Saturday, October 27, 2012

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B - October 21, 2012

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle B
October 21, 2012       7:30 and 9am Masses

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

The Marriage Law

This weekend we are speaking for a few minutes on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Lori has sent a letter on this topic to all pastors.  He directed us to share the letter with you and it is enclosed in today’s bulletin.

The Archbishop has also asked us to include this in our homilies.  So, I am doing that and then I also want to share another reflection with you.

Why Not Same-Sex Marriage?

Our official Catholic teaching is that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Our Church holds that nature shows that only from the union of one man and one woman can new life arise.  Only through such a union has every person on earth come into being.

Our Church teaching sees the procreation of new life as an essential part of marriage.  The Church states that there are two ends or purposes of marriage.

1) It is for the love and fulfillment of man and woman.  And 2) it is also equally for the procreation and upbringing of children.

The Church sees this as how God has made the institution of marriage.  This is the way nature has been created and we cannot change it.

Because of this, our official Catholic teaching opposes the redefining of marriage to include same-sex relationships.  The Church holds that this kind of relationship is not capable of bringing new life into the world and the definition of marriage should not be changed to allow this.

Other Reasons

Archbishop Lori also cites some other reasons for opposing same-sex marriage.

For example, the Archbishop asserts that many of the rights that would be obtained by granting marriage to gay couples are already granted under Maryland law.  He argues that same-sex marriage is a civil issue, but it is not only a civil issue. 

The Archbishop states that it could have effects on how religious-sponsored hospitals and charities are able to operate.  Finally, he expresses his concern about long-term consequences that redefining marriage might have on children and on the family.

So, the Archbishop asks us to consider all of this in forming our conscience and in voting on this issue.  This is Question 6 on the Maryland ballot this November.
Respect for Others

Now, I want to add one other reflection.

It is important that the Church’s position on this legislation not be used as grounds for prejudice or discrimination.  To say it positively, it is important that we are respectful of persons of same-sex orientation.

Here is why I am saying this today.  I have listened to some parents and grandparents of persons of same-sex orientation. 

I have listened to some of these persons themselves.  I have also talked with some counselors and therapists.

I believe that the Jesus of the gospels calls us to be respectful of all persons.  At times, the way we teach on this issue – the way we teach, the wording we use – at times this is diminishing and may contribute to prejudice.

Some of our wording has been unfortunate.  So, we as Catholics and all Christians need to speak and act respectfully.   

There is a real issue of concern here.  At least one significant study shows that teens of same-sex orientation are five times more likely to attempt suicide than others.

One professional assures me that this finding is just the tip of the iceberg – the tip of the problem.  This same study shows that a supportive environment in our schools, communities, and churches can make a real difference.

Programs about bullying or about respect for diversity are helpful and crucial.  So, prejudice or disrespect in word or in action is not living the truth of the gospel.

Care and respect is the way of Jesus.  It is the way that will lead others and us closer to God and the Lord Jesus. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B - October 7, 2012

PODCAST - Press sideways triangle below to listen

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle B
October 7, 2012         All 8 Masses
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


There’s a little story about a young man named – oddly enough – Michael.

Michael woke up one Sunday, tired and grouchy.  He blurted out to his mother, “I’m not going to church this morning.” 

His mother asked why not.  Michael snapped back, “I just don’t want to go.”

His mother continued, “Well, there has to be some reason.”  Again, Michael responded, “I just don’t feel like it today.”

His mother came back again.  “Look Michael, that’s ridiculous. 

“Besides, you have no choice.  You’re the pastor, so get moving.”

Why I Am Here Today

Well, unlike the Michael in the story, today I am happy to be here with you.

And yes, I am giving my annual talk on the offertory collection.  But what makes this enjoyable for me is that fundamentally it is really about Saint Margaret’s and the faith community we have developed together.

Programs, Services, Opportunities

For example, today one of the things I think about is our marriage preparation program.  Jesus in today’s gospel says that the bond between husband and wife is to be as enduring as God’s love is for us. 

Here at Saint Margaret’s we try to promote this by making marriage preparation a priority.  We have 18 sponsor couples who prepare other couples for marriage in a personal, one-on-one setting.

Then we priests and deacons plan the wedding ceremony with the couples and make this an experience of faith.  It is a helpful and enriching program.

Today I also think of the FiRE House that we opened this past year.  The parish for many years has owned a ranch home next to the Saint Margaret property.

With a few changes and a lot of splashy, bright paint, we converted that into a center for our high school youth.  Some of our young adults named this the FiRE House and that stands for Finding the Road to Emmaus.

Today I am also thinking of our outreach to those in need.  We host 5 Twelve-Step substance abuse programs here, including one for families – called Families Anonymous.

Today I also recall a middle-age man who thanked me for our ministry to the hospital.  When he was in Upper Chesapeake, each day one of our Eucharistic Ministers visited and brought him Communion and he found that so very helpful as he went through his treatments.

I could say a lot more about our parish, like the 31 adult faith groups, the 900 children and youth in faith formation, and the 700 children in our school.  We can be very proud of so many things.
Offertory Giving

Now, of course, we do need financial support for all of this.

You have been quite generous and I am very grateful to all of you.  Without your generosity, all of this would not be possible.

This weekend, I am asking us to renew our financial commitment.  Our budget for this year that we began on July 1 is balanced at $3 million.

It is well-thought out and tight, almost the same bottom line as last year’s.  So here is what I am thinking and what I want to ask.  

My Request

We are all aware of the troubled economy in our country. 

So I assume that some of us because of personal circumstances will not be able to contribute as much as we have been giving.  And I assume that some of us will be able to maintain our present level of giving but not increase it.

Given that, I am asking those of us who can to increase our giving to the offertory by 3% or even more if that is appropriate for us.  This will enable us to continue all of our programs and services and ministries. 

I also ask all of us, regardless of our level of giving, to complete a commitment card.  This card is a good-faith expression of what we intend to give and it also enables us to make sure that our budget is realistic. 

I mailed the card with my letter to you this past week and maybe you have already completed it.  If not, I would ask that you complete a card right now and drop it in the collection basket – there are cards and pencils available.


I thank you for your consideration of my request.

As I leave, I am reminded of another anecdote.  One day, a little girl and her mother stopped into church.

The mother said that she wanted to pray for just a few minutes.  So the mother knelt and prayed and the little girl was trying her best to be patient.

Finally, she tapped her mother on the shoulder and said, “When will that red light up there turn green so we can go?”  Well, it hasn’t turned green, but it is time for me to go.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle B - September 30, 2012

PODCAST - Press sideways triangle below to listen

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle B
September 30, 2012 4 and 5:30pm
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

No Salvation

Have you ever heard the expression “Outside the church there is no salvation”? 

When I was a child, growing up in the 1950’s, I remember hearing that.  In fact, I think I was taught that in my religion or catechism classes.

This expression – “Outside the Church there is no salvation” – goes way back in the history of the Church.  Over the centuries, its original meaning became a bit distorted.

The result was that this saying was repeated right into the twentieth century, the 1900’s, in a way that was kind of exclusivist and elitist.  That is how I learned it as a child.

It came across as meaning that all non-Catholics, including other Christians, and certainly non-Christians, are not able to be saved.  Well, fortunately, along came the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s.

Salvation for All

Pope John XXIII convened all the bishops of the world to this major meeting. 

The purpose was to do in-depth reflection on the Church and its direction.  This October marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. 

Well, one of the things that Vatican II did was to clarify the teaching about no salvation outside the Church.  Vatican II first recognized that there is a fundamental unity among all Christians based on our common baptism. 

Through baptism, the Holy Spirit is present and active in all of us.  The significant conclusion: all Christians can be saved.

And then the Council went even farther.  It recognized that 2/3rds of the world’s population are not Christian.

In some way, God must also draw to himself everyone to whom he has given life and breath.  Everyone must in some way be included in the mystery of God’s saving love! 

Well, at least for me, what a refreshing way to view God and what a positive clarification of our faith!  And how consistent this is with the revelation of God that Jesus gives us! 

Today’s Scripture

In today’s gospel, one of the apostles is upset because someone who is not in their group is doing good things in Jesus’ name.

Jesus tells them not to stop that person.  He makes the significant statement: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

So Jesus sees God present and acting in others who are doing good even if they are not one of his followers.  He wants the apostles – and us – to resist the insider-outsider mentality.

He just wants us to look for good and affirm that as a sign of God’s presence.  So yes, salvation also happens outside the Church!

A Clarification

Now, I think we have to add that we Catholics still believe that Jesus is the fullness of God’s revelation. 

We believe that Christianity is the fullest and clearest way to God.  And we also believe that our Church, that Catholicism has authentically passed on the core message of Jesus down through all the centuries.

No question, in our humanity, we have made mistakes and done some things we are not proud of.  But, guided by the Holy Spirit, we believe that we have transmitted the authentic, core message of Jesus. 

So, we still want to invite everyone to our Catholic community.  It’s something like having a full-course, gourmet meal. 

We want everyone to be at this table and to have the full meal – of doctrine and moral teaching, of sacraments and spirituality and all the rest.  We want to invite everyone to this.


I want to conclude with what today’s readings lift up for us.

What a positive approach to God and faith and salvation we now see!  What an open approach to all of humanity!

We are not to give in to the temptation of seeing faith and religion as a who's in, who’s out, as an include, exclude exercise.  Instead, we positively cherish Catholicism and want to share it.

At the same time, we respect all persons and see everyone as on a journey back to God and to salvation.  This is the positive approach that motivates me and, I believe, should guide us in this 21st century of Christianity.