Monday, May 25, 2015

Feast of Pentecost, Cycle B - May 24, 2015

Feast of Pentecost
Cycle B
May 24, 2015      10:30am and 12:00 noon
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


When I was a child, my parents would sometimes take us to downtown Baltimore and I remember seeing some street preachers.

These preachers were trying to convert people to Jesus.  They would shout and threaten damnation if people didn’t listen.

That is my earliest recollection of what is called evangelization.  We hear this word used a lot today even by Pope Francis. 

The word comes directly from the Latin word that means gospel or good news.  So evangelization means that we bring the gospel or good news to the world around us.

Understanding This

Recently I came across an insightful way to understand evangelization here in the twenty-first century.

One of our Catholic theologians says that evangelization is about naming grace – naming grace.  It is not really about bringing God to people, as though God were not already there.

Evangelizers do not so much make God present, but they name or identify or point out how God is already present.  In other words, our human experiences can speak to us of God.

The calling to evangelize requires us to be interpreters of everyday human experience.  We are to help others to see their life as touched by God.

We do this by looking at life in the light of faith.  Evangelization involves looking more deeply into the ordinary to see the Extraordinary—spelled with a capital E.

It is looking at the human and everyday and seeing the divine right there.  I think this insight is excellent and is at least the first step of evangelization in this century and culture.


Evangelization: Naming Grace

So, for example, a child is born.  And we stand in awe of this new life from God.

We forgive someone, even though we feel that we ourselves gain nothing from this.  And we know that the power to do this has to come from God.

We sacrifice for another person, for a daughter to off to college or for a person in need whom we never even meet.  And we are aware of a spirit within us that moves us to do this.

We are enraptured by the magnificence of a sunset.  And we wonder about the something, or Someone – spelled with a capital S – that is behind all of this.

We find ourselves really loving someone.  And we sense that there is mystery to this that transcends human explanation.  

Evangelization: The Way of Jesus

So, we need to name the grace of God in ways like this.

That, I believe, must be the beginning of evangelization in this century and culture.  We point out and identify God’s presence, already in our midst. 

And that, my friends, is the Holy Spirit.  It is who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit is about.

And then, with this naming done, we can proceed to the next step.  We can proceed to lifting up the wonderful way of Jesus and inviting others to that.

So we name grace and make that a conscious experience.  And then we name Jesus and make his way a conscious invitation.

And, in both steps, we are positive.  We are not like the street preachers I remember as a child, as sincere as they were. 

We are not negatively condemning or labeling someone as in mortal sin.  We are not threatening with damnation and manipulating with fear.

Instead, we are naming grace and naming the way of Jesus.  And in doing this, we are living his way, the way of love and respect for others no matter what.


This, I believe, is the way to celebrate and grow the presence of the Holy Spirit.

This is what Pentecost is about for our culture and century.  This is how to evangelize today.

Saturday of the 7th Week of Easter, Cycle B - May 23, 2015

Saturday of the 7th Week of Easter
May 23, 2015       8:30am


Mother Teresa created a list of simple ways that people could live a good spiritual life.
It began with the expected recommendations to pray, to read Scripture, and to do good to others.
The last recommendation may seem a bit surprising.
In her own very simple style, Mother Teresa wrote, “Mind your own business.”

Basically, that is Jesus’ advice to Peter in today’s gospel.
Jesus has just told Peter that his future will involve hardship, even dying for his faith.
Peter looks at John who is there and asks Jesus, “Well what about him?”
Peter is figuring that if I am going to suffer, won’t he have to suffer too?
Jesus, in effect, tells Peter just to worry about himself – to worry about how he follows Jesus’ way and not to worry about John.
In other words, “Mind your own business.”

So, on the one hand, Jesus wants us to be concerned for others and their well-being, and, in that sense, to mind their business.
But on the other hand, we are to be concerned first with understanding God’s will in our own lives and with our own following of the Lord.
Then, in that way, we will be minding our own business.

Then we will be led to an appropriate concern for others without minding their business in a negative, unhelpful and comparing way.

Friday of the 7th Week of Easter, Cycle B - May 22, 2015

Friday of the 7th Week of Easter
May 22, 2015       8:30am

Today’s gospel tells us something very definite about Jesus.
Peter has denied Jesus three times.
Here Jesus asks him three times, “Do you love me?”
Jesus does not even mention what Peter has done.
There is no put down, no castigating, no vengeance and no punishment for Peter’s denial.
Jesus’ direct but completely respectful questions allow Peter to rise to the occasion and redeem himself or, shall we say, be redeemed by Jesus.

Then, Jesus takes Peter at his word.
He trusts him.
Without saying a word, he restores Peter to full relationship and friendship.
And then, with his trust in Peter, Jesus entrusts him with an important responsibility – to care for his sheep.

I imagine that many of us are at some time in the position of Peter or of Jesus.

What a wonderful example this passage today is for all of us!

Wednesday of the 7th Week of Easter, Cycle B - May 20, 2015

Wednesday of the 7th Week of Easter
May 20, 2015       6:30am

In today’s gospel, Jesus uses the word “consecrate” three times.
He prays to the Father: “Consecrate them in the truth.
“I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

The word “consecrate” has a very specific, narrow meaning, when we speak of consecrating the bread and wine here at Mass.
It also has a more general, broader meaning.
Here it means to dedicate, to set aside something or someone.
That is the sense of the word in this passage.

Jesus prays that we will be consecrated, set aside, dedicated to the truth.
And the truth that he seems to have in mind is the truth of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We are to be consecrated in the truth of the Father:
that God is our heavenly parent, and that God is the author of all life and all that is.
We are to be consecrated in the truth of the Son:
that God’s own Son entered the world as Jesus of Nazareth, that Jesus reveals the mystery of death and resurrection and that he is the way to our heavenly home.
And we are to be consecrated in the truth of the Holy Spirit:
that Jesus remains with us through his Spirit, that he abides within us to strengthen, support, comfort, enlighten and guide us.

If we place this passage in the context of Jesus’ total prayer here in the gospel of John, the idea is that we are to find our unity with him and with each other in this consecration to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tuesday of the 7th Week of Easter, Cycle B - May 19, 2015

Tuesday of the 7th Week of Easter
May 19, 2015       8:30am


The gospel passage we hear today is part of Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper.
Jesus is praying to the Father and realizes that the Father has given him power to “give eternal life to” us.
And then Jesus says:
“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ.”

We usually think of “eternal life” as referring to the length or quantity of life – to unending life.
It does mean that, but it also refers to the quality of life.
Eternal life is the life of God himself.
Jesus wants us to enter into this and live it right now.

Notice that Jesus says: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you,… and him whom you have sent.”
The knowing that Jesus has in mind is not just a mental or intellectual thing.
It is that. 
It does mean that we come to understand that God is love.
That is how Saint John defines God.
But knowing God in this way also means a closeness, an intimacy with God. It means that we have allowed God to really touch our hearts.
It means, maybe above all else, that we realize and even feel God’s love for us and allow that to transform us into loving persons.

Theologically, it is right here, on this basis, that Vatican II says that all persons can be saved – even if they have never heard of or believed in Jesus.
They may not know Jesus in that intellectual way.
But they may know him well in their heart and be transformed by his love.
Maybe one of the clearest examples of this is the famous Mahatma Gandhi of India.

So, our prayer this morning is: may we know the Father as love who loved us so much that he sent his only Son.
And may the love of Father and Son transform us into loving persons.

It is this knowledge of mind and heart that brings us into eternal life, God’s own life.