Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday, Cycle C - March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday

Cycle C

March 31, 2013   7:30pm, 9:30 and 11:30am

St. Margaret Parish, Bel Air


Our Town

When I was in high school, I remember reading the play Our Town.

Our Town was written by the American playwright Thornton Wilder and it was required reading in our English class.  The setting is a small town called Grovers Corners in New Hampshire in the 1930s.

The final act of the play is especially moving.  The narrator walks through the town cemetery and tells the story of each person who is buried there.

When the narrator finishes all the stories, he walks to the front of the stage and looks directly at the audience.  He pauses and then says this.

“Now there are some things we all know.  We all know that something is eternal, and it ain’t the earth, and it ain’t the stars…

“Everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings.  There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.

“They’re waitin’.  They’re waitin’ for something that they feel is comin’.

“Something important, and great.  Aren’t they waitin’ for the eternal part in them to come out clear?”

The Eternal -- Resurrection

Well, the narrator in Our Town makes quite a point.

Deep down in our heart, something tells us that this life is not all there is.  Deep down in our heart, something tells us that there is life beyond this earth.

Our Scripture readings this evening confirm this intuition of our hearts.  Easter tells us that there is a resurrected life with God.

Signals of Transcendence

Some theologians say that our life experiences give us hints of this and they call these hints “signals of transcendence.”

Maybe we have never heard this expression before.  In truth, it’s one of those lofty sounding expressions that has a very simple meaning.

A signal of transcendence is something in this life that puts us in touch with something beyond this life.  It is something like the sound on my cell phone.

When the sound goes off and I hit answer, I can talk with the person calling me.  The sound puts me in touch with the other person.

Well, a signal of transcendence is something in this life that tells us that there is a life beyond.  It can be something right inside us, or something outside us that connects us with something beyond.


For example, I hope we all have some degree and even a high degree of happiness.  We might have loving family and friends, a good job, and a comfortable lifestyle.

And yet, even with all of this, isn’t it true that we still hunger for more and find ourselves saying if only we had this or if only he would be like that or if only we could do whatever?  Even our experience of happiness leaves us hungering for something more.

I imagine many of us have had the experience of seeing a newborn baby or of noticing the stars on a dark night or of being mesmerized by the power and rhythm of the ocean.  These experiences can touch us deeply.

And don’t we sometimes find ourselves caught up in them to the point of wonder – wonder at what lies behind and beyond them?  These experiences can leave us wondering.

And then there is simply this yearning within us for life.  We want to live and we resist the thought that life may end with physical death.

Don’t we have to ask: where does this yearning come from?  Where does our desire for life and living and for more and more of it come from?


I see these experiences as signals of transcendence.

They point to something beyond this life and tell us we are made for another world.  And today Easter confirms our intuition and experience.

The risen Christ tells us that death is only a passage to another life.  He tells us that there is a resurrected life with God that will finally satisfy the deepest hunger and wildest wonder and most persistent desire in our human spirit.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

6th Sunday of Lent, Cycle C - March 24, 2013

Passion (Palm) Sunday
Cycle C
March 24, 2013         10:30amd and 12:30pm

St. Margaret Parish, Bel Air


I imagine most of us can think of a time when we were treated unfairly.

I remember way back, when I was in the sixth grade, some tattle-tale accused a whole group of us boys of saying “bad” words on the playground.  I wasn’t an angel, but I didn’t say “bad” words and I still got punished.

More serious than that, some of the former employees of Bethlehem Steel must have felt unfairly treated when they lost their pensions.  Some employees of the Federal Government must feel unfairly treated by the furloughs that are now taking place.

Maybe we have felt unfairly treated by a friend who has turned us off and rejected us.  My guess is that most of us have had experiences like these.

Jesus himself experienced great injustice.  And this is the background for Saint Luke’s account of Jesus’ suffering and death that we just heard.

Jesus’ Innocence

Luke carefully emphasizes Jesus’ innocence.

Only in his telling of Jesus’ Passion – not in Matthew, Mark or John – only in Luke does Pilate three times declare Jesus innocent.  Only in Luke does Herod also pronounce Jesus innocent.

Only Luke carefully recalls the words of the one man being crucified with Jesus: “We have been condemned justly, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Only Luke recalls the Roman centurion saying right after Jesus dies: “This man was innocent.”

So Luke, in his account of Jesus’ suffering and dying, very intentionally reminds us of Jesus’ innocence.  He is showing us how unfair, how unjust all of this is.
Jesus’ Care, Healing, and Forgiveness

And yet, Jesus responds positively.

Luke tells us that at the Last Supper, Jesus prays for Peter – that his faith will in the long run not fail.  Only Luke’s gospel tells us that in the garden, Jesus heals the ear of the high priest’s servant.

Only Luke shows Jesus’ concern for the women who are weeping, advising them not to be concerned for him, but for themselves and their children.  Only Luke recalls Jesus, on the cross, asking the Father to “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

And, of course, only Luke shows Jesus assuring the one man being crucified with him: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  So, Luke very carefully shows that nothing – injustice, suffering, and even impending death – nothing gets in the way of Jesus’ caring, healing, and forgiving.

Communion with God

Luke, of course, wants us to realize that we are called to be the same way and he shows us how this is possible. 

Jesus remains in communion with the Father.  And he maintains this from start to finish.  

Luke’s depiction of Jesus on the Mount of Olives stresses his being prayerful.  This communion with the Father continues to the very end when Jesus prays, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Luke is making the point that this inner, steady communion with the Father – this is what strengthens Jesus.  This is what enables him who is innocent to deal with such injustice and suffering.

This is what enables him not to become vengeful and violent, but to remain caring, forgiving, and peaceful.  Luke calls us to the same inner communion with God, the same prayerfulness.

This will help us to deal with injustice and suffering in our lives.  It will help us to heal rather than to hurt, to forgive rather than to take vengeance, and to remain at peace rather than become violent.    

Monday, March 18, 2013

5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle C - March 17, 2013

PODCAST - Press sideways triangle below to listen

5th Sunday of Lent
 Cycle C
Saint Margaret Parish
March 17, 2013   4pm and 7:30am

Put It Back Together

There is a story about a surgeon and his wife who were invited to dinner at the home of friends.

The surgeon was enjoying a drink in the kitchen while his host was getting ready to carve the roast beef.  The friend asked, “Would you like to do the honors, Doc?”

The surgeon politely declined.  The friend began carving the roast, and then teased, “So how’s my technique, Doc?

“I think I’d make a pretty good surgeon.  See, it’s all in the wrist.

“You know, I might take your job.”  The doctor was used to this kind of humor and just laughed. 

Soon the host finished his work and held up a tray of beautifully carved roast beef.  “So, what d’ya think, Doc?” 

The surgeon replied, “Not bad.  But now – let’s see you put it all back together.”

Jesus Puts It Back Together

Jesus does not put a roast beef back together, but in a different way, he does what the surgeon asks his friend to do.

In today’s gospel, some men bring a woman to Jesus.  They accuse her of a great sin and ask Jesus if it’s okay to stone her to death.

That’s what the religious law says to do.  Jesus’ response is very instructive.

The Group of Men

At first, Jesus looks down, is silent and says nothing – definitely not getting caught up in the frenzy of the group. 

Eventually, Jesus looks up at the men who want to stone the woman and says, “Let the one without sin throw the first stone.”  So he doesn’t really answer their question.

Jesus doesn’t affirm them or put them down.  But he does lead them to look within themselves.

Jesus leads them to look within at their own humanity and sinfulness.  In doing this, Jesus recognizes the reality of sin.

The truth is that we all sin as human beings.  We can sin against ourselves by abusing alcohol or over-eating. 

We can sin against our relationship with God by not praying or not coming to Mass.  And we can sin against others, in this instance, by being self-righteous, hateful, and unforgiving.

Jesus doesn’t resort to any kind of violence, much less physical violence.  He does not throw verbal or moral stones at this group of men. 

Instead, he leads them to look within and get in touch with their own sinfulness.  And with that, their hateful and violent spirit dissipates and they go off.

So, Jesus has recognized sin in each of them.  And he has also taught them a non-violent, peaceful, respectful way of dealing with others who have sinned.

The Woman

Then Jesus turns to the woman.

He simply asks her, “Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, Sir.”

“Then, neither do I condemn you.  Go now and do not sin any more.”

In effect, Jesus responds to her just as he has to the group of men.  He recognizes that she has sinned.

In this instance, her sin is adultery – a sin against sexual morality.  Jesus affirms the commandment and provides the basis for the teaching that continues to today.

Our sexual expression is a very significant giving of ourselves.  It is to convey a commitment that is lasting and exclusive.

And so, it is to be reserved for husband and wife in marriage.  So, Jesus leads this woman, as he leads the men, to look within herself and acknowledge her sin.

He is not violent.  He does not throw verbal or moral stones at her. 

Instead, he respectfully and peacefully exhorts her not to sin anymore.  And this woman, like the group of men, is able to go off with her self-respect intact. 

Jesus Puts Them Back Together

So Jesus does not put back together the sliced roast beef.

But he does put persons back together – the group of men and this woman.  How he does this is a great model for how we are to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and how we are to relate to one another.