Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday of the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - October 21, 2013

Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
October 21, 2013          8:30am

Jesus says: “Guard against greed…life does not consist of possessions.”
I wonder: If Jesus were speaking today, might he tell us to guard against consumerism?

Our economic system is, I think, the best kind that has yet been devised.
But, like any possible human system, it can have its limitations.
Maybe one of its limitations or deficiencies is consumerism.

Today’s advertising assures us that we will be happy if we have more things.
In fact, it leads us to think that we will be unhappy unless we have more.
We are led to be dissatisfied with what we have and to want something else – the newest, the latest, the biggest, whatever.
One author gives the insight that what can happen in this endless cycle of unhappiness with what we have is that we also become unhappy with who we are.
We are not good or good enough unless…we have this or have that.
Maybe it is this dynamic of dissatisfaction that explains why so many people in the richest countries are still quite unhappy.
Now, there is not a black and white, simple solution to dealing with this.
But I do think we can find three helps in Jesus’ teaching.

First, Jesus wants us to find happiness in who we are, not in what we have.
He assures us that we are valuable and worthwhile in ourselves as sons and daughters of God and as his brothers and sisters.
We need to be prayerfully rooted in the Lord and in these truths.
Second, Jesus wants us to make relationships a priority.
At the beginning of today’s gospel, there was a squabble over money within a family.
The relationships had become second to the money.
Jesus calls us to make relationships first.
And third, Jesus consistently calls us to be sensitive to those who are in need.
Our sense of charity and justice will keep consumerism or greed in check.

So, a strong teaching from Jesus that does relate to today’s life for us here in America! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - October 20, 2013

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
October 20, 2013                  9:30 and 11:00am         
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

“Will he find faith…?

In today’s gospel, it almost seems as if Jesus gets distracted.

Jesus tells his disciples a parable about the necessity of praying.  His story is about a widow who just won’t give up asking the judge for what she deserves.

But then, after telling this story, Jesus asks a question that doesn’t seem to follow: “But when the Son of God comes, will he find any faith on earth?”  The issue is: how does this statement fit with the story he has just told? 

Will There Be Trusting Faith?

One of our Catholic authors says that the answer depends on what we mean by faith.

When Jesus asks “Will the Son of God find faith on the earth?” he is referring back to the woman in the parable.  He is not using this woman’s faith as an example of persons who know all the definitions in the catechism and all the teachings of the Church. 

Instead, he uses this woman as an example of persons who trust in God regardless of what is going on in their lives.  She is an example of those who try to center their lives on God when things are good and who turn to God when things are difficult.

There are several times in the gospel where Jesus says to people, “Your faith has saved you.”  He says this as he heals people, physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

And when Jesus says “Your faith has saved you,” he means that there is a love of God and trust in God in their heart – in their heart.  He means a steady trust in the goodness of God, even if things are tough and even if we do not fully understand – a trusting that is first and foremost a matter of the heart.

The Profession of Faith and Faith

Today, as on every Sunday, we will recite the Profession of Faith.

We recommit ourselves to certain basic doctrinal truths about God.  This Profession of Faith is an important and necessary part of faith. 

But here is the question.  Is it possible to profess this and not have the underlying, trusting, heart- faith of the woman in the gospel?

Is it possible to profess this without having what Jesus calls the faith that saves?  It is this steady, trusting faith in God that Jesus seems to be referring to in that last line of the gospel.

I think this is what Pope Francis has been getting at.  He has not been hammering away at just two or three issues of faith or Catholic teaching. 

Instead, Pope Francis has been focusing more on the love and mercy and goodness of God and on our need to have a trusting relationship with God.  He seems to see this as the core or the foundation of all faith.

This must be one reason why Pope Francis is so appealing to many Catholics, to Catholics who feel distanced from the Church, and to many other Christians and other people.  He is taking us back to the core of our faith.

A Big Home of Faith

And maybe this is also why Pope Francis sees the Church as a large home for many and not as a little chapel for a few.

The Pope doesn’t seem to want to exclude people from the community of the Church for just one issue or another.  This seems to follow the way of Jesus.

Jesus lifts up the trusting, heart-faith of the woman in today’s parable.  This is what brings her and us into relationship with Jesus.

Pope Francis seems to be saying that this is the test of being in God’s family.  This doesn’t make other truths and doctrines unimportant. 

It simply says that this trusting, heart-faith is the basis for oneness with Jesus and oneness with the living Body of Christ on this earth.  This is to be the basis for welcoming and including.

So, “Will the Son of God find faith on the earth?”  I believe there is a good amount of it, within the Church, and also outside the Church, especially among some who have felt distanced for one reason or another.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - October 6, 2013

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
October 6, 2013  All 8 Masses
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Joe and Joan

Two weeks ago, I visited a couple in the parish, Joe and Joan.

Now, I have made-up those names to protect the privacy of this couple.  About two months ago, Joe was diagnosed with stage 4, inoperable cancer, and was told that he had maybe four months to live.

Joe and Joan have been married for sixty years.  For years, Joe has come to Mass every day and every Sunday, he and Joan are here together.

So, I went to visit them.  Joe explained how surprising all of this has been. 

He said he had been more tired than usual, but was generally feeling well.  Then the doctor found something, sent him for tests, and the results came. 

Joe talked very peacefully and calmly about what is happening.  He said that this must be what God wants of him right now. 

Joe even said that he wishes that his death would come sooner than four months because of his growing weakness and the burden he is on Joan and their children.  But, he quickly added, that is up to God, not me, and I just accept this from God as it comes. 

Joe then looked me in the eye and said very peacefully, “I am prepared Father.  I really am ready.”

I looked at Joan and she silently nodded yes, affirming what Joe had said.  There is no doubt in my mind that Joe is ready to meet God.

Catholic Profile

I left their home that afternoon uplifted and reflective.

I was uplifted by the faith that both Joe and Joan have.  No question, they are also sad, but their trust in God is giving them much peace and strength.

What has occurred to me is that Joe is what I want all of us and myself to become.  Some schools today – like John Carroll – have what they call a graduate profile.

The graduate profile is what they want their students to be like when they graduate.  So I have been thinking that maybe there is such a thing as a Catholic Christian profile.

It is what God wants us to be like when the moment comes for us to meet God directly.  Joe expresses that profile very well.


Our Mission

I keep this in mind when I think about the mission of our parish.

I kind of test everything with this standard of a Catholic Christian profile.  In other words, does this program or activity or ministry help us to become the kind of person God wants us to be?

I want us all to have an inner relationship with Jesus, to be at peace, to be trusting of God, and to be loving in our relationships –this is something of the profile I am thinking of.  I hope to keep doings like we did last April when we re-worked some of the budget to make room for the book Why Stay Catholic?

We provided over 1,150 copies of that book, they were all taken and so many of you have told me how much you got out of this.  In September, we again re-worked some of the budget and bought 4,500 copies of the book Catholic Prayers and mailed a copy to every parish family.

I really wanted us to have this for our personal prayer and spirituality.  I hope to do more things like this.

Now we also have lots of challenges – like how to communicate faith better to those not coming to Church and to our young people, or like how to do this best in this digital age.  I want to involve you even more with me in figuring out creative ways to bring God more effectively to everyone. 
Offertory Giving

Now, I don’t want to disappoint you, so I will say a word about money.

Your financial support is needed for this important spiritual mission.  A week ago I mailed a letter to every parish family.

In that letter, I asked for a specific dollar amount for your weekly offertory giving.  I don’t know if the amount I asked for was right.

You have to decide – whether that amount is right, or if you can even do more, or if you cannot do that much.  I only ask that you take a prayerful and serious look at this. 

Some of you have already mailed your commitment cards to the office and I thank you for that.  If you brought your commitment card with you today, great – just drop it in the collection basket. 

If you are ready now to complete the card, wonderful.  I ask those of you at the ends of the rows to pass down the commitment cards and pencils.

You can complete the card now and place it in the collection basket in a few minutes.  If you are not ready today, please complete it at home and mail it or bring it back next weekend.

Saint Margaret’s needs your commitment this year.  Our income is off, it is under budget, and we need your financial commitment to fulfill our mission well.

There is nothing more important than our ministry.  Not our buildings, not our property, not capital campaign pledges – nothing is more important than the offertory because the offertory equals ministry and service. 

I feel very passionate about this.  I want all of us to be growing toward that Catholic Christian profile that I saw in Joe and Joan two weeks ago.

So I thank you.  I thank you for your faith and for your trusting generosity to Saint Margaret.  It is an honor to be your pastor and I hope you have a good weekend.