CACINA

Homily for 1st Sunday of Lent February 14, 2016

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on February 11, 2016

lent 1cThe tradition of lent developed early in the church in a twofold manner, as a forty day fast preparation for Easter and and time of preparing catechumens for baptism. Vatican II focused lent on Baptism and the need for communal conversion. Tied in with that of course is the work of the Spirit, given everyone at baptism and the same Spirit that led Jesus to the desert for his forty day fast. This became a time renew ourselves by once again turning away from sin and the negative attractions of this world. While each of us needs lent 1atime to meditate and be alone with God. The Spirit leads forward to reach out to a world crying out for God, seeking reason and understanding in a world which leaves so many questions unanswered especially in regard to humanity’s action against itself.

God’s love is in the world, but that love can only be found in those who actively seek to love. Communal conversion calls for the entire community to hear and believe the good news of God’s love and embrace of all. Jesus Christ was a human being, a man who lived like any other. He had thoughts, desires, temptations like any other human. He had likes and lent 1bdislikes, he loved and was loved as we all are. What set Him apart was the fact that he was divine, having come to bring God’s forgiveness to all humanity and exhibit the love he has for all of His creation. So, Lent is not meant to be a negative, foreboding time, but a period of renewing and seeking out God’s love and sharing it with all our sisters and brothers to follow Jesus. This we can do with a word, or by an act or some kindness given simply because a person needs the help. What we do for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, or someone in need, we do it to Jesus himself. His Spirit is not just confined to those we know and live with, but is present wherever and with whomever the Spirit chooses to be. Not only do we bring Christ to others by our actions, but Christ comes to us through those whom we ourselves touch. So as we begin lent, let us be aware that it is a time of conversion and growth of ourselves and our community.

Homily for the 1st Sunday in Lent, Year C (Feb 14)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on February 7, 2016

Homily for the First Sunday in Lent, Year C  (Feb 14)

What is it about human beings that they tend to forget what has been done for them and go back to their old ways so easily. How hard it is to keep alive the memory of horrific events like the Holocaust so that we won’t repeat them. How easy it is to forget the good someone has done us with the least offense that occurs or when provoked.

The Hebrews kept forgetting God. They kept forgetting how God had called them together as a nation, favored them and saved them. Within 40 years of the event of the Exodus the people had forgotten what God had done, were busy grumbling over the poor conditions they faced, even forgetting the promises God had made to them if they remained faithful.

So it is not unreasonable that Moses over and over again tries to bring his people back to God. In today’s reading, the people are being prepared for entrance into the land they had been promised but many of them did not know the stories of their past, especially the way God chose them and rescued them. So Moses in his role as teacher and prophet once again goes through the story of their salvation and tells them that they must repeat this story each time they make a sacrifice or bring gifts to the altar so that they never forget again.

In stark contrast to this story of the Hebrew’s forgetfulness of God and his laws, Jesus never forgets even in the direst of circumstances, when he is half starving and deprived. The devil tempts him to forget, tempts him to sins of pride and power and arrogance, but Jesus does not succumb.

The devil tempts Jesus to use his divinity for personal gain. Knowing that he was starving after fasting 40 days, he tempts him to turn stones into bread.  Then he attempted to get Jesus to turn away from God in order to achieve personal power. Satan asks Jesus to worship him. Finally, he asks Jesus to prove his divinity by jumping off a building and allowing angels to catch and protect him, thus showing everyone he was a god himself.

But Jesus will have none of it. He quotes Scripture back at the devil showing the devil how each of these things was wrong. He does not forget the Law as his people had so many times before him.

This humility on Jesus part, this taking on the form of humanity and living it fully is why St. Paul can say in Romans that we too cannot forget. We cannot forget what Jesus has done and who Jesus is. We confess to others what he has done and we believe it in our hearts, and the result of that is “justification.” We are saved by believing and confessing that Jesus is Lord.

How many of us forget in our daily lives the very thing that has given us the community called Christian and the saving grace that has allowed or sins and transgressions to be forgiven. Just as the Jews did nothing special to merit God choosing them, so we have not done anything to merit our salvation from God. So we must never forget.

Our psalm today which the devil quoted to Jesus is about God’s promise to save the one who believes: “The one who loves me, I will deliver”, God says; I will protect the one who knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him.” How wonderful to know that if can constantly recall our being chosen by God, and believe in Jesus that we will merit such reward.

Of course, this is not always easy to do. Just as the Jews grumbled when they got into trouble or got hungry or tired, we tend to do the same things. We need to look at the larger picture, stay faithful, stay strong in our belief and we will be rewarded, our prayers will be answered, we will be protected.

This is the first Sunday in Lent, a time when we start to examine our past year in terms of how we have remembered our God and how we have professed what we believe. Lent is a time of reflection as we start with the awareness of our limits, the fact that will die and have to make a reckoning, and a chance to again get our spiritual houses in order. We do this yearly in order that we don’t forget, and this is the exact thing that Moses set up to help his own people not to forget as well.

And this is the Good News of our yearly recollection and remembrance.

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 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time February 7, 2016

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Communion, Eucharist, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, Spirit by Fr Joe R on February 5, 2016

2-7-16aIn today’s readings, we see Isaiah, Paul, and Peter question their worthiness. Each in turn facing God or his work, questioned if they were indeed worthy to accomplish the task. Even at Eucharist, the church’s liturgy builds that doubt into reception of communion when we say “O Lord I am not worthy to receive you.” I think in all cases that it is a question that in the face of God, no one is adequate to simply stand straight on with him. However, is our perception and understanding of God correct? How often do we say God is Love. His love produced this world and also humanity in his image. This God like image in itself has made us unique and loved by God. 2-7-16bThat presence of God’s love within us proves that each and every human has a worth and value not able to be diminished by anyone. At times, human can have faults and can commit sin and negative acts, but God’s love remains and their human worth remains. History has proved that women and men have done many good and many bad things throughout history. How quick are we to judge others at times when in effect we should be judging ourselves?

How harsh and judgmental has humanity been through out the centuries? How judgmental are we of different races and cultures and insensitive to people of places that do not meet our particular standards. How quick are we to characterize judgments as the 2-7-16cWord of God or on the Bible? Jesus loved and forgave and said move on. How long must we go on realizing that it is not the law that saves but God’s love which is the real law and embraces us to be like Christ and his father. Who are we to judge or take offense when God himself forgives and embraces. If we can not forgive, then our worth demands us to seek and find God’s love and embrace it.

Truly then, none of us is worthy by ourselves. God within us is our worth and our life. Let us learn today and embrace God’s love and each other. Each of us is worthy with a call unique to each of us.

Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (Feb 7)

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

Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C  (Feb 7)

The prophet Isaiah, in our first reading, has a vision of God in all God’s glory. His reaction to the vision is one of awe but also one in which he has a horrifying realization of how sinful and unworthy he was in the midst of all this perfection and holiness.  He understands the human condition to be an impure condition, and he cries out in hopelessness: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

The contrast between the human condition and the glory that is heaven and the presence of God was so great as to make him lose all hope. But this condition was suddenly altered when an angel came with a burning coal and placed it on Isaiah’s lips, burning away the sinfulness and the guilt that Isaiah was feeling.

It is significant that it was the mouth that was so purified, because short;y after, God is looking for someone to be a spokesperson for him, a prophet, and Isaiah, in gratitude, calls out “Here I am, Lord. send me.” The proper attitude toward forgiveness of sin is some sort of action that shows our thankfulness, our gratitude, our love for God’s mercy.

Similarly, in the second reading today which does pick up this theme, Paul also has a vision. His reaction to this vision is one of humility: “I am the least of the Apostles, unfit to be called an Apostle…” and one of guilt: “…because I persecuted the Church of God.” So, like Isaiah, Paul has a vision of such glory that it causes him to recognize his sinfulness and to feel great guilt over it.  But, also like Isaiah, Paul says that he has been given the grace to know he is forgiven because “Christ died for our sins in accordance with he Scriptures” and Paul also sets out to do something in return. His shout of “Here I am, Lord” causes him to “proclaim” the Good News and to travel for the rest of life, founding churches and teaching the way of Jesus Christ.

In contrast to the vocational calls of Isaiah and Paul, we get a different kind of call in the Gospel reading today. In this account, we have no visions of the glory of God or of heaven itself and the angels, but we do get a miracle. The fishermen, led by Simon Peter, had been fishing all night and were not catching a thing. They decided to give up and come to shore and were cleaning their boats and their nets so they would be ready when they went out again. When Jesus asks the men to put one of the boats back into the water, Simon agrees, presumably because Jesus wanted to preach to those on the shoreline, which he did. But after he finished preaching, he told Simon to go a little deeper and lower his nets again. Simon is deferential but tries to explain to Jesus that there were no fish around that night, that they had tried and had given up. But because Simon Peter respected Jesus as a teacher, he did what Jesus asked him.

The result was miraculous. The nets were breaking with fish, so much so that they took out the second boat and also filled it with fish, so full it was in danger of collapse.

Here is where the three stories converge, however. The result of this miracle for Simon Peter was to make him realize his sinfulness in the presence of such a miracle-worker and teacher. He feels, like Isiah and Paul, both sinful and guilty. Jesus soothes Simon and the others simply by saying “Do not be afraid” for fear is the result of guilt of our sinfulness. After they had been relieved of their guilt, their reaction was the same as Isaiah and Paul, they went out and did something: “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.” Our response when we understand our humbling relationship with God and Christ is to evangelize in the best sense. To spread the good news of our being forgiven of our sins and the knowledge that there is grace enough for us to have eternal life in the kingdom of God.

All of this response to experiencing the divine is summed up by Paul at the end of today’s reading: “By the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of the Apostles – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

What does this mean for us right now?  I don’t know how many of us have actually experienced God in his glory, had a vision of God or have seen something so miraculous that it causes us to really understand how sinful we seem in contrast. Many of us are willing to take this on faith because of what we read today and because of the Catholic tradition. But those among us who have had an experience that caused us to re-evaluate our lives in light of the awesome of God and our Savior, can only react by doing something about it. That many of us do so many things without having experienced such an intense realization is a tribute to you and your faith and it will doubtless have a great reward.

My prayer today then is that we continue our works in furthering the kingdom in justice and mercy and that we will all experience one day the immense satisfaction and relief of knowing that our God loves and forgives and saves.

And this is the Good News that we need to preach each day of our lives!

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”]

Love and Love Derailed

Posted in Christianity, homily, inspirational, pentecost, politics, religion, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on January 30, 2016

1-31-16 Homily 4th week ordinary time year c: Jeremiah 1: 4-19, Ps. 71:1-17, 1Cor 12: 31-13:4, Luke 4: 18-30

I have heard “A prophet is not accepted in his own country” applied to lot of trivial situations (mostly meaning: you won’t believe me just because you know me). But I have never really understood why the people of Nazareth were angry enough to kill Jesus, and why they turned against him so suddenly.

 

Rule # 1 for making sense of Bible passages: read what comes before and after the passage. Luke chapters 1-3 tell us of the birth of Jesus and his Baptism.  Chapter 4, where we read today, immediately takes Jesus from his Baptism to his temptation in the desert, which we will hear more about on the 1st Sunday of Lent.   Then, Jesus returns from the desert, “in the power of the Spirit”, according to Luke, and begins his ministry.  He was a big hit – “news spread of him throughout the whole region”, and “he was praised by all.”  It is strikingly like Pentecost.

 

Jesus was Mr. Hash Tag of the moment. We find him standing in the synagogue in Nazareth, the old home town, and reading from Isaiah.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tiding to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” Then he announces, “Today this is fulfilled in your hearing.”  What is he saying?   What can I compare it to?

 

It was like… having the BIG winning lottery ticket. The people of Nazareth had won!  After waiting hundreds of years, generations, for the Messiah, suddenly the bright lights are turned on, and the big check with all the zeros comes out.  What are the prizes? Good news, liberty, recovery of sight/ insight, freedom – all theirs.   Fear could be driven out by hope; it was a moment of monumental change.

 

But people have a curious way of resisting even the most astoundingly good news. It only took seconds for someone to resist.   “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”  No, no, it isn’t!  It’s the Son of God!  Luke takes great trouble to repeatedly make this clear.  Everything Jesus says leads us to this, and whatever he does, proves it.

 

But in that place and in that time, a son inherited and carried on his father’s work, his place in the community, and his honor.   That role determined a person’s worth.  To step outside of that role was not only shocking, but shameful.  It is hard for us to think this way, but that’s how it was in Nazareth 2,000 years ago. The speaker has suggested that Jesus breached his family’s honor by doing something different than Joseph and by leaving the community.  Of course, Jesus was indeed doing exactly his Father’s work.  The speaker was blind that.  The people’s anger is born in and fueled by this lack of insight and false accusation.

 

They would have said it was love – love for God (as they understood God), love for their religion, and love for their community. Religion can inspire love so powerful that it can be expressed through hateful actions without conscious intention.  As we know, strong religious identify often is aligned with strong hostility toward non-believers.

 

So the test begins: “Jesus, we want you to do here in Nazareth the things that we heard were done elsewhere.”   In the other towns, Jesus had healed people.  They had heard about the miracles; surely he would do that and even greater things here at home.

 

When Jesus heard the demand for miracles, he knew those expectations came from doubt, and pride, not belief. They were in effect asking to be bribed; their acceptance of his teaching would cost him.  He reminds them that Elijah and Elisha were not sent by God to feed or heal the people of Israel, but Gentiles from Syria (of all places, they thought!).  This feels like a terrible slap in the face to the townspeople.  The people of Nazareth had confused love with some sort of payback.  Love is not control but a path to obedience and reverence.

 

No, they haven’t grasped who Jesus is; but they jump at judging him to be insane, or worse, blasphemous. Their rules have been broken, they feel robbed of their right to benefit from Jesus, their pride is hurt, and they manage to blame it all on Jesus and justify their own bad behavior by their religion.  It is a neat package for excusing hatred and the desire to commit murder, both of which are clearly against the religion they claim to follow.  Jesus’ response to the recent temptations in the desert now makes sense.  It takes that level of trust in God to face the people who you think would believe what you say and recognize who you are – but instead you get hate and death threats.

 

It should also begin to sound familiar. This is the type of reasoning that is used today to justify wars and terrorism and discrimination and watching refugee children drown in the Aegean Sea. This is not just a story from a long ago in a place far away.  It happens now, here, in our cities and streets.  As distressing as it is, religion, if allowed, can move people from being “amazed at the gracious words of Jesus” to becoming a murderous mob.

 

Recently, I heard an interview where a researcher had carefully reviewed public opinion polls since the year 2000. There were no significant increases of public sentiment against Muslims after 9-11 or other terrorist attacks.  The increases were all during election years when political candidates used fear to attract voters.  Jesus brought Hope to replace fear, but fear can be used to appeal to our doubts, our pride, and our greed.  But we will never find Hope hiding behind a wall or a fence.  Hope comes from the Spirit, and good news, liberty, love, healing, wisdom, and freedom come from God through the amazing and gracious words of God’s Son.  Luke, our Gospel writer, is begging us to listen to and accept these words of Hope which he so carefully recorded, that we would understand their truth, and live lives not filled with fear, but full of Hope and Love.

Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (Jan. 31)

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

Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C  (Jan. 31)

It would seem from the first reading from Jeremiah today that God has a specific plan for each us, but knowing that we have free will, God knows we will not always fulfill that plan. God wanted Jeremiah to be a prophet. So he gave Jeremiah all the qualities that a prophet would need to stand up to the establishment and be strong enough to get God’s message out there. Now God seems a little stern with Jeremiah on the aspect of free will, though. He says Jeremiah can choose not to do what I say, but there would be repercussions for that. God says, “I will break you before them.” So it does seem sometimes that God stacks the deck in order to get us to achieve his purposes. God’s plan and God’s ways are not our ways.

The Gospel today is like one of those TV shows where they start by saying…Previously on this show… and then recap what happened last week. Similarly today, we start with a recap of last week. Jesus is back in the synagogue in his hometown Nazareth, and after reading the Scriptures, he shakes up everyone by saying “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Doubtless the people in the Temple reading the prophets were not used to someone telling them that they were the fulfillment of a Scriptural prophecy, but Jesus did! If you had been one of the listeners, would you have believed Jesus or would you have felt that this arrogant young man had ambitions to be God-like or had a Prophet-complex. I don’t doubt we might have reacted in the same way as the listeners had we been there.

After all, he watched Jesus growing up and there didn’t seem to be anything particularly special about him. He was just Joseph’s son from Nazareth. Despite this fact, they had been amazed at the words of Jesus when he expounded on the Scriptures. What really made them angry, however, was the implication of his examples that not just the Hebrews were going to be saved. The two examples that Jesus quotes to them show that both involves prophets who went outside of their own people to Gentiles and worked miracles with them. This angered them so much that they wanted to put Jesus to death right there, but miraculously Jesus just walks through and disappears so they were unable to hurl him from the cliff.

I am reminded today of all the people who feel that their religion is the only true religion and they have been willing to kill for that reason. We saw it here in Jesus’ time, and we have seen it in our own Catholic history, and we see it today with the Christian and Muslim extremists.

The only antidote to this comes in the second reading today. I am not sure we get the full impact of this reading anymore because we have relegated it to weddings in the last many years.  But it is really not about weddings at all. It is about how we are to treat people in our daily lives. Unless we learn to love, there will be no peace in the world. And in this magnificently written section of Corinthians, we have Paul at his most poetic showing us all that love entails. It is a compendium of other virtues: patience, kindness, acceptance, joy in the success of others, humility, politeness, fearlessness, and truthfulness. The love that Paul is talking about springs from all these other virtues and is also the cause of the other virtues – a cyclical movement of care for others.

For Paul, love is the base of Christianity, and is the measure of its success. It is the greatest of all the virtues; it is the virtue that most makes us human. If we want to change the world we live in today, we need to find ways to make love visible in the world. We can say we have love, but it is in the doing of all those other things that makes love a reality. If we are patient with the cashier at the grocery store, if we are polite to the beggar asking for money, if we are kind to the mother whose children are acting out in the restaurant, if we are joyful when our neighbor across the street wins a lottery, if we are fearless in introducing ourselves to the Syrians who just moved in down the street, if we are honest with our spouses about expressing our needs. These are all simple signs of love in action.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” Paul is trying to say that children are not yet very loving, but are more concerned with their own needs and desires. But when we grow up, [we] “put an end to childish ways. To not love our neighbor through loving action is a childish trait. We need to grow up, says Paul, and see the face of God in others, dimly perhaps, but there. If we can do that and treat everyone as we would treat our God, we ourselves can be fulfilled as well.

Not easy, but our society’s growth will depend on it. And this is the Good News of Scripture today.

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 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (Jan. 24)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on January 17, 2016

Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C  (Jan. 24)

After a number of weeks of using the Gospel of Luke that is highlighted this year, today we actually begin at the beginning. The gospel today is the first chapter of Luke’s gospel and includes Luke’s justification for writing his version. He is aware that there are already other Gospels. He might well have know of Matthew and Mark’s versions, but Luke was a Gentile, brought up in Greek ways of doing things, and he felt that his Gospel should reflect the kind of order, historical accuracy, and proofs of its veracity. The book is addressed to Theophilus, and we don’t know whether Theophilus is a real Greek person who had been instructed in the faith, but had questions about the faith, or whether it is a term for many in Luke’s community because the word itself means “lover of God.” A third possibility I have heard given is that Theophilus is the lawyer that was defending Luke during his trial in Rome and he was giving him the background about Jesus that he had asked for.

In any case, as interesting as all the speculation is about who Theophilus was, we also get the modus operandi of Luke spelled out for us here. Luke wasn’t his account to be orderly, starting with the beginning and following the story through to its aftermath which would be the Acts of the Apostles. Many feel that these two books were written originally as one. He also says that what he is going to relate has been passed down by real eye-witnesses. These are the stories they told and that they remembered. He calls them “servants of the word” because they were entrusted to pass things down as they observed them and heard them.

Lastly, Luke says that he wanted everyone to know the truth about Jesus of Nazareth and so his orderly account would attempt to tell the truth and give proof of it.

After this short introduction, we then jump in our reading today to the fourth chapter. Having just been through our Christmas season, we read most of the first three chapters concerning the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, and Jesus baptism by John and his temptations in the desert.  The story picks up now at this point.

We saw how the Spirit came on Jesus at his baptism, and now Jesus begins his public life. It was traditional for rabbis to begin their ministries at the age of 30, just as in the Catholic church, most priests were not ordained until they were 30 or 31, following many years of study. So, as Jesus began to preach, he must have had a charisma about him because we are told that word began to spread about Galilee where he was preaching. We learn that he began by going to local synagogues which in Jesus time were places of study of Scripture where there would be informal praying, Scripture reading, and commentary. Luke wants everyone to know that Jesus was a good Jew, who held the Sabbath sacred, read the Scriptures and actively participated in his faith by reading and commenting on Scriptures.

Because he was preaching throughout Galilee the time came for Jesus to return to his hometown of Nazareth where he went to the synagogue in that town and read a piece of Scripture. Luke changes the order of Matthew and Mark here who place this story much later in Jesus career. The reason that Luke places this story of Jesus teaching in the Nazareth synagogue here is because it gives the answer to who Jesus is, what his ministry will be about and what response he will get.

The scroll handed him was from Isaiah the prophet. What this passage does is give Jesus what businesses would call their mission statement. What Jesus reads from Isaiah is what we call a servant song which describes the role of a messiah. He is to usher in a new age beginning as Jesus says, “Today”. All of the longings of the poor, the oppressed and the imprisoned will be satisfied and there will be liberty and a jubilee established. The jubilee for Jews came every seven years and was a time when debts were forgiven. Our reading ends today without a reaction from the crowd. All we hear is Jesus statement that “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke lets everyone know this early in his account, exactly who Jesus is – the Messiah, and what he will be doing and bringing about.

The first reading today is about the priest Ezra, who with the governor Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. Ezra wanted to stress the importance of Scripture to the Hebrew people again.  He gathered them all in what might have been the first synagogue and the priests read and commented on the Law, the first five books of Scripture, explaining it so that all understood it. When they heard the reading of the five books and understood their covenant with God and what God had done for them, the people wept. But Ezra told them not to weep, but to celebrate this knowledge and to share their celebrations with those who had nothing.

The relationship between these two readings is simply that both Ezra and Jesus were trying to explain to the people that the Law and the Prophets were something beautiful and that they should celebrate the fact that God was with them and loved them. The banquet that Ezra sent them to and the jubilee that Christ announced were the rewards for the faithfulness to God.

The second reading today could be a whole homily in itself, but I just want to comment briefly on it. It has no relationship to the other readings today, but is a continuation of the idea of the mystical body of Christ in which all the parts work together as one, and if one part is hurt, the other parts feel it. It is this unity of all us in the Spirit, just as Jesus reads about in Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” It is the Spirit that unites, that makes us all one, that allows us to have separate gifts and talents that work to the good of everyone, and that allow us to see everyone as equal in the eyes of God.

This week we need to remind ourselves of this Spirit in all of us that unites us, find ways we can reach out to others, for their pain should be our pain as well. It is only in sharing the pain, helping the hurt, that we can realize that love of neighbor is simply an extension of loving ourselves. May God give us this vision and help us, too, to fulfill the Scripture, having Jesus’ mission and way as our mission and way as well.

And this is the Good News I offer you this 3rd Sunday. May God bless you.

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 January 10, 2016 Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on January 10, 2016

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C (January 17)

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

Homily for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C (January 17)

Until recently, when a woman married she took the name of her husband. The first reading today is all about the changing of names. In Hebrew society, and throughout the Bible, when someone did something remarkable, there would be a name change. Abram becomes Abraham. In the New Testament Peter becomes Cephas and Saul becomes Paul. Isaiah is prophesying still after 62 chapters of prophecy. His prophecy is coming to a close, but he says he will not stop prophesying, will not keep silent or be at rest until Israel is vindicated in the eyes of God and the world. He predicts a time when Israel will be saved in the sight of all the nations, and in this event, it will be given a new name by God. Now, he says people are calling us by the names of “Forsaken” by God and “Desolate”, but soon Israel will be called “My Delight is in Her” and “Married”. He predicts that God will marry Israel and rejoice over his bride. And the bride’s name will be changed.

Whether or not that is where the tradition of changing a bride’s name comes from, what is being predicted here is that God will not forsake his chosen people, but will save them, forgive them, vindicate them, marry them, and rejoice over them. So this is again a Messianic prophecy and the promise of a new world.

The Gospel is about a marriage as well. We leave the Gospel of Luke for a week and jump to Jesus’ very first miracle as described in the Gospel of John which takes place at a wedding feast in Cana. There is a change of name in this story as well, and also, a physical transformation as water becomes wine.

There are many interesting things in this first miracle of Jesus as described by John. It is not a miracle as in the Synoptic Gospels which involves a cure of some sort or a raising from the dead. It seems almost insignificant and out of place, and perhaps that is why Jesus seems to have a bit of trouble in doing it.  He submits to the request of his mother either simply because she asks him, and he is obedient to her, or because he is aware of the embarrassment of the bride and groom. But it is a different kind of miracle than we have seen. And no-one wants to be embarrassed on a wedding day.

Just as a passing note, today, January 17th, would have been the 74th anniversary of my parent’s marriage. As it was they made it to 71 years. I have always thought that my father would have liked the expression”My delight is in her,” that we hear the bride called in Isaiah since their marriage was a really good one.

In any case, this was the first miracle, which John calls a “sign” causing belief in the disciples who were with him. I do find it rather comical that the water Jesus turned into the superior wine was from the jars they used to wash people’s feet. I wonder if there was any meaning in that as well.

If we pause to look at St. Paul’s epistle today, we see that it doesn’t thematically link up with the other two readings, nor does it usually, but I would suggest that in the marriage of God and his people, it is God who activates the marriage – the male counterpart. And it is the Spirit that is the activator. So Paul is able to explain to us that God activates in various ways in various people. We don’t all get the same gifts. That would be kind of boring or redundant. No, some gain knowledge, some become healers, some work miracles, some prophecy, some gain discernment, some speak in tongues and some are able to interpret tongues. And it is God who chooses what talents, what activities are activated in each of us and what we will be good at, perhaps even enhancing our natural God-given abilities.

So what can we concentrate on this week from the endings that we can integrate into our own lives? First of all, we need to take a deep breath that Christmas is over, and maybe look back at the good moments we had during that period, putting anything negative aside. We need to start discerning our own special abilities and what it is that we can give back to the church community. Many of us in the parish do many things. Some do more than others, but I would say we have a pretty active parish. The caring that I see for each other in this parish is also enormous and we have indeed become a family. We need to rejoice in that – treating every Eucharist as a wedding feast where we come together and enjoy each other more and more. Try to ask yourself what it is that can allow you to participate more fully in this community and see if you can find time to fit it in. The rewards for this are not just heavenly rewards but like the drinking of wine – it makes you feel “real good” as well!

Let us hope that within this parish we can truly be married to God and allow God to shine forth through our interests, talents, and gifts.

And this is the blessing I ask of You and the Good News I impart on this beginning day of the Church’s “ordinary” or the time of non-special feasts. 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 January 10, 2016 Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Faith, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on January 7, 2016

the_three_wise_men_illustrationbeloved sonThe feasts of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus in the Eastern churches were always seen as the beginning or the manifestation of Jesus as he began his Ministry as an adult. Luke in his gospel, uses Jesus’ baptism as an end point for the old law and the beginning of a new age with the emergence of Jesus and the entrance of the Holy Spirit. As we know, the emergence of the eastern churches along with the western churches gave us different views and approaches to Christ’s message. While his messagewas meant for all to receive, the Gentile Christians and the Jews who became Christians, looked at Jesus message in slightly different ways. Culture and previous beliefs certainly entered into the differences and disputes which began soon after Jesus left his disciples. Early on, the Apostles meeting and the governing body of the church, had to discern and realize that the new law of Jesus was not tied to the old law of Moses but actually succeeded it. 2 adventChrist was a Jew yes, but his message was all encompassing for all of humanity without prejudice to where they were from or to who they were. Humanity was God’s creation gifted with God’s son to bring all things to his Father. How we think, how we pray, how we put ourselves in God’s presence is at times varied and different, yet what we believe and share in faith is the same except when we cut off God’s love and go beyond our limits to interpret and bring God’s word to others. If we look back in history, how often has division resulted because Jesus’ simple message was obscured by the intentions of grandeur or the misunderstanding of what love our neighbor means. Christ built a church but a church was people and not a building. Over the centuries, beliers are still around and still answering his call to love. What today’s feast recalls is our beginning in Christ’s baptism and our own baptism and the coming of the spirit to each of us.

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