Saturday, June 25, 2005

Saint Alban's Day

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Carving of Saint Alban

Last Wednesday, June 22nd was the Feast of S. Alban, protomartyr of Britain and patron of my parish church. We celebrated our titular feast with a beautiful Solemn High Mass that evening and had delicious food and fellowship in the parish hall to continue the celebration. We were blessed to have the first Rector of S. Alban's in Arlington, Fr. Walter Harrison Beste with us as a guest preacher. Thank you to everyone who attended and everyone who helped out in making the event so wonderful.

Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr Alban triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Whooda thunk it?

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In preparing a homily for the past Sunday that described the call of Matthew, my attention turned to the theme of unlikey converts (that is, unexpected by us). Matthew was looked down upon in his society as a tax collector (even more so than IRS agents today). Other's might not have expected this lowly sinner to be called to the highest of God's work, but Jesus had other plans. Matthew is not the only unlikely convert in the New Testament. We could put that label on most of the Twelve disciples. But certainly none of them were as unlikely as Saul of Tarsus--on his way to persecute the church when our Lord called him.

There is something inspiring about unlikely converts. Perhaps they show us that no one is beyond God's mercy and that no one is beyond being a part of his will for the world. What about modern-day unlikely converts can you think of? Three came to my mind. Perhaps you can add to the list.

One unlikely person to be a convert in modern times was C.S. Lewis. As a professor of literature at Oxford, Jack Lewis was a man of great intellect and also a convinced atheist. He would often argue about God with his friend Tolkien. Soon enough, God broke through Jack’s thick skin. He became an adult convert, with a convert’s heart. Lewis remained a devout Anglican churchman till his death. His novels and his devotional books like Mere Christianity have nurtured and given birth to faith in millions around the world to this day.

Another unlikely person God used was Norma McCorvey, once known as Jane Roe of "Roe v. Wade" Supreme Court decision. This was the last person we might have expected to join the Pro-Life Movement. And yet, God had other plans for Norma. In 1995, she found Christ as a part of her life, and in 1998, she was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. Since then she has spoken out publicly against the tragedy of abortion and started a pro-life ministry in Dallas. And Norma has visited churches all across the nation, talking to women and girls, sharing her own story, and urging them to choose life in that desperate situation.

Another unlikely person God used was Chuck Colson. He was a tough guy in the Nixon Whitehouse, a chief counsel known as the president’s "Hatchet Man." You might recall that he was famous for saying "I’d run over my own grandmother to re-elect Richard Nixon as president." He announced that he had converted to Christianity in 1974--just before he was sentenced to two years in prison for obstruction of justice. No one in the press took him seriously . . . but God did. After his release from prison, Colson founded a ministry called Prison Fellowship. He has since worked to promote faith-based prisoner rehabilitation and reform of the prison system in the United States. He also is a regular commentator discussing contemporary issues in the public eye from an Christian worldview. Colson is the author of over twenty books, and all the royalties from those books are donated to Prison Fellowship. No one is doubting his conversion anymore.

Sometimes, God does choose the most unlikely people to serve him. Sometimes he even calls people like you and me to serve him. Perhaps he calls those whom we least expect just to show us once and a while that no one is beyond God’s mercy. And sometimes, it is precisely those who are most in need of mercy who are the most humble and willing to accept it.