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Homily given 18 December 2017 at Mariner’s Church in Detroit, Michigan ~
Mariner’s Church utilizes the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the King James Version.

Gospel Reading for the Third Sunday in Advent ~ Matthew 11.2-10[1]
“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.”

 Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.  Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created, and You will renew the face of the earth.  O God, You instruct the heart of the Your faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit.  Grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.[2]

220px-St_John_the_baptist_-_Leonardo_Da_Vinci

“St. John the Baptist” by Leonardo Da Vinci

Through today’s Gospel, God brings us face-to-face with St. John the Baptist – one of the most compelling figures in the Gospels.  He was a prophetic character – not just by the auspices and authority of his mission, but because he himself was the subject of prophecy.  From the lips of Isaiah: “The voice of him crieth in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”[3]  Malachi predicts and depicts, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.”[4]  The greatest prophecy about St. John the Baptist was made by the angel Gabriel to St. John’s father, Zacharias, in the Gospel of St. Luke:

Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John… He shall be great in the sight of the Lord… he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.[5]

That’s St. John the Baptist.  Great in the sight of the Lord.  Filled with the Holy Ghost, even from the womb.  Moving in the power of Elias.  And through his ministry, the Messiah will be revealed.  Peoples lives will be changed.  The world will be changed.

Jump ahead some 30 years, and we find St. John accomplished his mission.  The Gospels account for him appearing and announcing the coming of Jesus.  He himself baptizes the Lord, and is rewarded by seeing the heavens open, he sees the Spirit of God descending like a dove and landing on the Lord, and he hears the voice of God from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”[6]

But today, we find St. John in prison.  What landed him in prison was his entanglement in King Herod Antipas’ morality.  King Herod had visited his brother in Rome.  During the visit, he met his brother’s wife and they had an affair.  He subsequently dismissed his own wife, and married his brother’s wife.  St. John became outspoken about King Herod’s moral turpitude, and St. John was arrested for his condemnation.  Unfortunately, St John, will never see the outside of the prison, and will be beheaded for his outspoken judgement concerning King Herod’s sin.

St. John, sitting in jail, reflecting, experiencing doubt and questioning.  “Did I accomplish my mission? Was Jesus really the Messiah.”  He sends word to the Lord, expressing his doubt, “Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another.”[7]

Unfortunately, St. John’s words reveal he had lost his vision, and is questioning the very reason for his existence.  He is struggling with his faith.  The man filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb.  The man who had known Jesus’ righteousness even before he knew He was the Messiah.  The man who had baptized Jesus, and had seen the heavens open, the Spirit descend on Jesus, and had heard the voice of God verifying Jesus as the Chosen One.  The one who told his disciples to follow Jesus, saying “He must increase, but I must decrease because He that cometh from above is above all.”[8]  St. John finds himself questioning his very mission, questioning his very faith.  And it goes even beyond that – St. John’s lack of focus had led him to his current predicament as a prisoner facing a death sentence.  St. John Chrysostom points out that John the Baptist was not in jail for his for Christ’s sake, but because he had become sidetracked by King Herod, and become entangled in a fight outside of his calling.  St. John Chrysostom says John was “silly and frantic” with his loose speech considering his greater calling.[9]

St. John the Baptist could be the patron saint of the American Church.  We as the church have a very specific mission – we have been commissioned by Jesus to continue His ministry, to be His body and His presence.  To continue proclaiming “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”  To continue His work.  Just as with Jesus, The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, His church, because He hath anointed us to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent us, His church, to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.  It is our call, as the church, to proclaim this as the acceptable year of the Lord!  But we have forsaken our mission.  We have become entangled in missions and issues outside of our calling – we have become silly and frantic with our speech, and with our focus.  And not only does our lack of focus cause the mission and testimony of Christ suffer, but our own personal focus, our own faith grows weak due to our distraction from our calling. Is it any wonder so many inside the church struggle with their faith, and so many are leaving, so many saying they have lost their faith?

St. John the Baptist, patron saint of the American Church.

But Jesus reassures St. John: “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”[10]

Today, God is calling us to learn from St. John.  God is calling us sharpen our focus, to return to our mission, to return to our calling.  There are so many causes out there which appear to be good, moral causes – so many things we could do – but we must evaluate all of our actions and our messages in light of our calling.  To understand, as St. Paul reminds us in today’s epistle, that we are stewards of the mysteries of God, and that we must be faithful stewards of the mystery.  In another Epistle, St. Paul challenges us to approach life as soldiers – stay mission-ready and do not get involved in civilian affairs, but remain focused on the mission, the higher calling of the Divine.

Focus we cannot lose.

Distracted we cannot become.

Thomas Merton excites my heart and enlivens my spirit when he says:

The hands of the saint consecrate everything they touch to the glory of God, and the saint is never offended by anything, and is scandalized at no man’s sin because he does not know sin.  He knows nothing but the love and mercy of God and he is on earth to bring that love and mercy to all men.[11]

I hope and pray within your heart of hearts you embrace the mission and calling we have received as the church and as individual followers of Christ.  Everyday becomes a mission. Every moment becomes a chance to show the love and face of God.  Every interaction becomes an opportunity to bring and be the presence of Christ.  This is our call – as a church, and as individuals.  Let us learn from our un-official patron’s foibles, and stay focused and engaged in our call as a Christians and as the church.  I invite you this week to spend time in meditation on Luke 4.18-19 – this is the mission of Jesus, predicted by the prophets, verbalized by Christ Himself, and handed to us by Christ Himself as His disciples.  And it is the mission He will accomplish through us as we surrender to, and cooperate with His grace.

For we are bearers of the divine, and stewards of the mystery of God.

+ By His Grace, in His Strength, for His glory … in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. +

[1] All Scripture is taken from the King James Version.
[2] St. John Paul II’s Daily Prayer.  http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=331
[3] Isaiah 40.3
[4] Malachi 3.1
[5] Luke 1.13-17
[6] Matthew 3.17
[7] Matthew 11.3
[8] John 3.30-31a
[9] St. John Chrysostom.  Homily XXXVI.  Biblia Clerus, Congregatio pro Clerics, Piazza Pio XII, 3-000193, Rome.
[10] Vs 4-6
[11] Merton, Thomas.  New Seeds of Contemplation, 24-25.
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Prayer to Start Your Day

O Master and holy God, who are beyond our understanding: at Your word, light came forth out of darkness. In Your mercy, You gave us rest through night-long sleep, and raised us up to glorify Your goodness and to offer our supplication to You. Now, in Your own tender love, accept us who adore You and give thanks to You with all our heart. Grant us all our requests, if they lead to salvation; give us the grace of manifesting that we are children of light and day, and heirs to Your eternal reward. In the abundance of Your mercies, O Lord, remember all Your people; all those present who pray with us; all our brethren on land, at sea, or in the air, in every place of Your domain, who call upon Your love for mankind. Upon all, pour down your great mercy, that we, saved in body and in soul, may persevere unfailingly; and that, in our confidence, we may extol Your exalted and blessed Name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, always, now and forever. Amen.

“Here I Am” by Downhere

Sometimes Your calling comes in dream
Sometimes it comes in the Spirit’s breeze
You reach for the deepest hope in me
And call out for the things of eternity

But I’m a man of dust and stains
You’re moving me, so I can say:

“Here I am, Lord send me
All of my life I make an offering
Here I am, Lord send me
Somehow my story is a part of Your plan
Here I am”

Set backs and failures, and upset plans
Test my faith and leave me with empty hands
Are You not the closest when it’s hardest to stand?
I know that You will finish what You began

And these broken parts You redeemed
Become the song that I can sing:

“Here I am, Lord send me
All of my life I make an offering
Here I am, Lord send me
Somehow my story is a part of your plan
Here I am!

Overwhelmed by the thought of my weakness
And the fear that I’ll fail You in the end
Oh, in this mess I’m just one of the pieces
I can’t put this together, but You can…

…So here I am, Lord send me
I wanna live my life as an offering
Here I am, Lord send me
Somehow my story is part of Your plan
So here I am

Here I am, all my life an offering to You,
To You,
Somehow my story is a part of your plan
Here I am

Spiritual Occupying

?????????????????“No one who has stood for high values — love, truth, justice — has died being able to declare victory, once for all. If we embrace values like those, we need to stand in the gap for the long haul, and be prepared to die without having achieved our goals.” – Parker J. Palmer

It is true we are fighting the battles for a war that is already won.  “It is finished,” though uttered by Jesus from the cross, was  declared in action through the resurrection three days later.

But the battle still wages.

Paul told us we are called to wage war,[1] armed with “weapons for our warfare”[2], to live life as an occupying force[3]

This is a concept of which I am familiar — life in a war zone as a member of an occupying force.  The mission remains center, the weapons remain at the low-ready, and the soldier remains vigilant – mindful of the fact conflict could break out at any time, and the soldier must be ready to do what needs to be done.

This concept is lost on many Christians today.  Not only have we become lazy soldiers, and not only do we not have our weapons ready and employed, but we are actually becoming comfortable in the culture in which we were sent to occupy and recon.

“When in Rome…” right?

In fact, not only have we forgotten our mission, our calling, and our marching orders, but we have begun to experiment and play with the weapons of our enemies.

I had never thought about it in that light until recently.  Paul tells us that the weapons for our warfare are not carnal[4] – do we realize he is saying the weapons of the other side *are* carnal?

I had to go King James on you for the world “carnal” – other translations use “of the world,”[5]  “worldly,”[6]  “of the flesh,”[7] “worldly.”[8]  Those other translations appear speak more to the idea of carnal meaning  “made by humans,”[9] or being of earthly origin, but the King James may be closer to Paul’s original idea.  The word it translates as “carnal” is what we used to use when we talked about being a “carnal” Christian – a Christian who acts like the world.  They may have “saving faith”, but in every other way they look just like the world – their values, their actions, their words, their attitudes.  “Carnal Christian.”

You don’t hear that phrase a lot anymore, do you?

What has convicted me when thinking of Paul’s call and his insistence that we use weapons that are not “carnal” is that the “carnal weapons” he talks about are actually the weapons of the enemy – sin.  Temptations point the way to the arsenal of carnal weapons – lusts, bad attitudes and motives, hatred, illicit passions – all birthed from the biggest Weapon of Mass Destruction known to mankind — selfishness.

So when I give into sin, I am not only sinning – but I am playing with satan’s weapons.

Maybe a bit of an obvious point — we know temptations and sins come from satan, so yeah — a bit of a no-brainer.  But would we be as quick to give into temptation if we knew the very sins we “play with” are actually deadly weapons?  The weapons being used to destroy the world around us?  The very weapons Jesus died to destroy and disarm?

And those carnal weapons?  When we employ them, we actually use them against ourselves.

We are fighting the enemy’s battle for him — our lives become characterized by the very things Jesus came to defeat.  He came to undo the work of satan[10] — we begin to perfect satan’s work in our lives.

Our values and our works have to remain rooted in love, truth, justice.  If we have an action in our life, or a motive, or a word that does not reflect those three, we need to consider the source.  And while we may never see the reign of love, truth, and justice — they will reign in our lives.  And as battle rages — lives will be touched and saved because we have employed love, truth and justice.

Choose your weapon…


[1] 2 Corinthians 10.3
[2] 2 Corinthians 10.4
[3] 2 Timothy 2.4
[4] 2 Corinthians 10.4 King James Version
[5] New International Version
[6] New Living  Translation
[7] English Standard Version
[8] Holman
[9] God’s Word Translation
[10] 1 John 3.8

Prayer of Padre Pio

ImageStay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You. 

Stay with me Lord, because I am weak, and I need Your strength, so that I may not fall so often. 

Stay with me Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor. 

Stay with me Lord, for You are my light, and without you, I am in darkness. 

Stay with me Lord, to show me Your will. 

Stay with me Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You. 

Stay with me Lord, for I desire to love you very much, and always be in Your Company. 

Stay with me Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You. 

Stay with me Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of Love. 

Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late, and the day is coming to a close, and life passes, death, judgment, eternity approach. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way and for that, I need You. It is getting late and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile. 

Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers, I need You.

Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the light which disperses the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart. 

Stay with me Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to you, if not by Communion, at least by grace and love. 

Stay with me Jesus, I do not ask for divine consolation because I do not merit it, but the gift of Your presence, oh yes, I ask this of You. 

Stay with me Lord, for it is You alone I look for, Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more. 

With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity. Amen. 

ImageLord, from You flows true and continual kindness.
You had cast us off and justly so,
but in Your mercy You forgave us.
You were at odds with us,
and You reconciled us.
You had set a curse on us,
and You blessed us.
You had banished us from the garden,
and You called us back again.
You took away the fig leaves that had been an unsuitable garment,
and You clothed us in a cloak of great value.
You flung wide the prison gates,
and You gave the condemned a pardon.
You sprinkled clean water on us,
and You washed away the dirt.

ImageDevout soul, whether you are writing, reading, or teaching or whatever you are doing — may nothing have taste for you, nothing please you, apart from Jesus.  To the little Infant begotten in you spiritually, give the name Jesus, which means:  Savior, amidst the miseries of this life.  May He save you from the vanities of the world which entice you, from the deceits of the devil which surround you, and from the weakness of the flesh which torments you.

Devout soul, amidst the many scourges of this life cry out:

Jesus, Savior of the world, save us
whom you have redeemed by your cross and blood.
Help us, O Lord our God.
Save us, sweet Jesus, our Savior.
Strengthen the weak, comfort those who mourn,
help the frail and give constancy to the faint-hearted.