(Includes Fr. Kevin’s Sermon and an Act of Spiritual Communion)

Introit (Is. 66): Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy, all ye that have mourned: that ye may be glad, and be satisfied with the breasts of your consolation.

Ps. 122. I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand in thy gates: O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built as a city: that is at unity in itself. For thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord: to testify unto Israel to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord. For there is the seat of judgement: even the seat of the house of David. O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls: and plenteousness within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes: I will wish thee prosperity. Yea, because of the house of the Lord our God: I will seek to do thee good. Glory be …

Collect: Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God: that we who for our evil deeds worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through Jesus Christ our Lord thy Son, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, throughout all ages world without end. Amen.

OT Lesson: Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant to the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee. Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on, as doth a bride. (Isaiah 49.8-18)

Gradual (Ps. 122): I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord. Peace be within thy walls: and plenteousness within thy palaces.

Epistle: Brethren: It is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But that Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and shout, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she who hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free: by the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. (Galatians 4.21-31)

Tract (Ps. 125): They that put their trust in the Lord shall be even as the mount Sion: which may not be removed, but standeth fast for ever. The hills stand about Jerusalem: even so standeth the Lord round about his people, from this time forth for evermore.

The Holy Gospel: At that time, Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, who hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. (St John 6.1-15)

REFLECTION “Rejoice, O Jerusalem. I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.” Beloved in Christ, In this week of Lent IV, we probably feel more like singing Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept … How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Still, in the midst of the bleakness of March we have these powerful and uplifting Scripture passages to strengthen and refresh our hearts. The miraculous feeding of the five thousand has traditionally been understood as a foreshadowing of the Holy Eucharist, that wonderful gift that is our continual source of strength and grace, the Real Presence of Christ in our lives, in our bodies and in our souls. Even though we may not now receive Holy Communion physically, we can still remain connected to Christ, and feed on Him through prayer and Scripture reading, and receive Him in Spiritual Communion (see below). The Tract reminds us, “The hills stand about Jerusalem: even so standeth the Lord round about his people, from this time forth for evermore.” All the texts for today speak profoundly to our current situation. Perhaps the two most pertinent are: from the Gospel, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost;” and the Introit Psalm itself (in its entirety). The gathering up of the fragments from the feeding in the wilderness is an image of redemption—the gathering up of the broken fragments of our lives, of our broken humanity, of our broken church, in the wilderness of this world, and being gathered back to God. Lent IV is variously known as “Mothering Sunday,” from the Epistle reading which speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem as “the mother of us all;” “Refreshment Sunday,” from the Gospel reading about the feeding of the multitude in the wilderness; and “Laetare Sunday,” from the Introit and Psalm for the day. Psalm 122 is one of what are called The Psalms of Ascent—that is, the songs of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. In our Christian understanding, Jerusalem has become the image of our spiritual homeland, and Holy Mother Church, in which our sanctified humanity finds ultimate joy and refreshment. The source of joy for Christians, as we learn from the Epistle, is freedom. But St Paul’s understanding of Christian freedom is far different from what we in 21st-century North America understand by the term. When we talk about freedom, we usually mean the adolescent notion of being able to do whatever we want, or the freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution and the “Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” But the liberty of which St Paul speaks in Galatians far surpasses any secular notion of “freedom,” and cannot be bestowed or taken away by any governmental fiat. The liberty wherewith Christ has made us free does not depend upon human laws, and has nothing to do with the freedom to practice one’s religion. Rather, the Christian’s freedom is based on the self-sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the brokenness of the world. Christ has bought our freedom, freeing us once and for all from the bondage of sin and death, making us children of God, children of the heavenly Jerusalem. Thus, freedom for Christians exists even—indeed especially—in the midst of our prisons of isolation and separation, and is the source of a joy that far exceeds anything this world can offer. It is the freedom to live, even in the midst of death. All of these readings encourage us, and help us understand the true nature of our Christian pilgrimage. We are journeying to Jerusalem, but more importantly, we are journeying with Christ, and He will sustain us. He will not forsake us; it is we who can all too easily stray from Him. So, what can we do in this time in the desert? The Psalm has the answer (as the Psalms so often do): Pray. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Pray “for my brethren and companions’ sakes,” and “seek to do [them] good.” The Prayer Book gives us the Offices of daily Morning and Evening Prayer. Don’t worry about doing it “right,” just pray. Pray the Litany. Say the Angelus morning, noon, and evening. Read the brief and peace-filled Office of Compline (page 722) before bed. Now, more than ever, we need to remind ourselves that the Church is not the four walls of our earthly Jerusalem, but the members of Christ’s Body, our fellow-citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, and seek ways of maintaining our connectedness—to each other, and to Christ our Head. Jesus did not gather up all the fragments himself; he commanded the people to gather them, “that nothing be lost.” We are the hands and feet, the eyes, ears, and lips of Christ in our world today. The Christian life is about our being gathered to God; about gathering up all the broken shards and pieces of our lives and presenting them to Christ in prayer and praise, in service and sacrifice; and about our gathering others to Him. Perhaps God is using this time as an opportunity for us to gather up those fragments, to reflect upon our priorities, and to present ourselves, our souls and bodies, to Him for renewal. Our Lord fed over five thousand people when a small boy offered Him his lunch. What can He do with our gifts—with our lives—if we offer them sincerely and willingly in His service? Prayer and praise, serving Christ by serving others, this is our freedom, our refreshment and our joy. Through the gathering of those broken and scattered fragments we are reminded of the true nature and ultimate goal of our Christian pilgrimage…restoration and perfection in Christ. “Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem. Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces.”

+AN ACT OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNION+ O most loving Jesus, O most blessed Saviour, come to me, I beseech thee, and unite me to thyself. Though I cannot now receive thee sacramentally, yet I believe that thou art able, even when received by faith and desire only, to heal, enrich, and sanctify me. Come thou spiritually into my heart. I desire to unite myself to thee, with all the affections of my soul. Possess me wholly; let the consuming fire of thy love absorb me, and thy presence abide so intimately in me, that it will be no longer I that live, but thou who livest in me. Amen. May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my body and soul unto everlasting life. Amen.

Prayer Over the People: Stretch forth, O Lord, upon thy faithful people the right hand of thy heavenly succour: that they may seek thee with their whole heart, and be found worthy to obtain those things which they rightly ask; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. May God bless us and keep us. —Fr Kevin+