CACINA

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 August 30, 2015 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Communion, Eucharist, Faith, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 25, 2015

22sunAs we listen to today’s gospel, we get almost a picture of some kind of lesson in hygiene. Through the centuries, the rabbis and the pharisees had developed many types of rituals for the purpose of being cleansed and to properly present themselves in the temple. Many of these rituals they had passed on to the people as laws to live their lives. One of these numerous laws was the notion 22suof washing hands and anything that they were going to eat. In actuality, none of these prescriptions were a part of the mosaic law, and were actually added on by men and were far from the authentic law. Christ was harsh with the Pharisee’s criticism, for they were more concerned by what was the traditions of human origin than what was the actual law and revelation of God.

As an example growing up, I can remember back many years to first communion and the perception and teachings of my youth. I remember going to Mass when maybe twenty or thirty people went to communion out of a congregation of several hundred. People going to communion was so infrequent, that everyone had to be reminded of their Easter duty, which meant that everyone was obligated to receive communion at least once a year which was called their Easter Duty. . If we recall the last several weeks of John’s theology of the Eucharist, and the need for nourishment and food both physically and spiritually for our journey and for eternal life, Some where the authentic message of Jesus came to be seen differently over some centuries, and the real presence of Christ in the 22sundEucharist led people to conclude that they were not worth to receive it, when Christ’s message was that the Eucharist is what would make us worthy. It was clearly a case where human perception and human tradition lost the authentic teaching or at least a better understanding of it.

What this tells us is that we must closely look and pray and search out the Spirit to know that what is authentic comes ultimately from Christ and his Spirit who dwells within us. It is important always to avoid putting the human things before the Word and Spirit. Human laws and interpretations, while perhaps necessary, are human and finite. Christ calls for openness to the Spirit knowing truly what calls for our love and 22sundayattention. Human things, thoughts, desires and other distractions can deprive us of a truly spiritual and fulfilling life. Human refinements and institutions and laws, while convenient for some reasons, are not always faithful to the Law of Christ’s love, nor quick to resolve issues with his forgiveness. History proves that following Christ can be easy, but at the same time it is challenging because it means giving up ourselves to love as he did. Life in the Spirit is hopefully what we do.

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 16)

Posted in christian, Communion, Eucharist, homily, inspirational by Fr. Ron Stephens on August 9, 2015

Homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 16)

Once again this week we are invited to look at the continuing teaching on the Eucharist as presented by Jesus in John’s Gospel. And once again, we have an Old Testament reading that looks forward to the eucharistic event. Proverbs says: “”You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense [Wisdom] says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity and live…””

And again we sing in the Psalm: Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Even so, Paul, or pseudo Paul” in a voice that is censuring excess at Eucharistic meals, says don’t taste too much: Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit”…and that will lead you “to sing and make music to the Lord”.

So today is all about celebration of the fact that the Eucharist is a wonderful, miraculous, freeing, forgiving thing!

The Gospel repeats and then picks up what we heard last week, re-iterating that the bread from heaven, the flesh of our Savior will give us life now, and eternal life after. Because Jesus has been raised and we are “in Jesus” we too shall live because of him. Hopefully, you found time last week to think about some of these things that we often take for granted.

Because today is so celebratory about the Eucharist I would like to take a few minutes to remind you how many times this ‘bread of heaven” comes up in our Sunday Mass.

We start most Sundays by my saying “As we prepare to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s love, let us acknowledge our failures.”  The mystery of Christ’s love is another way for saying eucharist. Christ’s love for us allows him to give himself up for us, and he does this by giving up his body. Each week at Mass we re-enact that great mystery.

When we get to the Offertory of the Mass after we have finished the readings and said our Creed, the people bring the gifts to the altar, the priest takes them and prays over them. Since I am concentrating on “bread from heaven” today I will only talk about the first one. The priest says..”Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.” The bread of life! Jesus has taken something from the earth, it is refashioned by our hands and the refashioned again into Christ’s body. A threefold mystery.

In the Canon of the Mass, just before the consecration, the priest asks that this bread and wine “become the body and blood of Jesus Christ your only son our Lord.” Immediately following we hear the words from the Last Supper repeated: Take this [bread], all of you and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.” This is the moment in the Mass when we most clearly know what is happening and what sacrifice Jesus was going to make for us.

Immediately after when we proclaim the mystery of our faith, one of the responses is that “we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus until you come in glory”. How we proclaim that is, of course, the Eucharist.

After the consecration we are again reminded that what we are doing at Mass is reenacting the perfect sacrifice. We are told “we offer to you, God of glory and majesty, this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and cup of eternal salvation.” Both themes are proclaimed loudly in today’s Gospel – the life-giving effect of the Eucharist and the everlasting effect of it. Then we are reminded of three examples of offerings being given in the Old Testament. We are reminded of Abel who offered up the fruits of the land to God, of Abraham, who was willing to offer the body of his son, and Melchisedech, a Gentile King, who brought gifts of bread and wine to Abram. We see Melchisedech’s gifts as a forerunner of the gifts Jesus transformed.

At the end of the Canon we proclaim that these gifts are filled with life and goodness, and are blessed and holy.

In the Our Father when we say “give us this day our daily bread”, we can hear echoes of the Old Testament and the manna in the desert which was a daily bread and echoes of the Eucharist as well. In this we are asking for the eucharist’s life-giving qualities.

After the Lamb of God litany has reminded us of the fact that sins are forgiven again, the priest takes a piece of the consecrated bread and drops it into the chalice of blood and silently says: May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it. So there it is again – the two prominent qualities of the eucharist – forgiveness of sin and eternal life. When the priest consumes the bread, you may not realize but he silently says: ‘May the body of Christ bring me to everlasting life’. In cleansing the vessels the prayer uttered is: May [these gifts] bring me healing and strength.

So you see that in each Mass we have structured our worship and praise of God around the idea of repeating the perfect sacrifice of the bread from heaven and the wine of the covenant.

Coming back to John’s Gospel today we might end by repeating Christ’s explanation to us: “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.

I ask you this week and going forward to watch for the mentioning of the bread of heaven at Mass in attempt to not let us take the Mass for granted, but to make it a real eucharistic meal binding us to Christ and to one another. Then we can echo the final prayer of the priest: Lord may i receive these gifts in purity of heart. May they bring me healing and strength, now and for ever.:

This is Good News, and it is news that bears repeating today.

(Please note that the Catholic Apostolic church still uses the post Vatican II translation of the Canon, which I have used 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 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 for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 9)

Posted in christian, Christianity, Eucharist, inspirational, scripture by Fr. Ron Stephens on August 2, 2015

Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 9)

We continue with Jesus’ teachings on the eucharist today and the idea we began last week with Jesus proclaiming himself to be the bread of heaven.

I want to start, however, with the first reading from the Book of Kings. Elijah was a prophet who was depressed.  I think if we read the selection carefully, we could put together all the elements of a good case for depression.

I checked out a doctor’s list for signs of depression and here’s what I found. A person may be depressed if they can’t sleep or want to sleep too much. Elijah sat down in the middle of the day and fell asleep under a broom tree. A depressed person finds tasks that were all right before to be difficult.  Elijah was finding it difficult to prophesy, especially when no one heeded his prophecies. The depressed person feels hopeless and helpless. Elijah asks that he might die! The depressed person can’t control negative thoughts. Elijah says “I am no better than my ancestors – take away my life.” The depressed person has no appetite. Elijah hadn’t been eating and didn’t want to eat until the angel forced him to. Even after he hate he went to lie down again. The final thing that is noted in depression is that the person feels life is not worth living. And that seems to be the whole attitude of Elijah in this reading.

Many people, maybe even some of us, suffer from depression. Elijah had no diagnosis, no doctors to prescribe for him,but God sends an angel to him to feed him and to push him on. The passage ends with Elijah “went in the strength of that food, forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mountain of God.

We seem to have made medical strides with depression today, but one thing a patient is not told is to put some hope in God who told us he would never send anything to us that we couldn’t handle with his grace. It was, in this case, food that God sent, that strengthened him and pulled back on his depressive state.

We, too, need the food that God sends. Our Psalm says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” “I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” A little bit of God goes a long way, and a little of the food from heaven can cure us.

That, too, seems to be the message of Jesus in the Gospel today, among a number of theological messages John presents to us.

Our Gospel passage picks up from last week when Jesus proclaimed himself the bread from heaven and some of the literal minded crowd wondered how he could say he was from heaven when they knew he was just a carpenter’s son, the son of Joseph.

In answer, Jesus begins a discourse on how God has sent this bread to them in the form of a human, and has given grace to people to allow them to see Jesus for that bread. Jesus explains that if they have learned from the Old testament and have been taught by God, they will come to him, for they will see him as the fulfillment of that promise of old.

Then the shocking promise comes. If you eat of the bread from heaven, bread which means both the teaching and words of Jesus, and later the eucharistic bread that is his body, you will not die.

On one level the people must have thought he was crazy – how could they eat the bread from heaven and how was someone not supposed to die – ever! It made no sense.  But Jesus doesn’t let it go. He says “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world [to accomplish this feat] will be my own flesh.

As I said last week, it makes sense to us because most of us have been brought up with this concept, this idea from our youth, but imagine hearing it the first time. Is it not surprising that many people found him a bit crazy, if this was how he was talking. I asked you last week to reflect on the importance of the eucharist, and this week I would like to to reflect on the healing power of the eucharist. Just as God was able to help Elijah’s depression, the food that came down from heaven which is Jesus, can also help us to be healed, sometimes physically, but most often spiritually. These few weeks in John, we can find Jesus at his most outrageous self in his teachings, something we have never known or have forgotten. But the content of what he says needs to rattle our own brains so that we can come to depend on the eucharist, to know that it is truly a healing gift – not just for forgiveness of sins, its major accomplishment, but for other healings as well.

Do we think about what we are doing when we go to communion? Do we see it as a healing power? Do we see it as partaking in Jesus’ death to give life to us? Do we discover the peace that comes with communion? Does it influence our lives during the week? Do we miss it dreadfully when we can’t partake of it? I hope that you will spend a few moments this next week, asking yourself these questions, and if it has become something rote and ritualistic for you with little meaning, try to discover the true meaning and how it can affect your life for the better. Does it lead to what Paul tells us today – “to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

And this is the eucharistic Good News I proclaim 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 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 August 2, 2015 18th Sunday in Ordinary time

Posted in Called, ecclesiology, Eucharist, Faith, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on July 30, 2015

18 sundayToday’s gospel is again from John. As you might recall, last week Jesus left the crowd and disappeared. We see they regrouped and went looking for him and found him at Capernaum They saw his miracle of the loaves and decided he was the one to come. Jesus was a realist here, as he knew they followed him with full stomachs. Do you realize how central to us and every generation food was. Look today at our lifestyle, our entertainment, our work, recreation, in fact just about all we do somehow touches food. Look at TV and advertising, at our stores, at the number of restaurants and see how central food is to our live. Our celebrations, our family life is in many ways centered on food and eating, It is naturally 18 sundathe center of much of our lives, for without eating, we can not live. To the Agrarian life of old to the present, food and nourishment is very central to our lives, in fact almost to an extreme in our lives.

Christ chose physical food and the loaves to remind that yes we need physical food, but he was the food that came from heaven, a spiritual food that would nourish and feed our souls. He is the living food , his body given to us. His body in a very special way feeds our soul and spiritually prepares us for the way. So we can 18sunsee more clearly that the feeding of the multitude and the discourse on food is not about the miracle, but about Jesus and who he was and what his mission and role was and is for all generations. He truly is our bread of life, the food God prepared for us for the journey. Jesus prepares us in his own way by being our nourishment and sustenance for our life leading to our life to come. What we see then is a clear simple way of understanding Christ as our food and drink as we celebrate the Eucharist.

Homily from Holy Trinity Parish for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ June 7, 2015

Posted in Called, christian, Communion, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on June 7, 2015

June 3, 2015 Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (First Communion Sunday)

Posted in Called, Christianity, church events, Communion, Eucharist, homily, religion, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on June 2, 2015

body1Today as we celebrate the feast of Christ’s Body and Blood and first communion, our gospel returns us to Holy Thursday and the feast on the evening before Christ’s death. Like any celebration of a feast, the disciples prepared a meal to share together. Evan and Harper, when you were born, one of the first things you did was eat, seek nourishment. It is necessary for all living beings to receive nourishment in order to live and to grow. As you have gotten older you have come to experience and eat different kinds of food and to like some more than others. You have learned how a family shares their life and experiences at body3home and at family meals. You know that on big days there is a sharing of a lot of people around the table. Yes, food is a big way we celebrate life and share it with others.

This morning you will for the first time share in our Eucharistic meal and receive Christ’s Body and Blood for the first time. Like the disciples in the gospel today we are gathered around this table or what we call an altar and are going to do together what Jesus did that evening with his disciples. We will share this very special family meal, a meal that is Jesus Body and Blood. When we were baptised, Jesus and his Spirit came to us and filled us in a special way. But now we are to receive very special nourishment, Jesus himself. Body_of_Christ_by_ssejllenradHe give us his very body, his very blood, Himself as food to energize and nourish us for all that we do to live out our lives united with him in a special way. This is a day you will remember and relive many times as the years go on. Remember too, as we grow and as our lives change over the years ahead, Jesus is still going to be here still will be ready to nourish and prepare us for all that comes our way. He is the greatest teacher of what love is and the journey to God. His love certainly filled your parents who have shown you the love that has brought you here today. God has given us Jesus and now you share in the way that Jesus has given himself to us.

Homily May 17, 2015 Feast of the Ascension

Posted in Called, Christianity, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 15, 2015

ascension3ascension“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking up into the sky?“ Imagine, Jesus’ disciples have just gone through a very rough time having seen Jesus taken away, crucified and resurrected back to life. Their whole internal being has been set on edge and they have slowly recovered when Jesus is taken up into the clouds and is gone. With all his appearances, he prepared them for the Holy Spirit and enjoined them to remain in Jerusalem until he came. At the same time he charged them to go out to the whole world and witness to him. For three years he prepared them to go out and witness to him. But imagine, go to the whole world. In that time the world was perceived as being relatively small. How far would the average person go in that time when the means of travel was basically on foot or on the back of some animal. Convert the whole world, preach to every person, imagine how impossible that would sound. Even today, has the word and witness to Jesus, got out and reached all the ends of the earth. Obviously then Jesus work is not yet done and even today we are called to witness to him in every way possible reaching out, being Christ like, and making him present through our own life. Very few people are gifted to be great orator or preachers or stand out as a special witness inspired by the Spirit and Christ’s presence.
In actuality, witness to Jesus is a slow and tedious process of living our life and letting Christ’s presence be seen in the way we conduct our selves and share our faith and the love of Christ and his Spirit. In community in our churches Christ is present and acts among us, but the non-believers, the ones needing to be informed and witnessed to are out beyond the walls in the so called highways and byways. The Spirit moves as he wants, but our witness is what we do and how we act, how we love and witness Christ’s name. I think we can really witness to one person at a time reaching out to others one by one. How well we witness that way will hopefully bring Christ’s presence and the action of his spirit. So Christ calls us to act, to witness, to let our presence bring forth his presence and hopefully bing others to believe. Jesus will return, but we are forewarned not to be idle .

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 May 3, 2015 %th Sunday of Easter

Posted in Called, Christianity, homily, religion, Resurrection, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on April 29, 2015

5suneas2Today’s gospel from John is from Holy Thursday and the last supper. In John’s narrative, Jesus has discussed his betrayal, washed his disciples’ feet, talks of his departure and his return to his father. He also assures them he will return to them. As a discourse, it is significant that Jesus began it with the words “I Am”. Seven times he used that phrase in John, but what is significant is that it is from the old testament and the phrase God used to identify himself to the Hebrews. It was a phrase used to identify God to avoid using a name for him. Clearly Jesus was identifying himself and his mission as being from God. The vine and the branches was an understandable way for the disciples to know that the relationship was one where Christ continued to be a part of them and of all the works that they would do. Bearing fruit to their work was important and Jesus himself would tend to the vine getting rid of dead branches and pruning the vine so that it would grow and produce more fruit. The image of the vine emphasizes our connectivity and Jesus ssuneas1presence within us. We are a presence in the world seeking to serve others and bring them to Christ. As a vine is a livimg growing organism, so is the church. It is not something static, something like a picture on a wall but a liviing growing organism. Many figures come out of this story, the vine grower, pruning, the idea of renewal, Chist’s presence in his Word, and in his church, and most importantly our attachment to Christ.
Being city dwellers and not all that familiar with farming and vines and such, oftentimes we don’t fully comprehend the richness of the stories and parables of Jesus. But his life and message present to us and continuing on after so many years brings us a faith that gives an insight from our own experience and time, for Christ’s presence is with us now and He and his Spirit act within us today. His life, his forgiveness remains constant and is always with us. As long an we remain faithful and part of the connectivity of his church, we remain in him and he in us. Let us love and serve one another so we can serve him.