‘Awake, O sleeper!’

Fourth Sunday of Lent 2021

Second Reading

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the EPHESIANS….

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I say to you that many people around the world are asleep and though they think they are not asleep I would argue that they truly are. In fact, they would claim their eyes are awake, their hearts are true, but I tell you, their very actions show to the world they are not awake in the lord! With that said, I am not going to point fingers at individual people, nor am I going to say, ‘if you do this or that you’re not a Christian’, rather I am going to call out the sin of the many and reach out to those who are asleep in Christ Jesus. With that said, today’s reflection is going to be harsh, uncomfortable to read, and perhaps sobering to your faith. You can’t say I didn’t warn you…

So, my favorite thing about Ephesians is that Paul was dealing with the same issues as we are today which makes this Epistle so relatable. The message of Ephesians shows how anyone who is in Christ sits and rules with Him in the Kingdom of God. It draws a fine line between those who know God, experience God, and understand His mercy and those who are asleep, consequently the ‘sleepers’ of the world are in full-on rebellion against Him. Make no mistake this goes beyond people who are like-minded but rather extends deeper into our most basic needs and how they are fulfilled. Ephesians also addresses the practical issue of Christian unity. Again, make no mistake, we are in a war against sin in all its forms, and those who give up and give in become enslaved to its many forms, especially hate, which I will address later in this reflection.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

EPHESIANS 5:8-14

A Modern Example – Blatant Acts of Hate!

In cities around the world, there is a rise in hate crimes, most especially against non-whites. The last four years I sat and watched how one person’s words influenced thousands and those who fell into the rabbit hole fell asleep because it is easier to be dead in Christ than it is to pick up your cross and follow, i.e. own your own sin! The lack of empathy is more prevalent in the world as a whole and this shift has endangered and killed millions! We are our brother’s keepers, we are all called to testify and to love one another. So, rather than mention names I will talk about deeds and I think you all will know to what and to whom I speak clearly about.

What is hate? Is it a misunderstanding when a random Asian American is pushed to the ground upon his face so hard that he dies because of his injuries? Older Asian Americans who are vulnerable because of their age are being targeted. What have Asian Americans done to deserve such hatred to be perpetrated against them? Need I remind everyone about the contributions of Asian Americans.

Asian Pacific Americans developed fields, helped log the forests, labored in fisheries and factories, and helped to develop the backbone of our economy. Boeing’s first aeronautical engineer, Wong Tsu, was Chinese. The Chinese railroad workers built the transcontinental railway and today’s Chinese and other Asian software engineers are building today’s super information highway. Asian Pacific Americans have stood up through our history for civil and human rights.” – By acrscommunity  Posted May 24, 2017

What about African Americans? Enslaved, beaten, worked to death, murdered in cold blood, and separated from their families and children! What did they do to deserve this treatment? Perhaps, the religion of the South in the 1700s-1800s set the tone that America still is entrenched with taking away blacks’ hard-earned privilege, undermining civility, and in some extreme cases blatantly exuding hatred and racism beyond the pale! What really is disappointing is that after the 2020 election 33 states introduced 165 bills to restrict blacks from voting! The Good Old Boys Party (GOP) strikes again! Bold disenfranchisement coming once again from the old rich white men against the African American Community seeking to keep blacks from exercising their American Right to Vote! We are so past Jim Crow, we are so far beyond the arguments and anger of the 1800s being revisited because the South can’t get over it! Can’t face the fact they lost the Civil War! Lincoln freed the slaves. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a whole host of other civil rights leaders have changed America, making it fairer, but we still have miles to go to make the dream real! All of the above is an excuse to hate! I say to you my brothers and sisters, 11 ‘Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

The Legacy Museum

Most notably, what about the Native Americans’ plight? Here we have the root of our evil deeds. White America wipes out millions of indigenous people! American expansionism on display and justified! Taking of land, killing innocent men, women, and children because they happen to be on land the good old boys club wanted. We still are dealing with this war crime! “12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.

AMERICAN MEMORIAL PLAZA – Riverside

About the Sin of Hatred

Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5 (MEV Bible)

We are called to ‘put away lying, let every man (person) speak truthfully with his neighbor, for we are members of one another’ Eph 4:25. So, how do we do this when there are sleepers all over the place rebelling against God? I have been pondering this for four years and wondering how so many Americans can be asleep. Without being political, religion and faith should be a guide to morality. It should be the measure by which we treat each other. Jesus said his followers stand out because of their love, kindness, and grace. Christians are followers of Christ no matter their religious orientation. To treat others with anything other than love, kindness, and grace is not acceptable. Words are a sword when used in anger and hate. All those little lies grow into sin which begets unforgiveness which turns to hate out of ignorance or sheer laziness. The darkness of hatred builds up in the soul and turns it hard little by little and eventually, the heart becomes enslaved and the individual who allowed this condition to take place within God’s house, (the physical and spiritual body) falls asleep in Christ.

Above are but three examples in our shared American history where oppression has been doled out by those who are asleep. ‘Wake up!’ The feeling of anger by itself is not a sin, for Jesus showed anger. God has shown His anger throughout the Old Testament. “Be angry but do not sin! Do not allow the sun to go down on your anger.” – Eph 4:26-27. Clearly, many of our brothers and sisters have allowed the sun to sit on their generational anger and feelings of being replaced by people of different ethnicities. This brings me to my final point, there is no excuse to do wicked deeds, there is no favor that will save you from doing what you know is wrong. Washington is besieged by people who are not working for the greater good and who cleverly mince their words and mislead millions because of their lies. It is a shining example of the rot and darkness which has almost snuffed out the light of good. It is but one example of how one man’s ignorance has spread to infect like a disease the rest of America. I leave you, my brothers and sisters, with this quote, ‘Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only that which is good for building up, that it may give grace to the listeners.’ – Eph 4:29

Give grace with your words and actions. Call the darkness for what it is and have nothing to do with it. Do not lie, cheat, or steal from your fellow brothers and sisters. Run the race with your eyes wide open and do not allow sin to take you over forcing you to fall asleep! Remember, to stay awake in the Lord daily! Walk in the light of God always. Do not misuse His words or grieve the Holy Spirit of God. For those of you who turn from darkness and face the light, take up your cross and own your sin then repent, you will be sealed for the day of redemption. This is what I want for the entire world as does God!

Amen

LET US PRAY

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, Forever and ever. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, a world without end.
Amen.

Saint Joseph, Pray for us. ~ Sancte Ioseph – ‘ora pro nobis,’

NOW GO SPREAD THE WORD!

Brother Brian

Copyright ©2021 by Brian K. Stark. All rights reserved.

Permission to print for personal use only.

Knowledge of Good & Evil!

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT – Year A

13th-Century depiction of Adam and Eve from the portal of the Cathedral of St. Lawrence, Trogir, Croatia (13th century). Source: http://www.christianiconography.info/adamEve.html Orvieto, Exterior of the Duomo: The Bible Relief: Original Sin

Genesis 3: 6-7 The Message (MSG)

 When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it — she’d know everything! —She took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.

 Immediately the two of them did “see what’s really going on” —saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves.

Reflection

In retrospect, I would have to say that this must have been a very bad day for all involved, indeed! I mean first, the serpent tricks Eve into thinking she would know everything… what person in today’s modern age wouldn’t give their right arm to know everything? Then the serpent tells Eve not to worry about what God said… what person on earth hasn’t thought that very thought once or twice in their life? Then he sets back and watches her sin knowing all along what will happen… I mean how many of us have done that very thing to our friends, family, and to those we don’t like?

Point is whether or not this really happened… the story being told is all about human sin, our ability to fall into sin, and our inner impulses to sin. The older we get the greater the form those sins take!

But wait… what did God do about this sin? Well, he cursed the serpent, (Genesis 3:14-15), then God cursed Eve, (Genesis 3:16) and last but not least God cursed Adam, (Genesis 3:17-19). Now let’s look at it from a parents’ perspective… As a parent, I have always reverted back to the principles behind this first question God asked Adam and Eve directly, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) God knew where they were, how scared they were, and what their answer would be! How many times as a parent have you asked a similar question knowing all those same facts? Think about the blood rushing anticipation our children feel when they know we know the right answer but we are asked them anyway! By the way, this works with my students as well.

But this next question is simply brilliant! “Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:11) Shorten that to ‘Who told you…’ and that question drives home the point! See… sin equals death. Before dealing with the sin God wanted them to admit their sin. God wants us all to admit our sins to Him. So, to the Catholic faith, this takes the form of formalized Confession. To other religions, confession takes different forms, but the request is still the same! Point being this story of Adam and Eve symbolically is teaching mankind that though we sin daily we all must ask God directly through confession and through prayer with sincerity every day for forgiveness of our daily sin because God is the only one who can deliver that kind of grace and mercy!

Finally, this story ends dramatically with God driving out Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, much like he drives out our personal sin when we ask Him. Now, I do want to mention that God did not kill Adam and Eve but he did make their lives much harder in every way possible. Now take a step back and think about this… How many times have you knowingly sinned against God and your life because of that sin becomes harder in some way? In contrast, when we listen carefully to God our lives generally become a thousand times better than what it was before. And I am not just saying that… I have lived that truth! Now think deeper… How did God react in the long run? Instead of giving up on us, turning his back, (which is what Satan wanted), God doubles down on His perfect love! How did God do that you ask? Well, God sent His only son to die on the cross at calvary. Satan wanted to prove to God we are sinful so He wouldn’t love us as much as he does. But God didn’t fall for that instead we can find the proof of our Lord’s love within every page of our Bible. Story after story God’s message is a redeeming one. God never stopped loving us, in fact, by the very blood of Christ are we forgiven which proves how much God truly cares. Showing us that God, in fact, loved us more than we love Him! For it is God who keeps His promises perfectly and with fidelity…

Let us then say this together: “The Lord will come from his holy place to save his people.”

QUESTION: When you become angry or feel that you have been betrayed do you stop loving those who you are angry with? Or do you do what God did and offer another option, another path to forgiveness?

Check Out the Other reading for today:

Reading #2: Psalm 32, Reading #3: Romans 5:12-19, Reading #4: Matthew 4:1-11

Let Us Pray!

Evening Prayer

God, come to my assistance.

– And my mouth will proclaim your praise.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, and now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Psalm 110:1-5,7

The Messiah, King, and Priest
Antiphon: Worship your Lord and God; serve him alone.

Christ’s reign will last until all his enemies are made subject to him. (1 Corinthians 15:25)

The Lord’s revelation to my Master: “Sit on my right: your foes I will put beneath your feet.”

Ant.: Worship your Lord and God; serve him alone.

The Lord will wield from Zion your scepter of power: rule in the midst of all your foes.

Ant.: Worship your Lord and God; serve him alone.

A prince from the day of your birth on the holy mountains: from the womb before the dawn I begot you.

Ant.: Worship your Lord and God; serve him alone.

The Lord has sworn an oath he will not change. “You are a priest forever, a priest like Melchizedek of old.”

Ant.: Worship your Lord and God; serve him alone.

The Master standing at your right hand will shatter kings in the day of his great wrath.

Ant.: Worship your Lord and God; serve him alone.

He shall drink from the stream by the wayside and therefore he shall lift up his head.

Ant.: Worship your Lord and God; serve him alone.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

Saint Joseph Pray for us. Sancte Ioseph, Ora pro nobis

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