Homily August 24, 2014 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on August 20, 2014

21 sun aIn today’s gospel, we see Jesus ask a question of his Apostles reflecting Jesus’ time and culture. People of his culture measured their thought and identity through a collective look of what others thought. So in effect, Jesus in asking “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” is basically asking in our parlance, “How am I doing?” For him it is a moment in his early ministry to look at himself and his Apostles. Of course, 12 men in any culture will contribute answers from the ridiculous to the impossible to the absurd. But Jesus wasn’t finished, he wanted to know what the apostles themselves thought. So he asked what they thought. As a former teacher, I know what I is like to ask a tough question. Suddenly there is silence, uneasiness, glancing around, nervous coughing, more silence.21 sun bThen a humbled voice speaks up. And so it was that Peter spoke up. A spokesman for the 12. But Jesus tells us Peter was chosen, blessed by His Father, to speak up, to put in words the experience and knowledge of the others, the revelation of His Father. All through the Israelite writings and psalms, God was their rock and savior, and now the rock for Peter and the Apostles. As this is an important moment, Jesus gives Simon a nickname: Peter or Rock or today we would say Rocky. The moment forever changes his name for generations to come as he and the Apostles were given the mission to carry on and build the church binding together all the world for a future life and forming an entity, a fellowship, that no evil could prevail against it.

We know evil is in the world an ever-present challenge to every woman and man and child, and even in the institutions and governments in all times and ages. Throughout history believers have been subjected to evil and some have succumbed to it, but still Christ’s church and believers remain. Like a rubber band we have been pulled and stretched but have not broken. All of humanity has faults and we all fall short of what our faith calls us to do at one time or another. But Jesus in his Humanity and Divinity is there and understands and forgives.

21 sunFurther, to his church, through his Apostles, he gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven. And to whom do you give the keys to your home? Who do you give free reign to your home? It is a unique binding together of believers and a task for the Apostles to open the door and to watch and protect the people at the same time. The church after all is the Body of Christ, people uniquely united to each part contained in that body. Each time or century, each culture, each country presents new challenges for Christ’s people to advance toward the kingdom of God. Knowledge, Science, Culture, the world itself with its possibilities and constraints all present challenges as the successors of the Apostles and early Christians pass on the faith to the people of our time. Christ is still the Son of the Living God who still calls us to bind together and journey with him to his father. That Faith today is just as important as it was for Peter. It will be there for us as it was for Peter and the Apostles, our openness to it being the only requirement. Faith is the best vehicle on the road.

Homily from Holy Trinity Parish August 17, 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on August 17, 2014

Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2014

If this Gospel seems very familiar it is because we heard it on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul just a few weeks ago. This doesn’t  make it too easy for the homilists, does it!

For this reason I am going to spend a little more time on the Isaiah reading and the Romans excerpt. First of all, Isaiah.

The name Shebna is probably not too familiar to you, and we don’t know much about him.  Apparently he was a servant who moved up to the position of controller or governor of the King’s household which would be a very prominent position. And Shebna apparently took every advantage that came with it. He was very enamored of things, and was building himself a huge tomb for his death, something that only princes did, and was proud, and more concerned about himself and his luxuries than he was of the people under him. It is also said that he was politically working against Israel to gain profit. For this he was eventually demoted to the position of a secretary.

Isaiah did not like him very much, and the words that God puts into Isaiah’s mouth are strong in their indictment of him. Because of his pride he will be “thrust” from office, “pulled down” and someone else will be put in his place, someone more honorable and respectful of his heritage.

When someone places things ahead of God in the Hebrew Testament, they are often punished for it. The honorable, God-fearing person, however, is highly rewarded.

The person that Isaiah prophesies will take his place, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. Because of his goodness, he will become the new governor and he will be in charge of all things in the kingdom. That is the meaning of giving someone the key to the house of David. They have complete control of the comings and goings, the finances, who gets to see the King, and so on. He is a man who will be worthy to run the King’s affairs.

For those of you who listen carefully, you may have noticed the similar use of the phrase in the Gospel. Instead of keys to the house of David, we have keys to the kingdom, which is the house of Jesus.

Because Peter has recognized that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Son of the living God, he is to be rewarded, much the same as Eliakim. Peter is raised to the position of being in charge of the kingdom, and the biding and loosing referred to are similar to Eliakim opening doors that no-one will be allowed to shut, and shutting doors that no one is allowed to open.

Now, although the words of Jesus seem to be addressed to Simon Peter specifically, this was a conversation that included all the Apostles, and Peter was seemingly acting as a spokesperson for all the group. That is why Bishops can be seen to posses the kind of authority they do over spiritual matters.

What is always interesting to me, however, is the constant amazement I have in how the Hebrew and Christian Testaments comment on each other, reflect each other, mirror each other, complete each other.

On a different note, the excerpt today from St. Paul to the Romans is a beautiful tribute to God, poetic in language, hymn-like in structure, and deep in meaning. It is a concluding section to Paul’s study of God’s plan of salvation which would not have been our way of doing things at all.  Paul has been so impressed by the methods and choices God has made in bringing about our salvation that he is thrust into deep awe at the workings of God. The more he understands it, the more he looks at it, the richer he finds it. It is through seeing, understanding and experiencing the works of God that we are led to a place of reverence and awe, a place where we know we can only glory in the Lord. “For from him and through him and in him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.” We echo this line at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer each week! We acknowledge that God is our be inning and end and worthy of all praise. When I hold the host and chalice up at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, pay special attention to what we are saying and the implications of it. It is such a beautiful hymn to the power, majesty and generosity of our God, especially when the Eucharistic presence can be seen and touched as we say it.

So, we always get to this point in the homily where I try to let you see how these readings might influence your thought and actions during the following week. Sometimes, however, the readings have no moral implications or easy messages to give. We might ask ourselves whether we are to caught up in worldly things, as was Shebna, or whether we appreciate or take for granted the workings of God, especially the redemptive act which allows us to be kingdom-bound again. For my part, I simply would like you to pay more attention, perhaps, to the words we use each week, like the final words of the Eucharist Prayer, and see if you can find the riches, the wisdom and the knowledge that is there for us.  St. Paul had to work at doing that, and so should we for it provides great reward and enriches our faith.

And this is the hope that I present to you to today as the Good News of our God!

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily August 17, 2014 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Eucharist, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on August 13, 2014

20 sun3Today’s gospel is very revealing about Jesus if we think about it. All of us are very tied up in his divinity and his sonship and oneness with the Father and Holy Spirit, but we forget that he was truly human born as an infant and growing physically to manhood and in wisdom and knowledge and understanding. More than anything he was a person of his time mirroring the outlook and feelings and prejudices that surrounded him. As he grew and as his mission grew so too did he. Going into Canaan in today’s gospel, he was going into a gentile world, a place of unbelievers, a place devoid of the lost sheep of Israel. This woman approaches him without escort of a man, in fact alone brazenly seeking him out. Such things didn’t happen in that culture, women never approached men alone. Jesus is at first harsh with the woman, calling her a dog, an unbeliever not worthy to share in the goods of a family. Yet, the woman was not put off by this, in fact, she stood up to Jesus saying that even dogs get the scraps thrown and falling on the floor. The result was that Jesus saw her great faith and responded to her request. As a result, we see Jesus the man growing in his understanding and experiencing faith and what it means to believe and the lengths people will go who believe. It is a moment that he sees faith as a defining thing. After all he had condemned the religious leaders as hypocrites who paid lip service to God and practiced only what was convenient to them. They were quick to place rules and laws on others but didn’t do the same to themselves.20 sun 1
This woman in her time and in the surrounding countries had no standing. Even in Jewish society Women had no relevancy except as subordinate to men. In fact, that attitude kind of prevailed even into the last century and does exist even today. But our point today is faith. God created everything, the universe, men, women and everything else in it. God embraces all people. God did not create evil, that was from humanity. God looks for all and calls for all. He expects that we should do the same. We should be concerned for all, welcome all. You might say it is not so easy, but think about it. Sure we don’t meet all or even great numbers of people, we’re not all world travelers, or missionaries. But how many do we meet or encounter in a day, in a week? How do we act? What is our demeanor? Do we walk with blinders or are we kind and friendly. Do we see the homeless, the hungry? Sure there are phonies out there, but not all are. My thought is that if we did one good thing a week, encouraged or influenced only one person a week, Christ and faith in him would increase and our reach would be more than we would see. .

Homily Holy Trinity Parish August 10, 2014

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

I thank you for having me here with you today and letting me celebrate with you. But, oh my, why did I get to preach on one of the most unflattering Jesus stories in the New Testament? Jesus seems so cruel here, doesn’t he? In modern terms we could picture Jesus walking down a downtown street and some poor Middle Eastern woman begging for food and Jesus looking at her and saying, “We collect our food for Christians, not for dogs like you!”. Can this be our Jesus! Our meek and mild Jesus? Our good shepherd? Let’s look at this a little more carefully.)

As you may have figured out by now, in the last few weeks the readings have been looking at the concept of “faith” and what it means in our lives. In today’s Gospel we see that having faith can even change the mind of God.

Jesus’ mission, by his own admission, is to redeem the Jews. He states this clearly and simply. That is the reason he seems so cold and uncaring to the Gentile woman who asks for his help. It is unusual for us to see a picture of Jesus that seems that  closed and uncaring. Perhaps Jesus is making this statement so that the Apostles can witness his change of heart, so that they too, later, will spread the Gospel to the non-Jews. Nevertheless, in this Gospel passage today, Jesus seems unwilling to help the Canaanite woman and her daughter.

The woman’s belief and faith in Jesus is so great, however, that she will not let him say no. She even lowers herself in order to make a point to Jesus. She picks up on his shocking metaphor in which Jesus calls her nothing more than an animal – a dog, and turns it around – almost making a joke of it. And Jesus does indeed recognize her faith, he gets the joke, and as a reward for her cleverness and belief and faith in him, he cures the woman’s daughter. She becomes an example to the Apostles of how faith can be a part of the Gentile experience of Jesus as well.

How many of us are willing to debase ourselves in order to prove our faith? What do we do to show Jesus our belief in him? How deep is our faith?

It is really through faith like this, through role models like this woman that the movement of the Christian faith spread to the Gentile world and the Apostles accepted it. Isaiah, of course, predicted it. In the first reading today Isaiah states very clearly that foreigners will be accepted at God’s altar, if they embrace the faith of Abraham’s Lord.

In Genesis we learned that God chose Abraham and his descendants to make a covenant with them. A covenant is not like a contract between two equals, but is a gift of a superior to an inferior. They may have not done anything to merit the gift of the covenant, but the giver promises certain things, in this case God who makes Abraham his friend, promises him descendants, promises him land. In return, the giver may require things of the other party. If we wonder why God chose one particular people and not others, we miss the point of Isaiah today that the Jews were picked in order to bring the one true God to other nations, rather like a man who brings a delicious treat home to his three children, and instead of breaking it up and giving it to all three, gives it to the oldest one and asks him to share it with the others. That is why Isaiah can have God say that his “house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”

Even the psalm today, Psalm 67,  stresses the far reaching influence of God through the Jewish faith. “Let all the peoples praise you!”  and “You guide the nations upon earth.” “Let all the ends of the earth revere him”. So, even though we talk about the covenant between God and the Jews, we can see from the beginning that it was meant to be shared.

St. Paul thoroughly embraced the idea that the Judean Christian faith must be brought to other nations. He sees himself not just as an Apostle, but as an Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul has realized, and is saddened, by the fact that his own people, the people God chose, have not accepted Jesus as Messiah, and so he says he “glorifies” his ministry to the Gentiles, he makes it seem more important, to shame the Jews, to make them jealous, to save them. The fact that so many of them  have rejected Jesus has allowed the Gospel to be opened up to Gentiles, and so unwittingly, the Jews have fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, and brought the one true God to all the nations. But Paul is still saddened by the fact and wants to find ways to bring about the acceptance of Jesus by the Jews. Right now he sees them as being dead, and he wants to bring them life.

What can we take with us from the readings this morning? First of all, acceptance. All people are called, all people are invited, and we need to accept all people. Our goal as Christians should be to encourage all people to see the model Jesus provides, and through him come to the Father.

Secondly, we need to work on our faith in Jesus. Over the last few weeks we have learned from the readings that faith needs to be practiced, faith means letting go and trusting, faith means concern for others more than for ourselves. The Canaanite woman had such faith in Jesus’ ability to cure her daughter that she was willing to not give up in her attempts to communicate with Jesus, but even to lower herself to prove her faithfulness. Can we move from our comfortable lives and visit the sick, the jailed, those living on the street – put aside our prejudices and let Jesus work through us. These are all challenges presented in the study of faith that we have been seeing over the last three weeks, and certainly they provide challenges to our own lives as well. For those of us we do these things, and I know you have many such things going on, your faith can be a beacon of light that shines out to others, and maybe others can be jealous enough of your successes to find Jesus themselves as Paul hopes the Jewish people might.

And this is the Good News of faith in Jesus that the readings inspire in us today.

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily August 10, 2014 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, Eucharist, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on August 6, 2014

19 sun 1I dare say that I don’t think there are any of us here who have any recollection of World War 2 except how it might have been told yo us by our elders. I know my memories of the nineteen forties is vague at the most. But those times and the fifties were in many ways different and simpler and less complicated than today. Most people worked Monday to Friday, and practically everything was closed on Sunday. Even professional baseball in Pennsylvania could only be played between 1 and 7 PM. I saw the first television about 1949 and it was a miracle with a 5 inch screen. The times reflected family, neighborhood and community. !00 dollars a week was a big salary. But many things changed as we learned and advanced into a new age of technology. An explosion of knowledge and technology and the call for ever more education gradually drew the younger generations from their 19 sun 2roots to other parts of the country and a whole new style of life and family and neighborhood and community developed. The leisurely pace of a century ago has been replaced and now some businesses are even open now 24/7. All this kind of leads to the question, what is a Christian today?

Some things don’t change and surely the mark of a Christian is love and a special love flowing from a Christian community. Sure we gather today in community, but how is Christ personally in our life today? What kind of personal relationship do we have? Let’s step back a moment and look at the gospel. Last week Jesus heard about John the Baptist being beheaded and set off in a somber mood to be alone. Jesus was a strong man but he had strong emotions and his humanity needed get away and be alone. We saw last week he was sidetracked by the crowd to whom he ministered. Finally, he dismissed the crowd, sent the disciples across the water and went off on his own. At key moments, Jesus did this going off alone and talking to his Father. Of course, he had a very special relationship, but so should we. O Faith calls us to be more than just in community. More than just coming to church and 19 sun 3receiving the sacraments. In the encountering of Christ in the sacraments, it is important we form a relationship with him also. In every one of our lives there are going to be times of distress and loneliness and feelings of being lost. These are the times to call on that relationship. To take leave of others and commune with the Lord where it most suits our psyche. Even at the most inconsolable moments, Christ is there to assuage our fears and help us through the maze of life and its contradictions. Like Christ alone with his Father, we don’t change the reality, but gain strength to go on and be part of our community, loving and sharing once again.

Perhaps in the creation story in Genesis, that is the wisdom of the seventh day being set aside for rest. Certainly, it was not written for God but for us. While God is indefatigable, we get worn out. Rest, refreshment is so important. Prayer, Eucharist, communing with God are all important and necessary parts of our journey. All these help make it an easier way.

Homily- Holy Trinity Parish Sunday August 3, 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Eucharist, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on August 3, 2014

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

We begin today with a reading about the prophet Elijah. Most of us are not all that familiar with Elijah except perhaps that he was an Old Testament prophet who never died but was taken up into heaven, and is thought to be going to return before the end of the world. In the verses before this reading, Elijah is very depressed, and says he can’t go on and he prays to God that he might die. Rather ironic, since he is one of the few Biblical people that never does die. But God takes care of him and when Elijah goes into the wilderness, God sees to it that he finds food and drink, and that he rests.

Once his physical needs have been taken care of, Elijah goes into a cave and God allows Elijah to vent his anger on the Hebrew nation because they have not heeded him and have turned to other gods. He tells God that he feels alone and isolated and depressed.

God realizes that what Elijah needs at this point in his life is a personal encounter with God and so God tells Elijah to leave the cave and stand on Mount Horeb, the place where Moses had been given the Ten Commandments. As Elijah did what the Lord had said, and he waited to hear God, he began to look for God  in dramatic ways – in thunder and lightning, earthquakes and wind and fire. Just as many of us look for God in extraordinary manifestations, so did Elijah. But God did not come to Elijah in any of those ways, but he came in the simplicity of silence, in a whisper instead of a loud roar!

The lesson here for us is not to look for God in the extraordinary, but in the simple. Listen to the silence. It is there that we will hear God when God speaks to us. It is the same peacefulness that the first lines of the psalm repeat today: Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people.

Elijah was depressed and it took God’s voice to get him out of it. Similarly, Paul is depressed today as well in the reading from Romans, and he, like Elijah is upset because the Hebrew nation as a whole has not accepted Jesus. He is greatly saddened by that fact since the promise belonged to the Jews first. Paul says he has great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart over that fact. God does not console Paul in his reading. He is consoled, however, by the fact hat he knows he is telling the truth about Christ, and the Holy Spirit confirms this by giving him a clear conscience in regard to the matter.

In the Gospel today, this theme is carried out with the apostles being the ones, who were not so much depressed, but frightened. Jesus had gone, like Elijah, to the mountain to pray, to communicate with God. The Apostles had gone into a boat and were crossing, without Jesus, to the other side of the lake when a storm erupted. In their fear they saw a figure walking toward them on the water, and their fear turned to terror. They really couldn’t believe that it could be Jesus walking on the water even though Jesus spoke to them and told them not to fear. Peter recognized Jesus and wanted to come to him and so he asked Jesus to command him to come and walk on the water as well. So Peter climbed from the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus until he became frightened by the wind and waves, and began to sink. Jesus reached out and caught him but indicated that he sank because he lost faith. And when Peter and Jesus climbed into the boat, the winds stopped and it became peaceful again. Peter had listened to the Lord, and was able to do the impossible – walk on water – but when he was distracted by the winds and the waves, he began to question what was happening and began to sink. This event marked the moment in Matthew when the divinity of Jesus became clear to the Apostles despite other miracles he had performed. It seemed to solidify their belief that this man was truly the Son of God and worthy of worship.

What kinds of lessons can we draw from these readings today? Well, first of all, let’s look for God in the moments we might not expect him – in the silences, in the faces of others, in the stillness. It is in these moments that God talks to us, inspires us, helps us make decisions, leads us. And secondly, let us look to Jesus and not be distracted by other things. If we can keep our minds and hearts focused on Jesus there is nothing that we can’t do. It is when we are distracted and look away, when we lose faith in ourselves and question God in our lives that we are prone to depression and worry. Jesus can come to us on the water, and we can follow him, just like the child who, being thrown into the air, trusts that his father will catch him. That kind of faith and trust will give us the ability to hear God, and to follow him no matter where he leads us, knowing that truth and peace will prevail in our lives.

And this is the Good News of how we communicate with God, and how we need to focus on Jesus in our lives.

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]

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Homily August 3, 2014 18th Sunday of Ordinary

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Eucharist, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on July 30, 2014

18 sun1Today’s gospel is interesting in how it presents a picture of Jesus at a low moment. His cousin John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod. Like any of us hearing bad news, he wants to withdraw and digest the news. He gets in a boat and goes off to a deserted place. But like most of us in our own time, there is no escape. As time and circumstance binds us in time and space, so Jesus is bound to the people anxious to hear him and they even anticipated his destination and some got there first. How fast would we be to put off our grief, our need to be alone, to reach out to others’ needs? Matthew says he saw their needs and started to cure the sick, to walk among them, to be with them. As in his whole life the “I” became “you”. Even when approached to send them away 18 sun2because they had to get food and evening approached, he says no, share what we have. Images of manna in the desert come to mind, but more than that, the passage is a reminder and type of the Eucharist to come at the last supper. From a meager supply, the bread and fish are blessed and broken and shared among all those present. Sharing was not uncommon in that time and world, but the feeding of so many was. Our scriptures today tell us that God looks out for us and calls us to come and eat and drink.

Ironically, if we look at the world today, we see areas of hunger and famine and starvation in various places. How disordered a world we live in that anyone should be hungry. Part of the fallen nature of humanity is the disorder and lack of caring and looking out for others in the name of the love of God. If the world was an ideal place, the food produced could feed everybody to a point of preventing starvation and hunger. Jealousy, nation against nation, just plain evil, points out that sin is still present. Christ’s love and offering for all is there but still many turn from God’s love looking for who knows what that will never put there being at rest. Physical hunger is something that food can satisfy, but that other hunger which is in our spirit, in our psyche is satisfied by a different food, a food over and above just the physical, a food given by Christ: his body and blood. 18 sun 3As Christians, we are very much a Eucharistic community, we hunger and are satisfied only by that food Jesus gives us for our journey of love to eternal life. Throughout history God foreshadowed what we have with the manna in the desert, the loaves and fishes of Jesus, but especially now we have the Eucharist given at the last supper. You might say that we are now a people in the desert of life being fed by Jesus on that journey through the darkness around us into that glorious day we meet our Lord.


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