Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Vale the Revd Deacon Richard Mulholland

Revd Deacon Rich Mulholland ( picture source Bp.D.Mead)

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

On Easter morning 21 April 2019 when we as Catholic Christians rejoice in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were confronted with the sad news that our Confrater and friend Deacon Rich Mulholland had died in his home in Ashford Kent, Uk.Richard went on this special day to meet his risen Lord.

I have never met Deacon Richard in person, but he was a FB friend and a colleague in the Anglican Catholic Church/Original Province in which I am a Priest. It was an absolute blessing to have known him and he will be sadly missed , first of all by his wife and children and all confraters and friends. I do not doubt Deacon Richard's Catholic Faith was a Resurrection Faith and this is such a comfort to know. RIP  Dear Richard and I close off with this poem by John Betjeman:

Mid Lent is passed and Easter's near
The Greatest day of all the year
When Jesus, Who indeed had died
Rose with His body glorified.
And if you find believing hard
The primroses in your church yard
and modern science too will show,
that all things change while they grow ,
And we, who change in time will be
Still more changed in Eternity .

John Betjeman

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church/Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston on Tasmania

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ - Easter Day 21 April 2019

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
"Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:7-8—the Easter Canticle). 
All over the world in recent days, trendy Christians have met to hold a Seder, the ritual meal of the Jewish Passover. They probably mean well, but they have become so disconnected from the Holy Scriptures that they do not see that holding a Seder to celebrate Easter is as ridiculous as celebrating Moses’ or Samuel’s birthday at Christmas. 
Our English word "Easter" was provided by early missionaries, who borrowed the name of an ancient Germanic celebration of the rising of the sun on the day of the spring equinox, which occurs of course in the East. Those missionaries tried to give us a "native" English word for the rising-again of the Light of the World, without whom life is as impossible for mankind as it would be for a world without the sun. The fact remains, however, that in most languages the name of Easter is "Pascha," the Greek and Latin form of the Hebrew word for "Passover." 
Nevertheless, Jesus Christ is our Passover, as St. Paul tells us, and not the Passover of the Jews. The first Passover, of course, was very important. It was a living prophecy in time and space of Jesus Christ. So, also, was the annual commemoration of the first Passover a prophecy of the annual Christian celebration of Easter in which we are now engaged. We can even say that it is impossible to understand Easter without understanding the first Passover, but we need to be very careful not to confuse the one with the other. It was the inherent promise of Jesus Christ contained in that the first Passover that made the Passover powerful and holy. The first Passover does not "ratify" Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ ratifies and fulfils the ancient Passover, and supersedes it by his death and resurrection. 
The first Passover was the founding of the nation of Israel by God, through his deliverance of his Chosen People from slavery in Egypt. God commanded the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb, to mark the doorposts of their homes with its blood, and to eat its flesh in a ritual meal of obedience and communion. When God sent his destroying angel upon Egypt, the angel "passed over" the homes of the Israelites, sparing their children, to claim the first-born of the idol-worshipping Egyptians. 
These mighty works of God resulted in the Exodus, the Israelites’ departure from Egypt for a new life in the Promised Land. The completing event of this Exodus, and the outward and visible sign of its power, was the passage through the Red Sea. The waters of the sea opened to allow the Israelites to cross over into freedom and closed again upon the Egyptian army that was pursing them, so that it was destroyed. Now the Israelites were completely lifted out of their bondage under a foreign tyrant and made a free people whose allegiance belonged to God alone. 
The ritual meal of the Old Testament, the Seder (from the Hebrew word for "order") commemorates the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. The "paschal" or "Passover" lamb is, of course, the centre of the feast. Almost as important, however, is the unleavened bread that is also eaten at the meal. 
In their haste to leave Egypt, the Israelites had no time for their bread to rise. They left behind in Egypt the fermented "bread starter" (what we call "sour dough") that would have been used to raise or leaven their bread. Thus, all they had for their journey was the simple sort of bread or biscuit that could be made from plain flour and water. In the Passover meal, therefore, the unleavened bread symbolized three things. First, it represented the complete break with the past in Egypt by God’s grace. Second, it represented the dedication of the Chosen People to God and to his deliverance ahead of all earthly concerns. Third, since unleavened bread is the simplest and purest form of bread, its very plainness represented the unity of God’s people in spiritual purity and communion, without adulteration of any kind.
The entire order of sacrifice under the Mosaic law was derived from the first Passover and the meal that celebrated it. We can see that sacrificial order laid out in great detail in Leviticus (chapters 8 and 9), when the priesthood of Aaron and his sons was ordained and inaugurated, but it can be summarized simply in this way. There is first of all, the shedding of blood, the offering of a life for life, as a sacrifice for the remission of sins. No other sacrifice could be offered until the sacrifice for sin had been offered. Then came the sacrifice of complete dedication to God, represented by a whole burnt offering of the sacrificial victim, so that nothing was left that did not belong to God. Finally came the sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, which were eaten as a sign of communion with God at his table. 
None of these sacrifices, however, had any power of its own. Their power was a promise of, and a sharing in, the perfect sacrifice that was to come. Jesus Christ, our Lord, is that perfect and permanent sacrifice that all of the Old Testament sacrifices, including the sacrifice of the Passover, looked for and hoped for. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God made man, is both the victim of this sacrifice and the high priest who is raised from the dead by the Father to offer it—to offer himself, once for the redemption of the whole world. 
And so, Jesus Christ is our Passover. He is the Lamb of God, slain for the forgiveness of sins. He offers his life in the place of our lives, which we had forfeited by sinning. His Blood is shed, instead of ours, so that all the prayers ever offered for the forgiveness of sin, either before or after his death on the Cross, are answered by his Father only on the basis of his one death on the Cross. We are forgiven and redeemed, and given a whole new eternal life, by the sacrificial death that Jesus Christ offers for us to his Father in heaven. Nothing else can save us, and we are not saved until the Father by his grace and the Holy Ghost gives us, as his free gift, the benefits of this one and only perfect and effective sacrifice for sin.
Jesus Christ is our sacrifice of dedication, not merely offering himself to the Father in our place, but also offering himself to the Father, completely and absolutely, as one of us, as our representative, as the one man in all of history who has offered perfect obedience to God in heaven. Moreover, if we are faithful to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, then we, too, are absolutely dedicated to God. We belong to God alone, and God alone must hold all of our allegiance, obedience, and loyalty. 
Jesus Christ is our sacrifice of peace, thanksgiving, and communion. In the Sacrament of the Holy Communion, instituted by Christ on the night before he died, we eat his Flesh and drink his Blood, the Flesh and Blood of the one perfect sacrifice, at God’s table. The meal we eat at Jesus Christ’s commandment unites us with the Father in heaven, in a communion with the Father’s love and purposes, by the working of the Holy Ghost who dwells within us. The communion that Jesus Christ gives us in himself, with his Father, and by the Holy Ghost, is also the communion that binds us together, one to another, as the members of Christ’s Body and the adopted children of God. 
When St. Paul announces that Jesus Christ is our Passover, sacrificed for us, he intends that our lives and our homes should be marked with the Blood of Christ as belonging to the household of his Father in heaven. He intends us to understand that no evil, not even death, can overcome those who are marked with the Blood of this sacred sacrifice. He intends that we should believe that the waters of Baptism through which we have passed are our "Red Sea," so that we are now totally freed from the tyranny and despotism of Satan, to live the new life that Jesus Christ has promised us, and purchased for us, in his Father’s kingdom. 
In this, our Christian Passover, we do not slay and eat a new lamb, a different lamb, every year. Instead, we sit at table in thanksgiving with the one, true Lamb of God, risen from the dead, making the sacred memorial he commanded of his one sacrifice, once offered. We continue, by the mighty grace of God, to eat the Flesh and to drink the Blood of the one Lamb of God, through him, with him, and in him, offering our praise and thanksgiving for so complete and perfect a deliverance from our sins and from eternal death. The old Passover is done away, not because it was evil, but because it is now complete in Jesus Christ. 
St. Paul writes of "leaven," then, not to command us to eat the old Passover, but to tell us how to live in the kingdom brought into this world by the Passover of Jesus Christ. We are to follow the Lamb of God, now raised from the dead and enthroned at his Father’s right hand, by making a complete break with our sinful past; by dedicating ourselves completely to the God who saves us, above any other concern in heaven or earth; and by maintaining our communion in Jesus Christ through the spiritual unity that is only possible among a pure people who live in sincerity and truth every day of their lives. 
God has done a mighty work, which we commemorate on this day, whether we call it "Easter" or "Pascha." And by that mighty work, God calls us to equally mighty works, in the imitation of his Son, the Lamb of God, and by the richness of his grace. We are a new people. We are freed from slavery to Satan, sin, and death. God has made all things ready for us to live good lives now, and to live perfected lives with him forever. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast. 

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston on Tasmania, Australia

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday

Dear Friends,

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another;
as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
 “He carried himself in his own hands”.  In such a phrase, St. Augustine captures the paradox and the poignancy of the passion of Christ on this night, this very night.
“He carried himself in his own hands” who is delivered into the hands of his betrayers on this night, this very night.
“He carried himself in his own hands” who is delivered into the hands of his enemies on this night, this very night.
“He carried himself in his own hands” who is delivered into our hands on this night, this very night.
For we are his betrayers; we are his enemies and yet, that “he carried himself in his own hands” signifies something more than our betrayals and our enmities against God. It signifies the love that underlies the passion of Christ, the inner spring of the will that undergoes the passion of Christ, making provision for us out of our wills in disarray, out of our hearts of betrayal, out of our hands of cruelty and hate, the hands of sinful men and women, my hands and yours.
“A new commandment I give unto you”, Christ says, even as “he carrie[s] himself in his own hands”. For what he speaks that he also does. The effective signs and tokens of his love are given to us in the sacrament of his body and blood. In anticipation of his passion, death and resurrection, he institutes this holy means of the true and abiding presence of God with us. Such, we may say, is the mystery of the Holy Eucharist by which we participate in the mystery of his passion and enter into the meaning of its purpose for us in our lives.
The “new commandment” (the “novum mandatum” hence “Maundy Thursday”) is “to love one another even as he has loved us”. How has he loved us on this night, this very night?  His passion shows us that love even as it shows us on this night, this very night, the means of our continuing in his love for us. “He carried himself in his own hands” who is betrayed into the hands of sinful men. And yet, on this night, this very night, he identifies himself with us through the bread and wine, the signs and tokens of his body broken and blood out-poured, the signs of the very reality of his passion which is nothing less than the reality of his love for us.
See how he loves us! “He carried himself in his own hands” and places himself in our hands. They are at once our hands of betrayal and our hands of grateful receiving; receiving him that his love and grace may be received in us.
Maundy Thursday reveals the poignancy and the paradox of the passion. Christ is betrayed, condemned, sentenced, scourged, mocked and crucified.  He is acted upon and yet he acts.  His love moves within all the actions that our hands visit upon him.  His sacrifice and his service are about his love for us in his love for the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit, a love that extends eternally and embraces the world in hands outstretched and nailed to the cross.
That active love, at once hidden and unseen, shows itself to us ever so poignantly and yet ever so powerfully when, on this night, this very night, “he carried himself in his own hands” for us and for our salvation.
He commands us to love who commands us to take, eat, and drink of his body broken and his blood out-poured.  He provides us with the sacrament of his love on this night, this very night in which he was betrayed.
Behold our hands of betrayal.  But, even more, behold his hands of love.
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another;
as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,

Matt 21:1-11
Isa 50:4-7
Phil 2:6-11
Matt 26:14 – 27:66

Together with Jesus, we enter Holy Week at Jerusalem.

A city, then as now, where a remarkable awareness of the presence of the holy has regularly intertwined with violence. As Jesus and the disciples made their puzzling entry into Jerusalem, a festive and agitated crowd gathered. Some people threw down their clothes, while others hacked down branches to spread in Jesus’s path. Religious acclamations were shouted out. Not long after, Jesus’s life would end in bloodshed.

Passover time was volatile and fraught, the Romans needing to increase security. Crowds are a jumble of people and expectations, and not always predictable in their reactions. For those with more revolutionary messianic hopes, the use of branches would recall the Maccabean triumphs. The spread- out garnments could be seen as a royal acclamation. When Jesus was born, St Matthew notes that Jerusalem had been ‘troubled’. He now uses an even stronger term, saying the city ‘quaked’.

So who can now reconstruct accurately the mix of heightened religious beliefs, political hopes, and sheer excitement generated by Christ’s entry into Jerusalem? It would not have been rare for those in Jerusalem to go out into the streets to greet arriving pilgrims. Leaving Jericho in the east, this group could have taken the Roman road climbing thousands of feet up to Jerusalem. Pilgrims coming from that direction would arrive at Bethphage, across the Kedron valley. Jerusalem would then come into sight.

But this entry would turn out to be unique and momentous. The entry was made by Jesus, humble, with a pair of beasts of burden, yet it gathered  shouting crowds in front and behind him. For some this might have been a parody or reversal of the triumphal entry of kings and emperors, for some it could have announced that the restoration of the Davidic kingdom was at hand, for others a symbolic statement was being made that here indeed was a ruler but with a new, redefined kind of authority.
In no sense was Jesus deluded in his entry into Jerusalem, and our faith in him is that he accomplished God’s providential plan. Neither are we deluded nor under an illusion in believing there is a divine plan established from eternity and progressively revealed to believers. The variety of reactions to his saving work will continue to be presented to us throughout Holy Week.

Today at Mass, the Lord’s entrance will be commemorated, whatever its form may be: with a procession or a solemn entrance or a simple entrance. Then the Passion will be read or sung. The liturgy indicates that it is ‘Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord’. As well as recording the variety of reactions to and beliefs about Jesus, the Scriptures as understood by the Church will unfold the real and saving meaning of what is being said and done by Christ himself. 

 There was indeed an entry into Jerusalem, there were very significant events in that city, and then came the Passion and resurrection.  We need, however, to go step by step in Holy Week and not neglect to meditate at some depth as we go. St Matthew tells us that when Jesus entered Jerusalem the city was in tumult, quaking indeed, with people asking ‘Who is this?’.

And we Christian believers need constantly to deepen our own faith, and help those who in different ways still ask about Jesus Christ: who is this? The answer is shattering in its power. Jerusalem quaked when Jesus entered it, the earth would quake as Jesus died, and there was a strong earthquake as the angel descended onto the empty tomb. The impact of Christ’s life, death and resurrection is without precedent.

The good news of salvation must not be tamed. Jesus Christ has a sovereign authority not known before on earth, he reigns with the kind of power that is a unique love. He makes a difference to everyone and to everything. The bible’s last book, the Apocalypse, keeps before us the sight of a new heaven and a new earth. There is a holy city too, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

Blessings for Holy Week,

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Passion Sunday

My Friends,

John 8, verses 1-11

Today’s Gospel story is simply captivating, although Jesus speaks few words. He writes in the sand with his finger – a gesture which is unexplained, and uncommented by the evangelist. It all builds up the tension, which is already huge from the very first moment the woman is brought to Jesus, as the crowd stands in silent expectation of a swift judgment. To be more precise: judgment had already been made. The woman was caught in the act, and the Law prescribes, that she be stoned to death.

 But Christ has not been born to bring death but life. He has become one of us to reveal God to us, but also to teach us how to live out our human lives. And today his teaching is twofold.

 Firstly, Jesus shows us, that there is no judgment without mercy. Mercy is not an optional part of justice, rather it is its central part. A judgment which does not consider mercy is not just. This Christian principle has actually made its way to most of the European justice systems, whereby a sentence is not simply an act of punishment, but also a ways of rehabilitating the culprit, a means of restoring him or her into society. Ideally it should be, if you like, a means of bringing the culprit back to life. It is, of course, a huge challenge not to think about vengeance when we are hurt. But before we throw a stone to condemn someone unconditionally we need to pause – even the worst criminals deserve true justice, the kind of justice which brings them back to life.
 It is easier said than done, for it takes two to tango. The real question, therefore, which is asked of me and you, is: are we are willing to give people another chance? Not just once or twice, but seventy seven times. It takes a lot of courage and faith to base justice on mercy and not on vengeance, because we might be setting ourselves up for another disappointment.

 Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Jesus indicates that we can break out of the vicious circle of sin. He tells the woman: “Go and sin no more.”

It is something, which we ought to consider seriously, especially, perhaps, when we prepare ourselves for the Easter confession. Do I really believe, that I can break away from my sins? Why do I go to confession? Of course, it is always such a great and liberating experience to know that my sins are forgiven. But confession should be more to me than a therapeutic exercise. It should be a way of thinking about my future, whereby I take real steps to avoid what harms me. And it all starts with what I actually believe. Do I believe that sin is no longer a necessary part of my life after baptism? Do I believe that I have been given sufficient grace? Do I believe that Christ lives in me and that he “by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”?

Christ has conquered sin and death and we are united to him. I hope that the sure faith, that we are part of his body, and that nothing is able to separate us from his love, will give us courage and joy, and strengthen us. May it give us the power to show mercy and give life. May it spur us on to renew our lives, so that he may draw us ever more towards himself, until we reach our perfection through him, and with him and in him.

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston, Tasmania