Friday, 30 May 2014

The Ascension of the Lord Into Heaven

In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with the them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”

When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Acts 1:1-11

The period of time, following Jesus' resurrection was an extraordinary and privileged time for Jesus' disciples, after witnessing his death on the cross. Death is Satan's crushing argument, used to destroy people's faith in Jesus and the gospel of life. Jesus exposes the deceit of Satan's argument by appearing alive, with a new and unexpected fullness of life that will never die. The defeated and broken faith of the disciples is restored in this most convincing way.

As convincing as his appearances were, Jesus had plans for an even greater defense against Satan's lies. It would be the Spirit, literally dwelling within the very heart of the believer, speaking the Word of Truth to the one who's faith is under attack. 

And so, this time of appearances by Jesus would end as we see in this feast of the Lord's Ascension. The Age of the Spirit is about to begin.

We might think that if Jesus were to appear to us, our faith would be secure forever. But each time our faith would come under attack, Jesus would have to appear again, and again. Make no mistake, our faith will always be under attack, some times in minor ways but in more vulnerable times, with Satan's vicious severity. 

BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT- which is the bringing into the communion of our souls, the person of the Holy Spirit, is the new Way that Jesus reveals. It becomes the dynamic principle of the Christian Life. Without this dynamic and personal relationship, and the prayer and devotion that accompanies it as an on going part of our faith life, we are little more than fledglings in the nest before talons of the predator. 

In earlier postings, I include a series on the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" (see side column) I recommend these for your review at this time. 

See also Novena to the Holy Spirit (click)


Christ ascended into heaven to send the Holy Spirit on the apostles. Let us join with one voice in praising him, and say,
Send us your Spirit.

Lord Jesus, you ascended into heaven; send us the promise of the Father,
– that we may be clothed with power from on high.
Send us your Spirit.

Your disciples were to be as wise as serpents and as simple as doves,
– through your Spirit teach us prudence and simplicity.
Send us your Spirit.

You are seated at the right hand of the Father; pray for us as our Priest,
– and pray in us as our Head.
Send us your Spirit.

Grant that in every trial we may suffer with you,
– and so be glorified with you.
Send us your Spirit.

O God,
 who restore us to eternal life
 in the Resurrection of Christ,
 raise us up, we pray, to the author of our salvation,
 who is seated at your right hand,
 so that, when our Savior comes again in majesty,
 those you have given new birth in Baptism
 may be clothed with blessed immortality.
 Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
 who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
 one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.
(Morning Prayer, Friday, 6th Week of Easter)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Abide In My Love

Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. During the supper, Jesus said to the disciples: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15.9-11) (gospel May 22)


Take a few moments and consider how this word of Jesus, "... abide ..."  is reflected in your faith life, using these different meanings of the word.

1. to remain; continue; stay
2. to have one's abode; dwell; reside:
3. to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.; to last.
4. to put up with; tolerate; stand:
5. to endure, sustain, or withstand without yielding or submitting:
6. to wait for; await:
7. to accept without opposition or question:
8. to pay the price or penalty of; suffer for.
9. abide by,
    a. to act in accord with.
    b. to submit to; agree to:
    c. to remain steadfast or faithful to; keep:

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Book of Acts, First Chapter in the History of the Church

As the infant Church began to organize & structure, the first thing they did was to replace the apostle Judas. The account is given right in the first chapter of Acts. The qualifications they set for one who could be considered was:
that the person had to be one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles. Acts 1:15-26
The next thing to organize was the establishment of the Order of Deacon. In Chapter six we read:
At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. Acts 6:1-6
From then on through first millennium the Office of (permanent) Deacon remained a viable part of the ordained ministry within the Church. But by the beginning of the second millennium it began to decline in use. At the Council Trent, 1563, a discussion on how to restore this office in the Church began, but at the Council's end, there was no further follow up.

This remained the state of this Office for the next 500 years, right up to our time, when Office of Permanent Deaconate was once again revived. The discussion began in Germany, in the ashes of the 2nd World War. Priests and laity, meeting and discussing, saw clearly that the Church would need much help to rebuild, and perhaps the deaconate would be of great benefit.

In 1962, at the time of 2nd Vatican Council a proposal was presented to Pope John XXlll, that restoring the Office of Permanent Deaconate be reconsidered.
In 1964, the dogmatic document of the Church, Lumen Gentium, had a very clear section on the deacons calling for the restoration on the diaconate."
Four years later, in 1968, came the first ordination ceremonies of deacons since the Reformation — fittingly, in Germany. Several other countries, including Colombia, followed suit, so that by 1970 there were almost 100 permanent deacons around the world.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Winnipeg in 1968 and voted overwhelmingly to ask Rome for permission to restore the diaconate in Canada. By 1969 it was granted. As of 2013 There are more than 40,000 permanent deacons serving worldwide with approximately 1,000 in Canada

Essentially, it is a ministry of service and charity. The deacon serves the Church and the diocese in a designated service in a hospital, or prison, or other forms of charitable outreach. In addition, the deacon is assigned to a parish, as his liturgical base, where he assists the pastor, as needed, in  liturgical ministry which may take the form of assisting at mass, preaching, baptising, presiding at weddings or funerals, or in other capacities within the parish.
As disciples of Christ and members of the Church, a deacon's ministry evolves in response to specific needs and his God-given talents. There are three dimensions of diaconal service: Ministry of Love and Justice, Ministry of the Word of God, and the Ministry within the Liturgy. They care for the disadvantaged, the bereaved, the divorced, the dying and the imprisoned, those pushed to the fringes of society by sickness and poverty, crime or age. Deacons prepare the faithful to receive the sacraments and to carry out their vocations as baptized Christians. With proper authorization they are able to preach, teach, counsel and give spiritual guidance. They assist bishop and priests in liturgical celebrations. They baptize, witness marriages and preside at funerals. Whatever they do, deacons are acting on behalf of the servant Christ. Normally, this service that the deacon undertakes on behalf of the Church is done free of charge and without pay. (From diocesan website - link)
 Many acts of service are performed by non-ordained laity today with the grace God gives them. But as an “ordained office of service” the  Permanent Deaconate is established as an institutional sign, that is visibly present in the Church, given as sign for all of us to see, encouraging us to recognize our own vocation to service in the Church.

Pray that God will continue to bless an prosper this ancient Office in Church today.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Hear My Voice

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize 
the voice of strangers.”

As Jesus spoke these words, people understood well the connection between sheep and a shepherd's voice. It was common practice for shepherds to share the task of guarding the sheep by bringing them into one common pen. One shepherd could guard the gate while the others could attend to other matters.

But how could a shepherd identify his sheep from the others when it came time to collect them and lead them out? It was simple, the sheep were imprinted on the voice of their shepherd and his voice alone. He would simply stand at the entrance of the sheepfold call and only his sheep would respond and come out. 
The text continues:

Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” John 10

The text tells us that the Pharisees, who understood the connection between sheep and shepherd's voices, were not understanding the spiritual message Jesus was giving. Pharisees believed that their spiritual well-being, their righteousness before God was a product of their own accomplishment. By diligently applying themselves  to the prescripts of the Jewish law, they could make themselves righteous.

But sheep are not made secure by the mere abundance of green pasture and fresh water. Their security comes from the protection provided by their shepherd.  It is the shepherd who wards off the predators, the ravaging wolves, the thieves and robbers, and then leads the sheep to green pastures. 

In other words, when it comes to our spiritual well-being, we alone are no match for the spiritual forces that come against us. The only one who is able to stand up against the forces of Evil, that inhabit the hidden realms, is Jesus. We cannot save ourselves.

This site is devoted to learning how to "listen" to the Voice of the Lord, the Good Shepherd. In order to accomplish this, three essential conditions are required.
  1. Choosing, unconditionally, to follow the "Good Shepherd", Jesus Christ.
  2. Remaining faithfully within, the "True Shepherd's Fold", which is the Church.
  3. Imprinting on "His Voice" by the devout practice of a true spiritual life.

  • No one religion can claim to have a corner on truth. 
  • Religion is merely a product of man's construction.
  • It does not matter what you believe, only that you are a good person.
  • Membership in the Church is not required to be a good person.
  • Religion is responsible for most of the conflicts in today's world.
  • The bible is a man-made book, not historical, technically inaccurate.
  • Prayer is talking to yourself. Nothing changes.
  • Science and technology have replaced the need for religious answers.
  • The world would be a better place without religion.

O God,
 who in the font of Baptism
 have made new those who believe in you,
 keep safe those reborn in Christ,
 that, defeating every onslaught of error,
 they may faithfully preserve the grace of your blessing.
 Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
 who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
 one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.
(Saturday, Morning Prayer)

Monday, 5 May 2014

Eucharist Past

Saint Justin Martyr

The following is an excerpt from the first apology in defense of the Christians by Saint Justin, (100–165), describing the Christian liturgy of the Early Church in his First Apology (ca. 150) (Chapter 65):

St. Justin gives us a glimpse into the Mass as it was celebrated in the first century. Liturgical forms have changed over the centuries, with different rites emerging. In our time, we have experienced the changes in the Roman Rite that followed the Second Vatican Council. Here we are able to see the elements that are essential and remain ever present. 

The Eucharist is an indispensable and unifying force which defines the Church, drawing us together around Christ. Without it we would fragment and disappear. The suggestion that one can separate themselves from the Eucharist and still remain a viable Christian is a fallacy that is bring great harm to many in our time. In whatever way we can, we ought to encourage others to gather with us around the Table of the Lord.

The Celebration of the Eucharist

No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.

We do not consume the Eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.

The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.

On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen.” The Eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.

The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.

We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Eucharistic Prayer

Eucharistic Prayer IV
We give you praise, Father most holy, for you are great and you have fashioned all your works in wisdom and in love.
My existence and my life here and now is part of a plan. I have a vocation, a purpose to fulfill. What name shall I give to it, how shall I describe it to another?
You formed man in your own image and entrusted the whole world to his care, so that in serving you alone, the Creator, he might have dominion over all creatures.
My Father created me, neither my existence, nor my time and place; nothing have I created, but everything has been placed under my care for a time. 
And when through disobedience he had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death.
Looking around I see all the pieces of that which I have broken - a prodigal child, should I not be punished?
For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you.
The voice that my conscience heard, a voice never silent, that caused me to look back, regretting, longing, seeking.
Time and again you offered them covenants and through the prophets taught them to look forward to salvation.
Do I remember their names, those who were sent by my Father to find me; who said, "come home", and who taught me about forgiveness?
And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Savior.
How was I to know that I had a Brother too, who loved me. He had a heart of courage that had no limits. He was sent to fight my battle for me
Made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, he shared our human nature in all things but sin.
A man like us, in Mary's arms; needing everything, owning nothing, seeking but one thing, my heart. 
To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to the sorrowful of heart, joy.
What joy filled my heart the day I heard the doors opening, the chains breaking and light filling the darkness that imprisoned me.
To accomplish your plan, he gave himself up to death, and, rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.
Death set the price for my release, His life for mine, paid in full. Did Death think it could contain the Giver of life, Death, where is your sting?
And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe, so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.
Was it not enough that I should walk freely, in this good place, once again? No, for another birth, another life awaited me, new breath was breathed into my soul and I watch even now as I am being born, formed in an image I scarcely recognize; beauty beyond this world.
Therefore, O Lord, we pray: may this same Holy Spirit graciously sanctify these offerings, that they may become the Body and  Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the celebration of this great mystery, which he himself left us as an eternal covenant.
I look up and see the figure of the priest take the bread and wine I carried to this table but it is not he that I see. The hands that receive my offering are marked and I recognize the hands that broke my chains at such a price.
For when the hour had come for him to be glorified by you, Father most holy, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end:
The price was set, an hour had been appointed, the cosmic battle engaged. A new David stood alone with only a single weapon in hand - unconditional love.
and while they were at supper, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: take this, all of you, and eat of it,
for this is my body, which will be given up for you.
I, a mere spec in this endless creation, now hold in my hand its creator, my creator, my Savior, my God. My understanding is eclipsed as I gaze upon this bread, as I take into myself a mystery that embraces me.
In a similar way, taking the chalice filled with the fruit of the vine, he gave thanks, and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying:
take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.
Is there a remedy in all the world to compare with this, that when it passes one's lips they will live forever; a remedy for the disease of sin that infects the heart, bringing death to the soul. As I gaze into this chalice, I no longer see wine, I see life, the life blood that will coarse through my heart, healing the wounds of my sins; giving me life that shall never die.

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