CACINA

Homily for November 13, 2016 the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

33rd-sundayToday, Malachi and Luke talk of coming days, death, the end of the temple, wars, insurrections, even the end of nations and the fighting of nations. The earth itself will suffer quakes, plagues, and famines. Look back in history and all these things have occurred in the past centuries and in every lifetime and generation. Rejection and persecution of believers has occurred throughout history, even at the time of Christ’s birth if we recall the innocent children slaughtered by Herod. Christ himself suffered rejection and persecution and even experienced betrayal and felt abandoned.

33rd-sunday4Christ said these were signs of the times, and yes they are. They are signs in all times of the fallen nature of humanity. What age or country or century has eliminated these times and signs from the world? What victory has ever given peace to the world? Was there ever a time that a true Christian was immune from ridicule, rejection, whether from family, friends, or a state or country. Has sin been removed from the world?

Keep in mind that each day is new, but the last was an end. Each moment is an end time where someone will not face another. Each of us faces an end time whether it be days or years. The signs are there for us to see. Christ says these things are bound to happen not just at the end of all times but in every time. 33rd-sunday6God is a God of Love, certainly not a human being, and so we must realize he is not subject to anger and other emotions. Sin and evil come from the freedom his creatures receive and abuse. God loves and forgives and embraces all who ultimately reach out to him. Punishment or being cut off from God is what we do by the choices and things that we do.

The sign of our times at the moment are not far from Malachi and Luke today. As Christians we are called to witness Christ’s message of love, forgiveness, healing and the life of Jesus Christ. We have all put on Christ, now is the time to step up and be the light of the world. Jesus said: “Follow Me.”

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Nov. 13)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on November 9, 2016

Please note that starting the First Sunday of Advent I will be taking a three year hiatus from publishing my homilies. I thank everyone for their support and positive encouragement, but will be pursuing further education and need the time off. God bless you all. Please purchase my two collections of homilies already published on Amazon entitles “Teaching the Church Year”.

Homily for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Nov. 13)

The readings in the Church Year are interesting in that you would expect that you would start with Advent, then Christmas, then Ordinary Time, then Easter and Pentecost. But it doesn’t work that way. We have already celebrated the Easter season when we jump back into Ordinary Time which is all about the teachings and miracles of Jesus. So how does the church give the liturgical year a climax then? It does it by looking ahead to the end of time and the glorification of Jesus. This week and next, the last two weeks in Ordinary Time deal with both of those issues, and in Luke it is especially appropriate because we have been spending the last many weeks on the final journey to Jerusalem and so finality seems to be a theme on that journey.Therefore, at the end of the church year we look at the end of time as Jesus often did on that journey.

We start, though, with the prophets’ take on it, in this case the prophet Malachi. The word of God as spoken to Malachi is that there will come a time when the arrogant and the evildoers will be judged and punished. He uses the image of fire that is often used in the Bible because fire is such that whatever is burnt, little is left except ash. It seems to be the most destructive punishment. But Malachi is not without hope for the good among us. He says that “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”  We, of course, interpret this sun as the light of Christ who will continue to be the healer and lead us into glorification with him. The idea of “rising” here is also appropriate for Jesus, and that he comes just like a sunrise breaking up the darkness.

The Psalm, too, was chosen for its positive image of the end of time. “The Lord is coming, coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” Again the emphasis is not of the scariness of the end of the world images that we sometimes see today, but the positiveness of it for those of us who are faithful believers.

It is only by chance if the middle reading has anything to do with the theme of the day and today we don’t luck out on that account. It has nothing to do with last days, but with today only. But it is important because it shows us how we can be the faithful Christians that will be saved on the last day. Apparently in some of the early communities where they were living together and sharing their food and incomes, there were a few who were taking advantage of that and lolling around and not providing any support for the others. I her this from people today about the handouts we give to people – that they are just lazy – and they wouldn’t need handouts if they just got up and worked. That bothers me because it is making the issue black and white and it is a very grey issue. Paul is a bit black and white, too when he says “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” But we must realize that he is addressing this to those people who could be working but choose to live in idleness as he puts it. Paul actually puts a great deal of worth in a person’s occupation and in my Psychology course, one of the things we are constantly told is that a person’s occupational vocation is essential to happiness. Paul wasn’t far off in that.

By the Gospel, though, we are back to the last days. This topic is brought about by the prediction of the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple. Jesus has now arrived in Jerusalem. His own death is immanent and he is drawn to musings about life and death with his followers. Some of his followers were awed by the beauty and the majesty of the temple, which leads Jesus to predict that it was going to be destroyed. This, of course, shocks everyone and they throw questions at him, much as we do today about predictions: when, how, why, how soon?

Now it is unclear, at least to me, whether Jesus’s answer to the questions is referring to the destruction of the Temple or that destruction leads him to generalize or enlarge the picture to apocalyptic size and talk about the destruction of the world. He doesn’t transition from the Temple destruction, yet people have always taken this as Jesus description of the end of times, probably because it is similar to Matthew’s Gospel which is more specifically the end of times.

But Jesus talks about the three signs: false messiahs appearing who falsely give times and places to the destruction; wars and international upheavals; and natural disasters, all of which are worldwide. But Jesus does not dwell on that. He doesn’t make the big thing of it that so many fundamentalists do. Instead, Jesus moves quickly to what will happen to his followers before this time. There will be persecutions, and there will also be great fear and stress about what is going on. It will be difficult to remain faithful to Christ because doing Christ’s work will lead some to be imprisoned, tortured or killed. Families may break apart, friends will desert you. This certainly happened in the early church, and sometimes even happens today.

But then there seems to be a discrepancy. Jesus says, “But not a hair of your head will perish.” Oops. Did Jesus get that wrong? A lot of early Christians perished in the persecutions.

But, no, he didn’t get it wrong because he wasn’t talking literally here, he was talking metaphorically about the soul as we see into least line, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” There is more to us than just our bodies. There is a spirit, a soul, a part of us that never dies, and that is what will triumph and become part of Jesus’s glorification that we will focus on next week as we celebrate the last feast of the Church year – the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe.

How can we take these readings and apply them today in the here and now. First, don’t be bothered by all the apocalyptic talk and false prophets who are always predicting the worst. It will happen when it happens. We need to live in the here and now and do our best to live Christ’s message faithfully. If we do that we don’t need to worry about the end of days – whenever that might be. Use the everyday things to remind you of Christ. Treat your occupation as a path to Christ and find ways to bring Christ into your workplace. Do the best you can in your work and try to do the work that strengthens you and not pulls you down. I was excessively fortunate to be in a  job that i loved for 47 years. Not all people can say that, but that should be the goal and it should be a fulfilling way to happiness. If it isn’t, maybe you need to look at things and change what you do. Not always possible, I know, but let’s look at it as a goal. Meanwhile, living a truly Christian life every day, thanking God once a week at Mass, finding ways to help your church and community – this is what is important, not fear of an event we can never predict.

This is the Good News surrounding the bad news for the unfaithful. 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”]

November 6, 2016, Holy Trinity Homily commerorating All Souls Day

Counter Cultural Calm and Comfort-All Souls

  • All Soul’s Day – Isaiah 25: 6-9, Ps 27: 1-9,13-14, Romans 5:5-11, John 6: 37-40

 

Tuesday afternoon, I sat with a bedridden elderly woman. I was just beginning to introduce myself to some residents at a nursing home.  I had no information about this woman other than a staff person suggesting she might enjoy a visit.  So I asked, “How’s it going for you?”

Her eyes began to form tears. “Oh, my husband, he’s here, he has dementia, Alzheimer’s.  He sits in a wheel chair and he just talks nonsense…he was never that way before.”   She made no mention of it, but it was clear she had her own health issues too.

We talked for a few minutes about the strain of watching a beloved spouse’s health deteriorate. I asked her: would she like to have me read to her out the Bible.  “Yes”, she nodded.  So I opened to Psalm 103, and read of the goodness of God, about God’s love and faithfulness, compassion and mercy.  She grew visibly calmer as I read.  “Oh, thank you,” she breathed.  The Bible I had with me was donated by the Gideon’s, and I left it with her.  Those free Gideon Bibles have a well-deserved reputation for helping people who are overwhelmed by life.

It’s very easy, and entirely normal, to forget God’s love when crisis strikes.   But in every section of the Bible, we can find reminders of the tender love God has for us, all of us.  Today one of our reading is from Isaiah, a Hebrew prophet who lived some 800 years before Christ.  It speaks of the Lord ending death and grief and tears on the earth, and offers assurance that the Lord will save us.  Then the Psalmist writes, “The Lord is my light and my salvation……..wait for the Lord with courage.”

Years later, St. Paul declared with great certainty that we will not be disappointed by our hopes in God.  Wearied by the sound bites of politicians, we need to be reminded of this!  Paul says, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us…we are justified and saved through him…”  Paul adds, “We also boast of God.”  Now, if you have read much of St. Paul, you know when Paul says you can boast of something, he means it’s rock solid, without a doubt.

But if you might have any remaining doubt about hoping in God, our Gospel will dispel it.  John quotes Jesus saying, “…Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”

All Soul’s Day is about remembering those who have gone before us; those we miss, those we will mourn for the rest of our lives. But this day calms us, and draws us back from the pain of loss to the comfort of God’s love.  It is almost counter-cultural to remember that God didn’t make us disposable. We are eternal beings.  It is absolutely counter-cultural to say that we are eternal beings, but we still don’t know very much at all about eternity.  And it is probably close to anti-cultural to say that we don’t need to know more about eternity than we already know.  What do we know?  We know Eternity is real, prepared and waiting for you and me and those we love, and it will be beyond anything experienced in this life.

So, today we rejoice in life. We light candles to remind us of eternal life; their light breaks through the darkness of doubt.  We delight in the memory of those who have been born into eternity, even as we remain here for a time, and we continue to share the love of God.

 

Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Nov.6)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on November 2, 2016

Homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Nov.6)

For many weeks I have been telling you that we, through Luke’s Gospel,  are on a trip with Jesus to Jerusalem to his ultimate death and glorification. We are finally there today. While he is in Jerusalem he deals with three or four controversies with the chief priests, scribes and elders of Judea. Our Sunday readings have skipped over the first two controversies in Luke and we pick up on the third one, so a little history is in order here. The Pharisees were trying to put Jesus into one of two schools of thought during his time regarding whether or not there was to be  resurrection of the dead.

The Hebrew Bible really does not talk about, but only hints at such a concept. It was, however, by the time of the Maccabees which was two hundred years before Christ, expressed as a belief by many Jewish rabbis and writers. We see this in the first reading today and the rather horrible story of how the Maccabean brothers and their mother were put to death by King Antiochus. As each man died, they expressed the idea that they were more than willing to die for their faith or do something against their Scriptures – in this case, eat pig’s flesh – and by the second brother’s death we are told why they felt that way. The second brother said, “the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws. The third brother added these words about his physical body – “I got these [hands] …and from God I hope to get them back again.” Clearly, then in Maccabees there was a belief in not only reward after death but a resurrection of the body in some way.

What we need to know though is that Maccabees is not a book accepted as part of the Scriptures by the Hebrews, or today by Protestants. It was one of the books deemed Scripture by the Catholic church, however. So, what was the belief in Jesus’ time about the resurrection of the dead?

What you know is that some Jewish sects believed in it, and others didn’t. It so happens that the Sadducees who bring the question to Jesus today simply to bait him and find out where he stands, emphatically do not believe in resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees were of the religious class, quite wealthy and very conservative, believing only in what was in the first 5 books of the Bible. If it didn’t say it in the first five Books, they didn’t believe it. Most of the Pharisees, however, did believe in it because they believed not only in the Pentateuch, the first five Books, but also in the Prophets, and the other Scriptural writings as well as the tradition passed on by scholars and rabbis.

So, here we have Sadducees trying to bait Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t comment on their attitude of not really caring that they knew the answer in their own minds, but Jesus replies in two parts.

The question the Sadducees ask is based on a law in Deuteronomy  which is all about how you are to handle the death of a brother.

First Jesus says that the question is out of place: “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they are like Angels, and are sons and daughters of God, being children of the resurrection.” Basically Jesus is affirming that there will be a resurrection but we will be different than we are now – more like angels, and although he doesn’t dismiss our having relationships, he says that we won’t have the bodily sexual needs which bring about marriages.

Secondly, he makes the statement that God is a God of the living and not of the dead.And then states that the famous patriarchs of the Bible are not dead but alive right now. In other words, death might be seen as a transition to a new state. Years later we added the Greek idea of a soul to all this which I don’t believe the Jews had any idea of, though it makes some sense to interpret it that way. But Jesus says that when they died, they never stopped living. We are told in our tradition that when Jesus died, he went to the place of the dead and opened the gates of heaven for them. It is the same kind of idea.

So the two parts of Jesus’s answer show Jesus using first, reason, to explain why you can’t compare life in this world to life in the next because they are two different states. Then he uses the Sadducees own Pentateuch, quoting Moses in the Book of Exodus, to say that they should believe in resurrection of the dead.

In any case, the Sadducees are not happy with the answer, and they too plot to kill Jesus.

St. Paul also believes in resurrection of the dead and even in today’s reading we hear the words: “[God in  Jesus] through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope.” That eternal refers to forever and covers both life and death.

So what can all this history mean for us who read this questioning of Jesus about the resurrection after death today?

I believe it should give us great hope. I have tried to imagine nothingness, and I not only can’t imagine it, but I find it a depressing thought. Our spark will survive our bodies and even if our bodies become resurrected bodies, whatever that may entail, the joy of knowing I will survive in some way is very heartening to me.

Jesus always says he came to bring good news and this to me is very good news. I want to live my life every day as we say in the prayer after the Our Father “in joyful hope” of the life to come. Let this be part of your Christian joy and not fear death, but only fear not being prepared for it by not living a good life. We know the path to eternal life and it is Jesus. God be praised for this Good news today as we get closer and closer the end of another church year cycle and the Passion and glorification of Jesus.

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”]

Today’s Homily at Holy Trinity Parish, October 30, 2016 the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Communion, ecclesiology, ethics, Eucharist, Faith, forgiveness, homily, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on October 30, 2016

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Homily October 30, 2016 the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Communion, Eucharist, Faith, forgiveness, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on October 27, 2016

31-sunZacchaeus was a tax collector and a wealthy man. Right away we know that he was therefore a collaborator with the Romans and collected Roman taxes and received a commission for doing so. Being a chief tax collector, meant that he employed others to collect the taxes and added in his fees and commissions.31-sun3 The gospel tells us Zacchaeus was curious about Jesus and wanted to see and know about him. Like bystanders even today, he ran ahead and climbed a tree so he could see Jesus without a crowd in front of him. Jesus as we have seen over the past weeks’ gospels was ever looking for those who were lost and looking for the way. As he came to the sycamore tree, he stopped and called Zacchaeus to come down and be his host for dinner. While Zacchaeus rejoiced, the crowd murmured about Jesus associating with a sinner. Zacchaeus promised to give half his possessions to the poor and repay anyone he might have defrauded 4 times over. Both of these actions would have been extraordinary in Jesus’ time. Despite whether Zacchaeus was righteous or was converted at that time, Jesus points out that he is a descendant of Abraham and is one to whom he has come to call to his kingdom. Zacchaeus has gotten salvation because he has learned generosity and giving to those who are poor and in need and in being fair in his daily transactions.

31-sun-4Once again, we have to realize that salvation can be blocked only if we put ourselves in the way. How we relate to others is important and loving and treating others with proper respect and understanding is important. We must learn the same love and respect for others that we have for ourselves. Part of giving to others is to also listen and receive. All of us have been called to a heavenly journey, yet it is not something we need to do alone. Community or church was founded by Christ so that we need not be alone. Community and sharing is integral to Christianity. More importantly he has given us his Body and Blood as a special food and his Spirit to guide us on the way. It is what we share when we gather. For this we give thanks and work so that we will not lose our way.

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Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Oct 30)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on October 26, 2016

Homily for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Oct 30)

I love it when I get to preach on Good News that is really good news for all of us. Today’s readings are all beautiful and uplifting, hopeful and encouraging. Too often we are drawn to look at the dark side of our faith, at sin and the fallen world. It is all part of the larger picture, but I particularly appreciate the virtue of hope that we are given.

St. Paul talks about God calling us and we being worthy of that call, and that we we can glorify God in our resolutions and good works, not to live in depression (shaken in mind) or fear (alarm) but to realize that the day of the Lord is also here right now. We can bring about some of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

And what could be more beautiful than the reading from Wisdom today talking about how God is so infinite and immense and yet he cares about us, and overlooks our sins. We hear how God loves every bit of creation, loves every created thing for the simple reason – why would God create something he didn’t like??

We also hear in Wisdom how God’s spirit animates every living thing, that God loves life! “You spare all things, Lord, “ says Wisdom, “for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.”

God has infinite patience with us, teaching his Law little by little, giving it in small chunks, as to a child. And we made add, when we have matured into adults, so has the Law because Jesus refines it for us in our maturity. Wisdom makes a final statement that it is in this way that we learn to trust in God, and of course, trusting someone is the whole point of a good relationship, isn’t it?

Even the Psalm today expresses the optimism of the other readings. “The Lord is good to all,” the Psalmist proclaims, and has compassion for every created creature. And to give image to the idea of trusting God in our relationship, the Psalm closes with “The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. Such images of caregiving!

And lest we think that God only cares about the poor, we get a story in the Gospel of Luke now where a rich man is saved.

We might be reminded right away of the story of the rich man Lazarus we had read to us a few weeks ago. That story of a rich man didn’t end too well. This time not so much!

This is a story about yet another tax collector, very unpopular people in Jesus’ time, and I suppose not so popular today either if you get a call from one. This isn’t just an ordinary tax collector, however. This is a “chief” tax collector which might mean that he is heavily implicated in a corrupt system that makes the collector profit from the poverty of others. We might think today of a CEO in a very corrupt company. I immediately thought of the CEO of the drug company that raised the prices on a medicine recently, basically making it unaffordable, or breaking the pocketbooks of the people that most need it. Fred B Craddock in his “Interpretation” of Luke says: “No-one can be privately righteous while participating in and profiting from a program that robs and crushes other person.” (p. 218)

It is important for us to see that this man, even if he appeared outwardly righteous, was immorally stealing from the poor by raising the tax amounts and skimming off the extra for themselves.

So why does Zacchaeus want to see Jesus so badly that with his short stature, he climbs a tree to get a good look. Perhaps he had heard that Jesus was a friend to sinners, or even to tax collectors, I find it interesting that first, Jesus knew him by name, and secondly, Jesus didn’t wait for an invitation, but in fact, invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home. It seems that Zacchaeus really was thrilled about it though and welcomed him gladly.

Whatever happened at that meal at Zacchaeus’ house, it brings about a change in Zacchaeus, and Zacchaeus voluntarily offers to make restitution for the wrongs he has done. In other words, he seems to have been given the grace to see his misdeeds and immoral way of life and to repent of it. He actually goes beyond what the Bible says he should do for voluntary restitution.

One final point of note that is something you may not have thought of before. Jesus says to Zacchaeus that salvation has come to his house. Jesus wants to remind us that repentance does not just affect the one repenting. Luke always makes a big thing about family and community. Zacchaeus’s whole house is blessed and graced by his act of repentance  His whole house is saved. And that extends even further because in his repentance he is giving money to the poor, and so they will profit by it as well. Repentance reaches out and affects others as well.

The final statement of the Gospel – “For the Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost” – may remind us of the parable of the lost sheep, but who are the lost? I believe it is anyone who lost his or her way. We have all been lost at times, we have all suffered depression, death of  loved ones, fears founded or unfounded, anxiety in our troubles times. Jesus came to find you, to lift you as you are falling, to straighten your body to carry on. This is such great news, and why I love the readings today so much. They give great hope and build my trust in God. I know they will do the same with you if you take the time to look at them and think about them.

And this IS the Good News we celebrate today as Luke leads Jesus closer and closer to his destiny in Jerusalem. God bless.

Note: Whole there may be some postings of homilies, for the next three years I will not be publishing a weekly homily so that I can attend to other things I am doing. My two books contain homilies for each of the Sundays for the next three years, so you might want to have a look at those.

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 for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (Oct 23)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on October 20, 2016

Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (Oct 23)

Last week I mentioned to you that there were two stories side by side in Luke’s Gospel in this chapter, both about prayer. When Luke does that, he usually means them to be read together because somehow they will comment on each and affect our perception of them when looked at together. Unfortunately we got one last week and one this week, thus thwarting Luke’s original plan. One of the problems of doing little snippets of a Gospel each week!

Just as a reminder, last week we heard the parable of the unjust judge who was badgered by the woman into getting what she wanted by her her persevering and never letting go.

But when we see these two readings next to each other, we also can see that both of these stories are about the need for prayer.

Therefore, this week, we want to examine more of Jesus’s ideas on prayer which was certainly based on the foundation of the Hebrew concept of prayer. Let’s look at that foundation first. In our first reading from the Book of Sirach and in our Psalm we can get a glimpse of the Hebrew thought on prayer. First,  Sirach says that God is not going to show partiality to the poor. That may surprise us. I think if I had asked you the question  – Would God favor the poor? – all of you would have said a resounding “yes”. But Sirach says no, that God, won’t favor them, but he will listen first to the prayers of anyone who has been wronged. If poverty in society is a wrong, then God will listen to the poor before he listens to us. It also means that the prayers of the orphan, the prayers of the widowed will also be listened to first. In other words, God’s mercy will favor the the unfortunate and the wronged.

So if we are not the unfortunate or the wronged, how would the Hebrews say that we would get listened to in prayer? Well, Sirach says that by being a servant to others God will listen to us. When we humble ourselves to serve the needs of others, our prayers will go right up to heaven and continue till they are heard.

Do you see how Christ was able to build on this Hebrew foundation – it already sounds a lot like what we remember Jesus saying, doesn’t it!

The Psalm also re-iterates that the poor and the humble get the first shot at God’s hearing. “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,” the Psalm says, “and rescues them from all their troubles.” “Let the humble hear and be glad!” And then in the repetitive way the Psalms have of saying the same thing in many different ways: “The Lord is near to he brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

So you can see that these teachings about the power of prayer for the humble and the unfortunates in society were around long before Jesus came. And when we look at the parable of Jesus, we can see that Jesus builds on that foundation, but makes it just a little clearer and harder. The Pharisees were men who did good works. They tried not to sin, they donated to the Temple, they fasted often. It does not sound like they were bad people at all, and from what we have seen in Sirach, by doing these good works their prayer should rise to heaven. But Jesus says it is more than just doing something, it is the attitude we have in doing that something.

The Pharisees in the parable were smug, arrogant, and judgmental. Instead of being servants in their attitudes to one another, they were lording it over others, especially people they judged to be unworthy or ‘dirtier’ than they were.

We sometimes get the impression because of the law of love that Jesus espoused, that Jesus was easier on people than the traditional ways. But actually, Jesus was always harder. He didn’t just want the fulfillment of a law, he wanted the attitude behind it changed. That’s why we often hear him say: You are told this, but I tell you that..” It is not the outward doing, but the interior attitude that Jesus wants us to change.

It is easy to fall into the attitude of thinking we are better than others. Certain people repel us and I think there is a natural need to reject that which is different from us. It is certainly something we have to work at. When we are approached by a street person who is unkempt, bearded, dirty, uneducated or whatever, is it fear that causes us to step back, or pride, or disgust? What do we have to do is to throw away those judgments and see underneath all of that – to know that there is a person of dignity there, that God already listens to more than he listens to us. Definitely not easy, but I ask you this week to examine those feelings inside you, confront them, and see if you can change them a little.

In our second reading, Paul had to confront all these things.  Before he was converted, he hated the Christians, judged them to be unworthy. But he was forced to re-examine all of that when he was confronted with Jesus himself. And what did he become? – a servant of the Word, a servant to others in the name of Jesus. At the end of his life, he talks today to Timothy and to us, both with some pride in the fact that he managed to get through life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”, but the pride is tempered with he humility that he didn’t do it through human intervention, but did it through God who never deserted him. It wasn’t him, it was God: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed.”  It is that humility of knowing it was God more than my efforts that he says will grant him a place in the kingdom.

So let that be the main lesson for us today among the many little lessons. If we hold true to the knowledge that our good deeds are God acting in us for the betterment of the weaker and poorer, we too will inherit the kingdom of heaven.

That is the wonderful Good News of our readings today! God bless.

Homily, October 23, 2016. The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, forgiveness, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on October 20, 2016

30-sunThe story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is one we have heard often over time. It is paired with the reading from Sirach about God as a just judge, looking out for everyone and Paul in Timothy explaining how he gave his life to the Lord. If we turn to the gospel story, we first should realize that the Pharisee was not a bad person. All the acts and sacrifices he describes are good works and even expected of someone of his place in society. Yet, in the end Jesus criticized the Pharisee because of where he was and what he said. His prayer is full of “I’s”. His concern is for himself, his well-being, not for others or the community. His list is one of what would be expected of a Pharisee, a form almost of self praise. The tax collector on the other hand, was in a way fearful and acknowledged that as a sinful man he was unworthy. His prayer was to ask for God’s mercy. In the end, Jesus said the tax collector left justified in his 30-sun-4prayer. God judges in his own way and time. He is a just judge who knows each of us intimately, knows who we are and how we think. He knows our actions and how we relate to others. He judges us not only on what we are expected to do, but also when we fall short of what we can and should do. It is ironic, that in almost all that we do, we can never reach perfection. In our faith and in our love and actions toward others, we can always fall short. I once had a professor who called it the uneasy conscience of a Christian, always asking and suggesting, “can I do more?” Should we be satisfied saying I did the best I could? Sometimes we must be, while at other times, we just might be called to keep going. In all our lives, everyday brings different and even new things into our lives. How we meet and live our lives meeting new things and people and challenges is how we witness and live our faith. Using our prayer life in a humble, realistic way seeking God’s mercy will lead us also to justification.