Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Ascension of the Lord – May 24, 2020

Acts 1: 1-11 – Ephesians 1: 17-23 – Matthew 28: 16-20

 

As we draw near to the time when we will be able to come together again as a parish and as a believing community to worship and to share in Eucharist; as we have begun to open up our society, hoping to experience again, though in ways that are different, the things we enjoy dong that are a part of a more normal way of living; as we hopefully are able to renew relationships that have been affected in different ways over these past few months; it may not be all that difficult to appreciate some of the dynamics present in the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord. Especially is this the case in the lives of the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as they had now to cope with the physical separation from Jesus that the Ascension recalls.

 

We have come to know all too well recently that separation from persons and from activities that have been a part of our lives is not easy. It is, indeed, difficult. It is painful. Yet departing and separation, change of any sort, are a part of living. Some of these occurrences have been planned and anticipated. Others simply happen suddenly an unexpectedly. Often times, however, these occurrences are the only way that persons can grow and mature. We cannot just cling to what was before, or how we think things were before, as life and reality are not like this.

 

In the case of the Ascension, not only was this event necessary within the ministry of Jesus, it was also a triumphant moment. It marked for Jesus the final stage of his victory. The part of his work on earth was complete. Now he was able to return to the Father. It is also a moment of triumph for those who follow him – then and now. Now the task is theirs. Now the task is ours. Now is the time for them and for us to proclaim the Good News Jesus announced: the Good News of how we can be the very best that we are as creations of a loving God.

 

We heard or read Saint Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Ephesus. It is a prayer for us as well. May we have the insight to recognize the power of the Spirit within us to change and to be transformed, to do away with sinfulness and its effects, to baptize and to renew our world and so teach it not only the words of Christ’s command to love but show the reality of how that love is to be lived.

 

Even at this time, even as we continue through these wrenching difficulties that affect our daily lives whether personally or as a community, a State or a country, simply hanging on to the past, to gaze longingly into the clouds of the past, does little.

 

The challenge that is before us is to look ahead, to recognize what we are experiencing as assistance to our faith, particularly our faith in the Resurrection. We are to believe that we have the power within us to improve and to enhance the world.

 

To me, at least, this is one of the messages of this Feast of the Ascension, especially at this time. We must move on from now and look ahead for greater opportunities and means to reveal a truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 17, 2020

Acts 2: 5-8, 14-17 – 1 Peter 3: 15-18 – John 14: 15-21

 

How fitting are the words which we have hard from St. Peter today: “Be willing to give an explanation. . .for a reason for hope.” If there is anything that is to identify a believer in Jesus Christ, a Christian who celebrates the Resurrection of the Lord, especially in these trying and confusing times that we are experiencing, it is hope. To say this in another way: To be a Christian is to be a person of hope in any circumstance.

 

The reason for this hope is, I believe, is twofold. On the one hand this hope is based on what we recall in this season of the Church’s year. We are currently taking part in the Easter Season, focusing attention on the effect of the rising from the dead by Jesus Christ. Despite the fact that he had experienced betrayal, abandonment, condemnation and execution, Jesus Christ was not defeated, he was not conquered. Nothing, as believers in the Resurrection, can defeat us. Despite whatever way we might be presently affected, we know, in faith, that we cannot be overcome.

 

On the other hand, the basis of our hope is our conviction, as we heard in a particular way in God’s word to us today, that Christ did not abandon us, but promised to us an abiding presence of God with us in the Holy Spirit. It is this active presence of the Holy Spirit that affects us and gives us hope as well.. What potential, then, does that presence of the Spirit have in our lives? Again, the Word of God provides us insight.

 

It is the action of the Holy Spirit that brings about reconciliation of enemies. In what we heard today, Philip went to preach to the Samaritans, those who were constantly at odd with the Jews. But he wins converts so that Peter and John go to be with them It is the action of the Holy Spirit that allows all of us to be, as was the author of the Psalmist, those who recognize and experience the tremendous deeds of God with a graced vision that sees God’s presence in everything and everyone around us. It is the action of the holy Spirit, the Paraclete, that encourages all believers to live on despite suffering rejection, persecution, loneliness – doing so in a way that expresses and returns love and kindness

 

These actions of the Spirit, whose presence we receive in Baptism, are to be a fundamental part of what we are in our lives, whether ass Church, as a parish community, or as believing individuals.

 

It is through Spirit, sent by Jesus, that the faith we profess has a moving, transforming, invigorating effect on us. It is this faith that gives hope. It is because of this faith that we can face the world we know today in a way that seeks to make that world to be better, that seeks to make the lives we live to be better.

 

What we recall today is that our faith and the confidence and hope that faith instills in us, enables us to do what we can, and do what we must, to reflect and make known in us and in our actions the presence of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 10, 2020

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 3, 2020

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of Easter – April 26, 2020

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Easter – April 19, 2020

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Easter 2020

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Passion Sunday – April 5, 2020

Isaiah 50: 4-7 – Philipppians 2: 6-11 – Matthew 26: 14 – 27: 66

 

The dynamics of Passion or Palm Sunday change dramatically. The celebration begins with the joyous shouts of “Hosanna” as Jesus comes to Jerusalem with his followers to celebrate the Jewish Feast of the Passover. But the mood of the liturgy quickly changes. The central focus of the Liturgy is then the recalling of the passion and death of Jesus, this year as presented by Saint Matthew.

 

In his account of the betrayal, suffering and death of Jesus, Saint Matthew is addressing the community of believers who made up the early Christian church. Like Matthew, most of these individuals had their roots in Judaism and were particularly familiar with the Scriptures of the Old Covenant. With this in mind, we can appreciate the emphases found in Matthew’s gospel.

 

On the one hand, the Passion of Jesus was a fulfillment of the Old Covenant writings and teachings. What Jesus underwent in his passion and death was understood as part of what the Suffering Servant of Isaiah would reveal concerning the loving relationship that was established between God and humanity.

 

On the other hand, while Jesus had foreknowledge of what was to happen to him, he freely embraced the suffering he was to endure. In this manner, Jesus was in command of what he experienced as it was the culmination of the effort to restore the loving relationship between mankind and God.

 

Unbelievers could hear this account and find it to be a story of a man being abandoned by his followers and even betrayed by one who had been close to him. These same unbelievers would see this account as another example of how the supposed religious leaders of Jesus’ own people condemned him and turned him over to the civil authorities to be executed.

 

But to those who put their faith in the person Matthew was describing, this was the moment. Jesus Christ,, of his own decision and will – even though struggling in his humanity with this choice – seized upon the suffering and death on the cross as the means to redeem us, to reconcile us, to empower us to rise above sinful distancing from God. In so doing Jesus offered to us the loving salvation that had been promised through the words and actions of rte Old Covenant. Thus were those promises fulfilled. Thus was revealed the depth of love offered to us by our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 29, 2020

Ezechiel 37: 12-14 – Romans 8: 8-11 – John 11: 3-7, 17,20-27, 33b-45

 

Over this Season of Lent, I have suggests that we consider different examples, put before us in the Scriptures, of reminders to us of how God reaches out to us to be reconciled. The story of the raising of Lazarus which we have heard today represents, in my thinking, the effect of the restoration of a union with God as well as the difference this restoration makes in our lives and in the lives of others.

 

Consider the somewhat dramatic account of this event given to us by John. First, there is the matter of the delay. This ought immediately to alert us that there is special meaning to this event. Then, there is the decision to go, which is also confusing to the followers of Jesus. This is then followed by the meeting with Martha, the sister of Lazarus. Although she is disappointed in the delay, she expressed faith in Jesus. He could have done something if he had been there.

 

Jesus wanted to show to those who were willing to believe that he was more than a miracle-worker. Not only “I can give life,” but “I am Life.” He is the source of all renewal, the source of all re-creation. He is the one who can and will do away with whatever are the effects of sin now, and as they happen again. Thus he asks: “Do you believe this?” Martha’s response was that she believed in life after death. Jesus says “I am Life” now.

 

Jesus is not talking about some blissful existence in the future. He is saying that Life, as he intends it, is possible now. Hatred, injustice, prejudice, pride, self-centeredness, deceit, violence, back-biting, hurt, abuse – verbal, physical, sexual – all of these things which are effects of sin can be eradicated now in our lives and not just in some future existence It is the restored, resurrected, Life that can be lived now as Lazarus, who has been restored to life by Christ, will live now.

 

The Spirit of God spoken of by Ezechiel and the Spirit of Christ mentioned by St. Paul, is present and available now. It can directly affect our lives and the manner that we live with others, if we are willing to allow it to do so.

 

The celebration of Easter which is, after all, the end-point and reason for our Lenten thoughts and practices (however that celebration will take place this year), is the celebration of a firm re-commitment of faith. As we have recalled during this Lent how a loving God reaches out to us, we are to consider how we respond ,in truth, that we believe. Like Martha, are we willing to recognize that Jesus is our Life now and in the future? In our words, in the actions of our lives, truly alive in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, we are to renew our efforts to reflect a response of genuine faith in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of Lent – March 22, 2020

1 Samuel 16: 1b, 6-7, 20-23 – Ephesians 5: 8-14 – John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

 

On our journey through Lent this year, we have heard of different ways in which our loving God reaches out to us in order to be reconciled with us. Today, we have placed before us, the ultimate effort of God that is found in the person of Jesus Christ, the instrument of that reconciliation. In the account of the cure of the man who was born blind, there is not only the report of his receiving the ability to see but also the progressive process of achieving this end. This account illustrates well the growth needed in responding to God’s effort and in the living out of third response by each of us.

 

As it is recorded, the cure of the blind man was not direct or instantaneous. It involved a process that demonstrates the creative redeeming and saving presence of God. It illustrates what we can experience in our own lives. It is also this creative, redeeming and saving process that we are to continue as the living Body of Christ in our world. The creative process in the story is illustrated by Jesus anointing the man’s eye with mud, recalling the Genesis story of man being formed from the ground of the Earth. The redeeming process reflects the washing of baptism we have received and which we renew at Easter, as evidence by Jesus bathing the man’s eyes. The saving process is depicted in how the blind man now sees. He had searched for Jesus, he found Jesus and then acknowledges that his sight, the recreation of his ability yo see, was given to him by Jesus Christ in whom he now professes belief.

 

The restored relationship with God, the object of any efforts that we are making during Lent, is accomplished by us through the active presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. It is not just a thought or a wish or a hope. It is a reality we can achieve. The blind man did think or wish or hope that he could see. It was a reality in his life, as he declared “I can see.” So our faith is to believed in us.

 

It is this restored relationship with God that leads us to holiness. It achieves for us a peace in our lives, a wholeness of our lives that values God, all others and ourselves. It is firmly demonstrated by our union with one another in the Body of Christ. It is sacramentally nourished by the Eucharist that we share. It is this union with Jesus Christ that binds us with all who share the same Jesus Christ.

 

Through creative, redeeming, saving process that we experience here and now that we are able to live our daily lives in ways that proclaims genuine faith and trust in our good & gracious God