CACINA

Homily for the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 5)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 31, 2016

Homily for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (June 5)

We have two stories today about widows who lost their only sons. In Biblical times, to be widowed was a terrible thing for a woman. Unable to work or to inherit anything, the woman was left with nothing, only to be cared for by her children. If she had no children or they died, she would would be left destitute. There was no Medicare or Social Security. There was nothing for these widowed women except the generosity of others.

In both stories today the widows are mourning the deaths of their sons. In the Elijah story from the first reading, there was still the idea that the mother must have done something bad to merit this kind of bad luck. The widow cries out to Elijah: “You have come to me to bring my sins to remembrance.” Even Elijah cries out to God: “Have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying by killing her son?”

I still think that we continue remnants of this kind of thinking today – ‘I must have done something very bad to merit this kind of punishment.’ We still tend to see God as being the one who inflicts bad things on sinners or their children.  Well, bad genes may contribute to that, or bad luck, or co-incidence – but God does not cause suffering. He allows it, and sometimes, like with Jesus and Elijah, miraculously stops the suffering, but God does not want to see us suffer any more than we want it to happen to us.

I am reading an excellent book by Derek Flood with the very long title of “Disarming Scripture: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives and Why We Need to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did”. He explains in the book that the moral thinking of the Bible was a developing thing and continues to develop today. Just as children begin with very black and white moral thinking, by the time they are adults, most have moved from the black and white into grey areas of thinking. Morality is never quite as simple as it seemed to us as children.  In this vein, Flood  explains that the early Jews had no notion of a devil. The serpent in the garden was a serpent; he is not called a devil or a fallen angel. There was only God, and so God was seen to be angry sometimes and benevolent sometimes. In his anger, God was a punisher; in his benevolence, God was the shepherd, the helper. After much thinking and dialogue, the type of which we can see in the Book of Job, the Hebrews began to believe that God could not be the cause of anything bad. We see this development in the devil created for Job, who was more of a tester. By the time of Jesus, the moral thought taught by Jesus, was that God is always good and always looks out for his children, to the point of sending his only Son to redeem us.

If you ever feel that God is punishing you – have a look at this book. It will change your mind.

The Psalm today shows such a maturing growth as I have just described.  We learn that God’s anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime.”  We see that the Psalmist is re-evaluating the idea that God is the punisher.

The is not to say that we won’t be judged by God in the end. For God is just, but merciful. I believe he will simply look at how much we have loved God and how we have loved our neighbor.

In any case, God and Jesus bring both the young men back to life because of “compassion”. Compassion indicates that they feel the pain of the widows and want to end the pain. Jesus’ message about God is often about his compassion for his creation.

So much for the first reading and the Gospel. Our second reading, as so often is the case, has nothing to do with the ideas in the first and Gospel readings. It is an explanation by Paul of how he became Christian. He was not taught by the Apostles, but was given a revelation by Jesus himself. He says that all the knowledge he has of the Son comes only through this visionary revelation of Jesus. And part of this revelation was that he should go to the Gentiles and bring Christ to them.

Paul was trying to explain why he, who originally persecuted Christians and who was never converted by the Apostles of Jesus, should be listened to as an emissary of Christianity. Paul, who never knew or heard Jesus during Jesus’ public life, considered himself an Apostle because he believed he was taught by Jesus himself, just as the Apostles were. After three years of meditating and coming to terms with these revelations, he did go to meet Peter and James but that was all the contact he had with the actual Apostles. The change in Paul was rather remarkable considering his fundamentalist nature as a Pharisee. As with the widows today, it took a miracle in Paul’s case as well that led to his conversion.

What has this to do with us today, who are the Gentiles that Paul brought into the Church? I think we need to grow in our moral understanding of the world, especially if we still feel that God wants to punish us. He doesn’t. he wants to forgive us, and everything that Jesus did in his life confirms this aspect of God. Jesus was around sinners and unbelievers because he wanted to show them the grace and mercy and forgiveness of God. As mature Christians we need to make sure we don’t fall back into child-like patterns of thinking, especially when we are faced with serious illness and death. Put our trust in God, rely on the fact that he is compassionate and pray to him with all your being. Miracles do happen. But even if a miracle doesn’t happen, know that God is still compassionate and will, in the end, make everything all right. He sees the whole picture.

And this is the Good News I bring a mature congregation this morning. God bless.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

May 29, 2016 Homily at Holy Trinity for the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Homily May 29, 2016 The Body and Blood of Christ

euch5Growing up in the United States, one thing we all can say for the most part is that food is plentiful and gotten by most of us. Sure there are those among us who because of circumstances do not receive or get what they need, but food is plentiful because of our work ethic and technology. We do import food but at the same time we export it also. But, my point today, is that no matter where we go, every human being has one basic need if he or she is going to survive, and that is food. Since the beginning of time, we humans have come together and sought out food to sustain our lives. Generally families would share their food together as they share their daily lives. In modern times, families coming together for a common meal has become less frequent as schedules have become complicated and times to be together seem to be harder to arrange. Yet, there remains in our culture the desire to be family and share time and conversation and food together. euch1At important times and events, it seems we always arrange to gather around food. It is one thing that seems to bring a certain ease for conversation and interaction.

If we look back at the early church, in the earliest times they met in the homes of believers which were large enough to bring everyone together. Their sharing of the faith always started with a meal and then a celebration of the Eucharist, a sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ. It was the same context and setting that Christ set when he gave us the Eucharist at His Last Supper on that night He knew would be his last with His disciples before he died. What He gave, was His very self, a food with a visible form of bread and wine, but actually His very Body and 5 easterBlood, a food to feed us spiritually and keep us strong and robust for a long and tedious journey to His Father. Certainly, he sent his Spirit to assist us, but as God gave us family, Jesus gave us each other in the church and calls us to his special meal that draws us together in his love and provides the nourishment and strength to continue on in all the struggles we encounter. A human is not meant to be alone, even as God himself, we are meant to love, to relate and reach out and grow together as one. Our Food and Drink for our spiritual journey is unlike any ever given. While worshipers of the past partook of the sacrifices they offered, what they ate was not fulfilling spiritually. Our food is living flesh and blood, the living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. So, as we reach out and hit the refrigerator or call for delivery or seek out some place to eat, Let us not forget that there is a more basic and desirable food that brings us here.

May 22, 2016 Holy Trinity Parish Homily for Holy Trinity Sunday

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 22, 2016

The Way We Experience God

Posted in christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on May 19, 2016

Holy Trinity, 5-22-16, John 17:12-15, Romans 5: 1-5, Ps 8: 4-9, Proverbs 8: 22-31

 

This celebration of The Holy Trinity has never been something I really looked forward to, mostly because I have never heard an explanation for the doctrine of The Holy Trinity that really satisfied me. It has always been a mystery for me.  It has been like wandering in a big dark cave with a little flashlight.

 

These days, the bookshelves are increasing filled with books which not only don’t explain the doctrine, but instead point out the difficulties or fallacies the author finds in it. They find some example of how The Holy Trinity seems to be self contradictory, or seems to have gaps in understanding.  I come away thinking either it’s just too deep for my brain, or else it is an elaborate excuse for not understanding God at all.  Then, people ask me to explain it.  So I avoid the question by preaching on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  At least with that, I’m on really solid ground!

 

But this past week I read something that made sense, so I want to share it with you. John Foley, a Jesuit, wrote this: “…the Triune God is not some kind of brainy speculation by scholars. It is simply the way we experience God in the world.  Christian living is the Trinity in action.”

 

I work with a young mother whose parenting style I really admire. She and her husband just came back from a week in Disneyland with their 5 year old daughter.   She has high expectations of this little girl, and teaches her very traditional values of respect and obedience.  But she deeply loves the child and is very attentive to her; she is lavish in her praise and rewards for good behavior.  This mother enormously enjoyed the week in Disneyland because she saw it through her child’s eyes.  She was not concerned with how Disney designed or constructed the place, or with the reality of the Disney stories or characters.  Instead her eyes were open to the charm of the buildings, her daughter’s delight in meeting the characters, the details of the presentation, and the wonder of it all.

 

From that perspective, I ask you, what is wrong with finding a way to express how we experience God in our daily lives, without focusing on what we don’t yet understand about Divinity or without trying to put some rigid human imprint on God? In fact, isn’t it very right to take great delight in how God creates a myriad of ways for us to experience and rejoice in divine love, grace, mercy, and companionship?  Isn’t it exactly right to fill ourselves with the experiences of God as God comes to us, and then have that fullness to take into our needy world?

 

Someone once wrote that God is not like a blind date, someone we might wisely be a little guarded with. With God, there’s no need for precautions to safeguard ourselves.  We do not have to arrange a time and place to meet; we don’t have to struggle to make ourselves more attractive than we think we are.  We don’t have to find a dating service to test us and find someone “compatible”.  God is never darkness, always pure love, and finds us beautiful from the moment our first cells are created.  God is available 24/7/365, never on vacation, never holds a grudge and always forgives us.  We can argue with God, because God is always right and patient with us.  God will never stomp away, disgusted with us, wanting to leave us for someone else.  How do we know this?  By the way God self-reveals to us – in our experience and in the experiences written down in scripture.  We share the miracles we experience and our revelations of God with others, and we discover that God is forever finding the perfect way to reveal who the “Great I AM” is at any moment.

 

That is exactly what our scriptures tell us today. Proverbs presents Wisdom as a woman, with God from before the creation of the earth, who was God’s craftsman (participating in the act of creation).  Wisdom is God’s delight, and who delighted in being with God, and who found delight in the people that God made.  Meditate on that one!!   This is not your old stogy idea of Trinity, but draws an image of a God full to the brim of joy and creativity, of delight and companionship, who gives us the best and the most in our world.  If you read the rest of that chapter in Proverbs, you find the Wisdom of God calling to us.  She reaches out, ready and able to teach us, to give us understanding, and to fill us with her treasures.  That may not be what you’ve heard in some Trinity Sunday homilies, but I beg you – read it again and take in the deep, deep love and longing that God has for us.

 

The Psalm is a reflection on the works of God we see around us and how God self-reveals in our world. Who are we that God should be aware of us?  Yet God made us little less than gods, and allows us to rule over his creation.  We are not puppets or toys; we are “of” God.

 

John speaks of how God guides us and gives us direction and understanding. In today’s language, we will get the memos, we are in the loop, we get the word straight from the top.  There are no barriers between us and administration, we are valued, we are part of the family, and we will receive an inheritance.

 

In Romans, Paul says this in a more tradition way. He reminds us that God has chosen to free us from sin and guilt, that we are in peace, not contention, with God, and faith brings us grace and hope.  Like Paul, we can experience the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  God proved this love through Christ’s death on the cross even while we were not yet willing to trust in God’s love.  Now, forever changed by this Love, we boast of God, whatever our circumstances, because the hope God gives never disappoints.

 

All of these writings reveal God in different ways, and your experience of God may be different still. But the love and goodness of God are consistent through all the ways God is revealed.  The more we open our eyes, the more we see of God in our world, despite the evil that God allows for the time being.  So if we experience the revelation of God in our world, the next logical question is, “Does the world see God revealed through us?” That, my friends is where the celebration of the Holy Trinity ultimately leads us.

Homily for Feast of the Holy Trinity May 22, 2016

Posted in Called, christian, church events, ecclesiology, Faith, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 17, 2016

trinityHoly Trinity is the name of our parish and I think we take the name and accept it. I think we forget it is one of the oldest dogmas or doctrines of our church. But the Trinity is much more than a doctrine or a dogma. The Trinity is the One God, three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or as some say, the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier. In some ways we can understand it, but ultimately it is far beyond our ability to know and to understand.
We know God existed before creation of anything three persons One God. His love of his creation brought his Son to share his love and open life for eternity. His Son in giving what Trinity1his Father gave, gave the Holy Spirit to complete and fulfill God’s action in the world to bring all into one with Him. His creation thus was somewhat like a circle going out and creating and embracing and bringing all together. But it is not something we see, or even imagine or conceive. The depth of God and eternity and infinity and even time itself far and above our abilities even though all kind of men of scholarship in various disciplines over the centuries have struggled to see and understand. Believing and knowing these things by faith is how we take comfort in our church and beliefs. It is in our faith that in the sacraments we have a sincere and intimate relationship with God. Trinity2His Spirit is within us and His church and brings all humanity each in their own faith and love and understanding to God. Eternity, God lie ahead of us like a crown or a jewel to be gotten at some time in the future. What we will look like or how the generations of humanity can come together is well beyond what we can know or see. Yet, our faith tells us it is so and we know as our earthly time progresses, God does look after us although even there the twists and turns of life and times are not always what we expect. Yet, God looks after each and every one of us, to each of us He is our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. It is what we believe, what we know.

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity C (May 22)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 16, 2016

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity C (May 22)

Our first reading today from the Book of Proverbs is from a well-known section about Wisdom and it is Wisdom who is speaking metaphorically. It is generally about Wisdom being intimate with God and how Wisdom desires to be with human beings. The reason why it is chosen today seems to be that the description of Wisdom here is very similar to Jesus and his works. St.John’s Gospel often equates Jesus with Wisdom as well. So, then, how is Jesus like Wisdom?

Before we answer that question we need to look at the Bible’s definition of Wisdom. What does the Bible mean when it refers to Wisdom? I think we can safely say that living Wisdom was a way of life or a philosophy of life that was very moral and its understanding came through experience. The Bible speaks of Wisdom as teaching young people proper conduct and helping them to understand the meaning of life. The Book of Proverbs is full of Wisdom because it is trying to teach the young how to live moral, proper lives as the law of Moses required.

So how then is Jesus like Wisdom? Jesus is himself a teacher who says that he is the truth. He goes out looking for followers to teach, invites them to a banquet and promises them life. The image of “The Word” which John uses for Jesus exists with God from all time. So, this is part of the developing theology of The Trinity which we celebrate today. God and Jesus, as Wisdom, are co-existent.

If the first reading today gives us a theology of Jesus, the second reading from Paul to the Romans gives us the beginnings of a theology of the Holy Spirit. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us,” Paul says. The Spirit is, in a sense, God’s love poured out to us. And what does that love do in practical terms? Paul says it gives us peace, hope in salvation, overcoming of our sufferings, endurance of all things, and hope in God. It is God’s way of taking care of us now that we have been saved by Jesus. When we think of the Spirit which we received in baptism and which was strengthened in us by Confirmation, we should realize that it is God’s great love protecting us, encouraging us and teaching us the right way.

The Gospel reading today from John is the clearest expression of the theology of the Trinity that we have in the Bible. In a relatively clear way, Jesus is explaining to the Apostles that he and the Creator God are one: “All that the Father has is mine.” But the Creator is not content to do nothing. God’s love is so great that it must be shared and so the Spirit of God’s Truth comes to us and “guides us” and declares to us “the things that are to come.”

There is no possible way for us to really understand the Trinity. What we do know is compiled from the Biblical references and the writings of early theologians who interpret these writings. How can One God have Three Persons? We don’t know, but we are assured that it does and that it is Truth. We use all sorts of metaphors to help us to understand, but it is so out of our realm to grasp it, that we just have to accept it on faith and realize that when we talk about the Creator Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, that we are talking about God. When we call out to one of the Three, we are calling out to the One God. In so many ways, it is not important for us to understand the workings of something so beyond our understanding, but that we simply realize that we can, through a relationship with any of the Three, have a relationship with the whole, with God.

Similarly, it is important to understand that God so loves his creation of men and women that God gives us chance after chance to be all that we were meant to be, forgiving us, opening up his home to us, loving us unconditionally. He even allows God to come into us as often as we want in the Eucharist to sustain us and nourish us in being all that we were meant to be.

On this feast of the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, let us try to react to that great love which has been shown us, by using it as a model of how we are to love other people. Because as Jesus concludes in the Gospel today: “[God] will take what is mine and declare it to you.” What most belonged to Jesus was God’s love, and so Jesus gives that love to us. Let us act on it, never forget it, and make the world a better place because of it.

And this is the Good News of our Triune God and the message we need to keep in our hearts always. God bless.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

May 15, 2016 Homily at Holy Trinity Parish for Pentecost Sunday

Homily for the Feast of Pentecost C (May 16)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 10, 2016

Homily for the Feast of Pentecost C (May 16)

(2nd Gospel choice is used – John 14:15-16 23b-26)

Beginning to understand the Holy Spirit is a sign of maturity. I had great difficulty with the concept when I was a child. I first thought that God had a pet bird that he sent out to people, but then was confused because we used to say Holy Ghost, and that conjured up all sorts of images of dead spirits wandering around and influencing people.

It didn’t help that when we heard the stories of Pentecost, the Spirit now appeared as fireballs on tops of the heads of the apostles. What to make of that?

Slowly, I began to realize that we humans have to create metaphors or pictures of what we do know to help us make sense of what we don’t understand. These images of the Holy Spirit beginning with the breathe of God in Genesis and ending with the tongues of fire in the house where the Apostles were hiding out, are the attempts of the writers to best explain something that is unexplainable.

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. That itself is rather unexplainable, though we certainly try. I have always found helpful the explanation that the Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son because I have seen in my own life how love can change things for the better. And change is always involved when the Spirit is present.

All of the readings today attempt to make sense of the miraculous that is going on around the Apostles. In the first reading we see the almost immediate change of the Apostles from men who were afraid and in hiding, bereft of their leader, to men who had daring and the ability to speak out – and not just speak out, but speak out in many languages. The Tower of Babel had been reversed by the Spirit for these men.

The Holy Spirit, again then, is a bringer of change.

In the Psalm today we hear: When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth.” “When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.” The change between life and death is an act of the Spirit.

St. Paul in 1st Corinthians today also talks about change, but he uses the metaphor of gifts or what we call “grace”. The Spirit ‘manifests’ itself in each of us in different ways even though there is only one Spirit creating that change in us. We are gifted by that Spirit and given certain talents which are different from each other, but all which glorify our Creator God. He closes with a different metaphor or image of the Spirit when Paul says: In the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body….and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. We all get the baptism image but the ‘drinking” metaphor is a little odd. In baptism we drink of one Spirit? This is possibly an early reference to the Eucharist because it would have been adults who were baptized which allowed them to receive communion. The implication is that we receive Jesus and the Spirit in communion.

The Sequence is a song that is sung before the Gospel on very major feasts like Christmas and Easter which each have their own distinctive song. The “Veni Sancte Spiritus” which is the Sequence today is an ancient attempt to give praise to the third person of the Trinity in its many works. It in turn explains how the Spirit is Lord, an advocate of the poor, a consoler, a grace-bringing light, a restorer of sinful hearts, and a bringer of seven major gifts. Note that each of these reflects a change being made for the better in our lives.

Lastly, in the alternate Gospel for Year C, John presents Jesus as he talks about the Spirit. The term Jesus uses is Advocate. But Jesus also uses this term about himself because the Spirit is “another” Advocate. What is an Advocate? It is sometimes a legal term when in the court a lawyer pleads someone’s case in order to get that someone free. Jesus sees himself as an Advocate for mankind, pleading to the Father for us. And so, the Spirit will take his place as Advocate when he is gone. This Spirit Advocate, like Jesus,  is also sent by God and Jesus tells us he will be with us forever.

This Advocate we learn a few verses later is also a Teacher. The purpose of this Teacher will be to keep alive all that Jesus has said and taught, but also to help you understand it. And remember- this Teacher is available in each one of us by the right of our Baptism and Confirmation.

So, that is why we are celebrating today. With the entry of the Spirit we begin what we know as Church history. The Apostles begin converting and the Church grows through the influence of the Spirit. That is why we think of Pentecost as our birthday as a Church.

What can this mean to us this week? We have just been through 50 days of celebration of the risen Christ – and now we get on to the business of being Christ in the world with the help of the Spirit. Do many of you pray to the Spirit, ask for the Spirit’s help, ask for understanding through the Spirit? I think most of us pray to God or to Jesus quite regularly, but do we take time to ask the help of the Spirit?  Remember, Jesus said he and the Spirit were sent into the world to advocate, comfort and teach us. Ask for the Spirit’s help. Let the Spirit inspire you. Let the Spirit teach you what needs to be done to be a good Christian. Let the Spirit inform your conscience to help you make decisions. Give in to the Spirit.

I guess that is my major take-home thought today: Give in to the Spirit. See what a difference it can make in your life. Don’t let the Spirit be the forgotten person of God. Give in to her!

And that is the Good News I plead with you to develop in your lives this week. God bless.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish May 8, 2016 Ascension Sunday

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