Sunday, May 26, 2013

Solemnity of Holy Trinity, Cycle C - May 26, 2013

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

Cycle C
May 26, 2013      7:30 and 9:00am
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


In the Image of God

At the very beginning of the Bible, the Book of Genesis says that God made us “in his image and likeness.” 

Today, we honor God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This morning, I want to reflect with you on the Trinity, but in a different way.

I am not going to start with the Trinity as a doctrine of our faith and try to explain it.  Instead, I want to start with us and our very own experience.

My idea is that if we are made in the image and likeness of God, then there must be signs or traces of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit right within us or in our experience of living.  So, just try to be with me on this and I hope what I am getting at will make some sense.

The Father

First, let’s be aware of our desire to give life.

For many of us this desire gets fulfilled by bringing a child into the world.  Or, as in my own case, we have this desire fulfilled by instilling and nourishing faith in others and assisting others in living a happy life.

Also, think of the pleasure we have in bringing life from the earth by growing tomato plants or by seeing petunias flower in our gardens.  Think of the pleasure we get in tending our dog or cat.

Also, be in touch with our satisfaction in repairing the clothes’ washer.  Or be in touch with humanity’s satisfaction in discovering new horizons of healing maybe through adult stem cells.

So let’s be aware of all of this within us.  These are all reflections of God, the creator, God the Father.   

The Son

And then, let’s be aware of our thirst to restore.

There is something within you that wants to restore your marriage to the feeling of love it once had.  There is something within us that wants to patch up a friendship that has grown distant.

Also, if we are honest with ourselves, look at our undeniable need to forgive and our restlessness when we do not forgive.  Or look at our lack of peace when we have not asked for forgiveness, even though we know we ought to do that.

Also, notice the pain and suffering we have had to bear and the surprising, mysterious strength that seems to come from beyond us to bear this.  Or notice our search for meaning and purpose and the way to live our lives fully.

Let’s be aware of all of this within ourselves.  These are all reflections of God, our Savior Jesus, God the Son.

The Holy Spirit

And last, let’s be aware of our passion for certain things.

Look at your passionate love for your spouse or children or parents or close friends.  Or look at our passionate care for victims of violence and injustice.

Also, notice our ardent faith in God or our strong commitment to the environment or to human life.  Or notice whatever it is that we will skip a meal for or even die for.

Also, think of our excitement at a new insight, maybe the simple insight that God is love and that God loves me unconditionally.  Or think of our growth over the years in wisdom, understanding, and patience – or at least our desire for that!

Let’s be aware of all of this within ourselves.  These are all reflections of God, the Spirit, the Holy Spirit.


So, we have to recall the basic revelation that we are made in the image and likeness of God.  And with that, we believe that these human experiences reflect God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

They confirm or even lead us to our belief in the Trinity.  Let’s remember this whenever we make the Sign of the Cross and right now as we offer our Profession of Faith.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Feast of Pentecost, Cycle C - May 19, 2013

Feast of Pentecost

Cycle C

May 19, 2013      9:00 and 10:30 AM

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


God in the Bathroom

One day a teacher was talking to her first grade class about God.

She asked the children, “Where is God?”  Little Christopher quickly put up his hand and said, “I know where God is; he is in our bathroom at home.”

The teacher responded, “In your bathroom, Christopher?”  And the little boy said, “Yes!  Every morning my dad goes to the bathroom door and shouts, ‘Dear God, are you still in there?’”

God Everywhere: The Holy Spirit

Of course, God is not just in the family bathroom.

But there is an insight here because we believe that God is everywhere.  The Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit is present and at work in all of creation and all of humanity.

This is what today’s celebration of Pentecost tells us.  And this belief has always been very strong in our Catholic tradition.



One of our contemporary writers says it this way: “We Catholics are a sacramental people.”

Being sacramental means that we see God coming to us through creation and we see creation leading us to God.  In other words, we see the Spirit of God everywhere.

Our Catholic tradition strongly affirms this sacramental vision.  And, as part of this, we also believe that the Church as a community of faith is sacramental.

We as God’s believing people are in a sense the sacrament of Jesus on this earth.  This is what Saint Paul means in our second reading when he refers to us as the body of Christ – the living body of Christ on this earth.

Seven Sacraments

And then, there are what we call the seven sacraments.

These are seven specific moments when the Spirit of God enlivens us.  In each of these actions, we call down the presence of the Holy Spirit, usually with some kind of imposition of hands.

For example, in the Eucharist, which these children will receive for the first time this morning, the priest imposes or extends his hands over the bread and wine and asks the Holy Spirit to make these gifts holy – the body and blood of Jesus.  We do much the same action in each of the other sacraments.

These sacraments give us God’s Spirit to strengthen us for specific needs, like an illness, or specific responsibilities, like marriage.  They also awaken us to the truth that everything is sacramental.

All as Sacramental

For example, the sacraments awaken in us a reverence for human life.

They awaken a reverence for the life of every human being, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.  And so, the sacraments move us to care for the unborn child, for those who lack food or medical care, and for the very elderly who grow increasingly dependent and vulnerable.

And they lead us to do this no matter who these people are, where they live, or how different they are from us.  Today’s first reading shows the Spirit enabling the early disciples to bridge differences of language, nationality, race, gender, whatever.

All of this comes from our being a sacramental people.  And the seven sacraments awaken our sense of this.

They awaken us to a sacramental vision and help us to allow the Holy Spirit to be the driving force of our lives.  This is what we celebrate today on the feast of Pentecost.   

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Ascension of the Lord, Cycle C - May 12, 2013

The Ascension of the Lord

Cycle C

May 12, 2013      4:00 and 5:30pm 

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


A Painting: Up and Down

There is a beautiful painting entitled The Ascension.

This painting dates back to the fifteenth century and it depicts the apostles gathered on top of a mountain.  Half of them are looking up at the sky.

There is an opening in the clouds and they are just staring.  Jesus has ascended into heaven and is no longer visible.

The other half of the apostles are looking down to the ground.  They are looking at footprints, the imprints of Jesus’ feet, but again, he is no longer visible.

The Scriptures: Up and Down

That painting expresses one of the core messages in today’s readings.

In both the first reading and the gospel, Jesus reassures the apostles that he will be present to them through the Holy Spirit.  They will feel comforted and empowered by this.

And then Jesus is taken up into heaven and the apostles kneel down in reverence.  St. Luke says that “they are gazing up into the heavens.”

Then two angels appear to these apostles.  They ask, “Why do you stand here looking up at the skies?”

In effect, they remind the apostles that now they must also look down to the earth and get to work.  Jesus has given them a mission to accomplish.

So, when I think about the Renaissance painting and these Scripture passages, the message I see is that there needs to be a balance between the heavens and the earth, between our looking up and our looking down.  I think that we can see this balance 1) in our sacraments and 2) in the way Jesus calls us to live.

The Sacraments: Up and Down

First, our sacraments are a mix, a balance of the heavens and the earth.

For example, in Baptism, we repeat the words of Jesus, the Son of God: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 
At the same time something of the earth: simple, ordinary water.

In the Eucharist that these boys and girls will receive for the first time today, we again repeat the words of Jesus: “This is my body; this is my blood.”  And at the same time, we use something of the earth: simple, ordinary bread and wine.

So, in our sacraments, there is this balance of the heavens and the earth.  It is like looking up to the heavens and looking down to the earth at the same time, much like the apostles are doing in that painting.  

Our Lives: Up and Down

I believe we are also called to live this balance in our personal lives.

First, we are to “look up to the heavens.”  This means that we need to be grounded and rooted in God.

We do this by prayer – by a morning prayer, by grace before meals, by the rosary, or by reading a passage of the gospels at home by ourselves.  And we definitely do this “looking up to the heavens” by coming to Mass and receiving the Eucharist.

It is important that we do this every week, week after week after week.  This and our personal prayers are essential ways of “looking up to the heavens” ways of being grounded in the Lord.

At the same time, we need to be looking down to the earth.  Children do this by studying hard in school and by listening to what your parents and teachers tell you to do.

We adults do this by working at your jobs to take care of your families, by making time for your children in their sports programs or dance lessons or whatever, or by baking a casserole for the soup kitchen.  These are ways of looking down to the earth and doing Jesus’ work in the world.


So, today’s celebration of the Ascension is about Jesus, but it is also about us – about the balance we are to have in our lives.

It is a balance between looking up to the heavens and looking down to the earth.  And this balance leads us to a healthy and holy life.