Monday, August 28, 2017

August 27, 2017
The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
No matter how you twist and turn your tablet or smartphone, the images manage to move right with you. Thanks to a nifty little thing called a gyroscope, everything stays "right-side up." Don't you wish relationships had a gyroscope? Wouldn't it be nice, if, no matter how turned around things got, there was always a way to get right-side up?

Chances are, the first time you encountered this feature -- now standard on just about every piece of mobile technology -- it made you smile, or maybe even laugh out loud. We're not used to things righting themselves. Typically, if something's out of whack in life, we notice it and try to make it right. Maybe that's what makes the screen on your smartphone so interesting. It's does the fixing itself.

Of course, it isn't magic that keeps our precious screens in sync with us. It's science. Inside your favorite device is a gyroscope, which -- when coupled with an accelerometer -- senses precise motion along six axes: up/down, left/right, forward/backward. It even keeps tabs on the speed with which you move. The result is a phone that not only keeps your pictures facing the right direction, but a phone that can track the number of steps you take while power-walking at the mall, or play some truly immersive video games. It’s amazing how science has evolved with gadgets which would have been science fiction during my youth.

In today's Gospel reading, we hear Jesus urging us to keep our relationships right-side up. The only problem is that, unlike our smartphones and iPads, we don't have a built-in gyroscope making it automatic and easy. However, God has given us something we might call "gyroscopic grace" that unfailingly, and without any merit of our own, rights us back up with God. (It kind of comes with the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation – hint hint to the Baptismal person here today.)

But getting right with each other, that's another story.

In the family of God, people get sideways with one another. Sometimes, it's over trivial things. There are snarky comments made at board meetings and disagreements about just how the youth should fund their upcoming ski trip. And sometimes, we get sideways with one another over truly sinful and downright evil things.

Lies get told. Power gets protected. Promises get broken. Affairs take place. Factions form. Just to name a few possible examples. We’ve all been there.

The picture is turned upside down and, no matter how vigorously we shake the relationship, it's not going to fix itself. We have to take action.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus lays out a basic outline for how we should go about making things right when we sin against one another. What's interesting about his words is the urgency they convey. His first word to us, when sinned against, is to "go". There's no call to let the offense sit for a bit, or to gather advice from a gaggle of others before actually addressing the issue with our brother or sister in Christ.

No, Jesus is pretty clear. If someone has sinned -- done something to offend the heart of God and harm his or her relationship with you -- then you must go. We all know the passage where Jesus speaks about how if someone strikes you on one cheek; let them strike you on the other. However, in this instance Jesus is speaking about a matter that has damaged the Church and its members. He is speaking about breaking the “laws” of the church. We know this, because of Jesus’ statement, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

To put it another way, Jesus wants the church to be a community of individuals who refuse to ignore destructive behavior. This contrasts with how most churches deal with conflict. Let's just say that the greatest spiritual gift at work in many congregations is passive aggressiveness. We pretend problems don't exist and hope they go away. Fear of making things worse, or of hurting someone's feelings, leaves us paralyzed.

The problem seems to stem from a false belief that love equals a lack of conflict; that if love is truly in the air, then there will never be awkwardness or confrontation. But, in fact, the opposite is true. When love is at work, confrontation -- and the residual awkwardness or momentary ugliness -- is inevitable. Love, especially among Christians, is not just a heartfelt affection for one another. It is a passionate championing of the will of God for one another.
Therefore, when we see each other struggling or feel the sting of one's sin, we must go, we must speak up. And yes, it will likely hurt. But all that hurts is not harmful. We should keep in mind the Mercy of Christ, and deal with the problem with openness, compassion, helpfulness and mercy, not with arrogance or “holier-than-thou” type of attitudes. We are ALL flawed, and we must keep that in mind when assisting others.

It's only as a last resort that we widen the circle in order to get things right-side-up with our fellow Christians. And even then Jesus tells us to do so progressively, first with "two or three witnesses," and only after that, to the church at large. It's clear that Jesus' goal for us, at every turn, is to mitigate the amount of damage done to offenders, thus making it as easy as possible when they repent, to return to a joyful life in the community of believers.

Sadly, however, it won't always work that way. Which is why Jesus lays out one final way to get things "right-side up." If the offender refuses to respond to the individual or to the group, then they must be given the opportunity to respond to the church as a whole. Churches and denominations differ on just how and when this type of thing happens. But no matter the form it takes, what Jesus lays out is pretty clear. In extreme circumstances, a boundary needs to be set. And that boundary for acceptable, God-glorifying behavior, although delivered by the church, is to be seen as set by God. Thus, the declaration that "whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven". In Catholic churches, this is referred to as “excommunication.” Fortunately, because we are a church that believes in freedom of thought, I have only had to do this once – it is quite rare in our branch of the Catholic Church; it is meant for the most extreme cases like Jesus describes in the final way.
The idea is that, in calling the sinful brother or sister to repentance, the church is simply communicating a standard, an expectation, for joyful, forgiven and productive life in God's family, and doing so on God's behalf. We set standards as a church on how we are expected love God and our neighbor, and when one breaks that, we must help to “right-side up” again.

Therefore, if the offender chooses not to embrace that standard, it's not the church kicking someone to the curb. It's the offender choosing to walk away from health. The opportunity for relationship was there and still remains, but sadly, sometimes people take a pass. Sometimes they choose to live sideways to God and upside-down with the church.

Lest we get caught up in the details of just how to do this whole thing well, perhaps it's best to end by surveying the context of these words.

Matthew 18 is not a chapter about church discipline. It's a chapter about the danger of sin and the beauty of God's amazing grace. Jesus has already talked about the lost sheep and of a Shepherd who will gladly forsake 99 to locate the one that got lost. We then hear about the servant who was forgiven a huge debt and how the debts we're called to forgive pale in comparison.

This is a God who relentlessly and generously "rights" the image. God is a gyroscope of grace and goodness constantly offering to us an undeserved place at the table.

God shows us our sin, but does so with compassion.

God does not whisper our infidelities to our neighbors, but invites us to return and be restored in full. That’s why we have the Sacrament of Confession. No church should seek to intentionally embarrass someone, but we should mercifully encourage them to release the sin. That is what the priests of the church are here for; to help with the sanctifying grace of God.

It's like magic. No matter how many times we turn or twist our lives away from God's will, God brings us right-side-up, without fail.

These words in Matthew 18 are not a clinical prescription for how we deal with the undesirables in our church. They're merely a call for us to deal with one another the very same way God in Christ deals with us, i.e., with a relentless, gracious pursuit to make things right.

It would be really great if relationships fixed themselves. But they don't without help sometimes. Nothing is so hard, ugly or sinful that it cannot be helped and rectified.

In our relationship with God, it's Christ who turns things around.
Let us pray.
That the church will act as mediator that the church will act as mediator in problems affecting peace, social harmony, in human and civil rights. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
For Christian husbands and wives; that the Lord will assist them in their struggles and make them witnesses of Christ’s love. We pray to the Lord.
That our parish will re-dedicate itself to going to the periphery in serving the poor and those in most need. We pray to the Lord.
For those who are unemployed; the God will keep them from discouragement and enable them to find good jobs. We pray to the Lord.
For the family members of our parish members who are ill or in need that they may receive healing and peace. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for healing within this country that is now struggling with racial tensions. We pray to the Lord.
For those who have been in the path of hurricane Harvey; that they may find safety, help and comfort in this time of tragedy. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to confess Jesus as our Savior to all those whom we meet and to even offer information about our humble parish so that people will feel comfortable and welcome to come worship here. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, help us to face the challenges of daily life with confidence in Your love and protection. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20, 2017
Assumption Sunday
Although today is the day we commemorate the Assumption or Our lady Mary into heaven, it also coincides with something unique this year. The eclipse. Mary desires no worship or fanfare, though, as the Mother of Christ, she certainly deserves some, but in her sinless nature, by the grace of God, she is humble and desires nothing that which belongs to Christ. So, given the eclipse, we shall do a little twist of a comparison of Christ the Son to the sun in the outer reaches of space. (And, no, before anyone even goes there; the world isn’t coming to an end. Eclipses have taken place since the creation of the world and have nothing to do with the apocalypse as some subscribe to. However, that’s not the topic today.)
So, as all of you are aware, on Monday a solar eclipse will be visible in the United States, cutting a narrow swath across the country from the Pacific NW in a slightly southeasterly direction to South Carolina.
The Moon is a Mirror; and on Monday, it goes rogue.
As we have all heard by now, a total solar eclipse will be visible in totality within a band across the entire contiguous United States. It will only be visible in other countries as a partial eclipse. The eclipse begins in Lincoln City, Oregon, at 8:46 a.m. PDT and ends in South Carolina at 5:04 p.m. EDT.
Making a buck is at the core of the American experience, is it not? No surprise then that a trinket industry, fueled by hungry entrepreneurs, is springing up faster than weed shops in Colorado. In Lincoln City, for example, hotel rooms are sold out and have been for some time. You can buy eclipse-themed T-shirts, coffee mugs, buttons and more. Even I got in on the action a couple of months ago and bought a few of those disposable “eclipse glasses.” Restaurants and cafes will offer specially-named items on the menu. The eclipse is big business.
What is an eclipse? Quite simple, really: An eclipse occurs when the moon stands in front of the sun, that is, between the sun and the earth, blocking its light. We all know this is not a normal occurance.
And, truth is, the moon doesn't do this very often. The last time in the U.S. was 1979, and the last time the moon positioned itself in front of the sun all the way across the contiguous United States was June 8, 1918, almost 100 years ago.
During an eclipse what you have is a situation in which, basically the moon is photobombing the sun's selfie. For a few hours, the moon is going rogue.
But, by this eclipse, we have a an opportunity of a reminder of our role as followers of Jesus.
Here it is in simple terms. Jesus is the Son. We are not. We are moons. We should not step in front of the Son and block the light.
Jesus used many metaphors to describe himself and his ministry in ways we can relate to in regard to the eclipse. He said: "I am the Bread of Life," "I am the Living Water." "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." "I am the Good Shepherd." But he also said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).
Question is: How do we sometimes block the light? The light of Jesus will shine, unless we block it. So, what is our role in this?
To be moons ... without going rogue ... without EVER blocking the light ... to be reflective surfaces that bounce the light of God into the dark corners of the world, especially our particular corner.
The moon, then, in a sense, is a mirror. We are mirrors, reflecting the light and glory of the Son of God.
Good mirrors reflect light without distorting the light. Think of the Fun House in a carnival, that place with all the goofy mirrors that make you look tall or short, thin or wide.
As faithful followers of Jesus we should not distort the light, make it into something it is not. There's no bait and switch. We do not make promises about health or wealth. We only promise a cross ... and a crown. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). In keeping with today’s feast, this is something Our Lady Mary does very well, and we should emulate!
As mirrors, we need polishing and cleaning from time to time. You clean the bathroom mirror, right? Mirrors need cleaning and sometimes polishing.
Here are some excerpts from a report about a certain telescope and its mirror system: "The Giant Magellan Telescope is easily the most ambitious terrestrial astronomy program humanity's ever devised. It has -- quite literally -- been built from the ground up by leveraging a brilliant, unique off-axis design and bleeding-edge fabrication techniques. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the telescope's enormous mirror system. ...”
"It's a very iterative process. We go through 50 to 80 cycles of polishing and measuring. When we measure, we generate a contour map of the errors in the mirror surface. We feed those maps into a computer that controls the polishing tools so that it either spends more time or exerts more pressure on the high spots.”
"It's roughly a year of polishing per mirror. ... We're already beginning work on the second mirror and we're expecting that, once we hit our stride, it will be a year of polishing per segment."
Years of grinding and polishing. Sounds painful. But mirrors, true mirrors, probably just don't "happen."
Mirrors, functioning improperly, can become death rays. This occurs when we misuse the light of Jesus, twist his words and ignore the totality of Scripture. When we do this, our prejudices usually cause injury.
Here's an example of a mirror becoming a "death ray." In London, a new building with a glass exterior was built with a concave shape that led the locals to nickname it the "Walkie Talkie" (because its shape is similar to old walkie-talkies). Martin Lindsay made the mistake of parking his black Jaguar XJ near the building one day and came back to notice that the exterior of the car had melted. Seems that the "Walkie Talkie" was actually more like the laser dish on the Death Star, concentrating the sun's rays on a particular spot on the pavement that made Lindsay's Jag, a panel van, and some pedestrians look like some ants fried with a magnifying glass. A local barbershop reported that its carpet was set on fire by the building's death ray, and the owner of a neighboring Vietnamese restaurant demonstrated what the 196.3-degree beam of light can do by frying an egg for reporters on the front steps of his establishment. Apparently, nobody had bothered to think about what effect sticking a giant concave mirror in the middle of London might have on unsuspecting ants ... er, people. (I didn’t make this up …. Look it up for yourself on the internet!)
Thus, mirrors do not block the light, but reflect it. Robert Fulghum, in his book "It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It," talks about Alexander Papaderos, a teacher of Greek culture, politician, doctor of philosophy and a remarkably complete human being. On the island of Crete, next to the mass graves of Germans and Cretans who fought each other so bitterly in World War II, Papaderos has founded an institute for peace which has become the source of bridge-building between the two countries. What kind of vision motivates a man like Papaderos to transcend the focus on the individual self and dedicate his life to compassion and peace?
"When I was a small child," he said, "during the war we were poor and lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I kept one, the largest piece. ... By scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine -- in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.”
"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became [mature], I grew to understand that this was a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light, truth, understanding, knowledge -- is there, and it will shine in many dark places only if I reflect it."
"I am a fragment of a mirror," Fulghum writes, "whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of the world ... and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise."
So, what does all this I have said today mean? Be a moon. You're not the Son. But, you can reflect His Light.
Let us pray.
That the church will be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
That those who hold public office will imitate the goodness of the Lord, who secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed. We pray to the Lord.
For senior citizens; that God will help them and their needs and be always close to them in his love. We pray to the Lord.
That artist of our time, through their ingenuity, may help everyone discover the beauty of creation. We pray to the Lord.
For the liberation of those were victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, or slave labor. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to trust in the Lord’s mercy even through our torments. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, you watch over each one of us in our troubles. Help us to understand what is Your will, to trust You, and to stay close to You. We ask all these prayers through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 13, 2017
The Ninth Sunday after Trinity
As we sit here today, aware of the war of words that North Korea and their allies and our own country and our allies make toward one another, and then reading today’s Gospel reading, I thought of someone from the past who experienced far worse than we have up to this (21st. century) day and hence I will use this as a basis for today’s sermon.
Before he was killed by the Nazis 72 years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer struggled with a question that still challenges us today. It was thus, he said to a fellow prisoner, “This is the end — for me the beginning of life.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said these words to a fellow prisoner on April 9, 1945, before Gestapo guards took him away. Then this Lutheran pastor, theologian and leader of the Confessing Church was executed in a Nazi concentration camp at Flossenberg, Germany — paying the ultimate price for his role in the Abwehr plot against Hitler. He was only 39 years old.

Seventy-two years later, as we live out the threats of a new war, we remember this kind and courageous Christian because his witness for Jesus Christ remains a brilliant light for all who seek to be faithful disciples. From the beginning, Christians have studied the lives of those who have died for their faith, whose example provides courage and hope for faithful living, especially in times of duress. Dietrich Bonhoeffer lives in that great company of Christian martyrs; by recalling his life, we gain fresh strength in our efforts to be faithful witnesses for Jesus Christ.

One question mattered more than any other for Bonhoeffer and it pressed upon him throughout his life right to the end. Who is Jesus Christ? It was as if he stood with the apostle Peter hearing Jesus ask him personally, “Who do you say that I am?” How one answers that question was decisive for Bonhoeffer. Today, it remains as decisive for us in a postmodern, post-Christian, post-Constantinian world as it was for Bonhoeffer in the totalitarian world of Nazi Germany.

When he was addressing the question, the church in Germany was confronted with the rise of Nazism and the deliberate, systematic annihilation of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, mentally disabled people and nearly anyone else who did not fit into the Aryan future. Some feel that the Church as a whole failed that demanding test of faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. One might think it too harsh to describe the witness of the Church as a failure of faith when there was such a bold witness in the Confessing Church as it was called.

But, that is to forget how shockingly small was the Confessing Church compared to the vast majority of Christians in congregations that ignored the destruction of Jews, tolerated idolatrous allegiance to Hitler and accepted false teachings regarding Jesus and the Christian faith.

Years later, we must never allow ourselves to forget that the majority of German Christians followed elected leaders and followed their church leaders who supported them and followed the path dictated by the policies of Adolph Hitler and the German government. They were followers, followers, followers, much like those in some countries today.

It was a much smaller group who refused to follow and who called themselves the Confessing Church, led by those who resisted the cultural tide. These included Karl Barth, Hans Asmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Roman Catholic priest Bernhard Lichtenberg and others, who sought to remain faithful to Jesus Christ even under severe persecution and who were signatories to the Barmen Declaration of 1934. The first article of the declaration takes up the matter of who Jesus Christ is: “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.”

Honoring the courageous witness of Bonhoeffer and his fellow resisters can never be done at the expense of denying the vast failure of the Church to stand decisively against a culture of death and destruction. The German church, of which the majority of Christians were members, not only failed to take a stand; both pastors and members actively allowed the Christian tradition to be used by the Nazi government for corrupt purposes that directly contradicted the gospel and violated their own creeds and confessions.

Bonhoeffer believed that he must stand with his country in its present suffering if he were to participate in the future rebuilding. It was his passionate conviction that God is the One who left His exalted status to suffer for us in the flesh. This is the pattern Christians are to follow.

Which brings us back to Bonhoeffer’s crucial point, Jesus Christ. How does one discern what is pleasing to God and honors Jesus Christ?
Seeking to provide consolation to his dear friend and former student, Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer wrote from his prison cell, “All that we may rightly expect from God, and ask him for, is to be found in Jesus Christ. The God of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with what God, as we imagine him, could do and ought to do. If we are to learn what God promises, and what he fulfills, we must persevere in quiet meditation on the life, sayings, deeds, suffering and death of Jesus. It is certain that we may always live close to God and in the light of his presence, and that such living is an entirely new life for us; that nothing is impossible for us, because all things are possible with God.” (Letters and Papers from Prison)

Ordinary people wondering how on earth to be faithful Christians have this rather simple prescription: Focus on Jesus. Listen to His teachings, examine His life, notice His relationships, hear His questions and follow His invitation to be His disciple.

For Bonhoeffer, it was a personal encounter with Jesus Christ that was necessary to discover a lived faith and not merely abstract belief in God. The more common notion of belief did not and could not compel persons to risk everything for the sake of the call of God. What resulted instead was a form of religion that had no connection to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. It is precisely the experience of casting oneself upon the living Christ that makes authentic discipleship possible. He wrote from prison, “Encounter with Jesus Christ [is what matters]. Faith is participation in this being of Jesus (incarnation, cross, resurrection). Our relation to God is not a ‘religious’ relationship to the highest, most powerful and best Being imaginable — that is not authentic transcendence — but our relation to God is a new life, existing for others, through participation in the being of Jesus.” (Letters and Papers).

Setting one’s mind and heart on following Jesus might strike some as being too simplistic, especially in light of Bonhoeffer’s intellectual abilities and involvement in complex political matters. Yet, according to Bonhoeffer, it was precisely this straightforward allegiance to Jesus Christ and full dependence on Him that was missing in the church.

In place of a decisive commitment to pattern one’s life after Jesus, the Church had offered vague religious principles or dogmatic statements that could be easily recited without requiring any personal allegiance to their truthfulness. When there is nothing personal at stake in what one believes, belief is easily abandoned or corrupted when threats against it arise.

This is exactly what Bonhoeffer believed would happen whenever the Church has no personal stake in its profession of Jesus Christ. Ideas about Jesus are not the same as personal allegiance to Jesus. The difference is crucial for those who seek to be faithful disciples.

In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote, “Christianity without the living Jesus Christ, remains necessarily a Christianity without discipleship and a Christianity without discipleship is always a Christianity without Jesus Christ .... And a Christianity of that kind is nothing more or less than the end of discipleship. In such a religion, there is trust in God, but no following of Christ.” (The Cost of Discipleship)

Still, is any of this possible for the ordinary Christian — the butcher, baker and candlestick maker, the homemaker and businessman, the plumber and politician, let alone the pastor — or is it only the tale of a courageous hero admired at a distance understanding that no one can emulate him?

Years after writing on the Sermon on the Mount, Bonhoeffer himself reflected on this question. While in prison for his participation with fellow Christians and co-conspirators in a plot to assassinate Hitler, he wrote about the need for a truly human faith capable of living in this world. “I thought I could acquire faith by trying to live a holy life or something like it. I suppose I wrote the Cost of Discipleship as the end of that path. Today I can see the dangers of that book, though I still stand by it. I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”

He went on to describe what this actually means for the ordinary Christian. “One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman, a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings but those of God in the world — watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is metanoia; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian.” (Letters and Papers from Prison)
When Jesus asked Peter, who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15), both of them knew that everything was at stake in his answer. Centuries later, in civilized Germany, Bonhoeffer also knew what was at stake in the answer.

“The new situation must be created, in which it is possible to believe in Jesus as God incarnate; that is the impossible situation in which everything is staked solely on the word of Jesus. Peter had to leave the ship to risk his life on the sea, in order to learn both his own weakness and the almighty power of the Lord. If Peter had not taken the risk, he would never have learned the meaning of faith. Before he can believe, the utterly impossible situation on the seas must be displayed. The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus. Unless a definite step is demanded, the call vanishes into thin air, and if men imagine they can follow Jesus without taking this step, they are deluding themselves like fanatics.” (The Cost of Discipleship)
This brings to mind my sermon from a couple of weeks ago and speaking of St. Peter attempting to walk on the water. When St. Peter asked Jesus to bid him to come out onto the water’s - and Jesus so did - St. Peter stepped out onto the water’s and started walking. What, however, made St. Peter start to sink? It’s quite easy actually; he took his eyes off of Christ. He took into account the waves beneath him, the weather forecast, the CNN commentators, the latest edition of the newspaper and various other forms of information, and because of these things, he allowed his faith to falter because of what he viewed as the reality that he could see. However, the real reality is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is in and amongst all of this. The problem is, as with all things in life, He is a giving God. By that I mean, we all have free will. And even though Jesus is in and amongst all of what’s going on the world today – He is still allowing us that free will. He is waiting for us to put our eyes back on Him.
When we put our eyes on Christ - and keep our eyes on Him - it is then that we can walk on the waters. It is then that we can say to the mountain to uproot itself from where it is and be thrown into the ocean as Jesus told us we could do.

From the very beginning, faith in Jesus Christ has been distorted, corrupted and abandoned by many. Yet, wherever that faith has been maintained and grounded in following Jesus, a remnant of the Church has stood against the powers of death and reminded the world of the suffering love of God for all, by standing with outcasts, persecuted and those who suffer.

That the Church in our time might do the same is why we remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s why we remember him, 72 years after his death, and give thanks for the faithful witness of the confessing Church of his time.
Let us pray.
For the protection and strengthening of the Church wherever she is persecuted. We pray to the Lord. (R. Lord hear our prayer.)
For an end to terrorism in the world, and for the blessings of lasting harmony and peace. We pray to the Lord.
For travelers by land, by sea, and by air; that they will be kept safe and arrive at their destinations in peace. We pray to the Lord.
For all those who serve our country in the Armed Forces; that God will bless them and keep them out of harm’s way. We pray to the Lord.
That our government and those governments surrounding North Korea will find a peaceful resolve to the provocations between North Korea and our own country. We pray to the Lord.
That those who suffer will experience the redemptive meaning of suffering through friendship with Jesus Christ. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to live by faith at every moment. We pray to the Lord.
For the needs of those here present and that of anyone that is dear to us that their personal needs and prayers will be answered. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, when those who are afflicted call out, You hear and save them from the distress. Please be close to us in our need. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hello everyone! I did not give a sermon this week, because we had a long ritual to begin our new Third Order, Knights of Christ and the Temple. So, I have included my remarks and words from that. Enjoy ...
Dearly beloved brethren in Christ, Our Lady Mary appeared to three saintly children in a field in Fatima, Portugal, and implored them to pray without ceasing, most especially the Holy Rosary, every day so that there may be peace in the world.
In so much that we live in an ever increasingly chaotic and busy secular life with so many modes of distraction, we too are at war for our souls, and thus Our Lady’s message still holds true to this day. As (each of) you take your vow(s) this day and enter into a sacred third order, Mary calls upon you also to pray unceasingly each and every day for peace. But, not just peace for the world, which is by far very important in these days, but for peace within your soul(s) that the Holy Wisdom Sophia – the mysterious Holy Spirit – sent from our Lord Christ, the same Spirit who entered your soul(s) upon your baptism, may enter into your soul(s) ever more deeply and in such a sublime way, that you may be more protected from worldly distractions that war for your soul(s) and that you may take up in yourself contemplation of our Lord God.
As you enter in Knights of Christ and the Temple, may the Holy Spirit, in the guise of Sophia, help you acquire, learn and grow in love for continuous prayer, contemplation, meditation, and the Holy Eucharist; and that you will become more closely joined with our Savior Christ.
Always rely on your brother and sister knights in times of temptation or tribulations within a world becoming ever so independent from faith, that you may not fall victim to loss of faith or the temptations of great evil known as Satan.
As your Grand Master and Bishop, I welcome you as you join this third order, I encourage you to dedicate yourself(ves) to your new life in which, I hope, will propel you ever so deeper into the mysteries of our Lord God. Be open to the inspirations granted you and never cease to seek out more knowledge and understandings of the kingdom of God and His mysterious workings in the universe. Our Lady Mary is always waiting with an open window to let you in and give you shelter, guidance and love. Never falter in seeking her help in reaching her Son. In growing for love of prayer, and her most Holy Rosary in her honor, you will find yourself enveloped in peace and hope in a troubled world. As Our Lady so implored the three children of Fatima, so I implore you now; pray without ceasing.
In ancient Judaic times, a mantle was the most important article of clothing a person could own. It was used as protection against the weather, as bedding, as a place to sit, in his luggage. It could be given as a pledge for a debt or torn into pieces to show great grief. Elijah put his mantle on Elisha’s shoulders to show that he would become Elijah’s successor. Later when the transfer of authority was complete, Elijah left his mantle for Elisha.
A mantle was most commonly made from camel’s hair. Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and even St. Peter, all felt unworthy of the mantle given them, and for good reason - the mantle was too big. It didn’t fit. But that’s the nature of the mantle. In Hebrew the mantle is called the aderet. Aderet means large, big, great, wide, powerful, excellent, noble, mighty, and glorious.
All of God’s children each are given a mantle, or a calling. And today you receive yours. But remember, your mantle is your aderet, and the aderet always speaks of greatness. So your calling will be too big for you. It won’t fit. It won’t match who you are. And there will be times when you will struggle with that, with its magnitude in comparison to who you are. It will always be greater, more powerful, more noble, more excellent, in more glorious than the one who wears it.
One might ask why does God give us mantels that are too big and don’t fit? The answer is, your mantle is not meant to fit who you are. It’s meant to fit who you are to be, who you are to become. So when you were little child, your parents bought you clothes that didn’t fit, they were too big. It wasn’t to fit who you were; it was the fit who you were to become. So too your mantle must be beyond you, that you can grow into it, that you can rise to it. So never be discouraged at the difference in size. It must be that way - that you might become greater, more excellent, more noble, more powerful, and more glorious than you are now.
Today, you too will receive a mantle of sorts, in the physical reality of a small scapular. The scapular is a Christian garment suspended from the shoulders. For many centuries, monks and nuns have worn the full-size scapular that was often times as large as a mantle. It was meant as an object of piety and to remind the wearer of their commitment to live a Christian life. In the Middle Ages, it became common for Christian faithful to share in the spirituality of the new mendicant orders in an auxiliary sense, sometimes called Third Orders because they were founded after the initial orders of the friars and nuns. Although these people (called Tertiaries) were permitted to wear the "tertiary habit", because they had not taken religious vows they were not usually permitted to wear the full habit of the order. With time, it was considered a high honor and great privilege to be granted a small cloth attached by bands which would be worn over the torso in the same manner as the full monastic scapular.
In time, specific promises and indulgences were attached to the wearing of scapulars. This promise was based on the Carmelite tradition that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock at Cambridge, England in 1251 in answer to his appeal for help for his oppressed order. Our Lady Mary recommended to him the Brown Scapular, under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and promised salvation for the faithful who wore it piously.
And so today, you will bestowed a scapular in this tradition. The scapular is one of the ancient Order of Knights Templar of which we wish to emulate not in a militaristic fashion, but in a mystical fashion. Our Lady Mary assured St. Simon Stock, that anyone who has perished and is found wearing a scapular, said person will not suffer the pains of hell, but would receive salvation.
Additionally, in the 1917 reported apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared "with a Rosary in one hand and a scapular in the other". Sister Lúcia (one of the three Fátima children visionaries) stated that the Virgin Mary told her: "The Rosary and the Scapular are inseparable".
When Jesus walked on earth, whoever even touched the hem of his garment became whole. We praise the Lord, because in His Church He continues to use the humblest of means to show us His infinite mercy. We too can use these means to glorify the Lord, to express our desire to serve Him and to renew our life-long commitment of fidelity made at our baptism.
The scapular has been an instrument, a sacramental, given to the faithful by Our Lady Mary as a means of her motherly protection. As time has passed, Our Lady has inspired many such scapulars in different form and of different devotions. This Scapular of The Knights Templar is a sign of the motherly love of the Virgin Mary, which reminds us of her care for the members of the Knights of Christ and the Temple, especially in moments of great need. It is a love which invites love in return.
This Scapular is a sign of communion with the Order of the Knights of Christ and the Temple and a sign of Our Lady’s protection. With this Scapular you express the desire to take part in the spirit and life of the Order.
The Scapular is a mirror of the humility and purity of Mary: through her simplicity she invites us to live modestly and in purity. By wearing the Scapular day and night, it becomes a sign of our constant prayer and of our special dedication to the love and service in the ways of our Master Christ.
By wearing the Scapular, you renew your baptismal vow to put on our Lord Jesus Christ. In Mary, your hope of salvation will be safeguarded, because in her the God of Life has made His abode and sends His Holy Spirit to rest upon you.

Therefore, receive this Scapular as a sign of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete who now leads you into a life of love, prayer and service to others. Open yourself ever more to Her direction so that your good works and strong faith may be as a pure offering to The Christ, our Lord and Master. May you ever be mindful of your vocation and be continually strengthened in your resolve to live a life of love, prayer and service.

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