Homily at Holy Trinity Parish October 18, 2015 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, saints, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on October 18, 2015

Homily October 18, 2015 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on October 13, 2015

29thsundToday’s gospel has two parts, the request of James and John and secondly what was required of a follower of Jesus to be a leader. The request of the disciples who were relatives of Jesus would be kind of a natural request of the two in the group following Jesus and seeking the messianic times. But, Jesus throws two roadblocks at them tight away. First, he tells him that he is the Messenger and position or rank is not his to give for eternity. Then he gives the clincher and wants 29thsuto know if they can drink the cup he will drink. Clearly, he is telling them that to be a follower, suffering and even death must enter in. As Christians, we know there is always an element of sacrifice and at times even suffering in fulfilling our faith. History has shown in every century that faith has led at various times and places to suffering and even death for men and women of faith. In our own time, religion and its practice is forbidden or restricted or controlled in many countries. The triumphalism of one faith over another is still prevalent in some parts of the world. The cup Jesus offered keeps filling up and is being emptied even as we pray today.
Which comes to the second part, that so many marvel at the concept and application, but seem to miss the point. Jesus didn’t come to confirm what was, but to give a whole new insight to God and seeking him out. Leadership wasn’t a throne and servants and armies and power. No, it was in loving, in serving, in caring. He was about people, all people and he cared and looked after each one as much as he could. More than anything he wanted his disciples to work together, to share their common faith not in a 29thsundayhierarchical way but as a functioning body that works as one. All is a part of his command to love one another as I have loved you. It is hard for us to get it as we are so used to being governed or served from the top down. But in serving all, Christ is telling us each of us has something to contribute and has reason too to hear, listen to his sisters and brothers. Christ’s life, his ransom was his gift to give us the way, the truth and the life.

Today’s Homily at Holy Trinity September 20, 2015 The 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, Resurrection, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 20, 2015

Homily September 20, 2015 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, Faith, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 16, 2015

25sundayToday’s gospel has Jesus telling his disciple for the second time that he must suffer and die at the hands of the chief priests and scribes. The idea of suffering and an angry God is a notion that somehow became prevalent and the notion that suffering was very much a necessity for a christian the whole concept of redemption. Taking up one’s cross came to mean to suffer in some painful way to make up for our sinfulness. It became almost that Jesus came only to suffer and die. But then, what of his teaching and preaching, his love and his service and God’s mercy shown through him? God sent his son into the world to confirm his relationship and love for us, especially the lowly, the deprived, the ones who most 25sunneeded his love. Love certainly involves sacrifice, as in giving of yourself to another you are sacrificing some of what you are and giving it to another. God in giving Jesus was giving his very son, love itself so fully, that the inevitable abuse of that love would lead to his suffering and death. Jesus knew the inevitability of his death, yet, he did not desire it or seek it out, but as we know, he accepted it for the carrying out of His father’s will and for the service of God’s love and mercy to all. While love ad mercy might at time lead to suffering and even death, god is not angry or vengeful but loving and merciful for all who reach out to him. Those who call out to him are the poor, the suffering, the marginalized. The self-sufficient don’t need God, wouldn’t recognize him if he reached out to him. In Jesus’ time the chief priest, the elders, the scribes were so self contained that they could not see God acting in their midst. Their eyes could not see.
A way to understand God’s love is to look at the love in marriage. The love is a 25sugiving, a sacrifice of self to become a we, one in a new union with love as the center and reason for life together. In sacrifice and love and giving, two grow and mature and live together in a new and different way. The joys out weigh the sorrows for the most part, but in the end, love holds it all together. Their relationship is steeled and strengthened through many good things and through the hard and bad things as well. So it is God’s love reaches out and shares itself with us in all things, God’s love never fails, unless we fail in our love for him.

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish September 13, 2015 The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, Faith, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 13, 2015

Homily September 13, 2015 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, Faith, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 9, 2015

24 suWho do people say that I am? This is a question I think we all ask of ourselves in one form or another from time to time. How do people see us, what kind of person am I? In today’s Gospel, Jesus is doing more than that in his question. His disciples have been with him for some time, they have witnessed many of his healings and miracles and listened to his words. They have seen and heard the crowds and heard the gossip and rumblings in the crowd. So Jesus asks, what is the crowd saying? In reply different ones spoke up saying John the Baptist, one of the prophets, Elijah and so on. But the Jesus turned it on them and said but who do YOU say that I am? Notice, only one spoke up and that was Peter, who proclaimed You are the Christ! From here on, Jesus began to teach them what it meant to be the Christ. Who he was and what his mission and life were about was far from what was the popular perception of who the Christ would be and what he would do for Israel and for all of humanity. The glory of past times and the days of David and Solomon were not the idea of what God intended for humanity. The understanding of life and living in a Godly way was a long process starting from the beginning of human life and continuing through 24sunevery generation even to the present day. Our imperfect nature means that we must struggle to find the way even as our ancestors did. The only difference is that we have the accumulation of knowledge that should at the same time help us but also burden us to do better than the mistakes of the past.

So, when Jesus says to follow him we need to deny ourself. Harsh? Yes in a way, but let step back a moment and look at two lovers. In love, in giving and receiving it The other becomes all important. As love deepens the denial of self is actually the deepening of the relationship, losing in a sense individuality for something far better in a relationship of love. So it is Christ is telling his disciples, that to follow him they must give themselves over to a bigger and more loving relationship with him and his Father. Jesus himself did that by giving himself to be born, live and die. The cross, suffering, sacrifice all seem so foreign to human comfort and life. To love, to give to look out for each other seems so hard, yet that message remains the same and the suffering of men and women even today throughout the world proves that we still have not got his Word and life completely settled in our hearts and mind. Certainly, we can not by ourselves resolve all the world problems, but at least we can reach out of our shell and show the love of Christ to others in a real and self-giving way. Giving our self, our life for the gospel, is what saves our life.

Homily for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Year B 2015 (March 29)

Posted in christian, Christianity, homily, inspirational, scripture, Word by Fr. Ron Stephens on March 22, 2015

Homily for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Year B 2015

Today’s readings really speak for themselves and touch different parts of each of us, so I will keep this short and briefly say how they affect me.

One of the most difficult things to reconcile in our minds and that has given rise to all sorts of ideas and heresies over the century is the combination of divinity and humanity in Jesus.  Of course, it is a mystery and impossible to totally understand but that hasn’t stopped us from trying to.

One of the questions that our reading of the Passion today brings up is the question did Jesus know that he was going to rise from the dead? It seems to me that if he did, it would make less tragic the event of his death and even ameliorate the depth of suffering he endured.

If we knew we had to go through something physical terrible and painful but that it would mean we would be perfectly cured or fine afterwards, it would be easier to go through, wouldn’t it?

So I don’t think, as a human, that Jesus knew he would be resurrected although his faith in God never wavered. Isaiah description of the suffering servant we read today ends with the line “I know that I shall not be put to shame”. That is Jesus’ hope and trust in in God!

And yet, in the Psalm today we also hear the words spoken by Jesus on the cross as well: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Does’t this indicate that Jesus lost hope in God. In the least it proves to me that he did not know of his resurrection.

But I don’t think that this was a loss of hope in God for Jesus. I think it was Jesus feeling the weight of everything he had been asked to do, perhaps even feeling our continual abandonment of him even after his death. He was giving up his life for a people that haven’t accepted him and still after two thousand years have not fully accepted him or his message. The weight of this is on him at that moment, questioning, as he submits, whether he has given himself up freely for a people who abandon him.

In our lowest depths of depression, we too can feel that the whole world is against us and that we have accomplished nothing in our lives. We may even blame God or feel that God has forsaken us. Perhaps that is the point that people get to in order to kill themselves. But Jesus never lost faith in God – but his humanity was very strong in that final moment of being human – his death.

In our own lives we need to constantly remember that there is something beyond death, something that will help us to get through the lower depths of life and our own deaths. The final result of each of our deaths if we have been true to God is what Paul says in the second reading today of Jesus: “Therefore God highly exalted him.” We will never be as highly exalted as Jesus, of course – “the name that is beyond every name” – but because of Jesus death for us, we too can be glorified. That is the glory of the cross. That is what we celebrate today! 

And that is the Good News I want you keep in your hearts, especially when things go bad.

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 for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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Homily March 22, 2015 The 5th Sunday of Lent

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, homily, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on March 18, 2015

5 lent 1The time for a new covenant is at hand. Today we see some Greeks want to see or talk to Jesus who had thus far limited his ministry to the Jews in Israel. 5 lent 2His response is to compare himself to a grain of wheat, a small seemingly insignificant item easily missed until it falls to the ground and dies(is planted). In dying, it begins to grow spreading out roots and pushing up to the surface and producing much fruit. Here in John’s gospel, Jesus is foretelling his death, that he must die and that he must be lifted up. This is why he was born and why he is present to them. But only in being lifted up will he draw all things to himself. Christ knew the death he would die and that it was inevitable, but like the grain of wheat, fruit or blossoms would only come after Jesus Christ Crucifixion on Good Friday Silhouettedeath.
In today’s world, we honor similar martyrdom in war and even in everyday life. Nothing is more poignant than to see and hear the valor and often the sacrifice of a medal of honor winner. A risk or possibly even the giving up of life so others might live. We honor people who will stand and sacrifice possibly their life 5 lent 3for a principle or their faith or religion. In the last hundred years, humanity has seen fit to continually wage war or fighting in some form almost if not in every one of these years. Slavery, abuse, suffering are still not eradicated from the plant earth. This doesn’t touch on the people of the world who go hungry.
Yet, Christ has died and he does draw all to himself. His message has yet to be universally spread to all the ends of the earth. In some places his message is obscured because we have 5lent 5westernized it or made it too comfortable to our own time and place. His message was one to draw all to him, to believe and to follow, to worship in his name. Simply, does the grandeur of Christianity today that we see in the so-called first world, fit in out in the highways and byways of the third world and beyond? He died for them too, but how do we reach out and adapt to their understanding. His embrace is of all, his Spirit goes out to all. We must be open and not preconceive or put boundaries on what the Spirit can do. Remember Christ was lifted up not once simply on the cross but also in the triumph of the resurrection.

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Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent, Year B 2015

Posted in christian, Christianity by Fr. Ron Stephens on February 14, 2015

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, Year B 2015

First, a parable. Johnny had not been a very good boy this week. He had gotten into trouble at school and had not done the chores at home that had been assigned to him.

His father sat him down at the end of the week, and said: “Look, Johnny, I am going to buy you the bike that you have been dreaming about. Not because you have been good this week, because you haven’t, but just because I want to do it. However, after you get the bike, I expect some things to change around here. I want you to pull your socks up at school, and I want you to be regular in doing your chores to help your mother.  Understood?” Johnny couldn’t believe his good luck. Over the next few weeks after he got his new bike he did start doing better in school and was pretty regular in his chores. But then he started to slack off. He fell into the old patterns and spent more time on his bike than he did doing his chores. One morning he opened the garage to get his bike to go off to school, but his bike wasn’t there. He ran back into the house upset and told his dad his bike must have been stolen! But Dad just said, “You didn’t keep your part of the bargain, boy! I have hidden the bike away and you are going to have to work to get it back!”

What this story is about is “covenant”, a word we hear a lot about in the Scriptures. A covenant is a free gift that we don’t merit from our behavior. But certain behaviors of thankfulness are expected. In Exodus, when the Jews were led out of Egypt, God made a conditional covenant with them, made them his people and gave them the Promised Land. But in return they had to follow certain moral codes, and not worship other gods. When Israel broke that covenant, the Promised Land was taken from them, not forever, because God always keeps promises, but they had to work for it.

In the opening reading today from Genesis, we are given part of the story of Noah, but we also need some context.  God created the world, and after Adam and Eve  left Eden, the population grew. But the didn’t show any thankfulness or keep their part of any moral code and the world became corrupted and ungodly. God could only find one family that kept the covenant. God sent a flood which destroyed everyone except the family of Noah. But God, still in love with the human race despite their turning away, made another covenant with Noah without any expectations – an unconditional covenant that God would never again destroy the world with a flood. And just to remind them of this promise, this covenant, God created the rainbow as a visible sign  of it.

The difference between a conditional and an unconditional covenant is simply that in an unconditional covenant we are not expected to do anything in response, while in a conditional covenant such as at Mount Sinai, we have obligations and so does God.

The Psalm today reflects the Sinai covenant because the response is “Your paths are love and faithfulness for those who keep your covenant.” In other words the Hebrews needed to show faithfulness and love to God and neighbor as a result of the conditions of the Mosaic covenant.

The other major covenant in the Bible is the Davidic covenant, an unconditional covenant where God says  that David’s family line will be blessed and an everlasting kingdom would come from that line. Jesus is from the family line of David and Mark says in Chapter 10 that Jesus is the Son of David and fulfills that covenant because God always keeps promises. Mark’s Gospel is really all about proving that Jesus is this fulfillment of the covenant to David.

This Davidic covenant also has a sign like the rainbow, and St. Peter in the Epistle today describes that covenant sign as baptism. Peter explains that God saved eight persons through water, and that baptism is a saving sign and action which frees us from sin. Peter describes this as “An appeal to God for good conscience” because when sins are taken away that are no longer on our conscience, and we no longer have to worry about them.

So two covenant, two signs! In the Gospel today, in Mark’s direct and uncomplicated way, he explains that Jesus was baptized, showing us what we need to do as well, and then Mark goes on to show the qualities and signs which begin to show that Jesus is Son of God. He was driven by the Spirit, he was tempted by Satan unsuccessfully, and Angels waited on him. We are again told the secret that it will take a while for everyone else to figure out – that Jesus is the promise of the Davidic covenant promised to us.

The reading ends with Jesus beginning his preaching of the good news of God – that God’s kingdom is near. And what must our response be… what is the one condition that we have to fulfill to get in on this covenant…?  We have to repent and believe.

And THAT is what Lent is all about. It is our response to the covenantal promise of our being saved by Jesus Christ. We have to turn around, examine our lives and state our beliefs. This Lenten response leads to Holy Saturday when we renew our baptismal vows and celebrate the fact that we have been part of an covenant in which God has sent a Savior to us, God’s self in the flesh and we are at the beginning of living the kingdom of God.

This is Good News. This is the Good News of Lent, and this is what Jesus proclaims 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 for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Holy Trinity Homily September 14, 2014- The Exaltation of the Cross

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 14, 2014

Homily September 14, 2014 Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 9, 2014

crossToday’s feast of the exaltation of the Cross, is meant to step back from Holy Week and see the Crucifixion in terms of what it did and is doing for all. The whole idea of being lifted up for people to see and to be saved by their faith is related to the saving of the Jews with the lifting up of the serpents image when they failed and were overrun with serpents and bitten and infected with venom. The story was unique because the Jews did not use images or formed statues in their religion. Jesus in talking to Nicodemus was presenting a whole new image and way of faith and salvation with the lifting up of the cross. Argentina-Argentina-vacations-Argentina-For-Less-Peru-For-LessThis sign has become a symbol and identification for Christians throughout the world. Even non-believers identify a Christian by the cross. It is used in all kinds of places, even to being made in precious metals and bejeweled to be worn as physical adornment such as a pin or necklace or a ring. It appears on churches and in other places. The cross which was an instrument of torture and death and disgrace has come to be seen a mean of salvation, forgiving sin, bringing forth faith from the person looking on.
Yes, Christ has died, but he has risen, he is the One who has come From God and has made his way back. He is the Son who became man so that man could be with God. Christ did not condemn the world, but rather came to save the world. The symbol of the cross remains and points the way even now. The way is Christ and he is still present today but he must be sought out. He remains in his church, but at the same time he remains in his followers who in their life and love bring him to others. While not everybody chooses to hear his call, his followers still seek to share his word and call all over the world. Even now, centuries later, that word and call has not reached every part of the world. Yet still his followers try to bring that cross to all. Even where Christians have not been, God in one way or another is there touching the hearts of women and men. That of course is ultimately that the seeds of Christ’s word and call will someday flourish.
site-of-crossThe hardest place for Christians today is where people have turned their back or simply turned away or walked away. There are also places today where Christians are sought out and murdered simply because they are Christian. Such things Jesus himself said would happen. Truly, if men and women and nations can not get along with each other, how could we expect or see a Godly presence in all places. Truly then we celebrate and exalt the Cross realizing it can be a contradiction for those who choose not to believe and be saved. We keep working and praying sharing God’s love.

Homily November 24, 2013 Solemnity of Christ the King

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on November 19, 2013

The Solemnity or Feast of Christ the King is a rather recent addition to the liturgical calendar of the Christian churches. It was first celebrated in 1925 when Pius XI established it. At that time, Pius was a man without a country, as the Vatican or Papal States had ceased to exist in 1870 and no resolution had been made regarding the Pope’s status. concordatSo at that time, the pope had no earthly governmental power and apparently this feast was part of several years of Pius working and establishing a treaty with Mussolini making Vatican City a free and independent nation in 1929. The feast was originally celebrated the last Sunday of October, but was moved to the last Sunday of the Liturgical year in 1969 at which time it began to be celebrated by other Christian Churches when their calendars and readings began to be shared. I give this background because it is interesting that Christ never had a kingdom on earth and even told Pilate his kingdom is not of this world. He certainly never had the trappings of royalty, and kingship for him meant service to others. Even with all the finery that he provided David the King of Israel, he expected David to be a shepherd of his people. In America, we have little concern for what a king is as it is foreign to what we know. Long ago we put aside the monarchy and formed a new way of governing. But what matters is that whatever form of government there is the keystone must be service of the people and their common good.

Christ’s Kingship resembles nothing we see in any nation today. His rule is to meet each of us where we are. His work is to call and lead us to him and his Father. His message is the same as when he walked the earth. We are all called to repent and believe and to love, His power, his glory was the cross and the life he gave on it for all of us. As a man he was Szoke_Peter_Jakab-Christ_the_Kingscorned, he was abused because he believed and followed God his Father unconcerned about what his contemporaries thought. He refused high honors and always was concerned for those who were with him and listening to him. In today’s gospel we have heard the scorn and derision launched at him as he died on the cross. Yet even then, he could forgive and welcome another companion to the next life. The placard on his cross said “King Of The Jews”, but this was only to mock him more. Compassion and forgiveness were only words to those who only looked out for themselves. It was so much easier for the rulers and priest to live on in their own comfort ignoring the commands of God to seek their own advantage.

Finally, if you look at Romans 13, the state is seen as a minister or functionary of God, calling for compliance. In the book of Revelations, chapter 13, The state is the beast that came from the abyss. With such an interesting disparity, we are reminded that life is a journey and one companion stands out to show us the way. His way is not an easy way but it is a loving, giving way. It is one of giving to others, of serving and sharing. It is a way of accepting what God gives and being all that we can be. It is the way of his kingship and of sharing in it.

Homily June 23. 2013 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time C

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on June 21, 2013

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

img_6495We often hear what Paul said that we are called to put on Christ and become uniquely one with Him. What Luke is telling us today is that in putting on Christ we must put ourself behind us and begin to look out and grow in seeking out other people. What that means is we must accept the cross as part of putting on Christ. It doesn’t mean that we go out and seek to be punished or actively persecuted, but that we know and understand that we have a new way of life that is not really concerned with what the world or others think of us. What sets in, hopefully, is a certain passivity to accept what God sends our way and to let His way be our way. Remember that in Christ’s time the Pharisees and priests sought to follow the law but personalized it where the law became more their own possession than God’s law leading them to become poor leaders. In passively following Jesus we can actively and hopefully daily put ourself aside and really follow his way.
Even today, I ask you, in putting on Christ have we truly done away with all prejudices. Have we put aside nationality, gender, financial condition, or any of the real or imagined definitions of a person or group to see that really we are one and only one in Christ. As believers we can slip in holding the cross by failing to see the person in front of us at any moment. That moment strangely could be as important as many years before it if we remain sensitive to God’s will. Unfortunately we can miss these moments if we become overly invested in ourselves. A contradiction? Yes it is. After all, wasn’t Jesus’ life a contradiction? He said he took it up to lose it. Could it mean any less for us? It means walking with Him even when we are against the flow of the world. How we answer Jesus’ question of who he is, is personal and compelling. Doing and saying the right thing is what we call today politically correct, but God is not politically correct, He is our loving Father and calls us to be like Him and follow His Son. He cares for us individually and as a church but church is not and institution or a building but individual persons each caring one for another as He does for us. This is His Cross for us to take up daily to be there, passively giving more and more.