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,

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Epiphany of the Lord January 5, 2020

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

 

Another name which might be given to this Feast of the Epiphany, or Feast of the Three Kings, or Feast of the Magi, is the “Feast of Inclusion.” “Drawing in” or “Including” is a clear lesson that is conveyed by what we, as Church, recall today. It is a lesson that there are no restrictions or limits or borders to the extent of God’s love for humanity demonstrated by the birth of the God-made-man, Jesus Christ.

 

Consider what we have heard from Isaiah as he spoke to the Chosen People of old. They had suffered exile from their homeland, the Promised Land. In exile they had experienced and influenced other peoples, so that the return from exile would affect not only the Chosen People but also a large part of the whole world. From near and far people were going to participate in this new era, this new beginning that would take place.

 

Then we heard that Saint Paul, who had been a Pharisee, a strict observer of the Law, was not just ‘including the Gentiles, the non Jews, the foreigner sas recipients of his preaching and of baptism, he was actively going out to bring them in, to include them.. Paul declares that the Gentiles are co-heirs with the Jews. This was an opinion that clearly was not held by all the Apostles at the beginning. Thus there was a struggle between Peter and Paul until the Apostles realized that this God’s intentions were for all the world to be included.

 

It is then from Matthew, who addressed his account of the Gospel primarily to persons of Jewish origin and tradition, that the story of the Kings or Magi is heard. It is Matthew who emphasizes that from all over the world people would come to see what had happened. They were not only to see, they were to be affected. Having seen the newborn King, the Magi changed direction and return by another way. The Lord had come into the world, God was in our midst. All the world would come to see him. All the world is to be changed, transformed..

 

The Feast of the Epiphany not only recalls that the Lord was revealed to the world in history, but it also reminds us and urges us to show him forth, to reveal him, to the world now. The light of the Lord which lit up the darkness then is to shine brightly now in us as we lead others, by our lives, to that light.

 

In coming into our world in Jesus Christ, the Lord God called all of us, included all of us, in Divine Love. It is for us truly to reveal the Lord to all we meet, to live lives that do not

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Holy Family – December 29, 2019

Sirach 3:2-16, 12-14 Colossians 3: 12-17 Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23

 

A family I know has developed a tradition over the last years of going as a group, a couple of weeks before Christmas, to a Christmas tree farm. There they select and cut down trees for their respective homes. This year, a grandson in the group, picked a tree that was not attractive. Some might call it ugly. It appeared to have two trunks. He chose that tree to take to his family home because his father, who was not with the group that day, had once said that “Every tree has a home.” Hearing about this suggested reflections to me for this Feast of the Holy Family.

 

In many respects, families are different now than they are often remembered to be. Very little about family life can be taken for granted. Mobility has allowed families to be separated by miles and even states. Multiple marriages have led to a variety of roles and even a confusion of roles within a family. Single-parent families are far more frequent than many of us might remember. Illnesses, dependencies, and the demands made by employment and support offer challenges to the manner in which family life can be lived. The images often portrayed in the media or reported in the news can further add to the confusion. All of this can be lamented and bemoaned.

 

If we give it some thought, however, we realize that the Holy Family we recall today was certainly not picture-perfect. There was a pregnancy outside of marriage that posed a dilemma which made divorce a possibility. Foster parenting was a reality of this family. Then, they were refugees when the child was an infant followed by a long trek to their home. And when the son who had been born was an adolescent, he caused his parents anxiety.

 

Whether in contemporary society or in the Holy Family described to us in the Scriptures, things were not perfect, like that tree that appeared to have two trunks. It is not the appearance that is significant, however, but the environment, the setting, the “home” that can give beauty. No matter the circumstances, it is the family unit in whatever form that is the first place where one learns to live this gift of life. It is in the family unit that one is able to learn and experience love and care and respect.

 

With these thoughts in mind we can recall what our loving God said to us through inspired writers. In the wisdom of Sirach we have an ideal presented to us. The honor and respect that is to be shown to a parent can be expanded to include love and respect shown to all persons who are a part of our lives. Through Saint Paul we are reminded that no matter the circumstances of our natural family, we are also a part of a much greater family and are united to one another through a common bond with God our Father. We are to reflect that union by living as persons of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and most especially, love.

 

However family life might be experienced by any one of us, whether that be in our memories or in an ideal image portrayed for us in the Holy Family, there is a home for that misshapen tree which each one of us is. It is the home we share. It is the home that is found in the faith and trust we have in union with our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 22, 2019

Isaiah 7: 10-14 Romans 1: 1-7 Matthew 1: 18-24

 

As we move ever closer to the celebration of Christmas day, we are presented at this Eucharist with a significant but silent person who is an important part of the Christmas account that tells of God entering our world in the person of Jesus Christ. Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, has found himself in a very human situation and is confronted with a very serious dilemma.

 

A reflection of what is reported to us by Saint Matthew allows us to arrive at some insights. Joseph is aware of Mary’s own spiritual experience and what, in some fashion, she had come to know about her pregnancy. Joseph is aware of the teaching and expectations of his own religious tradition of the relationship between God and the Chosen People and the manner in which God had been understood as part of history of Jews. Joseph is fundamentally a man of faith, a just man, a righteous man, who knew the law and practice of his people. Joseph was genuinely troubled about circumstances which had arisen. He had a love and commitment to Mary. She was now pregnant so he weighs the consequences which have arisen, trying to resolve for himself this dilemma he faced.

 

What we can also recognize and appreciate is that Saint Matthew is not simply repeating some sort of pious story or legend. Rather, he is providing a sound lesson to us about the response that is given by a person of faith to a serious challenge that is faced in life.

 

In the earlier account we heard about Ahaz in the story from Isaiah, Ahaz faced the dilemma presented by an attack from his enemies. Isaiah tells him that he can be assured of God’s presence with him in this situation by the sign being offered: the conception of a son. But he was not willing to place firm faith or trust in God. On thr other hand, Joseph reflects the thoughts we heard today from Saint Paul. Paul acknowledges that all of the experiences in his life, coupled with his faith and trust in God made sense. God’s actions, his own faith and the response of those to whom he preached about the mystery and the realty of Jesus Christ revealed to him the depth and meaning of God’s loving plan for mankind. This, too, was the conclusion of Joseph as he accepted what was being asked of him.

 

God is with us, God will save us. This is the central truth that we recall in the example of firm faith and trust in this truth that is presented to us today. When we choose to be affected by this truth, to be affected by the depth and meaning of the Christmas event, God becoming man in Jesus Christ, we then give evidence of a willingness to follow the example given By Joseph. We then allow all aspects of our lives both those that are fortunate and those that are puzzling or challenging to reveal and reflect our own faith a trust in our good and gracious God.