Posts Tagged ‘Church history’

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B 2015

March 7, 2015

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B 2015

Our first reading today is an interesting story, repeated many times in Hebrew Scriptures in many different ages, but essentially the same story. The Jews through intermarriage, through melding with other nations, through forgetfulness of their duty to God and God’s covenant fall into sinful ways. But, God never stops loving them, as the reading says, “because he had compassion his people and on his dwelling place.” I

n English the word compassion is the same meaning as “suffering with”. If Jesus exists throughout all time, God had indeed understood his creation and could suffer with us because he was one of us. I

n any case, God uses or allows outside forces to take away the promises of the covenant for a time. In this case it was the Babylonians who conquered the Hebrews and took them back into slavery in a foreign land. Because they had not observed the Sabbath for seventy years, they had to make up for those Sabbaths in captivity. In their sinfulness they had forgotten to keep the Sabbath sacred and devoted to God. And so in the Psalm today we hear the pleas of the Hebrew people far away from their homeland in Babylon, weeping by the rivers there, unable to sing a song in a foreign land. At the end of that time, however, God sent them a gift in the person of a non-Jew – Cyrus, King of the Persians, who let the remaining Hebrews go back to their land, and even built a new temple for them in Jerusalem. Cyrus was apparently visited by God and told to let the people go and to rebuild this Temple.

Now at the beginning i mentioned that this story was oft repeated because the pattern is the same. The Hebrews forget God, they fall into sinfulness, God punishes them, they repent and God rewards them. We hear this same pattern repeated over and over again. Don’t you think they would learn? We would think so!

But don’t we also repeat this same pattern in our lives. How often do we forget God, forget to keep God in our lives, miss Sunday services, don’t recharge our God battery, and fall into patterns of sinfulness? Maybe it is human nature to do this, to forget and take for granted. The one constant throughout this, though, is God’s compassion towards us. And how does that compassion show itself? Through grace!

In the second reading today Paul concentrates on the mercy and the love of God toward the constantly wavering creation. He tells us that we have been saved by grace, not our own doing, but as “a gift of God.” It is because of God’s compassion through Jesus Christ’s life and death that we merit salvation. And what should our response to this be? Doing good works. This is how we show our gratitude for what God has done for us. Note the difference in thinking here – we don’t do good works to merit a heavenly reward, a kingdom come, but we do good works because we have been given that kingdom and we need to thank God for it.

The Gospel today from John is part of the dialogue that Jesus has with Nicodemus and it includes the very famous lines which helped create atonement theology.. God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Atonement theology suggests that human beings, having sinned and lost the right to heaven, are saved and gain back that right through the death and resurrection of Jesus, whose death is the ultimate sacrifice to God. Jesus in essence is a scapegoat for our sins. By his death satisfaction was made to God and we are restored to life and light once again as we were before Adam and Eve’s disobedience.

While there are alternate ways of looking at the God/Jesus story, what we can draw from this most common theological position is that thankfulness and good works are the means by which we can repent. We need to find ways to thank God. The ultimate thanksgiving is, of course, the Mass itself, since it is both a thanksgiving (the meaning of the word Eucharist) and a sacrifice re-enacted, done in memory of him who saved us. So going to Mass more often would be a great way of saying thanks, but the thanksgiving can take many forms in our prayer life, in our attention to the good things God has provided for us and in constant attention to his law of love for others.

The second way was what Deacon Gil talked about in his first lenten homily – doing good works. Choosing, not to take away something in repentance, but to find ways to help another, to do some good work for a neighbor, to be God-like in our compassion to others.  If we can find a way to do these two things during Lent – give thanks and show thanks – then we will better be ready for the great feast of Easter that we are preparing for. Let this be our prayer, then this week, that all of us find ways to thank God and be of service to our neighbor, especially the poor and displaced in society.

And this is the Good News that we are prompted to respond 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”]

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Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B 2015

March 1, 2015

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent Year B 2015

Today we heard God speaking through Moses as he tells the Hebrew people traveling through the wilderness what he expects of them in return for his promise to them, his covenant, that they will be a great nation in a land of milk and honey. God chose the Jews, as Ogden Nash once commented:

How odd

Of God

To choose

The Jews.

Why the Jews? Why not some other nation?  We don’t know. He just did. It wasn’t for anything they did or did not do particularly, but it was his purpose to bestow a special grace on the Hebrew nation. In return, they were expected to act in a certain way, a way not completely similar to other nations. Other nations did have law codes. We know, for example, that around this time there was a law code called the Law of Hammurabi that the Babylonians followed.

It was probably the most civilized law code of its time and had about 180 laws.

The law code that God prescribes for the Jews to follow has only ten commandments, some of them even the same as Hammurabi’s Code. The difference was that no actual punishment was attached to each commandment, they were simply to avoid doing them. Hammurabi’s code was different in that extra severe punishments were given for each law.

The first three commandments pertain to the Jew’s relationship with God. The other commandments pertain to the Jew’s relationships with each other. Although when we think of a law like “thou shalt not murder” we apply it to all people. the laws were originally taken to be for the Jewish people themselves, their neighbors being relatives and people nearby them – a moral code of conduct for getting along with your close neighbors.

Over the centuries we have extended their meanings and principles, and although most of us follow these laws today as even Jesus said we must, we are not every careful in the commandments that relate to God proper.

We get anesthetized to taking God’s name in vain with all the swearing in TV and movies today, and barely think about what we are saying when we use the name of Jesus or God in daily speech ourselves. We certainly don’t keep the Sabbath the way God seemed to intend us to keep it – even if we have moved it from Saturday to Sunday in honor of the Resurrection. Most of us do some work, and few of us find the time even to give an hour to praise and give back to God each week on Sunday. There are a million excuses and our culture doesn’t make it easy, but the truth is, it doesn’t seem important to many of us any more.

I heard a good image the other day for Sunday Mass. The person said it was like having a cell phone. The battery runs down after a while and needs recharging. Sunday Mass can be like that. It is the charger for our spiritual battery, and just like the Hebrews, when they stopped their Sunday rest, they forgot about God and all sorts of bad things resulted.

The Psalm today comments on the Ten Commandments saying that in contrast to other nations’ laws, the laws of God are perfect, and revive the soul – there is that re-charging image again. The laws are sure, right, clear, pure, true and righteous.

And although the laws are phrased in the negative – Thou shalt not… – the psalmist sees them only positively – sweeter than honey – he says, because they keep us on the right road to God.

The Gospel for the third Sunday of Lent interrupts the Mark’s Gospel we have been reading to give us a little of John’s. It is here to show us the prophecy of Jesus Resurrection – the event that we are preparing for in Lent, but I would like you to also note that the one time that Jesus gets angry that we are told about happens here as well. It happens because Jesus sees the commandments of our relationship to God being damaged. The house of God, the temple where God dwelt was considered sacred. It was where worship was held, it was where God’s name was never taken in vain, but glorified. Yet the porticos of the Temple were surrounded by trade and finance, and indeed, more emphasis was being put on the buying and selling than the worship and sacrifice itself. Jesus’ anger caused the event that did more than any other to upset the priests and Pharisees and directly led to the death he was about to suffer. So it is an important event. In some sense it was foolish of Jesus and because he gave into his human violence, it may have led to his own violent death. But Paul tells us God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” God had a plan, and that plan brought about nothing less than the salvation of all people.

So as we have to come to the middle of our Lenten preparation, let us use the commandments to help us hone our repentance, help us to review our past faults and sins, helps to pledge anew to be worthy of the grace that God has given us, to question more carefully the motives for why we do things, and resolve to give back to God even more than he asked for. Let us make this Lent a truly repentant one, a way of thanking God for all the graces he has shown us and will show us.And let us take the time, find the time, make the time to show God we care and are thankful for his gifts.

And let this be  the Good News we give to God in return this week!

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 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B 2014-15

November 23, 2014

Homily for the First Sunday of Advent, Year B 2014-15

(Bishop Ron’s second volume of “Teaching the Church Year- Cycle B” is now available on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OSRJST0# )

Today is the beginning of a new Church year, and once again Advent roles around. I like the word “advent” because I always think it is important to look forward to something. Half the fun of something is the anticipation of it. For many children it is the anticipation of getting some new toy, and for many adults it is the anticipation of seeing relatives and friends and having a good time. Unfortunately, because of the furor in the marketplace today, there are some who do not look forward to Christmas or any holiday, but only have anxiety for it.

For me, Advent is a great season because it can put into perspective what it is I really look forward too, and strip away all those false expectations and anxieties created by the marketing and the media. Let’s face it. They just want to make a living, and that is their job – to get you to go out and buy. But the four Sundays in Advent can balance all of that angst by reminding us of why we are really here, what we really should be looking forward to and figuring out how we can get more love in our lives.

On the last Sunday of the year, last week, we learned that we are to be judged simply on how much love we have shown our neighbors. How can we apply that to the Advent season and help to add to our bank account of love? Last week we saw the final coming of the Lord, but now we put that aside and look at the first coming of Jesus, and are reminded of how that coming was stripped away of any richness or revelry. It was simple, it was peaceful, it was calm.

The Jews for the most part have been living in anticipation for centuries, waiting for this Messiah to come. And they kind of missed it, because in their anticipation they imaged , as did Isaiah today, all the mountains quaking and the awesomeness of the event. It didn’t happen that way. Nor did they think that he would make brothers and sisters of us when he came. He was not to be a conqueror but as Paul says today, “by God you were called into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Interestingly the Gospel today is the first of many Gospels we will hear from the evangelist Mark today – actually my favorite of the four Gospels for reasons I hope to explain as the year goes on – but we don’t hear from the beginning of Mark’s Gospel any kind of Advent story. This is because Mark doesn’t have one. As the first to write a Gospel, his is the most spare in details, and in fact, he doesn’t say anything about Jesus until he is about 30 years old and beginning his ministry. So it isn’t a good Advent Gospel in that sense. So what the Church has done is to take a later section of Mark that is about the Second Coming of Jesus, and have us apply it to his first coming.

“Beware, keep alert;” Jesus says, “for you do not know when the time will come.” Certainly that was true of the first coming as well. And his advise to everyone: “Keep awake.” Be on the look out! Keep the coming in mind!

And so that gives us the theme of the First Sunday of our preparation period. Like the Jews waiting for a Messiah, we too should keep awake in case we might miss him.

Within the context of the metaphor, in which we are seen as slaves with a particular job to do in a household while the master is away, we also have to make sure that we are doing our jobs and don’t slack off. And I think that is pretty good advice for Advent, too.

I know that you and I have now been through many Advent seasons, but maybe the job we have been asked to do is changed. Maybe we are asked to show our love and our charity more in anticipation of the master coming home. Let’s not sleep on the job, then. Stay awake to times that we can prove our love for neighbor, that we can service others, that we can provide peace to others in their misery, pain and grieving. Be awake to the opportunities that will show themselves in our loves to be Christ to others.

It is that vigilance, that active waiting, which Jesus seems to ask for today, as we await his coming as an innocent, powerless child on Christmas today. I hope we are all up to it as part of our Lenten observance to balance out the messages of media and marketing.

That is my Advent wish for you and the Good News I present to you 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 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Christ the King A 2014

November 16, 2014

Homily for the 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Christ the King A 2014

(Bishop Ron’s second volume of “Teaching the Church Year- Cycle B” is now available on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OSRJST0# ) be ready for Year B starting in Advent.)

I think there are two interesting things at war in our readings and themes of the day. It is the final Sunday of the Church Year and we are in nature coming close to the shortest daylight hours of the year. We are in dark for many hours now. This darkness inspires the liturgy to look at the last days, the end of the world and the final judgment “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the Angels with him.” For many this is a terrifying theme and we have seen a large number of movies recently dealing with the apocalypse and the rapture. This has always been a dominant theme in many Protestant sects.  St. Paul also mentions destruction. he says: “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.” (1 Cor 15:24)

But in contrast to the King coming in fierce judgment, we also see the King as a shepherd, and remember shepherds were thought of as very lowly and on the bottom of the social scale. But John says that this Son of Man will be like a shepherd separating his flock from the goats. And then John goes on to explain just who will be seen as a sheep and who will be seen as a goat and that bar line that is drawn is all about love of neighbor. The sheep are those who give their neighbor something to eat, something to drink, some clothes, shelter, welcome, care and visitation. Are we sheep or goats? If you have been an active member of this parish, you have pretty well been sheep, I think. If you have been active in your community, supported social causes, gave of yourself to charities, then you are the sheep.

I think sometimes we think of the final judgment as a counting of our many transgressions – let’s see – I lied 4,500 times in my life, I had impure thoughts 66,007 times – and so on. But that’s not what John says. Our judgment will be in relation to the law of Love – how have we served someone else.

Ezekiel who is often thought to have contributed to the fire and brimstone idea of the end of the world, also uses the shepherd image though. God says, through Ezekiel, “I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out….I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered.” And then God shows himself as acting in the way Christ says we should act: “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.” This is the same love that we are asked to show.

The Gospel message is a social message of love for others before it is a recipe book morality – for what is sinful and what is not. The Hebrew Testament is often more about that, and unfortunately through the years, misguided churchmen have made it more about that. But if we get back to the basics and we look at what both Ezekiel and John say we will be judged on, it is very simply on how we treat other people. God says in Ezekiel: “I will feed my sheep with justice.” There it is. There’s the bar we have to reach. And what amazes me is that it is not that hard to do really, and that as so many of us have experienced, it also gives back in joy to the giver.

So my homily is a short one today: I simply want you take a look as the year ends, how much have you done this past year to increase the bank account of love you are developing. Be honest with yourself (only you and God have to know!) and then, see if it is full enough to get you a sheep card!

And this is the Good News that I wish you 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 of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

October 12, 2014

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

In today’s reading, Jesus continues to be hounded by the Pharisees who are trying to discredit him or trip him up. Today they set a trap for Jesus by trying to get him to say something that would alienate Jesus from some of the people, depending on which side he took on the issue. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the two main parts of the religious establishment during Jesus’ time. The Pharisees focused on the Bible and the requirements that it established for everyone while the Sadducees were more interested in ritual and ceremony. The two groups plotted together, however, to trick Jesus. The Herodians mentioned here were a political party, not religious. The religious establishment did not want to support Rome, but the political establishment did. Jesus’ answer then would alienate one of the two groups. They would do anything it  seems to discredit Jesus.

Jesus, of course, understands that this is exactly what they are trying to do and will have none of it.  The tone of his speech in the original actually indicates his disgust with them – and we translate that as – you  hypocrites! – but it is much more sarcastic than that.

Jesus’ answer simply indicates that there are two realms – the worldly and the spiritual. We are in the world and so, bound by the rules of the world, but we are spiritual and so are bound by the Laws of God as well. We need to pay service to both.

In the early Church the letters of Paul show that Paul was very careful to tell the new Christians to live as good citizens. He, too, saw the need to live in the world as it was, and not be put into a situation where they could be criticized and look bad.

What has bothered me in thinking about these readings is when there might be a clash between the rules of the nation and the rules of God. Because of our democratic process we can vote to follow our beliefs, but since we know God’s ways are not our ways, the vote doesn’t always go the way of God. Issues of abortion, birth control, gay marriage are recent issues, but slavery and war have been other issues that have often seemed to collide with Christian values. Who is right? Separation of church and state is not always possible.

With some issues, like slavery, the political process seemed to be ahead of the church on this issue, and it was church theology that changed as a result. Few of us would look at slavery in the Bible today and see it as God approved, though it had been interpreted that way.

Other good questions might revolve around whether Christians have a duty to force their ethics and morality on the majority of Americans. We must follow the laws of our country and render unto Caesar, but we can work to change people’s minds on issues or show a better way by our example. Or perhaps the democratic will is just and the theological interpretations may change. Whatever the case, I am not sure it is always simple, as Jesus’ answer might indicate. Or perhaps it is. Perhaps we are to follow the laws of the country, and live our own lives according to God’s law, not judging others on their different values or ideas. All interesting material for discussion and thought this week.

The reading from Isaiah this week is more difficult to find a thematic connection with Jesus’ teaching except that we see God’s effort at appointing rulers who will bring things in line with his will. Cyrus was a Persian ruler and was not Jewish, yet God was able to use him to widen people’s understanding of the one, true God and to bring glory to himself and the Hebrew people.

Perhaps God also uses leaders to help us understand the modifications in theology that we might be ready for. Abraham Lincoln changed a lot of people’s minds about slavery and his strong belief eventually paid of both in American life and eventually in our theological understanding. God works in many ways – ‘there is none besides him and there is no other’ as Isaiah says.

This week let us not be afraid to challenge some of our beliefs that may not align with social values of the world. Let us examine Scripture and hear God talking to us for the Scriptures are for every age and all time. And know that whether we are rendering unto Caesar or unto God, that all things will someday be one and God shall reign – that is our Christian hope and our Christian belief.

And that is the Good News we can take refuge in when we are troubled by the world around us.

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 of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

October 5, 2014

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

Jesus’ addition of the last section to the wedding feast parable can be very disturbing, and is only found in Matthew. Luke has a version without it. I want to start with it today.

In the beginning of the Christ’s parable some were called to the feast but chose not to come.  This traditionally in Christian terms has been applied to the Jewish people who were the chosen and were friends of God, but did not accept the invitation  to come to the feast of the kingdom that Jesus preached about. So the King called everyone else and invited everyone. Traditionally that has been all Gentiles. And notice there was no distinction between the good who were invited and the bad. All were invited to come clothed in their best wedding garments to show respect to the king’s son. In fact there was historical precedence  that Kings would give banquets for all and would provide clothing for those unable to afford it.

But then we have the last section of Jesus’ parable. The King now turns to be a judge.  The King host sees one person who has come in but has not shown respect by wearing the wedding garment. He was there to eat the food and enjoy the party, perhaps, but flaunted the rules of dress which would show disrespect to the King.

The question often asked is what the wedding garment is or means. Most seem to think that it means repentance. When we become Christians we are baptized, but if we come to the sacrament without true repentance and are not sorry for our sins, then we are not showing respect and will be judged and cast out. Coming into the kingdom, Jesus says, may be free, but there are conditions that are attached to it. We must continue to be clothed and not just accept Christianity on our own terms. It is God the King who provides the invitation and the terms. And it is God the King alone who will judge through Jesus.

Some people seem to think that if they are baptized they are saved. Period. But Jesus indicates here that there will still be a final judgment, and that we will be judged on whether we have continued to wear the wedding garment, continued to follow the obligations of that invitation.

I am sure that Jesus is not talking about all the minor rules and even major rules that churches have established, but is talking about true repentance and belief in God, and how we have respected that belief. Have we acted in a way that paid respect to the generous invitation we were given and the grace that came from Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So, a parable like this, still causes us to think, causes us to consider why we are sitting here in our somewhat comfortable pews, and whether we have coming truly wearing the garment of humility, repentance and faith. Many are called but few are chosen, can be very sobering words for us.

We can see how Paul put this into practice today when he talks about the balance in his life: he has experienced being poor and experienced being rich, of being well-fed, and being hungry.  He knows what the extremes are, but the Christian needs to balance all these things in order to live his life at the Christian banquet and to keep the proper perspective.

And, in the end, that banquet, that wedding feast of the parable, will be so wonderful Isaiah tells us. The passage we read today is so beautiful that i want to quote it again: The Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear…. he will swallow up death forever. Then the  Lord will wipe away all the tears from all faces.” This is our faith. As we start to come to the conclusion of our church year, our readings will focus more and more on the second coming – that time when the kingdom here on earth begun will be made complete, but when there will also be a judgment made. Both of those contrasting images will be presented over the last weeks of the year.

It seems to me that Catholics, although we profess belief each week in the Creed to the “resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”, we don’t often have it in the forefront of our thinking as do many Protestant sects. Each year the Church re-introduces it, so that we can have a complete vision of God’s salvation for us, God’s plan for us and the conclusion of that plan. It should be something, though, that we look forward to if we are living our lives wearing the garment. Let us conducer these things this week, but as we say after the Our Father each week, let us live in “joyful hope” and without anxiety, living in moderation in all things, and trusting that we will be the guests in the kingdom Gd has prepared for us.

This is the Good News that should push us forward this week to more faith, hope and love.

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 of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year A 2014

June 8, 2014

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year A  2014

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is a feast to remind us of the concept of God being three persons, a difficult concept to understand, one which developed in Christian thought over the first 300 years of Christianity. It is a mystery, and I am not quite sure we can ever really understand it it. It began as an attempt by the early Christian Jews to understand how their belief, and indeed the core belief that set them apart from other nations, that there was one God, and one God alone, could be reconciled with the fact that Jesus identified himself with God, yet still spoke of God as outside himself – as a Father. The doctrine of the Trinity was not spelled out, but was pretty much in place in the minds of early Christians by the time John wrote his Gospel sometime late in the first century.

When we read the Bible backwards, that is, when we read it knowing how it ended, we can sometimes see references which at the time they were written may not have made sense, or made sense in describing a particular incident, but with our insight into what actually happened, can be seen as a Christian reference. A good example of this may be the first reading today from Exodus. The incident being told is fairly simple. God had made a covenant with Moses and given him two tablets – what we call today the 10 commandments. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw the people worshipping false gods, he broke the tablets in his anger. At the start of today’s reading Moses is called by God to return to the mountain with two new blank stone tablets, which Moses does early in the day, and there God appears and rewrites the words on the new tablets. It is the description of God’s appearance that can be read backwards. God descended in a cloud and appeared as Adonai or Lord. Could this possibly be a description of Christ whom we now call Lord. “The Lord passed before Moses, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. And Moses…worshipped.” These are words that could easily have come out of Jesus’ mouth in the New Testament when he describes his Father. The reading from Exodus was chosen today, then, as a possible early reference to Christ as God when we read backwards.

The letters of St. Paul pre-date the Gospels, so they are the earliest Christian writings that we have. In the letter to the Corinthians today we have one of the earliest references to the Trinity, and the words we can use to start Mass each week: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

The section of the Gospel of John we read today is probably the most quoted verses in the whole Bible, so often repeated that we may take them for granted or not really hear them any more. But these words reflect the relationship between the Father and the Son, and also gives us a definition of what love really is. First of all “God so loved the world…” We often forget that God created everything and it was all good, and that God loved what he had created. That love is always expressed in action – in doing – much as was the act of creation itself. Our God is an active God – a doer. When his creatures sinned and lost the paradise of goodness that God had created, God did not stop loving but actively sought a way to save the world that was so loved. By taking on our humanity, God offered himself to us through the physical reality of Jesus, to be the sacrifice that would save his beloved creatures and give them back eternal life. David Stern expresses it this way in his commentary on this verse: “to love is to give, to love much is to give much, and God loves the world so much that he gave what is most precious to him.”

The condemnation of the one who does not believe might be looked upon, not as a condemnation of non-believers necessarily, but as a condemnation of people who put all their belief in themselves. The condemnation here is that that person is already not living a life that is fully God-filled. Those who put their trust in Jesus will have a full life right here and now, and also will have a full life in eternity: “everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”

What can we draw from these readings that we can use this week in our own lives? Hopefully, we can renew our belief and our slight understanding of the Trinity, knowing fully that God loves us, loves us so much, that God the Father  offered up his most precious thing for us, his child. We need to remember that when we pray to God the Father, or to Jesus or to the Spirit, that we pray to only one thing – to a just and merciful God who loves us despite our failings. We need to remember that Jesus is the physical manifestation of God and when we partake of the Eucharist, we partake of God. God truly is in us, and that is why we are not condemned and why we have eternal life. Let us see ourselves and our neighbor as physical manifestations of God and treat them accordingly. It is what Jesus would have us do.

FInally, Fathers who are present today on this Father’s Day know what it means to be a loving parent, know what it means to be hurt by their children and yet continue to love them. The description of God in Exodus as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, loving and faithful, should be the description of every Father. We know it sometimes isn’t but that is what we should strive for. Jesus said “Be perfect even as your heavenly father is perfect”. God the Father is our model on this Father’s Day – a Father who would give up everything out of love for his child.

Let us honor our own Fathers today, living and dead, and go out and proclaim the Good News that God is the Father of all Fathers and that he is active and present in the world today. And this is the Good News to take with us today!

Bishop Ron Stephens 

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

 1 David H. Stern. Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, MD, 1992. p. 166

[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”]