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FR. ED SMITH'S REFLECTIONS

June 28, 2020
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10:37-42

Our Gospel for this last Sunday of June is a bit daunting, if not downright scary. Jesus seems to be saying: “Whoever does this”, or “Whoever does not do that” is going to be in big trouble! In fact, we read the word “whoever” 10 times in this short passage of St. Matthew’s Gospel. What is going on here? Why so many? Perhaps this word is reiterated so often in these verses in order to wake us up to the fact that WE are the “whoever” that Jesus is talking about. WE have to be ready to leave what might seem to be the most important things in life in order to follow Him, as He left His home in Nazareth to follow His Father’s will. WE must be willing to take up our crosses and follow Jesus in order to be His disciples. WE even have to be ready to lose our life for His sake in order to find it. Admittedly, these are a lot of demands on us, we the “whoevers” to whom Jesus is speaking. In the end, He wants us to be missionaries of our faith, to live it out each day, and to embrace Jesus as the center of our lives. This means making choices, day after day, that bring us closer and closer to Him and His mission of proclaiming the Good News. And what is our “reward” that He speaks of at the end of this passage? It is a life filled with meaning, hope, peace and love. It is the reward of knowing we have  completed a job well done. It is the promise of an eternity of joy in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Maybe, knowing this, we are a bit more willing to be the “whoever” Jesus is talking about. We don’t have to be afraid, because He wants only the best for us, and is ready to give it to us, now and forever! 

June 21, 2020
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58

Welcome to a reflection on trust as our Sundays return to “ordinary time”! Our Gospel for this weekend gives a wonderful ‘triple-play’ about not being afraid. In this passage, Jesus says: “Fear no one,” and later, “Do not be afraid,” and finally, “So, do not be afraid!” Three times in one Sunday Gospel! He is telling us that we never need to fear. How much clearer could he make it?! But why do we not have to be afraid? Jesus puts life in perspective, and reminds us that our life is eternal, that what he tells us in secret we are to proclaim in the light, that people do not have power over our eternal lives, and that our heavenly Father watches over everything that happens on this earth, even to the point of noticing when a sparrow falls to the ground. Simply stated, today’s Gospel is a marvelous lesson about Providence. God has a plan for our lives. He cares and guides us along the way, giving meaning to our existence, quietly inspiring us to do what is good. Not only that, He is ultimately leading us to eternal glory. If all this is true, then why in the world would we ever be afraid? God’s love is more powerful than any evil, violence, difficulty or even virus that could enter into our lives. God’s love transforms our lives into something greater than we could have ever asked for or imagined. And that same love calls us to heaven, and a life of light, happiness, and peace. So, let’s listen to Jesus on this one: “Do not be afraid!” because we have a Father in heaven who gave us life, loves us throughout that life, and wants us to share eternal life with Him! Nothing in this world can top that!from a pandemic.

June 14, 2020
Corpus Christi A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58

I have been thinking about some of the possible good things that are being given to us as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. I am sure I am not alone in this. It seems to me that one important lesson is that we have learned what it means to HUNGER for the Eucharist, and that the Eucharist is not just a ‘thing’, but a gift from Jesus of Himself that inspires us to give thanks [the very word “Eucharist” means ‘Thanksgiving’], to open our  souls to his love, to recognize Jesus in one another, to let ourselves be nourished by His Body and Blood, to build up the community of our parish, and to live lives of faith which help others to know and serve Him. No wonder so many feel hungry. God understands this. And He responds. As He has done throughout history. Remember: God gave manna to the Israelites so that they would not starve; God, through St. Paul, gives the Corinthians nourishment through the Good News so that they will grow in faith; God gave us His Son Jesus, who gives Himself, the Bread of  everlasting Life, so that we will be united with Him and live with Him in heaven. So, we see that God’s gifts to us respond to everything we really need, from basic human hunger to the desperate human longing not to be destroyed by death. Therefore we are promised something ‘everlasting’! But we have to be careful with this word. It does not simply mean ‘a really long time.’ Rather, the promise is that we will be in the everlasting presence of God: Father, Son and Spirit [recall last week’s feast of the Blessed Trinity]. We are invited to be part of the life of God. In other words, we are given the gift of everlasting Love. The Eucharist, which we celebrate in a special way on this feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, unites us to God here and now, enables us to be strengthened as a community of faith, and nourishes us so that we can live out in daily life what it means to be a Catholic Christian. Not only that, but in a very real way, we are already sharing Christ’s life. We touch eternity in His Body and Blood. We rejoice in such Love that embraces us now. And we know that we are offered the gift of living in that Love forever! This is a good thing to learn even
from a pandemic.

June 7, 2020
Trinity Sunday A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18

We have been living through a time of great changes to our lives, and also great challenges to our ability to be positive and hopeful from one day to the next. It has been mysterious. But that does not mean it has all been bad. Perhaps we have been given quiet time we would never had had before; maybe we have learned to appreciate the daily conveniences we can so easily take for granted; we may also have become more appreciative of the mysteries of our faith that help us through difficult times. This weekend we reflect on the Blessed Trinity: the greatest mystery of our faith. Let’s consider this great mystery together. We believe in ONE God…and yet, we speak of God as THREE persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How is God one and, at the same time, three? Let’s be clear from the start: we will never really understand this sublime mystery. What we do know is that the Trinity pervades our faith. We begin our prayers with the sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” We use this same formula at the start of Mass, and for the blessing at its conclusion. It is used at Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Matrimony, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick. The Trinity is central to our faith, our prayers, our sacraments, and our understanding of God. Think of it: We baptize a baby in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to bring them into the life of the Church community…and, at the end of that life, we commend them to the next world through the invocation of that same Blessed Trinity. And throughout life, we invoke this Triune God countless times. Our readings today emphasize the significance of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity for us. In the reading from Exodus, we see the face of the Father turned toward His beloved children, even though they have been unfaithful. In the Gospel, the face of God is revealed through the gift of Jesus, the Son, who offers eternal life to His people, because “God so loved the world.” And in the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, the entire Trinity is called upon: “The grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Our whole life is consumed by this grace, this gift, and this love. This is the beauty of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity: it is a mystery of Love. And that, my friends, is why this mystery is not something to be ‘solved’ [like a detective story] but rather a reality in which we believe and trust. Only God could conceive of such a wonderful way to communicate with His dear people. So yes, there is mystery in life, but the greatest mystery of all is here with us, loving us, healing us, and guiding us ever closer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

May 31, 2020
Pentecost Sunday A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Acts 2:1-11; 1Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23

One of the activities I found most comforting during the days of ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-quarantine’ has been to listen to some of the many compact disks I have accumulated over the years. Among the symphonies, operas, concertos and jazz [yes, jazz!] compositions, I found one of my favorite recordings: The “B Minor Mass” of Johan Sebastian Bach. This is an extraordinary musical statement of faith, confidence, hope and joy especially needed at this time. And during the Creed of the Mass, there are explosions of sound that rejoice in the power of God and the resurrection of Jesus, whose kingdom will have no end. Then, suddenly, there is a gentle, quiet introduction that leads to an almost chant-like moment: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” It is as if the whole of creation is holding its breath, hushed and waiting for this gift of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. Why would all creation do this? First of all, because the Holy Spirit is the reality of God’s Love. God is alive here and now through the Holy Spirit. Second, because this is the gift from Jesus, who says to His disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and we know that Jesus always gives us exactly what we need. Finally, we join the chorus of all creation proclaiming that we “believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” And this ‘giver of life’ is, in fact, the Love that unites the Blessed Trinity, the Love that unites the children of God, and the Love that unites the Church, the Love that unites our hearts to God forever. How then could we not stop, take a breath, and in humility and gratitude, quietly make our profession of faith in God the Holy Spirit, ‘who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified”? The Church understands this, and no matter what the situation in our world is, we know that God “renews the face of the earth” through the working of the Holy Spirit who leads and guides the Children of God. 

May 24, 2020
Ascension of the Lord A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Acts 1: 1-11; Ephesians 1: 17-23; Matthew 28: 16-20

So much has been going on in our world and our city throughout Lent and the Easter Season. You have had to make changes to your everyday lives, school has been disrupted and lessons learned at home, Junefest, the harbinger of summer, has been postponed, weddings have been delayed, public Masses were suspended, and we have all learned to come no nearer than six feet of one another. That is a lot to take in. But we have done it and tried to adapt our lives as best as possible to an epidemic which caught us by surprise. Now, imagine all that the apostles had to take in as Jesus prepared to return to His Father and commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations. How were they to do this? He was leaving them. They had left everything to follow him. What would keep them from losing heart? The final line of the Gospel answers this: Jesus tells His disciples: “I am with you always.” The empowering presence of Jesus makes His continuing mission in the world possible. He does not abandon His people. He is, indeed, with them always. The Ascension, then is not to be regarded simply as Jesus’ taking leave of this earth, but the continual glorification of the Son of God who is central to the lives of believers “until the end of the age”. So, how can this be? Jesus departs and remains? He is gone but still is here? Yes, He does. Yes, He is. Remember, this is the same Jesus who died and is also risen, who is God and is, at the same time, man, and who was born in Bethlehem but existed from all time. These are not contradictions; rather, they are articles of faith. God is not limited by our human perspective. He promises to be with us forever, and He keeps this pledge. Today we celebrate Jesus’ return to the Father, knowing that He remains intimately involved with God’s beloved creation, His cherished children, and the world in which they live. So, yes, we have been going through a great deal of difficult and even frightening events this year, but knowing that Jesus is here with us, holding on to us, leading us, caring for us, and loving us, makes all the difference in life. That is why, even with ugly words like ‘pandemic’ in our existence, we can still rejoice, be grateful, and see God’s goodness in the world around us. God bless you. 

May 17, 2020
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3: 15-18; John 14:15-21

In an election year, the phrase: “I promise you” is used quite a lot. And we may wonder if we can trust those words. But when Jesus makes a promise to us, we don’t have to worry about whether He will keep it. He has proven that he always follows through. We know we can trust His word.
And His promises touch the very core of our lives. We are currently in the season of Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus; soon we will gather for the great feast of the Ascension, which recalls the moment when Jesus returned to the Father, and finally we will conclude the Easter season with Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles and the Church. Through all of this, Jesus promises that He will never leave us. His love and presence will always be here. In today’s Gospel He tells us clearly, “I will not leave you orphans.” Because of this promise we can remain peaceful in a difficult and often confusing world. We know that we do not make this journey of life on our own. Jesus really is with us every step of the way. He gives us His word that He will be part of our lives. And what does He ask for in return? The opening line of today’s Gospel gives us the answer. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In loving Him and keeping His commandments we live out His teachings by sharing them with the people around us; we become ever more open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit; and we grow as children of God as we learn to trust in his promises. This is a glorious life. It is the path to happiness. It is offered to all of us. No wonder our psalmist proclaims, “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy!” May that joy be yours throughout your lives.

May 10, 2020
Fifth Sunday of Easter A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12

Happy Mothers’ Day! And while there is no overt mention of Mother in this weekend’s Gospel, consider what Jesus talks about: comfort, home, life and goodness. I think most of us would agree that these are all part of what makes a mom a mom. And, as most moms will tell you, being a mother can be hard work…but at the same time it is filled with joy. Jesus understands moms. He came to our earth through His Mother, Mary, to do hard work - the work of His Heavenly Father. And what is this work? Bringing comfort, life and goodness to God’s people. And He tells us clearly in the Gospel that He has prepared a home for us, so that we may always be with Him. But there is even more to it than this: Jesus does not only prepare the way for us, He IS the way for us. This means that it is through our relationship with Jesus that our lives have meaning and hope. Our future is in Him. When Jesus says that He is “the way the truth and the life,” He gives us the promise that when we follow Him [the way] we have the assurance of our faith [the truth], and we will share eternity with Him [the life]. No wonder this Gospel passage is perfect for Mothers’ Day. It is a statement of confident hope: but not hope in SOMETHING, but in SOMEONE-Jesus! And who brought Jesus to our earth? His MOM: Mary. Just as so many of us are grateful today to have someone in our lives to call “mom”, let us remember that it was God who gave our moms to us in the first place, to comfort us, to create a home for us, to teach us about goodness, and to show us what it really means to love. This is what Mothers’ Day, and our in fact our faith, is all about!

May 3, 2020
Fourth Sunday of Easter A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10

Among the many important celebrations that have been put on hold this spring because of the corona virus, one that I will miss most is the First Communion of our Second Grade Class. Most of us probably remember our First Communion, whether it was one year ago, or, like me, 56 years ago. We will still celebrate this wonderful moment in the lives of these young people, and the life of the Church, but in order to help keep us all healthy, we will delay it this year. But no matter when it happens, every year a new group of children are brought closer to Jesus through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Every year we celebrate with them as they receive this gift of Jesus. It is His way of saying, “I love you” to all of us. It is our way of being as close as possible to Jesus, our friend, our brother and our Good Shepherd. And this image of Jesus our Shepherd is found in one of the earliest Christian paintings on the wall of an ancient catacomb in Rome. And, amazingly, after almost 1900 years, the colors and the image are still startling in their vividness. This painting shows Jesus carrying a sheep on His shoulders, and bringing His lost lamb home. From the earliest days of our Church, Christians understood that Jesus is the Shepherd and guardian of our lives. Because of Him, we know we are not alone in our journey. Jesus makes it better. Jesus gives us the confidence that comes from trust in a loving God who is willing to carry His little ones on His very shoulders. And not only that, as we get closer to Jesus through our reception of the Eucharist, we realize how blessed we are that we are in a relationship with the divine Son of God, who triumphed over sin and death, who shares Himself with us in the Eucharist, and who calls us to live with Him forever. As we begin to understand this, we also start to realize who WE really are: brothers and sisters of Jesus who is mighty Lord, Good Shepherd, and best friend. He is the King of all creation who shares Himself in bread and wine. During this Easter season we celebrate our relationship with this magnificent friend. And we join our Second Grade Students as they prepare to receive Jesus the Good Shepherd in the Eucharist.

April 26, 2020
Third Sunday of Easter A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Acts 2:14, 22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35

One of the most relaxing and enjoyable things to do for many people is to take a walk. Unlike  being in a car, during a walk around the neighborhood we see gardens, homes, people, trees and the sky. It is a very different experience from driving a car from one place to another. A walk slows us down. We pay attention to the world around us. We appreciate the beauty of God’s creation. Now, think of Jesus taking a walk with His disciples whom He encounters on the road in this weekend’s Gospel. And walk they certainly do…all seven miles of it from Jerusalem to the city of Emmaus. And what do they talk about during this long walk? Well, consider what has recently happened: Jesus has risen from the dead, but these disciples do not recognize Him. So, He talks with them. At first, they respond with limited understanding. Then Jesus talks some more and explains the scriptures to them. They begin to understand, and finally, they recognize Him in the breaking of bread. Notice all the active verbs in this summation of St. Luke: walking, talking, explaining, recognizing. Like those disciples of old, we are also actively involved in our relationship with Jesus. He is there from the beginning, asking us to walk with Him, initiating a conversation, and waiting for us to respond, even with our limited abilities. He  teaches us who He is, who we are, and why we are here as He walks on our journey of life with us. And He reveals Himself in the breaking of bread, the Eucharist: the center of our lives as a Catholic Christian community. We, like those early disciples, need to listen, respond, receive and proclaim what we have been given: Jesus, who reveals Himself in the breaking of the bread. Our Catholic religion, then, is a very active one, calling us to listen to Jesus, to love one another, to celebrate in faith, and to trust that, as our Responsorial Psalm today reminds us, the Lord “will show us the path to life” as we walk with Him every day. 

April 19, 2020
Second Sunday of Easter A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Most of probably, at one time or another, find ourselves putting people into ‘boxes’ that seem to clearly describe who they are. Perhaps we say that ‘this person is liberal’, or ‘that one is conservative’, maybe ‘another is extroverted’ and ‘this other one is unfriendly’. These designations satisfy a need to define everything and everyone in simple terms. But they are never accurate. We are more than one thing. We are certainly much more than only one word. Today’s Gospel presents us with someone who has been called too many times “Doubting Thomas” because he needed to see Jesus in the flesh after the resurrection. But is this truly ‘doubt’, or is it something much deeper? Is it not an honest search for faith in something almost unbelievable? It seems that Thomas does what many of us need to do at times: explore the truth of his faith; see if it makes sense; ask the hard questions; be willing to listen to God’s response. And what does Thomas discover? That Jesus is his Lord and his God. That the work of Jesus is part of our life, and not just up in heaven, far away. That the word of God can be trusted, embraced, and shared. So we continue our celebration of Easter with a Gospel about growing up in our faith. Thomas stands before Jesus, realizes that the Lord is risen from the dead, hears His voice, and proclaims: “My Lord and my God!” He teaches us not to be afraid to ask questions, to explore our faith, to come to Jesus, and to be ready to listen to Him. When we do this, we just might find what we were looking for, and much, much more!

April 12, 2020
Easter Sunday A
Bulletin Reflection
Fr. Ed Smith

Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20: 1-9

Happy Easter! It is hard to believe that Lent is already over. For the past six weeks of Lent we have been preparing to say the great Easter word: “Alleluia!” It is almost as if for the past 40 days we have all been holding our breath until Easter so that we can shout out this great word of glory and praise to God. But why do Catholics not use the expression “Alleluia” during Lent in the first place? Why do we, when the Gospel is about to be proclaimed at Mass, sing instead: “Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory”? The answer is because, during Lent, we are more aware than ever that we are still on our journey to the kingdom of heaven. We are not there yet. And “Alleluia” (Praise God) is the proclamation of the angels and saints who already live in the presence of God. And, while we are certainly united with these blessed beings,
we are not quite there yet, and we all have more work to do to get there. But now Lent is over, and as we celebrate Easter, we can shout this word out loud, as we join with those in the heavenly choir who praise God every moment for His eternal goodness and love. And so, we sing and say this word today, and not during the past six weeks because we have been on a journey with Jesus, who was misunderstood, even hated, and endured condemnation, suffering, crucifixion and death. We have walked with Him through those dark times. And now He is risen from the dead and reveals that we are not destroyed by sin, suffering and death, but called to everlasting life. This celebration is the touchstone for everything else we do as a people of faith: our liturgies, our prayer, our education and our service to our brothers and sisters in need. The
resurrection of Jesus changes everything. The old idea that death has the final word over our lives is now shattered, as Jesus shines the light of eternal glory for us in the presence of Divine Love. So, it was worth 40 days of waiting to say such a rich and glorious word, knowing that, on Easter Sunday, it has so much more meaning, intensity and power for us. Thank you, my friends, for bringing this reality more alive for me this Easter. You have shown me, over and over, the power and glory of the Risen Jesus. Alleluia! 

Saint Stephen Church 
3804 Eastern Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45226

Parish Office: 513-871-3373

Rectory Phone: 513-871-0050

parish@saintstephen.church

Canonical Pastor
Rev. Ed Smith
Resides at Our Lord Christ the King Church

Priests in Residence:
513-871-0050
Rev. Thomas Fitzsimmons (retired)
Rev. Benjamin Asibuo Kusi (visiting)

Pastoral Administrator

Beth Worland

bethststephen@gmail.com 

Office: 513-871-3373

Mass Times 

  • Saturday 6:00pm

  • Sunday 10:15am

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 9:30am

  • Wednesday 5:00pm

  • Holy Days: contact parish

© 2020 by St. Stephen Church.