Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Palm Sunday, Cycle C - March 20, 2016

Passion (Palm) Sunday
Cycle C
March 20, 2016         9:00am and 11:00am
St. Margaret Parish, Bel Air

“The Shortness of Our Life” 

“Lord, make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”

These words are in Psalm 90 of the Old Testament.  I’ll repeat them: “Lord, make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”

I have been using this verse as part of my morning prayer during Lent.  The idea is that we ask God to help us to keep in mind the shortness of life. 

Whether we live for 20 or 90 years, our time on this earth is relatively short.  Being aware of this usually brings wisdom. 

It helps us to see what is really important and what is not so important.  It helps us to make good choices and the best uses of our time. 

So, with this awareness, some past, hurtful words in a relationship may now feel like less of a reason for alienation and animosity.  With this awareness, the danger of abusing alcohol or other substances may seem much clearer. 

So, I find this verse in Psalm 90 to be a wonderful prayer.  Being aware of the shortness of our life usually gives wisdom.    

The Shortness of Jesus’ Life

I thought of this verse when I reflected on today’s account of Jesus’ Passion.

Jesus did not live a long life – 33 years.  He seems to have always been aware of the shortness of his life.

This awareness gave him wisdom.  For example, he consistently showed the wisdom of patience with human weakness and here he shows that patience with Peter.

He consistently showed the wisdom of forgiveness and here he forgives even those who are putting him to death.  He consistently showed the wisdom of peacemaking and here he shows his peacefulness when he heals the ear of the high priest’s servant.

Jesus’ awareness of the shortness of his life gave him the wisdom to his mission and purpose, no matter what.  Right to the end, he reconciles human beings with one another and reconciles humanity with God. 


So, I recommend to you on this Palm Sunday the verse from Psalm 90.

Make this your own prayer, especially during this Holy Week.  “Lord, make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”

Friday of the 5th Week of Lent, Cycle C - March 18, 2016

Friday of the 5th Week of Lent

March 18, 2016    8:30am


In an interesting way, today’s gospel contains the core message of Saint John’s entire gospel.
John begins his gospel by identifying Jesus as the Word and Son of God.
At the end of the gospel, Thomas acclaims Jesus as “My Lord and my God.”
Today, in the middle of the gospel, it is Jesus’ identity as Son of God that brings about the opposition to him.

So, our acceptance of Jesus as the Son is central to our faith.
It makes Jesus the measure of our thoughts, words, and actions.
It makes Jesus the standard for who we are to become as persons.
And this takes us to something that Jesus says to those rejecting his identity in today’s passage.

He says:
“Is it not written in your law, `You are gods?’
…It calls them gods to whom the Word of God came.”
So, besides defending his own identity as the Son, Jesus is also calling us sons and daughters of God.
And this idea in a sense completes the theology of John’s Gospel.
We begin to be sons and daughters of God through baptism.
And, through our acceptance of Jesus as the Son, we also are to begin a life-long process of becoming sons and daughters.
This is a process.
We are to view our entire life as a journey toward becoming sons and daughters of the heavenly Father, with Jesus the Son as our way.

That in summary form is the theology of John’s entire gospel.

It is also a great context for understanding our penitential practices in this season of Lent.

Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent, Cycle C - March 16, 2016

Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent

March 16, 2016    6:30am


There is a saying that helps us to appreciate what Jesus is teaching in this morning’s gospel.

The saying is: “We are not punished for our sins, but we are punished by our sins.”
There is a lot of truth to this.

For example, if someone talks negatively about us behind our back or does something else to offend us, and we refuse to forgive them, hold on to a grudge against them and maybe even want to get back at them, this is the sin of vengeance.
And this sin ends up punishing us.
It makes us obsessed and bitter and angry and distorts us as persons.

And, of course, if we eat or drink too much, this is the sin of gluttony.
This sin clearly punishes us by hurting our bodies and possibly even our minds.

Unfaithfulness in our vocation whether in the priesthood or in marriage is of course a serious sin.
And the sin ends up punishing us.
It ultimately makes us unhappy, it ruins relationships and destroyes ourt sense of integrity.

So, sin punishes us.
In contrast, today Jesus says: “Truth will set you free.”
This truth is: doing what Jesus models and teaches is right and wrong, good and bad, following him and his way, embracing him as our Savior.
This frees us for becoming all that God has made us to be.
It frees us to be fully alive in God and to be really happy.

In contrast to that, to go back to where I began, “We are not punished for our sins, but we are punished by our sins.”

Monday of the 5th Week of Lent, Cycle C - March 14, 2016

Monday of the 5th Week of Lent
March 14, 2016    6:30am


The context of today’s gospel is that Jesus is in Jerusalem.
Apparently it is the Feast of Tabernacles.
That feast remembered God’s care for the Israelites when they were in the wilderness after leaving Egypt.
The Feast was connected with a passage from the prophet Zechariah who foretold that “there will be one continuous day... for in the evening there will be light.”
The prophecy of light even in the evening or darkness was a way of expressing God’s care for his people until the end of times.
Because of this prophecy, on the Feast of Tabernacles they would light many oil lamps in the temple.
This symbolically made the temple a source of light for all people.

So Jesus is in Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles.
He is aware of the lights or lamps in the temple and their symbolism.
And he says: “I am the light of the world.” 
He is saying that he replaces the light of the temple.
In fact, he replaces the temple itself.
He is “the light of the world.”
He is now God’s presence in the world.

Jesus then says, “Those who follow me will have the light of life.”
This expression – “the light of life” – can mean two things.
It can mean the light that comes from the source of life.
Or it can mean the light that gives life.
In this passage it seems to mean both.
Jesus is the light that comes from the source of life – the light that comes from God himself.
And Jesus is the light that gives life.
A flower cannot blossom without sunlight.
The sunlight gives life to the flower.
In the same, we cannot flower without the light that comes from Jesus.
He, the light, gives us life.

So, there is rich background and meaning to these beautiful verses this morning. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle C - March 13, 2016

5th Sunday of Lent
 Cycle C
Saint Margaret Parish
March 13, 2016   8:00am and 5:00pm

Put It Back Together

There is a story about a surgeon and his wife who were having dinner at the home of some friends.

The surgeon was enjoying a drink in the kitchen while his host was getting ready to carve the roast beef.  The friend asked, “Would you like to do the honors, Doc?”

The surgeon politely declined.  The friend began carving the roast, and then teased, “So how’s my technique, Doc?

“I think I’d make a pretty good surgeon.  See, it’s all in the wrist.

“You know, I might take your job.”  The doctor was used to this kind of humor and just laughed. 

Soon the host finished his work and held up a tray of beautifully carved roast beef.  “So, what d’ya think, Doc?” 

The surgeon replied, “Not bad.  But now – let’s see you put it all back together.”

Jesus Puts It Back Together

Jesus does not put a roast beef back together, but he does teach the way to put us back together.

In today’s gospel, some men bring a woman to Jesus.  They accuse her of a great sin and ask Jesus if it’s okay to stone her to death.

I find Jesus’ response very instructive in two ways.

1.  Jesus Sees Sin

First, Jesus says to the men who want to stone the woman, “Let the one without sin throw the first stone.” 

The effect of his simple, calm, one-sentence response is to get these men to look within themselves.  Jesus moves them – and us – to look at our own humanity and sinfulness. 

In doing this, he recognizes the reality of sin.  The truth is that we all sin in some way. 

We can sin against ourselves by abusing alcohol or by not using well our God-given abilities.  We can sin against our relationship with God by not coming to Mass or by not making space for personal prayer. 

We can sin by being unfaithful to basic responsibilities of our vocation – as a woman and a man are accused of in this gospel story.  Or we can also sin by being self-righteous, hateful and unforgiving, as the group of men are in this story. 

Jesus, in his response here, sees the reality of sin and wants us to see that we all sin in some way.  

2. Jesus is Respectful

The other lesson I see here is equally important, especially at this time.

Jesus is respectful and not violent.  He does not resort to any kind of violence with these persons – verbal, emotional, spiritual, or physical.

Jesus recognizes that this woman has sinned, but he doesn’t call her a sinner.  He doesn’t label her or sum up her entire personhood with the one word – sinner.

Instead, he respects her as a person and allows her to keep her self-respect.  And he does the same thing with the group of men.

In doing this, Jesus shows how growth can best happen.  We are more inclined to grow personally and spiritually when our self-respect is left intact.

So here Jesus shows us how we are to treat one another.  And this is an important lesson for us today.

For the past twenty years or so, we here in America have been in the midst of cultural warfare.  And in our Church, some promote what they call spiritual warfare.

In these cultural and spiritual wars, people demonize and name-call and label others.  They see certain others as all bad and all darkness. 

There is little respect in these approaches and they leave others with little self-respect.  Jesus today shows a vastly different approach. 

His approach gives the opportunity for us to grow personally and for us to live and grow and sort things out together as a community.

Jesus Puts Them Back Together

So to go back to where I began, Jesus in effect does what that surgeon teases his friend to do.

He is not putting a roast beef back together, but he teaches the way for us to be put back together with and in him.