Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time from the parish of Sts Francis and Clare

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, Faith, homily, inspirational, Resurrection, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on November 12, 2017

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Today’s Homily at Holy Trinity, September 17, 2017- the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, forgiveness, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 17, 2017

Homily June 25, 2017- the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

12sun5Today’s gospel is about death and peace. Fear is the opposite of peace and Jesus is telling us that we should not be afraid of anything unless it can kill our soul. We know that if we believe in Christ and walk with him, we have life already and it will continue on even after death. With that life we should have peace and have confidence in God. Yet, I ask you as we live in this world, when everything is well and we are at peace, does it not seem that there is some kind of uneasiness or doubt that something could go wrong. In many ways this is true because we are still in a world and time that sin and evil are still around and we can be effected by it. However, God knows and watches and our faith12sun1 ultimately prevails as long as we keep faith and weather any storm or hardship on the way. Jesus pointed out that the common sparrow or pigeon simply lighting on the earth is known by God. How much more is he not aware of his human creatures? So that Jesus is saying is that death is not to be feared for it is not an end in itself if we are truly men of faith and at peace, the true peace that knows God embraces us and awaits us as we finish our earthly journey. No matter what 12sun2we face, it is a step or a moment to a final peace and union with God. All of us have seen loved ones go before us, and it is difficult to know why and understand. But let us all remember we are God’s creatures and we live in his time and in his kingdom. Certainly, we have questions and concerns at times, but his peace, his way is fully ours if we surrender ourselves and realize all our doubts and questions will be satisfied when we are fully embraced into his love at the end of our time.

Homily Feast of the Ascension May 28, 2017

7Feast-of-the-Ascension-We are all part of an age unaccustomed to waiting. We get instant news from the far ends of the earth and can even view it on television. Even a soldier today in Afghanistan can actually call home on the phone or even make a video call. This is far different from families at home in past wars waiting for the mail person with that letter with “free” written instead of a stamp from a loved one in a war zone. Today we get impatient in lines we meet everywhere, always being in a hurry to be someplace. Today our readings are Jesus’ farewell to his disciples and the return to his Father. Remember the Ascension is the very last part of the Easter event of Christ’s Passion, Death, Resurrection and 7ascension-1return(Ascension) to His Father. They know they are to go out to the world and preach, but they have many questions and much unbounded enthusiasm. But, what does Jesus tell them? He tells them they must wait for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who will teach them and inform them of their mission and how to carry it out. It is the Spirit who is the Father’s gift to us that enables Christ’s church to continue, to keep alive his Word and work through the centuries. Yet, in all their enthusiasm, Jesus said wait, don’t do anything until the Spirit comes.

For us, I think there is a lesson to consider in what Jesus said in telling them to wait for the Spirit. Often times in our lives, things arise whether a crisis or some other situation 7the-ascension5or event that we need to pray over and consider. As Jesus told his disciples to wait a few days for his Spirit, it would certainly be good if we allowed time for prayer and the Spirit to help with our decision. The Spirit has been given to the Church and also to each of us to help and enable us to discern and continue to follow Christ in every time and century. The Spirit guides and helps the Church as it marches through the centuries, assisting as humanity itself grows in knowledge and advances hopefully to the age Christ has prepared for his followers. So, we need to live our life in the church with his Spirit, waiting for his return and our own ascension to the Father.

Homily for November 13, 2016 the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

33rd-sundayToday, Malachi and Luke talk of coming days, death, the end of the temple, wars, insurrections, even the end of nations and the fighting of nations. The earth itself will suffer quakes, plagues, and famines. Look back in history and all these things have occurred in the past centuries and in every lifetime and generation. Rejection and persecution of believers has occurred throughout history, even at the time of Christ’s birth if we recall the innocent children slaughtered by Herod. Christ himself suffered rejection and persecution and even experienced betrayal and felt abandoned.

33rd-sunday4Christ said these were signs of the times, and yes they are. They are signs in all times of the fallen nature of humanity. What age or country or century has eliminated these times and signs from the world? What victory has ever given peace to the world? Was there ever a time that a true Christian was immune from ridicule, rejection, whether from family, friends, or a state or country. Has sin been removed from the world?

Keep in mind that each day is new, but the last was an end. Each moment is an end time where someone will not face another. Each of us faces an end time whether it be days or years. The signs are there for us to see. Christ says these things are bound to happen not just at the end of all times but in every time. 33rd-sunday6God is a God of Love, certainly not a human being, and so we must realize he is not subject to anger and other emotions. Sin and evil come from the freedom his creatures receive and abuse. God loves and forgives and embraces all who ultimately reach out to him. Punishment or being cut off from God is what we do by the choices and things that we do.

The sign of our times at the moment are not far from Malachi and Luke today. As Christians we are called to witness Christ’s message of love, forgiveness, healing and the life of Jesus Christ. We have all put on Christ, now is the time to step up and be the light of the world. Jesus said: “Follow Me.”

Counter Cultural Calm and Comfort-All Souls

  • All Soul’s Day – Isaiah 25: 6-9, Ps 27: 1-9,13-14, Romans 5:5-11, John 6: 37-40


Tuesday afternoon, I sat with a bedridden elderly woman. I was just beginning to introduce myself to some residents at a nursing home.  I had no information about this woman other than a staff person suggesting she might enjoy a visit.  So I asked, “How’s it going for you?”

Her eyes began to form tears. “Oh, my husband, he’s here, he has dementia, Alzheimer’s.  He sits in a wheel chair and he just talks nonsense…he was never that way before.”   She made no mention of it, but it was clear she had her own health issues too.

We talked for a few minutes about the strain of watching a beloved spouse’s health deteriorate. I asked her: would she like to have me read to her out the Bible.  “Yes”, she nodded.  So I opened to Psalm 103, and read of the goodness of God, about God’s love and faithfulness, compassion and mercy.  She grew visibly calmer as I read.  “Oh, thank you,” she breathed.  The Bible I had with me was donated by the Gideon’s, and I left it with her.  Those free Gideon Bibles have a well-deserved reputation for helping people who are overwhelmed by life.

It’s very easy, and entirely normal, to forget God’s love when crisis strikes.   But in every section of the Bible, we can find reminders of the tender love God has for us, all of us.  Today one of our reading is from Isaiah, a Hebrew prophet who lived some 800 years before Christ.  It speaks of the Lord ending death and grief and tears on the earth, and offers assurance that the Lord will save us.  Then the Psalmist writes, “The Lord is my light and my salvation……..wait for the Lord with courage.”

Years later, St. Paul declared with great certainty that we will not be disappointed by our hopes in God.  Wearied by the sound bites of politicians, we need to be reminded of this!  Paul says, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us…we are justified and saved through him…”  Paul adds, “We also boast of God.”  Now, if you have read much of St. Paul, you know when Paul says you can boast of something, he means it’s rock solid, without a doubt.

But if you might have any remaining doubt about hoping in God, our Gospel will dispel it.  John quotes Jesus saying, “…Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”

All Soul’s Day is about remembering those who have gone before us; those we miss, those we will mourn for the rest of our lives. But this day calms us, and draws us back from the pain of loss to the comfort of God’s love.  It is almost counter-cultural to remember that God didn’t make us disposable. We are eternal beings.  It is absolutely counter-cultural to say that we are eternal beings, but we still don’t know very much at all about eternity.  And it is probably close to anti-cultural to say that we don’t need to know more about eternity than we already know.  What do we know?  We know Eternity is real, prepared and waiting for you and me and those we love, and it will be beyond anything experienced in this life.

So, today we rejoice in life. We light candles to remind us of eternal life; their light breaks through the darkness of doubt.  We delight in the memory of those who have been born into eternity, even as we remain here for a time, and we continue to share the love of God.


Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A 2013-14

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 7, 2013

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A  2013-14

[Bishop Ron’s past homilies for Year A have been collected in the the book “Teaching the Church Year”, available in ebook format on]

Advent is a time of waiting. I thought about this as I waited at the doctor’s office this week for an appointment, and I thought about it again as I waited at the longest traffic light in the world to get on the Dulles Toll Road. I thought about it as I waited for my students to come to me for class. I thought about it as I waited for the rain to stop so I could get to more raking, and as I wait for the last tree leaves to fall from the tree over the house that refuses to give them up. Waiting is really part of our lives and we spend a lot of time doing it. Often, in our culture, which is so busy and rushed, it leads to anger, to road rage, to general anxiety. That isn’t what the waiting in Advent is about, though.

St. Paul’s antidote to waiting which he mentions a number of times in our second reading today is “patience”. He recognizes that we might have to suffer while we wait, but he says that the virtue of patience will be what gets us through it. St. Paul was speaking about the second coming of the Lord in this reading, and stressing that we have hope that Christ is coming, so we need to develop patience. Certainly this is good advice for all us whether it is patience in waiting for the Lord or waiting for a traffic light. The result is the same: we trust that what we wait for will come in time, and we must use our waiting time productively by caring for our neighbors.

St. Paul tells us to look to the Prophets for examples of those who became role models of suffering and patience. The Prophets all had hope that things would get better and it was their job, their destiny to point out the way to others by giving them hope. Consider our reading from Isaiah today. The prophet uses the most optimistic and beautiful language to describe what will happen if we have patience in the Lord. “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom…rejoice with joy and singing… they shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.” Oftentimes we think of prophets as predictors of gloom because they chastise the people for what they are doing wrong and point out their faults. But very often these corrective measures lead to beautiful imagery and stunning visions of a triumphant God and the people of God. And that vision particularly includes people who are most suffering in the present time – the poor, the blind, the mute, the prisoner, the lame.  In today’s we reading we end with such a beautiful vision of hope:

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,

And the ears of the deaf unstopped;

Then the lame shall leap like deer,

And the tongues of the mute sing for joy…

They shall obtain joy and gladness,

And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Is 35:10)

This hope is re-iterated in today’s Psalm, Psalm 146 which also deals with the outcasts – the poor, the blind, the lame, the widow, the prisoner and the orphan. Does this perhaps give us a key to how we should be conducting ourselves in Advent, the time of waiting.Should we be devoting our attention to those less fortunate than ourselves as a way of preparing for the joy of Christmas. It would seem to be the direction of the prophets, the psalmist and Paul!

Our Gospel today is a continuation of stories about John the Baptist, though it jumps eight chapters from last Sunday. And guess what it is about?  John, now imprisoned, asks a question of Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?” (Matt:11:3) Again it is a question of waiting and whether we need to have even more patience.

Jesus’ answer draws on the Prophets and the Psalmists we heard today. Basically, he says, you don’t have to wait any longer – the blind are receiving sight, the lame are walking, the lepers are healed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised and the poor are getting good news.  In other words, you don’t have to wait any longer, the time is here now. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies and all the beautiful prophetic images are happening right now.

Two thousand years later, we know that. We know that Christ was the fulfillment of the prophets and that he brought us all salvation and opened up the possibility of heaven to us, to all of us. And yet we still wait. Karl Rahner said in one of his homilies that we are an Advent people, that we live in the future. But we are able to have patience because we know, we believe, that we have been saved. We know what our end will be. We wait for the return of Christ so that the kingdom will come and be the only kingdom, and that all divisions will cease. We should have an even greater hope because we know that the initial work has been done. We are saved. But we await an even greater extension of the kingdom and the complete fulfillment of the justice issues that began with prophetic preaching and continue to this day.

We need to recognize today that although we have all been ransomed, there is still quite a lot of injustice and evil in the world, even though we can see signs of the kingdom in the action of others and hopefully ourselves. But we want the complete fulfillment. We want Christ to come again. And all this we are reminded of when we celebrate the first coming, and we prepare patiently for the remembrance of that event of the Incarnation. And again, how can we best be patient and prepare for that coming? By finding ways to get out of ourselves and give ourselves to others; to do charitable works; to find ways to help another in need; to comfort those who have little or are alone.  It is only in this way that you will have a spiritual Christmas.  Put as much time into this as you put in selecting Christmas gifts for others, and I promise you, you will truly feel the peace and joy of Christmas. Let the rose vestments I wear today, remind you of the virtues of patience and charity which together lead to the joy which comes at the end of the Advent season.

And this is the Good News that we need to practice and spread every day of the Advent season.

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

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