Homily January 5, 2014 Epiphany of the Lord

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on December 31, 2013


The feast of Epiphany is one that has come to the Western Christian church after originating in the Eastern Christian churches which grew from gentile or non-Jewish origins. The feast was seen as the manifestation of the humanity of the Son of God and was very much tied into the baptism of Jesus. The story of the magi and the word of God from the cloud was seen as the beginning of salvation leading to the crucifixion and resurrection. The Baptism of Jesus will be celebrated next week, the octave of the Epiphany. Christians in the eastern tradition still celebrate the Epiphany as the primary feast of the presentation of the Christ child even though they also have Christmas in their calendar. The feast does show that non-Jewish Christians were not so much concerned with the Davidic lineage and Jewish scriptures as they were aware that God became man for all humanity so that all were called to a life with God. Over the centuries the Eastern and Western traditions blended together but also had and still have their differences. The various councils of the church strove to resolve the many issues over the centuries. However, the key message of Emmanuel, God with us, is still present I both east and west and Jesus’ core message of love and forgiveness remains regardless of how much we try to make what is simple complex.

We are all called to pay homage and follow this child, to find God’s manifestation as the magi did. While we might not have a star to guide us, there are countless numbers of people around us to bring Christ to us. Whether we encounter believers or reach out to help, to aid, to feed the hungry, we do it to him for he is present there. He is in the least of us, for did he not say “What you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me?” Surely, Christ has died and risen and gone to his Father, yet still he remains among us in his Spirit and manifests himself in all kinds of ways even today. In the feast today we are reminded that adoration-of-magiChrist is here and we carry on his work and spread his work. It would seem we are more active at Christmas, but it is as good a time as any to resolve to carry on the good we have done and maybe do more throughout the year. The homeless and hungry are still with us. How selfless are we called to be? Do we miss what is around us in terms of those in need? It is easy to dismiss the needy person and pass them by because we are in a hurry or distracted. Remember, it is the giving that is important. Christ put no strings on anyone but to believe and do better. What more could we ask? We are not judges or keepers of morality. We should give as Christ did remembering people must make their own choices, we can only point the way and watch and wait. In giving of our selves, our goods and our time, we can be thankful that we have brought Christ to another.

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 31, 2013


Gospel reading of the day:

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, Trinity Balkansc1800saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Here at the start of John’s gospel, there are some extraordinary claims made about who Jesus is. These claims relate closely to an experience of him by people who saw him, heard him, touched him, knew him. Add to this testimony the willingness of many of those who saw, heard, touched, and knew him to go to their deaths for what they had seen and what they had heard, claims such as those which we have in the Prologue are powerful indeed. Scholars have conjectured that the Christological hymn in Philippians which confesses to the glory of God that Jesus Christ is Lord was being sung in Jerusalem within five years of the crucifixion. There is evidence that a substantial Christian community existed in Rome only 14 years after the resurrection. We close another year fully conscious that God has blessed us but also aware that human nature always admits of failure. We trust God to wipe away every tear and make all things new again. Joy to each of you in the new year 2014. May we all love the Word, the man Jesus, who is our divine Lord, still more dearly next year on this day than we today at the end of year. That journey into the love of Jesus begins right here, right now. As it was when we started 2013, so it is now, and will be to the end: Praised be Jesus Christ!

Saint of the day: Born in 1929 in Tshilombe, Kasai-Occidental in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Honoré Mudiangombe, a priest of the ‘Merode mission in South Kasai, was killed on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1961, together with the driver of the truck in which he was traveling by soldiers of the national army. Fr. Mudiangombe had been acting as protector for a number of ‘Merode families who were ‘migrating northward to the provincial capital of Luluabourg, and had traveled with them in a hired truck as far as the South Kasai frontier. On the return trip to ‘Merode, the driver of the truck, who was also the owner, picked up some passengers. On reaching the bridge over the River Lubi, Congolese national army troops stopped the truck and claimed that Fr. Mudiangombe was escorting a group of Jeunesses–organized young armed bandits. When the passengers panicked and fled, the soldiers blamed the driver and killed him on the spot, only leaving enough time for the priest to give him absolution. Fr. Mudiangombe was taken hostage and pushed into the truck, which the soldiers then drove towards the bridge, where they were attacked by some real Jeunesses. The soldiers, assuming the priest was responsible, killed him without further inquiry and threw his body into the river.

Spiritual reading: This is the ending. Now not day only shall be beloved, but night too shall be beautiful and blessed and all its fear pass away. (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 30, 2013

7444df023ae4278ec9890b00a1ec476e_w600Gospel of the day:

Luke 2:36-40

There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Reflection on the gospel: Luke tells us that an old woman who remains continually in the temple, worshiping God night and day as she fasted and prayed, recognizes who the child is when Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple for the purification prescribed in the Mosaic Law. To all outward appearances, this is an ordinary infant, the son of two marginalized people. But Anna’s prayer and meditation gives her the ability to look beyond mere appearances and see the truth of matters hidden from other eyes. The passage tells us that, recognizing the child, she gives thanks to God and speaks of the child to anyone who listens. Anna’s spiritual practice gives her a heart not only deep insight but a heart tender with gratitude and bold with witness.

Saint of the day: The Servant of God María de la Luz Cirenia Camacho González was born on May 17, 1907 in Tacubaya, Mexico. Her father was Manuel; her mother, María Teresa, died when little María was only seven-months-old. Her childhood education was at a school run by religious, in the city of Puebla of the Angels. In 1918 she returned to Mexico City to continue her Cristera-Maria-de-La-Luz-Camachostudies with the Dominican Sisters, and later at the Catholic Institute for girls. Lucha [a nickname which means “a fight”] was cheerful and of even temperament; she was resourceful, modest, and had great poise. In 1921, the Camacho family moved to Coyoacán, where María lived the last 13 years of her life. She became a secular Franciscan in 1930 and joined Catholic Action in 1931. On Sunday, December 30, 1934, she left home to defend the parish church which the Red Shirts, a violent group formed by Tomás Garrido Canabal and commanded by Carlos Madrazo, were attempting to set on fire. The Red Shirts, as they assaulted the church, cried out, “Damned by Christ! Damned be the Virgin of Guadalupe!” María died in the atrium of the St. John the Baptist parish church in the village of Coyoacán in the city of Mexico that day. She died a martyr, defending the church and the faith, shot by her executioners in the chest. She died with open arms in the form of a cross, while with unusual courage in a young person of 27 years of age, she loudly let out in the face of her rabidly anticlerical executioners her last words: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!”

Spiritual reading: What does love look like? It has hands to help others. It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of people. That is what love looks like. (St. Augustine)

Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany, Year A 2013-14

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture, Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 29, 2013

Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord, Year A  2014

[Bishop Ron’s collected homilies for the last year A can be found on for under $10. It is called “Teaching the Church Year”.]

Most of us have not seen all three of the gifts of the Wise Men – gold, frankincense and myrrh, so I brought some in today for us to have a look, but particularly in the context of the story we are told today on this Feast of the Epiphany. I will be concentrating predominately on the Gospel today from Matthew though I will try to tie in the other readings as well.

Kar Rohner in a sermon he gave on this feast made what I think is a really interesting and insightful point. He noted that the feast of the Epiphany is at the end of what we still call Christmas, and that there is a circular pattern set up with the Feast of Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany. On the Feast of Christmas God came to us and gifted us. On the Feast of the Epiphany we came to God and gifted God.

If we think about that for a moment we can get overwhelmed by the beauty and symmetry of it. God lowered who God is, and came to earth in the lowest of human forms – a baby, helpless and fragile. God who is all powerful, all-knowing, became one of us in our most primitive form. If that wasn’t gift enough, God came bearing the gift of grace that Paul tells us about in the Epistle to the Ephesians today, and that we receive not through any merits of our own, but simply because God loves us and chooses to give us this.

On Epiphany we celebrate the reverse. The three Wise Men or Kings as they are sometimes known as, left everything behind them – they left their country of origin, their wealth, their families. Through their astrology they knew that something wonderful was at the end of the journey, so they were willing to travel far, taking a difficult journey, led by a star that had appeared in the night. They somehow knew that the star that recently glowed in the sky foretold the birth of a mighty King, a special person, someone destined to be great. And so they were willing to make the perilous journey. On the way they encountered the machinations of a jealous king and were thrust into a political situation that didn’t want to be part of. But they continued. They persevered because there was this end in sight. Would they have been surprised to see their journey end at such a humble stable? A helpless child? Two simple parents?

Even if they were surprised, they offered the child gifts, just as the child was to offer himself for us. Gold, frankincense and myrrh. Whether these were actual gifts or the Gospel’s writer’s way of making a theological point, we can see these gifts in retrospect as symbolizing love, worship of God and suffering – all three of which point to the life of the child before them.

The story of the Wise Men may or may not have factually happened. It may have come from the inspired imagination of Matthew through the prophecies of Isaiah that we read today – “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Is 60.3) and “They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” (Is 60:6) But the truth still remains. Nations have come to know the Lord, and they know God through Jesus Christ’s suffering, his love and his obedience to God.

What can we see of this in our lives today? Like the Wise Men we are on a journey as well. And if we are to have happy, fulfilled lives, we have to know the end of that journey. We have to see the star that tells us that our God is at the end of that journey waiting for us, and maybe not in the way we even imagine it. If we keep that end in sight, we can put up with the perilous journey that we take through life, the ups and downs of our relationships, the suffering and sickness, the plunderers, the sins that pull us down and weigh heavy on us, the depressions that we sometimes sink into. How do we keep going? What sustains us through all the bad parts of life? It is knowing what the end will be and how we can give God the gift of ourselves – our love, our praise, our sufferings. As the Psalmist says today: God delivers the needy one who calls…and saves the lives of the needy.” (Ps 72:12-13) And we are indeed needy on our journeys through life.

Let the Feast of the Epiphany remind us of the Star that points out the end of that journey, and let us offer God our gold, frankincense and myrrh – our love, our praise and our suffering. Then we can enjoy life forever with God, and as Isaiah says today: “Then shall you see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice.” (Is 60.5) And this is the very Good News that is our Star to guide us on this journey. God has indeed blessed us!


Bishop Ron Stephens

Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese

         Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 29, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled,
He shall be called a Nazorean.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Feast of the Holy Family honors the life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a family. The Feast is not an old celebration; Leo XIII first instituted it in 1893 as a celebration that occurred within the octave of the Epiphany. Since 1969, we have celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday that follows Christmas, except in years when Christmas itself falls on Sunday, in which case, we celebrate the Holy Family on Friday, December 30.

Of course, we know very little about the life of the Holy Family. We can speculate based on the hints in the passages of scripture and on what we know about the life of a typical family in Palestine in the early first century. Mark and Matthew both suggest that Joseph was a carpenter, indeed, from the Greek, a very specialized kind of carpenter who built door sills; it was not a lucrative profession. This fact would accord with our knowledge that most people in first century Palestine lived lives of barest subsistence, just getting by, if that at all. Even so, the duties of faith required that boys be literate, and Israel enjoyed one of the highest rates of literacy in the ancient world. We know our Lord could read, because the gospels refer to his reading in the synagogue. So schooling for Jesus was a part of the Holy Family’s life. This was an age when little was known about medicine and hygiene, so ill health almost certainly afflicted members of the Holy Family, attended by the typical anxiety that occurs when a member of the family grows ill. The scriptures make no reference to Joseph during Jesus’ ministry, so it would seem that Joseph must have died by the time Jesus began to preach throughout Judea, and doubtless, he was grieved and missed by Mary and Jesus.

We know that family life for many of us sometimes can be quite a difficult experience. It is easy for us to believe that because Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were such exceptionally good people, family life for them was not as difficult. But the passage from the gospel which we read today makes clear that the Holy Family suffered painful challenges just as we all do from time to time in the midst of our family life. The trip to Egypt must have been very difficult for the Holy Family as they made their long trip with a new born in the midst of the fear of pursuit and uncertainty about what would sustain them in Egypt. In other words, when God entered human history, God occupied the ordinariness of human lives. The routines and sorrows and joys that attend the life of the world were blessed and sanctified and exalted by God’s embrace of them. Sometimes, the sameness and the difficulties of day-to-day life may overwhelm us, and we may grow numb at the ceaseless chores and dream of some world outside the one we occupy, but surely it can be a comfort to us to know that even if we don’t feel it, God has made all of it great and meaningful by God’s willingness to take part in it.

Spiritual reading: I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families-indeed, all the families in the world-to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard. (Blessed John Paul II)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 28, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 2:13-18

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. 800px-William_Holman_Hunt_-_The_Triumph_of_the_InnocentsThen was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Church calls the holy innocents “martyrs,” a word that in the Greek means witness. We Christians typically use the term “martyr” to refer to someone who accepts execution rather than deny Jesus; in other words, martyrdom involves a conscious choice to embrace death rather than violate relationship with the Lord. The holy innocents weren’t baptized, and they didn’t even know who Jesus is. They were hapless victims of circumstances that made them the wrong kind of people at the wrong place at the wrong time. If the holy innocents could not choose to affirm their belief in Jesus through their deaths, what kind of martyrs are they? These children are like so many other children born into war, famine, abuse, and disease: their witness is like a mirror to all the injustices rife in the world. They do nothing to merit punishment, yet they show us by their violation exactly what we are capable of doing. In this, they are martyrs, if they do not witness to us by their consciousness, their very existence is an accusation about all the injustices we support, directly and indirectly, consciously and unconsciously. All of these children–whether Herod’s innocents, or children victimized by gunmen, war, hunger, HIV, and other diseases–call on the consciences of humanity to stop our recklessness and act anew.

Massacre Holy Innocents, PismennySaint of the day: Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.

Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts and, warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.

Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers children-sufferingled Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah,/sobbing and loud lamentation;/Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob/Israel. She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.

Spiritual reading: God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. (Bono)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 27, 2013

Gospel of the day:

John 20:1a, 2-8

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him.” de85e614214879b1af0eee2099f0dc8f_w600So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

Reflection on the gospel: On Christmas morning, the Church remembered that the Lord was born. Yesterday, on the feast of St. Stephen, we recalled that he died. And today, on the feast of St. John, the gospel reminds us that he rose from the dead. Our celebration of the incarnation of the Lord includes both shades of light and dark; as we celebrate the Lord’s coming among us, we recognize that suffering is a dominant theme in the life this child will live. In the account of the resurrection we have today, John enters the tomb, and seeing it empty, believes. Our rejoicing at the Lord’s birth is perhaps marred by the recognition that in short months we will recount the narrative of his passion, but John gives us the key to both the incarnation and the passion by his intuition that the resurrection of the Lord orders all the facts of the Lord’s life in a way that invites our faith.

Saint of the day: Saint John the Apostle, also called Saint John the Evangelist or Saint John the Divine, flourished during the first century. In Christian tradition, he is said to be the author of three letters, the Fourth Gospel, and the Revelation to John in the New Testament. He played a leading role in the early church at Jerusalem.

W850_000309_sapJohn was the son of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman, and Salome. John and his brother James were among the first disciples called by Jesus. In the Gospel According to Mark he is always mentioned after James and was no doubt the younger brother. His mother was among those women who ministered to the circle of disciples. James and John were called by Jesus “Boanerges,” or “sons of thunder,” perhaps because of some character trait such as the zeal exemplified in Mark 9:38 and Luke 9:54, when John and James wanted to call down fire from heaven to punish the Samaritan towns that did not accept Jesus. John and his brother, together with Simon Peter, formed an inner nucleus of intimate disciples. In the Fourth Gospel, ascribed by early tradition to John, the sons of Zebedee are mentioned only once, as being at the shores of the Sea of Tiberias when the risen Lord appeared; whether the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (who is never named) mentioned in this Gospel is to be identified with John (also not named) is not clear from the text.

Spiritual reading: For me the most radical demand of Christian faith lies in summoning the courage to say yes to the present risenness of Jesus Christ. (Brennan Manning)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 26, 2013

Contemporary_artworks_of_JesusGospel reading of the day:

Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: On the day after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the first martyr, Stephen, a man who experienced the death and resurrection of Jesus so intensely in his life that he was willing to lay down his own life to witness to his Lord. There is some evidence that the juxtaposition of Christmas and Stephen’s feast might have been a coincidence, since the Church seems to have celebrated Stephen’s martyrdom on December 26 before it came to celebrate the nativity of Jesus on December 25. Whether or not Stephen’s martyrdom following promptly on the celebration of the Lord’s birth is a coincidence, this joining long has reminded believers about the point of the celebration of Christmas. Just as Stephen died to witness to his Lord, his Lord died to save Stephen. When we celebrate Christmas, we do not celebrate the birth of a baby except to meditate on the point of the baby’s birth. This baby was born with a purpose: to die and then to rise.

Saint of the day: All we know of Stephen is found in Acts of the Apostles, chapters Six and Seven. It is enough to tell us what kind of man he was:

At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenist (Greek-speaking) Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, saint-stephen-the-martyr-12select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit… (Acts 6:1-5).

Acts says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people. Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.

In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience. He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit. “[Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b).

His speech brought anger from the crowd. “But [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God….’ They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him…. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…. Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b). It seems he was martyred in about 36 AD, perhaps three or so years after the Lord’s death and resurrection.

Spiritual reading: Adore the infant by following what he taught as a man. (James Martin, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 25, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 2:15-20

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it 932f97ebd783405065f55aaf8de6fbd6_w600were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

Reflection on the gospel reading: God has come as a baby into this wounded and messy world. God has chosen to enter our hurting world with all its injuries, fears, and refusal to love. We celebrate the day with gauzy visions of magic and elves, but at its root, Christmas is no story about fairies lodged in a garden. The good news God invites us to carry with us is that God became one of us, one just like us with occasional bouts of the runs and the recurring need of a bath. He came as an infant–vulnerable, weak, and defenseless. And yet through his defenselessness, his message has spread to every corner of the world in a way that this day in some way touches almost every Christian and non-Christian life on the planet.

Christmas promises us that despite every adversity and each trial, God is with us. And that all shall be well. And that everything shall be well. And that every manner of thing shall be well. We praise God that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Merry Christmas from my heart to yours.

Spiritual reading: Be good, keep your feet dry, your eyes open, your heart at peace and your soul in the joy of Christ. (Thomas Merton)

Homily December 29, 2013 Feast of the Holy Family

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on December 24, 2013

Today’s feast of the Holy Family brings up the whole concept of family and marriage and how they are seen and lived in olden times as well as today. In Jewish Biblical times, a marriage was an arranged affair between two families, oftentimes even cousins, which was a formal contract. In Egyptthose times, a woman had no standing or place in that society except as a wife. While the husband had a duty to look out for her and raise the children they might have, it was a male society. Wives raised the children and the boys when they reached 12 years of age joined the men and began to be taught and trained by their Father. Frequently, love followed in these relationships of husband and wife, but the key was faithfulness to the contract and the honoring and respecting of one another. Of course, extended families never moved far away and many authors note that the Hamlet of Nazareth with a population of about 100 were pretty much related as cousins in one way or another. Remember we talk of a time when people did not travel much except to Jerusalem to the temple. I realize this is far different from what we picture with the word family today, but it is not the first time that we modernize and Americanize a reality from the scriptures different form what it is now.

If we look at family as we see it we don’t really look at it as a contract(although the state does) but as a relationship which is very much born out of love. Even in the Church’s understanding of the Sacrament of marriage the idea of love is strong and the relationship of the two people is emphasized. jesus-teen-joseph-carpenter-shopMarriage is even seen as a sign of the relationship and love Christ has for His church. In the many weddings I have done I have seen so many couples ready to share their love and assume the life unfolding before them. Mutual love and respect and sharing brings them closer and hopefully leads to a happy life. Marriage today is more hands on and more of a partnership. Women and men share the tasks of home and hearth and also in the rearing of their children. It is certainly different from biblical times just as our world outlook is different. Being different doesn’t change the importance of marriage and family.

However, I think we know that relationships are not easy things because they take a lot of work. Whether we go back to Mary and Joseph’s time or look at our own time marriage is hard work requiring steadfastness and love. Relationships, living together, working together can be positive but sometimes people will fail, relationships end and separation occurs. Weakness and failure are things that unfortunately occur in our human condition. Maybe, and I only say maybe, over the centuries we have learned to understand humanity’s failure with the compassion of Jesus. Who better to identify as our judge and author of forgiveness? Throughout his ministry he kept meeting those who sinned and failed and yet he forgave and sent them on saying go and do it no more. He certainly condemned no one for trying and is there for those who fail. In a time such as ours when marriages fail at an alarming rate, A compassionate loving Lord is there to console. That people move on and try again to find the comfort and love of a marital relationship is better than a life of solitude and dysfunction for the individual. While this may not be the ideal, the sister sacrament of penance reminds us that we do often falls short of the ideal but in the end our faith and the cross saves us. So, today we should give thanks for our families and the lives we share.

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 24, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 1:67-79

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to 21a7145bc363ba3b811dbb5ef5fb98cf_w600our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Zechariah sings of the joy which comes from a visit by God’s goodness which, in Jesus, fulfills every promise God has made through the prophets. Zechariah’s Canticle is a song about God’s faithfulness in Israel’s past and the fidelity of God into the future. Zechariah in his song is like Moses standing on Mount Nebo, where he can see the road which Israel has traveled and observe the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises which God has made. For Moses, the future was for his people to enter the Promised Land. For Zechariah, it was Jesus, who is the Morning Star, the dawning of the Sun of Justice, and the rising Prince of Peace. May joy and peace be to each of you, and yours, and all of us.

Saint of the day: Saint Charbel Makhluf was born on May 8, 1828, in Lebanon, he was the son of a mule driver. He was raised by an uncle who opposed the boy’s youthful piety. The boy’s favorite book was Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. At age 23, he snuck away to join the Maronite monastery where he took the name Charbel in memory of a second century martyr. He professed his solemn vows in 1853 and became a priest in 1859.

He lived as a model monk but dreamed of living like the ancient desert fathers. A hermit from 1875 until his death 23 years later, he existed on the barest dawnessentials of everything. He gained a reputation for holiness and was much sought for counsel and blessing. He had a great personal devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He celebrated Mass at noon so he could spend the morning in preparation and the rest of the day in thanksgiving.

Spiritual reading: Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. (Hamilton Wright Mabie)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 23, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 1:57-66

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. 62b89faabc5402a3c2956bd62a0cf16f_w630All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: As Christmas approaches, we are reminded that the Lord showed great mercy to Elizabeth, and by extension, the Lord shows great mercy to each of us. This gift given to Elizabeth was a child she had no right to expect and whom she had despaired of receiving. And the gift given to each of us is another child, one whom we had no right to expect and which from time-to-time in our lives, each of us has despaired of receiving. The season of Advent and the approaching feast of Christmas call on us to be great-hearted, or as the gospel passage styles it, to rejoice with one another–just as Elizabeth’s neighbors rejoiced with her. For unto us, as unto Elizabeth, a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Marguerite d'YouvilleSaint of the day: Foundress of the Sisters of Charity, the Grey Nuns of Canada, Saint Marguerite D’Youville was born at Varennes, Quebec, on October 15, 1701, as Marie Marguerite Dufrost de La Jemmerais. She studied under the Ursulines, married Francois D’Youville in 1722, and became a widow in 1730. She worked to support herself and her three children, devoted much of her time to the Confraternity of the Holy Family in charitable activities.

In 1737, with three companions, she founded the Grey Nuns when they took their initial vows; a formal declaration took place in 1745. Two years later she was appointed Directress of the General Hospital in Montreal, which was taken over by the Grey Nuns, and had the rule of the Grey Nuns, with Marguerite as Superior, confirmed by Bishop of Pontbriand of Quebec in 1755.

She died in Montreal on December 23, 1771, and since her death, the Grey Nuns have established schools, hospitals, and orphanages throughout Canada, the United States, Africa, and South America, and are especially known for their work among the Eskimos. She was beatified in 1959 and canonized in 1990.

Spiritual reading: O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God. (O Antiphon for December 23)

Holy Trinity Parish, Herndon, Va. Christmas Services

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on December 22, 2013

holy trinity

13515A Dulles Technology Drive
Herndon Va 20171

Christmas Masses

December 24, 2013 Christmas Eve 8:00 P.M.

            December 25, 2013 Christmas Midnight 12:00 A.M.

  December 25, 2013 Christmas Day 10:00 A.M.

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 22, 2013

9cc6bc07d75bca5f3d143a869e3f143e_w600Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 1:18-24

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Under Jewish law, Joseph as Mary’s betrothed had a right to sexual relations with Mary. Mary is pregnant, and though the neighbors likely suspect nothing, Joseph knows he is not the baby’s father. Joseph, of course, is horrified, and within his cultural milieu, marrying a woman capable of such a thing is unthinkable to him. But Joseph is a good man, and he doesn’t want harm to come to Mary. Accordingly, he decides to quietly end the engagement with Mary and move on with his life. Perhaps he hoped the baby’s father would step up and do the right thing.

God, of course, has other ideas. He sends word to Joseph in a dream that the baby has a unique origin. Joseph now must put faith in his dream. Joseph, the man of faith, does that. And out of Joseph’s faith comes the fertile ground for the world’s salvation; indeed, the name given the baby by the angel in the dream, Joshua (rendered Jesus in Greek, the language of the New Testament), means, Yahweh saves. And thus it is, as the Prophet Isaiah foretold, that God is with us.

And so it is true with us that whenever we choose to put our faith in God that God is with us.

Spiritual reading: O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay. (O Antiphon for December 22)

Homily for the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture, Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 21, 2013

Homily for the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year A  2014

[Bishop Stephens’ first collection of Year A homilies may be purchased in e-book format at  It is called Teaching the Church Year]

Families have not changed all that much in two centuries. It is always difficult on a day to day basis to live with others, whether they are husbands, wives or children – and these days, more extended family. In Jesus’ time the families often lived all together in one small living space which always makes day-to-day dealings even more difficult.

The Holy Family was not without its difficulties and problems either. How difficult it would be traveling with a wife who was close to birthing, having trouble finding a place to stay, having a baby away from home and help, being afraid for the life of the new child and fleeing into Egypt. Quite a difficult start to a marriage, don’t you think!

What helps that marriage survive, what helps families who live together, what helped the early church communities staying in close quarters is laid out for us today in the three readings.

Once again, patience seems to be a primary virtue that has to be developed. But we also see other virtues vying for the important place. Sirach, in the First reading, places honor and respect in a primary place. One needs to honor one’s parents, respect them and do what one can for their comfort, safety and help. Many of us in the ‘sandwich generation’ have shown great love and honor for our parents.  As a people, we live longer today and many of us have had parents who lived to a ripe old age. But with that wonderful extension of life comes problems – failing joints, failing balance, failing memory, Alzheimer’s, pneumonias, loss of senses – sight and hearing, and a variety of other ailments. This places a great burden on caregivers and requires a lot of what Sirach sees as a major virtues – the virtue of patience and kindness. “Even if his mind fails, be patient with him; kindness…will be credited to you against your sins.”  Sirach sees all this as a matter of justice. We must be especially just to family members.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, writes about the new family, the community of believers that, as you know, lived together and shared what they had. He then extends his words to the family proper of husbands, wives and children. When we live in a family, he says, there are many virtues that need to be cultivated for success – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. But even more, we need to be able to forgive, and above all, to love. His advice to husbands is to love their wives – this at a time when marriages were often more for convenience or economics than for love. His advice to wives probably bristles many women today – be subject to your husbands – but we have to remember that this was written for the world view of a patriarchal society, and we might say today: Wives, consult with your husbands and understand their point of view; come to joint decisions and support each other. Not what Paul says, but in the spirit of the virtues he describes, I think that is what he might say today.

Even with the children he places a burden of absolute obedience as a duty of children, but he does balance that with advice to fathers not to push things too far or cause a strong reaction in your children so that they are never tempted to disobey.

The Psalm today puts all this in perspective when it says “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord.” In other words, fear of the Lord will cause us to do the right thing in our family relationships. By “fear of the Lord”, which is, by the way, one of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that we get in Confirmation, we mean the kind of high respect that we have which would cause us not to want to hurt or offend that person. It doesn’t mean we should go around being afraid all the time. But if we have respect for God, enough so that we would never want to offend him, all the other things will fall into place.

The Gospel today continues Luke’s narrative that we began last week. The wise men have come to see Jesus; non-Jews from around the known world have come to pay respect. In this next section Luke uses the Hebrew prophecies to create a story of Joseph being warned in a dream to flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. The prophecy is then cited: “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” But Luke also had to show that Jesus came from Nazareth, so he tells a story which shows how Jesus gets to Nazareth from Egypt by way of Canaan.

What we need to see in this story, though, is that a young family is being pulled apart, asked to many things which were upsetting, scary and destructive of family. What we see in Joseph, though, is the perfect obedience and trust in God that we have also seen in Matthew’s accounts of Mary’s perfect trust in God. Joseph hears the words of the Angel, he immediately obeys them without question.  He has given himself up to the Lord. So that is the last piece of the puzzle. Families need to know that often they are helpless in some of the problems that life throws at them, and that they can survive it all, simply by placing their trust in the Lord, listening to what he tells them to do, follow of their hearts and move on.

So, in summary, we can see that our family life will be strengthened by trust in God, by patience, by respect of God (fear of the Lord) and respect for others, and by developing an array of helping virtues, the most important of which is love. Not bad advice back then, nor is it today. Not much has changed in two centuries!

And this is the advice we hear in the Good News today on this Feast of the Holy Family.

Bishop Ron Stephens

Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese

Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

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Homily for Christmas (Mass During the Night), Year A 2013-14

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 21, 2013

Homily for Christmas, the Nativity of the Lord, (Mass During the Night) Year A  2013-14

[Bishop Stephens’ first collection of Year A homilies may be purchased in e-book format at  It is called Teaching the Church Year]

Our beautiful first reading tonight has been made familiar to many of us from Handel’s Messiah. Of all of the prophecies of Isaiah, this has to stand out as singularly the most hopeful, optimistic, and inspiring. It starts with the archetypal fear of the dark being released by the coming of light. It is archetypal because it is one of the earliest fears of childhood and often remains with us through adulthood.  We just can’t see when it is dark, and we don’t know when we will stumble or what is around the corner. Isaiah says that before the Messiah, the people lived in a land of darkness because they had been cut off from the God for whom they were created. With the birth of this child, this son, Isaiah sees many things happening. First of all, there is a great light and that light shines on the people – allows them to see again, allows them to be with their God again. The nation will grow in size, and they will be as happy as farmers are at the end of the harvest when their work is done and the food has been put away. Or as happy as plunderers or pirates, when they divide up the spoils of their enemies. The nation is no longer yoked, tied down to the burdens of life.

No, we have a child who is born – a simple child who will rule, but not like authoritarian rulers – no, authority rests on his shoulders. And he will be a ruler who brings peace and will rule with justice and righteousness. As we know from our readings of the New Testament, these are the two keywords of the new kingdom Jesus opens to us. And finally we have that majestic list  of other names for this simple babe: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!  And the prophecy closes with the promise that this child shall establish his kingdom now and forevermore. And why does it happen? Because of the zeal of the Lord of hosts. If we look up the word zeal which Isaiah uses to describe the passion of God – zeal – we get a sense of what this entails: ardor, love, fervor, fire, enthusiasm, eagerness, gusto and energy. So great is our God’s love and enthusiasm for us that God sent the only Son, yet himself, and took on a human being’s nature, became the simple baby. Divested of power, a God needing food, change of diapers, burping, loving. He did this for us!

St. Paul seconds these joyous facts when he says: …Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” And there is the word “zeal” again, but this time applied to us. God is zealous so that we might be zealous for good deeds.

The Gospel today is one that is familiar to all of us from childhood, so familiar that we might not really hear the words. In his Gospel, Luke creates a story that makes the theological points we have just been making accessible to ordinary people. Like Jesus, Luke tells stories. The “facts” of this story may or may not be completely true, but the point that he is trying to make is: God became a child, a child born in poverty with no place to rest his head, a child who is destined to be the Savior of the world! And the earth and heavens proclaim on this day: Glory to God, peace on earth, good news of great joy, for all the people!

Luke picks up on the magnificent themes of Isaiah – the light theme with The glory of the Lord shone around them”; the Prince of Peace theme with “peace among those whom he favors”; the Mighty God theme, with “Glory to God in the highest; and the Rejoicing theme, with “good news of great joy for all the people.

We have been preparing for this day for four weeks, and yes, it comes every year, but it seems to me as I grow older, that every year it can become more special as we pile on the memories of celebrating this day with people we love, by growing in our understanding so that the story becomes a stepping board to what is really being celebrated, by realizing what a wonderful, happy thing our relationship with God should be, and by being led, as Paul says, to being zealous for good deeds, as we carry some of the zeal of God’s love from ourselves to others.

Human beings need holidays and celebrations as a break from our routines. And I know there are some people for whom Christmas has bad memories and others who are disturbed by the commercialism of it all. We need to see Christmas as the joyous, hopeful feast it is. The days are starting to get longer, there will more physical light, but the light that shines in our hearts is the most important one. Try to live the Christmas message of Luke: share the peace, the joy, the thankfulness that Luke was trying to invoke in his writing. I think he did a pretty good job of it – and that, too, is my Good News for this Christmas night.

Bishop Ron Stephens

Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese

Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

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