Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B - January 14, 2018

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle B
January 14, 2018


Cashier: “What Are You Looking For?”


This past summer, I went to the New Jersey shore for two days.

A priest friend had invited another priest and me to visit at his family home in Brigantine.  Jim had given us directions, but, let’s just say, once we got off the New Jersey Turnpike, the roads got very confusing.

So, we pulled into an Exxon station and I went into the Tiger Mart.  I walked up to the cashier and said, “Pardon me, but I need some directions.”

The guy looked up and responded, “What are you looking for?”  Within 30 seconds, I had the directions and we were on our way.

 

Jesus: “What Are You Looking For?”


I recall that cashier’s question – “What are you looking for?” – I recall it today because it is the same question Jesus asks in today’s gospel.

And very significantly, these are the very first words Jesus speaks in John’s gospel.  Jesus is posing this question to the two disciples who have started to follow him.

And today, Jesus is asking the same question of each of us: “What are you looking for?”  Because of its position in the gospel, this must be a very important question.

What Are We Looking For?


If we look within ourselves and at our own life experience, we probably have responded to this question in various ways.

We might be looking for a feeling of self-esteem or self-worth.  Or maybe it is a feeling of acceptance or belonging to some group.

We might be looking for the opportunity to make a difference in the life of at least someone.  Or maybe it is financial security or success in school or on a basketball team or at your job,

All of these things that we might be looking for are good and legitimate.  At the same time, they are limited and not the full picture.

To the two disciples in today’s gospel, Jesus says: “Come and you will see.”  In other words, he invites them to focus on himself because in doing that, they will discover what they are really looking for.

And then, in the dialogue involving the disciples in this passage, we hear three titles given to Jesus.  These titles reveal something of who Jesus is and in doing that, they also reveal what we are really looking for.

What Are We Looking For: The Three Titles


First, Jesus is called “the Lamb of God.”  This title refers to the image of the Passover lamb that was offered each year as a way to celebrate what God had done for his people and God’s closeness with them.

So, Jesus as “the Lamb of God” satisfies our looking for closeness and intimacy with God.  He satisfies our looking for acceptance and belonging on a level that no other person can do for us.

Then, Jesus is called “’Rabbi’ – which means Teacher.”  This title means that Jesus offers wisdom and even the definitive word about God and the human condition.

So, Jesus as “Rabbi” satisfies our looking for insight and truth and the way to become the person God creates us to be.  He satisfies our looking for a sense of direction and meaning and purpose for our lives.

And finally, Jesus is called “’Messiah’ – which means Christ.”  This title means that Jesus fulfills the hope that has been around for centuries before his coming, the hope for a leader for God’s people.

So, Jesus as “Messiah” satisfies our looking for hope in the midst of physical pain, emotional suffering, or anxiety about the future.  And, as these first two disciples would learn, he even satisfies our looking for hope in the face of physical death.  

Conclusion


We end where we began: “What are you looking for?”

At different moments and in different situations, we are all looking for various things in life.  And all of these can be good.


But, underneath and beyond all of these, in the big picture and long run of life, we are really looking for closeness and acceptance, meaning and direction, and hope for life.  We are looking for Jesus and what only Jesus can give.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Feast of the Epiphany, Cycle B - January 7, 2018

Feast of the Epiphany
 Cycle B
January 7, 2018 
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville   4:00pm and 8:00am
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore    11:00am

A Star

I think each of us has a star in our lives.

I don’t mean a movie star, but I do mean that each of us has something leading us either from inside or from outside ourselves toward some goal.  Today’s gospel passage tells about the Magi following a star and that star is leading them to the newborn Christ. 

Last Sunday, a college student named Brian at Saint Matthew’s Parish in Baltimore enthusiastically told me that he would be entering pharmacy school this year.  He is following a star that is leading him to use his God-given abilities and pursue a career in pharmacy.

Some of us may now be retired and our star may be to do whatever we can for our loved ones and for anyone in need, even if we can only pray for them.  So, the question is: what is our star? 

And, whatever our star is, will it in some way be like the star that the Magi are following?  Will it in some way lead us to God or make God more present on this earth?

Journey

Now the Magi in today’s gospel are on a journey.

The passage says that they come from the East, maybe present-day Iran or Iraq.  They have left their home and are on a journey.

This journey image is a good way for all of us to understand our lives.  We are all on a journey and a journey makes some demands on us.

It may mean that we leave our family home and enter a new life in the commitment of marriage. It may mean that we read or participate in a Bible study program as a way to come to a more positive relationship with God.

Seeing our lives as a journey is challenging, but also life-giving.  So the question is: what are the demands of the journey that we are on right now?

Hurdles

Notice also that the Magi detect a hurdle on their journey.

Their hurdle is King Herod.  Herod pretends to be interested in this young child, but the Magi sense that he wants to do violence to the child.

There will also be hurdles for us as we follow our star and make our journey.  Maybe we will get distracted by the lure of having a good time all the time and waste our talents and opportunities.

Or maybe someone is constantly trying to discourage us from following the star that we believe is right for us.  The question is: what hurdles do we have on our journey? 

Giving

Then the gospel tells us that the Magi give gifts to the newborn Christ.

Maybe this is a good test of the star we are following and the journey we are on.  Does it lead us to be giving?

Maybe our giving is simply taking good care of those in our family.  Or maybe we can give some of our time to God’s work beyond our family.

Maybe we can bake casseroles for a soup kitchen or give time teaching religion to the children.  The question is: What are we giving to God on our journey? 

Change

And finally, the gospel tells us that the Magi had to change their plans.

After seeing the child, they are warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, but to return home by another route.  The insight here is that getting close to the Lord Jesus may also change us.

In fact, change and growth seem to be what the star and the journey are all about. 

So, for example, maybe we are being led to see things more from the perspective of those who are different from us, as the Magi and shepherds in Bethlehem are very different kinds of people, and stop criticizing or putting these people down.  The question is: How is our star or our journey calling us to change?

Conclusion

I guess what I am really saying is that this simple, little story of the Magi is really our story. 


The star, the journey, the hurdles, the giving, and the change – all the pieces of this story reflect the life experience of each one of us.  They may lead us to some good reflection today.     

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, Cycle B - January 1, 2018

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
Cycle B
January 1, 2018 10:00am

Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville


Christmas into the New Year


My message today is rather brief, but it may be a bit challenging.

The idea is to carry the spirit of Christmas into this New Year and be intentional about doing that.  I have one recommendation for doing this.

Intention: Be Thoughtful about Words


Let’s be intentional in our choice of words and expressions.

Let’s be very conscious about how we speak.  Let’s make sure we use words and expressions that are in harmony with the gospel and the way Jesus spoke and would speak today.

So, let’s be very intentional about using words that are
unitive and not divisive,
respectful and not diminishing,
reconciling and not distancing.

So, words that are unitive – words that keep people together, words that recognize the basic, human oneness that is or at least should be there.
Words that are not divisive – words that label some people as friends and others as enemies, words that name make some people as good and others as bad, words that make some people insiders and others outsiders.

Then, words that are respectful – words that treat others with human dignity even if they are very different from us, even if we very much disagree with them, even if they have offended us.
Words that are not diminishing – words that bash others, words that belittle others, words that make others less than we are.

And then, words that are reconciling – words that admit my mistake, words that accept the apology of others, words that try to understand the perspective or, life experience of others.
Words that are not distancing – words that try to justify my distance from others, words that stereotype whole races or ethnic groups or nationalities or races or religions.

Make a Difference


This one thing, being intentional about the words we use, carefully watching the words we use – this is a way to carry the spirit of Christmas into the New Year.

This can make a real difference.  I believe that this effort flows from the God who literally became one of us in Jesus who was born of Mary. 

And, in this New Year, 2018, this intention is needed.  It can make a difference in our family, among our friends, in our community, our parish, our bigger Church, and indeed, in our country.

So, one thing: So, let’s be very intentional about choosing and using words that are
unitive and not divisive,
respectful and not diminishing,
reconciling and not distancing.


Regardless of what others do or what words they use, we could make a real contribution if we really tried to do this!

Feast of the Holy Family, Cycle B - December 31, 2017

Feast of the Holy Family
Cycle B
December 31, 2017
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 4:00pm and 8:00am

Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 11:00am

 

 For Families


Today I am thinking about families.

I’ve got some simple recommendations, maybe nothing new.  Obviously, Christmas and today’s celebration in honor of the Holy Family got me going in this direction.

I have grouped my ideas around one word; let’s call it an acronym.  The acronym is the word RELATE – R – E – L – A – T – E.

And the letters stand for action words: Respect, Express, Listen, Apologize, Thank, and Eat – we’ve got to get eating in there!  So, RELATE!

 

R = Respect


As I said, the R stands for Respect.

The idea is to accept one another as we are.  This means that we appreciate mom for the good chocolate chip cookies that she baked or affirm a middle schooler for his computer skills.

Respect means that we are sensitive to parents who feel stressed with their jobs or teens who feel the need to push back on some stuff.  And it means that we do our share of responsibilities around the house, like cleaning the bathroom or the kitchen.

E = Express


So, Respect, and then the first E in the word Relate stands for Express. 

Here the word doesn’t mean an express line at the supermarket, but rather, expressing ourselves to other family members. So, we express our ideas or feelings about things – maybe about our country’s immigration policies, about something that happened at school, whatever it is.

We do this because it lets others in the family know who we are and it creates the opportunity for closer relationships.  And we do it because we may be enriched by hearing what others have to say about what we have said. 

L = Listen


And that flows right into the next letter: L which stands for Listen.

Listen to one another.  Really try to take in not just the words, but the passion or excitement or disappointment that is underneath the words.

It could be your father, your daughter, your brother or your grandmother.  Just give your attention to them when they are speaking and, by all means, don’t interrupt them.

A = Apologize


So, Listen, and then the A in the word Relate stands for Apologize.

This is not rocket science but it may not be not easy.  When children have back-talked their parents, or when a parent makes a sarcastic remark about somebody forgetting to get milk at the store, we need to apologize.

The funny thing here is that when I say I’m sorry, it doesn’t diminish me or make me less as a person.  It actually makes me a bigger and nobler person. 

T = Thank


So, Apologize, and then the T stands for Thank.

Here I am thinking of the importance of thanking God.  The idea is to thank God together as a family, whether there are two or five of us or whatever.

Even though there may be different religious traditions in the same household, we can still offer a simple prayer or word of thanks for someone or something.  Often it is good to do this right before having dinner and that takes me to the last letter of our word.

E = Eat


This second E stands for Eat.

There are a number of studies that demonstrate the value of families eating dinner together.  In fact, the incidence of certain issues – like teens getting into drinking and drugs – is significantly less in families that eat dinner together three or more times a week.

Now this means no texting or TV.  Instead, it means that we are using the meal as a way to be together and value one another, yes, a way to Relate to one another.

Conclusion

So, RELATE: Respect, Express, Listen, Apologize, Thank, and Eat.

They are my recommendations.  Now, in case you find anything worthwhile here, you can find a link to this and my other Sunday homilies on my Wednesday Inbox Inspirations.


If you’re not receiving that in your email every Wednesday morning, the email address for getting it is under my name on the front of the bulletin – fathermikeinbox@gmail.com.  And, by the way, all of this is free!