July 5, 2015 Homily today At Holy Trinity Parish for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on July 5, 2015

Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on July 4, 2015

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 

We continue today with readings that deal with Prophets or Apostles.If you remember from last week, prophets were inspired by the Spirit to speak God’s words. We also learned that it didn’t matter who you were or how much knowledge a person had, if God wanted you to prophesy, you did.

We see that again in todays reading, not from Ezekiel as last week, but from the prophet Amos who was surprised to get a calling from God, told to him by the priest Amaziah. He says that he isn’t a prophet or isn’t the son of a prophet. Why would the king think that he could go and earn his living prophesying. He was just a simple herdsmen and horticulturalist. What was he even thinking?

Again God works in ways that confound us. Amos must have had something that God saw because he indeed call him to be a prophet, and to make his living at it.

We need to be open to God. The Psalm today expresses it well when it says “Let me hear what the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people.” We have to learn to listen to God – God could be calling any one of us, even if we think we are not worthy, not knowledgeable enough, not brave enough. God’s Spirit will come to us and work through us. We simply have to let it happen and be open to it.

As we move into the New Testament in our readings we hear Paul preaching some really good news to us of redemption and forgiveness of sin, and Paul seems to think that we have all become Prophets because the Spirit is in us, and the grace of God has been given to us. “With all wisdom and insight,” he says, “God has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ.” In order for this to happen, he says, we have been “marked with he seal of the promised Holy Spirit.”  We saw last week that that was the first thing that happens to a Prophet – God’s Spirit enters one. So in that sense we are all prophets, and that is why in the Gospel today we see Jesus sending out his disciples to continue his work of healing and preaching of repentance.

It is interested that the new prophets are sent out not alone, but two by two. Unlike Amos, who was paid for his prophesying, the Apostles are to ask nothing in return, and they are to go out with nothing. They will be taken care of in welcoming homes – they will not starve. It is true that in this period there was a great deal of generosity toward visitors – there were no motels – so the traveller was at the mercy of the good will of others. And visitors were treated with care, often more than family.

But Jesus also says that if they don’t listen to your words of repentance, simply leave the house and shake the dust off their feet and move on.

The idea of sending the Apostles two by two intrigues me. We have echoes of Noah’s ark, and even of the Genesis statement – it is not good for a man to be alone.” Certainly the company on the long journey would be good, might also help keep them safer on the road. Probably though, the idea was that two people could witness the truth for each other, showing that they agree on the doctrine of repentance. Two saying and believing the same thing makes a better case perhaps. They were more reliable witnesses to what Jesus had said and done.Many Protestant groups take this literally and send out their members two by two even today.

Finally, Jesus gave the gift of exorcism to the Apostles.  What this indicates is that first and foremost they were fighting Satan, and so they were able to cast out many demons. It isn’t popular for us today except in horror movies to believe in exorcism, but the church right from the beginning of Christianity has always seen it as a fight against Satan in the same way that Christ was tempted by the devil, though he was able to win the fight by himself. We also see here an early example of the Sacrament of the Sick when the Apostles anointed someone with oil and cured them of disease. When most of us were younger this sacrament had morphed into a sacrament for those who were dying, and was even called Extreme Unction – given only in extreme cases. This was never its true use, however, and Vatican II brought back the idea that anointing is for any sick person. So if I come and anoint you, don’t have a heart attack because you think you are about to die!

What I would like you to leave with today, however, is the idea that you are a prophet, and you need to listen to what God is calling you to do or say. We don’t listen enough – we are always thinking of replies to a person today. Just listen. You might be surprised what you hear, and you might even be as terrified as some of the prophets to find out just what God is calling you to. Remember, though, as Paul said last week: ”his grace is enough!” and if God calls you, he will help through whatever it is God asks you to do.

And that is the Good News of our prophetic vocation today. God bless.

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 for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Prophets and the Progression of Mark

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit by Rev. Martha on July 4, 2015

14th Sunday Ordinary time, 7-5-15, Ez 2: 2-5, Ps 123, 2 Cor 12: 7-10, Mark 6: 1-6

Prophets and the Progression of Mark 

I hear two messages in today’s readings. The first message is about prophets and the demands of being a prophet.   Last December, Pope Francis offered a great working definition of a prophet: “A prophet is someone who listens to the words of God, who reads the spirit of the times, and who knows how to move forward toward the future.” He went on add a real zinger, “All those who are baptized are prophets…let us not tire of moving forward.” That’s us! We’d better look at this more closely.  

First, a prophet must listen to God. Next a prophet reads the spirit of the times, and finally a prophet moves toward the future. Just three easy steps! Ok! So, how do we listen to God? This isn’t news to us: we listen to God in the scriptures; we listen when we pray and we meditate; we listen when we study the teachings of faithful Christians; we listen when trusted friends and advisors talk with us. Naturally, this takes dedication. Listening to God is not just an occasional thought, but daily scheduled time of focused attention.  

The spirit of the times is found by stepping back from that one-sided, shallow political rhetoric & by disengaging from the sound bites used by those seeking to sell products or ideas. Reading the spirit of the times requires a sense of history, discernment, and attending to the undercurrents of our society. We pay attention to the bold events and the subtle ones, too. 

Moving forward toward the future takes willingness to change and re-create our life-styles, taking on new information, willingness to admit errors. It takes ending the pretense that we’re in control. We must let go of pre-conceived limits and barriers to make room for thoughts and ideas beyond our experience.   

Hmm, This is sounding very idealistic, isn’t it? It sounds like the diet I never go on or the fitness program I never get beyond day 2 with. Is it possible that I may be failing to listen, not reading the times, and resisting moving forward? Even worse than that, am I like the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day who God described as “rebellious, hard of face and obstinate of heart.” Later in that passage from Ezekiel, God told the prophet he would find the people to be like scorpions, meaning Ezekiel would face bitter and painful opposition. If you want some other, more contemporary names, think about how Dietrick Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King and Archbishop Oscar Romero were treated as prophets.  

Of course, the people of Jesus’ time knew about prophets. The saying, “ A prophet is not without honor except … in his own house” was common in both Jewish and Greek literature even then. Could we write this off this bad trip back to Nazareth in our Gospel to a little jealousy? Why should our neighbor be given a gift of healing or wisdom or teaching? Who does he think he is? But, they are astonished at his teaching. His wisdom and power for mighty deeds are quickly acknowledged. Then we find the real problem. If Jesus is simply a carpenter, just a guy from the neighborhood, and his divine authority is denied, where, then, does the teaching and wisdom and power come from?  

If the people of Nazareth do not believe this supernatural power comes from God, then is it from evil? Are “offended” because they assume he brought something deceptive or dark to them? Are they that blind? Jesus was amazed at their lack of belief. They were just like Ezekiel’s people, stubborn, refusing the evidence standing in front of them of the power and presence of God. That is why Jesus could not perform any mighty deeds there. The people of Nazareth rejected the blessings of God because they would not listen, they refused to read the spirit of the times, and they would not move a single inch into the future, as if their feet were in cement. It is an appalling and painfully sad story of eternal love distorted and distained. It is a warning to those who will not listen or read or move. It is in stark contrast to Jesus telling the woman in last week’s reading, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace, and be cured of your affliction.” She had listened, read, and moved into the future.   

The second message in today’s readings is the continuing message of the Gospel of Mark. Sometimes Mark seems like just a collection of parables, healings, teachings, miracles of Jesus, all one after the other. But that is not the case.   

Earlier in Chapter 3 of Mark (vs 6), the Pharisees have discussed killing Jesus for healing a man in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. They closed their minds to God, and told themselves that they, not God, were in control.   In vs 21 of the same chapter, his relatives are quoted as saying, “He is out of his mind,” speaking of Jesus as if he were devil-possessed. In the very next verse, the scribes who had come from Jerusalem say, “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” That is shockingly hard thing to say. The scribes had blasphemed against the Holy Sprit, the spirit of God working in Jesus. Jesus responds, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”   

This is no flippant theological discussion, but rather a shadowing of what is to come. Mark is building for that day in Jerusalem when the leaders and people join together and call out, “Crucify Him!” Mark not only asks “Who do you say that Jesus is?” but he also asks if we can stand in faith as prophets when others will not.   

When we proclaim ourselves as Christians, we proclaim ourselves as prophets of Almighty God. We must be busy listening to God, reading the spirit of the times, and moving forward into the future.




July 5, 2015 Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on July 1, 2015

prophet-without-honorIn today’s readings, we see two prophets, Ezechiel and Jesus. We know the Spirit of God entered and was in both of them. Like all the prophets, they led a life of speaking to the people, trying to help them make a way to God. Rejection was not uncommon to any of the prophets, and today’s gospel shows that even when Jesus was drawing crowds and was being acclaimed as a teacher and healer, ezekielHis own town, his extended family and friends with whom he grew up rejected and questioned his legitimacy because of their familiarity with him. He was after all the carpenter’s son, not some priest or great scholar or great learned rabbi. Such rejection and lack of faith was actually self-fulfilling for the Nazarenes who heard of the miracles and healings of Jesus, but could not see or experience them because there lack of acceptance and faith and close mindedness meant that there would be just a few healings for only the few who believed.
Throughout history, the spirit of God never abandoned humanity and managed to keep some believers faithful to God even when at times it seemed like only a remnant of the earth’s inhabitants. Yet, his spirit is present and touches the people of the world even today in different ways. That spirit is most commonly seen in his church, but we must realize his church is not a building, it is not an institution, but is a living body. That body is Christ himself and each of us has been baptised into that body. His spirit is in the church and carpenterin each one of us. Christ’s love is what binds the church together and that love extends out to all of humankind, witnessing and calling for a way that leads all to be one and with God as our ultimate goal. Looking back over hundreds of years, if only to the time of Christ, we must say that as witnesses and workers possessed by the spirit of God, humanity has been deficient in bring God’s all embracing love to people everywhere. Like the people of Nazareth, we can miss the obvious and fail to see love as more expedient than all the self-fulfilling acts that so divide the countries and peoples of the world. Yet despite all the checkered history of humanity, the spirit still comes and is among us and carries on in the body of Christ. Perhaps the one prophetic voice like from a prophet in ancient times doesn’t step forward today, yet the spirit speaks in many voices and through many people in many places. God is love, and the church invites and shares that love and welcomes all who work for a common way to God together. If someone experinces God’s love that person can come to know God and God’s spirit can come to him. God excludes no one from his love, nor refuses forgiveness to anyone who needs it. Bad things happen when we turn from love, fail to reach out to God and one another.

So today, let us pray that pettiness and hate and misunderstanding and any other thing that hinders our loving God and those around us be removed and we never forget that love never fails.

Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (July 5 )

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on June 28, 2015

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (July 5 )

Today’s reading from Ezekiel starts off with a kind of mission statement for all prophets. We know about prophets from the Bible, and we sometimes call people today prophets who speak with an uncanny ability to put things into a new perspective and open our minds to a new way of looking at life. Some people also call fortune-tellers prophets because they predict the future. But the Hebrew prophets simply are humans inspired by God to give messages – both good and bad – to God’s people. We know it is inspiration because Ezekiel explains it this way: “A spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard one speaking to me.”

Prophets then are a kind of receptacle for the Holy Spirit. They are not preaching ideas that their own minds have generated but are speaking things that come directly from God. These messages are not intellectually reasoned out, nor do they have a hidden agenda of their own.

The second thing we learn is that prophets are sent. They aren’t just given a message and told to keep quiet about it. They are sent to a certain group and they are told what they have to say to that certain group. This often isn’t easy as we saw before with Jonah who thought God must have been nuts to send him to Nineveh – to non-believers – to foreign conquerors – and preach to them. However, God says to Ezekiel it shouldn’t matter to him whether the people listen or not. It is enough that have been warned. They need to know that God is still around and that he is speaking to them through someone. That someone is called a prophet.

Our opening hymn today expresses this very well. God has chosen me, says the prophet: to bring good news and new sight. That is what a prophet does.

In the Gospel today Jesus refers to himself as a Prophet and this may surprise us a bit, but if you think about it, he is really just the ultimate prophet. Instead of God telling a mortal man to go and give a message to the people, God is coming himself in the form of a man, and he too gives messages which are both good and bad news. Jesus is preaching in his home town but he knew that it would be for naught. But it didn’t stop him – he began to teach them in the synagogue anyway. He knew they wouldn’t listen because they had preconceived ideas about who he was. They had seen him grow up with them, knew his simple background, knew who his parents were and couldn’t see how he could be this great thing. Jesus comments that it seems to be a cliche that people who prophesy have no honor or respect in their home towns. People can’t get beyond the outward appearances and see that God can talk through anyone – even a carpenter’s son. A much talked about verse that says “Jesus could do no deed of power there”, makes it sound like Jesus might not be an all powerful God, but the power of Jesus as a human being seemed to be fueled by belief. We saw this last week with the woman with the hemorrhages and Jairus. It was their belief, their faith in Jesus that was the catalyst for the cure. In Nazareth there was little belief. In fact we are told that “Jesus was amazed at their unbelief”. We might remember for ourselves then, that the more faith we have in Jesus, the easier it will be for miracles to happen. We should try to do things that would strengthen our belief system.

St. Paul adds something else to the concept of Christian prophecy. Christians have been given revelations, and they are told to go to the world and preach the Good News. Paul says he was elated with this news but perhaps began to think of himself as better than others because he had been given the gift of many revelations or prophecies. He was feeling proud of the fact, and so he says, God had to take him down a peg. Paul himself had nothing to do with these graces – it was God’s gift. So Paul should not get a swollen head about it – he had nothing to do with it. He needed only go and preach the faith to others so that they too could enjoy God’s graces and gifts. So Paul says he was given some sort of physical suffering or temptation to deal with. He is very vague – commentators have been trying to guess for years what it could be. Whatever it was, it bad enough that he cried out to Jesus about it for help. The answer he got back was simply: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

That idea that suffering, that taking up a cross, that being tempted, was part of the the following of Jesus is in all the Gospels and certainly in Paul. We are human: we are going to get sick, we are going to be tempted, we are going to feel depressed at times. But we can use those weakness, Jesus says, to understand others, to share in the suffering of Christ, and to empathize. He promises that it will never be too much, because he will always give you the grace to endure if you believe in him. There’s that belief again. And another reason why we need to develop that deep faith and trust and belief in the Lord.

I ask you today to practice doing this a little every day. It can be as simple as offering up some little or big pain or sickness, seeing others who suffer more than you do, realizing the immense gift of grace that is available to us, and looking forward to becoming stronger through our weakness, as Paul did.

This is Good News. This is the Spirit’s message to us today. This is why we are all prophets and God can speak through us. Let God do it!

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 for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

June 28th, 2015 Holy Trinity Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on June 28, 2015

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Blood, Shame, and the Healing Hand of God- 13th Sunday

Posted in christian, homily, inspirational, scripture by Rev. Martha on June 26, 2015

13th Sunday Ordinary time year B Wisdom 1: 13-24, 2: 23-24/ Ps 30: 2-13, 2 Corinthians 8: 7-15, Mark 5: 21-43

Blood, Shame and the Healing Hand of God 

Sometimes Mark’s Gospel goes from simple to complex in a sentence or two. Just when you thought you understood, it gets confusing. So let’s look at these two healings in Mark, and see what we find. 

On one hand we have a young girl, on the other, a grown woman. The girl’s father comes on her behalf; the girl never speaks.   The woman has no one to speak for her (remember, women had no business speaking in public). The girl’s father is bold and interrupts Jesus’ teaching. The woman quietly sneaks up, hoping only to touch his clothing and slip silently away. The father is synagogue ruler; people step aside to allow him to pass.   The woman was impoverished by the cost of medical treatment, showing the severity of her illness and impossibility of a cure. This woman was not supposed to be in the crowd. If people knew her condition, they would call out that she was unclean and she would be banished in shame from the gathering. The crowd would feel sympathy for the child, while the woman would disgust them. The woman had been ashamed and isolated for 12 long years, but Jesus addresses her warmly as “Daughter.” The girl was 12 years old, young and innocent, not quite yet a woman.   

But what grabs you about this girl and this woman is that for both there is certain sureness and a deep-seated belief that Jesus will cure them. The father says, “Lay your hands on my daughter and she will live”. The woman thinks, “If I only touch his clothes, I will be made well”. Jesus announces the healing of the woman in front of the crowd, curing her shame as well as her illness. He orders the girl’s family not to tell anyone. This is typical of Mark’s Gospel, ever so slowly raising the curtain on the mystery of Who Jesus Is.  

It is a rich and compelling healing story. It is amazing from every direction. I can imagine no other scenario where priests and preachers through the ages would even remotely consider hinting at the shame of “female problems” in a homily. What other 1st century Jewish man would be so attentive to a poor, sick, bleeding, woman who broke the rules, who inconvenienced and delayed him on his way to a dying child. By her mere touch, she made him unclean. By her mere presence, she risked shaming him too. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” It is a blessing, it is healing, but most of all, it is praise and even admiration for her actions and her daring, presumptuous faith. Notice that he treated this woman with respect and care equal to the respect and care he poured out on the religious leader and his daughter. Here is true equality. Here is the level of equality that St. Paul is trying to teach in our 2nd reading. 

We’ve read the parables of the seeds, then the calming of the storm, then the healings of the daughters. Mark constantly asks, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” The purpose of his Gospel is to make you certain that Jesus is the Son of God. You come to know that truth from straightforward stories with emphasis on what Jesus did.   

This Biblical Jesus was strong, yet sensitive; he acted decisively. He was in control of himself and the situation like no one else, whether it was a storm at sea, a hungry crowd, or a dying child. He did not follow the rules of religion or “polite” society. He never said, “Later, I’m busy”. We find Jesus has authority, not human, but divine authority.  

Why does Mark include this woman’s story in his Gospel? Your missal offers the option of not reading it. I’m sure there are people who’d really rather not come to church to hear about a bleeding woman. Perhaps Mark treasured this story for the way it portrays Jesus, and for the healing Jesus offers for the things that shame us.   

The writers of Genesis and Job and Wisdom struggle with death. But I think the greater struggle we face is shame, whether it’s shame from our mistakes and failures, or shame forced on us. We trusted the wrong person and did things we sorely regret. We made bad decisions that had terrible impacts on others. We abandoned a friend, we broke a promise; we used someone thoughtlessly. We covered up a lie or let someone else take the blame. We watched someone be cruel and didn’t do anything to stop it. Having shame isn’t just needing forgiveness. Having shame means to be deeply embarrassed and having a wound festering in your memory which just won’t heal. Only God can heal shame, and God eagerly responds to the smallest touch from us. God attends to each of our needs in the most unexpected and individual and lavish ways. Our worst moments can be transformed into astounding blessings for ourselves and others. My husband was cruel and abusive. I was deeply ashamed of being in that situation. But now I thank God for the love and understanding I can offer bruised and battered women who come to this little old gray-haired priest.   

Jesus stopped in mid crisis to publicly heal and release an unnamed woman from the shame. At that moment, she was the most worthy of all God’s children. He refused to turn away when confronted with a life in the balance. While we might have seen worthy child vs unworthy woman, Jesus knew otherwise. A daughter or son of any age can reach out to our God-with-us, and be given healing and love.

Deacon Harry in an AARP Feature

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 24, 2015

Deacon Harry Hartigan is a CACINA deacon who is featured in an article published by the American Association of Retired Persons.

June 28, 2015 Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on June 23, 2015

jairusToday we meet Jairus, a Jewish official in the synagogue and a distraught father whose daughter was dieing. Jesus gave in to his plea for help. As he was going with Jairus, another woman in the crowd who washealingawomanwithinternalbleeding222 sick tentatively approached Jesus, being unclean because of her illness and afraid to stand out, she simply reached out to touch his cloak. Immediately she was healed, but Jesus knew and asked “who touched my clothes?” Jesus told the woman her faith has saved her. As they spoke others came and told Jairus his daughter was dead. Jesus told him to have faith. That word Faith so used and at times so hard to understand. Through the centuries, the philosophers and thinkers have told us that spiritually we have three faculties, the head, the heart, and the gut. In our head we think, in our heart we feel, but in our gut we know , know in a way beyond thought and feeling. As much as we can think and learn and be led on a path to believe, thought alone is not going to give us faith. Heart will not give us faith simply because we feel one way or another. These two can bring us to the edge or brink of faith, but the final step the leap, the moment of I believe, I know, is from the gut. Deep within the recesses of our being, our gut knows and tells us what is right. Deep down we know that this is where we are to be where our faith, our belief needs to be. We all know deep within us a voice tells us yes and no. Sometimes we dress it up and call it conscience, but yes our gut tells us yes or no.jesus-raises-jairus-daughter
In life and in our faith, our gut tells us when we see or hear right thinking or right feelings and when thought and feeling are just wrong. The Woman today and Jairus both rejected the norm of their time which said Jesus was an outsider because their gut told them he was special, a healer, a man of God. They followed their gut and help and comfort in their need and found a new faith in Jesus. All of us as we grow and get older realize how easy it is to just go along, yet as life progresses we learn that choice and moving on and raising a family requires many gut reactions along the way. Jesus blesses those who choose and reach out to him. His love embraces our faith and love, and it is always there even if we occasionally fail. Remember the woman today who was healed who simply reached out and touched his cloak.

June 21, 2015 Homily at Holy Trinity Parish for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, Christianity, homily, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on June 21, 2015


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