Sunday, February 22, 2015

1st Sunday of Lent, Cycle B - February 22, 2015

1st Sunday of Lent
Cycle B
February 21-22, 2015   10:30am and 12 noon
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Our Daily Grind

I think that many of us sometimes just feel overwhelmed with the daily grind of life. 

It may be the day in, day out caring for the children whom you love very much – getting them to school, taking them to scouts and sports and on it goes.  It may be just keeping up with the housecleaning, laundry and meals.

It may the commute to work on I-95 or even Route 22.  It may the stress of the job that we no longer really like. 

On top of all that, it may also be worrying what the future will be like with groups like ISIS around.  Some days we may feel that we cannot deal with one more thing. 

There are days I feel that way.  Maybe that surprises you, but there are moments I feel that I can’t deal with one more thing.

Jesus’ Daily Grind and His Desert

The gospels convey that the daily grind even gets to Jesus at times.

Today’s passage tells us that he goes into the desert to be by himself.  And what Jesus does here may really serve as a pattern for us. 

1) He first goes off and claims a bit of space just for himself.  I imagine that in this space, he gets a renewed sense of who he is and what he is feeling and what he is to do with his life.

The gospel then says that 2) he is “tempted.”  I wonder if this means that he becomes aware of his own humanity and of what is pulling him away from the mission that the Father has given him to do.

Apparently, he is renewed 1) by this space and 2) by this awareness of himself.  I say this because he comes out of the desert 3) saying “The kingdom of God is at hand.”

He is able to see goodness and God in his midst and in himself.  And finally, he invites us 4) to “Repent and believe in the gospel.”

I am thinking that he means: do what I just did.  You need to pull away a bit from your daily grind in the way that I just did here.

Our Desert Space

So, 1) maybe for us the “desert” or the space is when we are driving alone in our car.  Maybe it’s going up to your bedroom, closing the door and just being alone and quiet for five minutes. 

Maybe it’s taking a walk or spending a few minutes in the chapel here at church.  Whatever the desert or the space is, we need to plan it, to be intentional about it, and make it happen.

And then, in that space, 2) we may also see, as Jesus does, how we are “tempted.”  Maybe we will be aware of how our stress is causing us to be impatient and insensitive toward others.

Maybe we will discover that we have too many possessions to take care of.  Maybe we will realize that we are not exercising appropriate control over the family schedule. 

And then, 1) with the space and 2) with this awareness of self, we can 3) “Repent and believe in the gospel,” as Jesus puts it today.  We can resolve to do what we need to do.

And maybe this repentance or resolve will simply be to stay grounded, especially grounded in the Lord by making space for ourselves amidst the daily grind.  Maybe that’s what we need to do above anything else.

And then, with all of this, 1) with our space, 2) with our awareness of temptation, and 3) with our repentance or resolve, 4) we can say with Jesus: “The kingdom of God is at hand.”  We will be more able to see goodness and God.

We will find ourselves at least somewhat refreshed.  We will be able to greet the daily grind in a different way.


For me, this is an entirely new approach to today’s gospel.

But it seems right to me.  Maybe this is the way to approach the Season of Lent.

Friday after Ash Wednesday, Cycle B - February 20, 2015

Friday after Ash Wednesday
February 20, 2015         8:30am

Both of today’s readings are about fasting from food.
Obviously, they were chosen by the Church for this Friday after Ash Wednesday because of our Lenten practice of fasting, including abstinence from meat on the Fridays of Lent.
The readings, especially the passage from Isaiah, lead me to think about two of the primary reasons for fasting.

First, fasting from food is to help us to identify behavior from which we need to fast. 
Isaiah asks what good is our fasting from food if we end up living in a rather self-centered way and are just pursuing our own interests.
What good is it if we are just feeling self-satisfied for having given up this or that?
So, maybe our fasting from food needs to lead us to fast from put-downs or talking negatively of other people, things like that.

And second, fasting or our voluntary experience of hunger is to help us to feel a bond with those who are hungry without choosing it. 
Again, Isaiah asks what good is our fasting from food if we neglect those who simply have no food or clothing or shelter or whatever.
What good is it if we have more than we need and really do little to help those whose basic needs are not met?
So, maybe our fasting from food needs to lead us to examine both our own lifestyle and our attitudes toward the poor.

So, a few thoughts for this Friday of Lent as we abstain from eating meat and perhaps do some other fasting as well.

Ash Wednesday, Cycle B - February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday
Cycle B
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air
February 18, 2015        12:15pm

Lent and Fasting

Many, many of us come to church today.

It is almost like a self-proclaimed holyday of obligation.  There is something about Ash Wednesday and having ashes placed upon our forehead that just draws us here. 

I think that the words that are used when we are signed with the ashes help to explain the power of this symbol and what draws us here.  There are two expressions in the Missal, and either can be used.

We may hear: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  We know that we are created by God and we will return to God and we know that we need to be reminded that we will not be here forever.

And the other expression is: “Repent and believe in the gospel.”  That expression touches us because we know that this is what we have to do if we are going to live whatever time we have on this earth well and wisely.

So, the ashes get us started in this special season that we call Lent.  Jesus in the gospel mentions three standard spiritual practices of his day: charitable giving, prayer, and fasting.

Those practices are the core of this Lenten season.  And, as I see it, fasting is the pivotal practice because it leads to prayer and charity and then all of that leads to true repentance.

Fasting as the Key

The Church calls us to fast – to limit the amount of food we eat on two days:  today and on Good Friday.  The Church also asks us to abstain from eating meat today and on all the Fridays of Lent.

And the Church asks us to consider adopting some form of fasting or self-denial that is personal to ourselves – maybe giving up desserts or beer or wine or ice cream, things like that.  Our fasting has three purposes.

First, the experience of a little bit of physical hunger helps us to experience our spiritual hunger for God. 

It is only God who can satisfy this deeper hunger within us.  In this way, our fasting can lead to prayer, to making time to reflect, to express ourselves to God and to listen to God speak to us in the Scripture.

Second, our voluntary experience of hunger helps to create a bond with those who are hungry without choosing it.

It gives us a sensitivity to those who are in need.  In this way, our fasting can lead us to charity and to do what we can to assist others.

And third, fasting from food often connects us with some behavior from which we need to fast.

For example, maybe we need to fast from talking negatively about others or always putting ourselves and our own preferences first.  This is what repentance means and that, of course, is to be the real result of our fasting and prayer and charity during this season of Lent.

Monday of the 6th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - February 16, 2015

Monday of the 6th Week in Ordinary Time
February 16, 2015   8:30am

The people in today’s gospel ask Jesus for a sign.
They want him to show something dramatic or extraordinary to prove that he is the Messiah or the one sent from God.
It is amazing that they ask for this.
Right before this in Saint Mark’s gospel Jesus has just miraculously fed the 4,000 people.
But apparently they do not see or they miss this as a sign – as an indicator or proof that he is the One promised by God.

Maybe sometimes we also miss signs of God’s presence.
And maybe we do because they are everyday actions or things and we miss how extraordinary they really are.
I am thinking of a older married couple who just supported and cared for one another, day in and day out until she passed away after some years of decline.
That is a sign of God’s presence – faithful, committed, unconditional love.
I am also thinking of persons who bake casseroles for Our Daily Bread or for the Monday evening dinner at the Cooperative Food Ministry here in Bel Air.
That is a sign of Jesus’ presence, just as he fed the thousands who were hungry.

The simple point is: let’s be alert to the signs that are here.
Maybe they do not seem extraordinary, but maybe they are because they express Jesus’ way in a culture that does not always do that.

One poet puts it this way and I will close with this:
“One asked a sign from God; and day by day
The sun arose in pearl; in scarlet set;
Each night the stars appeared in bright array;
Each morn the thirsty grass with dew was wet;
The corn failed not its harvest, nor the vine –

And yet he saw no sign.”  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Monday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - February 9, 2015

Monday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time
February 9, 2015          8:30am

Today and tomorrow, we hear the first account of creation from the Book of Genesis.
This is very familiar to all of us.
One of my thoughts is that this story of creation reveals a great truth about God.

The story teaches that God controls and rolls back darkness, and then controls and rolls back water with its death-dealing potential.
In doing this, God makes way for light to enable us to see.
And God so orders water that it will sustain life – all kinds of life.

What is implicit, maybe even explicit here is that God is the source of light and life.
In fact, God is light itself and life itself.
God is light and God is life.
I draw two conclusions from this revelation in Genesis.

First, the light or enlightenment for our journey on this earth is to come from God.
We are to seek this light from God.
We do this by reading the Scripture, the inspired Word of God.
And we do this by taking in the guidance of the Church and the insight and wisdom of spiritual authors – persons of faith who try to convey what God’s Word means and how it applies to us today.
So we are to seek light from the One who is light itself.

And my second conclusion is that we need to respect life in all of its forms.
Genesis teaches that God is the source of life and must be life itself.
So, all of life is sacred.
We are to care for, protect, and do what we can to enhance all forms of life – from an unborn child in the womb, to our frail elderly, to plant and animal species, to our entire environment.
All of this is part of respecting life.

So, I draw all of this from the creation story in Genesis.