Sunday, December 28, 2014

First Sunday after Christmas Year B 2014

 Fr. Dale Matson

Jesus Christ Son Of God And Son Of Mary

[Today is also the feast day of the Holy Innocents commemorating the massacre of the children by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus]  

The readings for this year, year B, are appointed for the first Sunday after Christmas for years A and C as well. That is how important these readings are that they are used for the entire 3-year lectionary cycle on the first Sunday after Christmas. The Prologue to the Gospel of John is not just an Anthem. It serves as core doctrine in the Christian faith. The Prologue describes both the human and divine natures of Christ. The doctrine of the two natures of Christ in one person is as important as the doctrine of the Trinity. What the Athanasian Creed is to the doctrine of the Trinity, the Council of Chalcedon is to the divine and human natures of Christ. Let’s take a closer look at the Prologue.

Let me unpack the Prologue further
Verses 1-3 tell of the Deity and Eternity of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel of John begins the same as the book of Genesis begins.
“In the beginning”
From the very beginning Jesus Christ the Word of God was with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ is the Word of God and is God.  He is not just a god He is God.   He is the Word of God meaning; He is God’s expression of Himself.  To the Greeks He is the logos; the rational principle that governs all things in the universe.  To the Jews He is the logos that comes from God to fulfill his purpose in and for the world.  The logos was the word God used to create and govern the universe. God spoke the universe into existence.  (And God said…)

Although Christ is primarily seen as redeemer and savior of humankind, He also participated in the work of the Father as a co-creator.  Christ can offer life because He is life.  He is perfect life and He offered that life as a ransom for many including you and me.  For the Jews of the Old Testament the law of God, the word of God and life are essentially the same thing.

Verses 4-13 tell us Jesus Christ is the light of the world.

He is the spiritual illumination for a world in darkness.  Darkness cannot overcome the light.  He reveals God’s plan of salvation, the meaning of human existence and the destiny of humankind. He reveals the truth and it makes us free.  He reveals our own heart to us so that we may know ourselves as we are known by Him.  He is the light at the end of the tunnel.  He is our hope.  We cling to his precious name for ultimately that is the only name and the only hope we have.

John the Baptist was sent ahead by God to prepare the way of Salvation.  He was a prophet and he was a light.  We were to believe in Jesus Christ through the witness of John but John was not the light of the world. He was a light in the world.  We too like John the Baptist can be a light in the world.
Christ came into the world that He had made and His creation did not recognize its own creator.  He came to His own people and they rejected Him.  He comes to us and like Peter, we also at times deny Him.  Forgive us Lord.

We who believe in his name are born both of water and from above.  We are given eternal life in Him.  To say that we believe in his name is to say that Jesus the Christ is who he says he is.  He is the Son of man and the only begotten Son of God.  He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, and the Alpha and Omega.  He is the eternal “I AM” and we have given ourselves completely to Him.  He is all and in all. Praise God, we are His!

Verses 14-18 tell us He is the Incarnation.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  This verse expresses the mystery and the fact that Jesus Christ was both God and man.  He was God in the flesh. 

The biggest mystery in Christianity is the Incarnation. How and why did God become a man? How could Christ be fully God and fully human? To be fully human, the genetic material that made up Jesus had to come from Mary also. Mary was chosen by God not just to contain and deliver Jesus into this world, but also to contribute genetically and behaviorally to who Jesus would become. Jesus would be the Son of God but He would also be his mother’s Son. And, I would say to know the human nature of Jesus better, look at Mary’s attributes. I believe that God chose her not only because she was a virgin but it would also mean both a miraculous birth and one that was prophesied in the Old Testament. She also had the disposition and characteristics that would help Jesus, as he developed into a man.  Only Mary had the ‘right stuff’ as we would say today. Son of God and Son of Mary. Jesus Christ is not ‘like’ God He is God. Jesus Christ is not ‘like’ humans He is human. In fact, while Eve was our biological mother, Mary is our spiritual mother. Mary would become the new Eve. Eve was the mother of all humans after the flesh but Mary is the spiritual mother of all those who are in Christ. Revelations, states, “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.” (12:17). Christ was a human without sin. He was a perfect human. 

We say in the Nicene Creed,

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
Much of the Christology that we confess in the creed came from John’s Gospel.

John the Baptist said that Christ ranked ahead of him because he existed before him.  Indeed Jesus Himself claimed he existed even before Abraham.  “The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple. (John 8:57-59).

The Jews knew that Jesus was saying that he was God.
"Christ was so full of Grace that we have received one blessing piled upon another.  Although Moses gave us the Law, Christ the new Moses gave us grace and truth."

Here John is saying that the Law told us what we must do to measure up to God’s standards.  This was a task that was impossible for any and all humans.  Christ through grace by faith has satisfied the Law for us and put us right with God.
Although no one has seen God, Christ, through his life, death and resurrection has shown us the Father.  Jesus said to Phillip, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. If you had known me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:6-9).  In Christ, God has revealed Himself to the world.

In Genesis (2:7) it states, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

 In John’s Gospel (20: 21-22) it states, “Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

St. John tells us later on in his gospel why he recorded the events.  “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life (Zoe) in his name.” ((20:31-32).

The nations shall see your vindication,
And all the kings your glory;
And you shall be called by a new name
That the mouth of the LORD will give. (Isaiah 61)
In the Book of Acts it states, “Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by whom we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12). 

So why is it so important that Christ be both God and man. We could not trust in the glorious promises of Christ the man that He would come and live with us and that we would live forever with Him in eternity if He were not God. We could not identify with and model our lives after a God who was not also a man? He suffered, died and was buried and we shall all experience this too. He arose from the grave ascended to the Father in Heaven and this is our hope as we live by faith in Him.  Amen

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas I Year B 2014

Fr. Dale Matson

Jesus Christ A Savior Is Born. He is Lord Of All.

As I reviewed and meditated on the readings for Christmas Eve, a phrase caught my attention that was repeated in both our reading from St. Paul’s letter to Titus and our passage from Luke.
In Luke we hear, “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’” The Messiah was born for all of us.

In Titus we hear, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.” Yes, of course, He came upon this earth to offer salvation to all humankind. The invitation to the Kingdom of God is intended for everyone. Sinners are especially welcome. I love the verse from 1st Timothy (1:15) from our Rite I service following the Priest’s absolution. “This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

Our passage from Isaiah begins, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Our passage from Luke states, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Why were they terrified, it was night and the glory of the Lord lit up the sky as if it was day.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light isn't just a physical reality; it is a spiritual one also. Haven't we all been caught up in the power of sin at one time or another? Haven’t our minds become darkened as we have attempted to hold onto those things we have hidden in our hearts? Chronic sins have a way of darkening our minds like gradually turning down a dimmer switch on a light.

I can actually remember when I said my first swear word, I was upset with a friend on the way home from school in the 10th grade and swore. I was a late bloomer. Don't worry, I made up for lost time and after two years in the Army and 17 years of construction, my conversation was only suitable for speaking into a garbage disposal. I remember asking my son’s baby sitter if I could smoke in her house and was indignant when she replied, “No.” What was her problem? This is a true saying a worthy of all men to be received. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

I also became a professional level drinker along the way. How do you know you are at the professional level? There is a string of destroyed relationships and jobs along your path. I didn't think twice about driving drunk. I used the one eye trick to keep from seeing double and opened both eyes periodically to judge distance. Thank God I never got into an accident or even got a ticket yet most professional drunks will tell you when they get a ticket for DUI that that is the first time they drove drunk. Baloney! If you believe that, I’ve got a good deal for you on the Brooklyn Bridge. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”

And yet Satan will tell you that if you give your life to Christ that you are throwing it away. Right! You love all the drama and anxiety and lies that go with this kind of a life don’t you. Well, for a long time I did like it that way. I liked being angry and not talking to folks for days on end. In short, it was the rest of the world that was screwed up. I was in total denial. As the great Philosopher POGO would say, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” When an airplane crashes most of the time it is pilot error. In our own lives when we crash it is operator error also. I was convinced that normal, whatever that was, was boring. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”

I recently talked with a good friend that I have known since high school. He was given enormous intellectual and physical gifts. He had so much that he didn't need God. To this very day, he claims to be an atheist and has chosen to remain in the living hell of alcoholism and cigarette addiction. He does not believe in God and his mind has become darkened. He is about to end his third marriage. I have to call him early in the day to talk. If I call him in the evening, he will be too drunk already to make any sense. I continue to pray for him because I know that I would already be dead, if I continued living the way I did over 30 years ago now. He is there to remind me where I would be without a Savior Jesus Christ. “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will be a great joy to all people.”

So, if we belong to Christ, this Christ who came to save us, how do we conduct ourselves? First, we stop killing ourselves on the installment plan. We stop these evil ruminations about imagined hurts caused by others. When are you going to move on? When are you going leave your gift by the altar and make peace with your daughter, your father? Listen to the words of St. Paul in our Epistle today.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” We live a self-controlled life. Did you know that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit? Because the Holy Spirit dwells within Christians, positive qualities like self-control, kindness and self-control grow in us as we mature in Christ.
Do you find yourself wanting to help the less fortunate? Do you find yourself quickly asking for forgiveness when you have made a careless comment to someone? Have you simply said to someone, “Can I get you anything while I am up?” Do you find yourself giving things to others? Are you more patient with others?

Jesus did not just come to save sinners. He came to purify us for Himself. He came to make us eager to do what is good. He came to give us self-control, to lead disciplined and productive lives. He helps us live godly lives in a culture that rewards outlandish and outrageous behavior. When we speak out against this notorious kind of living, we are called haters and bigots. “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! (Luke 6:22).

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). Think about this verse for a moment. Look at the names for Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. This is the Trinity in action as we speak about Christ. All of the titles for the Trinity apply to this new baby.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things, which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” 

On this night our Lord was born in Bethlehem. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life and He is our Hope. On this night may he be reborn in our hearts. Amen and Merry Christmas.   


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).