Sunday, January 22, 2017

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - January 22, 2017

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A
January 22, 2017
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 4pm
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 11am

The Holocaust Museum: Lessons

Last Saturday, one week ago today/yesterday, I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Probably some of you have visited this.  I had never been there before. 

As you know, the Museum is a memorial especially to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the 1940s.  This genocide by the Nazis killed 6 million Jews. 

The Holocaust eventually included other targets, like citizens of Poland and the Soviet Union, gypsies, homosexual and disabled persons and others.  The Nazis exterminbated a total of 11 million people. 

As I slowly walked through the Museum, I found myself sad, in disbelef, in horror, and at times I became aware that I was just shaking my head NO!  It is just too hard to imagine this. 

Well, that experience quickly put me in touch with some thoughts that have been maturing in me over the last year or so.  I have boiled these down to two reflections and I want to share them with you today.


1.    Words Are Powerful

My first reflection is that our words are powerful

The words we speak and the words we write or text or email – these can be very powerful.  We need to be aware of this.

For example, have you ever said something and the moment it is out of your mouth, you wish you could take it back?  Maybe in frustration, we said to a teenager: “You’re never going to amount to anything.”

Or to someone: “You’re a lazy, self-centered waste!”  Or: “You’re a good-for-nothing blankedy blank.”

Our words can help a person develop and grow.  Or they can freeze a person right where they are and even send them backwards.

Our words can build up self-estemn and self-confidence.  Or they can tear it down and injure someone for a lifetime.

Our words can give positive vision to a group or community.  Or they can lead those same people to harmful ways.

So, I am suggesting, we have to pause, reflect, and go within ourselves before we speak.  We have to get in touch with our true inner self and with God who is within us.

We have to consider the effects of our words for today and tomorrow and the future.  And then, we have to decide what to say and when to say it and how to say it.

So, knowing that our words have such power is very important.  We need to use our words in a mature and holy way.

2.    Negative Stereotypes Are Destructive

My other reflection is related to the first.

Negative stereotyping is always destructive.  And it is always wrong.

This is what happened in Nazi Germany and what caused the Holocaust.  Thoughtless and hurtful words were applied to the Jews. 

These words and labels led to negative stereotyping.  In that instance, we know the horrific results.

Some scholars tell us that negative stereotyping arises from the human temptation to scapegoat.  We make another person or an entire category of persons the scapegoat for our problems.
So, we need to resist negative stereotyping of others.  Today, it might be directed to Syrian refugees or Hispanic immigrants, to women or African Americans, to members of the LGBTQ community or to Muslims.

We need to have the inner strength not to paticipate in this.  In fact, we need to label it as morally wrong.  

Instead, we are to follow the way of Jesus.  In today’s gospel, Jesus calls the first apostles to follow him.

Jesus calls us to do the same.  But following him means more than coming to Mass and receiving the Eucharist.

And one thing for sure that it means is that we use the power of our words constructively and caringly.  And it also means that we resist negative stereotyping and treat all persons as God’s daughters and sons.

Monday, January 16, 2017

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - January 15, 2017

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle A
January 15, 2017
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville

The Beloved Lamb

There is a old story about two men who were living in the same small town.

The one man was rich and powerful; the other was poor and powerless.  The rich man owned so many sheep that he lost count of them, but the poor man had only one, tiny lamb. 

The poor man’s children loved this little lamb so much that they treated it like a member of the family.  They played with it all day long and even brought it to the dinner table to share the little food they had to eat. 

Then one day an important visitor came to the rich man’s house for dinner.  The rich man wanted to serve a special meal but he didn’t want to kill any of his own lambs to feed the guest. 

So, he had his servants go over to the poor man’s house, take that family’s only lamb, and slaughter it for dinner.  Now, we find this story in the Hebrew Scriptures, in what we call the Old Testament. 

And this story of the beloved lamb is one of the images that John the Baptist must have had in mind in today’s gospel.  John points to Jesus and says, “There is the lamb of God.”

John means, “There is God’s beloved lamb.”  Like the one lamb of that poor family, Jesus is God’s only beloved Son and he is unjustly put to death. 


The Sacrificial Lamb

Now besides this image of the beloved lamb, there is a second image that John must have had in mind.

This is the image of the lambs that were sacrificed everyday in the Temple in Jerusalem.  These lambs were seen as sacrifices to atone for sin.

So, John points to Jesus and says, “There is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  Jesus is like those sacrificial lambs because he is sacrificed for our sins.

But, he is also unlike those lambs because, as John says today, he is the lamb of God.”  Jesus is the person, the sacrifice above all others who brings us reconciliation with God.

The Victorious Lamb

Finally, John must have also had a third image in mind.

The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, pictures a victorious lamb.  The author describes his vision of a lamb on a heavenly throne with   people from all over the earth giving him honor and praise.

So, John speaks of Jesus as “the Lamb of God …the one who ranks ahead of me because he is before me.”  John’s idea is that Jesus ranks first, above him and above everyone else in the human family.

Jesus is the Lamb and also the Son of God who rose from the dead.  This is why he now receives honor and praise as God’s Son and the victorious lamb.  

The Lamb of God for Us

So, John the Baptist has these three images in mind today.

As you know, before we receive communion here at Mass, we sing three times: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”  It is helpful to remember these three images as we sing these acclamations.

First, we remember the image of the one beloved lamb of the poor family.  And so, we express our love for Jesus as the only Son and Lamb of God.

Then we remember the image of the sacrificial lamb of the Temple.  And so, we offer here in the sacrifice of the Mass Jesus himself under the forms of bread and wine.

And finally, we remember the image of the victorious lamb in heaven.  And so, we say in every Mass at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer: “Through him, with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.  Amen

Monday, January 9, 2017

Feast of the Epiphany, Cycle A - January 8, 2017

Feast of the Epiphany
 Cycle A
January 8, 2017 
4:00pm at Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
11:00am at Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 

Following a Star

This morning my attention is caught by the star in the gospel story.

We are told that these magi from another country follow a star and find the child Jesus in Bethlehem.  So, I am thinking that each of us has a star that we follow.

What I mean is that each of us has something drawing us or leading us, usually from inside ourselves, but sometimes from outside ourselves.  And this something, this star moves us to seek something beyond ourselves, something we do not have.

Now – and this is important – I am thinking of things like self-worth – a feeling that we are okay and even good as God says in the act of creation.  Or maybe it is peacefulness – a sense of settledness within ourselves and with God.

I am thinking of things like forgiveness – forgiving ourselves of something in the past and feeling assured that God has also forgiven us.  Or maybe it is community – being part of a family or a group and just knowing that we are at home here.

So – and again, this is important – I believe that underneath all of our financial goals and job goals and ownership goals, these are the real goals that drive us in life.  And there is a star – something within us, or maybe something or someone outside of us – there is a star that moves us to seek these deeper goals.

If we go back to today’s gospel, we see the magi already have a lot in their lives already.  They are wealthy and they are regarded as knowledgeable – as “wise” persons, but still, something, a star is drawing them beyond themselves.

They want something or someone more.  So they follow this star and find what they want – in the infant in Bethlehem, in Jesus, in Emmanuel, God with us on this earth. 

Giving of Ourselves

Now let’s notice what the magi do as a result of following their star.

They give gifts to the child Jesus.  Their gifts are expensive.

And that is appropriate because the magi apparently are wealthy.  So, the magi follow their star and end up giving gifts that express where the star has led them.

I recommend that we are to do the same.  We also are to give gifts as a result of following our star.

So, if our star has led us to a sense of self-worth, then we are to give the gift of esteem to others by treating them as persons of worth and value.  If our star has led us to peacefulness, then we are to bring a sense of calm to our relationships.

If our star has led us to forgiveness, then we are to give the gift of forgiveness by at least not wishing harm to to someone who has hurt us.  And if our star has led us to community, then we are to be inclusive of others regardless of how different they are from us.

The truth, I believe, is that we all have a star, something within us or someone or something outside of us that leads us to seek something else, to those deeper goals that I talked about.  And these stars do for us what that star long ago did for the magi – they really lead us to Bethlehem, to Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

We may need patience and we may need to travel a distance, maybe not geographically as the magi did, but maybe within ourselves and in our relationships.  But if we follow our star, we too can come to personal wholeness and spiritual holiness. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Cycle A - January 1, 2016

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
Cycle A
January 1, 2016 4:00pm and 9:30am
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
Theme: New Year’s Resolutions

Erma’s Resolutions  

Some of us, maybe many of us here can remember Erma Bombeck.

Erma was a well known humorist and brought smiles to many faces.  She wrote about fifteen books and many newspaper columns.

She died in 1996.  Well, one year Erma Bombeck came up with a list of six New Year’s resolutions and they go like this.:

1.    I’m going to clean this dump just as soon as the kids grow up.
2.    I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died.
3.    I’m going to follow my husband’s suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
4.    I’m going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
5.    I will never lend my car to anyone I have given birth to.
6.    And, finally, just like last year, I am going to remember that my children need love most when they deserve it least.


With all of Erma’s wit, she ends with a very insightful resolution.

That resolution – about loving her children when they deserve it least – shows some careful reflection.  Erma must have reflected on her role as a mother and discerned what she was called to do.

In today’s gospel, Mary is also presented as a person who reflects.  Saint Luke says that after she has given birth to Jesus, “Mary treasures all these things and reflects on them in her heart.”

Well, the example of Mary calls us to some reflection.  This can be especially appropriate on New Year’s Day.

So, if we are inclined to make some New Year’s resolutions, I recommend that we reflect on the three dimensions of time – on the past, the future, and the present.  And let’s do it in that order – the past, then the future, and finally the present and see what resolutions are appropriate.

Resolutions: The Past

First, the past.  Maybe we need to resolve to stop saying things like “If only I had done this” or “If only I had not said that.”

Usually, our “if onlys” are a waste of time and energy.  We cannot bring back or re-do the past.

On the other hand, if our regret is based on an appropriate feeling of guilt, then let’s resolve to ask for forgiveness from the person involved or from God.  In this way, we bring the past to completion and let the past be past.

Resolutions: The Future

Then, the future.  Maybe we need to resolve to stop saying things like “What if this happens” or “What if he does that.”

Usually our “what ifs,” like our “if onlys,” are a waste of time and energy.  They are almost always focused on something in the future that we cannot control.

So maybe we need to resolve to cut out the “what ifs” and instead follow Mary’s example and trust in God about the future – trusting that God will be with us through whatever happens.  Maybe this resolution will enable us to approach the future with less anxiety and more peace.

Resolutions: The Present

And that takes us to the last dimension of time, I think, the most important: the present.   Maybe we need to resolve to be present to the present – to really be present to the person we are with or the work we are doing at any given moment.

I think this may be the most important resolution for us today.  Our Smartphones – like my iPhone – they enable us to be connected with other people and with all kinds of things.

They are a great help, but we may find ourselves texting or talking with someone else and not communicating with those sitting right at the same table with us.  So maybe we need to resolve to be present to who and what is present.

Maybe we need to resolve to find how God is coming to us right here and now.  And maybe we can find our peace and joy and fulfillment in this way – by being present to the present.


So, they are my thoughts for New Year’s.  Happy New Year!