Tuesday, September 30, 2014

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - September 28, 2014

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
 Cycle A
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air
September 28, 2014    9:30 and 11:00am

My Wrongdoing

Today’s readings lead me to remember something from when I was about six-years-old. 

One day, two of my neighborhood friends – Jack and Steve – and I were playing in Jack’s yard.  It was a summer afternoon and one of the things we did was to play some kind of simple card game. 

Well, the afternoon wore on, Steve went home, Jack was called inside his house and I got on my bike to ride home.  But, before I did, I put Jack’s deck of cards in my pocket and took them. 

Sure enough, my mother quickly noticed the cards and asked me where I got them.  As you can guess, I got lecture about not taking things that belong to somebody else. 

Then my mother told me to get on my bike and take the cards right back to Jack.  I did that and was really lucky.

No one was in Jack’s yard and I was able to put the cards back where they were without being seen.  But I still felt ashamed and really learned a lesson.

Today’s Readings

The Scripture readings today talk about doing what is right or wrong.

This past week I got thinking about all of this and decided to make two recommendations for us today – about being aware of ourselves and our behavior.

Recommendation 1

My first recommendation is to take an inventory of our lives sometime this week.

I want us to ask ourselves this question: what are the sinful areas or dark sides or growth edges or imperfections in me?  Frankly, I don’t think the word or what we call this is so important.

The important thing is to look at ourselves and develop a list of our stuff.  My bet is that each of us will be able to name about five things – at least I know that I can do that for myself!

So do this inventory.  To help with this, think about the Ten Commandments, but go beyond what we call sins of commission to sins of omission.

For example, one commandment calls husband and wife you to be faithful to each other.  But also consider whether you are also making time to communicate well and to do things that are thoughtful and will enhance the relationship.

In this inventory, it is also important to think about the Beatitudes – Jesus calling us to be compassionate, humble and peacemaking.  And definitely think about Jesus’ emphasis on caring for the poor and anyone who is suffering. 

Again, the idea is to identify our sinful areas or dark sides or growth edges or imperfections.  And by the way, develop just your own inventory – please don’t develop mine even though lots of you could probably do that!

Recommendation 2

Now with this inventory as a benchmark, my second recommendation is to do an examination of conscience each day.

This is simply a review of how I did today or yesterday, depending on the time of day we do this.  So look at each area on your personal inventory and ask: how did I do on that yesterday?

Probably we’ll do okay in some areas and not okay in others.  After we own up to where we faltered, then make an Act of Contrition, or what I like to call a Prayer of Resolve. 

This is a prayer asking for God’s forgiveness and also for God’s strength to do better.  You can pray a prayer that you know by heart or just speak to God in your own words. 

By the way, my Sunday homilies are posted on the parish website.  So in case it is a help to you, I am going to add a Prayer of Resolve or Act of Contrition prayer at the end of this homily on the parish website – all for the same low price – free!


The last thing I want to say this morning is that all of this is about our personal and spiritual growth.

I find this to be a very positive practice.  The personal inventory and daily review or examination of conscience is not a negative downer but a positive way to keep growing in the Lord each day of our lives.

Act of Contrition/ Prayer of Resolve

My God,
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.

In his name, my God, have mercy.

Friday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - September 26, 2014

Friday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
September 26, 2014      8:30am


I have to tell you that today’s first reading is not one of my favorites.
In a sense, it is true that in our lives, there times when we celebrate and times when we grieve and times to plant and times to uproot what was planted – and on and on it goes.
But what I don’t like are the phrases like a time to kill and a time to hate and a time for war.
It strikes me that there is kind of a passive resignation here to these things which are not good.
As followers of Jesus, we are to actively try to avoid them.

It is something like Peter in today’s gospel.
He resists and wants Jesus to be able to avoid the rejection and hatred and suffering that he is predicting for himself.
Jesus reprimands Peter for this and says that it will just have to be, but Jesus doesn’t say that all that in itself is good.
In fact, Jesus in his life is all about relieving peoples’ suffering and whatever hurts us.

The only conclusion I come to is this.
Sometimes there will be human suffering that we cannot avoid – like some sickness or the death of a loved one.
When these things happen, we are called to follow the way of Jesus – try to embrace the suffering and entrust ourselves to God to sustain us just as Jesus did on the cross.
Sometimes, we, I am afraid each of us will have to do that.
But at other times, we are also to do what Jesus did in relieving the suffering of others – the homeless and the hungry and the sick and the lonely.
And I doing whatever we can for others in these situations, we are again following the way of Jesus.

That’s my take on these two readings today.

Tuesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - September 23, 2014

Tuesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Saint Pio of Pietralcina
September 23, 2014      8:30am


Today we have an interesting statement from Jesus in the gospel.
Jesus expands the circle of his family to include anyone who “hears the Word of God and acts on it.”
So maybe a good question is: what does it mean or do for us to be part of Jesus’ family?

I got thinking that there are some very important gifts that come to us from our birth families.
And I think we can draw some spiritual parallels and see similar blessings or gifts from being part of Jesus’ family.

So first, we receive, very obviously, life itself from our birth family.
In a similar way, Jesus gives us life through our re-birth in Baptism – the life of God and opportunity to live in and with God.
Second, we receive love from our birth family and this love gives us the self-esteem and feeling of security that we need.
In a similar way, Jesus gives us God’s love and this brings us an absolute and lasting grounding of self-worth and safety.
Third, we receive nurturing from our birth family.
In a similar way, Jesus nurtures and strengthens us especially through the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the tasks and challenges of life.
And fourth, we receive guidance from our birth family.
And again, in a similar way, Jesus guides us through the gospels toward what is positive and good and in this way, he gives us a meaning and direction for our lives.

So, being part of the family of Jesus gives us gifts or blessings similar to what our blood family gives:

Life, love, nurturing, and guidance.

Monday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - September 22, 2014

Monday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
September 22, 2014      6:30am


Today’s gospel is three verses and in each verse, Jesus gives a guide or rule for our lives.

First, when Jesus talks about putting a lamp on a table, he is saying that our faith should be visible for others to see.
And apparently, it should be visible in the way that a candle or lightbulb is.
So, with faith, we should bring light and not just curse darkness.
With faith, we should bring warmth that invites and not coldness that excludes.
With faith, we should motivate others by seeing the good and not just bemoaning the bad.

Next, in the second verse Jesus stresses the impossibility of secrecy.
“There is nothing hidden that will not become visible.” 
Eventually, we cannot succeed in hiding the truth from ourselves or from others or from God.
Jesus is saying that it is far better to face up to the truth about ourselves and then we will be free to grow in the image of God and the way of Jesus.
We will be free to be at peace.

Finally, in the third verse Jesus gives the guide or rule that “to anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”
Think of it this way.
If we use our muscles, we will grow even stronger.
If we don’t, we will lose even the muscle tone we have had.
If we use our Spanish or Italian or whatever foreign language we may speak, it will improve and our vocabulary will expand.
If we don’t use it, we will lose the little we have.
Jesus’ point is that the same thing is true in our relationship with him.
If we pray and read Scripture and actively follow him, we will grow.
If we are indifferent or comfortable with the status quo about faith, it will diminish.
There is no standing still in life or in our relationship with him.

So, three guides or rules for life today.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - September 21, 2014

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle A
September 21, 2014    10:30am and 12:00 noon
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

The Crucifix

On Tuesday September 9, this crucifix was carried into our church.

The corpus or image of Christ was designed and made by an artist in Colombia, South America.  It was then shipped to Pennsylvania where the cross itself was made.

Obviously, this is a work of religious art and it is an expression of the artist.  That is why there is a variety of crucifixes – different ways of depicting Christ on the cross.


The Face

I am especially taken by the face of Christ on this crucifix.

As you can see, Jesus has not yet died.  His head is held high and his eyes are looking up to the heavens. 

I imagine Jesus at this moment speaking the first verse of Psalm 22 that we hear in the gospels: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  This psalm is a Jewish lament, a prayer to God in times of trouble.

It starts with those words of desperate crying out, and then ends with trust in God.  Jesus might have prayed this entire psalm from the cross.

Or maybe at this moment, Jesus is looking up to the Father and saying: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  I see these possibilities in the look of Jesus’ eyes here.

By the way, when we look at the crucifix from farther back in the church, it seems as if Jesus is looking at all of us.  And, in that way, his eyes express the embrace of his arms – Jesus’ love for us and his awareness that he is giving his life for us.

The Vineyard Owner

That gets to the point of today’s gospel. 

This vineyard owner pays the same amount to those who work just a few hours as he pays to those who work the entire day.  Now, let’s be clear, this is not a teaching about management practices or fair wages – not at all! 

But it is a teaching about God’s generous love for all of humanity.  The idea is that no matter when we turn to the Lord and start living for the Lord, God will reward us and treat us well.

That is the mystery of God’s divine generosity.  We see that generosity in Jesus on the cross – giving his life for us.

The Side Panels

I want to comment on the side panels that flank the center gold panel.

There is lots of color and light here: the four liturgical colors – white, green, red, and purple.  And then there is yellow – flowing out from the gold center panel – and blue – hinting of both the waters of baptism and the heavens.

The artist drew these colors out of our stained glass windows.  The design is intended to convey movement and energy and is taken from the stained glass windows in gallery that leads to the baptistery.

The idea is that the life and love and light of God are moving and even surging out from the dying Jesus to the entire world.  So the crucifixion is not an end, but the beginning of new life, new love, and new light.

The Risen Christ

I want to make sure you notice the new location of the image of the Risen Christ – hanging right in front of the organ pipes.

The idea is that when we receive Communion, Christ comes to us and is alive within us.  And so, when we turn to leave, we can see this image as a reminder of that.

We are now to live the life of the Risen Christ.  We are to allow him to empower us in all that we do in everyday life.

“My Ways…My Thoughts…”

Finally, one of our Catholic Sisters writes that the crucifix teaches us not just about God, but also about ourselves.

It reveals who we are to become.  Who would ever think that Jesus on the cross is an image of who or what we want to become?

It seems to go against our instincts.  I think of God’s words in today’s first reading: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.”

The cross is God’s way.  Surprisingly, the way of giving is the way of receiving and the way of losing is the way of gaining.

That is the paradox and the challenge of the crucifix.  Seeing Jesus on the cross brings us back to God’s ways which are our way to salvation and the fullness of life.