Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of Lent – March 24, 2019

Exodus 3: 1-8a, 13-15 1 Corinthians 10: 1-6, 10-12 Luke 13: 1-9

 

I suspect that at one time or another any one of us might have been envious of the story of Moses and the during bush that we heard today. Basically what is being told to us concerns a mystical experience with God which Moses had. It was a transforming experience which changed Moses for life and which, indeed, transformed the world. The insight given to Moses and to mankind is that God, or God’s name, is “I AM.” It is not “I was” or “I will be.” It is “I AM.” Always and for all times God is and God is with us. It is an insight into the unlimited reality that is God. Any restrictions on our understanding of God are due to our limitations, not God’s.

 

We may often look for a burning bush in our lives, for some magical answer of some sort. The reality is that the bush was only a sign, a gesture, of something much deeper. It is a sign of God’s continuous presence with us that affects the whole of life. It is the sign of God’s abiding, unchanging, constant presence with us to which we are to respond.

 

In various ways we can easily think in terms of looking for clear signs of God like a burning bush. Consider the comments Jesus makes to his followers in the Gospel we heard today. To a certain extent they are unusual or strange. They are tragic stories about historical events that happened. But, of themselves, they are not reasons for change as we might often hear. They are not messages of God that call for an instantaneous response that is superficial, transitory and made out of fear, like the response to the fig tree that was not producing fruit. What Jesus is seeking from his followers and from us is a response that is a constant, continuous process of growth and development, a response that involves a continual process of fertilization of mind and heart that brings about a genuine change and conversion.

 

In order to accomplish such a conversion, a deep and genuine renewal of faith at Easter, two things are needed as we continue the journey through Lent. The first is a firm and unwavering commitment to faith to God, to God’s life, to God’s reality of “I AM” in our lives. God is to be with us in all aspects of our lives. God affects us in all aspects of our living. There is no limitation of God to time or place. We experience the presence of God here in prayer and worship. But this is just a brief moment of the time that makes up a whole week. God is to be present, part of the whole of our life. “I AM” is here and there, wherever “here and there” might happen to be.

 

The second thing that is necessary is that we need to have, we need to exercise, a constant discipline of this faith. This involves an outlook on a life, a practiced inclination to recognize God’s life as a fundamental part of my own life. I am and I am to be the image of God, the reflection of God. “Godliness” is to be found in each of us, and is to be evident in how we are in every aspect of daily living.

 

All times, all places, all that is said and done and even thought offer opportunities for a constant effort , a constant fertilization, a constant growth. A constant bearing fruit that is a revelation in each of us of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Lent – March 17, 2019

Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18 Philippias 3:20-4:1 Luke 9:28b – 36

 

As human being, what sets us apart, what makes us unique in all of creation, is the ability we possess to choose. Unlike any other part of creation, we can choose, we can improve, how it is that we live. The source of all that is, God, has bestowed on each of us this wonderful ability to make choices.

 

The fundamental choice we have been given is whether we choose to live our lives in a relationship with the God who made us. Do we choose, that is, to live out our lives in accord with the potential we possess as creatures, as reflections of this loving God. It is this basic question that is presented to us in God’s word to us today.

 

In the spiritual, religious, experience of Abraham, the first believer in the one God, Abraham understood that God and he were entering into a relationship, an agreement, a covenant. God, as represented by a flaming pot and torch, pledges fidelity to this covenant. For our part, do we choose, as did Abraham, to live lives that reflect a similar faithfulness toward our loving God?

 

In the religious experience of Peter, James and John, a summary of all that has been revealed thus far is represented by the presence of Moses and Elijah, the Old Covenant, the Law and the Prophets; a summary, as well, of all that would be is seen in the glorious transfiguration of Christ. This experience took place so that they might be encouraged in the choice they had made to have faith that God, indeed, had come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ. Soon that faith would be tested. They would have to confront the reality of Christ’s suffering and death. They would have to resist the temptation to reject the revelation of the totality of God’s love.

 

In contrast to these religious experiences, we hear practical words from Saint Paul. He addresses the Christian community at Philippi, but he is also speaking to us. What choice are they to make? What choice are we to make. Do we choose to join with Paul and remain faithful to a life that is a reflection of our potential as followers of Jesus Christ? Do we choose lives that appreciate the goodness and presence of God who seeks to enter a loving relationship with us? Do we choose lives that respect the dignity and worth of all creation? Or, do we choose to fall back into a life that is opposed to Christ and his teaching, whose god is the stomach, whose glory is shame, who end is destruction? Paul gives a very graphic description of a very limited view of life, of the selfishness of sin, of a rejection of God and godliness that we can also choose to show.

These choices are presented to us day after day. Our presence here today suggests that we have made the right choice. But each of us needs to be strengthened in that choice by uniting with God and by being encouraged by one another. In this way are helped to remain faithful in our relationship with God this day, this week, until we come back together again, having made the choice to give honor and praise to a good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

First Sunday of Lent – March 10, 2019

Deuteronomy 26: 4-10 Romans 10:8-13 Luke 4: 1-3

 

It is the tradition of the Church to recall, on the First Sunday of Lent, one of the Gospel accounts of what is known as “The Temptations of Christ.” Before beginning his ministry, Jesus takes time to seek the solitude of the desert in order to reflect and to pray. During this time, as the Gospel accounts tell us, he is presented with questions, described as temptation, as to how best to carry on his ministry.

 

I have to admit that I often have listened to these accounts as a spectator. I have observed Jesus and his reactions as he is presented with these options. Perhaps, however, especially as we begin the Season ofLent, we can consider this event, within the context of Luke’s account, as a way of presenting to us questions on how we might respond to what we will hear and observe in the ministry of Jesus and, in particular, to his eventual death and resurrection which we recall some six weeks from now. This approach opens for us a source for our own thoughts during Lent. What options are presented to Jesus and how did he respond? What options do these suggest to us and how do we respond?

 

If we think of it, all that was put before Jesus were good in themselves. But the question is, does the manner in which they are used provide a revelation of God or merely the opportunity to satisfy a selfish desire. In itself, bread is a good thing to be fed when we are hungry. Authority gives the ability to bring about change. Protection from danger allows for a sense of security and reassurance.

 

What is the temptation in these? The temptation is to focus on a reliance on self rather than a reliance on the goodness of God. It is to think that to be fed, to bring about change, to be protected – these are things that I will do, I will accomplish on my own. The reality of God is ignored. Trust in God is discarded. It is me, and only me, that will provide these things.

 

We also heard a passage from the Book of Deuteronomy in which the Israelites were urged to recall their pain and suffering with which they contended while enslaved in Egypt. Then they were to remember that their deliverance from this status came about not through their own actions but by faith and trust in God. It was in gratitude for this that they were urged to make offerings from their abundance.

 

At the beginning of the Season of Lent we are challenged. This does not come simply from the image of Jesus confronting temptations. Rather we are to reflect on how we have been tempted, how we may have succumbed to temptation. We may have been tempted not to rely on the goodness of God being present with us in whatever hunger we might have or not to rely on a trust in the goodness of God to be with us in whenever development or growth or change encountered or not to rely on the goodness of God to safeguard us from genuine harm of mind and spirit.

 

Take time now to reflect on the past as the Israelites were called to do. Take time to recognize God’s presence with us now. Take time to respond, as Jesus did, with trust and confidence in the enduring presence of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Eighth Sunday of the Year – March 3, 2019

Sirach 27: 4-7 1 Corinthians 15: 54-58 Luke 6: 39-45

 

Whether it is on a bumper sticker, or on a billboard, or on social media, we often encounter brief, pithy sayings or quotes that may suggest a bit of wisdom but which also may require both some reflection and some introspection. They may well encourage examining whether there is meaning and significance for ourselves in a particular quote we encounter.

 

What is put before us today by our God through the writings of inspired authors are just such brief and pithy quotes. They are full of meaning in themselves. But they are even more challenging in the response they call from us.

 

We hear, for example, from the author Sirach, who was writing about 200 years before Christ and who sought to blend the wisdom of the Mosaic tradition of the Jewish people within sights from Greek thought that was current at his time. He reminds us that a sieve sifts out what is on the outside to reveal the truth of what is on the inside; that the heat of a kiln melts away the imperfections, so that the true object that was molded could be revealed; and that the health of the fruit that can be seen gives evidence of he true health of the tree that bears it. Anyone of these sayings can be a source of long and hard reflection on how sincere and truthful we are in living out our relationship with God.

 

We hear from Saint Paul who emphasizes to the Corinthians and to us that what we profess by faith in the Resurrection means that the power and effect of sin and death has been overcome in us. There is no reason for defeat or despair on our part. Rather, we are strengthened in hope even in cases of failure and sin, because the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus prompts us to pick ourselves up and go on again. It prompts us to live in a way that reflects that we truly are a “Resurrection” people.

The sayings of Jesus which we have heard today are found elsewhere in other Gospel accounts. They are gathered hereby Saint Luke and are included in what is called the “Sermon on the Plain.” Each of them reflects a basic truth, and insight, into what Jesus Christ is revealing. Each tells of how one who accepts and lives his teaching is to conduct his or her life.

 

In a way, what Jesus is saying is really self-evident. One needs to be able to see in order help another who cannot see. If a person wants to learn, it is necessary to listen openly to the one who is teaching. If one’s vision is blocked in some way that needs to resolved before hoping to improve the vision of someone else. Finally, what is produced on the outside is the best source of understanding what is on the inside..

 

What we do and what we say cannot just be empty, meaningless actions ad words. They cannot be just ineffective formulas that are repeated. Rather, what we do and what we say, in ways that are sincere and true, are to transform us. This does not happen instantaneously. It takes place gradually. It is not done with the idea of achieving s reward for doing well. It is done out of genuine and sincere conviction about the meaning of any of these sayings and their effect on any of us and all of us.

 

As we begin the Season of Lent this Wednesday, a time of considering the highest qualities and possibilities we possess to be creatures of a loving God such as these sayings encourage, we are to make an even greater effort to understand and to embody what it means to be image and likeness of a good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Seventh Sunday of the Year – February 24, 2019

1 Samuel 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-231 Corinthians 15: 45-49Luke 6: 26-38

 

It is close to exactly 2000 years since the words of Jesus which were just heard, as recorded by Saint Luke, were spoken. Almost 2000 years and still we are far from these words being taken seriously by ourselves in our individual lives and by our society. Especially is this disconcerting in the case of a nation that frequently takes pride in proclaiming its Christian roots and its Christian values.

 

Often, I suspect, our response to what Jesus was saying is that he is too idealistic, perhaps too naive, or not realistic and not living in the real world. It is this last description that must make us stop and think. After all, what is it that we profess as our Faith? What is it that is fundamental to our belief? These words are not pious thoughts of some great human teacher or some wise philosopher or prophet. These words are spoken by God who became man in the person of Jesus Christ. They are spoken by God who ultimately created and gave life to all of humanity. If we want to understand how best we are to live out what we are, here it is. What is being presented to us some 2000 years after it was declared the first time is simply an outline, a description, of the reality of what we are to be, how we are to live and act as creations of a loving God.

 

Do we really want o know what it is all about, being alive in our world? Do we want to understand how best to live this gift of life we have and we share? It is here in the words Jesus speaks: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

 

But, we still doubt, we still are skeptical. It is then that we must look at the image that is boldly put in front of us here in this church. It is the image of Christ, the crucified Lord. Despite his teaching, despite the ways in which he healed and restored so many, the result was that he was betrayed by one who was supposed to be his friend and he was handed over by leaders of his own people to be executed. His death on the cross was not the end. Rather – and this is our Faith-  it was the means by which the God-man proved the validity of what he was saying. He was not mistaken. He was not defeated He overcame even death itself. The crucifixion led to theResurrection.

 

It is exactly this point that Saint Paul wishes to make in writing to the Corinthians, as well as to us. As we are united with Adam in the humanity we share, we are united with Christ in his Resurrection by the Faith we declare.

 

2000 years ago these words of Jesus were spoken. 2000 years later we are called upon to take these words to heart, to make these words real and active in our lives, and through our lives to make them real and active in our society and our world. Living the teachings of the God-man Jesus Christ, the Lord of our lives, is the true way that we experience and our world comes to know our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Sixth Sunday of the Year – February 17, 2019

Jeremiah 17: 5-6I Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20Luke 6: 17, 20-26

 

It is reasonable to understand that during the two and half or so years of his ministry Jesus presented his basic teachings in different ways. What we heard today, for example, in St. Luke’s account of what we call the “Beatitudes”, is different than the more familiar format given by St. Matthew.

 

Both summaries of Jesus’ teaching, however, lay before us simple insights into a fuller appreciation of our relationship with our loving God that are found in the values that each expresses.

 

The challenge that Jesus offers to us, as it is recorded by St. Luke, reminds us that what society – the society of Jesus’ time or of our own time – often values most: wealth, security, pleasure, social approval, is meaningless, warrant rejection, and is really a source of woe, or grief.. On the other hand what society – either Jesus’ society or our own – fears or ignores or rejects: poverty, hunger, sadness, oppression, can truly be a source of blessedness, value and worth.

 

But why is this so, we might easily ask. It does not make sense to us. As we listen to God speak to us through the Scriptures today we can find the key to understanding the teachings of Jesus by considering the words of the prophet Jeremiah. Like Jesus, Jeremiah presents a contrast. He says that reliance on what is fleeting: wealth, food, satisfaction, human praise, makes a person like a barren shrub in the wasteland. It is present. It is visible. But it is dry, brittle and lifeless. Trust in God, confidence placed in God rather than in self and self-will and what we want and how we want it, will keep us going and give us hope. It will make us to be like a fruitful tree planted by water that does not fear heat or drought. It is alive and green.

 

Such trust and such hope Is not always easy. What is immediate, What is instantaneously gratifying. What is now. This is often more appealing. But what Jesus is teaching us is that we must open our eyes and broaden our perspective.

 

A further insight in this regard can be found in what we heard from St. Paul today. Some at Corinth had doubts about what was the basis for their faith in Jesus Christ: that he had overcome death and had risen from the dead. For some, what was immediate and what was evident appeared to be much more attractive. But as Paul points out, if that was all Jesus was teaching, if all he was concerned about was the here and now, and there was no conquest of death in resurrection, that teaching would be meaningless.

 

True value in life, true value in being alive now, finds its strength in faith in the Resurrection. No matter what we might face, even if it be poverty, hunger, loss or rejection, in whatever way we are united to the total gift of Christ on the cross, all is overcome by faith in he Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all is overcome by a firm conviction and trust in the endless presence of a good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of the Year – February 3, 2019

Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19 1 Corinthians 13: 4-13 Luke 4: 21-30

 

There may not be more appropriate passages from Scripture for us to hear today as we undertake in our Diocese the annual appeal for Catholic Charities. Our best understanding of the Scriptures that we hear at Mass is to hear them as God speaking to us today through inspired writers. This is the God of our Faith calling on us to hear an appeal being made to us to understand who and what we are and what we are to do as those who profess a firm belief and trust in Jesus Christ, God among us, on behalf of our world and our community.

 

The words we heard today from Saint Paul may be familiar and often quoted. In a plain and straightforward way he addressed a community of believers who were divided into many factions: Jews and Greeks, rich and poor, slave and free. He reminded them in no uncertain terms, what it was to be a believer in Jesus Christ. He not only declares that love, that charity, is what is to be most evident in how they were to live out their lives, he also spells out specifically, how that love, that charity was to be perceived and known. Love is known by patience and kindness. Love is not rude, nor jealous, nor self-seeking. Love gives evidence of hope and neither fails or falls short in what it can do. That community to which Paul was writing was to be different from those that were around it. We, too, need to be different in so many of the values, so many of the attitudes, that are proclaimed around us today. Specifically, there is no clearer demonstration of what we can do and how we make that love, that charity, both active and present as a church and as a community that through support of our diocesan Catholic Charities Appeal.

 

Today, however, we not only have the words written by Saint Paul to consider, but also those words recorded as having been spoken by both Jeremiah and Jesus. Jeremiah laments that he has been called to be a prophet. He was to speak the truth about God’s presence and about the response that is to be made to that presence. He knew, because he had experienced it, that he would face rejection and ridicule. But he was told to be string and persistent in responding to his call to prophecy.

 

Jesus, we are told, was in his hometown. His neighbors and others thought they knew him. They felt that he should know his place and they wanted to remind him of this. He was to reveal to them, however, that his presence was beyond their prejudices and judgements. He sought to reveal to them that God’s presence with them was far beyond their limited expectations,

 

We, too, are called to be prophets. We who are the Body of Christ in our world today are to announce by our words and, especially, by our actions the presence of God in our world. We are to announce by our words and actions how God is to be experienced in ways that are far beyond the expectations of so many. We are to announce how God is experienced through us in kindness, in patience, in home, in generosity.

 

Perhaps this is not easy. Perhaps this, too, can be subject to rejection and ridicule, doubt and skepticism. But, in Catholic Charities we have a concrete way of demonstrating the presence, the reality and, most especially, the faith and trust we place in a good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of the Year – January 27, 2019

Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 Luke 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21

 

It became more and more clear to me as I was reading over and thinking about the passage from the Book of Nehemiah that we have heard that what was recorded in this reading is directly related to what we do when we gather together for the celebration of the Eucharist. Consider this: the people had assembled together. Jerusalem had been restored following its destruction and the exile of its leaders. First they listened to the Word of God as Ezra read from the “Law” the term used to describe the “Torah,” the first five books of the Bible as we know it. They are told to rejoice and then are urged to eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks.

 

So it is that we do week after week. We hear the Word of God, the Scriptures. Then we feed upon the richest of foods, the sweetest of drinks in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that he gave to us in memory of himself.

 

As we do this today, we also hear of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus as it is presented to us by the Gospel-writer, the Evangelist, Saint Luke. God with us, in the person of Jesus Christ, announces how his ministry will seek to restore our relationship with God as it was destroyed by sin and mankind was exiled from God. He uses the words of Isaiah to describe his mission.

 

He is to bring glad tings to the poor. This does not mean those who are necessarily poor in material goods, but those who are impoverished as human beings through fear, anxiety and distress. That poverty is overcome by the calming assurance Christ demonstrates of God’s love for all mankind. Jesus proclaims liberty to captives, to those enslaved by envy, jealousy, prejudice or indifference.Jesus announces by his life that the real value of every persons is found in God’s unlimited love and mercy.

 

Jesus declares the recovery of sight to the blind, to those whose sight has been distorted or blocked by selfishness and self imposed limitation to or disbelief of the value and worth of themselves or others. It is the conviction that the limitless love of God is found in Jesus Christ that opens our vision to all the possibilities before us.

 

Finally, in letting the oppressed go free whatever burdens, whatever restrictions there might be in life are lifted by an awareness of being loved and cared for by God as is revealed in the words and actions of Jesus Christ.

 

This is the ministry of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul also reminds us today that this is our ministry as well. It is a ministry shared with one another, with those with whom we gather sharing our common faith, our common commitment. Doing so makes us one as the Body of Christ in our world of today.

 

We join with one another now in worship, hearing our God in Word and being nourished by our God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is in this manner that we are strengthened and encourage in proclaiming a year, a time, a moment that is truly acceptable to our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of the Year – January 20, 2019

Isaiah 62: 1-51 Corinthians 12: 4-11John 2: 1-11

 

I suspect that this passage from the Gospel of Saint John is one of the favorite miracle stories from the New Testament. I have frequently heard references to it along with a sighing “if only” this could happen.

 

Saint John built his account of the Gospel message around different “signs” that were performed by Jesus. “Signs” were wondrous deeds that revealed the nature and the role of Jesus as Messiah and Savior in our presence. In this first public demonstration of what Jesus was about and what he was to do as the Word-made-flesh, as God with us, he reveals that he is in our world to make known the loving presence of God.

 

Jesus is in the world to accomplish for us the rich symbolism of restoration that we heard from the prophet Isaiah. Like Jerusalem that had been destroyed and left desolate by those who had conquered it, humanity, mankind, we ourselves, longed for restoration of the union and relationship with God that has been harmed by sin, by the rejection of God, Now, through Jesus Christ, we could experience that relationship once again. We were to “be espoused,” made whole again, in a union with God such as is reflected in the intimacy of true marriage.

 

Giving consideration to the imagery in this account, we night do well to think of ourselves as water. Gathered in a jar, water is naturally refreshing. But it also lacks the richness and vitality of wine. Gathered together as we are in the jars that are life, we can be transformed. We can be given depth and richness because of the action and presence of Christ. Through Christ the water of our lives can take on the richness, the vitality, the genuine refreshment of wine that comes from a union with our Creator God.

 

We are the water transformed into wine by the presence of Christ and, as a result, we can reflect the love of our God in our liver, each in our own way. By each one of us employing the gifts, the abilities we possess in simply the way we go about living and in ways differing from one another but found in each one of us, we can reveal the presence of the goodness of God.

 

We can understand this first “sign” in the Gospel of Saint John as a real introduction to the whole ministry and mission of Jesus. It is a call made to us to be open to being transformed by his message, to being changed from common water into rich wine as children of our loving Father.

 

Jesus, according to John, began his ministry at the celebration of a wedding. God has come into our world to celebrate with us the possibility of being in a relationship with God and so reveal God more clearly in and through us. Like the water that was transformed we are able to be transformed through Christ’s presence with us. It is this presence that we share now in the Eucharist so that we might go forth from hear to reveal and to reflect our truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Baptism of the Lord – January 13, 2019

Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11Titus 2: 11-14, 3: 4-7Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

 

Sometimes a story is so familiar that it is easy to overlook its real significance. Such might be the case with the account of the Baptism of the Lord. An unusual aspect of this event in the life of Jesus is that all four Evangelists make reference to it. We may not realize that this is not all that common.

 

It helps, however, to give some thought to the context. John the Baptist had been preaching for some time. It is clear that he had attracted a following. Some even thought he may be the Christ, the promised Messiah. On the other hand, at that point, Jesus was pretty much an unknown commodity. We heard John, today, deny that he was the Christ. He also said that a more significant person would come. Other accounts of this event tell us that John names Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” What this moment presents is the acceptance by Jesus of his mission as well as the beginning of his ministry. We hear: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” Thus begins the ministry of Jesus. All that follows in his ministry flows from this designation as the “Beloved Son.”

 

The ministry of the “Beloved Son” marks a new development in the history of the world. He is God’s chosen means of being revealed, being known. In the person of Jesus Christ, God comes into the midst of the world in order to restore and renew creation, to restore and renew us. He comes to begin to root out the effects of sinfulness, the rejection of God, so that what was intended from the beginning can now be achieved.

 

The Baptism of the Lord conveys a spirit of hope and adventure. It conveys the spirit of a new way by which things were to be done. It is an adventure that was begun in the ministry of Jesus and then continued by the body of believers Jesus establishes with his followers. It has the potential of renewing the world and renewing us. This is the hopeful challenge which begins with the Baptism of the Lord.

 

This same challenge is given to us in our baptism when we became children of our loving God. It was then that we were anointed for doing God’s work. It is in that spirit that we hear from Isaiah and Saint Paul what we are and what we are to do. It is the living of our faith that brings comfort. It is in the living out of our faith that the hills and valleys that hinder our lives are overcome. It is in the living out of our faith that allows us freely and willingly to reject godless ways and to live in ways that are balanced, just and devout.

 

The Baptism of the Lord marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It is that ministry that now continues in us as we seek to take advantage of the possibilities of what we might be. We are to allow the message of his ministry to pierce the very depths of our minds and hearts and so reveal a loving relationship with our good and gracious God.