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Archive for May, 2015

1 Corinthians 3: 16-17:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

The “you” in these verses is the second person plural, as “y’all”.  The Church is the Body of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:  12-13) and the Christian’s body. The word “temple” in the Greek is naos which designated the Holy of Holies.  The Temple can be destroyed by desecrating the Temple with the practice of sinning without contrition and repentence. The Corinthians were ‘hooking-up’ with prostitutes and justifying themselves that this was okay.  The ravages of sexually transmitted diseases, though not mentioned in 1 Corinthians, were known back then, and yet pales in comparison to the spiritual ravaging.  Such sin desecrates the Temple, body and soul.  The Apostle Paul is emphatic in his Gospel statement: “…you yourselves are that temple”.  We have been made sacred by the blood of Christ preached into these bodies and souls by the Holy Spirit through the Word of the Cross.  

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6)

“…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1)

Below is a quote from Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” and is a great illustration of the Scripture above.     The quote is from the beginning of the story in which a mother and her daughter go to pick-up  two younger female cousins from their convent school, Mount St. Scholastica. The girls are into boys and clothes and are quite silly.  On the car ride, in the back seat, the two cousins  keep on giggling as they keep on calling each other, “Temple One” and “Temple Two”.  When the daughter and her cousins are conversing about someone else, the Mother has finally had enough with this silliness coming from the back seat:         

                 “…she said, “That’ll be about enough out of you,” and changed the subject. She asked them why they called each other Temple One and Temple Two and this sent them off into gales of giggles. Finally they managed to explain. Sister Perpetua, the oldest nun at the Sisters of Mercy in Mayville, had given them a lecture on what to do if a young man should—here they laughed so hard they were not able to go on without going back to the beginning—on what to do if a young man should—they put their heads in their laps—on what to do if —they finally managed to shout it out—if he should “behave in an ungentlemanly manner with them in the back of an automobile.” Sister Perpetua said they were to say, “Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!” and that would put an end to it. The child sat up off the floor with a blank face. She didn’t see anything so funny in this…

            Her mother didn’t laugh at what they had said. “I think you girls are pretty silly,” she said. “After all, that’s what you are—Temples of the Holy Ghost.”

The two of them looked up at her, politely concealing their giggles, but with astonished faces as if they were beginning to realize that she was made of the same stuff as Sister Perpetua.  Miss Kirby preserved her set expression and the child thought, it’s all over her head anyhow. I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost, she said to herself, and was pleased with the phrase. It made her feel as if somebody had given her a present.”

O Lord, stir up the hearts of Your faithful people to welcome and joyfully receive Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, that He may find in us a fit dwelling place;  who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

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Today  is also the 7th Sunday of Easter, the Sunday always in between Ascension and Pentecost.  The Gospel reading is St. John 17:11b–19    and these verses were the basis of the sermon I wrote and preached:

 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

This reminded me of  The Letter to Diognetus.   Diognetus, was  a pagan of high social or political rank and the author was a Christian and not named. It seems that this unnamed Christian was asked to give a defense of the Christian faith and Church to a Roman nobleman. We are in the world, yet not of the world. As the eastern Orthodox begin their Liturgy:  “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.”  It says to me that by His grace we have been “transferred” (Colossians 1: 12-14) into His Kingdom in the midst of the world and in Christ, we pray for the Holy Spirit for the life of the world in the preaching of Christ.  This late 2nd Century letter is a clear defense of the faith and this letter is becoming more relevant in the 21st century day by day, yet it is also a word of encouragement for the Church today besieged within and without.:

“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by either country, speech, or customs;  the fact is, they nowhere settle in cities of their own; they use no peculiar language; they cultivate no eccentric mode of life. Certainly, this creed of theirs is no discovery due to some fancy or speculation of inquisitive men;  nor do they, as some do, champion a doctrine of human origin. Yet while they dwell in both Greek and non-Greek cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and conform to the customs of the country in dress, food, and mode of life in general, the whole tenor of their way of living stamps it as worthy of admiration and admittedly extraordinary.  They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land.  They marry like all others and beget children; but they do not expose their offspring.  Their (food) they spread for all, but not their bed. They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their days on earth, but hold citizenship in heaven.  They obey the established laws, but in their private lives they rise above the laws. They love all men, but are persecuted by all. They are unknown,  yet are condemned; they are put to death, but it is life that they receive.  They are poor, and enrich many;  destitute of everything, they abound in everything.  They are dishonored, and in their dishonor find their glory. They are calumniated, and are vindicated.  They are reviled, and they bless;  they are insulted and render honor.  Doing good, they are penalized as evildoers; when penalized, they rejoice because they are quickened into life.

O King of glory, Lord of hosts, uplifted in trumph far above all heavens, leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father;  for You live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

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‘And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?

New Testament Reading: Luke 18:1-17

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

‘And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary! ‘For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, ‘yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”‘ ‘And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. ‘And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 11 tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will find faith on earth?”

“…everything has been heard, even though one does not know what has been heard. Even when Christ asked for His life, He was heard.  But the flesh does not recognize how the hearing takes place. Therefore every prayer is heard, and whatever we ask for happens, even though we do not recognize in what ways it happens… God sometimes hurls us into greater evils in order that He may put an end to the evils. And thus He has heard our prayer.” (Luther)

O Lord, almighty and everlasting God, You have commanded us to pray and have promised to hear us. Mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may direct and govern our hearts in all things that we may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of  Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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The Acts of the Apostles 1:  …they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers,(emphasis my own)

In the Roman Catholic Church, a “novena” is any designated 9 day period of prayers for “special intentions”. “Novena” is a Latin cognate of the number 9 from the number of the days of prayers  from the Ascension Day to Pentecost:  nine days.  The Apostles, the women, Jesus’ brothers and the Mother of Jesus “…with one accord devoting themselves to prayer”.  “Novena” describes this special period prayer before the 3rd great Feast Day of the Church, Pentecost, the first two being Christmas and Easter.  Christmas centers on God the Father sending His only-begotten Son to be born of Mary and fathered by Joseph.  Easter centers on God the Son.  Pentecost on the Holy Spirit poured out onto the Church in her mission to follow the Savior’s outstretched arm as His witnesses, “…  in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8b)  In, with and under the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit the Church lives and points to Christ.

We are within the novena before Pentecost.  The world needs, “…light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).   We need to pray for Christ’s Bride the Church.  The Lord sent out the Apostles into the world. He full well knew what they would be against.  He sent them out into the world but not to be of the world nor “out of this world”, so that the world hear the saving Word. He sends the Church to pray, so let us say…

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son, that by His coming we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds;  through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.

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The following homily was delivered by Fr. Neuhaus at the annual Memorial Mass of the Military Vicariate at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on the Feast of the Ascension, 2007.  I came across this sermon at First Things and it can be found here. I have taken the liberty of dividing the sermon into paragraphs. Fr. Neuhaus was a Lutheran Pastor before he joined the  Roman Catholic Church. This sermon is for military chaplains, and yet for all pastors and congregations.  Fr. Neuhaus was well read and you will find a wealth of quotes in it.  Ad Maiorum Dei Gloriam.  A blessed Ascension Day to all! 


The Scripture texts just read are for this day, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. And they could hardly be more fitting also for this Memorial Mass of the Archdiocese for Military Services. The Ascension of God incarnate, the crucified and risen Lord, bears witness to the sovereignty that you serve as ministers of Christ, who minister Christ to those who serve in the military.

In the first lesson, Jesus says, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Today, remembering the chaplains of the past, praying for the chaplains of the present, and anticipating the chaplains of the future, we gratefully acknowledge a ministry that has extended and today extends, just as Jesus said, “to the ends of the earth.” That ministry bears witness to the sovereignty of Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.

As in the time of the apostles so also now, that sovereignty is disputed. His will be a disputed sovereignty until he returns in glory and, in the words of St. Paul, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” We are servants of a disputed sovereignty. In the responsorial psalm we declared, “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy.” Christ has ascended his throne, but his rule is challenged by rival thrones. For us who believe, St. Paul says in today’s second lesson, it is the fact that Christ rules “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion.” But the principalities and powers of the present age still rage against his rule. We are the servants of a disputed sovereignty.

In today’s gospel reading from Luke chapter 24, we hear the words of Jesus, “You are the witnesses of these things . . . . Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” The apostles stayed in the city and then, clothed with pentecostal power from on high, went out to the ends of the earth. And they continue to go, until the end of time. Christ goes with us, St. Paul says, in the form of the Church, “which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”

In the face of the principalities and powers, we bear witness to his disputed sovereignty. In the loneliness of military camps, in the terror of battle, in the emptiness of loss, you who are chaplains bear witness to the presence, the sacramentally Real Presence, of “the one who fills all things in every way.” As the sovereignty of Christ is disputed, so also is the ministry of the military chaplain disputed. How, it is asked, can those who serve the Prince of Peace also serve in the wars of the principalities and powers of the present age? It is an old question, but a question that continues to be asked, and understandably so. It is a question that addresses, as St. Augustine would put it, the right ordering of our loves and loyalties. The second century “Letter to Diognetus,” which is explaining the Christians to a pagan reader, says, “For the Christians, every foreign country is a homeland, and every homeland is a foreign country.” In the right ordering of our loves and loyalties, we are patriots of this foreign country called America, which is also our homeland; but we are patriots bound by a higher patriotism to the country that is our true home¯the country, the Kingdom, where the sovereignty of the ascended Lord is no longer disputed. Like St. Thomas More, we are “the king’s good servants, but God’s first.” And we are the king’s better servants because we are God’s first.

Jesus says, “And you will be my witnesses.” As chaplains, you are the witnesses of Christ and his Church to a new order of undivided love and allegiance. That kingdom is now present by faith’s anticipation of what is to be. There are many important things a chaplain does: he teaches, he counsels, he encourages, he consoles. But, above all, the chaplain is a witness to the sovereignty of Christ and his kingdom. He is a witness to what is to be; he is a witness to what, for those who believe, already is. Through him, Christ makes sacramentally present a new heaven and a new earth. A new heaven and a new earth where the conflicts of the principalities and powers are no more. A new heaven and a new earth that is now, by the gift of faith, peace in the midst of battl …Pope Benedict declared: “The Church is missionary by nature and her principal task is evangelization, which aims to proclaim and witness to Christ, and to promote his gospel of peace and love in every environment and every culture.” In situations of mortal conflict, in a world too often marked by the absence of peace and love, your task is to bear witness to a promised new world order. In doing so, you are the nation’s good servants, but God’s first. You are witnesses to the sovereignty of Christ, a sovereignty now disputed but one day to be acknowledged by all.

Whatever your military rank or distinction, your defining commission was received on the day of your ordination as a priest of Christ and his Church. On that day, you were, in the words of today’s gospel, “clothed with power from on high.” Our only power is the power of witness. We should want no other, we need no other. The Church is the people ahead of time¯the community that bears witness now to what one day will be recognized by all when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The principalities and powers still strut across the stage of history, trailing behind them the bloody carnage of their vain ambitions. So it has been through the centuries, and so it will be until Our Lord returns in glory. We read in the first lesson: “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.” Between now and that happy day, we have no utopian delusions about the principalities and powers of the present time. The dream of a permanent peace, of a world without conflict, awaits the day when the sovereignty of love incarnate is no longer disputed. Until that day, the history of the world is marked by what St. Augustine calls libido dominandi:  the lust for glory and power. We describe wars as just and wars as unjust, and it is necessary that we make such distinctions for clarity of mind and security of conscience. But, short of the coming Kingdom, all is provisional and approximate; all is riddled through with ambiguity, contradiction, and tragedy. That is how things are, and that is how things will be along the way of history’s long journey toward the perfect justice of Christ’s undisputed sovereignty. Meanwhile, we bear witness to what is to be, and, for those who believe, already is. The Church¯her ministers and her members¯is the people ahead of time. Again, St. Augustine: “Peace must be your aim; war should be a matter of necessity . . . . One does not pursue peace in order to wage war; one wages war to achieve peace.” And then he adds, “If peace is such a desirable dimension of our temporal happiness, how much sweeter is the divine peace that belongs to the eternal happiness of the angels.” We are not angels. But neither are we beasts, forever consigned to the confusions and conflicts of libido dominandi . We are the people ahead of time.

To you, the chaplains of the armed forces¯past, present, and future¯is owed an immeasurable debt of gratitude. You are the nation’s good servants but God’s first; and you are the nation’s better servants because you are God’s first. In the midst of the clashes of the principalities and powers of the present age, you have been “clothed with power from on high” to bear witness to the One who was and is and is to be. To those in battle, to those preparing for battle, to those bearing the wounds of battle, and to those who love them, you bear witness. Your only power, our only power, is the power of witness. We should want no other. We need no other. “Amen, come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.

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God has given us Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and absolution to bring Christ very close to us, so that we can have Him not only in our heart but also on our tongue, so that we can feel Him, grasp Him, and touch Him. God did all this for the sake of those shameful spirits who seek God according to their own pleasure, with their reason and their own ideas and dreams. To make it posibble for us to recognize Him, God presents Himself to us perceptively and clearly in signs. But we do not accept these; nor are we concerned about the divine Word, although Christ the Lord Himself says:

  • “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works” (John 14:10);
  • again: “He who hears you hears Me” (Luke 10:16);
  • and again: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation; he who believes the Word of God and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:15-16).

But we utterly disregard such words of the Gospel as well as absolution. Thus we perceive God not only with our hearts but also with our eyes and our hands, for He gives us a tangible and visible sign of Himself. At all times God has so governed His people that He could also be recognized visibly by them, lest they say: “If it were possible to find God, we would roam to the ends of the earth in search of Him.” If you had ears to hear, it would be needless to wander far in search of God. For He wants to come to you, plant Himself before your very eyes, press Himself into your hands, and say: “Just listen to Me and take hold of Me, give Me eye and ear; there youhave Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar. Open your mouth, let Me place My hand on your head. I give you this water which I sprinkle over your head.”

Increase my faith, dear Savior,

For Satan seeks by night and day

To rob me of this treasure

And take my hope of bliss away.

But, Lord, with You beside me,

I shall be undismayed;

And led by Your good Spirit, I shall be unafraid.

Abide with me, 0 Savior, A firmer faith bestow;

Then I shall bid defiance To ev’ry evil foe.

-I Know My Faith Is Founded, Lutheran Service Book, #587, stanza 2

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Concordia and Koinonia

From The Book of Concord:  The Lutheran Confessions, The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Article VII, 27-30:

“… since He has ascended, not merely as any other saint, to heaven, but, as the apostle testifies [ Eph. 4:10 ], above all heavens, and also truly fills all things, and being everywhere present, not only as God, but also as man [has dominion and] rules from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth; as the prophets predict, Ps. 8:1,693:1f ; Zech. 9:10, and the apostles testify, Mark 16:20, that He everywhere wrought with them and confirmed their word with signs following. 28] Yet this occurred not in an earthly way, but, as Dr. Luther explains, according to the manner of the right hand of God, which is no fixed place in heaven, as the Sacramentarians assert without any ground…

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