Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 18, 2014

91247e5b702c2e68b985d8221450e593_w600Gospel reading of the day:

John 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Discussions of spirituality get a little squishy, because spirituality affects every human experience in ways that are pervasive but not measurable. When people attend seminars on spirituality, they frequently arrive with a desire to understand the mechanics of prayer and meditation but receive a discussion about the fruits of prayer and meditation and leave frustrated not knowing what to do to achieve what has been described. Part of the problem is that spiritual experience is as varied as the individuals who have them, since in the Father’s house there are many dwelling places, that is, there are many ways to abide in God’s presence. Another problem is that we often get started on a prayer journey expecting insight and peace, and we’re instead left with dryness and even agitation: no sense at all that we are sitting with God. Jesus in this passage of John’s gospel encourages that however we pray, we are on the way: Where I am going you know the way. He does not say to us who are already his disciples that he will show us the way; he tells us we already know the way. For Christians, the spiritual life is Jesus, and however we abide with Jesus–through centering prayer, reflection, the psalms, petitions, spiritual reading–is already Jesus. Thomas through his life with Jesus was already on a spiritual path but did not know it. We too may pray but not feel we are spiritual in any particular way. But Jesus assures us that anyone who knows him is already on a spiritual journey. The most important thing is to pray, pray no matter what. When we grieve over our failures at living the gospel, pray. When we are full of gratitude at God’s goodness, pray. Pray always. Pray without ceasing. Pray without caring what we get from praying. Pray and you will be on the way, whether or not you know it.

Spiritual reading: You could not discover the limits of the soul, even if you traveled every road to do so; such is the depth of its meaning. (Heraclitus of Ephesus)

Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 18, 2014

Homily for the  6th Sunday of Easter, Year A  2014

As we rapidly approach the Feast of Pentecost, the event that Jesus promised the Apostles would happen and would complete his mission on the earth, the readings we have today all concern themselves with the Spirit. In our first reading today, as we continue through the history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke gives us what we would consider evidence today for the sacrament of confirmation.  As you know, the sacrament of confirmation is the full receipt of the Holy Spirit that traditionally comes for a person that has been baptized as a child, when the child reaches the age of reason and has the ability to choose to follow his or her faith.  With adults the sacrament of Confirmation usually accompanies Baptism.  In the story we are told today, we hear about the preaching of the disciple Philip that brings about the beginning of the Samaritan church. Philip obviously makes a great impression on the Samaritan people who seemed to be quite eager to hear his message to them. Along with his preaching there were many miracles and healings that took place which convinced many of the people there to accept the word of God that Philip was preaching. Philip apparently baptized a great number of the Samaritans.  It is interesting if you remember here that the Samaritans were considered enemies of the Jews, even though they believed in the same God and followed the same Scriptures. It would have been quite an event for people considered sinners and enemies to become part of the emerging Christian communities. It shows us how accepting we need to be in our own church today.

After this event, the Apostles Peter and John went to the Samaritans to pray for them, laying hands on them and allowing them to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We still use this model today when we ask the local Bishop or his representative to come and confirm at each parish.

The Second Reading from First Peter also is about the Spirit. The author is concerned with giving suffering some meaning, because many of the followers of Christ were being persecuted at this time. Peter suggests that if one suffers even though they are doing good works or for being a Christian then they become part of the sacrifice that happened for us when Christ suffered and died. They are able to join in with his suffering, suffering that leads to something good or something better. Peter says we are not to be afraid to profess our faith and our hope, and that we should be gentle and reverent in preaching the Good News. The last lines of this section bring us to the Spirit. Peter says that Jesus was put to death in the flesh but was made alive in the spirit. The Spirit is Jesus alive with us today. The Spirit works with us, through us and is in us.

This is the Spirit that Jesus today in John’s Gospel calls the Advocate. An advocate is someone who pleads for another in court or who intercedes for others when they can’t speak for themselves. This theologically dense section of the Gospel today is the best description we have of the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus first indicates that he himself is our advocate to the father in heaven. He has taken the case of men and women and pleaded to the Father. Because he cannot be with us forever, since his advocacy involves dying for us, God the father will send another Advocate who will always be with us till the end of time.  Jesus tells the Apostles that this advocate will be the Spirit of truth, and will be someone that the world does not understand because it cannot know the Spirit. Once again the will of God is not like our own. The world neither sees the Spirit or knows it.

But Jesus tells the Apostles that they will know the Spirit because the Spirit will come to them, be in them, and abide with them. Jesus knows that he must leave the Apostles physically, but he does not want to abandon them – to leave them orphans. 

He and the Spirit are one and so through the Spirit Jesus will be with us. In worldly terms, Jesus will not be physically present and the world will not see him, but he tells the Apostles that they will see him, and because he live-in the Spirit, they will live also. The we have the beautiful sentence which ties the Trinity to us: “On that day you will know that i am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” God will be present in each of us. We are indeed temples of the Lord.

Finally, Jesus stresses and re-iterates his law of love. We love Jesus by carrying out  his double commandment of loving God and neighbor. Because of that love, God will also love us and Jesus will reveal himself to us. This is really a high theology that John is describing, hard to understand in human, earthly terms, but in spiritual terms is so hopeful, so beautiful, so loving. 

Next week we will celebrate the Ascension of the Lord – the moment when Jesus goes back to the father and sits at his right hand. After just a few days in our time, the Spirit, promised by Jesus, will be present for the first time as the Apostles receive it at Pentecost. All the readings today look forward to that event as we near the end of our Easter season. This week let us look at how we are able show our love of God and neighbor, find ways to show that love and prepare for the two great feasts that are soon coming.

Let us continue to celebrate and hear this Good News as we approach the birthday of the Church, the coming of God’s Spirit to us.

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 of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from for $9.99 – Teaching the Church Year”]

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Homily May 18, 2014 Fifth Sunday of Easter

MAY 18  3In the gospel today, Jesus tells us that first his Father’s house has many dwelling places. It is there that he is going to prepare a place for you. When that place is ready, he is then coming for you. I find that interesting since he is preparing for us, yet the way to that place is simply following Jesus as he has called each of us to do. Philip and Thomas in today’s gospel speak up and say they do not know the way. It’s like they have had the gps for three years and still get lost because they depend on Christ being with them. Jesus tells them He is in the Father and the Father is in him. He and the Father are one and he is the way. Notice also that He as clearly as he says that there are many places, he doesn’t say they are the same. The place for each of us is prepared especially for us. How it looks and what it will be will be in accord to how we follow his way, how we are and who we are. He knows each of us intimately and our needs. MAY 1882 4Here on earth, dwelling places can be many things, from the cardboard box of the homeless man, to the multimillion dollar mansions of our sports heroes and others. What we must not forget is that it is Christ who is the way and the love of God is itself an all-embracing mansion.

While Thomas and Philip seem almost insubordinate in the gospel, our first reading reflects the growing church and some early conflicts which arose in the community. It would seem that humanity never gets it right. In Acts we see the clash of Israeli Jews with Hellenistic Jews. It involved the serving and sharing of food.may 18 One side felt slighted and angry about the distribution and there was dissension in the ranks. The Apostles as a group responded by coming together and deciding that the best thing would be to have the community select helpers who would be called deacons and thus we see the beginning of deacons and clericalism in the church. It wasn’t Peter, but all the apostles together who came back to the community for the sharing of ministry. The Spirit of God worked through the apostles with Peter as spokesman and the sharing of the community. What we see here is that the community played a big part of picking and call those to serve. They presented the chosen to the Apostles who laid hands on them.

Today, we leave it to the spirit to inspire vocations and call women and men to ministry. A call to minister most of us think is foreign to our busy lives and is something left up to “the church and the clergy”. What we sometimes forget because of our past history is that we are the church. Christ called each of us to his church and that call continues every day. The church is not a building, but flesh and blood. Each of us has abilities and talents to offer and share. Those mansions we heard about are going to be similar to the use of those abilities and talents. One thing we can always do better is to encourage one another and help discern the Spirit in us and each other. may 18--2God can plant a seed but sometimes it  is through the community. As a community we will grow, but only if we are prayerful and sharing of our faith and life in the Spirit. As much as God loves us and we come to love him, he is still a mystery and works in ways we do comprehend. Just remember, Christ was flesh and blood and he said “I am the way”

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 17, 2014

622bf62338780c8af08383ccdb23b691_w600Gospel reading of the day:

John 14:7-14

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: All of human experience is shot through with the life of God. Our existence is enmeshed in God’s existence. It was this insight that encouraged Ignatius of Loyola to look for God in all things, and the psalmist to marvel, What is a human that your are mindful of him? Yet you have made him little less than a god. When Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” he is making a dramatic statement about his identification with God, but there is a sense in which each of us can repeat the Lord’s words and say them entirely truthfully about ourselves. There is nothing in God’s world that does not show forth the Father’s face if we but cultivate the eyes to see the Father in all things.

Saint of the day: A Romanian Orthodox prince born in 1873, Vladimir Ghika converted to Catholicism in 1902. An ardent contemplative and active on all fronts, in diplomacy, charity and the apostolate, he became a priest, then a prelate in 1931. While still a layman, the Prince obtained two doctorates in Rome, in philosophy and theology. His writings harmoniously blend the poetry of an oriental spirit with theological rigour. He died a martyr in Romania in 1954 and his writings have been a real influence on the foundation of our Religious Family. His ghika2beatification process has just been opened. Born in a palace in Constantinople on Christmas Day, 1873, he was the grandson of the last sovereign of Moldova. A Romanian Orthodox prince, of French origins through his mother, he received a refined education, which put him in touch with the internationale elite. During his brilliant studies in Toulouse and Paris, he converted to Catholicism in 1902.

His conversion saw the beginning of his intense missionary and charitable work. Among other things, he founded the house of the Daughters of Charity in Bucharest and helped all the poor people that Providence placed in his way. As a layman, he consecrated a large part of his life to prayer and his doctrinal formation. In Rome, he obtained from the Dominican university his licence in philosophy and doctorate of theology in 1905. Pope St. Pius X persuaded him not to become a priest for the time being, because of his aged mother. But the saintly pope had appreciated the qualities of the Prince and encouraged him to develop his apostolate as a layman, as his prestige was so great among his Orthodox brothers.

World War One saw him struggle with all sorts of misery, as well as diplomacy. In 1923, at the age of 50, by special permission from Pope Pius XI who had a great reespect for him, he was ordained priest. He devoted himself with unimaginable activity to the service of all souls. Catholic or Orthodox, rich or poor, mystics or blasphemers would be the friends of this shepherd of royal blood, indefatigable traveler, traversing up to a quarter of the planet to help a single soul…”Don’t try and do a great work on your own,” he wrote, “but be a tool of happiness.” He took this “happiness” into the “zone rouge” of the Parisian suburb where he installed himself in a little railway shed on waste ground in Villejuif. His heroism and his gentleness did miracles, leading to the foundation of the parish of Villejuif. Cardinal Verdier, archbishop of Paris, appreciated the qualities of his “Prince Vincent-de-Paul” and put him in charge of the foreigners’ church in the VLADIMIR GHIKArue de Sèvres, responsible for refugees of all races and ranks. An admired writer, imitated as a spiritual director, he renewed his acquaintance with Parisian high society which could help him in his new task: Maritain, Claudel, Mauriac, H. Bordeaux, Francis Jammes, Bergson and Fr Garrigou-Lagrange would have been among his closest friends.

Monsignor Ghika founded a “Fraternity of Saint John”, which he installed in the Abbey of Auberive in Haute-Marne in 1926. This religious family of priests, sisters and lay people developed rapidly. But unhappy circumstances put an end to the community in just four years. Whatever his supernatural qualities, the Prince was not a born organiser! This setback was the heaviest burden the Prince had to bear in his entire life. World War Two found him in Romania. The terrible bombardment of Bucharest in 1944 showed his heroic devotion. Communism was installed in Romania in 1948, and King Michael invited Mgr. Ghika to follow him into exile in Paris. But audaciously, Mgr. Ghika continued to celebrate Mass publicly in Bucharest, comforting, converting and baptising. In 1952, at 80 years of age, he was arrested and disappeared into oblivion in the Julava prison. He died a martyr on May 17, 1954. A decree of martyrdom was promulgated in March 2013, and he was beatified in August 2013.

Spiritual reading: If you can’t pick yourself off the floor spiritually, the solution is an attitude of gratitude. You must begin to recount all the good things in your life and thank God for them. This always uncovers a spring of joy in the soul. Being thankful is the best medicine. (Taylor Marshall)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 14, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Different people employ different strategies to become holy. Some strive to learn the precepts of the law and guard their behavior to conform to the law. Some do this tending to the letter of the law, and some do this minding the spirit of the law. But there is another way to seek holiness, and that is to do what Jesus commands here: love. If love animates what you do, the choices you make, and the people you meet, it will make you holy just as the Father, who makes the rain to fall on the good and bad alike, is holy.

Saint of the day: According to Acts 1:15-26, during the days after the Ascension, Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (about 120 of Jesus’ followers). Now that Judas had betrayed his ministry, it was necessary, Peter said, to fulfill the scriptural recommendation: “May another take his office.” “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22). They nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. They prayed and drew lots. The choice fell upon Matthias, who was added to the Eleven. Matthias is not mentioned by name anywhere else in the New Testament.

Spiritual reading: The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. (Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 13, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:22-30

The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Feast of the Dedication is Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. It is the celebration of the re-dedication of the second Temple after the revolt of the Maccabees, which at the time of the gospel passage recounted today was the most recent liberation of the Jewish people from foreign oppression. The gospel tells us that it was winter. Winter, of course, is a time of barrenness, when little grows, and life is hard, and we await the renewal of life in the distant spring.

It was into the world’s winter that Jesus came, but his presence in the world, analogous in a sense to the celebration of the Festival of Lights, was the liberation of his people–not just Israel in the strictest sense but all of us, the whole Church. It his presence in the winter of our lives which lights up our worlds and liberates us from the consequences of sin and death. The gospel tells us we can trust in this, because God is faithful.

Saint of the day: Juliana of Norwich was born in England in about 1342. Almost nothing is known of her early life; we don’t even know if she was from Norwich or chose to move there. She was a recluse under the direction of Benedictine monks in Norwich, England. A mystic, visionary, and writer, she was illiterate and dictated to a scribe. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, which contains sixteen revelations she received while in an ecstatic trance, is still in print. Juliana meditated, spoke, and wrote on the power of love of evil, Christ’s Passion, and the nature of the Trinity. In her early 60s she shut herself in complete seclusion at Conisford, Norwich, and never left again. She died in about 1423.

Spiritual reading: God, of your goodness give me yourself, for you are enough for me, and I can ask for nothing which is less which can pay you full worship. And if I ask anything which is less, always I am in want; but only in you do I have everything. (Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Juliana of Norwich)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 12, 2014

642999394b8b3721b2a10ccc8946df98_w600Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:11-18

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Commitment is a mark of the relationship between Jesus and his followers. This commitment by Jesus to his followers is the natural result of the love he shares with the Father, and this love between the Father and Son, flows out of the Son to embrace all followers. Jesus says his commitment to his followers is such that he is willing to lay down his life for them.

Saint of the day: St. Leopold Bogdan Mandic, who lived between 1866 and 1942, was a Croatian-born Franciscan priest and noted confessor who spent most of his priestly life in Padua, Italy. On May 12, 1866, in Croatia, a twelfth child was born to Peter and Caroline Mandic. He was named and baptised Bogdan, ‘the God-given-one’. Although physically frail, from his youth he showed signs of great spiritual strength and integrity. At the age of 16 years, Bogdan left home for Italy to attend the Seraphic School where he was taught by the Capuchins at Udine and was also an aspirant to the order. Life was not easy for him there, since he was physically malformed and still delicate in health.

At the age of 18, Bogdan entered the Capuchin Order as a novice at Bassano del Grappa and took the religious name of Brother Leopold. After his Profession of Vows at 23, he embarked on a course of clerical studies first at Padua and then at Venice. Finally, he was ordained in Venice at the age of 28.

In the mid-1880s, Bishop Joseph Juraj Strossmayer began an ecumenical movement which focused on unity in diversity, consecrating the cathedral of Djakovo i Srijem (Bosnia) “for the glory of God, church ecumenism, and the peace and love of my people.”Father Leopold dedicated himself to the same end.

Refusing to renounce his Croatian nationality during World War I, Leopold was forced to go to southern Italy, where he spent one year in an Italian prison. He wanted to be a missionary in Eastern Europe, torn apart by much religious strife, but was denied by his superiors because of his frailty and general ill-health (In addition to physical deformities, Father Leopold suffered from stomach ailments, poor eyesight, and arthritis.)

For 34 years he heard confessions. He was always quick, serene, affable, available for any sacrifice for the good and service of others. Wherever he was assigned over the years, Leopold was greatly admired and loved by the people. Father Leopold gave tremendous encouragement to many people, especially those despairing of hope because of an enslavement to sin.

Father Leopold also had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary whom he referred to as “my holy boss.” He was known to pray the rosary quite often and celebrated the Eucharist daily at the side altar in the Little Office of the Virgin Mary. He would then visit the sick in nursing homes, hospitals, and homes all over Padua. He visited the Capuchin infirmary to comfort the sick friars, giving them words of advice and reminding them to have faith. He was an outspoken on issues with children and was especially fond of expectant mothers and young children. He did great work in setting up orphanages for children without parents.

Father Leopold suffered from cancer of the esophagus, which would ultimately lead to his death at age 76. On July 30, 1942, while preparing for the liturgy, he collapsed on the floor. He was then brought to his cell, where he was given the last rites. Friars that had gathered at his bed sang “Salve Regina,” and when they got to the words, “O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary,” Leopold died.

During the bombing of World War II the church and part of the friary where Leopold lived were demolished, but Leopold’s cell and confessional were left unharmed. Leopold had predicted this before his death, saying, “The church and the friary will be hit by the bombs, but not this little cell. Here God exercised so much mercy for people, it must remain as a monument to God’s goodness.” Beatified in 1976, he was canonized in 1983, hailed as the “Apostle of Unity.”

Spiritual reading: I am like a bird in a cage, but my heart is beyond the seas. (St. Leopold Bogdan Mandic)

Fr Joe’s Homily on Mother’s Day May 11, 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, Resurrection by Fr Joe R on May 11, 2014

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 11, 2014

abe01c2dcfc0ab892ff833e25465eaaf_w600Gospel reading of the day:

John 10:1-10

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus says that we who belong to him hear his voice and follow him, because we recognize his voice. This is an invitation to the all the baptized to cultivate discerning spirits that look for God in all things to attempt to understand where God is drawing us. We start with the principle that Jesus is speaking to us all the time in our thoughts, imaginings, emotions, inclinations, desires, feelings, repulsions, and attractions. The Christian who wishes to learn to listen to the Master’s voice to follow him cultivates a spirit sensitive to these movements, reflecting on them, and understanding where they come from and where they lead us. In this, we live out some of the deepest meaning of the Parable of the Good Shepherd of the sheep.

Spiritual reading: And what wilt thou do with my heart, O Christ? (Saint John Houghton’s dying words as he was being disemboweled)

Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014

Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A  2014

I have always admired this section of the Gospel of John we read today, and, in a way, wished that the name the early church had given to themselves – the followers of the Way – had stuck. All of us are on life’s journey and there are so many different paths to follow. Through sin, the path to God had been blocked – the bridge was out – so God wanted to find a way to open the way again, and he did it by becoming one of us, and through his death and resurrection opened up the path for us again. Jesus gives us a path to follow, shows us a path to follow, and John reminds us that Jesus, himself, is the path – the way. And if we follow the path or the way of Jesus, we will eventually get to his Father’s house where there will be room for everyone, and Jesus himself will have prepared our guest room for us.

This is such a hopeful theology presented in such a brief passage. “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Jesus is the way to God, and possessing God we will know all truth, and we will have eternal life. Although Jesus was trying to instill hope, the poor apostles didn’t quite get it. They seldom do in the Gospels. Thomas, who we already know is a doubter, is probably thinking in moment-to-moment terms when he asserts – “We don’t know where you are going”.  He is probably questioning whether they are on their way to Jerusalem or to the next town or to Samaria. Jesus’ vision is the journey to God the Father.

Have you ever wondered at what point the Apostles had their eyes opened and were able to figure out that Jesus was actually God? We have a lot of people today who insist he was just a man like another man, that there was no divinity in him, that he may have been a great man, but hardly a God! John’s Gospel was written, we believe, some 50 years after the death of Jesus. In those 50 years from Pentecost, when their eyes were truly opened by the Spirit and they began to understand, the theology – the question – of Jesus’ identity – was one of the first things that the believers began to grapple with. By the 90’s, we can see in the Gospel of John that they had grappled with the question and the identification of Jesus with God was pretty complete. In the passages today, after Philip asks Jesus to show them God the Father, Jesus, through the words of John, very clearly indicates that he is God. “You know God, because you know me.” He adds, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”.

The statement “No one comes to the Father except through me” needs, I think, to be taken in that context. I don’t think Jesus is saying that only Christians will get to heaven here; I think this statement means that since Jesus is God, if you are following Jesus, you are on the path to God, following God. There may be other paths that lead to God as well – I don’t think he is ruling that out here, but Christians can be sure of where their path leads. Maybe that is why there are so many room there waiting for us!

All of these statements are pretty revolutionary in their thinking, and you can see how a Jew might be upset that a man is identifying himself with God. We often lock up people today who think they are God. But most revolutionary are the final words of the passage, and those words that are applicable to us today. “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact, will do greater works than these…” Can we really believe that we are able to do greater works than God can! And yet that is what Jesus tells us. Perhaps it is because God has taken on humanity that he has limited himself. Perhaps it is because of the “I am the vine – you the branches” allegory that he has used just previous to this passage, that we can do unimaginable things because we are part of the vine, part of God…. but how wonderful that we can assist in the actions of God, partake of the works of God, create as can God, and do even greater things than Jesus himself did. That is why our prayer life is so important – remember Jesus did these miraculous things by always prefacing them with prayer to God. Why we have seen so many cures, remissions and comfort as a result of our combined parish prayers. That is why we can feed 20,000 people in a few hours of work. Isn’t that rather like the loaves and fishes – and Jesus only fed 5000 that day!!

From the earliest times of Christianity, as we saw in our first reading from the Acts, Christians were doing such works of charity and feeding the poorer members of their communities – so much so that they had to organize a bit better, and get some help. Deacons were created so that more people could be served. Already, in earliest times, the concerns of Jesus were being met and greater things were happening.

So what I really would like us to consider today is how can I contribute to the work of the church?  How can I do ever greater works than we already do. Jesus has not set any limits on this – he has simply said that we will do greater works than he did. Please keep this in mind and set goals for yourselves. As Peter told us today in his epistle: You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light. Let’s continue to let our light shine in the things we do, and aspire do even greater things. Let’s dream it and do it!

And this is the Good News that Jesus leaves us with today!

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 of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from for $9.99 – Teaching the Church Year”]

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 10, 2014

bf994654fa76e1f5aa1bd50b540f7eb2_w600Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Parable of the Seed says that some people who receive Jesus’ words initially receive it with joy but fall away after a time and others “hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” Jesus explains these two conditions in today’s gospel. The ones who receive it with joy but fall away after a time, murmur against Jesus’ teaching, are incredulous in the presence of mystery, and are trapped in a worldly frame of consciousness. The ones who bear fruit, however, let their belief in Jesus animate the choices they make, confessing Jesus by what they do and what they say.

Saint of the day: Ivan Merz was a young layman from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who lived in a turbulent age. He was born from a liberal family, on December 16, 1896 in Banja Luka, when Bosnia was occupied by Austria-Hungary. He attended school in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment of his native town and graduated at the time when Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand was murdered on June 28, 1914. His mother Beato_Ivan_Merz_Qwas Jewish. He joined the military Academy in Wiener Neustadt at his parents’ request but, disgusted by the corruption of this environment, left after three months. In 1915, he started his university studies in Vienna but was called up shortly thereafter to serve in the army during World War I. After that, he returned to Banja Luka, where he experienced radical political change and the birth of the new Yugoslav State.

In 1919 until 1920 he was in Vienna, studying at the Faculty of Philosophy. In October 1920 he set off for Paris, where he attended some lessons at the Sorbonne University and in the Institute Catholique, preparing in the meantime his doctoral dissertation. He earned his doctorate at the Faculty of Philosophy on the University of Zagreb in 1923 through his thesis, “The influence of liturgy on the French writers.” He was professor at the archiepiscopal gymnasium in Zagreb till his death.

He employed all his energy in serving other people and educating Croatian youth. Without a family or spiritual guidance, he found his way to sanctity, devoting himself more and more to the Croatian Catholic movement. In Zagreb, he gave a new direction to the Eagles youth movement, according to the Catholic Action’s principles. He loved the Church and the Eucharist and tried to instill these loves in Croatian youth. He promoted the liturgical movement in Croatia. As a layman consecrated to God, he devoted himself for six years to the apostolic work of bringing up Catholic youth in Croatia. He promoted the liturgical revival and Catholic Action. He died on May 10, 1928 with a reputation for holiness. He was beatified in 2003.

Spiritual reading: People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. (Elizabeth Kübler-Ross)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 9, 2014


Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:52-59

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Those of us who worship in liturgical churches readily see a reference to the Eucharist in this passage, but unpacking the meaning of any text from the gospel always invites us to other reflections. The Father beckons us to model our lives on the pattern of the Lord’s life and subsume our identities into Jesus’ very being. Philippians observes that Jesus took about himself the condition of a slave in becoming one like us, but the scriptures also remind us that we have been made only a little lower than gods. Just as Jesus humbled himself to enter into all the confusion and brokenness of the human condition, the Father seeks to divinize us by our living lives modeled on Jesus’ complete gift of self. Here the Lord continues to join and renew his presence among in the world through all the ways in which we who as church are at once his body and his bride, and it is in this that he extends us his commitment never to leave us orphans.

Saint of the day: Born in 1500 in the Castile region of Spain, John of Avila was sent at the age of 14 to the University of Salamanca to study law. He later moved to Alcala, where he studied philosophy and theology before his ordination as a diocesan priest.

After John’s parents died and left him as their sole heir to a considerable fortune, he distributed his money to the poor. In 1527, he traveled to Seville, John of Avilahoping to become a missionary in Mexico. The archbishop of that city persuaded him to stay and spread the faith in Andalusia (southwestern Spain). During nine years of work there, he developed a reputation as an engaging preacher, a perceptive spiritual director and a wise confessor.

Because John was not afraid to denounce vice in high places, he was investigated by the Inquisition but was cleared in 1533. He later worked in Cordoba and then in Granada, where he organized the University of Baeza, the first of several colleges run by diocesan priests who dedicated themselves to teaching and giving spiritual direction to young people. He was friends with Sts. Francis Borgia, Ignatius of Loyola, John of God, John of the Cross, Peter of Alcantara, and Teresa of Avila. John of Avila worked closely with members of the Society of Jesus and helped their growth within Spain and its colonies. John’s mystical writings have been translated into several languages. John died in 1569. He was beatified in 1894, canonized in 1970, and declared a doctor of the Church in 2012.

Spiritual reading: To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurrying never. In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony. (William Ellery Channing)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 8, 2014

945dfde5d471392b42bb1d485386c5d1_w600Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:44-51

Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:

They shall all be taught by God.

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Great spiritual teachers with true wisdom have arisen from time to time throughout the unfolding ages of human history. Teachers such as the Buddha, Abraham, Moses, Confucius, and Mohammed enjoyed many inspirations that have inspired millions of people, but Jesus alone is himself food for the journey. Jesus does not just teach a word that enlightens our minds; Jesus is a word who himself is food for our hearts.

Saint of the day: Venerable Miriam Teresa Demjanovich was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, on March 26, 1901, the youngest of seven children. At an early age she ardently desired to dedicate her life to religion. Teresa completed her grammar school education at the age of eleven, she received her high school diploma in January 1917, from Bayonne High School (at that time located in the present day Robinson School). At this time she wished very much to become a Carmelite, but the lingering illness of her mother kept her at home as nurse and housekeeper.

demjanovichSisterMiriam-(6)After her mother’s death in November 1918, Teresa was strongly encouraged by her family to attend the College of Saint Elizabeth at Convent Station, New Jersey. She began her college career in September 1919. She received her college degree with highest honors in June, 1923. As always, she longed for the religious life, but various circumstances made her uncertain regarding which community she should enter. Meanwhile, she accepted a teaching position at the Academy of Saint Aloysius in Jersey City (now known as the Caritas Academy). Not until December 1924, was she certain that she should become a Sister of Charity, and with her decision she knew she had very special work to do in this community. Just what the nature of the work was to be she did not know until several months after her entrance in February 1925. Teresa’s spiritual director in religion, Father Benedict Bradley, a Benedictine (who died December 29, 1945), discerning her remarkable gifts, directed her, with the consent of the Mother Superior, to write a series of conferences which, published posthumously, form a volume titled Greater Perfection.

Teresa’s life in religion was short but filled with much work and suffering. Like Therese of Lisieux, she apparently lived a long time in a short space. She died May 8, 1927. Since her death Sister Miriam Teresa has made many friends all over the world. Favors and cures attributed to her intercession are continually being reported. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich will become the third woman born in America to be beatified on October 2, 2014.

Spiritual reading: God does not love us because we are good. God love us because God is good. (Richard Rohr, OFM)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 7, 2014

080512Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:35-40

Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.

And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The world is a broken place, and the horrors and sorrows that have occurred here are not secrets. When we are at our best, they chill our blood. When we are at our worst, they leave us numb. Yet God who is all and knows every slight and every horror still wants all of us to see God “on the last day.” This is the nature of the best love, the love that takes no umbrage at wrongs done and loves despite every harm. As Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount, the perfection of the Father is the Father’s ability to love so well that the sun shines both on the good and the bad.

Saint of the day: Idalia Salazar López was born on September 29, 1966 in San Roque, Mejicanos, San Salvador . She spent her childhood in a village on the outskirts of San Salvador, called the Fosa. Idalia was born into a very poor family. In the Christian community where she imagesgrew up, she learned that the Gospel is not just words but also life. Her faith community conceived the idea of building a clinic, and Idalia attended a first aid course to work as a nurse. At 15, she was part of a youth group from the parish of Saint Francis. At the same time she prepared to become a catechist. Idalia was a young woman distinguished by the depth of her gospel reflection and her dedication and solidarity with the young and the poor. At the end of a youth group meeting on May 7, q987, she fell into an ambush of the members of the Civil Defense that resulted in a wound to her leg. Once on the ground members of the Civil Defense shot the final blow to Idalia’s face, leaving her body leaning against a tree. Idalia represents thousands of catechist martyrs who witness to the faith as humble servants of the people.

Spiritual reading: When I join in spiritual community, I often can sense that I am stronger. It’s as if the deep listening of others invites ever deeper listening from me. (Leah Rampy)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, Resurrection by Mike on May 6, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:30-35

The crowd said to Jesus: “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

734adf38ce3a6ce2f6232bd9ec0e3503_w600So they said to Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus invites us in this passage to become one with him, to pitch our tents with him as he pitched his tent among us. The commitment he asks of us us a commitment of our whole persons, both what we believe and what we do as the result of our belief. Many liturgical Christians have seen in the Discourse on the Bread of Life a discussion of the Eucharist, and the Eucharist with everything it means for our solidarity with Jesus, the suffering world, and one another is a central theme in this and the passages which follow. But it is an invitation not to participate in the Eucharist and nothing else, but the implications of the Bread of Life are much more than liturgy; we are called to be people immersed in the Scriptures, people who are available for the poor and needy, people who live prayerfully. The communion to which Jesus invites us is one where we are immersed in the Lord’s own life.

Saint of the day: Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin was the son of Prince Dimitri Alexeievich Gallitzin, a Russian diplomat. He was born at The Hague in the Netherlands on December 22, 1770 and baptized Greek Orthodox. Almost from his infancy the young prince was subjected to rigid discipline, and his intellectual faculties, trained by the best masters of the age, Demetrius Augustine Gallitzinreached their fullest development. At the age of almost seventeen Demetrius became a sincere Catholic, and to please his mother, whose birth (1748), marriage (1768), and First Holy Communion (1786) occurred on 28 August, the feast of St. Augustine, assumed at confirmation that name, and thereafter wrote his name Demetrius Augustine.

Demetrius traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, leaving in August 1792 and arriving in October; he travelled under the name Augustine Smith. One of the first seminarians at Saint Mary’s in Baltimore, he was ordained in 1795; he was the first priest to receive all orders in the United States.

In 1799 Father Demetrius moved to McGuire’s Settlement in the Alleghenies, erecting a small log church where the town of Loretto, named by him, grew up and became the first English speaking Catholic settlement west of the Allegheny Front; he remained there 41 years. He received no salary, spending what he received of his inheritance to develop the colony spiritually and industrially. He was one of the first in the United States to defend the Church through his writings, and most are still available today. He served as Vicar-General of Western Pennsylvania in 1827 but refused to allow the proposal of his name for the sees of Bardstown, Cincinnati or Detroit. Gallitzin died at Loretto on May 6, 1840 and was buried near St. Michael’s church in Loretto. The Servant of God Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin had his cause for canonization introduced in 2005.

Spiritual reading: Above all, trust in the slow work of God. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)

Homily May 11, 2014 Fourth Sunday of Easter

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, scripture by Fr Joe R on May 6, 2014

may 11 2014Today’s readings are set both before and after Christ’s resurrection. The gospel talks of the shepherd and the sheep. Jesus is the Shepherd, and we know that after his resurrection he sent the Spirit who filled Peter and the Apostles to go out and preach Jesus, crucified for all. Together, Peter and the Apostles went out and as one spread the Word of God. Their actions and sacrifices to carry out that task has encouraged generations of followers even up to our present time. In Christ’s Spirit we are one, open to listen and believe what is best for up. Shepherds remain today for leading us to still faithfully carry out His commands. All of us to the best of our ability are trying to carry out and live out that faith handed to us in our own life.may 11 20141
For most of us, that means we got our faith from the sharing of it from our parents. This is how it should be and each of us should be grateful for what we have received. Scripture certainly reminds us that in spite of anything we should honor and respect our parents for what we are and have received. Today, we choose in our country to honor our Mothers because so often we neglect to say thank you and I love you. So easily do we take for granted who they are and what they do. It is hard to realize, but a Mother, never forgets, loses sight or stops worrying. Only a mother knows what it entails and has experienced the whole cycle of events leading to child-birth. After that we very much share in the joy and all that follows in the years to come. Over time, the expectations of motherhood and family have differed and changed. As society changed in the last century we saw the role of mothers shift as they needed to leave home and enter the work force. Stay at home Moms are much less common in 2014 than in 1914. The picture of family while different, still is much the same. It is Mom who is in many ways the first and most familiar voice and touch. With Dad they are our first teachers, examples and role models. From our first moments, through the years, through all the learning and activities they are there. may 11 29142Aside from whatever job they might have had, we were the most important. Through our young years, our adolescent and rebellious years, Mom was there. She(and Dad) never forget. No one understood or were ready to accept and even forgive than they were. We should not forget that who we are is due to Mom and Dad. Who of us can forget their help in life? With my own Mom and Dad, I can never forget after I was ordained, that each Sunday I was close enough, they were at my Mass. Being a son is a special bond and a care only a parent understands. It is just so that Moms are special and we honor and thank them today. May God bless you all and your children.