Archive for November, 2016

Message from Bishop Ron

November 21, 2016

Last week was  my last post of homilies for the next Church cycle of three years. I hope to be back after this next cycle. I have enjoyed presenting my homilies and the wonderful feedback I got from you. May God bless you all. I have returned to the classroom to get an MS in Catholic Psychology and have been elected Presiding Bishop so this is the reason for my departure, not ill health! Please pray for me, and if you are looking for homilies, you might try getting some of my past homilies published on Amazon ebooks entitles “Teaching the Church Year” by Ronald Stephens. Please pray for me as I will for you.

Homily for the Feast of Christ the King, Year C (Nov. 20)

November 14, 2016

Please note that this will be the last homily posted for three years. I will begin again three years from now. I am taking this hiatus because I have gone back to school and my time is limited. If you need to look at my older homilies you can check the published books of homilies listed at the end of this page. Thanks to all my readers and I hope you come back.

Homily for the Feast of Christ the King, Year C (Nov. 20)

Given the name of the feast today and all the readings, we obviously need to talk a little about kingship. The early Jews did not have Kings. In fact, they rejected to whole idea of a political kingship and monarchy because they felt that God alone was their King. When things started to fall apart due to the lack of political leadership, they asked God through the Prophets to provide them with a political King – a kind of subordinate to God type of King. But this Kingship was high in political power both in foreign and domestic affairs as well as  being the judge in the law, in charge of the economy, leader of the army, and especially in his relationship with God which allowed him to be a religious leader as well. Pretty heavy duty stuff for one person.

Before their first King, the Israelites were almost the only nation that did not have a human person as King, and as the Hebrews saw some of the benefits of all being under one King for political unity, they demanded one of God.

In our readings today we see how Kings came to have all that power. The first few Kings were appointed by God directly through a prophet. And they were not always the kind of person that one thought could be a King.  But, of course, God saw qualities that the people did not see. Young David, for example, was a simple shepherd yet became the greatest King of Israel. But it was precisely because he had been a shepherd that he was chosen. We hear in the second book of Samuel today that God said to David: “It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” God’s idea of a King was different than the political Kings of this period – he wanted a shepherd for his people, just as God himself was seen in Psalms as a shepherd. It was only later than political ambition and greed caused the downfall of the Kings. They had forgotten how to be shepherds.

That the Kings originally were seen to be moral religious leaders we can see from the Psalm today. When we sing about going to the house of the Lord, rejoicing, we are rejoicing because the thrones of judgment were set up there. Judgment here is seen as the idea of social justice, a bit different than we think of judges meeting out sentences today. Israelites could come and get justice for injustices done to them. We know from stories in the Bible that King Solomon was expert in issuing judgments and making sure that right prevailed.

So in the first two readings we learn that in the Old Testament, kingship was devised as shepherding and carrying out justice for all the people through wisdom.

The readings today from the New Testament both talk about the kingdom that God has created with Christ as the Head. St. Paul says: “The Father has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.” But he doesn’t stop there. He, too, explains what Christ’s kingship is all about: with Christ as King “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Paul goes on to say that Christ is the head of the body, the Church” and that he is to “have first place in everything.” One of the unfortunate byproducts of church history is that people forget, just as the Jews did, who is really the Head of the Church, and we place that headship into a person, forgetting that no person can take the place of Jesus. He is the center of our religion and our worship.

It is with much irony then that the Gospel reading today which ends our church year is not an image of the glorified King of the universe, but the image of the king on the cross, the climactic moment of his time on earth where he changes everything by his suffering and death. The sarcastically-meant comment on the sign above the cross, “This is the King of the Jews” turns into a the most truthful banner after all. And after that death, the doors of heaven are opened, making it possible for us to be saved and redeemed just as the criminal was saved simply by believing in the reality of Christ as King. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Is it hard for Americans to relate to kingships, we who are so politically oriented to a Republic and democracy? I think it can be a challenge for us. But perhaps the answer for us is to look at the first two images of a King that dominate the concept of kingship in the Old Testament – shepherding and justice. If we see Christ as the shepherd who takes care of us, and guides us, and protects us, and feeds us, and corrals us in, and finds us when we are lost, and if we see Christ as justice incarnate, a person who wants to help us see that we need to be his hands in taking care of the poor, the oppressed, those set apart, those sad and lonely, we shall see a King that we want to follow and emulate. That is the kind of King we celebrate today, and we look forward to that kingdom coming when we shall have all those things all the time, not just little bits and pieces of them, the glimmers we see today.

So let us end our church year which is the completion of a three year cycle of readings with great joy in Christ’s kingship and echo the words of the pilgrims going up to the God’s house in Jerusalem: “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” so that everyday our lives can be filled with the Good News of a God who loves us, forgives us, saves us and helps us. God bless.

Ronald Stephens

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

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Nov. 13)

November 8, 2016

Please note that starting the First Sunday of Advent I will be taking a three year hiatus from publishing my homilies. I thank everyone for their support and positive encouragement, but will be pursuing further education and need the time off. God bless you all.

Homily for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Nov. 13)

The readings in the Church Year are interesting in that you would expect that you would start with Advent, then Christmas, then Ordinary Time, then Easter and Pentecost. But it doesn’t work that way. We have already celebrated the Easter season when we jump back into Ordinary Time which is all about the teachings and miracles of Jesus. So how does the church give the liturgical year a climax then? It does it by looking ahead to the end of time and the glorification of Jesus. This week and next, the last two weeks in Ordinary Time deal with both of those issues, and in Luke it is especially appropriate because we have been spending the last many weeks on the final journey to Jerusalem and so finality seems to be a theme on that journey.Therefore, at the end of the church year we look at the end of time as Jesus often did on that journey.

We start, though, with the prophets’ take on it, in this case the prophet Malachi. The word of God as spoken to Malachi is that there will come a time when the arrogant and the evildoers will be judged and punished. He uses the image of fire that is often used in the Bible because fire is such that whatever is burnt, little is left except ash. It seems to be the most destructive punishment. But Malachi is not without hope for the good among us. He says that “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”  We, of course, interpret this sun as the light of Christ who will continue to be the healer and lead us into glorification with him. The idea of “rising” here is also appropriate for Jesus, and that he comes just like a sunrise breaking up the darkness.

The Psalm, too, was chosen for its positive image of the end of time. “The Lord is coming, coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” Again the emphasis is not of the scariness of the end of the world images that we sometimes see today, but the positiveness of it for those of us who are faithful believers.

It is only by chance if the middle reading has anything to do with the theme of the day and today we don’t luck out on that account. It has nothing to do with last days, but with today only. But it is important because it shows us how we can be the faithful Christians that will be saved on the last day. Apparently in some of the early communities where they were living together and sharing their food and incomes, there were a few who were taking advantage of that and lolling around and not providing any support for the others. I her this from people today about the handouts we give to people – that they are just lazy – and they wouldn’t need handouts if they just got up and worked. That bothers me because it is making the issue black and white and it is a very grey issue. Paul is a bit black and white, too when he says “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” But we must realize that he is addressing this to those people who could be working but choose to live in idleness as he puts it. Paul actually puts a great deal of worth in a person’s occupation and in my Psychology course, one of the things we are constantly told is that a person’s occupational vocation is essential to happiness. Paul wasn’t far off in that.

By the Gospel, though, we are back to the last days. This topic is brought about by the prediction of the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple. Jesus has now arrived in Jerusalem. His own death is immanent and he is drawn to musings about life and death with his followers. Some of his followers were awed by the beauty and the majesty of the temple, which leads Jesus to predict that it was going to be destroyed. This, of course, shocks everyone and they throw questions at him, much as we do today about predictions: when, how, why, how soon?

Now it is unclear, at least to me, whether Jesus’s answer to the questions is referring to the destruction of the Temple or that destruction leads him to generalize or enlarge the picture to apocalyptic size and talk about the destruction of the world. He doesn’t transition from the Temple destruction, yet people have always taken this as Jesus description of the end of times, probably because it is similar to Matthew’s Gospel which is more specifically the end of times.

But Jesus talks about the three signs: false messiahs appearing who falsely give times and places to the destruction; wars and international upheavals; and natural disasters, all of which are worldwide. But Jesus does not dwell on that. He doesn’t make the big thing of it that so many fundamentalists do. Instead, Jesus moves quickly to what will happen to his followers before this time. There will be persecutions, and there will also be great fear and stress about what is going on. It will be difficult to remain faithful to Christ because doing Christ’s work will lead some to be imprisoned, tortured or killed. Families may break apart, friends will desert you. This certainly happened in the early church, and sometimes even happens today.

But then there seems to be a discrepancy. Jesus says, “But not a hair of your head will perish.” Oops. Did Jesus get that wrong? A lot of early Christians perished in the persecutions.

But, no, he didn’t get it wrong because he wasn’t talking literally here, he was talking metaphorically about the soul as we see into least line, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” There is more to us than just our bodies. There is a spirit, a soul, a part of us that never dies, and that is what will triumph and become part of Jesus’s glorification that we will focus on next week as we celebrate the last feast of the Church year – the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe.

How can we take these readings and apply them today in the here and now. First, don’t be bothered by all the apocalyptic talk and false prophets who are always predicting the worst. It will happen when it happens. We need to live in the here and now and do our best to live Christ’s message faithfully. If we do that we don’t need to worry about the end of days – whenever that might be. Use the everyday things to remind you of Christ. Treat your occupation as a path to Christ and find ways to bring Christ into your workplace. Do the best you can in your work and try to do the work that strengthens you and not pulls you down. I was excessively fortunate to be in a  job that i loved for 47 years. Not all people can say that, but that should be the goal and it should be a fulfilling way to happiness. If it isn’t, maybe you need to look at things and change what you do. Not always possible, I know, but let’s look at it as a goal. Meanwhile, living a truly Christian life every day, thanking God once a week at Mass, finding ways to help your church and community – this is what is important, not fear of an event we can never predict.

This is the Good News surrounding the bad news for the unfaithful. God bless.

Ronald Stephens

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

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

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