Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 12, 2019

Acts: 13: 14, 43-52 Revelation 7: 9, 14-17 John 10: 27-30

 

I have found many of the messages that we hear from Scripture during the Easter Season to be somewhat troubling because they appear to contrast so much with what is experienced or evident in our world today. One of the things that is apparent to me is a significant fear of what is different. Such differences include a person’s place of origin or color of skin, or form of worship, among other things. Such fear, expressed in various ways, is contrary to what we believe. Such fear calls into question or suspicion so many persons and things. Yet everything around us, all persons with whom we share the gifts of life, are part of and reflections of God’s creation.

 

What we celebrate at Easter is the deep assurance, the deep conviction, the deep confidence, that comes from being a part of the magnificent plan of our loving God that gives life, that give hope, that embraces all of creation.

 

What our God tells us through the Scriptures that we have heard today is that if we firmly believe that we are part of the eternal life that Christ has won for us through his resurrection, then our attitude toward life is to be one of confidence and not fear. We are to have faith on other human beings as creatures of God rather than immediately questioning them or doubting them. We are to look at the world, both large and small, not with skepticism an d doubt, but with hope and with trust gained through faith in the Risen Lord. Cynicism and negativity simply do not have a place alongside genuine faith.

 

When Paul and Barnabas were rejected by their own people who plotted against them, they confidently and fearlessly turned to the willing ears of the non-Jews. This was a radical step in the life of the early Church, but they were confident in their action and in their faith. They were rewarded for this by the response of so many.

 

The vision of John as he was addressing the ones who had survived persecution, tells those who have been through trials and distress, who have suffered persecution for their faith, that they can be confident and without fear because they will come to a point where there will be no thirst or hunger, no weeping or tears.

 

Our greatest confidence, our greatest reason to be without fear, comes from the words of Jesus as he describes himself as the Good Shepherd. He knows his own. He knows us and will care for his own. No one will take them out of his hand, no one will destroy them. They will, indeed, have eternal, unending life.

 

The Resurrection of the Lord that we celebrate during this Easter Season is the basis, the reason, that we who profess faith have no cause to fear. Jesus repeatedly tells us: “Do not be afraid.” We may well describe a variety of persons and situations which cause fear, but doing so is really a challenge to us. It is a challenge to rise above the prejudices of a limited and selfish vision. It is a challenge to us to examine the depth and degree of our genuine faith and trust in our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of Easter – May 5, 2019

Acts 5: 27-32, 40b-41 Revelation 5: 11-14 John 21: 1-14

 

What I just read from the Gospel of Saint John is not simply a retelling of another of the experiences that the Apostles of Jesus had of his rising from the dead. Rather, it is truly an account that is rich in both information and insight into what we are, as a body of believers, as Church. John wants us, and all who hear or read his Gospel, to understand this. Our Faith is not something that is only individual. Our Faith is to be lived and shared as Church. This has been true beginning with the Resurrection and has continued through the early years of the Church, during the centuries since, and certainly now.

 

Consider what is told to us in these brief words. Peter takes the initiative to go out and fish, to return to the trade that he and others had pursue. Recall, however, that early in Jesus’s ministry they were told that they were to be “fishers of men.” Peter, in this instance, takes the lead to begin this task and calls upon the others to follow.

 

But the Lord still needs to be part of this work. The Apostles catch nothing until he directs them. T\But they do not recognize him until they put their faith in him. It is only after that act of faith that they take in a great haul. Peter recognizes that he is stripped, nearly naked and thus dependent. Again, he take the lead in bringing the others to shore. This small community of believers then join in a meal that Jesus provides. There are clear overtones oft he story of the multiplication of the loaves. More importantly, there are overtones of the sharing of the Eucharist as they join in this meal. Clearly Jesus envisions his followers to continues as a community, as an assembly, as church. Peter acts as and is confirmed by Jesus as a leader. This is simply because when there is a group, there is also a need for a leader. This is what is shown to us today by St. John.

 

As we celebrate the Resurrection, we also celebrate the renewal of life in ourselves as individuals, but likewise in ourselves as a community of faith. Our Faith, as followers of Jesus Christ finds its strength and its renewal not just in an individual relationship with Christ but, more importantly, in the relationship that exists with us as a community of faith. That is why it is so essential that we come together in prayer and praise. It is this that emphasizes the importance of joining together in worship week after week. Genuine Christian, Catholic faith is expressed as a community of worship in the celebration of the Sacraments. The early Church community, about which we also heard today, serves as a model. It found its strength in the shared faith of one another. They came together as a community of believers.

 

We renew our faith as we come together and share in the Eucharist today. It is the faith we each declare individually, but it is, and must continue to be, a faith that is nurtured, strengthened and firmly declared by us as a church, as a community of believers.

 

It is in this manner that the close followers of Jesus and the early Church, as well as believers throughout the centuries up to and including ourselves, profess trust and conviction in a good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Easter – April 26, 2019

Acts 5:12-16 Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 John 20:19-31

 

Often, as part of a routine greeting we make, the questions is asked, “How are you?” It really is a rhetorical question. It is not looking for a genuine answer. So the response given is something like “OK” or “Doing fine” or simply “Alive.” This is so no matter what might the case of how one is really feeling. But, being “Alive,” especially for a person of faith, means a great deal more. The Easter Season celebrates the central mystery of our faith, that Jesus Christ has overcome death. He has risen fro the dead. He is “Alive.”

 

What about us, however? We declare ourselves to be believers in the Resurrection. When, in a general sense, we speak about a person who is “alive” we often mean that the person is “lively.” That person exudes, effervesces, even “bubbles” in some way. That person is said to have “life.” Indeed,, this is the sort of life which we are to have because of our faith. This may not be so much what we show or how we act externally. But it is “life” shown in the confidence, the courage that marks the way we live.

 

Much like the early Church about which we heard today. They would meet together despite opposition. They would tolerate and rise above persecution because of their faith. At the same time, the movement was growing. There was something to their belief. That something was the Spirit of the Lord that allowed them to add to their numbers. The Spirit of the Lord moved the people in their conviction that the Lord had truly overcome death. Because of this, there was a new vision, a new perspective on life, a new perspective on the world as a whole.

 

John, too, was alive in his faith, even though he was in exile because of persecution. In the midst of persecution he had a vision of the Lord.. This led him to write of the triumph of the Church over persecution. His vision is of the Risen Lord who says imply: There is nothing to fear. I am the beginning and the end of all things. I am the alpha and the omega. Nothing comes before me, nothing comes after me. Put faith in me and all will be well.

 

We also heard the familiar story about the Apostles after the Resurrection and, in particular, about Thomas. Thomas doubts the news that he hears. Then, a week later, he declares his belief. There is a little twist in what is added by the words of Jesus. Thomas believed because he saw. We are to believe even though we do not see. This is an affirmation by our Lord of the faith that is to be alive in us.

 

While this may be the way we should be, we could look at ourselves and often recognize that we are the Thomas of Easter Sunday rather than the Thomas of a week later. We see in ourselves what reflects doubt and skepticism rather that the enthusiasm of “My Lord and my God.”

 

So, then, we are to examine ourselves. We proclaim the same faith as Thomas. We proclaim the same faith as John and the other followers of Jesus. We proclaim the same faith as the early Church. We proclaim that Jesus Christ is risen, that he is alive. Thus, are we “alive” in way that truly proclaim our faith in a good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord – April 21, 2019

Acts of the Apostles 10: 34a, 37-43 Colossians 3: 1-4 Luke 24: 1-12

 

The celebration of Easter, for the Church, is steeped in history. At the Easter Vigil there are multiple readings from Scripture which recount the story and the effects of God’s loving action on behalf of mankind. Easter day takes us back to that shocking experience when the women who came to the tomb of Jesus, expecting to find the body of the one who had been betrayed, condemned and crucified, not there. The tomb was empty. What this discovery meant only slowly become clear.

 

Celebrating Easter can also direct our minds and our faith to the future. It is our faith that human death does not end life. United with the God-man, Jesus Christ, through baptism, we will eventually share in the fulness of a glorified life with God. This is demonstrated to us by the Resurrection of the Lord that we recall.

 

Yet, what does the celebration of Easter mean to us today? It is not just looking back or looking to the future. It is not just this particular day on a calendar. What does it mean today, in our lives, in our world, at this time and place in which we live?

 

We who, at Easter, joyously express faith in Jesus Christ as risen also realize and understand that in our lives and in our world whatever is death can be overcome by resurrection. As Jesus Christ was not defeated by death on a cross, we ,too, can be filled with hope, we can be confident that we will not be defeated, we will rise as well.

 

The impact of Easter that we celebrate is to resonate within us. It is the restoration of every hope, every ideal, every vision which we have for ourselves and for our world. It is a call to recognize deep within ourselves what the Resurrection truly means. Nothing and no one has any control over us. It is to say, to believe, to declare, that death has no more power over us. As persons of faith, what motivates and directs us and our lives is a full awareness of God’s triumphant love for us

 

Easter powerfully reminds us to go within ourselves and recognize that we can overcome anything which might try to defeat us. Is it a lack of love or understanding? It can be overcome. Is it an addiction or a dependency? It can be overcome. It is fear, or sorrow, or pain that is deep within our hearts? It can be overcome.

 

Our world, and every part of it, our lives and every part of them, look for and need the promise, the hope, and the triumph, that Easter proclaims. So it is that we, in our lives, in our words, and in our actions, both today at Easter and throughout the year, declare with deep conviction that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the triumph of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord – April 14, 2019

Isaiah 50: 4-7 Philippians 2: 6-11 Luke 22: 14 – 23: 56

 

Most of us, at one time or another, have felt overwhelmed by our lives and the challenges we may face. We may experience pain or suffering, rejection or loss. This is not a lament about these things. Rather, it is a recognition of reality.

 

With that in mind, we heard today the account of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ as told by Saint Luke. The facts are familiar to us. What they represent, in the manner that Saint Luke tell us about them, is the tragic manner in which Christ is united with us in the reality of this life.

 

Consider this: the whole life and ministry of Jesus is upended, thrown into disarray. Peter, at first, was ready to defend Jesus with a sword, and then denies him. Even Jesus, we confronted with suffering and death experiences in his human nature a very personal crisis as well as indecision.

 

Then there are the unexpected contradictions that abound in this account. For example, those who are supposedly learned in the law mock and condemn Jesus. A pagan Pilate declares that there is no case against Jesus. A foreign Roman governor, Pilate, becomes a friend of a native-born, traitor and ruler, Herod, who is greedy for power and wealth. A bandit proclaims Jesus as king and a Roman soldier says that he is innocent. Many of us, too, experience contradictions in our own lives.

 

In other words, as we hear the account as told to us by Saint Luke we can consider the challenges that we all face and recognize that Jesus Christ, the God-man, encountered so much. Despite this, despite even death on the cross, it was not a tragic end but a gateway to triumph. What Jesus experienced, what he suffered, would lead to the Resurrection, to new life.

 

A message that we can hear today is that in all challenges and difficulties we may encounter in life, we can be joined with Jesus in confidently trusting in a good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fifth Sunday of Lent – April 7, 2019

Isaiah 43: 16-21 Philippians 3: 8-14 John 8: 1-11

 

If the story of the Prodigal Son, which we heard last week, is the most powerful Gospel story on forgiveness, and I believe that it is, then what I just read is the account of the most powerful incident during the ministry of Jesus about forgiveness. It is powerful because it addresses the important matter of infidelity to the marriage covenant. It is powerful because of the response that Jesus made: simply scribbling in the sand. It is powerful because of the reminder that is made to the accusers that only one who is free of any guilt could condemn.

 

In hearing this account it is important to remember that the action of being unfaithful to the covenant of marriage is the sign in the Scriptures of how God’s Chosen People treated the relationship with God. Despite God’s goodness to them, they had been unfaithful They had turned to their neighbors, to other religions, to paganism, and abandoned God. They were unfaithful to the commitment of a loving God to them, to God who had acted on their behalf.

 

The question made to Jesus was what did he have to say about such infidelity. It was not a question, as we can understand John’s Gospel, about the infidelity of the woman in question, but about the infidelity in humanity’s response to God. In essence, Jesus’ response is directed at our unfaithfulness to God’s love. The real beauty of this story is that Jesus said nothing to the woman at this point. He only scribbled in the sand. When te accusers were gone, he tells her simply not to do this again. She was to change her way of life. She was to eliminate this infidelity from her life.

 

This incident and the response of Jesus sums up the whole direction of Christ’s teaching and ministry which is to reconcile us to God. Christ seeks to have all of us realize the depth of God’s desire that we be reunited with God, that we be one with God. It is in this way that we gain an understanding of the purpose of our lives and the manner in which we are to live our lives. We are constantly and continuously to reflect in our lives the image of God that we are. We are to realize that the possibility of renewing that relationship with God is always open to us.

 

God’s love, God’s forgiveness, persists. We need only to respond to it. Like the woman in the account, no matter what we have done, God will not act to end the relationship between us. Only we can do this, Only we can end the relationship with God if we cut ourselves off from God, if we are unwilling to change, if we are unwilling to repent, if we are unwilling to work to restore the loving relationship with God.

 

We heard Isaiah the prophet remind us today that whatever has been part of the past in our lives, God is doing something new with us. This is the renewal we prepare to celebrate at Easter, the renewal of the relationship between God and ourselves. St. Paul spoke with confidence as he acknowledged in himself the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus and the change that this has made in his life. Everything of the past that might hold him back was just so much rubbish.

 

Jesus simply scribbled in the sand when he heard the very human and vengeful judgement made about the woman. More than anything else this reveals the truth of the loving forgiveness available to us from our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of Lent – March 31, 2019

Joshua 5: 9a, 10-12 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21 Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

 

In the efforts that we make to express our feelings for someone who is important us, be it a friend, a spouse, a child or a parent, it is often a most difficult task to convey the genuineness of the love that is felt for them. Words can often fail. A gift is not always understood or appreciated. Doing something for them often does not accomplish what was hoped. All of these efforts can become frustrating.

 

The story of the Prodigal Son struck me as being one more attempt by Jesus and, through him, by God, to reveal to us the depth of the message of God’s love for us. I believe it to be one of the richest stories in the Gospels. It is one of the fullest illustrations given to us of the purpose of Christ’s mission.

 

Those who gathered around Jesus and heard this story represent all of us. All of us include those who, in some way, are estranged or distant from God. All of us are those whose choices limit the way that we are to be reflections or images of God. All of us are also those who neglect or reject, or take for granted, our possibilities to live lives in peace, inharmony, in love with God, our Creator and with one another.

 

If we are honest, each of can find something of ourselves in this story of the Prodigal Son. In the case of the younger son, he simply takes things for granted, as if all that is involved is his right. What is his father’s, he demands for himself. He feels that it is his right to do as he pleases, to waste what is given to him, to think only of himself. What has been freely given to us by our God we often feel free to waste. We have been given the ability to live, to love, to better the world in which we live. But we can think that it is not our responsibility, it is not our duty. We need only think of ourselves.

 

Then there is the case of the older son. He is the righteous one, the “good” son. He correctly pointed out that he did everything that he was supposed to do. But he did this with a selfishness that was not unlike that of his brother. He was closed in on himself, He resented not only the waste by his brother but also the generous and unquestioning love of his father. Like the older brother, what good we might do is diminished by the expectation we have that God act toward us according to our limited self-serving ways, ways that doubt God, that question God, that fail truly to trust God.

 

The father in this story represents our loving God who responds to us in whatever way we find ourselves. I can almost hear him say: “What did I do to have sons like this?” These are sons who waste the goodness that is shown to them. These are sons who reject the love that has been freely given to them. So our God can readily speak to each of us. If we are honest, in some way we can identify ourselves with the sons. In some way the desire of our God is to tell us, to show us, the depths of the Divine love for us, has not penetrated our thinking fully. In some way we hinder God’s love for us. We set up obstacles to this love. We choose ourselves instead. We choose sin. In some way we fail to appreciate the transforming power of the relationship God seeks with us. We fail to recognize the effect that this relationship is to have on us, on our world, on with all that is around us. All of this can be understood in this story Jesus tells us of the Prodigal Son.

 

Like the father, our God waits, longingly and hopefully, for our return so that we can be reunited with our truly good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Third Sunday of Lent – March 24, 2019

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Lent – March 17, 2019

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

First Sunday of Lent – March 10, 2019

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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