Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year – November 11, 2018

1 Kings 17: 10-16Hebrews 8: 24-28Mark 12: 38-44

 

Today we hear different accounts about widows. In themselves, these accounts offer to us examples of individuals whose actions we can seek to imitate. Both women are clearly destitute. But they willingly give of themselves from what little they had. The widow from Zerephath extended hospitality to a stranger. The widow at the Temple offered what little she had to benefit the ministry of the Temple. These examples are obvious sources of comment and reflection. But I have chosen to look at these examples in a little different way. They offer to us not simply the idea of imitating their actions or their behavior, but the consideration that we can recognize that in their lives they reveal God and, importantly, an understanding of God.

 

Jesus commends the woman at the Temple for quietly giving from the last that she had. She did this in a way that she did not receive the recognition that so many others both craved and then made a point of being acknowledged. What we can realize is that the woman’s total generosity also describes God’s total generosity towards us and towards our world that is particularly embodied in and exemplified by Jesus Christ. It is a total generosity that is to be continued in us as the Body of Christ in the world, as the Church in our world. So often we count the cost of what we might do. So often we look for some return, some recognition, some recompense. The widow received none of that. How often does it happen that the continual generosity of God’s love receives a fitting return or appreciation from us? Quite frequently it is just the opposite. Nonetheless, the totality of God’s love does not cease. We can count on God’s presence with us at all times, as we can count on God’s presence with us now in the Eucharist.

 

The account of the widow of Zerephath is even more striking. She is a foreigner. A stranger comes to her and asks her to share the very last of what she has. She gives of it freely and willingly. The return to her is a continuous supply, a continuous presence. Freely and willingly God gives life and the many benefits of life to us, even when we might be estranged from God for any reason, even despite the frequent ingratitude or rejection we show in our failure and sin. What is our proper response? It is to accept this generosity and to allow it to sustain us in life. In addition, we are to reflect that same persistent generosity in our own lives and actions.

 

The widows about whom we heard today can be seen as much more than simple examples in themselves. They are genuine reflections of God’s actions on our behalf. As good examples as the widows might be in their own actions, so much more ought we to see them as sources of insight into God’s loving kindness and generosity toward us. We are also to realize that each of us, in some way or another, can reflect and reveal the generosity of God. We are to reflect, not grudgingly, not looking for recompense or return, but gratefully and freely making known our faith and our trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Thirty First Sunday of the Year – November 4, 2018

Deuteronomy 6:2-6 Hebrews 7:23-28 Mark 12:28b-34

 

I suppose I can be accused of being a bit biased, but I have found reading through the Gospel of St Mark this year to be particularly enlightening. I have found this to be especially so with respect to the structure he uses in order to present the Good News of Jesus Christ.

 

In both getting to know who Jesus is in the first part of his Gospel and in understanding what being his disciple means, the teaching of Jesus, in the manner that St. Mark presents it, adds a twist to what had been or what might have been expected.

 

Such is the case today when Jesus is asked what is the first commandment of the Law. He repeated what had been heard in the reading from Deuteronomy, the basic statement of Jewish faith,“The “Shema Yisrael. . .” “Hear, O Israel. . .”

 

The learned Jewish questionnaire agreed with the response Jesus gave. But Jesus, as before, added a commandment also found in the Old Testament, in the Book of Leviticus: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In doing so, he virtually places it on the same level, with the same status, as the first commandment. Or, if not that, at least he is making it apparent that the complete and correct understanding of the love of God included the demonstration of that love by love of neighbor.

 

So often it comes down to the question not who is my neighbor – Jesus answers this clearly in the story of the Good Samaritan – but what does it mean “to love” my neighbor. Perhaps this is difficult because we equate “love” with a romantic or emotional or a feeling sense. It is necessary to pull back from such notions. The first step to recognize is that there is a need for genuine respect for the neighbor, for all persons. The second step is then to acknowledge that all persons possess dignity as all persons are part of humanity like ourselves and are creatures of God. Respect that is to be shown and the acknowledgment of the dignity of a person, is about the person and not, necessarily, about the actions of a person.

 

Every person, any person, by the simple fact of a shared humanity, is deserving of respect and an acknowledgment of dignity no matter who or what they are, no matter what they may possess or not possess materially, physically, mentally or spiritually, no matter their background, heritage or status. As human beings they are, as we all are, made in the image of God.

 

For those who profess a Christian faith, all humanity shares in this dignity and is thus worthy of respect even more so because of the fact that God chose to share in humanity in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Such is the understanding that underlies the teaching of the Letter to the Hebrews. We are all in a relationship with God because Jesus Christ – the High Priest – achieves reconciliation between God and humanity.

 

To love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength, and to do so truly and genuinely, requires that we also love, respect, and accord dignity to our neighbor. That is the teaching Jesus proclaims today in Gospel of Mark and that is evidence we give of a genuine faith in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year – October 21, 2018

Isaiah 53:10-11 Hebrews 4:14-16 Mark 10:35-45

 

Earlier this week, when I was thinking through God’s message to us in today’s Scriptures, the soaring rhetoric of almost sixty years ago echoed in my mind: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” As memorable as those words have been, especially to us who recall first hearing them, to me they also embrace the sentiment which we have heard today.

 

Putting together his summary of the Gospel message, Saint Mark has offered us a number of considerations to ponder. What we heard today is a clear description of what a committed disciple, a dedicated follower of Jesus, is to understand about the values he has taught us to live out in our lives.

 

Before that, however, we heard a brief passage from the prophet Isaiah. Perhaps the words were a bit shocking. Infirmity, affliction, suffering were seen as the acceptable lot of God’s Servant. It is not a pleasant thought. It almost seems as if God seeks to impose pain on us. That is not the case, however. What this message of the prophet indicates is that it is through pain and suffering that a greater good will be accomplished: the greater good of restoration and justification. Through suffering a genuine reconciliation between God and mankind will be achieved.

 

This is precisely what the mission of Jesus Christ sought to accomplish for us. God coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ and offering himself, giving himself totally, won atonement for us. As the High Priest in the Old Covenant offered sacrifice to atone for sins, so now, in a greater sense, Christ, the new High Priest, gives of himself for the greater good of all mankind and then defeats death through his Resurrection. This is done so that we might live in a reconciled union with God and with one another.

 

If we want to understand and appreciate what Jesus calls us to do in life, we must realize that we are to guide and lead one another by service to one another. It is in service to one another that we recognize the goodness that we possess. It is in service to one another that we begin to experience in ourselves and in others the meaning of the love of God and the love of neighbor. It is in service to one another that we overcome what is most destructive and detrimental in human relationships and in life – self-centeredness and selfishness.

 

A basic lesson that we learn from the Scriptures is that God’s on-going and unending effort is to reach out in love for us This is epitomized in the person of Jesus Christ and in his giving of himself for mankind and thus being the servant of all humanity. This is what we are to reflect by a commitment to service to others. Rephrasing the words of almost six decades ago, we can understand Jesus calling on us to ask ourselves: what can others gain from me, not what can I gain from others. How might we be of service to others, not how can others be of service to me.

 

Even if nothing else, what others ought to be able to gain from each of us through our service to them is an acquaintance with and an awareness of a lived faith and a genuine trust in a truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year – October 14, 2018

Wisdom 7: 7-11 Hebrews 4: 12-13 Mark 10: 17-27

 

We are all familiar with headlines, trailers, sound-bytes that seek to capture our attention in the hope of having us listen, view or read whatever is the subject matter. Clever devices are used in order to capture our interest. We might consider this a way to appreciate the passages from Gospel of St. Mark. They are an effort to gain our attention, to have us listen and react in response. Over the past few weeks we have been hearing different circumstances or different questions that have been presented. The response given by Jesus, however, was not what was expected.

 

Recall the response which was given when, in answer to a question, Peter correctly identified Jesus as the “Christ,” the one who was anticipated, the anointed one. When the Apostles challenged that the Christ was to be rejected, betrayed, and executed, they were severely reprimanded. Recall the argument about who was to be the greatest in power and position. That thinking was rejected. A child, one with no status, was placed before them. They were told to be like that child. Recall the discussion last week about marriage. What had been known and practiced in the past was not what had been intended. Marriage was to reflect the relationship with God as committed, permanent, faithful and life-giving.

 

In a way, then, the Gospel, The Good News of Jesus Christ, upsets the status quo, the comfortable. It does so with the purpose of getting listeners, getting us, to think differently, to evaluate what is more important, what is of greater value. This we are to do while keeping in mind the thought of the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews. We are to understand the Word of God to be like a sword that pierces to the core. It goes deeper than what is superficial. It gets to a very fundamental issue of how we approach being alive.

 

Think through the Gospel passage we heard in this way. The disappointment, the failure of the wealthy man stemmed from the fact that he could not detach himself from what he had. Whatever we might have or not have, the basic lesson for us as Christians is that we always need to be able to put things into perspective. We need to be able to detach ourselves from what is around us. Perhaps this means detachment from material goods. But, more importantly, it means detachment from attitudes or outlooks that are contrary to the values Christ teaches us. It means detachment from situations which do not lead us closer to our loving God.

 

We are to act in this way so that we might be better able to attach ourselves to what is important. Not only is this a deeper relationship with God, but also how that relationship affects all that we do and all that we value in life.

 

How often do we allow ourselves to be upset or unhappy or angry because others have things that we do not? Or because of our concern about what others might say about us? Or because things do not happen just the way we might want them to happen?

 

Jesus’ teaching challenges us to look at things differently and to evaluate honestly what is our lives is most important. At times this may be difficult, as is evident from what we have heard from this Gospel over the past few weeks. But the response from us that is sought is to hear what Christ declares and to do all that we can so that our lives genuinely reflect faith and trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Twenty-Seventh Sunday of the Year – October 7, 2018

Genesis 2: 18-24 Hebrews 2: 9-11 Mark 10: 2-12

 

I am truly fascinated by how a simple story, a story presumably handed down for centuries by oral tradition before being recorded in writing, describes a very basic fact about the relationship between male and female. Although simply told, it provides profound insight and a basic truth about the relationship between God and humanity.

 

What we heard today from the Book of Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, is one of two stories about the nature of creation of mankind. That creation was not just some random occurrence but the result of an action by a creative God. These are not, however, accounts about “how” it happened. We must be clear about that. Rather these accounts are attempts to instruct us about the “why”it happened – revealing the truth of the “why” of creation.

 

The first truth is that mankind, as a reflection of its Creator, like anything we might make reflects us as the maker in some way, needs to live in a relationship. It is not good for the man to be alone. All of the rest of creation does not provide a suitable partner, one who will complete and complement the man. The story illustrates that the fitting partner will come from the very essence of man.

 

The second truth is that although from the same essence, there is also a difference. Two humans are described as existing: male and female. Rather than being opposed to one another, they accomplish completeness from union, from joining. The two become one with the potential of generating life.

 

The third truth, then, is that while there is a difference, there is also a desire, a drive for unity. Although each of us is unique, each is different from everyone else, what is fundamental to what we are as creatures of God is the desire, the drive, to be joined in relationships, reflecting God but also enhancing the creation of our God.

 

It is this understanding that is the basis of the teaching of Jesus. The union of a true marriage as committed, faithful and permanent is the sign of the union God seeks with all of humanity.

 

What we heard from the Letter to the Hebrews illustrates the depth of this desire. God, in Jesus Christ, made lower than the angels, became one of us. This is the only way to communicate to us how much God desires to be one with us. Jesus Christ is the leader of the way of repairing the rupture in the relationship between God and mankind that took place because of mankind’s rejection of God by sin.

 

It is the ministry and mission of Jesus that is directed to re-establishing the relationship between God and ourselves. At the same time, it is the ministry and mission of Jesus that serves as the model of the relationship that is to exist between man and woman in marriage. That is why Jesus holds the union of marriage to be so sacred. In a true marriage that is committed, permanent and faithful we gain an insight into what the relationship between God and mankind, God and us, is to be. The self emptying, total giving of Jesus Christ which is culminated on the Cross is the model of the willingness that is to be shown in marriage: the willingness to trust, to be open, to be true partners with one another. This not only builds and strengthens the relationship with one another but it also begins to fulfill what we are to do as images of and reflections of our good and gracious God.