Thursday, July 16, 2015

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - July 12, 2015

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle B
July 12, 2015 7:30am and 9:00am
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


My Vocation

Today’s readings got me thinking about my first thoughts of becoming a priest.

I was about eleven years-old.  When I look back, I almost can’t believe that the idea of becoming a priest came to me so early.

I very much admired some of the priests in my home parish.  And I thought I wanted to be like them and do what they did.

It was that simple at first.  Then, there were lots of twists and turns in the road, doubts about it, and a lot of maturing in my motivation.

In the end, I was ordained a priest at age twenty-five and here I am today.  I am enjoying being your pastor!

Our Vocation

Well, that’s a snapshot of my vocation.

And that’s the word we use to name this – a vocation, a calling, and a mission from God to do something.  This morning, I recommend that all of us look at our lives in this way.

As I said before, the readings really speak of this today.  The key words are “took,” “chose,” and “sent.”

The prophet Amos says that God “took me” from what I was doing and told me to do something else.  Saint Paul says that God “chose us” to live holy, God-centered lives.

And Jesus “sends” the apostles to do his work.  These are vocation, calling, and mission words.

I think we all have this from God.  And I think it is very helpful for us to look at our lives in this way.

It’s something like wearing sunglasses and looking at everything through these lenses.  I see two responses we are to make to God – two dimensions to our vocation.

First Response: Self

The first response is the giving of ourselves.

We do this by using the gifts God has given us.  So, most obviously, we go to school and learn whatever we can.

Maybe we are good at math, and so we work at this and take advance placement and develop our math skills as best we can.  Or maybe it is music, language, chemistry, biology, sports, whatever.

We develop the abilities God has given us.  We may not think of it this way when we are doing this, but this is responding to God and to vocation.

As part of this first response to God, we also have to deal with our rough edges.  All of us come out of our growing up with some stuff we have to deal with.

Maybe there is some unresolved anger and we have to get to the root of it.  Or maybe there is conflict with our parents and we need to do our part to resolve it.

Dealing with our stuff and moving forward is important.  The more we deal with this successfully, the clearer and fuller will be our response to God’s calling.    

Second Response: Others

And then the second response we make to God is the giving of ourselves to others.

In other words, we grow as persons and develop our talents.  And now, in some way, we use all that we are for others.

A clear example of this is husband and wife.  They give of themselves to each other in marriage.

And then, God willing, they together give of who they are to children.  This is a wonderful vocation and many of you have done this.

I saw a different kind of example of this giving of ourselves to others two weeks ago.  One of our high school youth has been taking dance lessons.

I have known her and her interest in this.  Well, I saw her assisting at Vacation Bible Camp and leading 225 children in song and dance.

I could just see the life in her face as she did this and how wonderfully she brought so much out of the children.  What a great example this is of responding to vocation and using for others what God has given us.


So, vocation, calling, and mission from God!

I recommend that we all see our lives in this way.  It is a wonderful lens through which to appreciate and live our lives.

Saturday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - July 11, 2015

Saturday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Benedict
July 11, 2015       8:30am

As I said at the beginning of Mass, today we celebrate Saint Benedict.
Benedict was born in the year 480 in central Italy.
He assisted a number of communities in being established who were devoted to a life of work and prayer.
Eventually, these were called monasteries.
And most important, Benedict composed a Rule to govern the life of the monks and sisters.
This is known as The Rule or The Benedictine Rule.
It is practical and it is intended to help the men and women who follow it to pursue the spiritual life.

The very first word of The Rule of Saint Benedict is: Listen.
The Rule says: “Listen carefully to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”
For Benedict, the first step in seeking God was to listen.
To him, listening means being aware of God’s presence in our lives.
It means that we slow down enough and are quiet or silent enough that we can listen.
Benedict wants us to listen to God as God speaks in the Scripture and listen to God in the words of one another.
He even wants us to listen by looking for and seeing God in nature, maybe in a warm July day like today, and in the very ordinary things of life, like the cereal and toast we had for breakfast.
So Benedict sees listening as an active and not a passive thing.
He calls us to consciously be attentive to what is going on around us.

This great, wise leader begins his Rule of life this simply: Listen.
That is the first step in the spiritual life, the foundation in our living close to God.

As Benedict says, “Listen with the ear of your heart.”

Wednesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - July 8, 2015

Wednesday of 14th Week in Ordinary Time
July 8, 2015                  8:30am


Sometimes we wonder how to treat someone who has offended us.
Jesus calls for mercy and turning the other cheek.
He does not want us to return evil for evil.
He even asks us to love our enemies.

But sometimes we feel that we have to punish a person.
Sometimes we judge that punishment is needed for correction.
Sometimes we feel that we have to protect ourselves or even society.

In all of this, we just need to keep our motives clear.
Quite simply, we need to keep our desire for vengeance in check.
That will be a helpful guide to our behavior.
Right after the Civil War, 150 years ago, President Abrham Lincoln had difficult decisions to make with soldiers and generals and other leaders of the Confederacy.
In one instance, Lincoln gave this advice to one of his Union generals.

 “I have examined personally all the papers in the Lyons case, and I cannot see that it is a matter for executive interference. 
So, I turn it over to you with full confidence that you will do what is just and right;
only begging you, my dear General, to do nothing in reprisal for the past – only what is necessary to ensure security for the future;
and remind you that we are not fighting against a foreign foe, but our brothers, and that our aim is not to break their spirits but only to bring back their old allegiance. 
Conquer by kindness – let that be our policy.”

Today’s first reading is the famous Old Testament story of Joseph.
He decides not to take vengeance on his brothers for the harsh and unjust way they have treated him.
Instead, he treats them well and the relationship gets restored.

His action and the more recent words of Lincoln are a good reflection for us when we are confronted with a personal offense and feel tempted to take vengeance.

Tuesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - July 7, 2015

Tuesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
July 7, 2015                  6:30am

I am taken by one sentence in today’s gospel. 
Scripture scholars say this is kind of a summary sentence for this section of Matthew’s gospel.
It says: “Jesus went around to all towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.”
I am really taken by three words that summarize what Jesus is doing: teaching, proclaiming, and curing.

So, Jesus teaches.
His teaching in these towns must have been what Matthew has already recorded from the Sermon on the Mount.
Teachings like: “I came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.”
“And so, besides not killing someone physically, don’t kill them emotionally or psychically or spiritually and do whatever you can to enhance the life of others.”

So, he teaches, and then he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom.
This means that he proclaims the Good News – the meaning of the word Gospel – that God is here – the meaning of Kingdom.
He proclaims that God is with us – Emmanuel – and that he will always be with us – Jesus’ last words in Matthew’s gospel – “I will be with you all days.”
What comfort, what a revelation this is – that God is with us, actually abides with us.

So, he teaches, he proclaims, and he cures.
This means that Jesus makes humanity and makes us whole.
He offers a wholeness to us as persons that we can find in no other place.
And this wholeness, because it is of God, is holiness.

This remains the basic blueprint for us who continue Jesus’ mission today:

teach, proclaim, and cure.

Monday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - July 6, 2015

Monday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
July 6, 2015                  8:30am

In today’s first reading Jacob receives a message from God in a dream.
He wakes up and says, “Truly, the Lord is in this spot.
“This is nothing else but an abode of God.”
In the gospel, we see God present and acting through touching – Jesus touching the young girl and then allowing the woman to touch his cloak.

We ourselves believe that God is everywhere.
We believe that God is in persons, in the mountains and the sea, in the sun and moon and stars, and in the soil and produce of the earth – everywhere!
But even though we believe this, we still celebrate and believe in God’s presence in particular places and at particular times.

For us, Jesus gave us sacraments to highlight at particular moments the presence and power of God.
So, on the one hand, God’s presence and power are there for us in any place and at any time.
But on the other hand, without sometimes making a point of it, we tend to forget God’s presence and power.
As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind” – and maybe this is precisely why Jesus gives us the sacraments.

Jesus himself was the walking embodiment of God’s presence and power.
Our theology calls Jesus the original sacrament.
In him, all God’s grace is available to us.
Since the time of his resurrection and ascension, his presence and power are now available especially in special signs and words, in sacraments.
And interestingly, what we call the highest of these signs – the Eucharist – uses ordinary bread and wine.
Jesus uses that for his body and blood, to make himself and his power present to us.
And the very ordinariness of this sign takes us full circle, and reminds us that God is present everywhere – in all creation, even the very ordinary.

That must be one reason why he tells us to “Do this in memory of me.”