Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus invites us to cultivate hearts of goodness and peace and to spread the wealth we build there to the people who surround us. In Luke’s gospel, the Lord counsels, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,” and in the passage from today’s gospel, Jesus advises that as we “enter a house, wish it peace.” It’s old maxim that you can’t give away what you don’t have. Spreading goodness and peace presupposes that we are engaged in a spiritual journey that acquires and encourages those characteristics.
Saint of the day: Born in October 1954 in Turin, Italy, the Servant of God Maria Orsola Bussone came from a family of blue collar workers. Her father owned a car repair shop and her mother was a basic tailor (a “sarta”). From her childhood she regularly and frequently took part in her parish’s activities and in meetings of youth in the Gen Movement, the young people’s section of the Focolare Movement. The spirituality of that movement so impressed Maria Orsola, that in a letter sent to Chiara Lubich, the founder of Focolare, Maria said that she wanted to aspire to unconditional love of other people, letting “God use me as He wants . . . because that’s the only thing that’s worthy in our life.” She said she had made the decision to become a tool in God’s hands. Her association with the Focolare Movement caused her to deepen in her introspection and evaluate herself in light of her understandings of Jesus and Mary. She was a happy extroverted girl who was always prepared to be of service to others. Whenever she failed, she resolved to try again.
In July 1970 Maria Orsola, who liked to play guitar and sing with other young people of her parish, went to a trip near to Venice, as a group leader in the parish school-camp located at Ca’ Savio. She arrived on July 3 with 40 other teenagers and children, including her brother. Getting ready for Mass one day at camp, she died of an electrical discharge while she dried her hair with a defective hair-dryer at the age of just 15 on July 10, 1970 in Cavallino-Treporti. On May 26, 1996 Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini, the archbishop of Turin, opened a diocesan inquiry into whether she heroically lived out of the virtues of Christian life, an inquiry that resulted in the cause for her canonization being referred to Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Spiritual reading: We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way. (Francis of Assisi)
Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus’ primary message is the inbreaking of God’s reign in human history, and for this reason, the basic vocation of each baptized person is to help bring heaven’s reign to the world. When Jesus commissions the apostles, he commissions us. The commission we receive through baptism to is to cast out unclean spirits, heal every disease, and make ourselves available to the lost. The reign of heaven is an ethos, a sort of relational environment that exists between us as we live out in the world the things that God values. We live out our commission as Jesus’ disciples when we act compassionately wherever we encounter need.
Saint of the day: The Servant of God Rose Hawthorne was born on May 20, 1851 in Lenox, Massachusetts to the famed American novelist and short story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia. Rose’s father wrote such works as The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables. Rose and her family lived in Massachusetts; Liverpool, England; then London; Paris; Rome; and Florence, Italy. The family returned to Concord, Massachusetts in 1860. Her mother and the family moved to Germany, then England.
Rose married author George Parsons Lathrop in 1871; both converted to Roman Catholicism in 1891. In 1876, the couple had a son, Francis, who died of diphtheria at the age of five. Afterwards Rose and George separated permanently in 1895.
After her father’s death in 1864, she tried to become an author, like him. She wrote a book of poems, Along the Shore, which was published in 1888. She later decided to rededicate her life to restoring her family’s reputation after her brother’s conviction and imprisonment for mail fraud.
She was known for her service near and within New York City, caring for impoverished cancer by founding St. Rose’s Free Home for Incurable Cancer in the Lower East Side. After George’s death in 1898, she became a nun, and was inspired by “The New Colossus,” a poem penned by her close friend Emma Lazarus, to found a community of Dominican religious, now known as the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne. Rose made her vows as a Dominican nun Dec. 8, 1900, taking the name Alphonsa. With her first companion, Sister M. Rose, she founded the Dominican Congregation of St. Rose of Lima, later called the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer. In 1901, Mother Alphonsa opened Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, New York (now the mother home of the order).
Rose Hawthorne Lathrop was awarded an honorary Master of Arts from Bowdoin College in 1925. She died a year later on July 9, 1926,the anniversary of her parents’ wedding, at Rosary Hill Home. In 2003, Edward Egan, Cardinal Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York approved the movement for Lathrop’s canonization.
Spiritual reading: There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way. (C.S. Lewis)
Today’s readings focus on the Word of God. In the first reading it is likened to the rain and snow which water the earth and enable things to grow and live. In the gospel, we have the parable of the sower. We see the seed is planted and how the growth of the seed reacts in different ways. But what we must remember is that the seed or the word is alive and active waiting to become active in the right soil and conditions. But if that seed or rain is the Word of God, its meaning is very different from the producing of crops. Through out our Christian tradition, The Word of God is personified as Jesus. He is the Word. he is in the beginning and end and active in our history. The importance of the Word is highlighted in each Eucharist we celebrate, for our celebration is divided into two parts, liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. For the preacher of the Word, it is an awesome and difficult task to preach the Word. As we know, the Spirit remains in each of us and Christ is present in the Eucharist, but so too he is very much alive and active in his Word. To preach in his name is to be like the sower, not knowing the result or extent of the task just completed. It is truly a moment where God acts through the preacher using his words and person as he sees fit. It is humbling to realize God is in control and to follow his lead. Some times, that Word will ferment and seek root in a person in different ways and a time unknown. It is coming to know that the big picture, God’s plan. is far and above any control we have.
Never forget that God is there for everybody, and that it is his plan and not ours. He calls, entices, prompts to each of us, yet he respects the freedom he gave us and will give up only if there is a final rejection of him. Our joy should be the seeing of God’s embracing of a fellow human being. Peoples perceptions of things can be off-center and even sometimes harmful. How often do we hear how could God allow this, or some other slight or imagined injury as an excuse to ignore God and religion. Indifference and self-confidence can keep others away. In fact, I am sure you know as many reasons that I do that keep people from thinking about or practicing religion or praying. Like in Christ’s time, human frailty and the need to control or some petty and needless rules and non-compassionate understanding of others can lead to disillusionment and cutting people off. But, God’s Word is powerful and as his Spirit remains, so too does his Word in one way or another. I think looking back, experiencing through word and sacraments the power of the Word calling back to Christ the disillusioned and the hurt to a renewed faith are a joy of ministry. To see sometimes even at the last moments of a person’s life God is there for them if they reach out.
So yes, God’s word is alive and active. It is present in what we say and what we do. For us, we need to give ourselves over to Him, acknowledge He is present and speaks to us even now.
Gospel reading of the day:
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Matthew writes that Jesus’ heart is moved with pity for the crowds, because they are troubled and abandoned. The people in the crowds have many troubles. The problems that Jesus notices are the ones we face: The same long hours, the monotony of obligations, the work that everyone finds matter of fact, the long and bitter effort for which no one is thankful, the exhaustion and sacrifice of old age, the disappointments and failures, the misunderstandings and lack of understanding, the unfulfilled aspirations, the small humiliations. For all of these things that constitute the day-to-day condition of living–not to mention the truly hard things, like the deaths of children or parents, alcoholism and drug addition, chronic health conditions, broken relationships, financial reverses–Jesus’ heart is filled with compassion. It is an emotion that runs so deep in him that it makes the evangelist take notice of it: he is so agitated that his face betrays his emotion and his body shows his anguish. So we are not alone in what life presents us, neither in the big things we face nor the little ones that trouble us. This is the mystery of the incarnation, the mystery of God pitching God’s tent among us: We are not alone, because when we suffer, Jesus suffers with us.
Saint of the day: Clelia Nanette was born in 1872 in Italy. She was known as a pretty, high-spirited, intelligent, joyful, energetic, and impulsive girl. Her parents encouraged her to a more active social life in the hope that she would marry, but she declined, working at home, and living a private vow of chastity. At 18 she asked permission to enter religious life, but her parents vehemently opposed it. With her brother’s help, she joined the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary on January 24, 1892, taking the name Maria Chiara (Clare). She frequently said, “Onward always.” She became a missionary to China, but her short lived career ended during a crackdown on foreign missionaries. She was beheaded on July 9, 1900 at Taiyuanfu, Shanxi, China and canonized in 2000. She was 28 when she died. Known as Saint Maria Chiara, her life is celebrated on July 8 each year as one of the martyrs of Shanxi.
Spiritual reading: Behind all seen things lies something vaster; everything is but a path, a portal, or a window opening on something other than itself. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured.
When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.”
And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Matthew’s gospel today reassures us the Lord loves us and is wholly trustworthy. Life is full of obstacles, some of which seem intractable and insurmountable, but Jesus is tender, reliable, and greater than our difficulties. When we are in distress, the Lord comes to us to touch our hands with his and restore us to life. He looks into our particular circumstances, understands what eludes us and the people who surround us, and responds to us in the truth of who we are.
Saint of the day: Ralph Milner was a layman who lived in the 16th century was born in Slackstead, Hampshire in England. He probably passed most of his life in his native village, where, being practically illiterate, he supported his wife and eight children by manual labor. He was brought up an Anglican but became a Catholic convert. On the very day of his first Communion, however, he was arrested for changing his religion and committed to Winchester jail.
Here his good behavior meant he was frequently allowed out on parole, and was even trusted with the keys of the prison. This leniency enabled him to introduce priests to administer the sacraments to Catholic prisoners. He then acted as escort first to Father Thomas Stanney, and later to his successor at Winchester, Father Roger Dickenson, conducting them to the different villages to minister to Catholics.
Finally seized with Father Dickenson, Milner was with him placed under close confinement in Winchester jail pending the approaching sessions. The judge urged Milner to attend even once a church other than the one in which he had faith and thus escape the gallows. He refused and began to prepare for death. Every effort was made to persuade him to change his purpose and renounce his faith. When he was approaching the gallows with Father Dickenson, his children were led to him in the hope that he might even then relent. He was unshaken in his resolution and gave his children his last blessing. He was executed at Winchester on July 7, 1591 by being hanged, drawn, and quartered for giving assistance to Blessed Roger Dickenson. He was beatified in 1929.
Spiritual reading: You do not need to understand healing to be healed or know anything about blessing to be blessed. (Frederick Buechner)
Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014
Although the dominant theme of the first and last reading is about metaphorically sowing seeds, first by Isaiah in his preaching, and secondly, by Christ in his parables, I would like to concentrate my comments today on the second reading of Paul to the Romans.
Paul begins by commenting on the sufferings of the present time. While he is referring to his own time and the persecutions and struggles of the young community, we can also accept that it means our present time on earth. I think each generation for two thousand years has had unique types of suffering in their present time from the Black Death to AIDS, from Roman martyrs to Jewish Holocaust victims. Suffering is something that has unfortunately been with us through the ages.
Paul’s comment on the sufferings we endure, however, is that no amount of suffering can compare with the glory that will come to us in the end. But we cannot know this – it is promised to us – and it must be revealed to us by faith. In other words, the sufferings we endure in our brief life spans will turn into a glorious new life, one without suffering, without fear, without death.
Glory might also refer to the revelation itself. When Paul wrote, the Gospels had not yet been written, and perhaps the Word of God, spoken by Isaiah and by Jesus in the readings today, is the glory which is coming.
In either case – the sufferings will stop. And Paul extends this idea in very universal terms. The whole of creation has been waiting for this revelation. Because of the first sin, all sorts of evil, but especially death has entered the world – we are as Paul says, in bondage to decay – and it is in turning away from God and his creation that men and women have brought this suffering into the world. It was not in God’s plan which was for there to be the “freedom of glory” for “the children of God”.
And so we have that remarkable image of childbirth – the world in labor pains waiting for the birth of the glory of the children of God, for people to be rescued for the suffering and death that had been in command.
I don’t know how many of you have actually given birth or witnessed a birth. I remember vividly the difference between my two children’s birth. They are 5 years apart so a lot had changed in those five years. For my oldest I was allowed in the labor room with my wife, but was kicked out just before the birth. All I saw was the pain, and I was actually quite resentful of that pain. It really bothered me for a long time. But when my second came along five years later, I was allowed to be there for the whole birth and was able to experience the pain turn into absolute joy. This is what Paul is talking about. Pain turning into joy or glory!
Extending the image though, Paul says that while we are on earth we are still experiencing the labor pains and haven’t yet experienced the glory. Through revelation, through the teachings of Jesus, through our faith, we know that we will experience it, however. This is the good soil that Jesus talks about today. We hear the revelation, the word, and we understand it, and because of that we will bear fruit, we will give birth, we will come to glory at the end of our earthly lives.
These teachings of Paul that come from Jesus’ own words are so optimistic, so stress reducing, if we just hear them. Yes, we have to struggle in this life, our lives are filled with loss, with pain, with sorrow, with fear, with sin. But we know that God is in the process of making the world good again and we can have faith that God is true to his Word and his Vision and will complete the work.
Death for the Christian will be a freeing event – will we be born again and experience God. At the end of time, there will be no more death, no more suffering and the world will be restored to its original goodness.
What can this mean to us this week? I hope that it gives us the strength to get through difficult times. To know that our sufferings will have an end, and like pain in the birth of a child, the pain will produce something glorious. Let this sustain us in those difficult times. Eye has not seen, ear has not hear what God has prepared for those who love him, Paul has told us in Corinthians. Let that sustain us when we are down.
Let us keep the soil of our lives good and receive the hundredfold promised us.
And this is the Good News, the revelation of things to come that our reading of Paul and of the Gospel tells 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 amazon.com for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]
Today, Jesus says come to me all who labor or are burdened. It is an interesting thing as it really seems foreign to what we experience in our lives. The successful person today is seen as one who works tirelessly to move ahead to work towards leadership and control and thus find riches and comfort. Jesus’ way is not like this. We know he didn’t seek power or control or impose demands on others that he would not put on himself. To him, the leader was the one who served, the one who looked out for others, who loved and genuinely cared for others. He led by doing, by loving, not command or control. God instilled all of us with the freedom to choose and go or own way. Over the centuries, humans have taken freedom to the extreme. How often do we assert our independence and control, even to the point that it is a desired and admired trait of being a success. We even find someone weak when that person reaches out for help or support. Even before God we sometimes feel we can do it alone. Christ came because we can’t do it alone. What have we wrought in this world? Recall the tower of Babel. The men and women had just one language and culture and were split apart with a multiplicity of languages to go out and fill the earth rather than stay in one place. All through history the hand of God knew when to reach out, even if humanity didn’t realize it.
The filling of the earth and the formation of multiple tribes and nations certainly has not engendered peace and calm in the world. Violence, killings, wars, the constant seeking of control and power by different individuals, tribes or nations continues fueling troubled world. If we look back just to the last century, was there a time the whole world was at peace?
The assets of the world and its beauty has certainly been altered throughout the march of history. We have altered many things in the name of progress, oftentimes not seeing all the consequences of what we do. With all the progress the world sees and enjoys, it sometimes doesn’t know or expect the results it gets.
Yes, there are reasons we labor and most of us bear one burden or another. Labor is good. but as believers, as Christians it is good to ask for help and relief. Jesus said come to me. We should and must do this. I realize the hardest thing for many of us to do is to ask for help. Yet Jesus is there. His Spirit is within us and his Body and Blood is at this table. If we place ourselves in his embrace, we will find rest. His hand, his guidance in prayer gives a peace and rest that allows us to know we are in the right place. In serving we really become a beacon and a light for others. Jesus in his time criticized and ignored those who led by serving themselves. He ignored their rules that they ignored for themselves. Humanity hasn’t changed and there are many types of people in the world. But the point is we can change, we can be true Christians. Jesus said come and I will give you rest. What more can we ask from Jesus who is the way to life?
Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Founding of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, Year A 2014
Mathew’s Gospel today begins with Jesus reflecting on his unique position in time and how he serves to reestablish the relationship with God that had been lost. He begins by stating that it is very simple and can be understood by a child. You don’t have to be highly educated or articulate or experienced to understand the revelation. Jesus then goes on to explain the unique relationship that he has with God the Father.
Well, maybe I am too educated or not enough like a child, but I don’t find the relationship all that easy to understand! The fact that Jesus is the Son of God cannot be determined by earthly means; it simply has to be revealed, which it has been in the Gospels and through the Spirit, as Paul explains to us today. God the Father has given all things to Jesus in the sense, perhaps, that he is to carry out the redemptive process. In the first reading we see how Zechariah prophesies that the Messiah or King will command peace to all nations and will rule from sea to sea. But, in actuality only the Father and the Son can truly know each other, because a person can only truly know oneself. If the Father and Jesus are one, they surely know each other.
Then Jesus comes to his conclusion: Since I have been given everything, you need to trust in me. If in your life you are carrying a heavy burden and are tired, you need to try on the yoke of Jesus. A yoke is a wooden bean placed across two animals to help them pull or carry something very heavy. We need to yoke ourselves with Jesus also, to help us pull or carry the heaviness of life. Jesus tells us that his yoke is easy, perhaps because he does most of the work. We know that redemption is not something we have merited by anything we have done, but by the simple grace of God, a free gift. At the same time we cannot just let Jesus do all the work. If we are truly yoked to him, we must also pull some weight, do our best effort in life, try to reach the unreachable goals that have been set for us.
But these are such wonderful, encouraging words for human beings. How often have we succumbed to worry and anxiety in our lives. I don’t think there is anyone who has not experienced high levels of stress and anxiety and worry. It is part of being human. But how wonderful to know that we can go for help in carrying these burdens. I think this is one of the most wonderful things about Christianity and the teachings of Jesus. I know that I can’t be thankful enough for the many times I have called on Jesus to help me carry a burden, and the sense of relief and rest it gives to know that he is there with me through it all.
Jesus tells us that he is “meek and humble in heart”. A word about humility, perhaps. We usually don’t think that people who think highly of themselves are humble. If we analyze Jesus’ words here – he is equating himself with God, saying that he has been given everything, that he can shoulder our burdens with us, that we need to learn from him. Although this may not sound humble, we need to realize that humility is seeing oneself in a way that doesn’t exaggerate your good things or diminish the bad things. He is the ability to see yourself as you are, and to know when to talk about it. Jesus is being realistic about who he is and what he has to offer us; therefore, he is being humble. And he speaks about it because it is necessary to do so to help us understand that we can come to him when in distress.
If we do this, we will find rest for our souls. He doesn’t say that he will solve every problem or that there won’t be stresses and upsets in our lives. But we will find rest inside where it will make a difference to our lives. We will have the added strength to deal with things.
Our psalm today may be a fitting place to end this discussion of Matthew’s Gospel because it is a response to the goodness of God, and a further description of this being that wants only to love and help us. “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and God’s compassion is over all that God has made.” In that compassion, God sent us Jesus, took on our flesh, suffered and redeemed us, and left the Spirit to dwell within us. What more could we ask for? Know that Jesus is there for you, and never give up having faith in Jesus’ ability to take our yoke upon himself.
This is the wonderfully Good News I present to you this day.
A few words about the other event that we are celebrating today – the founding of the Brazilian Apostolic Church by St. Charles of Brazil – Carlos Duarte Costa – in 1945. At the time St. Charles was the Bishop of Maura.
St. Charles had often been in trouble for criticizing the Brazilian president and the Pope for his association with Fascism. For speaking out he was removed from his diocese and given a titular one. He was also a visionary in that well before anyone else he was speaking out against infallibility and clerical celibacy.
In 1945, he wrote this: “The Brazilian Catholic Church which is a religious society, established for the propagation of the Christianity in all the national territory, which is separated from the Roman Apostolic Church because of the errors that it has been committing since the moment when it left the catacombs, exchanging the beauty of the teachings of Christ — simplicity, humility, poverty, love of neighbor — for a preeminently mercantilistic institution, where pomp reigns, doing damage to true Christianity, which is found in the humble, the laborers, the legitimate representatives of Jesus of Nazareth.”
This is just a little bit about the founding of the National church in Brazil which we celebrate on this date. Next year will be the 70th anniversary of its founding.
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”]