Translate

Monday, February 20, 2017

HOLY WEEK in ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA - HISTORY and PREVIEW: Congratulations - Elizabeth Bell

ANOTHER BRILLIANT and HISTORIC ANTIGUA REVIEW by OUR DEAR FRIEND and EPISCOPALIAN, Elizabeth Bell - Felicidades! 
Bilingual Spanish/English edition, Elizabeth Bell, Antigua Tours
La Antigua Guatemala with Estuardo Fajardo Franco.
En Cuaresma y Semana Santa La Antigua Guatemala los espera.
Foto/Luis Toribio

Elizabeth Bell, Senior Warden St.Alban Executive Committee and Founder/President of Antigua Tours


THE LORD OUR GOD: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do them no wrong. The stranger that sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him or her as yourself; for you were strangers


Homily - February 19, 2017
The Reverend John Smith, Vicar, St. Alban Episcopal Mission, Antigua, Guatemala
The Way to Peace 

One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how all of us sincerely pray for peace in the world all the time, but lasting peace never comes. Could it be we need to do something different, change our thinking (conversion, repentance), in order to achieve someday (maybe not in our lifetime) what we pray for? I believe Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel is the way to finding real peace in this world?
The nature of conversion to Jesus is that it comes about one person at a time. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. You and I, listening to the Gospel week by week, reading and studying the scriptures on our own, must decide individually to take Jesus’ teaching to heart. While we find ourselves as part of the church, the decision is our own. Like last week in the reading from Deuteronomy: I have set before you life and death. Choose life that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God and obeying his commandments. We would like everyone to join us in our individual decision to follow Jesus. We would like to find comfort in numbers, but remain alone in our decision. “Do you desire to be baptized?” This is not asked of a group, but of the baptismal candidate individually.

I have decided to follow Jesus, though none go with me, still I will follow.
The readings for this Seventh Sunday of Epiphany, especially Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel, are perhaps the most important for achieving a true and lasting peace in this world. It’s been said that this teaching of Jesus is his most radical, demanding, and truthful of all his teaching. Each person hearing this teaching must decide to change their thinking in order to follow Jesus. This is the individual conversion I’ve been talking about. Let’s listen to what Jesus taught again:
“You have heard it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard it was said, “You shall love your *neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Jesus is saying: Change the rules the world lives by and live a different way! If the world says take an eye for an eye. Don’t do it. If someone hits you on one cheek, offer the other. If someone sues you, give them more than they ask. If someone needs to borrow from you, don’t refuse- do what you can. And then comes the really hard teaching. It is commonly accepted in the world that you should love you neighbor and hate your enemy. This has been an understanding from the beginning of time—until this teaching of Jesus: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This makes you a child of your Father in heaven.

What Jesus is saying is “Blow up the world’s modus operandi. Make your own rules. In a world where people like to go along with the crowd, live differently. Follow me. Find peace. Help bring about my Kingdom someday by changing the way you live now!
Following Jesus is the way to a true, just, and lasting peace in the world and fostering Kingdom come. He really means it when he says Love your enemies. Refuse to see anyone as an enemy. Disarm the enemy who sees you as an enemy by forgiveness; foregoing revenge, retaliation, and retribution. Don’t add fuel to the fires of violence and wars in the world. Without fuel, evil will be itself out. Boundless love is the only way to true freedom and the defeat of the Evil One.
It’s imperative to pray that each one of us, and all of our brothers and sisters in the church, hear, accept, and live this teaching of Jesus today, especially because of the way we determine the date of Easter each year, the Seventh Sunday of Epiphany and this particular Gospel comes up only one time in seven years or so. The Common Lectionary is wonderful: we read almost the whole bible in three years, but unfortunately this Gospel, the core of Jesus’ teaching and important for Christian living and the salvation of the world, is heard so seldom. If we take this teaching to heart, as hard as it is to do, overtime it will lead the whole world to peace. Let it begin with you and me! Amen!
*To most people “neighbor” means kin. Leviticus 19 “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Does the writer mean “kin?” Some verses later the writer expands the meaning of neighbor saying: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do them no wrong. The stranger that sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him or her as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 

I am the Lord your God.

John+
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Reverend John Smith: “Save us from the fires of hell” means save us now from the fires we make by our human greed, violence, and never-ending wars.

Image result for fires of war, photos?
Save us from the Fires of Hell
          
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy.

          This is a prayer that was added to the end of a decade of the Rosary after Mary appeared in 1917 to three shepherd children at Fatima in Portugal as the rumblings of war in Europe were growing louder.  Mary told the children to pray this for all who would be affected by wars to come.  Mary also asked everyone to pray for the conversion of Russia.  I’ve said this prayer all my life as I pray the Rosary.  It grows in meaning for me more and more each day, especially the phrases “save us from the fires of hell” and “those most in need of your mercy.”

          Last week I talked about catechumens learning to put away all anger (forgiving others, loving enemies, etc.) before baptism.  Jesus backs this up in today’s Gospel when he says But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.  Anger and calling someone a fool serve no good purpose, add to conflicts and wars, which bring about the fires of hell. In the Gospel Jesus also teaches about divorce brought about by anger, resentment, and unwillingness to forgive and keep vows.

          So what is hell?  We all have our ideas about hell, but what does Jesus mean when he mentions hell? The most popular idea people have about hell is that it is a place where people are condemned by God to be tortured eternally in the afterlife.  It’s a place we definitely would never want to go, but sometimes hope that others experience.  Another notion, softening it by removing the “flames” of torment, is the thought that hell is being estranged from God, absent from God, for all eternity.  The problem with these two notions and others, is that these notions of hell don’t square with a Gospel of a loving and merciful Father who loves all his children even when they go astray.  So again, what is Jesus referring to in the Gospel?

          The word Jesus uses in the Gospel is Gehenna.  This was a valley south of Jerusalem where refuse was burned.  It was a fiery, smoldering heap.  It was also the same place where children were sacrificed to the god Molech many years before.  Everybody in Jesus’ audience would understand this “hell” Jesus is talking about.  What Jesus is saying is that if you go around defaming people’s character, calling them fools, bad things will happen to you:  you’ll find yourself caught up in constant enmity, violence, and continual warfare.  Most important, when we talk “hell,” we’re talking of human violence, never Divine violence.

          So let’s summarize.  Hell is not a place of torture where God sends mortal sinners are sent to suffer for all eternity.  This is completely counter to the Gospel.  Instead, hell is a real place (Gehenna) where the fires of violence and war burn and cause pain and suffering to God’s children.  God doesn’t make or send to hell, human beings cause their fellow human beings to experience hell.  “Save us from the fires of hell” means save us now from the fires we make by our human greed, violence, and never-ending wars.  Hell is what we see on the TV and read about in the papers every day.

          Following Jesus, Paul talks about God’s intention: tearing down the walls of separation between people, uniting all humanity, perfecting all of us in love, and redeeming us (in our day) from the violence we do to one another.  When we have a problem or disagreement with a person, instead of going to the altar to offer a sacrifice to win God’s favor for your side of the argument, go to the brother or sister involved and talk it out face to face.  Don’t just call each other names.

            Jesus’ Cross symbolizes God’s communion with all victims who suffer violence from others.  God never stands with the perpetrators of violence.  The hellish violence experienced by real human beings in real places in this world is hell, not some neo-platonic, ethereal place of torment where bad people are dispatched to out of this world.

          I don’t know where the popular notions of hell came from.  The Church is a mystery of human and divine interaction and the human side is fraught with weakness and at times a desire to condemn others to eternal torment if they don’t match up to expectations placed on them.  Thank God we are reading the Gospel and refocusing on Jesus’ teaching and example.  Jesus, better than any other, reveals the nature of God as pure love and mercy.  The choice is ours:  live in rivalry and sacrifice or allow our desires and actions to change.  As Deuteronomy puts it:

          I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord you God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live. . . .
Bad news or Good News:  the choice is always ours!

Amen!
John+
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE

Monday, February 6, 2017

THE MOST HONEST THING WE DO EACH WEEK: "Sunday we gather with others and confess the things we have done wrong and the things we have left undone." John+



Shine Jesus Shine

Jesus said, to his followers, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? You are the light of the world . . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

          How many times we have heard this passage about being salt and light in the world.  I think about the “losing of taste” that Jesus warns about.  What does that mean?  The word for that phrase in Greek ismorantha.  It’s a past passive form which means “to have grown foolish.” Spiritual truth might be given to a follower grown foolish over the years, and no longer lives it or “gets it.” Salt loses its taste, becomes worthless, and is thrown out on the path.

          Last Sunday I spoke about the latest topic of the day:  alternative facts.  People are having  a real hard time to those insisting on “alternative facts” to back up their version of reality.  Powerful people can hold to certain ways of looking at reality anytime they wish.  But really, so can we, even if we don’t like to admit it.  Let me explain:

          In the earlier days of the church’s life, especially before the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and urged all people in the empire to do the same, there was a three year process and better preparation for baptism.  Before a person was baptized, not after, the Christian catechesis taught and required a catechumen:  to let go of anger; to turn the other cheek; to love one’s enemies; to forgive those who hurt you;  to forswear oaths; live a chaste life; and trust God for one’s necessities.  This change of life was worked out before baptism.

          When baptism became a sacramental/social rite with Constantine, it became necessary to learn this new “Way” of life after baptism.  People were “saved” first and were baptized without any serious instruction or required conversion.  Baptized folks began to hold on to “Alternative facts.” For example, How can I forgive and love my enemies when they do awful things to people, like chop off their heads, etc.  We have to defend ourselves from these people don’t we?

Showing mercy and not excluding those who might harm us is very difficult, but this allows the possibility of human well-being and peace.  Instead, requiring sacrifice, excluding those who might harm us, scapegoating them, is much easier than dialogue and reconciliation.  Point the finger at the problem group, exclude them, and the rest of us will be safer, is the thinking.  But part of learning to live a moral life is coming to an awareness of our own hypocrisy and shortcomings.  When we point our finger at another, we realize we have three fingers pointing back at ourselves!

Go learn what this means. “What I desire is mercy, not sacrifice.”

Following Jesus is being salt and light in the world.  This flavoring and illumination is needed more than ever in the world today.  The Church is re-catechizing itself, realizing that most of us didn’t receive much training in what it requires to follow Jesus Christ and be a disciple.  At times we must be creative.

When I arrived in Rome as a young seminarian, I was assigned to visit patients in a bone-tuberculosis hospital.  My Italian was very poor, so I went from bed to bed, said hello, and began to read a passage of scripture (in Italian) to each person. The patients were very kind to me, despite my lack of fluency, and seemed to enjoy the passages I read.  Here’s a timely passage read for us today:

Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the Glory of the Lord will answers; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

We’re playing catch-up in learning what it means to be a disciple.  As we encounter the hypocrisy of others we recognize our own.  This is an important step, couple with the fact that each Sunday we gather with others and confess the things we have done wrong and the things we have left undone.  It’s the most honest thing we do each week.  God loves us.  God forgives us.  God is with us always never let us go.  Jesus shines in us!  

Amen!

John+
St. Alban

Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.

The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE