CACINA

Homily October 5, 2014 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, church events, ecclesiology, homily, politics, religion, Word by Fr Joe R on October 1, 2014

27 sun 4With today’s readings, we could easily get lost in a lot of different allegorical interpretations. In many ways some would be valid. But remember the gospel was written after Jesus died and rose and even after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In many ways the early church would see that the vineyard was the kingdom of God on earth and that the overseers or tenants were so pleased with what they had that the would go to any length to preserve what they had. 27 sun 3Thus, we see when the Son of the owner comes they assume the landlord is dead and presume they can eliminate the Son and all would be theirs. It is almost saying that if you want that vineyard or kingdom which is the ultimate for anyone, that you would do almost anything for it. Extreme? Yes, but how intense are you when you want something? That kingdom, the vineyard was everything to those who murdered the Son. Now Jesus wasn’t preaching murder, but the question is what do you value in your life today. Are we so comfortable or set in our ways that we lose sight of what is beyond the here and now. The kingdom of God is now and it is love. How much do we value that in day-to-day life? How far will we go to get that kingdom and be a part of it? Like the lost coin or the pearl how far would we go. How strong is our motivation?

Can we be so in touch with God’s love that it becomes our way of life? Some would say it was radical or impossible to do. As humans we do have faults and failures, but we can still pull ourselves up and live the kingdom in the right way. Love is now and it is forever. ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In fact, God is love and when we say I believe but let us not forget it also means those two words were a beginning, an opening of a whole way of life and love joined together in our faith and love and the church of God here and his kingdom.

Let us remember if Jesus gave a kind of backhanded compliment for how resolute the tenants were in achieving their goals, how resolute should we be going after ours?

Today’s Homily at Holy Trinity Parish September 28, 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 28, 2014

Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr. Ron Stephens on September 28, 2014

Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

We live in wine country and there are a great number of vineyards very near to us. Similarly in Jesus’ time and in Isaiah’s time, one of the common sights would be a vineyard. I don’t imagine that drinking wine is any less popular today than it was centuries ago, So both Jesus and Isaiah and David use the image of the vineyard as a way to let the chosen Jewish people know and understand just what has happened to them and will happen to them. Because they were very familiar with the workings of a vineyard, the story made much more sense to them and they could understand the warning inherent in each story.

The section of Psalm 80 today has a refrain which certainly simplifies things if anyone hadn’t gotten this message: “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel”. What David is doing in the Psalm, unlike the other readings today, is simply letting the Hebrews meditate on how well they have been prepared, planted, and nurtured. It is a prayer for this nurturing to continue so they they might produce fruit, since they have come on to difficult times. The wall of this vineyard has broken down and animals eat the fruit as well as passersby. It is a plea to God to continue his good work with Israel.

On the other hand, Isaiah, being a prophet, has often had a harsh message to bring from God to the Hebrews. Prophets were either consoling or full of warning, and in this message Isaiah starts off letting the Hebrews know the wonderful things God has done for them and what the result of that has been. In the parable, the owner of the vineyard did everything he could possibly do to ensure that his vineyard was fruitful and that the grapes that were produced were of finest quality. He made sure that the soil was overturned and all the debris of rocks were removed from it.  He planted only the best seedling vines, and in the center of this garden he built a watchtower. Now a watchtower was traditionally used in war, and was built so that one could see an approaching enemy. Here, the owner of the vineyard wanted to make sure that his vineyard was protected and secure and that no one would break into it and damage the vines or steal the grapes.  yet, despite all this preparation of soil, careful planting and watching over the garden, the only thing that was produced was wild, sour grapes.

So Isaiah asks “what more could the owner of the vineyard do? He did everything possible to see to it that the grapes were the best from which to make the wine. In his frustration with the wild grapes, he decided that he would either have to start over again, abandon the land, or lay it to waste. He decides to do the latter. He will tear down the protecting hedges, leave it to be overcome with weeds, trample it down and not allow it to be be watered so that it becomes a wasteland.

This should have been very frightening to the Hebrews, and indeed it was exactly what happened to them, because they had become the sour grapes, God stopped protecting them, abandoning them to enemies and weather, and soon the Hebrews were conquered and became captives.

But God always keeps his promises, and though we don’t read it here, we do find out that God remains faithful to the Hebrew people and eventually they are released from their bondage and start again. God keeps his covenant even though the people did not!

Jesus, too, is acting the prophet today. Unlike many of the parables that begin “The kingdom of heaven is like…”, this one does not. Instead Jesus tells a story about a landowner much like the one in Isaiah who planted a vineyard, fenced it in to protect it, also built a watch tower and a wine press, but who did not tend it himself, but left the country and leased the land to tenant farmers. In this parable, the grape harvest is not Israel, but the tenant farmers are Israel. We don’t know why the tenant farmers decided not to give the rightful owner the fruits of the harvest, except maybe the harvest was so special that they wanted it all for themselves. In any case, they treated the owner’s slaves very badly, even killing one of them. In desperation the owner sent his own son to collect the produce thinking that they would respect a free man, and rightful heir to the property. But no, the tenants decided they not only wanted the produce but they wanted the property as well, and killed the landlord’s only son so there would be no one the landlord could leave the land to.

Then Jesus asks the question: what is the landlord going to do about all of this? He lets the chief priests and elders come up with the end of the story themselves, for there is only one probable ending – the landowner will come himself and put the tenants to death, and lease the land to more suitable tenants who will give him the produce he deserves at harvest time. Jesus lets the chief priests and elders mull over the story and then draws the conclusion that he wants them to get. Israel is like the landowners who kill the messengers of the landlord, God. God therefore will punish the Israelite leaders and he will give leadership to someone else, who will do what the Father wills and harvest good fruit. There is also a veiled prophecy about Christ’s own death here – the only Son who is killed by the chief priests and elders.

Although the warnings today were specifically for Israel, we can adapt and apply them to ourselves as well.We must never forget who is the landowner and try to take that inheritance for ourselves through pride. Oftentimes we have control issues and think that we are – or at least should be – in control of our lives. It is only when adversity hits that we truly realize we have no control and we turn to God to get help. That is basically one good definition of prayer, isn’t it? And that is what Paul talks about today in the Epistle. Let God know what you want. Pray to him, thank him, and stop worrying, Paul says. Once we know and recognize who the landowner of the vineyard is, we place ourselves in God’s hands, letting him know what we want, but only expecting that he will do the very best for us and knows what is the very best for us. It is hard to give up that kind of control of our lives – the tenants of the vineyard sure couldn’t do it! But we must offer the fruits of our lives to God and trust that all will work out well in the end. Hard to do, but well worth the effort.

And that is the Good News of the vineyard and of prayer that we are told about by God 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 amazon.com for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]

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Homily September 28, 2014 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on September 24, 2014

26 sun2Putting today’s gospel in context, Jesus had entered Jerusalem triumphantly, had cleaned out the temple, so to speak, by getting rid of all the tradesmen and sellers and turning over the money makers tables. He had also cursed the fig tree that had no figs. The pharisees and priest and elders were really upset with him and very jealous of his popularity. It is in the context of all this that this parable was spoken. In the middle east, even today, honor and appearance and respect are important. Other people’s view and perception was and is important in social standing and respect and daily life. 26 sunSociety very much controlled what was legitimate and respectful. Thus in the parable and even in that culture today, the second son who said “I will” and then ignored his Father’s request would have been seen as the one who honored and respected his Father and of course upheld the family’s standing in the community. For most listening that would have been their concern and their answer that number 2 son honored his Father. But Jesus did not ask the question which honored the Father, rather He asked, “which son did the will of the Father?”

Here is where the pharisees and priests and elders get angry. It is easy to say yes but then go about as you will. But Jesus was a man who was consorting with what they consider the dregs of their time: tax collectors, prostitutes and all other kind of sinners. John the Baptist, prophets? No they had their scrolls and the comfort of the temple and the respect they thought gave them immunity from being caring and human. Changing and doing God’s will was something that had been somehow hidden from them or forgotten in their lives.

26 sun1Which brings us to ask today: which brother are we? Are we somewhere in the middle or are we like the pharisees and elders just cruising on appearance, comfortable and going through the motions? Doing God’s will is more than just saying yes, it is a call to action, to reach out, to share and celebrate God’s love. It is a grand plan but it is simply one act, one thing at a time. We are called to do what we can do, nothing beyond the possible. If we follow Jesus then it should show in how and who we are. Jesus was attacked for who his friends were but certainly not for who he was. I think the pharisees and priests and elders were afraid of what they saw and their ability to measure up to Jesus. His presence made their faults obvious and challenged their comfort. I think this then is a good reminder to look within and ask are we doing all that we should?

Homily Holy Trinity Parish September 21, 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on September 21, 2014

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr. Ron Stephens on September 21, 2014

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Today’s reading is about changing one’s mind, or to use a more Biblical phrase, repenting. It is also about justice and mercy, two qualities of God that are in balance and can co-exist.

The parable today is one of the few that doesn’t start with the words: The kingdom of heaven is like….”, but it is still about the operation, if you will, of the kingdom of heaven. It is a parable about a man with two sons. The first son seems rather rebellious and outspoken and when asked to do some work, he states exactly what is on his mind. No, I am not going to do that. The second son apparently had no intention of going either, but for fear of his father, or whatever reason, he would not be so blunt with his father, and told his father that he would go, knowing full well that he had better things to do that day with his time.

As it turns out, the blunt, rather rebellions son changed his mind. We are not told why. perhaps he had time to think about it and felt bad about his refusal, but in any case, he went out and did some work in the vineyard.

Jesus simply asks which one actually did what the father wanted. Obviously, as the Pharisees note, the first son did. Now, getting the answer he wanted, Jesus proceeds to tell the chief priests and elders that they were like the second son. They say they believe in a Messiah, and say that they follow all the rules and regulations of the Hebrew Torah, but their hearts are stubborn and they refuse to recognize who Jesus is and what he brings them. They will not change their minds like the first son, but continue to do what they want and will not even weigh the evidence.

Jesus does not say that they are bad people, but that they will not be the first to enter the kingdom of heaven. No, the people who believed in him, even the much hated tax collectors, and the sinful prostitutes will get there first because they were able to change their ways and follow Christ.

This then, may put the first reading from Ezekiel today into some perspective as to why it was chosen. It, too, is about changing one’s mind and repenting. It is also about justice more than it is about mercy. It is also a little scary. The righteous person, the person who has been faithful to the commandments commits a sin, and they will be punished for it, God says. They might even die because of it. But the wicked person changes their mind, repents, and begins to act in righteous ways, in lawful ways, and is not punished for past transgressions but allowed to live. This reminds me of the parable we just read of the landowner who pays everyone the same wage whether they worked eight hours or one hour. In our minds there is not a lot of justice =e here. Someone lives their whole life righteously and then screws up in the end and dies for it. Because this is a Hebrew Testament reading, what is missing is the fact that Jesus has come to redeem us, and that he has brought forgiveness of sins, so that we all can repent and turn away from sin. The beautiful hymn-like reading of Paul today praises Jesus for that very reason. Because of Jesus, justice can be and is tempered with mercy. And that is why Jesus is the name above every other name, why at the name of Jesus every knee should bend. Jesus is the one who brought mercy for us all into the world. We all get a second chance, and a third chance, and more. We know we fall, we sin, we do not always follow the Gospel, but as long as we don’t despair, don’t give up our faith in Christ, we will be able to turn around, and repent, and have life. This is the way that Jesus has fulfilled or completed the Hebrew Testament. And how lucky we are.

Besides the idea of repenting, I would like to end today with the concise advise of Paul to the Philippians on how to stay true to Christ and the Gospel: “be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” That means that we need to listen to one another, respect the opinions of one another and learn to love everyone here. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” Look for the good in others, look for the talent in others, look for the uniqueness of others, respecting them and expecting the best from them. And finally, look not just to your own “interests but to the interests of others.” Put your needs aside and look to the needs of those you love. If we can do these things, we will have a happy, prosperous community where we truly show the world how these Christians can love one another, having the same mind as Christ Jesus.

And this is the Good News offered to us in the Scriptures 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 amazon.com for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily September 21, 2014 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 18, 2014

worker6Today’s gospel tells us quite clearly today that life is not fair. Jesus’ use of the work place and the hiring of daily workers brings up visions of past times and hourly wages and sweat shops, exploitation, contracts and unions and many other things. Certainly, he wasn’t quite speaking of the group of men at the nearby 7-11 who wait each morning for someone to come along and hire them for a day’s pay. From a western viewpoint we see this from the idea of justice.worker3 It is hard for us to place our self in a different culture and time when work and compensation was a whole different thing. In our context, the landowner fulfilled the “contract” he made with the first workers he hired. To the others he said he would be fair and he must have been trusted as the laborers went off to work. But even still the parable is not about Justice, but is about the Kingdom of God.

Tell me, what can you do to earn the kingdom of heaven? What can you do to earn love, anyone’s much less God? Love is many things but it is freely given and really can’t be compared. What more can we do when asked to do something than to do it? What is more heart-rending when asked who do you love more?workers4 Love doesn’t work that way nor does the kingdom of God work that way, for it is a kingdom of God’s love built up of all the relationships he has with each of us and our relationships with each other. Sure we are called and tasked in different ways, but never can we truly measure up to what is the freely given love of God. If we have love, then what is, is fair. Who are we to question God’s love and what he gives us? What is Good for us will be different for another. What is difficult is what develops the love we have by accepting others and God’s love for them. What marriage has not met a few roadblocks and bumps along the way? It is how we handle the day in, day out, the here and now that determines what God’s love will be for us. I know that as hard as we try or not try that none of us is perfect. Yet in trying we grow strong and receive God’s love more and more. Try as we might we will never truly understand God, at least not in this life. At best, we can discern only that his ways are different and his love and generosity are boundless. He loves each person He created and as they are, not as we would want them to be.

Holy Trinity Homily September 14, 2014- The Exaltation of the Cross

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 14, 2014

Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Eucharist, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr. Ron Stephens on September 14, 2014

Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

When we talk about God, we often talk about two rather opposing terms, both of which we ascribe to God – immanence and transcendence. Immanence refers to the fact that God is with us, present to us, all around us, while transcendence treats God as outside, vast and supreme – in other words, beyond us. Many religions in the past have chosen to see God as one or the other of these ways, but as Christians we talk about God being both of those things. God is awesome, all-powerful, so we fear God with high respect and adoration. He transcends our petty little lives. And some of the psalms talk about God like that: “I will extol you, my God and my King!” says Psalm 145. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Even in the reading of Isaiah today we hear God say: My ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts [higher] than your thoughts.”

The first reading from Isaiah today and the Psalm today, however, also show us the immanent God, the God who is near us, with us. “Seek the Lord,” Isaiah says, “while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. And the Psalm, including the refrain says: The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call on him in truth.”

Many of us brought up as Catholics, I think, saw God the Father as this transcendent Being, and Christ as the immanent, easy to talk to God, and we have carried that into our adult life, but for the hebrew, there seemed to be no contradiction in having a God who both near and transcendent.

In Jesus’ parable today, we see both of these qualities mixed, I think.  God is metaphorically a landowner, someone transcendent, in charge, powerful, rich. Like God, the landowner sees hints differently than the simple workers. The immanence of God, too, is seen in the landowner’s kindness to those who were not chosen to work at the beginning. The landowner felt sorry for the fact that they wouldn’t get a full day’s wages, so he decided to pay them all the same daily wage. It was a generous gift, especially to those who only had worked one hour. The fact that the landowner could empathize with the workers who needed a wage to survive, to feed their families, and so on, shows his care. The fact that it doesn’t seem fair to the workers who worked all day doesn’t enter into his thoughts because it is his generosity which is at work here, not his justice. Mercy often overrides justice for God.

The fact that we all sin, does that not mean we should all be punished – but God shows mercy. God forgives both the minor or venial sinner, and the mortal one, to use the vocabulary of the catechism. We have a God who keeps us guessing, but who has shown over and over his willingness to forgive us, over and over, to work with us, to even die for us.

And that is why St. Paul today can look forward to death, even though he knows that his life means something for his congregations. He wants to be with Christ, he wants his God near him, and so while he is alive he will treat his body as a temple of Christ, exalting Christ, and living in a way that is Gospel based in honor of Jesus.

This week I would like you to think about whether you see God as nearby or transcendent and how that influences your prayer life. re you able to talk to God as a close friend, or do you talk to him as you would a superior being, using great respect and being careful of your words so as not to offend. Today’s reading stress the nearness of God and how we can relate to him and talk to him (or her) in a confident friend like manner. One of my favorite plays is the musical “Fiddler on the Roof, and I often recall how the main character Tevye talked to God, respectfully, but like you might talk to a friend, criticizing and joking even. At one point he says: “ It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. After all, with Your help, I’m starving to death. Oh, dear Lord. You made many many poor people. I realize, of course, it’s no shame to be poor… but it’s no great honor either. So what would be so terrible… if I had a small fortune?” Can we capture in our prayer life this wonderful balance between the Supreme God who made us, and the loving caring Papa that Christ preached. In any case, it is important that we take the time to converse with God, both talking and listening, and that is what i hope you can take home with you this week. It is wonderful Good News, and now we too, like Paul, just need to live our lives in a manner worthy of it.

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 amazon.com for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]

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Homily September 14, 2014 Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 9, 2014

crossToday’s feast of the exaltation of the Cross, is meant to step back from Holy Week and see the Crucifixion in terms of what it did and is doing for all. The whole idea of being lifted up for people to see and to be saved by their faith is related to the saving of the Jews with the lifting up of the serpents image when they failed and were overrun with serpents and bitten and infected with venom. The story was unique because the Jews did not use images or formed statues in their religion. Jesus in talking to Nicodemus was presenting a whole new image and way of faith and salvation with the lifting up of the cross. Argentina-Argentina-vacations-Argentina-For-Less-Peru-For-LessThis sign has become a symbol and identification for Christians throughout the world. Even non-believers identify a Christian by the cross. It is used in all kinds of places, even to being made in precious metals and bejeweled to be worn as physical adornment such as a pin or necklace or a ring. It appears on churches and in other places. The cross which was an instrument of torture and death and disgrace has come to be seen a mean of salvation, forgiving sin, bringing forth faith from the person looking on.
Yes, Christ has died, but he has risen, he is the One who has come From God and has made his way back. He is the Son who became man so that man could be with God. Christ did not condemn the world, but rather came to save the world. The symbol of the cross remains and points the way even now. The way is Christ and he is still present today but he must be sought out. He remains in his church, but at the same time he remains in his followers who in their life and love bring him to others. While not everybody chooses to hear his call, his followers still seek to share his word and call all over the world. Even now, centuries later, that word and call has not reached every part of the world. Yet still his followers try to bring that cross to all. Even where Christians have not been, God in one way or another is there touching the hearts of women and men. That of course is ultimately that the seeds of Christ’s word and call will someday flourish.
site-of-crossThe hardest place for Christians today is where people have turned their back or simply turned away or walked away. There are also places today where Christians are sought out and murdered simply because they are Christian. Such things Jesus himself said would happen. Truly, if men and women and nations can not get along with each other, how could we expect or see a Godly presence in all places. Truly then we celebrate and exalt the Cross realizing it can be a contradiction for those who choose not to believe and be saved. We keep working and praying sharing God’s love.

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