Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourteenth Sunday of the Year – July 8, 2018

Ezechiel 2: 2-52nd Corinthians 12: 7-10Mark 6: 1-6

 

Last week I mentioned that as we hear brief passages from the Gospel of Saint Mark this year we ought to keep in mind that the approach he takes is to pose the question in the first part of his presentation: who is Jesus? Thus, in the account of various incidents and events, there are also some rather negative views that are expressed about Jesus,.

 

Some of the leaders of the people, especially the Pharisees, strict observers of the law and various regulations, tend to write Jesus off as rather slip-shod, because he does not insist that his close followers abide by strict rules about the Sabbath observance. Then there were the concern expressed by his own relatives about his mental health. Even some of his close followers, his disciples, were hesitant to place faith and trust in him. Today we hear from persons of his own home town. They certainly had questions. They were convinced that they knew all about him. He was a carpenter. They were acquainted with his close relatives. They expressed skepticism and doubt about him and about the legitimacy of what he was saying and doing.

 

In the early part of his presentation, Mark is laying out some of the questions or concerns about Jesus that his listeners might have – questions and concerns about who Jesus is. But what it comes down to, as far as the people in his home town and others are concerned, is that Jesus is not what some expect or want. Who he is does not fit their ideas or their purposes. It is easy to look at this in the context of the times back then. But it would serve us well to look at this in terms of our own times and place today.

 

As we hear it today, what is fundamental to the Gospel message is the revelation of God. God, who is goodness and love for all of us, all persons, all creation. Is this call to us to live up to the potential as reflections and revelations of God acceptable to us; are we comfortable with it? Or do we, rather, choose to reject it because of the demand it makes on us?

 

When the prophet, Ezekiel, was called to speak to the Chosen People of the Old Covenant, to speak truth to them about their failure to live up to that agreement with God, he was warned that they were a rebellious people, unwilling to listen. He was also reminded that he was not to back down, God was with him and would guide him. Do we understand this about ourselves?

 

Saint Paul also ran into opposition, but he also recognized his own weaknesses. There were others who may have been more polished, more acceptable in what they said, especially as it fit their own purposes or what their listeners wanted to hear. But Paul knew his role and what he was committed to do, whether or not others were willing to accept him or his work. Do we show that same tenacity about what we believe?

 

What Jesus Christ calls us to do is to recognize what we are, as creatures of God, as children of God, and how this is to effect and guide us. We are to give clear evidence of this in how we live day after day. How we are to reflect the goodness of God may not be and is not inline with so many of the values of the world in which we live, and even with the values of those who describe themselves as Christians.

 

Does what we say and what we do today and every day reveal the power of God’s mercy and love? We need to ask ourselves this question. Is what we say and what we do show honor and respect, hope and healing, to ourselves and to anyone and everyone who is a part of our everyday lives? We need to consider this carefully. Is what I say and what I do each and everyday reflect a genuine recognition before all else – even with weaknesses and failings – of what I am to be and what I am to do in making known a firm commitment, trust and confidence in a good and gracious God?

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Thirteenth Sunday of the Year – July 1, 2018

Wisdom 1: 13-15, 2: 23-242 Corinthians 8: 7, 9, 13-15Mark 5: 21-24, 35b-43

 

In composing the Gospel account, the Evangelist Mark developed the first part of his text around a simple question: who is this person, Jesus? What can we know about him? What can we expect of him? Rather than simply hearing the accounts of different events that took place, we are to listen to what is being recalled with the view of what does this event tell us about Jesus.

 

Perhaps Mark chose to include this report of an encounter between Jesus and a synagogue leader because synagogue leaders were among those who questioned Jesus and were skeptical about him. Perhaps Jairus was approaching him for selfish reasons. “What might Jesus be able to do for me?” In a way, it almost sounds too familiar.

 

It is easy to see Jairus acting out of a selfish motivation. Here is this wonder-worker, he might say. I have a problem. Maybe he can solve it. There is a major insight into Jairus, however. He does not give up. He hears that his daughter is dead yet persists in his request, despite the ridicule of the crowd that is present.

 

The whole incident points out an important lesson in the relationship with God. In the dialogue with God that is apart of the relationship with God, in the prayer life in which we speak to God for something, we might think of being on a lesser level in that relationship, a dependent level that somehow seeks to manipulate a response that is favorable to what we want.

 

Think about this on a human level. When we are in the position of having to ask for a favor we are rather reluctant to do this with some people. It puts us into a position of dependency. There is a certain degree of risk that might be involved. We fear that we might have to do something in return for that favor. But, with other persons, or perhaps only with one person, where there is genuine love, where the relationship is truly deep and abiding, there is no fear. To ask a favor is very much a part of that relationship. There is no cost. There is no need to reciprocate because of the level of the relationship, the love that is present.

 

We can understand Jesus as making known what level of a relationship with God we are to strive to achieve with God. God is the author of life, of all that is good, as the Book of Wisdom points out. God wants to share with us all that is good. This is how we can understand what Jesus is doing in this incident. He is giving life back to the little girl. It is an illustration of who he is. It reveals that Jesus is: the one who restores the life-giving plan of God.

 

In showing the need for God we are, in reality, showing our love for God. We are attempting to achieve with God the same thing that is present in the human situation mentioned above. It is a closeness to God, a depth of the relationship with God, that flows naturally from us and from a genuine union with God. It is a relationship with God that reaches a level of total confidence, total trust, total love.

 

The lesson of the raising of the daughter of Jairus is simple yet profound. The Lord seeks to give himself to us totally as the giver of life. He wishes to share life. He wishes to share love. The Lord wants us to be able to develop a familiarity, a trust, a love to such a degree that we act freely and without fear and, in so doing, reveal truly good and gracious God

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist – June 24, 2018

Isaiah 49: 1-6 Acts of the Apostles 13: 22-26 Luke 1: 57 -66

 

As is its practice whenever June 24th falls on a Sunday the Church steps aside from its normal routine of Scripture readings and prayers for the Sundays of the year to recall the birth of John the Baptist. In different stories in the Gospels, John the Baptist is introduced to us. He is a relative of Jesus of Nazareth. Later on, after he grows up, he comes out of his life in the desert to preach repentance. He prepares the way for Jesus. He baptized Jesus. He sends his followers to Jesus to be assured that Jesus was the one who had been expected. When John is certain of this, his work was completed. He had performed his task in life. He was then put to death as a result of speaking the truth to Herodt. These are the accounts that we read of John theBaptist in the Scriptures.

 

John played an important role in the announcement of the Kingdom of God, the making known of God’s abiding presence in which we are all called to participate. Yet John then passed from the scene. At one point, in fact, Jesus says that those who embrace Jesus’ teaching are more important than John. This declaration ought to make us stop and think. Here is someone completely dedicated to his job, who was not afraid to speak out, even condemning Herod and risking his own life. Yet we are told that the least born into the Kingdom of God is greater than John.

 

To be born into the Kingdom of God, to be instrumental in making the reality of God both known and experienced by us and through us, must certainly involve a great deal. It must involve more than simply having the name or the title of Christian. It is a life, a way of life, a dedication to revealing the good of God’s love and presence.

 

What we see in John is his complete commitment to making known that the Lord was coming. He placed himself at the disposal of the Lord. All of his life was given to this task. So that if we who are followers of Jesus, who are said to be greater than John, what is expected of us?

 

The example of John, and especially the comparison Jesus makes, is a genuine challenge to us. It makes demands of us that we often do not want. It means that our focus is not to be on ourselves. It requires a way of thinking and acting that is a continuation of the ministry of Jesus, a constant choice being made in our lives to reveal God’s goodness, to make known the love of God in the world, and in how we live out our daily lives.

 

This all contradicts so many of the values which our world pits forth with its emphasis on power, on material goods, on self interest. We might say that we are neither powerful or wealthy and have little chance to be so, but the focus on self-interest, on selfishness, can often creep into our thinking. Using others, hurting others, judging others in word or thought, these are indications of a selfishness that is so contrary to one who is to be born into the Kingdom of God. They are contrary to being one who can know of the tremendous gift of God’s love that is evidenced in the redeeming action of Jesus Christ. Selfish choices do not reveal the goodness and love of God.

 

The reminder of John the Baptist is made today so that his example may challenge us to proclaim, by lives and by actions in our ordinary every day world, that the key to appreciating fully the gift of life that has been given to us is to reveal the loving kindness of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Eleventh Sunday of the Year – June 17, 2018

Ezekiel 17: 22-24 2 Corinthians 5: 6-10 Mark 4: 26-34

 

A favorite expression used by Pope Francis when he is addressing and encouraging priests and pastors is to remind them to have “the smell of the sheep.” In other words, he is urging them strongly to be part of the life of the people they serve. The imagery, of course, is based upon the references and parables of Jesus in which he speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd or uses a faithful shepherd as an example of the care that is to be shown for those being served.

 

While I understand the point that the Pope is making, I have a particular preference for e parables of Jesus such as we heard today. These are the parables that speak of seeds, of planting, of growth and of harvesting. I have often said that rather than the smell of the sheep, I know the smell of the soil.

 

As many may know, I have come to appreciate these images on planting, growth, and even harvesting -although that is limited to herbs – simply by working around the parish property. The first example Jesus used points out, however, an important distinction that must be understood. On the one hand, planting and harvesting depend on the effort an individual makes. In order for that plant to have life and growth, it must first be put in place. The process that follows, the growth and development that takes place, mysterious as it is, depends upon the inherent nature of the plant, the inherent nature with which the plant was endowed by the Creator.

 

For there to be success in a garden or on a farm, or simply in a plot of herbs, there must be both the effort made in planting the seed or the plant in the ground, along with tending and nourishing of them, so that the process of growth that the inherent nature of the plant possesses can occur and thereby provide beauty or function.

 

Jesus uses the very same image, in order to convey an important consideration. If the kingdom of God, the reign of God, that is, the experience of the presence and action of our loving God in our lives and in our world, is to occur and to have an impact, a co-operative effort must be present. It is a two-fold process. We must do our part to accept the message Jesus declares. We must recognize that what gives the greatest meaning and dimension to our lives comes from a life lived in union with God. It comes from a relationship in which God is a significant part of the choices we make. This is the seed, the plant that we insert into the soil of our lives. Then, in ways we may not always realize or appreciate or understand, that presence of God, as being important to us, grows in the soil that we are and is productive in our lives. It is in this manner that the active presence and love of God is harvested in us.

 

Jesus announces the desire of our God to be united with us, to be actively present in our lives. But we must, as well, invite God’s relationship with us. We must tend and nourish the growth of that relationship within the soil of our lives in order to being about the harvest, the results, of that relationship.

 

I prefer these parables because of the enjoyment I find in working with the plants in the yard. Doing so, however, also puts me into contact with the nemeses of those plants and flowers: the weeds. They are persistent as they appear and re-appear. The smell of the soil, and the working of the soil of our lives likewise makes us confront the weeds of our poor choices and our selfish concerns. The effort is constant, but the elimination of those weeds allows the plant of a relationship with our Lord to flourish. What then results in our lives is a genuine revelation of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Tenth Sunday of the Year – June 10, 2018

Genesis 3:9-15 2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1 Mark 3:20-35

 

I don’t consider myself much of a storyteller. It just is not part of my nature. But I know, from reading, that I enjoy either reading or hearing a good story. I particularly like the insights into human nature which can be gained from stories.

 

Telling stories is just what we experience in the first chapters of the book of Genesis. They are stories which were told over and over again through word of mouth until they were finally refined and written down, becoming part of the Scriptures that we know. In Genesis and in other ancient literatures, stories were told in order to answer fundamental questions and as a means of conveying basic truths. The questions addressed dealt with matters such as where we, as human beings, came from and how did we get here. They were questions about life and how life is to be lived.

 

Genesis, and the stories it recorded, introduces a particularly important truth. It is the truth understood about God as being One, a Creator of life, a Sustainer of life, and one with whom an intimate relationship is possible. Today, specifically, we heard a response to the question about the origin of evil and, especially, the effects of evil.

 

Adam and Eve, the characters in this story, were given charge of a perfect garden, a Paradise. There was only one restriction. They were not to eat the fruit of one tree. It was a very minimal restriction. They had the ability to choose what to do. Free will was part of their created nature. Immediately after being confronted with the choice they had made, they began to blame each other, and then the lesser being, the serpent. They refused to take responsibility for the choice they had made, the actions they took. As result, their perfect existence began to unravel. Disharmony and conflict entered into the world because of a selfish choice. Disharmony and conflict would continue and be amplified, as later stories in Genesis would relate

 

Disharmony and conflict confronted Jesus as we heard from the description St. Mark gave of an event early in the ministry of Jesus. Rather than accepting what he was saying,, the truth that was present in his words, his neighbors and some of those acquainted with hum called him “mad” or “insane.” Rather than accepting the truth that he proclaimed, the leadership of the people declared him to be in league with Satan. Essentially they were not taking the responsibility to hear him. Rather, they were placing the blame elsewhere. It did not matter to either group whether he was revealing the truth about God. The self-interest of his neighbors and of the leaders of the people prompted their choice to reject him. In response, Jesus pointed out the illogical idea of what happens to a house that is divided against itself as well as the way that disharmony and conflict is overcome by hearing his message and putting into practice an intimate relationship with God. Then Jesus went on to say that whoever does the will of God, that is, whoever uses one’s own potential in day to day living to make God known, is the one who is more significant to him than even someone related to him by blood.

 

Making the presence of God known and active in our lives, making that principle a paramount guide in our lives, unites us with Jesus Christ and, through Christ, with our creative and sustaining God, This union, this bond with God is what overcomes the disharmony and conflict that is brought on by the selfish choices that deny God’s presence. Union with God brings about peace and unity among mankind for which we, as church, constantly pray.

 

In the story of Adam and Eve, the transitory enjoyment of a piece of fruit led to loss, conflict and disharmony. Hearing Jesus and adhering to the truth of the revelation of his ministry puts us unto contact with and in union with a much greater and lasting value, indeed, an eternal value, a relationship with our truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

The Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) – June 2, 2018

Exodus 24: 3-8 Hebrews 9: 11-15 John 14: 12-16

 

Over recent years, in different contexts, I have read articles or commentaries which have suggested that there are risks in over-sanitizing environments, like houses, In trying to make such environments practically germ-free and sterile. The body can be hindered from building immunities that it needs.

 

What we heard in the first reading fro the Scriptures today about animal sacrifice and the ritual that was involved may have been repulsive to us. Certainly it did not seem sanitary. The whole notion of sacrificing animals and sprinkling blood might be distasteful. Perhaps we might like to sanitize it or simply ignore the whole practice entirely.

 

It is, however, an important and significant introduction to what we, as Church, recall today and deserves are attention. We remember, in a particular way, the gift to us by Jesus Christ of his Body and Blood. Jesus declare that bread and wine from the Passover meal celebrated with his disciple to be his Body and Blood. Then through his disciples doing this in memory of him, he invites us to share in and to be nourished by a true and intimate union with him, the God-man who came into our world.

 

In the ritual performed by Moses, the blood of the sacrificed animals was understood as the very source of life for those animals. Blood was the symbol of all life. In sprinkling first the altar that was representative of the Presence of God and then sprinkling the people, the profound sharing of life between God and the people was expressed. The covenant, the relationship between God and the people, was represented by the rich symbol of life that the blood was considered.

 

As Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples, he wanted them to realize that what he was doing, and what he was about to do in the sacrifice of his life on the cross was a sealing of the bond between God and humanity. It was a bond that we achieved by the sharing of the body that would be sacrificed and the blood that would be poured out. That bond would not only be sealed by the offering on the cross, it would also be sealed by the offering of the bread and wine that was now his very Body and Blood. It was to be an ever present continuation of the gift of Divine life offered to us.

 

The meaning of what we do as we come together for this ritual meal of the Eucharist is the accomplishment of this very same action of Jesus Christ for us It is the sealing of the bond, the covenant, the manner of living in union with God. In a way, it might seem to be somewhat sanitized in the manner in which we do this now. But we need to stop and remind ourselves that in these moments here, our loving God is reaching out to us, asking us to join in this meal, as a means of reflecting the intimate bond between God and ourselves. The focus is not to be on ourselves and our attitude in being here – almost as if we are doing God a favor. The focus is to be on the opportunity that is present: God acting toward us.

 

When the Israelites heard Moses spake to them during the ritual animal sacrifice that was described, their response was simple and straightforward. “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” Let that be our response whenever we come together at the Eucharist, when we hear our God speak to us in the inspired words of the Scriptures and, especially, when we are nourished with the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Then we can truly go forth from here heeding and doing what the Lord has said and proclaiming in our lives our bond, our union, with our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Trinity Sunday – May 27, 2018

Deuteronomy 4: 32-34, 39-40 Romans 8: 14-17 Matthew 28: 16-20

 

It may well be the result of how I tend to look at things, but I consider it rather important to give thought to the approach we heard Moses take in what was recorded in the first reading we heard today from the Book of Deuteronomy. In order to make his point about the appreciation the Chosen People he was leading ought to show to God, he recalls their history for his listeners. He especially points out the history of their relationship with God and how important that relationship had been for them as well as how important it is for them at he time he is presented as speaking.

 

History is not just dry facts and dates. History is a source of learning and understanding a great deal. It tells of wisdom, or the lack of wisdom, in the choices that have been made or not made in the past. It tells of the results that might be expected because of those choices. It tells about beneficial or detrimental lessons that can be derived from those choices. We are brought together here today because of our faith. But it also because of the history of that faith as it was lived by those who have gone before us. We might be individually affected by the faith expressed within our own families. But we are also affected as a community of faith that has been St. Mel parish over the years. That, too, affects us here.

 

This faith is developed within the context of history. It is the history of the experiences, the choices that were made: the successes and the failures, the efforts and the convictions that have preceded us. It is a history that was and is based upon a firm belief and trust in God who loves and God who invites us to be children, bound in an intimate relationship. It is the history of God who invites us to be heirs, ones who will directly benefit from this loving relationship. The God of our faith and our history is, in essence, in reality, in being – love. God who is love is God who, essentially, is a relationship. Love does not exist unless there is one who loves and one who is loved.

 

This is what we declare in the belief that we express in saying that God is “Trinity.” We limp, we are inadequate, in the terms we use to describe the nature of God. We say God: Father, Son, Spirit. We say God: Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. In whatever way we seek to describe God, we acknowledge God as a dynamic and active being. We acknowledge God as eternal and all-powerful in a genuinely dynamic relationship. It is God who then reaches out to us and offers us to live in a dynamic relationship as well.

 

This is the foundation of what we declare as our faith as Christians.. God’s presence, Gods’ essence is offered to us as the best means of understanding and appreciating who and what we are. God who is relationship offers a relationship to us as it has come down to us through history to this very day. God calls upon us to offer us a creative, loving, inspiring relationship in our lives and in our world. This is achieved by living and reflecting this is divine relationship day after day. In whatever situation we find ourselves: as spouses, parents, grandparents, children, siblings, friends, neighbors, co-workers, on the road or in the store, it is the value and respect shown in such relationships that is to reflect the triune god of our faith.

 

As Jesus completed his ministry and commissioned his followers, they were to go forth and declare this invitation. By baptism, those who responded were to be united with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were to be united in the name and the power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They, then, as we are to do now, are to bring this life, this inheritance, to all nations. In doing this we, and the world in which we live, are to be filled with the wisdom to know and to praise our good and gracious Triune God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Ascension of the Lord – 2018

Acts 1: 1-11  Ephesians 1: 17-23  Mark 16: 15-20

 

Of the different accounts given in the Scriptures about the Ascension of Jesus, the one we heard from the Acts of the Apostles today is the one which is probably remembered best. This is because it appears to give a visual report of the event. It has been the basis for many great art works about the departure of Jesus.

While it is easy to envision the event of the Ascension from the report that is given by St. Luke in the Acts, there are actually varied ways in which that departure of the Lord is reported by the different Scriptural writers. In fact, St. Luke gives two accounts of this departure. At the end of the Gospel of Luke it is simply stated that Jesus blessed his followers and was parted from them and carried off to heaven. At the beginning of the Acts, as we heard, his account is far more detailed.

As for the other Gospel writers, John, for one, sys nothing about the Ascension. Matthew speaks only about the commission to make disciples of all nations. In the Gospel of Mark, as we heard today, and as we are told by those who have studied and analyzed the Scriptures, the passage that I read was probably not part of the original composition but was added later and accepted as part of the Gospel. It, too, focuses on the commission given to the followers of Jesus. It also confirms that Jesus reigns with authority and that he will guide and protect those who go out and proclaim the Gospel.

So, rather than be confused about these apparently different presentations of the Ascension, it is the truth they convey that is to be considered: the physical presence of the Word of God, Jesus Christ, was no longer to be experienced. His work of revealing God and bringing on a reconciliation with God is completed. He has returned to God, as the Gospel of St. Mark relates, in power and glory having done what he was to do.

But that is not the end of the story. Luke had closed his Gospel account by indicating that Jesus had completed his ministry. But Luke began anew, in the Acts of the Apostles, with the task of that ministry being taken on by the followers of Jesus That task has continued over the centuries until now and is to be taken over by us. It is clearly pointed out that gazing up to the heavens, longing for what had been, was useless. Now was the time to get on with the job of proclaiming the Gospel to all the world, to all nations.

 

Essentially, as believers in the teaching and message of Jesus Christ we celebrate and were call, on this feast of the Ascension, that his work as coming into our world is finished. But Christ’s work, through us, as the Body of Christ in our world, is now begun. We are not on our own as we make the effort to do this, however.

 

How, then, is this work to be carried out? We can find an answer in the thoughts of St. Paul that we have heard today. He suggests two different points on which we can examine ourselves. One is that we are to strive to live lives that are virtuous, that reflect a genuine effort to believe in the goodness of God and to make that goodness truly a part of our lives. We do this by showing a humility that is honest, a gentleness that is true, a patience and a peace that is genuine. We can ask ourselves if these qualities are found in our lives and are these qualities reflective of the way we really want to be. The second thought is that we are to live in a way that actively and positively builds up the well-being of this community we are as Church. Does our living of the Faith truly enhance what we are to be as the Body of Christ in the world?

 

We are not to stand around idly gazing at the sky. The commission of Jesus Christ, who lived, died and then overcame death in resurrection, has been given to us. The moments of expressing our faith are not just those we have spent here today. The moments of expressing our faith have only begun here as we are commissioned at every mass in which we join to go forth into our world. We are to go forth and live in ways that reflect presence of faith in Christ in us, to live in ways that encourage and enhance lives of fellow believers, and to live in ways that what is revealed by us and to our world is our truly good & gracious God

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 6, 2018

Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48  1 John 4:7-19 John 15: 9-17

 

Stunned. I cannot think of a better way to describe it. Peter was stunned. This was his reaction to what he had experienced in the home of Cornelius. He had come to the household of Cornelius who was a foreigner, a non-Jew, an officer in the occupying army of Rome. It would seem to be the last place that he could expect to see what took place. Those who were present heard what he had to say. More importantly, they listened to him and they responded.

 

In one way it was not all that unusual. After all, Jesus had spoken with non-Jews. There was the Samaritan woman at the well, the Syro-Phoenician woman who sought help for her daughter, and the Roman centurion whose servant was ill.

 

It was not just the fact that these persons had listened to Peter and had responded to him. What he also observed was that the Spirit of God affected them and transformed them. He was stunned by what he saw as God’s action at that moment. What was his reaction? He declared his realization that “God shows no partiality.” It did not matter who or what these persons were. And thus Peter asked: “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing them?” In other words, could anyone interfere with confirming how God was reaching out to these persons.

 

Peter was stunned because it came home to him in no uncertain terms what it truly meant to follow and to embody Christ’s command to love as God loves us.

 

God shows no partiality. There are no artificial barriers to the love of God. There are no limiting definitions as to who was or who was not to be loved. If God shows no partiality, then we, too, are not to show partiality.

 

In the perspective of Peter, in all that he had known and experienced beforehand, before he had encountered Jesus and all that entailed – all this was stripped away by the faith of those who had listened to and responded to his words. Even more so, it was affected by the very evident action of the Spirit that had been experienced. To baptize these persons was simply the recognition of the effect, the power, the action of God present in these moments.

 

If God so clearly shows no partiality, and we profess faith in God who is love, how are we to reflect this in our lives? How do we carry out Christ’s express command to love? This is not just some rhetorical question to be heard and ignored. It is a specific challenge made to each one of us. It is challenging because it requires the elimination of all preconceptions, all pre-judgments, all barriers and limitations that we may construct.

 

To love is a reflection of the very nature of God. It is not just some warm and fuzzy feeling. To love is an active way of being. It involves our minds and our wills. It requires actions more than just words. To love is to honor, to respect, to acknowledge the dignity and value of others as creatures of God. To love is to raise the importance and worth of others above that of ourselves. Is not this the way to understand the words of Jesus in his willingness to lay down his life for another? To love one another is difficult at times – there is no question about that. It does not require a feeling for or a liking of another. But it does require a genuine selflessness and sacrifice on our part in our thinking and our acting toward others.

 

Perhaps, like Peter, we must be stunned into a reaction. We must be stunned to recognize that this love commanded by Christ is to be present actively in our lives. We must be stunned to know and to realize what is required of us to reveal God who is love, to reveal our truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fifth Sunday of Easter – April 29, 2018

Acts of the Apostles 9: 26-41 1 John 3: 18-24 John 15: 1-8

 

An insight that I have learned from St. Ignatius of Loyola is that we can grow in our appreciation of the Scriptures when we use our imaginations. Our imaginations allow us to develop the characters in the story or amplify some of the details. I thought that this account we heard today from the Acts of the Apostles is a particularly good example of what can be done in this fashion.

 

The Christian community in Jerusalem is fearful because Paul has arrived on the scene. Paul had a earlier negative reputation because he had attempted to destroy the Christian community. The reports were that he had undergone a conversion experience and had actually been preaching the Gospel message. But the Jerusalem community did not really know Paul, nor were they convinced about his conversion.

 

The event that is recalled today occurred about three years after Paul’s apparent conversion. Paul, himself, mentions this in his letter to the Galatians. The ones whom he came to meet were still skeptical, and rightly so. Had Paul really changed? Could they really trust him? Theirs was a very natural reaction.

 

In addition, from what we can learn in other parts of the Acts and from Paul’s own letters, Paul appears to have a rather challenging personality. I view him as being pushy and being able to be somewhat abrasive. He needed a reference, a recommendation, so we also hear about Barnabas. Barnabas was of Jewish background but was actually from the island of Cyprus. Perhaps he would be more familiar with foreign elements. Barnabas had been living in Jerusalem but was sent to Antioch where Paul had been preaching. He spent about a year there, observing Paul. He introduces Paul and vouches for him. He encourages the Jerusalem community to welcome him because his conversion was genuine. They could trust his sincerity. Despite all of this, Pul and Barnabas later have a falling out. This is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (15:39). They each go their separate way.

 

All of this puts a little meat on the bones of this story. It shows the dynamics which existed in the early Christian community. A couple of weeks ago we heard the description of what seemed to be an ideal community. Today we have a “nuts and bolts” account of how a very human group of individuals struggles as it grows. It is a dynamic group of believers even though that dynamic could be painful at times.

 

What, then, makes the difference in a Christian community? What affects the members of the believing community? What brings about the community’s purpose of making the reality of God known?

 

It is in answer to these questions that we find a practical meaning in the description given by Jesus: he is the vine, we are the branches. What sustains, what gives life to the various branches that we are as Church, is the common and nourishing presence of Jesus Christ.

 

Throughout the Scriptures today we are told to remain in Christ. We are told to remain, to dwell in, to dwell with, to live in and with God’s presence in Jesus Christ. Each of us is unique and thus we are as different as each branch on a vine. What we have in common, what binds us and unites us, is that presence, that lived reality, that Body and Blood that nourishes us in the Eucharist. We are joined in this communion. We are one with Jesus Christ who is the revelation of God.

 

We hear today, as well, that we are to ask what we want, and it will be granted. This is not to be misunderstood as a desire for material things or for perfect health, of for everything to go just as we think it ought to be. Rather, it is to ask for wisdom, for insight, for an appreciation of who and what we are as creatures of God. It is the desire to know how we can best live out this gift of life fully and generously as branches given the living presence from the vine who is Jesus Christ.

 

We are and we will be different. We may often blend together well, or not so well at other times. At times we might be abrasive or difficult. But what w have in common and what is to be respected by us and among us is the faith, the lifeblood of what we are as branches joined with the vine, Jesus Christ. As in the early Christian community, there will be need for patience, trust and openness. There will also be need, on occasion, for pruning in order to assure growth. But in sincerely and confidently allowing the presence of Jesus Christ to flow through the different branches that we are, we will be able successfully to make known and reveal our truly good and gracious God.