Tag Archives: Grace

Homily: “On the Seed Parables”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Third Sunday after Trinity (Fourth Sunday after Pentecost), 2018.

We hear today the second and third of the three Seed Parables. These are relayed to us by Saint Mark all in chapter four of his Gospel, almost in a direct sequence. The Parable of the Sower of course comes first, with its presentation of a kind of bleak-sounding predestination—the growth of the seed entirely depends upon the soil: good soil means growth, poor soil means the seed does not grow. The second seed parable presents the completely opposite scenario whereby the quality of the soil is irrelevant because the seed grows by itself, automatically. And the third Seed Parable, of the mustard seed, tells us that what grows of the seed is ordinary, for the shrubs described would be no more than eight feet tall. Continue reading

Homily: “From Whom All Good Proceeds”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Second Sunday after Trinity (Third Sunday after Pentecost), 2018.

Meditating on our eucharistic Collects is always a good and holy spiritual practice. I invite you all to find time during each week, even each day, to set aside a period of prayer to savor the Collect of the Day that is assigned for not only the Sunday but the whole week long, Sunday through Saturday. These Collects are the same, year after year. They are theological, yet presented in an accessible way that summarizes the Bible, and puts us into a right relationship with God. Being well composed, the Collects remind us of the importance of dignity in our prayer life, of the value of the right words in the right order.

“O God,” our Collect begins, “from whom all good proceeds.” How often we are to remember this. Everything that is good, everything that is true, everything that is beautiful, comes from God, and has its origin in Him. He has given us every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; we shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, God has given every green plant for food. And when God saw everything that He had made, He beheld His creation, He venerated His creation, and He said, “It is very good.”

The world, and all that is in it, from one end of the earth to the other, is full of grace, because God makes, loves, and keeps all things, and fills them with His blessing. He loves His creation, He loves all His creatures, and we are invited to do so—invited to participate in His beholding of His creation, participate in what is first and foremost listening: listening for how God speaks through His creatures; listening for how God expresses His will and His glory through His creatures.

The Church teaches that people with the habit of doing this are transformed by grace: transformed in the way they think, the way they live, the things they value, the way they act; a transformation of worldview. Taking serious the truth that all good things come from God leads, through the Sacraments and the liturgical life of the Church, into a transformation of consciousness. Jesus said clearly: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

The problem is when we don’t. The problem is when our choices do not reflect the truth that God’s authority is absolute over all things, but rather reflect a false view that limits God’s authority. We see this in both our passage from the third chapter of Genesis and the third chapter of Saint Mark’s gospel. In Genesis we have Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. This fruit in all likelihood was figs. There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful about figs or even this specific tree. It is named by God as the True of the Knowledge of God and Evil and God proscribes eating from it. His authority extends over all things, and certainly over this Tree. What Adam and Eve do, in disobeying God’s command, is in effect a pretending. They pretend that God’s will no longer includes this tree. It is like they create some sort of safe zone where God’s will applies elsewhere, but not within this safe zone of their creation.

We do this sort of thing all the time. It is something along the lines of “Oh, God won’t notice; or if He does, He won’t care if I do this little thing.” We pretend that we can create a little bubble out of God’s reach, within this bubble, this safe zone, we can do whatever we will. We can say rude words within this safe zone bubble; we can harbor ill thoughts towards others in this safe zone bubble; we can seethe in quiet hatred towards those people we do not like, within this safe zone bubble. We think, Oh God won’t notice; this little thing is to small, too insignificant for the God of all Creation to care or take much notice.

How wrong that is! All of our ways are before the eyes of the Lord, the Book of Proverbs teaches clearly, and He watches all our paths. He watches to see how we treat people, not only to their faces but behind their backs. He watches not only our habits in public, but what we do in the privacy of our homes. The eyes of the Lord are upon the baptized, for they are to follow Christ, and by following Him, imitate Him in our thoughts, words and deeds. His expectations for His children, the baptized, are high: He expects us to constantly be trying to seek and serve Christ in all persons we encounter, whether in Tazewell County or anywhere else. God knows we will not do that perfectly or without misstep, but He expects we at least try, to make an ongoing attempt day in and day out. How we treat people, whether within the Church or outside of the Church, is of upmost importance to God’s will.

This is why Jesus teaches that all sins will be forgiven, no matter what blasphemies they utter; who whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit is guilty of an eternal sin, indeed will never have forgiveness for such an act. Now, Jesus is not referring to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Rather, Jesus is referring to the innate holiness present in every person by virtue of being created of being created by God, from whom nothing but good proceeds. It was common Jewish belief that every human being naturally possesses God’s holy spirit. This is captures in Psalm 51: Take me not away from your presence, and take not your holy spirit from me. All people deserve our respect, our love, and our ministry by virtue of this fact. In this world, there are not two groups of people: the good on one side and the evil on the other. There are only people in varying states of pathology or wellness.

Our task, our commission, is to reflect on the goodness that is in all people, without exceptions, and allow this glorious truth to drive our actions in Mission. Reflecting on this glorious truth: that in all things, in all creatures, in all people, God is present and active, the same God that is present and active in our hearts, present in our Tabernacle, present shortly on our Altar. The open secret of Christian Mission is the more we open our hearts to the tremendous glory of God, the easier it is to do the hard work of Mission, of meeting people where they are. Indeed, as we sing at every Mass: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might: heaven and earth are full of your glory. Heaven—and earth.

On the Ministry of the Laity

[This essay by Father Dallman appeared in the May 2018 issue of The Spire, the newsletter of the Parish of Tazewell County.]

Saint Paul teaches in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians that saints (the baptized) are to be equipped for work of ministry, for “building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” He also teaches elsewhere of the centrality of the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity to the Christian life.

The pressing question then becomes, within the context of Baptism, how do equipping the saints for ministry and the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity hang together as part of an overall “baptismal spirituality” or “baptismal life”? What is the shape or pattern? Continue reading

Homily: “On Micah’s Prophecy of Peace”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Third Sunday of Easter, 2018.

In beginning our third week of living into the one day of Easter Sunday—living into its transcendent mystery—we continue to survey how the early Church began to see Jesus Christ in His glorified Body. We do that so that we can participate in the wonder and awe of Our Lord’s resurrection. The consequences of the Passover of Jesus from death to life are nothing short of outrageous. It is like a whole mountain range dropped into the ocean—waves and ripples everywhere in all directions of reality. The resurrection of Jesus washes the whole world with grace—nothing is left out, everything changes. But it is not a change in physical appearance. Rather it is a change in meaning, with new depths of meaning revealed and broken open for the People of God. The Resurrection of Jesus is first and foremost a religious event—and being a religious event, it is experienced through prayer and with the eyes of faith: eyes that see into the depths because God has opened them to us. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on Easter Sunday, principal service, 2018.

We have asked in our Collect today of our glorious and loving Lord Jesus that by His resurrection, we may die daily to sin and evermore live with him in joy. There are few times of the time more joyful that Easter. The church takes on a new hum; there is a spirit of collaboration and sacrifice shared by the members of congregation between one another; our liturgical space, even in our shared relationship between our two churches, has seen more than normal amount of action, and today looks beautiful, smells beautiful, and sounds beautiful with the songs of Easter we all know so well. Our service to the Lord through the Mass is a multi-sensory experience of smell, touch, taste, hear, and sight. Continue reading

Homily: “On Beholding Our Mother”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on Good Friday, 2018.

In this Holy Week, we continue to follow Him through the mysterious events of the final days, hours, and minutes of His blessed life. We continue to minister to Him through our service—our worship, our prayer, our fellowship, our openness. And having continued with Him in the Garden of reality beyond time and space, we have come to the foot of the cross. Standing by us are Mary, His mother, Mary’s sister (also named Mary), and another Mary—Mary Magdalene. A holy trinity of Marys caught up in the glory of the Holy Trinity through Jesus Christ—a glory so strong and indestructible that He having loved us so much already, loved us to the very end: loving us with the last words, His last commandments, from the Cross, emptying Himself with the teaching that we will need to continue His ministry and live out the new commandment He gave on the previous night—a commandment of servant ministry that loves each member of the community like Christ Himself and celebrates the Eucharist which makes actually present again He who through whom all things have been made. It is that threefold commandment which the Church at Pentecost began to live out by means of the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers. All of the Christian life—the threefold commandment of servant ministry, celebrating the Sacrament of His Real Presence, and love for brother and sister—was revealed on the night before He died. Continue reading

Homily: “On Trusting God”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on The Third Sunday in Lent, 2018.

We have no power in ourselves to help ourselves. No matter how much we try to control of the world around us—the things and the people in our orbit—none of it will bring salvation. No matter how much we try to control the world inside us—the emotions, thoughts, and desires in our heart—none of that controlling will bring salvation. Our Collect pours ice-water over any kind of pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps mentality. It rejects entirely any idea that we can earn grace. We are entirely dependent upon God for everything. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Binding of Isaac”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on The Second Sunday in Lent, 2018.

Even though the Sundays during the season of Lent are not part of the season properly understood, which means that we are given refreshment from any fasting or particular ascetical disciplines we might be following—these Sundays are in Lent, but not of Lent—nonetheless these Sundays certainly take on a Lenten character. This happens through the various displays of the liturgical color of purple, the color of expectancy, the suppression of liturgical proclamations of the Gloria and Alleluia, as well as the prayers and appointed lections from the Sacred Scriptures.

Yet the Eucharist takes us out of time, up on the holy mountain, alongside Saints Peter, James and John as they, and as we, witness Jesus transfigured, the Eucharist glistening with a love intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach further; on the mountain with Moses and Elijah on the right and on the left of Jesus, because the divinity of Jesus cannot be seen without the lenses of the Law and the Prophets, without the Old Testament. Continue reading

Homily: “On Entering Lent”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on Ash Wednesday, 2018.

We have entered into a new season, the season of Lent. This is a forty-day period that, with clear references to Sacred Scripture, invites us into a new spiritual context. “Forty” is a symbolic number of with which both the Old and the New Testaments represent the pregnant and holy moments in the experience of faith of the People of God (cf BXVI). And so, for our season of Lent to be forty days long is no accident, but rather a clear example of how the wisdom of the Church expresses itself, bringing together the Liturgy, our spirituality, and the Sacred Scriptures for an experience over these forty days that is holy and sacramental. Continue reading

Homily: “On Healing Saint Peter’s Mother-in-law”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the  Fifth Sunday after The Epiphany, 2018.

In our Collect this week, we are asking God to set us free from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which He has made known to us in Jesus. This is what God wants to do. He came down from heaven not to call the righteous but sinners—not the righteous but those separated from Him, for “sin” means separation. Those who are separated from God, and hence are sinners, have that relationship not because God has separated them from Him, but because they have separated themselves from God because of their choices, which often become or lead to habits. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the  Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, the Apostle, 2018.

That through the preaching of Saint Paul the Apostle, God has caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world—there can be no doubt. Roughly one quarter of the books of the New Testament were written by Paul, and it is likely that all of the letters were completed before the first Gospel was written, the Gospel according to Saint Mark. Then, he travelled around the known world preaching and teaching, exhorting and inviting—that all should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance. In a very clear way, Saint Paul imitated Saint John the Baptist. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2017.

“For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.” The words of the wise men, transformed and expanded into the hymn, “We three kings of Orient are,” words proclaimed around our world this evening and tomorrow, and therefore savored by Christian communities the world over—these words are our words as well. For as the wise men were guided by the star which came to rest where the Child was, so have we been guided by the Light of lights that shines in our hearts, a Light that comes to rest as the Incarnate Word that overshadows our souls, enlightens our spirit, and Who by faith we conceive in our hearts and bear in our minds. It is Christ who brings us together, because through Him have we been made and remade, to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Epiphany—that is, manifestation or showing forth—of Our Lord Jesus Christ, showing forth to all nations of the world. There are four dimensions of our celebration this evening of this mystery—four dimensions and then a fifth, which is its invitation to us. Continue reading

Homily: “On the Wedding Garments”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 23, Year A), 2017.

Our Collect this week dates from at least the 8th century, and it is the shortest, most concise of all the Sunday Collects used throughout the year. But despite its brevity, it contains in concentrated, devotional idiom what has been called the first principle of sound theology. And because of its brevity, it can be easily memorized and used throughout one’s life, almost as a mantra or personal refrain.

That first principle of sound theology is found in the first half, in these words: “Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us.” What that says is, God acts first, and anything we do is a response to grace manifest and present, rather than being of our own design and origin.  Earlier in the church year, we acknowledged to God that in our weakness we can do nothing good without Him. It is grace before, during, and after each and every godly encounter in which we participate in our lives, from the most mundane to the most grand. It is for that reason that we must evermore be praising Him, and saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts (of power and might). We can do nothing good without God, without grace. What a humbling fact! Continue reading