Things are just sketchy right now in the world. I mean, I guess I can’t comment too much on other countries, but I feel like this is true in our country right now. There is so much going on and it can be really overwhelming. I’ve almost completely stopped watching the news, much less paying attention to social media. I got rid of all forms of that awhile back.
There is so much misinformation being spread around, and it often feels like we don’t know what the truth is anymore; like there is a dark cloud hanging over everything. Things just seem kind of chaotic. And if we’re being really honest, the Church doesn’t seem to be helping much right now. We look to the leaders of the Church, our bishops, priests and the hierarchy (the cardinals and the Pope) for clarity and strength and guidance. Instead, we get political correctness, “woke” lingo, silence or scandal.
Let me ask you to consider something as you look at the state of the world today and, frankly, the state of the Church. Who is the author of confusion? Who is the one that wanders about like a roaring lion seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8)? I’ll give you a hint. It ain’t God. As St. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 14:33,
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
So, again, I ask you to consider: Who is the author of confusion? When we look at what’s going on in the world and in the Church, we need to be able to soberly assess who is really influencing all this nonsense.
Our readings this week speak directly to this. There are two main things that jump out at me in our readings: prudence and truth.
Prudence is defined by Webster’s dictionary as: “the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason; sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs; skill and good judgment in the use of resources; caution or circumspection as to danger or risk.” Another helpful way to define it is: “Prudence is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason. It is classically considered to be a virtue, and in particular one of the four Cardinal virtues.”
One of the four Cardinal virtues. Hmm, seems to be lacking in our world today. So, to be prudent basically means to be wise in the way we live our lives and view the world around us. I am seriously paraphrasing but you get the point.
What about truth? Truth is defined by Webster as: “the body of real things, events, and facts; the state of being the case; a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality; a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true; the body of true statements and propositions; the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality; fidelity to an original or to a standard; sincerity in action, character, and utterance.”
Wikipedia defines truth as: “truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality. In everyday language, truth is typically ascribed to things that aim to represent reality or otherwise correspond to it, such as beliefs, propositions, and declarative sentences. Truth is usually held to be the opposite of falsehood.”
So, real things and facts, a spiritual reality, a body of true statements, being in accord with fact or reality, fidelity to a standard, the opposite of falsehood and other definitions. That sounds to me like Christianity. Ours in not a faith that is founded on myth but on fact. The historic facts of the Bible, specifically the person of Jesus of Nazareth, have never been disproven. Think about that for a second. The world has been trying to shoot holes in the story of the Bible for millennia. But they have failed. No one has ever actually successfully disproven anything we read in the Bible.
Now let’s turn to our readings for today.
Epistle: 1 Peter 4:7-11
Gospel: John 15:26-27, 16:1-4
Right out of the gate, St. Peter exhorts his readers then and us today,
“But the end of all is at hand. Be prudent therefore, and watch in prayers.”
Be prudent. Pray. Pay attention to what is going on. And how do we be prudent? St. Peter goes on to tell us that we are to love one another, that we are to be hospitable; as we have received grace, so we are to minister that same grace to one another. Then he says that, if we are to speak, speak the words of God. If we are to minister to one another, let us minister in the power of God so that God, in Christ, may be honored.
Prudence in the world today involves keeping our eyes and hearts focused on the person of Jesus the Christ. If we are imprudent, we begin to believe that what we see in the world is truth. It most assuredly is not. The Truth is a person. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Truth and His person is revealed to us by the Word and the Spirit. And how does the Spirit do this?
We look to our gospel text.
Jesus, speaking to St. Peter and the other disciples, says,
“But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. And you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning.”
The Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father. And what will His role be? Among other things, His chief role is to give testimony to who Christ is and what He has accomplished for all of humanity. And our role, in the power of the Spirit, is to give that same testimony.
To testify to the Truth, who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who is Himself the transcendent, spiritual and physical reality. In His person is contained all we ever need to know of truth and reality. He is the standard of sincerity, character and utterance by which we are to live and move and have our being.
The second half of our Gospel reading carries with a grim warning that we need to have the prudence to heed. Jesus tells the disciples that they will be persecuted and even killed for His sake. This is coming for us as well, brothers and sisters. In fact, in many ways, it’s already here. Those of us who would stand on the Truth of the person of Jesus the Christ and on His Word are already being ostracized. It will soon, if it already isn’t, be considered hate speech to tell people they are wrong for living in defiance of God’s holy Word. Heck, some of our bishops and priests are already jumping on this bandwagon, calling what is the faith once for all delivered to the saints intolerant, “unhelpful” and in need of updating. But that’s not new in the Church; it’s been going on for awhile.
The day is coming when we will be ostracized for standing for Christ. Are we ready? Are we willing?
Prudence, brothers and sisters. Courage. Let us stand firmly on the Truth of the person of our Lord Jesus. Let us faithfully fulfill our duty as His disciples and give testimony to the Truth in the face of the chaos and confusion that reigns in the world today.
Christ is ascended!
I feel like some people take some things and themselves far too seriously. Then again, I feel like most people don’t take very seriously the things they should be taking seriously. For example, I feel like the Christian life is not taken seriously enough by most who claim to believe, including me at times.
I feel like one of the reasons many Christians don’t take their faith very seriously is because they don’t really believe in hell. The modern notion of God being sort of a benign old grandfather that’s not really “mean enough” to allow people to experience eternal damnation is really dangerous. In fact, if we would take Holy Scripture seriously, we would know that there is indeed a real place called hell. And, for the record, God doesn’t send anyone anywhere. We choose. This is called free will. The Church has always taught that man has free will. In the end, it is not God who sends people to hell. People choose hell.
What’s my point, you may ask? Why am I being so depressing and talking about such heavy things today?
This week, the Church, via our readings, urges us to take two things very seriously: our own Christian life and practice and prayer.
Epistle: James 1:22-27
Gospel: John 16:23-30
James starts us right off with a stern warning,
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
There is this modern notion and belief in most Christian circles today that will tell you (albeit implicitly) that belief alone is enough. All you have to do is believe, they will say. The problem is that belief is very vague and the practice of it is nebulous at best. Here’s what I mean. To say that one believes is not enough. Belief in what, precisely? Belief in whom, precisely? What do you believe?
And most modern Christians can’t tell you what they believe, especially about the historic tenets and dogmas of the Christian faith. They can’t tell you that because they don’t know. And to make matters worse, the practice of the “faith” for most modern Christians is abysmal. We tend to run to license rather than discipline, what feels good rather than to asceticism. We can say whatever we want and live however we want. Just ask for forgiveness; God will forgive. Your sins have already been paid for on the cross.
Yes, God can forgive. Yes, in a final and ultimate sense, Christ’s death on the cross had paid the price for sin. But it does not then follow that you or I can then fail to live as Holy Scripture has commanded. Forgiveness is not a free pass, a get out of hell free card. Modern Christians are really soft in the practice of their faith. In my own life, I get funny looks from people if they find out I’m fasting. Not that I advertise it, but people find out. Then, they’re either shocked or say, “Isn’t that a bit much” or something else along those lines. I always want to respond with, “Jesus fasted, and He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity. If He fasted, don’t you think we should as well?!”
But I digress and there is much more to living the Christian life than fasting. Be doers of the word. Not just the bits that you like and make you comfortable. No. The whole word, even the bits that make you uncomfortable.
James goes on to tell us that if we don’t bridle our tongue, then our religion is in vain. Worthless. This one hits real close to home for me. I sometimes let my mouth run too much. James is telling us that, if we can’t control something small like our tongue, then we’re kind of wasting our time claiming to be religious. And he goes on to tell us, in verse 27,
“Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
How’s our care for those less fortunate than we are? How’s our care for anyone, other than ourselves? Can anyone tell the difference between us, as Christians, and the rest of the world? Do our lives look the same as “the world?” Are our lives unspotted by the world? If not, James tells us that our religion is in vain.
That’s pretty harsh to our modern sensibilities.
On the front end, we look at the demands of the Christian life and think that we can’t do it. And we would be right. On our own, living the Christian life is impossible. So then, how are we to do it? The collect for this week is helpful,
“O God, from whom all good things proceed, be generous to Your petitioners; so that by Your inspiration we may think what is right, and by Your guidance may perform it.”
By Your inspiration, we may think what is right. By Your guidance we may perform it.
Right thinking, by God’s help, leads to right action by His guidance.
And how are we to obtain that?
Look at the beginning of our gospel text.
“And in that day you shall not ask me anything. Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you. Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name. Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full.”
Our Father wants to give us good things. The best thing we can have is a right relationship with Him through Christ. Ask Him to help you to think rightly. Ask Him to lead you to right action by His guidance. As our Lord Jesus has told us (Luke 12:32),
“Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom.”
It hath pleased the Father to give you a kingdom. And if He is pleased to give you a kingdom, He will be pleased to help you live in a manner worthy. What grace has been poured out on us!