Sunday, April 30, 2017

3rd Sunday of Easter, Cycle A - April 30, 2017

3rd Sunday of Easter
Cycle A


Family Meals -- Data

There have been some recent, interesting studies that show the importance of family meals, of families eating together.

The American Psychological Association has published a report of research done over a fifty-year period.  These studies, taken together, indicate that there is great value to family meals, especially dinner.

For example, one study finds that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or try marijuana or drugs as teens.  These family dinners are also linked with teens having a good sense of self, good academic achievement, and good family relationships.

Girls who ate three or four family meals a week are at significant less risk for eating disorders.  There also seems to be a link between family meals and a lower incidence of depression.

The ritual or routine of family meals tends to give shape and meaning especially to the children.  And by the way, the studies show that these benefits apply to the traditional family of mother, father and children, and also to single parent, divorced, and blended families.

Family Meals -- Value

A family meal can be very simple – chicken, chili, hamburgers, pizza, whatever. 

The important point is that a family dinner or another meal can be a powerful ritual or routine.  It gives children times and days that they can count on. 

It assures them that there is a place where they belong and that you value being with them.  And it is a moment for conveying important values, maybe by just talking about what happened during the day. 

I recommend that we begin the family meal with a prayer.  It can be the standard Catholic Grace before Meals or each person thanking God for something that happened that day.

On one level, this prayer marks the transition from busyness to mealtime.  And beyond that, it opens your family to God and God’s presence.

Now this may be a big challenge with today’s busy and stressful lives.  But I recommend that each family work at this and pick a minimum of three days a week for a family meal, especially dinner.  

The Eucharistic Meal

I also want to say that Jesus left us a family meal that we call the Eucharist.

In today’s gospel Jesus celebrates this spiritual meal with two of his disciples.  This meal gives us Jesus in the form of bread and wine.

The ritual or routine of this meal gives us a place to count on for belonging, to each other and to God.  It gives us a way, Jesus’ way, to live by and live for.

Vey important, this meal gives shape and meaning to our lives.  It does this over time, in a steady, consistent, incremental way.

The Eucharist fortifies us for dealing with both the ups and the downs of life.  It gives us a framework for understanding and living the whole journey of life. 

And like a family dinner, everything doesn’t have to be perfect.  We don’t have to be perfect to be here and to receive the Eucharist.

In fact, Jesus gives it to us because we are human and not perfect.  So I recommend that we make the time and space to share this meal once a week.

I recommend that we make this meal a priority along with our family meals.  It is important and it will make a difference in us as persons and in the way we live our lives.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2nd Sunday of Easter, Cycle A - April 23, 2017

2nd Sunday of Easter
Cycle A
April 23, 2017             8:45 and 11:00am Masses
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore


Doubting Thomas?

I have grown to really dislike the expression doubting Thomas.

I and probably at least some of you have heard this expression and maybe even used it.  We might call others a doubting Thomas if they refuse to believe something.

Obviously, this expression is based on the gospel story that we just heard.  Thomas refuses to believe unless he himself sees and touches Jesus. 

But then, Thomas ends up making one of the most beautiful professions of faith in all of Scripture.  He calls Jesus “My Lord and my God.”

Still, our tradition has dubbed him doubting Thomas.  We have kind of looked down upon him and his faith as less than the other disciples.

Seeking Thomas

Well, as I said, I have grown uncomfortable with calling Thomas doubting.

I think it would be much better to refer to him as seeking Thomas.  Thomas isn’t closed to believing in the risen Christ.

In fact, he wants to believe and he is seeking faith or else he would not be with the disciples on that Sunday after the resurrection.  So Thomas stands as a good example for all those who are seeking to understand more about God.

Our Seeking

Today some scholars of religion tell us that many people experience this seeking in their faith.

These scholars tell us that this seeking should really be seen not as a lack of faith, but as a stage or a dimension of faith.  As I see it today, persons of faith might be seeking or questioning in a number of ways.

For example, some who are seeking might question certain sections of the Scripture.  How can the image of a militant and vengeful God in parts of the Old Testament harmonize with the picture of God that Jesus presents?

Or, some who are seeking might question the designation of God only as Father.  After all, isn’t God the source and creator of both genders and doesn’t that tell us something about the identity of God?

Or, some who are seeking might question why the Church prohibits Catholics who are married outside the Church from receiving Communion.  Why are they prohibited from receiving Communion when those who express racial prejudice or insensitivity for the poor are not prohibited?

I have listened to those seeking and have heard these questions.  I bet you have too.

I suggest that it is better not to look upon those are seeking as in some way less or to call them doubting Thomases.  Rather, it is better to see this seeking as a stage or dimension of faith that some of us experience.


I want to conclude with two reflections that are really like two sides of one coin.

First, it is important for any of us who are seeking to stick with a community of faith.  It is valuable to be part of a community or church.

This must be why Jesus intended that his followers identify together as a community.  It must be why he formed what we call the Church. 

Jesus knew that we need this community for our journey of faith.  He intended the Church to support and guide us positively in our journey.

And my second reflection is really the other side of the coin.  We as a Church need to take the approach of Jesus in today’s gospel.

Jesus engages Thomas and he does this right in the community of the disciples.  The result is that Thomas gets satisfaction to his seeking and he believes.

Well, we, as a Church or as Saint Matthew’s Parish, we also need to be engaging.  This means that we need to be welcoming and including and respecting, and not putting down or excluding those who are seeking. 

This is the way that we as Church can provide a safe and nourishing, spiritual space.  It is the best way that we can empower everyone and especially those who are seeking to come to a satisfying faith, much as Jesus does for seeking Thomas. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday, Cycle A - April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday
Cycle A
April 16, 2017

No Proof

We, you and I, I cannot prove that Jesus rose from the dead.

We cannot prove that we ourselves will experience resurrection.  There is no scientific way to prove this.

It’s not like combining two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen and coming up with water.  But, I can say this. 

I have experienced the “mystery” – and that’s what it is, “mystery,” something beyond full human comprehension and rationality.  I have experienced the mystery of dying leading to new life.

But…My Experience of Dying and Rising

For example, there have been times when I have offended someone with a curt or insensitive comment.

I can think of occasions when I needed to die to my pride and say, “I’m sorry.  I should never have said that. 

“Please forgive me?”  I have experienced that this dying to myself in these situations has led to new life in a relationship with a friend or a parishioner.

I also look back to the days when I was in elementary school and high school.  My parents had kind of a structure for my brother and me to make sure we would get our homework done.

We didn’t always like this and sometimes would have preferred doing lots of others things.  But this gave us good habits.

There was a certain dying to self in this.  And it led us to become more educated and fuller adults, more alive persons.       

But…Dying and Rising in Nature

I also see this mystery of dying and rising in the world of nature.

A seed goes into the ground.  It seems like a lifeless, dead seed and it actually gets buried in the soil.

We all know what happens.  It comes to life and sprouts and eventually we will see flowers like snapdragons or vegetables life zucchini.

We’re seeing this right now as the bulbs in the ground come back to life and crocuses or daffodils emerge.  Dying in this way leads to new and fuller life.

But…The Experience within Us

And then there is the experience within each of us simply of wanting life.

We want to live.  In fact, we always want better life and more life.

I also believe that our desire for more of anything – for more money or a nicer home or whatever it is – these desires for more are really the desire for more and more life.  I believe that this is an indication of the divine within us.

It is an indication that there is a transcendent God and that there is a life that transcends this life.  It is an indication that there is a life after and beyond death – a resurrected life.

And Jesus Leads Us

The last thing I want to say is that the way of Jesus leads us to life.

Jesus or his way leads us to fuller and fuller life and sparks within us the hope of resurrection.  For example, my experience is that I am most fully alive when I feel compassion for those who are suffering or in need. 

I am most fully alive when I am faithful to my life or vocation commitment, even when that’s hard to do.  I am most fully alive when I am a peacemaker and try to build bridges between people and participate in community with others.

The core of Jesus’ way is that my dying to making myself the center of everything leads me to a fuller and fuller life.  The dying leads to rising.


So, yes, I cannot scientifically prove that Jesus rose and that we will experience resurrection.

But my life experience tells me that this is so.  And my living with trust in Jesus, with faith, confirms this for me and gives me hope.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Passion (Palm) Sunday, Cycle A - April 9, 2017

Passion (Palm) Sunday
Cycle A
April 9, 2017
            8:00 am at Saint Mary, Pylesville
11:00 am at Saint Matthew, Baltimore

Passion According to Matthew

As you know, there are four gospels.

And each of the gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – each of them tells the story of the Passion, the account of Jesus’ suffering and death.  Each of them tells this in a slightly different way, including different details or highlighting different themes.

This morning we heard the account of the Passion according to Matthew.  I want to comment on just two features that convey some of Matthew’s unique insight.

God’s Love

First, Matthew is the only gospel writer who informs us about the suicide of Judas.

Why does he mention this?  Judas comes to realize that he has betrayed a good and holy man.

But tragically, Judas does not realize that Jesus is so good that he still loves him and will forgive and accept him.  Judas fails to see this.

So implicitly, by recalling this, Matthew wants us to be clear that nothing we do is too bad to be forgiven by God.  God’s love is unconditional and there is nothing about us as persons or about our behavior that is beyond God’s love and forgiveness.

One conclusion I make is that we as a Church must live out this love of God in our ministry.  This means that everyone needs to be welcome here – regardless of who they are or how they think or what they have done.

It must be this way if we as a Church are to be like Jesus.  So, if this understanding would assist someone you know and who feels uncomfortable coming here, please tell them that God loves them and welcomes them.
God in Everyone

The second feature in Matthew’s account of the Passion that I want to note is the tearing of the curtain in the temple.

The passage says that at the moment Jesus dies, “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.”  What does this mean?

This curtain separates what is called the Holies of Holies – the area of the temple where God is seen as dwelling – it separates this from the rest of the temple.  So the tearing of the curtain is a sign that this separation of God from us no longer exists. 

It means that with Jesus’ death and eventual resurrection, God is with and within each of us.  And so, we are to see God in all persons, whether they are Catholic or not, whether they are Christian or not, whether they are believers or not. 

Pope Francis has given us some really good examples of this, as when he gave an interview to a journalist who is a non-believer and showed complete respect for him.  So we come here to church, the building that proclaims the presence of God and that gives us the Eucharistic presence of Jesus.

And this is to awaken us to God’s presence in everyone.  They are some of the positive messages that Matthew is trying to convey to us today in his account of the Passion of Jesus.