Monday, January 14, 2013

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Cycle C - January 13, 2013

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
 Cycle C
January 13, 2013 9:30 and 11am    
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Humpty Dumpty

I am sure that most of us are familiar with the storywriter Lewis Carroll.

Besides his famous story Alice in Wonderland, Carroll also wrote Alice through the Looking Glass.  In this story, Alice meets Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty is sitting on top of a high, narrow wall.  Alice looks up and says, “And exactly like an egg he is!”   

Humpty Dumpty responds, “It is very provoking to be called an egg – very provoking!”  Alice explains, “I said you looked like an egg, and some eggs are very pretty.”

But Humpty Dumpty is not amused and says, “Tell me your name and your business.”  Alice responds, “My name is Alice, but…”

Humpty Dumpty interrupts, “It’s a stupid name; what does it mean?”  Alice asks, “Must a name mean something?”

And Humpty Dumpty retorts, “Of course it must; my name means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape I am too.  With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”  

Baptism: Name and Shape

It may sound surprising, but this story of Alice and Humpty Dumpty helps us to appreciate something about our baptism.

We have all been baptized “In the name… of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  As Humpty Dumpty says, this name or each of these names – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – means something.

These names say something about our shape.  In other words, we are to allow our baptism to shape us around God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Our Shape: The Father

First, around the Father.

The Scripture tells us that God is the creator of all that is.  And so, we are to see all of creation as sacred, as a gift from our Creator.

This means especially in our times that we are to be alert to environmental issues.  On a personal level, we might make sure that we recycle paper, glass, plastic and whatever else we can.

On a public level, we might support sensible policies that reduce carbon emissions.  Being baptized in the name of God the Father means that we shape our lives around our Creator and the gift of creation.

Our Shape: The Son
And then, we are to allow our baptism to shape us around God the Son.

From the time of his baptism in today’s gospel, Jesus lives with a sense of mission and service.  And so, we are to view our lives as a mission from God.

This means that we are to do something to benefit the kingdom of God on this earth.  On a personal level, we are to be attentive to each member of our family and make their well-being a priority.

On a community level, we might volunteer some time teaching religion or coaching soccer or baking a casserole for Our Daily Bread.  Being baptized in the name of God the Son means that we shape our lives around Jesus who lives with a sense of mission and service.

Our Shape: The Holy Spirit

And finally, we are to allow our baptism to shape us around God the Holy Spirit.

Today’s gospel tells us that the heavens open and the Spirit comes down from above.  And so, God is now with us and with all humanity.

This means that we are to live with an awareness of God’s presence.  On a personal level, we are to live prayerfully, not just saying prayers, but living with a sense of God’s care and guidance.

On a relationship level, this means that we are to respect God’s presence in the unborn child or in the adult with whom we disagree, in everyone.  Being baptized in the name of God the Holy Spirit means that we shape our lives around God who lives within us and makes all human life sacred.


So, as Humpty Dumpty says, “My name means the shape I am.” 

We are baptized “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Let’s make sure that we allow our baptism to shape us around those names. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Feast of the Epiphany, Cycle C - January 6, 2013

Feast of the Epiphany
 Cycle C
January 6, 2013   7:30 and 9am
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

A Star

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

What I mean is that each of us has something leading us from inside ourselves or drawing us from outside ourselves to some goal.  Today’s gospel passage tells about the magi from the East following a star.

The star they follow is leading them to the newborn Christ.  The question is: what star are we following?

Maybe it is the star of getting as close to Christ as possible as we age and realize that our time for going home to God is getting closer.  Or maybe it is the star of a college student pursuing her dream of becoming a physical therapist.

So what is our star?  And, like the star that the magi are following, will our star lead us to God or in some way give glory to God?


Now these magi or wise men are on a journey.

The passage says that they come from the East, maybe present-day Iran or Iraq, and arrive in Jerusalem.  They have left the comfort of home and are on a journey to see the newborn king.

A good way for all of us to understand our lives is as a journey.  And a journey makes some demands on us.

It may mean that recent graduates from high school leave home for college to pursue their education.  It may mean that a young man and woman take the risk of commitment to one another in marriage.

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


The magi are wise enough to 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 in truth Herod is threatened and wants to do violence to the child.

There will also be hurdles for us as we journey and follow our star.  Maybe we will get distracted by comforts and pleasures that lure us off the journey and lead us to waste our talents and opportunities.

Or maybe someone will try to discourage us from following the star that seems right for us.  The question is: what hurdles can we identify for ourselves? 


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 or the journey we are on.  Does it lead us to be giving?

Maybe our giving needs to be limited to taking care of those in our family.  Or maybe we can give something of our time and talent to God’s work beyond our family.

Maybe teaching religion or advising on the Finance Committee or helping to decorate the Church for special seasons like this one.  The question is: What are we giving to God on our journey? 


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 closer to the Lord Jesus will also change us.

In fact, remaining unchanged is not necessarily a virtue.  Change and growth seem to be what the star and journey are all about. 

Maybe our journey leads us to see things from the perspective of others first instead of just being close-minded or judging others as wrong.  The question is: How are our star and our journey calling us to change?


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 – these elements in this Christmas story reflect the human experience of each one of us.  In that way, they call us to take a look at our own lives.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Cycle C - January 1, 2013

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
Cycle C
January 1, 2013 8:30 and 10am

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Our American Calendar

Our American calendar is marked with certain days that we celebrate each year. 

For example, we observe Martin Luther King’s birthday in January, President’s Day in February, Independence Day on July 4, and on it goes.  These annual observances help us remember who we are as Americans. 

Year after year this regular calendar helps to deepen our appreciation of our heritage.  It helps to keep us together as a people.

Our Church Calendar

Our Catholic Church also has a calendar. 

We have an annual cycle of observances and celebrations in our liturgy.   Each year, we have Advent and Christmas, and then Lent and Easter.

We have thirty-three Sundays that we call Ordinary Time, and this parallels everyday life and our efforts to live well and even grow spiritually.  And, of course, there are certain special days, like All Saints Day, or today, Mary the Mother of God. 

This Church calendar helps us to remember year after year what our relationship with God is.  It helps us to deepen our spiritual identity. 


Mary, whom we honor today, seems to have centered her life around the religious observances of her day.

For example, today we hear that when Jesus was eight days old, he was circumcised and given his name.  In this past Sunday’s gospel, we heard that each year, Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.

The gospels also mention other instances of synagogue or Passover observance.  So I am saying that Mary gave herself to this religious calendar and this helped her to remember who she was in relation to God.

Mary’s faith was enriched by following year after year the cycle of observances on the religious calendar.  This enabled her to cooperate with God in bringing the divine into our world.  

Our Observance of Calendar

Today we begin a new calendar year and I recommend that we approach our Church calendar with the same spirit that we see in Mary.

It can be tempting to see this as repetitive, as just the same thing over and over again.  I recommend, instead, that we view our Church year as a positive opportunity for strength and growth.

First, the Church calendar allows God to speak to some important human needs.

These are needs for joy, hope, peace, trust, and also for challenge and forgiveness.  These human needs are re-occurring in us and each year the rhythm of the Church calendar speaks to these in a helpful way.

Second, the Church calendar allows for the deepening over time of our inner self and our relationship with God.

It puts us in touch with where we came from, where we are going, and how we are to live this earthly journey.  It also leads us to know God more and more fully and to grow in our inner relationship with God.

And third, the Church calendar forms us as a community.

It gives us an identity as God’s people, as Christians and as Catholic Christians.  It forms us into a people united in the basics of faith, in the hope of the fullness of life, and in the love of God and neighbor.


So, a new calendar year, 2013, leads me to look at Mary as one who lived the religious calendar of her time.

Her example is a good one for us.  Our observing the Church year will enable us to be instruments of the divine entering more and more fully into our world, much as Mary did as the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God.