Monday, July 29, 2013

Wednesday of the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - July 24, 2013

Wednesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time

July 24, 2013       8:30am 

I think many of us may be able to identify with the real-life humanity of the Israelites in today’s first reading.
The Israelites are in the desert and things are not so good there.
The journey to the Promised Land is long and hot and the food is minimal.
So, they started to complain.
And suddenly, they looked back to Egypt and wondered why they had ever left.
They also forget where they are going and their goal of a new land.

Isn’t this so very human?
When life gets tough don’t we look back and wish the good old days were here again?
Sometimes, that is understandable especially if we have suffered the loss of a loved one.
But at other times also, hardship and hard work can cause us to lose perspective when we should not lose it.
We may forget that things were not really that good in the past or we may forget the goal that we really want to achieve.
We also might grumble in the desert.

What are we to do at these times?
I find some answer in what God does for the Israelites.
He gives them daily food – daily food, enough for each day.
So God called the Israelites and God calls us to focus on the day – on doing what we have to do even if it is hard, and on keeping our mind on our goal or what God seems to be calling us to do.
We need to do this prayerfully, asking for and looking for God’s help, as in the manna and quail in this exodus story.
And we need to do this every day, day in and day out, if we are going to complete the journey.
Sometimes we will do this out of a strength we did not think we had – and that is the grace of God.
But do it we must and then someday, we too will reach the land God has promised us. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - July 21, 2013

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
July 21, 2013      7:30 and 9:00am 

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

A Way of Praying

This morning, I want to share with you a way of praying.

We often talk about the importance of prayer.  Each of us knows by heart some prayers that we have learned, like the Our Father or the Hail Mary.

Today, I want to share with you not another prayer, but a way or pattern for praying personally.  This way finds its origin in Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

It has five parts or steps.  They are outlined on the handout that you were given as you entered church and you might want to follow along as I lead us through this.


First, it is good to begin our prayer with Thanksgiving.

Each day it is important each day to thank God not just in general, but for someone or something specific.  It might be our health, a family member, a doctor, our job, our home, and on it goes. 

When we say thanks to God, we are being positive, recognizing the good that is in our lives.  And we are being humble, recognizing that all that we have is ultimately a gift from God.

This positive and humble spirit can affect all that we do throughout the day.  So it is important always to begin our prayer by giving thanks to God.    


Then we move to Enlightenment.

We all need light or enlightenment in some way.  Maybe for our faith itself when we are doubting or confused or trying to understand more.

Maybe we need light when life just seems like all darkness to us and we cannot see the end of the tunnel.  After we ask God for the enlightenment or light that we need, I recommend that we read a passage from one of the gospels.

Read just one section, a few verses, like today’s gospel story, then re-read it, and just ask: what is God saying to me here?  This prayer for enlightenment is important for our relationship with God and for us personally.


Then we move to Review.

The idea here is to look back and see how God came to me yesterday.  Maybe God came in an unexpected kind word.

Maybe God came to me in a respectful, caring confrontation about something I have done.  Maybe God came in the sunshine or flowers.

Maybe God came in the Eucharist where I really felt God’s closeness.  So, review, look back to see how God came to me yesterday.


Then we move to Repent.

The issue here is: where have I fallen short of the gospel?  Have I offended others by something I said or by how I said it?

Have I used well the gifts and opportunities God has given me?  What pops up as something I feel guilty for doing?

Or what pops up as something good that I could have done but failed to do?  So, how do I need to repent and live the gospel more fully?


And finally, we come to Resolve.

This can flow right from Repent.  So we might resolve to count to ten and get hold of our temper or foul language.

You might resolve to really be there for your children and take in what is going on in their lives.  We might resolve to take the initiative to try to clear up some antagonism between myself and another person.

We might resolve to seek advice or counseling for a problem that just will not go away.  So, we end our prayer with a resolve on what we need to do this day.   


In today’s gospel, a woman named Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening, and her sister Martha is anxious and preoccupied about all the details of the meal.

Jesus says that Mary “has chosen the better part.”  Here Jesus is not saying that it is better just to focus on him or better to pray than to tend to the necessities of life.

He is saying that it is better to make sure that we do pray so that our prayer will influence how we do all the stuff we have to do.  We need this grounding in our relationship with God, and the way of praying I recommend today is one way of doing that.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - July 14, 2013

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
July 14, 2013      4:00 and 5:30pm, 9:30 and 11:00am 

Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Hurrying and Helping

About five years ago, Princeton University did a study on what they called “Good Samaritan” responses.

The University divided some students into three groups.  Each group was told to report to another building across the campus to take a test.

The first group was told to get there immediately and they were called the “high hurry” group.  The second group was told to get there in fifteen minutes and they were called the “middle hurry” group.

And the third group was told to get there sometime that morning and they were called the “no hurry” group.  Without knowing it, the students had been set up.

Along the way, various individuals posed as persons in need.  One was crying, another pretended to be sick, and another had a flat tire.

Interestingly, none of the students from the “high hurry” or “middle hurry” groups stopped to help anyone.  But every student from the “no hurry” group did stop.

This was one indicator that led the Princeton study to conclude that as the hurry in our lives increases, our caring decreases.  This finding strikes me as pretty accurate.

The Good Samaritan

That study gives us a helpful angle for looking at today’s gospel.

The gospel says that someone asks Jesus, “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?”  Maybe this person is really asking: “What do I have to do and what don’t I have to do?”

Jesus ends up telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.  As I look at the parable, I have to imagine that there are three levels of response to the man lying by the side of the road: 1) seeing, 2) feeling, and 3) acting.

Seeing, Feeling, and Acting

All three people who are walking on this road see the injured man lying there.  The first two, the priest and the Levite, just keep walking.

They know that if they get near this man or touch him, the religious law makes them ritually unclean.  And if that happens, they will have to jump through some time-consuming hoops to become ritually clean again.

So the first two people see the man but don’t slow down to really see what has happened or to help.  Then the third man comes along, a Samaritan, and he sees the injured man and then he slows down and stops.

The Samaritan sees to the point that he feels compassion for the beaten man.  And with his compassion, he then acts and does what he can to help.

So, to go back to the Princeton study, it seems that we have to slow down enough to see, to really see the person who is in front of us.  For us, it could be a homeless person at a traffic light, carrying a cardboard sign asking for help.

Or it could be a son or daughter who is upset about a relationship that has fallen apart but is trying to hide it.  We have to be slow enough to really see who is before us.

And then, if we allow ourselves to do that, we will probably feel compassion for the person or persons who are hurting.  And once again, if we are slow enough, the feeling of compassion will move us to act – to do what I humanly can to help.

So, seeing leads to feeling and feeling leads to acting.  But the linchpin in all of this is that we are willing to slow it down, to live slowly enough at least within ourselves 1) to really see and then 2) to really feel the other person’s plight and then 3) to take time to help.


Jesus tells this story and teaches this lesson in answer to the question: “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” 

His lesson is that we are to be neighbor to one another and apparently it is in our being neighbor that little by little we become God-like.  And it is in becoming God-like, Jesus-like that we can move peacefully into eternal life.