Sunday, December 21, 2014

Police Officer's Prayer to St. Michael

Saint Michael, heaven's glorious commissioner of police,
who once so neatly and successfully cleared God's premises
of all its undesirables, look with kindly and professional
eyes on your earthly force.

Give us cool heads, stout hearts, and uncanny flair for
investigation and wise judgment.

Make us the terror of burglars, the friend of children and
law-abiding citizens, kind to strangers, polite to bores,
strict with law-breakers and impervious to temptations.

You know, Saint Michael, from your own experiences
with the devil that the police officer's lot on earth is not
always a happy one; but your sense of duty that so
pleased God, your hard knocks that so surprised the
devil, and your angelic self-control give us inspiration.

And when we lay down our night sticks, enroll us in your
heavenly force, where we will be as proud to guard the
throne of God as we have been to guard the city of all

the people.    Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bishop’s Note: Week of Advent 4B

Bishop Eric Menees

As I make my parish visitations, and as we approach the last Sunday of Advent and light that final candle, you can feel the excitement in the air. Last Sunday we lit the rose color candle for Gaudete (or Rejoicing) Sunday. This Sunday we light the last purple candle – the Angel Candle, sometimes referred to as the Candle of Love. Given our Gospel reading from the First Chapter of Luke, that name makes perfect sense.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’” (Luke 1:26-28)

I cannot hear these words without being brought back to my childhood. I was first exposed to the gospel message of Christmas in a most unique manner – TV, and specifically, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I was just a boy when that came out – I wonder how many millions of children around the world were exposed to the Word of God in that stirring cartoon presentation?  

I cannot hear these words without thinking of my first year as a priest in East Los Angeles. At that parish we had a long-standing tradition of the “Posada,” which is a wonderful Latino custom of re-enacting the story of Mary and Joseph looking for shelter. The service began in the church with this reading from the first chapter of Luke. We had a man and woman dress up as Mary & Joseph, and even brought a donkey to help us process through the neighborhood. The Angel Gabriel was always played by a strong young man who dressed like a warrior angel – which, of course, Gabriel is!

I cannot hear these words without thinking of later years and the Christmas pageants in my congregation, where my children would dress up – sometimes as a shepherd, sometimes as an angel, and always a handful!

The Word of God as expressed by the Angel Gabriel not only touches lives, but also transforms them. And yet, we live in a world in which the number of children who will not hear these words on TV, or in the streets, or in church is rising.  

Over the past three weeks I’ve spoken of the Messianic Prophecies. This week I would like to call each and every one of you in the Diocese of San Joaquin to be an Angel or a Prophet. Bring someone to church to hear the Word of God, to see transformed lives, and to be caught up with the heavenly host!

God bless you all!   Bishop Menees

Catechism Questions 55 - 57

55.    Was Mary the only human parent of Jesus?
Yes. Mary is held in honor, for she submitted to the will of God and bore the Son of God as her own son. However, after God told Joseph of Mary’s miraculous conception, Joseph took Mary as his wife and they raised Jesus as their son. (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38, 2:48)
56.    What is the relationship between Jesus’ humanity and his divinity?
Jesus is both fully and truly God, and fully and truly human. The divine and human natures of Jesus’ Person may be distinguished but can never be separated, changed or confused. All that Jesus does as a human being, he also does as God; and before he ever became human, he was eternally living and active within the unity of the Holy Trinity. (John 1:1-2; 5:18; 10:30; 14:8-9; Luke 2:7; Definition of Chalcedon)
57.    Why did Jesus suffer?
Jesus suffered for our sins so that we could have peace with God, as prophesied in the Old Testament: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

No, We Love Yeshua

Fr. Dale Matson

The Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) via a report in “Christianity Today” reported December 1st that ISIS murdered four Christian children for refusing to denounce their faith in Jesus.

Here is a video from Fr. Andrew White an Anglican Priest known as the vicar of Bagdad, who was ordered to leave Bagdad by Archbishop Welby.

December (28th) is also the feast of the Holy Innocents who were martyred by King Herod. Here is what St. Augustine had to say.

"Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers' womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod's cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers' bosom, are justly hailed as "infant martyr flowers"; they were the Church's first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.”
— St. Augustine

Prayers of the People
And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear especially these children, beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service; and to grant us grace so to follow the good examples of Christian Martyrs and all thy saints, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom. Grant these our prayers, O Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen. (HE 1, P.330 BCP)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bishop's Note 3 For Advent 3 Year B

Bishop Eric Menees

This Advent Season, my Bishop's Notes are focused on the prophecies of Isaiah written about 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus.  However, this week’s prophecy from the sixty-fifth chapter of Isaiah, which will be read this Sunday - the Third Sunday of Advent - speaks not to the first advent of Jesus, which took place two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, but to the Second Advent of Jesus, which is yet to come.  

"The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord." (Isaiah 65:25)

God, speaking through Isaiah, paints a beautiful picture which would have seemed impossible to the people of 700 B.C., and still seems impossible to the people of 2014 A.D.  However, God's Word is perfect, and there is no doubt in my mind that in time we will see not only the coming of the Lord, but also the restoration of His Creation to its original state.

In the Garden of Eden before the Fall - when Adam and Eve knew no shame - the wolf and the lamb were not hunter and prey, but fellow creatures in a perfect land and a perfect time.  This is what God intended.

In the restoration of the heavens and the earth, the king of beasts will not be required to hunt for his food, for it will grow from the earth.  Equally, in the restoration the master killer - man - will no longer harm another soul, but will live in eternal peace in the presence of the Lord.  However, the serpent (Satan) will not be restored - he will still be forced to slither along the ground.

The question isn't whether or not God will restore the heavens and the earth, but rather when, and what shall we do until then?

One of the possible readings for this coming Sunday, in place of the Psalm, is the Magnificat (AKA the Song of Mary from Luke 1:46-55).  It contains the Virgin Mary's joyful proclamation: "My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior." (Luke 1:46)  The Blessed Virgin's soul cries out because she recognized how blessed she was.  We to need to recognize how blessed we are!  When we live a life of gratitude in loving response to God's first loving us, then we fulfill our very purpose in life: "To glorify God and enjoy Him for ever…,” to quote the Westminster Catechism.  

My prayer for you and my prayer for me this Advent Season is that we may set this as our goal and chief aim in life.  And to that I say... AMEN!  

Catechism Questions 52 - 54

52.    Why is Jesus called the Father’s “only Son?”
Jesus alone is God the Son, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He alone is the image of the invisible Father, the one who makes the Father known. He is now and forever will be incarnate as a human, bearing his God-given human name. The Father created and now rules all things in heaven and earth “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-5; John 1:18)
53.    What do you mean when you call Jesus Christ “Lord?”
I acknowledge Jesus’ authority over the Church and all creation, over all societies and their rulers, and over every aspect of my personal, social, professional, recreational, and family life. I surrender my life to him and seek to live every part of my life in a way that pleases him. (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:21-22; Luke 9:23-26)
54.     How was Jesus conceived by the Holy Spirit?

Through the creative power of the Holy Spirit, the eternal Son assumed a fully human nature from his mother, the Virgin Mary, in personal union with his fully divine nature at the moment of conception in Mary’s womb. (Luke l:34-35)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bishop's Note for Advent 2 Year B

Bishop Eric Menees

In this second week of Advent, we continue to watch and pray and prepare to receive the Lord!  This week we hear the Prophet Isaiah calling out to the people words of comfort and hope.  However, they immediately follow the warning to King Hezekiah that the Babylonians will attack and carry off the young men and the treasury.  How can you have both a prophecy of doom and a prophecy of hope for the same people?  The answer is: because God sees the big picture - the macro and the micro - of all situations.   

What is that prophecy of hope? 3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.  (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Even if you are not familiar with the words of Isaiah, you will probably associate them with John the Baptist proclaiming the fulfillment of this prophecy.  In fact, all four gospels confirm (Mt. 3:3, Mk. 1:2, Lk. 3:4 & Jn. 1:24) that Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of this prophecy - a prophecy uttered some seven hundred years prior to Jesus, and that preceeded great devastation and grief.  But through it all, God was faithful, even if the people were not.

As we move through the trials and tribulations of life, we can always count on the absolutely constant character of God - He will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)  Why?  Because of what he did two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem; the Glory of the Lord was revealed in Jesus bar-Joseph who is also known as Immanuel - God with us. (Mt. 1:23)

Because God is constant and has revealed Himself in His Son Jesus, we can trust that He will fulfill His promise to come again and judge the earth; not judging out of wrath or vengeance, but out of His constant character of love and justice.

This week we light the second candle of the Advent wreath and draw closer to the day when we will either be called home, or welcome Him who promised to come in His Second Advent.
Catechism Questions 49 - 51

49.    Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is the eternal Word and Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. He took on human flesh to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world, the only Mediator between God and fallen mankind. (1 Timothy 2:5; John 1:14; 14:6; 1 Peter 1:18-19)
50.    What does “Jesus” mean?
“Jesus” means “God saves” and is taken from the Hebrew name Yeshua or Joshua. In Jesus, God has come to save us from the power of sin and death. (Matthew 1:21)
51.    What does “Christ” mean?

Christos is a Greek word meaning “Anointed One.” Old Testament kings, priests and prophets were anointed with oil. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to perfectly fulfill these roles and he rules now as God’s prophet, priest, and king over his Church and all creation. (Acts 10:38)