Monday, July 25, 2016

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - July 17, 2016

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
July 17, 2016      11:00am 
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore

“The Better Part”

Three words in today’s gospel really grab my attention.

The words are: The better part.”  Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part.”

Two sisters – Martha and Mary – invite Jesus to have dinner at their home.  One sister – Mary – sits with Jesus and takes in all that he has to say.

The other sister – Martha – is getting the meal prepared.  We might imagine that she is doing everything – from chips and hummus, to barbecued chicken, to a pastry drizzled with honey.

Well, finally, Martha has had enough of this.  She blurts out to Jesus to tell her sister to get up and give her a hand in the kitchen.

And now Jesus speaks those words.  He begins, “Martha, just relax.

“Do a simple meal and don’t be so preoccupied with so many things.  Your sister Mary has chosen the better part.”

“The Better Part” – What It Doesn’t Mean

I see these three words – the better part– as packed with meaning.

To begin with, Jesus is not saying that Martha’s getting dinner ready is not important.  He is not saying that working our jobs or doing grocery shopping or cleaning up the house is less important. 

In fact, notice that Jesus uses the word “part.”  This means that Mary is doing part of what’s needed, but it’s not the whole thing.

What Martha is doing is also part of what is needed.  It is also important.

“The Better Part” – What It Means

So, what does Jesus mean by the better part?”

He means that we need to be prayerfully centered on him.  I think that Jesus calls this the better partfor two reasons.

First, we need to stay prayerfully centered on Jesus to make sure that what we do is of God.   This helps to make sure that all that we do flows from our relationship with Jesus.

If we are not centered on the Lord Jesus, then we may say rash things and act disrespectfully.  What we do may be harmful to others and even to ourselves. 

And then, we also need to stay centered on Jesus to make sure that we actually do what we should do.  So, for example, Jesus would want us to listen well to a loved one who really needs to talk about something.

Or he calls us to positively reach out maybe to a neighbor or co-worker who has lost a job.  The idea is that if we are not centered in the Lord, we may not be doing what the gospel call us to do.

This is why Jesus calls Mary’s way the better part.”  It helps us to be sure that what we do is gospel-based and it moves us positively to do what the gospel calls us to do.

“The Better Part” – Right Now

Today. right now, here in America, the better parthas an important application.

We need to be like Mary – centered prayerfully on the Lord – to respond well to the violence that is happening.  When African Americans experience profiling by police officers, and when they find it necessary to assert that Black Lives Matter, we need to be centered on Jesus.

Being centered on the Lord will help blacks and all of us to respond in the way of the gospel.  Jesus will empower us to seek justice and respect and dignity.

And he will also empower us to seek this in non-violent, peaceful ways.  This centeredness on the Lord will help to make sure that what we do is gospel-based and make sure that we actually do something and act.

This centeredness will also help whites or all non-blacks to be open and humble.  It will move us to listen and try to understand.

It will move us to approach these issues with with an open mind and open heart.  Again, it will help to make sure that what we do is gospel-based and make sure that we actually do something and act.


So, that’s how I see Jesus’ three words today: the better part.”

It really has to do with us being centered on Jesus.  Then the other part – our everyday living and response to everything – will flow from that.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Cycle C - June 29, 2016

The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
June 29, 2016      8:30am

I think that Saints Peter and Paul have some helpful messages for us today.

First, Peter and Paul did not agree with each other on everything.
The Acts of the Apostles shows them in clear disagreement.
So, I think in our Church today, there can be different points of view.
There can be disagreement on certain things.
We can be one in faith and one in the Lord without complete uniformity.

Also, Peter and Paul lived in very challenging times.
There were outright persecutions going on.
There were moral values very different from those of Jesus.
So maybe their experience might slow us down a bit if we are tempted to think that we are living in the worst of all moral times.
Maybe their experience will keep us from becoming alarmist and enable us to stay positive.
And that takes me to the last lesson I see from Peter and Paul today.

Peter and Paul did not get political.
The Roman government was not their friend.
It was their enemy and persecutor.
What did Peter and Paul do?
They preached the positive message of Jesus Christ to the persons and communities they encountered.
They did not preach a negative message against anyone, especially the government of the day.
They did not decry the government or culture as secular or pagan.
They did not enter into cultural or spiritual warfare.
They simply did a good job preaching positively to persons and communities.
And their efforts bore lasting fruit.

Again, their example here might be very good to recall today.

Tuesday of the 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 28, 2016

Tuesday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Irenaeus
June 28, 2016                  8:30am

Readings:   Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12
                  Matthew 8:23-27

At some point in life, we will all find ourselves in a storm.
It might be an emotional depression, maybe a very threatening medical diagnosis, maybe the loss of a job, maybe financial troubles that seem insoluble, maybe a marital crisis, maybe a division in our family, maybe the death of a loved one, and on and on it can go.
In these moments, we can wonder: where do I turn?
Where can I go with all of this?

The event in today’s gospel gives us an idea.
We can do what the apostles did on the Sea of Galilee.
They turn to the Lord and say,
“Lord, save us, we are drowning.”
We might find ourselves saying the same thing.
Jesus is teaching us today that he is with us in these storms of life.
And so, we need to be aware of him and turn to him – in faith and in prayer.
And, if we do that, there may or may not be a quick resolution or even any resolution to the storm itself.
But, there will be someone, Jesus, there with us.
And what he will calm may not be the stormy waters and winds around us.
But he will bring calm or at least some calm within us.
There will be some inner steadiness and calm and strength that will come from Jesus
We do this through prayer, the Eucharist, the Scripture and the community of faith.
We prepare for turning to Jesus in the storms that will come – and this is very important – we prepare for this by turning to him when the storms are not there and things are calm.

Because if we do this at those times, then our hearts and minds will be open and more able to feel that steadying and calming and strengthening presence of the Lord in the storms.

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - June 26, 2016

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
June 26, 2016     4:00pm and 10:00am 
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air


Did you ever have a teacher who kept repeating things to make sure the class learned the lesson?  I remember a French teacher I had in high school.

He spoke in French for the entire class period and kept repeating new phrases like, “Comment allez vous?” – which means “How are you?”  He wanted to make sure we learned them.

Or, have you ever heard a priest repeat his one point in a homily – maybe three times?  1) He tells you what he’s going to say, then 2) he says it, and then 3) he tells you what he said.

The Repetition of “Journey”

In today’s gospel, Luke repeats the word “journey” four times. 

He does this as he talks about Jesus’ travel, his journey from Galilee in the north to Jerusalem in the south.  Luke wants to make sure we hear this word. 

Jesus is on a geographical journey, but Luke is also conveying that he is on a spiritual journey.  He is in the process of doing his mission on this earth.

And Luke is also making the point that Jesus wants us to see our entire life as a journey.  We are in process, travelling, on the way to our destination the whole time we are on this earth.

My Sense of Journey

When I realized that this was the gospel for this weekend, my last weekend here at Saint Margaret’s, I thought – how appropriate!

This theme of journey has really been dominant in my spiritual vision for us.  We as persons or persons of faith are on a journey.

We are in process, travelling, on the way to our destination.  We are all human, imperfect, and still becoming the persons God made us to be.

So I believe that we are to take each other and I am to take you as you are.  Being welcoming and inclusive is very important.

In today’s gospel, when the Samaritans are unwelcoming to Jesus, the disciples want to rain down fire upon them and treat them as good for nothing.  But Jesus says no, let’s just respectfully move on. 

So Jesus wasn’t even excluding from his care those who had excluded him.  So, accepting one another as human and still on the journey – that is to be the hallmark of us as a parish and a Church.

Maybe we can state it another way.  The positive requirement to be here and be part of this community is simply the desire to be on the journey with Christ.  

The gathering song that we sang at the beginning of Mass says this so beautifully.  We are to “walk humbly with God.”

“Walk humbly with God” on the journey of life.  This is what we are to be all about.

Thank You

For just a minute, I want to change focus and offer some words of thanks.

I thank all of you, the people of Saint Margaret’s, for these ten years.  I thank you for your faith and for your your generous support of the ministry, services and programs that make us Saint Margaret’s.

I thank you for your patience with me.  I have my own idiosyncrasies and I have made some mistakes and I am grateful for your understanding and patience.

I thank the many of you who have volunteered in one way or another.  It might have been baking a casserole for Our Daily Bread, teaching religion, assisting here at Mass and on and on it goes – there are about 100 opportunities to participate here.

There are 950 listed volunteers in the parish and another 700 in our school – that’s over 1600 listed volunteers and that is wonderful.  I thank all of you.

Finally, I want to publicly thank the parish staff.  They are a wonderful, dedicated and talented group of women and men who really give of themselves to this community.

I have been very blessed with them.  So, to all of you, I say thanks this weekend. 

May the peace and love of the Lord always remain in your hearts.  Amen!