Posts Tagged ‘Trust’

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B 2014-15

December 14, 2014

Homily for the Fourth  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 in the book of Samuel we get the story of David who was rewarded for his faithfulness to God and his wanting to build a place to house the traveling ark of the covenant. God declares that he will in return build a house for David as well, but it is a house that will be established after David’s death,  but from his children that house will produce an offspring whose reign will never end. Again, looking backwards as does Paul in the writing to Romans today, the early Christians saw this as the reign of Jesus, A son of David, the secret for long ages which has been disclosed..

The psalm re-iterates this prophecy and promise: “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.”

So that, of course, is the background for our Gospel reading today and why Luke chooses to show the Davidic line of Jesus through Joseph. We have today the familiar story of the angel Gabriel visiting the virgin Mary with the startling announcement that she is to conceive a son, and tells her what to name the child. Gabriel then prophesies that this child, this offspring of David’s line will be great and will be called the Son of God, the offspring of God. He will be the inheritor of David’s throne and covenant, and, in the same words that God used to Nathan, Jesus will be forever the ruler, and his kingdom will never end.

The angel Gabriel appears only three times in Scriptures. He appears to Zechariah in Luke’s Gospel, and to Mary, and in the Hebrew Testament he appears to Daniel. Because the Book of Daniel is so eschatological, which means dealing with death, judgment and the final destiny of mankind, it is appropriate that Gabriel appears here as well since Jesus will reign forever and be the one to come at the end of time.

Only two of the four Gospels have a birth story. Mark was not concerned with the issue and John treated it symbolically. Matthew and Luke retain the same basic facts though the stories are really quite different due to what each wanted to point out. As I stated earlier, Luke’s genealogy goes all the way back to Adam and not just to David. Many of the incidental events around the birth are also different fro each writer as well. Matthew was writing for a primarily Jewish audience while Luke was writing for a Gentile one. This alone shaped what they wanted to show in their stories, and so their emphases are different. Luke also feels that it is important to point out that nothing is impossible with God, especially because the story of the virgin birth is so scientifically absurd.

In just a very few days we celebrate the birth that Mary so amazingly agreed to, with a complete trust in her God. “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to thy will.”

As we make our final preparations for Christmas, let us ponder those words of Mary. For some people Christmas is a difficult season as they remember relatives who have died and won’t be present, or who are alone, or who get upset with all the media hullabaloo going on. Let’s just give in to Jesus this year. Let us be servants of the Lord, accepting the will of God for us. If we can develop that all-encompassing trust of God, knowing that out of all the chaos, misery, suffering, depression, unhappiness that sometimes make up our lives, God has a plan for us, and the ending will be good, despite what it may look like to us now. Trust in his infinite mercy and love. God sent his Son in human form, lowered himself to experience what we experience. He knows our humanity, he partakes of our humanity, and he will empathize with us, and carry us through. That really is the gift we celebrate each Christmas, as we focus on the child, the helpless God in the manger, about to born again in our memories and our liturgies. Let this thought give you peace and a little bit of joy in these hectic last few days, and let us experience the mother’s joy after birth as we welcome the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

And this is the Good News message of trust and peace I want to  leave you with today.

In just a few days we will celebrate the birth that

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 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

August 3, 2014

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

We begin today with a reading about the prophet Elijah. Most of us are not all that familiar with Elijah except perhaps that he was an Old Testament prophet who never died but was taken up into heaven, and is thought to be going to return before the end of the world. In the verses before this reading, Elijah is very depressed, and says he can’t go on and he prays to God that he might die. Rather ironic, since he is one of the few Biblical people that never does die. But God takes care of him and when Elijah goes into the wilderness, God sees to it that he finds food and drink, and that he rests.

Once his physical needs have been taken care of, Elijah goes into a cave and God allows Elijah to vent his anger on the Hebrew nation because they have not heeded him and have turned to other gods. He tells God that he feels alone and isolated and depressed.

God realizes that what Elijah needs at this point in his life is a personal encounter with God and so God tells Elijah to leave the cave and stand on Mount Horeb, the place where Moses had been given the Ten Commandments. As Elijah did what the Lord had said, and he waited to hear God, he began to look for God  in dramatic ways – in thunder and lightning, earthquakes and wind and fire. Just as many of us look for God in extraordinary manifestations, so did Elijah. But God did not come to Elijah in any of those ways, but he came in the simplicity of silence, in a whisper instead of a loud roar!

The lesson here for us is not to look for God in the extraordinary, but in the simple. Listen to the silence. It is there that we will hear God when God speaks to us. It is the same peacefulness that the first lines of the psalm repeat today: Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people.

Elijah was depressed and it took God’s voice to get him out of it. Similarly, Paul is depressed today as well in the reading from Romans, and he, like Elijah is upset because the Hebrew nation as a whole has not accepted Jesus. He is greatly saddened by that fact since the promise belonged to the Jews first. Paul says he has great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart over that fact. God does not console Paul in his reading. He is consoled, however, by the fact hat he knows he is telling the truth about Christ, and the Holy Spirit confirms this by giving him a clear conscience in regard to the matter.

In the Gospel today, this theme is carried out with the apostles being the ones, who were not so much depressed, but frightened. Jesus had gone, like Elijah, to the mountain to pray, to communicate with God. The Apostles had gone into a boat and were crossing, without Jesus, to the other side of the lake when a storm erupted. In their fear they saw a figure walking toward them on the water, and their fear turned to terror. They really couldn’t believe that it could be Jesus walking on the water even though Jesus spoke to them and told them not to fear. Peter recognized Jesus and wanted to come to him and so he asked Jesus to command him to come and walk on the water as well. So Peter climbed from the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus until he became frightened by the wind and waves, and began to sink. Jesus reached out and caught him but indicated that he sank because he lost faith. And when Peter and Jesus climbed into the boat, the winds stopped and it became peaceful again. Peter had listened to the Lord, and was able to do the impossible – walk on water – but when he was distracted by the winds and the waves, he began to question what was happening and began to sink. This event marked the moment in Matthew when the divinity of Jesus became clear to the Apostles despite other miracles he had performed. It seemed to solidify their belief that this man was truly the Son of God and worthy of worship.

What kinds of lessons can we draw from these readings today? Well, first of all, let’s look for God in the moments we might not expect him – in the silences, in the faces of others, in the stillness. It is in these moments that God talks to us, inspires us, helps us make decisions, leads us. And secondly, let us look to Jesus and not be distracted by other things. If we can keep our minds and hearts focused on Jesus there is nothing that we can’t do. It is when we are distracted and look away, when we lose faith in ourselves and question God in our lives that we are prone to depression and worry. Jesus can come to us on the water, and we can follow him, just like the child who, being thrown into the air, trusts that his father will catch him. That kind of faith and trust will give us the ability to hear God, and to follow him no matter where he leads us, knowing that truth and peace will prevail in our lives.

And this is the Good News of how we communicate with God, and how we need to focus on Jesus in our lives.

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 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014

July 27, 2014

Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A  2014

The theme of our readings today is very simply – the Lord provides. Both our physical needs and our spiritual needs can be taken care of if we put our trust in God. If this is so, then why do we still need things? The only answer can be that we haven’t fully placed our trust in our Creator. Let’s face it – it is not an easy thing to do. Even St. Thomas who was so close to Jesus was not able to do it without physical proof. And most of us are not saints yet!

Yet, I am always so very surprised that when I let go and give everything over to God, somehow things get better. But most of us have to be overwhelmed before we end up doing that.

In the Gospel today we see a stunning example of faith and trust in Jesus. We all know that a great crowd of people can turn against someone very quickly, and hunger and thirst are two of the base needs that cause revolution and war. The apostles were worried when the evening was coming and none of this crowd of people had been fed. Yes, Jesus had been very charismatic that day, and had compassion for the crowd and worked all sorts of miracles and healings for them. But hunger can turn a crowd.

The Apostles thought the best idea was to send them away to nearby villages so that they could purchase food. I presume that most of the crowd would not have much money, and purchasing food might not be an option for them.

You can imagine their surprise when Jesus said that their idea wasn’t a good one and that the Apostles better feed them instead. Someone today would probably have looked at Jesus as though he were joking, and say “Yeah…right!”

Bur Jesus was not joking and asked them to gather what food there was – which was really very little. And what did Jesus do? he put his trust in God and prayed to God. he then said the traditional blessing before a meal, and started to distribute the food to the Apostles to give out. The result: 5000 ate supper.

I am reminded of a wedding I performed a few weeks ago.  I had left a ciborium at the door and asked people to put a host in if they were going to communion. When the gifts were brought up at the Offertory, the ciborium was empty – they either hadn’t heard or felt embarrassed to get out of their seats.  In any case, I put in about twenty hosts just in case. Well, at communion, suddenly rows and rows of people got up to go to communion. I looked at my poor twenty hosts and all these people – and said to myself: “Jesus, you fed the five thousand – help me here!

Every time someone came up, I cut the remaining hosts smaller and smaller and in the end, about 100 people came to communion and I ran out for the last five. The last five got a nice blessing and an apology.  Guess I am nowhere as good as Jesus yet!

The Psalmist and the prophet Isaiah both re-iterate the theme of trusting in God to provide for us. Isaiah uses the beautiful metaphor of eating and drinking applied to the Word of God. The Word of God will sustain us even more than wine, milk and bread. So if we are needy, we simply have to come to the waters of Scripture and eat the food that is provided there. The Psalmist cries that “You open your hand to feed, us Lord, and satisfy our needs.” The Lord has compassion on us and he loves us.

One last word about these readings today and that is about the question of “need”. Only the Lord knows what we truly need, and as we have said over and over, God’s ways our not ours.  We may think we need certain things, and in our culture, we always seem to be needing something. None of the things that God provides in Scripture are things of excess – they are base needs: hunger, thirst, love. Too often today our ‘needs’ are tied up in things that are excesses or unnecessary to a simple way of life. And that is why perhaps we only think to ask God, and give things over to God when we are very low and needy – because these are the things God is most likely to provide.

Finally, we need also to pray to God as Jesus did, eyes open – perhaps a metaphor to be very clear in what we are asking – and keep knocking on God’s door. Jesus gave us a way. We just need to follow it.

And this is the Good News of God’s providence that we are given 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”]