Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Twelfth Sunday of the Year – June 25, 2017

Jeremiah 20: 10-13 Romans 5: 12-15 Matthew 10: 26-33

 

Telling us not to fear, encouraging us not to be afraid, is a consistent theme found in the words of Jesus that he addressed to his followers and, thus, he has addressed to us, So, what are some of the things that we might fear, that might cause us anxiety in our lives? The future: what do the weeks or months or even the years ahead hold out for us, whether we are old or young. In many respects, we just do not know. Change: often this is a big cause of fear. We like being comfortable, the way things are. Either experiencing or being made to experience something new or different is stressful. Rejection: this can be hard to face especially from someone who has been a part of our lives but, for whatever reason, decides that we are no longer important to them. Being alone: this is particularly true when it is the result of someone who has long been a part of our lives is no longer physically present. It is a difficult transition to make. Death: none of us can escape this experience, but both the “how” and the “when” are unknown through most of our lives and can cause us to be anxious and, indeed, afraid.

 

These are all part of being human. They are all part of our lives. They are a part of the life God chose to share with us in assuming humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

What is it, then, in the message of God conveyed to us in the ministry of Jesus Christ we are called upon to continue that encourages us not to fear, not to be afraid? We need to recognize that the various examples mentioned are a part of the creative act of God in giving us life. This creative act of life is a dynamic gift of love in which we are free to choose and to act. It is the freedom of will, in us and around us, that is the key to understanding. We, or others around us, choose to act and are not, in some way, controlled by God. Life, in us and around us, has been  freely given to all by a loving God. Rather than be feared, it is to be embraced as part of a gift oflove.

 

It is with this perspective that we can look to the future and realize that there are decisions which we might make that can affect our future, but there are also other aspects in the future that will occur as part of life. Change: this often happens despite us. The greatest strength comes in recognizing what in change might enhance us and in ignoring those things that do not really affect us. Rejection: if we are true to ourselves – and here Jesus himself is an outstanding example – what might be unacceptable to others, as was his ministry to many, ought not to hinder us from being true to the best we can be. Being alone: this can often be an opportunity to realize a certain comfort with ourselves. Being alone is not the same as some self-pitying loneliness but can be a challenge to better ourselves. Death: is a genuine reality. In the context of faith it is a transition to an experience beyond what we know or imagine now, a complete union with our loving God.

 

Even more, what gives us strength and encourages us not to be afraid is the conviction that, in addition to all else that is a part of the creative dynamic of life, we possess true value and dignity in life and in our relationship to a loving God. This is the importance of the example that Jesus uses in singling out the sparrow. As small and as insignificant as the sparrow is, this creature adds to the life and the beauty of all that is. How much more can each of us enhance life and creation around us. We need not be afraid of anyone or anything because our greatest value and worth comes from what we are and what we do in reflecting and revealing the goodness of God.

 

We can derive additional insight from what else we heard today in the Scriptures. Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, was convinced that despite the opposition and ridicule he experienced, and despite even the doubts he had about himself, he must continue on in fearlessly trusting God. In the end he knew that he would be vindicated by God. Saint Paul, too, despite all that he would confront, all that he would go through, remained positive in his commitment to proclaim the love of God found in the Good News of Jesus.

 

Do not be afraid, fear not. Many things happen in different ways, in different circumstances in life. If we are convinced within ourselves of all the opportunities offered to us to recognize what a gift we have received in the life that is given to us, then each circumstance offers the potential to experience and to reveal the truth of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Corpus Christi – June 18, 2017

Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14b-16a 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17 John 6: 57-58

A number of years ago when I would visit St. Mel to attend the First Communions or Confirmations of my nephews or nieces, I was somewhat puzzled by the appearance of this church building. In particular, it was the ceiling that caught my attention. It was different. It was unusual. Unlike many other churches, it was not open, reaching to a visible peak. It was not barrel-vaulted. Nor was simply a flat-ceiling. I thought that there must be something to its unusual design, but what it was escaped me.

When I was assigned as pastor here, I was still puzzled. Enlightenment finally came to me. I realized that the architect, Rolland Johns, a parishioner, wanted to incorporate a familiar sight, a familiar feature found in many homes in the parish. Indeed, it could be found in his own home on W.137th. It came to me that the ceiling of the church building resembled what many of the storey-and-a-half houses found throughout the parish have on their second floor: pitched sides with a flat center. This was not just a convenient and economical design. It was intended and is reflected throughout the church in the windows, the Stations, the framing around various areas. It was a message being conveyed by the architect.

I became convinced that Mr. Johns cleverly wanted those of us who worship here to call to mind the familiar imagery of so many of the homes in our West Park community. These are places where families gather and are raised. These are places were many traditions develop and are practiced. These are places where the love of spouses, children and grandchildren is experienced. It was to be in a similar environment that we would gather to join in and celebrate the Eucharist.

I consider this to be a worthy thought today on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ- Corpus Christi. In his desire to convey the deep desire for union with us, Jesus Christ, the Word of God, took bread and declared it to be his body. He took wine and declared it to be his blood. It was not a merely symbolic gesture. As the one who had restored health to mind and body, who had changed water into wine, who had fed thousands with just a few loaves and fish, who had returned life to those who were dead, Jesus Christ took simple elements of food and declared their substance to be his Real Presence. So intimately does God seek to be joined with us that the God-Man, Jesus Christ, shares with us the totality of his person, his Body and his Blood.

How appropriate it is that we have the opportunity to gather in this particular home-like setting, with this family of believers that we are, to listen to God speak to us through the words of the Scriptures and then to be fed the meal of the very person, the Real Presence, of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

I know that what we do in gathering for the celebration of the Mass is formalized and ritualistic in different ways: the prayers, the posture and the like. But what we are doing in this way is spending just a few moments out of our week to acknowledge the importance of our loving God to us and to respond in gratitude to this loving God. We are also being nourished with God’s Word and with Food for the Journey (Viaticum) of our lives. It is in the environment of this homelike place that we share, here and now, the reality of our God.

I have also mentioned before another architectural feature of this church building that is unusual. It is also a constant reminder to us. The exterior doors of this building are glass. In particular the doors facing Triskett Road are glass. These doors allow us to be viewed as we gather to witness to our Faith by those who look in. But they also indicate to us that we are to carry forth what it is that we have experienced here to that world out there beyond the glass doors.

The Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ has been shared with us in this place so that we can go out into that world, reaffirmed in our Faith and thus declare with our lives this week our belief and trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Trinity Sunday – June 11, 2017

Exodus 34: 4b-6, 8-9 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13 John 3: 15-17

Whether it is the shamrock of Saint Patrick or a picture of interlocking rings, or even a simple triangle, any attempt at a depiction of the Holy Trinity is inadequate. Any of these falls short of giving a real understanding of it Thus, the conclusion reached after any discussion of the Trinity is that “It is a mystery.”

It should not be a surprise to us to speak of the essence or reality of the God of our faith as a mystery because the ancient, inspired writers recorded in the Scriptures understood human beings like us as being made in the image and likeness of God. Think of it we know all too well that we are mysteries in many ways. Our minds, our emotions, our thoughts, and most especially our ability to know and love are mysterious. They cannot always be fully defined or clearly understood. So it is with the God of our faith, the very source of life and existence, of all we experience in creation – in whose image and likeness we are.

To recognize God as Trinity, as mystery, does not diminish or disregard the reality or significance of God. Rather, if we look to ourselves and appreciate the depth of what we are and the potential of what we can be, even with our own limitations, so much more do we recognize the immensity, the unlimited potential and majesty of our God. Yet, at the same time, because the essence of God is not power but knowledge and love, our God reaches out to us, shares our humanity, and seeks an unending relationship with us.

The mystery of God that we declare today and whom, in our limited human terms we call Father, Son and Holy Spirit, exists for all eternity in a creative and loving relationship that is extended to us in order to be shared by us. This is the fundamental reality of God in which we can participate.

It is not a reality that is founded on power or control or manipulation, but a constant and unending relationship of knowledge and love. It is the reality into which we are made the image and likeness.

God who exists in relationship is to be reflected in us as a relationship, in our interaction with one another. God is to be reflected in the manner in which we seek genuine knowledge, understanding, respect and love with one another. This incorporates the reflection of God in our lives.

What is it that we are told of our God in the inspired words and insights of Scriptures? What are we actively to reflect as images and likenesses of our God? God is merciful, God is gracious, God is slow to anger, God is rich in kindness and fidelity. So are we to be.

In addition, the God our faith is not distant and remote, but “gave his only Son that we might have eternal life.” God does not condemn us for our weakness and failure, but saves us so that we might be united with God.

In an even more specific way we hear how the God of our faith, whom we acknowledge as an unending relationship of knowledge and love, a relationship of Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – a Trinity of Persons but a Oneness of Being – is to be reflected by us in an active way of living, not just in some pious theory. It is in the encouragement of one another, by being in accord with one another, by living at peace with one another that God’s reality can be discovered through us.

This is the reality that is to be present in our lives,. This is how the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is to be found in us. This is how, through us and realized in our world that this world can come to know our good and gracious God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Pentecost – June 6, 2017

Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13 John 20 19-23

A very dramatic picture is presented to us today by St. Luke in the account from the Acts of the Apostles. First, there is Jerusalem. The city is crowded with devout Jews from around the Mediterranean world. They had come to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, marking the fifty days since the celebration of Passover. This feast recalled the establishment of the Covenant, the agreement between God and the Chosen People which was marked by the giving of the Law, the Ten Commandments.

In addition to the crowds present, we are told of the blowing of the wind and the appearance of fire in the form of tongues. Sounds and sights making evident the action of the Divine presence and action. The Apostles are described as responding to all of this by speaking in various languages. What drew my attention, amidst all of this, was the comment that “each of us hear them in his native language.” The revelation of God was taking place not in what the Apostles were able to do, but in how those who heard them were able to experience something so significant. No matter where anyone came from, no matter what language, culture or background they represented, the message of Jesus being proclaimed by the Apostles through the action of the Spirit could be heard. What clearer understanding of what was taking place could be conveyed than this? Proclaiming the revelation of God that is the mission of Jesus Christ was something that could be understood and appreciated by anyone and everyone.. Those who carried on this mission, who proclaimed this message, were to do so in a way and by such means that each one could “hear. . .them in his native language.”

The power of the Spirit, conveyed in the strong imagery of wind, fire and language, is the same power of the Spirit passed on to us in Baptism and Confirmation. This power of the Spirit is given to us so that through us the revelation of God can be understood clearly and distinctly by all who experience it in and through us. Through the action of the Spirit, day after day, in words and actions, the revelation of God takes place.

What is this revelation that occurs? Here we look to Jesus as told to us by St. John. Jesus breathed the Spirit upon his followers after his Resurrection. The new life, the creative force of the life of the Spirit, was breathed into the Body of Christ that is the Church, just as life was breathed into the First Man in the image of Creation. Now life is breathed into this Body of the Church that we are.

The revelation of God in the conferral of the Spirit by Jesus is the conferral of peace and forgiveness. Peace, that is a wholeness, a restoration of mind and heart and spirit is achieved by forgiveness.

This is the message of God to our world, proclaimed and achieved by Jesus Christ. It is to be continued by us, that Body of Christ, in our world today. Although we are diverse and individual, and often divided, we are to be reconciled and united with God and with one another by peace and forgiveness. It is not a grand and sweeping process. Nor is it weak or cowering or timid. This peace and forgiveness is a true sign of strength reflective of God and God’s presence found in the efforts, each day and often in simple ways, to allow the wind and the fire of the Spirit to take form in us.

In the ancient imagery of the Bible, the divisions in the world began to take place at the Tower of Babel when an inability to understand one another was the result of different languages being spoken. The re-creation of the face of the earth which we pray that the Spirit achieve begins when genuine understanding and respect among diverse peoples happens because all hear the message of Jesus Christ “in his native language.” Peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and union begin to come about as all begin to understand, in their diversity, the one message needed in our world today, the one message made concrete and real in us, the message of genuine peace forgiveness and love found in union with our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Ascension of the Lord – May 28, 2017

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

I have grown increasingly comfortable with accounts from the Scriptures which appear to differ from each other in some respects. I am coming to understand them as opportunities for different writers to offer perspectives not only about particular incidents they are recalling, but also what significance their presentations give to aspects of those incidents.

The example that is before us today is the accounts of two inspired individuals, Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, and Matthew in his Gospel account, and the way in which they recall that major occurrence in the life of the followers of Jesus when he takes physical leave of them after his death and resurrection. He will no longer be with them in the manner in which they had known him. But he also assures them that he would not abandon them.

Of these two accounts, the most striking comment for me is made by Matthew. He writes: “they doubted.” He added this observation with no clarification. There was, as he notes, still a sense of uncertainty present in the minds of the followers of Jesus that was evident as they gathered together at the time of his departure from them. At the same time, he remarks, they gave praise and honor to God in worship.

Even as “they doubted” he also reports that “they worshiped.” Despite everything that they had experienced, they were persons of faith and trust. The individuals to whom Jesus had handed on the continuation of his mission and ministry, that is, the revelation and experience of God, were persons of deep faith, deep belief. But why was there doubt? It may well have been doubt about what lay ahead of them at that moment. There was no certainty, no clear awareness of what adventures were before them. It was of that, perhaps, that they may have wondered, they may have doubted. Their doubt was not about Jesus, or his mission. Their doubt may have been about themselves.

What guided them as they were to go forward, was an absolute conviction that was based upon the trust and the belief that they had placed in Jesus and his message. It was an absolute conviction about the promise that had been given to them of the abiding presence and action of the Spirit of God who would be handed on to them.

As the followers of Jesus proceeded with their lives, they could go forth with faith, with trust, with conviction. Through the presence of the Spirit, they were enlightened, as we heard in the letter to the Ephesians, with qualities of hope, the riches of glory, and the greatness of power. Their hope was an optimism and a perspective on life and living that was driven by their union with God through Jesus. The riches of glory were theirs because they possessed a genuine wealth – not in material goods – but in the spiritual goods that appreciated their true source of value as creatures of a loving God. Their greatness of power arose from their source of strength, fortitude, and endurance which was derived from an unconquerable, undefeatable, commitment to a relationship with God.

The doubt the followers of Jesus that Matthew mentions was not, I believe, a cowering fear of the unknown that would, in some way, restrain them. But it was a courageous act of love toward the unknown of whatever was ahead of them. Whatever that might be, it could be overcome, it could be met with their faith and trust. No matter what the days, the years, ahead for them might portend as they went to spread the message of what they had known and lived, they could be confident of the Lord being with them. Of that, there was no doubt.

From what is told to us, we can take much for ourselves – as their lives demonstrate to us. Much is unknown in the lives of any of us and what lies ahead of us. Many times we can doubt our own strength, our own ability to deal with what confronts us day after day. But by the faith and trust in Jesus Christ that we live out sacramentally in our life as Church, and that we live out in particular way by our presence here to worship and be nourished by the Eucharist, we are strengthened as we go forth into our world. We are able to go forth into our world, as they went forward into their world, to proclaim with confidence ad conviction our reliance on and our union with our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 14, 2017

Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7 1 Peter 2: 4-9 John 14: 1-12

 

For better or for worse, one of the very apparent results of the proliferation of social media, and being a part of it, is the awareness of various matters of concern that are expressed in different ways. In the past, an individual’s thoughts or concerns were generally expressed to a limited number of friends and associates. Now it is possible, or so it seems, that the whole world can know.

 

In the case of Jesus speaking to his followers, as we have heard in the Gospel account today, St. John passed on to posterity and to us how Jesus addressed a particular concern that is often expressed. He tells them, and he tell us, to be calm, “Do not let you hearts be troubled.” Do not be upset or overwhelmed, by situations we may encounter. In support of this statement, he offers encouragement to them and to us. It is an encouragement that is based on his promise to be present with us. By this contact with him, we are in contact with the very source of life, our Creator God.

 

The problem, as he was speaking to them is that they did not comprehend or appreciate what he was saying to them. They did not appear to “get it.” Thomas says that they do not know what is going to happen – where are you going? He wants to know whether they will be abandoned and left on their own. Philip wonders how they can continue to be encouraged, how can they be assured of Jesus’ continual support. They are upset, they are indeed troubled. Like any one of us they want to know if the relationship with Jesus that has been supportive and helpful can continue. After challenging their doubts and their puzzlement, Jesus concludes by telling them that they can have confidence because: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

 

No matter what any of us might confront in living from day to day – and there is an example given to us in the practical problem described to us in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles – we can be assured that we are moving in the right direction, according to the correct way, if we maintain a relationship with Christ in our lives. We are to see that relationship as a cornerstone, an essential support in how we approach living and interacting with one another. It is possible to do this, it is possible to see Christ as an essential part of our lives, when we have a greater appreciation of what he means when he says that he is “the way, the truth, and the life.”

 

When Jesus speaks of himself as “the way,” he not presenting himself simply as an example to follow in the sense of sorting through what is told of him in the Gospels, fitting what is closest to our own circumstances and then adopting that behavior. It is much deeper than that. To speak of Christ as “the way” is to say that what he is, is what I want to be. The truth he speaks is the truth that I want to be found in me. The life he embraces, is the manner of being alive that I want to reflect.

 

The way of Jesus Christ is the revelation to the world of the love of God. It is the revelation of God’s love for creation, for the world, for alll of humanity, for each one of us. The way of Jesus Christ is the way that revelation is found, is made known in each of us. The truth that he speaks is the truth of the reality of God and God’s presence found in all of creation and in all of life. It is the truth that God is present and can be known and experienced in and through us. The life he leads is the life that is directed wholly and entirely and selflessly toward others and on behalf of others.

 

What the words of Jesus let us know is that “what we are to do” in response to “what we have heard” is to be his Body, his presence. We are to be the continuation of his ministry in the world today. This is not a removal from or an escape from the realities of daily life. Christ’s whole life and ministry is a contradiction of this. What we might face in the difficulties we confront from day to day calls us to do as he did – embrace the totality of the human experience. We are to take on willingly all aspects of life, even in its ugliness, as the cross before us exemplifies day after day.

 

We are not to be troubled because we are not abandoned or alone. We are united with Christ and nourished by him in the Eucharist as we meet the challenges of daily life. We are one with him as we reveal to our world our truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 7, 2017

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

I particularly enjoy the fact that there is a certain rhythm or dynamism to the major periods or seasons of celebrations that we observe during our Church year. Such is the case with Advent and Christmas, Lent and, now, during this time after Easter. It is at this time that we focus on the central event of our Faith, the Resurrection of the Lord, in a progressive and developing way.

During the first weeks we remembered the surprise, the confusion, and the joy of the followers of Jesus as they realized that the cruel and unjust death by execution on the cross was a triumphant action of Christ. It was the revealing to the world of the totality of God’s love for mankind. Now the depth and dimension of that love had been confirmed by the fact that he overcame death. He had risen. He had defeated death. There is nothing to fear. We can be at peace. “My Lord and my God!”

This was followed by recalling the developing recognition of his presence. This took place not only in the appearances where he confirmed that he was not some sort of spirit or ghost, but truly human. He welcomed touch and shared in meals. It was also made known as a continuous presence that would remain and be shared with them and with us: “they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.”

Now, in this rhythm of this time after Easter, we turn a corner and move on. The question before us is: we have heard, so what do we do. This is the question asked by those who heard Peter preach. It is a question for us to consider as well.

Thus, on this Fourth Sunday of this Easter Season, we are reminded of what we have heard. We are given a description of himself that Jesus given to us in his preaching. He makes use of an image that is familiar in the pastoral setting of his time that, to those who have pets, is easy to understand even now. Jesus’ image is that of a shepherd who calls out to the sheep and welcomes them into the protection of a guarded sheepfold. The call is that of a familiar voice. It is a voice that is heard and responded to. It is sound that is comforting and promising and protective. It is a sound we would want to hear in midst of the challenges and difficulties of life. It is a voice, a sound, that we seek because of the effect it can have on us and the protection and love it declares.

It is, however, also a sound, a voice that must be recognized and distinguished. There are so many sounds, so many noises that call us and surround us. They are sounds that so often distract and disturb, entice or incite us. They are sounds that can so easily disrupt and overwhelm us.

In all the sounds that we hear day after day, which sound calls us to recognize that we are loved? Which voice calls to us to tell us of our value, our worth, our dignity or our potential? Does that sound come from one who is boastful or critical, or demeaning, or trying to sell us something we do not need? Does that sound come from a cell phone, or social media, or any one of the technological wonders that clutter our day? Or is it a sound, a voice, that calls us to love and to be loved, to care and to be cared for.

This is what we have heard. So, what are we to do. In imitation of the one calling to us, we are to be like him, the gate, the door. We are to be the invitation and the access to life and living in the way that the one calls us shows us. Hearing the words of St. Peter’s letter today we are to be the same gateway as Jesus, a gateway, a doorway, that is open and welcoming to those who respond. We are to be like him in not returning an insult or threatening retaliation. We are to live in a manner that expresses forgiveness and speaks the truth in love, being neither defensive or vengeful – truly welcoming in all respects.

What are we to do? We are to voice within ourselves the same call that Jesus, as shepherd, makes. It is a voice, a call that puts forth, day after day, a genuine and committed revelation to our world of a vibrant, living relationship with our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of Easter – April 30, 2017

Acts of the Apostles 2: 14, 22-33 1 Peter 1: 17-21 Luke 24: 13-35

By contrast with the overload of information that is available to us day after day as a result of the constantly developing technology that is taking place, the manner and process of writing and communicating that was available at the time that the Gospels were written is extremely limited. Basically all of this was done by hand and written on scrolls that had to be copied by hand. Thus, when we have a relatively lengthy account, such as that of the experience of two followers of Jesus on the day of the Resurrection, such as we just heard, this, in itself points to the importance of what we are being told.

There are many different aspects to this story that would warrant comment. I want only to focus on one element in this account, however. It appears that the understanding of these two disciples was rather limited. Perhaps it reflected the thinking of many of those who had been following Jesus at the time. When these two individuals the unknowingly encountered Jesus along the way of their journey, their vision was rather clouded, by their own admission. They were experiencing grief, disappointment, fear and false expectations. This is apparent in the comment that they were “hoping he would be the one to redeem Israel.” What they had looked for was apparently defeated by his execution on a cross. In addition, they could not comprehend the rumors they were hearing that he had overcome this tragic happening and had risen from the dead.

Even after being chided by Jesus about “how slow of heart to believe what the prophets spoke,” it was not clear to them what had actually happened, what they had experienced, what was being reported to them. How often, however, can we resemble them in our relationship with God in our lives? How often can our expectations of our relationship with God be formulated on a basis of our own selfish outlook on how we think things ought to be? Our faith declares that God is with us. God accompanies us on our journeys through life. We are not abandoned by God. We are not lost and without God although that presence of God is not always known on our own terms. And, in a particular way, as the account concludes, we experience God’s presence here and now when we take time to gather and share the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Do our hearts burn within us with the knowledge of God’s presence? Such a challenging question ought to be before us now as we are here. Peter reminds us in his letter that we are just sojourners, as it is called, temporary residents in this world. We are strangers, or ought to be, to the very limited values often thought to be so important. What we have and we believe are so much more significant than such perishable items as silver and gold. Is this how we value the faith and the practice of our faith in our lives? These are values that respect God and all of God’s creation around us. These values are different, they are deeper, because of our conviction of faith and our relationship with God. The way we view things, the perspective we possess, allows us – as Peter also preaches in what we heard from the Acts of the Apostles – to know that the purpose and plan of God is be revealed by us and by our lives. How God is known, how God is appreciated, depends so much on us and on our faith as it is lived.

Even in addressing those who are before him. Peter does not blame them for what has happened to Jesus. Rather, he calls them to recognize that God’s plan can be seen at work even in the apparent defeat of the crucifixion. It reveals the depth of God’s love as opposed to the scheming and planning of those who crucified Christ. Man’s manipulation was overcome by the triumph of the resurrection, life over death.

We hear, in God’s message to today, a call to expand the vision of our eyes, our hearts, our minds and our spirits. We hear a call to appreciate more fully what it is we possess in the faith that we proclaim. Our values, and the value of all of creation, the worth of what we can be and do is far beyond the often selfish and self-directed values of our world. What we are to do because of the commitment of our faith in the Risen Lord is to make known and to make a real part of our daily living, not only here for these few moments, but even moreso when we go forth from here, what it means to in an effective and real relationship with our good and gracious Go.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Easter – April 23, 2017

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

 

A very ancient insight into what gives us life is found in the Genesis account of creation. In that imagery, God “breathed” into the human form created from the clay of the earth. Life passed from God to humanity through breath. It is this image that gives meaning to the account of the appearance of the Risen Lord to his followers and that the Risen Lord “breathed” on them, giving them the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God.

 

Life, as first created by God and described to us in the very ancient text of Genesis is now raised to a higher level by the Resurrection of Jesus, the overcoming of death. It is the life of the Spirit of God, an enhanced living, a life that exists beyond the seemingly destructive nature of human dying. This is what the Risen Lord conveys to his followers and which is passed on to us through our baptism in the Lord.

 

What, then is this renewed life to achieve? How is this new life to be lived? Is this new life something to be reserved for later on, or is it to be lived now? A response to this question is also found in the experience recalled making known that this new life is to be lived now. It is to be a life that is lived in peace. “Peace be with you” is said and repeated. The Lord conveys to those who place faith in him a peace of mind, heart and sprit. It is a peace that is derived from the Faith that is shared. It is a peace that is to be lived now. It is a peace which is extended even to those who do not see yet believe.

 

How is the peace to be achieved? It is accomplished through forgiveness and reconciliation. The Resurrected Lord came into the midst of those who were frightened, but also those who had abandoned him. His word to them: to forgive and to reconcile. His presence in those moments reflected both forgiveness and reconciliation with them. To forgive all that alienates one from another allows reconciliation to take place and thus peace can occur.

 

The message of the Risen Lord in these moments is clear and direct. The change in living, the transformation in how life is lived by those whose lives are enhanced by the Spirit of God breathed on them, can indeed, happen. It can happen to his followers whom he encountered. It can happen through them in us. It is this change that reflects peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

 

This transformation, however, is not easy to achieve in us. We know this all too well. It is in light of this that we can appreciate the experience of one who is so well remembered in this story. It is the experience of Thomas, the “twin,” the one who doubts. Our own human reality can easily make us skeptical, doubting, like Thomas. What turned his questioning, his doubting, what transformed him was the encouragement to put his finger, to put his hand into the wounds. It was not the glory of the Lord’s presence that did this, it was the sign of his wounds. It was the experience of the totality of God’s love that the wounds of the crucifixion of the Lord represented.

 

Peace, reconciliation, forgiveness can be achieved by putting our hands into our own woundedness and by putting our hands into the woundedness of others. It is in this that we recognize our oneness with the Lord in experiencing the totality of God’s love. It is in the experience of the wounds that we can declare “My Lord and my God!”

 

Taking ourselves beyond our limited and doubting selves, we can readily share what we are and what we can be with others. We can reflect, even beyond the idealistic lifestyle we heard described to us in the reading from Acts, a genuine concern and love for all of humanity and all of creation. We can reflect a genuine awareness that all of us together can share in the bounty of God’s love for us that is revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Taking ourselves beyond our limited and doubting selves, we can recognize what it is that we possess in faith: a living hope, and imperishable inheritance of a value greater than even gold. All of this is the new life breathed upon us in the gift of the Spirit handed on by the Risen Lord. All of this is the new life held out to us to be our own by a genuine response of faith and trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Easter April 16, 2017

Acts 10: 34a, 37-43 Colossians 3: 1-4 John 20: 1-9

 

At different times, in different years, and at different stages in life, what is heard or read in God’s message to us in the Scriptures can have different effects on us. At this time, this year, at this stage in my life, what captured my attention most especially in the last days of Lent were the various challenges made to Jesus. If you are who you say you are, do this or do that. Show us some sort of sign; come down from cross; prove yourself. Do something fantastic and maybe we will believe in you. Strangely enough, these taunts did not come only from the enemies of Jesus. They were heard even from his friends: Martha, after all, as we heard a couple of weeks ago, reprimanded him: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.

 

This should make us think – I know, it made me think. If this was the situation during the ministry of Jesus, how much more would it be the case after it is reported that he had risen from the dead. If only there were some overwhelming, overpowering, undeniable appearance or action by the Risen Christ. Then, it would seem, there would be no question, there would be no doubt that what he had said and what he had done was a genuine revelation of God, that God had, indeed, lived with us. He would be readily accepted and believed.

 

But that was not so. It is not so. The cornerstone of our Faith, that God entered our world in the person of Jesus Christ, that he lived and died in accord with the reality of our human life, and that he conquered even death itself by rising from the dead: this is our Faith. This is what we profess. This is what brings us together here to celebrate Easter.

 

How this affects us, and how this is to affect us here and now in the world in which we live, can be found in a remark that St. Peter is recorded to have said early in his preaching of the Gospel. It is also found in the experiences told to us about the followers of Jesus, as we will hear in the weeks to come.

 

Peter very simply states: “We are witnesses of this.” If we want to know and experience the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is to be in the witness that we make to it in the way we live and act. It is to be in the effect it has on us in our lives. Death is not an end of life; the way of our being alive is merely changed. The effect of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is to be found in the faith and the relationship we have with our creative and loving God. It is to be found in the partnership, the covenant, with God that we freely and willingly live. That God is and can be known is to be realized in and through us, and in and through the manner in which we live with one another in the created world given to us by our God.

 

We are witnesses of God in our world and in our lives. Speaking what we see, what we hear, what we observed – this defines being a witness. The first followers of Jesus declared what they saw, what they heard, what they observed. Beyond that, they were transformed in their lives by their faith, by the declarations of their experiences so that in their words, in their deeds, in their attitudes of sincerity and truth the transformative effect of their experience was evident.

 

If that was the case then, with them, so it is to be the case now, with us. The signs to be shown, the power to be demonstrated, the resurrection to life to be experienced in the celebration of Easter is to be known and to be experienced in our lives. It is be known and experienced in the words, the deeds and the attitudes that are displayed day after day, week after week. What the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead means is to be found in the effective presence in our lives of the impact on each of us by a deep-seated and loving relationship with our good and gracious God.