As this Lent draws to a close, take a careful look at your life. Where has God been at work during this fast? What new life can you discern?
For my own part, I will celebrate the new life that has been growing hidden in the lives of leaders in this church. We are blessed with leaders, lay and ordained, who are increasingly aware of their God-given ministries to lead this people into fuller participation in God's mission of healing the world. I celebrate the work of God expressed in the gathering of Anglican women at the United Nations in late February and early March, who were able to say to the world that attention to mission is what unites us as a Communion. I celebrate the gathering of people from all across the world in South Africa, at the TEAM (Towards Effective Anglican Mission) conference, to build stronger partnerships for doing that healing work, especially around AIDS and HIV. I celebrate the gracious way in which the bishops of this Church engaged each other in discussing challenging and difficult matters in the meeting just past, and affirmed the focus of this Church on mission. I celebrate the many, many healthy and vital congregations of this Church, engaged in God's mission of healing the world. The Executive Council joined in worship at one, St. Michael and All Angels, in Portland, Oregon, recently, and saw passionate engagement in children's ministry, the work Episcopal Relief and Development, abundant outreach in the community, and a lively life of worship.
Her entire message is all about what wondrous things we mere mortals are doing. Not once, in her entire message, does she mention The Cross or our Redemption from sin. Indeed she doesn’t mention Jesus at all until she signs off with the Easter proclamation, “Alleluia. Christ is Risen.” If you look at the bulletin insert that contains this message you will see it contains a sidebar for GlobalGood.org, the new Episcopal web site launched on Earth Day to celebrate the Episcopal Church’s adherence to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDG have become the Episcopal Church’s new Gospel.
To emphasize their true identity as the Church of the MDG, the Episcopal Church ran a full page ad in the op-ed section of the NY Times. You can read the full text of the ad here but some interesting excerpts are:
It's also Epiphany Church in Los Angeles, where Cesar Chavez rallied the United Farm workers. And Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Cumberland, Maryland, whose basement was a major stop on the Underground Railroad to freedom for enslaved African-Americans. And St. John's Church in Greenwich Village, a meeting place for gay and lesbian action following the 1969 Stonewall uprising.
You notice they are putting the gay agenda as one more rung on the civil rights ladder?
That's a heritage drawn from our deep roots in nearly 2,000 years of English Christianity, and shared by a worldwide Anglican Communion that unites nearly 80 million people in 164 countries through prayer and ministries committed to caring for "the least of these," as Jesus commanded, by reducing poverty, disease, and oppression.
2000 years of English Christianity? Someone please explain this to me.
As Catholics, why do we care what is up with our Episcopal brethren? If you go to the web site that I linked above for the full text of the ad, you will see it is the blog of Rev. Susan Russell. Her blog banner contains a quote from Sr. Joan Chittister, a dissident Roman Catholic nun. Sr. Joan Chittister, Fr. Richard McBrien of Notre Dame, Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, and a whole host of nominally Catholic politicians who publicly defy the Magisterium are among those who hope to lead American Catholics down the path of the Episcopal Church.
Of course, the good news is we have the assurances of Christ that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. In recent years we have been eternally blessed with both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to shepherd us on the path of the True Gospel. Consider Pope Benedict’s recent words to Brazilian bishops:
In this work of evangelization the ecclesial community should be clearly marked by pastoral initiatives, especially by sending missionaries, lay or religious, to homes on the outskirts of the cities and in the interior, to enter into dialogue with everyone in a spirit of understanding, sensitivity and charity. On the other hand, if the persons they encounter are living in poverty, it is necessary to help them, as the first Christian communities did, by practising solidarity and making them feel truly loved. The poor living in the outskirts of the cities or the countryside need to feel that the Church is close to them, providing for their most urgent needs, defending their rights and working together with them to build a society founded on justice and peace. The Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor, and the Bishop, modelled on the Good Shepherd, must be particularly concerned with offering them the divine consolation of the faith, without overlooking their need for "material bread". As I wished to stress in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "the Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the sacraments and the word" (No. 22).
The sacramental life, especially in the celebration of Confession and the Eucharist, here takes on a particular importance. As Pastors, it is your primary task to ensure that the faithful share in the eucharistic life and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You must be vigilant to ensure that the confession and absolution of sins is ordinarily individual, inasmuch as sin itself is something profoundly personal (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Reconciliatio et Paenitentia," 31, III). Only physical or moral impossibility exempts the faithful from this form of confession, in which case reconciliation can be obtained by some other means (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 960, Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 311). It is appropriate, therefore, to instil in priests the practice of generously making themselves available to the faithful who have recourse to the sacrament of God's mercy (cf. Apostolic Letter "Misericordia Dei," 2).
4. Starting afresh from Christ in every area of missionary activity; rediscovering in Jesus the love and salvation given to us by the Father through the Holy Spirit: this is the substance and lifeline of the episcopal mission which makes the Bishop the person primarily responsible for catechesis in his diocese. Indeed, it falls ultimately to him to direct catechesis, surrounding himself with competent and trustworthy co-workers. It is therefore clear that the catechist's task is not simply to communicate faith-experiences; rather -- under the guidance of the Pastor -- it is to be an authentic herald of revealed truths.
Notice how Pope Benedict emphasized that all missionary activity begins with Christ. All of our good works ring hollow if we leave out Christ. Note also that the Pope highlights the intimate connection between our works of mercy and the Sacraments. So beware those who bang the “social justice” drum to the exclusion of the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. We cannot allow their voices to be the only ones heard.