Thursday, May 26, 2016

Friday of the 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - May 20, 2016

Friday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time
May 20, 2016       8:30am

Today’s gospel is one that I think we need to approach in a both/and way, and not in an either/or way.
Here is what I have in mind.

Here at Saint Margaret’s and I think in all parishes, we do our best to prepare couples well for marriage.
We talk with them and get to know them.
We get clear on their intentions to make this a life-long commitment, to make it an exclusive relationship, and if possible, to share their love by creating a family together.
There is a 100-question inventory that helps them to learn about themselves. There is a marriage preparation program with experienced couples.
And there is the careful planning of the wedding ceremony.
So, we do all of that.
And, most of the time, I feel good about the couples whose marriages I witness.

But sometimes, it doesn’t work out.
This can happen for a variety of reasons.
And sometimes it is clear, usually after counseling and some hard work, that the relationship cannot and maybe should not be restored.

And this is where the both/and comes in.
So while we lift up and work hard for the permanency of a marriage commitment, the Church also has a tradition of what we call annulments.
Pope Francis has made the annulment process simpler.
And there is even talk within the Church about allowing those divorced and remarried outside the Church to receive Communion.
And all of this is going on out a sense of empathy for the human situation, compassion, and we would say, mercy – God’s mercy when we do not fully live out the ideals or calling of the gospel.

That’s what I mean by a both/and approach.

I think it is a good way to appreciate what is going on in the Church today regarding the Sacrament of Marriage.

Monday of the 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - May 16, 2016

Monday of the 7th Week of the Year
May 16, 2016       8:30am

Readings:   James 3.13-18
                  Mark 9.14-29

In today’s gospel incident, the disciples ask Jesus why they are unable to drive the evil spirit out of this apparently young man.
Jesus says: “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

From various passages in the gospels, I think it is fair to say that Jesus’ prayer was fundamentally a communion with the Father.
At times, he did speak words right from his heart.
But often, he simply was – he was with the Father.
He was quiet, silent, listening with his heart and then his mind.
His prayer definitely must have involved this listening to the Father as when he was discerning the Father’s will about his suffering.

So, I am thinking that it is this kind of prayer, maybe primarily listening that Jesus has in mind when he says that this deaf and mute man can only be healed through prayer.
This kind of prayer frees us from being deaf, as the young man in the gospel is.
It does this because it makes us listen:
listen to God, to the quiet promptings of God about who we are and what we are to do;
and listen to others around us and take in what is really going within the them.
It is through this prayerful listening that we can be freed from our deafness and become more of a source of healing and wholeness for one another.
The result is that this kind of prayer also frees us from being mute, as the young man in the gospel is.
It does this because it enables us to speak the positive, healing, constructive and life-giving words of God.

So, I am saying that this kind of quiet, listening prayer can free us from being spiritually deaf and mute and then through that, enable us to be a source of healing for others.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Feast of Pentecost, Cycle C - May 15, 2016

Feast of Pentecost
Cycle C
May 15, 2016       12:00 Noon and 5:00 pm
Saint Margaret Parish

Readings:   Acts 2.1-11
                  I Corinthians 12.3b-7, 12-13
                  John 14. 15-16, 23b-26


“And with your spirit”

There is an anecdote about a church where the microphone was not working well one Sunday.

Obviously, this was not Saint Margaret’s!  That never happens here! 

This particular morning, the microphone at the pulpit was crackling and cutting in and out.  The time came for the priest to go over and read the gospel.

He taps on it and moves it up and down and then says, “There’s something wrong with this mic!”  And the people dutifully respond, “And with you spirit.”

Routine versus Awareness

Sometimes we are like the people at that Mass.

Sometimes we are on auto-pilot and just do things without thinking about them very much.  Today, the feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit – God within us. 

That is who the Holy Spirit is – God within us, often moving and guiding us in certain directions.  So Pentecost is to help us to get off of auto-pilot.

It helps us to tune into the presence of the Spirit and what the Spirit is prompting us to do.  The readings today show us two ways that the Spirit may be moving us.


Communicating Well

The first is to communicate well.

The passage from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that there are people from many different countries who speak many different languages visiting Jerusalem.  And yet each of them, amazingly, hears the disciples speaking in their own native language.

Each of them is able to understand what the disciples are communicating.  The lesson I see here is that the Holy Spirit moves us to communicate well with each other. 

This involves a number of things, but there is one thing that must have been present in this Pentecost event.  Communicating well means that we say things in a way that the other person can receive them. 

So maybe I don’t just “Tell it like it is.”  Sometimes that expression is used as a justification for just blurting out what I think or feel with no regard for its effect on the other person. 

Communicating well means that I try to express myself in a way that is thoughtful and respectful of the other person.  I try to say things in a way that doesn’t just make me feel good for getting them off my chest.

Instead, I try to say things thoughtfully, in a way that others can take in what I am saying.  The Holy Spirit is about communicating well.

Respecting Differences

And the second thing I see here is that the Spirit moves us to respect differences.

Today Saint Paul uses the image of the human body.  The body has different parts – eyes and ears and arms and legs and on it goes.

Each of these parts has its own unique and valuable role.  Each of them is different, but together they all form one body.

In a similar way, the Spirit moves us to respect differences among ourselves.  In our world today, we live and will be living with many differences and with increasing diversity.

We can see differences in religious belief, social customs, cultural tradition and political viewpoint.  But we do not have to feel threatened or afraid of others because of differences.

Instead, we can see these differences as potentially enriching.  They can actually broaden our perspective and make us fuller persons.

If we approach differences in this way, we can remain one body in Christ.  The Holy Spirit is about respecting differences.


I want to conclude with this.

Sometimes we can feel restless and unsettled about how we are relating with others.  Maybe we keep trying to justify our behavior or our attitudes but just cannot get settled.

This could well be a sign of the Holy Spirit at work within us.  As Jesus says in today’s gospel, it could well be the Spirit trying to remind us of what Jesus taught us. 

It could well be the Spirit moving us to communicate well and to respect differences.  Pentecost tries to awaken us to these promptings of the Spirit.

Friday of the 7th Week of Easter, Cycle C - May 13, 2016

Friday of the 7th Week of Easter
May 13, 2016       8:30am

Readings:   Acts 25.13b-21
                  John 21.15-19

Today’s gospel tells us something very wonderful about Jesus.
Peter has denied Jesus three times.
Here Jesus asks him three times, “Do you love me?”
Jesus does not even mention what Peter has done.
There is no put down, no castigating, no vengeance and no punishment for Peter’s denial.
Jesus’ direct but completely respectful questions allow Peter to rise to the occasion and redeem himself.
Or, to be more accurate, Jesus’ questions allow Peter to be redeemed by Jesus.

Then, Jesus takes Peter at his word.
He trusts him.
Without saying a word, he restores Peter to full relationship and friendship.
And then, with his trust in Peter, Jesus entrusts him with an important responsibility – to care for his sheep.

I imagine that many of us are at some time in the position of Peter.
We, may need that opportunity to be forgiven or redeemed in such a respectful way.
Or maybe, on the flip side, we need to extend this opportunity to be forgiven and redeemed to someone in the same gracious and respectful way that Jesus does here.

So, what a beautiful example and lesson this passage is for us today!

Monday of the 7th Week of Easter, Cycle C - May 9, 2016

Monday of the 7th Week of Easter
May 9, 2016         8:30am

Readings:   Acts 19.1-8
                  John 16.29-33

The disciples today get very self-confident.
They think they get what Jesus is talking about and have it all very clear.
They say that no more questions are necessary.
We believe and that’s it!
It’s all settled.

And Jesus says: “Whoa!  Slow down a bit!”
Jesus knows that very soon they will abandon him.
He wisely knows that faith is not easy.
And it is never something over and done with, never something with which we are all set.

There will be challenges to faith, maybe all throughout our lives.
There might be the challenge of prosperity and comfort – will we then start feeling entitled to what we have or so absorbed with ourselves that we forget our need for God?
Or on the other hand, there might be lots of financial stress – will we then think God has forgotten us?
We might have good health – will we take it for granted and not bother to be thankful to God?
Or we might be told we have a significant sickness – will we then be tempted to question why God let this happen to us?

Jesus slows down the over-confidence of the apostles and of us.
We need to pray for faith.
It really is the most basic need of all.
So we need to pray for it – for the faith that means trusting in God no matter what, for the faith that means praying to God when we are in darkness to see us through to the light, for the faith that will help us feel God’s closeness when we need it most.
So when we pray for our needs, let’s pray for the gift of a strong and enduring and growing faith.

That’s what Jesus is prodding the apostles to do today.