Tuesday, June 21, 2016

12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 19, 2016

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
June 19, 2016     4:00pm and 8:00am 
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air

Readings:   Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1
                  Galatians 3:26-29
                  Luke 9:18-24

“Deny Yourself”

So, what do you think of when Jesus says, “Deny yourself”?

In today’s gospel, Jesus is getting clear with the apostles about who he is, his identity.  And he says that if we believe in him and want to follow him, we must “deny ourselves.” 

When I hear these words, I usually think of giving up something – like desserts or wine in Lent, things like that.  But, I think these words also have another meaning that may be even more difficult.

“Denying ourselves” because we believe in Jesus may mean saying no to certain attitudes or ways of thinking.  This can be difficult but sometimes we need to do this because our ways do not square with the ways of Jesus.  

In Relation to Orlando


I have been thinking about this in relation to the tragedy in Orlando last Sunday.

Believing in Jesus may call us to “deny ourselves” in some ways as a response to this tragedy.  I am thinking of two ways.


Deny Self by Loving Our Enemies

First, we may need to deny ourselves by heeding Jesus’ challenging words, “Love your enemies.”

The mass shootings in Orlando have some roots and inspiration in ISIS.  That ideology and the terrorism that flows from it are evil. 

We have a responsibility to take appropriate action to protect ourselves and others and to stop this evil.  At the same time, Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” 

My read of this is we need to pray that they embrace ways that are peaceful and respectful of others.  That may take a miracle, but we believe that prayer can do great things.

I also believe that we need to be careful not to stereotype all Muslims by the terrorists.  Instead of that, respectfully and thoughtfully, we need to read and to listen to the Muslim experience of life and to who they are and what they believe.

And, in turn, respectfully and thoughtfully, we can share our experience of life and who we are and what we believe.  Each of us, in the way we are able, needs to work at building bridges of understanding.

Loving our enemies in this way may require some self-denial.  It may require that we abandon some of our feelings and attitudes and ways of thinking, but this may be part of the denial of self needed to follow Jesus.

Deny Self by Realizing Our Oneness

The other way that we may need to deny ourselves is by realizing our oneness with all people.

Saint Paul is so clear in our second reading.  Regardless of differences in nationality or religion or gender, we are all one in Christ.

Jesus reveals our oneness as God’s sons and daughters.  In contrast to that, the mass shootings in Orlando were directed at the LGBT community.

This is the same kind of hatred and prejudice that led to the holocaust in the 1940s.  It still leads to the targeting of different groups in some countries today. 

The truth is that when one group is targeted and hated, we are all subject to being targeted and hated.  So, at this time especially, we need to realize our oneness with the LGBT community.

Again, we need to listen and understand their experience of life and who they are as persons.  And, as Archbishop Lori said this week, we are a pluralistic society and we need to approach one another with Christian charity and an open heart.

This, like loving our enemies, may again call us to deny ourselves – to abandon some of our attitudes and maybe even behaviors.  This may be part of the denial of self that is needed to follow Jesus.

Friday of the 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 17, 2016

Friday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
June 17, 2016      8:30am

Readings:   2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20
                  Matthew 6.19-23

In our culture, it is easy to get caught up in the newest and the latest.
Today’s advertising really attracts us to this.
The result is that we can set our hearts and our eyes on the latest style shirts or jeans or even cars.
Along with that, we can also get caught up in the expectation that everything should be easy and painless.
Sometimes an unrealistic picture of life is presented where things are either easy or you quickly walk away from them.

There are problems with these ways of our culture.
The newest and the latest almost always lasts for only a short time.
Its attraction wears off quickly and we want something else.
And then, in truth, the easy life does not exist.
We will end up with a lot of wreaked relationships and half-done projects if we expect things to be easy.

So, it is important where we set our hearts and our eyes.
This is Jesus’ point today.
If we set our heart and eyes on the quality of relationships with one another and with God, instead of on the newest and the latest, then there will be a firm foundation in our lives.
And if we set our heart and eyes on the belief that life and fuller life will come from a certain amount of denial of self, instead of on the expectation that everything should be easy, then there will be real fulfillment in our lives.

As Jesus says, “If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light.”

Wednesday of the 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 15, 2016

Wednesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
June 15, 2016      6:30am

Readings:   2 Kings 2:1,6-14
                  Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

We hear today’s gospel every year on Ash Wednesday.
Its focus on 1) charitable giving, 2) prayer, and 3) fasting makes it almost a perfect way to begin Lent.
Jesus’ consistent refrain in his three teachings is: do it in secret.
In other words, do it not to be seen or well thought of by others.
Do it for yourself, for God, and for your relationship with God.

One of our Catholic spiritual writers, Sister Joan Chittister, makes a comment that is very pertinent to Jesus’ teaching here.
I would like to read you what Sister Joan says – just three short sentences – and leave you with that as a reflection for today.

Sister says: “We can only do so much to make ourselves look better than we are, either physically or spiritually.
Then there is nothing left but the soul we bring to a situation with its kindness, its quality, and its openness.”
So, “Decorate yourself from the inside out.”

They are wise words, so expressive of what Jesus says in the gospel.
Be authentic, tending first and foremost your inner spirit and your relationship with God.

Make sure that our good actions flow from that and then they will be of real benefit both to others and ourselves.

Tuesday of the 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 14, 2016

Tuesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
June 14, 2016      8:30am

Readings:   I Kings 21:17-29
                  Matthew 5:43-48

The very last words Jesus says in today’s gospel are:
“Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Now that is challenging.
Will we ever get to that point?
Of course not.
At least not in the way that we usually think of perfection – as having no defect, as being sinless, as being completely good.

One of our Catholic theologians, Father Richard Rohr, gives us an insight that may lead us to think about Jesus’ words here a bit differently.
Father Rohr says this:
“If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own.
A ‘perfect’ person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection (like God does), rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond any imperfection.”

Father Rohr’s insight is that Jesus calls us to holiness, to goodness.
And Jesus’ call to perfection actually gets fulfilled in our humble acceptance of imperfection within ourselves, in others and in the world around us.
This humble acceptance of imperfection leads us to a right relationship with God, a healthy and realistic sense of ourselves, and, amazingly, the love of others that Jesus talks about in this passage.

So, a different, and I think an excellent insight on this passage today.

Monday of the 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 13, 2016

Monday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua
June 13, 2016      6:30am

Readings:   I Kings 21:1-16
                  Matthew 5:38-42

I cannot help but think about today’s gospel in relation to the mass shooting yesterday in Orlando.
How are we to take Jesus’ words when we have to deal with terrorists or terrorist organizations?
Is Jesus being unrealistic?
Or do his words have something to say to us today?
I have just a few brief ideas here at 6:30am.

First, I do not believe that Jesus is saying that we should allow ourselves or others to be abused or injured or killed.
We should flee these situations if at all possible.
And we should take appropriate action to prevent these violent actions, and that would include action against those who do this.

Second, I believe that we need to make sure that our response to violence does not cross the line into sheer vengeance – an eye for an eye or even more.
So we need to be careful not to stereotype – and that is a danger in our world and country today.
And we need to make sure that our response is protective but not excessive. 

And third, when Jesus says that if our enemy demands that we walk one mile, walk two miles with him, I believe he means that we try to build bridges with love.
This is counter-intuitive in today’s world, but I think he is right.
So let’s do what we can to understand and build relationships and even assist those in need in predominantly Muslim countries.

In the long run, that will offer the best and maybe the only possibility of human respect and peace.