Sunday, April 14, 2013

3rd Sunday of Easter, Cycle C - April 14, 2013

3rd Sunday of Easter

Cycle C

April 14, 2013     7:30 and 9:00am

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


The Car Keys

A 17 year-old teenager named Bob really messed up one evening.

His Mom and Dad let him use the car on a Saturday night to take his girlfriend to the movies.  Unfortunately, things got a bit out of hand.

On the way to the movies, Bob and his girlfriend picked up a couple of other friends.  Bob was talking, not paying enough attention to his driving, and ran a stop light.

A policeman pulled him over.  And besides the red light issue, an open beer can – not Bob’s, but one of his friend’s – was found in the back seat. 

Bob’s parents were called and came to the scene.  Without a word, he handed over the car keys to Mom and Dad and didn’t expect to get them back for a long time.

Well, the following Monday, Mom asked Bob if he could take his grandmother to her doctor’s appointment after school.  She handed Bob the car keys.

Bob took his grandmother to the appointment and on some other errands.  Then he returned home and handed the keys back to Mom.

Later that week, Mom was delayed at work.  She called Bob and asked him to pick up some things for dinner.

Bob took the extra set of car keys from the kitchen drawer and headed out to Shop Rite.  He got a call on his cell phone and some of his friends asked him to go to the mall with them.

Bob said no and just proceeded to the supermarket.  He came home, helped unpack the grocery bags, and put the car keys back in the kitchen drawer.

The following Saturday, Bob’s father asked him to go over to Home Depot to get some mulch.  Dad tossed the car keys to Bob and he headed out.

About an hour later Bob came home and helped his father with the yard work.  When they went inside for some lunch, Bob started to hand the car keys back to his father

But Dad just looked and didn’t reach to take the keys.  Instead, very matter-of-factly, he said, “No, now you hold on to them.”

Jesus and Peter

Bob’s Mom and Dad understood that they must hold their son accountable for what he had done.

But, they also gave Bob a chance to restore their trust in him.  They wanted the relationship to be restored.

This is much like what Jesus does with Peter in today’s gospel.  Jesus knows that Peter denied him three times during his passion.

And Peter hasn’t forgotten this either.  So, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” 

Jesus does not taunt Peter or put him down or get in his face.  He just gives Peter the chance to respond positively.

Peter does this and the relationship gets restored.  In fact, Jesus entrusts Peter with great responsibility – to feed his lambs and his sheep, in other words, to succeed him as the shepherd.

Our Relationships

I imagine that many of us have had similar experiences.

We have had our trust broken in a relationship.  We have been disappointed.

This can happen between friends, between husband and wife, between parents and children, and on it goes.  The example of Jesus and of Bob’s parents is very helpful.

We are not to sweep the breach of trust under the carpet.  We are not to pretend that it didn’t happen.

Instead, we are to deal with the issue and deal with it as respectfully as we can.  And we are to try to give the other person the chance over time to respond and regain our trust.

This can happen with actions – as with Bob and his parents.  And it can happen with words – as with Peter and Jesus.

It is challenging, it takes some time, and it can be very difficult because of hurt feelings.  But this chance of restoration of trust is something Jesus calls us to consider today.

Monday, April 8, 2013

2nd Sunday of Easter, Cycle C - April 7, 2013

2nd Sunday of Easter

Cycle C

April 7, 2013       4pm, 10:30am and 12 noon

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


Faith and Religion

There is a recent report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that really has my attention.

This study shows that 1 in 5 of all Americans now has no religious affiliation.  1 in 3 of all young adults – ages 20 to 29 – 1in 3 of this group claims no religious affiliation and this number is growing.

Of the 20% with no religious affiliation, 6% say that they are atheist or agnostic.  The other 14% say that they believe but are not affiliated.

In fact, many of those unaffiliated with any church say that they are spiritual but not religious.  This is a fairly new trend – being spiritual but not religious. 

Some other findings tell us that many turn off to religion or change their church affiliation because of a church’s involvement in politics.  What they want is spiritual nourishment and often they are not getting it. 

These findings definitely include the Catholic Church.  These trends have definitely affected us.


I have to say that all of this concerns me very much.

It is something I have been thinking about a lot.  I ask myself: what should we be doing in our ministry?

I do see some direction in how to approach this in today’s gospel – in the encounter between Thomas and the risen Jesus.  And the direction I see is centered on Jesus’ wounds. 

Our Woundedness

As you recall, Thomas wants to be sure that this person really is Jesus.  He wants to be sure that the man appearing before him is really the one who was nailed to the cross and crucified.

So, Thomas sees the wounds of Jesus and then he believes.  He gives that great statement of faith: “My Lord and my God.”

What I see here is that it is important for me and all of us to admit of our woundedness, just as Jesus does with Thomas and the others.  I and we need to admit that life is not always easy and faith is not always easy.

Some things in life can be messy and some things are complicated and it is not always clear what to do.  I don’t always succeed in living the gospel well and I also struggle with certain issues

These are the kinds of wounds that the wounds of Jesus in today’s gospel call me and maybe all of us to bear and admit.  And if we do that in a real and authentic way, then maybe some of those distanced from faith or religion will be able to respond as Thomas does today.

Their Woundedness

That takes me to the need to accept the woundedness of others.  Jesus consistently does this.

Jesus takes people where they are and does not judge or condemn, no matter what their wounds are and what they have done.  He takes Thomas right where he is today – notice, Jesus doesn’t label him “doubting” Thomas.

Jesus’ approach brings healing and leads to faith.  Well, in the same way, I as priest and we as Church need to accept the wounds and imperfections of others.

As I said, our admission of our own woundedness and then our acceptance of the woundedness of others can help all of us either to come to faith or to grow in our faith.  Patience, empathy, welcoming, and humility – these traits need to characterize our ministry and approach today. 

And of course, with our woundedness, we come to the Eucharist.  After all, this sacrament is intended to bring us communion with the Lord, life in the Lord, and through that, the healing of our wounds.


So, these are some basic directions I see in today’s gospel. 

I know that there are many other things we have to do in today’s situation, but these approaches need to be the foundation of all that we do.  I believe the woundedness of Jesus unlocks for us how to invite others to faith and to church in this day and age.