Peace and Service- What Do You Choose?

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year c, 9-11-16 Exodus32:7-14, Ps 51, 1Tim 1:12-17, Luke 15: 1-10

I had my desk piled high with books & commentaries about the Book of Exodus, looking for ideas for today. Then I read today’s opening prayer.  Let me read it again: “Let us pray for the peace which is born of faith and hope.  Father in heaven, you alone are the source of our peace.  Bring us to the dignity which distinguishes the poor in spirit and show us how great is the call to serve, that we may share in the peace of Christ who offered his life in the service of all.”


Well, this week Mother Theresa of Kolkata was canonized as a Saint, and today we have a Day of Remembrance for the attack on September 11th.  How much more clearly could the Holy Spirit have urged me to talk today about peace and service?


Moses was God’s servant bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.  The people all had been born in slavery, as had their parents.  It was the only life they had ever experienced.  Freedom was new, and difficult.  They were accustomed to being dependent, to having decisions made for them.  They escaped from Egypt only 3 months before, and now Moses had been up on Mount Sinai for 6 weeks with God; they were afraid he wouldn’t return.  They fell back on their experiences from Egypt; they made and worshiped a golden cow, and their behavior became wild & uncontrolled.  Worshiping something they made did not bring them peace.


The people still thought of God as being made in their image, like an idol. So God is described as having a human fit of rage.  They expect God will destroy them, just as their Egyptian masters would have done.  But in the next chapter, Moses presents the 10 commandments to the people, and they promise to do their part of the covenant with God.  This is actually the high point of the Old Testament story.  The people commit to worshiping only God and God commits to protecting and loving the people.  Their worship space is filled with the Ark of the Covenant and they work together the make the space ornate and beautiful.  The Glory of God fills the meeting tent & peace returns to the people.


So, I think we can say this: that service is to bring the word of God to one other.  And peace comes from God’s word and from trust and obedience to God’s word.


Our Psalm is the confession of King David after he broke God’s law and took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. David was God’s servant, making the nation of Israel a strong and great nation, leading the people into a time of peace, ensuring the people were faithful to their covenant with God.  But there would be no peace for David until he confessed his sin.


Likewise, our 2nd reading is a confession by St. Paul about murdering Christians prior to his conversion to Christianity.  Paul had been a Pharisee, proud & arrogant.  He had actively and violently worked to stop the followers of Jesus after the resurrection.  But then Jesus appeared to Paul, and asked, “Why do you persecute me?”  So Paul became a servant of God, taking the Word of the Risen Christ into the world.  He helped form the faith as we know it.  His peace came from not from hatred and violence; instead he found peace even as he became the subject of violence and hatred.  He was beaten and jailed, all in service of the God he praised and worshiped.


Finally, in our Gospel, Jesus, the ultimate servant of God, tells us two parables of not only peace, but heavenly joy. The Pharisees, like the Israelites led by Moses, wanted God to be in their image.  They were angry and disgusted that Jesus didn’t put people in their place – mainly the people who didn’t make a great pretense of being holy, people who didn’t or couldn’t afford to follow all the complex rules the Pharisees helped create to set themselves above other people.  So Jesus says, “What if a woman looses a tenth of all her money?  Won’t she tear the house apart, frantically looking for it, not stopping until she finds it? And won’t her happiness in finding it be known to everyone?  The angels in heaven, Jesus says, are the same way over just a single person who repents of their sin.”  Like the woman who found her coin, the repentant one will find peace and joy in finding forgiveness.


The shepherd likewise finds his lost sheep, and rejoices, telling all his neighbors and friends. He finds relief and peace, just as there is joy in heaven over a single sinner who comes to repent and find forgiveness.  I always have thought this has a touch of sarcasm from Jesus.  Did Jesus suggest that the Pharisees see themselves as the 99 righteous people, when really their pride and their prejudice creates a barrier to the so-called sinners finding peace?  But still I hear of churches refusing sacraments to people.


My neighbor has a bumper sticker that reads, “We need a Department of Peace.” Peace, like charity, begins at home. Peace, like service, is a choice.  I don’t plan to move to India to pick up the dying off the streets there.  I have found enough abused and forgotten people dying in sub-standard nursing homes right here at home.  There are enough hungry children at our local Elementary school and enough refugees and immigrants in the housing development within walking distance of this church; there are enough social agencies, church charities and social justice groups crying for volunteers and donations to keep us all busy all day every day.


Every death, every injury, every mourner from 9-11 deserves our prayerful remembrance today. As does every one of the hundreds of thousands of innocent children and adults who still now continue to die from hunger and acts of war and hatred.  We know the one source of peace, and we know a life of service to be the Christian life.  I suggest to you, as well as to myself, to make our act of remembrance in the coming days by finding new ways to be of service, and new openings to bring peace in our own families, our own neighborhoods.  Surely the Holy Spirit whispers in your ears chances to do this service, so let us encourage each other to do it.


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 June 14, 2015 The 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on June 14, 2015

Homily for the 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Christ the King A 2014

Homily for the 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Christ the King A 2014

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

I think there are two interesting things at war in our readings and themes of the day. It is the final Sunday of the Church Year and we are in nature coming close to the shortest daylight hours of the year. We are in dark for many hours now. This darkness inspires the liturgy to look at the last days, the end of the world and the final judgment “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the Angels with him.” For many this is a terrifying theme and we have seen a large number of movies recently dealing with the apocalypse and the rapture. This has always been a dominant theme in many Protestant sects.  St. Paul also mentions destruction. he says: “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.” (1 Cor 15:24)

But in contrast to the King coming in fierce judgment, we also see the King as a shepherd, and remember shepherds were thought of as very lowly and on the bottom of the social scale. But John says that this Son of Man will be like a shepherd separating his flock from the goats. And then John goes on to explain just who will be seen as a sheep and who will be seen as a goat and that bar line that is drawn is all about love of neighbor. The sheep are those who give their neighbor something to eat, something to drink, some clothes, shelter, welcome, care and visitation. Are we sheep or goats? If you have been an active member of this parish, you have pretty well been sheep, I think. If you have been active in your community, supported social causes, gave of yourself to charities, then you are the sheep.

I think sometimes we think of the final judgment as a counting of our many transgressions – let’s see – I lied 4,500 times in my life, I had impure thoughts 66,007 times – and so on. But that’s not what John says. Our judgment will be in relation to the law of Love – how have we served someone else.

Ezekiel who is often thought to have contributed to the fire and brimstone idea of the end of the world, also uses the shepherd image though. God says, through Ezekiel, “I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out….I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered.” And then God shows himself as acting in the way Christ says we should act: “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.” This is the same love that we are asked to show.

The Gospel message is a social message of love for others before it is a recipe book morality – for what is sinful and what is not. The Hebrew Testament is often more about that, and unfortunately through the years, misguided churchmen have made it more about that. But if we get back to the basics and we look at what both Ezekiel and John say we will be judged on, it is very simply on how we treat other people. God says in Ezekiel: “I will feed my sheep with justice.” There it is. There’s the bar we have to reach. And what amazes me is that it is not that hard to do really, and that as so many of us have experienced, it also gives back in joy to the giver.

So my homily is a short one today: I simply want you take a look as the year ends, how much have you done this past year to increase the bank account of love you are developing. Be honest with yourself (only you and God have to know!) and then, see if it is full enough to get you a sheep card!

And this is the Good News that I wish you today!

Bishop Ron Stephens

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

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Joe Diele’s Homily from Sunday, September 14

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on September 26, 2009

Joe Diele’s Homily for Sunday, August 13

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture by Mike on September 26, 2009

Church for All People News

Posted in church events by sligowife on August 9, 2009

It’s been several months since our last blog about news of The Church For All People – Tarrytown, but this is not to say that we haven’t been busy!

On June 13 we hosted a day of prayer in Tarrytown for both of our parish locations: Brooklyn and Tarrytown as well as Church of the Holy Innocents in Halcottsville NY.  It was led by Kathleen Connell,  a priest from the Celtic Catholic Church who introduced us to the Dances of Universal Peace which we then used to pray on the Beatitudes while learning to chant in Aramaic.  It is hard to describe in words what the experience was like; all were very moved and we continue to be so.  Kathleen has been a long time friend of  CACINA and the Church For All People and we are most grateful to her for the many gifts she brings to us.

This past week was our annual silent, directed retreat.  Members of the Church for All People as well as assorted friends and other members of CACINA parishes spent Monday August 3 through Friday August 7 at the beautiful Linwood Spiritual Center on the banks of the Hudson River in Rhinebeck, NY.  We were blessed to have our pastor, Joe Diele, as well as three other directors to guide each of us on our journey into our hearts and souls to encounter our living God.  The other directors were all women and from varied backgrounds and perspectives: a Roman Catholic nun, an Episcopal priest and a professed lay member of the Order of EcumenicalFranciscans.  We also were blessed with gorgeous weather which made the fact that the Center had a pool even more delightful!

On September 5th the Tarrytown community will celebrate their second anniversary with liturgy and a barbecue afterwards.  Our parish continues to grow, slowly but surely….we recently had a young family with two small children attend and expressed a definite desire to continue to be with us.  Since we began our community two years ago, we have doubled in size.  While this means that we have  a mere 8 members, we continue to know that God’s timing is perfect and we are right where we are supposed to be.  Alleluia!

Day of Prayer - June 10 - Praying the Beatitudes with the Dances of Universal Peace

June 10 2009 Day of Prayer - Praying with the Beatitudes in Aramaic

Daily Eucharist at Linwood Retreat

Daily Eucharist at Linwood Retreat

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Joe Diele’s homily on Palm Sunday

Posted in church events by Mike on April 7, 2009

Joe preaches at the Church for All People in Brooklyn last Sunday:

Gospel reading and homily at Sunday’s Mass at the Church for All People

Posted in Christianity, church events, inspirational, scripture by Mike on March 16, 2009

Fr. Joe unlocks the mystery of Sunday’s gospel reading:

Gospel and homily from a CACINA parish March 8

Posted in church events by Mike on March 10, 2009

Fr. Joe reads from the gospel last Sunday:

Here is his homily after the gospel: