Wednesday, October 21, 2015

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - October 18, 2015

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle B
October 18, 2015      9:00 and 11:00am Masses
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Servant and Slave

I often enjoy asking high school seniors what colleges they are looking at and what career they are interested in pursuing.

Naturally, I often hear UMBC, HCC, Loyola, and on it goes.  And I hear about careers like computer science, physical therapy, business, and on it goes.

I have never heard anyone say “I want to be a servant” or “I want to be a slave.”  In our day and age, that would be ridiculous.

But, today Jesus talks about being a “servant” and even being a “slave.”  I have been thinking about one way, maybe not the only way, but one way that Jesus’ words speak to all of us.

Be Responsible

My thinking is that Jesus’ words – “servant” and “slave” – call us to be responsible.

In our day, I see Jesus asking us to assume a sense of responsibility for the earth and for human life.  And to do this, we need to be aware of the interconnectedness of things – of how what we do affects other things.

For the Earth

So, Pope Francis recently issued a long letter addressed to everyone in the world, not just Catholics.

Its English title is “On the Care of Our Common Home.”  Isn’t that a beautiful title?

“On the Care” – taking care of – “Our Common Home” – the home that belongs to all of us, all of humanity.  Francis is calling us to be responsible for the earth.

To do this, we need to be aware of the interconnectedness of things.  For example, polluting our atmosphere with harmful emissions seems to have harmful effects on the oceans, on agricultural land, and on climate. 

Or, our over-consuming uses up the earth’s resources faster than they can be replaced.  It may threaten the future in ways we may not even realize.

So, being “servant” or “slave” means being responsible for the earth and seeing the interconnectedness of things.

For Human Life

And then I am thinking that we need to be responsible for human life.

Again, we need to be awake to the effects of what we do.  For example, when we lash out at a family member at home or a salesperson at a store, we diminish human life.

Or, when we imitate the disrespectful level of conversation that we often see on TV talk shows, we diminish human life.  Or, when we treat certain persons with disdain because they are different from us in some way, we diminish human life.

In these examples, we are in effect treating others as expendable.  So, we need to be awake to the reality that the disrespect of one person or group contributes to a disrespect of human life in general. 

That in turn creates a culture of disrespect – a culture of disrespect – and then the next step is violence and even the taking of vulnerable human life.  So, not to focus on these “smaller,” everyday behaviors that create this culture is a real mistake.  

Being “servant” or “slave” means being responsible for human life and seeing the interconnectedness of things.  


I want to conclude with this.

On the one hand, Jesus’ words about being “servant” and “slave” call us to look beyond ourselves.  He calls us to look to the good of others, from the unborn to the very elderly, from America to Zambia.

He calls us to be responsible for the earth and for human life.  At the same time, Jesus’ words call us to look within ourselves.  

They call us to ask: What can we as individual persons do?  Maybe it is as simple as resolving to recycle paper, glass, plastics, and any materials that do not have to be wasted.

Or maybe we need to resolve to listen a lot more and try to understand the perspective of certain persons and not demonize them.  The idea: look inside, not at others and what they do, but look at myself and my life, and see what I can practically start to do today.

This will be the way to be “servant” and “slave.”  It will be the way to be responsible for the earth and for human life.

Friday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - October 16, 2015

Friday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
October 16, 2015                   8:30am

One Scripture commentator tells us that the Jewish definition of preaching is the Hebrew word Charaz.
In English, Charaz means stringing pearls.
The idea is that Jewish preaching was like stringing pearls together.
Each of them is valuable, but each is different and separate from the others.
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus is stringing some pearls together.
Each saying is separate and different, and each of them is valuable in itself.

Let’s just take one of these sayings or pearls.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.
Therefore, whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.” 

Jesus’ point: God knows us through and through.
God sees our innermost thoughts, feelings, motives and beliefs.
We may hide ourselves from others but we will not hide from God.
So, let’s be open and honest about ourselves with God and with ourselves.

It is important to do this to make sure that there is harmony between what is inside of us and what comes out of us.
Our words and actions ought to flow from within, from who we really are, from what we are thinking, feeling, desiring and believing.
Being open and honest about ourselves with God and with ourselves is also important if we are going to grow spiritually.
Maybe there are some things within us that we need to deal with and resolve.
Maybe prayer, maybe the Sacrament of Reconciliation, maybe some spiritual direction, or maybe counseling will help us to do this.
But the first step is being open and honest about what is within.

All of this from Jesus’ first pearl in today’s gospel:  

“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.”

Tuesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - October 13, 2015

Tuesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
October 13, 2015          8:30am Middle School


Tell me one thing you know about the rosary.

Points and facts to bring out:
Our rosary dates back to 12th century – 1100s.

Devotion to both Jesus and Mary.
Mary always points to and leads us to Jesus.
“Handmaid of the Lord.”  Followed  him.  She doesn’t speak much.  Listens.
First disciple.
Any devotion to Mary or prayer in honor of Mary leads to Jesus.

Refer to beads of the rosary.
“Bead is the medieval English word for prayer.

How does the rosary begin?
Apostles Creed.  Renewal of faith.

How many sets of mysteries are there?
Who are the mysteries about?  Mostly Jesus.  A few are more about Mary.
Name them in the order of Jesus’ life. Order in which they happened.
Joyful,  Luminous.  Sorrowful.  Glorious.

Name the Joyful Mysteries. 
Then the other 3 sets.

What does the word “Mystery” mean here?
Profound truth and we can continue to reflect on and see its meaning for our lives.

What prayer does each mystery begin with?
What prayer gets repeated during each mystery?  How many times? 

Repetition has a way of uniting us to God and opening us to God even if we get distracted.

Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - October 12, 2015

Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time

October 12, 2015          8:30am

Today, our first reading is the beginning of Saint Paul’s letter to the people in Rome.
His pastoral or spiritual greeting comes not in verse 1, but in verse 7, at the end of today’s passage.
He says: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I imagine that sounds familiar to you.
It is one of the greetings in the Missal from which we can choose to begin Mass, and I often use this particular one here in the chapel.
I find the wording both simple and rich at the same time.

Paul says Grace to you…”
Grace means the presence, the love, and the healing of God.
There is so much wrapped up in that word “Grace” – the presence of God, and therefore the love of God who is love itself, and then the healing action of God because our healing or wholeness or holiness comes from the presence and love of God.
Also, the very word “grace” means gratuitous, a gift from God.
The idea is that God gives himself to us.
It is a gift, not something we have earned.

And then Paul says “Grace to you and peace…”
The peace flows from the grace.
And so, we have an inner settledness, a sense of being at home or at one with ourselves and with God.
This “peace” flows from the presence, love, and healing of God within us.

And finally, Paul says: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul carefully mentions the Father, the Almighty, transcendent God, and couples the Father with Jesus.
In doing that he reaffirms the belief that Jesus is one with the Father and is God’s Son.

So, a simple greeting, in effect a prayer, that Paul uses to begin many of his letters, and now we use to begin our celebration of the Mass.

A greeting that is so simple and so spiritually rich at the same time.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - October 11, 2015

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle B
October 11, 2015      8:00 and 10:00am
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


So, you are a good person.

You don’t steal or cheat or cheat on your husband or wife.  You love your mother and father and try to respect others.

And yet, you are not quite sure.  Something feels incomplete and so you ask Jesus, “Am I doing okay?” 

This is what the man in today’s gospel is feeling and doing.  And then Jesus answers you and says, “Well, as a matter of fact, there is one thing that is lacking.”  

You anxiously ask, “What’s that?”  And Jesus responds to you or me with a 2015 answer that is different from what he says to the man in the gospel but just as unsettling.

He says, “Power off your cell phone and turn off your tablet and your laptop.  And just be there for your family or friends or for anyone you are with and for anyone who is in any kind of need.”

You and I are really put off, much like the man in the gospel.  “Give up my Smartphone and shut down my tablet and my laptop?

“Are you kidding?  I might miss out on something.”


And that is the issue, maybe the problem.

I have read that psychologists are studying this fear of missing out on something as an addiction.  They refer to it by the acronym FOMO – F-O-M-O – Fear of Missing Out.

It is the fear of missing out on something or someone more important, more interesting, or more exciting than the thing we are now doing or the person we are now with.  This other something or someone may be better or worse.

We don’t know, so we just have to check it out.  The thought of missing an email or a text or a tweet terrifies us. 

So we interrupt one call to take another.  We’re constantly checking Facebook or LinkedIn to make sure we are not out of the loop.

We are connected and available 24/7.  This is what we are holding on to, much as the man in the gospel was holding on to his wealth.

Shocking Us

Now, Jesus is not telling us to throw away our cell phones and tablets and laptops.

In fact, the man in today’s gospel is the only person that Jesus ever tells to sell all that he has and give the money to the poor.  He never says this to the apostles or to Martha and Mary and Lazarus or anyone else.

Jesus apparently says this here to shock this man – to shake him into looking more deeply at himself and his life.  And I think it is the same thing with us and all of our electronic and social communications.

Communicating or being connected is a wonderful thing, Jesus would say.  But the kingdom of God is not digital and real caring is not a virtual experience. 

Disconnect to Connect

I think Jesus would say: “Disconnect in order to connect.”

Disconnect from the cell phone or tablet or laptop and do this to connect with those around you.  The purpose of communication is not just communication but communion – communion with others and with God too.

The persons around us are the “poor” to whom Jesus tells the man in the gospel to give his money.  They may not be financially poor or any more emotionally or spiritually in need than we are.

But they are the persons we are with right now – your family at home, your friend with whom you are having a beer, and your child’s teacher at a parent/teacher night.  Jesus is saying to let go of what you are afraid you are going to miss – FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out.  

Disconnect in order to connect.  Make sure your communications are for communion and don’t miss the communion with others that they are meant for.

If you do this, then you can really be with the other person or with God or even with God by being with that person.  And then you will experience an inner peace and no longer FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out.