Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - November 23, 2015

Monday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
November 23, 2015       8:30AM


“Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.”
That’s what Daniel says in today’s first reading.
He is not encouraging vegetarianism, but he is trying to be faithful to God

The context is that Israel has been defeated by the Babylonian Empire.
Many of the leaders, including Daniel and three others who are mentioned in the passage, have been deported to Babylon.
This was in the area of modern-day Iraq, Syria and Jordan.
Daniel and his friends refuse to eat the food from the king’s table.
They do not want to go against their religion and eat foods that are ritually unclean.
And so, they eat vegetables and drink only water.
They are being faithful to God in a time of real adversity and danger.
It is their faithfulness that is being lifted up as a wonderful example.

I would say that faithfulness is a defining trait of a follower of Christ.
Our faithfulness usually gets expressed in the way we live out our day to day commitments, regardless of the weather and regardless of our moods.
We are called to faithfulness:
to your husband or wife, to children and friends, to neighbors and parishioners, to our workplace and daily routine, to religious practice and prayer, to God and Christ.
Faithfulness means consistency, the fulfillment of what is expected of us and the fulfillment of what we have committed ourselves to do.

Practically speaking, all of us rely on the faithfulness of others for the smooth running of life.
We also rely on the faithfulness of God to us, even when we are not faithful to Him
And so, we are to embrace an attitude and lifestyle of faithfulness.

Here, at this altar, we are united with the One who was faithful even to dying on a cross.

And so, we find our strength for faithfulness in Him.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Feast of Christ the King, Cycle B - November 22, 2015

Feast of Christ the King
Cycle B
November 22, 2015      4:00 and 6:00pm and 8:00am
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

He Had God

Recently a psychiatrist talked about her first appointment with a new client – and, of course, his name remained anonymous.

This man had been off of drugs for six months and was living in a sober house.  He was working hard to cope with the mood swings and sleeplessness and other challenges that often come with early sobriety. 

The issues that had to be addressed to repair his life were overwhelming – depression, drug addiction, trauma, homelessness, and unemployment.  And yet, the client sitting in her office was very willing and very polite.

The psychiatrist asked him, “What is keeping you going?”  He said calmly, “Why, nothing but God.”

He appeared to have turned himself over to a new father – to God.  He felt that God would love and manage him better than his own father had.

At one point, he, the client, asked her, the psychiatrist, “How were you raised?”  “Me?” 

He persisted.  “What do you believe?”

The psychiatrist says that she felt somewhat embarrassed and lonely.  It struck her that one of them had a home, a job, and a family, and the other appeared to have nothing.

Yet the one with nothing was not lonely.  The psychiatrist said, “I have great respect for people who believe.”

He simply said, “Ah!”  They then set the next appointment and he got up to leave.

He turned to her and said, “I’ll pray for you, you know.”  She says that those words stayed with her all morning.

This man, her client, had nothing.  But he did have God.    

God Was His All

That story appeared in The Boston Globe. 

For that man, the client, God was his all, his everything.  It was God who was getting him through and keeping him going. 

God Is Our All: Alpha and Omega

This, as I see it, is the point of what we celebrate today in our Church.

I find the title of Christ the King a bit awkward.  Jesus is not a monarch like King Henry VIII or Queen Elizabeth.

Here we are not talking about power or pomp or politics.  Instead, I see the words in today’s second reading as really opening up what Jesus is for us.

Jesus himself says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.”  You probably know that Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

So Jesus is saying that he is the Alpha, the first, the origin of all that is.  He is one with the Creator in bringing all there is, including us, into being. 

And Jesus also says, “I am the Omega.”  He is the last, the endpoint, our goal and destiny.

What This Means

So, with these words, Jesus gives us a powerful way for understanding our lives.

He is our Alpha – the One from whom we come – and our Omega – the One to whom we will someday return.  And, as I see it, if he is that, he is our all, our everything much as God was for the man in the psychiatrist’s office.

No question, our loved ones are valuable, probably invaluable to us.  In that sense, they are everything to us.

But, in another way, Jesus is our everything.  If he is our origin and our destiny, then he is also our way and companion for everything in between.

So, the words that I choose to use to express myself maybe especially when I am frustrated; the decision that we make on how to deal with a relationship or a marriage problem; how to treat employees or how to do our job for our employer – my idea is that Jesus is to be our reference point for all of this. 

And, of course, when we are hurting or lost, something like the man in that psychiatrist’s office, Jesus is our sure foundation.  He is the secure base who helps us to get by and keep on going. 

It is in this sense that we can say that Jesus is a King.  This is why our Church honors him with this title today.

Friday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - November 20, 2015

Friday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time
November 20, 2015       8:30AM


There was a time before the birth of Christ when the Macedonian or Greek Empire controlled Israel.
The Greeks tried to impose their own culture and even their religion on the Jewish people.
They actually converted the temple in Jerusalem into a temple for their own religion.
Understandably, this was a great insult to the Jewish people and eventually they staged a revolt and regained control of their temple.
They rededicated it on December 14 of the year 164.
All of this is the context for today’s first reading.

Now the Hebrew word for rededication is Channukah.
The Talmud tells a story that a 1-day supply of oil miraculously burned for 8 days at the time of the rededication of the temple.
So, to remember the rededication of the temple, the Jewish people created the feast of Channukah and made it an 8-day celebration.
It is the feast of candles and lights and this year begins on December 7.
It happens, of course, at the same time that we Christians are beginning to celebrate Christmas and we do that with candles and lights too.
We are celebrating the birth of Christ, the light of the world, “God from God and light from light,” as our Profession of Faith says.

So, from both the Jewish and our Christian traditions, the lesson I suggest this morning is to lift up the light.
Lift up the light of kindness and community, the light of social justice and charity, and the light of reconciliation and peace wherever we see it.
That is the way to spread light in our world, which sometimes seems so dark.

In fact, this may be the only long-term effective way to diminish darkness and allow light to shine more and more fully.

Tuesday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - November 17, 2015

Tuesday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time
November 17, 2015       8:30am  Middle School


Today’s first reading from the Book of Maccabees catches my attention.
The context is that the Greeks have occupied the land of Israel around 175 years before the birth of Jesus.
The Greeks are trying to get the Jews to forsake their religion.
So, today, they are trying to force this old religious man Eleazar to eat pork.
Eating pork was against the Jewish faith and so Eleazar refuses to eat it.
(Something like someone trying to make us eat a hamburger on Ash Wednesday when we know that we Catholics are not to eat meat on that day)
Some friends of his want to sneak in some chicken or beef for Eleazar to eat.
That way the Greek commander will think he has eaten pork, even though he has not done so, and this will save Eleazar’s life.
Eleazar, with great dignity and integrity and faith, refuses to do this because it would be a scandal.
In other words, others would think he had eaten pork and that could lead them to forsake their faith.
Eleazar is willing to suffer death rather than cause scandal and lead others astray.

He is a wonderful example for us today.
It is good for us to recall the power of good example and the harm of scandal.

Students have prepared examples, such as:

Other possibilities:
The way we respect/obey/talk to our parents gives example to our brothers and sisters
The same goes with our conduct toward teachers in school
The things we say about ethnic groups or anyone may lead our peers astray and to say things they don’t even mean
The things we do can lead others to do the same

So it is not just what is right or wrong for us.

It is also what example we give by what we do.  

Monday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - November 16, 2015

Monday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time
November 16, 2015       6:30AM


We have to listen to see.
This idea may sound strange, but it is true.

In today’s gospel, the blind man sitting by the side of the road listens.
He apparently has listened to others talking about Jesus.
Then he listens to Jesus who asks him what he wants.
And the result is that this blind man now sees.
He sees physically – his eyes are literally opened.
And he also sees spiritually – he actually addresses Jesus as Lord – a title that is close if not equivalent to God.  
He comes to see Jesus for who he really is.

In contrast, many others around Jesus see physically but do not see spiritually.
And why?  Because they do not listen.
They are closed to the new ideas or new ways that Jesus proposes.
They are upset with his lack of self-righteousness.
They do not like his hanging around with those whom they deem to be sinful.
They cannot accept Jesus’ placing the care of persons above the literal rituals of their law.
So, they do not listen and therefore do not see who Jesus really is.
We have to listen to see.

Saint Ignatius once said: “Speak little, listen much.”
One commentator on Ignatius’ statement says that sadly, listening has become a lost art in our culture.
So often we are so preoccupied with what we are going to say or so satisfied with our own understanding of things or so resistant to dealing with something new or different that we do not listen.
And the result is that we do not see.
We do not see the life experience or viewpoint of another.
We do not see the value of an idea that is new or a way that is different from what we are used to.
Because we do not listen.

We must listen to see.