Tuesday, June 19, 2018

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - June 17, 2018

11thSunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B
June 17, 2018      

 

Résumé Virtues and Eulogy Virtues


Several years ago, there was an interesting column in The New York Timesthat really has something to say to us.

Columnist David Brooks writes that from his experience, he sees two sets of virtues.  He calls these: “the résumé virtues”and “the eulogy virtues.”
  
The résumé virtues are the skills we bring to the marketplace.  The eulogy virtues are the traits that are talked about at our funeral.

The résumé virtues are things like technological and management skills.  They also include academic degrees and job titles.

All of these have a place in our lives.  We need them to make a living and to make a contribution to our world and for our own fulfillment.

But columnist David Brooks says that our culture focuses so much on these résumé virtues that we often forget the eulogy virtues.  Our years can pass by and the deepest parts of us can go undeveloped.  

We may be much clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.  And so, we need to be attentive to these eulogy virtues.  

These include patience with others and faithfulness to our life commitments when that is easy and when that is difficult.  The eulogy virtues include honesty in our work situations and truthfulness in our relationships.  

They include care for those in need and an effort to understand the perspective of others who are different from us.  The idea is that we have to be alert and work at these eulogy virtues.  

David Brooks says it so well: good people, he says, “are made, not born.”  His idea is that we achieve inner character and virtue by the day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out stuff we do with family, friends, employers, employees, clients, customers, neighbors and people we do not even know. 

 Why We Have Mass

I think that remembering and working at these eulogy virtues is at least one reason why God told us to “keep holy the Sabbath day.”  

It is one reason why we are to come to Mass on Sunday.  It is like what Jesus says in that first parable in today’s gospel about the growth of the seed.  

He is teaching that it is God’s power at work that fosters our personal and spiritual growth.  So, here at Mass the Word of God refreshes us in these eulogy virtues.

It also deepens us in what they mean for our life situation.  And then the Eucharist nourishes the growth of these virtues within us.

The Smallest…The Largest

The last thing I want to say is that all of this doesn’t happen overnight.  

It takes time for us to emerge as a person of character, of inner depth, the kind of person Jesus calls us to be.  Again, it is like what Jesus says in the second parable of today’s gospel.  

The smallest of seeds, the mustard seed, ends up becoming the largest of plants.  So, maybe a lot of things we do seem small and insignificant.  

Maybe we don’t think about their value and what they are doing to us.  But, taken together and over the long haul of life, they mount up.  

From all the things that we say and do, by working at these eulogy virtues, we emerge as persons of character and inner depth. We become the whole or holy persons that Jesus calls us to be.    

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - June 10, 2018

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B
June 10, 2018             8:00 and 9:30 am

Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville


From Scam to Partnership 


At the end of April, just a little over a month ago, the CBS Sunday Morning show carried a good story that I want to share with you.

The story goes that a man in Utah named Ben found this brief message on his Facebook page. “My name is Joel from Liberia, West Africa. 

“I need some assistance from you. Business or financial assistance will help empower me.”

Ben was very suspicious, but he decided to respond to this man named Joel. He thought that he might come up with a good story about Internet scamming that he could share on YouTube.

Well, Joel in Africa responded to Ben’s reply and proposed a business partnership involving used electronics. Ben wouldn’t bite on that, but proposed a different partnership.

Ben pretended that he owned a photography business and said that he needed some photos of an African sunset. He never expected to hear from Joel, but two weeks later, an envelope arrived with two photos of sunsets.

Ben thanked Joel for the photos, but said that he needed a better camera to get better photos. So he sent Joel a $60 camera.

Ben’s wife and children thought he was crazy to be doing this. But steadily, Joel sent photos and over time, he got pretty good with the camera.

One day, Ben’s skepticism melted when Joel sent him photos that captured the poverty near Monrovia. Now Ben felt that he had to figure out a way to compensate Joel – or he was going to feel like he was the scammer.


So Ben put together a booklet of Joel’s pictures. And amazingly, sales exploded through YouTube. 

Ben then told Joel that he would send him $1000 of the proceeds. Joel could use $500 of that for his family, but the other $500 he had to donate to charity in Liberia.

Soon a new batch of photos arrived: poor students at four schools in Liberia with new book bags and school supplies that Joel had bought with the $500. So, to make a long story short, Ben in Utah and Joel in Liberia have become business partners.

They split the profits on the photos 50-50. Ben has created a YouTube series about Joel and his life in West Africa, and Joel is using his share to help his family and neighbors. 

Ben says: “If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that you shouldn’t judge people. When we actually take time to get to know each other, we might be pleasantly surprised.”

Sin Against the Holy Spirit


Well, I think this is a great story, but I do want to be clear about something.

I am not encouraging you to be rash with things like this on the Internet. I am very cautious and I encourage you to be too, because there is scamming and it could hurt us.

But with that said, I share this story because it helps to bring out an important point in today’s gospel. Some people refuse to recognize the good that Jesus is doing.

They get so ridiculous that they even say he is casting out Satan by the power of Satan. They say that the apparently good things that he does are really bad.

This is what Jesus calls the sin against the Holy Spirit and the unforgivable sin. Our Scripture specialists tell us that Jesus is exaggerating here to make a point.

In truth, this sin and all sins are forgivable. But Jesus wants us to know that refusing to recognize good and be open to the good in others is very serious.

Seeing Good

This can happen when we get trapped in cynicism and skepticism. 

Our cynicism and skepticism may lead us to see only darkness in today’s world. It can lead us to completely give up on a family member who is caught in some kind of addiction.

And it can lead us simply to fear persons whom we don’t know or entire peoples who are different from us. So, sinning against the Holy Spirit is refusing to see and be open to the potential goodness in others. 

This sinning condemns others to isolation and hopelessness. And, in truth, it also condemns us to isolation and fear.

So, Jesus’ very serious lesson is: Don’t sin against the Holy Spirit. Be open to seeing goodness and God’s presence in the other person.  

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Cycle B - June 3, 2018

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Cycle B
June 2, 2018  4:00pm Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 
June 3, 2018  8:45 and 11:00am Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore       

Our Words 


Today I want to reflect with you about the words that we use.

Our words are very important. They have an effect on us and to some extent, they form who we become as persons.

Our words also have an effect on others. They may lead others to feel good or to feel lousy about themselves, or to become angry or compassionate.

And because of this, our words have an effect on our relationship with God. So, my concern is that we need to be intentional about our use of words.

As the saying goes, we need to think before we speak. For the past three or four months, I have been thinking about some basic rules for our use of words.

I’ve got six, quick, positive rules for the kinds of words we are to say, and, corresponding negatives for the kinds of words we are to avoid. So, here goes!

Six Rules on Words 


Number 1. Use words that are respecting and not belittling.

Respect others as persons and if possible, affirm their good qualities. Don’t belittle others and make them appear as no good.

Number 2. Use words that are unitive and not divisive.

Emphasize the things that you share in common with others and that unite you. Don’t divide yourself from others as if there is no common ground between you. 

Number 3. Use words that are reconciling and not distancing. 

Ask for forgiveness or be forgiving, or at least speak in a way that leaves the door open to reconciling. Don’t distance yourself from others especially by holding yourself as absolutely right and them as absolutely wrong.

Number 4. Use words that are protecting and not bullying.

Be protective of others who are vulnerable. Don’t bully them by taking advantage of their weakness or inferior position.
                                                                                               
Number 5. Use words that are persuasive and not coercive.

Treat others as reasonable persons and try to respectfully persuade them about whatever the issue is. Don’t try to coerce others into seeing or doing things your way.

Number 6. Use words that are truthful and not untruthful.

Say things that you know or believe to be true even if they are not in your best interest. Don’t say things that are untrue, maybe to make yourself look better.

The Body of Christ


Okay! I see these as six basic, but important rules on our use of words.

I think they are a timely and needed refresher for us at this time. And I am moved to talk about this by today’s celebration in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus gives us bread and wine, his body and blood as our spiritual food. Jesus also intends that his sacramental body would make us into his living body on this earth. 

The result is that we need to live like the living body of Christ that we are. And one very important way of doing this is in our use of words. 

And so, when we use words that are respecting, unitive reconciling, protecting, persuasive, and truthful – when we use words like these, we are being Eucharistic people. We are building up the living body of Christ on this earth.

But when we use words that are belittling, divisive, distancing, bullying, coercive, and untruthful – when we use words like these, we are not being Eucharistic people. We are tearing down the living body of Christ on this earth – and we saw an unfortunate public example of this with the entire Roseanne Barr incident just this past week!

Conclusion

So, our use of words is very important. 

The words we speak to your husband or wife, to your parents or children, to our classmates or co-workers, to our neighbors or friends – these are important and they have effects.

The words may be about those with whom we are speaking. Or they may be about other persons or groups – maybe persons of other nationalities, races, religions, or cultures.

Let’s you and I be an example of how to speak and what words to use and not to use. Then we and our words will have a positive effect on our community and our American society.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, Cycle B - May 27, 2018

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

Cycle B

May 27, 2018      11:00am 

Saint Mary Parish Pylesville    4:00pm

Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore    8:45 and 11:15am

 

Trinity and Diversity 


Today I want to share one idea about the Trinity.

Many, many things have been written about this central mystery of our faith – one God, three persons. We keep trying to understand more fully the mystery of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Today, I want to share one insight that is proposed by Father Richard Rohr. Father Rohr is a Franciscan priest, a theologian, and a leader of spirituality.

He writes this: “The mystery that we’re talking about here is clearly diversity on display! The Three [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] are diverse, different, and distinct – and yet they are one.”

In other words, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. As Father Rohr says,“The Three are diverse, different, and distinct – and yet they are one.” 

Creation and Diversity


Richard Rohr draws an important conclusion from this.

He says that this insight means that there is diversity at the very core of reality. God is being itself – the origin of life and of all that is.

So, if there is diversity in God, there must also be diversity in creation. And that means that there must be diversity in humanity since we especially are made in the image and likeness of God.

Richard Rohr also states it this way. He says that God is goodness, goodness itself. 

Since there is diversity in God, this means that goodness is not sameness or uniformity. God did not make us to be uniform – everyone and everything the same or alike.

Instead, God made us diverse, different, and distinct. As the Book of Genesis says, God looked upon all that he had made and saw that it was good. 

And so, the more we welcome and embrace this diversity, the more we are in the flow of the divine life. And the more we welcome and embrace this diversity, the more we are participating in the divine goodness. 

 

We and Diversity 


A few weeks ago, I noticed a small poster hanging on the wall in the sacristy. 

It has the word diversityspelled out – but with the letters lined up one on top of the other, vertically. Next to each letter is a word or two that helps to explain what diversity means. 

So, just follow along with me:

D – Different.
I – Individuals.
V – Valuing.
E – Each Other
R – Regardless of 
S – Skin
I – Intelligence
T – Talents and 
Y – Years.

I really like that. The letters in the word diversity help us to understand what the word means. 

Different – Individuals – Valuing – Each other – Regardless of – Skin – Intelligence – Talents – and Years.

We could, of course, include other differences like language, nationality, religion, culture and on it goes. Diversity includes all the rich differences within the human family. 

Respect Diversity 

So, maybe ten minutes ago it would have sounded strange, but the calling of Trinity Sunday is to embrace diversity.

This tells me that I have to get hold of my human tendency for uniformity. I have to resist the temptation to make others like myself and to think that they have to be that way to be good.

This also tells me that I have to get in touch with any prejudice or stereotypes I have. I need to take persons as they are.

And this also tells me that I have to keep in check my fear of those who are different from me. I need to see diversity for what it is – as a richness, as opening me up more fully to the richness of humanity, and as leading me closer to God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So, there it is. This may be challenging, but who ever said that the mystery of the Trinity is not challenging? 

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Feast of Pentecost, Cycle B - May 20, 2018

Feast of Pentecost

Cycle B

May 20, 2018      4:00pm and 9:30am

Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 

 

Our Language 


Today I want to reflect with you about our language – the words we use when we speak.

Our words are very important. They have an effect on us and to some extent, they form us as persons.

Our words also have an effect on others. They may lead others to feel esteemed or worthless, or to become angry or compassionate.

And our words have an effect on our relationship with God. So, my concern is that we need to be intentional about our use of words.

As the saying goes, we need to think before we speak. For the past three or four months, I have been thinking about some basic rules for our use of words.

I have identified five positive rules for the kinds of words we are to say, and, there is a corresponding negative for the kinds of words we are to avoid. So, here goes!

Five Rules on Words 


First, use words that are affirming and not belittling.

Affirm the good qualities of others or else just say nothing. Don’t belittle others and make them appear as no good.

Second, use words that are unitive and not divisive.

Speak about the values or practices that you share in common with others and that unite you. Don’t divide yourself from others as if there is no common ground between you. 

Third, use words that are reconciling and not distancing. 

Ask for forgiveness or be forgiving, or at least speak in a way that leaves the door open to reconciling. Don’t distance yourself from others especially by holding yourself as absolutely right and them as absolutely wrong.

Fourth, use words that are protecting and not bullying.

Be protective of others who are vulnerable. Don’t bully them by taking advantage of their weakness or inferior position.
                                                                                               
And fifth, use words that are persuasive and not coercive.

Treat others as rational and reasonable persons and try to respectfully persuade them about whatever the issue is. Don’t try to coerce others into seeing or doing things your way.

Many Languages…One Understanding 


Okay! I see these as five basic, but important rules on language – on our use of words.

I think they are a timely refresher. And I am moved to do this especially by today’s first reading.

The passage says that the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus’ disciples and there is a miracle of language. People from many different nations, speaking all different languages, understand what the disciples are saying.

Apparently, each language group hears the disciples speaking in their own language. That was the effect of the Holy Spirit.

So, my idea is that when we use words that are affirming, unitive reconciling, protecting, and persuasive – when we speak this language, then God the Holy Spirit is flowing through us. This is a language that everyone can receive and understand, regardless of their native tongue.

And the results will be much like what Saint Paul describes in the second reading. We will be one, one body, in one Spirit – one, regardless of differences.

But when we use words that are belittling, divisive, distancing, bullying, and coercive – when we speak this language, then God the Holy Spirit is not flowing through us. Then we are blocking the flow of the Spirit.

This is a language that others will not be able to receive and understand. And the results will be fragmentation and probably hostility.

Conclusion 

So, to go back to where I began, our language, our use of words is very important.

It has consequences. The words we speak to your husband or wife, to your parents or children, to our classmates or co-workers, to our neighbors or friends – these are important and they have effects.

The words may be about those with whom we are speaking. Or they may be about other persons or groups – maybe persons of other nationalities, races, religions, or cultures.

The Scripture today calls us to let the Holy Spirit flow through us in our language. Then our words will be able to be received and understood and have life-giving effects. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Ascension of the Lord, Cycle B - May 13, 2018

The Ascension of the Lord – Cycle B

May 13, 2018

4:00pm at Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville

11:00am at Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 

 

Traits of Mothers


I’m guessing that Mother’s Day gets some special attention from all of us.

I know that’s true of me, even though my mother has been dead for forty-five years. I got thinking this past week about all that my mother did for my brother and me.

And that eventually got me thinking about mothers in general. And I then got focused on three traits of mothers. 

These aren’t the only traits. But I think that these three are core traits or core things that a mother wants to provide for her children.

1.    A Stable Center


The first thing that mothers want to provide is what I would call a stable center. 

Very basically, they want to give their children a home, a good, physical home. And then, they want to provide their children as mush as possible with their own personal presence, a relationship that they can count on. 

I know that my mother did that for us. In our younger years, my father worked five to ten hours each week at a second job. 

He did this to make enough money to do the things that he and mom wanted to do for us. So during that time especially, my mother really provided that stable center, and I think all mothers want to do this. 

2.    A Safe Space 


The second thing that mothers want to provide is a safe space. 

They want to give their children a place where they can grow and be themselves. They also want their children to know that they will be forgiven, maybe corrected and punished, but forgiven for back-talking or disobeying or whatever it is.

My mother did this for us. For example, when my grades on my report card were not what they should have been, I got “guidance” and I knew I had to study more. 

But mom especially made sure that we knew we were still okay and loved even when we fouled up. So, I think all mothers want to provide this safe space.

3.   A Real Purpose 

And the third thing that mothers want to provide is a real purpose. 

They want their children to be happy. And they know that for them to be happy, they need to be able to develop their God-given gifts and pursue their dreams. 

I know my own mother was proud that I became a priest, but she and dad never pushed me on this. She wanted each of us to pursue our own paths in life.

And, she did not want us to be self-focused, but to live with a sense of purpose beyond ourselves. So, I think mothers want to provide that real purpose for their children.

Mothers and Jesus

Well, as I reflected on today’s Scriptures, what came to me is that Jesus wants to provide the same three things for us that our mothers do. 

First, Jesus provides us with a stable center. 

In our first reading, Jesus reminds the disciples about his promise of the Holy Spirit. In other words, he is not just leaving them. 

Jesus will remain with them and with us through the Spirit. He is and will be our stable center. 

And then, like our mothers, Jesus also provides a safe space. 

Just look at the twelve apostles. They were very imperfect persons and really fouled up at times, but Jesus accepts them for who they are and allows them to grow.

He also accepts us as we are, forgives us when we need that and allows us to grow. He provides a safe space.

And finally, like our mothers, Jesus provides us with a real purpose.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the apostles that they are to be his witnesses to others – his alter egos, his presence to others. He gives them and us a rich sense of purpose for our lives. 

This is true whether we are a homemaker or a hygienist, a doctor or a dock-worker, a farmer/firefighter or a financial manager. Jesus gives us a bigger purpose and with that, the opportunity to be happy persons. 

Conclusion

So, Mother’s Day and Jesus’ Ascension into heaven – 
the traits of our mothers and those of Jesus:

1.    Providing a stable center
2.    Providing a safe space
3.    Providing a real purpose.

That’s what I’m thinking about today!