Sunday, October 26, 2014

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - October 26, 2014

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

Learning to Love

A man named Daniel Allender writes about a conversation he had on an airplane.

Dan Allender is a psychologist and a Christian therapist and he was seated next to man named Tom.  Doctor Allender shares with Tom that he is on his way to give a presentation about love and forgiveness.

Tom admits that we all need to be reminded of that, but then he starts focusing on his career.  At one point Tom says that what pleases him most about his children is their intense focus on education, career and success.

Tom eventually mentions that his three children have been through a total of five divorces.  And he has not seen some of his grandchildren for over five years.

Doctor Allender asks him if it might be important to teach his children how to love and maintain commitment.  Tom responds that he never taught his children this and just figured that they would learn it naturally.

Dan Allender concludes that often we do not naturally know how to be loving persons.  We need to be taught.

How to Love

I think Dan Allender makes an excellent point.

Jesus in today’s gospel teaches the two great commandments of love.  The question is: how do love God?

And how do we love one another?  This morning I want to give a few responses to these how-to questions.


How to Love God

I decided to try to express the core things involved in loving God with three R words: Receive, Resolve, and Reconcile.

First, we need to receive what God has to say in the Scripture, especially the Gospels.

We need to receive the example and life of Jesus as the way for us to live.  We need to receive the strength that God offers through prayer and the Eucharist.

And then we resolve each morning to make God the center and foundation of our day.

We resolve not to close down, but to be open to more insight about life and our relationship with God.  We resolve to allow all of this to influence us and keep us growing in the way of Jesus.

And then we reconcile on both the little and the big issues.

We reconcile by wanting more of a sense of peace within ourselves and with God.  We reconcile by seeking God’s forgiveness, maybe in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and in receiving forgiveness we find the resolve and strength to do better.   

How to Love Others

Now I am also trying to express the core things involved in loving others with the same three words: Receive, Resolve, and Reconcile.

So, we need to receive from others by really listening.

We need to receive their perspective and their life-story.  We need to receive the person of the other, their strengths and struggles and how they are really very much like us.

And then we resolve to communicate in a way that is constructive, even if we first have to work through negative feelings. 

We resolve to be faithful to our commitments – to your spouse or close friend or to a group or community.  We resolve to be there and assist even when we don’t feel like doing it.

And then we reconcile by admitting our insensitive action or comment.

We reconcile by saying “I am sorry” or “Of course, I forgive you and let’s try to work it through together.”  We reconcile by being vulnerable and not having to appear right all the time.   


So, I hope these three R words – Receive, Resolve, and Reconcile – I hope they help us remember the core things involved in how to love God and others.

I want to close with this.  It strikes me that these lessons are the foundation for dealing with the bigger issues in our lives and in our society.

If we learn how to love on a relationship level, then we are much better equipped for approaching issues like capital punishment, abortion, domestic violence, assisted suicide, just warfare, and on it goes.  Our personal and spiritual self will equip us with a wisdom to guide us in the complex issues that we all face together.

Tuesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - October 21, 2014

Tuesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
October 21, 2014          8:30am


Often enough I have heard people say: “I don’t know what I would do without my faith.”
I have heard people say this when they are grieving the death of a loved one, or when they are suffering through a sickness, or when they are dealing with family or marriage troubles or the loss of a job.
And I think it is a real and good statement.
In a way, I am thinking we can all say it: “I don’t know what I would do without my faith.”

That really is what Saint Paul is saying in today’s first reading.
Paul says to the people of Ephesus that at one time you were without Christ, without hope, without God.
But now you have Christ and that makes all the difference in the world.

Paul says to them and says to us:
Now we can have inner peace.
Now we have a oneness and a sense of oneness with God.
Now we have a oneness with each other through Jesus, a sense of community, a relationship of brother and sister with all other human beings.
Now we have, to use Paul’s word, a foundation for our lives.
Now we have meaning and purpose, a way to live.
Now we have hope, a hope that is based not on a wish but based on our relationship with Jesus.

Christ has done this for us, transformed our lives and our earthly experience.
All we have to do is be receptive to what he offers.
And that is Jesus’ point in the gospel.
Be receptive to the Lord and alert to the Lord each day.
If we do that, if we respond in this way and do our part, then there will be a world of difference in our lives.

And we too will say: “I don’t know what I would do without my faith.”  

Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - October 20, 2014

Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
October 20, 2014          8:30am

How much is enough?
How much money or savings is enough?
I remember this question being discussed in a men’s Scripture group in my last parish.
It is a difficult question to answer.
But it is a good question to ask, especially in light of today’s gospel.

Jesus says: “Guard against greed.”
In other words, be aware that you don’t get carried away into thinking that more and more money or more and more possessions will bring you satisfaction or happiness.

Still, there is not a black and white, simple solution to “guarding against greed” or determining how much is enough.
I do think we can find three lessons in Jesus’ teaching that will help us to keep things in check.

First, Jesus wants us to find happiness in who we are, not in what we have.
He says “One’s life does not consist of possessions.”
He assures us that we are valuable and worthwhile in ourselves as sons and daughters of God, in other words, in who we are and not in what we have.
So we need to be prayerfully rooted in the Lord and in this truth.
Second, Jesus wants us to make relationships a priority.
At the beginning of today’s gospel, there was a squabble over money within a family.
The relationships had become second to the money.
Jesus calls us to make relationships first.
And third, Jesus consistently calls us to be sensitive to those who are in need.
Our sense of charity and justice will keep our acquisitiveness in check.
Rather than storing up everything for ourselves, as the man in the parable does, we are to share something, a fair portion of what we receive and have for the good of others.

So, finding our happiness in who we are and not in what we have, making relationships a priority, and sharing a fair portion of what we receive and have – this will help us to heed Jesus’ caution in today’s gospel.

Monday, October 20, 2014

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - October 19, 2014

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
 Cycle A
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air
October 18-19, 2014    9:00, 10:30 am and 12:00 pm Masses

Not Either /Or

The way Jesus responds – not so much what he says, but the way Jesus responds in today’s gospel is very significant.

Jesus gives a both/and, not an either/or response.  Here is what I mean.

Two groups of people really dislike Jesus.  They want to undermine his popularity and maybe even get rid of him completely. 

So they pick the very explosive issue of taxes.  The Roman Empire is occupying their country and assessing a head tax on every person.

The Jewish people hate this.  They find it highly offensive.

So Jesus’ opponents ask him: “Should we pay the tax or not?  Are you for it or against it?”

They figure: if Jesus favors paying the tax, the Jewish people will dislike him and his popularity will evaporate.  But if he opposes paying the tax, he will get into big trouble with the Roman authorities.

So what does Jesus say?  He first asks them if they have some money and, sure enough, one of them pulls out a coin. 

It is the money of the Roman Empire with Caesar’s image on it.  So, without saying a word, Jesus exposes them as already participating in the system of the Roman Empire.

Jesus responds: “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  Jesus converts their either/or dilemma – either you are for the tax or against it – into a both/and resolution – give to both Caesar and God.

But Both/And

The way Jesus handles this dilemma is a good lesson for us.

Sometimes we want to approach everything in an either/or way.  It’s either black or white.

You’re either right or wrong.  The problem is that some things in life – like the one Jesus is dealing with here – just don’t come down to an either/or answer.

In fact, often enough in life a both/and answer is better.  It gets us closer to the truth of the reality we are dealing with.


For example, we used to take this either/or approach: Either you’re Catholic and you’ll be saved.  Or you’re not Catholic and you will not be saved.

Instead of that, there is the both/and approach: We believe that our Church has faithfully passed down through the centuries the fullness of God’s revelation in Jesus.  And we also believe that all others in different Christian or non-Christian traditions and all people of good will in different ways have the love of God and can be in God’s eternal presence.

Another very different kind of example: Either you support my decision with the kids and back me up.  Or you just take charge of the kids and I’ll have nothing to do with it.

Instead of that, the both/and approach: We have different perspectives on what to expect of the kids and how to discipline them.  Let’s talk through things privately and work for a common position that fits each situation.

One final example: Either you accept everything the Church says and are a good Catholic.  Or you are picking and choosing and not really a good Catholic or even a Catholic at all.

Instead of that, a both/and approach: You recite the Profession of Faith and believe in all the core tenets of our faith.  And, in good conscience, you also do not accept something or live in a certain way that the Church teaches and you remain a good practicing Catholic.


So, Jesus’ example today moves us away from an either/or approach to a both/and approach in dealing with certain life situations.

Obviously, there are many things that are just right or wrong, true or false.  But there are also many things in life where a both/and approach is better.

An either/or approach often ends conversation, it shuts out others, it causes a breakdown in relationship, and it divides us.  A both/and approach allows conversation to continue, it includes others, it builds relationship and it unites us.

That is the basic thrust of Jesus’ entire ministry.  His example today lifts this up for us.