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

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of Lent – March 15, 2020

Exodus 17: 3-7 – Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 – John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

 

I have suggested over the last couple of weeks that we consider, during this Season of Lent, the efforts that God makes toward us. That is a clear lesson to us in God’s word to us today.

 

We heard first about how God acted on behalf of the Israelites in the desert. Through Moses God had led them out of Egypt, delivering them from slavery. By an act of God the waters of the sea had been parted and they were rescued from the pursuing Egyptians. God responded to complaints about hunger, providing them with quail and manna. Still, they were not satisfied. Even worse, they appeared not to trust God after all that had happened for them. Once again, they grumbled. They were like spoiled children. Our human reaction would most probably been to call them ungrateful and simply forget them. But, once again, God reaches out. From the very unlikely source of a rock, God provided water. It is a sign of God’s limitless, overflowing love.

 

The Gospel account goes even further in illustrating God’s efforts. In our contemporary era, with current values, we may not appreciate all that we are told in this incident. In the encounter with the woman, Jesus acts contrary to many human norms of his society. For example, speaking with a Samaritan, one regarded as a heretic, was to be shunned because Jesus was interacting with someone not of his own people. Even more difficult to understand was the fact that he was publicly speaking with a woman. No rabbi, no teacher, would ever do something like this. Jesus asks for a drink, an needs to make use of the woman’s utensil to do so. This was contrary to the dietary laws of his tradition. What we are to understand, from the Gospel-writer John’s recoding the details of this event, is that it demonstrates how the ministry of Jesus reflects the efforts of God. Jesus reaches far beyond human limitations to make evident God’s desire to reach out to us, to be joined with us.

 

Saint Paul had come to an understanding of the actions of God in his life and in his ministry. He declares, as we have hard, that an abundance has been provided to those who are faithfully I union with God. It is the abundance of the great force of love that is poured into us through the action of the Spirit of God, most especially through the waters of baptism. It is the abundance of God’s desire to be reconciled with us that is to motivate and encourage us in whatever efforts we make this Lent.

 

The generous goodness of God is evident in the efforts God makes toward us. Our response is to live and to act with the same generosity of mind, heart and spirit in our lives. It is in this way that we are to reflect and reveal the nature and the presence of our loving union with our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Lent – March 8, 2020

Genesis 12: 1-42 – Timothy 1: 8b-10 – Matthew 17: 1-9

 

Perhaps a good way for us, as Church, to understand the Season of Lent is to regard it as a pause from the normal busyness of our daily routines in order to reflect on the effort God makes to be reconciled with us who have wandered from our relationship with God. It is an effort to restore us to the dignity that is ours as creatures of God.

 

Thus, we first heard about Abraham today. We heard of his call and the covenant or agreement made with him by God. In this way God begins this process of reconciliation by first establishing a chosen people. They are to be the ones who will, as a people, have a special relationship with God. By their life and by their worship they will show God’s creative plan to the world. What this Chosen People, starting with Abraham, were to do then, we are to do now, in our time, in our world, in our lives.

 

In writing to his disciple and friend, Timothy, St. Paul elaborates on how we are to do this. Simply stated: we are to be holy. We are called to a peaceful wholeness in living that truly values God, all others and ourselves. Everything that is part of daily living is a part of this call. We are to be holy in our relationship with God. This is the reason why we are her and have what we have. We are to be holy in whatever circumstance we live. This we do by making use of the talents and capabilities we have. We are to be holy in recognizing how God is revealed to us, and how we reveal God to the world. We are called to live a holy life, a God-filled life, here and now.

 

It is in this context that we heard of an unusual event taking place during the ministry of Jesus. Certainly it was a significant even in the life of the Apostles as well in the life of the early Church The most apparent reason explaining this event is the support and confidence it gave to the followers of Jesus as they faced the passion and suffering of Jesus. The early Church could also recall this event in the midst of the persecution and rejection it experienced.

 

The dynamics of the event of the Transfiguration suggest some considerations. Peter wanted to seize the moment and hold on to it. Jesus was seen in a glorious way that was truly up lifting. Setting up tents was suggested so that they could stay and not face the reality of preaching, teaching and being rejected. But the moments of this glorious event quickly came to an end.

 

The call to holiness does not take place away from the real world. The call to holiness happens in the sometimes harsh reality of the day-to-day world – the world where money, possessions, power are more important than people. It happens in the world where sin and the rejection of God is seemingly a lot easier than living out God’s command of love. The call to holiness is not on some mountain in radian beauty, but down here in the reality of work, home and neighborhood. The call to holiness is involved in the pain, the suffering, the misunderstanding that are part of the human experience, that are a part of our lives.

 

It is in the holiness to which we are called as God’s chosen people today and that we are to live from day-to day in this world that we reveal and reflect our good & gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

First Sunday of Lent – March 1, 2020

Genesis 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7 – Romans 5: 12, 17-19 – Matthew 4: 1-11

 

Those who have heard me speak over the years know that I am not a story-teller. Stories, however, are an important part of the Scriptures we hear in the effort to reveal God and mankind’s relationship with God. Such is the case today with the brief passage from the Book of Genesis which we heard today. It is part of a very good story about creation and the beginnings of mankind, but it is not a literal account. Rather, it is a simple, straightforward effort to pass on an important truth.

 

What this story, recorded in the first book of the Bible seeks to teach us is that it was God’s intention, from the beginning of creation, that we, as mankind, would live in a state of perfection, in a perfect relationship with God. There would be no pain, suffering or sinfulness. There would be no jealousy, hurt, pride or envy. The dignity of all persons would be honored and respected.

 

But this plan was frustrated because of one element which God added in creating us. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, God endowed us with free will, with the ability to choose. What is told to us in the story from Genesis is that a choice was made for immediate gratification. It was in response to a temptation to be something other than what was intended. This choice was a rejection of God’s plan.

 

The amazing thing is that the Scriptures also tell us that God did not give up even though sinfulness, a distancing from God, became a part of humanity. God constantly seeks to win back creation, to win back humanity. But, again, because of the free will God has given us, God will not force us. We continue to have the ability to choose.

 

Saint Paul told us today of the ultimate effort of God our behalf. Just as sin, the rejection of God, entered the world through a man’s choice, so sin is conquered and reconciliation with God is accomplished by one man’s action in Jesus Christ. God offers all of us the opportunity to join in the redeeming action of Christ, to become part of that restoration of God’s original plan.

 

It is in recalling this that gives insight into the account of the temptations which Jesus experienced. It is important to remember that it is a very human Jesus who is gradually becoming aware in his humanity and of his mission. He is to call all of humanity back to its origins, back to the reality of God’s plan from the very beginning.

 

The question before Jesus as he begins his ministry if how he is to accomplish this. Thus, the temptations are proposed. Is he to be a political and social Messiah? Jesus rejects this because it is a limited view of a much deeper mission. Is he to force God, in some way, to protect him, to make God work according to a very human plans? He rejects this because of his confidence in God’s plan. Is he to be powerful in human terms, emphasizing humanity as more important than God? This, too, he rejects because it would only be a continuation of past failures. The response of Jesus in each instance presents an example for all of us to follow.

 

As was the case with the first man and woman, and with all persons since, there are many temptations to act contrary to God’s original design for us. The Season of Lent offers to us various symbols and reminders to make what effort each of us can to bring about a genuine renewal of creation, starting with ourselves. It offers opportunities to restore the richness of life intended for us that is achieved through an intimate union with our good and gracious God

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Seventh Sunday of the Year – February 23, 2020

Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18 – 1 Corinthians 3: 16-23 – Matthew 5: 38-48

 

As we anticipate the beginning of the Season of Lent this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we are also concluding the introduction to the ministry of Jesus as it is told to us in the Gospel of Saint Matthew that have heard over the past weeks.

 

One understanding which Jesus wanted his listeners, and us, to have was that we cannot be put down or demeaned or lessened in any way, no matter what others might do. Our strength in withstanding this is found in our recognition that our real dignity comes from being creatures of God. This is basic to our faith. We are loved by God. Indeed, we are so loved by God that God shared our humanity with us in Jesus Christ. Over the centuries and even until this day in the life of the Church, there have been those4 who have responded to this message even to the point of giving their lives to those who thought that they could control and destroy them in mind and spirit, as well as in their bodies.

 

Many of us, by comparison, might consider ourselves as insignificant In a way, this might be true if we think only in terms that are measured by power or wealth. But if we understand life and the practice of our faith in Jesus Christ as important not only for us but for all the world as well, and if we hear clearly what Christ teaches us about ourselves and our relationship with God, and if we are convinced that this relationship with God affects us and the world in which we live then we can better understand Jesus. When he says to offer no resistance to one who seeks to harm us, to turn the other cheek, when he says hand over the cloak as well, and when he says to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute, the meaning and purpose of this is to affect us deeply. To act in this manner is not weakness but, rather, the true strength we have as creations of God.

 

Power and wealth, however, do not understand these ideas. They do not understand”Be holy, for the Lord your God is holy. They do not understand what it is to be temples, a “dwelling” of God. They do not understand what it means to say that the Spirit of God dwells in us. Power and wealth do not understand any of these.

 

In giving the introduction to his message and ministry, it is true freedom of mind, heart and spirit that Jesus seeks to reveal to us. It is also the challenge he makes to us to embrace what he is teaching. Our faith gives us the freedom to say: “Do what you wish, or what you think you can do, because this is not what gives me dignity and value, no matter what you are or think yourself to be.” The true measure of any one of us comes from our relationship with our loving God. This is the reason that life is not lived as an “Eye for an eye” and that love can be shown even to an enemy. The conviction of our faith that being one with Jesus Christ enables us to reveal the true and deep value and meaning in our day to day lives of being united with a truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Sixth Sunday of the Year – February 16, 2020

Sirach 15: 15-20 1 Corinthians 2: 6-10 Matthew 5: 20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a

 

However we might happen to appreciate it, we all possess the freedom to make choices. This ability is based on the “free will” that has been given to us by our Creator God. It is among the greatest gifts we receive in life.

 

A central thought found in the communication God makes to us today is this matter of making choices. Which way do we want to go? How do we want to act? What do we want to be? What do we want to become as we go through our daily lives? These are some of the significant choices we can make.

 

In this communication from our God, we heard first from the wise man, Sirach. Trusting God, he tells us, is a choice that we can make in guiding our lives. We can choose what will enhance life or what will brings death. We can choose what will be for our good, or what will lead to evil for ourselves and for others. God did not give us life so that we can act unjustly and harm the relationships we experience. At the same time, however, it is our decision how we make this choice to make even if it is not what God wants for us. A relationship with God can guide us but God does not force us in the choiceS we might make.

 

We then heard Saint Paul speak of the result of making a choice that is based on a relationship with God. It is the beginning of true wisdom. Wisdom is not just knowledge or understanding, rather, it is insight and perception and appreciation of the whole of God’s loving plan. Paul calls it a mystery, but not in the sense of something that is hidden. It is a mystery such as love is a mystery that cannot be fully explained but is both experienced by us and appreciated.

 

In the Gospel passage we heard from St. Matthew, Jesus talks about the ways of behaving that his listeners have been taught. In doing so he also offers a challenge to us to strengthen the relationship between God and ourselves. What he is seeking for us to understand is that we can choose to be, we can choose to do, more in our lives because we are loved by God. We can do more because we have been given capabilities by God that are part of our very nature as human being.

 

We can choose to abuse and manipulate others for our own purposes or choose to respect and to honor one another because in different way each of us can reflect the goodness of God. We can choose to use others for our own pleasure, whether sexual or otherwise, or choose to respect and honor the qualities that each of us possess in being images of the goodness of God. We can choose to deceive and to lie to others for our own gains, or choose to honor and to respect others with truthfulness and honesty because of the dignity we all possess as creatures of God and shared in humanity with the God-man, Jesus Christ.

 

These are choices that we can make because of the way we have been created by our loving God. These are choices we can make day after day in the way we live based on a faith we have been give, a faith that has been handed on to us.

 

It is this faith that allows us to speak and to live the true wisdom described by Saint Paul. It is a wisdom that reflects a knowledge and understanding of God and of God’s presence in our lives. It is a wisdom that appreciates the depth of God’s love for us. It is a wisdom made known to us by Jesus Christ and lived by us in response to our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of the Year – January 26, 2020

Isaiah 8:23- 9:3 1 Corinthians 1: 10-13, 17 Matthew 4: 12-23

 

Being able to communicate is one of the essentials of life. In speaking, listening, signing, absorbing what is being communicated and reaching out in response – all of these are so much a part of life. This is not only the case among humans. Those who study various species of animals tell us that, in various different ways, they communicate as well.

 

We have been called upon this weekend by Pope Francis, to spend these moments of worship today with a sense of gratitude as well as reflection and prayer for the fact that our loving God is not distant and remote, but truly intimate in relationship to us. Our loving God seeks to communicate with us. Communication, indeed, was basic to the effort of Jesus as he sought to reveal our God to us. That revelation of God is found in the Scriptures, what is known as the Word of God.”

 

It is through the “Word of God”, God speaking to us, that we hear, at least weekly, that we learn of God acting on behalf of the “Chosen People” of old. We hear, as well, the call of “God-with-us”, Jesus Christ, to join with him and, in a particular way, to follow him. We also listen as early members of this Body of Christ, the Church, that we also are, struggle and succeed in the effort to achieve what is called for in being followers of Christ, true images of our God.

 

What we heard in the Gospel passage which was read today provides a good example. In St. Matthew’s account Jesus is undertaking his ministry of revealing God. He does this, not in the center of Jewish tradition and practice, Jerusalem, but in Galilee, the land of the Gentile and foreigners, a land of darkness. This is a reminder to us that in whatever the circumstances or darkness, he is the source of light, he enlightens our lives. Then he gathers his followers – ordinary people – who will share his efforts so that we might know that all of us are called to be part of his work. He does not work in isolation, but with and through and in all of us.

 

What we heard today, as we do each week, or each time we read the Scriptures, is a communication of God to us that addresses us and challenges us today. No matter who or what any one of us might be today, we can be touched, we can be affected, we can be enlightened by God’s word to us now. Through the routine of daily life what we are, as the Body of Christ today, is to continue to be a means that seeks to reveal the light of God’s presence with us each day, the light of God’s willingness to lift us up so that we can realize our potential, a light of God’s effort to join us and nourish us when we are here, gathered in worship.

 

If we open ourselves To the full effect of God’s communication with us, to the Word of God spoken to us in the Scriptures and especially in the teachings of Christ, then we learn that the greatest desires of what we want in life are found in our relationship with God our Creator. We learn that the means to achieve the very best of what we want in life is found in our relationship with God who is with us and who speaks to us. We learn that what is requires to achieve this very best is found in our relationship with God and with living from day to day what we are as reflections of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Baptism of the Lord – January 12, 2020

Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-17 Acts 10: 34-38 Matthew 3: 13-17

 

As a Church, we officially close our celebration of the Christmas Season, when were called that God came into our world in the person of Jesus Christ, by hearing an account of what took place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the life of the Church, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the culmination of what Christmas celebrates because it is the initiation of Jesus’ public work to reveal God to the world.

 

In reality, Christmas and its surrounding events is a preparation for this liturgical feast. In the story of Christmas, the Lord is revealed in different ways. He is proclaimed by angels. He is seen by the faithful poor of Israel, represented by the shepherds. He is revealed to the Gentiles, the non-Jews, in the person of the Magi. The Baptism of the Lord, as Jesus stands before John to be baptized and as he is called “the Beloved Son” by his Heavenly Father, is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus to the world. It is the beginning too of a new adventure in the history of the world. Now all the world is to know that he is the Chosen One, the beloved one of the Father who has come into our world to renew it.

 

What is the ministry of Jesus, then, to be? He is to reveal the Father’s love and to lead us to the Father. In addition, he is calling on us to join in his work, to be part of his ministry. As we listened to the words of Isaiah today, we can easily apply them to Jesus. But what is described, the servant, is also to be us. Jesus began his public work and teaching to lead us to be servants with him.

 

Each of us has been chosen by God. We are beloved sons and daughters of God. Each of us is called to establish the justice that is light to the blind. Each of us is called to free prisoners from the darkness of mind and heart. Each of us is to do this as the servants are described: not shouting out, but in the quiet of our daily lives.

 

The Baptism of the Lord is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus but it is also a call to us to renew our ministry as part of the Body of Christ. Where is his ministry revealed today, but in us? Where is the servant found who brings forth justice, the saving, loving will of the Father, but in us?

 

How is this be carried out? Not by shouting and display, but in the manner in which we live day to day. It is to be found in our prayer, in our example, in our words, in our actions. All of these are to make known, to reveal and reflect the Lord.

 

All of the celebrations of the Christmas Season are directed at showing forth the Lord. What point would there be to these celebrations if this central message is not conveyed? All of us have been given the task of carrying on the mission of Christ that was begun at his baptism and is to be continued through our own baptisms. All of us are called upon to reflect in our lives a living faith and trust in our good and gracious God,