CACINA

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension, Year B 2015 (May 14 or 17)

Posted in christian, church events, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 10, 2015

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension, Year B 2015 (May 14 or 17)

In a certain way, today is about saying goodbyes. It is not the seemingly permanent goodbye that we experience when someone dies, but more like the ‘goodbye’ that takes place when you move away to a different state or country and you think you might not see that person or persons again for a long time, if ever.

The Apostles had already said their shocked goodbyes in their hearts to Jesus when he died on the cross and was buried. Getting him back again was a miracle of the highest order and we are told many times how joyful it made them. But it was not to be a permanent stay. The resurrected body was not quite the same as Jesus’ body was before, as we have noted. We teach that heaven isn’t a physical place; Jesus was physical, in that he was seen and touched by the followers, but not physical, in that he could go through walls and appear, and even change or cloak his appearances so he was not known. So his return to the Father is not something that we can quite comprehend. The image we use metaphorically is that heaven is up and the world of the unsaved dead is down, and so Jesus was seen to be lifted up and disappeared.

This story is related to us in all three readings today so it is a story which in itself is so miraculous that all the writers comment on it or tell it.

After getting Jesus back, it must have been very saddening to think that they were going to lose him again, and Jesus knew that.  That is why Jesus is full of promises to them, to make sure that they knew it wasn’t abandonment they were facing, but that he would still be with them, but in a different way. We are told that he had been on earth in his resurrected state for forty days – a number that appears many times in the Bible – forty years in the desert the Jews wandered, Moses sent spies to the Promised Land for forty days, Jonah warned that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days, Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days. Obviously the number forty had some significance metaphorically. Generally it referred to a testing period or a trial period. The Apostles had been fortified by Jesus for forty days to prepare them for his leaving.

During this time Jesus taught them, and prepared them to take over his ministry. He told them that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Having the Holy Spirit in them meant that they would be able to do the things that Jesus had done because God was in them. Mark says they would be able to cast out demons, speak in tongues, be unhurt by poisons or snakes, and heal the sick. In other words, they would be given special power. Jesus even uses that word when he says: …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”

So these last forty days had been a time of rejoicing because Jesus was with them and a time of preparation for taking over in order to spread the kingdom of God on earth.

Just a few years later, St. Paul was able to observe all that had been happening since the Ascension, and he says it in such a beautiful way. Paul describes what has happened to the disciples since the coming of the Spirit on them, and he begs them to continue being worthy of those gifts – to live in humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with each other in love to maintain that unity of Spirit. He reminds them that they are all one, just like that vine metaphor that Jesus had used, and they must work together to maintain that strength of being in one Lord, one faith, one baptism, in one God. Then Paul talks about all the gifts that the Spirit had brought them. Their purpose, he reminds them, was not for self-glory, but to build up the body of Christ. Paul doesn’t want them to forget that these wonderful gifts have been given so that they may bring everyone to know Christ as mature Christians, unified in the faith.

So the ‘goodbye’ that we celebrate today, though similar to many goodbyes in our lives, is different. It isn’t just through memory that the person we say goodbye to will be with us, but Jesus will be part of us, inside us, inspiring us, helping us, making us stronger. These are such hopeful sentiments that I think we often take for granted or forget. Jesus didn’t go away. he is right here, and right there [the tabernacle], and when we call on him he can’t but help to hear.

Good News! Yes. And good news that we need to shout to the ends of the earth as we celebrate today his final promise to us – the coming of his Spirit which we will celebrate next Sunday.

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 and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily May 10, 2015 6th Sunday of Easter

Posted in Called, christian, homily, inspirational, religion, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 7, 2015

wide_dalyIt is almost 14 years since 911, but in many ways it remains in our lives even though we don’t realize it. The horror of that day is one of those times in our lives that we remember exactly where we were when we heard it happened. In my life two of those moments exist, President Kennedy’s assassination and the attack on the twin towers. Both times the country was quieted and became introspective. There were myriad reactions to both these events, with most people turning to their understanding of God and religion for comfort or resolution to what would seem reasonable behavior. Today’s readings talk of God’s love and his boundless giving to all his beloved creatures. All of what he created is good and all of men and women enjoy his love. He gave his Son that proved his love even though the evil and sin of he world put him to death. It was a gift given by Christ to give his life and to take it up again. God’s love and spirit thus became present to the world in a special and loving way. His love was all-embracing and forgiving of humanity’s flaws and failures.

In giving us his church, Christ gave a special way to find and be with his father. He sent his disciples to go out to all the world and preach his Word. Yet, even he said that there were believers of a different fold a different kind. Christian faith tells us that One God is present to all. Even in Christianity that faith has different forms. Yet Jesus is present when two or three are present in his name. Can we be so self righteous as to deny God’s presence on those who gather in his name regardless of what name they give them. The common thread of love and forgiveness touches most of humanity. Certainly evil lurks and is present, but as Christians we are called to love one another as Christ loved. He did not limit it just to those he knew but to all he met, to all who had need. His love meant all that entails, even forgiveness, even of those who hate you and even do harm to you.

Throughout our history, the message of Jesus has often been used in many ways to justify many things sometimes for good and other times not. War and conflict has touched the world in every century. Humanity’s imperfections certainly have given us an uneven history. Suspicion, greed, exploitation, and all the other sins and evil still lurk about. Yet, John today reminds us that Jesus said ”Love one another”while we should at the same time remember what St. Paul said, “Love never fails.”

Homily at Holy Trinity May 3, 2015 5th Sunday of Easter

Posted in Called, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 3, 2015

Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B 2015 (May 10) Mother’s Day

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, homily, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 3, 2015

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B 2015 

Today’s readings, appropriately, are all about love and gifting. I say ‘appropriate’ because when I think of the word ‘mother’, I think about both love and giving.

The love that a mother has for a child is somehow different from that love which a man has for a child, I would imagine. I don’t think a man can feel what it myst be like to have this person grow inside of you, to bond for nine moths with something that is so integrally a part of oneself. In that sense the birth of the child must be somewhat traumatic in that rending apart. But what can be pulled apart is the intimate feeling of love for that child, so helpless, so needy, but reflecting the mother herself.

I think God must be like that. I know we have mental images of God as the Father, very male, but God is really sexless, and so since the beginning of time Jesus was with God, his transition to a human person, so helpless, so needy, reflected God as well.

I think that is why we can see God as love, and why God is love, and why God has gifted us with Spirit, with grace, with everlasting life, even though we are so mortal and so undeserving – so helpless and so needy.

In the first reading today we read of the gift of the Spirit in the early Christian community. We learn that this gift which comes from love was not just for the Hebrew people who had a testament with God, but was for everyone.  God’s love knows no bounds.

We can sing God a new song because we recognize what God’s son has done for us and we recognize the gifts he has given us. God has indeed done marvelous things, as the Psalm prays today.

The end result of this love and this gifting of God is proclaimed both in the Epistle and Gospel today by John. In the Second Reading John tells us how we need to react to this love of God and the gifts he sent. We are to love one another. It is as simple and as complex as that. We are to love one another. The model for that love is God, the gratefulness we need to show is to reflect that love of God, and the life we need to live is one where love is the abiding factor.

Over and over we are reminded that we did nothing to merit God’s love, and it is not through anything we do that we earn God’s love, but because God’s great love for us, shown by God’s sending his Son to be the atonement for our sins, that we can know about and mimic that love in our own lives.

In the Gospel Jesus says that he loves us, just as the Father loves him, that same intense, unbridled love that we see in mothers, and Jesus teaches us that if we want to continue to live in that state of love with God, we need only keep his commandments willingly.

Jesus says the result of that will be joy. There seems to be so little joy in the world today. I seldom read the paper or watch the news today because the news is never joyous. But Jesus says: “I have said these things so that my joy may be in you, and that your your joy may be complete.

When was the last time you experienced complete joy? Jesus says that we must keep his commands to love God and one another, and by doing so you will achieve complete joy. He doesn’t say when, he doesn’t say how, but he says you will experience it. That is why it is so important to get the priorities of lives straightened out, to forgive others, to be merciful to others, to help others, to show love to others. That is what it is all about. That, according to Jesus, is the meaning of life – devoting ourselves to God and others.

So many philosophers have sought the answer to that question “what is the meaning of life?’ but here we have it in Jesus own words – he tells us how to do it. Will it be easy? Nothing worth having is ever easy. Ask a mother. She will tell you how hard it is sometimes to love unconditionally, but that is what we are directed to by no other than God him or herself.

Think about it. Reflect on it. Act on it.

That is the extremely Good News that answers the most existential of question – why we are here!

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 and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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