Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C - April 24, 2016

5th Sunday of Easter
Cycle C
April 24, 2016     4:00pm and 12:00 noon
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

“This is how…”

Just think about Jesus’ words that we just heard.

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  I mean, it’s really quite a statement.

It’s not complicated.  In a way, it’s very simple.

This past Tuesday morning, at the 8:30 Mass in the chapel, we had a very similar reading and I shared a few reflections on it.  Two people encouraged me to expand my thoughts and share them sometime on a Sunday.

And sure enough, here is this gospel passage for today.  So here is some of what I believe the words of Jesus mean for me and for us in the year 2016 – “This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

“This is how…if you have love…”

This means – as I often see in this community – that mothers and fathers work their jobs, keep the household together, and get the kids to school and soccer and dance and faith formation and on it goes.  They really give a lot of their time and of themselves for their children.

Jesus’ words mean that we try to work through problems in our relationships.  We are committed to listening and also to expressing ourselves in a constructive way, to do whatever we can to reconcile and build bridges.

Jesus’ words mean that I as a priest lift up the love of God for everyone and not put down people for their weaknesses.  They mean that I put my energy on including and not on excluding people for this or that reason.

Jesus’ words mean that we can be good Catholics and strong in our faith.  And at the same time, we can be equally respectful of the goodness of Presbyterians and Methodists and of Jews and Muslims.

Jesus’ words mean that we think and act for the common good, for the overall good of everyone.  They mean that my own comfort and security and money is a legitimate consideration, but not my only consideration.

And finally, Jesus’ words mean that here and now we care for those in our lives.  They also mean that we have a global concern for all of God’s daughters and sons on this earth.


So, this is something of what Jesus’ words mean to me – “This is how all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

These thoughts form some of the heartbeat of my ministry as a priest.  And I hope that my sharing them will provide some good reflection for us today.

Friday of the 4th Week of Easter, Cycle C - April 22, 2016

Friday of the 4th Week of Easter
April 22, 2016      8:30am


Readings:   Acts 13.26-33
                  John 14.1-6

Today’s gospel is a great passage for the Easter Season.

Jesus says: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”
The key words for me are “dwelling places.”
One of the things we want most is a home.
There is this yearning for home deep down within the human spirit.
So Jesus is assuring us that there is a home for us after we die and leave this earth.

The word “dwell” or “dwelling” is rich in meaning.
It means that we will literally reside and for all time be with God.
Our home will not be a place or a mansion in the sky, as heaven is sometimes depicted.
It will be “dwelling” in God and that means, “dwelling” in love.
The old Christian hymn Rock of Ages has a line that says: “Let me hide myself in thee.”
We will be not just with the risen Christ.
We will “dwell” in the risen Christ.
We will “dwell” in the love that is the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So this is Jesus’ message of comfort and consolation to his disciples on the night before he died.
This is the promise and hope he extends to us – a closer and more intimate relationship than we have even here on earth.

In fact, Jesus comes to “dwell” in us now in the Eucharist so that someday we can “dwell” in him fully and forever in heaven.

Tuesday of the 4th Week of Easter, Cycle C - April 19, 2016

Tuesday of 4th Week of Easter
April 19, 2016      8:30am

Readings:   Acts 11.19-26
                  John 10.22-30


In today’s first reading, we hear about the growth of the early Church.
The last sentence of the passage is kind of poignant. 
It says: “It was in Antioch that the disciples were called Christians for the first time.”
At first, the followers of Jesus just seemed like a branch of Judaism.
Only gradually did it become clear that they were following a very different way, the way and person of Jesus.
So only eventually were they called Christians and not Jews.

This leads me to think about a question.
But still, is there something special or distinctive about our lives that makes it clear in our culture today that we are different as Christians or Catholic Christians?
What should mark us as such even if people would not otherwise know what religion we are or whether we have any religion at all.
My ideas go in this direction:

In our relationships, that we try to be forgiving rather than vengeful;
In our participation in society, that we try to be concerned for the common good of all and not just what benefits me or keeps more money in my pocket;
With others who have a different religious background, that we respect it and respect them and in no way look down on them;
And in general, that we don’t just pray prayers, but that we are prayerful people, trying to allow the Lord within to transform us as persons.

These are some, probably not all, but some of the things I see as marking us as Christians – how we should be known as followers of Jesus today.

Other traits and practices may follow from these, but without these, well, I am not sure how we would be known or regarded.

Monday of the 4th Week of Easter, Cycle C - April 18, 2016

Monday of the 4th Week of Easter
April 18, 2016      8:30am

Readings:   Acts 1.1-18
                  John 10.1-10


We all know that a gate, any gate, provides a way in and a way out.
It could be a gate to a garden or a stadium or any number of places.
Today, in the gospel, Jesus describes himself as “the gate for the sheep” – the gate of the pen where the sheep are kept at night.

I find this image of Jesus as a “gate” very helpful for understanding the two basic movements of the spiritual life.

The first movement is in – going in.
As a gate, Jesus leads us to our inner selves.
We can find God right there, within ourselves.
So, we should put ourselves down or get carried away with our sinfulness.
The truth is that God is within us.
This is why some silence in our lives and in our prayer life is important.
In the silence, we can come in contact with God who is within.
Jesus, as a “gate,” invites us within.
This is the first movement of the spiritual life.

And, of course, a gate is also a way out.
This going out of ourselves is the second movement.
Jesus moves us to find God outside of ourselves too – in creation, in each other.
Maybe we go to another person, a mentor, a person in whom we find God and who can lead us closer to God.
Maybe we have to identify the good in others and grow it, especially those who have been in some kind of trouble or whom we do not like.
And maybe we just have to work with others in some project that does good for God’s people on this earth.
Jesus, as a “gate,” invites us outside of ourselves.
That is the second movement in the spiritual life.

These two movements almost summarize the spiritual life and captured in this wonderful image of the “gate.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C - April 17, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Cycle C
April 17, 2016                 9:00 and 11:00 am
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


Readings:   Acts 13.14, 43-52
                  Revelation 7.9, 14b-17
                  John 10.27-30

To “Follow” Jesus

There is a lot we could say about what it means to follow Jesus.

In today’s gospel, Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  This morning, I want to reflect on some things that seem important to me for following Jesus in our times.  

My thoughts come from a lengthy statement that Pope Francis issued last June.  It is called an encyclical – a letter to everyone in the world.

The title of this letter is: On Care For Our Common Home.  Pope Francis is lifting up our obligation to care for the earth and for all who live on this earth.

He sees the two – caring 1) for the earth and 2) for everyone on the earth – he sees these as connected and as a serious moral issue for our time.  He sees this as a significant part of what it means to follow Jesus today.

So, I want to share with you just two recommendations that Pope Francis makes in this letter.  He proposes these as things that we are able to do and that will have some impact.

1.    Live Simply

The first is that Francis calls each of us to live more simply – to adopt greater simplicity in our lifestyle.

He recalls the saying: “Less is more.”  He says that not filling our lives with so many things will allow us to appreciate much more the present moment and the things we already have.

Francis admits that simplicity is a challenge.  We live in an economy that is built on consumption. 

He asserts, with scientific input, that we are consuming the earth’s resources at a rate that is unsustainable.  We are encouraged to purchase an endless array of new things.

But our choosing to live more simply will be good for the earth and good for us.  Francis says, and I really like these words, that we can live on a little and still have a lot.

This is especially true when we look for our fullness in family, friendships and community relationships.  It is true when we seek inner peace through prayer and when we just appreciate the part of nature that is right before our eyes.

I wonder if a way to live more simply is to make a habit of asking the “need” question.  Do I really need this T-shirt or the latest running shoes or new furniture or whatever it is?

The “need” question will probably lead us to live more simply.  It will also be good for the earth’s resources and, ultimately, for everyone on the planet.


2.    Pray Grace

The second recommendation I take from Pope Francis’ encyclical sounds deceptively simple: he urges us to pray Grace before meals. 

Francis says that a prayer before eating first reminds us of our dependence on God.  It makes us aware that all of life and all that is comes from God.

And then, this Grace also reminds us of our dependence on nature.  We rely on nature for the grain that makes our cereals, for the plants that give us tomatoes, and for the pastures that feed our cows.

And this Grace before meals also reminds us of our interdependence with everyone on this earth.  We share an interdependence with those who pick coffee beans in Columbia, with workers in the meat-packing plants in the Midwest, and with the fishermen who catch tuna.

So the Grace before meals is a simple but very rich idea.  It puts us in touch with God, with the earth, and with all of our brothers and sisters on the earth. 

It gives us a sense of oneness and of peace.  It leads us away from indifference toward the earth or toward those who are hurting.

As you leave Mass today, you will be offered a card that contains several choices for a Grace before meals.  I hope that this will help us to be sure to offer a prayer before you eat.