Sunday, April 28, 2019

April 28, 2019
Low Sunday/Divine Mercy Sunday
(Acts 5:12-16; John 20:19-31)
Dominique Saponari, has a certificate in her bedroom that proclaims that the child has sent her binky to Binky Land.
It was a long time coming. When she was 5, Dominique had to visit the orthodontist who announced that she had a serious overbite caused by sucking on a pacifier which molded her teeth around the binky and pushed the teeth forward and upward.
Her mother came up with a book idea that her brother followed up on. The 10-page book, The Story of Binky Land, written by William Post, chronicles the adventures of Binky Bonnie and Binky Bob and offers parents cool ways to nudge their child to a binky-free life.
Not all dentists are binky Nazis. They argue that the comfort and emotional security gained far outweigh the potential dental problems.
But there are other problems with pacifiers. They can get lost and cause an emotional disturbance — or tantrum — until they’re found.
They can be unsafe if the parts are not attached properly. Some binkies can be choking hazards.
They can get dirty and should be cleaned regularly.
All of which makes us wonder about the pacifiers we adults are using in our spiritual lives — that is, those things that make us feel peaceful, calm, safe and comforted. The stuff we cling to for security, especially when our faith is under duress.
The Gospel of John says following Jesus’ death, the disciples were huddled together behind locked doors, rigid with fear that the powers who crucified Jesus would put an end to them, too. For some reason, Thomas was not with them. Maybe they drew straws to see who would go to the market and Thomas got the short straw. Maybe he got tired of being cooped up with 10 fearful men in a small house, waiting for a clue of what to do next. Whatever the reason, Thomas was absent. Poor timing. Like the guy stargazing who bends to tie his shoe at the very moment a meteor blazes across the sky.
Thomas returns and is immediately confronted by his companions, who declare they have seen the Lord. Who among us would not respond like Thomas, “Sure, you saw the Lord. Riiiiight, and what else happened while I was at the market?”
“No, no, you don’t understand,” they cried, “our Lord, Jesus, revealed himself to us. He is risen!” Thomas offered a deal, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Without this kind of evidence, Thomas was an unbeliever.
Have you ever had the experience of being on the outside looking in? When the whole group, except you, knows something you probably ought to know? It happens to kids all the time. Caught in the position of not knowing what you think you need to know, you have two options: pretend that you know — fake it — with the hope that you catch on real soon; the other option, a bit more risky, is to call time out, stop the motion long enough for you to ask questions, challenge the process or do what you need to do to get on board. Of course, another option is simply to give up and go home, choosing to remain on the outside.
Thomas was confronted with an empty tomb and the claims of a risen Lord Jesus, as we are every Sunday. His initial response earned him the name “Doubting Thomas.” His response may not be all that different from our response.
For the Apostle Thomas, the scientific rationalist, the binky was empirical evidence.
Many of us are fascinated by scientific research that would seem to authenticate the claims of Scripture. Why else spend the millions of dollars that have been spent to search for Noah’s ark on Mt. Ararat in present-day Turkey? Granted, there is a valid archaeological interest there, but would the discovery of the ark really make our faith any stronger than it is right now? And if so, what does that say about our faith?
Years ago, many people were disappointed when carbon dating proved that the Shroud of Turin, thought to be the cloth that Jesus’ body was draped in after he was crucified, was only 800-some years old, not 2,000. Though, new and different testing places it from 300 BC to 400 AD.
More recently, the reputed ossuary of James the brother of Jesus caused a similar debate. Some argue that this is indisputable evidence of Jesus’ family. Other scholars are now saying, however, that the box is a fake.
From an archaeological standpoint, it matters. But does it matter from a faith perspective? Is our faith stronger or weaker when such things happen?
Some stumble in their life of faith, as did Thomas, because the empirical evidence is lacking. There is no proof for the existence of God, and there’s a lot that happens in the world that would seem to argue against a loving and powerful God. Thomas said he would remain an unbeliever. What do we say?
Others grab the pacifier of cultural respectability. Any faith journey that calls for a life of radical discipleship, a life that pits us against the world, that risks the ridicule of the chattering classes is not a life for us. We want our faith to be neat, clean, tidy, respectable and non-confrontational.
Some of us move on steadily in a life of faith, while for others faith is a lifelong struggle with doubt. Your neighbors may speak of an access to faith that seems unassailable, but you find yourself unconvinced, skeptical, saying the words but doubting their truth. One’s academic training, professional expertise and life experience conspire to demand something solid to counter the doubt that refuses to go away.
The fact is, if you care enough to wonder, to question, to struggle for an authentic profession of faith, you may well be on the path to a life grounded in honest reliance upon God alone. Because for many, doubt may be the necessary step on the road to faith. Take Dorothy Day, for example.
Dorothy Day, the late founder of the Catholic Worker, described her inability to pray as she was coming to faith. Whenever she knelt, she would be overcome by doubt and shame — “Do I really believe? Whom am I praying to?” “Is prayer for the lonely and religion for the weak?”
But once while walking to the village to get her mail, she found herself praying again, this time out of a deep sense of thankfulness. Encouraged, she continued on, against her doubts. No matter how dull the day, how long the walk seemed or how sluggish she felt at the beginning, the words of thanksgiving that she prayed began slowly to move into her heart and shape her conscience in faith. She came to faith through doubt and eventually gave up her doubts as freely as a child drops her pacifier.
While we can condemn Thomas for much, we can applaud him for his intellectual integrity. He was honest, refusing to pretend to believe something that he really didn’t. He knew the claims being made about Jesus were of ultimate significance, and he cared enough to articulate his doubt, to challenge his friends.
This is a man who spent three years of his life as a disciple of Jesus. He was the one who dared to ask questions when he didn’t understand. Hounded by doubt, he nevertheless stayed the course. Tradition has it that he was the first missionary to India.
Where did his search lead him? Where will ours lead us? His willingness to follow his question led him to faith, true and abiding faith that was formed in the depths of doubt. In other words, when he encountered the risen Lord Jesus, Thomas says, “My Lord and my God!”
But Jesus’ implication is that he missed out on a greater blessing. The blessing is greater when we can come to faith when all the contrary signs suggest that such a faith is foolish.
In an age which demands solid evidence for everything, Thomas is certainly our brother. Authentic faith — binky-free living — is often born from a dance with doubt. This faith is a faith that rests finally on what cannot be seen but only believed. Sooner or later, we must drop the things that we rely on for security, but actually keep us from relying on God.
Here is the word of the Lord addressed to us in a postmodern, post-Christian age of technology: Blessed are they who do not see — but believe.
Let us pray.
For the shooting victims and their families and friends at the Congregation Chabad, near here in Poway California. May the deceased shooting victim rest in the arms of Adonai, and may the family and friends be comforted. May the injured recover quickly and completely and find comfort and love in this tragic time. We pray to the Lord.
That all peoples will be inspired to eradicate hate in whatever form, so that all peoples may live peacefully and with great tolerance, especially in our beloved nation. We pray to the Lord.
We pray to our Father in heaven that he bless us with faith and that we, without seeing Jesus’s wounds, would be firm in our belief and loyalty to Him. We pray to the Lord.
On today, Divine Mercy Sunday, let us renew our commitment to compassion, love, mercy and forgiveness in all our dealings with our family, neighbors and particularly those who may have injured or offended us in the past. We pray to the Lord.
For those whose faith has been shaken or has been overtaken by doubt, that they may see the Risen Lord in our community and in the way that we treat one another. We pray to the Lord.
For those who are sick, suffering, abandoned and without hope, that the God of mercy may bring them to wholeness. We pray to the Lord.
For those who have passed on into eternal life, may experience the fullness of love. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find resolution and comfort through our prayers and God’s grace. We pray to the Lord.  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
O God, source of divine mercy, look upon your people with favor in times of trouble, in times of need. Father, may our celebration of these Easter mysteries help us on our pilgrimage.  By your mercy, may we come to share in the resurrection. Most of all, dear Father, hear our pleas for an end to hatred, intolerance and bloodshed, which seem to be increasing. Help us to know how to end hate and learn to be tolerant of different views, lifestyles and religions. Listen to the prayers we make today and grant our needs in the name of Jesus, our Risen Lord. Amen.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA

Sunday, April 21, 2019

April 21, 2019
Easter Sunday
Installation of The Most Rev. Robert Winzens as Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Universal Catholic Church and Archbishop of the Province of the Untied States
(For Sri Lanka and the eight bombings at 3 churches and 3 hotels, killing 207 and over 560 injured.)
(Acts 10:34, 37-43; John 20:1-18)
"Angel gear" is what New Zealand lorry-drivers call coming down the mountains with the engine off and no brakes. On Easter morning all Christians should put themselves in "angel gear," turning off all our mechanistic doubts and refusing to put the brakes on the faith and hope that Easter morning should represent for each of us.
A lot of non-Christians have no problem agreeing that this first-century Jesus of Nazareth was a gifted leader, a provocative teacher, a prophet and a powerful moral figure that the world should emulate. But on this morning, Jesus' secular well-wishers and the church's members must part company. This morning we celebrate a mystery and a miracle - the greatest miracle and mystery ever known: Christ is Risen!
Then why do we so often crack that cornerstone and undermine its stability? Why do we doubt the miracle of Easter morning? Why do we diminish the mystery with all our explanations? Why do we come up with such silliness as the notion that the resurrection was something that happened in the minds of the disciples rather than the body of Jesus? We falsely flatter ourselves when we rationalize our doubts and dissembling’s as part of our 20th-century- critical-scientific-rationalistic heritage.
Let's not fool ourselves - the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was just as hard on the faith of first century believers as it is on ours. Death has been around for a long time - first-century folk knew its face just as well as we do. In fact, they saw it more closely and intimately and frequently than do we in our hospitalized, sterilized, death-denying attempt to avoid the whole topic.
We envy those who actually saw the resurrected Jesus before the ascension. We imagine it was much easier for them to believe. But while it is true that none of us had the honor of actually bumping into Jesus in the flesh on the way to church this morning, it is also true that none of us helped pull his lifeless body off the cross on Friday evening. None of us carried his heavy, limp, blood-stained form into a barren tomb and wrapped it in a shroud. For those who had known the living, laughing, loving Jesus, there was no doubt that he was stone-cold dead. Believing that he could be truly alive again - not just some spiritual apparition, but a warm, living being - was an enormous act of faith for the first disciples.
We also know that all but one Apostle was martyred for the faith (John being the only one not). For these men to refuse to recant their beliefs in Jesus, it would, after all, imply he must have really existed, was crucified and resurrected for them to willingly die! I certainly wouldn’t willing die for someone I did not think was God!
When the news of Jesus' resurrection, the rumor of an empty tomb, began to circulate, the Roman and synagogue authorities got nervous. Having taken enormous effort to post guards so that Jesus' body could not be stolen, these officials now used these same guards to start spreading a rumor that body-snatching was exactly what had happened. The possibility that a genuine miracle had taken place was too threatening, too incredible for those who had opposed Jesus and put him to death.
They did an excellent job spreading doubt, however, for that rumor still circulates today. There are lots of church members who confess faith in Christ yet continue to suspect that the chief priests and leaders probably had the story straight. For these Christians the concept behind a risen Christ is perfectly acceptable, but the reality of an actual resurrection is just too outlandish to take literally.
We expect life and death to follow a certain set of rules and to meet certain rational criteria. Therefore we scramble around trying to find alternative explanations for the empty tomb. Maybe the guards did fall asleep and some well-meaning disciples did come to take the body. Maybe Jesus wasn't really dead - only drugged, or in a coma, or hypnotized - and he came out of it and escaped the tomb. Maybe this was all part of an elaborate plan to prove Jesus' messianic nature.
However, we also know that the Roman Guards put to guard the tomb would have suffered the penalty of death for falling asleep or failing to properly guard the tomb – that was the Roman way. So, for the fictitious reports that the body was stolen, suddenly loses credibility.
But maybe, just maybe, all our doubts are wrong!
The resurrection, as rock group U2's Bono puts it, was when "the universe exploded in one man's life." Easter is our spiritual supernova. We must experience it as the true miracle it is without trying to make it fit our expectations and, especially, our limitations. When we refuse to let the miracle be miraculous, when we try to crimp it and cramp it to fit our style, we find ourselves distorting everything that made up Jesus' life and ministry on earth. It is time to let the mystery shine.
The resurrection is where Christians start speaking a different language from everyone else - the language of miracle, the litany of faith. Accepting, believing, celebrating Jesus'' resurrection as the living Christ is the cornerstone that holds the Church together. If Christ be not raised, Paul said, then your faith is in vain.
We all have doubts, to be sure, however let's quit analyzing Easter. Instead of looking for human explanations for the open tomb, let's look with awe at that mighty angel perched in front of it. Let us be so convinced of his presence that we see the misty vapors of angel breath billowing from his mouth as he tells the wondering women what has happened to Jesus. Then we must walk with bold faithfulness through the tomb's opened doorway, look at its empty, uninhabited space and shout the miracle: "He is Risen!"
Do you see the angel's breath this morning?
No? Then maybe you need to get into angel gear.
Let us pray.
Easter is Light – – May each of us carry the Light of Easter in our homes, communities and the wider world. We pray to the Lord.
Easter is Hope – – Our hope is in the Risen Christ. May we recognize that He is with us in all our daily tasks. We pray to the Lord.
Easter is Commitment – – As we renew our Baptismal promises, we pray to the Lord that He give us the grace to strengthen our commitment to Him and the faith we profess. We pray to the Lord.
Easter is the Gift of Life – – In rising from the dead, Jesus has given us life. We pray that, in our country and throughout the world, God’s gift of life be treasured by all and that all life (including animals), from conception to death, be respected and protected. We pray to the Lord.
Easter is Joy – through Jesus’ Resurrection we are filled with joy and confidence in the promise of life everlasting. May we share this joy with family, friends and all in our congregation today to whom we wish the happiness of Easter. We pray to the Lord.
For the citizens and Christians in Sri Lanka, that the souls lost in the bombing may rest in peace eternal, for the quick and complete recovery to the injured, for the loved ones of those who have lost loved ones that they may find comfort, and for the terrorists that commit such heinous crimes that they learn tolerance and love for all peoples. We pray to the Lord.
That peace and joy may permeate the world, especially in countries, cities, and neighborhoods that suffer violence and war, as do the lands where Jesus walked. We pray to the Lord.
That it may please Thee, O Lord, to bless this our Brother, His Excellency Robert Winzens elected to the Office of Archbishop and the Office of Presiding Bishop, and Primate of the Universal Catholic Church, granting him to think and do always such things as are right, that so he may duly execute the Sacred Office to which thou hast called him. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find resolution and comfort through our prayers and God’s grace. We pray to the Lord.  
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
God of life, you raised your Son from the dead and gave us all a share in the promise of new life with him. We thank you, Father, that we are born anew and set free to live with the dignity of your beloved children. Help us in our unbelief, so that we do not doubt and question your life, death and resurrection that we celebrate today. Give us faith in you. Give us hope in a world torn by so much evil and malice. Help us to not fear in professing you in our lives. Supplant miracles in each of us present today, that our faith may be strengthened, our belief emboldened, and our spirit lifted even unto experiencing you in the Blessed Sacrament this morning. Hear the prayers we offer today and grant them through your Son, our risen Lord. Amen.
A Blessed Easter to you all!
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA

Friday, April 19, 2019

April 18, 2019
Maundy (Holy) Thursday
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15)
First, let us take a moment to offer our prayers for the people of Paris and the devastation of Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday. 850+ year old piece of history and faith has been severely damaged. Today the cathedral would have been very busy with the Paschal Triduum but is now silenced and somber. My prayers are with those in Paris and the church this night at the beginning of this most Holy Season.
Let’s re-imagine the days leading up to Good Friday. Let’s suggest for just a moment that Jesus didn’t intend to die — at least not yet. Let’s speculate that on this Maundy Thursday, while Jesus is still the one sent “to save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), on this night he needs more time; he needs a few more months of amazing miracles and moving messages to let the world know that without a doubt he is the “Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” as Peter put it (Matthew 16:16).

What if, on this night, rather than gathering together his disciples to serve them and to say “goodbye,” Jesus had gathered them together to devise a plan and plot a route to safety. Where could Jesus go without being killed for saying things such as “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), or “I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (v. 10). Where could Jesus and his friends flee, still telling those around him that he’s the Savior and yet, for a little bit longer, be guaranteed a safe haven? Anywhere?

Some places are safer than others, not just for Jesus but for all of us. Some time ago, University of South Carolina scientists gathered decades of death-related data to determine where people were most at risk of falling victim to an unforeseen trip to the afterlife. Their study didn’t track the likelihood of death by crucifixion. Rather, the group created a county-by-county map of the United States, measuring the risk of hazard-related deaths due to natural events such as floods, earthquakes or extreme weather. Some dubbed it “The Death Map.” Although death will find each one of us some day, regardless of ZIP code, according to their findings, you might want to avoid certain areas of the country if you’re looking to extend your days — or, at the very least, to enjoy low insurance premiums – if that even exists any longer.

For example, hazard mortality is most prominent in the South, where scorching summer heat, hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding along the Gulf Coast are all a reality. Even in the Midwest, where residents like to think of life as safer and saner than in the coastal areas, there’s a significant chance of a hazard-related death, as people experience the combination of blistering hot summers, dangerous winter roads and Wizard of Oz-style twisters.

Surprisingly, according to the research, one place we should all consider moving to in order to avoid an untimely demise is Southern California. With its temperate climate, the area actually carries a lower-than-normal risk of a crazy, weather- or natural-disaster-related death. That is, when it isn’t on fire or being rattled by an earthquake. Go figure.

But back to Jesus. Where on a first-century map would he need to hide out in order to best avoid the “hazard” of being persecuted? “They persecuted me,” Jesus said. “They hated me without a cause” (John 15:20, 25). Where would Jesus be least likely to die for doing his thing?

Jerusalem had already proven to be no friend to Jesus. The center of Jewish spiritual life, it was filled with rabbis, other religious folk, Sadducees and Pharisees who each had an opinion about Jesus, none of it good. Jerusalem had a short fuse for guys such as Jesus, especially when they were successful in gathering a crowd. It was just a matter of time before things in the Holy City got crazy for Jesus and his crew, and on this Thursday, things were starting to boil over.

Nazareth seems like a natural, safe spot. After all, this was Jesus’ hometown. This was where he played as a boy and learned the carpentry trade as a young man. Nazareth was home to family and friends who knew him simply as “Jesus the son of Joseph” and the firstborn of Mary. Certainly, he and the disciples could continue the ministry there, free from threats and with incredible effectiveness, right?

Maybe, but going home can be difficult. Just ask the small-town boy who’s made it as a big-city lawyer or the little girl who’s gone to college, earned a degree and has now seen as much of the world as Mom and Dad. When Doctor Smith heads home to New Hampshire, she’s still little Sarah to some, and when the father of five visits his folks back in Iowa, to Mom and Dad he’s just one of the boys. Many times when we go home, people around us struggle to see just who we’ve become because they’re most comfortable with who we used to be.

Early in his ministry, Jesus experienced just this. Reading from the Scriptures in the synagogue at Nazareth, he publicly proclaimed that he was, in fact, the long-awaited Redeemer of God’s people promised by the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:16-29; Isaiah 61:1-2). Yet even with Jesus’ “home-synagogue advantage,” the crowd didn’t react kindly. Jesus was driven out of the town to the edge of a cliff, where his own people attempted to kill him. Jesus was right on when he said, “No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” (Luke 4:24).

Like many people today who encounter Jesus, the folks in Nazareth didn’t want to deal with his claims that “this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). They wanted the Jesus who was just a good boy all grown up; a good man who made his folks proud. Not a “miracle-working” Jesus or a “one-and-only Messiah” Jesus, but a hometown boy who lived an honorable life. That’s it. Anything else is uncomfortable. So that means Nazareth is a “no.”

Northwest of Nazareth some 40 miles was the region of Caesarea Philippi. It was a part of the world known for its wild worship of pagan gods and goddesses. In Caesarea Philippi, worship of anything in any manner was fair game. Here, Jesus and the disciples would be just one crazy cult among many others. Certainly such an open, accepting place would be the perfect place for Jesus to set up shop, right?

But here’s the thing: Those tolerant folks who embrace the “all-roads-lead-to-the-same-God” language, and whose mantra, indeed, is the virtue of tolerance, are often the same people who are incredibly intolerant of those who argue that, no, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And Jesus’ message — while laden with love and acceptance of all — was certainly narrow, not broad, when discussing how one “comes to the Father.”

In fact, midway through his ministry, Jesus brought the disciples to Caesarea Philippi, to the epicenter of pagan worship, and it was there that Peter confessed that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah (Mark 8:29). Later, Jesus turned to what was a crowd likely gathered to worship false gods promising fertility and pleasure and shouted these words, “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:36-38).

As a general rule, people who’ve already found a god they enjoy don’t take it well when others tell them they’ve gotten it all wrong. This means that if Jesus were to have a hazard-free home in Caesarea Philippi, he’d likely have to become some kind of “all-paths” Jesus, or a “big-boat” Jesus or an “it doesn’t matter who or what or how you worship” kind of Jesus. He’d have to become someone other than the Jesus we see boldly teaching and preaching and healing in the gospels in order to avoid being persecuted and “hated” as he was now. So much for Caesarea Philippi.

The truth is that no matter where Jesus went with his message, at some point he would be met with hostility. Regardless of where he might go on a map, conflict with people who would refuse to confess him as Christ was inevitable. Then and now.

There are those who want a human Jesus, not a divine Jesus. There are those who’d rather have a Jesus made in their own image, a Jesus who allows them to keep worshiping their own gods. There are those who want a Jesus who’s just a good teacher of truth and not the ultimate embodiment of it. There will always be those who’d rather kill Jesus and stay comfortable than bow to him and be transformed.

Knowing this, Jesus has gathered the disciples together in the upper room to say goodbye. Jesus is determined not to avoid this conflict by skipping to some “safer” town but to confront it and to crush it. That’s how you deal with people who refuse to see the real you. You don’t run from them — at least not when you’re Jesus. No, you stay faithful, you stick to the truth and in the end you lovingly but boldly prove them wrong.

For Jesus that meant hiding out not in some “hazard-free zone” but rather right in the heart of the action, in Jerusalem proper, and ultimately heading to a cross.

It was there, on the cross, where the conflict between who Jesus claimed to be and who the world wanted him to be came to a head. It was there, as the world killed a man people thought was a lunatic and a liar, that Jesus initiated his reign as Lord, shedding blood for their sin and procuring their future in the Father’s family. And when those who killed him were confident they’d proven him wrong, three days later Jesus would quietly but confidently come back, assuring the world that everything he said was true.

On this night, however, Peter, sensing some serious trouble and not knowing what was in store or how necessary it was, urged Jesus to take him along for the journey. Jesus responded by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward” (John 13:36). It was necessary for Jesus to confront this on his own. But very soon, Peter’s time to confront it would come, as would ours.

After Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, after Easter Morning and the reality of a resurrected Savior who’s confronted his accusers and proven himself victorious, it’s no longer Jesus’ turn to die. It’s ours. It’s our turn to take that message to different points on the map. We’re to take it to our friends, to our children and to our community. Some of those destinations will welcome the message of Jesus. Most will meet it with at least a little hostility and the potential for hazard. Just ask Peter. Church history, from the likes of Tertullian and Origen, tells us that he would follow in Christ’s footsteps. In Rome, while sharing the message of repentance and trust in a resurrected Savior, Peter himself would succumb to crucifixion (see John 21:18-19).

It’s our turn to die.

We are not only to willingly run to the conflict around us, but, first and foremost, we are to confront the conflict within us. We must confess that we, too, desire a Jesus other than the one we’re given in the gospels. We, too, desire a Jesus who meets our needs and lets us love other gods rather than a Jesus who rules our lives, drives us to repentance and forgives our sin. We must face the fact that often the person who presents the greatest hostility to Jesus in our life is we ourselves. And, in response, each day we are the ones who need to die — to our earthly desires, our weird and wicked ways — so the reality of Christ and the truth of Christ might live in us and be shown through us (1 Corinthians 15:31).

For Jesus and for his followers, there’s no hiding out in hazard-free zones or finding the safest place to live. Instead, he and we head right into the action with the unfiltered message of forgiveness found in God’s Son.

But tonight, on Maundy Thursday, it’s time for foot washings, a final meal and a few goodbyes. It’s safe now. It’s quiet now. But once Jesus’ disciples leave this room, for each one the confrontation will begin.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA

Monday, April 15, 2019

April 14, 2019
(Palm Sunday)
(Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:14 – 23:56)
The people who crucified Jesus did not know what they were doing.
Although they attempted to anger him, Jesus responded with forgiveness.
Although they mocked him with a sign that said, "King of the Jews," Jesus showed that he was the king of all God's people, the Messiah.
Although they challenged him to save himself, he saved the criminal next to him.
So we hear from our gospel reading from Luke today.
Jesus turned evil into good. And he continues to do the same today.
As we all know, a group of terrorists known as ISIS, terrorizes many people and many countries. There are multiple incidents one could list, but I will use one from about 4 years ago to illustrate today.
On February 12, 2015, 21 Coptic Christians were executed by Islamic State terrorists on a Libyan beach. Called the Copts, this group is the largest Christian community in the Middle East, and one of the oldest in the world. They trace their church back to Saint Mark, who introduced Christianity in Alexandria, Egypt, just a few years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
These Coptic Christians were taken hostage and executed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, released a video of the killings titled, "A Message Signed with Blood to the Nations of the Cross." ISIS clearly wanted to send a message to Christians around the world, to residents of what they call "the Nations of the Cross."
But like the people who killed Jesus, they did not know what they were doing. Instead of weakening the Christian faith, they strengthened it.
The 21 men who were murdered were working on a construction job as tradesmen. All were Egyptians except for one. A young African man from Ghana. A Greek Orthodox bishop said that the executioners demanded that each hostage identify his religion. Under threat of death, they could have denied that they were Christians. But instead, each of the Christians declared their trust in Jesus. Maintaining their faith in the face of evil, each man was beheaded.
The bishop, named Demetrios of Mokissos, describes this crime as "a grotesque example of the violence Christians face daily in Libya, Iraq, Syria and anywhere that ISIS prosecutes its murderous campaign against anyone it deems an infidel." But as horrible as these executions were, the story has an unexpected and maybe even a little inspirational ending.
The young African man who was with the Egyptians was not a Christian when he was captured. But when the ISIS terrorists challenged him to declare his faith, he replied: "Their God is my God."
What a statement! How many of us would have the courage to say those words if we were in his situation? "Their God is my God."
After hearing those words, the terrorists killed him. But in that moment, the young man became a Christian. Jesus said to him, as he said to the man on the next cross, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Bishop Demetrios concludes, "The ISIS murderers seek to demoralize Christians with acts like the slaughter on a Libyan beach. Instead they stir our wonder at the courage and devotion inspired by God's love." The terrorists who killed that young man did not know what they were doing.
On this Sunday, we are confronted by a king who dies on a cross. Instead of saving himself, Jesus saves others. Rather than crying out in anger, he forgives the people who kill him. Both then and now, Jesus brings good out of evil.
What a difference it makes when people see Christ as their king, even though that king is hanging on a cross. The criminal next to Jesus did this when he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." The young African man on the Libyan beach did this when he pointed to the Coptic Christians and said, "Their God is my God."
Both the criminal and the young African man saw Christ as king. They grasped his power and trusted him to save them. In the face of death, they put their complete faith in a crucified Lord.
Such stories stir our wonder. But they also leave us with a question: Are we living our Christian faith in such a way that people will look to us and say, "Their God is my God"? The challenge for us is to speak in ways that reveal authentic faith and act in ways that show real courage and devotion. Only when people are inspired by what Christians say and do will they be willing to accept Christ as their king.
Jesus continues to turn evil into good on Libyan beaches and in American cities. Sometimes the evil is human violence, which falls under the category of moral evil -- evil that is done by a sinful human being. But there is another category called natural evil, which is often attached to painful experiences that cannot be blamed on any person. Unlike the killing of Coptic Christians, this category of evil does not directly involve human choices and is usually the result of a natural process. Cancer, genetic defects, tornadoes, earthquakes -- these can be described as natural evil, because they arise out of nature and cause tremendous suffering. Although, I do not personally care for the term “natural evil” that is term applied by theologians for bad things that happen naturally. But, that is a topic for another time.
Fortunately, Christ has power over all forms of evil, moral or natural. And more often than not, he fights evil through people who follow him with courage and devotion.
Rodger Nishioka is a Presbyterian seminary professor and Christian educator who is convinced that actions speak louder than words, and that Christian service provides new ways of knowing Jesus today. "Words are lovely," he says, "but in the 21st century, when we have rhetoric everywhere, maybe people are paying attention to how you and I live, to what we do."
Nishioka tells the story of a young couple who moved from New Jersey to Iowa to start their careers. They visited a couple of churches but didn't join a congregation. Then the wife discovered that she had Stage 4 breast cancer and was terrified. She entered the hospital for surgery, and was visited by the pastor of one of the churches they had attended.
Once home, the young wife received a visit from one of the women of the church. She brought a casserole and said that she and her fellow church members had been praying for the woman and her husband. The wife thanked her and asked how much she owed her for the casserole. The woman said, "Sweetheart, this is free." They talked for a while, and then the church woman helped by cleaning the house.
Next day, there was another knock on the door. This time it was a man from the church bringing another dinner. The young wife offered to pay him, and he said, "No, this is free. This is what we do." Then he offered to fix her screen door, and he went out and got his tools and fixed it.
The congregation brought a meal to this couple every day for six months. The two had so much in their freezer that they invited people from their workplaces to a meal at their house. Their colleagues asked, "Where did you get this food?"
They replied, "It comes from our church." Note the pronoun: Our church.
Their colleagues then asked, "What church do you go to?"
What made the difference was actions, not words -- how Christians were living and what Christians were doing. In this Iowa community, young adults were looking at authentic Christian devotion and saying: Their God is my God. And once again, Jesus the King was bringing good out of evil and life out of death. We here at St. Francis have done similar acts of kindness for others – some instances even to help myself personally when I needed help. This is what we are called to do.
However, such stories stir our wonder. And although, we seem to do this to some degree in our small little parish, I wonder if someone on the internet reading this sermon will be motivated to make our God their God and help others in Jesus’ name.
Nishioka, continues "Maybe in the 21st century, folks are looking for a group of believers who act for the glory of God." Not for themselves, but for the glory of God. Not for themselves, but for Jesus.
Believers like the Coptic Christians on the Libyan beach. And like the men and women of the Iowa church.
All of us are challenged to take actions that will cause people to look at us and say, "Their God is my God."
Finding ways to help the homeless on cold winter nights so that they will not die on the streets of hypothermia.
Mentoring teenagers who are trying to figure out who they are, and what they are supposed to do with their lives.
Building medical clinics in developing countries, so that lives will not be lost to AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Taking the time to teach children the stories of Jesus, and show them the love of Jesus.
Fighting the cancers of racism and prejudice by building relationships with neighbors of different races and nationalities, all of whom carry within them the image of God.
Evil comes in many forms, both moral evil and natural evil. Some is delivered by sinful people, while some is the result of the spread of cancerous cells. But Jesus has the power to overcome it all, and to bring life out of death in every time and place and situation. Our mission is to act in ways that show that we are willing to follow Jesus with courage and devotion. We can do more than simply putting cloaks on the ground for him or waving palm branches, we can help him in our fellow humans in need.

If we act as followers of Christ, Jesus will remember us and welcome us into his kingdom. And for some people around us, our God will become their God.
Let us pray.
For all of God’s holy Church, that we may be a visible sign to others as we follow the way of the cross in the world today. We pray to the Lord.
For peace in areas of the world beset by war, hostility, and conflict, especially in the lands where Jesus walked. We pray to the Lord.
For those who are in prison, that they may find comfort in the Lord and not lose hope. We pray to the Lord.
That Jesus’ reliance on God through his passion and death may be a model for us in our trials and suffering. We pray to the Lord.
For those who feel abandoned, who feel they have no one to turn to, that they may realize that they can always turn to God and that God will never abandon them. We pray to the Lord.
During this Holy Week, we pray for the grace to reflect on the Way of the Cross and on the sufferings which Christ endured out of love for us. We pray to the Lord.
Lord, we pray for unity among all Christians and that during this Holy Week those who believe in you, who hope in you and who love you, will worship you in harmony and with the love you so richly deserve. We pray to the Lord.
For the members and churches in Louisiana that were burned due to an arsonist who targeted these churches which were African American churches. First, may God guide all peoples to stop racial bigotry; secondly, for these churches to find comfort and help as they rebuild their houses of worship. May love win over hate in this horrendous crime. We pray to the Lord.
For our government leaders to realize that the immigration crisis should be viewed as a humanitarian crisis and offer proper help to these people fleeing in hopes of finding a better life.
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Lord Almighty and ever-loving God, we present our prayers to you today. Your will guided your Son while he was with us here on earth. May we accept your will as your answer to our needs. We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Lord and Savior for ever and ever. Amen
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA

Sunday, April 7, 2019

April 7, 2019
The Fifth Sunday in Lent
(Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11)
On Thursday I read an article in the newspaper about a new law imposed in the far-east country of Brunei. In it, it said: “A harsh new criminal law in Brunei — which includes death by stoning for sex between men or for adultery, and amputation of limbs for theft — went into effect on Wednesday, despite an international outcry from other countries, rights groups, celebrities and students.
Brunei, a tiny monarchy on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia, based its new penal code on Shariah, Islamic law based on the Quran and other writings, though interpretations of Shariah can vary widely.”
Well, today’s Gospel reading couldn’t be timed better.
Now as many of you know, I have always been a fan of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He was popular Catholic radio personality, televangelist, writer (73 books) and retreat giver, among many other noted accomplishments. He was especially popular in the 30’s through the 60’s. Before Protestant televangelists like Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Jim baker, Joel Osteen, and many others, Archbishop Sheen had already become successful in this genre.
His show, scheduled in a primetime slot on Tuesday nights at 8:00 p.m., was not expected to challenge the ratings giants at the time of Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra, but did surprisingly well. Berle, known to many early television viewers as "Uncle Miltie" and for using ancient vaudeville material, joked about Sheen, "He uses old material, too", and observed that "if I'm going to be eased off the top by anyone, it's better that I lose to the One for whom Bishop Sheen is speaking." Sheen responded in jest that maybe people should start calling him "Uncle Fultie".
The Roman Catholic Church is in the process of his canonization to sainthood and is the first of three levels heading toward this goal. However, I already refer to him as St. Fulton Sheen, fore in my mind, he is.
In his retreats, on radio and television and his books, there is a sermon he gave that has just as an imperative message today as it did then. I have always enjoyed this sermon, and so, today, instead of something crafted as my own, I will read this sermon Archbishop Sheen gave on the topic of today’s Gospel.
The day after the attempted arrest, a scene took place in which Innocence refused to condemn a sinner. The dilemma of justice and mercy was involved—a dilemma that lay at the heart of the Incarnation. If God is merciful, shall He not forgive sinners? If God is just, shall He not punish them or force them to make amends for their crimes? Being all holy, He must hate sin, otherwise He would not be Goodness. But being all merciful, should He not, like a kind of grandfather, be indifferent to the children smashing the commandments? Somehow or other, His death on the Cross and Resurrection were involved in the answer to this dilemma.
The night before this scene took place, Sacred Scripture reveals one of the most vivid contrasts in all literature; and it is done in two sentences. Our Lord had been teaching all day in the temple; when night came, the Gospel speaks first of Our Lord’s enemies who had been tantalizing and haranguing Him:
And they went back each to his own house.
(JOHN 7:53)
But of Our Lord it is simply said:
Jesus meanwhile went to the Mount of Olives.
(JOHN 8:1)
Among all those who were in the temple—friends or foes—there was not one without a house, except Our Lord. Truly He said of Himself:
Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air their resting places; The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.
(LUKE 9:58)
In all Jerusalem, He probably was the only homeless and houseless man. While men went to their houses to take counsel with their fellow men, He went to the Mount of Olives to consult not with flesh and blood, but with His Father. He knew that in a short time this Garden would be a sacred retreat where He would sweat large drops of blood in His terrible conflict with the powers of evil. During the night, He slept Eastern-fashion on the green turf under ancient olive trees so twisted and gnarled in their passion of growth as to foreshadow the tortuous Passion that would be His own.
The season was the Feast of Tabernacles, which brought not only a vast concourse of people from all over the world but also produced general excitement, much prayer, and some relaxation. It was only natural that it should degenerate into an occasional case, here and there, of license and immorality. Such had evidently happened. For early the next morning, as Our Lord appeared at the temple and began to teach, the Scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman who had been found committing adultery. So set were they on their barren controversy with the Messiah that they did not scruple to use a woman’s shame to score a point. Apparently, there was no question about her guilt. The indelicate, almost indecent way in which the men told the story, reveals that the facts could not be challenged. They said:
Master, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.
(JOHN 8:4)
Caught in the act! What sneaking, spying, and rottenness are hidden in their words! The accusers brought her into the midst of the crowd while Our Blessed Lord was teaching. The “holier than thou” men who had caught her in the act were very anxious that she should be publicly paraded, even to the point of interrupting the discourse of Our Blessed Lord. Human nature is base when it headlines and parades crimes of others before their fellow men. The pot thinks it is clean if it calls the kettle black. Some faces are never so [happy] as when regaling a scandal, which the generous heart would cover and the devout heart pray over. The more base and corrupt a man, the more ready is he to charge crimes to others. Those who want credit for good character foolishly believe that the best way to get it is to denounce others. Vicious people like a monopoly on their vices, and when they find others with the same vices, they condemn them with an intensity that the good never feel. All one has to do to learn the faults of men is to listen to their favorite charges against others. In those days there were no scandal columns (gossip magazines, or opinion columns in newspapers, etc.), but there were scandalmongers. Dragging her into full view of the crowd was their way of dragging her into publicity. The hooting throng pushed her forward, the woman hid her face in her hands and pulled her veil over her head to shield her shame. As they dragged their trembling prisoner, exposed before the curious eyes of men to the bitterest degradation that any Eastern woman could suffer, they said to Our Blessed Lord with feigned humility:
Master, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Moses in his law, prescribed that such persons should be stoned to death; what of Thee? What is Thy sentence?
(JOHN 8:4, 5)
They were right in saying that the Law of Moses ordered stoning for adultery. Our Lord instinctively discerned their mock respect in calling Him “Master” He knew that it was merely a cloak for their own sinister designs. On the one hand, His soul shrank from the spectacle before Him; for He had taught the sanctity of marriage, and this woman had violated it. On the other hand, He knew that the Scribes and Pharisees saw in the incident nothing but a chance of tripping Him in His speech. He knew they were ready to use her as the passive instrument of their own hatred against Him—not because they were morally indignant at a sin, nor vigilant of the rights of God, but only to provoke the people against Him.
A double trick was hidden in presenting her to Our Blessed Lord. First of all, because of the conflict between the Jews and the Romans. The Romans, who were the conquerors of the country, had reserved to themselves the right to put anyone to death. But there was another side; the Law of Moses was that a woman who had been taken in adultery should be stoned. Here was the dilemma in which they put Him: If Our Blessed Lord let the woman off without the death penalty, He would be disobeying the Law of Moses; but if He respected the Law of Moses, and said that she should be stoned because of adultery, then He would be encouraging the breaking of the Roman law. In either case He would be caught. The people would oppose Him for violating the Mosaic Law, while the Roman courts would charge Him with violating their law. He was either a heretic to Moses or a traitor to the Romans.
There was still another trick in their question. Either He would have to condemn the woman, or release her. If He condemned her, they would say He was not merciful; but He called Himself merciful. He had taken dinner with publicans and sinners, He allowed a common woman to wash His feet at dinner; should He condemn her, He could no longer say that He was a “friend of sinners.” Did He not say?
That is what the Son of Man has come for, to search out and save what was lost.
(LUKE 19:10)
On the other hand, if He released her, then He would be acting in contradiction to the Sacred Law of Moses, which He had come to fulfill. Did He not say?
Do not think that I have come to set aside the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to set them aside, but to bring them to perfection.
(MATTHEW 5:17)
Since He said He was God, the Law of Moses must have come from Him. If He disobeyed that Law, He was negating His own Divinity. Hence their questions, “Moses in his Law prescribed that such persons should be stoned to death; what of Thee? What is Thy sentence?”
It would be a hard question for a mere man to solve, but He was God as well as man. He Who had already reconciled justice and mercy in His Incarnation now applied it further as He leaned over and wrote something on the ground—it is the only time (that we know of from Scripture) in the life of Our Blessed Lord that He ever wrote. What He wrote, no man knows. The Gospel simply says:
Jesus bent down and began writing on the ground with His finger.
(JOHN 8:6)
They had invoked the Law of Moses. So would He! Whence did the Law of Moses come? Who wrote it? Whose finger? The Book of Exodus answers:
With that, Moses came down from the mountain, carrying in his hand the two tablets of the law, with writing on either side, God’s workmanship; a Divine hand had traced the characters they bore.
(EXODUS 32:15–15)
They reminded Him of the Law! He in turn reminded them that He had written the Law! The same finger, in a symbolical sense, which was now writing in the tablets of stone of the temple floor, also wrote on the tablets of stone on Sinai! Had they eyes to see the Giver of the Law of Moses standing before them? But they were so bent on ensnaring Him in His speech that they ignored the writing and kept on hurling questions; so sure were they that they had trapped Him.
When He found that they continued to question Him, He looked up and said to them, whichever of you is free from sin shall cast the first stone at her. Then He bent down again, and went on writing on the ground.
(JOHN 8:7, 8)
Moses had written on stone his Law of death against unchastity. Our Lord would not destroy the Mosaic Law, but perfect it by enunciating a higher Law: none but the pure may judge! He was summoning a new jury; only the innocent may condemn! He looked from the Law to conscience, and from the judgment of men to the judgment of God. Those who have guilt on their souls must withhold judgment.
A rusty old shield one day prayed, “O sun, illumine me” and the sun answered, “First, polish yourself.” Should, therefore, this woman be judged by men who were guilty? It was a solemn affirmation that only the sinless have a right to judge. If on this earth there is anybody really innocent, it will be found that his mercy is stronger than his justice. True it is that a judge on the bench may very often condemn a criminal for a crime of which he himself is guilty; but in his official capacity he acts in God’s name, not in his own. These self-constituted accusers were no fit subjects to defend or execute the Mosaic Law. Our Blessed Lord was putting in one sentence what He had already said in the Sermon on the Mount.
Do not judge others, or you yourselves will be judged. As you have judged, so you will be judged, by the same rule; award shall be made you as you have made award, in the same measure. How is it that thou canst see the speck of dust which is in thy brother’s eye, and art not aware of the beam which is in thy own? By what right wilt thou say to thy brother, wait, let me rid thy eye of that speck, when there is a beam all the while in thy own? Thou hypocrite, take the beam out thy own eye first, and so thou shalt have clear sight to rid thy brother’s of the speck.
(MATTHEW 7:1–1)
As He wrote on the ground, the Scribes and the Pharisees had stones in their hands ready to execute judgment. One would reach to his neighbor’s hand, take out his stone, weigh both in his own hand to see which was the heavier, and give the lighter one back, that he might cast the heavier one at the woman. Some of these men had kept themselves from her vice, because they had other vices. Some are exempt from certain vices simply because of the presence of other vices. Just as one disease is cured by another disease, so one vice often excludes another vice; the alcoholic may not be the thief, though he is often a liar; and the thief, like Judas Iscariot, may not necessarily be the adulterer, though the movies always paint Judas that way. There are many people who sin by pride, by avarice, by the craving for power, and think that they are virtuous simply because these sins in modern society bear the note of respectability. The respectable sins are the more odious, for Our Lord said that they make men like “whitened sepulchers, outside clean, inside full of dead men’s bones.” The baser sins of the poor create public burdens, such as social service and prisons, and are frowned upon; but the respectable sins, such as corruption in high public office, disloyalty to country, teaching of evil in universities, are excused, ignored or even praised as virtues.
Our Lord here implied that He even regarded the respectable sins as more odious than those which society reproved. He never condemned those whom society condemned, for they had already been condemned. But He did condemn those who sinned and who denied that they were sinners.
He now looked up at each in turn, beginning with the eldest; it was one of those calm penetrating looks which anticipate the last judgment.
And they began to go out one by one, beginning with the eldest.
(JOHN 8:9)
Perhaps the older they were, the more they had sinned. He did not condemn them; rather he made them condemn themselves. Perhaps He looked up at one old man, and his conscience glowed with the word “thief”—and he dropped his stone and fled. A still younger one saw his conscience charge him as “murderer”, and he left; one by one they left until only one young man was left. As the Savior gazed at this last survivor, it could have been “adulterer” that his conscience charged him; he dropped his stone and fled. No one was left!
But why did He stoop over and write again? Since they appealed to the Mosaic Law; so would He reappeal. Moses broke the first tablets on which the finger of God had written, when he found his people adoring the golden calf. So God wrote a second tablet of stone, and this was brought into the Ark of the Covenant, where it was put on the mercy seat and sprinkled with innocent blood. Such would be the way the Law of Moses would be brought to perfection by the sprinkling with Blood—the Blood of the Lamb.
By defending the woman, Christ proved Himself a friend of sinners, but only of those who admitted that they were sinners. He had to go to the social outcasts to find bigness of heart and unmeasured generosity which, according to Him, constituted the very essence of love. Though they were sinners, their love lifted them above the self-wise and the self-sufficient, who never bent their knees in prayer for pardon. He came to put a harlot above a Pharisee, a penitent robber above a High Priest, and a prodigal son above his exemplary brother. To all the phonies and fakers who would say that they could not join the Church because His Church was not holy enough, He would ask, “How holy must the Church be before you will enter into it?” If the Church were as holy as they wanted it to be, they would never be allowed into it! In every other religion under the sun, in every Eastern religion from Buddhism to Confucianism, there must always be some purification before one can commune with God. But Our Blessed Lord brought a religion where the admission of sin is the condition of coming to Him. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are ill.”
He looked up to the woman, who was standing alone, and asked her:
Woman where are thy accusers? Has no one condemned thee?
(JOHN 8:11)
The Mosaic Law required two witnesses to a crime before sentence could be carried out; they were even to assist in executing sentence. But these so-called defenders of the Mosaic Law were no longer present to bear witness. Notice, Our Blessed Lord called her “woman.” There were many other names that He might have given her; but He made her stand for all the women of the world who had aspirations for cleanliness and holiness in union with Him. There was a touch of playful irony in His first question. “Woman, where are they?” He was drawing attention to the fact that she was alone! He had excluded her accusers. In that solitariness He asked:
Has no one condemned thee?
She answered:
No one, Lord.
If there was no one to cast the stone, neither would He. She who came to Him as a Judge, found Him a Savior. The accusers called Him “Master” she called Him, not “Sir,” but “Lord,” as if to recognize that she was standing here in the presence of Someone Who was infinitely superior to herself. And her faith in Him was justified, for He turned to her and said:
I will not condemn thee either. Go and do not sin again henceforward.
(JOHN 8:11)
But why would He not condemn her? Because He would be condemned for her. Innocence would not condemn, because Innocence would suffer for the guilty. Justice would be saved, for He would pay the debt of her sins; mercy would be saved, for the merits of His death would apply to her soul. Justice is first, then mercy; first the satisfaction, then the pardon. Our Lord really was the only One in that crowd who had the right to take up the stone to execute judgment against her, because He was without sin. On the other hand, He did not make light of sin, for He assumed its burden. Forgiveness cost something and the full price would be paid on the hill of the three Crosses where justice would be satisfied and mercy extended. It was this release from the slavery of sin that He called the beautiful name of freedom.
Why then, if it is the Son Who makes you free men, you will have freedom in earnest.
(JOHN 8:36)
One final word of my own. Real people make mistakes. Real people are flawed. This isn’t to be characterized as justification for those who commit evil, but it is meant as a reminder that none of us are perfect in the eyes of God. There are most certainly various things that should never happen; murder, pedophilia, terrorism, adultery and the like. In a world that seems intent on imposing extreme views on others, when Christ’s actions and words show a far more merciful reaction, we would do well to show a Progressive Christian perspective that is very justified in the example of Christ. We need to love like God loves – fully and unconditionally – always.
As an example, clergy folk, like myself, are sometimes expected to be perfect, but we are not nearly as perfect as others want us to be, nor can we be, because we are flawed and human also. Hopefully, we are better and more holy in ways that we should be. I try to be. So, in closing, we all need to be better Christians and remember how Christ treated those caught in sin and do the same toward those in our lives. The words of ++Fulton Sheen are so poignant and worth repeating an additional time:
To all the phonies and fakers who would say that they could not join the Church because His Church was not holy enough, He would ask, “How holy must the Church be before you will enter into it?” If the Church were as holy as they wanted it to be, they would never be allowed into it!
This is why Christ instituted the Church in the first place; because we all need to become holy and in the Church is sort of how we do it!
Let us pray.
In today’s gospel Jesus lays out a challenge to us when he says “If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. We pray for the grace to be kind and charitable to our friends and neighbors, to not condemn others and to recognize, that as Christians, God is our only judge. We pray to the Lord.                        
We pray for the grace to forgive those who we think have wronged us, our family or our friends and for a permanent spirit of reconciliation in our daily lives. We pray to the Lord.                        
We pray for an end to intolerance in the world and in our own country. We pray particularly for a recognition that we are all the created wonder of our loving God and Father. We pray to the Lord.                        
On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we pray for all those engaged in penitential exercises and works of charity, that their commitment, sacrifices and good intentions be recognized and rewarded by the Lord. We pray to the Lord.    
We pray that all peoples will take on a spirit of life, that all terrorism and killing of others will be replaced with respect, love, and tolerance. We pray to the Lord.
That we all Christians remember that if the Church were only for the holy, not one of us would be allowed in it, and for those who no longer attend church, may come back in full realization there is always a church that will be welcoming and fulfilling and that Christ is calling you. We pray to the Lord.                
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Merciful God, we know that we are all sinners. Help us to be compassionate toward one another and to remember that you are always ready to offer us forgiveness and new life. God of love and mercy, you sent your only Son to us to redeem us from our sins. Look with mercy upon us now as we pray for all those in need. We ask all this through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA USA