Sunday, June 30, 2013

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 30, 2013

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
June 30, 2013     4:00pm, 10:30am, 12 noon 

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

A Journey

For a long time, I have used the word journey to express what my life is all about.

I am not sure when I came upon this theme, but I am almost certain it came to me from Saint Luke’s Gospel.  In today’s passage, Luke says that Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”

Luke sees Jesus’ entire ministry as a journey to Jerusalem.  For Jesus, this was a geographical journey, but it is also symbolic of a spiritual journey that I and all of us are on. 

Each day is another step in the journey – with Jesus, and back to God.  It is a journey with new opportunities and new challenges always coming up. 

Seeing my life as a journey also helps me to see myself as on the way and not yet there, in other words, as human and imperfect and in need of growth.  So the theme of journey is very powerful for me.

Virtues for the Journey

Now, in today’s gospel passage, we see some of the traits that Jesus calls us to have for the journey of life.

It is important for us to understand correctly what Jesus means here.  These traits emerge in Jesus’ response to some people who want to follow him on his journey.

1. Go Beyond Comfort Zone

One person says, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus responds, “Foxes and birds have places to stay, but I do not.”

Jesus is saying that sometimes following him won’t be very comfortable.  Sometimes we will have to push ourselves and go out of our comfort zone.  

For example, maybe we’ll have to swallow hard, eat our pride and admit we made a mistake and ask for forgiveness.  Sometimes, if we are going to journey with Jesus, we’ll have to go out of our comfort zone.

2. Do Good Now

Someone else says that he’ll follow Jesus but wants to go and bury his father first.  Jesus bluntly says, “Let the dead bury their dead.”

Scripture scholars tell us that from the original wording here, this man’s father was not dead and not even dying.  The man was just saying that he’d follow Jesus but not now, sometime later on in his life. 

Jesus’ point is that, for example, if we feel drawn to write a note expressing our appreciation and love to our parents or children or spouse or close friend, do it now and don’t put it off.  If we are going to journey with Jesus, do right now the good things that we feel drawn to do.


3. Look Ahead

Then someone else says that he’ll follow Jesus, but he first wants to say good-bye to his family.  That seems okay, but Jesus says that if you’re plowing a field and look back over your shoulder, that’s no good.

The idea is that if you are preparing rows for planting corn, the rows won’t be straight if you’re looking behind yourself.  Jesus’ point is to look ahead and live in the present and not in the past.

Don’t wistfully yearn for the good old days and don’t be bogged down in past hurts and mistakes and failures.  If we are going to journey with Jesus, look ahead and make the most of today’s opportunities.

4. Be Respectful

Finally, in this passage the residents in the area of Samaria have shut their doors and their minds to the apostles.  The apostles are angry and want to pray that God will strike their town with lightning and burn it down.

And Jesus says – No, No, No.  Jesus is respectful and caring even of those who disagree and he wants us to be the same. 

For example, we may strongly disagree with others about one of the Supreme Court’s decisions this week on affirmative action or voting rights or same-gender marriage.  But if we are going to journey with Jesus, we are to be respectful and caring no matter what. 


So, all of this from the word journey and seeing our life as a journey with Jesus and back to God!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 23, 2013

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
June 23, 2013     4:00pm, 5:30pm, 7:30am 

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

The Laws of Checkers

One day some young Jewish students were supposed to be studying the Torah.

As you know, the Torah is the core religious law in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Well, instead of studying, these students are playing a game of checkers and unexpectedly, the rabbi walks into the study hall. 

The rabbi surprisingly just smiles and tells them not to be ashamed.  He even says that they can always be studying the law, wherever they find it, even in a game of checkers.

The rabbi then goes on to tell the students the three laws or rules of checkers.  First, you must make only one move at a time. 

Second, you must only move forward, not backward.  And third, when you reach the last row, then you may move in either direction, forward or backward. 

At first, these students just stare at the rabbi, but eventually they realize that the rules of checkers are really spiritual rules for life.  Today Jesus offers us some rules and these parallel the three rules of checkers.

Rule 1: One Move at a Time

Rule 1 in checkers says that we are to make only one move at a time.

Jesus wants us to live with mindfulness, with an awareness of the here and now.  And in that sense, he wants us to make only one move at a time.

Jesus doesn’t want us pulled in so many directions that we are not focused on what we are doing or the person we are with right now.  This is one reason why he asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” 

Jesus is interested in our individual experience of him.  He wants us to live with a sense of God and an awareness of him.

Jesus wants us to do whatever we are doing right now with an awareness of who he is and of what God is calling us to be.  He wants us, in this way, to live with mindfulness and make only one move at a time. 

Rule 2: Move Only Forward

Rule 2 in checkers says that we are to move forward, not backward. 

Jesus calls us to move forward in the sense of making sure that everything we do leads us to God.  This is what he means when he calls us to “take up our cross and follow him.”

“Taking up our cross” means that we make choices that are consistent with Jesus’ teaching.  As you know, a cross is made up of two pieces of wood that intersect with one another.

The cross stands for a crossroads and it means that we can go one way or the other.  It is a symbol of decision.

So we might decide not to talk negatively about someone who has offended us but instead to pray about the situation or talk through our feelings directly with that person.  This is an example of deciding to move forward and grow closer to God. 


Rule 3: Last/First Row

Finally, Rule 3 in checkers says that when we reach the last row, we can move in either direction, forward or backward.

It is amazing how many of Jesus’ sayings speak of going to the last row.  For example, “Deny yourself.  Whoever lose their life for my sake will save it.  The last will be first.”

Jesus is saying that giving of ourselves for him will sometimes make us last.  This is why the last row is the most important.

This might simply mean that we spend some time with a neighbor who is grieving the loss of her husband. Or it might mean that we volunteer some of our time to teach religion to the children here at the parish.

The result of doing these things is that we end up experiencing more and more of that fulfillment or fullness of life that Jesus promises.  It is like getting to the last row in checkers where we will be free and fully alive.


So, the rules of the simple game of checkers help us to appreciate some of Jesus’ rules on discipleship.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

10th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 9, 2013

10th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Cycle C
June 9, 2013   5:30pm, 7:30 and 9:00am Masses

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Imagine a Society…

This afternoon, let’s allow our imagination to flow for just a minute.

Imagine a society where women have no rights.  Imagine that they can own no property.

Imagine that women cannot have a house titled to their name.  Imagine that they cannot have a bank account or pension or any finances in their name.

Now imagine that a woman in that society is married and her husband dies.  The house and any money that she and her husband had are no longer hers.

Instead, they go to her husband’s closest male relative.  So if this woman and her husband have a son, all the assets go to him.

If they do not have a son or if they have a son and he also dies, the house and whatever they have go to some other male relative of the husband – maybe his brother or nephew.  The woman is left penniless.

She is completely at the mercy of others.  Now that’s the way it was in the society of Jesus’ day.

Restoring Both to Life

And this is why today’s gospel is so very poignant.

A young man has died – the only son of a widowed mother.  It’s sad enough for this woman to lose her son – her only son.

But she is also losing everything else and Jesus knows that she too is as good as dead.  So Jesus exerts his divine power and restores the young man to life.

And in doing that, he actually restores this woman to life.  He makes life possible for her again and in this way he restores both of them to life.

Jesus Cherishes Life

This story shows Jesus’ consistent approach.

Jesus cherishes human life.  He heals and restores to life.

He sustains human life – physically, emotionally, spiritually – we would say, holistically.  And Jesus’ example forms the basis of our Catholic teaching.

Our ethic is a holistic respect for human life.  We see human life as a gift from God, in fact, even as a participation in God’s life because it comes from God.

So to respect human life means that we do whatever we can to preserve, to care for, to enhance, to sustain, and to protect the life of all human beings.  Our ethic is that sweeping.

Application of Life Ethic

No wonder that we are so clear about the life of an unborn child.  We see this as human life, the life of an unborn person.

Whenever I baptize a baby, I think of this.  This human life, this little person was so carefully formed and nourished in its mother’s womb just weeks and months ago.

Our Catholic ethic on life also moves us to provide shelter for the homeless and food for the hungry.  It moves us to figure out ways to break the death cycle of poverty.

Our ethic urges us to devise ways to give persons trapped in poverty a chance – through education or job training or whatever.  It urges us to provide effective access to health care because you and I and everyone need this.

Our ethic calls us to respect the life even of one who has taken the life of another.  And it calls us to respect the life even of those we call enemies.

Our just war teaching calls us to look at the number of soldiers and civilians – of our enemy – who will be lost in war.  This too is part of our human life ethic.  

A Conclusion

So, our Catholic ethic is holistic.

It extends to the human life of all persons.  I suppose for this reason it is difficult to live and embrace this fully.

So, we work at it and do our best.  I do believe that one caution is worth noting.

We make a mistake if we focus on just one area of life.  We make a mistake when we single out one life issue to the exclusion of the rest. 

When we do this, we actually reduce our positive ethic of life – and it is a positive ethic.  We reduce it to an anti-abortion or anti-poverty or anti-war ethic and this ends up having a negative effect on every aspect of our ethic.

Jesus in the gospel restores life to both persons – the son and the widowed mother.  We too are to care for the life of all who are before us today.