CACINA

A New Look at Original Sin

Posted in Christianity, forgiveness, grace, Original Sin, redemption, Romans chapter 5, scripture, Uncategorized by Rev. Martha on February 25, 2018

This is based on Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching from Dec. 3,’08, using the 5th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, which “traces the basic outlines of original sin”.

Very briefly, this is what St. Paul wrote: Through one person (Adam) sin entered the world, and through sin, judgment/death/ condemnation came to all people. But the free gift of God’s grace and the gift (for a sinless person to die willingly at the hands of sinful people) that came from one man (Jesus) were not like Adam’s sin. Adam’s one sin brought punishment to all, but Christ makes us right with God, so that all can live.   For if by that one person’s sin all died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of Christ overflow and abound for all. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more. The sin of one person caused death to be king over all, but all who accept God’s abundant grace and forgiveness are kings of life because of the one person, Jesus Christ.

The focus is not so much that sin entered the world when the 1st humans disobeyed God and lost the grace of holiness they were give at creation. The focus, then, is that Jesus Christ came to redeem/ justify/acquit us (commercial/theological/legal). God’s grace was abundantly showered upon humanity.”

The dogma of original sin is inseparable from and absolutely connected to the dogma of salvation and freedom in Christ. We should never consider the sin of Adam and of humankind without understanding it in the context of justification in Christ, the Pope said. There would have been no need for redemption by Jesus unless there was sin. On Easter we say, “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”

As proof of original sin, the Pope said, “On the one hand we know we must do good, and in our inner selves this is what we desire, yet at the same time we feel an impulse to do the opposite, to follow the path of egoism, of violence, to do only what we enjoy even though we know that this means working against good, against God and against our fellow man. St. Paul wrote, (Romans 7:15) “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” This inner contradiction of our being is not a theory but fact.  “The power of evil in the heart and history of humankind is undeniable.”

This makes evil appear normal to us.   “This contradiction of mankind, of our history, must provoke and bring out the desire of redemption.” “In politics,” the Pope remarked, “everyone speaks of the need to change the world, to create a more just world. This is an expression of the desire that there be liberation from the contradiction that we experience in ourselves.” Were we “hard wired” with both good and evil with us?   Are we inherently contradictory? NO!

“The faith tells us that there are not two principles, one good and one evil. There is only one principle, which is God the Creator, and God is solely good, without shadow of evil. Neither are human beings a mix of good and evil. The human being as such is good. “This is the joyful announcement of the faith: there is but one source, a source of good, the Creator, and for this reason, life, too, is good.

“There is also a mystery of darkness, which does not arise from the source of being, it is not original. Evil arises from created freedom, a freedom that has been abused,” Benedict XVI said. “How has this happened? It remains unclear. Evil is not logical. Only God and goodness are logical, only they are light. Evil remains a mystery.”

“It remains a mystery of darkness, of night. But there is immediately added a mystery of light. Evil arises from a subordinate (lesser) source; God with His light is stronger. For this reason evil can be overcome, for this reason the creature, man, is curable.” “Man is not only curable but is in fact cured. God introduced the cure. God personally entered history and, to counteract the permanent source of evil, placed a source of pure good: Christ crucified and risen, the “New Adam” who “opposes the foul river of evil with a river of light.”

The dark night of evil is still strong. Together we pray: Come Jesus; come, give strength to the light and to the good; come where dishonesty, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come, Lord Jesus, give strength to the good in the world and help us to be bearers of your light, workers of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!”     Amen

 

Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany C 2016 (Jan 3)

Posted in Christianity, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 27, 2015

Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany C 2016 (Jan 3)

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, not a word that occurs often in our own daily lives – unless you happen to be a teacher of James Joyce and use the word in a literary sense. The word itself means “to manifest” or “to reveal”, and what is manifested on this remembrance is that Jesus was made known to be the light of the world, the one who would save mankind, the one who would radiate God’s glory.

For this reason, the imagery of the day is all about light. Isaiah, the prophet, foretells a day when the whole world will know of the glory of God, and will come to worship the one true God. “Arise, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!” He foretells of a future when the world seems dark with sin and depression, that the Lord will suddenly appear in light and all nations will work together and come to the Lord. Young and old will come from all across the land bringing gifts of thanks and proclaiming praise for God. A beautiful utopian vision of the last days of the old covenant.

The psalm picks up this beautiful scenario and talks about every nation on earth adoring God through his Son and Savior. This Son, the King,  will judge people with righteousness and give justice tot he poor of the world, and he will not cease until peace abounds. The Psalmist then picks up on the vision of Isaiah and tells him of Kings from the ends of the known earth bringing gifts and tributes to god’s Son. And what is it about this great King? Is he a conqueror? Is he a mighty warrior and military leader? No, what the psalmist picks out as his greatest qualities are that he helps the poor and needy and the week and makes sure that their needs are fulfilled and their lives are saved. What a beautiful portrait of Jesus centuries before his coming.

In the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, Paul extends the previous concept of a Jewish Savior to one that saves all mankind. He says, “In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind as it has now been revealed to his holy Apostles and prophets by the Spirit:” And what is it that has been made known by the Spirit? Paul says it is that “the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and share in the promise in Christ Jesus…”

That is the manifestation we celebrate today, then. That all nations see the light, and that light is the saving grace of Jesus.

Matthew is the only Gospel that mentions the wise men and doesn’t really say that there were three of them. I guess because there are three gifts mentioned, we presume that there were three of them. We also don’t know that they are kings. Nowhere is that mentioned int he Gospels, though tradition has it that they were.

Matthew’s story accomplishes a number of things, however. First of all, because of the light of the new star, the birth of a Savior is made manifest to people across the known land. The wise men seem to have come from different locations but of course, the star could be seen from everywhere on earth. In the Gospel’s story line, the wise men also add to the plot because they stop at the King’s palace as would any foreigner requesting permission to cross a foreign land, and Herod is told by his own people of the prophecy of Isaiah and the coming of a Messiah who would take the throne – at least, that was how they interpreted it. This will lead to a number of bad things happening – though Herod doesn’t indicate that to the wise men. He sends them out to find the child and report back to him so he might know where the child was located.

The wise men head out and somehow find the location of the birth though the child would probably be quite a bit older now since they had come from so great a distance. The child wasn’t in a stable, but in a house now. The gifts they brought could be Matthew’s attempt to bring Isaiah’s prophecy into his story since two of the gifts were what Isaiah foretold – gold and frankincense. One commentator mentioned that the gold might not have been actual gold, but the spice turmeric, which is golden in color. Such gifts of spices and oils would have been medicinal and helpful to a family with a young child.

So the Gentile wise men represent the branching out of God’s chosen people to the whole world. This would no longer just be for the Jewish chosen people, but God’s saving grace would be for all men and women, just as we read the angels proclaiming on Christmas morn. After having a dream or vision that Herod was up to no good, the wis men did not go back to Herod as they were asked but headed off for their own countries.

So what can we draw from these experiences today? Counties have been in turmoil lately because of the refugee immigrations from Syria and elsewhere. Darkness has once again visited our land. I think we need to get our minds around the fact that there is one God for everyone and He is a God for all peoples. Perhaps he manifests differently for different people. Who are we to say we know the mind of God of the ways of God. Surely we know we have been wrong many times before. Instead of criticism and fear, we need to do our best to accept all people as they are, to love them, to help them, to care for them, and thus show that we are really Christian by our love. I know that in a complex world this seems so simplistic and that our fears get in the way of really seeking to get to know and understand others. But if Jesus is really the Savior of all mankind, we need to be ready to do things that help him do his job, since we are his hands and his feet on earth today. Just something to think about as we try to open all the doors and let this great light shine in for all. And this is the Good News the Epiphany brings today.

Ronald Stephens 

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

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

Homily for The Epiphany of the Lord, Year B 2015

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, homily, inspirational, religion, Word by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 28, 2014

The Epiphany of the Lord, Year B 2015

St. Paul talk to the Ephesians today about the mystery that had been  made known to him by Revelation. It was something that no one ever understood before, and that was that God had now invited non-Jews into what had been the birthright only of the Hebrew nation. All these years God had chosen only one people as his heirs, but now he was opening his kingdom up to all people. This revelation was indeed an ‘epiphany’ for Paul, if by the word epiphany we mean “seeing the light” and coming to a new understanding. As a practicing and devout Jew Paul had taken pride in the fact that he was among the chosen people and had been very strict in his following of the letter of the law of the Jewish commandments, not admitting even free thinkers into that company. That was why he had persecuted the early church. But Paul literally saw the light on one of his journeys, and was thrown off a horse and blinded by it. And in that epiphany, he saw Christ and learned that he was to open the gate to the Gentiles allowing them to become the chosen people of God.

While the feast of the Epiphany we celebrate today isn’t about Paul’s own epiphany, it is quite fitting that this reading was chosen because the Gospel today describes an Epiphany in which men who were not Jews but probably astrologers, saw in the sky a star or a falling star which they believed heralded the birth of someone who would change the world as they knew it. They sought out this person in the story we hear today, following the trajectory of the star and arriving in Judea sought this person. It came to the attention of King Herod who was fearful of someone removing him from the throne, especially since his own counsellors recount the prophecies of the prophets, like Isaiah, telling of this event.

There were, of course, prophets who talked about all the nations worshipping the one Hebrew God. The first reading we have of the prophet Isaiah today is probably the most influential of these. The idea of seeing the light is expressed as God’s glory shining in the darkness, and because of this, kings and nations shall realize that God exists, and all shall come to God.

In the Gospel today the wise men from the East are possibly used by Matthew to express the truth that Christ, by his Incarnation, has started the process whereby all men and women can be the heirs of God. By using the references to Isaiah and creating the Kings who bring gold, frankincense and myrrh to the child, Matthew is able to tie in the non-literal prophecy of Isaiah with he reality that he wants to present – that this child was to redeem all people, and with his death, salvation was open to all nations. It is interesting that Matthew added myrrh to the story – you may have noted that in Isaiah the kings just bring gold and frankincense. The myrrh is an important addition because myrrh was used in the embalming of someone, and it is Matthew’s way of preparing the reader of the death and sacrifice which was to com in his story.

It is not important whether or not we believe there were actually three wise men or not because it is the truth behind the story that we need to get to in order to have the Gospel affect out own lives. The truth is that God has sent Jesus, the light that shines in darkness, to bring about the salvation of all the world. The truth is that we have been saved, that we have been given a gift that we don’t even deserve, all because God has chosen us, and in his infinite mercy and seen fir to reward us this way. It is not that we have been good and so have been rewarded, but actually the reverse. We have been rewarded not for anything we have done, but must now express our thanks by acting in a good way. As usual, God has reversed the human way of thinking and interacting.

If we get anything from the feast of the Epiphany today, I hope it is that we need to express our thanks to God more often, we need to realize that in trying every day to be a better, more perfect human being, we are just reciprocating what God has done to us. It is a different way of thinking about things – and so, maybe we all can have an epiphany of sorts today as well, as we look at our relationship with God in a new light.

And this is the bright and glorious Good News I present to 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 and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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Homily March 30, 2014 4th Sunday of Lent

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on March 26, 2014

man born blindOften times when we read the scriptures, we all ready have a familiarity and a certain preconceived idea about what we read. One example would be the story today of Samuel anointing David as the future king of Israel. Jesse had eight sons and to Samuel the choice seemed obvious as he observed the sons of Jesse, but God had his own way of choosing and actually chose the least obvious one. David, the youngest, was a man of heart and faith. His choice was one that stands out for the ages. From this man’s heritage would come the Messiah.
man bor blind aIn the gospel, we see Jesus asked who was at fault for the man born blind being blind. Jesus debunked the common notion that sin of the man or his parents in some way caused the disability. Rather it occurred so the work of God could be visible in the world. To prove this Jesus goes on his own to cure the man’s blindness, even on the sabbath.
Today, we see many disabilities present in the world, and are in many ways confounded that with all our science we can not obliterate disabilities and sickness and all the other negative things in the world. We are quick to ask why God allows this or that, but forget that the choices of humans are sometimes responsible for the bad and even evil things in the world. Disabilities are still in our world and many are challenged by them as they can not picture such a thing happening to themselves or see it in some way as threatening what they see as normal.man born blind c
Yet here we forget that God creates each person out of love and pours his love on that person. A person with a disability is not limited in the love they can give and receive and certainly are happy in their own self-awareness. Who are we after all to judge another for their limitations when like Samuel today was told that God doesn’t look at appearances but at the person’s heart. What is the measure of a successful life? What is it that we seek? What do we expect at the end? You know we can have eyes and still not see. Any parent knows they love each of their children for who they are, each as they are unique and loving. So it is with God. Each of us is born to be called and loved by God for who we are. Now is a good time during lent to look at ourselves and ask if we are in any way man born blind bpreventing the love of God from reaching us and through us to others. Is our heart open and receptive to all? Can we really embrace those whose abilities fall short of our expectations?
In a few weeks we will be celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, the most important moment in history. To return from the dead and to be seen and heard and touched has sealed our faith and has been passed on to us through the centuries. As science has changed the world, so has the Christian faith grown and embraced many. We have been brought to God through Christ’s love and through him to each other to share that faith. His mission to go out to all the world, still remains an active charge even today.

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on March 23, 2014

Homily for the  4th Sunday of Lent, Year A  2014

It is perhaps difficult for us to understand the intricate thinking of the Pharisees or to fathom the many, many purification laws of the Hebrews, but many of these were second nature to them, just as many of the traditions and rules we have in the Catholic church become part of who we are and we don’t even think about them much. It is only when someone questions them or an outsider laughs at them, do we pause to think about the meaning of them. We make the sign of the cross when we enter church or begin prayer – most of us don’t think twice about it, but we hear someone making a joke about a Catholic brushing away flies before he prays, and we pause to consider what we do.

There were things that Jews just didn’t do on their Sabbath days. Basically, they did not work, so anything that seemed like work was forbidden them. I doubt they thought about it much; it was just there and they did it the way they were supposed to.  Now the Pharisees, because they were such religious conservatives, began to very picky about the rules and applied them even when it might not have made sense to do so.  I say all this because Jesus apparently was breaking rules when he cured this blind man today. First, and foremost, he was doing it on a Sabbath day. You apparently couldn’t ‘doctor’ on a Sabbath. But even more, he was making a building material by wetting and mixing clay. This was also forbidden. Why, you couldn’t even mix your animal’s food – you could provide it, but the animal had to mix it itself.

Obviously, because we are outsiders to these traditions, it is easy for us to see that someone is really missing the point here. Isn’t an overall good happening enough to take precedence over rules? Jesus has taken a man who has never seen before, blind from birth, and given him his sight back. Certainly that should overshadow the minutia of rules being broken. But for the Pharisees it wasn’t.

This scene obviously took place not too long before Jesus’ death. You might have noted the words “that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:22). Sides had been taken and the Pharisees were not on the side of Jesus. What is not so clear in the text but was factual was that this blind man, now seeing, would probably be “put out of the synagogue”, excommunicated we would say, because of his new belief in who Jesus was. To be ostracized from the synagogue would be a dreadful thing because he would be cut off from the community in which he lives.

But the man has experienced Jesus, and has experienced in a way like no other, and so at the very least he knows that Jesus is a prophet, which is what he declares to the Pharisees. In the attempt of the blind man to convince the Pharisees that Jesus was from God, he was fighting a losing battle. Their minds had been made up – even though it was still controversial and there was some division. In the end, they call the blind man a sinner – echoing the opening lines of the reading today that suggest that infirmities are caused by sin – and they excommunicate him from the synagogue.  He may have gained his sight, but he lost the community that was dear to him.

When Jesus heard what had happened he sought the man out and confirmed what the man had probably been thinking – that Jesus was the Messiah. He believed Jesus when Jesus said “the one speaking to you is he”, and he worshipped Jesus.

I struggled this week to see why the Church combined this Gospel reading with the story of David’s election by God. The story of Samuel being sent to look for a King in Bethlehem, and subsequently realizing that God’s ways are different from our ways in that the election fell on the youngest son rather than the eldest son – a boy who tended sheep (a very lowly and distrusted profession) but who was destined to be a King of Israel. What connection was I missing?

And after reflection I realized that it had to be all about ‘sight’. Samuel couldn’t see the person God had chosen to be King until David was brought in, and what does Samuel notice most about David but his “beautiful eyes”. Can this be a metaphor that David would have the sight needed to recognize God and be the King Israel wanted? And then we sing “The Lord is my Shepherd” tying together the fact that like David, Jesus is also our shepherd. In Ephesians today the meaning is even more clear – “Once you were in darkness, but now in the Lord you are light…Christ will shine on you.” And in the Gospel Jesus explains that he has come “into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see…”

We are like the blind wandering around in a world whose beauty we cannot see, clouded by much sin and corruption. But Jesus allows us to see, he says. And what is it that we see? We see the light of Christ, we see the heavenly kingdom reflected on earth, we see our sins and faults for what they are, we see the beauty of God’s word, we see the struggle of the Church to continue to bring light to the world, we see things as they really are – and we are like the blind man – enabled to see Jesus for who he is, truly is – our Messiah, our Savior, our Light, our Way to God.

These readings are chosen in the Lenten season to give us hope on our 40 day journey, to help us look outward as well as inward. Too much self-reflection may make us miss the point that there is light at the end of the Christian tunnel, and that light is Jesus. We want to keep moving toward the light, aware of our frailties, our sinfulness, our pride, but allowing the light to point out these defects, and choosing God, getting rid of these – just as Jesus got rid of the blindness of the man today, so that we too may continue to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah. Our infirmities, our sicknesses, our failures are not caused by sin, but they can be ways to let us see the light.  Victims of cancer often acknowledge that they now see things in a very different way. We pray today that as we quickly move through our 40 days of fast and prayer, we all get glimpses of light and come to Easter with full sight, bathed in the shining light of Christ.

And this is the Good News I pray for you today!

Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

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

Homily February 9, 2014 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on February 4, 2014

salt-bowl2Today’s readings are actually related in theme and are meant to come after the Sermon on the mount or the Beatitudes which would have been read last Sunday if the Feast of the Presentation had not taken replaced it. The second reading is interesting as over the centuries so many have argued about faith and reason and belief. Paul here tells us faith comes from the power of God and basically a gift and concludes that preaching Christ in life and crucifixion is what his task is about. In the gospel, Jesus talks of salt, a house on a mountain and light. These three metaphors are what he uses to describe the role of his followers. We today know how important salt is to taste and flavor of food, but in biblical times it was a preservative and also an aid in producing fuel for its ovens and when no longer useful it provided filler for muddy roads. From our driving experience, I think we all are aware how a lighted structure on a hill or mountain stands out, or even a bit further the pictures of cities lit up at night from space. Finally, we all know what a lamp does and how lost we would be without it.

So, Jesus says we are the salt of the earth. It means we are a spice, a flavor, as you might a witness. We are not meant to take over but to show the way, to season the society by living the words and power Of God. Those word were the word of the beatitudes spoken to the multitude. Words meant not just for me but for all. Words which look to care for all. It highlight Isaiah today to feed the hungry, to give shelter to give clothing, or just to look out for our own, for we are all one in the Lord. We must remember such witness and action is that. Remember salt is the seasoning and not the main course. Just like that we are the means that God shines forth for that is the house on mountainpurpose of our saltiness

As a light in a house or a light on a mountain, our purpose is the same to facilitate the ability to see. Our light, our faith is a glory to be seen. It is a power which transcends us and reaches out to others. It is the power of God working through us and summons others to the faith. We can never forget that it is not our work, but the power of God. What we do and share gives witness and enhances his work on the earth encompassing more people along the way. It is interesting that the early Christians, while believing felt a certain futility because of the lack of numbers. Yet over the centuries we have come to learn, at least in some ways, that God’s ways are not ours. Our measurement is oftentimes self-serving and not in full knowledge of God’s will.

table lampToday’s message then is clear that we are called to look out for each other. The hungry, homeless, the oppressed, the sick. What help and service, what witness is what comes back to us. The biggest example of this giving and service was Christ himself. Nothing stood in the way he gave himself over as a man to the power of God. While we know that as frail as a person that we are and how far short we all fall from him, we are through God’s power given the means to try and in his plan to succeed.

Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2013-14

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture, Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on February 2, 2014

Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A  2013-14

In the readings today we can get a better, deeper understanding of the relationship between the two Testaments and how Jesus remains a Hebrew, true to his Jewish background, but subtly changes the depth, the direction, the distinctiveness of the Law.

We sometimes think that the Hebrew Scriptures don’t have much relevance today. I hear often that the God of that Testament was a vindictive, power-mad God who loved to punish and put humans down. Many in the early church noticed this as well and posited that there were two Gods. We call this the Marcion heresy. And, I don’t doubt there are some stories in the Hebrew Testament that do give that view of the Lord, primarily because God was a reflection of the authors’ own humanness. The truer God is often revealed in the more prayerful parts of the Testament and in the prophetic underpinnings. Today’s reading from Isaiah is a good example. We think, most of us anyway, that Christ changed the message of Scriptures to put an emphasis on the poor and the downtrodden in society. In actuality, there was a long tradition of this in Jewish Scripture. Isaiah speaks in the voice of God – and look at what he says centuries before Christ. God says he wants to “loose the bonds of injustice…let the oppressed go free.” He continues to say that what the Jews should be doing to become a light to the world is to “share… bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into your house”, to “cover” the “naked” and to respect family. Even the psalm today talks about us being lights to the world and mentions specifically the one who has “distributed freely, who has given to the poor.” Does this sound like a vengeful God? Does this sound like Jesus? Of course it does.

Jesus preaches on themes that have long been dominant themes of the great Jewish prophets. Similarly Paul says today to the Corinthians that he preaches so that he might give people faith on the power of God which is different from the wisdom of men and women. There is a long tradition then of justice issues as being very important to God and to the Jewish people.

Similarly there is a long tradition in the use of the images of light throughout Scriptures. We see it in every reading today.

When I teach literature, I ask my students to note that there are certain images that are more than just similes and metaphors, but they are archetypal images in that they have existed in the writings of people from the beginning of time, and are images common to all peoples, all races, all geographical locations. Light and dark are so much a part of our lives that they are good examples of these archetypal images. With the advent of the electrical light sources, I don’t feel that the archetypal image of light is as strong today.  We seldom experience real darkness now. We have night lights in all our bedrooms and have the ability to keep the brightness level of our houses at night as bright as day. It is only when the lights go out, when we lose electrical power today that we become more aware of the intensity of these images. Even then, with battery power, we are not really cast into the dark for very long.

Still, there is something archetypal in the fear of darkness, when we don’t know what’s around the corner, when we can’t see where we are going, when our imaginations create bogeymen under our beds. Even with electric light, we sense some of the danger of darkness, and we long for light.

Isaiah today says that if we feed the hungry and help the afflicted that we ourselves will be like a light to these people who are in darkness because of their gloom and depression, and by giving them our help, the gloom will be as bright as noon day – full sun, full light.

The antiphon to the psalm which unfortunately we had no melodic line for today in our hymnal, says the same thing. “Light rises in the darkness for the upright” and that if we give to the poor our hearts will be lit and will not be afraid. Our Gospel acclamation proclaimed St. John’s words from Jesus: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me shall have the light of life. “

Lastly, in the gospel today we have two small parables or metaphors of Jesus, the second being “You are the light of the world”. And how are we to be lights to the world? – by doing good works, which Jesus defined last week in a Gospel which was not read because of the Feast of the Presentation, but which was Jesus and the Beatitudes, his base philosophy about helping and about justice. We don’t turn a light on and put it under a basket. That would be ridiculous. Similarly, although we don’t flaunt the good things we do – we know that from other teachings of Jesus – we do let ourselves become role models or lights for others in terms of how to act in justice.

So there are two things that I want you to be aware of today and to think about this week and incorporate into your daily lives. The first is that the Scriptures are a continuing work, and that it offers wonderful advise, God’s advise, on how to live our lives fruitfully and righteously. The Christian Testament was built on the foundation of the Hebrew Testament. We will be looking at this in even more depth next week.

Secondly, we need to examine our obligation to be, as Jesus is, a light to the world. One of the main themes I have for this year is our finding ways to go out to others, to show the world our Christian values, to live them and bring others to them. Jesus tells us about one of the ways to do that this week. We need to do good works – works of justice. And we need to let people see these, not for our glorification – but because justice is what it means to be Christian. It is what Christians do. It is what we are about. it is the way we show love to each other and “They’ll Know We Are Christians by our Love”. This is one of the main themes of both Hebrew and Christian scripture, it is what Jesus was all about, and offer this as Good news for you today to take with you and practice so that you can be lights for the world!

Bishop Ron Stephens,  Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese

Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

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