Today, Jesus says come to me all who labor or are burdened. It is an interesting thing as it really seems foreign to what we experience in our lives. The successful person today is seen as one who works tirelessly to move ahead to work towards leadership and control and thus find riches and comfort. Jesus’ way is not like this. We know he didn’t seek power or control or impose demands on others that he would not put on himself. To him, the leader was the one who served, the one who looked out for others, who loved and genuinely cared for others. He led by doing, by loving, not command or control. God instilled all of us with the freedom to choose and go or own way. Over the centuries, humans have taken freedom to the extreme. How often do we assert our independence and control, even to the point that it is a desired and admired trait of being a success. We even find someone weak when that person reaches out for help or support. Even before God we sometimes feel we can do it alone. Christ came because we can’t do it alone. What have we wrought in this world? Recall the tower of Babel. The men and women had just one language and culture and were split apart with a multiplicity of languages to go out and fill the earth rather than stay in one place. All through history the hand of God knew when to reach out, even if humanity didn’t realize it.
The filling of the earth and the formation of multiple tribes and nations certainly has not engendered peace and calm in the world. Violence, killings, wars, the constant seeking of control and power by different individuals, tribes or nations continues fueling troubled world. If we look back just to the last century, was there a time the whole world was at peace?
The assets of the world and its beauty has certainly been altered throughout the march of history. We have altered many things in the name of progress, oftentimes not seeing all the consequences of what we do. With all the progress the world sees and enjoys, it sometimes doesn’t know or expect the results it gets.
Yes, there are reasons we labor and most of us bear one burden or another. Labor is good. but as believers, as Christians it is good to ask for help and relief. Jesus said come to me. We should and must do this. I realize the hardest thing for many of us to do is to ask for help. Yet Jesus is there. His Spirit is within us and his Body and Blood is at this table. If we place ourselves in his embrace, we will find rest. His hand, his guidance in prayer gives a peace and rest that allows us to know we are in the right place. In serving we really become a beacon and a light for others. Jesus in his time criticized and ignored those who led by serving themselves. He ignored their rules that they ignored for themselves. Humanity hasn’t changed and there are many types of people in the world. But the point is we can change, we can be true Christians. Jesus said come and I will give you rest. What more can we ask from Jesus who is the way to life?
Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Founding of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, Year A 2014
Mathew’s Gospel today begins with Jesus reflecting on his unique position in time and how he serves to reestablish the relationship with God that had been lost. He begins by stating that it is very simple and can be understood by a child. You don’t have to be highly educated or articulate or experienced to understand the revelation. Jesus then goes on to explain the unique relationship that he has with God the Father.
Well, maybe I am too educated or not enough like a child, but I don’t find the relationship all that easy to understand! The fact that Jesus is the Son of God cannot be determined by earthly means; it simply has to be revealed, which it has been in the Gospels and through the Spirit, as Paul explains to us today. God the Father has given all things to Jesus in the sense, perhaps, that he is to carry out the redemptive process. In the first reading we see how Zechariah prophesies that the Messiah or King will command peace to all nations and will rule from sea to sea. But, in actuality only the Father and the Son can truly know each other, because a person can only truly know oneself. If the Father and Jesus are one, they surely know each other.
Then Jesus comes to his conclusion: Since I have been given everything, you need to trust in me. If in your life you are carrying a heavy burden and are tired, you need to try on the yoke of Jesus. A yoke is a wooden bean placed across two animals to help them pull or carry something very heavy. We need to yoke ourselves with Jesus also, to help us pull or carry the heaviness of life. Jesus tells us that his yoke is easy, perhaps because he does most of the work. We know that redemption is not something we have merited by anything we have done, but by the simple grace of God, a free gift. At the same time we cannot just let Jesus do all the work. If we are truly yoked to him, we must also pull some weight, do our best effort in life, try to reach the unreachable goals that have been set for us.
But these are such wonderful, encouraging words for human beings. How often have we succumbed to worry and anxiety in our lives. I don’t think there is anyone who has not experienced high levels of stress and anxiety and worry. It is part of being human. But how wonderful to know that we can go for help in carrying these burdens. I think this is one of the most wonderful things about Christianity and the teachings of Jesus. I know that I can’t be thankful enough for the many times I have called on Jesus to help me carry a burden, and the sense of relief and rest it gives to know that he is there with me through it all.
Jesus tells us that he is “meek and humble in heart”. A word about humility, perhaps. We usually don’t think that people who think highly of themselves are humble. If we analyze Jesus’ words here – he is equating himself with God, saying that he has been given everything, that he can shoulder our burdens with us, that we need to learn from him. Although this may not sound humble, we need to realize that humility is seeing oneself in a way that doesn’t exaggerate your good things or diminish the bad things. He is the ability to see yourself as you are, and to know when to talk about it. Jesus is being realistic about who he is and what he has to offer us; therefore, he is being humble. And he speaks about it because it is necessary to do so to help us understand that we can come to him when in distress.
If we do this, we will find rest for our souls. He doesn’t say that he will solve every problem or that there won’t be stresses and upsets in our lives. But we will find rest inside where it will make a difference to our lives. We will have the added strength to deal with things.
Our psalm today may be a fitting place to end this discussion of Matthew’s Gospel because it is a response to the goodness of God, and a further description of this being that wants only to love and help us. “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and God’s compassion is over all that God has made.” In that compassion, God sent us Jesus, took on our flesh, suffered and redeemed us, and left the Spirit to dwell within us. What more could we ask for? Know that Jesus is there for you, and never give up having faith in Jesus’ ability to take our yoke upon himself.
This is the wonderfully Good News I present to you this day.
A few words about the other event that we are celebrating today – the founding of the Brazilian Apostolic Church by St. Charles of Brazil – Carlos Duarte Costa – in 1945. At the time St. Charles was the Bishop of Maura.
St. Charles had often been in trouble for criticizing the Brazilian president and the Pope for his association with Fascism. For speaking out he was removed from his diocese and given a titular one. He was also a visionary in that well before anyone else he was speaking out against infallibility and clerical celibacy.
In 1945, he wrote this: “The Brazilian Catholic Church which is a religious society, established for the propagation of the Christianity in all the national territory, which is separated from the Roman Apostolic Church because of the errors that it has been committing since the moment when it left the catacombs, exchanging the beauty of the teachings of Christ — simplicity, humility, poverty, love of neighbor — for a preeminently mercantilistic institution, where pomp reigns, doing damage to true Christianity, which is found in the humble, the laborers, the legitimate representatives of Jesus of Nazareth.”
This is just a little bit about the founding of the National church in Brazil which we celebrate on this date. Next year will be the 70th anniversary of its founding.
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 amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]
Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Our confidence is in Jesus. It is he who draws us. It is he who heals us. It is he who nurtures us. It is he who saves us. Charles de Foucauld, a great French mystic who lived and died in the Algerian desert in the early 20th century, said, “Only one thing is necessary, to love Jesus, to follow in his footsteps, hand in hand with him, to live his life, to think his thoughts, to speak his words, to continue his action.” This is what it means to listen to the words Jesus speaks in the Sermon on the Mount and act on them just like the man who built his house upon the rock.
Saint of the day: Born in 1235, Blessed Raymond Lull was a layperson who worked all his life to promote the missions and died a missionary to North Africa.
Raymond was born at Palma on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea. He earned a position in the king’s court there. One day a sermon inspired him to dedicate his life to working for the conversion of the Muslims in North Africa. He became a Secular Franciscan (a layperson who formally adopted a Franciscan way of living) and founded a college where missionaries could learn the Arabic they would need in the missions. Retiring to solitude, he spent nine years as a hermit. During that time he wrote on all branches of knowledge, a work which earned him the title “Enlightened Doctor.”
Raymond then made many trips through Europe to interest popes, kings and princes in establishing special colleges to prepare future missionaries. He achieved his goal in 1311 when the Council of Vienne ordered the creation of chairs of Hebrew, Arabic and Chaldean at the universities of Bologna, Oxford, Paris and Salamanca. At the age of 79, Raymond went to North Africa in 1314 to be a missionary himself. An angry crowd of Muslims stoned him in the city of Bougie. Genoese merchants took him back to Mallorca, where he died. Raymond was beatified in 1514.
Spiritual reading: In every situation, ask yourself: what would our Lord have done? Then do that. That is your only rule but it is absolutely binding on you. (Charles de Foucauld)
Today we celebrate two men who were giants in the early Church. Peter(Simon) is the first we celebrate, a fisherman who was impulsive and engaging. He denied Jesus three times, yet he became the leader of those who remained after Jesus’ death. In any group, one has to step forward and lead or pull the others together. In peter’s case the lord chose him. In the church, we know that the Spirit is present as well as the Lord, but in human terms, there is a need for order and pulling things together. As early as Easter Sunday we see the concern and need to run and tell and consult with the Apostles and followers and Peter. We even see John holding back and waiting for Peter for all ready he was seen as the leader.
Next we see the entrance of Paul, a Roman citizen, a pharisee and well-educated in greek and philosophy. At the outset Paul was persecuting the church, tracking down and executing Christians. His conversion is recounted in Acts, but his past made it difficult for the Jews to trust him.That fact and his knowledge of greek is the most likely reason that his ministry went out to the gentile world. As in any time, there were internal struggles in the church, Jewish Christians assuming that their faith would simply carry on the old law as the Jews had practised it over the centuries. There were controversies arising especially in places where there were Jewish and Gentile converts present. Jews would find it offensive to eat and socialize with the uncircumcised and those not following the old law.
At that time around 50 AD or so, Paul and a delegation went to Jerusalem to discuss and decide the issue. We see Peter, Paul, James, and the elders convened and prayed and decided the course Christianity should take. Again, we should note that Peter called together or convened the gathering which in the Holy Spirit discerned what was going on and how they solved it for peace and moving on in preaching the Gospel.
Paul as we know was well-traveled and prolific in writing even if everything attributed to him was not his. He established and spread the word throughout the Roman empire til he was martyred.
The history of Peter is a lot less clear. But both men were foundational to the church and both were tireless preachers of the Word. Both were called by Jesus, though in much different ways, but both responded and listened. Each went through a life changing event, taking on a whole new way of life. In celebrating them today, we celebrate the church, the Spirit leading and protecting us as even today it continues on. The bishopric continues, our communities convene and carry on.While we ourselves don’t travel to far off places, we carry on harvesting the fruit planted and prepared for us by Peter and Paul
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus calls us to be aware, to read the signs of the times: we are to pay attention. Everything in creation is redolent with God’s presence. Jesus says we can know things in what they manifest to us. We are to cultivate hearts that are free, hearts that can discern the still small voice in the breeze. Not every sign is a sign from God. The grace we seek in seeking spiritual maturity is the ability to discern what is and what is not from God.
Saint of the day: Today’s patroness of Prussia began her life in the 13th century with luxury and power but died the death of a simple servant of the poor.
Virtue and piety were always of important to Jutta and her husband, who were both nobles. The two were set to make a pilgrimage together to the holy places in Jerusalem, but her husband died on the way. The newly widowed Jutta, after taking care to provide for her children, resolved to live in a manner utterly pleasing to God. She disposed of the costly clothes, jewels, and furniture she possessed and became a Secular Franciscan, maintaining her membership in the laity but taking on the simple garment of a religious.
From that point her life was utterly devoted to others: caring for the sick, particularly lepers; tending to the poor, whom she visited in their hovels; helping the crippled and blind, with whom she shared her own home. Many of the townspeople of Thuringia laughed at how the once-distinguished lady now spent all her time. But Jutta saw the face of God in the poor and felt honored to render whatever services she could.
About the year 1260, not long before her death, Jutta lived near the non-Christians in eastern Germany. There she built a small hermitage and prayed unceasingly for their conversion. She has been venerated for centuries as the special patron of Prussia.
Spiritual reading: Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene because it bears the force of love. (Archbishop Oscar Romero)
Luke 1:57-66, 80
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. All 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. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
Reflection on the gospel reading: On this Nativity of John the Baptist, we remember that God is gracious, for this is the meaning of the name that Elizabeth and Zechariah gave to their child. Elizabeth and Zechariah had passed the time in their lives when children typically were born to people, and this was a source of embarrassment, no doubt, to Elizabeth in a culture that placed great stock on a woman’s ability to bear children. How often does God come into our lives at times of bareness and abandonment to instill life in us in some way that we could not have anticipated? God is gracious because God enters our lives in unexpected ways to make possible what we believed to be impossible. In this case, of course, not only did Elizabeth and Zechariah receive a child when they had despaired of the possibility, but the child they received was one marked by God for a special mission and a deep holiness. When God acts in our lives, God sometimes does not merely surprise us but also outdoes our every expectation. God is gracious.
Spiritual reading: I believe that, essentially, the ultimate disposition to the reception of that infused knowledge that is wisdom can be resumed in one word: death to all that is not God. (René Voillaume)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage begins the last of the three chapters in Matthew that recount the Sermon on the Mount. At the start of the first chapter in the Beatitudes, Jesus praises the meek, saying they will inherit the earth. Here, Jesus says the same thing but with a negative example, chastising people who make judgments about others. Judgment destroys community; it attacks the roots of what unites us. Judgment of others is a temptation. It begins like a small ache in the spirit, reaches out to infect others, and results in a plague in the community. It manifests itself in gossip, and it blinds us to our own faults. It seeks to make us look taller by making others look shorter. Meekness is introspective and honest, resists the temptation to gossip, and acknowledges we all fall short as it seeks the well-being of each member of the community.
Saint of the day: Maurilio Teixeira-Leite Penido was a Brazilian philosopher and one of Brazil’s most famous theologians. He was born into a aristocratic family in Petropolis, Brazil on November 2, 1895. When his father died, he moved in 1906 to Paris with his mother and there completed his primary and secondary education. He pursued humanistic studies at the University of Paris.
In 1914 Penido went to a French Seminary in Rome. In June 1915 he completed his bachelor’s degree in Scholastic philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In November 1915 he moved to Switzerland and studied at the University of Freiburg. In 1918 he received the title of Doctor of Philosophy. He was ordained a priest in 1922 and in 1928 received a doctorate in theology at the University of Freiburg. From 1928 until 1938 he taught in this university.
In 1938 Fr. Penido returned to Brazil and lived in the Copacabana district of Rio de Janeiro. In 1939 he became professor at the University of Brazil. He wrote and published. In 1954 he became professor at St. Joseph Seminary of Rio de Janeiro and retired in 1958. Despite suffering a serious health situation worsened by Parkinson’s disease, he continued to teach and provide spiritual direction to the Carmelite sisters. Fr. Penido died June 23, 1970, at St. Joseph Seminary of Rio de Janeiro. Opening an investigation into his life is under consideration in the diocese of Rio de Janeiro.
Spiritual reading: To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. (C.S. Lewis)
Jesus said to the crowds: “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.”
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.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: This solemnity of Corpus Christi invites us to reflect on what we do when we celebrate our Eucharist. Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper was the opening of the entire drama of his suffering, death, and resurrection where the Lord’s body was crushed through his passion and death and transformed into something entirely different, new, and life-giving through his resurrection. In the same way, we take wheat in the field, crush it, and create something entirely new, different, and life-giving, bread, and we take grapes in the vineyards, crush them, and create something entirely new, different, and life-giving, wine. Again, during the Eucharist, the nature of the bread and wine are crushed and transformed so that neither the bread nor the wine are what they were but instead become something entirely new, different, and life-giving. When we celebrate Eucharist, Jesus invites us to become like the wheat, the grapes, the bread, the wine, and himself. Eucharist is an invitation to each of us to let the old person be crushed, annihilated, and transformed into something entirely new, different, and life-giving.
Spiritual reading: The very last thing I want to do is to unsettle in the mind of any Christian, whatever his denomination, the concepts — for him traditional — by which he finds it profitable to represent to himself what is happening when he receives the bread and wine. I could wish that no definitions had ever been felt to be necessary; and, still more, that none had been allowed to make divisions between churches. (C.S. Lewis)