CACINA

Homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter April 1, 2016

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, Eucharist, Faith, homily, Resurrection, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on March 31, 2016

2nd easter 5Faith in the Resurrection is more than accepting an amazing fact. Looking at today’s readings, we can see that even for Jesus’ disciples it was difficult. Thomas of all stands out because he refused to be swayed by what anybody told him or to accept only what he himself could see. Certainly, at the time, many saw the Risen Jesus but in actuality it was the relationship of the Apostles and early community that bore witness and brought about the acceptance of His Resurrection. The acceptance of the Apostles and early community and the works coming forth from he believers of Jesus is what testimony led to the faith in Jesus and the carrying on of his community, the church founded on his Apostles. No one has seen God, but in history in revelation God has spoken and encountered humanity. As 2nd easter 3creator, his love flowed to his creatures and with that love came his forgiveness and exoneration through the death and resurrection of His Son. To believe is not the easiest thing, it requires that the believer gives a certain part of her/hisself to something that is unprovable and here amazing. Even belief in God requires such a challenge, yet these beliefs have come to us from Jesus’ time to ours.

These beliefs have come in a relationship that we call church or community. God’s love and action is certainly towards all of us and through Christ’s teaching and Sacraments we are not only related to our community but enter into a personal and spiritual relationship 2nd easter 4with God, Father, Son, and Spirit. The Apostle Thomas in a special way shows us that the personal relationship he had with Jesus in life was one of seeking to protect Jesus and now that he was crucified he found it impossible to believe what he heard about Jesus because he needed to see for himself. . His overwhelming acceptance of his risen Lord on seeing Him should help us in our own times of doubt and despair. Our relationships with each other and with God tells us that Christ has died, has risen, that he is with us now today here in our church, in His Word, in his Eucharist, and will be when he comes at the end.

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, C (April 3, 2016)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on March 30, 2016

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter, C (April 3, 2016)

The main theme of today’s readings might be summarized by Jesus’ saying in the Gospel of John: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Belief! The early followers of Jesus saw Jesus with their own eyes. Thomas was able to touch Jesus and verify for himself the reality of the risen body. We have not had that luxury, so how much harder is it for us today, 2000 years later, to believe. Yet we do, and Christ calls us blessed for that. By what means do we believe then?

First of all, we believe because we trust the men and women who wrote the accounts. This was not the ramblings of one person, but Jesus was seen by all the apostles and by many of the other followers. We trust that that many people, at different times and places, could not have been so mistaken or could have invented what happened.

I think we also believe because of the strangeness of the account descriptions. Jesus’ resurrected body was not quite the same as his earthly body. Yet, the combination of supernatural and natural elements seems to make it very realistic to us. Jesus appears out of nowhere in the room where the Apostles were hiding because they feared, being Jesus’ followers, that they might be put to death as well. The room was locked, but Jesus just appeared – supernaturally! But his appearance was normalized by his customary greeting to them: Shalom Aleichem, Peace be with you. It made it seem less supernatural and more ordinary. This combination makes it so much realistic to us.

Jesus also greeted them by symbolically breathing on them. He says for them to receive the Holy Spirit, but I think this was symbolic of what would happen to them a few days later at Pentecost. When they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they are quite different than the frightened people they remained that day. gain, much more believable.

If that isn’t enough to help us believe, we have the story of the doubter, Thomas, who standing in for those of us that find it hard to believe in the miraculous, has to be convinced by actually physically touching the wounds of Jesus. And he is, and so are we!

Our belief, then, today, is helped by the writings of the Gospels and the witness of the disciples. John says at the end of his reading today that he wrote these things down “so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” John was writing his Gospel at a time when most of the contemporaries of Jesus had passed away, and all there was now was word of mouth and the writings that had been created.

Belief today is also helped by our experiences with others who believe. We see this in the Acts of the Apostles, our first reading today. The Apostles were able to go and spread the word by preaching and healing and were so successful that people brought all their sick onto the streets when the Apostles would pass by. Even though people were frightened by what might happen to them if they became followers of this crucified man, Luke says: “Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women…”

So these are some of the ways that we are able to maintain our belief and faith today, centuries after the events happened. The final image that we are left with today is from the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelations. This is the image of Christ that inspires all believers: “I saw one like the Son of Man… but he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, but see, I am alive forever and ever.” Now we have Christ’s own words that John has written down to help our unbelief, to give us strength in our belief, to inspire us to know that our beginning and now our ending will be in Christ, who has defeated death and the underworld. It is a beautiful and inspiring image for all of us who believe. It gives us assurance that there is something after death, and that our end is to be with Christ our Creator, and the Creator of all. Someone who knows us, because he has been in our shoes, walked with us, and died with us.

So there you have it from the readings today – a compendium of ways that we are blessed because we believe, and the reasons why we should believe. This week I would ask you to think about what you believe, and take heart because of those beliefs. Christ has told us that we are blessed because of this, and Christ does not lie. Everything we do becomes a step closer to that blessedness which is now our birthright. The ups and downs of our daily life can be made blessed by this belief, and it can make our understanding of life so much more positive. This is the Good News of our belief in Jesus Christ. May it strengthen and secure us in his love. God bless you.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish Easter Sunday March 27, 2016

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, Resurrection, scripture by Fr Joe R on March 27, 2016

Homily March 27, 2015 Easter

Posted in Called, christian, church events, Faith, homily, religion, Resurrection, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on March 25, 2016

risenchristThis Easter night, to truly appreciate the Resurrection of Christ, we must remember the experience of Good Friday. In one way or another, all of us have experienced dying and death. The stark reality of it being so final, being cut off from someone we knew and loved, being left to go on and be alone so to speak. Jesus had been a man with disciples and had forged a new teaching and relationship with his followers. His teaching on love and the need for it and the love and care for one another all in a few days had seemed to be obliterated and led to his disciples fleeing and hiding themselves. They were truly at a loss for what to do and how to carry on. The swiftness, the brutality, the finality all had them huddled in fear. What they had seen and heard, they did not understand. They felt lost, abandoned, purposeless.
The news of the empty tomb was implausible. In their fear, they did not understand. Like all of us they were afraid of the worst. What was the impending new disaster? Was there more to fear? Were they in peril? Seeing the tomb they began to believe, but like we ourselves know, believing is like a seed that needs to see and hear and be assured. Gradually they came see and believe that Jesus was alive. What he was, what he taught was real. God truly was love and this spirit came on them and was present in a new and different way. His son had come and died and rose and now lives to carry on that message to all and extend his forgiveness if we have enough faith and love to ask for it. Few men and few entities enter history and are remembered for centuries. The constant presence of Christians from the time of Christ in itself shows the belief that his resurrection and spirit continued in the world. As he taught and instructed his message continues today. We see him and know him in our sacraments, most notably in the Eucharist, His very body and blood, poured out for us, yet given in a unique way that he can be a part of us and we of him.
easter 4Yes, this is the day the Lord has made. Easter is truly a new beginning for how the love of God was poured out to the whole world. True life is now measured in the love of God and how we carry out that love by loving as we are loved. It was and is a new beginning. Humanity unfortunately still needs to learn much to erase the evils of the world, but Easter and the resurrection gives hope that all the dark days and good Fridays of this world can be put aside and life restored in the way God intends. Working together the world could do so much. In some ways this has happened, yet selfishness and all the other foibles inflicting us, interfere with the message of Christ. Remember Christ said to go out to all the world, preach and baptize. The more we do, the more his gift of faith and love will come to this broken world of ours.

March 20, 2016 Homily at Holy Trinity Parish for Palm Sunday

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on March 20, 2016

Homily for the Resurrection of the Lord -Easter Sunday (March 27)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on March 20, 2016

Homily for the Resurrection of the Lord -Easter Sunday  (March 27)

Easter is the ultimate feast of the Church year, yet somehow in our culture it is not treated as important as Christmas, for example, or some other feasts. And yet, we realize that if there were no Resurrection, we would be dealing with a holy man who lived and died and left lovely, if somewhat hard, messages for us to consider. The Resurrection raises Jesus’ death to miraculous, but also to a victory over the forces of evil in the world.

It took some time for the Easter miracle to register in the minds of the followers of Jesus and it wasn’t until Pentecost that they really understood. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles today, Peter is preaching a sermon in which he was finally able to put together everything that had happened with Jesus in line with the Prophets and what had been foretold. He determines that Jesus is “the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead”…and that “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sin through his name.”

This theology or understanding of the meaning of the Resurrection came when the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost and this understanding which we still believe today came very early in the understanding of the Apostles and the church.

In his letter to the Colossians today, St Paul develops a further theology from the Resurrection – that we must keep our minds on the things that are spiritual because we, too, have died with Christ, and we too will be resurrected and “revealed with him in glory”.

In the Gospel of Luke today we hear the story of the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus, probably escaping from the dangers of Jerusalem for the followers of Christ. Jesus comes to the men in a resurrected body which they don’t recognize, but they gossip and talk on the way. They tell Jesus all about what people have been saying happened, that Jesus was buried but wasn’t in his tomb the next day and that women had come to visit and found only an angel who told them that Christ rose. This was very hard to believe. It is hard for us to believe it today as well. So Jesus began to teach them on the way. He explained how the death and resurrection were foretold by the Prophets and he opens their eyes to mysteries that had not understood. They asked him to stay the night with them because they were so entranced by what he had to say, and at table that night, when Jesus blessed the bread and he gave it to them, they finally had their eyes opened and recognized that this was Jesus. As quickly as they understood, Jesus disappeared from them. They gathered their strength to return to Jerusalem where they found Peter and the apostles gathered. When they arrived they were told that Peter had seen Jesus, that he was alive. Then they recounted to the others their meeting of Jesus, verifying all their hopes.

It is difficult to believe in miracles though we all pray for them. Sometimes we see something happen that can only be explained as miraculous. But most of the time it is difficult for us to believe in unnatural things happening. I think that many Christians hide from the reality of the Resurrection because it is miraculous and doesn’t make scientific sense. But the accounts that we have in the Scriptures of people who were also incredulous and changed their minds ought to help us to do so as well. To believe in something we must get our minds around it, study it and understand it. To believe in something miraculous we also need to rely on the experiences of others who were involved in the event. That is why it is so important that we had numerous witnesses at different times all saying the same thing. Jesus is alive! We have the accounts of the women, the account of Mary Magdalene, the account of Peter, the account of the disciples going to Emmaus we read today. These accounts can strengthen our belief so that as Paul says, we can keep our minds on heaven and what we must do to be sure we are resurrected with Christ as well. Christ is risen. Christ is living. Christ is with us in the Eucharist. We are part of him and he, us. Let us celebrate this mystery today as we re-enact the sacrifice of the Mass and strengthen our belief that we, too, will be resurrected with he Lord.

This is the Good News of Easter and the happy news I offer you today.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily March 20, 2016 Palm Sunday

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, Word by Fr Joe R on March 16, 2016

palm 1After reading the Passion, it is very difficult for a homilist to add to the account of Jesus’s passion, death and resurrection. The whole concept of what he endured would seem foreign to us today for the most part. The founders of our country forbade in our constitution cruel and unusual punishment. Torture, whipping, extreme cruelty and to a degree death are forbidden. In Roman times, these were seen as ways to control unruly masses of people to make them fear a nation of conquerors, namely the Romans. Their execution by crucifixion was meant to be bloody, painful and a slow dragged out process, sometimes taking days. It is one of the reasons Rome was able to rule for so long

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In today’s world punishment is not supposed to be the ideal, but rehabilitation is what our prisons are called to do. The death penalty is not really common and is now carried out in the US in a sterilized non threatening, non suffering way. Strangely, we carry it out like we are doing a kindness in making it easy for the condemned and our conscience by anesthetizing the person to sleep.

That aside, Suffering and death is something foreign to us. Yet God chose to use the darkest side of humanity’s barbarity to extend his forgiveness and love through his very own Son. No one can miss the singular act of a Father giving his son to make whole what is broken. We heard today the account of Jesus following out the will of his Father, even feeling reluctant as any of us would be, but in the end He said “Your will be done”.

So today, let us reflect that Christ freely gave himself to be taken and condemned by the Jews, sentenced by Pilate and scourged and crucified. This was a giving of himself for all time, for all men and women, for reparation of all sins against God for all time. When we fail, fall short remember to ask Please forgive me.palm 3

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish for the 5th Sunday of Lent March 13, 2016

Posted in Called, christian, church events, ecclesiology, Faith, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on March 13, 2016

Homily for Palm Sunday Year C (March 20)Homily for Palm Sunday Year C (March 20) Palm Sunday leaves us in a bit of a schizophrenia. On the one hand we have the entry into Jerusalem where the people proclaim Jesus as their Messiah and King, wave palm branches, and we have a great triumphant feel. Then immediately after, we are plunged into the story of the Passion with all of the betrayal, denials, scheming and plotting leading to the death of this same man. How do we reconcile these two things? Can we? We get some hints at how to do this in the first three readings today. In the Isaiah reading and the Psalm we see the horrors described – the people who struck the suffering servant, the people who pulled out his beard, who insulted and spat at him turn into something else by the end of the reading. “The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced…and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” Isaiah turns around what has happened to the servant so that he is in the end exalted by God who saves him. Similarly in the Psalm which is so despairing at first – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” the servant cries. People mock him, shake their heads, divide his clothes and encircle him with evildoers. But this too takes a dramatic change in the last verse. The whole tone changes as the psalmist says that the servant’s name will be told to all the brothers and sisters, and the congregations will praise him. All the offspring of Israel will be in awe of him. And why is there this abrupt shift? St Paul explains so beautifully: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” There in a nutshell is the story of our salvation. But, St. Paul says, it doesn’t end there. It ends as do the Isaiah reading and the Psalm, with exaltation. “Therefore God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is lord, to the glory of the God the Father.” Today in the Gospel and on Good Friday we don’t get to see the exaltation. We get to see the humility of God, the obedience of Jesus, the love of Jesus for others even in his suffering and finally the execution of Jesus he accepts in obedience. We must await his Easter to see the glorification and exaltation. Please join in this week on Holy Thursday and Good Friday in order to best prepare yourself for the glory of that exaltation on Easter Sunday. It is a microcosm of our own lives as well, and is well worth meditating on this week. And this is the good News we look forward to in a week’s time. Ronald Stephens Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA) [Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on March 13, 2016

Homily for Palm Sunday Year C (March 20)

Palm Sunday leaves us in a bit of a schizophrenia.  On the one hand, we have the entry into Jerusalem where the people proclaim Jesus as their Messiah and King, wave palm branches, and we have a great triumphant feel. Then immediately after, we are plunged into the story of the Passion with all of the betrayal, denials, scheming and plotting leading to the death of this same man.

How do we reconcile these two things? Can we?

We get some hints at how to do this in the first three readings today. In the Isaiah reading and the Psalm we see the horrors described – the people who struck the suffering servant, the people who pulled out his beard, who insulted and spat at him turn into something else by the end of the reading. “The Lord God helps me; therefore, I have not been disgraced…and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” Isaiah turns around what has happened to the servant so that he is in the end exalted by God who saves him. Similarly in the Psalm which is so despairing at first – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” the servant cries. People mock him, shake their heads, divide his clothes and encircle him with evildoers. But this too takes a dramatic change in the last verse. The whole tone changes as the psalmist says that the servant’s name will be told to all the brothers and sisters, and the congregations will praise him. All the offspring of Israel will be in awe of him.

And why is there this abrupt shift? St Paul explains so beautifully: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” There, in a nutshell, is the story of our salvation. But, St. Paul says, it doesn’t end there. It ends as do the Isaiah reading and the Psalm, with exaltation. “Therefore God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is lord, to the glory of the God the Father.”

Today in the Gospel and on Good Friday we don’t get to see the exaltation. We get to see the humility of God, the obedience of Jesus, the love of Jesus for others even in his suffering and finally the execution of Jesus he accepts in obedience. We must await his Easter to see the glorification and exaltation.

Please join in this week on Holy Thursday and Good Friday in order to best prepare yourself for the glory of that exaltation on Easter Sunday.

It is a microcosm of our own lives as well, and is well worth meditating on this week.

And this is the good News we look forward to in a week’s time.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily March 13th, 2016 the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Posted in Called, Christianity, ethics, Faith, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on March 9, 2016
lent 5

Paul at Damascus

Mark Twain once said: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
In today’s second reading, we see a prime example of that in Paul. From his encounter on the road with Jesus leading to his conversion, his past became irrelevant and his ministry and mission and future became all important to him.
In the gospel, Jesus himself was a man who was also at ease with himself and was dedicated to his own mission to teach and bring God’s message to humankind. He spoke and talked with authority, so much so that the Scribes and Pharisees felt challenged lent 5band thought they had to discredit Jesus as a threat to their own authority and to the present rule of law and authority. Their relationship to God for them was a set of Laws and rules and regulations that determined everything they did. They were fanatical and unbending in carrying out the law. God’s mercy and love and forgiveness were lost in their all consuming rush to judge and force everyone to meticulously follow the law. One law that required quick resolution was adultery. With this in mind, the Scribes and Pharisees bring a woman they say was caught in adultery. They quote that the law says such a woman be stoned to death. For Jesus, it is a conundrum since the law of Rome forbids such a thing and Jesus’ teaching is of love and forgiveness of God. Not mentioned in the story today is the fact that no witnesses are lent5 apresent, and the ancient law prescribed that both the man and the woman be stoned. So even in testing Jesus, the Scribes and Pharisees were being deceptive and themselves using the law for their own purposes. When Jesus first bent down and basically ignored them, it seems they just continued pestering him with objections and questions. Note that after a time Jesus replies, but not with a judgment or a law or a teaching, but with a challenge: “If one of you is without sin, throw the first stone.”

Now tell me, who in any society, or assembly of friends or coworkers, or even standing alone could present themselves as sinless. Who could kill another while saying they were an innocent person. In such a way, Jesus disarmed the fanaticism of the crowd, pointed out the deficiencies of mindlessly following the law of words lent5cinstead of the law God implanted on the hearts of all. The story of the woman should remind us all that what we did, what happened in the past is forgiven if we leave it in the past. It is what we do from here on that matters. It is what Paul tells us today and even Mark Twain in his own way tells us that there is a moment, a time when we know God is with us and it is what matters most.