Homily for the Feast of All Souls, A 2014

Posted in christian, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, homily, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, Word by Fr. Ron Stephens on October 26, 2014

Homily for the Feast of All Souls Day, A 2014

(Bishop Ron’s second volume of “Teaching the Church Year- Cycle B” is now available on ) be ready for Year B starting in Advent.

Today is that special day of the year when we commemorate all those who died and reached the heavenly kingdom – those saints whose names we do not know, but are saints nonetheless. And since we need all the help we can get, we pray that we may be helped by those who have gone before and have already received their reward for staying true to the faith.

There are a number of possibilities given to us today for various readings and it is up to the celebrant to pick and choose from them. I have chosen readings from Isaiah, Psalm 23, Revelation and St. Luke.

I want this Mass today to be a celebration – a celebration of what awaits us and a celebration of those who have gone before us and are already experiencing it. Isaiah is certainly celebratory today, foreseeing what Christ was to accomplish and proclaiming in very human terms and imagery what heaven will be like – “a feast of rich food, of well-aged wines.” But it isn’t just the food and drink, but God will wipe away all tears – there will be nothing to be sad about, and there will be no more death. But best of all, we will be with our God – “our Lord for whom we have waited.” Those who have died in Christ are experiencing this now, and the hope is that each of us will as well.

Today’s well-known Psalm, the Lord is my Shepherd, describes not the journey after we die but our journey during this life. The Jews did not at the time of the Psalms believe in an after life the way we do. Most of the Psalms are centered on God doing his good during the lifetime of the individual. And so, in Psalm 23 we walk through dark valleys in life but are not afraid because God is shepherding us, leading us, feeding us, anointing us. We are taken in by the shepherd and dwell in God’s house while we are alive. As Christians we know that this Psalm also refers to what will happen to us after death as well, and that our cups will continue to overflow and we will always be comforted as are the unnamed saints of old.

The short second reading from John’s Revelations tells us that those who have died in the Lord and have done good things while they were alive, will merit the results of those deeds after death and death will be rest from all the good they have done. This hearkens back to the “comfort” offered in Psalm 23. “Blessed are the dead” proclaims God because they have merited their rest and can see God.

Our reading from the Gospel of Luke today is a longer one and is a retelling of the story of the apostles walking to Emmaus after the death of Jesus. It is interesting that this reading was recommended because it seems to have nothing to do with those people who have died and gone to heaven. It is the story of Christ’s appearance to two men who were leaving the area because they were fearful of the events happening after Jesus’ death and rumors of the resurrection of Jesus were being circulated. They do not recognize Jesus but invite the stranger to accompany them on the journey. As they journey they talk about recent events and tell Jesus of their fears and what they have heard. Jesus then begins to explain to them why all of these things had to happen, why it was necessary that Jesus die. Unfortunately we do not have much of this conversation narrated to us, but we can imagine Jesus opening up the Scriptures to them, reading backwards, we might say, and explaining how Moses and the prophets had all prepared the Hebrews for the coming and death and resurrection of Jesus, and how because of that death, was able to enter into the glory of heaven, saving us, and opening heaven up for all who have faith in him to follow. It is, then, the story of how heaven can now be understood in the imagery of Isaiah, as a rich feast, and how Christ has taken away our tears and destroyed death itself. So it is a very appropriate reading for our understanding of how it is possible that we, too, can share in the heaven of the faithful departed who have gone before us.

Coming as we do after the coming of Christ, we are able to participate in this wonderful hope of ours – the kingdom of heaven, that has begun with Christ, continues and will be finally established at some point in history. We know that if we remain faithful, that we too, will share in this heavenly banquet, and we pray today to all those of our families and friends who have faithfully gone before us, will help us, sustain us, give us the strength we need to continue our journey on the right path and intercede for us to God – the God that have before them eternally.

When we say in our Creed each week that we believe in the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, we prove our hope in this great event that is in process now and will each fruition in the future.

Let us pray that those who have gone before us in faith help us along the way and let us rejoice in their victories over death.

And this is the good news of the readings today, and the Good News of our salvation.

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 or Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies from for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”] They are different than the ones which will be published here.

Update on the CACINA blog

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on October 24, 2014

I know many of you followed, “Carry the gospel with you,” and I am grateful for your interest in it.  I sort of ran out of gas and decided I need to take a sabbatical while I contemplated how to go forward with this ministry.  A week or two ago, Fr. Joe and I were saying mass for an ailing member of our community who was undergoing surgery in that hour, and Fr. Joe at the prayers of the faithful prayed I would take up the blog again and suggested a new format for the work.

So this is what I am going to do, a word of God being spoken to me in mass and all:

I am going to start a new feature at the start of Advent called, “Carry the Word with you.”  It will feature the first reading and the gospel of the day that follows the day of publication.  The purpose of the post will be to reflect on the scriptures and offer encouragement to ministers who celebrate daily Eucharist to preach daily to the communities they serve.

May God be glorified in all things and particularly in you.

Stay  tuned till next month.

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish Sunday October 19, 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on October 19, 2014

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr. Ron Stephens on October 19, 2014

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Jesus is noted for preaching what we call the Law of Love. In today’s reading, the Pharisees again try to trick Jesus up, and see how much he really knows about Hebrew Scripture. Jesus summarizes Scripture by saying that it can all be boiled down to two rules – love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The Law and the prophets, the two great Biblical areas used by the Pharisees, he says can be hooked to these two central principals of love which are commanded for us to follow.

God does not do anything that doesn’t stem from God’s own holiness. The law of love stems from God’s love and compassion towards us, and we, too, are to be God-like, aiming to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

The reading from Exodus today was chosen to show the love and compassion of God despite the fact that it talks about his wrath to those who treat widows and orphans badly, but the concepts that God was giving them regarding how to treat their neighbors were, especially for the time period, very advanced and culturally challenging. They are still challenging for us today to follow.

How in America do we treat legal aliens? Do we offer them comfort and jobs and training or do we try to take advantage of them? I have heard of aliens who were doctors in their own country working at service jobs here in restaurants, for example.

How do we treat people who cannot work, who have no families, who have been left bereft because of deaths? Do our social services, which certainly make some attempt to help people in need, meet that need, or do we just complain about the fact that our money is going to people who ‘could work, if they wanted to”?

Do we provide interest free loans to people who are starting out and have nothing? I doubt the banks would be very willing to even look at that.

And yet, there are people, there are societies, there are group like Habitat for Humanity, for example, that do these things and are truly in the Gospel spirit of loving one’s neighbor.

What is our position on all of this? Do we give generously to help the needy or do we somehow think they can take care of themselves or do we let someone else do it. I know that we cannot support all the good things that come in our mailboxes, but can we choose one or two that may be close to our hearts and be very generous to them. Because my own income has been drastically curtailed since retirement, I have had to choose only three of the charities that I have supported in the past, but hopefully I am still doing enough to follow Christ’s mandate.

Paul speaks today to the Thessalonians about being examples for others. He sees that the Thessalonians have followed the examples of Paul and Jesus, and have themselves become examples for all the other Christian communities. Our parish, though small, does a wide variety of things that hopefully open the eyes of the community to our own caring and loving. I hope that others see us as a very giving parish, despite our size, and that this mandate of love of our neighbor grows and becomes even more visible to the communities around us. We don’t do it for our own glory, but we also don’t want to put this light under a basket since it may inspire others, both in the parish and without, to do more.

The law of love has compassion at its base. Compassion means feeling or suffering with others. Unless we have some sense of the needs of our neighbors, the sufferings of our neighbors, we cannot really be compassionate. We can give because that is what we are told to do, but my hope for us today, is that we can be compassionate as God is compassionate, love as God loves, and show that love by treating everyone as we would want to be treated were we in the same situation.

And that is the good news I wish for you to reflect on this thirtieth Sunday, and is the Good News that Christ proclaimed to us 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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Homily October 19, 2014 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on October 15, 2014

29 sunIn looking at today’s gospel, many people in this country would say that it is a perfect defense of the separation of church and state. On the face of it sounds simple, but in no way can we see it this way. In those times the church was the state and the state was the church.29 sun 2 Remember the Roman emperor was considered a god, and in Israel, the country was ruled through the leaders of the temple. The question to Jesus was to ask if they should comply with another nation, a worshiper of false gods. What should they do, should they pay the tax? This is one of the times Jesus became annoyed and inquired who was on the coin. Immediately he told them that what was human and worldly was on their shoulders, but the rest belonged to God. The questioners had coins, they were working the system so to speak, but were they giving God his due? Through the centuries Israel had been taken over by foreign countries, but faithfulness to God got them through. Jesus reminded them of that in his reply.

For us today, it means the need to work first in our religious community to bring ourselves to God, but also within the worldly community to bring a peace and togetherness to all human beings in the world. Impossible? Most likely, but then these things can happen one thing at a time, one encounter at a time. We are in an age when we see things go “viral” as they say, and who knows when the spirit might move the mass of human beings. When in history has the world been so informed of the suffering of the huge numbers of humankind? When has it seen poverty to the extent it does today? The same for hunger, in the far reaches of the world. 29 sun 3These and other crisis events are seen every day. It is in the news, on our computers, our tablets, our tv’s, actually inescapable. Do we just ignore it? They are things that the coins and goods of the world should be caring for. The people we see, we should be reaching out to for they belong to God and we should care for them.

It seems so simple, use your earthly goods for sharing and your spiritual goods to bring Christ to others. But we know that it is ongoing and endless task. It is one person at a time, an endless line of those in need. This is what God has planned for us, what we are asked to answer. What his son has given to us. is a challenge we begin, but which He will bring to an end.

Holy Trinity Parish Sunday Homily October 12, 2014

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ethics, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr. Ron Stephens on October 12, 2014

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Bishop Ron Stephens

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

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

In today’s reading, Jesus continues to be hounded by the Pharisees who are trying to discredit him or trip him up. Today they set a trap for Jesus by trying to get him to say something that would alienate Jesus from some of the people, depending on which side he took on the issue. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the two main parts of the religious establishment during Jesus’ time. The Pharisees focused on the Bible and the requirements that it established for everyone while the Sadducees were more interested in ritual and ceremony. The two groups plotted together, however, to trick Jesus. The Herodians mentioned here were a political party, not religious. The religious establishment did not want to support Rome, but the political establishment did. Jesus’ answer then would alienate one of the two groups. They would do anything it  seems to discredit Jesus.

Jesus, of course, understands that this is exactly what they are trying to do and will have none of it.  The tone of his speech in the original actually indicates his disgust with them – and we translate that as – you  hypocrites! – but it is much more sarcastic than that.

Jesus’ answer simply indicates that there are two realms – the worldly and the spiritual. We are in the world and so, bound by the rules of the world, but we are spiritual and so are bound by the Laws of God as well. We need to pay service to both.

In the early Church the letters of Paul show that Paul was very careful to tell the new Christians to live as good citizens. He, too, saw the need to live in the world as it was, and not be put into a situation where they could be criticized and look bad.

What has bothered me in thinking about these readings is when there might be a clash between the rules of the nation and the rules of God. Because of our democratic process we can vote to follow our beliefs, but since we know God’s ways are not our ways, the vote doesn’t always go the way of God. Issues of abortion, birth control, gay marriage are recent issues, but slavery and war have been other issues that have often seemed to collide with Christian values. Who is right? Separation of church and state is not always possible.

With some issues, like slavery, the political process seemed to be ahead of the church on this issue, and it was church theology that changed as a result. Few of us would look at slavery in the Bible today and see it as God approved, though it had been interpreted that way.

Other good questions might revolve around whether Christians have a duty to force their ethics and morality on the majority of Americans. We must follow the laws of our country and render unto Caesar, but we can work to change people’s minds on issues or show a better way by our example. Or perhaps the democratic will is just and the theological interpretations may change. Whatever the case, I am not sure it is always simple, as Jesus’ answer might indicate. Or perhaps it is. Perhaps we are to follow the laws of the country, and live our own lives according to God’s law, not judging others on their different values or ideas. All interesting material for discussion and thought this week.

The reading from Isaiah this week is more difficult to find a thematic connection with Jesus’ teaching except that we see God’s effort at appointing rulers who will bring things in line with his will. Cyrus was a Persian ruler and was not Jewish, yet God was able to use him to widen people’s understanding of the one, true God and to bring glory to himself and the Hebrew people.

Perhaps God also uses leaders to help us understand the modifications in theology that we might be ready for. Abraham Lincoln changed a lot of people’s minds about slavery and his strong belief eventually paid of both in American life and eventually in our theological understanding. God works in many ways – ‘there is none besides him and there is no other’ as Isaiah says.

This week let us not be afraid to challenge some of our beliefs that may not align with social values of the world. Let us examine Scripture and hear God talking to us for the Scriptures are for every age and all time. And know that whether we are rendering unto Caesar or unto God, that all things will someday be one and God shall reign – that is our Christian hope and our Christian belief.

And that is the Good News we can take refuge in when we are troubled by the world around 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”]

Homily October 12, 2014 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, ecclesiology, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on October 9, 2014

28 sunMuch of our Christian history and even the prior old testament times always involved the notion of meals and food. It is only natural, since one thing all of us must do on a very regular basis is eating to sustain ourselves. Generally, eating is an enjoyable and a social experience. In most societies it is central to family life, bringing a family together to share and converse. Jesus throughout his ministry was often accused of eating and drinking with the outcasts of society. This was just not done in a class oriented society. Jesus, of course, ignored them as he even attacked them for they were not concerned with so much the law and work of God but of themselves and their own lives. The 28 sun2parables we see today were written after the destruction of Jerusalem and very definitely a condemnation of the Jewish leaders and an encouragement for the gentiles in the church. The issue of circumcision had been decided, but Matthew was still writing to the Jewish Christians, trying for the acceptance of the Gentiles. Thus the parables are very allegorical.
But for a moment, let us stop and consider the Eucharist and the early gatherings. As in the last supper, the Eucharist was celebrated at a meal. There were no churches and after all Jesus had made it part of his farewell dinner with his intimate companions. As the centuries have progressed, we have kind of lost that social aspect of the Eucharist. It is still food and drink, but now we enter a church, sit in rows of chairs and pray and meditate quietly. My point is we are a family, and I know of no family that eats silently. Prayer and communing with God is important, 28 sun3but so is seeing and caring for each other. As a community, a family if you will, we have talents and gifts which can and do make us all really one. The kingdom has begun and is now and is later. What comes later we don’t know now, but what is now we can help to work and bring our fellow believers together in it. God is our agenda, his love is ours and our love should reach not only him but all whom he loves. That is why we celebrate his forgiveness, express our peace with one another, and share his Body and Blood.

And so the real banquet we are called to should leave us joyful as if our family has once again reunited and renewed their faith and love and spent real-time together. This is our banquet, our Eucharist. That is the invitation we answer, and the garment we put on is Christ and that we all did at Baptism. Keep him close and He will never leave .

Homily Holy Trinity Parish October 5, 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, homily, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, Word by Fr Joe R on October 5, 2014

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Jesus’ addition of the last section to the wedding feast parable can be very disturbing, and is only found in Matthew. Luke has a version without it. I want to start with it today.

In the beginning of the Christ’s parable some were called to the feast but chose not to come.  This traditionally in Christian terms has been applied to the Jewish people who were the chosen and were friends of God, but did not accept the invitation  to come to the feast of the kingdom that Jesus preached about. So the King called everyone else and invited everyone. Traditionally that has been all Gentiles. And notice there was no distinction between the good who were invited and the bad. All were invited to come clothed in their best wedding garments to show respect to the king’s son. In fact there was historical precedence  that Kings would give banquets for all and would provide clothing for those unable to afford it.

But then we have the last section of Jesus’ parable. The King now turns to be a judge.  The King host sees one person who has come in but has not shown respect by wearing the wedding garment. He was there to eat the food and enjoy the party, perhaps, but flaunted the rules of dress which would show disrespect to the King.

The question often asked is what the wedding garment is or means. Most seem to think that it means repentance. When we become Christians we are baptized, but if we come to the sacrament without true repentance and are not sorry for our sins, then we are not showing respect and will be judged and cast out. Coming into the kingdom, Jesus says, may be free, but there are conditions that are attached to it. We must continue to be clothed and not just accept Christianity on our own terms. It is God the King who provides the invitation and the terms. And it is God the King alone who will judge through Jesus.

Some people seem to think that if they are baptized they are saved. Period. But Jesus indicates here that there will still be a final judgment, and that we will be judged on whether we have continued to wear the wedding garment, continued to follow the obligations of that invitation.

I am sure that Jesus is not talking about all the minor rules and even major rules that churches have established, but is talking about true repentance and belief in God, and how we have respected that belief. Have we acted in a way that paid respect to the generous invitation we were given and the grace that came from Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So, a parable like this, still causes us to think, causes us to consider why we are sitting here in our somewhat comfortable pews, and whether we have coming truly wearing the garment of humility, repentance and faith. Many are called but few are chosen, can be very sobering words for us.

We can see how Paul put this into practice today when he talks about the balance in his life: he has experienced being poor and experienced being rich, of being well-fed, and being hungry.  He knows what the extremes are, but the Christian needs to balance all these things in order to live his life at the Christian banquet and to keep the proper perspective.

And, in the end, that banquet, that wedding feast of the parable, will be so wonderful Isaiah tells us. The passage we read today is so beautiful that i want to quote it again: The Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear…. he will swallow up death forever. Then the  Lord will wipe away all the tears from all faces.” This is our faith. As we start to come to the conclusion of our church year, our readings will focus more and more on the second coming – that time when the kingdom here on earth begun will be made complete, but when there will also be a judgment made. Both of those contrasting images will be presented over the last weeks of the year.

It seems to me that Catholics, although we profess belief each week in the Creed to the “resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”, we don’t often have it in the forefront of our thinking as do many Protestant sects. Each year the Church re-introduces it, so that we can have a complete vision of God’s salvation for us, God’s plan for us and the conclusion of that plan. It should be something, though, that we look forward to if we are living our lives wearing the garment. Let us conducer these things this week, but as we say after the Our Father each week, let us live in “joyful hope” and without anxiety, living in moderation in all things, and trusting that we will be the guests in the kingdom Gd has prepared for us.

This is the Good News that should push us forward this week to more faith, hope and love.

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 October 5, 2014 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, church events, ecclesiology, homily, politics, religion, Word by Fr Joe R on October 1, 2014

27 sun 4With today’s readings, we could easily get lost in a lot of different allegorical interpretations. In many ways some would be valid. But remember the gospel was written after Jesus died and rose and even after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In many ways the early church would see that the vineyard was the kingdom of God on earth and that the overseers or tenants were so pleased with what they had that the would go to any length to preserve what they had. 27 sun 3Thus, we see when the Son of the owner comes they assume the landlord is dead and presume they can eliminate the Son and all would be theirs. It is almost saying that if you want that vineyard or kingdom which is the ultimate for anyone, that you would do almost anything for it. Extreme? Yes, but how intense are you when you want something? That kingdom, the vineyard was everything to those who murdered the Son. Now Jesus wasn’t preaching murder, but the question is what do you value in your life today. Are we so comfortable or set in our ways that we lose sight of what is beyond the here and now. The kingdom of God is now and it is love. How much do we value that in day-to-day life? How far will we go to get that kingdom and be a part of it? Like the lost coin or the pearl how far would we go. How strong is our motivation?

Can we be so in touch with God’s love that it becomes our way of life? Some would say it was radical or impossible to do. As humans we do have faults and failures, but we can still pull ourselves up and live the kingdom in the right way. Love is now and it is forever. ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In fact, God is love and when we say I believe but let us not forget it also means those two words were a beginning, an opening of a whole way of life and love joined together in our faith and love and the church of God here and his kingdom.

Let us remember if Jesus gave a kind of backhanded compliment for how resolute the tenants were in achieving their goals, how resolute should we be going after ours?