Monday, January 25, 2016

Wednesday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle C - January 13, 2016

Wednesday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time
January 13, 2016

My thoughts this morning are about details – several details in today’s gospel that, I think, are enriching for us.

First, Simon’s or Peter’s mother-in-law is sick.
Jesus goes in to see her and the passage says that “he takes her by the hand and helps her up.”
Scripture scholars tells us that this gesture reminds us of what the Father does for Jesus.
In at least one place, the Scripture describes Jesus’ resurrection as God lifting up Jesus.
So, Jesus’ action here with Simon’s mother-in-law implies a new life and giving new life to her.
In fact, we might interpret Jesus’ entire ministry as lifting us up to new and fuller life.

Then, the passage says that this woman immediately begins to serve them.
The word for waiting on or serving is the same word used to describe how the angels waited on Jesus after his temptations in the desert.
So, the insight here is that even preparing food or showing hospitality is an angelic or heavenly thing.
It is a way of participating in God’s work on this earth.

And finally, notice Jesus’ limits.
He has been very busy and now he leaves that town and takes some alone time, just for himself.
He does not always and automatically say yes to all requests.
Instead, he makes time and space for himself, for prayer and for his relationship with the Father.
He has a sense of limits and lives with them.
This is a good example for us.

So, I hope these details in the gospel provide some good food for your reflection today.

Monday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle C - January 11, 2016

Monday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time
January 11, 2016          8:30am

Twice in today’s gospel Jesus calls people to follow him, and both times they do exactly that.
They follow him.

I got thinking about this yesterday afternoon.
When I was growing up, my mother and father would always say: Don’t be a follower.
What they meant was: don’t just go along with the crowd and do what others do.
Do what you have been taught is the right and good thing to do.
It was good guidance and good parenting.
It really helped my brother and me.

So at first glance, this business about following in today’s gospel seems contradictory.

But, the idea I got yesterday is that when Jesus calls us to follow him, he is asking us to own and internalize his values and teachings and then live out of them.
And when we do that, when we are followers in this way, we are really leaders.
We are living out of our relationship with him and out of our inner values and beliefs, which come from Jesus.
And, when we do that, the irony is being a follower makes us a leader.
Maybe we will not be the chairman of this or the president of that, but we will be leading in our own way because we will be following the Lord and what is within us.

That’s my take on this gospel today.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Cycle C - January 10, 2016

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
 Cycle C
January 10, 2016         8:00 and 10:00am       
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Humpty Dumpty

I’m sure that most of us are familiar with the storywriter Lewis Carroll.

We remember his famous story Alice in Wonderland, and Carroll also wrote Alice through the Looking Glass.  This is the story where Alice meets the character Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty is sitting on top of a high, narrow wall.  Alice looks up and says, “And exactly like an egg he is!”   

Humpty Dumpty responds, “It is very provoking to be called an egg – very provoking!”  Alice explains, “I said you looked like an egg, and some eggs are very pretty.”

But Humpty Dumpty is not amused and says, “Tell me your name and your business.”  Alice responds, “My name is Alice, but…”

Humpty Dumpty interrupts, “It’s a stupid name; what does it mean?”  Alice asks, “Must a name mean something?”

And Humpty Dumpty retorts, “Of course it must; my name – Humpty Dumpty – means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape I am too.  With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”  

Baptism: Name and Shape

Well, this little exchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty helps us to appreciate something about baptism.

We have all been baptized “In the name… of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  As Humpty Dumpty says, each of these names – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – means something.

They say something about our shape.  The idea is that we are to allow our baptism to shape us around God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Our Shape: The Father

First, around the Father.

The Scripture tells us that God is the creator of all that is.  And so, we are to see all that is as God’s creation and therefore as sacred.

This means especially in our times that we are to be alert to environmental issues.  On a personal level, we might make sure that we recycle paper, glass, plastic and whatever else we can.

On a community level, we might support sensible policies that reduce carbon emissions.  So, being baptized in the name of the Father means that we shape our lives around our Creator and the gift of creation.

Our Shape: The Son
And then, we are to allow our baptism to shape us around the Son.

From the time of his baptism, Jesus lives with a sense of mission.  And so, we are to view our lives as a mission from God.

This means that we are to do our part to benefit the kingdom of God on earth.  On a personal level, we do this by being especially attentive to our family members and our other loved ones.

On a community level, we might volunteer some time teaching religion or leading a scouting program, things like that.  So, being baptized in the name of the Son means that we shape our lives around Jesus and his sense of mission.

Our Shape: The Holy Spirit

And finally, we are to allow our baptism to shape us around the Holy Spirit.

Today’s gospel tells us that the heavens open and the Spirit comes down from above.  And so, God is now with and even within us.

This means that we are to live with an awareness of God’s presence.  On a personal level, we do this by making some space for some kind of prayer or prayerful reflection each day.

On a community level, we do this by participating in Mass and receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist which is the supreme way for God to be with us.  So, being baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit means that we shape our lives around God who is present.


As Humpty Dumpty says, “My name means the shape I am.” 

We are baptized “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Let’s allow our baptism to shape us around these names.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Feast of the Epiphany, Cycle C - January 3, 2016

Feast of the Epiphany
 Cycle C
January 3, 2016  10:00am and 12 noon
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Violence in Bethlehem

The gospel tells us that the three magi or wise men return home “by another way.”

They are warned in a dream not to return to Herod.  Herod feels threatened by this newborn child who is seen as a kind of king for his people.

And so, he ends up killing a number of baby boys in the Bethlehem area as a way to make sure he would eliminate the Christ Child.  The magi don’t go back to report to Herod but go home “by another way.”

That expression – “by another way” – definitely means a geographical route.  I wonder if it also means that the magi reject the way of violence and take the “other way” of peace.

Violence Today

The violence that happened in Bethlehem is also seen in our world today.

ISIS is the most dramatic example of sheer, inhumane violence.  But there are other examples.

In some countries, violence is directed at entire religious and ethnic groups.  In our own country, more innocent individuals than we want to think about are victims of homicide or mass shootings. 

And then, the words we use when we speak to one another and about one another are sometimes quite violent.  Sometimes anger or frustration, and sometimes simply differences between us spark verbal expressions that are in truth violent.

I wonder if this verbal violence is the cause of a weakening of respect for one another and the cause of a lot of physical violence.  We cannot discount the impact of this verbal violence.

Peace in Bethlehem

Now, in sharp contrast to this, we have Jesus’ birth.

We have this scene of complete peace in Bethlehem.  And I think that this manger or nativity scene is magnetic.

It draws our attention and we do not tire of it.  Again, I have to wonder if there is this magnetism to the manger because it speaks to what we really want to be and be like.

Jesus, God-with-is, is peaceful and not violent.  He is all-powerful as the Son of God but he always respects the dignity and life of others.

And surrounding this infant, there are persons with great differences – much diversity.  There are the poor, uneducated shepherds, citizens from nearby. 

And there are the wealthy, educated magi, visitors from some other country.  And they, surrounding the child Jesus, are all at peace with him and with one another.

So, I believe that we are drawn to the manger, the nativity scene because of what we really want to be and be like.  We want to be peaceful persons, at peace within ourselves and at peace with one another.

Peace Today

So, I recommend: Let’s allow ourselves to be drawn to Jesus and this nativity scene.

Let’s keep this before our mind’s eye not just here at Christmas time, but in every season and on every day of the year. If we do this, then this peaceful child and this peaceful scene will little by little transform us.

This scene moves us to relate with one another in non-violent, respectful, peaceful ways.  And, I believe, this will begin with the words we use – words of respect that create an environment of peace, and not words that are a form of violence.

If we do this, we will be doing what the magi did – taking “another way.”  We will be rejecting the way of violence, taking the other way of peace,  and doing what we can practically do to enable “Peace on earth” to really