CACINA

Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (Sept. 4)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on August 31, 2016

Homily for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (Sept. 4)

The reading from the Book of Wisdom and the Psalm today try to make us aware of our insignificance in relation to the universe and to God. Our “perishable bodies” make sure that no matter how puffed or great we think we are, in the end, we will simply be dust. In Jewish writings, the writers were often weighed down by that insignificance and by the fact that there was nothing really after death except what people remember about us. Around the time of Christ, that thinking began to change and they began to look more closely at an afterlife, but certainly during the period of the writer of Wisdom, they did not think in terms of an afterlife. 

What sustained them then? Why weren’t they totally depressed by that fact? I would be!

The answer lies in the wisdom that was to be learned from God’s holy spirit. Awareness of God and his creation and the joy at being part of such a wonderful creation directed them to look at their present lives, to live for the moment, and to trust in God. So the first reading today ends with: “And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and people were taught what pleases you and were saved by wisdom.”

Wisdom, then, allowed the people to teach their children good conduct and what was moral, allowing them to make a “meaning” of their short lives. It meant passing on of tradition, values, and respect for the Creator. “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart,” says the Psalmist.

The letter from Paul to the slave owner Philemon, our second reading, shows great wisdom from Paul at the end of his life. He says he is an old man, but he has things to pass down. He is asking this slave owner to treat Onesimus who has been ministering to Paul, as more than a slave. This is the Paul who in Galatians said ‘In Christ…. “there is neither Jew or Gentile,  slave or free, male and female.” He asks Philemon to treat his slave as “a beloved brother”. This wisdom of Paul was highly counter-cultural. Slave owning was a part of the fabric of the Greek life. But Paul is trying to pass on his Wisdom from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus also passes on wisdom in Luke’s Gospel, as shocking as some of the statements seem to be. We note, first of all, that there is a shift in the audience from the last few weeks. Jesus had been addressing his disciples, but now he is addressing large crowds of people. Jesus has not called these people, they have come to him willingly, and unlike the close disciples, are not aware that Jesus is on a journey to Jerusalem to die. So Jesus is addressing this group who are enthusiastic about hearing him, that there is more to following him than just listening to him and watching him. It is difficult to be a follower. Jesus is asking these people to think seriously about whether they want to follow him on his journey -they may think they are parading, but it is really a death march.

Jesus first uses the word “hate” in his list of what followers need to do. It is unfortunate that we have only one word for hate, and that it has taken on the meaning it has in English today. The word “hate” in Jesus’ time and the way Jesus uses it means to detach oneself from something. Jesus is not asking us to hate in our sense, but to detach oneself from anything that binds you to earth, including the love of self. When he says we must hate ourselves, he is saying we must detach  from pride and all the things that lock us to ‘this world’.

So, the Wisdom of Jesus about what it takes to follow him is first, detachment from worldly things.

Secondly, he asks us to take up our cross. This is, of course, a metaphor that most of us get these days. Luke uses it ironically in that Jesus knows he is journeying to a real wooden cross, but here it means accepting the difficulties of life. He uses the image or parable of someone intending to build something. They have to have a plan, Jesus says, or they will suffer the consequences of running out of money, or a poorly built structure.

The second metaphor for the same thing is a king who plans carefully whether he can defeat his enemy, and if it looks like he hasn’t the resources to do so, tries to establish a peace treaty. It would be foolish to do otherwise. This, too, is wisdom.

Therefore, Jesus, in his Wisdom, is saying to people: If you want to follow me, you need to weigh the pros and cons carefully, understand just what it will mean for you. His final statement in today’s readings would be one that would hit the hardest, but is just a continuation of his theme of detachment: “So, therefore, whoever of you does not give up all their possessions cannot be my disciple.” I am sure that was the statement that really stung and I don’t doubt that many people got up and walked away,

What does this wisdom mean for us today? Have we really stopped to consider what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ? Have we been able to detach ourselves from worldly things, and not have more money than we can use for living? Have we been able to endure our crosses of suffering and pain, trusting in God that there is a higher purpose?

We are the crowd that Jesus is addressing, and we need to think about how seriously we take our following of Jesus. Let us pray for the Wisdom needed to be good Christians and followers of Jesus in today’s world.

And this is the Good News that can be so hard to follow but leads to eternal life. God bless.

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”]

Holy Trinity Parish Homily August 28, 2016 the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Communion, Eucharist, Faith, forgiveness, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 28, 2016

Dinner and Roses

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture by Rev. Martha on August 27, 2016

22nd week ordinary time yr c 8-28-16 Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29,   Ps 68:4-11, Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a Luke 14:1, 7-14

I once knew a nursing home resident who was blind and deaf. I saw her week after week, alone in her bed. I heard the aides yelling at her, as if yelling could make her hear – as if she was deliberately ignoring them. Her roommate took me down to the end of the hall, where no one was around us, and, with her hand covering her mouth, whispered in my ear, “I think she is being abused.” She would say no more.

I began to think of ways to reach out to this elderly woman. My heart broke when I read a Birthday card pinned to her bulletin board in her room. It was from her sister, who wrote, “I would come to visit you if only you knew who I was.”

Perhaps I had seen the movie about Helen Keller too many times, but I thought something could be done. One bright spot in an otherwise hopeless scene was that, since she lost her hearing late in life, she could still speak. I went to the Dollar Store, the starting place for many of my schemes, and bought some artificial roses. I had some rose-scented oil, given to me by another priest. I doused a single rose with oil, and went to the nursing home.

I began by touching her hand gently. Then I put the rose stem in her hand, and gently moved the rose toward her nose. She began to pull away, but then she caught the scent of the rose. She drew the rose in toward her nose, and took a long breath. She spoke, “I don’t know what it is, but it smells wonderful.” My heart did a little dance of joy. We had made contact. I made the sign of the cross in her palm and left her with her rose.

It was the best time we ever had together. Most of the subsequent visits were taken up by trying to get the staff to give her something to drink. Sometimes she would throw, with some pretty good power, whatever she could get hold of. Often the floor was covered with food or coffee she had thrown. One day when I touched her hand in greeting, she said, “I’m having a bad day.” Her actions fit with the roommate’s suspicions – she acted like she was trying to defend herself. I complained relentlessly that she was not given fresh water to drink, since her Styrofoam cup was dated up to two days old. The staff simply stopped dating the cup. Then I was barred from the nursing home for filing complaints with the state, the county, and the nursing home corporate office for other abuse and neglect I saw in the same “nursing home” – where it seemed very little nursing was done, and was certainly nothing like home.

Who are the roses in our culture? That’s easy. They are the movie stars, the recording artists, and singers like “Madonna”. They are the Olympic gold metal winners, the football players, baseball players who hit home runs or pitch no-hitters. They are the rising corporate millionaires, the faces identified with big-selling brands.   They are the roses that we like to see, we want to meet, get their autograph. We stop and read the magazine that has their face on the cover. They are young and healthy, talented and attractive.

As for the sick, the elderly, the ugly, those visibly physically and mentally wounded, and those who are unable to compete in this economy, we give them Food Stamps – if they can fight their way through the application process – and a disability check which is only about a third of a entry-level employee’s wages – if they can live on air long enough to appeal the denial of their case once or twice.   Oh yes, we tolerate them, maybe give them some occasional attention or a donation.

And what happens to them in return? Well, those we call “marginalized” are robbed of their sense of worth. They are aware they are a burden on society. One man, victim of a terrible auto wreck caused by a young woman who came down a ramp at a high rate of speed, told me he was like a “dog that should be taken out and shot.” He repeatedly told the nursing home staff not to bother to bathe him or help him get dressed when they were “short-handed”, which happened frequently. He said he was a burden to his family. He required a special wheel chair. He was able to buy a used wheel chair with the small settlement he got from the accident, and when it was worn out and un-repairable, he was told getting another chair for him was “too expensive”. He was left in bed for nearly a year, to develop deep bed sores which threatened his life. I found an attorney who convinced the nursing home to finally get him a wheel chair, but the aides only got him up when “they had time.” He was left without eyeglasses for a year. Ironically, he was an excellent dispatcher, and I am convinced that he could have worked if our society had opened those doors for him and others like him.

And what happens to us? We are deprived of depth of character, of insight and genuine understanding of the value of life and what beauty really is. We become shallow, selfish people who are accustomed to blaming people for the violence done against them. We become blind to what is happening. It is as if our artists paint bouquets that have been pruned of any flower that is faded, bent by wind or rain, or has uneven petals. We become unconnected to one another, and deny the realty that we are all dependent on each other, all one body, those who can pretend to be perfect and remainder of the rest who are – well, human.

Jesus said, “When you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”   In Jesus’ day, you would have been dropped from the “A list” for doing that – it was social suicide to eat with those below your social standing.   No one would invite you to another dinner, and no one would attend your dinners. It doesn’t take much effort to be humble, when other people are so willing and able to humiliate you. Jesus asked a great deal of us. Jesus was not content with the social structure of the day – and I have no reason to believe we have made giant steps forward. Often, I can only tolerate 20 minutes of the BBC evening newscast before I am in tears.

One last thought – how would God see me? Would I be a rose to God? There is very little perfect about me. My face will never shine from the cover of “Time” magazine. I don’t get many dinner invitations, and I don’t sit at the head of the table. But yet I know that I am valuable and loved by my creator, and one day I will be at the heavenly banquet, where every seat is the best one. There are things too sublime for me, things beyond my strength; but just to be there will be enough.

Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (August 28)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on August 25, 2016

Homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C  (August 28)

Today’s readings could be very apt readings for those who espouse leadership, either in this country or in the church. So many leaders who call themselves Christian are not very humble. I think leaders who put the good of the people of the country or the organization or the church first are true leaders. I think that is why i have so much respect for Pope Francis as a leader. He seems truly humble. As the readings suggest today, we are in trouble if leaders don’t listen, wanted to be treated like royalty, have inflated egos and put their needs before the needs of the weak.

How does all this play out in today’s readings? The Book of Sirach is, for the most part, a book of Scripture that contains wise advice, usually stated in pithy, easy-to-remember sound bytes, and draws on the wisdom and ethical teachings from about 200 years before Christ. It is not a canonical book of Scripture for many Protestants, simply because it has not been regarded as canonical by the Jews.

While the “wisdom” of the Book of Sirach is far-reaching and contains advice for many different people and groups, the section today is directed at the individual who wants to be holy in the sight of God. “My child, perform your tasks with humility…The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself.” It is a state of knowing yourself inside and out and realizing how less important you are in relationship to the universe, the world, and other people. It is keeping things in perspective. It is the “meekness” that inherits the earth, Jesus tells us. It is the opposite of arrogance, aggressiveness, and boastfulness.

When I was still in Canada, there was an archetype of the American which I sometimes still hear.  It was the “ugly American”. And like all archetypes, there is some truth in it. Part of it is being raised to believe that the United States is the absolute best country in the world and no other country can equal it. Believing that, when they travel outside the country, some tend to be haughty, demanding, uncaring of others, ignorant or even ethnocentric, holding other cultures to the standard of their culture. While this does not fit the majority of Americans, I tend to find that the wealthier one is in America, the more entitled they seem to get, rather than being grateful and humble.

So Sirach’s advice to us if we want to find favor with God, is to be humble in all things, because compared to God, we are very small. He also suggests that we be intelligent by appreciating proverbs and that we listen to other people, putting our own ideas last, if we are to be truly wise.

The Psalm today is really about the humility of God. He finds time to provide for the needy, to be a father to orphans, to protect widows, to give the homeless a home and bring prosperity to prisoners. God’s preference is for the needy.

The Gospel today is clearly about religious arrogance and the feeling that because you are religious you are better than other people. In his parable of the upper-class man who goes to a wedding, Jesus even gives a good practical reason for being humble and seeking out the lower place. If you go for the best seat, the host is liable to say it belongs to someone else and send you to a lower seat. But if you choose the lowest seat, you will most likely be brought to a higher one. The moral is a constant theme of Jesus: “…whoever exalts [themselves] will be humbled, and whoever humbles [themselves] will be exalted.”

The second bit of advice Jesus gives also has human reasoning attached to it as well as moral. Don’t do things in expectation of being paid for them. In your humility, seek out those less fortunate than you who cannot ever repay you for your kindness. God is watching and will repay you for your generosity at the final reward.

All of this “advice” today from Sirach and Jesus flies against the American way of thinking. It is definitely counter-cultural. It seems to go against the very grain of what we grow up with in our society today. But there it is. No-one said being a Christian would be easy. The obvious Good News, though, for the humble is that they will receive their reward from God. I know that is something we all strive for in this parish, so we need to work always on our attitudes and listening skills, and compromising skills. Being mature is not seeing the world in black and white terms, but noticing all the different shades of gray that make up this wonderful world of ours.

Let us all strive to be humble, mature, intelligent Christians who focus on the needs of others before our own. That is the truly Good News we are presented today as we navigate the social waters of our culture!  God bless.

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and pastor of 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 August 28, 2016 the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Faith, forgiveness, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 23, 2016

22 sunToday’s gospel talks of places of honor and of humility. In Jesus’ time people and especially the priests, pharisees and higher-ups of the society were very concerned with their places of honor and position. In that time, being invited and sharing meals was a big thing. Everyone was very much concerned with their place, and of course sought out the prominent position. Jesus, as we know was being watched carefully to see how he would react and what He would do. His reaction was to tell a parable and stress that those who were prominent should in effect practice humility and not just take the prominent seat lest they be 22 sun 2embarrassed and forced to move to a different spot. In effect, he was telling them that self enhancement and importance were really irrelevant in the way that God looked at things. God wasn’t looking at how you took care of yourself and retained self-importance, but in how you learned to look out for everybody, especially those who were less capable of taking care of themselves. God notices all people from the poorest to the richest, from the most prominent to the most outcast of society. God created everyone, the whole universe in fact, and he is aware of each of us and of all that we do. He is aware of motivation and of concerns. He knows intentions, aspirations, and isn’t concerned with positions of honor(a human concern), but more in how we relate with one another. In Jesus time, an invitation meant an invitation to return the favor. Jesus said what was the good of that when the 22 sun 3poor and hungry were not served. It is interesting also that Jesus did not put down position or power, but pointed out how it could and was abused. At times, there is reason to honor position and power, but at the same time those in such positions must learn to look out and honor all that their positions call them to serve. Each of us is responsible to look out and care for those that we meet and can do something for. Few of us will ever be in a position to reach out to large or vast numbers, but look around, no matter where you go, there is a call for action that sometimes we can respond and others not, but are we aware that these moments exist, or do we simply keep going and pass them by? True humility is knowing who we are, what we are, and what we can and can not do.

Today’s Homily at Holy Trinity Parish August 21, 2016 the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, Resurrection, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 21, 2016

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Homily August 21, 2016 the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, forgiveness, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 18, 2016

21 sunToday’s gospel tells us Jesus is continuing on to Jerusalem. He is asked will only a few be saved. In reply, he said we should work to enter through the narrow gate, which allowed only one person at a time to enter through a very small entrance to the city. But then he talks about the master of a house, who rises up and locks the door and stops the entrance of any more people. Unlike the master in the 17th Sunday’s gospel, the late comers are not friends to the master but acquaintances, people the master encountered in the streets. 21 sun2Surely, they heard him, ate and drank with him and his disciples, but they did not commit themselves to him. In our own time it would be like a person who is baptised and is raised as Christian, but who views his church and Christianity as a place. Christ is a person, as is his church. To be a Christian is a choice to live a life in Christ, a life of love, of giving, of reaching out. God is a God of life and love, offering us the same now and forever. Heaven and hell are not places although we speak of them as such. God does not punish and impart people to hell, actually they do it to themselves. If we do not choose a life of love and giving, but rather choose a different way of life, choosing self or some other thing setting us apart, we have made our own state or choice or place without God and the love he has and imparts. Hell is choosing that separateness and living 21 sun3that way. This is possible because we have been given the freedom to choose and unfortunately we can make bad choices. God doesn’t choose evil or impart separateness, but allows the freedom to choose even at the cost of some being lost. Throughout time He sought to bring all to him, through the prophets of old and through his Son Jesus. He has been a sign for us since his life and death, a sign accepted an a sign at times rejected. For all of us who accept this sign and more importantly live out its life and meaning will find the proverbial door open to them.

Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (Aug 21)

Posted in Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on August 17, 2016

Homily for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C  (August 21)

Today’s readings are awfully difficult ones, and ones we might find a little scary as well. It is still Good News, but not obviously for everyone!

Let us put the gospel In context first. Luke begins by reminding us that we are getting closer to Jerusalem. We already, with Jesus, know what will happen there, but as it gets closer, Jesus makes us more and more aware of the impending coming of the kingdom and also of the final judgment.

A follower asks a question, a common trick in Luke to get Jesus talking on the subject, and the question is “Will only a few be saved?” Will only a few enter the kingdom? That’s a good question, one I’m sure we all would like to know the answer to because it affects us personally. Are we going to get in? Jesus’ answer is sort of a summary for us of the requirements of salvation. Jesus first talks about the difficulty in getting into the kingdom. It is isn’t automatic. It is a narrow door. Elsewhere it is referenced as the Eye of the Camel which was a very narrow doorway of an alley into Jerusalem.

I find this a difficult reference because if we have this really narrow door that we have to squeeze to get into, who will not be able to get in? The overweight person, the muscular person, the crippled person? I don’t think we can then take this literally. But what if we take it symbolically, and say that Jesus himself is the door to the kingdom? That might be one interpretation. Remember, Jesus was addressing this to Jewish followers. Many Jews felt that because they were Jewish and followed the laws, they had already had access to or gone through the door to salvation. But Jesus says that they were not already in the kingdom and many of them would not be because they hadn’t recognized Jesus for who he was even though they heard him and saw him. Even more shockingly, Jesus says that non-Jews will get into the kingdom.

This interpretation seems to fit the parable that Jesus tells right after the statement of entering the narrow gate. The owner of the house, God, will close the door. In other words, there will be a point when we are judged, the end of time as we know it. The time is up and we must be accounted for. Some have already entered the kingdom. We note that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets are already there. Presumably the saints and many who were martyred or simply led good lives.

But outside the door, the Jews who did not accept Jesus knock on the door and are not recognized. They may have eaten and drunk with Jesus but there was no conversion. In Jesus’ words, they are ‘evildoers’. But the door isn’t closed for everyone. All sorts of people for the four corners of the earth will come and be admitted, presumably because they have been good, moral people, even if they didn’t know Jesus. We might also note that the purpose of the first reading today from Isaiah was to show that the prophets recognized that the Gentiles could also be saved. God says, in Isaiah, “I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see my glory.”

Jesus final statement probably refers to the Jews who were the first choice for salvation, but many of them will be the last.

So, for us, the narrow door should mean that being a Christian is not an easy task despite Jesus saying that his yoke is easy and his burden light. It takes a certain amount of courage and discipline to navigate through a world that seems fraught with evil sometimes. It is difficult to keep faith in such times. Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews today also talks about discipline though he prefers to see it as God’s discipline rather than self-discipline. Paul says, “the Lord disciplines the one whom [the Lord] loves.”  It is a loving discipline that a parent would show to a child. Paul wants us to look on our sufferings as parental corrections which will make us better people and make us peaceful and righteous. That is where the self-discipline lies. It is in lifting your drooping hands, strengthening your weak knees, and walking a straight path. It is in healing what is wrong with us, with faith that everything will come out right in the end.

This week, take a few minutes to think about the path your life has and is taking. How do you react to setbacks, sickness, deaths, depression? Does your faith in Jesus allow you to squeeze through that tight door and find peace on the other side, or do you wallow and wail on the other side without even trying? A few weeks ago we heard Jesus say that we had to batter God’s door down in asking for something, like children pestering their parents until they broke down and gave it to them. Perhaps that should be our key in suffering. Batter heaven with prayer and squeeze through that door. Then maybe we can live in some of the peace of the kingdom to come, and Jesus recognizing us, and saying “Come on in!”

And for us, that is the Good News of our salvation we hear today!

Ronald Stephens

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and pastor of 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 August 14, 2016 the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily August 14, 2016 for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Communion, Faith, forgiveness, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 10, 2016

20 sun 5Today’s readings seem to be rather harsh and divisive. Jeremiah the prophet is thrown into a cistern and left to die. Jesus talks today of fire and division as opposed to peace on earth. Both Jeremiah and Jesus knew that in carrying out their mission, there would be opposition, oppression, exile for Jeremiah and Jesus knew he was to die. 20 sunMore than anything Jesus knew that his preaching and teaching would meet opposition and be attacked by the authorities because he challenged them and their interpretation of what the law meant and how it was oppressing the people. Certainly, the authorities had made peace with the Romans and had made themselves comfortable in a bad situation for the people. Jesus concern wasn’t the authorities and their laws, but the people and their lives and relationships and most especially their relationship with God. The fire he speaks of is the fire within the heart, like the fire that cooks and purifies our food. It is meant to come from the baptism of his death to purify and bring God’s embracing love to all. That love doesn’t always mean peace, it rather is to bring a union of our heart to God. That certainly means at times there will be discussion, and even conflict. The poor, the marginalized, the ones Jesus always reached out to seem to be always present in every age and time. What peace and contentment is there on earth if any are hungry, displaced or 20 sun 4uncared for. To follow Christ doesn’t mean we should feel at peace or comfortable. Christ called us to love, an unconditional love. But if we truly love, we should constantly inquire is it enough. None of us is perfect, all of us fall short at times in one way or another. Institutions and laws and rules don’t protect us from failing in seeking out our brother or sister in need. I think at times, we think the institution or the state or the laws of church or state protect or shield us, when Jesus’ call to love, to forgive, to have mercy can be put aside. Sure this can bring division about, but such love brings peace, a peace beyond what many can understand.