Deacon Ken’s Twenty – Nineth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily
Who could forget Tevye in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”. He was a Jewish man with a wife and three daughters. He was a milkman, delivering and selling milk and butter to the townspeople. He used a horse drawn cart to deliver his goods. Tevye and his family were living in the Russian Empire in a fictional village named Anatevka. Tevye and his Jewish friends were being forced into exile by the Russian Government. If you’ve never seen it, I recommend you do see it. Tevye was the ultimate prayer warrior. He had conversations with God as if God was standing right next to him, all day… every day. He made it look so easy. If it is that easy, then why aren’t more people conversing with God in prayer?
Here are some of my favorites Tevye conversations with God:
Tevye, pulling the milk cart and looking up to heaven says: “Did you have to make the horse go lame?
“Sometimes I wonder, when it gets too quiet up there, if You are thinking, “What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?”
“It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. After all, with Your help, I’m starving to death. Oh, dear Lord. You made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, it’s no shame to be poor… but it’s no great honor either. So, what would be so terrible… if I had a small fortune?”
“I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”
While this is not a conversation between God and Tevye, I believe it is a recommended way to pray for our enemies. The townspeople ask the Rabbi:
“Is there is a correct way to pray for the Czar who is forcing us into exile?” The Rabbi responds: “Yes there is…Lord bless and keep the Czar far, far away”.
The church has a beautiful definition of prayer. “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or requesting of good things from God” (CCC 2559). Jesus begins the Gospel by telling his disciples that the parable is about prayer.
In the parable, Jesus is teaching his disciples the need to pray persistently so that their faith and trust in Him might increase. Jesus tells them that God will secure the rights of the chosen ones who call out to him day and night. He’s saying:
“Knock and the door will be opened for you, seek and you will find” (Mat 7:7).
Picture yourself with Moses on a hillside observing the action below. The soldiers meet at the battle line, the place where both forces meet face to face’ As Moses lifts his arms the battle line moves forward, five yards, then two yards. When Moses arms weary and begin to fall, the battle line moves back, two yards, one yard. Aaron and Hur support Moses arms and the battle line moves forward again. The posture of Moses suggests that Moses was praying. Praying that God’s mercy and grace would be with his fellow Israelites. Praying that God would be with them in the struggle. Moses was praying for victory over Amalek, who waged war against them. The church calls praying for others “intercessory prayers”.
Reading or hearing scripture should always lead us to pray. Prayer is the beginning of dialogue between God and humans. We speak to God through our prayers, and he answers us through scripture. When we pray using scripture as our guide, we often find that we are who the scriptures are speaking of. We are Amalek when we are hostile to those who are different than us and are unloving to our neighbor. We are Moses when we pray for the good of others to the point of exhaustion. We are the widow when we pray seeking justice for a wrong done to us or others, and we keep “knocking and seeking”. We are the unjust judge filled with pride and arrogance. We are Jesus when we share the Word with others and love them unconditionally. We discover we have many things to pray for.
Paul says to remain faithful to what you have learned and believed because you know from whom you learned it. You have known the Sacred Scriptures, which have given you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Persistent praying leads to praying in faith.
May we pray for endurance in trial, strength in temptation, and gratitude in prosperity, so that when Jesus returns, He will find in us a praying community, steeped in faith.
Deacon Kenneth Stewart
Twenty – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily
Sunday September 18th.
After hearing these readings, my first thought was: There sure are a lot of shady people in the scriptures Wow! They are still running around in the world today. My vehicle warranty is not about to expire, it expired years ago. Additionally, I am not going to purchase nine one-hundred-dollar Amazon gift cards and send the card numbers to a poser claiming to be Father Francis for him to give as “incentive” gifts. We’ve heard much about shady people and most probably some of those shady people have tried to hoodwink us. In 1986, Susie and I were living in the high desert. I was ordered to attend the Military Police Investigator’s course at Fort McClellan Alabama. And just as a side note, one of the attendees was from Ghana. Susie drove me to the Los Angeles airport so I could catch a flight. While waiting for my flight, we were approached by a man wearing a trench coat. This man opened one side of his trench coat, and I kid you not, said: “Want to buy a watch”? The inside of his coat was lined with all kinds of different watches. I thought that only happened as a funny gag in the movies. I laughed so hard that the man looked about nervously and just kind of shrunk away.
Jesus says, “Never will I forget a thing they have done”! Jesus has much to say about how the poor are to be treated. He has blessed us greatly, so that we can bless those who are less fortunate than us. “All Christians should be ready and willing to come to the help of the needy and of their neighbors in want A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods” (CCC952). Those goods are people, like the poor and the needy. We cannot disregard the poor and needy, or skim off the top from the rich man, and still be Christians. We either serve God, or we don’t. We are not children of the dark, we are children of the light. We are not people of this world, we are people of the kingdom, not just any kingdom, we are people of the kingdom of God. We are Christians 24 hours a day, each and every day, and not just on Sunday’s and feast days. We are not people who look at all that is wrong in the world today and say: “Oh well, that just the way it is”.
Saint Paul tells us to pray. Pray for those in bondage. Pray for those who have placed others in bondage. Pray for leaders to make laws that are fair and just. Pray that people won’t have to leave their families and homelands to earn a living wage. Saint Paul says: “Pray brothers and sisters without ceasing (1 Thes 5: 17), because God wills that everyone comes to be saved and comes to the knowledge of the truth. Pray for each other’s salvation.
Sometimes as Catholics, we are accused of being shady people, though we are not. Not long ago, my nephew Josh and Susie were having a conversation about “One mediator between God and man.” Susie said to Josh: “Josh, if you ask me to pray for you, what does that make me”? Thinking for a moment, Josh responded: “A mediator”. So, it is when we ask those in heaven to pray for us. They’re in Heaven, they’re not dead and are much more alive than we are! The twenty-four elders and the angels in heaven all hear and take our prayers to Jesus. (Rev 5:8 and Rev 8: 3-4) We are in a constant transition, passing between life on earth, and life in either heaven or hell. We need to put our affairs in the proper perspectives. Our eyes need to stay focused towards our eternal salvation. God depends on us to be trustworthy in small and large things. One day we will have to give an account on how we managed all that God has given.
Deacons Kenneth Stewart
Body and Blood Homily
Sunday June 19th
My little brother, who is not Catholic’ asked me once if I truly believed that the communion, I took every Sunday was truly the Body and Blood of Jesus. I said: “I sure do”. He then asked: “Why”, So I let him have it, with love of course. The simple answer is that Jesus said it was. Jesus said it was not only once but several times. Some, who followed close to Jesus said: “How can this man give us his body to eat and his blood to drink?” “This is a hard saying” they said, and they walked away. They knew Jesus was speaking literally and not symbolically. So, Jesus tells them again, only more forcefully this time “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” In his letters to the Corinthians, Saint Paul makes it very clear that if you eat and drink the body and blood of Christ in an unworthy manner, that person is guilty of profaning the body and blood of Christ. What did the Church Fathers, those who followed shortly after the Apostles believe and what did they teach their followers? As Saint Ignatius of Antioch was on his way to Martyrdom, he wrote a letter to the people of Smyrna teaching them that: “The Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins, and who in his goodness, the Father raised.” Saint Ignatius was a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. Earlier in the Gospel of John Saint John tells us that “Jesus is truth” (John 14:6). Jesus cannot lie to us, He cannot deceive us, Jesus cannot lead us astray if He is truth. So, when Jesus says: “This is my body, this is my blood, you can take that truth to heart. In the eight verses from the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us three times, eat my body, drink my blood, live forever.
When we partake of the Eucharist, changes in our lives should occur. The Eucharist feeds our spirit. Every Sunday we should observe a noticeable change in our attitude of God, our Church, our church family, our own families and all of those living in our world today. As we share in the one body of Christ, we should become more Christ like. We should become attuned to the Eucharist, and in turn the Eucharist should confirm our way of thinking. As we leave the door of the church, Jesus doesn’t exit our bodies to permanently reside in the church, when we leave the door of the church, Jesus goes with each and every one of us. The things that we do, and the things we say should reflect that we are all little tabernacles sent into the world so that the world can see what Jesus has done for us, what Jesus can and will do for them. In the prayers of consecration, the priest asks Christ “to send down the spirit to make these Gifts Holy.” It is Christ himself, present at the altar, who changes the bread and wine into His body and blood. The Eucharistic prayers are directed to Jesus, Jesus hears those prayers and causes the effect.
The Eucharist is indeed illogical to the human mind. But who knows the mind of God? Saint Ambrose says: “If God can speak into existence that which is not, then how easy is it for God to change that what is, into something that it wasn’t?” (author’s paraphrase) When we leave here today, we take our communion out into the world and share it with all we encounter. Like Mary, we should ponder in our hearts what the Eucharist calls us to do. Does it call us to a deeper communion with God and each other? Is our faith strengthened? Are we like the apostles who believed, or are we like the disciples who walked away? It is God’s love for us that he sent his son. Jesus loves us so much that he desires to be with us. He is with us in the breaking of the bread and in his word. Jesus knew he wouldn’t be on this earth forever, so he devised a way to spend time with us. Scripture tells us that in the breaking of the bread, Jesus can be found. He comes to dwell with us. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus appears to two disciples “in a different form”, (Mark 16:12) and they didn’t recognize Jesus. In the breaking of the bread, Cleopas and his friend recognized the Lord. In the breaking of the bread, did Jesus not feed five thousand from five loaves? Jesus shows us his glory at the wedding feast in Cana, when he turned water into wine. Jesus says: “This is my body; this is my blood”. It truly is a mystery, and it takes great faith to believe, but that is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do. Scripture tells us it’s so; The Apostles say it’s so. The Early Christians say it’s so. As Catholic Christians, we always follow the truth, wherever it takes us. Last evening at Evening prayers the antiphon before the Canticle of Mary summed up very nicely, what I was trying to explain to my brother. This was the antiphon: “How Holy this feast in which Christ is our food; His passion is recalled; grace fills our hearts, and we receive a pledge of the glory to come. Alleluia!
HAPPY FATHERS DAY
Deacons Kenneth Stewart
Easter Sunday Homily
I get a chuckle when I think about the Resurrection. Mary arrives at the tomb and hastens to tell the Apostles that Jesus’ body is gone. Shortly after, the finger pointing begins. The apostles point their fingers to the soldiers: “You moved his body, didn’t you?” You and the Pharisees wanted to make Jesus body disappear, so, he couldn’t come back as he said he would, so you had to have moved his body!” The Pharisees point back at the Disciples and said: “You moved his body, didn’t you? You wanted to make all Jesus’ ridiculous statements about coming back look true and so you moved the body to make it look so! It’s kind of reminiscent of one child saying to another: “My dad can beat up your dad.”
Many people didn’t know what to believe, even those who traveled with and were close to Jesus. We’ll hear later that even doubting Thomas needed proof. What proof do we need that Jesus is who he says he is, that He wants to abide with us, and that he is coming back for us? I’d like to share with you some words about proof which I found on the internet years ago. It is simply titled “Proof”.
How can we trust that which is unseen? Simple, look for the proof. The shadow, proves the sun. The echo, proves the sound. The steam, proves the heat. The watermark, proves the flood. The rustling of the leaves, proves the wind. We struggle to believe what we cannot see But we cannot see because we are really not looking. The creation, proves the creator. The Heavens, proves his glory. The Son, proves the Father. The cross, proves His love.
As we look back on Holy week, we see proof of God’s love. On Holy Thursday God blessed us with the Priesthood. Jesus gave the disciples all authority that had been given Him by the Father. Those Apostles laid hands on their disciples and made Bishops and priests. Our priest is gloriously ordained into that same Priestly lineage. At the Last Supper He initiated the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the way God chooses to abide in us. It is “THE” personal relationship of all personal relationships.
On Good Friday, God shows us his love by offering His Son on the cross to remove all stain of sin, and free us from everlasting death. He took our debt upon himself to save us.
On Holy Saturday we began our celebration in darkness but recall that in the resurrection Jesus is the light of the world. We are called to share that light, and on that night, we share that light with those who join the Church and experience Baptism where their sins are forgiven and they are united with Christ. In the Sacrament of Confirmation the Catechumens receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Holy week culminates on Easter Sunday. The church teaches that Easter Sunday is the greatest and oldest Christian feast, which celebrates Christ’s Resurrection. We celebrate because if He hadn’t risen from the dead, we would have no shot at everlasting life with him. How do we know that Jesus was resurrected, what’s our proof? Jesus tells us: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live. Saint Peter tells us: “We ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” In about 56 AD Saint Paul tells us: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time.