Sunday, October 26, 2014

The U.S Is Missing Something In The Fight Against ISIS: Vision

Fr. Dale Matson

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

While no one would argue that the United States has more bombs, bullets and boots, the question is, “Why does the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continue to gain territory and to recruit young people to their cause from the western world?”

The Jihadists see themselves in a struggle against evil and we are the face of their evil. We are attempting to win on the battlefield but we are losing the battle for hearts and minds.
Former Senator Birch Bayh referred to the Jihadist ideology as “empty” on Fox New Sunday (October 26th) If only. If only he was correct. We may kill their soldiers but their ideology, while evil, is robust, certain and virulent. The western world in general and the U.S. lack the courage of their convictions because they lack convictions. We have no vision and are lacking in moral authority. Do we honestly think that we could reinstate the draft to compel young men once again to fight this war?

This is because we have cast off the “Faith Of Our Fathers.” Faith of our fathers! Faith and prayer shall win all nations unto thee; and through the faith that comes from God; mankind shall then indeed be free. (Verse 2)

I am not saying that the U.S. is no longer a compassionate nation. We are the first to offer help to a nation in need. However compassion without truth can be misguided and counterproductive. We are the soup kitchen to the world. We have lost an important thread running through the fabric of our nation and this has led to spiritual poverty, moral uncertainty and the pursuit of self-interest. It is an ugly form of self-determination and individualism. President Obama proudly announced in Turkey (among other venues) that the U.S. was no longer a Christian nation [only].

I was born and grew up in the U.S. Since graduating from high school, I have witnessed a sea of change regarding the former synergistic interplay of faith and nation. Every school assembly I attended began with the Lord’s Prayer. Every school day began with the pledge of allegiance to the flag. “Under God” was included when I was in the fourth grade. My senior civics classroom had the Ten Commandments on the wall. I was a member of the choir that sang the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” for my graduation in 1962. Here is one stanza in particular.

In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom
that transfigures you and me,
As He died to make men holy
let us live to make men free,
His truth is marching on.

How many people recognize the final verse of our national anthem? :

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The U.S. also had an ideology that was robust, certain and contagious. We had both a faith in our God and our country overseen by God. As I look at our Hymnal, much is devoted to this relationship including, “Christian Vocation” and “Pilgrimage and Christian life”, “Christian Responsibility” and a section on “National Songs”.

The fabric of our nation is unraveling because the spiritual thread is being removed. As Christians, we must not allow this to happen to our Country. People around the globe need to see us as the beacon of light in a stormy world. That is our most powerful weapon against the ideology of ISIS.

“For the nation or kingdom that will not serve You will perish; it will be utterly ruined.” (Isaiah 60:12, NIV).

From the watchtower, Dale+

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for Pentecost 20 - Proper 25

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

It's hard to pray this Collect and not immediately recognize that Archbishop Cranmer was referring to St. Paul and 1st Corinthians 13:13: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. This past Saturday, I witnessed a little slice of heaven as Fr. Derek Thomason, who is battling cancer, presided at the marriage service between his son, Matthew, and Matthew’s bride, Tirzah. The Epistle reading was, you guessed it, 1st Corinthians 13.

St. Paul lays out, in Chapter 12, a list of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in Chapter 13 he goes on to make clear that the greatest gift of God is the gift of LOVE. Love is the gift that sustains and supports all of the other gifts of the Spirit. As St. Paul says: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3) Therefore, if Love is the supporting Grace of God that allows for the fruitful exercise of the Spiritual Gifts, then we should pray earnestly for God to grant us the gift of Love. As I write this, I am convicted that I do not ask God to grant me the gift of love often enough. As a result, I have begun praying already that the Lord would grant me this gift in spades.

The second half of the Collect is equally as beautiful. It links receiving the promise of God with the desire to love God's commands. To put this in relational terms: As Florence and I began to date and my interest in her as a person turned into warm feelings for her, which proceeded to turn into a deep and profound love for her, my desire to please her grew greater and greater. In desiring to please her, I desired to do as she would like.

If we draw this very incomplete analogy to our relationship with our Heavenly Father, then the greater the love we have, the greater desire we have to please Him and, thus, to follow His commandments.

In short, this collect asks for God’s grace and assistance in fulfilling the Great Commandment: "You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  This is the first and great commandment and the next is like unto it; love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."   And to that I say...AMEN!

Catechism Questions 31 - 33

31.    What does it mean that Holy Scripture is inspired?

Holy Scripture is “God-breathed,” for the biblical authors wrote under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit to record God's Word. (2 Timothy 3:16)

32.    What does it mean that the Bible is the Word of God?

Because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is rightly called the Word of God written. God is revealed in his mighty works and in the incarnation of our Lord, but his works and his will are made known to us through the inspired words of Scripture. God “has spoken through the prophets” (Nicene Creed), and continues to speak through the Bible today. (Hebrews 1:1-2; 3:7-11; 10:15-17; 12:25-27)

33.    Why is Jesus Christ called the Word of God?

The fullness of God’s revelation is found in Jesus Christ, who not only fulfills the Scriptures, but is himself God's Word, the living expression of God’s mind. The Scriptures testify about him: “In the beginning was the Word” and “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Therefore, “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” (John 1:1, 14; Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, prologue)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Week of Pentecost 19 - Proper 24

Bishop Eric Menees

Almighty and everlasting God, who in Christ hast revealed thy glory among the nations: Preserve the works of thy mercy, that thy Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of thy Name; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This week's collect begins by declaring Christ's Glory among the nations! How does that happen? It happens when the Church takes her rightful place among the people of all nations. How powerful it is to witness the people of God, as the Church of God, acting like the adopted children of God in the four corners of the earth.

I think of my experiences at Santa Maria Magdalena in Juliaca, Peru. Juliaca is a town that sits at 12,500 feet above sea level in the Andes. Bishop Godfrey, the Anglican Bishop of Peru, had a vision for a church on the mountaintop and sent different missionaries to meet with and love the people of Juliaca. When I arrived, a priest and deacon were stationed there - both were single and willing to live at poverty level in a place with few creature comforts. Fr. Ruben & Dcn. Luis went out into the community daily to talk with people, pray with them, to share food, clothing, and medicine with them, and, most importantly, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them. Slowly but surely the church grew, and the two of them began to be accompanied by more and more laypeople who were empowered to love and serve the Lord. The impact this little church had was, and is, far beyond the number of people or the size of their budget.

The story of Santa Magdalena has been, and will continue to be, retold hundreds of thousands of times, if not millions of times, around the world. Wherever the Church faithfully proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ and Christians act in love and charity, the Glory of Christ is made evident.

This Lord's Day, as we gather in our churches, homes, and storefronts to worship, I pray that we will seek God's grace and strength to go far and wide in order to make the Name of Jesus known by our words and deeds.

Catechism Questions 28 - 30

28.    What is in the Old Testament?

The Old Testament contains the record of God’s creation of all things, mankind’s original disobedience, God's calling of Israel to be his people, God’s law, God’s wisdom, God’s saving deeds, and the teaching of God’s prophets. The Old Testament points to Christ, revealing God's intention to redeem and reconcile the world through Christ.

29.    What is in the New Testament?

The New Testament contains the record of Jesus Christ's birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension, the Church's early ministry, the teaching of the Apostles, and the revelation of Christ’s coming eternal Kingdom.

30.    How are the Old and New Testaments related to each other?

The Old Testament is to be read in the light of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, and the New Testament is to be read in light of God's revelation to Israel. As Saint Augustine says, “the New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.” (Hebrews 8:1-7; Augustine, Questions in the Heptateuch 2.73)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fr. Benedict Groeschel O.F.M. RIP

 Fr. Dale Matson

“The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a writer and preacher who became one of the country's best-known Catholic priests, long operating out of a tiny bedroom in Larchmont, died Friday at the age of 81 after a long illness.”

My mentor gave me a copy of Fr. Groeschel’s book “Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development” (1993) in 1994. Dr. Bob Wilson wrote, “To be read with faith, hope and love. Pax et Bonum.” Now both Bob and Father Groeschel have both passed into the greater life.

Fr. Groeschel and I have two things in common. We are both priests and psychologists. I appreciate his book and believe it is one of my most referred to texts on my bookshelf. I used it for a number of classes I taught on “Wellness” before retirement at Fresno Pacific University. His insights into the “doctrine of the three ways” and the “four voices of God” are useful and can be applied to the life of anyone caring to listen.

As someone who taught developmental psychology, I believe this is one of the best books I have read dealing with spiritual development. It is modeled after the lives of the saints of the church. It is a spiritual development parallel to Maslow’s secular developmental characteristics of fully actualized individuals in that Maslow also looked at specific positive examples like Abraham Lincoln.

While some of his statements have been criticized, it is difficult to imagine someone with so high profile not making mistakes over such a long span in the national spotlight. His writings were a blessing to me, my students and to the thousands who watched him on TV over the span of more than 20 years.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for Pentecost 18 - Proper 23

Bishop Eric Menees

“Lord, we pray thee that thy grace may always precede and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

One of the things I often get asked is whether or not I have any regrets about leaving San Diego - with perfect weather and no lawsuits directly affecting me - for Fresno and, well, imperfect weather and lawsuits? The answer is, both yes and no. I miss the weather, I will not lie; however I do not regret for a second coming to the Diocese of San Joaquin, even with less than desirable weather and the uncertainties of an apparently fickle legal system. Why? Because of God's Grace.

Grace is that unwarranted and unmerited love of God that fills in the gaps and supports us especially in the most difficult of days. In this week's collect, Archbishop Cranmer acknowledges the continual need we, as humans, have for God's Grace to go before and behind us.  

This coming Sunday I will have the honor of ordaining Dcn. Ryan Bradley to the Sacred Order of Priests. At the service, one of the hymns that Dcn. Bradley has chosen is St. Patrick's Breastplate, which speaks of this type of Grace. St. Patrick, the presumed author of the hymn, wrote about the need to have Christ all around us to guide, support, and lead us.  As you read these words - a portion of the hymn - allow them to flow across your lips as a prayer:

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort
and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of
all that love me,
Christ in mouth of
friend and stranger.

I would be willing to bet that Archbishop Cranmer was familiar with some version of this hymn, and in any case was familiar with this theology: We bind ourselves to Christ, but it is only by Christ's all encompassing love and support that we can do any ministry at all. And to that I say, Amen!

I pray you all a very blessed week!
Bishop Menees

Catechism Questions: 25-27

25.    What is the Apostles’ Creed?
     The Apostles’ Creed says:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.        
26.    What is Holy Scripture?
Holy Scripture is “God's Word written” (Articles of Religion, 20), given by the Holy Spirit through prophets and apostles as the revelation of God and his acts in human history, and is therefore the Church's final authority in all matters of faith and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16)

27.    What books are contained in Holy Scripture?

The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament form the whole of Holy Scripture, which is also called the Bible and the canon. (Articles of Religion, 6)