I’m not going to comment my opinions on this article, although I suspect you all know them, but I do want to bring it to your attention. It deals with the Catholic Church in the United States. I expect many Americans of other churches and other nationalities of almost all churches will see something familiar in it. By George Neumayr in The American Spectator.
The post-Vatican II Church has bred many of her own destroyers. Joe Biden is the premier example of this phenomenon. He is the anti-Catholic “Catholic” who persecutes his own church. He represents a political class of bad Catholics that grows larger with each passing year. […]
The U.S. bishops, as a whole, lack the will to withhold Communion from Biden, even though canon law says that they not only have the right but the duty to do so. Canon 915 “obliges the minister of Holy Communion to refuse the Sacrament” to those in “manifest grave sin.” If Biden’s direct facilitation of the killing of unborn children doesn’t fall into that category, what does?
For decades, dust has gathered on the unused canon law books of the bishops. We are not Eucharistic gatekeepers, they have said over the years, explaining why they don’t enforce canon law against enemies of Church teaching. Such a claim would have come as a surprise to the Church’s first bishops. Jesus Christ told the apostles that the good shepherd watches the gate, lest his flock be eaten. […]
Of course, no such dialogue ever happens. This is the so-called “pastoral” approach that has emptied out the pastures of the Church and exposed the flock to wolves. Future historians may find it perplexing that the most pro-abortion administration ever was headed up by a “Catholic,” but it is not. This scandal was a long time coming. Through laxity and heterodoxy, the bishops allowed a class of pro-abortion nominal Catholics to crop up, from Mario Cuomo to Joe Biden. And even at this late date, even as Biden takes direct aim at the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Catholics, the bishops still won’t take decisive action against him.
Do read it and comment here, this is something that matters to all orthodox Christians.
When I was a child, I always wondered how the day when Jesus suffered murder by the state could be called Good. As I grew up and put away childish things and thoughts, I came to understand the story. It is the ultimate story of servant leadership. It is the story of how God himself came down in the guise of a man, to show us the way. Here’s a part of the story.
And so now we come to the climax. We have seen Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we have seen the Last Supper with its echoing call “Do this in Remembrance of Me”, we have seen the arrest during prayers in the garden.
We have seen Peter, renamed Cephas (the Rock) deny the Christ 3 times. We have seen the trial before the Sanhedrin, and the passing of the buck to the Roman, Pontius Pilate who could find no fault in this man but allowed him to be condemned according to Roman practice.
We have even seen the treachery of Judas, paupers who for 30 pieces of silver betrayed his Lord, soon repented, attempted to return the reward (which ended up funding paupers cemetery), and his death as a suicide.
And so now we come to the fatal procession from Jerusalem to Golgotha.
In one way or another, we will all walk the Via Dolorosa. One of the mottoes I use to keep trying to do the right thing, “No one, not even Christ, ever got out of life alive”. For me, that about sums it up. You may as well do the right thing, you might not get the reward on earth that you were striving for, but at the judgment seat, you will be rewarded.
Here is the story according to St. Matthew:
And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross, and the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew.
And the chief priests said unto Pilate, It should be written and set up over his head, his accusation, This is he that said he was Jesus, the King of the Jews. But Pilate answered and said, What I have written, I have written; let it alone.
Then were there two thieves crucified with him; one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it again in three days save thyself. If thou be the Son of God come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now; if he will save him, let him save him; for he said, I am the Son of God.
One of the thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. But the other rebuked him, saying, Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation; and this man is just, and hath not sinned; and he cried unto the Lord that he would save him. And the Lord said unto him This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli,lama sabachthani?(That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?) Some of them that stood there, when they heard him, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let him be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
Jesus when he had cried again with a loud voice, saying, Father, it is finished, thy will is done, yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and the bodies of the saints which slept, arose, who were many, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, heard the earth quake, and saw those things which were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him for his burial; among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.
Now, remember this was on Friday following the triumphant entry the prior Sunday. How the mighty had fallen, from the crowd’s hero, one might say a rock star, to an executed criminal buried in a borrowed grave in a week.
This was the man many had expected to free Israel from Rome, there would be others for that mission, it would culminate at Masada and in the destruction of Jerusalem and the diaspora. The next ruler of the city, after Rome, would be Islam, contested by the Crusader knights. But until our own time, Jerusalem would not be ruled again by the Jews.
And so the Messiah, the King of the Jews died. The lesson would seem to be not to upset the applecart, to go along to get along, even to sit down and shut up, wouldn’t it?
It’s a pretty sharp lesson too. One of the most cruel methods of execution ever devised by man.
And so, today and tonight the story moves to the Last Supper, a Seder meal remembering that God had set the Jews free from the Eqyptian Captivity, and for us, that is not unconnected, for that tradition moved into Christianity, and has led to the unparalleled freedom we have enjoyed and defended against all others. That freedom is one of the fruits of Christianity, it has never existed except where Judaism and Christianity ruled, and it still doesn’t.
From the time when Christians were the wonder of the ancient world as they disregarded the all but universal practice of leaving unwanted infants to die of exposure to this very day as we fight against the horrors of infanticide whose proponents use the euphemism of abortion to hide their crime. It is all down to Judeao-Christians honoring God’s promise.
But tonight Jesus will go to Gethsemene to camp one last time (in the flesh) with His disciples. There Judas will find his chance to betray the Lord and will take it.
Even the first time he appears, Judas’ name is associated with the betrayal which makes him infamous and immortal in history. We have two accounts of how he met his end: St Matthew tells us he hanged himself in a fit of shame and remorse; in Acts, Luke tells us ‘Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.’ He has become the epitome of the false friend. Why did he do it?
The Synoptic Gospels agree that Judas was bribed. Greed then, 30 pieces of silver; was it for this that the Saviour of the World was handed over to the torturers? John goes further, telling us that Judas ‘was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.’ He objected to Mary using expensive, scented oil to anoint the feet of the Lord, giving us one of the few other insights we have into his behaviour.
I heartily recommend it, Jess does these better than almost anyone ever has. On that same day, on my blog, she was also speaking of Judas, and while you would do well to read the whole post, I’ll give you some of her conclusions.
Judas had clearly had enough. Though the Synoptic Gospels tell us he betrayed Jesus for silver, John gives us the clue that it was Mary’s use of expensive oil to anoint Jesus’ feet which pushed him over the edge. It might, of course, be, as John said, that he had been tipping into the till and helping himself to money, but his taking offence was clear enough evidence of what type of man he was. He was a zealot, a puritan – how dare Jesus allow people to waste oil which could have been spent to help the poor. He, Judas, knew what was right, and he had lost patience with Jesus.
Simon Peter was headstrong, and didn’t always get it right. After supper, when Jesus had said He was going to wash the feet of the disciples, Peter protested and said He wouldn’t allow it. But when Jesus told him that if he didn’t, he couldn’t be with Him, Peter didn’t ask for an explanation, he told Jesus he wanted to be washed all over.
Caiaphas and Judas reasoned their way through to a conclusion based on their own insights, and they saw, as we all do, only so far. Peter also reasoned his way to what seemed to him a sensible conclusion, but the love he felt for Jesus opened his heart and he saw further than he had with his intellect. Jesus warned him that he had been handed over to Satan to be ‘sifted’. Peter declared he never would deny Jesus – but Christ knew what was coming.
As the disciples slept and the Romans and the Jewish guard came closer, the silence of that dark night was broken only by the anguish of Jesus. His time had come.
Tuesday of Holy Week is a day we don’t talk about much these days. There are no special (and memorable) services such as many of the other days of this week have. But it has a drama all its own. For it is full of advice for us and warnings for mankind. Not to mention more than a few parables.
I’m only going to repeat a small part of it, you can find these in any of the Gospels, they are part of the bedrock of Christianity, but this is a specific warning that Jesus gave to the people and his disciples, from The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 23, in the Authorized Version
23 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 3 all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. 21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Audre is speaking today on my blog about a new, more masculine church arising, I agree with her, and here is the foundation of that church, in Christ’s Examination in the Temple. Here is Jesus, both man and God, and the most glorious example of masculinity, no matter the consequences ever seen on this earth or anywhere else for that matter. Take heart for the Master is always with us.
We don’t talk about sin much anymore. It may be because ‘sin’ is an outmoded idea; conversely, it could be that we see so much of it in the world it’s entirely too big a topic to broach. I think both are true.
If we consider sin to be anything that takes us out of the will of God, we’ve all got quite a bit to be nervous about. We don’t seem to spend much time talking about it and even less thinking about it. We should. A little self-examination is good for the soul. The tricky part about looking at our sin is to step away from the tendency to berate ourselves and beat ourselves up over our sin. All we’re really called to do is see it, recognize it for what it is, and do all we can to eliminate it from our lives.
Besetting sin is a main, or constant problem or fault (Merriam-Webster online dictionary). It’s that thing that we do over and over again, sometimes not even wittingly as it’s become so much a part of us. Those are the hard ones to eradicate. It takes concerted effort; a constant awareness and watchfulness and folks tend to be lazy about a lot of things – this included.
The Seven Deadly Sins are pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth. Very little thought is required to understand why these are sins. Pride puts ourselves above others – we’re very happy with ourselves and look askance at anyone who doesn’t quite live up to our own bar. Greed makes us spend our time and efforts chasing after ‘filthy lucre’; the Bible has an excellent reference to greed – go ahead and spend your time amassing all the money and goods you want; you can’t take it with you and someone else is going to enjoy it after you’re gone. We’re told to seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be given to us. That’s all we really need. Wrath – that’s a big one right; one has only to view the landscape of America right now to know the evils of wrath. People are so quick to ire and punish. Frightening times. I’ve never understood envy – wishing we had what our neighbor has, and them having what they do makes them better than we and we want to be better than other people. Vicious cycle. God granted me the knowledge and understanding of envy early on in life; everything comes with a price – much of which I have never been willing to pay. He has given me all that I need all of my life. Other folks have more or better? I’m happy for them; it has no effect on my life. Lust – it’s not just about bodies and sex, folks. Lusting can and does come in many guises and we do well to watch for it. Gluttony. Hmmm … this one is harder. What is gluttony? Habitual greed and excess in eating. We have to decide for ourselves where our limits are. Many people are weight conscious but it seems, if you look at a group of people, there are more weight unconscious. I’ve been there. I’ve been up and I’ve been down and I think that long road is closed now. I feel that it is. But I’ll keep an eye on it and let you know. Finally, there’s sloth. Uh-oh. Does procrastination count? Ok; I seem to have a problem with silverware in the kitchen sink. While silverware is important to everyday life, I find it as exciting as mating socks in the laundry. Or watching paint dry. Maybe that’s my besetting sin?
And then we come to the unspeakables. Those sins we tell to no one. The ones whose memory disturbs us. We all carry them because we are a fallen and broken people. They tend to be the sins we actually kneel to ask forgiveness for. The ones we can never forgive ourselves for. The ones only God sees. It is our job, in our self-examination, to keep an eye on them that they cannot ever be repeated. They make our hearts ache and make us ashamed to face God – but we have to; it’s the biggest part repentance and if we are honest and truly repentant, God shows us again His grace and unbounded love. Hard work. Heartbreaking work. But so completely and totally worth being in His will again. In my mind’s eye, I see the sinner grow and blossom and face toward the Son and bask in His warmth. That’s all of us – every single one of us.
BREAKING: Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed into law a bill that repeals all abortion restrictions & regulations. Worse than NY’s “Reproductive Health Act,” IL’s law allows abortions up until birth for any reason, including partial-birth abortions https://t.co/sOzU3pdPcF
The state already had among the most liberal abortion laws in the nation. The new Illinois RHA does away with things the state’s ban on partial-birth abortion, parental notification of minors, ends the need for licensing abortion facilities by the state, allows non-physicians to commit abortions, and allows for abortion at any time, for any reason, including for reasons of “health” which may include “physical, emotional, psychological, familial” or any other type of “health” the abortionist will accept. And abortionists have made clear that they believe the very state of being pregnant and not wanting to be is reason enough to commit an abortion.
Today on NEO, I’m talking about Pelegianism in the modern world. Here’s a prime example.
The Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, Thomas Paprocki, has issued a decree barring the leadership of the state legislator and Catholic lawmakers who voted for one of the most radically pro-abortion laws in the country from receiving Holy Communion.
He did so with some excellent language describing just how great a sin that abortion is.
“In accord with canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law…Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan, who facilitated the passage of the Act Concerning Abortion of 2017 (House Bill 40) as well as the Reproductive Health Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 25), are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois because they have obstinately persisted in promoting the abominable crime and very grave sin of abortion as evidenced by the influence they exerted in their leadership roles and their repeated votes and obdurate public support for abortion rights over an extended period of time,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki wrote in a June 2 decree.
“These persons may be readmitted to Holy Communion only after they have truly repented these grave sins and furthermore have made suitable reparation for damages and scandal, or at least have seriously promised to do so, as determined in my judgment or in the judgment of their diocesan bishop in consultation with me or my successor,” the bishop added. . . .
“I declare that Catholic legislators of the Illinois General Assembly who have cooperated in evil and committed grave sin by voting for any legislation that promotes abortion are not to present themselves to receive Holy Communion without first being reconciled to Christ and the Church in accord with canon 916 of the Code of Canon Law,” Paprocki wrote.
In a statement issued June 6, the bishop said that “in issuing this decree, I anticipate that some will point out the Church’s own failings with regard to the abuse of children.”
“The same justifiable anger we feel toward the abuse of innocent children, however, should prompt an outcry of resistance against legalizing the murder of innocent children. The failings of the Church do not change the objective reality that the murder of a defenseless baby is an utterly evil act.
So there you go, a couple of Lutherans commending a Catholic bishop.
Sadly, it’s not an extreme sanction, like excommunication which separates one (presumably permanently) from the Church, and it only applies in the Diocese of Springfield. But it is way past time for our clergy to begin to correct the course of these murderous miscreants. That applies to all clergy, for I think not correcting your congregants on such an issue, makes one a participant. I’m not smart enough to know if God agrees with that, but I think He may not be overly happy with his ministers who do not protect children.
My dear friend Kathleen and I had a short discussion the other night on her blog, Catholicism Pure & Simple. It was as such things are both productive and friendly. One of the things we touched on was whether it is appropriate for a specifically Catholic or even a Christian blog to touch on things like Brexit and President Trump.
It becomes almost impossible to shirk the debate when our governments intrude on religious beliefs and practices, such as marriage, abortion, freedom of worship and practice.
And so while CP&S has touched on these matters, I seem lately to write of little else, my self imposed remit is political with an American, and Lutheran foundation. That is part of why I’m rarely writing here lately, while congruent if feels just a bit unseemly, and a fair number of you read my blog as well. And there is no point in dragging my friends into the line of fire to no purpose, and that is pretty easy, as our friend Caroline Farrow‘s current problems with the British legal system indicate.
In any case, imagine my surprise as I’m looking around this morning to seeing Dr. Gene Veith of the Cranach blog working on exactly what Kathleen and I were discussing. He excerpted an article by British author Will Jones entitled: Progressives vs conservatives: This is why we can’t just all get along. British, American, British, American, British, Catholic, Lutheran, who says our problems are different. In any case here’s Gene, with Dr. Veith in bold:
. . .The divide [is] between those who believe the world has a given order that ought to be respected because it makes things go best in the long run, and those who do not believe this and think invoking such order is little more than a tool of oppression wielded by the powerful against those they exploit.
The social order, says Jones, expresses itself in institutions such as the family and the nation-state, along with the ideas and practices that support them, such as sexual morality and the rule of law. Conservatives support them–with religious conservatives seeing them as facets of God’s creation–while progressives find them oppressive.
This conservative respect for natural and social order contrasts sharply with the progressive outlook which is typically hostile to claims of inherent order in nature and society. Progressives tend to follow Marx in regarding such ideas as devices created by the powerful (in Marx’s case, the owners of capital, these days, more likely straight white men) to perpetuate inequalities and restrict people’s freedom of action.
Progressives and conservatives both say they want people to be happy, but they understand very differently what this involves. Whereas conservatives see happiness as emerging from respect for the natural and social order, for progressives almost the opposite is the case: the individual’s pursuit of happiness must as far as possible be achieved by not conforming to the social order. This is because to do so is to become complicit in oppression and to succumb to the ‘false consciousness’ of being happy when enslaved. . . .
Conservatives and progressives differ also in their visions of freedom. Conservatives seek the freedom that comes from respecting the boundaries inherent in the created order. Progressives, on the other hand, aim for freedom from the created order – from biology, from the family, from the nation, from God. As a consequence, progressive freedom has a strong authoritarian bent. This might seem paradoxical, but in fact it follows directly from the progressives’ need to oppose by force the outworking of the order of nature, and to silence those who attempt to point out the problems with this.
So how does Christianity fit with this?
Yes, Christians do believe that God has ordained the family. The “nation-state” is a relatively modern invention, unknown in the Middle Ages, classical antiquity, and tribal societies, but the “state” as some sort of social organization with earthly authorities that restrain evil and protect the good is indeed one of the God-given “estates” for human flourishing (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Also, Christians believe that moral truths are part of a reality built into creation and human nature (Romans 1-2). So by these definitions, Christians will tend to be conservative.
No one will be surprised that I heartily concur with them both, and with Kathleen as well. Here is part of one of my comments to her, which sums up my view pretty well.
As a Lutheran, I would point out that the Kingdom of the Left Hand (secular government) is also of God, although not as directly as the Kingdom of the Right hand. And so our governments on earth are also of concern to us. But while I straddle that fence, you, here, are more focussed. And, in truth, I don’t write much on the other blog for that reason as well, since I find my well pretty dry lately on church topics.
And Dr. Veith ends with this, which is certainly appropriate for us to discuss as well.
[…] The Christian’s hope is fixed not so much on this world, which will soon pass away, but on the world to come–on Christ who has atoned for the sins of the world and who will reign as King over the New Heaven and the New Earth.
Is this right? Am I missing something? How does this accord with Two Kingdoms theology?
I do think Jones’s analysis explains a lot, from our current political polarization to the behavior of people that we know. But does it follow that such extreme polarization is inevitable, that there can be no common basis for consensus and social unity? Is it impossible, in these terms, to have a “center”? How did we as a nation function in years past? Were there different ideologies at work? If so, might we bring some of those back?
Isaiah, like SS, Peter and Paul, knows he is not worthy. “Who, me Lord?” Paul is the “least” of the Apostles, while Peter is sceptical of Jesus’ advice to go back out and cast his nets in the deep. He knew himself to be a “sinful man.” And of course he was right.
Despite Jesus’ trust in him, when he was most needed in Gethsemane he was asleep, and later he lied about even knowing Jesus. In a conscious echo of that first calling, Jesus once more advises Peter about his fishing, and it is that which makes him realise to whom he is speaking. Thrice the Lord asks Peter if he loves him, and thrice Peter affirms it; ransomed, healed, restored forgiven, the Apostle is charged with the care of the sheep. He no longer protests he is not worthy. Why is that?
It is certainly not because Peter feels any more worthy than he had had the beginning; indeed if anything Peter knew he had not lived up to the promises he had made. The contrast here with Judas Iscariot is worth noting.
Peter and Judas both betrayed Christ. Judas despaired of the evil deed he had done and, in despair, hanged himself. He could not forgive himself and he did not believe that forgiveness could be had. His pride told him that there was no remedy for his sin; so he destroyed himself, throwing back to God the gift he had been given. He had not been there when Jesus had prayed to the Father for forgiveness for those who “knew not what they do.” Not had Peter. But there was a critical difference.
Peter, like Isaiah and Paul, had the humility not to let his own pride come between him and forgiveness. We have all sinned, not one of us has reached perfection. How easy it is to hide and evade, and even lie, when we have gone wrong and done bad things and then, when we are found out, to despair. It is as though by going to the very depth of despair we make some sort of amend. But that is to judge as men do, and as with Judas, it can be to put a barrier up to the actions of God’s grace.
There is one odd thing about love; you cannot ever deserve it. Even at the secular, physical level, one cannot make the object of one’s love, love you. One can hope that by paying attention to the beloved, one might receive favourable notice, but one cannot compel or deserve love. Love, like God’s grace, is uncovenanted. God’s love is freely available to us; we did not love Him first, He loved us from the beginning.
Christ came to show us what love will do. He died for us, though we are sinners. A man might die for his family or his friends, or even for a cause. But few if any of us die for our enemies, let along for those whom we do not know. Christ did that because He is God, and we see in His atoning sacrifice a glimpse of the Glory of God; for me He did that?
Peter faced the music, so did Isaiah. Sometimes when we have gone wrong, it is easier ti run away, to take the blames, to become the sacrificial lamb. How much harder it is to face the music and to carry on living.
We are not told what Peter did after the crucifixion, just that he ended up back where he had begun, working the family fishing boats, a sadder if not a wiser man. Perhaps he reflected that it would have been better for all if Jesus had listened to him when he had said he was a sinful man? But, of course, Jesus had listened. He who, alone, knows the devices and desires of our own hearts, knew that Peter had the ability to grow spiritually, if only he would learn humility. Well, that he did.
Peter remained, like us, deeply flawed. He thought that it would be fine to eat non-kosher with Gentiles and did not see why the Jewish dietary laws should apply to all followers of Jesus. But when James and the Church in Jerusalem took a dim view of that, Peter backed away and supported them. It was left to Paul to call Peter out and contradict him. Peter let that happen. He had indeed learnt humility, if not always wisdom.
We are all of us sinners. The moment one stops knowing that, then the way os open to all sorts of sins which come from pride. But today’s Bible passages remind us that sin can have its own pride, and that if our guilt makes us think we are beyond redemption and God’s love, then we need to think again. We have unclean lips and we are a stiff-necked and sinful people. But God loves us, and if we will but receive the message His Son brought to us about love, then all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.
Well after Nicholas’s kind words yesterday, maybe I should share this. This is my traditional Easter Sunday post, although I edited it for today, it remains very much as it was.
That’s the importance of the day. Jesus the Christ is risen from the dead. This is the most important day for Christians.
Let’s speak a bit on the history. You may know that Easter is an Anglophone term for what nearly everybody else calls some form of Pasch. There’s a myth about that, which The Clerk of Oxford does a fine job of debunking.
How was Easter celebrated in Anglo-Saxon England? There’s a popular answer to that question, which goes like this: ‘the Anglo-Saxons worshipped a goddess called Eostre, who was associated with spring and fertility, and whose symbols were eggs and hares. Around this time of year they had a festival in her honour, which the Christians came over and stole to use for their own feast, and that’s why we now have Easter’.
Yeah, not so much, Eostre was mentioned in two sentences by St Bede, the rest is mostly 19th-century fabrication.
The women and the angel at the tomb, from the Benedictional of St Æthelwold (BL Additional 49598, f. 51v)
The reenactment of this scene – the women and the angel at the empty tomb – forms one of the best-known elements of the early medieval Easter liturgy, famous because it is often said to be one of the oldest examples of liturgical drama. To quote from Regularis Concordia, as translated in this excellent blogpost at For the Wynn:
When the third reading [of Nocturns] is being read, let four brothers clothe themselves, one of whom, clothed in white and as if about to do something else, should go in and secretly be at the burial place, with his hand holding a palm, and let him sit quietly. And while the third responsory is being sung, let the remaining three follow: all clothed with cloaks, carrying censers with incense in their hands, and with footsteps in the likeness of someone seeking something, let them come before the burial place. And let these things be done in imitation of the angel sitting on the tomb and of the women coming with spices, so that they might anoint the body of Jesus.
And when the one remaining has seen the three, wandering and seeking something, approach him, let him begin, with a moderate voice, to sing sweetly: ‘Whom are you seeking?’ When this has been sung to the end, let the three respond with one voice: ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. To whom he should say: ‘He is not here. He has risen, as he said before. Go, announce it, because he has risen from the dead.’ With this command, let those three turn around to the choir, saying, “Alleluia, the Lord has risen.’ When this has been said, let the one sitting turned back, as if calling them back, say this antiphon: ‘Come and see the place’.
Saying these things, let him rise and lift up the veil and show them the place devoid of the cross, but with the linens placed there which with the cross had been wrapped. When they have seen this, let them set down the censers which they were carrying in the same tomb, and let them take the linen and spread it out in front of the clergy, and, as if showing that the Lord has risen and is not wrapped in it, let them sing this antiphon, ‘The Lord has risen from the tomb’, and let them lay the linen upon the altar.
This is a dramatic replaying of the crucial moment in the Easter story, bringing it to life through the voices and bodies of the monks. Although presumably the primary audience for this liturgical play was the monastic community itself, it may also have been witnessed by lay people. That appears to be the implication of a miracle-story told by Eadmer, describing something which he saw take place as the ritual was being performed in Canterbury Cathedral in c.1066:
There is quite a lot more at her post which is linked above and recommended highly.
We have often spoken about Jesus the leader, and his unflinching dedication to the death to his mission. On Easter, this mission is revealed. It finally becomes obvious that His mission (at this time, anyway) is not of the Earth and it’s princelings. It is instead a Kingdom of souls.
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
And so we come to the crux of the matter. The triumph over original sin and death itself. For if you believe in the Christ and his message you will have eternal life. This is what sets Christianity apart, the doctrine of grace. For if you truly repent of your sins, and attempt to live properly, you will be saved. Not by your works, especially not by your wars and killing on behalf of your faith, valid and just though they may be, but by your faith and your faith alone. For you serve the King of Kings.
And as we know, the Christ is still leading the mission to save the souls of all God‘s children. It is up to us to follow the greatest leader in history or not as we choose. We would do well to remember that our God is a fearsome God but, he is also a just God. We shall be judged entirely on our merits as earthly things fall away from us. But our God is also a merciful God. So be of good cheer for the Father never burdens his people with burdens they cannot, with his help, bear.
As we celebrate the first sunrise after the defeat of darkness, Hail the King Triumphant for this is the day of His victory.
He is Risen indeed!
And hath appeared unto Simon!
Even Simon, the coward disciple who denied him thrice
“Christ is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon!”
to Simon Peter the favoured Apostle, on whom the Church is built
I thought it would be a shame if this Christian blog did not have a post for Palm Sunday, as I noticed we didn’t this morning. And so I will do a hasty one, drawing on our collective beliefs. The one I have selected is one of Chalcedon’s from Palm Sunday in 2015. My comment on it makes a fair introduction, I think. This was my comment:
“My thinking parallels yours.The sacrifice, of course, hearkens back to the Temple but it echoes down in that far further. If an act, it echoes back to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac to God, and God’s message to him that he will provide the sacrifice, a ram, instead.
The quote in Lutheranism’s general confession is:
“We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone”
The English isn’t as beautiful as the BCP but we have the meaning right, at least. And yes, at my age it is more often “what I have left undone”. Sort of sad, really, it was much more fun to confess what I had done. 🙂”
It will soon be Palm Sunday; Lent is coming to its appointed climax. In Sunday’s Gospel we get the first sign of a something which will become more prominent on Maundy Thursday – Jesus’ fear of what awaits him: ‘Father, save me from this hour’. He would have seen crucifixions; he knew what there was to fear. Crucifixion was intended to instil fear; it was brutal, bloody and fatal. Yet it was for ‘this hour’ that Jesus had come into the world. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us so that He might be raised up as the propitiation for our sins. He died for our sins.
There is this something against which our notions of justice rail. How, we ask, can it be right for an innocent man to die for the guilty?’ What sort of Father, we wonder, sacrifices his son for rogues such as ourselves. Of late I have found praying the Sorrowful Rosary next to impossible; the envisaging of what happened to Jesus unsettles my prayer, and it is only by thinking on what was to come that I get through. But, as St Isaac reminds us, this is an act of love. There were, he tells us, many ways God could have chosen to save us, and by choosing this one, he shows us the extent of His love; I think He also shows us the extent of our sins.
Soon, then, we shall be following the familiar story of the Passion of the Lord, Perhaps its familiarity robs it of its power for us, so we might want to spend more time meditating on it. Every stripe applied to His back is a sin of mine; that Crown of Thorns he bears, they are the sting of my sins; and high on that Cross on Calvary my sins are forgiven, and through Him I am saved from my sins.
But my sins are not banished. By this stage of my life, it is more a matter, in the words of the old Anglican General Confession, of the ‘things I have not done’ rather that the things I have done. That I am conscious of that is a sign of growth I think; but it is also a sign that the journey continues. Words sometimes darken discussion.
I also commented,
“And of course Julian of Norwich, who in her illness also witnessed the scene, reminds us:
Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us—a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching.
or so we pray in this, and all, seasons.”
My thoughts this day echo his when he ends, as I shall, “But the path to the Resurrection leads through Gethsemane and the hill at Golgotha; at times the Cross is too heavy to bear – and save for His presence would be so.”
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