Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I returned home from the House of Bishops meeting and a short day and a half visit with my family in Texas late last Saturday, just in time to attend my daughter, Catie’s musical performance at Hadley Luzerne High School. With the first of my three flights being delayed taking off for over two hours, causing me to have to reschedule and reroute my follow on flights, it was truly an answer to prayer and blessing from God, that I got home in time for the performance. It was a wonderful evening. All the kids did a great job. In regard to the House of Bishops Meeting, it wasn’t quite so wonderful. I will be reporting more on that in the coming days after Easter.
I began Holy Week doing that which I enjoy most, visiting out in the Diocese. On Palm Sunday I was with Fr. Rob Holman and the people of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Elizabethtown. Following the service and reception, Fr. Rob and I went to the hospital in Plattsburgh to visit his wife Mana and newborn son, Benjamin. We give thanks to God for the birth of Benjamin and ask your prayers for Mana, who is now home recovering from complications from the delivery. Heavenly Father, we thank you for the recovery that Mana is making and ask that you will continue to bathe her in the love and healing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Welcome Home Initiative, held this past Monday through Wednesday at Christ the King SLC, which honored and ministered to combat veterans and their families, went very well. Much healing took place. This first Welcome Home Initiative was a trial session for what we hope will become a major ongoing ministry to the brave men and women who have given so much in defense of our country and fighting for the freedom of people throughout the world. I want to say a special thank you to Fr. Nigel Mumford, Lt. Col. Noel Dawes, and all the members of their team and the staff at Christ the King, for offering yourselves as a channel through which God’s love and healing grace could flow forth.
Each of the three Chrism Masses this week went very well. Monday evening, we met at the Cathedral of All Saints, Albany. Tuesday night we were at St. James, Oneonta. Wednesday, we celebrated the Chrism Mass at St. Thomas’ Church, Tupper Lake. I felt very blessed to share in the renewal of ordination vows with my fellow deacons and priests in the Diocese. I want to thank each of you who made a special effort to be there. I also would like to thank each of the three host parishes for their warm welcome and wonderful hospitality in serving dinner to all the clergy and their families in attendance.
For those who were unable to attend, extra oil for healing and chrism may be picked up at The Cathedral of All Saints, Albany, or at Christ the King SLC. The appropriate way to dispose of old oil and chrism is to burn it.
Yesterday, I joined Fr. Brad Jones and the parishioners of Christ Church Schenectady, as well as a number of ecumenical brothers and sisters from local Schenectady churches for the Stations of the Cross Good Friday Procession. We walked three miles through Hamilton Hill and surrounding Schenectady neighborhoods praying the Stations and singing hymns while carrying a large wooden cross. It was a very moving and holy experience. I have prayed the Stations of the Cross numerous times over the years, but always within the confines of the Church or at a retreat center, never walking down the streets in town. No matter how hard we try, we can never adequately duplicate the journey our Lord made, dragging His cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Calvary.
Praying the Stations, however, can give us little glimpses of the pain and suffering Jesus endured on our behalf. The howling wind and bitter cold was the first thing to greet us as we began our journey. What pain we might have experienced from the cold is trivial compared to Jesus’ pain of being whipped, scourged, beaten, and then nailed to a cross with huge nails pounded through his flesh and bone, and then hung high in the air for everyone to see. Every breath was a struggle.
As we walked the streets of Schenectady, we were greeted in a variety of ways. Some people stopped and looked, not saying a word. Some continued on with what they were doing, apparently oblivious to our presence. Others held out hands to welcome us saying God Bless You and Happy Easter. Others however, were not happy at all, as they shouted obscenities from their doorways and windows. Perhaps this last response came closest to that which our Lord experienced as he heard over and over the shouts ring out ”“ “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” As we heard the shouts of obscenities and walked past boarded up houses and littered streets, and people struggling to make a living, we witnessed first hand the brokenness of the world in which we live, and our desperate need for the love and redeeming grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our sins, joined with the sins of all of humanity, nailed Jesus to the cross. However, it wasn’t the nails that kept Him there. It was Jesus’ love for the Father and His love for each of us, that kept Him clinging to the cross, clinging until the very last sin of all time was placed upon Him ”“ the Paschal Lamb. Bearing the sins of all the world, for all time, upon Himself, Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) It was then that Jesus cried, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed his head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:30).
On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, conquering the power of sin and death. He invites us and all people who believe and trust in Him, accepting Him as Lord and Savior, to share in His resurrected and eternal life. That is the Easter message, the Good News of Jesus Christ, which the entire world so desperately needs to hear. I encourage you to invite someone you know who is in need of hearing this Good News to come with you to Church. May you and all your family and loved ones have a blessed and joyful Easter. God Bless You!!!
In Christ’s Love,
–The Rt. Rev. Bill Love is Bishop of Albany