Homily June 26th, 2016 the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on June 23, 2016

13 sunTwo words come out of today’s readings, commitment and freedom. In the first and third readings we see Elijah calling Elisha and Jesus calling new followers. In both cases, the one called is told to move on, to not look back and to steadfastly move on to their new future commitment. I remember that this idea was very strong in people called in past times to a vocation in the church, to the point that contact with family or their past was seen as a negative thing. Certainly, some ties can hold back a commitment to a vocation, but completely moving on and ignoring one’s past is not the best for a person’s vocation or family and friends who have led them to their vocation. Surely, Jesus’ apostles left and followed Jesus, but they visited and remained in touch until a later time when they were called to go out and preach to the surrounding countries and places far distant. God’s call is one we are looking to answer, but his love and its call is not to exclude anybody, especially those who have nurtured our faith. However, our response must be to the moment and to the task that is immediately at hand. Our service of love is one that is personal and involves our attention and action as best we are able to give. In serving God, we all have one master, but serving does not preclude a personal, private life of our own at the same time.13 5

The second word we hear is freedom which is from Paul. In committing to Christ we are becoming free. Free because we are being given the capacity to love, to share our knowledge and love of God by loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is the most Godly thing Jesus has given us and makes us free for others and not in a selfish way. It is the acceptance of the spirit and living in and by the spirit. Freedom allows us to be open and outgoing expressing ourselves as we are meant to be. Surely, Christ’s call is to give up all, but on the contrary, it is gaining all, giving all.

Homily for June 12th, 2016 the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, religion, saints, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on June 9, 2016

11 sun 3One thing I think most of us like to feel is that everything is good and we are doing well. We like to feel we are on a course and all is well. However, what we have to remember is that none of us is perfect. No one is without sin, none of us is unbroken. One thing we must face in life is that failure is possible and will probably present itself to us at some point in life. God in his love for us forgives if we seek it out, but we must be able to accept and receive that forgiveness and learn to return and share that love. The brokenness of our life and nature is only overcome in the love God give. Life and choice can present us with life changing choices and bring about whole new ways of living 11 sun2and advancing in life. It is like one writer, Fr Ron Rollheiser said, you can’t unscramble an egg. We make choices that can be permanent and life changing. Like the egg it can’t be changed. But, the egg is still able to be eaten and still satisfies our hunger, and in even in dire times and changed circumstances, God’s love is present and will lead and protect us as we go. Even though we have made mistakes and bad choices, possibly sinful ones, God’s love can bring about wholesomeness true life to these situations. Sure we all have expectations and plans, but we must and should be ready to give into God’s love and his Spirit when our own brokenness makes us unable to live up to those expectations and gives us new things in our life.

In today’s readings, David and the woman in the gospel both were 11 sun 4forgiven and God’s love took over. That is what must be important in our own lives that we sincerely ask for forgiveness and respond to God’s love by sharing and giving to others. In this way, our lives will be truly transformed and we can come to a life of contentment and peace in a wholesome journey to the Lord.

Homily May 29, 2016 The Body and Blood of Christ

euch5Growing up in the United States, one thing we all can say for the most part is that food is plentiful and gotten by most of us. Sure there are those among us who because of circumstances do not receive or get what they need, but food is plentiful because of our work ethic and technology. We do import food but at the same time we export it also. But, my point today, is that no matter where we go, every human being has one basic need if he or she is going to survive, and that is food. Since the beginning of time, we humans have come together and sought out food to sustain our lives. Generally families would share their food together as they share their daily lives. In modern times, families coming together for a common meal has become less frequent as schedules have become complicated and times to be together seem to be harder to arrange. Yet, there remains in our culture the desire to be family and share time and conversation and food together. euch1At important times and events, it seems we always arrange to gather around food. It is one thing that seems to bring a certain ease for conversation and interaction.

If we look back at the early church, in the earliest times they met in the homes of believers which were large enough to bring everyone together. Their sharing of the faith always started with a meal and then a celebration of the Eucharist, a sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ. It was the same context and setting that Christ set when he gave us the Eucharist at His Last Supper on that night He knew would be his last with His disciples before he died. What He gave, was His very self, a food with a visible form of bread and wine, but actually His very Body and 5 easterBlood, a food to feed us spiritually and keep us strong and robust for a long and tedious journey to His Father. Certainly, he sent his Spirit to assist us, but as God gave us family, Jesus gave us each other in the church and calls us to his special meal that draws us together in his love and provides the nourishment and strength to continue on in all the struggles we encounter. A human is not meant to be alone, even as God himself, we are meant to love, to relate and reach out and grow together as one. Our Food and Drink for our spiritual journey is unlike any ever given. While worshipers of the past partook of the sacrifices they offered, what they ate was not fulfilling spiritually. Our food is living flesh and blood, the living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. So, as we reach out and hit the refrigerator or call for delivery or seek out some place to eat, Let us not forget that there is a more basic and desirable food that brings us here.

Homily November 22, 2015 Feast of Christ the King

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, ethics, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on November 17, 2015

ctk christ pilateThe feast of Christ the King is a relatively new feast on the calendar. Coming in 1925 at the behest of Pius XI. The 1920’s were a period of secularism, disrespect of authority and religion, and the rise or strengthening of dictatorships throughout the world. Human rights and the ability to worship and just the freedom of individuals was a concern. Even the independence of the Church and Pius XI was under siege from the time the Vatican had lost governance over the Papal States. It was a call by Pius to leaders and believers alike to realize that religion and faith were not necessarily an intimate part of politics and ruling of nations. Personal dignity and freedom given by God was something contained in every person and should be left to grow and bring each person to his final way of life.

Is Christ a King? Certainly he is, but not in any real sense that that word conjures up in our imagination. Perhaps, through the centuries, men, even good men have tried to create a kingdom on earth, but such as we know is not meant to be. Christ was God made man who came to offer himself that we all would be embraced and brought on a path to to his Father in a kingdom about which we only know that God awaits in his eternal love. ctk homelessWe are part of that kingdom now, but only if we live and are like Christ was. Christ was a servant, he loved, he gave of himself, in fact his very life he laid down so that all of us could have eternal life.

His kingdom on earth, were the roads, the mountains, the fields, the seas, but more the disciples, the people who listened, who reached out. His service, his love, his giving set him apart, and is what sets apart his followers, as people know them by their love. hungryGrandeur, pomposity, power are not the marks of this King. And finally, even today we need to be reminded like is more than politics and money and power, but should really be about people. Did Jesus not tells us to “love one another.”

Reflection for Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Year 1)

Friday of the Nineteenth Week of the Year (August 14, 2015) Inclusive Lectionary Texts

Readings- Joshua – Chapter 24 verses 1-13 / Psalm 136 verses 1-3, 16-18, 21-22 & 24 /
Matthew – Chapter 19 verses 3-12

Friends as we have seen time and time again the pain and grief that divorce can bring. The pain that is caused by divorce can be detrimental. As partners seek to separate, this can be most difficult especially if children are involved. Divorce is not pretty. I look back on the many friends and acquaintances we know and have seen that probably a good portion of them married for the wrong reasons, family expect them to marry, friends push the relationship, one partner may “rescue” the other from a domestic situation. I could go on and on about the reasons some marry.

We meet someone and rush into a relationship without truly getting to know each other, marry and realize we have different morals and values. One or both may try to make it work but to no avail. This type of marriage is not a marriage and it is understandable if a divorce occurs because in reality it truly was not a marriage. Some stay together and live separate lives as married singles.

An authentic marriage is one where the two meet, become friends, do a lot of discovering and sharing. Trust and truth are number one communication skills; all these evolve into a deep relationship. More important is their spiritual connection. Not religion but their belief system. Praying together and putting God in their relationship is a key factor in a successful permanent marriage. None of this is easy; it takes a daily commitment on the part of the couple to work every day to love their spouse. To get through the nitty gritty of daily life is what it is all about. A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime.

rev. Michael Theogene

White, Rye, or Pumpernickel ?

Posted in christian, Christianity, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, saints, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on July 30, 2015

18th Sunday Ordinary Time 8-2-15, Exodus 16: 2-15, Ps 78¸ Ephesians 4: 17-24, John 6: 24-35

Let’s start today by diving right into our second reading.  Behind Paul’s scholarly-sounding language is a deep understanding of real life.  Paul walked thousands of miles, and probably taught the Gospel to more people than anyone else in the ancient world.  He preached in streets, in homes, in cities, in synagogues – anywhere that you could image.  From this came real knowledge of what needs to happen to make faith functional in our lives. 

Paul says we can “no longer live… in the futility of our minds.” He’s saying that we like to cling to what we’ve decided to think, and work very hard to make everything around us match up with what we have decided to be truth. We say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts”. There’s a lot of that in today’s Gospel as the people say to Jesus, “What miracle can you do, that we may see and believe in you?”  They wanted “Jesus’ Drive-thru Quick Bread & Fish”, with no cashier.  “Get a side order of salvation.” They wanted “Easy Street” to be reality. 

But St. Paul says, “That’s not how you learned Christ…you were taught that you should put away the old self, corrupted through deceitful desires.”   We decide we Need more stuff, God doesn’t do enough for us. Paul knows that we lie to ourselves and need to change!  What is the remedy?  “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self,” Paul writes. 

Paul writes from experience.  He was working to wipe out Christianity when Jesus came to him; he was directly responsible for the stoning deaths of Christians.  He was “breathing murderous threats” when Jesus appeared to him.  He was convinced he was right – and righteous. But, if you recall Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, you know that meeting with real “righteousness, holiness, and truth ” stunned Paul into changing his life, putting on a “new self”, and as a result he truly changed the world.  Remember, Jesus loves us, despite anything we’ve done.

With that background, we come to the Gospel.  Jesus has to tell the crowd, “You were looking for me not because you saw miracles, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  Don’t work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which I WILL GIVE you.” 

“Ok”, the people say, “What do we have to do?”  But they had only listened up to the part about the food; that was their “reality”.  What Paul called “the futility of their minds” had trapped them.  Jesus was talking about eternity; they were thinking about lunch. 

It’s easy to understand why the people reacted like they did.  Theirs was a culture of constant near starvation.  A full day’s work paid for nothing but a day’s food.   Hunger was very real to them, and I get why their minds were on manna – free food that appeared each day, bread from heaven.  “Sir”, they say, “Give us this bread always.”  I can imagine their confusion when Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

So here is the centerpiece of the entire passage. “I am the bread of life.” Jesus knows full well about hunger and thirst. God created us to be more than animals who stand in the field, eating grass. Life is more than white, rye or pumpernickel. Life is love, community, family, worship, eternity. Drive-thrus sell food, not give life. Jesus sustains the soul in a way that far exceeds bread filling the stomach. “I am the way, the truth and the life” is not a statement about which religion is the best, but an open door to life beyond our imagining. Jesus is the bread of love, community, family, the very substance of the spirit of God, the essence of life.

 The early church understood.  James 2:15-17 “ If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”  On page 12, at the bottom, in the Saturday Baltimore Sun, is this one-paragraph article: “The World Food Program announced new cuts…in food aid for Syrian refugees in Jordan…” There are 629,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and their monthly food allotment is as low as $7.00.  More than half of these are children. There is no money after August for over 3 million children.   The early church may have understood Jesus, but today’s world – not so much.

Jesus tells the people, “This is the work of God:  that you believe in the one he sent.”  He is teaching priority #1.  First, we believe and love God.  If we do that, then loving each other is a given.  It is a part of loving God.  It is belief itself; the two cannot be separated.  Loving God is believing that God is the source of life.  God brings life to not only our body, but also our soul. This is not different from loving each other and caring for each other, body and soul, stomach and spirit.  Our love of God is based on a risen Christ, and Christ’s love for us was God’s love.  This is all one idea, one belief, one faith.  If the love is real, then the bread comes with it.  

Lord, renew the spirit of our minds, and help us to live in your truth.


Between the Desert and the Meadow

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, Word by Rev. Martha on July 18, 2015

16th Sunday Ordinary time, 7-19-15, Jeremiah 23: 1-6, Ps 23, Eph 2: 13-18, Mark 6: 30-34


I suppose I shouldn’t be, but I am always startled when I read an Old Testament passage that could have come from the newspaper tossed into my driveway this morning.  Newspapers seldom miss a church scandal, and scandal is what the passage from Jeremiah is talking about. “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away,” God declares. The clergy and the lay men and women of the church who make the headlines are most often those who bring scandal to the church, who embarrass the church, who cause us to drop our head into our hands and moan. It is of little consolation that this, apparently, is not a new problem. Some 600 years before Christ, Jeremiah’s “church” needed reform and integrity. 

The church where I came to love the Lord seemed to be, like this passage says, a “meadow”. It was a place where I found delight in the faith, where I learned the Bible stories that never grow old, and where I felt safe. Later, I took my children to a similar church, another piece of the “meadow”. But when the new pastor was arrested by the vice squad, that meadow became yet another piece of desert. Even if the shepherd/ sheep metaphor doesn’t do anything for you, we all know how it feels to be deceived, lied to, and left in the desert. 

Which is why the 23rd Psalm is the favorite Psalm of all time. There’s none of that more recent business of “smelly, stupid, downright dumb sheep” here, no, none of that. The 23rd Psalm makes us feel valuable, precious, loved, and protected. Our Lord leads, restores, guides, accompanies, feeds, and anoints. He gives tender care, ceaseless vigilance, presence and protection, and provides a feast! The images are of restful calm, well-being, and affection – affection not necessarily earned, but nevertheless, lavished on us, unconditionally. 

St. Paul is no poetic psalmist, but writes something similar in the prose of every day life. He says Jesus found us “far off” (in the desert), and brought us “near” (back to the meadow). Jesus brings an end to anxiety and fear. His peace makes our enemies into our brothers and sisters. He ends the threat and pettiness of the Law, replacing it with love of neighbor equal to love of self. He overcame death by dying and rising. He came to us, created unity among us, children of One God. Paul says that Jesus has lavished unconditional love on all of us, not just some of us, just like in Psalm 23. 

Then Mark tells a story of Jesus acting out this love. Jesus shows us how to love by actually loving (loving the unlovable!). He sends the twelve apostles out to teach, to preach repentance and heal. What a thrill for them to be sent out with such authority for the first time! 

But then comes news that Herod had beheading John the Baptist. This was Jesus’ cousin, the man who baptized Jesus. What loss and senseless violence! Jesus has no time to grieve; the apostles return with crowds of people following them, and Jesus and the 12 were so busy they didn’t even have time to eat. “Come away by boat to a quiet place and rest a while,” Jesus tells them. But news spread quickly, and more people were waiting for them when the boat landed. At that point, I’d have hired crowd control or posted a schedule of office hours. I’d have been overwhelmed, perhaps even angry. 

But with surpassing tenderness, Jesus reflects the compassionate of God. “His heart was moved with pity,” Mark writes. Jesus recognized these people had no one who cared, no one taught or modeled for them the love of God. Remember the words from Jeremiah? “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock…and bring them back to their meadow.” Emmanuel, God-with-us, Jesus, the Son of God, does just that. 

The press of people who need to be loved, who have never found the love of God as portrayed in the 23rd Psalm, who are frightened and lost and scared – their numbers seem to grow daily. We need honest balance in our lives. We need time to eat and pray and rest. We also need to give time, teaching and sharing the love and compassion of Christ, face-to-face. It is easy for that balance to be forgotten or distorted. We also need to balance our efforts to share our material wealth with sharing the emotional and spiritual wealth that Jesus brought us. Teachers know that hungry children don’t learn well. Christians know that bread alone does not satisfy the hunger of the soul. 

Balance becomes real when we spend a portion of our time with those who are like sheep without a shepherd, when our hearts are moved with pity. This week you can expect an opportunity to lead someone beside restful waters and help them restore their soul. That is when we act as God’s hands, bringing back the scattered sheep to the meadow.

But your homework is to prepare yourself for next week’s reading. Today’s Gospel is immediately followed by the feeding of the multitude. While a message in itself, this week’s reading begs us to prepare our hearts and minds for the fullness of that miracle – and I do believe it to be a miracle- of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Take 15 minutes and read it in the other Gospels*, too, and you will have a better and fuller glimpse of this altar & of the heavenly feast that the 23rd Psalm promises. 


*John 6: 1-15, Mark 8: 1-10, Mark 6: 34-44, Matthew 15: 32-38, Luke 9: 10-17

July 5, 2015 Homily today At Holy Trinity Parish for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on July 5, 2015

July 5, 2015 Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on July 1, 2015

prophet-without-honorIn today’s readings, we see two prophets, Ezechiel and Jesus. We know the Spirit of God entered and was in both of them. Like all the prophets, they led a life of speaking to the people, trying to help them make a way to God. Rejection was not uncommon to any of the prophets, and today’s gospel shows that even when Jesus was drawing crowds and was being acclaimed as a teacher and healer, ezekielHis own town, his extended family and friends with whom he grew up rejected and questioned his legitimacy because of their familiarity with him. He was after all the carpenter’s son, not some priest or great scholar or great learned rabbi. Such rejection and lack of faith was actually self-fulfilling for the Nazarenes who heard of the miracles and healings of Jesus, but could not see or experience them because there lack of acceptance and faith and close mindedness meant that there would be just a few healings for only the few who believed.
Throughout history, the spirit of God never abandoned humanity and managed to keep some believers faithful to God even when at times it seemed like only a remnant of the earth’s inhabitants. Yet, his spirit is present and touches the people of the world even today in different ways. That spirit is most commonly seen in his church, but we must realize his church is not a building, it is not an institution, but is a living body. That body is Christ himself and each of us has been baptised into that body. His spirit is in the church and carpenterin each one of us. Christ’s love is what binds the church together and that love extends out to all of humankind, witnessing and calling for a way that leads all to be one and with God as our ultimate goal. Looking back over hundreds of years, if only to the time of Christ, we must say that as witnesses and workers possessed by the spirit of God, humanity has been deficient in bring God’s all embracing love to people everywhere. Like the people of Nazareth, we can miss the obvious and fail to see love as more expedient than all the self-fulfilling acts that so divide the countries and peoples of the world. Yet despite all the checkered history of humanity, the spirit still comes and is among us and carries on in the body of Christ. Perhaps the one prophetic voice like from a prophet in ancient times doesn’t step forward today, yet the spirit speaks in many voices and through many people in many places. God is love, and the church invites and shares that love and welcomes all who work for a common way to God together. If someone experinces God’s love that person can come to know God and God’s spirit can come to him. God excludes no one from his love, nor refuses forgiveness to anyone who needs it. Bad things happen when we turn from love, fail to reach out to God and one another.

So today, let us pray that pettiness and hate and misunderstanding and any other thing that hinders our loving God and those around us be removed and we never forget that love never fails.

Homily May 10, 2015 6th Sunday of Easter

Posted in Called, christian, homily, inspirational, religion, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 7, 2015

wide_dalyIt is almost 14 years since 911, but in many ways it remains in our lives even though we don’t realize it. The horror of that day is one of those times in our lives that we remember exactly where we were when we heard it happened. In my life two of those moments exist, President Kennedy’s assassination and the attack on the twin towers. Both times the country was quieted and became introspective. There were myriad reactions to both these events, with most people turning to their understanding of God and religion for comfort or resolution to what would seem reasonable behavior. Today’s readings talk of God’s love and his boundless giving to all his beloved creatures. All of what he created is good and all of men and women enjoy his love. He gave his Son that proved his love even though the evil and sin of he world put him to death. It was a gift given by Christ to give his life and to take it up again. God’s love and spirit thus became present to the world in a special and loving way. His love was all-embracing and forgiving of humanity’s flaws and failures.

In giving us his church, Christ gave a special way to find and be with his father. He sent his disciples to go out to all the world and preach his Word. Yet, even he said that there were believers of a different fold a different kind. Christian faith tells us that One God is present to all. Even in Christianity that faith has different forms. Yet Jesus is present when two or three are present in his name. Can we be so self righteous as to deny God’s presence on those who gather in his name regardless of what name they give them. The common thread of love and forgiveness touches most of humanity. Certainly evil lurks and is present, but as Christians we are called to love one another as Christ loved. He did not limit it just to those he knew but to all he met, to all who had need. His love meant all that entails, even forgiveness, even of those who hate you and even do harm to you.

Throughout our history, the message of Jesus has often been used in many ways to justify many things sometimes for good and other times not. War and conflict has touched the world in every century. Humanity’s imperfections certainly have given us an uneven history. Suspicion, greed, exploitation, and all the other sins and evil still lurk about. Yet, John today reminds us that Jesus said ”Love one another”while we should at the same time remember what St. Paul said, “Love never fails.”

Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B 2015 (May 10) Mother’s Day

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, homily, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 3, 2015

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B 2015 

Today’s readings, appropriately, are all about love and gifting. I say ‘appropriate’ because when I think of the word ‘mother’, I think about both love and giving.

The love that a mother has for a child is somehow different from that love which a man has for a child, I would imagine. I don’t think a man can feel what it myst be like to have this person grow inside of you, to bond for nine moths with something that is so integrally a part of oneself. In that sense the birth of the child must be somewhat traumatic in that rending apart. But what can be pulled apart is the intimate feeling of love for that child, so helpless, so needy, but reflecting the mother herself.

I think God must be like that. I know we have mental images of God as the Father, very male, but God is really sexless, and so since the beginning of time Jesus was with God, his transition to a human person, so helpless, so needy, reflected God as well.

I think that is why we can see God as love, and why God is love, and why God has gifted us with Spirit, with grace, with everlasting life, even though we are so mortal and so undeserving – so helpless and so needy.

In the first reading today we read of the gift of the Spirit in the early Christian community. We learn that this gift which comes from love was not just for the Hebrew people who had a testament with God, but was for everyone.  God’s love knows no bounds.

We can sing God a new song because we recognize what God’s son has done for us and we recognize the gifts he has given us. God has indeed done marvelous things, as the Psalm prays today.

The end result of this love and this gifting of God is proclaimed both in the Epistle and Gospel today by John. In the Second Reading John tells us how we need to react to this love of God and the gifts he sent. We are to love one another. It is as simple and as complex as that. We are to love one another. The model for that love is God, the gratefulness we need to show is to reflect that love of God, and the life we need to live is one where love is the abiding factor.

Over and over we are reminded that we did nothing to merit God’s love, and it is not through anything we do that we earn God’s love, but because God’s great love for us, shown by God’s sending his Son to be the atonement for our sins, that we can know about and mimic that love in our own lives.

In the Gospel Jesus says that he loves us, just as the Father loves him, that same intense, unbridled love that we see in mothers, and Jesus teaches us that if we want to continue to live in that state of love with God, we need only keep his commandments willingly.

Jesus says the result of that will be joy. There seems to be so little joy in the world today. I seldom read the paper or watch the news today because the news is never joyous. But Jesus says: “I have said these things so that my joy may be in you, and that your your joy may be complete.

When was the last time you experienced complete joy? Jesus says that we must keep his commands to love God and one another, and by doing so you will achieve complete joy. He doesn’t say when, he doesn’t say how, but he says you will experience it. That is why it is so important to get the priorities of lives straightened out, to forgive others, to be merciful to others, to help others, to show love to others. That is what it is all about. That, according to Jesus, is the meaning of life – devoting ourselves to God and others.

So many philosophers have sought the answer to that question “what is the meaning of life?’ but here we have it in Jesus own words – he tells us how to do it. Will it be easy? Nothing worth having is ever easy. Ask a mother. She will tell you how hard it is sometimes to love unconditionally, but that is what we are directed to by no other than God him or herself.

Think about it. Reflect on it. Act on it.

That is the extremely Good News that answers the most existential of question – why we are here!

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 from Holy Trinity Parish March 8, 2015 3rd Sunday of Lent

Posted in Called, Christianity, church events, ethics, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on March 8, 2015

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr. Ron Stephens on October 19, 2014

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Jesus is noted for preaching what we call the Law of Love. In today’s reading, the Pharisees again try to trick Jesus up, and see how much he really knows about Hebrew Scripture. Jesus summarizes Scripture by saying that it can all be boiled down to two rules – love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The Law and the prophets, the two great Biblical areas used by the Pharisees, he says can be hooked to these two central principals of love which are commanded for us to follow.

God does not do anything that doesn’t stem from God’s own holiness. The law of love stems from God’s love and compassion towards us, and we, too, are to be God-like, aiming to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

The reading from Exodus today was chosen to show the love and compassion of God despite the fact that it talks about his wrath to those who treat widows and orphans badly, but the concepts that God was giving them regarding how to treat their neighbors were, especially for the time period, very advanced and culturally challenging. They are still challenging for us today to follow.

How in America do we treat legal aliens? Do we offer them comfort and jobs and training or do we try to take advantage of them? I have heard of aliens who were doctors in their own country working at service jobs here in restaurants, for example.

How do we treat people who cannot work, who have no families, who have been left bereft because of deaths? Do our social services, which certainly make some attempt to help people in need, meet that need, or do we just complain about the fact that our money is going to people who ‘could work, if they wanted to”?

Do we provide interest free loans to people who are starting out and have nothing? I doubt the banks would be very willing to even look at that.

And yet, there are people, there are societies, there are group like Habitat for Humanity, for example, that do these things and are truly in the Gospel spirit of loving one’s neighbor.

What is our position on all of this? Do we give generously to help the needy or do we somehow think they can take care of themselves or do we let someone else do it. I know that we cannot support all the good things that come in our mailboxes, but can we choose one or two that may be close to our hearts and be very generous to them. Because my own income has been drastically curtailed since retirement, I have had to choose only three of the charities that I have supported in the past, but hopefully I am still doing enough to follow Christ’s mandate.

Paul speaks today to the Thessalonians about being examples for others. He sees that the Thessalonians have followed the examples of Paul and Jesus, and have themselves become examples for all the other Christian communities. Our parish, though small, does a wide variety of things that hopefully open the eyes of the community to our own caring and loving. I hope that others see us as a very giving parish, despite our size, and that this mandate of love of our neighbor grows and becomes even more visible to the communities around us. We don’t do it for our own glory, but we also don’t want to put this light under a basket since it may inspire others, both in the parish and without, to do more.

The law of love has compassion at its base. Compassion means feeling or suffering with others. Unless we have some sense of the needs of our neighbors, the sufferings of our neighbors, we cannot really be compassionate. We can give because that is what we are told to do, but my hope for us today, is that we can be compassionate as God is compassionate, love as God loves, and show that love by treating everyone as we would want to be treated were we in the same situation.

And that is the good news I wish for you to reflect on this thirtieth Sunday, and is the Good News that Christ proclaimed to us 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”]

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Homily October 12, 2014 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, ecclesiology, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on October 9, 2014

28 sunMuch of our Christian history and even the prior old testament times always involved the notion of meals and food. It is only natural, since one thing all of us must do on a very regular basis is eating to sustain ourselves. Generally, eating is an enjoyable and a social experience. In most societies it is central to family life, bringing a family together to share and converse. Jesus throughout his ministry was often accused of eating and drinking with the outcasts of society. This was just not done in a class oriented society. Jesus, of course, ignored them as he even attacked them for they were not concerned with so much the law and work of God but of themselves and their own lives. The 28 sun2parables we see today were written after the destruction of Jerusalem and very definitely a condemnation of the Jewish leaders and an encouragement for the gentiles in the church. The issue of circumcision had been decided, but Matthew was still writing to the Jewish Christians, trying for the acceptance of the Gentiles. Thus the parables are very allegorical.
But for a moment, let us stop and consider the Eucharist and the early gatherings. As in the last supper, the Eucharist was celebrated at a meal. There were no churches and after all Jesus had made it part of his farewell dinner with his intimate companions. As the centuries have progressed, we have kind of lost that social aspect of the Eucharist. It is still food and drink, but now we enter a church, sit in rows of chairs and pray and meditate quietly. My point is we are a family, and I know of no family that eats silently. Prayer and communing with God is important, 28 sun3but so is seeing and caring for each other. As a community, a family if you will, we have talents and gifts which can and do make us all really one. The kingdom has begun and is now and is later. What comes later we don’t know now, but what is now we can help to work and bring our fellow believers together in it. God is our agenda, his love is ours and our love should reach not only him but all whom he loves. That is why we celebrate his forgiveness, express our peace with one another, and share his Body and Blood.

And so the real banquet we are called to should leave us joyful as if our family has once again reunited and renewed their faith and love and spent real-time together. This is our banquet, our Eucharist. That is the invitation we answer, and the garment we put on is Christ and that we all did at Baptism. Keep him close and He will never leave .

Today’s Homily at Holy Trinity Parish September 28, 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 28, 2014

Homily September 21, 2014 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 18, 2014

worker6Today’s gospel tells us quite clearly today that life is not fair. Jesus’ use of the work place and the hiring of daily workers brings up visions of past times and hourly wages and sweat shops, exploitation, contracts and unions and many other things. Certainly, he wasn’t quite speaking of the group of men at the nearby 7-11 who wait each morning for someone to come along and hire them for a day’s pay. From a western viewpoint we see this from the idea of justice.worker3 It is hard for us to place our self in a different culture and time when work and compensation was a whole different thing. In our context, the landowner fulfilled the “contract” he made with the first workers he hired. To the others he said he would be fair and he must have been trusted as the laborers went off to work. But even still the parable is not about Justice, but is about the Kingdom of God.

Tell me, what can you do to earn the kingdom of heaven? What can you do to earn love, anyone’s much less God? Love is many things but it is freely given and really can’t be compared. What more can we do when asked to do something than to do it? What is more heart-rending when asked who do you love more?workers4 Love doesn’t work that way nor does the kingdom of God work that way, for it is a kingdom of God’s love built up of all the relationships he has with each of us and our relationships with each other. Sure we are called and tasked in different ways, but never can we truly measure up to what is the freely given love of God. If we have love, then what is, is fair. Who are we to question God’s love and what he gives us? What is Good for us will be different for another. What is difficult is what develops the love we have by accepting others and God’s love for them. What marriage has not met a few roadblocks and bumps along the way? It is how we handle the day in, day out, the here and now that determines what God’s love will be for us. I know that as hard as we try or not try that none of us is perfect. Yet in trying we grow strong and receive God’s love more and more. Try as we might we will never truly understand God, at least not in this life. At best, we can discern only that his ways are different and his love and generosity are boundless. He loves each person He created and as they are, not as we would want them to be.