Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2nd Sunday of Easter, Cycle A - April 27, 2014

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2nd Sunday of Easter
Cycle A
April 26-27, 2014  4 and 5:30pm & Preach all Masses
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


A Preacher

There is a story about a little girl who noticed that her pastor always prayed for a minute before he gave his homily.

One day this little girl asked the priest why he did this.  The priest was pleased that she noticed.

So he explained: “Well honey, I am asking the Lord to help me preach a good homily.”  And the little girl quickly asked: “Well, how come He doesn’t ever answer your prayer?”

This weekend I do hope God answers my prayer.  I am speaking at all Masses about an important parish project.

The Church Project: Needs

The project is the church project – the work we need to do on our 45-year-old church building. 

Since 2011, I have regularly shared that our church building has major needs.  We are now at the moment of action.

These major needs fall into three categories: Repair, Renovation, and Liturgical Enhancement. 

Repair Needs are the most expensive and they are now critical.  These include new roofing, replacement of both the heating and the air conditioning systems, and replacement of entrance doorways.

Renovation Needs are for bringing our church up to acceptable standards and desired usage.  These include especially new restrooms and conversion of the baptistery into a gathering space.   

Liturgical Enhancement responds to the desire for some refreshening and highlighting of our sacred space.  In general, this includes light and color and spiritual imagery. 

The Church Project: Finances

The total cost for addressing all of these needs is $3 million. 

However, our Finance Committee and Pastoral Council have recommended and I have approved a maximum capital expenditure of $1.4 million.  So, we have $3 million of needs and an approved expenditure of $1.4 million.

The challenge is that we must proceed now, immediately, with the repair needs.  We can wait no longer especially on the roof and heating and air conditioning projects.

This means that we must divide this total project into phases.  We will do Phase 1 now and the remainder of the project in the future.

The Church Project: Phase 1

And so, we recently entered into a contract for the following pieces of work:
1.    The replacement of all the flat surface roofing
2.    The replacement of the heating and the air conditioning systems
3.    The replacement of the entrance doorways
4.    And some artistic enhancement to the background to the sanctuary, including the installation of a large crucifix and the relocation of the image of the Risen Christ within the church.

The great majority of the cost for this Phase 1 will be for the repair needs.  The liturgical enhancement will be a minor part of the total cost but we believe it will definitely enhance the sacred character of our church.

The Church Project: Financing

We will cover the cost of this $1.4 million phase in the following ways:
ü Using the remaining parish capital reserve
ü Using proceeds that have accumulated so far from the capital campaign
ü And drawing $550,000 on a bank line of credit.

We will manage our payments on the loan through the remaining receipts from the capital campaign and through the parish operating budget.  There are more details on this is in my bulletin column today.

The Church Project: Re-Locating

There is one more important practical point.

To do this phase of work, the church will need to be closed from Monday June 9 until mid-September.  So, we will need to be out of the church for about three months.

Weekend Masses will be at the usual time in the parish hall.  Again, the six weekend Masses at Saint Margaret’s will be at the usual time but in the parish hall – which has recently been renovated and is air-conditioned. 

Weekday Masses will be in the Adult Education Center and funerals will be at Saint Mary Magdalen Mission during these months.  Now, everything that I have said and more details are in my bulletin column this weekend. 

We will continue to communicate about this in various ways in the weeks ahead.  I also welcome your questions. 

The Pastoral Council is hosting a Parish Open Forum tomorrow/this afternoon April 27 at 1:15pm in the Adult Education Center.  Your questions and comments are welcome there and at other times.

Finally, I thank you for your faith and your positive participation in this parish.  We are undertaking an important and exciting project and I thank you for going through this with me this afternoon/morning.

Friday within the Octave of Easter, Cycle A - April 25, 2014

Friday within the Octave of Easter
April 25, 2014      8:30am


Today’s gospel story is one of several times when the risen Christ has a meal, actually eats with his disciples.
One of the things that today’s story and the others tell us is that the risen Jesus had a body.
This was not just a ghost or a spirit.
There was some kind of body here.
It must have been different and he must have looked different.
After all, Mary Magdalene did not recognize him at the tomb until he spoke her name and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize him until he broke the bread with them.
So Jesus must have had a transformed body – often called a glorified body.
His body as part of his earthly self was made new in some way.
We believe that this will also be true for us.
In the Apostles’ Creed, we say we believe “in the resurrection of the body.”
We do not understand this and how it will be, but it is part of our belief in personal resurrection.

There is one other brief point I want to note.
In these resurrection meals, the risen Lord is always with groups of disciples.
And what that is saying is that the Eucharist is not simply a matter of God and me being joined together.
It is God and we joined together.
Eating in the gospels is never a matter of going off by myself with a snack tray in front of the TV.
Eating in the gospels is what it has traditionally been in most cultures: a social time, a time to be together.
And what this conveys about the Eucharist is that this sacrament is meant to bring us together.
We, many though we are, are one by eating the one bread, Saint Paul says.
So the Eucharist makes us one.

And, in turn, we are to find Jesus alive both with and through others.

Tuesday within the Octave of Easter, Cycle A - April 22, 2014

Tuesday within the Octave of Easter
April 22, 2014      8:30am


In today’s gospel, Mary Magdalene does not at first recognize the risen Jesus.
Jesus asks why she is weeping, Mary responds, and then Jesus simply says: “Mary.”
And with that, with Jesus simply calling her by name, Mary recognizes him and believes.
I ask myself: how can that happen for us?
How can we hear Jesus calling us by name?
I have 2 ideas.

First, in prayer, maybe it is important for us first to call Jesus by name and talk with him in prayer.
Mary turned and looked at this person and engaged in conversation, even though she did not recognize him.
I am thinking that in a sense, the first step is up to us.
We need to open ourselves to God, to want a relationship, a personal relationship.
If we do that, we may hear and feel Jesus calling us by name and speaking to us personally.
We may experience that personal relationship with him.
We, like Mary, may be awakened to faith or to a firmer and fuller faith.

And the second way is through others.
Other persons of faith may be Jesus for us.
Their calling us by name and speaking to us personally may awaken us to Jesus being present and alive with us.
God usually acts in ordinary, human ways, and that includes through those who are in our lives.
So, we need to do this for one another.
We need to call one another by name, to enter into relationship with one another and in that way we can awaken that sense of Jesus’ presence and awaken faith in one another.

These are my thoughts from Jesus simply speaking the name “Mary.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday, Cycle A - April 20, 2014

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Easter Sunday
Cycle A
April 20, 2014     7:30pm, 10:30am and 12:30pm
St. Margaret Parish, Bel Air


Why Are We Here?

I want to ask a simple question today.

Why are we here?  What is it that brings us here on Easter Sunday? 

Obviously, I would not ask the question unless I thought I had a possible answer.  So, I’ve got three ideas.

Relationship and More

First, on one level, we may be here because of relationships.  Coming to Mass is part of what we do with family and friends on Easter. 

Maybe it goes along with sharing jelly beans and butter cream eggs and blooming tulips with each other.  Maybe coming to church is a good part of these relationships.

But on a deeper level, we may be are here because of our need for relationship beyond the level of family and friends.  We may be here because of our need for an extended and even spiritual community.
We are here because we want the belonging and inclusion that this brings.  We know that there is more to relationship and we want to have this.  

Making Sense and More

Second, on one level we may be here to make sense of our lives.  For some of us, there has been sickness, a death, maybe the loss of a job or of a marriage.

Maybe for many of us, there is the elusive promise of a better life that comes from getting a new SUV or the latest iPhone or whatever.  So, we need to make some sense both of our struggles and of our satisfactions that just don’t seem to last.

On a deeper level, we may be here because of what we see in Jesus.  Love, commitment, caring for the needy, finding yourself by giving of yourself – these simple messages of Jesus seem to make sense even in the year 2014. 

And maybe this is especially why we are drawn here to the Eucharist.  A thin wafer of bread and a sip of wine – nothing compared to the ham or lamb dinner with a glass of Pinot Grigio later on, and yet much more than that! 

In some way, this is Jesus himself and we need him and this food to hold life together.  Pope Francis says it so simply: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

So, on a deeper level, we are here for this.  This is like fusion food – it brings about a fusion of us with Jesus and this helps us to make sense of life.

Life and More

And third, on one level we may be here because Jesus seems to respond to my intuition.  We have this intuition that there is more to life.

Maybe we would call it a longing.  A longing is about something we have tasted and now want more of, and we have this longing for more of life.

On a deeper level, we are here because the gospel states that our longing has been satisfied.  Most of us have been through some tough times and we’ve come through them all right, maybe even better persons.

Our celebration here is about the mystery of dying leading to rising.  The Easter gospel says that what we experience now, in everyday life, will happen at the end.

So if I die to my ego and say “I’m sorry” or “It’s okay – let’s just move on from here” – I or we so often come to fuller life.  And Easter says that the same thing can happen when we die to our physical bodies.

Jesus does want us to get into that process or lifestyle of dying and rising right now.  He wants us to live that way and interpret our lives that way right now and then the final process of that will almost be a natural and will really satisfy our longing for more life.


So, I do see some reasons why we are here this morning.

They deal with relationships and more, with making sense of things and more, with life itself and more.  I recommend that we look inside and see if this is why you are here this Easter Sunday.