Monday, January 20, 2014

Wednesday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - January 15, 2014

Wednesday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time
January 15, 2014          6:30am

Samuel’s words in the first reading really catch my attention this morning.
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
The wise old priest Eli advised Samuel to say this, and Samuel followed the advice.

In our culture, we place a lot of value on talking and doing.
We are inclined to assert ourselves and also to feel that we are wasting time if we are not doing something.
One result is that we leave little space in our inner life for listening.
In this context, the words that Eli advises can be taken as a model for our attitude before God.

To imagine that our thinking, talking, planning and doing are all that counts is a very limited approach to life.
Too often life consists of headlong movement supported by very little reflection.
The truth is that our mind and will need to stop at times and allow God to be heard and make an impression on us.
Listening doesn’t mean that we can expect to hear a divine voice.
It does mean that we are open to the much more subtle influence of God that comes when we pray and are quiet.
We need to be quiet to understand what the world around us and what our family and friends are saying to us.

Even in today’s gospel, we see Jesus going off by himself to a lonely place just to be quiet and pray.
So even the Son of God in his ministry realizes that there must be some silence in order for him to hear and stay attuned to the Father.

I suggest then that every day we reserve some time when we put aside the noise of the world around us and even the chatter of our own minds and hearts.

Every day we reserve some time just to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Tuesday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - January 14, 2014

Tuesday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time
January 14, 2014          6:30am

Today in the gospel we see Jesus beginning his public ministry in the synagogue.
Jesus teaches.
In fact, the people are astonished at his insight.
And then immediately Jesus casts an unclean spirit out of a man.
He frees this man of the evil that possesses him.
And here is the valuable insight.

Jesus’ teaching leads to avoiding or reducing or even eliminating evil.
This is the purpose of his teaching.
This effect is core to his teaching.

So for example, Jesus teaches us to forgive and to turn the other cheek and not to hold grudges or be vengeful.
This teaching leads us to stop the evil of hostility from spiraling out of control.
It may even eliminate the evil by leading offending parties to realize the wrongness or uselessness of their ways.

Jesus teaches us to care for the poor and needy, the least of our brothers and sisters.
This teaching leads us to be charitable and just.
It also helps to avoid the evil behaviors that can easily result where those in human need, where the have-nots feel hopeless and neglected.

Jesus teaches that he himself is the life.
He often heals the sick and even restores life to the dead.
This teaching leads us to avoid the evils of taking the life of the unborn or not caring for the life of those who cannot access medical care or disregarding the life of the elderly.

So, this incident in the synagogue gives us a wonderful lesson about Jesus.
His teaching is connected with avoiding, reducing, and eliminating evil.

And so, it is important that we carefully take in and own his teaching.

Monday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - January 13, 2014

Monday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time
January 13, 2014          8:30am

In today’s gospel Jesus calls the first disciples, in fact, the first four apostles.
There are four things we can note here.

First, we notice what these men are: they are fishermen.
They are ordinary people – not wealthy, powerful, or well-known, but ordinary, everyday persons.
So, the message is that God takes us as we are and can produce the extraordinary out of the ordinary.
Or we might say: the ordinary can do the extraordinary with Jesus.

Second, we notice what they are doing: they are fishing or tending their nets.
So God is involved with us not just in church and not just when we are praying.
God also is also involved with us right in everyday work.
Whatever we do, we can try to make our everyday work an occasion where God and the way of Jesus can merge.

Third, we notice how Jesus calls these first apostles: he says “Follow me.”
He begins by drawing them into a relationship with him and does not propose a list of truths or a creed or theological points or anything like that.
It is the relationship that comes first.
One contemporary author says that usually we live our way into a new way of thinking, instead of thinking our way into a new way of living.
Jesus here is calling these first disciples to follow and live with him and only later would they live their way into a new way of thinking and believing.

And fourth, we note what Jesus offers them.
He offers them a task, work, service.
Most of us deep down really want something to which to give ourselves and our lives.
Jesus understood this and that is what he offers these first disciples.

So, the calling of these first four apostles is filled with spiritual richness for us this morning.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Cycle A - January 12, 2014

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
 Cycle A
January 12, 2014                  9:30 and 11am   
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Consecration within the Church

We Catholics are used to the word consecration.

In a few minutes, I will pray the words of consecration over the bread and wine.  By repeating the words of Jesus, as he told us to do, these gifts are consecrated and become his body and blood.

We speak of a church building, an altar, or a chalice as being consecrated.  And we speak of persons who have made vows in religious life, like Mother Teresa, as being consecrated.

To consecrate something means that it is set aside or taken out of normal usage.  So an ordinary table is set aside and taken out of normal usage to be an altar.

Consecration in Everyday Life

In a way, we can see this idea of consecration in everyday life.

There are experiences that set us aside and take us away from what we would ordinarily do.  For example, imagine you are going over to a friend’s house this afternoon to watch the NFL playoffs and have some pulled pork. 

So as you pull out of your driveway, you see an accident happen down at the intersection.  Someone must have gotten hurt.

At that moment, your plans have to be set aside.  The accident takes you away from what you were going to do.

In that sense, you are consecrated.  You are to do something special – to help those people who are hurt.

Consecration in Everyday Life -- Parents

Or take the example of parents.

From the moment your first child is born, I have to imagine that your life is different.  For the next 20 to 30 years, your children need a lot of things from you: your time, money, car keys, help with homework, paying tuitions, getting them out of messes, and on it goes.

During all these years, your personal preferences as parents will often be set aside and you will often be taken away from other interests.  In this sense, you are consecrated for a very special and important role.

Jesus’ Baptism -- Consecration

All of this helps us to understand baptism.

Baptism is a consecration.  It sets us aside from ordinary life and pulls us away from other ways of living.

We see this with Jesus’ baptism in today’s gospel.  Jesus is set aside and pulled away from being a carpenter or fisherman or whatever.

The Father gives Jesus 1) a clear identity as his “Beloved Son” and 2) a mission to bring God’s presence and God’s way on this earth.  In this way, Jesus is consecrated. 

Our Baptism -- Consecration

Baptism is also a consecration for us.

It sets us aside and pulls us away.  And it does this in the same ways that Jesus’ baptism did for him.

First, baptism consecrates us as God’s “beloved daughter or son.”  This means that we are to live in relationship with God. 

It means that we are to make space for prayer and reflection and an inner life with God.  And it means that we join with God’s other sons and daughters as a community in prayer and celebrate Mass together every week.

And second, our consecration in baptism means that we live with a sense of mission.  It means that we are sent – as Jesus is sent – to bring the presence and way of God to earth. 

This means, for example, that we approach life with fidelity to our vocation and our commitments, with a willingness to work through misunderstandings and hardships, with a respect for human life, and with care and a generous spirit for those who are down and out.  Baptism gives us this sense of mission. 

And so, the consecration of baptism sets us aside and pulls us away from living in any way other than the way Jesus himself lived.  It sets us in relationship with God and gives us a mission for our time on this earth.