Memorial Day 2018.05.28

I think of soldiers on the field who find themselves near the point of departing this world and the gift of the sure knowledge of human mortality. I think of the gift of spiritual isolation that draws from a man his primordial hope in his creator, which has been hidden, in many cases, by the clutter of the many distractions of the world. I think of the men of faith who have produced, from their final breaths, words of hope and praise and humble petitions to their Savior, “Dear Jesus, please, take my hand and guide me through the darkness.” We remember them because they died in service to their country, in service to those with whom they were bound as neighbors, as children, as brothers and sisters, as fathers and mothers, as fellow laborers in charity, in the cultivation of fields, in the husbandry of livestock, in the production of goods in the factories, in the just establishment and execution of laws conforming to the law of God, in the many activities that afford the opportunity of obedience to the commandments of our God. They died that we might dwell in peace in our own land, the land we call America, under which flag we our bound in the solidarity of free, God fearing people, our beloved home, given to us, not by those who died in her service, but by their Creator to Whom they made their final prayers in this world and which carried them into the hereafter.

I awoke on this holiday with time to meditate upon the peaceful moment I have been afforded because of the gift of God, answering the prayers of those who desired a land subject to his authority, in which freedom should surely flourish, and in which peace remains His precious gift.

This is my Memorial Day Prayer.

Abba, Father, Creator blessed, I rise in Your creation, thankful to see the rising sun, to hear Your singing birds, to feel the breeze of Your atmosphere, thankful that you have made me free, that I might offer to You my own will, according to justice and righteousness, since I, too, am Your creation. I am especially thankful for this peaceful hour, which is of Your making and which is precious in my eyes.

I know, eternal loving God, that You care for me tenderly. It makes me all the more ashamed of my sin, which is contrary to all that is holy and good. Even if it were allowed, dear Lord, I would not want to bring it with me. I know that I say this, then I sin again, but it is true as far as I may in this poor state discern. Truly, truly, I do desire Your holiness, and with Your help most gracious God in heaven, You shall see this desire come to be revealed in the loving obedience that can only come from Your Holy Spirit, in the glory of Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Oh Lord, accept this praise and this adoration and give it, by the conversion of my heart and mind, the substance of loving obedience.

I ask, also Lord, that You bring to me this present peace when I am overcome by the confusion and chaos of the world that surrounds me and in which I dwell, not as a citizen, but as a sojourner and a stranger. Do not let my feeble and tormented mind forget Your many gifts, which are the inheritance of those given to Your Son, those chosen from this world by His supreme sacrifice on the cross. Do, Lord, send Your angels to help me persevere, that I might always be counted among the faithful, and enter into Your holy house by a happy death.

Amen.

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Lazarus 3

Once again, we visit Lazarus of Luke chapter 16 beginning with verse 19, the one who lay at the rich man’s gate. Jesus told the story of Lazarus in the presence of the Pharisees who had jeered at Him for preaching about the evil of the love of money and the impossibility of loving God and loving money. As we have meditated over this scripture, we know that God, in a supreme act of love and concern for souls, worked through the life of Lazarus to produce in the haughty a sense of their impending condemnation. In verse 15 Jesus, out of love for the Pharisees, said to them, “… ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as upright in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed in human eyes is loathsome in the sight of God.” He, then, makes the following assertions, in verses 16 -18: “Up to the time of John it was the Law and the Prophets; from then onwards, the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for one little stroke to drop out of the Law. Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery, and the man who marries a woman divorced by her husband commits adultery.”

It is in this context that we hear of the life and repose of the soul of Lazarus. We should be mindful, therefore, of the larger context, and the deepest concern of Christ, who said (Mt), “How often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused!” Our church teaches very clearly and without doubt that Jesus identified himself with the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, “Like a sapling he grew up before him, like a root in arid ground. He had no form or charm to attract us, no beauty to win our hearts; he was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard. Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying, while we thought of him as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God; whereas he was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises. We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and Yahweh brought the acts of rebellion of all of us to bear on him. Ill-treated and afflicted, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep dumb before its shearers he never opened his mouth.”

The Jews, especially the priestly line, were to lead men into holiness and virtue. They were to be courageous examples of complete and total trust in the Lord, not making exceptions for the law, but living simply as priests, not cozying up to political interests and making exceptions favorable to those in power, e.g. divorce, but firmly and patiently, with love, standing firm in the truth. So Jesus taught them through the life of Lazarus as told by Christ in this gospel passage.

The ones who eat sumptuously are those who ingest the worldly things, worldy ideas, who, by their scandal, bring worldly things to bear upon the souls of those to whom they were entrusted with the stewardship of the kingdom, not abiding in the law, but remaking the law to suit their needs to feed their own narcissistic desires. But the kingdom has come and is present at the gate. He stands at the door and knocks. He is the gate of the sheepfold. He is the holy lamb, spotless and pure, sacrificed for the sins of men. There He is, day in and day out, overlooked or reviled.

But who should come and bring consolation to the gate? None other than the dogs who eat the crumbs from the master’s table, who lick the wounds of the suffering servant, the body and blood, the ones who, like faithful dogs, instinctively know their master and come to Him in the poverty in which He has clothed Himself. They are the ones whose hearts are on hands and knees like dogs before the Lord, in contrition, justly placing themselves below the One who condescended to bear their sins in flesh and blood.

Oh to be only a dog to lick the wounds of Christ.

 

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Lazarus 2

Scripture is a wellspring of teaching of life and love. It is deep and rich and beautiful throughout, and in a quiet moment with a bible you can hear the inspiration and the voice of God. Every man does well to turn off his television and pick up his bible and read.


We visit Lazarus, again, the one who presented himself at the gate of the rich man, who is with us perpetually in the communion of the Saints.


Should a man speak in a way as to draw into question the very flesh and blood of this saint, he does great harm to the body of Christ and causes egregious and heinous scandal. Do not give such a one your ear. Guard your mind and your heart from him.


As for the faithful, let us reflect upon the man Lazarus, both in his raw humanity and his sacramentality as a means of conveying truth to the generations.


Lazarus was found in heaven, in the bosom of Abraham, the father of the faithful. Father Abraham, he is called, but why, and how is it that the consolation of Lazarus is in his bosom? Abraham is the archetype of the faithful, the “father” of the faithful. God said, “Go forth from this land to a land that I will show you,” so Abraham, went forth. God said, “I will make your descendants like the stars in the heavens,” but Abraham was childless and Sarah was beyond chldbearing years. God said, “Offer your son to me as a sacrifice.” In faith Abraham went forth with his knife and his dearly beloved son. What we see in Abraham is faith lived out in the obedience of true and holy love for God, not an emotion, but a right and mindful recognition, not that we, as unrighteous and unholy men love, but that God first loves us and that we return that love in the fruition of justice.


So how is it that Lazarus, covered in sores and unable to provide for basic needs has sprung from the bosom of Abraham to which he is returned? Did he give alms? From which empty pocket did he produce the coin? Did he tend to the sick? Which dog’s tongue provided the salve that got him onto his feet to pursue such a task? Where is his righteousness played out in the lives of men? What did he “do” for his neighbor? We are not given to know, but we should ask, “What does it take to be holy?”


Sometimes, my friends, you are just chosen. You see, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” God, alone, rightly judges the heart. Sometimes, my dear brothers and sisters, there is a heart so precious and pure and beautiful that God can give that soul a broken body and that heart will transcend that broken body in the most deep love of Him, a precious and dear secret love, incapable of malice or of rejecting even his own pitiful condition, incapable of ever questioning the love of his Heavenly Father. We all know them, They are all around us. They never utter a word, but by their very existence preach the gospel in flesh and blood. They are Isaac, the son of Abraham, obediently following up the mountain to the altar, and to the bosom of Abraham they shall return. We do well to treasure them as does their Heavenly Father. Consider the immense treasure of the heart within the broken bodies you see and know that such people belong to God, and His will shall be glorified in them.