Homily August 3, 2014 18th Sunday of Ordinary

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Eucharist, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on July 30, 2014

18 sun1Today’s gospel is interesting in how it presents a picture of Jesus at a low moment. His cousin John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod. Like any of us hearing bad news, he wants to withdraw and digest the news. He gets in a boat and goes off to a deserted place. But like most of us in our own time, there is no escape. As time and circumstance binds us in time and space, so Jesus is bound to the people anxious to hear him and they even anticipated his destination and some got there first. How fast would we be to put off our grief, our need to be alone, to reach out to others’ needs? Matthew says he saw their needs and started to cure the sick, to walk among them, to be with them. As in his whole life the “I” became “you”. Even when approached to send them away 18 sun2because they had to get food and evening approached, he says no, share what we have. Images of manna in the desert come to mind, but more than that, the passage is a reminder and type of the Eucharist to come at the last supper. From a meager supply, the bread and fish are blessed and broken and shared among all those present. Sharing was not uncommon in that time and world, but the feeding of so many was. Our scriptures today tell us that God looks out for us and calls us to come and eat and drink.

Ironically, if we look at the world today, we see areas of hunger and famine and starvation in various places. How disordered a world we live in that anyone should be hungry. Part of the fallen nature of humanity is the disorder and lack of caring and looking out for others in the name of the love of God. If the world was an ideal place, the food produced could feed everybody to a point of preventing starvation and hunger. Jealousy, nation against nation, just plain evil, points out that sin is still present. Christ’s love and offering for all is there but still many turn from God’s love looking for who knows what that will never put there being at rest. Physical hunger is something that food can satisfy, but that other hunger which is in our spirit, in our psyche is satisfied by a different food, a food over and above just the physical, a food given by Christ: his body and blood. 18 sun 3As Christians, we are very much a Eucharistic community, we hunger and are satisfied only by that food Jesus gives us for our journey of love to eternal life. Throughout history God foreshadowed what we have with the manna in the desert, the loaves and fishes of Jesus, but especially now we have the Eucharist given at the last supper. You might say that we are now a people in the desert of life being fed by Jesus on that journey through the darkness around us into that glorious day we meet our Lord.

Homily Holy Trinity Parish Sunday July 27, 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, Word by Fr Joe R on July 27, 2014

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on July 27, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. 791e95b54fc244055d6c654b12d011d6_w600Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. “Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Some who read this blog will know that when I was a young man, I spent a part of my life in the Society of Jesus. The General Superior of the Society in those days was Pedro Arrupe, who has since gone to God. His life was redolent with meaning he found in his love for Jesus, and the Church is now investigating his cause for canonization. The Servant of God Pedro Arrupe once wrote:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

This is the message of today’s gospel: the person who finds a treasure in the field, the person who searches for a fine pearl, both of them fall madly in love with something, and it affects everything they do. If we let ourselves fall in love with God in a quite absolute and final way, we never will be the same again: God will seize our imaginations and affect everything we do.

Spiritual reading:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

(Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”)

Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A  2014

The theme of our readings today is very simply – the Lord provides. Both our physical needs and our spiritual needs can be taken care of if we put our trust in God. If this is so, then why do we still need things? The only answer can be that we haven’t fully placed our trust in our Creator. Let’s face it – it is not an easy thing to do. Even St. Thomas who was so close to Jesus was not able to do it without physical proof. And most of us are not saints yet!

Yet, I am always so very surprised that when I let go and give everything over to God, somehow things get better. But most of us have to be overwhelmed before we end up doing that.

In the Gospel today we see a stunning example of faith and trust in Jesus. We all know that a great crowd of people can turn against someone very quickly, and hunger and thirst are two of the base needs that cause revolution and war. The apostles were worried when the evening was coming and none of this crowd of people had been fed. Yes, Jesus had been very charismatic that day, and had compassion for the crowd and worked all sorts of miracles and healings for them. But hunger can turn a crowd.

The Apostles thought the best idea was to send them away to nearby villages so that they could purchase food. I presume that most of the crowd would not have much money, and purchasing food might not be an option for them.

You can imagine their surprise when Jesus said that their idea wasn’t a good one and that the Apostles better feed them instead. Someone today would probably have looked at Jesus as though he were joking, and say “Yeah…right!”

Bur Jesus was not joking and asked them to gather what food there was – which was really very little. And what did Jesus do? he put his trust in God and prayed to God. he then said the traditional blessing before a meal, and started to distribute the food to the Apostles to give out. The result: 5000 ate supper.

I am reminded of a wedding I performed a few weeks ago.  I had left a ciborium at the door and asked people to put a host in if they were going to communion. When the gifts were brought up at the Offertory, the ciborium was empty – they either hadn’t heard or felt embarrassed to get out of their seats.  In any case, I put in about twenty hosts just in case. Well, at communion, suddenly rows and rows of people got up to go to communion. I looked at my poor twenty hosts and all these people – and said to myself: “Jesus, you fed the five thousand – help me here!

Every time someone came up, I cut the remaining hosts smaller and smaller and in the end, about 100 people came to communion and I ran out for the last five. The last five got a nice blessing and an apology.  Guess I am nowhere as good as Jesus yet!

The Psalmist and the prophet Isaiah both re-iterate the theme of trusting in God to provide for us. Isaiah uses the beautiful metaphor of eating and drinking applied to the Word of God. The Word of God will sustain us even more than wine, milk and bread. So if we are needy, we simply have to come to the waters of Scripture and eat the food that is provided there. The Psalmist cries that “You open your hand to feed, us Lord, and satisfy our needs.” The Lord has compassion on us and he loves us.

One last word about these readings today and that is about the question of “need”. Only the Lord knows what we truly need, and as we have said over and over, God’s ways our not ours.  We may think we need certain things, and in our culture, we always seem to be needing something. None of the things that God provides in Scripture are things of excess – they are base needs: hunger, thirst, love. Too often today our ‘needs’ are tied up in things that are excesses or unnecessary to a simple way of life. And that is why perhaps we only think to ask God, and give things over to God when we are very low and needy – because these are the things God is most likely to provide.

Finally, we need also to pray to God as Jesus did, eyes open – perhaps a metaphor to be very clear in what we are asking – and keep knocking on God’s door. Jesus gave us a way. We just need to follow it.

And this is the Good News of God’s providence that we are given 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 July 23, 2014

5473e7f897aab994b55fe11ebc82540f_w600Gospel reading:

Matthew 13:1-9

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Two thousand years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know that the coming of the Kingdom of God is not without setbacks, and Jesus’ Parable of the Sower of the Seed assumes an air not just of parable but of prophecy as well. Jesus said the the Kingdom will not arrive in a smooth and orderly process. There will be fits and starts along the way. Epochs in history will seem like the gospel is being consumed wholesale, and in other times, it will sprout only to whither. But the ultimate trajectory of the Kingdom is secure. When all is said and done, the gospel will produce a rich harvest. We only need to do our part and wait for God to yield the rich harvest.

Saint of the day: The Servant of God Virginia Blanco Tardio was the second of four daughters of Louis Pius White Unzueta and Daria Late Quiroga. She was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia on April 18, 1916 and earned the Bachelor of Humanities at the College of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She had a general knowledge far superior to most of her contemporaries and had extensive biblical and theological knowledge. Blanco_VShe received the title of Professor of Religion School when I was 32. From the time when she was young, Virginia was an exemplary catechist teaching children, youth, and adults in Spanish and Quechua to receive the sacraments. She was beloved by her students to whom she taught religion in several public schools in Cochabamba for 40 years; she worked more than 10 of those years without receiving a salary. Virginia was a member of Catholic Action, and for many years, she served as the president of the Diocesan Women’s Association of Catholic Action. During the 1950s, she served the welfare of indigent people, even opening her house to support their needs. In 1962, she founded the Prayer and Friendship Group. She continued her service of the poor throughout her life, dying of a heart attack on the night of July 23, 1990 at age 74. The investigation of her virtues is drawing to a close, and there is a strong likelihood she will be named a venerable in the near future.

Spiritual reading: Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself. (Thomas Merton)

Homily July 27, 2014 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

17 sun 1One thing ingrained in all of us is that we want the best that we can have for ourselves. We all work hard and do our best to achieve a comfortable life and the same for our family. The parables today liken the kingdom of heaven to a treasure or an expensive pearl that prompts us to sell all that we have and use that to get the treasure or pearl and a better life. It is not hard to imagine a person so dedicated to a thing or a cause that his life is centered on one thing or goal. We see it around us in our daily life, in some athletes and business people driven by the lure of wealth and advancement and power. But really implanted in all of us is a desire for a goal in life, to make a difference and means to carry it out. As we grow we realize that one choice pretty much shapes future choices. So it is in our spiritual life. The treasure of God’s love might seem ethereal or out there, but it is real and is a call, a goal to seek. Throughout history, we might be surprised and even marvel at the dedication that that love brought about in different individuals. To see people who have dedicated their whole life to serve God by giving of themselves to others is always an inspiring thing. Some can do this and still support and lead a family life, while other choose to serve in a religious life. The point is really the selflessness they show in how they go about getting the treasure or pearl they see.

It is interesting, that Christ never mentions or goes into the ethics of hiding the treasure and 17 sunbuying the land and the ownership of the treasure belonging to the finder or the land owner. His concern was the value of the treasure, the kingdom of heaven. Its magnitude and importance pushed aside other considerations and truly one seeking the treasure of the kingdom would not be one to selfishly keep the news of the kingdom for himself. All who are called learn to embrace others. Their wealth, their treasure, their love becomes present for all. Giving up everything and selling it all to get the treasure, is more than hitting the lottery, rather it is the beginning of a foundation for life. God’s love is a starting point and a compass on a journey that twists and turns and has peaks and valleys along the way. As long as our eye is on that treasure, God’s love will lead us there.

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, scripture by Mike on July 22, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

John 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she 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 don’t know where they put him.”

40Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The story of Mary Magdalene is a story of faithfulness Though all of Jesus’ male disciples abandoned the Lord while he suffered on the cross, Mary stood by the side of Jesus’ mother to grieve without fear of the authorities. Even after Jesus took his last breath, and all hope of Jesus’ vision seemed lost, Mary stayed by her teacher and friend and prepared his body for burial. Her faithfulness was so great that on the first day of the week, when the Sabbath concluded, it was this woman who promptly went to the tomb at the earliest hour the Law permitted to anoint the Lord’s broken body. She it is who finds the tomb is empty, and she it is who as an apostle to the apostles, runs to announce the empty tomb to Peter Mary Magdaleneand John. Though Peter and John walk away from the tomb after they see it is empty, she does not. She stays. And it is to her, for her love, singleheartedness, and devotion, that the Lord gives the reward of revealing his resurrection.

Saint of the day: Mary of Magdala (her hometown, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee) was a leading figure among those attracted to Jesus. When the men in that company abandoned him at the hour of mortal danger, Mary of Magdala was one of the women who stayed with him, even to the Crucifixion. She was present at the tomb, the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection and the first to preach the “Good News” of that miracle. These are among the few specific assertions made about Mary Magdalene in the Gospels. From other texts of the early Christian era, it seems that her status as an “apostle,” in the years after Jesus’ death, rivaled even that of Peter. This prominence derived from the her close friendship with Jesus. Beginning with the threads of these few statements in the earliest Christian records, dating to the first through third centuries, an elaborate tapestry was woven, leading to a portrait of St. Mary Magdalene in which the most consequential note—that she was a repentant prostitute—is almost certainly untrue.

Spiritual reading:

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth

That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,

Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:

Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.

But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.


Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on July 21, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.

“Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The scribes and pharisees come to Jesus to ask him for a sign. Of course, Jesus has been giving signs since the start of his ministry, and the people who followed him have understood something new and amazing was here. When they asked him to heal them, they approached him with faith, not asking for a proof but an intervention. These scribes and pharisees approach him in doubt, demanding evidence and not asking for regeneration. Jesus responds to them saying they will receive no sign but the sign of Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of a whale. Jesus uses Jonah’s experience as an allegory of his own burial in the tomb and his resurrection on the third day. In other words, the sign that these pharisees and scribes will receive is Jesus’ resurrection. But as Jesus says in his parable about Lazarus, they will not believe even if someone were to return from the dead.

Saint of the day: Born in 1324 at Fossano in Piedmont, Blessed Oddino Barrotti returned to his native city after his ordination to the priesthood, and for a time served as pastor of the Church of St John the Baptist. From the beginning he devoted himself completely to the care of his flock, hardly taking any rest, fasting rigorously at the same time, and giving to the poor almost every penny that he received. The bishop of Turin, to which diocese Father Barrotti belonged, found it necessary to warn him against overdoing it. “Keep at least enough of your income,” the bishop counseled him, “so you can have a decent living.”

FranciscanA few years later the young priest was chosen provost of the collegiate church in Fossano, but in his humility, he resigned this office to become the chaplain of a confraternity. It was at this time that he became a member of the Third Order of St Francis. He then converted his own house into a shelter for the homeless. He was made director of the Guild of the Cross, an association whose members cared for the sick and for pilgrims. In this capacity he succeeded in having a hospital built at Fossano for the sick, as well as a hospice for pilgrims. Father Barrotti himself made many pilgrimages, especially to the churches of Rome and the shrine of Our lady of Loreto.

Four years before his death, he yielded to the urgent request of the canons and once more accepted the post of provost or director of the collegiate chapter in Fossano, and with it the duties of a pastor. And when the city was visited by a plague in 1400, the holy pastor cared for the sick with such indefatigable zeal that he too was stricken by the disease and died a martyr of charity at the age of seventy-six. He was beatified in 1808.

Spiritual reading: The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detour, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between. (Dine Ackerman)

Holy Trinity Parish Homily Sunday July 20, 2014

Homily for 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Homily for 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A  2014

If you go through the Gospels to look for the most important themes that Jesus talked about, you would have to acknowledge that his teachings on “the kingdom of heaven” would have to be one of the most prominent. Most of the parables  often begin with the phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like…”

So just what are we talking about when we say “the kingdom of heaven”. Is this the place that we are able to go to when we die? Is this the place where God the Father rules with his Son and the Spirit. Is it a place at all? 

The modern Catholic theologian Edward Schillebeeckx says that the term used in Matthew’s Gospel refers to “a process, a course of events, whereby God begins to govern or to act as a King or Lord, an action, therefore, by which God manifests his being-God in the world of men [and women]. I think what Schillebeeckx is saying is that that first of all, the kingdom of heaven is a process that has begun and is continuing to happen. It is not a place away from us – it is where we are at any given time. It is where we live and where we live after death.

Secondly, Schillebeeckx says that is a gradual process whereby God is taking back the world and governing it, and thirdly, it is a gradual realization and growth by us towards a certain way of acting in which the world is able to reflect he God qualities. God is made manifest in the world.

I know this a heavier theology that I am giving you today, but over the next number of weeks in Ordinary Time we will be hearing a lot about the kingdom of heaven and i wanted to give you an overview of just what that teaching is all about. To get it to the simplest terms – God, through Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, has taken back our world and is allowing us to God-center it and create a world that has many of the qualities of the original created world. And just what those qualities are, Jesus tries to explain to us in his many parables.

Today we hear about three of those qualities.  First is that the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure in a field that someone hides in order to get possession of the field and the treasure. We hear that the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl merchant who at great cost buys the perfect pearl. And lastly, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that captures many fish, though only the good ones are kept.

If we are in process right now of establishing the kingdom rules by God, what are the qualities that Jesus points out to us today that need to be established and rooted.

From the first and second parable we learn that the kingdom has been a well kept secret and that when we discover that secret, we should, if necessary, do anything to make it our own. The buried treasure is whatever has helped us to discover God’s plan – the Scriptures, church tradition, liturgy – whatever in our lives has helped us realize the value of living in the kingdom. Similarly, the pearl is beautiful in itself, rare, worth whatever it takes to own it.

The last parable is a bit more extended, but basically it allows us to see the presence of the kingdom now. Even though we have not yet neared perfection, and there are good people and bad people in the world, the kingdom is a net that stretches out over everyone. We are not to judge, but to live it to God and his Angels to do so. Everyone is invited to this kingdom. But in the end, for the kingdom to be as perfect as God is perfect, the righteous will be separated from the evil ones.

Jesus’ last statement is basically telling the Apostles that their mission is to tell and bring about the kingdom on earth, and they are to do this by mixing the new and the old. tradition and modern thought, God’s original creation and the new creation, so that as Paul says today in Romans “those whom [God] justified he also glorified.” That glory is the fullness of the kingdom. We may not have the wisdom of Solomon that God granted him because of his humility and unselfishness, but the treasure is presented to us, and we simply have to recognize it and make it our own by whatever means possible.

My question for you today then is how much you value this kingdom that Christ is talking about, how much you see yourself as part of that kingdom, and what price you have had to pay to be part of it. Can we work together as a parish to establish the kingdom of God on earth? When we pray “Thy kingdom come” can we be more aware of what part we are to play in making the kingdom in process a reality and advancing it.

The kingdom of heaven will be on our minds over the summer and fall readings of Matthew. Let us take the time to think about the meaning of each of the parables and how best we can react to them to do our part in helping the kingdom come.

And this is the Good News we are all challenged 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”]

1 Schillebeeckx, Edward (1983) [1974]. Jesus: An Experiment in Christology. London: Fount Paperbacks. pp. 140–141. 

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Homily July 20, 2014 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on July 16, 2014

16th3The gospel today is again a parable of an occurrence familiar to the people of Jesus’ time. It has the theme of a farmer planting and the enemy of the farmer introducing the seeds of weeds to disrupt the farmers crop and season. It is the theme of good and evil so prevalent in the life and lore of humankind. It invokes the question of why does God allow evil in the world. If he truly loved us wouldn’t he eliminate pain and suffering in the world. But actually aren’t we missing the real picture here? God’s love is so full that it embraces all of us. All have his love and the gifts he bestowed. Probably the most important or precious gift we have is freedom, to choose what we want. I know that those of you who are parents, know what this freedom of choosing means. No parent I know has ever been 100 percent sure of every decision that their children make. This doesn’t change their love for them, but it is a lesson in love and letting go and support for parents and children. So it is with God. At the very beginning, 16th1he gave freedom and choice, and consequently the order and logic and purity of creation began to be altered by choices made by his creatures through the centuries. Death, anger, contention, jealousy and all the other negative realities came to be. Yes, the world is good and evil.

But God is like the farmer in the parable today. He sits back and waits for the time when judgment is due. Like pulling weeds too soon could destroy the crops as well as the weeds, so too in our lives judging now could prevent someone from being all that they might become if they have enough time. God’s love is bountiful and doesn’t just look at this moment or another. No one of us is perfect or ready to be judged at one particular time. In fact we should be grateful that a loving judge will judge us looking at a complete life and how we went about it from a loving viewpoint. Even in people we consider evil, God loves and sees good and always works and act to bring that person to him as he does for each and every one of us. That is why there is evil with good in life and why there can be change in the world.

16thEvery generation it seems has said that they worry that their children have to grow up in a world which is so much more difficult than in past times. Yet every generation survived in spite of all the real or imagined problems. God’s love is there for all and in every generation. This parable then reminds us the need for patience, for love and understanding. We should not try to judge, for in judging ourselves we are almost deceiving ourselves. We should always try to remember God is Love and it never fails.

Holy Trinity Homily for Sunday July 13, 2014

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 13:1-23

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

5473e7f897aab994b55fe11ebc82540f_w600The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In this parable, Jesus is being very pragmatic in his assessment of the success of the spreading of the gospel. He says that the gospel will not succeed everywhere the disciples announce it. The reasons for these failures vary, but essentially, the message does not always succeed because the people who hear the message are not in the right state to receive it. Some people stubbornly hold on to attitudes, opinions, and courses of action which make them obdurate. Some appear to receive it, but it doesn’t get under 476f3ff5652f0a5327b07986c60569f2_w600their skin; their lack of resolution or focus keeps them from getting the message. For others, circumstances rise up around the hearers that prevent a successful outcome: sins like anger, greed, sloth, and pride can get in the way. But the gospel will also result in success, Jesus says; the last group receives the message and commits itself to Kingdom values. Jesus is not quantifying the success of the gospel: in some places, of course, the gospel is very successful, and in other places, it meets huge resistance. Jesus gives a lesson here about what we can anticipate when we share the good news, and with this knowledge, attend not only to the outcomes of our missions but also to the outcome of the word in our own lives.

Spiritual reading: If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars? (G.K. Chesterton)

Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A  2014

I think it is always difficult to understand the concept of sovereignty in a place like the United States where they originally rebelled against kingship and have not known the concept of sovereignty since. I come from Canada and maybe have a little better sense of it, though the concept has changed greatly there over the years as well.

In Wisdom today we get a little essay on God as sovereign. To be a sovereign means that you are in complete control of everyone and everything in the country. The buck really does start and stop there.  We do understand a little elf that kind of power when we look at the rich who have great influence in this land, but nothing like sovereignty. 

In its original form,  sovereign can do anything he or she wants. The sovereigns word is law, his desires are what is given him and what she despises disappears. 

But the book of Wisdom gives us the picture of a different sovereign, one who has that same power, but who uses it in such a way that the power is not abused. In fact, the scale is tipped on the merciful and loving side. Wisdom tells us that God cares for all people – not just the Jews or the believers in one God, but also the Gentiles and the atheists, the foreigner and the outcast. To all people God shows righteousness and he is willing to look for ways to spare all people. God is patient with those who have doubts, and shows impatience to those who are insolent, who do not respect others who may not yet know God.

God is strength, but shows only mildness and forbearance, another word for tolerance, in the way he governs the world. He is a role model for the way we should behave – as Jesus said, “Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect”. We, too, Wisdom says, must be kind, and must fill our children with hope, the hope that is given when repentance for our sins is accepted and granted.

What a beautiful description of God. I know that some people say the God of the Old Testament is a fire-breathing, vindictive God, but God is certainly not in Wisdom! Our Psalm today reiterates Wisdom as it reminds us over and over that God is good and forgiving, abounding in love and always staying true to us.

The description of God the Spirit in Paul’s letter to the Romans today lets us see those beautiful qualities of God at work. The Spirit is God’s gift of himself to us, to inspire, to help us pray, to intercede for us so that justice can be blended with mercy on our behalf. 

Ironically, in contrast to all of these inspiring and beautiful words of God, we have a group of parables by Jesus that ends with Jesus seeming like the fire-breathing vindictive one: The Son of Man will send his Angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and and gnashing of teeth.”

While that does sound a little fire and brimstone-like, if we examine the passage closer we can see that it does fit in with the sovereign concept of God. The first parable basically tells us that God allows everyone to be cared for – just and unjust. The weeds grow up in the field along with the grain. But justice demands a sorting – God is indeed just. Hopefully though, that justice will be tempered with mercy and only at the very end will there be judgement. Until then there is forgiveness, and those who have remained righteous will be highly rewarded. All three parables show this concept of mixing – good seed and weed seed, yeast and unleavened bread, small seed and large tree. All of us have a chance to be saved, and so we need respect all people and their potential, and let the judging come from the merciful One. Our own judgments are sometimes not so merciful!

Again this week, i have chosen to concentrate on one of readings other than the Gospel, though i hope i have shown how they work together. We need to simply remember that to be like God, we need to be kind, compassionate, accepting, loving and non-judgmental.  I am not sure those are all easy qualities to have, but that is what is being asked of us today. The more we strive to be like God in those areas, the more chance we have that we will not be seen to be the weeds at the very end. Let us try this week to put into practice these virtues, make one specific attempt to show mercy to someone, to show love to someone, to accept someone, to be kind to someone. Besides, it might bring you a little happiness as well, and we can all use lots of that!

This is the Good News brought to you by Wisdom, Paul and Jesus today. Make it your own!

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”]

Carry the gospel with you

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

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 10:24-33

Jesus said to his Apostles: “No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household!

4a49eaeea690a4ac231777711802894d_w600“Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Blessed Charles de Foucauld was born in 1858 and died in 1916. He started his life as a sort of playboy but died an ascetic in the tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Charles lived as a hermit in the Algerian desert living in contemplation and service and affording hospitality to passersby. Charles once wrote of the essence of Christian life:

Our entire existence, our whole being must shout the Gospel from the rooftops. Our entire person must breathe Jesus, all our actions. Our whole life must cry out that we belong to Jesus, reflect a Gospel way of living. Our whole being must be a living proclamation, a reflection of Jesus.

This encouragement which Charles offers us mirrors the gospel passage which the Church recommends to us today for our reflection. Jesus, through our meditation, prayer, and participation in the worship of the Church, speaks to us in whispers in the obscurity of own interior lives. But as he says elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel, we are not to hide our light under a bushel basket. Our interior dispositions are not enough. Our insides and outsides need to connect. If we look at the life of Brother Charles, we gain an insight into the meaning of the gospel passage. Jesus is not necessarily asking us to engage in a very public ministry which exposes us to many people; he may ask that of some of us, but he certainly doesn’t ask that of most of us. But what Jesus does ask us, as he asked Charles, is to bear witness to our faith through our presence, our manner, our way of being with others.

Saint of the day: The church remembers today a family of Japanese martyrs who lives in the 17th century. John Naisen was was a wealthy layman married to Monica Naisen and the father of Louis Naisen. He worked with Blessed John Baptist Zola, a Jesuit missionary to Japan who died as a witness to the faith. John Naisen withstood personal persecution for his faith, but when the authorities threatened to force his wife into prostitution, he briefly renounced Christianity to save her. He later repented his backsliding and made a public pronouncement of his return to the Church. John Naisen’s wife Monica was arrested with John for sheltering Fr. Zola. John and Monica, along with their seven-year-old son Louis, were all martyred for the faith in 1626 by beheading. Blessed John Naisen, Blessed Monica Naisen, and Blessed Louis Naisen were beatified in 1867.

Spiritual reading: The spiritual life is the power of our ordinary daily active life. (Walter Ciszek, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

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

484353_193893687401155_295375856_nGospel reading of the day:

Matthew 10:7-15

Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus invites us to cultivate hearts of goodness and peace and to spread the wealth we build there to the people who surround us. In Luke’s gospel, the Lord counsels, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,” and in the passage from today’s gospel, Jesus advises that as we “enter a house, wish it peace.” It’s old maxim that you can’t give away what you don’t have. Spreading goodness and peace presupposes that we are engaged in a spiritual journey that acquires and encourages those characteristics.

Saint of the day: Born in October 1954 in Turin, Italy, the Servant of God Maria Orsola Bussone came from a family of blue collar workers. Her father owned a car repair shop and her mother was a basic tailor (a “sarta”). From her childhood she regularly and frequently took part in her parish’s activities and in meetings of youth in the Gen Movement, the young MARIA ORSOLA 1people’s section of the Focolare Movement. The spirituality of that movement so impressed Maria Orsola, that in a letter sent to Chiara Lubich, the founder of Focolare, Maria said that she wanted to aspire to unconditional love of other people, letting “God use me as He wants . . . because that’s the only thing that’s worthy in our life.” MARIA ORSOLA 2She said she had made the decision to become a tool in God’s hands. Her association with the Focolare Movement caused her to deepen in her introspection and evaluate herself in light of her understandings of Jesus and Mary. She was a happy extroverted girl who was always prepared to be of service to others. Whenever she failed, she resolved to try again.

In July 1970 Maria Orsola, who liked to play guitar and sing with other young people of her parish, went to a trip near to Venice, as a group leader in the parish school-camp located at Ca’ Savio. She arrived on July 3 with 40 other teenagers and children, including her brother. Getting ready for Mass one day at camp, she died of an electrical discharge while she dried her hair with a defective hair-dryer at the age of just 15 on July 10, 1970 in Cavallino-Treporti. On May 26, 1996 Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini, the archbishop of Turin, opened a diocesan inquiry into whether she heroically lived out of the virtues of Christian life, an inquiry that resulted in the cause for her canonization being referred to Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Spiritual reading: We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way. (Francis of Assisi)