Sunday, November 17, 2013

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - November 17, 2013

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
November 17, 2013               7:30 and 9:00am           
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Someday Is Now

Recently I read a story about a man whose wife had just died.

This man opened the bottom drawer of his wife’s bureau and pulled out a tissue-wrapped package.  He unfolded it and showed his sister-in-law, his wife’s sister, a beautiful silk and lace slip.

He said, “Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, about eight years ago.  She never wore it.

“She was saving it for a special occasion.  I guess this is the occasion.”

He then placed the slip on the bed with the other clothes they would bring to the funeral home.  Then he said to his sister-in-law, “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion; every day is a special occasion.”

Jan’s sister remembered these words.  She kept thinking about the things her sister hadn’t done and about all the things she had done without realizing they were special. 

The words of her brother-in-law began to have a real impact on her.  She writes, “I’m reading more and dusting less. 

“I’m sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden.  I’m spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings. 

We use our good china and crystal for every event, like after getting the sink unstopped.  I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter or luster to our lives.

“And every moment I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special.  Every day, every minute, every breath…is a gift of God.”      

The Gospel and Now

This widowed man and his sister-in-law express the same point Jesus is making in today’s gospel. 

Jesus talks about a time when all kinds of threatening things will happen.  But Jesus is not trying to get us to focus on that future end-time or to live with fear and gloom. 

Instead, he is trying to get us to focus on the present.  He wants us to live with love and hope right now.

In other words, yes, someday there will be an end-time.  Someday we will pass on from this earth, as Jan did in the story.

Jesus wants us to be ready for that by seeing that today is special.  He wants us to is to live the present, to live today well and that is the way to be ready for the future.

How to Make Today Special?

This past week I asked myself: what might help us to do this?

I came up with three questions.  I am thinking that if we ask ourselves these questions every day, that will help us to make each day special and live the present well.

First, who are the most important persons in my life?  Did I do something good for one of them today?

Did you express your love in some way for your spouse or close friend, or did you spend time with your son or daughter?  Did I take the initiative to be thoughtful of a co-worker or a neighbor?

Second, am I at odds with anyone?  Is there a relationship that is ruptured? 

Did I think about it today and consider if there is something I could do to get reconciliation?  Can I let go of my pride and ask for forgiveness, or let go of my hurt and give the forgiveness?

And third, did I intentionally spend some time with God today?  Did I reserve a few minutes just to be quiet and aware of God’s presence?

Did I pray some prayer that I know by heart or speak to God in my own words?  Did I read a few verses of the gospel to see what Jesus might be saying to me personally? 


So I recommend asking these three questions each day.

1) Did I do something good for someone important in my life? 
2) Did I consider what I could do to get reconciled with someone?
3) And did I spend some time with God? 

Our asking these three questions will help us to make today special and to live the present well, and this is the best way to prepare for the future.

Monday, November 4, 2013

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - November 3, 2013

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
November 3, 2013                 10:30 and 12:00 noon           
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

A Favorite Story

Today’s gospel story is always one of the favorites for children.

This short man named Zacchaeus is easy for children to identify with.  His climbing a tree to see Jesus always captures their imagination.

But I believe this story also has a lot to say to us adults.  I see a number of important messages here.

1. Fill Emptiness

First, Zacchaeus knows that something is missing in his life. 

He has a good job, he wealthy and he is living comfortably.  But Zacchaeus feels an emptiness within himself, a gap, something missing. 

And, with this awareness, he wants to see Jesus.  I often hear persons say – “There’s something missing in my life.”  

When we feel that, we need try to fill the emptiness.  And like Zacchaeus, the way to fill this is not with more money or alcohol or a better lifestyle, but with a person – with God, with Jesus.

This is the only way to fill our inner, spiritual emptiness.  It works for Zacchaeus and it can work for us too.

2. Reach Out

The next message I see is that Jesus reaches out to Zacchaeus.

Jesus knows his name and he must also have known that Zacchaeus is unethical and despised by his fellow citizens.  But Jesus reaches out to him.

Jesus even goes to his home to have dinner with him.  And most significantly, he doesn’t first ask Zacchaeus to repent or confess his sins or change his ways.

Jesus first has a relationship, communion with Zacchaeus.  This is what brings Zacchaeus to life and conversion, instead of being a reward for conversion.

I see this as one of the themes Pope Francis is modeling for us.  We as a Church are to welcome and include and have people here rather than stand above and exclude people.

It is the most effective way for human and spiritual growth.  And, of course, we as individuals are also to embrace this way in our personal lives.

3. Be With

Then I notice that Jesus does not reprimand Zacchaeus.

Jesus does not put him down or give a long moralizing sermon.  He is just there, with him, and the results are wonderful.

This is what our Sacrament of Reconciliation is to be like.  The priest – in the role of Jesus – is not to judge and condemn and put down.

Instead, the priest is to be with the person as a fellow sinner on the human journey.  It is in this prayerful, faith relationship that spiritual growth can respectfully take place.

4. Change Lifestyle

And then, what quickly follows from Jesus’ approach is that Zacchaeus changes his life.

Jesus doesn’t ask him to do anything specific.  Zacchaeus just knows that if he is going to be in relationship with Jesus, he’s got to share his wealth with the poor and make restitution to anyone he has ripped off.

This is again a good approach to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The penance – the action that follows the sacrament should just flow from our renewed relationship with the Lord.

So maybe it is praying or coming to Mass regularly or patching up a relationship or not going to certain Internet sites.  And, by the way, actions like these, ways of living out our relationship with God can also happen outside the Sacrament of Reconciliation in everyday life.

5. Recognize Goodness

The last message I want to note is that Jesus recognizes Zacchaeus’ basic goodness.

The other people all say that Zacchaeus is a sinner.  On this, Jesus agrees.

They also say that he is no good at all and is not worthy to be around.  And on this, Jesus disagrees.

No question, Zacchaeus has done some bad things.  But to say that he is a bad person is impossible for Jesus because he knows that there is a basic goodness in everyone that no one can take away.

It is this positive good in Zacchaeus that Jesus awakens and calls forth.  Jesus does the same for us and wants us to do the same for one another.


So, today’s is a favorite story for children, but it is also an adult story – loaded with messages for us!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, Cycle C - November 2, 2013

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
Cycle C
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Saint Margaret, Bel Air


As we go through life, we gather more and more experience, and usually we realize that there is what we call mystery.

Often, with some age there comes the wisdom that we will not know and understand everything in life.  In fact, life seems more and more like the astronomer’s probing of the universe. 

The more you look into it, the more mysterious and awesome it appears.  Along with this acceptance of mystery, we may also become more trusting. 

We may come to a deeper trust in God’s loving care for us.  This acceptance of mystery and this act of trust in God are never clearer than when we face death. 

Maybe it will be the thought of our own dying or maybe it will be our dealing with the death of a loved one.  No question, here we face mystery and we need trust.

Our Catholic or Christian faith approaches this day, All Souls Day, with this sense of mystery and trust.  And our faith, rooted in the Word of God and in our long tradition, offers us two pieces of assistance.

Communion of Saints

First, right in our Profession of Faith, we state our belief in the Communion of Saints.

This includes not only the formally canonized saints of the Church.  Instead, it includes all of those who have gone on to eternal rest before us.

And it even includes us.  The word saints originally meant all the baptized.

So the Communion of Saints means that there is a relationship, a communion of life between all persons, even between the living and the dead.  Now we all know that we can affect one another physically, for example, if we give each a nice lunch or something good to eat.

And we can affect one another emotionally, for example, if we say some affirming or very kind word.  We believe that we can also affect one another spiritually by talking of God or sharing our faith in God’s word. 

The Communion of Saints says that we even affect each other spiritually by our prayers.  And so, on this day and every time we celebrate Mass, we pray for those who have died. 

We believe that we can assist them by asking God’s light and love and life for them.  This is our prayer on All Souls Day and it is our intention every time we pray for loved one who has died.


And the second aid that our faith gives us today is companionship.

It is so valuable to remember our loved ones who have died.  Remembering them allows them and their spirit to inspire us in our daily lives.

They can gently be with us and help us on the journey of life – when we have decisions to make or sufferings to deal with.  A parent, a spouse, a child, a friend – they can be our spiritual companions through life.

This too is why we are here and what we do this morning.  We remember these loved ones and allow their light to be a light for us.

Readings:   I John 3.1-2
                  John 6.37-40