CACINA

Peace and Service- What Do You Choose?

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Reflection on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary for Saturday, August 15, 2015 (Cycle B)

Inclusive Lectionary Texts

Readings- Revelation – Chapter 11 verses 19 – Chapter 12 verses 1-6, 10 / Psalm 45 /
1 Corinthians – Chapter 15 verses 20-26 / Luke – Chapter 1 verses 39-56

Sisters and Brothers, in my opinion, you know that we will all evidently die. We probably won’t be assumed into heaven both body and soul as Mary was assumed to be. Unlike Mary, we will face death. However, when we come to the end of our physical existence, we know that our concept of death whatever it may be will disappear and that we truly will be transformed into something new. Mary was transformed by something new as she stood at the foot of the cross in deep pain witnessing the death of her son. Yet Jesus tells her that John who was standing next to her is now her son. What did he mean? I believe Jesus was telling her and the world that new life was a daily encounter. In the middle of pain and suffering we are prompted by the Spirit to see resurrection. How many times do we miss the opportunity to be renewed in God’s love each day? How many resurrections have we let die? How do we change our mind set? I know one way to change is to replace an old habit with a new one. Let us replace our concept of pain and suffering with the thought that pain and suffering lead to resurrection. Not an easy job but well worth practicing.

rev. Michael Theogene

Homily March 8, 2015 3rd Sunday of Lent

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Eucharist, homily, religion, Resurrection, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on March 3, 2015

3 sun lent 1Today we see Moses present the decalogue or the ten commandments or the directions or teachings for the Israelites to get along. Certainly they were not taken as absolutes but as guides to the will of God. They in no way could address every moment or direction in a person’s life. Even today we have a tendency to water down and justify and make excuses and exceptions to absolutes with all kind of circumstances and reasons for making things less absolute. Jesus set a whole new meaning to life with his law and direction to love. If we truly believed in loving as the direction 3 sun lent 2of our life and our actions, the world would be a different place to live in. If we could really love others as much as we loved ourself much would change. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t even know how to love themselves much less care for others. This is why sometimes directions or guidelines are needed.
In the gospel today, we see a different Jesus. The Temple for the Jews was a holy place, meant to house the Ark of the covenant and God’s very presence. Money changers, animals, and all kinds of sellers and businesses were there looking to make a profit off the worshipers coming to the temple. It was really a marketplace. We so often picture Jesus as a mild loving man, gentle and loving, touching the poor and sick and healing. Yet today we see him scattering coins around, turning tables over, chasing animals3 sun lent 4 out of the temple courtyard. He was even using a whip to chase away the men. Imagine the chaos and consternation of the people. His zeal and righteousness for his Father’s temple was complete. But when he was challenged, he referred to a new different temple, the temple of his body. Suddenly we see that now there is a different temple in Jesus’ church. It is his body and to be resurrected body, present and given to us in his Eucharist. He has told us he remains with us and has given us his Spirit, but also we have his body and blood in the Eucharist to have and to share.
Think of the irony of that. We build churches, cathedrals and monuments, all to house our faith, but 3 sun lent5the real temple or building is Jesus himself sealing and uniting and embracing us in his very body and blood. The time, the place matter not, for he said where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there am I. And there it is, our zeal, our care for God’s presence is in how we love and how we share and consume Christ’s body and blood together. The truth is that the more we love the more we become like him. We have to learn to find Jesus in the person of others, and dispose of our money changers and distractions that get in the way of our faith driven love. In a small way we then share and bring Christ’s love to others.

Fr Tony’s Sunday Homily at Holy Trinity may 25, 2014

Fr Joe’s Homily at Holy Trinity for 2nd Sunday of Easter, April 27, 2014

Posted in ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, scripture by Fr Joe R on April 27, 2014

Homily April 27, 2014 Second Sunday of Easter

Our gospel today begins in the evening of Easter Sunday. 10 Apostles are huddled together in the same upper room hiding from the Jews and Romans pondering and discussing all that had occurred upperroom2including the events of the morning, Mary’s report, the mad dash and the empty tomb. Their grief and fear were strong and the whole week was mind altering to all of them. Certainly, a kernel of faith and love was in their hearts, but their fear, their flight, their hiding was still overwhelming. They all had a sense being lost. They frankly were probably in a real state of confusion. And then in their midst a familiar man a familiar voice. No judgment, no rebukes but a simple Peace be with you. This peace was a joy wish, an act of forgiveness and of love. His hands and his side proved it was him. He was alive, he did rise. He not only gave his peace and forgiveness, but he gave his Holy Spirit so that they became empowered in His love to forgive the sins of others.upperromm3
Can you imagine the change, the beginning of a new understanding? Sure there was a joy but the resurrection event was not yet over. They were not quite ready. Look at the second part of the gospel, they couldn’t even convince Thomas, one of their own, that they had seen Jesus. If they couldn’t convince Thomas, how could they go out beyond the doors and face the world. Certainly, people would be more skeptical than Thomas. Thomas had to see for himself. Lucky for him that Jesus was still around and being seen by his disciples. This resurrection event was to carry on for several more days. Faith and certainty are not always present together. Yet Thomas received them together. But as a task he and the other Apostles were told to go out and spread the faith to others. Obviously, Faith comes out of the love of Christ and can be introduced to others through a living out that love, but ultimately faith is a gift of God which each person must come to accept or reject. While Thomas got to personally see the Risen Christ and come to believe, each of us in truth have had or will have our own moment of recognition when we fully come to see and believe with our own “My lord and my God”.upper room
On the other hand, we must realize that to believe is not enough. Life is not a moment or a simple I believe. Our faith calls for us to live it out, to love as Jesus shared in his time and ministry. Loving in word and action, forgiving and getting along working to glorify God by seeing him in each other. All of us are not unlike the apostles. We too have fear and we too could turn and run when a difficult time comes. We could flee to a place apart as the apostles did. We too could betray the love that has been given us. The most important thing here is that we must get out of that dark place and seek once again the love and forgiveness of Jesus. No matter what we do, He is there to simply say Peace be with you, offering the same peace and forgiveness and assurance he gave his apostles.

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 20, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

John 20:1-9

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. 10173582_697013510362669_217212863_nSo she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Reflection on the gospel reading: I believe Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead, and it is this fact that makes of all material reality a poem and imbues it with lyrical meaning. The resurrection of Jesus shows that the material world is a sheer veneer that covers shimmering truths; it is a course veil spread over what is brightest and truest: those mysteries that abide beneath the surface of what we see, taste, touch, hear, and smell. The resurrection of Jesus testifies that the things in the world of the senses, the things that we can measure, are absolutely true still but not the most real reality. Jesus’ resurrection pierces the veil to reveal the freshest deep down things that lie out of sight just beneath the surface and makes us see that what is true is seemless, that the surface things of daily life and the deep down things of mystical experience are really and truly one and the same thing. The resurrection of Jesus teaches us that the promise of life is that just as we now see, taste, touch, hear, and smell to sense the surface, one day we will throw away every illusion and abide in what for now is the mystery beneath the surface.

Spiritual reading: Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. (Easter Homily by John Crysostom)

Homily April 19, 20, 2014 Easter- The Resurrection

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on April 16, 2014

easterThis Easter night, to truly appreciate the Resurrection of Christ, we must remember the experience of Good Friday. In one way or another, all of us have experienced dying and death. The stark reality of it being so final, being cut off from someone we knew and loved, being left to go on and be alone so to speak. Jesus had been a man with disciples and had forged a new teaching and relationship with his followers. His teaching on love and the need for it and the love and care for one another all in a few days had seemed to be obliterated and led to his disciples easter 4fleeing and hiding themselves. They were truly at a loss for what to do and how to carry on. The swiftness, the brutality, the finality all had them huddled in fear. What they had seen and heard, they did not understand. They felt lost, abandoned, purposeless.

The news of the empty tomb was implausible. In their fear, they did not understand. Like all of us they were afraid of the worst. What was the impending new disaster? Was there more to fear? Were they in peril? Seeing the tomb they began to believe, but like we ourselves know, believing is like a seed that needs to see and hear and be assured. Gradually they came see and believe that Jesus was alive. What he was, what he taught was real. God truly was love and this spirit came on them and was present in a new and different way. His son had come and died and rose and now lives to carry on that message to all and extend his forgiveness if we have enough faith and love to ask for it. Few men and few entities enter history and are remembered for centuries. The constant presence of Christians from the time of Christ in itself shows the belief that his resurrection and spirit continued in the world. As he taught and instructed his message continues today. We see him and easter3know him in our sacraments, most notably in the Eucharist, His very body and blood, poured out for us, yet given in a unique way that he can be a part of us and we of him.

Yes, this is the day the Lord has made. Easter is truly a new beginning for how the love of God was poured out to the whole world. True life is now measured in the love of God and how we carry out that love by loving as we are loved. It was and is a new beginning. Humanity unfortunately still needs to learn much to erase the evils of the world, but Easter and the resurrection gives hope that all the dark days and good Fridays of this world can be put aside and life restored in the way God intends. Working together the world could do so much. In some ways this has happened, yet selfishness and all the other foibles inflicting us, interfere with the message of Christ. Remember Christ said to go out to all the world, preach and baptize. The more we do, the more his gift of faith and love will come to this broken world of ours.easter2

Homily for the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Day), Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, politics, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on April 12, 2014

Homily for the  Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Day), Year A  2014

I would like to begin today with the short reading from St Paul about yeast.  My family used to make sourdough bread, just as the Jews would do.  They would break off a lump of the sourdough, mix it with flour and it would ferment and create a new batch of bread.  While this could go on for years, and did in my family, Jews were asked to start a new batch of leaven every year at Passover time, probably signifying symbolically a new start after they celebrated being released from slavery in Egypt. So, at the Passover, having destroyed or gotten rid of the leaven, they ate only unleavened bread, what we would call flatbread today.

Paul starts with this image which would have been familiar to all his readers, and he asks them to start over and clean out the old yeast and start afresh. He says that they and we  are like unleavened bread now. Jesus has purified them and taken out the leaven that was old and tainted,  and before being leavened we all must start again, having thrown out the old world order of malice and evil, like they did the old yeast,  and begin again with sincerity and truth. If leaven causes bread ( and us) to rise, it is Jesus who will also cause us to rise… with him!

Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a homily of Peter in which Peter summarizes for the crowd the elements of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. He first speaks of John the Baptist’s baptism and how God anointed Jesus through the Holy Spirit to do good and heal. Despite this, Peter says they put him to death on a tree. But God would not let him die and raised him up on the third day. It is clear in the homily that Peter believe in the Resurrection simply because he was a witness to Jesus and ate and drank with him after his death. Finally he states that the resurrected Jesus commanded them to spread the news about him by preaching, especially by using the Scriptures and especially using the prophecies. What Jesus brought, Peter says, is forgiveness to all who believe in him.

Finally, today, St. John combines the supernatural with the ordinary in his Gospel account of the Resurrection event. It is quite a delightful narrative really. Mary goes in the dark to the tomb. We are not told why she went, simply perhaps to mourn. She couldn’t have gotten inside the tomb by herself because there was a large stone closing off the entrance. But when she arrives she realizes that the stone has been moved. She doesn’t go into the tomb, but races to Peter and to one other apostle – simply called “the one whom Jesus loved.” This unknown person is referred to as this six times in John’s Gospel. 

As a side note to the story itself, it has been debated for centuries who the beloved disciple really was.  Most seem to think it was John the apostle -supposedly John the Evangelist himself. Others say that John the apostle would have been much too old when the Gospel was actually written. Other commentators favor Lazarus as the disciple, since when before Lazarus died his sister talked about how he whom you loved is sick.

Lastly, among many others suggested through the centuries is the rather recent theory that Mary Magdelene herself was the beloved disciple, though how that can be reconciled with the text that Mary ran to Peter and the other disciple, I have no idea.

Let us continue wight he story, however. The beloved disciple, being apparently younger and more agile got to the tomb first, but in deference to peter, waited till peter got there before entering after him. You may have noticed the details that the writer mentions – the linen wrappings on the ground where they had fallen off, the cloth that covered the corpse’s head in another location and rolled up. What do these details indicate? They are both ordinary and yet strange. Would not have someone who carried out the body have kept these coverings to hide the body? The body moved around because the coverings were in two different locations, and while the sheets had just fallen off, someone took the time to roll the linen facial cover. 

In any case, the younger disciple seemed to figure it our and believed what had just happened. Peter may not yet have understood because of John’s statement that they didn’t understand how the Hebrew scriptures indicated he would rise from the dead.

Mary had come with them to the tomb but did not go in.  After Peter and the disciple left to go back home, Mary was left crying at the tomb, and she looked into the cave and saw to figures in white sitting at either end of the tomb itself. They speak to her and ask why she is crying and her reply is simply that somebody must have taken the body and she doesn’t know where it has gotten to. Imagine what you would feel if you went to a grave of a loved one the next day and saw that someone had stolen the body!

As she turned away she saw someone she took to be the gardener of the cemetery. I love this image because if Jesus is seen as the new Adam, isn’t it appropriate Jesus be seen as a gardener because really that’s what Adam was in Paradise – the groundskeeper of Eden. Now here is where it could get eerily supernatural. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus!  Instead she almost blames the gardener for carrying away the body and demands to know what he did with it.

When Jesus speaks to her, though, and calls her by name, she immediately recognizes the voice, calls out “Teacher!” and holds on to him. Some translations give a wrong sense of the resurrected Jesus being breakable or fragile, saying “Don’t touch me!”. But when Jesus says literally – “don’t hold on to me” – he is probably more referring to having work to do because he hasn’t ascended to the Father and that he can’t be so detained. So Mary hurries back yet again to tell them the news – she has seen Jesus!

To me it is significant again that it is to a woman that Jesus first shows himself, just as we saw a few weeks ago, it was to a Samaritan woman that he first revealed who he was. How unlike what would ordinarily be done in Jesus’ time! God’s ways are not ours as i so often remind you.

The Resurrection is a supernatural event, hard to believe especially in our era when we do not believe it can happen according to the laws of science. And yet, i am sure that none in Jesus’ time could believe it either. Our own experience tells us not to believe. But for the early church belief came very quickly and was widespread. The simple telling of the story and the every day details show that it was part of the fabric of their lives when they wrote it down.

St. Paul tells us that it is central to our faith, that the cross was not enough. Without the resurrection Jesus turns into an ordinary man, a great prophet and healer perhaps, but could hardly be the impetus of faith for so many people for 2000 years. Yes, it is hard to believe, but I do believe it. And I do, precisely because I don’t understand God’s ways. And the more i read, the more I learn, the more I debate in my mind with all the naysayers, I keep coming to the same conclusion that I hope you do as well. Jesus is God, and it is by looking at the physical manifestation of God in his human form that we know how to create the kingdom of God on earth with him. That is the Good News. That is it in a nutshell. And as i always end my homily with the same statement about the goodness of the Good News, let me pray today that this Good News of the Resurrection bring you to a knowledge of God and his kingdom on earth and heaven so that like the yeast, you may rise with him and be the yeast for the rest of the world to feed on in days to come. Truly Good News. Happy Easter to you all.

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”]

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Homily April 6, 2014 5th Sunday of Lent

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on April 2, 2014

lazarus2Today’s readings dwell very much on death and life. To every person, life is a very intimate reality that we experience uniquely from when we are conceived and become aware. Each person’s life experience is different and we all develop in our own unique and special way. Today’s gospel is an account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In the gospel of John it is the last of what are called the seven great signs performed by Jesus. He didn’t use the word miracle but signs which pointed to the Savior.

The raising of Lazarus contains much to ponder on our journey to Easter. First, we can see that Jesus had a great love for Lazarus and his sisters. He had put off coming at first word of Lazarus’s sickness and the sadness of the sisters certainly affected him. It is one of the two times we are told Jesus wept. Yet he knew that Lazarus was to be a sign for the glory of God. Life is the manifestation of God’s love in his creatures. Life on earth is a physical thing of time and the universe. It is the manifestation of our being in this world, but as we know life and this temporal world will end. However love will never end and the unique love that is us will continue on forever as the unique person we are before God. In time and space we are called to perfect this love by loving God, and others as we love ourselves. Our connectedness in love is the way to how we connect to God and eternal life. Love is the connection that is the constant of creation. God never walked away or abandoned his creation but chose to reveal himself to his creatures and redeem them by sending his son.

Jesus in today’s gospel raised Lazarus to reveal God’s love and glory. But some of the men and leaders of Jesus’ interpreted the raising Lazarus as a threat to them and to the peace with Rome. Their love was different and self-centered and closed to the notion that God could come to them lazarusexcept in the temple somehow. They were comfortable with the way things were, pleased to be in place and time leading in their own way. They knew the history of their ancestors and knew a Messiah would come, but they had forgotten that God never quite acted in the way humanity expected. They forgot that the prophets from God were often rejected. To them, Jesus was an outsider, a man stirring up the good order of things and complicating their relations with the Romans.

Today, we can learn that the Spirit of God is among us. This Spirit reminds us the world is temporary and what we build becomes a memory when we die. What really remains is the love that was and is present in the life of those who remain. Love will never fail to fill up all life and eternity for we know that God himself is love. In living this life in God’s love, we will always be living where our true treasure is.

Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent , Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, politics, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on March 30, 2014

Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent , Year A  2014

In the last Sunday before we begin Holy Week and follow the way of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, today’s readings look ahead to Easter in that they all deal with resurrection in some form.

In Jesus’ time medicine was so primitive that they often could not distinguish between death and a person being comatose. There were several stories of people being buried alive because of this. However, the Jews wanted to make sure this never happened and they did this by checking on the body every day for three days, just to make sure it was dead. After the third day, the body would start to decompose and smell, and so they felt it was safe to declare it dead.  It is interesting to note that the point was made that Lazarus had been dead for four days. He was really dead, and wasn’t going to get up and walk around. He smelled.

His sisters would do shivah, mourn Lazarus for seven days by sitting in the house, praying, mourning and having visitors join them in this. Normally, they would not leave the house and meet a guest. An exception to tradition was made in the case of Jesus, however. Martha left the house to meet Jesus.

Now Jesus had taken his time getting to Bethany where Lazarus was, even though the sisters had sent for him and let him know about Lazarus’ illness. This seemed very planned out in Jesus mind – he informs the Apostles first that “this illness does not lead to death.” He knew that in the end, there would not be death. And he saw a greater purpose for what was to happen. The theme that good things can come from bad things happening resonates all throughout the Bible, from Abraham setting out to kill his son, to Joseph being thrown into a pit and left for dead, and to Moses being cast out onto the waters. The Church has a Latin phrase to describe this – felix culpa – happy fault, when something bad leads to something good, and applies it to Adam’s sin which causes God to send Christ to redeem us. Jesus knew there would be a happy ending to the Lazarus story and that it would also be a pinnacle of proof for who he really was – the awaited Messiah.

The disciples were just as happy that Jesus was not going back to see Lazarus because there had been trouble the last time they were in Judea and they had been stoned by people there. They try to convince Jesus not to go. If he is only sleeping, he will be fine, they say.  Let’s not go. Finally Jesus has to tell them that he must go because Lazarus died. Thomas is especially unhappy about it as he states, probably sarcastically, “Let’s go with him, so we can die, too. Lucky us.”

When Jesus arrives Mary and Martha show their disappointment in Jesus when they say – “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They knew and believed that Jesus was a healer and that he could have healed Lazarus.

This allows Jesus to preach the most revolutionary teachings that he proposed so far – eternal life through Him. When Jesus tells Martha that he will rise again, she thinks he is talking about more recent Hebrew teachings that there will be a final day of resurrection for all living things, found in the Book of Daniel. But Jesus says, no, that isn’t what he means. “I am the resurrection and the life. whoever believes in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Martha has always had a deep faith in Jesus and so she lets him know that she believes this and also believes that he is the Messiah, the Son of God.

As a result of this, Jesus shocks everyone present by calling Lazarus from the tomb, and his resurrection brought about the conversion of the people who witnessed it, some of whom were presumably those who had wanted to stone him earlier from claiming to be Messiah.

The words of Ezekiel the prophet are then fulfilled in Jesus who opened up graves, and brought Lazarus up from his grave, and all knew that he was the Lord. Ezekiel was, of course, speaking about Israel’s resurrection as a nation, but read backwards, knowing what we know about Jesus, we can see that this promise of Israel’s resurrection was made concrete in the works of Jesus, the Christ.

Out of the depths (Ps 130) of Mary and Martha’s despair and Lazarus’ death, Jesus has raised a man up, and in his own death will redeem us, be resurrected and “put a great spirit within us, and [we] shall live (Ez 37:14). 

From Ezekiel’s prediction that God will send his Spirit we read in Paul’s letter to the Romans today that we are “in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in [us] (Rom 8:9) and like Lazarus and like Jesus “our mortal bodies” will be given life. This promise, this knowledge, that we shall rise and conquer death is one of the most alluring, awe-inspiring, revolutionary teachings in our whole Catholic faith, and it is what we are about to celebrate in two weeks. But before that happens, there has to be the death, which there will be for all of us, the dark before the light. Beginning next week we begin to look at that dark, the Passion and the Suffering, the intense pain, the fear of death. How wonderful for the Church to sandwich all this suffering between the resurrection narratives so that we always keep in focus the Spring that comes out of Winter.

Let us this week reflect on our own deaths, our own transgressions, our own fears, but be able to see them surrounded and sandwiched by the light of the Good News of Resurrection that Christ provides for us. By really looking at ourselves and ways we need to improve ourselves and reach out to others, we can approach this Resurrection day with less fear and trembling, but with the hope that all those who witnessed the rising of Lazarus had on that day. And this is the Good News on which we need to focus on this last week of the Lenten season before Holy Week.

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”]

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Homily November 10, 2013 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on November 5, 2013

Today’s readings present us with questions concerning death and resurrection or life after death. While all of us have experienced seeing death or the burial of someone, it remains a reality that we find hard to accept and understand, especially when it happens to a loved one of ours. Faith and scriptures tell us many things about faith and death and dying, but in the end death remains a mystery, a vacuum to us who remain behind. The hypothetical question of the seven brothers presented to Jesus today, while accurate in following the law of Moses, was presented to trick Jesus to say things and commit what the Sadducees would call theological error against what was their belief. What Jesus left us was a glimpse into His own self and a mystery of what would come. The ways of human life on earth would not be present in an after life. Marriage, reproduction, human needs would all take on a different tone a different way. The love of God is the core and center of life both here and in future life. The love and pleasures of human life, in fact life itself will take on a whole different way which is incomprehensible to us who are tied to a material inflexible world.

Jesus and the Sadducees

Jesus and the Sadducees

What I find interesting is the fear many people have of dying and what life will be. At the same time others simply accept death as a part of their journey of faith undaunted by the mystery of not knowing what lies ahead. Throughout history both before and after Christ’s time we see men and women who have stepped forward and gave up their lives in the name of God for their faith or even out of love for another person. Having myself once been at that threshold for several weeks and slowly recovering, found the greatest insight in that time was that the love of God and those around me brings a love and awareness that life and living is a gift and joy that fills and animates everyday. If we can take advantage of that now , how much more will it be when we are called to the fulfillment of that life and the love that has filled it in the course of a lifetime. Love is the key and cornerstone of the after life. God is Love and now is the time to form and shape it and share it and prepare for that final time of love and sharing which will always be.

Considering that, it might help explain a little the mystery of resurrection and life. In human love, The reach and boundaries of love are limitless and at times astonishing to us, even more so in this age of mass communication when so many stories and happenings are shared. Even in this life we are at times confounded by it. This being the case, what lies beyond will be just as great and astonishing.

Homily September 1, 2013 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on August 29, 2013

As we look around us, we see all kinds of stores and shops and places to eat. If you think about it, we spend a lot of time and money and space in our concern about feeding and sustaining ourselves. All through history this has been evident, and it is a reality among every species. As human beings we have taken eating a meal to a very important act of living. So much we do is centered around eating whether it be an important decision-making meeting, or the interlude between business sessions, or a dinner or banquet for some stated occasion. Even in the family home,there are formularies followed by each family much in line with the schedules of the particular family. In fact, when all are present, a certain ritual develops in each household. Part of ritual or form would be the seating of all the participants. From the gospel, we see that this was certainly a concern in Jesus’ time. Meals and dining were a statement, a way of life, a way of asserting status. Everyone was invited for a reason, a benefit for the giver of the dinner in some way. Reciprocation was always a part of these reasons. The host would certainly be expressing his status in the community and his familiarity with the others he invited.
Christ_at_the_House_of_Simon_the_Pharisee_
While Jesus accepted the invitation as he often did in his lifetime, we see today the little twist he puts on the occasion and offers his own prescription for remedy of the faults of the system. He points out that many rush for the prime seating, only to find that more distinguished guests are there than them. He points out that if we had the proper humility, we wouldn’t presume we were owed the places of honor and should simply be seated. It shouldn’t be a false humility, but the realization that in reality the places of honor are passing and not important in light of the fact that in reality we are all the same except for perhaps that moment. He even goes so far as to say that the poor, the hungry, the deprived, the lame and others without food should be invited. Repayment or reciprocation should not be our motive. The coming together and sharing will be rewarded in the time of resurrection.

One final thought of the reading of the banquet in today’s reading. When we come to Mass, I think sometimes we forget that originally Jesus was the host at a final meal. We forget that the disciples were gathered around eating and drinking when Jesus introduced a whole new meaning to eating and drinking. Anew food and drink, His own Body and Blood. At this table there is only one host and all share equally in the food and drink. This table excludes no one and should be inviting all to partake. We must realize that we can exalt ourselves by extending this invitation.

Homily April 21, 2013 Fourth Sunday of Easter C

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on April 16, 2013

In today’s gospel, Jesus clearly says that he gives us eternal life, that those who follow him shall never perish. This is a promise resulting from His own resurrection and obedience to His Father’s will. Through it all Jesus and the Father are one. Redemption has come through His becoming a man and living out a life in accord with His Father’s will, suffering all the humiliation of pain and death and rising to life. In doing this he has redeemed all people for all time.

What I would like to point out today is that Christ’s resurrection reveals Him as our redeemer. He came that we might have eternal life. I think many times we lose sight of this and see Christ as some kind of caregiver or intercessor to remove the trials and travails of our life. Some kind of rescuer maybe. At moments of pain, suffering or difficulty we often turn to him in prayer to relieve us of that particular trouble. Sometimes, even often times our prayers are answered. However, pain, suffering, humiliation, death are all inevitable in every life in some form or another. A case in point, if we look at the gospels, we see that Jesus did not hasten to Lazarus when he was told of his being sick. In fact, he continued doing what he was doing and of course Lazarus had died by the time He arrived. He even wept at the loss of His friend before he brought him back to life. His act was an act of redemption rather than an act of healing. It was not to answer or explain Jesus healing or not but that God redeems and doesn’t necessarily exempt believers from pain and suffering. The “why” so often asked is probably the most difficult thing we sometimes encounter. We can accept pain and suffering most of the time, but sometime in our lives we might be confronted with some incomprehensible thing and we ask why does God allow this. Look at what has happened this week. In Boston, we see people deliberately killed, maimed, and terror spread through a whole city. In Texas, we see a horrific fire and explosion which made the area look like a war zone. Is God to blame for this or can we really ask why he allows it? No these are a result of the sinful nature of a misused free will that God gave to all of us. Actions and decisions have consequences that are unavoidable. We forget that much that occurs in this life flows from the fact that God doesn’t interfere or what today we would say micromanage. His call to redemption is to us as a free people and our response is truly our own to make. How we deal with adversity helps shape the faith and redemption we receive. Our prayers should always be predicated on accepting His will much the same as Christ’s prayers were in the gospels especially before his passion. This is central, even in the Lord’s prayer. “Thy will be done.”

Homily March 31. 2013 Easter Sunday Resurrection of the Lord John 20: 1-9

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on March 27, 2013

As we look at the resurrection from our time and perspective, we find it based on the faith and love we have. No where is there an actual account of the event as there were no witnesses to it. In fact, what we get is the presentation of an empty tomb. First Mary and then Peter and “the beloved disciple”. This account draws on the love Jesus had for them and the faith developed over their time with him.. Still, we are told the Beloved disciple sees and believes.

Both men experienced and saw the empty tomb and it was from there that their faith in the resurrection developed. Jesus’ resurrection was like his birth, a moment in time that was special, yet as a product of God’s love, disseminated only in a way that fit his inscrutable plan. Neither event was a big flash of news, what we would call the big Internet moment. It was an event capturing the hearts in his love of his faithful followers. His subsequent appearances all came after the empty tomb encounter. He talked with them was touched and ate. Yes he was real.

What it means is that God has worked his plan. All of us have the ability to raise ourselves up by the love of God and our faith in him. If we have given ourselves to die with him, we too will rise and share life with him. He has made it possible to reverse the effects of sin and evil. Now we can say no to them and remain faithful.

But once again, we know this only from the The love of God and the faith we have in him. Like the Beloved Disciple, we believe because of this and the profound experience of the empty tomb and the passing on of it from then to now. Christ is truly risen and present in our life and the church even today. Surely there is a constant to that love and belief, even with all the human faults and failures of the centuries since, Christ’s presence and love continues to be here in the world and among us here and now. Faith calls us to respond and listen, to see and believe, to hear and to act. Yes, Christ is Risen!