Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wednesday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - November 12, 2014

Wednesday of the 32nd Week of the Year
Memorial of Saint Josaphat
November 12, 2014       8:30am

There is a Jewish folk tale about a young man who aspired to holiness.
He worked for a long time to attain holiness, and then he went to his rabbi.
He said, “Rabbi, I believe that I have achieved sanctity.”
The rabbi gently responded, “How so?”
The young man explained, “I have been practicing virtue and discipline for some time.
From the time the sun rises until it sets, I take no food or water.
All day, I do hard work for others.
If I am tempted at all, I roll in thorn bushes or in the snow until the temptation passes.
And at night, before bed, I practice the ancient discipline of administering lashes to my bare back.”
The rabbi was silent for some time.
Then he took the young man to the window and pointed to an old horse outside.
The rabbi said, “I’ve been watching that horse.
It doesn’t get fed or watered from morning until night.
All day long it works for people.
I often see it rolling in snow or bushes, as horses are prone to do, and frequently I see it getting whipped.
But I ask you: is that a saint or a horse?”

The rabbi went on to make the point that sanctity begins with a spirit of gratitude for the very life God has given us, a spirit of standing humbly before God and realizing God’s love for all of creation.
This sense of gratitude transforms negativity and despair into hope.
It makes so much of life an experience of God’s grace.

The rabbi’s lesson highlights the point of today’s gospel, where the one leper returns to give thanks and his gratitude makes him completely whole.   

As Jesus says to him, “Your faith has saved you.”

Tuesday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - November 11, 2014

Tuesday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours
November 11, 2014       6:30am


The people to whom Jesus is speaking in today’s gospel would have reacted very differently from the way we do.
We tend to think that, yes, it would be the Christian thing for a boss to invite his worker to sit down and have a meal with him and to thank the worker for what he did.
But the people of Jesus’ day probably have no trouble with what he is saying.
The reason is that they are living in a world of masters and slaves.

At first, Jesus asks them to imagine that they are a master with servants.
And he asks them if the master would have invited the slaves to sit at table or would have expressed gratitude to them.
Jesus’ disciples would have responded, “Of course not!  That’s ridiculous!”
This just would not happen and would not be expected in the master/slave relationship.

Then, in effect, Jesus reverses things and asks them to imagine that they are the slaves or servants.
And he says, as disciples, they should not expect any special reward or acclaim for doing good.
They are only doing what is expected.

For us, that might mean that we dutifully raise our children, we take care of our elderly parents, or we generously bake a casserole for Our Daily Bread.
Jesus is saying that the reward is in the doing.
The reward is in the inner feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
More spiritually, the reward is in the fullness of being that comes from using the opportunities and gifts God has given us.
The reward is in being good servants of God and in the inner relationship with God, the joy and peace with God that this brings us.

That, for Jesus’ disciples, should be our motive and the reward that we seek.

Monday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - November 10, 2014

Monday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Leo the Great
November 10, 2014       8:30AM


Right after Jesus talks about forgiveness, and the calling to forgive an unlimited number of times, what happens?
The apostles ask Jesus to “strengthen their faith.”
Jesus has been preparing them and teaching them about discipleship.
But it is this lesson on forgiveness that just seems to be over the top.
They are not sure they are strong enough or have enough faith to be that forgiving.

And, I can understand.
If we are left to our own human selves, forgiving someone who has hurt or offended us is very difficult.
The way Jesus talks about forgiving – he talks a good bit about it and really emphasizes it – we have to conclude that it is a trait central to God.
It is rooted in who God is – God is love, as Saint John says.
So forgiveness is an action of God.
It is a divine action.
No wonder it is hard and no wonder the apostles ask Jesus to strengthen their faith.

Forgiving is possible if we become one with God, one with Jesus.
As Jesus says, nothing is impossible with God.
So, if we open ourselves to fuller and fuller communion with God, if we allow the light and love of God to wash over and through us, if we do this through prayer and the Eucharist, then we may discover a power to forgive – from God.
And, of course, if we just recall the times when we needed forgiveness and were forgiven, by others or ion the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that will also be a way for God’s grace to empower us to be forgiving.

This is how Jesus answers the apostles and strengthens their faith and now our faith.

Forgiving is a Godly action and it takes God’s presence and power and grace to do it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran, Cycle A - November 9, 2014

Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran
Cycle A
November 9, 2014
Saint Margaret Church, Bel Air

Pope Francis

This afternoon I want to reflect a little bit on Pope Francis.

Our celebration of his cathedral church, Saint John Lateran in Rome, leads me to do this.  I thought it would be a good moment to reflect on some of the things that Pope Francis is saying. 

I have selected three ideas and we might remember them by the acronym CPR – which usually means cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.  CPR here means: Creative, Patient, and Respectful.

Theme 1: Be Creative

So, first: Be Creative.

Pope Francis says: We need to “abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way.’  I invite everyone to be bold and creative in the task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods” of bringing the gospel to people.

Francis knows that we are living in a different age.  For one thing, it is a more and more diverse and pluralistic culture.

So, we may have to re-think how we do certain things.  We have to ask: how can we today, more effectively reach our youth and young adults and all people?

We may have to change some of our mindsets and ways.  We here at Saint Margaret’s have a planning group working on this right now, trying to be creative as Pope Francis calls us to be.

Theme 2: Be Patient

The second theme: Be Patient.

Pope Francis uses one of Jesus’ images in the gospel.  He says: “An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. 

“It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient with the weeds.  The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting, does not grumble or overreact. 

“He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a situation and bear fruit, however imperfect or incomplete.”  And Francis adds this: “the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted.” 

So it seems that the Pope does not want us to exclude or label people in a negative way if they do not fully accept the message.  This is why I have felt that the term “Cafeteria Catholic” is simply a bad, inappropriate expression.

Some call others this name if they do not accept one or another teaching of the Church.  They call them Cafeteria Catholics.

I think we have to admit that we are all Cafeteria Christians.  None of us lives the gospel perfectly and, after all, the living out of it is the final test of following the Lord.

If we are Cafeteria Christians, then automatically we are Cafeteria Catholics.  So then this expression is useless and even harmful.

Pope Francis calls us to include everyone who seeks God 1) in Jesus and 2) through the Church, regardless of imperfections.  We are to be patient with one another.

Theme 3: Be Respectful

And then the third theme: Be Respectful.

Pope Francis says: “Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, [we] should appear as people who wish to share their joy.  It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but by ‘attraction.’”  

So Francis wants us to show what a good thing our faith is and how much it brings to human life.  When he speaks of not proselytizing, he means that we are not to try to force our faith upon others as the only way to avoid hell.

Instead, Pope Francis wants us to attract others by sharing our story, who we are, and by listening to who others are, to their story and the truth of their lives.  He understands that we live in a secular age.

In this age, some people feel that they have an option to live their lives without religion or without expressed faith.  Pope Francis understands that the best way to draw others to faith in this age is to be respectful, no matter what, no matter how distant spiritually they may seem from us.


So, CPR – Be Creative, Patient, and Respectful.

That is something of the approach that Pope Francis seems to be lifting up.  He invites us to pray and discern what we need to do to embrace this.

Monday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A - November 3, 2014

Monday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
November 3, 2014                  8:30am


I am taken today by Saint Paul’s words in our first reading:
“Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, everyone looking out not for their own interests, but also for those of others.”
I think Paul is exaggerating just a bit here, but his message is still good.

Paul is writing to a community that is torn by divisions.
Its unity is threatened, especially its spiritual unity.
So Paul is exhorting them to be humble in the sense of being respectful of others.
Jesus himself tells us to make others our equal: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
So when Paul says, “Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,” he may be exaggerating a bit, but to make his point.

Paul wants them, and us, to listen to one another as much as we expect to be listened to;
to try to understand the viewpoint and perspective of the other person;
to appreciate the life story and background of the other;
to respond with words that are constructive and not destructive, that are respectful and not hurtful, and that are unitive and not divisive.

I think, in the instance Paul is addressing here, all of this is what it means to be humble.
And if we are humble in this way in our relationships, that will have a good influence on how we approach some of the bigger issues that we have to deal with, like the life of the unborn, immigration, homelessness, poverty at home and abroad, and on it goes.
Again, as Paul says,

“Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, everyone looking out not for their own interests, but also for those of others.”