Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fifth Sunday of the Year- February 4, 2018

Job 7: 1-4, 6-71 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23 Mark 1: 29-39

 

It is a long-standing tradition that the gospel account recorded by St. Mark, which we are hearing in this year of the Church’s cycle of readings, is based upon the message that was preached by St. Peter. For some period of time Mark accompanied St. Peter and, thus, how he presents the gospel follows from what he had heard from St. Peter. Unlike Matthew and Luke who begin their gospel accounts with what are known as Infancy Narratives, and unlike St. John who starts his Gospel with a theological presentation, Mark begins immediately with the ministry of Jesus.

 

In some way, these events might seem to be unremarkable. Last week, for example, Jesus followed a common practice of attending synagogue and speaking there. But it is noted that he spoke with “authority.” Today, he stops at Peter’s home and there restores Peter’s mother-in-law to health so that she can look after the needs ofJesus and his companions. Then Jesus goes on to preach and to heal, followed by going off to pray.

 

Within this account of a “day in the life of Jesus,” Mark presents three components which are fundamental to the ministry of Jesus: word, action, prayer. What can readily be understood as God’s communication to us today then, is that basic to the mission of Jesus is also to be a part of our lives as believer: word, action & prayer.

 

Along with this passage from the Gospel of Mark, we also hears a brief section from the Old Testament Book of Job. This book is part of the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament. Basically the Book of Job encourages an understanding that in the midst of suffering and pain in life, there is a need to maintain a firm faith and trust in God. I was curious about the particular passage assigned for us to hear today because the lament of Job could be easily be our own during these early days of February in the Northern Hemisphere when, indeed, the days are short and the night are long. Like Job we can complain that so much must be endured. Sometimes it seems like it is too much. But Job does not abandon his faith in God.

 

As much as we might identify with Job and his laments, we need also to keep in mind those three components of the life of a believer: word, action and prayer. Our focus is not to be on ourselves, but how, in each of our lives, the words we say, the actions we do, and the conversation with God that is prayer, genuinely reflects in us the presence of God to our world.

 

We also have the occasion to listen to what St. Paul wrote to early Christians. He confirms his awareness that his response to God and his faith in God compelled him to carry on his ministry of preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. He did not seek any benefit for himself. He did not want any material return or reward. He attempts to be all things to all persons he addressed because his true concern is the effect his efforts will have on others and how they will live out their day-to-day lives as a result. Such thinking ought to guide us as well.

 

Word, action, prayer – these three components of the ministry of Jesus are present to us in the Gospel of Mark and are reflected in the remarks of Job and of Paul. The clear suggestion to us is to make them key components in living out our Faith, Next week, the annual “in-pew” appeal of Catholic Charities represents the effort we, as the local Church of the Diocese of Cleveland, make to address the needs that are present in so many different areas.Consider the basic understanding of the life of believers that is found in word, action and prayer to be a response that is made to the annual Catholic Charities Appeal. It is an opportunity to show a genuinely living and active faith in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of the Year –  January 28, 2018

Deuteronomy 18: 15-20 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35 Mark 1: 21-28

 

Given that so much of what is presented to us is done visually, on a screen on a smartphone, or tablet, or computer, or on a television or at a movie, I realize that it might be a challenge to suggest simply using one’s imagination without any of those aids. I ask that we attempt to visualize a scene in our minds only, that we picture a setting and the characters in that setting. Imagine what takes place rather than simply being shown it in some way.

 

I ask that you do this today. Use the imagination to travel back with me some 2000 years to a synagogue in Capernaum, a small building in which religious Jews gathered in prayer and praise. This is the scene that the Evangelist, Mark offers to us as he tells us about the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.

 

Into this gathering of persons practicing their Jewish faith comes Jesus and some followers. As was apparently a common practice, Jesus was asked by the synagogue leader to speak to those present. As he does so, he is confronted by an individual who was mentally disturbed in some way. Being possessed by a demon was the understanding of such a person at that time. A person who is challenged in this way can act without restraint, without subtlety or concern for others who were present. The behavior that is exhibited is often strange, or unusual or difficult.

 

In one brief sentence, however, it is this individual who speaks a central message of the Gospel as recorded by St. Mark. The person who has come into the synagogue is, indeed, Jesus of Nazareth. But he is then identified further. More than Jesus of Nazareth, he is also the “Holy One of God.” The one who speaks up, because of his illness, is unencumbered by so many of the restrictions we place on ourselves. He announces who truly is present.

 

St. Mark wants us to listen to Jesus, and to the whole presentation he makes in his Gospel. He wants us to follow along in the story of the ministry of Jesus so that after we hear or read all that is told to us in this Gospel, we can conclude that this Jesus is indeed the “Holy One of God.” Like those persons who were gathered in that synagogue in Capernaum, we can begin to recognize a new teaching, a new authority, a new revelation of God in what he says and does.

 

A challenge is made to us to open up our minds and hearts, to expand our imaginations,to not only the possibility but also the reality of the presence and the depth of the love of God that is now to be revealed to us once again as we reflect on the ministry of Jesus that will be told to us.

 

The one we now encounter in this scene in the synagogue is the one described by Moses in what we heard from Deuteronomy. This is the one who speaks in the name of God and with the authority of God. This is the one who will present the reality of God’s presence, not in thunder and flame, but in healing and reconciliation.

 

This is also the one who can lead us beyond anxieties about our situations in life. He encourages us to realize the importance of the whole scheme of life in comparison with the day to day concerns we might face, whether single or married, whether we are husband or wife. We are to live whatever calling in life that is ours with a view toward what is healing and reconciling, toward what is peaceful and respectful, toward what shows dignity and value in others and in ourselves because of the role and importance of our loving God in our lives.

 

To imagine is to picture, but to imagine is also to hope. It is with that hope that we listen to Jesus of Nazareth as the “Holy One of God.” He teaches with genuine authority about what it is to be human, to be a creation of God. He teaches that the true key to life, to happiness, to peace of mind and heart, is found in acting to bring about restoration and reconciliation wherever and however we can. This is to be done by each one of us and by all of us together in union with our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of the Year – January 21, 2018

Jonah 3: 1-5, 101 Corinthians 7: 29-31Mark 1: 14-20

 

A regular source of enjoyment for me is to spend about an hour a day reading what is known as an historical novel. The author of such a novel tells a fictional story within the context of historical time, events, persons that have been researched. Thus a reader not only is entertained by the story but also gains a certain degree of perspective into the era, the persons, the customs and so on.

 

The Old Testament Book of Jonah from which we just heard a brief passage is sometimes described by Scripture scholars as a lengthy parable, a lengthy story that seeks to teach a lesson. I like to consider it as something of an historical novel. Jonah is placed in an historical context. He is to preach conversion to the Assyrians in the city of Nineveh. He is called to preach to the arch-enemies ofIsrael. Contrary to his expectations, he is shocked by their response to this communication of God. From king down to the ordinary citizens, they respond positively. They repent and convert. This is the power of God’s message despite the intention of the messenger who delivers it.

 

Then, as St. Marks starts to tell us about the ministry of Jesus, there is what I consider to be an important point that is made. Jesus calls very ordinary individuals to join him. They are not the learned scribes or teachers or those recognized as leaders of the people. They are not those, for example, who may have had a certain prominence in the local synagogues. Rather, these are ordinary working individuals, persons who were exercising their trade as fishermen. These are the persons Jesus calls upon to join him in delivering the message of God. One point that seems to be obvious is that the proclamation of God’s Word is not done in what might be considered an “expected” way. Then, in a very clever play on words that is especially evident in English, these individuals are reminded that they can accomplish this task of revealing God very much within the context of exactly what they are. “Fishermen” will become “fishers of men.”

 

The effectiveness of Jonah went far beyond his expectations. Actually, he was disappointed that the Ninevites listened and were converted. The followers of Jesus could not know, at the time that is described, what it was that they would be able to achieve. It is in that context that we also hear a brief passage from Saint Paul. We can gain an insight into what God’s message to us today might be by hearing Paul urge us to look in life beyond the petty concerns of day to day and look at the larger picture with a greater perspective of how God’s presence can be effectively experienced in us.

 

Historical novels may not be accurate in all aspects. But I have found that reading them has opened my eyes to think differently about history and even about human nature. They have made clear that whatever our situation, we live as part of a much greater whole, both with regard to times in the past and to the present time. Reading historical novels has suggested looking at things in a broader context, rather than from a limited, self-focused view of reality. There is so much more to creation, to our world, that we can appreciate.

 

The story of Jonah can suggest to us never to sell short the effectiveness of God’s message as it can be lived by us – even despite ourselves at times. The call of the followers of Jesus, a call that is made to us as well, urges us to recognize all that can be done, simply within the context of day-to-day life, no matter who we are or what our social status might happen to be. The opportunity is offered to any of us and to each of us, in any variety of ways, to make known, day after day, what is truly Good New, the presence and love of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of the Year – January 14, 2018

1 Samuel 2: 3b-10, 191 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20John 1: 35-42

 

I want to share with you again how I have come to appreciate taking part with you in the celebration of Mass. I see things in a simple and straightforward way. I have expressed these ideas before. To me it is realistic to recognize that we all live in a relationship with the very source of life; the Creator, God.

 

Being alive is a generous gift we have received from this loving God. In a way of acknowledging this simple fact we set apart some time, most weekly, some daily, to listen to and to respond to this loving God. Our God communicates with us, addresses a message to us, through inspired writers. These communications are basic to the development of any worthwhile relationship. Along with this communication, we are called together by our God to join in a meal. It is a meal in which, in the person of Jesus Christ sharing his Body and Blood, his very essence, God’s presence, is received by us in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. We hear God speak to us and feed us in order to nourish us as we go about the next week of the journey of our lives.

 

This may be a simple way to look at things, but it offers to me, and I hope to you, a good grasp of this loving interaction between God and ourselves. It makes our loving God and active part of our lives.

 

The message of God to us sometimes develops along a theme, as is the case during the parts of the year we know as Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. At other times, we might consider these communications with God in a more general way. God is speaking to us about aspects of how we experience life and the living presence of God in life. They also points out to us how we might respond to that experience in living out our daily lives.

 

This is the case today as we come together on what is known as the Second Sunday of the Year, part of what is called the Ordinary Time, the week after week time of the Church year. What we can understand today is one way that the relationship with God relates to our day to day living.

 

We first heard about the call an important individual from the Old Testament, Samuel, receives. This allows us to realize that in the relationship with God, it is our loving God who seeks us out. Our loving God wants a relationship with us. God desires us to know that we are not abandoned or own our own. We can live in away the reflects the assurance of a relationship with God. But, as Eli encourages Samuel, it is a call we need to hear and to which we need to respond.

 

Along with the call of Samuel, we also heard the call of the followers of Jesus. Further insights into the relationship with God can be gained from this episode. God comes into our midst in a way that we can experience, in the same humanity that we share. As Jesus Christ, he is first recognized as the “Lamb of God” by John the Baptist. He is the one who is given in sacrifice to us, on behalf of us. He is a teacher, yes, – he is called “rabbi.” But then he is quickly recognized as more. He is the Messiah. He is the Anointed One. He is the one promised and longed for. He is here and is available to us. Contact in this way will have an effect, an effect that is transformative. It can change us, as Simon is changed in name and is known as Peter.

 

In this new identity, lived in a union with Jesus Christ, as we heard reflected in the words of Saint Paul, the totality of who and what we are is affected. It is not just something vague, only spiritual or mental. It is very real and affects us physically, in the whole of what we are to be. That is the point of what Paul is writing to the Corinthians.

 

How we live this relationship with God is not simply an individual matter. It also relates to those who are around us, as we experience them, and they experience us, and they experience the goodness of God as shown by us.

 

We have come together for these moments today to hear a communication of God. It is a communication that goes beyond words. It also involves being nourished by the reality of God in the Eucharist we share. We hear the call if our loving God. We respond to that call. We are challenged to make changes in ourselves. All of this takes place in these moments so that we can be assured in ourselves, both now and in the week to come, that we experience a strengthening and loving relationship with our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Epiphany January 7, 2018

Isaiah 60: 1-6 Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6 Matthew 2: 1-12

In the drama that is the story of the Magi, there is a role played by what is described as a star. It is a star that was “observed at its rising. It is a star that signaled a significant event to these learned individuals. It is a star that would lead them to search for the “newborn King of the Jews.”

 

This occurrence that is reported in the Gospel of Saint Matthew has been a frequent source of speculation There are periodic stories about whether some great astronomical event happened at this time. Perhaps it was a conjunction of planets or the appearance of comet or some other heavenly phenomenon. Added to this speculation is the really curious and unexplained nature of these persons described by St. Matthew but not otherwise mentioned by him.

 

Perhaps the mystery of the star and it role in this account might best be understood in the context of the beauty and poetry that we heard from the prophet, Isaiah. The star is the light that would radiate and shine forth. The star is the glory of the Lord that is evident and that is to be made evident.

 

In the rather succinct telling of this story by St. Matthew, the foreigners, the Magi, sought the object of their quest, by following the guidance of this light, this star. But, apparently, that guidance was lost once they drew near to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the place of the Temple. It was the place and the people where the presence of God was to be known and to be experienced. But the radiant light of the star had not only been dimmed, it had vanished. Why was that? What had they encountered in Jerusalem? There was a king, Herod, who was fearful of being replaced. There was people who did not rejoice but who were greatly troubled by what was occurring. What they encountered was a faithless situation rather than a revealing experience of God.

 

Once the Magi removed themselves from that environment of doubt and distrust of God, the guiding light, the star, reappeared. They were able, once again, to follow its guiding light to the goal of their lengthy journey which was to acknowledge the “newborn King of the Jews.”

 

Here, I believe, can be found an important insight into this account recorded by St. Matthew. More than to the mysterious Magi, Wise Men, Kings, as they have been known over the centuries, we ought to give our thoughts and considerations to that “star,” that “radiant light.” Where is that radiant light to be found today? Where is the revelation of that radiant light, that “glory of the Lord” to be recognized as a genuine guiding star, guiding us and guiding our world? In union with Jesus Christ, God born into our world, the revelation of God being sought from all corners of the world is to be discovered in us and in our lives.

 

The showing forth, the epiphany that we remember today, is not simply the drama and the pageantry that is depicted in a manger scene. The showing forth, the epiphany that we recall is what each of us is to be, a radiant light that shines forth the presence of God-with-us, Emmanuel. We are not to allow that radiant light to be dimmed by jealousy or fear or doubt in a loving God. Rather, it is to reappear and guide more clearly, with deep faith and trust. It is to lead us and lead our world to the discovery and the experience of our truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Holy Family December 31, 2017

Genesis 15: 1-6; 21: 1-3Hebrews 12: 8, 11-12, 17-19Luke 2: 22, 39-40

 

When we hear or read stories or events in the Bible, frequently the attention is focused on either Old Testament or New testament accounts of Divine messengers or interventions and, perhaps, even more, on miracles and other seemingly fantastic occurrences. We might think: wouldn’t it be great if something like this could happen to me. A messenger appears, an event happens, that would make things in life crystal clear. A problem is solved or an answer is given that would make the experience of life so much easier.

 

It does not happen that way and we ought not be disappointed in this because of what we have heard from the Scriptures today. In truth, they are accounts of individuals like ourselves who demonstrate what every one of us can do. They show a deep faith and trust in God as being instrumental in their lives. This faith and trust in God influenced the direction of their lives and the choices they made which revealed the importance of their relationship with God and its effect on their actions.

 

Abram, or Abraham, presents such an example. He had developed an understanding of God as one. His was a deep faith in this one God. As such, in history, Abraham is important to persons of faith, whether Christian, Jew or Muslim, as he is a common ancestor in faith to all of us. It this great faith in God, praised by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews as we heard, that permitted Abraham to trust in a deep spiritual experience that revealed to him that with his wife, despite their age and apparent condition, they would have a son, and through that son, a vast heritage of descendants. What could happen to them in the course of their human nature was recognized by them, because of their faith, as a manifestation of God’s presence with them.

 

A similar thought can be associated with the young family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. I chose to read the brief passage of the Gospel assigned for today in order to focus our thoughts on the very routine but important act of faith they demonstrated. As St. Luke records it,Mary and Joseph fulfilled the requirement of the Law in presenting Jesus at the Temple. They were expressing their gratitude to God for his birth. As he grew up over the years they continued to provide to him a home environment and example of faith and trust in God that enabled him to grow in wisdom. Through them he was to experience the favor, the presence, the love of God. What these few words in the Gospel point out to us is that they shared between themselves as husband and wife and as parents of Jesus a loving practice of faith that, in itself, had a profound influence and effect. We need only think of a later account in the Gospel. When Joseph and Mary traveled with family and friends to fulfill the requirement of celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem, they became involved in a search for Jesus. He had stayed behind in Jerusalem to take advantage of an opportunity to engage in a deepening and learning of that faith. This incident also provides an insight into the presence and influence of his parents.

 

It was not the miraculous or the fantastic that is recalled to us today in either story. In many respects, it is the ordinary routines of married lives that were faith-filled and lived with trust in God that is shown to us by Abraham, Sarah, Joseph and Mary. That love and trust is developed in these individuals and lived out by them during the course of the routine of their lives. This is what is put before us today for our consideration and as a reminder to us that, more than anything else, we are to explore how in the day to day of our own lives we can reveal our faith and trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Christmas December 25, 2017

In the retelling of the very familiar story of the first Christmas, the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, we may easily pass over a significant part of that story as told in the Gospel of Saint Luke. A census had been ordered by the emperor, Caesar Augustus. This not only led to the location of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, as had been prophesied. It also gave setting to a very evident contrast being unfolded before us.

 

The significance of a census was to enable an earthly power, like Caesar, to learn of the extent of his authority. It told him how many people were under his control. That is to say, it revealed to him the number of the people, all over the Roman world at that time, were subject to him. It underscored for him the power and the authority he apparently possessed.

 

In contrast to this very evident display of worldly pride and arrogance is the story of the birth of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. God came into our world as a man in the person of Jesus Christ. That is the declaration of faith that Christmas makes.

 

How did this entry into our world take place? It was very simple and certainly quite humble. It took place after an arduous journey made in response to an arrogant demand that was made while the young mother-to-be was in her last week of pregnancy. It happened in a crude animal shelter, a cave or a lean-to, because even the limited privacy of an inn was not available. The newborn child was placed in a feeding trough for the animals, a manger. This was his crib, the throne for the one who was the true creative source of the universe, the Word made flesh.

 

There is an evident contrast between the proud and self-indulgent Roman emperor and the simple, unpretentious, humble action on our behalf by our God, born among humanity in Jesus Christ. All of this ought to cause us to pause for a few moments to consider the true loving-kindness of our God. How is it that we encounter God? It is not in the grand and the glorious. It is not in the arrogance of power. It is in the simplest of forms and in the humblest of ways.

 

As I thought of this I was distracted for a bit by an image that cane to mind. Perhaps it is one familiar to some or to many. A gift or a toy is received by a young child at Christmas. Quickly, however, that elaborate gift is set aside and it is the box or the wrapping that absorbs the child’s attention. In a way, such an image is itself a parable about the first Christmas and the humble lesson of the birth of our Savior.

 

It is the story and celebration of Christmas that has brought us together today. I am most grateful to all of you who have taken the time and made the effort to be here. It is the simplicity of that story which can move and inspire us today. It is in simple words and gestures, it is in simple thoughtfulness and actions, that the opportunity of extending the genuine peace and joy of this day and of this season has its greatest potential.

 

Allow it to be the simplicity of the Christmas event, of God entering into our world – not in majesty and splendor – but in the humble environs of an animal shelter; allow it to be the simplicity of the Christmas event that was announced not to the wealthy and the powerful, but to humble shepherds watching their flocks at night; allow it to be the simplicity of the Christmas event that is continued by the manner in which we declare in our lives the depth and the meaning of our trust and faith in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 24, 2017

2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 6b-12, 14a, 16Romans 16: 25-27 Luke 1: 26-38

 

I realize that there can be a great many distractions that occupy our minds and thoughts right now. It is not only the 4th Sunday of Advent, but it is also Christmas Eve. There very well may be many things that are yet to be done.

 

I hope, however, that some attention was given to the stories that were heard in God’s message to us today. One story was about David, the great Old Testament king. Another story was about Mary, the mother of Jesus. They are very human stories, about persons facing decisions in their lives. We might easily skim over them, seeing them only as background, accounts related to the birth of Christ, as Son of God, and son of Mary, and as the promised descendent of King David. It is in the manner that these individuals faced their circumstance sand made their choices that they relate to us here and now.

 

David, as we heard, had consolidated his power and position. He, therefore, proposed to undertake the project of building a permanent house for the Ark, that elaborate box constructed centuries before to contain the tablets of the Law. These were the symbol of God’s presence and protection of the Chosen People. David was all set to proceed, to do it his way, the way he thought it ought to be done. By building such a structure, a house or temple, he would construct a permanent reminder of God’s continual presence and protection. But, he was stopped. He was reminded about where he had come from, how he gotten to where he was, how all that had happened to him had been accomplished. It was not all done by him and on his own. It was the presence and action of God in his life that had brought all of this about. It would be that presence, and not his actions, that would build the house. It would not just be a building, but a house that was truly a people who were joined with God and who would reveal God’s presence in the world. David needed to recognize humbly God’s abiding presence in his life. He had to let go of himself, and allow God to be known through him.

 

Then there is the story of Mary. It is an event that takes place many centuries later. The plan and purpose of God is to continue and to unfold in our world in an even greater fashion. There would be not just a sign or a symbol of God’s presence and protection, but the very reality of God, a person of God, who would enter our world in the person of Jesus Christ through the instrumentation of a young girl, Mary.

 

Mary was very human in her reaction. What was being proposed to her was beyond belief: how can it happen? She was puzzled. She asked questions. But she did not doubt. She was not shaken in her faith. As impossible as it all seemed to be, that young woman who had no relations with a man, and an older woman, her cousin, who was considered to be unable to have a child, would both have boys. Nothing was impossible with God.

 

Even when the seeming impossibility was overcome, the life and faith of Mary would continue to be challenged. She would endure traveling a long distance in the last weeks of pregnancy, giving birth in a stable, being puzzled by the response of her teenage son, seeing her son executed as a criminal. None of it was to be easy. But nothing is impossible in a life lived in union with God.

 

In all the challenges, difficulties and puzzling aspects of our day to day lives, it is faith and trust in an ever-present God that must be paramount. Through instruments like us, in ways that are not always how we think they ought to be, as well as in ways that we might think to be impossible, opportunities are given to us and challenges are placed before us. In these ways we are called upon to make to be what Christmas ultimately recalls: the revelation to the world in the incarnation of Jesus Christ of the full presence of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of Advent – December 17, 2017

Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-111 Thessalonians 5: 16-24John 1: 6-8, 19-28

 

Week after week, when we have come together to celebrate the Eucharist, I stand before you dressed in a somewhat unusual way. For the most part, I imagine, no attention is paid to this, because it is part of what is done in celebrating Mass. Little attention is given except this weekend and its counterpart during the Season of Lent. The color of this vestment, as some welcome the opportunity to point out, is a but different. Dusty rose is how I like to describe it. It is basically a lightened purple, the traditional color of the Season of Advent, used as a reminder that we are halfway (or better this year) through this time of anticipation.

 

The purpose of these vestments, quite simply, is to bring to mind the full complement of dress, in a stylized form, that was common during the time that Jesus, the early Christians lived and proclaimed the Gospel. The alb was the basic tunic word, and the chasuble was an outer protective garment, much like a poncho.

 

I am dressed in this manner as a way of reminding all of us to suspend our thinking, in away, from our current concerns, issues and activities. We do this in order to reflect on as well as put on the appearance of who and what we are, and what we are to do. It provides a type of echo to what we heard from the prophet, Isaiah, who understood himself as clothed by God in a robe of salvation, a mantle of justice.

 

It is also a framework for what we heard from the writing of St. Paul. In addressing the Christians at Thessalonika, he was also addressing us. This particular letter of Paul is considered to be the earliest written material in the New Testament and, thus, provides an early and good insight into the thinking of Paul and some very early Christians. The faith we profess and the effect of that faith on us is to make us persons who rejoice. Paul tells them and tells us that what is to distinguish them and to distinguish us is that we are persons who rejoice in life. They and we are to wear that faith, to be known by that faith, in the the joy that is reflected. It is to be like the vestment that is worn, conveying a certain sense and understanding.

 

We who are believers in Jesus Christ are to be noticeable, as are the vestments. We are to be known as those who are grateful in our communications with God, our prayers. We are to live in a way that allows the Spirit of God to be known in us and through us. Is that so? Is that the way in which any one of us would be identified? This is a challenging question to pose to ourselves.

 

John, about whom we also heard today,stood up to the challenges made to him: who are you? What are you doing? He was not hesitant to respond. In doing so he made it quite clear that they were not to be concerned about him. They were to pay attention to the one whom he was announcing. They were not to be concerned with what he was doing because it was only a preliminary gesture leading to a full acceptance of what was to come. So it is to be for us as we live from day to day reflecting Jesus Christ and his revelation of God to us and through us.

 

What, then, is to be true about us as we move through this season of anticipation and preparation? We are to listen and to prepare. As the earth, in springtime, brings forth plants and flowers, so will our God bring forth justice and peace by God’s presence being known in us. Then, too, we are to rejoice, dress, like putting on a vestment, but dress ourselves in what makes us holy and blameless, as the Lord comes to us. We are to act in such a way that the world into which we go forth from here comes to know the difference that is experienced in us, the joy that is ours as we place our faith and trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Advent – December 10, 2017

Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-112 Peter 3: 8-14 Matthew 1: 1-8

Coming together in this church building today, during this time of the year, may well feel like finding an oasis of quiet and simplicity by comparison to the noise and activity that are all around us. Other than the Advent Wreath, there is little decoration here in comparison to the lights and displays that can be found in so many places. The music here, too, is so different from the almost endless sounds of Christmas that surround us. In our homes, on our streets, in our stores, virtually anywhere we go, the themes of Christmas inundate us, except here.

This is not so say, however, that as church we are some sort of oversized Grinches when it comes to the celebration of Christmas. Rather, what these moments here in the quiet oasis of the church offers to us, especially in contrast to what we encounter elsewhere, is the opportunity to consider the genuine message that gives basis to everything else we might do or remember at this time of the year.

If there is one might be one central thought that can focus our deeper feelings and considerations today, it can be found in the opening words of the Prophet Isaiah that we have heard: “Comfort, give comfort to my people.” The God of our faith reaches out to us, all of us,no matter what condition or situation we might find ourselves in, no matter what human experience or history we might have. Our God offers us comfort in order that we might realize that a relationship with God, our Creator, is a relationship based on love, not fear, a relationship based on trust, not chance, a relationship based on hope, not despair. Our God seeks a relationship with us that brings comfort, peace, dignity and respect.

Our loving God comes to us and no rugged pathway in our lives, no plunging valley we might experience, no impenetrable mountain-like obstacles that might be present will prevent the presence of our God to be experienced by us if we transform ourselves and are open and watchful. It is for this that we prepare the ways of our lives for God.

It is this message of hope and expectation that the quiet oasis of these weeks hold out to us. It is this message that we are called upon to consider apart from everything that surrounds us elsewhere. It is also the message of hope that is basically to be central to all the celebrations we encounter and enjoy.

In these moments of relative quiet we need to listen and to respond. There is a messenger who stands before us, who seeks to make clear what is meant by what we experience. A voice cries out to us – not just then, but now as well. Prepare the way of the Lord. Do what is needed to allow the presence of God to be known. Lower the mountains of pride, of envy, of jealousy and judgement. Fill the valleys of spiritual and emotional emptiness and neglect. Give life to the desert of hard-heartedness, fear and mistrust.

What we anticipate, what we recall, in quiet or in festive celebration, is that, to us, and to those who are a part of our lives, in order to give us hope, to bring about restoration and healing, to allow us to experience genuine reconciliation and wholeness in our lives, and to be a genuine source of peace of mind heart and spirit, comes our good and gracious God.