Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Third Sunday in Lent


Dear Friends, 
Reading: Laint Luke 11 v 19
“And the last state of that man is worse than the first”
 
It is a terrifying picture really - a picture of the darkness of utter desolation.  It is something which our contemporary culture knows about or, at least, experiences, in one way or another.  It is the sense of hopelessness, the sense of utter futility, the sense of the empty nothingness of life. 
 
We live, of course, in a world that is seemingly full of everything; there is a fullness of images.  We are constantly besieged and bombarded by a vast array of images which flicker and dance before our imaginations in what is presented to our senses.  The consequence is that our sensual imagination is overloaded.  What are these images?  They are the images of violence, pornography and self-indulgence; in short, the crass hedonism of consumer culture.  What is quickly discovered is that they are nothing.  There is a terrible nothingness to this fullness of images.  They are, as it were, nothing worth and quite unsatisfactory.  Yet, they consume us.  We are possessed by what beguiles us.  We find that we are strangers to ourselves.  We are alienated from ourselves.
 
What shall we do?  Shall we empty ourselves of these empty images through some heroic effort of will?  Perhaps, but is it really “nirvana” - a state of empty nothingness that we seek?  For in the culture of images even the emptying ourselves of the images of sensual immediacy is to find ourselves in vacuum land.  (I am reminded of the  radio personality Alan MacPhee, who used to introduce his music programme “Eclectic Circus” with the words: “Hello out there in vacuum land”).  Whether we are full of these empty images or aware of their emptiness we are nonetheless empty and lost to ourselves.  “And the last state of that man is worse than the first”. 
 
What is missing?  The what is who.  It is God.  What is missing is our appetite for the Absolute, our desire for God.  At the very least, it is misdirected and lost in the relentless pursuit of everything and nothing.  “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee”, in God. 
 
In the Gospel, there is the picture of the housecleaning of our souls.  At issue is two things: first, how are we going to clean up the mess? and second, for what end?  The point is that without the finger of God the housecleaning will leave us truly empty, indeed, desolate and in despair.  “And the last state of that man is worse than the first”.
 
The point is that the housecleaning of our souls is really about setting our houses in order so that our souls are places for God.  Then we are no longer strangers to ourselves.  We are at home with God, with ourselves and with one another - in a blessed company.  “Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it”. 
 
The Christian religion par excellence is not about a flight from the world and from the images of the world.  It is rather a flight to God in whom there is the redemption of all things - a setting in order of everything.  The Christian religion is, in this sense, full of images but only as ordered to God and as seen within the pageant of redemption.  It means that the naming of the demons of our souls is by the finger of God.  God puts his finger upon our demons.  The finger grace of God has the housecleaning touch, we might say - far better than any Mr. Clean.  But our souls are put in order by God so that our souls may be places for God. 
 
What does this mean?  At one level, it means that our busyness - here acknowledged as a kind of empty busyness - has to give place to a restfullness in God.  Our busyness is really our restlessness for God - that is the positive in our busyness.  The negative is that without God - without our awareness of our need for God, without our desire for God - we are in danger of despair.  In a way, the point is illustrated in another Gospel story, the story of Martha and Mary.  Ultimately, the busyness of Martha has to be brought into the restfullness of Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his word.  Such a resting is an attentiveness to Jesus – “listening to his words”.  Perhaps the point is best captured by Aelred of Rievaulx: 

In this wretched and laborious life, brethren, Martha must of necessity be in our house; that is to say, our soul has to be concerned with bodily actions.  As long as we need to eat and drink, we shall need to tame our flesh with watching, fasting, and work.  This is Martha’s role.  But in our souls there ought also to be Mary, that is, spiritual activity.  For we should not always give ourselves to bodily efforts, but sometimes be still and see how lovely, how sweet the Lord is, sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing his word.  You should in no wise neglect Mary for Martha; or again Martha for Mary.  For, if you neglect Martha, who will feed Jesus?  If you neglect Mary, what use is it for Jesus to come to your house, when you taste nothing of his sweetness?
It is wanted not that we be found empty and in despair but full of the grace of God, attentive to his word and purpose.  For only then shall we be in a better state than ever before.  Only by the finger grace of God can we avoid the terror of that picture of ourselves where “the last state of that man is worse than the first”. 

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




Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Second Sunday in Lent - Sunday 28 February 2021

 

Dear Friends, 

This is my Beloved Son; listen to Him. '
(after Mark 9,2.7)

Consideration for this Sunday gospel

Life goes on, Jesus pulls us through it

You can experience Lent as a pilgrimage that you go with Jesus.After all, He is the 'door' to, and He leads you to His and our Father, with Him you draw into the desert (last week), and this time you go up Mount Tabor with Him. Jesus is with Peter,and the brothers James and John went up to Mount Tabor (nearly 600 m. high), and there
they have a heavenly experience. Jesus changes form and talks to two Great leaders from the Old Testament, viz. Moses and Elijah the prophet, who put it themselves in their lives too struggling, they encourage Jesus and are a light to Him for His mission.Then they are surrounded by a cloud, from which sounds God's voice saying; This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to Him. ' The three students who came along were so moved by that,that Peter proposes setting up three tents so that they can stay there, for it is so blessed time..But Jesus was a person who could let go, also this blissful moment on the mountain with the luminous  figures from the past, He could let go of it a lot of trouble was in store. However, He was not deterred by that, He continued to believe in his ideal of the kingdom of heaven. And for that it is necessary that you do not take care of yourself alone, but that you reach out to the people around you. Jesus started again to fulfill his mission, He wanted to be a light to the people, especially to the sick and handicapped but also tax collectors and sinners.The three apostles are not allowed to lean back yet, because they also have to work themselves, they go with Jesus down the mountain and try to be a light for the people themselves. And that is also the assignment for us as followers of Jesus Christ, it is also our calling not to get stuck on our own 'hill' like it we are doing well, have our way and life is smiling. We too can go and visit people who sitting in a valley, in the pit or in the dark and going through difficult days. You can then be light yourself, heat and compassion for others, and then you also experience light within yourself. Likewise today there may be some for which this world now looks like hell, yet a piece of heaven become reality. The apostles who are so involved with Jesus the clouds were on Mount Tabor, are the same three who also saw Jesus in his deepest vulnerability in the Garden of Olives, Jesus had told them not to speak to anyone about this until He would rise from the dead. We also experience highlights in our lives, for example falling in love, a wish for a child that is fulfilled, parties,anniversaries, promotion or good results etc. And now that vaccinations can be done around the corona event, that is also another bright spot in the almost hopeless tunnel.

But just as certainly there will also be lows or dark sides for your life. Just look at the riots and aggression by the rules surrounding the pandemic

Trying to keep it under control, that in turn is the shadow side of the 'light in the tunnel. Light and darkness, joy and sorrow,a smile and a tear, in Biblical language: In everyone's  life are 'mountain' and 'valley' experiences, you can't live on just peak moments, but you also know that there are heavy ones trials always remain a ray of light and hope that there is a way out, however laborious at times.
Highs and lows belong together, illness, suffering and death inevitably belong to our lives, just like joy of birth, healing, holidays, love and friendship. There is Good Friday and Easter, they can not without each other, that is the reality because of my faith there remains hope. No Easter without Good Friday!
You cannot hold on to anything in your life, everything is temporary, life goes on, do not stand still, but carry on in God's confidence. 


Father Ed Bakker 




Monday, February 22, 2021

The First Sunday in Lent - 21 February 21




My Friends, 
 
 
The First Sunday of Lent (Lk 4:1-13) leads with the story of the temptations, marking the first stage of this journey that leads us up to the Passover of the Lord.
We emphasize some elements, which can help us enter today’s theme and, therefore, in the time that begins today.

The Evangelist Luke, like the other Synoptics, puts the story of temptations before the beginning of Jesus’ public life.

And that is to say that before starting His mission, Jesus must make a choice, must orient himself on the path, must choose which Messianic style He wants to give to His ministry.

Temptation enters the world, from the beginning, as we read in the Book of Genesis chapter 3, as the possibility of a different choice, different from God’s original design, from the way He thought and created man, in His image and likeness.
Even Jesus must choose, therefore, and the devil does not spare Him this test. But, unlike the other Synoptics, Luke concludes the periscope, saying that “after having exhausted every temptation, the devil turned away from him until the fixed time” (Lk 4:13).

Whatever this fixed time is, it is Luke himself who suggests it: while in Matthew, in fact, after the first temptation in the desert, the devil immediately brings Jesus “into the holy city” (Mt 4:5), in Luke the last two temptations are inverted, and Luke puts the climax of the trial in Jerusalem, where the devil places Jesus on the highest point of the temple (Lk 4:9).

The whole journey of Jesus in the third Gospel, as we will see several times during the year, is nothing but a journey to Jerusalem, where Jesus knows He has an appointment, He’s expecting.

Also on the Cross, like today in the desert, Jesus will be asked to save himself, not to be a man like any other man, to choose, at least this time, the way of power, the sensational and the miraculous; He will be asked to come down from the cross, and this, three times (Lk 23: 35-39), just as in the desert Jesus is tempted three times by the devil.

In Jerusalem Jesus addresses the ultimate test, and confirms that He wants what He chooses today: not a life centered on Himself, a life that is self-made, but a life that is received from the Father and entrusted to Him.

And in Jerusalem, the trial will be terrible because the price of fidelity to the original choice will be death on the cross: there Jesus will judge that this fidelity is worth more than one’s life, and will completely reverse the logic of the devil.
If, in fact, the devil, in today’s temptations, invites Jesus to use the power that comes from His being the Son of God to save Himself, to avoid the limit and fatigue of being a man, Jesus will choose in Jerusalem the path of limitation of weakness and death as a way of fully expressing His obedience to the Father, His unlimited trust in Him; to express fully the ultimate meaning of a humanity that is realized not by making itself, but in a humble and trusting relationship of sonship with the Father.
Where does this awareness come from to Jesus, which gives consistency to his choices? Luke suggests two answers to us.

The first is the mention of the Spirit, who returns twice in this passage (Lk 4:1): Jesus is not alone but is continuously addressed to the Father thanks to the Spirit Who dwells in Him. The solitude of the desert is the place where Jesus experience with greater power the presence of the Father, the strength of the relationship with Him.
The second is clearly linked to the Word: Jesus responds to the devil not in His own words, but from the Scriptures. In fact, His words are nothing more than citations of Deuteronomy. Jesus responds not with His words, but with the Word of God the Father.

The temptation that would push a person to listen and trust another voice that is not that of the Father, cannot be overcome with power, with cunning, with simple intelligence: through these only means we could only be losers, slaves yet again of trust in ourselves. The trial is undergone and overcome by remaining in humble and patient listening, to the truth of the Father, trusting Him.
Also on the cross, in the final temptation, Jesus will use these same weapons: His last words (Lk 23:45) will be the quotation of Psalm Ps 31:6, a prayer that tell once again His total trust in the relationship with the Father: “Father, in your hands I commit my spirit.”

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



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ashwednesday


My Friends 

“And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Matthew 6:4b

Lent begins. 40 days to pray, fast and grow in charity.  We need this time each year to step back and reexamine our lives, to turn away from our sins and to grow in the virtues God so deeply desires to bestow upon us.  The 40 days of Lent are to be an imitation of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. In fact, we are called not only to “imitate” Jesus’ time in the desert, we are called to live this time with Him, in Him and through Him.


Jesus did not personally need to spend 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert so as to obtain a deeper holiness.  He is Holiness Itself! He is the Holy One of God. He is Perfection. He is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  He is God. But Jesus entered into the desert to fast and pray so as to invite us to join Him and to receive the transforming qualities He manifested in His human nature as He endured the suffering of those 40 days.  Are you ready for your 40 days in the desert with our Lord?


While in the desert, Jesus manifested every perfection within His human nature.  And although no one saw this but the Father in Heaven, His time in the desert was abundantly fruitful for the human race.  It was abundantly fruitful for each one of us.  

The “desert” we are called to enter is one that is hidden from the eyes of those around us but is visible to the Father in Heaven.  It’s “hidden” in that our growth in virtue is not done for vainglory, for selfish recognition, or to obtain worldly praise. The 40 day desert we must enter is one that transforms us by drawing us to deeper prayer, detachment from anything not of God, and fills us with love of those we encounter every day.

During these 40 days, we must pray.  Properly speaking, prayer means we communicate with God on an interior level.  We do more than attend Mass or speak prayers aloud. Prayer is first and foremost a secret and interior communication with God.  We speak, but more than that, we listen, hear, understand and respond.  Without all four of these qualities, prayer is not prayer. It’s not “communication.”  It’s only us talking to ourselves.

During these 40 days, we must fast.  Especially in our day and age, our five senses are overwhelmed with activity and noise.  Our eyes and ears are often dazzled by TV, radio, computers, etc. Our taste buds are constantly satiated with fine foods, sweets and comfort foods, often to excess.  Our five senses need a break from the bombardment of the delights of the world so as to turn to the deeper delights of a life of union with God.


During these 40 days, we must give.  Greed often takes hold of us without us even realizing the extent of its grip.  We want this and that. We consume more and more material things. And we do so because we seek satisfaction from the world.  We need to detach from all that distracts us from God, and generosity is one of the best ways to achieve this detachment.  


Reflect, today, upon these three simple words: pray, fast and give.  Seek to live these qualities in a hidden way known only to God this Lent.  If you do so, the Lord will begin to do greater wonders in your life than you may currently realize are possible.  He will free you from the selfishness that often binds us and will enable you to love Him and others on a whole new level.


Lord, I give myself to You this Lent.  I freely choose to enter into the desert of these 40 days and choose to pray, fast and give of myself to an extent I have never done before.  I pray that this Lent will be a time in which I am transformed interiorly by You. Set me free, dear Lord, from all that keeps me from loving You and others with all my heart.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Fr Ed Bakker





Sunday, February 14, 2021

Quinquagesima Sunday


My Friends, 
The reading: Saint Luke 18 v 34
“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem”
 
We go up.  There is a journey.  The idea of life as a journey is a compelling and common metaphor.  It signifies a sense of purpose and indicates a sense of direction.  But not all journeys are the same.  The differences lie in the conception of the end which conditions the means.  Lent would remind us of the character of the Christian journey.
 
The journey is the pilgrimage of the soul to God and it is a pilgrimage with God.  The end is union with God and God makes our way to him with us.  We are apt to forget how remarkable this really is.  There is our human desiring, on the one hand, our quest for God, the odyssey of the human soul, as it were, but there is, on the other hand, the divine desiring, that is to say, God’s will for us. 
 
The biblical sense of journey sets our human desiring upon a divine foundation.  God calls Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you”.   God sets us upon our way.  But what is that way?  Is it the way of denial, the way of forsaking all that we hold dear?  Yes, but only so as to find everything in the will of God.  Again, that first biblical pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of Abram sets the course for all the rest: “I will bless you, and make your name great....by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves”.  The biblical journey is itself a blessing. 
 
The journey is the way of sacrifice, to be sure, but it portends the greater accomplishment, the building up of the household of God in which none of the parts is lost but each finds their place in the whole.  Such is the body of Christ, as St. Paul would teach us.  What has to be forsaken is our continual tendency to mistake the part for the whole or to deny everything else in reality except our own self-will.  Such are the disorders of sin which result in suffering and death.  The biblical journey does not deny the realities of sin and suffering but makes the way of pilgrimage through them. The point is made in this morning’s psalm.

Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee, / in whose heart are the pilgrim ways;
Who going through the Vale of Misery use it for a well; / yea, the early rain covereth it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength, / and unto the God of gods appeareth every one of them in Sion. (Ps. 84. vv.5-7) 
The pilgrim ways mean going “through the Vale of Misery” and finding it a well of blessings. The journey is the way of suffering and sacrifice in which something good is learned and everything is redeemed.
 
But why is the journey the way of suffering?  Because our way to God must pass through the ways of our rejection of God, because our way to God is the way of redemptive suffering in which the disorders of our souls - our disordered loves - are set in order.  The disciplines of Lent are altogether about this.  They don’t involve a flight from the world and the extinguishing of our desires so much as they intend “the setting of love in order”.  They embrace the three essential characteristics of the Christian pilgrimage: the way of purgation; the way of illumination; and the way of union.
 
The way of purgation intends the removal of all that stands between us and God, the removal of sin and wickedness.  God’s will to be reconciled with his sinful creation is indicated, for instance, in the Old Testament story of Noah and the Flood.  God’s will is not to destroy but to restore and begin again.  And so, too, with Christian baptism.  It sets us upon our way with God.  The way of purgation is a fundamental part of that way.  God’s will to be reconciled with us has to be realised in our lives, in the pattern of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the baptismal pattern. “Baptism represents unto us our Christian profession” (BCP).  There has to be the constant recalling of that divine will for us, the continual renewal of our souls in love, and, of course, our perseverance in this pattern of life.  The season of Lent was traditionally the time when persons were prepared for baptism.  It remains for us as the time when we are especially reminded of our baptismal profession, when we are especially reminded of our covenant with God and of the blessing of our journey with God. 
 
The way of illumination intends our greater understanding of the will of God, the opening of our eyes to see the workings of God’s will.  Lent reminds us of the importance of the reading and study of God’s Word, for “thy word is a light unto my path”.
 
The way of union reminds us that our end is with God and that God is with us in the way of our journeying.  The perfecting of our wills is accomplished in the union of our wills with God’s will.  He goes the way of suffering for us and with us.
 
The great gospel for this day sets us upon the path of our journeying.  It focuses our attention upon the cross of Christ.  It is there that the ways of purgation, illumination and union meet.  It is the condition of our journeying.  As Bonaventure puts it, “There is no path but through that most burning love for the crucified” (The Journey of the Mind to God).
 
“All things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished”, Jesus says.  What are all those things?  They are the things of sin and salvation.  Jesus tells us what these things are in very graphic and concrete terms; he speaks of his passion, his death and resurrection.  And yet, it seems that though he tells us, we don’t get it.  We don’t understand at first; these things are hidden from our eyes in just his telling us of them.  What will it take?  Somehow we have to go through them; somehow we have to see them in the form of the crucified Christ.  Yet it is wanted that we should come to understand and that our love should be set afire by what we are given to understand through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He goes this way for us.  But he goes this way so that we might understand and love all the more.
 
“Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three”, St. Paul tells us in the epistle which follows directly upon this morning’s second lesson.  Faith as a form of knowing - seeing but as in a glass darkly - speaks to our minds.  Hope as longing and desiring speaks to our wills.  But charity is the greatest of these.  Why?  Because it is the union and the perfection of faith and hope and all the other virtues.  Charity is the knowing love of God in our souls by which we are joined to God.
 
In the gospel, Jesus heals the blind man who wouldn’t shut up, that is to say, he called out incessantly to Jesus for mercy.  He receives his sight and went about glorifying God.  Jesus is the one in whom the love of God restores us to the vision of glory.  Such is the purpose of Lent.  The journey is the pilgrimage of love.  It is that “still more excellent way”.  It is the journey with God. 
 
Jesus says, “we go up”, not I go up, or you go up, but “we go up”.  It is not just himself, but we with him.  Jesus wants us to go with him in the way of his sacrifice for us, the way at once of purgation and  illumination and union.  Lent would remind us of the essential elements of our Christian pilgrimage.  It is the way to God but only “through the burning love of the Crucified”, the love which purges, illumines and unites.
 
“Behold we go up to Jerusalem” 

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