Monday, May 26, 2014

Saturday of the 5th Week of Easter, Cycle A - May 24, 2014

Saturday of the 5th Week of Easter
May 24, 2014       8:30am


There are some interesting phrases in today’s first reading.
The passage says that Paul and Barnabas were “prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching in the province of Asia.”
And then it says, “They tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”

In a way, these are strange phrases to read in Scripture.
Usually we talk about the Spirit of God calling us to do certain good works.
But, in the course of life, the Spirit of God also calls us not to do certain things – things that are hurtful and irresponsible.

For example, the Spirit of Jesus tries to hold us back from responding hurtfully to the hurtful words or actions of another, maybe by reminding us that this will lead to no good and just make things worse.
The Spirit of Jesus tries to keep us from ignoring someone in need, maybe through feelings of guilt.
The Spirit of Jesus moves us not to always put ourselves and desires ahead of the greater good or the common good of all, maybe by keeping us aware that we are all human with similar needs and aspirations in life.

So, no question, the Holy Spirit calls us to respond to God’s calling and to use God’s gifts and to positively do good things.

But the Spirit also puts on the brakes and prevents us at times from doing things that do not express well or at all the way of Jesus.

Tuesday of the 5th Week of Easter, Cycle A - May 20, 2014

Tuesday of the 5th Week of Easter
May 20, 2014       6:30am


Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”
I imagine we could talk a long time about peace and about how the peace Jesus offers is different from the peace we usually experience.
I have a couple of ideas that came together for me yesterday afternoon.

First, I connect the peace Jesus offers with Saint Paul’s classic description of love in First Corinthians.
Paul lists quite a number of traits or virtues that comprise love.
One of them strikes me as especially central to the peace that Jesus offers.
Paul says: “Love does not seek its own interests.”
The idea here is that with the love of Jesus, we look to the well-being of the other person in addition to the well-being of ourselves.
This means that even if we feel injured and think that we are an aggrieved party, we also look to what is going in the other person.
We refrain from demonizing and try to understand that person’s story and perspective.
This tends to slow us down and tame vengeful, unpeaceful feelings. 
“Not seeking our own interests” also means that we even look to the common good of all.
We do this even when that may not be to my best advantage but when it is to the overall good of all.
This also seems central to the peace that Jesus offers.

And then the other thing that makes Jesus’ peace different is Jesus himself – his presence and life and strength that comes to us through the sacraments.
This empowers us to be focused on the good of the other as well as ourselves.
Jesus’ grace enables us to do this.

And with this, we can have a peace first with God and then a peace in our relationships that is far different from what we can achieve in any other place.

Monday of the 5th Week of Easter, Cycle A - May 19, 2014

Monday of the 5th Week of Easter
May 19, 2014       6:30am


Something in the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, catches my attention this morning.
Paul and Barnabas are able to bring healing to a crippled man.
Better stated, they are able to be instruments of God’s healing for this man.
The people in response think that Paul and Barnabas are gods and want to treat them this way.
Paul and Barnabas maturely and wisely rebel at this and do not allow it.

I find this to be a good model and example.
For us priests, yes, this is a vocation, a calling by God to do the work of Jesus.
It is a sacred duty and privilege.
But we remain human, every bit on the journey to God as anyone else.
In fact, our embracing and being one with that and staying aware of that is not just living the truth of the situation.
It is the best and most authentic way for us to minister in the Lord’s name.

So, it is good for us to remember this and for all of us to remember this.
We are to be bridges to the Lord, to a fuller and fuller living in the Lord.
For us to pretend to forget our own humanity or for others to forget that, as began happening in today’s first reading, will actually make us barriers instead of bridges to God.

So, maybe it is an obvious insight this morning, but it is one rooted in today’s Scripture and probably good to recall.

Monday, May 19, 2014

5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A - May 18, 2014

This week's homily was not recorded due to technical difficulties.

5th Sunday of Easter
Cycle A
May 18, 2014      9:00 and 10:30am
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


He/She Looks Like…

I imagine that most of us have had the experience of seeing a newly-born baby.

Almost always family members and friends look closely at the baby’s physical features.  They try to see who the baby looks like or takes after.

We hear things like:  “He has his father’s forehead and hair.”  “She has her mother’s eyes.”

“He’s got his grandfather’s jaw.”  “She has her grandmother’s complexion.”

What’s underneath this is that we like to see characteristics that identify a baby as a member of the family.  Or to put it another way, we like to see family members in the physical features of a baby.

What Does God Look Like?

Maybe we have not thought about it this way, but Jesus gets us caught up in something like this with God.

Here is what I have in mind.  We and maybe most human beings wonder: what is God really like?

Over the centuries, our human imagination has produced many images of God.  Artists have depicted God all the way from the concrete image of a grandfatherly old man to the abstract concept of a bright light.

And all of these images of God are important.  They have consequences on us as persons and on the way we relate to God and to one another.

For example, we may have an image of God as vindictive, like some of the Old Testament writers did.  This can lead us to be vindictive or harsh toward others.

Or our primary image of God may be as a judge.  This can lead us to feel distant from God and afraid of God and inappropriately guilty. 

So, how we image God and see God’s traits and characteristics is very important.  It forms us as persons and effects how we relate to others.

God Looks like Jesus

In today’s gospel, Philip asks the question that most human beings have asked in some way.

Philip asks Jesus, “Show us the Father” – “Show us God.”  He wants to know what God is like.

Jesus responds, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”  “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.”

So Jesus is saying that he is like a clear pane of glass through we which we can see God clearly.  He is the full and accurate self-disclosure of God. 

In Jesus’ very being, in his concerns, in his thoughts, and in his actions, he shows us the mind and heart of God.  So, like looking at a baby and seeing the parents or grandparents in the baby’s features, we can look at Jesus and see the Father, God himself.

Mystery and Knowledge

So, when we hear Jesus saying, “Let those among you who are without sin cast the first stone,” we know that God is patient and accepting of our humanity.  When we see Jesus mingling with tax collectors and other so-called sinners, we know that God is inclusive and outreaching.

When we hear Jesus talking about the shepherd seeking out the one lost sheep, we know that God values each one of us personally.  And when we hear Jesus saying “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do for me,” we know that God is especially compassionate toward anyone who is hurting in any way.

These images of God can have an effect on who we are and how we relate.  They can lead us to be patient, forgiving, inclusive, outreaching, compassionate and all the rest.

No question, we still believe that God is mystery and is beyond our human ability to understand completely.  But by looking at Jesus and his characteristics, we can know a great deal about God.  

Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter, Cycle A - May 17, 2014

Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter

May 17, 2014       8:30am


We are in the middle of May, the month in our tradition in honor of Mary.
This morning, we have our parish Legion of Mary members present here at Mass.
So, I thought a few words about Mary would be a good idea.

We all know that we venerate Mary under many titles: Mother of God, Our Lady, The Blessed Mother, among others. 
We venerate her but we do not worship her.
Our worship is reserved for God: for the Father, for Jesus the Son, and for the Holy Spirit.
As we say at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer: “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.”
Those words, maybe more than any others, express our worship of God in the celebration of the Eucharist.

So, we do not worship Mary, but we do ask for Mary’s help as a patron.
A patron is someone who does something for us.
In this case, Mary prays for us.
Mary’s entire life was in service to God and us.
So we believe that now she is praying to God for us.
And besides being our patron Mary is also our companion. 
Mary was once Mary of Nazareth, a poor, insignificant woman in an insignificant village.
Mary knows what it means to live on the edge. 
She knows what it means to deal with surprises, with the totally unexpected.
She knows what suffering is and she also knows what joy is.
In a word, Mary was human.

So the next time we pray the rosary or a Marian prayer like the Angelus or Regina Coeli, let’s remember that it unites us not only with Our Lady enthroned in heaven but also with Mary of Nazareth.

Our prayer calls upon Mary as our patron, and also as our companion who has journeyed this path before us and now does it with us.