Tuesday, October 31, 2017

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - October 29, 2017

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A
October 29, 2017
8:00 am at Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
11:00 am at Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore

Learn to Love

Some years ago, I came across a book by a psychologist named Daniel Allender.

Doctor Allender writes tells about a conversation he had with a man named Tom.  They were sitting next to each other on an airplane and Daniel tells Tom that he is on his way to give a presentation about love and forgiveness.

Tom admits that we all need to be reminded of these things, but then he quickly focuses on his career.  He states that what pleases him most about his children is their intense focus on career and success.

Tom also mentions that his three children have been through a total of five divorces.  He has not seen some of his grandchildren for years.

Doctor Allender asks him if it might be important to teach his children how to love and maintain commitment.  Tom responds that he just figured that his children would learn this naturally, on their own.

Allender concludes that often we do not naturally know how to be loving persons.  We need to be taught and we need to teach our children how to love.

How to Love

This psychologist makes an excellent point in relation to today’s gospel.

Jesus gives us the two great commandments of love.  But the question is: how do we love?

How do we love God and love one another?  This morning I want to offer a few some recommendations.


How to Love God

First, I think the primary way of loving God is by praying. 

Our coming to Mass, really giving of ourselves to this and participating in it as best we can is an expression of our love for God.  Our desiring to receive Communion and realizing that this is the heartbeat of our life is part of this. 

And then, we love God by praying privately, personally on our own.  Some kind of prayer every day is a real expression of our love for God. 

It could be reading a short passage from the gospels and just letting that be with us through the day.  Or it could be praying the rosary or part of it.

It could be speaking to God in our own words – maybe just thanking God for something or someone each day.  So, weekly Mass and daily prayer – that’s a primary way for how to love God.

How to Love Others

And then, how are we to love one another?

On an interpersonal level, we need to approach relationships with the expectation that they take some work.  This is true of marriage, of parent-child relationships, of friendships and on it goes.

For example, we need to try to listen and to understand the thoughts and feelings of others.  And often we need to process our own thoughts and feelings silently before we speak, and then express ourselves thoughtfully, and not in an “in-your-face” way.

We also need to “love one another” on the wider level of our society in general.  For example, to take a hot-button issue, we as a country need a sensible immigration policy. 

I do not know what that policy should be, but we do need a policy.  And, in this policy, we need to do what we reasonably can to help others.

Look at the Lord’s words in the first reading.  He warns his people not to oppress aliens because you were once aliens yourselves.

The Lord concludes his statement by saying “I am compassionate” and he calls us to be compassionate.  So, we need to refrain from negative stereotyping or demeaning people from Syria or Kenya or Mexico or wherever they come from.

We need to want to do what we can to help.  This is also part of how to love one another.


So, an important theme today and I hope these “how-to-love” ideas are of some help.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - October 22, 2017

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
 Cycle A
October 22, 2017        

Not Either /Or

The way Jesus responds – not so much what he says, but the way Jesus responds in today’s gospel is very significant.

Jesus gives a both/and, not an either/or response.  Here is what I mean.

Two groups of people really dislike Jesus.  They want to undermine his popularity and maybe even get rid of him completely. 

So they pick the very explosive issue of taxes.  The Roman Empire is occupying their country and assessing a head tax on every person.

The Jewish people hate this.  They find it highly offensive.

So Jesus’ opponents ask him: “Should we pay the tax or not?  Are you for it or against it?”

They figure: if Jesus favors paying the tax, the Jewish people will dislike him and his popularity will evaporate.  But if he opposes paying the tax, he will get into big trouble with the Roman authorities.

So what does Jesus say?  He first asks them if they have some money and, sure enough, one of them pulls out a coin. 

It is the money of the Roman Empire with Caesar’s image on it.  So, without saying a word, Jesus exposes them as already participating in the system of the Roman Empire.

Jesus responds: “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  Jesus converts their either/or dilemma – either you are for the tax or against it – into a both/and resolution – give to both Caesar and God.

But Both/And

The way Jesus handles this dilemma is a good lesson for us.

Sometimes we want to approach everything in an either/or way.  It’s either black or white.

You’re either right or wrong.  The problem is that some things in life – like the one Jesus is dealing with here – just don’t come down to an either/or answer.

In fact, often enough in life a both/and answer is better.  It gets us closer to the truth of the reality we are dealing with.


For example, we used to take this either/or approach: Either you’re Catholic and you’ll be saved.  Or you’re not Catholic and you will not be saved.

Instead of that, there is the both/and approach: We believe that our Church has faithfully passed down through the centuries the fullness of God’s revelation in Jesus.  And we also believe that all others in different Christian or non-Christian traditions and all people of good will in different ways have the love of God and can be in God’s eternal presence.

Another very different kind of example: Either you support my decision with the kids and back me up.  Or you just take charge of the kids and I’ll have nothing to do with it.

Instead of that, the both/and approach: We have different perspectives on what to expect of the kids and how to discipline them.  Let’s talk through things privately and work for a common position that fits each situation.

One final example: Either you accept everything the Church says and are a good Catholic.  Or you are picking and choosing and not really a good Catholic or even a Catholic at all.

Instead of that, a both/and approach: You believe in all the core tenets of our faith and the core teachings of our Church.  And, in good conscience, you also question or do not accept something that the Church holds and you remain a good practicing Catholic.


So, Jesus’ example today moves us away from an either/or approach to a both/and approach in dealing with certain life situations.

Obviously, there are many things that are just right or wrong, true or false.  But there are also many things in life where a both/and approach is better.

An either/or approach often ends conversation, it shuts out others, it causes a breakdown in relationship, and it divides us.  A both/and approach allows conversation to continue, it includes others, it builds relationship and it unites us.

That is the basic thrust of Jesus’ entire ministry.  His example today lifts this up for us.

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - October 15, 2017

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A
October 15, 2017
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville         4:00pm and 8:00 AM
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore  11:00 AM

Food, Glorious Food

Maybe I am dating myself a little bit here, but today I am remembering a play and movie called Oliver.

Do any of you remember this?  Oliver originally came out as a play in 1960.

It is based on the classic novel Oliver Twist that was written by Charles Dickens – one of the books I had to read when I was in high school.  One of the really popular songs in the show is titled Food, Glorious Food. 

It starts like this: “Food, glorious food, we’re anxious to try it.  Three banquets a day, our favorite diet…” and on it goes.

In the story, Oliver Twist and other young boys are at a workhouse orphanage in London in the the early 1800’s.  The living and working conditions for these boys are very meagre and very hard.

For them, it can be hard even to get enough to eat and that’s why they sing of Food, Glorious Food.  But for them, food is also a metaphor or symbol of deeper things that they hunger for – a home, a family, security, and some hope for the future. 

Food in Scripture

Today’s Scripture readings also focus on food.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah says that “the Lord will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines.”  In the gospel, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a “wedding banquet.”

So, here in the Scripture, as in the show Oliver, food is not just a physical necessity of life.  It is also a metaphor and it points to God satisfying deeper hungers that are within each one of us.

The Food of Eucharist

I see these food images in today’s readings as pointing to the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is Jesus – real spiritual food.  And, as spiritual food, it is also a kind of metaphor and it speaks of acceptance and belonging, of being loved and of loving, and of meaning and purpose.

The Eucharist touches these more profound hungers.  It gets to the very heart of what we hunger for deep down within ourselves and that is why receiving the Eucharist is so important for us and so many others.

Source and Summit

Our Church describes the Eucharist as the source and summit of our lives.

I like those words – the source and summit of our lives.  Let’s think of it this way.

On Monday morning, after being here for Mass on the weekend, we may experience the Eucharist as the source of our lives.  It may empower us to deal with a job that we dislike or with the demanding routine of everyday life.

The Eucharist may strengthen us to deal with stress in relating to your children or with loneliness after the death of your husband or wife.  The Eucharist can be a source of life in ways like these if we remain aware of its power and open ourselves to it. 

And then, the Eucharist can also be the summit of life for us.  What I mean is that when Friday and Saturday come around, we can look forward to the Eucharist to refresh us with renewed vision and meaning for the present moment of our lives. 

And we can also find it giving us hope for the future, even to the point of being a taste of the heavenly banquet – the banquet we hope to enjoy in heaven some day.  So again, the Eucharist can be this summit or high point of life if we remain aware of its power and open ourselves to it.


As Oliver Twist and his friends say, this is Food, Glorious Food.

The Eucharist is Jesus, real spiritual food and in that way it is also a kind of metaphor – nourishing those deeper hungers that we all have within us.  It can be the source and summit of our lives.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - October 8, 2017

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
 Cycle A
October 8, 2017 

Today’s gospel is one of Jesus’ parables that is almost an allegory.
An allegory is a story where almost every detail has some significance or meaning.

To begin with, the vineyard is an Old Testament image for Israel.
The Scripture sees Israel as God’s special people and pictures Israel poetically as a vineyard.
The owner of this vineyard is, of course, God himself.
The workers in the vineyard are the political and religious leaders of Israel.
The servants sent by the owner are the prophets.
And, of course, the son of the owner is Jesus himself.
With that background, the parable teaches us something about God, about God’s Son Jesus and about ourselves.

First, there is the generosity of God.
The owner supplies his tenant workers with a very good vineyard.
The point is that God entrusts us with great opportunities here on this earth.
Then, there is the patience of God.
The owner repeatedly sends messengers to get his share of the grapes.
The point is that God is patient with us as we grow spiritually and God gives us a lifetime to respond fully to his calling.

Then, the parable is clear about Jesus’ identity.
He is called the beloved son.
He is also the last person whom the owner has to send.
The lesson here is that Jesus is God’s last word spoken to us – last in the sense that he is the complete fullness of God and God’s message.

Finally, the parable shows the human temptation to get away with what we can.
It shows our tendency of “out of sight, out of mind.”
We can tend to forget God and our responsibilities to God if we fail to keep God in our spiritual sight through prayer.

So, a rich parable with lots of teaching today.