St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Easter IV : Fr Tony Hogg

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 There is no experience so terrible, we are told, as that of an earthquake. The reason for the terror is that the very foundations of one’s being seem to have been dissolved. There is nothing steady or stable. The earth rocks, the houses fall, the trees torn up, the heavens whirl, the very ground under your feet heaves and shakes. There is no steadfastness or support anywhere.
When you think of God, says St James, in our Epistle this morning, you must think the very opposite of that. He is steady, reliable, always there, immutable, without any variation. He is light a constant stream of light, before which all shifting and changing shadows are banished, leaving one steadfast unchanging glow. He is indeed the Father of all lights, the source from which the heavenly bodies themselves derive their illumination.
We might have feared some monotony from such a description, but we are saved from that thought because this light that streams so steadily upon the world is full of goodness and kindness. It brings nothing but good. It meets with its unfailing readiness all our changing needs. It is the origin of every good and perfect gift. There is nothing we can want or desire that does not ultimately proceed from Him.
From those descriptions it would be difficult to imagine anything less like ourselves. We are never the same for two moments together. We never continue in our stay. But no, let us be fair to ourselves; we do have many moments when we are stable and content in our own beings.
That is because we are his children. Of His own good will he brought us into existence. We take after Our Father. And if we reflect how sadly we have lost that likeness, we must remind ourselves that, just because we have become so unlike Him, he has caused us to be born again of’ water and the Holy spirit.’ For James it is so important too that he reminds us that ‘of His own will begat he us with the Word of truth.’ 
We know that the Word, the Eternal Word is His only-begotten Son. We grow through Him into the new likeness He has promised that we might become ‘His sons and daughters’ to grow in maturity growing more and more like Him day by day. We are all intended to be the first-fruits of a new creation; if you like a role model that all who know us know us as Christian.
We are reminded that ‘Word became flesh’ and dwelt among us’ and so for us becomes the person of Jesus, who guides us in all our trials, tribulations and joys. The Christian must be teachable (swift to hear), quiet (slow to speak), gentle (slow to wrath). He must therefore avoid all that violence of language which is becoming more and more characteristic of our communications with each other today. ‘What’s in a word?’ someone may ask. But a word is in itself a kind of act. The more accustomed we grow to violent words, the more prone do we become to violent acts. 
And below both word and acts our minds may become more accustomed to violent habits of thought. This is the cause of much un-Christ-like talk and behaviour today. Part of our Christian pilgrimage is to learn to cultivate the steady, quiet unhesitating strength that comes straight from the great kindness of God. After all, that is our proper nature, and whatever is contrary to it, is to be fought against.
And we do that by, and through word and sacrament. The Scriptures speak to our hearts and lives; we want to pray, we feel called to live by those words. And we find that as we pray, the one we are meeting in prayer is the same person we encounter in the Bible’s written page, as we have together this morning in the Epistle and Gospel. The Holy Spirit has brought Jesus to us by inspiring the original writers and brought us to Jesus as we seek him in prayer. Reading –with Jesus at the centre- praying from it and applying it, really is essential to Christian living to seep into our very beings, as St Paul says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Read them! Pray them! Pay attention to them! Let them comfort you when you’re disturbed, and disturb you when you’re comfortable!
We are too strengthened in our desire to keep the faith, by the deep desire to be as near to Him as we will get here on earth. To be united in His Real Presence through our regular receiving the Blessed Sacrament. St Augustine in one of his sermons instructed the clergy that whatever else they taught them that they should remind the people each and every sermon and every Sunday to do just that! You have been warned! However, we know just how very central the Mass is to why we are here – ‘that Great Sacrament’ we do indeed revere. So the words, “The mass is ended, go in peace”, means just that. Go now having being sustained by heavenly food, to live your earthly life from strength to strength. 
So we will now indeed ‘among the sundry and manifold changes of the world” find that our “true joys” will be found. 


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