Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr. Mike on April 16, 2014

f0c5aba9d296ab0deb0aeaa0093cb796_w600Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.’” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In day-to-day life, the people who have the easiest time saying hard things to us are the people who are closest to us. Familiarity causes us to let our guards down, and it is often easier to be polite to people who are strangers or passing acquaintances than it is to show love to the people whom we love. We often hold parts of ourselves in reserve, so even with the ones we love best, we maintain a certain distance and have our doubts. Jesus had many enemies, but none of them actually moved to lay a hand on Jesus until one of the 12, the people who were closest to the Lord, turned on him, and none of the 12 was sure enough of his own faithfulness to know it was not he who was to betray his friend.

Saint of the day: Famed visionary of Lourdes, baptized Mary Bernard. She was born in Lourdes, France, on January 7, 1844, the daughter of Francis and Louise Soubirous. Bernadette, a severe asthma sufferer, lived in abject poverty. On February 11, 1858, she was granted a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a cave on the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. She was placed in consider able jeopardy when she Bernadette Soubirousreported the vision, and crowds gathered when she had futher visits from the Virgin, from February 18 of that year through March 4.The civil authorities tried to frighten Bernadette into recanting her accounts, but she remained faithful to the vision. On February 25, a spring emerged from the cave and the waters were discovered to be of a miraculous nature, capable of healing the sick and lame. On March 25, Bernadette announced that the vision stated that she was the Immaculate Conception, and that a church should be erected on the site. Many authorities tried to shut down the spring and delay the construction of the chapel, but the influence and fame of the visions reached Empress Eugenie of France, wife of Napoleon Ill, and construction went forward. Crowds gathered, free of harassment from the anticlerical and antireligious officials. In 1866, Bernadette was sent to the Sisters of Notre Dame in Nevers. There she became a member of the community, and faced some rather harsh treatment from the mistress of novices. This oppression ended when it was discovered that she suffered from a painful, incurable illness. She died in Nevers on April 16,1879, still giving the same account of her visions. Lourdes became one of the major pilgrimage destinations in the world, and the spring has produced 27,000 gallons of water each week since emerging during Bernadette’s visions. She was not involved in the building of the shrine, as she remained hidden at Nevers. Bernadette was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933.

Spiritual reading: I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough to make every moment holy. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Homily April 19, 20, 2014 Easter- The Resurrection

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on April 16, 2014

easterThis Easter night, to truly appreciate the Resurrection of Christ, we must remember the experience of Good Friday. In one way or another, all of us have experienced dying and death. The stark reality of it being so final, being cut off from someone we knew and loved, being left to go on and be alone so to speak. Jesus had been a man with disciples and had forged a new teaching and relationship with his followers. His teaching on love and the need for it and the love and care for one another all in a few days had seemed to be obliterated and led to his disciples easter 4fleeing and hiding themselves. They were truly at a loss for what to do and how to carry on. The swiftness, the brutality, the finality all had them huddled in fear. What they had seen and heard, they did not understand. They felt lost, abandoned, purposeless.

The news of the empty tomb was implausible. In their fear, they did not understand. Like all of us they were afraid of the worst. What was the impending new disaster? Was there more to fear? Were they in peril? Seeing the tomb they began to believe, but like we ourselves know, believing is like a seed that needs to see and hear and be assured. Gradually they came see and believe that Jesus was alive. What he was, what he taught was real. God truly was love and this spirit came on them and was present in a new and different way. His son had come and died and rose and now lives to carry on that message to all and extend his forgiveness if we have enough faith and love to ask for it. Few men and few entities enter history and are remembered for centuries. The constant presence of Christians from the time of Christ in itself shows the belief that his resurrection and spirit continued in the world. As he taught and instructed his message continues today. We see him and easter3know him in our sacraments, most notably in the Eucharist, His very body and blood, poured out for us, yet given in a unique way that he can be a part of us and we of him.

Yes, this is the day the Lord has made. Easter is truly a new beginning for how the love of God was poured out to the whole world. True life is now measured in the love of God and how we carry out that love by loving as we are loved. It was and is a new beginning. Humanity unfortunately still needs to learn much to erase the evils of the world, but Easter and the resurrection gives hope that all the dark days and good Fridays of this world can be put aside and life restored in the way God intends. Working together the world could do so much. In some ways this has happened, yet selfishness and all the other foibles inflicting us, interfere with the message of Christ. Remember Christ said to go out to all the world, preach and baptize. The more we do, the more his gift of faith and love will come to this broken world of ours.easter2

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr. Mike on April 15, 2014

0228f462a7428f34a78bb5f16e061b81_w600Gospel reading of the day:

John 13:21-33, 36-38

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor. So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage observes when Judas goes to betray the Lord, “It was night”: darkness has settled in and about the Lord and his companions. And yet in this moment, Jesus still can say that the time has come for Jesus to be glorified, because God reveals Godself in the darkest moments. Even in the moment of betrayal, even at night, even when all is apparently lost, God is there, doing what God does, transforming the moment and making it something entirely new.

Saint of the day: Anton Granig was born in September 1901 in the southernmost area of Austria. Born into a peasant family, he had to work on the farm and had delays in his education caused by Word War I. He only started his theological studies in 1928 and was ordained a priest in 1932, a few months shy of his 31st birthday. He went on to study for a doctorate in theology, writing his dissertation on St. Paul as a pastor. He was an affable and well-liked pastor who worked administratively in the church and served in pastoral roles Sundays and holy days.

jurgai-iai-the-hill-of-crosses-1934.jpg!BlogAnton Granig and two other Austrians founded a Catholic resistance movement against the Nazis. The group met clandestinely in Granig’s home. Granig studied the roots of Nazism so he could better understand and combat it. They published and distributed pamphlets in 1942 and 1943 that decried Nazism for its abuses of human rights and made plans to blow up railroad tracks which supported the Nazi war efforts. The circle was arrested by the Gestapo in July 1943 but not tried until August 1944. After the conviction, two bishops submitted pleas to the Nazi court for mercy, but the court rejected the petition. Further interventions by one of the bishop also proved unsuccessful. Some of the group were executed in March 1945, but Granig and 43 other, including two other priests, were not among them. Ferried by train from place to place as the Nazi regime crumbled, Fr. Granig and his companions held hope they might survive, but the Nazis on April 15, 1945, even as the Red Army neared, gunned them down in the courtyard of the old castle where they were being held.

Spiritual reading: There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace. (Ignatius of Loyola)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr. Mike on April 14, 2014

0e3587c09fdd05a9b67889a993fdcf56_w600Gospel reading of the day:

John 12:1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The interactions among Jesus, Mary, and Judas provide a perspective on Jesus’ perception of love. Jesus’ welcoming of his anointing suggests that he knows love is extravagant and that it celebrates the beloved as it spares no cost. Jesus’ reply to Judas, who is fixated on a fantasy of service rather than what is happening around him, makes clear Jesus’ recognition that real love is focused on the concrete reality of the present context and never resentful over what might have been.

The gospel makes clear that Jesus knows what is about to befall him and implies he has a week to escape his fate. But Jesus neither runs nor hides but awaits instead the fulfillment of his Father’s will.

Saint of the day: The son of James Walsh and Hanna Shea, James Anthony was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 24, 1867. After completing his elementary education in the public schools, he attended Boston College High School where, in extracurricular activities, his skills in debating and journalism were first recognized and developed. He began his college program at Boston College, Fr. Walshinterrupted it to study bookkeeping, transferred to Harvard College as a special student, and completed his studies at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. He was ordained on May 20, 1892, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

After ordination, Walsh was appointed curate at St. Patrick’s Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts where he directed sodalities and organizations for both the young men and women of the parish. In 1903, he was appointed Diocesan Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and in 1907 founded The Field Afar magazine, a monthly publication about the foreign missions of the Catholic Church.

Walsh’s interest in the foreign missions led to his founding, together with Rev. Thomas Frederick Price, the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (C.F.M.S.A.) (commonly referred to as the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers) in 1911. He acted as spiritual father and co-founder, with Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, of the Foreign Mission Sisters of St. Dominic (now called Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic). He served as Superior General of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers until his death in 1936. During the founding process and in his service as Superior General, Walsh made trips across the United States, to Rome and to other places throughout the world. In 1933, Walsh became a bsihop. He died at Maryknoll New York, on April 14, 1936. His teachings as a priest gave students strong encouragement to follow their dreams in life. The diocesan investigation into his life opened in 2011.

Spiritual reading: You must be the change you wish to see in the world. (Mahatma Gandhi)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr. Mike on April 13, 2014

13a8b5b73a2ba116addfed8280d8c0aa_w600Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 21:1-11

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once.” This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: Say to daughter Zion,

“Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?” And the crowds replied, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: With the arrival of Palm Sunday, we enter holy week with an observation about how the world works on the one hand and what Jesus does on the other. In the normal course of the world, a successful leader on election night enjoys the adulation of the crowd and the intoxicating energy of hope and fresh purpose. Compare that image with the tired, prematurely aged, and battered politician who retires from office with but a few remaining shreds of dignity.

Today’s scene in the gospel story echoes this dichotomy, but in reverse. Jesus enters Jerusalem borne on a wave of mass enthusiasm. The crowds throw down palms before him and sing his praises. They expect great things of the latest messianic figure. Perhaps deep down they don’t expect he will be different from previous ones but they need a winner to compensate for their own sense of disappointment as we love the winner of America’s Got Talent.

4805172eeaedb6a0e06dc74d7deb2df0_w600The difference in this version of the story, as in the personal downfall of Jesus in the Passion narrative that ensues on this narrative of the triumphal entry, is that the protagonist does not believe the myth he has been turned into. He understands himself and what is happening. At the center of the tumult around him, Jesus maintains a cool silence and keeps his wits. The events into which we enter is the contrast between what the world thinks greatness is and how Jesus understands the mystery of being alive. To read the story that we embark on today we must allow it to read us. Our own hopes, despairs, mistakes, and successes will guide us into a story whose meaning penetrates all human experience. It then lifts us to a view of reality that transcends and transforms the one who sees it.

Spiritual reading: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you; righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. ~ Zechariah 9:9

Homily for the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Day), Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, politics, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on April 12, 2014

Homily for the  Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Day), Year A  2014

I would like to begin today with the short reading from St Paul about yeast.  My family used to make sourdough bread, just as the Jews would do.  They would break off a lump of the sourdough, mix it with flour and it would ferment and create a new batch of bread.  While this could go on for years, and did in my family, Jews were asked to start a new batch of leaven every year at Passover time, probably signifying symbolically a new start after they celebrated being released from slavery in Egypt. So, at the Passover, having destroyed or gotten rid of the leaven, they ate only unleavened bread, what we would call flatbread today.

Paul starts with this image which would have been familiar to all his readers, and he asks them to start over and clean out the old yeast and start afresh. He says that they and we  are like unleavened bread now. Jesus has purified them and taken out the leaven that was old and tainted,  and before being leavened we all must start again, having thrown out the old world order of malice and evil, like they did the old yeast,  and begin again with sincerity and truth. If leaven causes bread ( and us) to rise, it is Jesus who will also cause us to rise… with him!

Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a homily of Peter in which Peter summarizes for the crowd the elements of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. He first speaks of John the Baptist’s baptism and how God anointed Jesus through the Holy Spirit to do good and heal. Despite this, Peter says they put him to death on a tree. But God would not let him die and raised him up on the third day. It is clear in the homily that Peter believe in the Resurrection simply because he was a witness to Jesus and ate and drank with him after his death. Finally he states that the resurrected Jesus commanded them to spread the news about him by preaching, especially by using the Scriptures and especially using the prophecies. What Jesus brought, Peter says, is forgiveness to all who believe in him.

Finally, today, St. John combines the supernatural with the ordinary in his Gospel account of the Resurrection event. It is quite a delightful narrative really. Mary goes in the dark to the tomb. We are not told why she went, simply perhaps to mourn. She couldn’t have gotten inside the tomb by herself because there was a large stone closing off the entrance. But when she arrives she realizes that the stone has been moved. She doesn’t go into the tomb, but races to Peter and to one other apostle – simply called “the one whom Jesus loved.” This unknown person is referred to as this six times in John’s Gospel. 

As a side note to the story itself, it has been debated for centuries who the beloved disciple really was.  Most seem to think it was John the apostle -supposedly John the Evangelist himself. Others say that John the apostle would have been much too old when the Gospel was actually written. Other commentators favor Lazarus as the disciple, since when before Lazarus died his sister talked about how he whom you loved is sick.

Lastly, among many others suggested through the centuries is the rather recent theory that Mary Magdelene herself was the beloved disciple, though how that can be reconciled with the text that Mary ran to Peter and the other disciple, I have no idea.

Let us continue wight he story, however. The beloved disciple, being apparently younger and more agile got to the tomb first, but in deference to peter, waited till peter got there before entering after him. You may have noticed the details that the writer mentions – the linen wrappings on the ground where they had fallen off, the cloth that covered the corpse’s head in another location and rolled up. What do these details indicate? They are both ordinary and yet strange. Would not have someone who carried out the body have kept these coverings to hide the body? The body moved around because the coverings were in two different locations, and while the sheets had just fallen off, someone took the time to roll the linen facial cover. 

In any case, the younger disciple seemed to figure it our and believed what had just happened. Peter may not yet have understood because of John’s statement that they didn’t understand how the Hebrew scriptures indicated he would rise from the dead.

Mary had come with them to the tomb but did not go in.  After Peter and the disciple left to go back home, Mary was left crying at the tomb, and she looked into the cave and saw to figures in white sitting at either end of the tomb itself. They speak to her and ask why she is crying and her reply is simply that somebody must have taken the body and she doesn’t know where it has gotten to. Imagine what you would feel if you went to a grave of a loved one the next day and saw that someone had stolen the body!

As she turned away she saw someone she took to be the gardener of the cemetery. I love this image because if Jesus is seen as the new Adam, isn’t it appropriate Jesus be seen as a gardener because really that’s what Adam was in Paradise – the groundskeeper of Eden. Now here is where it could get eerily supernatural. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus!  Instead she almost blames the gardener for carrying away the body and demands to know what he did with it.

When Jesus speaks to her, though, and calls her by name, she immediately recognizes the voice, calls out “Teacher!” and holds on to him. Some translations give a wrong sense of the resurrected Jesus being breakable or fragile, saying “Don’t touch me!”. But when Jesus says literally – “don’t hold on to me” – he is probably more referring to having work to do because he hasn’t ascended to the Father and that he can’t be so detained. So Mary hurries back yet again to tell them the news – she has seen Jesus!

To me it is significant again that it is to a woman that Jesus first shows himself, just as we saw a few weeks ago, it was to a Samaritan woman that he first revealed who he was. How unlike what would ordinarily be done in Jesus’ time! God’s ways are not ours as i so often remind you.

The Resurrection is a supernatural event, hard to believe especially in our era when we do not believe it can happen according to the laws of science. And yet, i am sure that none in Jesus’ time could believe it either. Our own experience tells us not to believe. But for the early church belief came very quickly and was widespread. The simple telling of the story and the every day details show that it was part of the fabric of their lives when they wrote it down.

St. Paul tells us that it is central to our faith, that the cross was not enough. Without the resurrection Jesus turns into an ordinary man, a great prophet and healer perhaps, but could hardly be the impetus of faith for so many people for 2000 years. Yes, it is hard to believe, but I do believe it. And I do, precisely because I don’t understand God’s ways. And the more i read, the more I learn, the more I debate in my mind with all the naysayers, I keep coming to the same conclusion that I hope you do as well. Jesus is God, and it is by looking at the physical manifestation of God in his human form that we know how to create the kingdom of God on earth with him. That is the Good News. That is it in a nutshell. And as i always end my homily with the same statement about the goodness of the Good News, let me pray today that this Good News of the Resurrection bring you to a knowledge of God and his kingdom on earth and heaven so that like the yeast, you may rise with him and be the yeast for the rest of the world to feed on in days to come. Truly Good News. Happy Easter to you all.

Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

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

Tagged with:

Homily for Holy Saturday, Resurrection of the Lord – the Vigil, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, politics, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on April 12, 2014

Homily for Holy Saturday Vigil, Year A  2014

Rather than offer the usual homily this evening, I have decided to punctuate the many readings this evening with short little reflections to help you through the readings. We will not be reading all the nine readings, but I hope the ones chosen will show us the pattern that the church wants us to observe this evening.

Our first reading is the creation story from Genesis. This created world is a world of movement, unfolding in constant change, and is very good.  The words “very good” imply it  is not yet perfect with a lot of space for improvement and reproduction. There is still room for the first humans to create as God does – music, science, art, theology and human reproduction itself. 

Our second reading is the story of Abraham and Isaac from Genesis. What followed the creation story was the story of the first humans’ loss of innocence. There was human rebelliousness, but it showed God’s faithfulness and wish to reconcile. Humans create evil, but the story of our redemption is the story of God overcoming evil with goodness again. In the next story we get one step closer to God’s plan to overcome evil as God makes an agreement, a covenant with Abraham in which God blesses one nation in order to bring goodness to all nations. Notice that Abraham’s test end with God saying that by Abraham’s offspring “shall all nations of the earth gain blessings for themselves” because of Abraham’s obedience.

Our third reading is from Exodus and what happened after the Hebrews leave Egypt and Pharaoh changes his mind about their leaving. The Hebrews have been in captivity, and because of the covenant with Abraham, God doesn’t abandon them but takes an active part in their becoming free. God always gets involved with the poor and downtrodden in society.  God has been quite patient with Pharaoh but shows that he will not put up with injustice, and with ever increasing intensity things happen that change Pharaoh’s mind, however briefly.  When he last changes his mind and chases after the Hebrews, God intervenes through Moses and his staff, and destroys the oppressor.

Our fourth reading is from the Prophets – specifically from Ezekiel. Immediately after the Hebrews are set free, they constantly forget God, however, and the liberation that God wants changes to personal liberations. The prophets come about as spokespersons for God who is trying to bring about this human, spiritual liberation. The prophets warn people that they are on the wrong track, the challenge the people to do better, the predict an age to come that will be God-centered. It is a dream of a kingdom of peace brought about by a descendant of Abraham, a savior, a messiah. As we read Ezekiel notice the progression of his vision from the Hebrew’s defiling the covenant, to God’s wanting to show that God’s name is about the true nature of reconciliation and love, and God gives a vision of what the new peaceful world will be like – clean, pure, caring (hearts of flesh, he calls that!) and full of the spirit. In his plan, all of this will be accomplished by his Son.

Our fifth reading is from St. Paul to the Romans. In the progression we have been following tonight, we see that Paul wants to show Jesus as the conclusion of this movement to reconciliation with God and to this new kingdom of peace, the kingdom of heaven. The event is the death and resurrection of Jesus of which we are all a part of through our baptism. We have now received the promise of the covenant with Abraham and we have been liberated. We are free to live for God through Christ, dead only to sin, and inheritors of the promised kingdom.

Our Gospel reading is from Matthew. It is the story of the women who first find out about the resurrection – again, interesting, that it is first made known to a woman, just as in John a few weeks ago, a Samaritan woman was the first to find out from Jesus that he was the Messiah. The short scene ends with  he words: “Do not be afraid”. Indeed we have no longer to be afraid for we are in the new Eden and it is all “very good”.

Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

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

Homily for the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Good Friday, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on April 12, 2014

Homily for the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Good Friday, Year A  2014

Last evening we celebrated the Last Supper of Jesus and the Apostles where Jesus gave us the Eucharist in memory of him, foreshadowing the events of today. We saw how John’s description focused on the washing of the feet and how Jesus became a servant to his disciples and asked them to do the same. I wonder what sense it must have made to the apostles at the time. Could they really understand what was going on, what Judas would do, what would happen to Jesus?

The readings from the liturgy today pick up and follow through on the two main themes from last night, particularly the “servant’ theme. The reading from Isaiah is particularly appropriate especially when when read backward. Knowing what we know happened let’s us look at Isaiah’s prophecy in a very different light, and what was not understood fully becomes so clear.

Take, for example, the opening of Isaiah today: “See , my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up and shall be very high.” Taken in its context, but without what we know of Jesus’ death, it would seem that this person who was a servant or slave, very low on the social scale, would be lifted up, raised to a position of high authority. This man that Isaiah prophesies would not be an attractive man when he was a servant – no-one would even look at him. he was “despised and rejected” in fact. Not only was he rather ugly, he was infirm, having had many of the sicknesses of the day. Yet, Isaiah says, this is the one that God will raise up, after he has experienced all the infirmities of people. God allowed him to suffer, to be crushed with pain – a scapegoat for the “transgressions” of God’s people, bearing on himself the sins of the Hebrew nation. God laid all this on one servant who was totally undeserving of all that happened to him.

In Isaiah’s terms, he was describing a person who has done no wrong, but because he was serving others, would take on the results of the sins of the nation and suffer for it. In so doing, he would be like the animal that is sacrificed, an innocent creature whose death atones for the sins of the nation – perhaps a difficult concept for us to understand today, but quite a common understanding in Isaiah’s time. By the sacrifice of this servant, Israel would be made clean again, and the servant will make many righteous because of this sacrifice. The spotless person, taking on the sins of the nation, is thus able to intercede the Hebrew case to God.

This made some sense in Isaiah’s time, though clearly it was a prophecy that seemed to refer to some sort of savior or messiah that was unlike the typical idea of the time of a warrior messiah who would sweep down and conquer the Israeli enemies.

But when we look backward, when we look at it with eyes that know what eventually happened, we see how accurate the portrait is of Jesus, how he was the sacrificial lamb, the unblemished servant who bore the sins of the world, how he was ‘despised ‘by the Jewish authorities and ’rejected’ even by his own followers’, put to death on a cross that did indeed raise him up high, but not in the way most would have interpreted Isaiah, and finally, through his death and resurrection, he has been “exalted”. There isn’t a word of the Isaiah reading that we can’t apply to Jesus, as we see how in God’s inimitable way, he acted out the suffering servant of Isaiah and in so doing was able to make many righteous again.

Jesus acceptance of this, his great giving of himself to the Father, is played out when we read our psalm today backwards.  Imagine Jesus as the speaker of today’s psalm, and the psalm takes on such meaning. “Into your righteousness deliver me” and “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” The psalmist’s description of himself is the description of Jesus the servant as well – a “horror”, “scorned”, a “broken vessel”. And then the redeeming words – words that redeem all of us – “But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, ‘You are my God.’”

When we get to the reading from Hebrew’s we need to look forward from Jesus. Jesus has already died and been resurrected, and Paul now tries to understand that death and resurrection, to piece together the puzzle parts from Hebrew scripture and from the events of jesus’ life and try to understand what was really going on. He notes Jesus’ obedience tot he Father, his prayers to the Father, his perfection from sin, and finally his through his death he brought salvation.

Obedience and servitude – not qualities that are thought much of today. Society rebels against those concepts. But as always, God’s ways are not our ways, and if Jesus is preaching a kingdom of heaven beginning today on earth, we are being presented with a way to achieve this kingdom today. It is only by lowering ourselves – spiritually, by seeing our helplessness and need for God; emotionally, by trusting implicitly in God’s will; and physically, by obeying God’s commands and becoming a source of help for others, truly serving them.

I let the Passion reading today speak for itself because it is the center point, the point from which we look back or look forward, the point where all things changed, the climax of God’s long trip with us, the tragedy that became to the most glorious of events by redeeming us, and the moment where Jesus is exalted and lifted up, and he is very high. So let us not see this cross, this instrument of torture, as something to be embarrassed about, but as something that raises up and gives glory both to Jesus and through him to us. I close with the final words of today’s psalm: “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord”.  He will be back again on easter Sunday in full glory. 

And this is the incredible Good news of our salvation through Jesus Christ.

Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

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

Homily for Holy Thursday – The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, politics, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on April 12, 2014

Homily for Holy Thursday – The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Year A  2014

The last few years, speaking on this feast of the Lord’s Supper, I have concentrated on the Eucharist -  even though our Gospel writer of the evening, John, does not. Because the Eucharist is central to our faith and according to three of the four Gospel writers was instituted this evening, I have spent much of my time with you looking at the Eucharist in light of the feasts of Holy Week, and where indeed our first and second readings and psalms would have us go this evening.

Tonight, however, I would like to center my remarks where the unknown compilers of our yearly readings have concentrated their main focus – the Last Supper according to John’s account.

There have been many interpretations of Jesus’ washing the feet of the apostles. The two most prominent would be the idea that Jesus, lowering himself to do such an action, prefigures what will happen the next day when his death on the cross will wash us clean, but in a most demeaning way.  The other main interpretation is that Jesus was trying to show us how to act, how to be humble, and that we should follow his example in this. In other words, the first interpretation is about what God does for us, and the second, what we need to do to become like Jesus.

What is it that was so upsetting about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples?  After all, it was very common in this period for a person to have his feet washed. There were no roads, just dirt, and sandals left room for the dirt to stain people’s feet. Most people had their feet washed when they entered a home, just to keep out the dirt. Peter is upset simply because it was usually a servant or a menial who washed the guests’ feet. Peter does not want to see Jesus as a menial – after all, we saw a few weeks ago at the Transfiguration, that Peter was told by God that Jesus was his Son, the Messiah. Peter still did not understand that the whole idea of a conquering, glorious Messiah was about to be turned around, and that the Messiah would be quite the opposite of what he thought it would be like.

Jesus responds to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” I would like you to think a few moments about the words “Unless I wash you….”  The idea of baptism might obviously come to mind, or the “living water” that Christ spoke about to the Samaritan woman on the 3rd Sunday of Lent. I would suggest to you that the important word here is “you” – “Unless I wash you….” Jesus is telling Peter that he needs to be washed, cleaned, his way of life reoriented, his thinking changed. All the things he thought about the way to live as a Jewish man needed to be stripped away by the waters of Jesus. What was top was now bottom. Master was now servant. The rich were the poorer. In Protestant terms, the phrase “be born again” might apply here. And this change in how one sees the world is really quite radical. Society teaches us one thing, Jesus quite another.

But if we want to experience God, if we want to go where Jesus goes, if we want to have a share with Jesus, we have to turn upside down many of our modern beliefs, the things that society is telling us are important. Let Jesus wash them away – then we can move on to the ethical model of Jesus and see ourselves as servants and service to others.

It is no wonder that so many had and still have such difficulty in reorienting their minds to the Christian way. But it is the love that Christ shows in lowering himself to become our servant, lowering himself to die on a cross tomorrow, and commemorated at each Eucharist, lowering himself so that even the most menial of tasks can show unlimited love – this is what we are called to do by Jesus’ actions tonight.

Peter resisted this, even though he knew who Jesus was. Peter did seem to fathom finally what Jesus was saying and asked to him to wash his whole person, but Peter would not truly understand till much later that this act of a slave would be the way Jesus would be the Messiah, the way he would die tomorrow to save everyone. Jesus’ way is the way of a servant, the way of humility, the way of death for a friend.

Judas resisted this as well because he could not find it in his heart to change the way he saw the world. We resist as well. It is a big leap of faith to reverse much of our way of life and way of thinking to question much of our modern realities. Even knowing that Judas would betray him, Jesus washed his feet as well. What a lesson that is for us!

We celebrate this feast on the Feast of the Passover which led to the Hebrews free, but traveling through the wilderness for forty years. Even then God sent them manna and fed them. God has continued to send us manna. This “bread from heaven” for us has been Jesus himself. He continues to feed us.

To make this meaningful for us tonight, I would like to suggest that what Jesus was trying to show us this evening was that Jesus was telling us to live a life of service, yes, but also to die just as he did. That death, however, for us today, probably will not be on a cross because we have stood for our beliefs, but they may be little deaths of our selves – our need for power, for wealth, for being right all the time, for thinking primarily of ourselves. 

Lastly, I want to note that Jesus washed the feet of his intimate group of disciples. He didn’t go out into the streets and wash people’s feet or like Pope Francis did last year, wash the feet of the sick and poor, though I am not disparaging that. He washed the feet of his friends. We need to constantly look at our relationships with each other in this community and be servants to each other. My feeling is that we do that quite often and quite naturally in this community, but I would like you to see it as a mandate from Jesus. It is the way he would want us to act toward each other, to be there for each other, to love and help each other, to give ourselves to each other when there is need. Our eating together after this service, our sharing of a the food we brought, just as Jesus supped and shared with his friends, can be just another illustration of our need for each other and our need to know each other better, to love each other more, and to celebrate our own community.

Let our celebration continue with this Good News and let each of us be good news for our neighbor in the coming year!.

Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

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

Tagged with: ,

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr. Mike on April 12, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him.

jesus-condemned-by-michael-obrianSo Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Sometimes we get into situations that are much larger than we are. We view extraordinary events through a prism that is not large enough to assess the situation, ignore the evidence, and look for shortcuts. These shortcuts put us into corrupt situations that encourage our conformity to the view of a group, even when perhaps the view of the group makes us uneasy. We think, “It must be okay, since this is the normative view in my group.” We cannot rise to respond with freshness and originality, question the evidence, take the long view, and trust that God is at work in the situation. Ordinary people suddenly are doing terrible things, driven by the requirements of the state or our group. When the Sanhedrin judged Jesus as a threat to the stability of the people, they simply missed the mark because they were not able to rise above their small categories.

Saint of the day: Teresa of the Andes was born as Juanita Fernandez Solar in Santiago de Chile on July 13, 1900. When she had completed her schooling, she entered the Carmelite monastery of Los Andes in order to make a hidden offering of her life for humankind. Having taken the name Teresa of Jesus, she had been in the monastery for just eleven months when she died of a painful illness on April 12, 1920. On the day of her death, and ever since, huge crowds of people were mysteriously drawn to Los Andes. They go in search of one who knew how to love.

Her life had been brief and simple but filled with love. In a letter to her brother Luis dated June 11, 1919, shortly after she had entered the monastery, she wrote, “How fortunate I am to sacrifice all for God! But this all is nothing in comparison to what Our Savior sacrificed for us, from the crib to the Cross, from the Cross even to humbling Himself completely under the form of bread. He, wholly God, under the species of bread, and even to the consummation of time. Oh the grandeur of infinite love! A love which is not known, a love which is unreturned by the majority of men. . . . You ask me to assure you in my letters that I love you always as a sister. Do you doubt it for an instant? Perhaps you do not know that my heart is perfected by the divine love, and the more perfect it is, the greater and more profound is my love? Well, then, do not doubt for a moment that I pray for you and that my prayer is a song of love . . . . When one is in love, he cannot talk about any other object than his beloved. And when the beloved unites in himself every possible perfection, what then? I do not know how I can do otherwise than contemplate him and love him. What do you want, if Jesus Christ, that Madman of love, has driven me mad? I endure a martyrdom, Luis, when I see noble and well born hearts, hearts capable of loving what is good, not loving the immutable Good . . . ..”

From the time she was a child, St Teresa of Jesus spoke familiarly with God and with Mary. She learned to be faithful to the Lord, and to use her natural human talents accordingly. She achieved a balanced life, serenity and maturity, all of which are anxiously sought after in the world today.

Spiritual reading: Christ so foolish in his love, has driven me madly in love. (Teresa of the Andes)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 343 other followers