Monday, October 24, 2016

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - October 23, 2016

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
October 23, 2016         4:00pm and 8:00am at Saint Mary, Pylesville
11:00am at Saint Matthew, Baltimore   

Merton and Humility

There was an American priest named Thomas Merton.

Merton died in 1968.  Many of you may know that he was a contemplative monk – a member of the Trappist monastery in Kentucky.

Merton wrote a number of books on spirituality and the spiritual life.  In one place, he writes about humility and he says this – just two sentences!

“Humility is absolutely necessary if one is going to avoid acting like a baby all one’s life.  To grow up, in fact, means to become humble, to throw away the illusion that I am the center of everything.”


Jesus and Humility

Jesus also talks about humility in today’s gospel.

He tells a parable about two people in the temple.  The contrast between their attitudes and words and body postures is absolutely dramatic.

And then Jesus draws his teaching from this image.  “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  

So, we need to “humble ourselves,” to embrace humility if we are to become the kind of persons Jesus calls us to be.  We need to do this if we are going to “grow up,” as Thomas Merton says, and become mature persons.

Today I don’t want to give a definition of humility but I do want to try to describe it.  As I see it, here are some of the things that this Christian virtue means for us.

We Are Humble When…

We are humble
when we listen to others and do not interrupt them while they are speaking, no matter how important we think our idea is,
when we pause to think before we speak and don’t have to be first or the loudest in saying something.

We are humble
when we are like the tax collector in Jesus’ story and can admit our weaknesses and mistakes, things that we did that were wrong or rash,
when we can laugh at ourselves, at our own idiosyncrasies and foibles.

We are humble
when we are not like the Pharisee in Jesus’ story and do not look down at others and see ourselves as better than them, no matter what,
when we look at those who are different from us – in race or religion or culture or nationality or politics or whatever – and see them as persons, as human beings with needs and feelings and hopes like our own.

And we are humble
when we are willing to look at our part in the breakdown of a relationship – and there is almost always an “our” part – and we do whatever we can on our side to work out a reconciliation,
when I as a priest or we as a Church do not judge those who no longer come here and instead look at ourselves and ask how we could do ministry better to bring the Lord more effectively to the twenty-first century.


I am sure there are more things we could say to describe humility.

This is not a popular virtue in our culture.  But it is an essential virtue for our lives.

Let’s just remember: “To grow up means to become humble and throw away the illusion that I am the center of everything.”  And, “Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”   

Monday, October 17, 2016

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - October 16, 2016

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
October 16, 2016         4:00pm, 9:30 and 11:15am   
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville

“Will he find faith…?”

So, Jesus asks: “When the Son of God comes, will he find any faith on earth?” 

When Jesus asks “Will the Son of God find faith on the earth?” he is referring to the woman in the parable tat we just heard.  You remember.

This woman, a widow, just won’t give up asking a judge for a fair response to her request.  One of our Catholic authors says that Jesus is not using this woman’s faith as an example of persons who know all the teachings in the catechism, as good as that might be – so, not that kind of faith.

Instead, he uses her as an example of persons who trust in God, persons who trust in God regardless of what is going on in their lives.  These persons center their lives on God when things are good and they turn to God when things are tough.

There are several other places in the gospel where Jesus says to people, “Your faith has saved you.”  He says this as he heals people physically, emotionally or spiritually.

And when Jesus says “Your faith has saved you,” he means that they trust in God in their heart.  They have opened themselves to a personal relationship with God that is heart-centered and not just head-centered.

They pray to God out of their hearts.  They trust that God is with them and caring for them, even if things are difficult.

They may not fully understand the ways of God and they may be living a very imperfect life, but they have this heart faith, this trust in God.  And this trust is first and foremost a matter of the heart.


A Trusting, Heart Faith

So, this seems to be the kind of faith that Jesus is talking about here.

You know, today and every Sunday, we recite the Profession of Faith here at Mass.  It is an important expression of our faith.

But, we have to make sure that this is not just a mental, an intellectual thing, a head faith.  We have to make sure that there is a trusting, heart faith at the basis of this.

This seems to be what Pope Francis has been getting at.  He has not been hammering away at just two or three points of doctrine or moral teaching.

Instead, Pope Francis has been focusing more on the love and mercy and goodness of God and on our need to have a trusting relationship with God.  He seems to see this as the core of faith.

He is calling us to live with this inner sense of God, of Jesus being with us through it all.  And he is calling us to do our best to live out of this relationship.    

Heart Faith and Pope Francis

Maybe this is why Pope Francis sees the Church, to use his image, as a large home for many and not as a little chapel for a few.

Maybe this is why the Pope seems reluctant to exclude people from the community of the Church.  At one point, he even says that “the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

So, maybe the bottom-line test of being part of God’s family is not that we live perfectly or that we agree with each other on everything.  Maybe the test is that we try to embrace this kind of trusting, heart faith that Jesus lifts up today.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - October 2, 2016

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C
October 2, 2016  11:00am 
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore

The Vision

The word, the one word I am focused on this morning is the word vision.”

The prophet Habakkuk in the first reading says: “Write down the vision.  [Be patient because] the vision will have its time.”

For me, this one word summarizes our Scripture passages today.  1) We are to see the vision.

2) We are to trust the vision.  3) And we are to live the vision.

1.    See the Vision

First, we are to see the vision.

This means that we need to see Jesus himself.  We see him as the way to God and the way to know God because he is the Son of God.

And so, we are to work to know Jesus just as thoroughly as we can.  We do this by carefully reading and reflecting on the gospels, day by day, week by week, year by year.

What he says and what he does and how he relates to people – this is to be the center of our spiritual life.  This is the vision we are to see.

It gradually shapes who we become as persons.  Step by step, it shapes how we think and what we say and do and how we relate to one another.


2.    Trust the Vision

Then, with this seeing, we are to trust the vision.

Here we have to go back to the first reading – the prophet Habakkuk.  The people are suffering and crying out to God.

“How long will this last, O Lord?  We are surrounded by violence and destruction.

“There is strife and discord everywhere.  So, how long, O Lord, how long?”

And the Lord, through the prophet, reassures them.  “Write down the vision.  [Be patient because] the vision will have its time.”

So, we are to trust the vision.  Maybe we are in the middle of chemotherapy treatments or we are caring for a loved one who is slipping away with Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Maybe we are dealing with an addiction issue in our family or we are wondering how we are going keep paying all of our bills.  In situations like these, we are to trust the vision.

We are to trust that God is still with us in Jesus.  We are to trust that the Lord will give us strength to get through and bear up under it all.

We are to trust that dying – not just physical death, but dying in all its forms can lead to new life with God.  We are to trust the vision we see in Jesus.

3.    Live the Vision

And then finally, we are to live the vision in a positive way.

Jesus says today: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.”  So, very intentionally, we are to live the vision.

Here in the year 2016 in America, one thing that this has to mean is that we respect diversity.  We do not view those who are different from us as wrong or as bad or as less than we are.

Instead, we show respect for others in our words and actions.  We do this whether they are citizens or recent immigrants, whether they are Christian or Muslim or Jew, whether they are black or Asian or white or Latino.

And we expect the policies of our government and the words and actions of the political leaders we vote for to show this same respect.  This is a very real way to live the vision positively.

And, if we do this, as Jesus says in the gospel, this will be our reward.  This is what Jesus means about the servants not expecting the master to wait on them. 

We will not expect reward or acclaim, because the living of the vision will bring us an inner satisfaction and peace and that will be a be reward in itself.  So, that’s the message today: 1) see the vision, 2) trust the vision, and 3) live the vision.