Archive for the ‘Being fed’ Category

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 16)

August 8, 2015

Homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 16)

Once again this week we are invited to look at the continuing teaching on the Eucharist as presented by Jesus in John’s Gospel. And once again, we have an Old Testament reading that looks forward to the eucharistic event. Proverbs says: “”You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense [Wisdom] says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity and live…””

And again we sing in the Psalm: Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Even so, Paul, or pseudo Paul” in a voice that is censuring excess at Eucharistic meals, says don’t taste too much: Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit”…and that will lead you “to sing and make music to the Lord”.

So today is all about celebration of the fact that the Eucharist is a wonderful, miraculous, freeing, forgiving thing!

The Gospel repeats and then picks up what we heard last week, re-iterating that the bread from heaven, the flesh of our Savior will give us life now, and eternal life after. Because Jesus has been raised and we are “in Jesus” we too shall live because of him. Hopefully, you found time last week to think about some of these things that we often take for granted.

Because today is so celebratory about the Eucharist I would like to take a few minutes to remind you how many times this ‘bread of heaven” comes up in our Sunday Mass.

We start most Sundays by my saying “As we prepare to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s love, let us acknowledge our failures.”  The mystery of Christ’s love is another way for saying eucharist. Christ’s love for us allows him to give himself up for us, and he does this by giving up his body. Each week at Mass we re-enact that great mystery.

When we get to the Offertory of the Mass after we have finished the readings and said our Creed, the people bring the gifts to the altar, the priest takes them and prays over them. Since I am concentrating on “bread from heaven” today I will only talk about the first one. The priest says..”Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.” The bread of life! Jesus has taken something from the earth, it is refashioned by our hands and the refashioned again into Christ’s body. A threefold mystery.

In the Canon of the Mass, just before the consecration, the priest asks that this bread and wine “become the body and blood of Jesus Christ your only son our Lord.” Immediately following we hear the words from the Last Supper repeated: Take this [bread], all of you and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.” This is the moment in the Mass when we most clearly know what is happening and what sacrifice Jesus was going to make for us.

Immediately after when we proclaim the mystery of our faith, one of the responses is that “we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus until you come in glory”. How we proclaim that is, of course, the Eucharist.

After the consecration we are again reminded that what we are doing at Mass is reenacting the perfect sacrifice. We are told “we offer to you, God of glory and majesty, this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and cup of eternal salvation.” Both themes are proclaimed loudly in today’s Gospel – the life-giving effect of the Eucharist and the everlasting effect of it. Then we are reminded of three examples of offerings being given in the Old Testament. We are reminded of Abel who offered up the fruits of the land to God, of Abraham, who was willing to offer the body of his son, and Melchisedech, a Gentile King, who brought gifts of bread and wine to Abram. We see Melchisedech’s gifts as a forerunner of the gifts Jesus transformed.

At the end of the Canon we proclaim that these gifts are filled with life and goodness, and are blessed and holy.

In the Our Father when we say “give us this day our daily bread”, we can hear echoes of the Old Testament and the manna in the desert which was a daily bread and echoes of the Eucharist as well. In this we are asking for the eucharist’s life-giving qualities.

After the Lamb of God litany has reminded us of the fact that sins are forgiven again, the priest takes a piece of the consecrated bread and drops it into the chalice of blood and silently says: May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it. So there it is again – the two prominent qualities of the eucharist – forgiveness of sin and eternal life. When the priest consumes the bread, you may not realize but he silently says: ‘May the body of Christ bring me to everlasting life’. In cleansing the vessels the prayer uttered is: May [these gifts] bring me healing and strength.

So you see that in each Mass we have structured our worship and praise of God around the idea of repeating the perfect sacrifice of the bread from heaven and the wine of the covenant.

Coming back to John’s Gospel today we might end by repeating Christ’s explanation to us: “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.

I ask you this week and going forward to watch for the mentioning of the bread of heaven at Mass in attempt to not let us take the Mass for granted, but to make it a real eucharistic meal binding us to Christ and to one another. Then we can echo the final prayer of the priest: Lord may i receive these gifts in purity of heart. May they bring me healing and strength, now and for ever.:

This is Good News, and it is news that bears repeating today.

(Please note that the Catholic Apostolic church still uses the post Vatican II translation of the Canon, which I have used 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 for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 9)

August 1, 2015

Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 9)

We continue with Jesus’ teachings on the eucharist today and the idea we began last week with Jesus proclaiming himself to be the bread of heaven.

I want to start, however, with the first reading from the Book of Kings. Elijah was a prophet who was depressed.  I think if we read the selection carefully, we could put together all the elements of a good case for depression.

I checked out a doctor’s list for signs of depression and here’s what I found. A person may be depressed if they can’t sleep or want to sleep too much. Elijah sat down in the middle of the day and fell asleep under a broom tree. A depressed person finds tasks that were all right before to be difficult.  Elijah was finding it difficult to prophesy, especially when no one heeded his prophecies. The depressed person feels hopeless and helpless. Elijah asks that he might die! The depressed person can’t control negative thoughts. Elijah says “I am no better than my ancestors – take away my life.” The depressed person has no appetite. Elijah hadn’t been eating and didn’t want to eat until the angel forced him to. Even after he hate he went to lie down again. The final thing that is noted in depression is that the person feels life is not worth living. And that seems to be the whole attitude of Elijah in this reading.

Many people, maybe even some of us, suffer from depression. Elijah had no diagnosis, no doctors to prescribe for him,but God sends an angel to him to feed him and to push him on. The passage ends with Elijah “went in the strength of that food, forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mountain of God.

We seem to have made medical strides with depression today, but one thing a patient is not told is to put some hope in God who told us he would never send anything to us that we couldn’t handle with his grace. It was, in this case, food that God sent, that strengthened him and pulled back on his depressive state.

We, too, need the food that God sends. Our Psalm says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” “I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” A little bit of God goes a long way, and a little of the food from heaven can cure us.

That, too, seems to be the message of Jesus in the Gospel today, among a number of theological messages John presents to us.

Our Gospel passage picks up from last week when Jesus proclaimed himself the bread from heaven and some of the literal minded crowd wondered how he could say he was from heaven when they knew he was just a carpenter’s son, the son of Joseph.

In answer, Jesus begins a discourse on how God has sent this bread to them in the form of a human, and has given grace to people to allow them to see Jesus for that bread. Jesus explains that if they have learned from the Old testament and have been taught by God, they will come to him, for they will see him as the fulfillment of that promise of old.

Then the shocking promise comes. If you eat of the bread from heaven, bread which means both the teaching and words of Jesus, and later the eucharistic bread that is his body, you will not die.

On one level the people must have thought he was crazy – how could they eat the bread from heaven and how was someone not supposed to die – ever! It made no sense.  But Jesus doesn’t let it go. He says “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world [to accomplish this feat] will be my own flesh.

As I said last week, it makes sense to us because most of us have been brought up with this concept, this idea from our youth, but imagine hearing it the first time. Is it not surprising that many people found him a bit crazy, if this was how he was talking. I asked you last week to reflect on the importance of the eucharist, and this week I would like to to reflect on the healing power of the eucharist. Just as God was able to help Elijah’s depression, the food that came down from heaven which is Jesus, can also help us to be healed, sometimes physically, but most often spiritually. These few weeks in John, we can find Jesus at his most outrageous self in his teachings, something we have never known or have forgotten. But the content of what he says needs to rattle our own brains so that we can come to depend on the eucharist, to know that it is truly a healing gift – not just for forgiveness of sins, its major accomplishment, but for other healings as well.

Do we think about what we are doing when we go to communion? Do we see it as a healing power? Do we see it as partaking in Jesus’ death to give life to us? Do we discover the peace that comes with communion? Does it influence our lives during the week? Do we miss it dreadfully when we can’t partake of it? I hope that you will spend a few moments this next week, asking yourself these questions, and if it has become something rote and ritualistic for you with little meaning, try to discover the true meaning and how it can affect your life for the better. Does it lead to what Paul tells us today – “to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

And this is the eucharistic Good News I proclaim 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 for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 2)

July 25, 2015

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 2)

As I mentioned last week, we are taking a mini-sojourn into the Gospel of John and specifically those sections of Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist. Before we begin that today, though, the Church provides us with the Hebrew background that we need to know in order to put Jesus’ words into the context of Jewish life two thousand years ago.

We begin today with the reading from the Book of Exodus which, as you know, contains the movement of the Jewish people out of their slavery in Egypt and their forty year trip to their new Promised Land.

In our reading today, we hear the Hebrews complaining about their stay in the desert, or what they call the wilderness, and it could not have been very pleasant. There were a lot of people, and because they were traveling, there was no way to grow food. Yet everyone had to be fed. They found there was, of course, not enough food that they could scrounge to feed everyone, so they were starving. It was not an unfounded complaint they were making.

Presumably Moses brings their complaints to God because God sees their hunger and finds a way to feed them. They had apparently brought a few animals with them that they could kill and eat, but they would soon run out and they had nothing else. So the Lord says: “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you.”

God then sent quails each night that they could catch and kill, and in the mornings on the ground was a substance much like bread that they could gather and eat. The Israelites named it manna, bread from heaven.

The Psalm today remembers God’s kindness to the Israelites in the desert, and although they never ate or tasted the manna, they remember through the stories that their grandparents and great grandparents passed down to them about it. They thanked God for his goodness for this bread of heaven and this bread of angels.

So the background we need to know is that God took care of his people as God always does, and specifically in this case by nourishing their physical bodies that were starving by giving them the bread from heaven.

Last week in the Gospel, we saw how Christ was able to also feed the hungry with physical bread in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The crowd had been amazed that they had all been fed, and even though Jesus tried to escape them, they followed Jesus. Jesus says that they had followed him only because he took care of their physical needs, their hunger, not for the reasons that they should have followed him. Jesus is more concerned with their spiritual lives, and feeding their spiritual lives with food that will last forever. He says that they need to work for that kind of bread that will last forever, and the work that they have to do is to believe.

We have seen that idea of the importance of belief in Jesus many times over the last few months, and here John picks up that theme as well as Mark had.

Now our background from Exodus will help us. The crowd tells Jesus that Moses gave their ancestors bread from heaven. They ask, what are you going to do to help us believe? Rather odd, since Jesus had just done a rather major miraculous thing for them by feeding five thousand!

Jesus reminds them that it wasn’t Moses that fed them bread from heaven, but God. God sent them bread from heaven and gave physical life to the world. And now God is sending bread to give spiritual life to the world. And this is where it must have really shocked the people listening to Jesus. They asked where is this bread that God is sending? And Jesus tells them…”I am!”

As Catholics, we were all brought up on this outrageous idea and it doesn’t really seem so foreign to us, but try to imagine what it must have sounded like to the crowd following Jesus. Jesus is bread? Jesus was sent to God for them to eat? If they come to Jesus they will never be hungry spiritually? How crazy must that have seemed to them on the first hearing.

We are lucky, because we know what followed, and we know how Christ’s body becomes present in the eucharist – the bread we consume here each week. But the enormity of this idea, the craziness of this idea, the bizarreness of this idea should have shocked his listeners. And maybe we need to be shocked every once in a while, too.

We have this amazing gift each week – bread that gives life, that allows us never to be hungry or thirsty spiritually and food that will bring us eternal life! Yet, so many people ignore all that and try to be spiritual in their homes and away from the eucharist. If we really understood and believed the immensity of this gift, nothing would be able to stop us from having this pure gift each week. Unfortunately, through unbelief, through repetition, through busy lives, it doesn’t seem all that important or amazing to us any more.

We talk about Good News each week. Well, this news of Jesus today really is good. Let us spend the week reflecting on what a gift it is to us, how by taking the eucharist we can never be spiritually hungry or thirsty, and how we can better prepare ourselves and take advantage of the remarkable powers of this sacrament. Truly good news for a truly good people!

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”]