Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 10, 2020

Acts 6: 1-7 – 1 Peter 2: 4-9 – John 14: 1-12

 

Over these months of a challenging and disorienting way of living brought about by a world-wide pandemic, there has been an expression that has been heard and printed in various places and forms: “We’re in this together.” All of us, in some way or another, whether we like it or not, are affected by this virus and its repercussion. “We are all in this together.”

 

As we know, there are objections and complaints about various steps that have been taken, various behavior modifications we have been called upon to adopt. But, nothing is new. This is evident if we consider, in particular, the passage from the Acts of the Apostles read today. As much as the early Christians adopted a way of living in which they sought to support one another, still there were complaints about how this lifestyle was carried out. Thus, the Apostles and other leaders of the community had to address the issue and come up with a solution.

 

It is a very basic, ver fundamental understanding that developed within the life of the early Church that the loving action of God was on behalf of all mankind and was to be extended to everyone without distinction. In becoming man in Jesus Christ, God took on human flesh, human nature, in its totality, with the exception of sin. In dying on the cross, Jesus Christ reconciled all of mankind to God, not just a few, not just one people or another – all peoples. In overcoming death in the Resurrection, Christ the Lord invite all of humanity to share in the defeat of sin that his rising from the dead had accomplished..

 

If God, in the person of Jesus Christ, did this on behalf of all persons, then the response is to be made by all, together, one with Christ as his Body now present in the world. This can be understood from the dialogue heard in the Gospel read for today. Thomas asked: “Show us the way.” It is, as if he has not yet understood. Jesus replies: “I am the way.” He is showing that basic truths about life and living is found in his ministry and teaching: a way of living that reflects restoration and reconciliation. To Philip’s question Jesus gives a response that suggest that it still has not registered that what God is, who God is, how God can be known, is through a true uniting of our lives in and with Jesus Christ.

 

It is that way, that truth, that life, that Jesus, in his life and ministry, declared. It is this way, this truth and this life, that is to be found in us, all together as, as the Body of Christ in our world today. Especially is this true as we confront this calamity of the pandemic.

 

That we are all together is illustrated for us today by Peter in his letter as illustrated by him in a quite graphic way. We are like a building, a structure that is visible and functional. Christ is the cornerstone, the essential building block that allows the structure to exist. We are visible parts, visible components, of this building. As part of this structure our faith can be experienced in us as: priests – the intermediaries, the go-betweens, in service to one another; as holy – reflecting the goodness of God to one another; as set apart – clearly visible, recognizable and effective with one another.

 

Indeed, we are in this together. We do not live our faith only as individuals. It is basic to our Christian faith that we live it in relationship to the faith of others, that we affect others and others affect us. We live out our faith as a genuine Communion of Saints, relying on one another, respecting one another, supporting one another. We recognize that it is in this building, this visible Body of Christ we are today, that our world comes to know and experience our truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 3, 2020

Acts 2: 14a, 36-41 – 1 Peter 2: 20b-25 – John 10: 1-10

 

Virtually all my life, since the time when I learned to read, I have greatly enjoyed doing so. I have found that reading often takes me to far distant places, involving far different people and their lives. Reading calls upon the use o the imagination in order to expand and appreciate the context of the narrative that is being told. Not surprisingly, then, reading books has been suggested as one way to occupy our time in this new way of living we currently are experiencing.

 

As it happens, I have just begun reading a book entitles “The Alchemist,” in which the central character of the story is introduced as a shepherd caring for his flock of sheep in southern Spain. By a very fortunate coincidence, the author of the book has this individual reflect on numerous occasions on his life as a shepherd. The character speaks many times about the relationship between himself and his flock and how that flock looks to his presence with them and attends carefully to his voice. This account gave me a richer understand of the words and imagery Jesus used today in the passage from the Gospel of Saint John.

 

In this passage Jesus describes himself using an image taken from the pastoral setting of his time. Shepherds call their sheep and the familiarity of their voices lets the sheep know that they are protected. It is that same voice that calls us. It is a voice to be heard and to which a response is to be made. It is a sound that is comforting and that promises protection. It is a sound we want to hear in the midst of challengers and difficulties such as those which confront us in the se says. It is a voice that we are to seek out because of the effect that it can have on us as well as the loving protection it declares.

 

But it is also a voice, a sound, which we must distinguish from so many sounds, so many noises, that surround us – sounds that so often distract us, disturb us, or entice us. They are sounds and noises that so easily disrupt and overwhelm us. In all the sounds that we hear day after day, are they mot sounds that come from those who are boastful or critical or manipulative or untruthful? Ought it not be a voice, a sound, that calls us to recognize that we are loved, a voice that tells us of our dignity and value as persons, a voice that call us to love and to be loved, to care and to be cared for to which we respond?

 

A true shepherd of the sheep, as I have learned in my reading, identifies himself closely with the sheep, as did Jesus with w in God becoming man in him. In return we are to be like him, the gate, the door.

 

Consider the words of Saint Peter that were also read today. We are to be the same gateway as Jesus. We are to be a gateway, a doorway, that is open and welcoming.. We are to live in such a way that expresses forgiveness and speaks of truth in love. We are not to be defensive or vengeful, but truly welcoming in all respects. We are to voice within ourselves that same call that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, makes: a voice, a call, that puts forth, day after ay, a true and committed revelation to the our world, of a vibrant, living, relationship with our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of Easter – April 26, 2020

Acts 2, 14-23 – 1 Peter 1: 17-21 – Luke 24: 13-35

 

I have come to describe these past few weeks as our “Babylonian Exile. ”1 We are properly “exiled” from being able to gather as Church, in our church to celebrate the Eucharist. During this time I have made what efforts I could, with very limited technological abilities, , to maintain a degree of contact through social media. As a result of even these meager efforts, there was a great response to a post of a photo of the church altar as it has been decorated for Easter. The number of acknowledgments and comments made suggested strongly to me that the opportunity to gather as a parish and to celebrate Eucharist is sincerely missed.

 

This awareness makes even more poignant the story recorded by Saint Luke in today’s Gospel selection. The Lord is recognized by the disciples who had traveled to Emmaus, not in the Scriptures that had been discussed, nor even in his physical presence with them. The Lord was recognized in the breaking of bread, a clear allusion to sharing of Eucharist.

 

More than in any other way, the sharing of Eucharist is how we express our faith in the Risen Lord. It is the sharing in Eucharist, the breaking of bread, that distinguishes us in our sacramental Catholic faith. What we do when we gather to celebrate Eucharist is more than a simple ritual that is performed. It is more than a casual recalling of what Jesus once did. It is the presence of the Risen Lord in the mysterious ways that he has chosen, in the bread and the wine which, in faith, we profess to be the Real Presence of the Lord.

 

As the disciples walked along it was the same Jesus who joined with them. As they heard the Scriptures recounted for them, it was the same Jesus. But it was only in the breaking of bread, only in the experience of that particular event, that the disciples were able to realize what was happening to them, who it was that was with them.

 

Saint Luke, in recoding of the details of this event, wants to make it clear to the early Christians and to us that it is in the breaking of bread, the Eucharist, that the Real Presence of the Risen Lord is to be recognized and to be known.

 

We most certainly hear God speak to us in the Scriptures that are read when we gather, but the Lord seeks to be so intimately bound to us that he has chosen this means to give himself entirely to us. How extraordinary are these moments to be! It is only appropriate that we long for the opportunity to gather once again. Perhaps it is our absence from these moments now that will encourage us all the more to recognize the great gift of the Eucharist offered to us by our good and gracious God.

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Babylonian exile is the period in Jewish history during which a number of people from the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in ancient Babylon.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Easter – April 19, 2020

Acts 2: 42-47 – 1 Peter 1: 3-9 – John 20: 19-31

 

If there is a message that we need to hear at this time, it is a message of hope. If there is a message that permeates our faith as Christians, it is the message of hope.

 

This first evidence of hope in the life and faith of Christians is found in that hope that is reflected in the early church as we heard in the account from the Acts of the Apostles. As the reality and effect of the Resurrection of Jesus took hold of them, it transformed their lives. It made them radically different even though this led them to be rejected and persecuted. They gladly accepted all that was happening to them because of the hope that their faith gave to them.

 

Taking to heart the teaching of the Apostles whom they actually had the opportunity to hear, they established a way of living as a community of believers. This enable them to sell what they ha in excess in order to share with those who were in need. They went out from themselves and focused on the needs of others. They were moved to do this because of their common faith based on the Resurrection. Nothing could destroy the true life that they possessed because of their faith in the Resurrection of Jesus. He had overcome the effect of sin that is death. No matter the way they might be viewed by others, their new life in the Resurrection was the most important value in their lives.

 

The faith of those early members of the Church was a way of life. They often suffered rejection and ridicule from their contemporaries. But they lived with hope and with the encouragement such as we also hear Saint Peter offer in his letter. He pointed out that they would be able to survive even persecution because they believe even though they had not seen the Risen Christ. How much more blessed they would be, as Jesus had proclaimed.

 

I sometimes suspect that the idealism that is portrayed to us today in the early Christian community can be considered as far-fetched. Even we can reflect skepticism as did Thomas. At times we, too, can be doubtful. Poor Thomas. Over the centuries he has often gotten a bad press. He was unwilling to accept the statements of his friends about what they had experienced. Perhaps he though them to be deluded. After all, he had left them when they were timid and scared. When he returns, they have a new hope, a new courage, as they speak of having seen the Lord. The skepticism on the part of Thomas is understandable. He needed some proof – physical proof – and it was given to him. But he real proof was not so much in the physical feeling of the wounds but in the loving acceptance extended to him by the Risen Lord in which we, too, share.

 

As much as Thomas wanted proof that Christ was truly in their midst, so we should look for proof and so should others see proof in us, in the faith and in the hope that we reflect in the way we live. That proof is to be evident in our midst, in us, in the Church that we are. That proof ought to be seen in the manner that we are a community of believers in which the dignity of all persons is recognized, in the care that is shown for others, in the Eucharist that is shared, in the prayer that is offered. Evidence of this faith and this hope is to be apparent even in the face of trial, such as we experience now.

 

None of us experience Christ as did the Apostles, as did Thomas. Yet all of us can live our lives in a way that is truly “Blessed.” The words of Thomas, “My Lord and my God” are to express the confident hope and trust we have in a truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Easter 2020

Acts 10: 23-4a, 37-43 – Colossians 3: 1-4 – John 20: 1-9

 

The celebration of Easter this year, such as it is,, is unlike any other that we may known. It certainly is unusual. There is no gathering at church on Easter morning. Family gatherings and celebrations will be limited, at best. Many of the traditions and customs that are familiarly associated with Easter have to be curtailed or set aside entirely. In many ways, where we are today, and what restrictions affect us are disappointing and, I suspect, distressing.

 

But, as I have been reflecting on this sad reality over these recent weeks, I have come to a conclusion that what we are all going through may actually give us a better appreciation of what the Feast of Easter celebrates. Today recalls the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today celebrates the restoration to life to Jesus Christ. It is the victory by Jesus Christ over the death he suffered by execution upon the cross.

 

The many limitations we are now experiencing in mobility, in proximity to others, and even the simple contact we have with one another that we have so often just taken for granted, are certainly inconvenient in many respect and are, to be honest, rather irritating. Yet they can be for us a very stark reminder of the injustice of the betrayal and execution of Jesus Christ. He was a messenger of peace. He was the ultimate messenger of God’s love for all of humanity. Yet he was treated as a common criminal. However unfair or difficult our present circumstances may be, they pale in comparison to what Jesus was subjected.

 

But his death on the cross was not the end of his mission. It actually marked a new beginning. It was his defeat of evil and sin represented by death. It opened the door to his overcoming of death in his Resurrection to life which we recall today. All of this is can be a sign to us that in the darkest challenges we now face, our faith declares to us that there is resurrection, there is restoration, there is a return to life. In our daily lives we look now for normalcy, for what we have known before, to be return to our lives as they had been. It is the hope engendered by our faith, the hope that is recalled in the celebration of the Resurrection, that sustain us now as we look forward to future days.

 

When the disciples of Jesus scattered at the time when he was condemned, or when the women and others sorrowfully left his body in the tomb, it appeared to them that all they had known, all that they had hoped for was lost, was over and done. Yet on that first Easter morning, as the news spread among his followers that his body was not in the tomb, that they were told that he had risen from the dead, slowly the awareness grew in them of the transformation in life, in what it meant to be alive, was now possible was now accomplished.

 

Confronted as we are with the challenges of these days, our faith allows us to look forward to a restoration in our lives. Our faith is based on the Resurrection. These moments have taught and continue to teach us a great deal about ourselves, but they also teach us about the possibilities, in the many examples we see, of the goodness we possess. It is this goodness experienced now, a goodness based on the hope of our Faith, that is a true restoration of the gift of life that we have received. May this year’s celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord on this Easter Sunday be a true revelation of what we are to be as creatures of a good and gracious God.