Monday, November 27, 2017

Feast of Christ the King, Cycle A - November 26, 2017

Feast of Christ the King

Cycle A

The Big Question

What determines our final destiny as persons? 

What do we have to do to experience a fullness of life that is lasting?  What do we have to do to reach an inner peace that will never be taken away? 

What do we have to do to get to heaven?  I am guessing that each of us thinks about these big questions from time to time.

The Surprising Answer

The answer Jesus gives in today’s gospel parable here may be very surprising.

And, by the way, in all four gospels, this is the only description – the only description – of what the Last Judgment will be like.  So, I think it is worth our attention.

Jesus says that those of us who are a blessing to others will inherit the kingdom.  The kingdom is Jesus’ expression for lasting happiness and peace, for eternal life, for heaven.

Jesus says that those of us who care for the least in our world will the ones who enter the kingdom.  Many of us have been steeped in catechism and doctrine and religious practice and we might expect some other answer.

That’s why I say Jesus’ answer may be surprising.  In a way, it is even more surprising because the sheep in the parable, like the goats, admit that they do not see Jesus in these least persons.

They just do what they can to care for them and Jesus says this is what leads them into the kingdom.  Let’s look at some examples of what this might be like for us.

The Answer: Personal

In our personal lives, maybe you have a parent or spouse who is suffering with dementia or Alzheimer’s.  Step by step, he or she is diminishing right before your eyes.

This is very painful to see in our loved ones.  But, you make sure you give time to them.

You want them to feel that you are there and that they are not alone.  “I was ill and you cared for me.”

Or maybe you have a son or daughter in high school or college who is floundering.  They are neglecting their studies and hanging out with the wrong crowd and maybe trying drugs and alcohol.

You know that they are hungering for something – acceptance, belonging, purpose – something to help make sense of their lives.  You lay down some boundaries, but above all you are there for them.

You listen to the feelings that are underneath their words or maybe underneath their lack of words and you try to provide emotional and spiritual nourishment.  “I was hungry and you gave me food.”

The Answer: Societal

Then, on a societal level, maybe we see a man standing at a traffic intersection.  He looks unshowered, he is wearing raggedy clothes, and he’s holding a cardboard sign that says: “Homeless.  Out of work. Need job or money.”

We don’t know what is true or how any money we give him will be used.  But still, we reflect on how this man might have gotten to this point and how humiliating this must be for him.  

We may or may not offer him some money, but we do pray for him and for the Lord’s guidance in assisting many others like him in our county and state.  “I was naked and you clothed me.”

And then there are many complicated issues before our country and our world.  And we look at these in a time that feels very challenging.

We can be tempted to form opinions only from the viewpoint of our own wellbeing, of what’s best for me.  But instead, we try to take a broader perspective and think about the common good of society and humanity in general.

We definitely take into account those who lack the basics here at home and those struggling for survival in other places.  “Whatever you do for these least of mine, that you do for me.”


So, Jesus deals with a big question today and his answer may be surprising.

It is whoever cares for the least, even if we don’t see Jesus in them, we will enter the kingdom of God.  That’s the message of the only Last Judgment scene in all of the gospels.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - November 19, 2017

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 4:00pm and 8:00am
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 11:00am
November 19, 2017

The Giftedness of Children

There is a story about a young man named Brian.

Brian always loved to tinker with mechanical devices.  As a 6-year old, he took apart a remote-control toy car.

At age 9, Brian helped his dad fix the lawn mower.  In high school, he spent hours rebuilding computer equipment.

And as a young adult, Brian had already become a sound technician for a theatre company.  His parents steadily encouraged him from a very young age.

But, Brian, in his school years, was never labeled as “gifted.”  The definition of the “gifted child” was traditionally limited to the top 5 to 10% of children who achieved high test scores and excelled in school.

No question, these children are gifted, but, there may be hundreds of other ways for children to be gifted.  Today, educators and psychologists tell us that nearly all children have special gifts.

Children may display their giftedness through words, numbers, music, sports, technical skill, social interaction, intuitive insight, creativity, and on it goes.  Many professionals now say that all children have gifts and they just vary from one child to another.

Our Gifts and the Gospel

I first came across these insights in an article that is entitled Fifty Ways to Bring Out Your Child’s Best. 

This has led me to see today’s gospel parable from a slightly different perspective.  Instead of reflecting on our use of our own gifts, I am thinking about how we can encourage others, especially children, in using their gifts.

The article that I cited gives 50 ways to bring out the best in a child, your own child or a grandchild or a godchild.  This morning I want to share just 5 of these with you.

Five Ways to Bring Out the Gifts

First, look for what really interests children.  Be alert to what captures their attention in a positive way.

These interests may say a lot about where their gifts are.  By being alert to this, we are in effect letting children discover their own giftedness. 

In today’s gospel parable, the number of talents – 5, 2 or 1 – does not just mean having more or less talent than others.  These numbers can also represent different kinds of gifts and our task is to help children identify their own unique gifts.

Second, encourage children, but do not push or pressure them too much.  If we do that, they may become too stressed and not even develop their gifts.

The master in today’s parable does not pressure.  He simply gives his servants the gifts and the opportunities to use them.

Third, allow children to make some mistakes.  If they have to do everything perfectly, they may never take the risks necessary to discover and develop their gifts.

It’s good to assist a child in realizing a mistake and learning from it.  But first, we need to allow some appropriate freedom to make mistakes.

And the fourth rule is connected with this: don’t criticize children in a way that puts them down.  Instead, give them encouragement and constructive criticism.

These two rules – 1) allowing children to make some mistakes and 2) not putting them down – are borne out in the third servant in the gospel parable.  He feels afraid and intimidated and the result is that he does not use and develop his gifts.

And the fifth rule: accept children as they are.  Maybe your son is musically inclined and does not have a lot of athletic ability.

Or maybe your daughter is more into computers than dance.  The important thing is to take children as they are, because that will be the best environment for using the gifts they have been given and for becoming the persons God intended them to be.       


So, these rules will help us to bring out the best in our children and help them to identify and use their gifts.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A - November 12, 2017

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
 Cycle A
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 4:00pm and 8:00am
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 11:00am
November 12, 2017

Sand in an Hourglass

There is a story about a little, seven-year-old girl who lived near the beach.

Her grandfather also lived near there and she loved him very much.  He had a beautiful hourglass and this little seven-year-old liked to turn it upside down and watch the sand steadily flow from the top glass bulb though the narrow opening into the bottom bulb.

Her grandfather once told her that the hourglass reminded him of time – that time was limited and precious.  Well, this particular year, Christmas was coming.

This little girl’s mother told her that her Grandpa was in the hospital and was very sick.  He might even die.

The little girl asked what that meant.  And her mother explained that life was something like Grandpa’s hourglass and that there was very little sand left in the top bulb to flow into the bottom.

Well, her mother suggested that she make a special Christmas gift that they could take to Grandpa.  So the little girl excitedly went to work on her gift.

When they got to the hospital, she gave her Grandpa a little wrapped box.  He slowly unwrapped it and looked inside and just smiled.

He immediately understood.  His little granddaughter had filled the box with sand.

The Story of the Bridesmaids

Well, if it were only that easy!

If only we could extend our days and time by adding more sand to our hourglasses!  But, of course, we cannot!

Today’s parable of the bridesmaids addresses this very issue.  There are three important lessons.

Lesson 1: Prepare

First, each of us must prepare for the moment when we will meet God face to face.

We must do this for ourselves.  No one can do it for us.

We see this in the refusal of the five wise bridesmaids to share their oil with the others.  This is not an issue of being selfish.

Instead, it is about being prepared.  These bridesmaids did not share their oil because they could not share this kind of oil.

This is the oil of personal preparation, the oil of who we have become as persons in the course of our lives.  We can encourage one another, but ultimately each one of us must do this preparation for ourselves.

 Lesson 2: Watch the Time

The second lesson is to watch the time.

There are only so many grains of sand in the hourglass.  We see this in the inability of the five foolish bridesmaids to go and buy oil for themselves.

Obviously, it was midnight and the stores were closed.  And that is exactly the point: it was too late!

The moment had come, the groom and bride were arriving and there was no more time to prepare.  This will be true for each one of us at some moment.

So, we need to watch the time and be ready today.  We need to live as if today were our day to meet the Lord face to face.

Lesson 3: Be a Light

And then the third lesson is that we must be about light.

Psalm 36 in the Old Testament praises God by saying: “In your light we see light.”  The idea is that we need to allow ourselves to be drawn into the light of God.

And then, with this light, we can see light in the world and bring light to one another.  “In your light we see light.”

We see this in the oil lamps that the bridesmaids are to keep burning brightly.  We are to be and to bring light in our world.

This is a helpful way for understanding the kinds of things we are to do, like just being there for a young person who is struggling with an identity issue or like advocating for health care for everyone.  These are examples of ways we can be light and keep our lamps burning brightly.


1.    Prepare. 
2.    Watch the time.
3.    And be a light. 

Valuable lessons and reminders in today’s gospel story!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Solemnity of All Saints, Cycle A - November 1, 2017

Solemnity of All Saints
Cycle A
November 1, 2017        4:00pm
Saint Mary’s Seminary and University
Day of Recollection

The Saints Inspire

I cannot be exactly like Saint Francis of Assisi. 

But he does inspire me to live more simply and to be at peace with others and with all of God’s creation.  In this way, Francis of Assisi leads me to embrace Jesus’ lifting up of “the peacemakers,” whom he calls “children of God.”

I cannot be exactly like Saint Teresa of Calcutta. 

But she does move me to care for those who are hurting and look out for the little person who has less than I have.  In this way, Teresa of Calcutta leads me to embrace Jesus’ lifting up of those “who are merciful,” those who have compassion and empathy for others.

I cannot be exactly like Saint Maximilian Kolbe. 

But he does inspire me to sacrifice at times my own comforts or preferences for the good of others, maybe for the common good of all.  And in that way, Maximilian Kolbe leads me to embrace Jesus’ lifting up of those “who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.”

And I cannot be exactly like Saint Catherine of Siena.

But she does move me to speak out for what I believe is the right thing to do or the wiser course of action.  And in that way, Catherine of Siena leads me to embrace Jesus’ lifting up of those “who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”    
Saint John XXIII

I think you can see what I am getting at.

Pope, Saint John XXIII put it this way.  He said: “From the saints I must take the substance, not the accidents, of their virtues.” 

He was using the Thomistic philosophical concepts of substance and accidents.  To put it very simply, the substance is what something or someone essentially is, and the accidents are features that are not necessarily part of the substance.

It’s like saying that the substance of a wine bottle is glass shaped in such a way that it will hold liquid.  The accidents are its height and color and features like that.

So, Saint John XXIII was telling us to take the substance of the virtues of the saints – like the simple peacefulness of Francis of Assisi.  Take that and not so much the literal way the saints lived out the virtues.

So, take their core virtues and embrace them with our own personality and according to our own vocation and in our own life circumstances.  If we do that, the saints will help to mold us in the way of the Beatitudes and make us more and more like Jesus.