CACINA

Homily May 31, 2015 Feast of the Holy Trinity

Posted in Called, Christianity, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 27, 2015

trinity3In the course of human history, humanity has advanced in its knowledge and understanding of its world and universe. Each century has seen advances and growth, none more than the last century. Yet, it seems as we grow in knowledge, we begin to understand that there is much we don’t know or understand. It would seem that our innate nature drives us to question, to seek answers, to know. Throughout the centuries it has served us well as we advanced in our living conditions. But, how much has our knowledge changed humanity and what we are? As people we are fragile and exhibit the strengths and weaknesses of our ancestors. Disagreements, wars, broken families and all the trinity2complexities of life remain after all the centuries before us. Sure Christ came and planted is way into the world and revealed the Spirit and his Father to the world. This God the Trinity is known to us, but, still today remains a mystery to us. The early church argued and discussed the Trinity and tried to understand it as best they could. They gave us the Nicene Creed which contains our understanding even to today. To the Jews, God would not even give himself a name, saying only that “I am who I am” thus the name they called him “Yahweh” meaning “I am”. Today we call on God, Father, Son , Holy Spirit. He is one God, three persons.

trinity 4What we can’t understand, we seek to investigate to know, to unfold the mystery. Yet, what boldness we exhibit to try to find and explain God, one above and beyond and embracing all of creation, much of which we are only now beginning to see with our technology. What we see is our smallness and our life in a very small limitless universe. Yet, in our smallness, God comes to us, is a part our life, has a way to be united to him. Thus as we consider, God, the Holy Trinity we should give thanks for his presence to us and for his being in our life. We are not past a time when Awe and Reverence are things of the past. We marvel at science and new things, but really we should remember that all is possible only because we are in God’s presence.

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Homily Holy Trinity Parish Pentecost Sunday May 24, 2015

Posted in Called, Christianity, church events, homily, inspirational, pentecost, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 24, 2015

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year B 2015 (May 31)

Posted in christian, Christianity, homily by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 24, 2015

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year B 2015 (May 31)

Jewish worship from the earliest times was distinguished from the thought of other nations by the concept of only one God. In our reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses summarizes this Jewish belief and makes clear to all his people that there is only one God in heaven or on earth, and that there is no other. This was not the common belief of any of the other nations surrounding them, and so while it may be a concept ingrained in us in our society almost from birth, the cultural milieu in which they lived, the writings, the architecture, the art all around them suggested otherwise.  It was so predominate, in fact, that the history of Israel seems to be the history of a people being tempted and succumbing to the belief in other gods.

Moses tells his people that they are a blessed people, set apart. What other nation has been so honored to hear the voice of God, speaking out of fire. What other nation has been adopted by God, and proven to be so honored by signs, wonders, holy war, and terrifying displays of power as when they were led out of Egypt. Finally, this God has promised them a land, and all they need to do is keep his commandments, commandments which made them more civilized, more sensitive to others, and more holy.

The Psalm today then speaks of the love of this God who has chosen us, and how our soul was created to wait for God, how God is our help and protector. This one true God has made himself known in his creation and in his commandments which raise us up, a similar idea to that which Moses spoke to his people.

Since all of this was true and was the oldest tradition of Israel, imagine how upset traditional believing Jews must have felt with the new idea that Jesus was God. It upsets the whole apple cart! Yet, from the very beginnings of Christianity we see this belief that Jesus was indeed God made human. How is this possible? Then it is further complicated, perhaps, by the coming of the Holy Spirit who is also ascribed to be God.

In our second reading from Paul written even before the Gospels we hear the term Spirit of God when Paul says: All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God, and he speaks of the glorification of Christ, a term that refers to a God-like status. And in the Gospels, Matthew today puts it all together when he tells the Apostles to go out baptizing “in the name of the Father, and of the on and of the Holy Spirit.”

This Trinitarian concept has been around since the advent of Christianity despite the fact that it seems to abandon the earliest Jewish beliefs – and these are all Jews who were writing, remember! From earliest times theologians have tried to explain the concept of Trinity and the belief in the one true God. The bottom line: it is really not explainable!  We can get glimpses of ideas about it, and theologians have come up with theories of three persons in one God – and we intact state those beliefs each week in our Creed, but they are really quite inadequate because they are beyond our total comprehension. The best we can probably do is exactly what the earliest disciples did – pray to one God through the terms which Jesus gave us: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Probably not many of us question this because it has been such a part of our Christian heritage, most of us just accept it, realize that it is a mystery, and move on. A few others will contemplate some of the metaphors used in the pst to help our understanding, like the shamrock, perhaps, but it is just that – a small help

So what is important about this Feast today and important to our lives. Jesus once said: No one comes to the Father, except through him. I know that for centuries this has been interpreted as only Catholics get to heaven, but I don’t think it means that at all. I think it means that no one comes to an understanding of the God the Father, except by looking at Jesus and how he lived and what he did and what he said. Jesus is God made visible, so if we look at Jesus carefully and imitate his life to the best of our ability, we can move to be perfect as God is perfect.And what help do we have to do that? The Spirit, first described in the Bible as God’s breath or the wind over the waters, provides the impetus to know God. Again, our Psalm 33 today tells us that “Our soul waits for the Lord”. There is something deep inside each of us that wants to know God, that needs to know God, that aches to understand God and the meaning of life. To know God, we have to know Jesus whose humanity was not just a metaphor but an actuality. He is the example of the human who led a life of perfection. To imitate him is to know God, and it is the best we can do until we die and are able to know God intimately and perhaps even understand the great mysteries which elude us now.

Let us pray that this week’s emphasis on the Trinity in our lives can bring us to living our lives on the road that leads to perfection through imitation of the God-man Jesus, and the through the inspiration and persistency of God’s spirit.

And that is the Good News that was preached from the very beginning of the Christian era of the one, true God, the God of our fathers and mothers.

Bishop Ron Stephens

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

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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Homily for May 24, 2015 Pentecost Sunday

Posted in Called, christian, church events, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 20, 2015

pemtecost1In the news lately, we hear of multiple tornadoes touching down out west and wreaking havoc all over. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced one, but imagine the devastation that one can do as I am sure you’ve seen in pictures. Getting back to Jerusalem on that Pentecost morning, there was a loud rush of wind that surrounded where the disciples were and in the busy crowed city everybody came to see what was happening. Inside was even more dramatic as fire appeared voe the apostles and disciples as the Holy Spirit came upon them. Imagine, they were so immersed, so overcome they actually pentecost2couldn’t stand still. They burst out the door proclaiming, witnessing, all in different languages proclaiming Jesus to all in their own language. What a scene it must have been, all the different languages, people from different places hearing the word, the beginning of the church, a multilingual, multinational beginning. That beginning was Christocentric and remains so today. Clearly from Pentecost on, the church belonged to all who received and believed in the Spirit. The body of Christ has many parts and belongs to all, not one nation, not one language, but where Christ and his spirit breathe life into it. Each and everyone of us are servants of each other. It is in serving and loving one another that we fulfill the work of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is Christ’s special gift to the church, who comes to each and every one of us at Baptism and completely immerses in us at confirmation. Sure, we have Christ with us and have his body and blood, but the spirit activates us to do the work of our faith. What is often forgotten is that the Spirit is the one who act and acts where He wants, not where we necessarily want or expect him to. How often in our pentecost 3human condition, do we forget or not even know or understand the whole picture of creation and God;s relationship to us. Just for example, the idea of forgiveness is difficult and unreasonable to many until it is for themselves.

Pentecost began a journey for a new church and many believers. Our oneness is in Christ who recognizes all who gather in his name whether we do or not. Division and separation and infighting come out of humanity’s imperfection. Despite that imperfection, Christ calls and recognizes each of us and with the help of the Spirit brings us to Him.

Homily for the Feast of the Pentecost, Year B 2015 (May 24)

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, homily, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 17, 2015

Homily for the Feast of the Pentecost, Year B 2015 (May 24)

Last week I spoke about the promises that Jesus made before he left the Apostles and ascended. Those promises were all centre around the coming of the Spirit, a free gift of God to those faithful to Jesus, which would allow them to experience and continue to experience Jesus in their lives.

In Acts today the coming of the Spirit is imaged by violent wind and the appearance of tongues of fire resting on each person. Whether that is a literal image or the best description they could come up with for what had happened, the important thing to note is that it had an affect. It changed the Apostles. The first major change that came about was the ability to speak or be understood in many different languages. It is not made clear whether they actually spoke those languages or the hearts just heard everything in their own languages.

The concept of the spirit of God had been in Jewish writings and beliefs for many years. We read in the Psalm today: “when you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth.” If you remember back to Genesis it was the breath or spirit of God that originally blew over and created the earth. The Jews looked forward to a renewal of that original creation.

The coming of the Holy Spirit took place on a Jewish holiday – the Feast of Shavuat or in Greek Pentecost, fifty days after Passover. It came to be associated with the giving of the Torah, the Law, to Moses. On that feast God put his spirit into the two tablets of the Law for his people to follow. Now, at the Christian Pentecost, the Spirit comes into their hearts. There are comparisons with both comings. There was a theophany, or visible manifestation of God at Sinai and in the house at Pentecost. Both had fire – one in the form of a burning bush seen by all, the other as tongues of fire given individually. There were many people – non Jews present after both events, and both were accompanied by many tongues or voices. (See Stern, David H.  Jewish New Testament Commentary, p.221). Another word for Torah is teaching and the Holy Spirit was sent also to teach. If Shavuat is considered the birth of Judaism, Pentecost is often considered the birth of Christianity.

The Gospel reading today, however, gives a different interpretation of the coming of the Holy Spirit by having Jesus breathe on the apostles and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Most scholars consider this not the Pentecost experience but Jesus preparing them for that experience. John’s Gospel is often different from he Synoptics because his purposes are more theological, coming longer after the others. The purpose here seems to be one of preparation for the power that they were to receive. John does not concern himself with what happens to the Apostles as much as follow what happened to Christ. So he does not include Pentecost but ends with Jesus talking about coming again.

St. Paul today also expounds about the Spirit. He says that without the Spirit, none of us would be able to believe in Jesus. We see the early signs of our understanding of the Trinity also in Paul today. He talks about the Spirit giving many and various gifts, the many and various services we do in Christ’s name, and the activities we carry out in God’s name. But it is one God activating everything. If we are one body in Christ, the Spirit is our life blood coursing through that body to give life and strength to all the limbs.

So the importance of Pentecost for us today is more than just a birthday; it should be a reminder of our unity through the Trinity and through the workings of the Three Persons in One. Being part of that one body, we should not distinguish any member or part of that body being better than any other member. That is why Paul ends with “we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greek, slaves or free. Arguments about priests being better than lay people, men better than women, rich better than poor, different better than same – should have no place in a Christian’s heart. The Spirit unifies us all. And though we may play different parts, just as the function of the heart is different from that of the right arm, we all work together for the wholeness of the body, and we celebrate the health of each part, since it all affects us in some way.

This way of thinking is a different paradigm than we have in modern society. Can we bring our Christian paradigm to the forefront of our own lives, and convince others by our love and care to do the same. That is the challenge of Christians today, and it all began at Pentecost – the Good News that we celebrate at the end of our Easter season.

Bishop Ron Stephens

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

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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Homily May 17, 2015 Feast of the Ascension

Posted in Called, Christianity, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 15, 2015

ascension3ascension“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking up into the sky?“ Imagine, Jesus’ disciples have just gone through a very rough time having seen Jesus taken away, crucified and resurrected back to life. Their whole internal being has been set on edge and they have slowly recovered when Jesus is taken up into the clouds and is gone. With all his appearances, he prepared them for the Holy Spirit and enjoined them to remain in Jerusalem until he came. At the same time he charged them to go out to the whole world and witness to him. For three years he prepared them to go out and witness to him. But imagine, go to the whole world. In that time the world was perceived as being relatively small. How far would the average person go in that time when the means of travel was basically on foot or on the back of some animal. Convert the whole world, preach to every person, imagine how impossible that would sound. Even today, has the word and witness to Jesus, got out and reached all the ends of the earth. Obviously then Jesus work is not yet done and even today we are called to witness to him in every way possible reaching out, being Christ like, and making him present through our own life. Very few people are gifted to be great orator or preachers or stand out as a special witness inspired by the Spirit and Christ’s presence.
In actuality, witness to Jesus is a slow and tedious process of living our life and letting Christ’s presence be seen in the way we conduct our selves and share our faith and the love of Christ and his Spirit. In community in our churches Christ is present and acts among us, but the non-believers, the ones needing to be informed and witnessed to are out beyond the walls in the so called highways and byways. The Spirit moves as he wants, but our witness is what we do and how we act, how we love and witness Christ’s name. I think we can really witness to one person at a time reaching out to others one by one. How well we witness that way will hopefully bring Christ’s presence and the action of his spirit. So Christ calls us to act, to witness, to let our presence bring forth his presence and hopefully bing others to believe. Jesus will return, but we are forewarned not to be idle .

Homily at Holy Trinity May 10th, 2015 6th Sunday of Easter

Posted in Called, christian, homily, religion, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 10, 2015

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension, Year B 2015 (May 14 or 17)

Posted in christian, church events, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 10, 2015

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension, Year B 2015 (May 14 or 17)

In a certain way, today is about saying goodbyes. It is not the seemingly permanent goodbye that we experience when someone dies, but more like the ‘goodbye’ that takes place when you move away to a different state or country and you think you might not see that person or persons again for a long time, if ever.

The Apostles had already said their shocked goodbyes in their hearts to Jesus when he died on the cross and was buried. Getting him back again was a miracle of the highest order and we are told many times how joyful it made them. But it was not to be a permanent stay. The resurrected body was not quite the same as Jesus’ body was before, as we have noted. We teach that heaven isn’t a physical place; Jesus was physical, in that he was seen and touched by the followers, but not physical, in that he could go through walls and appear, and even change or cloak his appearances so he was not known. So his return to the Father is not something that we can quite comprehend. The image we use metaphorically is that heaven is up and the world of the unsaved dead is down, and so Jesus was seen to be lifted up and disappeared.

This story is related to us in all three readings today so it is a story which in itself is so miraculous that all the writers comment on it or tell it.

After getting Jesus back, it must have been very saddening to think that they were going to lose him again, and Jesus knew that.  That is why Jesus is full of promises to them, to make sure that they knew it wasn’t abandonment they were facing, but that he would still be with them, but in a different way. We are told that he had been on earth in his resurrected state for forty days – a number that appears many times in the Bible – forty years in the desert the Jews wandered, Moses sent spies to the Promised Land for forty days, Jonah warned that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days, Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days. Obviously the number forty had some significance metaphorically. Generally it referred to a testing period or a trial period. The Apostles had been fortified by Jesus for forty days to prepare them for his leaving.

During this time Jesus taught them, and prepared them to take over his ministry. He told them that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Having the Holy Spirit in them meant that they would be able to do the things that Jesus had done because God was in them. Mark says they would be able to cast out demons, speak in tongues, be unhurt by poisons or snakes, and heal the sick. In other words, they would be given special power. Jesus even uses that word when he says: …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”

So these last forty days had been a time of rejoicing because Jesus was with them and a time of preparation for taking over in order to spread the kingdom of God on earth.

Just a few years later, St. Paul was able to observe all that had been happening since the Ascension, and he says it in such a beautiful way. Paul describes what has happened to the disciples since the coming of the Spirit on them, and he begs them to continue being worthy of those gifts – to live in humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with each other in love to maintain that unity of Spirit. He reminds them that they are all one, just like that vine metaphor that Jesus had used, and they must work together to maintain that strength of being in one Lord, one faith, one baptism, in one God. Then Paul talks about all the gifts that the Spirit had brought them. Their purpose, he reminds them, was not for self-glory, but to build up the body of Christ. Paul doesn’t want them to forget that these wonderful gifts have been given so that they may bring everyone to know Christ as mature Christians, unified in the faith.

So the ‘goodbye’ that we celebrate today, though similar to many goodbyes in our lives, is different. It isn’t just through memory that the person we say goodbye to will be with us, but Jesus will be part of us, inside us, inspiring us, helping us, making us stronger. These are such hopeful sentiments that I think we often take for granted or forget. Jesus didn’t go away. he is right here, and right there [the tabernacle], and when we call on him he can’t but help to hear.

Good News! Yes. And good news that we need to shout to the ends of the earth as we celebrate today his final promise to us – the coming of his Spirit which we will celebrate next Sunday.

Bishop Ron Stephens

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

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily May 10, 2015 6th Sunday of Easter

Posted in Called, christian, homily, inspirational, religion, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 7, 2015

wide_dalyIt is almost 14 years since 911, but in many ways it remains in our lives even though we don’t realize it. The horror of that day is one of those times in our lives that we remember exactly where we were when we heard it happened. In my life two of those moments exist, President Kennedy’s assassination and the attack on the twin towers. Both times the country was quieted and became introspective. There were myriad reactions to both these events, with most people turning to their understanding of God and religion for comfort or resolution to what would seem reasonable behavior. Today’s readings talk of God’s love and his boundless giving to all his beloved creatures. All of what he created is good and all of men and women enjoy his love. He gave his Son that proved his love even though the evil and sin of he world put him to death. It was a gift given by Christ to give his life and to take it up again. God’s love and spirit thus became present to the world in a special and loving way. His love was all-embracing and forgiving of humanity’s flaws and failures.

In giving us his church, Christ gave a special way to find and be with his father. He sent his disciples to go out to all the world and preach his Word. Yet, even he said that there were believers of a different fold a different kind. Christian faith tells us that One God is present to all. Even in Christianity that faith has different forms. Yet Jesus is present when two or three are present in his name. Can we be so self righteous as to deny God’s presence on those who gather in his name regardless of what name they give them. The common thread of love and forgiveness touches most of humanity. Certainly evil lurks and is present, but as Christians we are called to love one another as Christ loved. He did not limit it just to those he knew but to all he met, to all who had need. His love meant all that entails, even forgiveness, even of those who hate you and even do harm to you.

Throughout our history, the message of Jesus has often been used in many ways to justify many things sometimes for good and other times not. War and conflict has touched the world in every century. Humanity’s imperfections certainly have given us an uneven history. Suspicion, greed, exploitation, and all the other sins and evil still lurk about. Yet, John today reminds us that Jesus said ”Love one another”while we should at the same time remember what St. Paul said, “Love never fails.”

Homily at Holy Trinity May 3, 2015 5th Sunday of Easter

Posted in Called, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 3, 2015

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