Monday, January 16, 2017

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - January 15, 2017

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle A
January 15, 2017
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville


The Beloved Lamb


There is a old story about two men who were living in the same small town.

The one man was rich and powerful; the other was poor and powerless.  The rich man owned so many sheep that he lost count of them, but the poor man had only one, tiny lamb. 

The poor man’s children loved this little lamb so much that they treated it like a member of the family.  They played with it all day long and even brought it to the dinner table to share the little food they had to eat. 

Then one day an important visitor came to the rich man’s house for dinner.  The rich man wanted to serve a special meal but he didn’t want to kill any of his own lambs to feed the guest. 

So, he had his servants go over to the poor man’s house, take that family’s only lamb, and slaughter it for dinner.  Now, we find this story in the Hebrew Scriptures, in what we call the Old Testament. 

And this story of the beloved lamb is one of the images that John the Baptist must have had in mind in today’s gospel.  John points to Jesus and says, “There is the lamb of God.”

John means, “There is God’s beloved lamb.”  Like the one lamb of that poor family, Jesus is God’s only beloved Son and he is unjustly put to death. 

 

The Sacrificial Lamb


Now besides this image of the beloved lamb, there is a second image that John must have had in mind.

This is the image of the lambs that were sacrificed everyday in the Temple in Jerusalem.  These lambs were seen as sacrifices to atone for sin.

So, John points to Jesus and says, “There is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  Jesus is like those sacrificial lambs because he is sacrificed for our sins.

But, he is also unlike those lambs because, as John says today, he is the lamb of God.”  Jesus is the person, the sacrifice above all others who brings us reconciliation with God.

The Victorious Lamb


Finally, John must have also had a third image in mind.

The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, pictures a victorious lamb.  The author describes his vision of a lamb on a heavenly throne with   people from all over the earth giving him honor and praise.

So, John speaks of Jesus as “the Lamb of God …the one who ranks ahead of me because he is before me.”  John’s idea is that Jesus ranks first, above him and above everyone else in the human family.

Jesus is the Lamb and also the Son of God who rose from the dead.  This is why he now receives honor and praise as God’s Son and the victorious lamb.  

The Lamb of God for Us


So, John the Baptist has these three images in mind today.

As you know, before we receive communion here at Mass, we sing three times: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”  It is helpful to remember these three images as we sing these acclamations.

First, we remember the image of the one beloved lamb of the poor family.  And so, we express our love for Jesus as the only Son and Lamb of God.

Then we remember the image of the sacrificial lamb of the Temple.  And so, we offer here in the sacrifice of the Mass Jesus himself under the forms of bread and wine.

And finally, we remember the image of the victorious lamb in heaven.  And so, we say in every Mass at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer: “Through him, with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.  Amen

Monday, January 9, 2017

Feast of the Epiphany, Cycle A - January 8, 2017

Feast of the Epiphany
 Cycle A
January 8, 2017 
4:00pm at Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
11:00am at Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 

Following a Star

This morning my attention is caught by the star in the gospel story.

We are told that these magi from another country follow a star and find the child Jesus in Bethlehem.  So, I am thinking that each of us has a star that we follow.

What I mean is that each of us has something drawing us or leading us, usually from inside ourselves, but sometimes from outside ourselves.  And this something, this star moves us to seek something beyond ourselves, something we do not have.

Now – and this is important – I am thinking of things like self-worth – a feeling that we are okay and even good as God says in the act of creation.  Or maybe it is peacefulness – a sense of settledness within ourselves and with God.

I am thinking of things like forgiveness – forgiving ourselves of something in the past and feeling assured that God has also forgiven us.  Or maybe it is community – being part of a family or a group and just knowing that we are at home here.

So – and again, this is important – I believe that underneath all of our financial goals and job goals and ownership goals, these are the real goals that drive us in life.  And there is a star – something within us, or maybe something or someone outside of us – there is a star that moves us to seek these deeper goals.

If we go back to today’s gospel, we see the magi already have a lot in their lives already.  They are wealthy and they are regarded as knowledgeable – as “wise” persons, but still, something, a star is drawing them beyond themselves.

They want something or someone more.  So they follow this star and find what they want – in the infant in Bethlehem, in Jesus, in Emmanuel, God with us on this earth. 

Giving of Ourselves

Now let’s notice what the magi do as a result of following their star.

They give gifts to the child Jesus.  Their gifts are expensive.

And that is appropriate because the magi apparently are wealthy.  So, the magi follow their star and end up giving gifts that express where the star has led them.

I recommend that we are to do the same.  We also are to give gifts as a result of following our star.

So, if our star has led us to a sense of self-worth, then we are to give the gift of esteem to others by treating them as persons of worth and value.  If our star has led us to peacefulness, then we are to bring a sense of calm to our relationships.

If our star has led us to forgiveness, then we are to give the gift of forgiveness by at least not wishing harm to to someone who has hurt us.  And if our star has led us to community, then we are to be inclusive of others regardless of how different they are from us.

The truth, I believe, is that we all have a star, something within us or someone or something outside of us that leads us to seek something else, to those deeper goals that I talked about.  And these stars do for us what that star long ago did for the magi – they really lead us to Bethlehem, to Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.


We may need patience and we may need to travel a distance, maybe not geographically as the magi did, but maybe within ourselves and in our relationships.  But if we follow our star, we too can come to personal wholeness and spiritual holiness. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Cycle A - January 1, 2016

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
Cycle A
January 1, 2016 4:00pm and 9:30am
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
 
Theme: New Year’s Resolutions


Erma’s Resolutions  


Some of us, maybe many of us here can remember Erma Bombeck.

Erma was a well known humorist and brought smiles to many faces.  She wrote about fifteen books and many newspaper columns.

She died in 1996.  Well, one year Erma Bombeck came up with a list of six New Year’s resolutions and they go like this.:

1.    I’m going to clean this dump just as soon as the kids grow up.
2.    I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died.
3.    I’m going to follow my husband’s suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
4.    I’m going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
5.    I will never lend my car to anyone I have given birth to.
6.    And, finally, just like last year, I am going to remember that my children need love most when they deserve it least.

Mary


With all of Erma’s wit, she ends with a very insightful resolution.

That resolution – about loving her children when they deserve it least – shows some careful reflection.  Erma must have reflected on her role as a mother and discerned what she was called to do.

In today’s gospel, Mary is also presented as a person who reflects.  Saint Luke says that after she has given birth to Jesus, “Mary treasures all these things and reflects on them in her heart.”

Well, the example of Mary calls us to some reflection.  This can be especially appropriate on New Year’s Day.

So, if we are inclined to make some New Year’s resolutions, I recommend that we reflect on the three dimensions of time – on the past, the future, and the present.  And let’s do it in that order – the past, then the future, and finally the present and see what resolutions are appropriate.

Resolutions: The Past


First, the past.  Maybe we need to resolve to stop saying things like “If only I had done this” or “If only I had not said that.”

Usually, our “if onlys” are a waste of time and energy.  We cannot bring back or re-do the past.

On the other hand, if our regret is based on an appropriate feeling of guilt, then let’s resolve to ask for forgiveness from the person involved or from God.  In this way, we bring the past to completion and let the past be past.

Resolutions: The Future

Then, the future.  Maybe we need to resolve to stop saying things like “What if this happens” or “What if he does that.”

Usually our “what ifs,” like our “if onlys,” are a waste of time and energy.  They are almost always focused on something in the future that we cannot control.

So maybe we need to resolve to cut out the “what ifs” and instead follow Mary’s example and trust in God about the future – trusting that God will be with us through whatever happens.  Maybe this resolution will enable us to approach the future with less anxiety and more peace.

Resolutions: The Present

And that takes us to the last dimension of time, I think, the most important: the present.   Maybe we need to resolve to be present to the present – to really be present to the person we are with or the work we are doing at any given moment.

I think this may be the most important resolution for us today.  Our Smartphones – like my iPhone – they enable us to be connected with other people and with all kinds of things.

They are a great help, but we may find ourselves texting or talking with someone else and not communicating with those sitting right at the same table with us.  So maybe we need to resolve to be present to who and what is present.

Maybe we need to resolve to find how God is coming to us right here and now.  And maybe we can find our peace and joy and fulfillment in this way – by being present to the present.

Conclusion


So, they are my thoughts for New Year’s.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas, Cycle A - December 25, 2016

Christmas
Cycle A
December 25, 2016
4pm and 6pm at Saint Mary’s, Pylesville
10am at Saint Matthew’s, Baltimore  

 

When Night Ends


There is a story that some centuries ago, a wise old rabbi asked his students how they could tell when night had ended and day was on its way back.

One student responded, “Could it be when you see an animal in the distance and can tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?”  The old rabbi answered, “No!”    

Then another student chimed in, “Could it be when you see a tree in the distance and can tell whether it is a fig tree or a pear tree?”  And again the old rabbi shook his head, “No!”

The students were now becoming frustrated.  One of them called out, “Well, then, when is it?”

The old rabbi responded, “It is when you look on the face of any man or woman and see that she or he is your brother or sister.  Because if you cannot do that, then no matter what time it is, for you it is still night.”

O Holy Night


Well, on Christmas, we celebrate a very special night.

We sing, in that beautiful Christmas carol, O Holy Night.  And we call it Holy because what happens on this night is intended to mark the end of night.

The birth of Jesus Christ is the moment when “day is on its way back,” to use the words of the wise, old rabbi.  I see this happening in several ways.

Day Returns: Brothers and Sisters


First, the infant in Bethlehem embraces all human beings.

It is significant that the child attracts and reaches out to the poor, lower-class, uneducated shepherds.  And he attracts and reaches out to the affluent, upper-class, educated wise men.

With his outstretched arms, Jesus sees everyone as brother and sister.  And so, with him, the day is on its way back when we see our oneness with all other persons – be they refugees fleeing persecution or persons with a different political opinion or family members from whom we are alienated.

The Christmas carol O Holy Night invites us to look on the face of others and see that they are our brothers and sisters.  Just think of the words:

“Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.”

Day Returns: Self-Worth


And then the infant in Bethlehem affirms our worth as persons.

God, taking on our humanity in Jesus, proclaims our inherent value as human beings.  No longer do we need to question our self-worth.

The birth of Jesus has so fused the human with the divine that the night of a diminished sense of self is over.  The day has come to feel assured of our own value as persons.

And again, the Christmas carol O Holy Night conveys this.  Just think of the words:

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth – the soul felt its worth”

Day Returns: Hope


And finally, the infant in Bethlehem gives us hope.

Sometimes we can grow weary trying to keep up with the stresses of everyday life.  Sometimes we can grow weary as we look at the problems facing our country and our world.

In the midst of this, the infant offers us the hope of “Emmanuel,” a name which means “God is with us.”  He offers us the assurance of sustaining us through each minute of “night” until “day” starts to come back.

And again, the Christmas carol O Holy Night lifts up this hope.  Just think of the words:

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”   

Conclusion


So, the night begins to end and the day is on its way back.

We can experience this shift because of the infant in Bethlehem.  No wonder we sing:

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!”