Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Cycle A - May 28, 2017

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Cycle A
May 28, 2017     

Tuesdays with Morrie

I imagine that many of us have heard of the book “Tuesdays with Morrie.”

It was first published in 1997 and was soon made into a movie.  The book has remained well-known.

Tuesdays with Morrie is about a university professor, Doctor Morrie Schwartz, and a Detroit sportswriter, Mitch Albom.  Morrie Schwartz had been Mitch Albom’s teacher and mentor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. 

In 1994, Doctor Schwartz was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  He was told that he had a year to live and he decided to do just that – to live his last year to the fullest. 

Morrie Schwartz was even interviewed on ABC’s Nightline program.  He talked about what he was learning through his illness.

Mitch Albom saw this program and decided to visit his former professor.  This was the first of fourteen visits -- all on Tuesdays.

Morrie’s Messages

These visits became the content of Mitch Albom’s book, Tuesdays with Morrie. 

In these visits, Morrie Schwartz expressed the importance of transcending the violence and hatred in our culture.  He reflected on life, suffering, family, marriage, aging, and death.

Naturally, Doctor Schwartz’s perspective was as a man facing his own death.  And his reflections brought a whole new perspective to Mitch Albom. 

Mitch had been overwhelmed with work and he was desperate for love and meaning.  In their last visit, Morrie Schwartz really summed up things.

He said that “As long as we love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without really going away.  All the love you created is still there.

“You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched or nurtured while you were there.  Death ends life [as we know it, but] not a relationship.”   

Jesus’ Messages

Those reflections of Morrie Schwartz are similar to what we hear from Jesus.

Jesus has taught great lessons to the apostles.  He has taught them, above all else, to become loving persons – to love God as God has loved us, and to love one another as we love ourselves.

Jesus sums up all of this as he is about to return to the Father.  He then leaves the apostles bodily, physically, visibly.

But Jesus has told the apostles that he will continue to be with them and us through his Holy Spirit.  In effect, something similar to what Morrie Schwartz said, Jesus is saying that his ascension or return to the Father ends life as we know it, but not a relationship. 

This means that we live with Jesus present within us and he empowers us to live out of this inner center of love.  This is how life continues with Jesus.

And, I want to add, this is also how we are to view our living on with a loved one who has died.  And on the other hand, it is how we are to look upon our remaining with our loved ones after we have died.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

6th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A - May 21, 2017

6th Sunday of Easter
Cycle A
May 21, 2017



Five years ago, the University of Chicago released the results of a study on loneliness.

The study finds that about 25% of people frequently feel lonely.  And the study says that loneliness is increasing.

Among the factors causing this are our longer life spans, more years spent in widowhood, and the rising number of single-person households.  One finding is that we Americans tend to feel lonely on special occasions.

These are occasions when being together is the social norm, like Christmas or Thanksgiving.  Feelings of loneliness are more frequent at these times.

The study says that loneliness has more to do with the quality than the quantity of relationships.  Studies of college students show that incoming freshmen are particularly lonely during the first quarter of school.

This is true even though they have roommates and are surrounded by many peers.  Again, the finding is that it is not the number but the quality of relationships that determines whether we feel isolated or lonely.

“I will not leave you orphans.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus addresses this very human issue.

Jesus knows that he is about to return to the Father.  He senses the apostles’ anxiety about being left alone, without him.

And so, Jesus says, “I will not leave you orphans.  You will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”

Jesus promises to be with us through his Spirit, the Holy Spirit.  And then Jesus makes his presence through the Spirit concrete in two ways: 1) sacraments and 2) community.

1. Through Sacraments

First of all, our sacraments are visible, earthly, physical ways for Jesus to be with us through the Spirit.

We have the physical experience of Jesus’ presence through the water of baptism.  We also have a physical experience of the Holy Spirit through the anointing with oil at Confirmation.

And then, here at Mass, the Eucharist is the supreme experience of God’s presence.  In the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest prays over the bread and wine.

Today I will pray: “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, by sending down your Spirit upon them… so that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  These gifts become the means for Jesus through his Spirit to be with us.

The result is that when we eat the consecrated bread and drink the consecrated wine, the Spirit enters us and becomes one with us.  We even physically experience Jesus becoming one with us.

We are drawn into the life of God and God lives within us.  As Jesus says today, “you live in me and I live in you.”  

2. Through Community

And then the second way that Jesus remains with us is through community.

Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there.”  Sometimes we can be tempted to go it alone in life, to think that we do not or should not need others.

It is so important not to fall into this.  This path easily leads to isolation and loneliness.

Maybe this is why God’s action throughout the Bible is always directed to us as a people, as a community.  Jesus draws the first disciples together as a community and makes this his primary way to be with us.

When we join with other persons of faith, either here at Mass or in the service of others, we are energized.  And this happens because we are drawn out of ourselves – out of our aloneness or loneliness – and into relationship.

And a key part of being in community is to reach out to those who may be alone or lonely – like a struggling single parent or a grieving widowed neighbor.  The idea is that we are empowered by Jesus’ presence here in the community and then we reach out to draw others into that same presence.


So, Jesus addresses a troublesome human feeling today – loneliness – and he gives us some ways to deal with it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A - May 14, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter
Cycle A
May 14, 2017      9:30 and 11:15am
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville


He/She Looks Like…

Probably all of us, and especially you who are parents have had the wonderful experience of seeing a newly-born baby.

One of the things that almost always happens is that family members and friends look closely at the baby’s physical features.  They try to see who the baby looks like or takes after.

We hear things like: “He has his father’s forehead and hair.”  Or: “She has her mother’s eyes and complexion.”

These are warm and wonderful statements.  And what’s underneath them is that we like to see family members, especially parents or even grandparents in the physical features of a baby.

What Does God Look Like?

Maybe we have not thought about it this way, but Jesus gets us caught up in something like this with God.

We and perhaps most persons have wondered: what is God really like?  And so, over the centuries, our human imagination has produced many images of God. 

Some artists have depicted God as a grandfatherly old man with a gray beard.  Others have depicted God as simply a brilliant, bright light.  

And these images of God are important.  They have consequences on us as persons and on the way we relate to God and to one another.

For example, we may have an image of God as vindictive or punishing, like some of the Old Testament writers did.  This can lead us to be unfeeling and maybe even harsh with others.

Or our primary image of God may be as a judge.  This can lead us to feel distant from God, afraid of God and inappropriately guilty. 

So, what we think God looks like or how we see God’s traits is very important.  As I said, it forms us as persons and effects how we relate to God and to one another.

We See God in Jesus

In today’s gospel, Philip asks Jesus, “Show us the Father.”

He wants to know what God is like.  And Jesus responds, “Those who have seen me have seen the Father.”  “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.”

So Jesus is saying that he is like a clear pane of glass through we which we can see God clearly.  He is the full and accurate self-disclosure of God. 

In Jesus’ thoughts, feelings, words and actions, he shows us the mind and heart of God.  So, like looking at a baby and seeing the parents or grandparents in the baby’s features, we can look at Jesus and see the Father, God himself.

So God Looks Like…

For example, we hear Jesus saying, “Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.”  From this we know that God is understanding and patient with our humanity and our failings. 

We see Jesus mingling with tax collectors and other so-called sinners.  From this we know that God is outreaching and amazingly inclusive.

We see Jesus saying “Let the little children come to me.”  From this we know that God greatly values those whose life is vulnerable, from unborn children to the disabled, all the way to the frail elderly.

And we hear Jesus saying “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do for me.”  From this we know that God is especially compassionate toward those who cannot afford to pay for both food and electricity, or those who are refugees or minorities and on it goes.

So, by looking at Jesus and his thoughts, feelings, words and actions, we can know a great deal about God.  And these images of God that Jesus gives us have an effect on who we become as persons and how we relate to God and to one another.

Monday, May 8, 2017

4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A - May 7, 2017

4th Sunday of Easter
Cycle A
May 7, 2017


Oliver Wendell Holmes

One of the well-known names in our American history is the famous Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Holmes was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932.  He is rated as an excellent justice, but on a personal level, he had a reputation for being absent-minded.

For example, one day Holmes was on a train out of Washington.  He was completely engrossed in studying a case that the Court was hearing.

The conductor came down the aisle and asked for his ticket.  Holmes searched the pockets of coat and trousers, but could not find it.

The conductor said, “Don’t be concerned, Mr. Justice Holmes.  When you return to Washington, you can send us the ticket at your convenience.”

Holmes shook his head and said, “Thank you, my good man, but the problem is not whether I’ll pay the fare.  The problem is: where am I going?”

Direction and Guidance

That anecdote helps us to appreciate the question implied in today’s gospel.

The question is: where are we going?  Jesus uses the image of a shepherd and sheep.

The idea is that Jesus wants us to see him as our shepherd and to follow the direction and guidance he offers us.  Where do we find this direction and guidance?

We Catholic Christians believe that there are two sources for this.  And these are: the Bible and Tradition.

Source 1: The Bible

First, the Bible is the primary place for finding our direction.

The Bible or the Scripture is God speaking directly to us.  It is something like God writing a letter to us.

God is telling us about who he is and who we are.  For example, we are told that in some way God is Creator and Savior and Holy Spirit living within us.

And besides telling us who God is, the Bible also tells us what God intends us to be like.  For example, we are told that to be like God, we need to become persons of compassion and justice.

Now because of all that the Scripture tells us, it is to be the foundation of our faith and life.  This is why whenever we celebrate a sacrament, like the Eucharist, we always begin with Scripture.

It is also why reading some verses from the Scripture, especially from one of the gospels, is a good part of personal, private prayer at home or wherever.  In all of us, the Bible forms our faith and forms us as persons.

It gives us direction.  It tells us where we should be going. 

Source 2: Tradition

That takes us to the second source for getting direction from the Good Shepherd, and this is Tradition.

Here Tradition is with a capital T and not a small t.  Tradition with a small t means customs, maybe like having a family barbecue on Memorial Day.

But Tradition with a capital T refers to our Catholic Christian Tradition.  This refers to what we can learn about God and about living life from the experience of Christians and from the teaching of the Church down through the centuries.

The idea is that the Bible does not provide all the answers.  It is our primary source of direction, but often it is fairly general and does not give specifics.

We also need the Tradition of the Church to give these specifics.  For example, the Bible clearly forbids killing, the taking of the life of a person. 

Our Church Tradition or teaching tells us that ending the life of a fetus is forbidden by this commandment.  In a similar way, that same Tradition spells out principles for a just war that tell us when war may or may not be just and moral.

So, the Bible gives the general commandment or direction.  The Tradition of the Church in a sense supplements the Bible and makes it specific to certain issues.


So, 1) Scripture or the Bible and 2) Tradition with a capital T – these are the two sources for allowing Jesus, the Good Shepherd to give us direction and tell us where we should be going.