CACINA

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Lent, Year B 2015

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

Homily for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year B 2015

The word “transfiguration” is not often part of our vocabulary today. I can’t image a mother coming to the table with a beautifully done casserole proclaiming that she had “transformed” the macaroni into this exotic dish. We might use it if someone goes to the beauty shop and gets a daring haircut. Look how transformed she is! we might say. Or we might use it in telling fairy tales to our children – someone was transformed into a princess-like Cinderella or a frog was transformed into a Prince. But despite the fact that it isn’t a common word to use, what the word signifies does happen pretty often. Something is changed into something more beautiful or altered in some way, making it more “awesome” to use today’s cliché.

Lent is a transformational season in the Church. This is, of course, why we hear the story of the Transfiguration read to us today. In Mark’s version the Apostles are witnesses to the event, but really didn’t understand it. Nor did they understand the reference to Jesus rising from the dead – the ultimate transformation that was to come. It would be a transformation that would transform the world.

How can we transform ourselves during Lent? What do we have to do to turn ourselves from sin, the part of ourselves that pulls away from God? I directed the play “Godspell” a number of years ago, and the character who was supposed to be Mary Magdalene goes out into the audience and sings a seductive song, coming on to all the men in the audience. But the words of the song belie what she is doing in that she had already been transformed by Jesus. Her words were “Turn back, o man; forswear thy foolish ways.” The seduction which she had used as a prostitute was now a seduction of souls to turn back, repent and come to God. Her movement from prostitute to disciple of Jesus transformed her into an evangelizer in the play.

There are some hints for us in all the readings today about our own transformations during Lent and what we must do. In the first reading Abraham had to turn his back on everything he held sacred. We know how important it was to have a son and heir for the Hebrew people. Abraham had only one son who was a gift from God. But now God wanted to take that away from him, and by Abraham’s own hand. It is a very repulsive thought even, but Abraham had such faith in God that he did not waiver. Perhaps Abraham’s faith allowed him to know that this was a test or that God would somehow make anything that happened right, but he turned his back on everything he wanted and had worked for in order to follow God’s command.

How willing are we to have complete faith in God? You know how many times i have stressed to you the fact that God’s ways are not our ways. Knowing this, are we willing to suffer, to offer up everything we hold dear and put it in God’s hands? Abraham’s reward was a great one for his faithfulness. This “handing over” our lives to God, this ability to trust that God will make all things right in the end, that there is a divine purpose behind everything that happens is one of the things that we need to cultivate in our repentance this Lent.

The Psalm today says “I kept my faith, even when I said “I am greatly afflicted”. Do we keep our faith when we suffer, when our family suffers, when there is death even? That is the kind of faith we are being asked to develop in Lent. Nobody said this was going to be easy!  If we are able to put that faith in God, Jesus Christ and the Spirit, then we can proclaim with Paul to the Romans today that nothing “will separate us from the love of Christ.” No hardship, no distress, no persecution, no hunger, no poverty, no peril or no weapon will be able to get us down or take God’s love away. Faith can move mountains!

So how do we develop this faith in ourselves this Lent? It can seem an insurmountable thing to do, but I would suggest we do it by practice, starting small.  We take something that is worrying us and we place it in God’s hands. We literally say to God: Lord, I give you this, it is out of my control and influence, do what you think best with it. Begin to make this a practice. The immediate reward will be a transformation in itself. You will feel the anxiety or depression lifting because you know you are not alone. “If God is for us, who is against us?” Paul says today. This ability to transform those fears and anxieties won’t come quickly or even easily, but it will come with practice.

At Communion today we will sing a hymn that summarizes this transformational attitude – listen to the words. “Transfigure us, O Lord. Break the chains that bind us; speak your healing word, and where you lead, we’ll follow. Transfigure us, O Lord.”  We ask God to break the chains that are not allowing us to give ourselves completely to God and his will. We ask God to heal that in us so that we can follow wherever God may lead us. Just as Jesus had complete faith in the Father and was led even to death, God’s plan was to use that death in the greatest event known to mankind – our return to God’s grace and kingdom. The last line of the verses for the hymn “Transfigure Us” asks the question: “Shall we journey with you and share your paschal road?” And that is the question I leave with you today as well. Shall you journey this Lent with God, letting God lead the way, giving the direction to God, giving our will to God, even to sharing the sacrificial road that God had taken in Jesus? It takes a great faith, but one that can be developed, practiced and lived.

And this is the Good News I leave you to ponder and maybe even find an answer to 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”]

Homily March 16, 2014 2nd Sunday of Lent

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on March 12, 2014

transfig3Today’s readings remind us of several men who we are giants in salvation history. All received calls from God and ultimately answered his call with faith and action. First we see Abraham and Sarah, old timers settled and old for their time, reportedly in their seventies. God called for them to pack up and move to a new place and he would make a great nation of them. With no idea of where they were going, they picked up and went with the remarkable faith they had. Even today, how many of us would be ready to pick up and simply move on and start over for the call of faith?

Next we encounter Paul in his letter to Timothy. He, too, received a call and though reluctantly, he answered and moved on and started his journey of faith preaching ceaselessly from place to place until he was stopped.

transfig1In the Gospel, we see Jesus go up the mountain and be transfigured with Peter, James and John. Not only was Jesus transfigured but he was joined by Moses and Elijah, men who also were called to leave all and move on in faith to do the work of God just as Jesus had called his Apostles. This special moment of transfiguration was a moment of faith and enlightenment for them. It was a confirmation of their call, a showing of a true connection to God and his work in salvation throughout history and a boost for the faith of the apostles.

We see therefore the call of 8 people to a vocation of witness to God. If we think about it, none of them ever got a chance to settle down, sit back and say look at what has been accomplished once they were called. Abraham and Sarah lived a long life but never saw the great nation they were promised. Yet today they are part of the religious heritage of Christians, Jews and Muslims throughout the world. Moses and Elijah, as great as they were, never got to a full sense of completion as their human faults interfered. Peter, James, John and Paul received the completion of martyrdom but their earthly task was never completely finished.The Transfiguration of Christ Giovanni Bellini, c. 1487

Only Jesus in today’s readings completely fulfilled his call, his mission to save by his death and resurrection. It was he who sent the final four on their mission or their vocation to go out and baptize. Like the calls of the old testament, his disciples were called to move on to keep spreading and preaching his word. Faith, like that of Abraham and Sarah was called for. Family, friends, comfort or whatever is in the way of our faith must not stop us from following the gospel. Jesus call and his charge to preach and baptize is far from finished. We still need the fervor of discipleship.

The church remember is the people of God. As such it is for the people of God to spread the gospel and in so many special ways to share Christ’s love and embrace all people by bringing Christ to them and his love and forgiveness. With baptism, we all received this faith and this call. Each of us is expected to answer the call according to the abilities we have. Throughout all of salvation history God chose very ordinary people to do extraordinary things. This is how he works. He uses us and works through us and accomplishes what he wants sometimes even in spite of ourselves. Let us never forget that the last person we met might have been the most important we ever met. We might have been that person’s last chance to see and hear Christ’s call. I ask you, have we put on Christ and been a loving person to them. Remember that his call to us only ends when we are in his arms at the end.

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on March 9, 2014

Homily for the  2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A  2013-14

Today’s Gospel – the Transfiguration – is presented to us a number of times over the three year cycle of readings, and its importance is such that it appears in all the Gospels. But I would like to come at it in a slightly different way this time around.  Last week we saw that Jesus, in his humanity, had to pull away from the distracting elements of human life in order to better communicate with the Father and be in touch with his Godhead. Jesus does this many times, usually before important things happen – before he chooses apostles, before his passion, before his public service begins. The same is the case today, although he brings three of the disciples along with him.

The context of today’s reading is also important. Jesus goes up to the mountain, not to be transfigured, but to pray. As a human Jesus experiences all the emotions that we do, and at this time of his life I would imagine that he would be a bit depressed, discouraged and frustrated.  He has been going around preaching the Good News that the kingdom of heaven has arrived He has been healing the sick, performing miracles, telling them he is the one they have been waiting for, but he has not been accepted by his own people. Oh yes, they come to him to be cured or to have a miracle happen, but they haven’t accepted him for who he really is. He knows that the great work is yet to come – he has predicted his own death to the apostles – and he must feel it is about to happen. He is weary and maybe even more than a little frightened. So he does what he always does when he needs to commune with God, to refresh himself, to get strength to continue his work – he goes to nature to pray, this time to the mountains.

As he has done so many times before, he probably goes off a little way by himself, leaving the three apostles – Peter, James and John – while he pulls away from human things to talk with the Father in prayer. And while he was praying, the Apostles see a transformation take place – Jesus began to shine, and his clothes turned to a dazzling white.  The Apostles began to physically see what they had known all along, that Christ was the Son of God, that he was special, that he was Messiah. The transfigured man they saw before him became a spirit-like being, and not only that they could see that he was in the center talking with two other spirit-like men that they identified as Moses and Elijah.

It was not long ago that Jesus had told the Apostles that he had come to fulfill the Law (the Teachings) and the Prophets. Moses represented the teachings of God, what we call the Law, and Elijah represented the prophets. And here was Jesus, in the center, about to complete what he said he was completing.

Oh, that we could hear the words that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus. They were not recorded or perhaps even heard by the Apostles, but I would imagine that they were words of encouragement to Jesus, words that could help Jesus through the Passion and death that was to follow.

Peter wants to build three shrines to commemorate the event, and Matthew makes no comment on this unlike other evangelists who do. Then the voice of God makes clear the meaning of the event and the pleasure God has in the obedience of his Son – “This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

Even if no one else had been listening to Jesus and accepting him as the one who had been foretold – the Messiah, the Apostles got it directly from God, and how could they not believe it? The voice frightened them to death, and they fell to the ground in awe.

But the time Jesus had spent in prayer did exactly what it had been planned to do – it took away Jesus’ own fear, and gave him the courage to face his own death, now knowing that the Son of Man would be “raised from the dead”.

All of this was necessary according to St. Paul today so that death could be abolished by our Savior Christ Jesus who brought “life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”  And Paul says we didn’t have anything to do with it – it was “a total gift from God according to his own purpose and grace”. And all of this was necessary, too, because of a promise that God made to Abram in the beginnings of Hebrew history – “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise to Abram.

As I tried to make clear last week, Jesus was God, but he was also a man with all the emotions and limitations, though without the sin. None of us could be perfect as God is perfect, so none of us could redeem the world. But Jesus could be perfect, and in the death of that perfect man, the Lamb who died for our sins, our sins are forgiven us and heaven opened to us.

What did Jesus feel like when he came down from that mountain? What human emotions must he have felt as he asked the apostles not to talk about it? Certainly, there was a new resolve, a new strength, perhaps a complete human understanding of what he must go through and why.

What can we learn from this event, and how can it impact our lives? We are as human as Jesus and we too become frightened, discouraged, frustrated, caught up in a vortex of worldly troubles that drag us along. Do we go up to our mountains and pray? Do we take the time to get in touch with nature and let God talk to us? We, too, are God’s beloved sons and daughters. Do you think that God will ever treat us any differently than Jesus? God will be there to comfort us. We may still have to go through passions, sickness, fears, and horrors as Jesus did, but God will find a way to help us understand and get through these times. Talk to God. Give your emotions to God. Give yourself to God. As our psalm says today: “Let your love be upon us O Lord, as we place our trust in you. “Truly the eye of the Lord” watches over us and we have only to find a way to get a dial tone to heaven.

This is Good News and the kind of good news we need to hear when problems of life surround us. In this Lenten voyage, let’s find some time to let God comfort us. And this is the Good News i want to leave you with 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

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on August 6, 2009

fra_angelico_transfiguration606x750

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 9:2-10

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We celebrate today the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. I think there is an insight to be gained into the transfiguration by an understanding of how the feast came about. In the early eastern church, many Christians celebrated the transfiguration in conjunction with the Epiphany, when we celebrate the visit of the Magi to the newborn king.

Epiphany means literally, “appears,” “gives light.” A great variety of narratives influenced the feast in the fourth and early fifth centuries: the transfiguration, the birth of Jesus, the visit of the magi, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, the water turned into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, and the multiplication of loaves and fishes. All of these narratives, celebrated at Epiphany, had the element of change and surprise, and the theology of Epiphany was the manifestation of God in the world. Only with the passage of time did the Church shake apart the elements of the Epiphany and allow all these narratives about change and surprise to migrate and settle into separate celebrations.

All those varied manifestations of the Lord’s divinity celebrated together by early Christians joined each other into a unity, the panoply of events created an undivided testimony. The day, as conceived in the East indeed did address the revelation of light to the nations signified in the great star that leads the magi to adore the Lord. But the original wealth of the day included so much more. It included the birth of the Savior before Christmas came to exist as a separate feast. Light fans out upon the waters of the Jordan at the baptism of the Lord as the Father and the Holy Spirit reveal Jesus as the Son of God. Epiphany incorporated the sign narratives of the change of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana and reference to the multiplication of the loaves. And of course, there also was the shimmering event of the transfiguration. We have lost something wonderful in the migration of the transfiguration to August, so far away from all the other pieces that once combined at a place and a time to make the poetry of the Epiphany, and it is worth somehow finding a way back.

Saint of the day: We celebrate today the Feast of the transfiguration. Jesus appeared in shimmering light before Peter, James, and John as the Lord stood talking with Moses and Elijah. In this vision, Moses symbolizes the Law and Elijah symbolizes the prophets. Our faith instructs us that Jesus fulfills both the Law and the prophets. Moses and Elijah have left this life; Peter, James, and John continue it. The transfiguration reveals Christ as Lord of both the living and the dead. By suggesting the Lord’s own resurrected body, the transfiguration foretells the glory of the Lord in his resurrection and, by extension, our glory in our own resurrections.

Transfiguration2003This feast became widespread in the West in the 11th century and was introduced into the church calendar in 1457 to commemorate the victory over the Turks in Belgrade. Prior to that, the Transfiguration of the Lord was celebrated in the Syrian, Byzantine, and Coptic rites.

During the transfiguration, Jesus, for a short time, appeared in the glorified state that he took permanently after his resurrection on Easter. The translucence of Jesus shone throughout his entire body. Peter, James, and John were stunned by his transfiguration. The transfiguration occurred when Jesus and Peter, James, and John went up to the top of Mount Tabor. When they arrived at the top, Jesus appeared suddenly in beautiful light talking with Moses and Ellijah. The three companions of the Lord were in awe and fell to the ground as Jesus talked about the fulfillment of the purpose of God’s infinite goodness.

The three disciples were not yet capable of understanding all this. They wanted the transfiguration to continue forever. They felt joy and peace. When Jesus returned to his ordinary presence, he instructed Peter, James, and John to rise up and have no fear. He also told them to tell no one about what happened until he rose from the dead.

In our own lives, we may recognize in the transfiguration that not everyday on Earth is going to be filled with happiness. However, as we move through life with God, all in the end will be well.

ti__atl_lSpiritual reading: There is a stage in the spiritual life in which we find God in ourselves – this presence is a created effect of His love. It is a gift of His, to us. It remains in us. All the gifts of God are good. But if we rest in them, rather than in Him, they lose their goodness for us. So with this gift also. When the right time comes for us to go on to other things, God withdraws the sense of His presence, in order to strengthen our faith. After that it is useless to seek Him through the medium of any psychological effect. Useless to look for any sense of Him in our hearts. The time has come when we must go out of ourselves and above ourselves and find Him no longer within us but outside us and above us…in service of our brothers. (Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton)