Friday, September 16, 2016

Bishop’s Note: September 15, 2016 - An Honest Assessment

Bishop Eric Menees

This past Sunday the lectionary included one of my favorite verses, which is really a prayer of gratitude. It comes from St. Paul’s letter to his apprentice, Timothy, who would soon be the first bishop of Ephesus:

“I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-- of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

As a priest and bishop, what strikes me so powerfully in this prayer is St. Paul’s honest assessment of himself and Christ’s power in his life.

First, Jesus Christ had strengthened and judged Paul faithful, and had appointed him to serve the Lord – even though he was a former “blasphemer, persecutor, and man of violence.” St. Paul didn’t sugar coat his former state of sin – these were sins worthy of being stoned to death according to Leviticus – but Jesus’ overflowing mercy transformed rather than condemned Paul.

Second, St. Paul succinctly states that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and he honestly regards himself as a serious sinner.

Third, St. Paul also recognizes that it is Christ’s mercy that forgives our sins and transforms our lives so that we may be of service to Jesus.

Sadly, we live in a world that denies sin and, therefore, the need for mercy. We are told we are just perfect the way we are. We are told that the worst thing that can happen to us is low self-esteem. However, false self-esteem, based on a false premise (that we are good) – is what will lead us to believe we do not need Jesus – and a life without Jesus ends in hell.

However, once we acknowledge our sinfulness, then we too can bask in the Grace of Christ like St. Paul. As the old hymn goes – “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” If we have no clue of our own wretchedness, then neither do we have a clue of God’s Amazing Grace in our lives!

I pray you all a blessed and Grace filled week.

Catechism Questions: 334-335

334.    How is covetousness especially dangerous?
Covetousness begins with discontent in mind and spirit, and as it grows in the heart, it can lead to sins such as idolatry, adultery, and theft. (2 Samuel 11:1-4; 1 Kings 21:1-15; Luke 12:15; James. 1:15)

335.    What should you do instead of coveting?

I should think often of the inheritance that Jesus has prepared for me, meditate upon his care for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, be generous with what God has entrusted to me, and help others to keep what is rightfully theirs. (Matthew 6:25-34; Romans 12:13; Philippians 4:8; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5)

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