Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Baptism of the Lord – January 13, 2019

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Epiphany January 6, 2019

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

 

It is a bit surprising that the account of the Magi is found in the Gospel composed by St. Matthew. The traditional understanding is that Matthew’s account is primarily addressed to persons of Jewish background. Why would he tell of persons who were foreigners of a different religious tradition? After all, the Israelites of old, the people, culture and Faith among whom Jesus was born, were known as the “Chosen People” They were a limited group who were the first means by whom the revelation of God took place.

 

Although Matthew was addressing listeners of Jewish tradition and background, the presence of the Magi in his account makes clear the universality of the Gospel message. The revealing presence of the God-made-man is available to every person. At the same time, it also suggests the universality of the dignity of all persons. There is no exclusivity to the revelation of God’s love.

 

Indeed, the inclusion of the account of the Magi declares that all humanity is invited to respond to the revelation of God that begins to unfold with the birth inBethlehem. Echoing the prophet Isaiah, persons from throughout the world were coming – not only to see what had taken place, but also to be affected by it. The Lord had come into the world, God was in our midst, to be revealed to all and to everyone.

 

The Magi stand as a reminder to us of ourselves. We are part of the whole world to whom the Lord is revealed. It is through us that the Lord is to be known to the world.

 

In Matthew’s account, the Magi saw a star. They were moved by it. They responded to it. In doing so, they began a procession leading others to the object of that sign, the Incarnate Word. God in our midst.

 

We are to be the Magi of today. We have seen and celebrated the Lord coming into our midst. By our baptism, the Lord became directly a part of our lives. We were made holy and called to continue to be holy. It is incumbent on us to do the same as the Magi and lead other to the Lord.

 

The Feast of the Epiphany that we celebrate today not only recalls that the Lord was revealed to the world in history, but also that he is to be shown forth now. The light of the Lord which lit up the darkness then is to shine brightly in us now . We are to reflect that light and lead others, by our lives, to that light. Let it be that our lives, what we are and what we do, in word and in action, not hinder but encourage, not hide but reveal, the transforming effect of true faith and trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Holy Family – December 30, 2018

1 Samuel 1: 22, 24-28 1 John 3: 1-2, 21-24Luke 2: 41-52

 

I particularly like the account of this incident m the life of Jesus that has just been read because of the very humanness of it. In some ways it can be considered quite like experiences between parents and children in our own lives. This can be readily seen in the interaction between Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It actually provides a strong emphasis on the mystery of the Incarnation, of God taking on our human nature in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is Divine, as is suggested by his having to be in his “Father’s house. But he is also human, causing Mary and Joseph to be upset.

 

We can also appreciate the dynamic of the role of God’s presence in human lives in the account of the birth of the Old Testament prophet Samuel. Samuel was a child who was longed for over many years. Hannah and Elkeniah were finally able to give birth. Their faith and hope in God was realized. Considering herself to have been blessed, Hannah is true to a promise she had made and thus dedicates, returns, this child to the source of all life, God. This is not a denial of love or care for Samuel, but a profound insight into her love and care for him. She dedicates Samuel to God so that a greater or more important goal, God’s purpose in the life of Samuel, might be achieved. This is a very human demonstration of love. It is also a reflection of how Elkeniah and Hannah realize the love of God that they had experienced.

 

From these two examples of family life put before us today we can gain a greater appreciation of the thoughts we have also heard from Saint John. The first opportunity that any of us had to learn about the presence and the effect of love took place within the context of family life. It is within family life, hopefully, that we experience and come to know how to love and to be loved. We are described by John as “children” in order to point out that we have the same intimate relationship with God as can be experienced within a family. John is telling us how truly important all persons are in relationship to God. Each of us and all of us, whoever we are, wherever we come from, are set apart as sacred so that we can reflect in our daily living the name and the inheritance given to us by God. As children of God we are to reflect a life that is truly God-like. This is the challenge before us day after day.

 

With the story of the finding in the Temple reminding us of the importance of recognizing God with us we celebrate at Christmas, with the account of the fulfillment of hope and trust in the birth of Samuel and the response made in his dedication to God, and with the profound insight of the author, John, that calls on us to realize our importance as children our loving Father, we can be reaffirmed in the faith and trust that we place in a truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 23, 2018

Micah 5: 1-4a Hebrew 10: 5-10 Luke 1: 39-45

 

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God in our midst, we are told a story about Mary, a central character in that event. It is a simple and unpretentious story. Having been presented with the news that God would intervene in her life and she would become pregnant with a child by the action of the Holy Spirit, she took this in, accepted it and moved on with her life by taking time to visit with her relative who also was with child. Such is the way that we can appreciate the story of Mary and Elizabeth that we heard today.

 

At first we might simply view this account as an exemplary reaction by Mary when she learned of her relative’s pregnancy. She goes off to help her. They are two mothers-to-be assisting one another, sharing the anticipation, the excitement, the difficulties of their respective pregnancies.

 

Giving further thought, however, to this story I believe that it reveals to us even deeper symbolism and meaning. This can be found in the manner in which these two women shared the mystery of what was happening to them.

 

On the one hand, like Elizabeth, we can ask the question ourselves of how is it that we are so loved by God that God, indeed, is present to each of us in life. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, beyond reflecting the concern of one relative for another, announces the generosity of God that is available to us all. It is an opportunity available to anyone who is open to the goodness being shown to appreciate how significant each of us is to our loving God and how this can and does affect our own manner of living in relation to all of humanity and to all of creation.

 

On the other hand, in Mary, there is an even greater reminder of what is being offered to us by the Christmas event, the Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Indeed, we are to recognize that each of us is like Mary as this event takes place.

 

We are like Mary because our Faith proclaims that we possess within ourselves the Savior of the world whom we share in Word and Sacrament. We are like Mary because we can say that the peace of God’s presence for which our world desperately longs is now here in the Lord who is with us. We are like Mary because we have been blessed by the opportunity to make known to the world the depth of God’s love for us.

 

In the story of these two women which we recall in these days before Christmas we are reminded of what ought to be the central message of that celebration. It is our great fortune to share in the generosity shown to us by the coming of our Lord to us. It is our opportunity to proclaim by our words, by our actions, by our lives, the magnificent love and kindness of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of Advent – December 16, 2018

Zepheniah 1: 14-18a Phillipians 4: 4-7 Luke 3: 10-18

 

The overall theme that seeks our attention in the Liturgy today is rather easy to recognize. It is “joy.” “We are called to “Rejoice.” In many ways it is this same theme that pervades this whole period before Christmas.

 

Why are we called to “Rejoice”? We rejoice because the foundation of everything that is a part of this Advent Season is declared by the prophet Zepheniah: “The Lord your God is in your midst.” We rejoice because, as Paul states “The Lord is near.” Finally, we rejoice because of what is the basis of the ministry of John the Baptist: “He preached good news to the people”: the Promised One is here.

 

Quite simply, rejoicing is at the very heart of the Christian Faith. Even in the midst of struggles and challenges, even facing pain and suffering, we are called by the faith that we profess to be persons of joy. Joy is not some sort of superficial emotion, a superficial giddiness. Joy is to be found deep down within ourselves, in the depth of our interior life. Joy can be present because of the confidence, the hope, the trust that we place in the presence of a loving God in our world and in our lives.

 

Is this not the fundamental message of the Advent Season? We express a confident anticipation and expectation of a loving God, a God who, in the person of Jesus Christ, came humbly into our world. It is a joy that is based on the assurance, as Zechariah points out, that God is genuinely faithful, true and dependable. When we think of our own human experiences, how often have we been let down, disappointed, by those we counted on? How often have we been abandoned, ignored, by those who did not come through when they were needed? This is not the experience with God that Advent announces and that is the basis of the true celebration of Christmas.

 

How ought this confident faith affect us? For an answer, listen to John the Baptist and then look at the practicalities of our own lives. How can evidence of genuine justice and respect be given to those who are a part of our day to day living, or to those who are a part of our community, our nation, our word, or to those who are often overlooked, forgotten or demeaned especially by those who could do so much good?

 

John, in announcing the Good News that the Promised One is here, clearly makes a challenge to do the right thing, to do the just thing. He calls for doing what genuinely makes the truth and goodness of God evident in our respective lives and in our world.

 

The source of our joy and the reason that we are to rejoice is present to us and is present with us. More importantly, that source of joy is to be present through us in reflecting, in showing forth m a truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Advent – December 9, 2018

Baruch 5: 1-9 Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11 Luke 3: 1-6

 

I must admit that Saint Luke is my kind of writer. As he begins to tell of the ministry of Jesus, he appreciates, as I do, the importance of a little bit of history. As we have heard, he give a list off historical individuals who were important in that part of the world at that time. Tiberius Caesar, Pilate and Herod represented the civil authorities; Annas and Caiphas were part of the religious government. As first announced by John, as we recall today, God entered our world, a real world, a world that has a history. This is what Saint Luke wants us to know.

 

What, then, are we to understand Saint Luke as wanting those who read what he wrote to do? We are to recognize that he is presenting what is a basic lesson of the Season of Advent. God is coming to be with us in our history, into the story of our lives. All of us have a salvation history, a history of the relationship with God, a relationship, if we are honest, have had its ups and downs through the years. All of us are being called, once again, to respond to this relationship with God within the history of our lives and to reflect our God in our lives and by our lives.

 

Along with Saint Luke’s account, we also heard from the prophet Baruch. He addressed the people of his time, of his history. It was a time when they had experienced a devastating defeat in the destruction of Jerusalem, the center of their lives. Baruch speaks to them with hope, consolation and encouragement. The defeat will be replaced with the victory of the splendor of God. The hills and valleys will be smoothed out. All obstacles will be removed so that a trusting and confident relationship with God can be achieved. A renewed appreciation of the presence of God with them will fill their lives, their history.

 

Along with these accounts we hear a passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Christians at Philippi. It is a group that he deeply cherishes because of the admiration he has for their faith and the practice of that faith. His experience of them, which he reinforces in his writing, shows them to be a people who are confident of God’s presence in their history, in their lives. They are living what we are called to anticipate during this time of Advent.

 

As we hear today of the work of John proclaiming the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, we can be assured that God is truly with us, present to us in the history of our lives. God continues to be with us, not only as a memory of a person in history as was Jesus in his ministry at a time and a place in history, but also in our gathering here in worship, prayer and praise. In the Eucharist that we celebrate and share the presence of God in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that sustains us, refreshes us and renews us in our individual faith, and in our faith as Church, the present day reflection of that community in Philippi.

 

We now can go forth into the history of our lives that is today, that is this week to come, bringing down the obstacles that overwhelm us and filling the valleys that hinder us so that we might declare in word and in action our faith and trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

First Sunday of Advent – December 2, 2108

Jeremiah 13: 14-16 1 Thessalonians 3:12 – 4:2 Luke 21: 25-28

 

I continue to be amazed at the degree of anticipation that is shown during this time before Christmas. This not only involves the earlier and earlier appearance of decorations, but, even the traditional Advent calendar that marks he individual days leading up top Christmas are now marketed not only with small toys or pieces of chocolate, but also with pieces of cheese and samplings of whiskey. All this seems to be a bit of a stretch from the simplicity of an Advent Wreath.

 

The anticipation for the celebration of Christmas is, in truth, an anticipation of the celebration of the degree of God’s love for mankind. It is the love expressed by God’s coming into our world in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

As a Church, Christmas is more than just a look back to the past. It not only acknowledges that in Jesus Christ God entered into human history. But it also celebrates that this same Jesus Christ comes to us now in the Eucharist we share and that he will come again, at some time and in some way, when his mission is accomplished and his reign is accomplished and creation is readied to be returned to his Father, ourCreator.

 

So it is that we hear our lovingFather speak to us through the Scriptures we have heard today. Jeremiah directs his thoughts to the waiting for Christ’s coming in history. His work will be to bring about what is right and just, to establish his kingdom, his reign, and to turn all of creation back on the road to the Father.

 

Jesus, in highly symbolic language, speaks of his coming again. It is a language that is not to be taken literally but to be understood as describing the completion of his work when creation is returned to our loving Father. It will be radically different than it is now. The status quo will no longer be upheld.

 

In the meantime, what are we to do? Both Jesus and Paul provide a reply. As we are convinced in our Faith that God, in Jesus Christ, came once into history, so we are also to be convinced that he will come again. Because of this, how we live out our daily lives is to be affected. Jesus is direct. Do not be tied up with self-satisfaction and worldly affairs. We have a higher and greater vision of the dignity and value of ourselves and thus our focus is to be on how God’s presence can be better experienced in ourselves and, through us, in our world. Paul counsels that we are to grow in our love for another. We ought not be lethargic and think we have it made but, rather, continue on a path of growth and improvement on a daily basis.

 

These thoughts summarize well what the Season of Advent is to be for us. Preparations for Christmas are all around us. We, ourselves, also prepare or Christmas. These preparations by others, or by ourselves, are a reminder of a greater preparation that we are to make. We are to improve ourselves and to improve our world. In this way we yo make the celebration of Christmas, which all of these things anticipate, a true celebration of our good and gracious God;

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Christ the King –  November 25, 2018

Daniel 7: 12-14 Revelation 1: 5-8 John 18: 33b-37

 

Any good presentation, whether it is a speech, a movie, a book, a television program or a story, concludes in such a way as to bring the diverse parts which preceded that to a satisfying closure, in a satisfying way that answers questions that were raised or solves mysteries which had been present. So it is that, as Church, we conclude today the annual cycle known as the Liturgical Year with the Feast honoring Jesus Christ as Universal King. Having spent the past year listening to and reflecting on the mystery of God and the revelation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the conclusion is that Jesus Christ, in all hat he is an reveals, is the King, the epitome, of the universe, of life.

 

Today we heard from the prophet Daniel and the mysterious vision he had that the revelation of God comes through the “Son of Man” who is to be accorded all dominion, glory and kingship. From the book of Revelation there is a parallel image. The “Son of Man” is Jesus Christ who conquers death by being the first-born from the dead and thus surpasses all and everyone and is ruler of the kings of the earth.

 

These images make a certain amount of sense. They are filled with mystery and majesty. It might almost be called a very “Hollywood” image of “king.” As such, it gives the right sort of ending to the story.

 

But then we are presented with the gospel account of John. It is a sharp contrast. On the one had there is Pilate, a representative of the authority and majesty of Rome. On the other hand there is Jesus, a prisoner who is mockingly dressed and laughably crowned with thorns. He is asked, probably sarcastically, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Are you the “king” of those who bother to believe in you? Given a choice, we would more readily identify Jesus as “King” as envision by Daniel and the author of Revelation rather than the seemingly pathetic figure portrayed in the Gospel.

 

Yet, it is that contrast that defines the very nature of the kingship of Jesus, His kingship is not founded on trappings, externals, power, wealth or control. It is a kingship that speaks to the highest qualities found in God’s creation: justice, peace, mercy. This is what is found in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ the King to make certain that we know and understand God as the source of all and that this God loves us and seeks to be joined with us. Jesus Christ, the epitome of the relationship we can have with God is thus King – of life; of the world; of all we are and can be as reflections of our Creator.

 

This is the truth to which his life and his ministry testifies. This is the truth that Pilate, representing the cynicism of a selfish world, questions and ridicules. It is the truth about the world and about retaion. It is the truth that there is no greater authority than that of Jesus Christ which he proved by dying on the cross and then rising from the dead. In this he conquered the ultimate source of all fear that ultimate instrument of all human manipulation and control.

 

The conclusion of this story of our Faith that is retold during the year is that the Kingdom of Christ, the living active presence of God with us in Christ is dynamic. It began when he came into this world and mounted his throne, the cross. It witnessed to its authority in his resurrection, overcoming death. It moves in the world today, proclaiming the meaning of that resurrection. You and I are to make known the reality of that kingdom in our lives. We do this by the way we live and we act with one another with peace, justice and mercy. We do this by the way we live out the Gospel in our lives in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is King and in revealing the truth about our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year – November 11, 2018

1 Kings 17: 10-16Hebrews 8: 24-28Mark 12: 38-44

 

Today we hear different accounts about widows. In themselves, these accounts offer to us examples of individuals whose actions we can seek to imitate. Both women are clearly destitute. But they willingly give of themselves from what little they had. The widow from Zerephath extended hospitality to a stranger. The widow at the Temple offered what little she had to benefit the ministry of the Temple. These examples are obvious sources of comment and reflection. But I have chosen to look at these examples in a little different way. They offer to us not simply the idea of imitating their actions or their behavior, but the consideration that we can recognize that in their lives they reveal God and, importantly, an understanding of God.

 

Jesus commends the woman at the Temple for quietly giving from the last that she had. She did this in a way that she did not receive the recognition that so many others both craved and then made a point of being acknowledged. What we can realize is that the woman’s total generosity also describes God’s total generosity towards us and towards our world that is particularly embodied in and exemplified by Jesus Christ. It is a total generosity that is to be continued in us as the Body of Christ in the world, as the Church in our world. So often we count the cost of what we might do. So often we look for some return, some recognition, some recompense. The widow received none of that. How often does it happen that the continual generosity of God’s love receives a fitting return or appreciation from us? Quite frequently it is just the opposite. Nonetheless, the totality of God’s love does not cease. We can count on God’s presence with us at all times, as we can count on God’s presence with us now in the Eucharist.

 

The account of the widow of Zerephath is even more striking. She is a foreigner. A stranger comes to her and asks her to share the very last of what she has. She gives of it freely and willingly. The return to her is a continuous supply, a continuous presence. Freely and willingly God gives life and the many benefits of life to us, even when we might be estranged from God for any reason, even despite the frequent ingratitude or rejection we show in our failure and sin. What is our proper response? It is to accept this generosity and to allow it to sustain us in life. In addition, we are to reflect that same persistent generosity in our own lives and actions.

 

The widows about whom we heard today can be seen as much more than simple examples in themselves. They are genuine reflections of God’s actions on our behalf. As good examples as the widows might be in their own actions, so much more ought we to see them as sources of insight into God’s loving kindness and generosity toward us. We are also to realize that each of us, in some way or another, can reflect and reveal the generosity of God. We are to reflect, not grudgingly, not looking for recompense or return, but gratefully and freely making known our faith and our trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Thirty First Sunday of the Year – November 4, 2018

Deuteronomy 6:2-6 Hebrews 7:23-28 Mark 12:28b-34

 

I suppose I can be accused of being a bit biased, but I have found reading through the Gospel of St Mark this year to be particularly enlightening. I have found this to be especially so with respect to the structure he uses in order to present the Good News of Jesus Christ.

 

In both getting to know who Jesus is in the first part of his Gospel and in understanding what being his disciple means, the teaching of Jesus, in the manner that St. Mark presents it, adds a twist to what had been or what might have been expected.

 

Such is the case today when Jesus is asked what is the first commandment of the Law. He repeated what had been heard in the reading from Deuteronomy, the basic statement of Jewish faith,“The “Shema Yisrael. . .” “Hear, O Israel. . .”

 

The learned Jewish questionnaire agreed with the response Jesus gave. But Jesus, as before, added a commandment also found in the Old Testament, in the Book of Leviticus: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In doing so, he virtually places it on the same level, with the same status, as the first commandment. Or, if not that, at least he is making it apparent that the complete and correct understanding of the love of God included the demonstration of that love by love of neighbor.

 

So often it comes down to the question not who is my neighbor – Jesus answers this clearly in the story of the Good Samaritan – but what does it mean “to love” my neighbor. Perhaps this is difficult because we equate “love” with a romantic or emotional or a feeling sense. It is necessary to pull back from such notions. The first step to recognize is that there is a need for genuine respect for the neighbor, for all persons. The second step is then to acknowledge that all persons possess dignity as all persons are part of humanity like ourselves and are creatures of God. Respect that is to be shown and the acknowledgment of the dignity of a person, is about the person and not, necessarily, about the actions of a person.

 

Every person, any person, by the simple fact of a shared humanity, is deserving of respect and an acknowledgment of dignity no matter who or what they are, no matter what they may possess or not possess materially, physically, mentally or spiritually, no matter their background, heritage or status. As human beings they are, as we all are, made in the image of God.

 

For those who profess a Christian faith, all humanity shares in this dignity and is thus worthy of respect even more so because of the fact that God chose to share in humanity in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Such is the understanding that underlies the teaching of the Letter to the Hebrews. We are all in a relationship with God because Jesus Christ – the High Priest – achieves reconciliation between God and humanity.

 

To love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength, and to do so truly and genuinely, requires that we also love, respect, and accord dignity to our neighbor. That is the teaching Jesus proclaims today in Gospel of Mark and that is evidence we give of a genuine faith in our good and gracious God.