Saviour of humanity.
The sufferings are real, even down to Jesus feeling that He is somehow cut off, forsaken, in the darkness with no obvious light. Although He is the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world: yet that black avalanche of everything in us that cuts us off from God and one another falls on Him.
After the sorrowful verses, this Psalm is a great dawning glow of hope, faith, and trust in the Lord shines through Psalm 22. After the suffering comes joy. After death is hope. God hears the cry of His Son, the suffering servant (read Isaiah 53), and does not abandon or reject Him, or us as found in Him.
Feelings Are Not Facts
So Jesus felt cut off from God, yet quotes the Psalm to say what His crucifixion & death means, to preach from the Cross, to share with us what it is like to feel far from God.
But feelings are not facts. Jesus was still the man divine, the only-begotten Son incarnate in the man Jesus Christ, one person & two natures. The Word made flesh. God in a man like us.
In some crisis we might say “It’s totally hopeless! We’re doomed!” even as our help is about to arrive, unexpectedly, out of the blue, at the very last minute, or otherwise in time to save & help us. In that case, how truly accurate were our feelings, versus the facts? Feelings must follow facts, else we get lost in a swamp of ever-shifting mirages.
Therefore, to wrongly imagine that “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?” somehow means that Jesus isn’t God (or some other complicated bad idea) shows an ignorance of Jesus, who He was, what he lived & taught, and how the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures & holy writings were ultimately about Him.
There is no deep where God is not, be the night never so dark. There is no fear or sorrow or sense of abandonment which Jesus our High Priest has not taken into Himself, and burnt up in the fire of infinite love in the offering of Himself to atone for our sins, once and for all.
And beyond that forsakenness, even beyond what seems to earthly a final ending of death, Jesus has conquered sin, and death, and hell, and shared with us the eternal & holy life of God, that we might rejoice in Him who is the Lord of the living and the dead, who went on a head to prepare a place for us, that where He is, we might be also, and that as He is in God the Father, we may be in God the Son, sharing the eternal life & Joy of the blessed Trinity in all the saints, in the unity of God the Holy Spirit, forever in heaven.
~ NEVER. NOT once. A crying baby during a sermon is aggravating, but those parents made the effort, and they are welcome, too.
Once in a while I’d pause the preachment, and quip
“Looks like someone wants to preach!”
“I think we have a new choir member in the house!”
“You dislike the sermon? Me too!”
Parents– comforted. Irritated people– reminded that we want young people. Congregation– babies belong, too.
Telling an infant to shut up in a public setting is an unspeakably rude, imperious, snarky & humiliating thing to do to the parents. But we know that such Communist characters as Mr. Sanders only love “The People” in abstract.. actual humans are an inconvenience to their high & lonely destiny, and their glorious plans.
FFS, Bern, who do you REALLY think you are? Oh, right… rich & ill-tempered future dictator of USSRmerica. Whole crowds will be swept off to the gulags, including all the babies counter-revolutionary enough to interfere with the oracles of pure truth which drop from your thin & angry lips. You show us in this little instance who you really are under the faux-folksy wise “Grampa Bern” shtick by which you fool.. very few.
Contrast this with Jesus, the incarnate Word Himself, who said “Let the little children come unto me, and forbid them not. For such are of the Kingdom of God.” ~
~ THERE ARE CLEVER modernist people who make appeal to the simpler days, before Christians got all picky & narrow-minded. You know, like in the horrible narrow-minded so-called creeds. Hippy Jesus & his Dudes just sat around the campfire singing Kumbayah, and thinking clever but vague modernist thoughts, didn’t they?
The Nicean Creed of AD325 was a blunt instrument for a theological crisis that could have ended the Church. As it was, it divided Christianity in the worst crisis of the faith, until the Modernist Crisis of the 20th century in Protestantism & Christianity.
Arianism nearly won. Jesus is “divine”, but only in an honorific way. Homoiousios versus homoousios– like the Father, or of one being/ substance with the Father.
So what? Well, either Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, God & Man, or he’s an exalted kind of superhero, but human in the end. If he’s not God, he can’t SAVE us– if he’s not truly Man, he does not share our nature, and cannot save US. Thus, Arianism is a kind of spiritual and moral heroism, with Christ the holy Hercules showing us the way to try harder. And harder. Jesus can’t save you, so MORE EFFORT!
Arianism was popular, simple, had catchy ditties, most of the popular bishops liked it– but really was a dagger aimed at the heart of Christianity, and our salvation in Christ Jesus.
“The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian.”
~ I WAS IN THE LOCAL ER, in pain & waiting 10 flippin’ hours for tests, when I heard that Notre-Dame de Paris was on fire. Yeah, our Canadian health care system is burning down, too.
Honestly, I just couldn’t think about the fire. This morning, here’s what I commented today on a moving video by the young Canadian vlogger ‘Critical Condition’.
Saith Teh Binks:
“May this loss be a flame in many hearts to remember what we have forgotten, turned from, and assumed would always be with us. Listening to video of certain people cheering with certain words, on the banks of the Seine, makes me furious. Whether Notre Dame was arson or not, other such recent attacks (and murders) in France and around the world by the orcs in our midst, Muslim or secularist, shows the reality of gathering darkness around us– and within us.
Jesus promised us mockery, hatred, and– for some– a cross. He also said “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world… Lo, I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
We live 800 years after the building of Paris’ famous cathedral. When France was still Roman, back in the dying days of the Western Empire, 800 years before Notre Dame was even a dream, St. Genevieve of Paris stood against the darkness, against barbarians, against darkness in the world & of the spirit.. when the whole civilized world was literally beginning to collapse.
Yet out of that darkness? Christian Europe, the cathedrals, the monasteries and books and paintings and high culture.
“For to this end Christ died, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Romans 14. 8, 9.
~ FOR MODERN MEN & WOMEN, losing any sense of Death, Judgment, Heaven Or Hell leads inevitably & directly to man acting as a self-judging mini-god. That leads to warfare, supremacism, mercilessness, and getting away with things. Thence madness, violence, lies, and 2018.
As I’ve been reading about our Western cultural elites, I’m shocked/ not shocked by what the rich & powerful do behind the scenes. Many ordinary people likewise.
But what if there IS a right & wrong? Good & evil? What if we are accountable? Much of ordinary human life is all about distracting us, crushing silence and unsettling thoughts and questions.
What if all desires are known, and no secrets truly hidden? What if our old unrepented forgotten hidden sins have not just dissolved with time? What if the evil whispers shall be shouted from the rooftops in That Day?
What if God is as the Church has taught, and we are a few missed heartbeats & breaths from standing naked & defenceless before His perfect infinite goodness.. and love?
Pray this day for those who have gone before us through the veil, especially our friends & enemies, family & benefactors, and all those who died with nobody to pray for them and with them.
O FATHER of all, we pray to thee for those whom we love but see no longer. Grant them thy peace; and in thy loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of thy perfect will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
REST eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. Amen.
A softer and stupider version of this revolution is pushed in our schools, and many parts of our overgrown government, not to mention in the leadership of many churches and sects. The revolution seems like a good idea, until (1) you actually see what it entails, and (2) you recall that it’s the same bent and failing human nature out of which perfection and utopia will come, (3) “They”, the horrible ones with power, are the same as most of us, if we had their power & opportunities. Salvation comes not via good intentions.
What then? Shall we be enamoured of the old evils, or favour new ones?
~ MY BELOVED Canada has been– longer than the Trudeaus, but sped up by them both– in a long slow fall away from our founding principles, towards every excess, bad idea, and anti-Christian notion on the books.
This sermon is a lovely thunderbolt of warning to awaken, fight, and work with God to stand on guard, keep our land glorious and free. Or fall.
Canada Day only falls on Sunday once every seven years. That’s an opportunity for an upbeat homily about our beautiful country and our many blessings. But not this year—because we need to take a look at some things that are happening in Canada and what they mean for Christians.
I know you’d rather hear a homily celebrating Canada than criticizing it; so would I. But a friend sent me a quotation this week attributed to Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who was not only America’s best preacher but a 20th century prophet. When I read it, I knew I couldn’t deliver a feel-good sermon today.
Long quotations don’t make good homilies, but I’m asking you to listen carefully to these prophetic words:
Humanity in a crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives.
Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because they have no standard outside of themselves by which to measure their times. If there is no fixed concept of justice, how shall men know it is violated?
Only those who live by faith really know what is happening in the world; the great masses without faith are unconscious of the destructive processes going on because they have lost the vision of the heights from which they have fallen.
I don’t think one Canadian in ten thinks we have a problem in this country. And I do think that most of those who recognize the destructive processes at work are people of faith.
But even men and women of faith often fail to understand the heights from which Canadian society has tumbled, because our fall from Christian morality has happened in slow motion—not from one cause but from many.
We could analyze numerous social shifts that are opposed to Gospel values—for that matter, opposed to the values shared by most major religions—but I want to point out three of the most recent.
The first, of course, is euthanasia. Disguised by the Orwellian name “Medical Assistance in Dying,” the legalization of assisted suicide threatens the vulnerable, draws health care workers in to a moral snare, and creates an entirely false idea of compassion. It should not be necessary to remind people at Sunday Mass that assisted suicide can never be the right choice, but our first reading puts it simply: “God does not delight in the death of the living.”
Life is a good in and of itself— God “created all things so that they might exist.” All life is precious; its value is not measured by the so-called “quality of life” or anything of that sort.
We were created for eternity, and it is in eternity that the quality of life will more than compensate for the struggles some people encounter at the end of their life on earth.
Before turning to the second social shift—I should really call these legal shifts—I want to give you another reason for this somber homily on what should be a joyful day. The reason is simply this: law-abiding people, people like us, tend to think that if something’s legal is must be right. Law not only reflects social values, it creates them.
Archbishop Carney once told me that chicken wasn’t subject to meat rationing during the Second World War. As a result, Catholics—who were not allowed to eat meat on Friday—started to eat chicken, since if the government said it wasn’t meat, it must be true.
The second shift is the redefinition of tolerance. Canadians pride themselves on tolerance. American comedians on the late-night shows make jokes about how nice we are. But my dictionary says that to tolerate means “to allow the existence or occurrence of something, without interference.”
The courts have redefined tolerance in numerous decisions interfering with the freedom of people of faith. The most recent may be the most serious: the Supreme Court of Canada has effectively allowed the legal profession to be closed to graduates of a law school where students must commit to live according to the moral norms that were once universally held by all Christians. In the words of the two dissenting judges, the Court has turned the protective shield of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms into a sword.
And there’s not much doubt which group of Canadians that sword will slash.
The third source of sadness on this Canada Day may surprise you, since it’s hardly as grave as the euthanasia or Trinity Western decisions. But as I told you, I’m focusing on the most recent social shifts, and this one’s also current—the court-ordered legalization of marijuana, now enshrined in law.
Just last week, the Canadian bishops issued a statement reminding Catholics of the harm that will flow from increased marijuana use. They cite the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and the Canadian Paediatric Society as pointing out how “the use of cannabis is linked to addictions, depression, anxiety, psychosis, damage to brain development, and lung problems such as asthma and emphysema.”
Although I didn’t use marijuana, I grew up hearing that it was not addictive. That was a lie or at least a huge mistake in terms of what we know now. The bishops rely on modern science and the modern understanding of addictions when they say marijuana “is an addictive substance that will have disastrous effects” for many people.
There was a time when a Canadian who didn’t break the law would be following God’s law in most matters. Sadly, tragically, that time has passed. Only the Creator’s law can guide us now to the good life, and to the righteousness that leads to life eternal.
It is truer than ever that
“Only those who live by faith really know what is happening in the world; the great masses without faith are unconscious of the destructive processes going on because they have lost the vision of the heights from which they have fallen.”
So on this Canada Day, let’s not only pray for the nation, but lift up our eyes to the lofty vision of creation and the human person that is our heritage as Canadians and Christians.
~ YOU SEE IT every day. They. Them. THOSE people. Those BAD people.
One of the favoured abstractions of modern thinking & ideological movements is to passionately externalize all evil, bad intent, failure, hypocrisy, dark deeds, and wickedness only & always to others, and never yourself. THEM.
It’s why a religion which preaches sin, hell, personal awareness, accountability, moral imagination, and repenting/ turning/ returning to God from sin & hell and death is so unpopular to so many people, even some inside the Church.
The One In The Mirror
If you read the Gospel accounts of Holy Week and Good Friday, there is all our human nature laid bare. OURS. Not “Those horrible terrible Bad People Over There”.
As Matt Walsh points out, the horror of the Passion is that any one of us is or could have been scheming Judas, cowardly Peter, sleepy James & John, the fleeing and cowering other disciples; the governor Pontius Pilate; mocking King Herod Jr.; bloody-minded Caiaphas or Annas; hate-filled Barabbas; the justly punished thieves crucified on either side of Jesus.
Of course it hurts. Here is no happy happy false-Gospel. Here is humility, mercy, confession, forgiveness, sympathy, hope. The other way lies hell, hypocrisy, hatred, self-righteousness, cruelty, and bloodshed.
As we wait on Holy Saturday in quiet hope for God’s answer to Good Friday, let our ponderments help us to see how sin, death, and Hell have left their marks in us, our family & friends, our neighbour. Only then can we see with the eyes of his costly mercy; only then receive His victory over sin and death and hell washing over us and through us, making all things new. For He has prayed for us, carried us in His heart, and despite our worst, has done his holy best for us, our friend the God-Man Jesus Christ.
And then tell others about this mighty salvation. ~
Ah, Holy Jesu
1 Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that we to judge thee have in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted!
2 Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.
3 Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.
For our atonement, while we nothing heeded,
4 For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.
5 Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.
Was He The One?
“The Way, The Truth, and the Life”, He said.
How can the walking talking Way be lost? How can the living breathing Truth be silenced and extinguished? How can the joyful and healing fullness of Life– die?
Now, imprisoned in a guarded tomb.
We all hide, numb and stunned– for surely we are next.
He was “The Resurrection and the Life”, He said. So He raised others– who shall raise Him to life again?
The local powers gloat; Rome marches on, with bloody sandals; Annas and Caiaphas have kept their power, and taught Pilate a bitter lesson. The crowds… one day with palms, another with shouts for His innocent death.
All our hopes and faith and trust are like ashes in the mouth; a shattered pillar; the cliff edge of a bottomless chasm. Shall we surrender to despair?…
“On The Third Day”, He said. He purposed this death to fulfill the Scriptures, He told us. Jonah three days in the belly of the whale? His dying eyes– “It is accomplished”, then.. over. Can God’s Son die?
The horrible drama is done. Let us quietly wait, on this Passover day. We cannot now rejoice, or join the crowds, or lift up our hearts unto God. Yet.
Early tomorrow, the women will go and do their work, and finish their preparation of his precious body with cloths and washing and spices. One last act of love….
Let us wait upon the Lord. For we love Him, and trust Him still… somehow….
All creation awaits with bated breath her Risen King.
“The Upside Down is an alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human world. It contains the same locations and infrastructure as the human world, but it is much darker, colder and obscured by an omnipresent fog…. [a] dimension that is a dark reflection, or echo, of our world. It is a place of decay and death, a plane out of phase, a place of monsters. It is right next to you and you do not even see it.” … “Nope. No parallels under here.” (Hilary White)
~ BINKS IS just about to finish ‘Stranger Things‘ on Netflix, Season 1. Must say, I love it.. and it’s hard not to binge-watch it.
No major spoilers ensue below. Promise.
Like ‘The Matrix‘, the hit-show Stranger Things employs that familiar & human sense of displacement, weirdness, that there is an Unseen all around us which sometimes breaks in upon us in our ‘ordinary’ lives. That there is more going on than meets the eye.
In the popular Netflix series, which overflows with references to 80’s pop-culture, there is literally an evil copy parallel dimension called ‘The Upside Down‘, where people can be trapped, and eaten by a monster. The dimensional doorways can appear anywhere and everywhere: the wall of a house, a tree trunk, the basement of a top-secret government lab.
What both ‘The Matrix‘ and ‘Stranger Things‘ lack to make them universal is a spiritual universe above and inter-penetrating the visible ‘ordinary’ universe.. and a clear sense of God & His guiding providence. Sadly, religion plays almost no part in the show, or the lives of the characters.
What ‘Meant’ Means
By comparison, the writer J.R.R. Tolkien repeatedly mentions providence without explicating that it is of the Valar (archangels) and Eru (God). The wizard Gandalf’s own long mission in Middle Earth was a sending from the Blessed Land to fight evil, help the free peoples via suffering and pity, and– ultimately– to defeat Sauron, the dark successor to Morgoth (a fallen Valar, the Satan-figure).
In that Lord Of The Rings scene– which Peter Jackson moves from Frodo’s kitchen to the Mines Of Moria– we read:
Frodo: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times; but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
That ‘meant’ bears a world of significance. Consider.
‘Meant’ is God’s providence, in the world, in events, ‘coincidences’, and via people. The Bible proclaims: “All things work together for good to them that love God.” [Rom. 8:28] Note: NOT ‘all things will be pleasant, easy, and straightforward’.
Remember: Christians serve a Crucified and Risen King, who still bears His (now glorious) scars. No easy path there: take up your cross. Follow, die.
Living Our Double Sight
And there’s another sense of “the unseen dimension”, our own actual “Upside Down”, which tempers our anger and enlightens our struggles. As Saint Paul teaches the Christians of Ephesus, and us:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” [Eph. 6:12]
Any battle with sin, darkness, heresy– in the church and the world, and in our own hearts, is a combination of many forces, many invisible, or acting through us or other people in a greater & darker pattern than the simply human (as bad as we can be).
Exorcists are still busy in 2018. Possessed people still exist– some in politics, and in the Church itself. Even some clergy may be thus.
The Disorientation Is Real
In the current pontificate of Francis, there is unprecedented darkness, division, dishonesty, confusion and discouragement afoot. Papal hyper-loyalists rally ’round the revolutionary throne, throwing accusations at critics and radical (deep-rooted) Catholics who demand the whole witness of the Church to be heard, respected, lived, taught.
Sometimes, it feels as if an UnChurch from some evil parallel dimension like ‘The Upside Down‘ has invaded our reality, and is seeking to proclaim itself as the real, true, and only thing to serve. There is a spiritual war afoot: each of us can play a double part, on earth as in heaven, for good or bad. The darkness is not simply the opposition themselves, nor we only the bright good ones– for humility and reality’s sake, we admit there are brighter and darker forces in conflict within what we see, and in each soul.
Holy loyalty and faithfulness and restraint are good: but we do not honour the Church or her current leadership via our blind obedience, nor forgetting Whom She really belongs to, and Whose Voice she is supposed to obey. His will is not simply to be identified with the novel dictates of people who seem bound to another message, an unKingdom, a utopia of exalted man making himself into a God, his desires and feelings the measure of all truth and goodness. OUR kingdom come, OUR will be done: and yet, even in this, a greater darkness can be felt, seeping through, pushing, ruining, distorting the Church, but also the fever dreams of utopia, too.
Some Christian Basics
That evil unholy being is not some exact counterpart to God, but a created and fallen Enemy, and likewise all the fallen angels and powers under his control. Alone, we cannot defeat such darkness, for we are but mortal and finite and compromised with darkness ourselves. From such, Christ came to deliver us.
Ancient Paganism sought to placate the dark powers; to deflect the ill will of spirits, gods, sprites, and malicious beings of every sort. Animal and human sacrifice was the trading of precious life for benefits, or being left alone.
The Incarnation changed all that. Jesus is become the Lord of the living and the dead. The suffering King Jesus lays bare the plans and pride and shining schemes of Lucifer; He bore in himself our sin, and has already won the victory over sin, and death, and Hell.. yet the long wrapping up of the battle will seem almost like defeat, as the faithful must abide darkness in the world, the Church, the human heart, and in malicious spiritual forces.
But, but– What To DO?
Read the headlines; pray; comfort one another; love the sacraments; repent. Read the Bible & the Church Fathers, and the saints. Read solid blogs and books. Same as it ever was, and there’s no greener grass elsewhere. Cheer up! It will very likely get much worse.
Stay faithful, for God is faithful, and will not abandon us, or leave us weak and comfortless and enslaved to the machinations of the Enemy and his minions, nor to our own sins, negligences, and ignorances. These bizarre times WILL be sorted by God, and by his judgment & mercy, and by better Church leaders and theologians in decades and centuries to come. +
“Lo, I am with you always,
even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
[St. Matthew 28:20]