Tag Archives: Bible

Sunday Sermon: God didn’t make you a coward

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Saint Paul in prison, writing one of the epistles

 

As most already know who follow this website, I am a Catholic. I also serve as a Lector many weeks during Mass services, which gives me the opportunity and honor of reading to our parishioners from the Word of God.

This ‘Sunday Sermon’ series dates all the way back to 2005, and is always based on a reading or sermon from the Mass on that particular Sunday.

This morning, my New Testament reading came from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy. It is one of three known “epistles” written by Paul.

Before we get into the specific message for today, a quick vocabulary lesson.

An epistle is simply a letter or series of letters. In the New Testament, they come in the form of a book, made up of the letters from a particular apostle.

An apostle is someone who has been sent to specifically spread a message or teaching. Saint Paul, also known historically as Saul of Tarsus, was perhaps the most important apostle of the first century.

In the two decades immediately following the death of Jesus Christ, Paul underwent a personal conversion and then began to spread Jesus’ teachings throughout the Roman and Jewish world of the times.

The second letter to Timothy, a segment of which made up today’s New Testament reading, is considered by tradition to have been written just before Paul’s death, sometime in the mid-late 60’s during the first century A.D.

However, there are many scholars who now believe that it was actually the product of one of his students, writing in the decades after Paul’s death. In any event, it was certainly in keeping with his philosophy.

The letter was written to Timothy, who was one of the earliest Christian church leaders. Timothy served as the very first bishop of Ephesus, located in Egypt.

In the letter, Paul writes from prison, where the Romans are holding him for the teaching of the Gospel. He writes the following as encouragement to Timothy in the latter’s role as an early church leader:

Beloved:

I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

The phrase which jumps out at me from this letter is this: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice…”

This letter is one of three ‘pastoral epistles’ written by Paul. They are considered as such because they were written to individuals with pastoral care and responsibility over a particular church, and cover issues of Christian living, doctrine and leadership.

While these epistles are clearly written to church leadership with them in mind, they are just as relevant to all members of the church.

God does not want us to live as cowards. He did not imbue us with a “spirit of cowardice“, as Paul writes.

Paul calls on all of us to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within each believer, the love preached by Jesus Christ himself during his life on Earth, and the self-discipline gained during our own lifetime of experiences and failures in order to help spread the Word of God.

Stop looking to others to carry a load that you have every ability to help carry yourself. You can teach your family. You can volunteer in some way at your church. You can personally set an example by regularly attending church services and participating in the sacraments.

Far too often, far too many of us point the finger at others shortfalls, be those church leaders, politicians, any of our fellow men. We are often unwilling to look in the mirror at our own sins and shortcomings.

Have the courage to not only take that hard look in the mirror at yourself, but also to actually take some positive action regarding your faith.

Even if you consider yourself a brave Christian, we all have moments or periods of life in which we falter. Whatever your present or future attitude and situation, remember, God didn’t make you a coward. Don’t act like one.

 

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Sunday Sermon: In the end, we all become one with God

Today marks the final Sunday in the liturgical year of the Catholic Church.

Next Sunday begins the season of Advent, the four-week period leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ.
As Advent begins, the readings at Mass will begin to lead us towards that most important and holy moment in the history of humanity.

Today, however, we peer into the future, to the end of time itself.

The second reading today was from the first letter, sometimes called an epistle, written by Saint Paul to the Church at Corinth.

The Yale Divinity School calls this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians “a masterpiece of pastoral theology.” Of this important and lengthy 16-chapter work, Yale further states:

“It challenges us to think about how we relate to the wider world that we fully engage even if it does not always share our values, provoking us to imitate Paul’s pastoral logic, which probes fundamental convictions to see how they apply in difficult situations.”

Corinth today lies in south-central Greece, approximately 48 miles west of Athens. But the Corinth of Paul’s time could be located about two miles southwest of today’s city.

Paul himself founded the original church in Corinth around 50 A.D., less than two decades after Christ’s death. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written during one of his stays at Ephesus. It includes a number of important teachings, and contains a handful of famous sayings that have survived through today.

The focus of my piece today comes from near the end of Paul’s letter, and relates to the end of time. Here, Paul talks of Christ’s return at the second coming, stating that he will destroy “every sovereignty and every authority and power” before finally destroying the “last enemy”, death itself.

Paul then finishes by stating that once everything has been subjected to Jesus Christ, then Christ himself will be subjected to God. This is, as Paul puts it, “that God may be all in all.” In the end, we will all become one with God, through Christ.

You can choose to interpret the exact physical and meta-physical mechanics of that merger with our Creator in a number of ways. However you choose to do so, the fact is that we don’t know when these events will take place. Will they even take place in our lifetimes?

The more important point is that, no matter when the end times come, there is something that we can all and should all be doing right now. We should all be preparing now by subjecting ourselves to Christ.

Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Clearly the most important thing that we can do right now is ensure that we are believers. That we recognize that Christ gave up his life so that we could be freed from sin.

This acceptance, this subjecting of ourselves to Christ in accepting and celebrating his role in our lives, gives us a chance to join God as one of those “all in all” at the end.

A joyous season is about to begin. The birth of your Savior is not far off. As this holy time of year approaches, remember exactly whose birth it is that we will be celebrating.

In the end, we all become one with God. That is only made possible by the one who is about to be born.

Sunday Sermon: A city set on a hill

The ‘Sermon on the Mount‘ was delivered by Jesus Christ shortly after he had chosen his original twelve apostles and begun his public ministry. It is covered most famously in chapter five of the Book of Matthew within the New Testament of the Bible.

One of the most influential, inspirational speeches in the history of mankind is widely believed to have been delivered at or near what was once known as Mount Eremos, a hill located between Capernaum and Tabgha in northern Israel.

During this speech, Jesus delivers three of the most famous teachings of his life: the ‘Golden Rule’, the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father), and the Beatitudes.

Another key element of what I personally believe to be the greatest speech ever given is a section that has become known as the “Similes of Salt and Light”, which appears at Matthew 5:13-16.

The simile of light section specifically reads as follows:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

On January 11, 1989, President Ronald Reagan delivered his Farewell Address to the Nation. In it, he famously referenced this passage as it had been adopted by John Winthrop.

Winthrop was one of the key figures in founding the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the second major European settlement in New England after Plymouth. He also served as the colony’s governor over four separate terms.

When his group of pilgrims to the New World had set out, Winthrop described their goal: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”

The ‘Similes of Salt and Light’ section from the Sermon on the Mount was the subject of the gospel reading and homily at today’s Mass in our church.

In delivering his homily, the priest referenced the current political climate in the United States, particularly as it relates to the issue of immigration.

Father did a fairly good job of walking a hazardous tightrope, considering that he likely had folks from different political viewpoints sitting in the aisles of the church.

But the primary message that he was trying to convey is a valid one, no matter which side of the aisle you sit politically. As Christian Americans, we are called upon to rise above rancorous political discourse.

On this issue of immigration, all too often some members of the media and of certain political persuasions seem to want to paint conservative political thinkers as “anti-immigration”, which could not be further from the truth.

The majority of us are the product of immigration to the United States. At some point in the last century or two, most of us had ancestors who stepped off a boat and onto the shores of America. Like most of today’s immigrants, they were hoping to make a better life for themselves and their families.

It is important to remember that we are not at all “against” immigration. Instead, we are against unchecked, unvetted, uncontrolled, and illegal immigration.

In our efforts to better secure our country, we also need to remember that legal immigrants should be welcomed with open arms. Many people lawfully and properly enter our country and become citizens. Those people deserve our full support as first generation Americans.

As polarized as today’s society has become, it is far better to be “for” something than “against” anything. We are not against illegal immigration. We are for a lawful, orderly process, and a secure America for all of our lawful residents and visitors.

We need to remember, in our tone and our tenor, that we have to be better than the divisive politicians and professional agitators who thrive on driving us apart. This is particularly so when remembering that we are Christians in addition being Americans.

As good, law-abiding United States citizens and followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to stand up and ensure that our nation always serves as that city set on a hill. As a blessed people, we are called to shine the light of freedom before all others.

And all the while, we must keep in mind the last three words of the ‘salt and light’ section of Jesus’ timely message: “glorify your Heavenly Father.” Whatever we do, if we are doing it for God’s glory, then we will continue to be blessed as a nation.

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NOTE: this is a continuation of the long-running ‘Sunday Sermon’ series. All entries can be viewed by clicking on that link in the below ‘Tag’ section.

A&E Crucifies ‘Duck Dynasty’ Patriarch Phil Robertson

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The reality series ‘Duck Dynasty’ about the Robertson family of Louisiana is easily the most-watched program on the A&E cable network.

The family became wealthy operating a duck-hunting product company, ‘Duck Commander’, and the show features the colorful bunch of long-bearded, no-filters Robertson men and the women who love them.

The patriarch of the clan is Phil Robertson, who began the business by making duck calls from area cedar trees in a family backyard shed for a quarter century. Two days ago, the show, network, and Phil Robertson began making headlines in the mainstream news.

Robertson was placed “on hiatus” indefinitely by A&E, which said in a statement that the network was “extremely disappointed” in remarks that he had made in an interview for ‘GQ’ magazine which were deemed offensive by the gay community. A&E further stated they “have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT (gay) community.

In the interview, Robertson is quoted as saying “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong…Sin becomes fine art. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.” He later says “It seems like, to me, a vagina – as a man – would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me.

In a follow-up to his remarks, Robertson was quoted as speaking to his own sinful past, his acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Savior, and his role in evangelizing that faith to others.

I myself am a product of the 60’s; I centered my life around sex, drugs, and rock and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people…what the Bible teaches. Part of that teaching is that men and women are meant to be together.

But that isn’t where Robertson left it, not that there should be any problem with anything to this point. He goes on to elaborate on how his own personal feelings would relate to his treatment of others who might feel or believe differently.

I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would be better off if we loved God and loved each other.

The picture that emerges from this entire sorry affair is of a cable TV network running for cover when it didn’t need to, simply because the executives who run the place didn’t have the courage of their convictions. A&E put the show on the air faithfully (pun intended) every week, knowing the family was going to “keep it real”, and sucking up the ratings and subsequent advertising dough.

The network has now placed Robertson in a hiatus that basically means nothing, since the show is not currently filming anyway, with the most recent season having recently completed production. They are simply trying to look good to that LGBT community they want to embrace. Meanwhile, they slap all Christians who support the show in the face.

Robertson made no statement regarding homosexuality that is not supported by the very teachings of the Holy Bible.

In the Old Testament’s book of Leviticus, for a perfect example, in chapter 20, verse 13 it explicitly states: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination; the two of them shall be put to death; their bloodguilt is upon them.

Now of course, no one, including Phil Robertson, is calling for anyone to be killed, or to suffer any type of physical judgment against them. Final judgment on all of our unforgiven moral shortcomings, will be dealt with in the next life.

The New Testament taught us all forgiveness, and the importance of loving even our enemies and those who would persecute us. But it did not challenge basic Biblical teachings on sexuality or morality.

In his own ministry, in both public exhortations and in private thought to his Apostles, who related these ideas in their own later teachings, Jesus Christ himself preached of marriage and relationships as between men and women, husband and wife, and spoke of the sinfulness of sexual immorality.

The A&E network has every right to make any statement they wish, and to discipline or fire any employee or entertainer based on what it feels are violations of it’s most basic principles and rules.

We as consumers of their product have the same right, to not watch their network when they violate what we know to be the most basic truths of life.

Far too often in today’s world, people of faith are cowed into silence, driven to trembling in a proverbial corner when the immoral shout for “rights” that have never existed.

It is far past time that we began to band together, standing up for those principles, for our own “rights”, for people like Phil Robertson, and for Christ Himself.

As with Phil, we believers won’t hate anyone. We won’t act with prejudice against anyone. We won’t treat people as lesser human beings than ourselves, who we all know are also sinners.

We will pray for them as we pray for ourselves and our loved ones, to both overcome their sinful weakness, and to turn from acting on those same proclivities.

In publicly admonishing Phil Robertson for taking an outspoken position regarding basic teaching of the planet’s more than 2 billion Christians, they have effectively crucified him.

Anyone calling themselves a fellow Christian needs to immediately let A&E know just how you feel about that. The 21st century is not the 1st. We will not stand by and allow it to ever happen again. Not quietly. Not on our watch.

Christians Need to Love One Another

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As a lifelong Catholic who loves the Church, defends her publicly, and tries my best to follow her teachings, I have observed a phenomenon over the years.

It has become very obvious to me that some of my brothers and sisters in the Church have a serious moral superiority complex in regards to other Christian faiths. And I believe that this attitude has played a major part in continuing a divide in Jesus’ Church.

Let’s remember that one simple fact to begin with: it’s not our Church. It’s not mine, or yours. It doesn’t belong to Pope Francis, or any other human being. The Church belongs to Jesus Christ. He is it’s founder, and he is it’s genuine leader still today.

Throughout centuries past, the sometimes immoral actions of Popes and other Church leaders directly led to many of the major schisms that have occurred which have separated believers from one another. Catholics need to recognize the truth in that burden before judging any Protestant, Episcopalian, or other Christian denomination.

The most important thing for any Christian is that they believe in the fact that Jesus Christ suffered and died for their sins, and that as followers of the Lord we have a responsibility to learn about his teachings and spread his Word, both to unbelievers and to those who have never heard it in the first place.

We also have a responsibility to share our faith with one another. Jesus began our Church when he passed that responsibility directly on to Peter: “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.

Jesus didn’t say “churches”, plural. He didn’t say: “Now just basically go with what I taught you, and the rest, well, doesn’t matter.

No, Jesus also gave his Church power: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

In those words, Jesus established his Church here on earth, to continue his work here on earth, led by men beginning with Peter and guided by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, as in the Garden of Eden, that Church was entrusted to men. Frail, sinning human beings.

At various times in the history of the Church, the men leading her have turned from the Spirit, turned from their mission, and sinned, sometimes in the most sinister, vile, and inhuman ways. These sins led to the Church fracturing and splintering.

I heard it said recently that I should “read the Catechism” in order to learn what the Church teaches on some issue. The fact is, I read the Catechism daily. But it’s not the only book of faith that I read. I also read the Holy Bible, the direct Word of God.

Catholics who point solely to current Church leadership teaching, the current version of the Catechism, the reforms of Vatican II, and the sermons of their local priests are selling their faith short. Those things are all very important, and should be experienced with sincere faithful discernment.

But all Catholics should also be picking up and reading their Bibles as well, learning the direct teaching of Jesus Christ, and fashioning their lives after him. Every single Catholic, from the Pope down to any lay person reading this article, including the one writing it, is a sinner.

Stop judging, that you might not be judged,” said Jesus.

“For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

Catholics have no business holding themselves up as in any way better than any other believer. We have no right holding on to any type of superiority complex over followers of another Christian faith.

Now this is not to say that those Protestants and other so-called Bible-based churches are without fault in this Christian schism either. And those believers also do plenty of judgmental criticism of the Catholic Church and it’s adherents.

All Christians need to follow the teaching of Jesus again: “This I command you: love one another.

There is far too much judgmentalism taking place in modern day Christianity, and nowhere near enough loving taking place.

I call on my fellow Catholics to set aside your air of superiority and embrace your fellow Christians. I call on Christians of other denominations to recognize that Jesus founded one Church, that he wants us to all be as one, and that we are to work to come together as often as possible.

There is one final fact to remember. It is clearly taught in the Book of Revelation, chapter 19, verses 11-21 that Jesus will return at the end of time, unite his Church, and win victory over evil, establishing the Church again as one as told in Revelation 21.

No Pope, no church leader, no great preacher will ever unite the Christian church on earth again under one banner, as Christ intended when he founded her. Only Jesus himself will accomplish that at the end of the current age.

It is our duty during our lifetime here on earth to do all that we can to perpetuate love and peace with, between, and among our fellow believers. It is all of our duty to spread his Word to any non-believers in a loving, thoughtful manner.

Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Adventists, whatever you call yourself, wherever you practice your faith, and especially now at Christmas when we celebrate the birth of the Savior of us all – we must love one another, as Jesus loved us. God bless you.