Friday, July 3, 2015

Bishop’s Note: July 02, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Knowledge

Bishop Eric Menees

I never cease to be amazed at the way God the Holy Spirit works in my life, both as an individual and in my ministry as the Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin. One of the ways that God blesses me, and presumably blesses others, is in the Apostolic Laying on of Hands in the sacrament of Confirmation.

It is my practice to dedicate time in the night and early morning to praying for each candidate individually – asking the Lord to show me something about them and the ministry that He would have them be involved with in their congregation and in the future.

Generally, but not always, I'll have a dream or a Word of Knowledge regarding the person to share with them as I pray and lay hands upon them. For example, with one man I had the strongest sense in the core of my being that he was to step out in faith and start a business. Unknown to me this young man had been wrestling back and forth about just that question – whether to work for someone else or go out on his own. Weeks after the confirmation service his family reported that the Word of Knowledge that I shared with him resonated as deeply within him as it had within me. He stepped out in faith, and his business has gone from good to better and continues to grow even now, several years later.

Like all Gifts of the Spirit, the reality of the gift is made manifest in the bearing of fruit. This is exactly what Isaiah had prophesied when he wrote: "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord”

The fruit of the Gift of Knowledge is seen in a deepening trust and certainty about the Lord. The gift of knowledge is imparted by the Holy Spirit and is deepened through the daily study of Holy Scripture and prayer. God is constantly seeking to communicate with us, and His two most prevalent ways of communicating are through His Word and through our quietly listening to the Lord. God may speak audibly, or He may speak through a sermon; a teacher; a friend. When He speaks, there is a resonance in your soul and you just know that you know.

We step out in Faith when we act on what the Lord tells us. Whether it is a word for us personally or for another, the Lord wants us to risk a little – share the word with a trusted friend, member of the clergy, or mentor to get their opinion. Always make sure that the word is in accordance with Holy Scripture and the teachings of the church, and ultimately - once the Word of Knowledge is acted upon - take the time in the near and distant future to review the results of that action. In other words, ask: “What Godly fruit has this born?”

Pray that the Holy Spirit will shed His Spirit of Knowledge upon you, that He may bless you and others.

I pray that the Lord may bless and keep you this week and always!

Catechism Questions 131 - 14

131.    What is the anointing of the sick?
Through prayer and anointing with oil, the minister invokes God’s blessing upon those suffering in body, mind, or spirit. (Matthew 10:8; James 5:14-16).

132.    What grace does God give in the anointing of the sick?
As God wills, the healing given through anointing may bring bodily recovery from illness, peace of mind or spirit, and strength to persevere in adversity, especially in preparation for death.

133.    What are sins?
A sin is any desire or disobedient act that arises out of the fallen condition of my human nature and falls short, either by commission or omission, of perfect conformity to God’s revealed will. (1 John 3:4)

134.    How does God respond to human sin?

All sin is opposed to the holiness of God, and is therefore subject to God’s condemnation But God in his mercy offers forgiveness and salvation from sin to all people through the reconciling life, death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. (Matthew 26:28; Romans 1:18-2:4; 6:6-11)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bishop’s Note: June 25, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Godly Might

Bishop Eric Menees

In over 28 years of ordained ministry - and the several years prior, as a layman - I have never ceased to be amazed at the fortitude that some of our brothers and sisters have: strength to fight and strength to die gracefully; strength to love, serve, and stand by the side of a loved one in the midst of great sorrow and fear.

This strength comes not from within ourselves, but as a gift of the Holy Spirit that is sometimes referred to as Godly Might or Godly Fortitude. Again, this is referenced as one of the foundational gifts by the Prophet Isaiah when he wrote: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-3a)

In my ministry, throughout the years as a Hospice Chaplain, Hospice Board Member, and Fire Department Trauma Team founder and member, I've been both blessed and cursed to witness hundreds of people face traumatic injury or illness. When that happens, both the patient and their loved ones must come to a place of either resignation at their ill fate, or of recognizing that, even though we live in a fallen world that knows great pain and sorrow, we can, as Christians, face pain and suffering with the knowledge that even in suffering God can be glorified and others can be aided.

In my own family, I look to my brother as an example of one who has had Godly Might & Fortitude. Ken has juvenile diabetes and is now 58 years old. Ken's health has deteriorated over the years: he's had two heart attacks, several stints, his kidneys are not working well, he has no feeling in his feet, and his eyesight continues to weaken. In short, Ken has all of the problems that someone who has had diabetes for fifty years would have. In all that time, I've never heard him complain, nor ask for a break or to have things easier. Ken has gotten up every morning and gone to work to support his family, to be a productive citizen, and to help other people.  

I'm not sure Ken would say that he's gifted with Godly Might, but he'd be quick to say that he could not have done all that he has without God's help. Ken and his family are faithful Catholic Christians - he serves with the Knights of Columbus and, throughout the years, has held about every position a layman can have at his church; never complaining about his illness, never asking for a break, and never giving in.

Two weeks ago Ken got to see something he secretly feared that he might not - his only child's marriage to a wonderful man. I was so proud of my brother as he walked my niece down the aisle. I stood at the altar and saw the beam in my brothers face that radiated the love of a father for his daughter, and the Love of our Heavenly Father for his adopted son.

Let us pray for all the Kens of this world, and for all of the men and women who love them and care for them in good times and in bad. Thank God for the gift of Godly Might and Fortitude - it is too frightening to think what this world would be like without it!

Let us pray: "Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake." Amen.

I pray you all a blessed week as you seek and serve the Lord!

Catechism Questions 127 - 130

127.    What is the work of deacons?
The work of deacons, serving Christ under their bishops, is to assist priests in public worship, instruct both young and old in the catechism, and care for those in need. (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13)

128.    What is marriage?
Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, binding both to self-giving love and exclusive fidelity. In the rite of Christian marriage, the couple exchange vows to uphold this covenant. They do this before God and in the presence of witnesses, who pray that God will bless their life together. (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19; Mark 10:2-9; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39)

129.    What is signified in marriage?
The covenantal union of man and woman in marriage signifies the communion between Christ, the heavenly bridegroom, and the Church, his holy bride. Not all are called to marriage, but all Christians are wedded to Christ and blessed by the grace God gives in marriage. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

130.    What grace does God give in marriage?

In Christian marriage, God establishes and blesses the covenant between husband and wife, and joins them to live together in a communion of love, faithfulness and peace within the fellowship of Christ and his Church. God enables all married people to grow in love, wisdom and godliness through a common life patterned on the sacrificial love of Christ.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bishop’s Note: June 18, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Godly Counsel

Bishop Eric Menees

Have you ever had a situation where you might be speaking to a brother or sister who is going through a difficult time?  Perhaps they were trying to figure out a difficult relationship, or seeking to reconcile, or seeking to make a difficult decision, and sought out your counsel?

Did you find yourself, in that moment, offering clear counsel that resonated with your friend?  If so you probably experienced the gift of Godly Counsel that Isaiah spoke of when he wrote: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3a)

The gift of Godly Counsel is present both in the giving and receiving of good advice in practical situations.  The fruit of this gift is more than just a sense of it being sound advice, but it is fruitful when applied to a situation that allows someone to mature in his or her walk with the Lord.  

In my ministry, I seem to recognize this most in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I see it when my Confessor speaks into my life and I just know: “Yes, this is truth and this is what I must do.”  This isn’t because my confessor is terrific, though he is; it is because I’m open in that moment to the Spirit of God speaking into my life and using Fr. Larry as His instrument.

In other times I am the confessor, and I just know in my heart that this is the counsel that I’m supposed to give, or this is the question I am supposed to ask that will allow the penitent to make the connection.  When this occurs, it is not because of my great counsel, but because the Holy Spirit leads us to discern right from wrong and good from evil.

Ultimately, the gift of Godly Counsel comes with humility – humbling ourselves to seek help from others and - most importantly - from the Lord when faced with difficult decisions, or aiding others in making the right decisions and taking right actions.

“Gracious and loving Lord we pray for the anointing of your Holy Spirit with the gift of Godly Counsel for the furtherance our ministry in your church, for the benefit of your children and for your honor and glory!  Open our hearts and minds to humbly receive you gift and then to willingly share it with others.  This we pray in the name of our one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Catechism Questions 124 - 126

124.    What are the three ordained ministries in the Anglican Church?
The three orders are bishops, priests, and deacons.

125.    What is the work of bishops?
The work of bishops is to represent and serve Christ and the Church as chief pastors, to lead in preaching and teaching the faith and in shepherding the faithful, to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church, and to bless, confirm and ordain, thus following in the tradition of the Apostles. (Titus 1:7-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:28)

126.    What is the work of priests?

The work of priests, serving Christ under their bishops, is to nurture congregations through the full ministry of the Word preached and Sacraments rightly administered, and to pronounce absolution and blessing in God’s name. (Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Bishop’s Note: June 11, 2015 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Understanding

Bishop Eric Menees

During this Season after Pentecost – often referred to as “Ordinary Time” – I am embarking on an examination of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are freely given to believers at baptism with the general graces of the Lord, and then boldly given at confirmation or the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”

What might be referred to as “Foundational gifts,” are those that the Prophet Isaiah speaks of: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3a ESV)  The seven foundational gifts are: Wisdom, Understanding, Might (fortitude), Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

These gifts are freely given by God the Holy Spirit and are provided to the believer so that we may fulfill the purpose of our lives, which is to Love and Serve the Lord.  

The second of these gifts is Understanding.  This gift of the Holy Spirit opens our minds to the understanding of Divine Truth as revealed in the Word of the Lord and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Take, for example, the way you can be reading the Word of God and then, all of a sudden, that passage which you’ve read a hundred times leaps off the page with a whole new meaningfulness to you.  This past Sunday while studying for my sermon, I read from the Gospel of Mark: “[21] And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21 ESV)  In the past, while reading this scripture, I always understood the second “they” as Jesus’ family. But this week, I believe the Holy Spirit gave me understanding to recognize the second “they” was the detractors of Jesus.  Thus, Jesus’ family went up to aid Jesus, to check on him and to protect him.

God gives us the gift of the Understanding so that God may be glorified! This is not understanding so that we may simply be enriched or somehow made better.  This is not the understanding that God gives where we have a deeper understanding about a math problem or a problem at work.  This is Understanding of, and a deeper perception of, God’s divine love for us – His love for YOU!

I pray that God may grant us this Understanding, so that we may better serve Him and better love our neighbor!

“God the Holy Spirit, we give you thanks and praise for the gift of wisdom and understanding.  Enlighten our hearts and minds to better love and know you for who you are as the almighty and glorious Lord and creator of all live and grace.” Amen!

I pray you all a blessed Lord’s Day!

Catechism Questions 121 - 123

121.    What grace does God give to you in absolution?
In absolution, God conveys to me his pardon through the cross, thus declaring to me reconciliation and peace with him, and bestowing upon me the assurance of his grace and salvation.

122.    What is ordination?
Through prayer and the laying on of the bishop’s hands, ordination consecrates, authorizes, and empowers persons called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. (1 Timothy 1:5; 5:22; Acts 6:6)

123.    What grace does God give in ordination?

In ordination, God confirms the gifts and calling of the candidates, conveys the gift of the Holy Spirit for the office and work of bishop, priest or deacon, and sets them apart to act on behalf of the Church and in the name of Christ.