Tuesday, April 24, 2018

4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle B - April 22, 2018

4th Sunday of Easter

Cycle B

April 22, 2018     


Myself as Shepherd

I have found today’s gospel speaking very directly to me.

I as a priest am to be a shepherd, a spiritual shepherd. As I thought about this during the past week, I quickly became aware of some traits that have become very central to my sense of priesthood and of shepherding.  

So I decided to share these thoughts with you today. So, this homily is a bit personal to me. 

1. Listen, and Speak Thoughtfully

The first thing I notice in this gospel is Jesus saying: “I know mine and mine know me.”

Jesus speaks of a close relationship between himself and the sheep. Well, for this to happen between a priest and the people of a parish, I believe that I first have to listen.

I really have to appreciate your life, your joys and your stresses. I have to listen to your spiritual needs and to your thoughts about faith or the Church.

So I need to listen well, and then I need to speak thoughtfully. By this I mean that I need to remember that I am on the same human journey of life as anyone else.

And so, I need to be comfortable enough in my own skin and with my own faith to share myself with you. I have to allow my faith and my humanity shape what I do and how I do it as a priest.
I need to speak more with you than to you. In this century and in this culture, I think this needs to be the approach if, as Jesus says, “I know mine and mine know me.”   

2. Be Positive

My next thought really flows from this.

I need to be positive. Again, in this century and in our culture, I do not believe that being negative will take us anywhere.

I believe that preoccupation with sin and evil, whether in us as persons or in our world, isn’t really very helpful. In fact, it may well be counter-productive. 

I believe it is better and maybe even more challenging to be positive and constructive. I believe that a shepherd needs to be positive about spirituality.  

It is important for me to reflect with you on how we can positively relate to the Lord Jesus and how we can come to spiritual maturity. Recently, I read a book entitled “The 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness.”  

The title of this book really reflects how I see my role – lifting up a positive message of spiritual growth and wellness. This is what I believe we need to bring to our young people and in fact to everyone in today’s pluralistic and diverse culture.  

3. Welcome and Include

The last thing I want to share is that I, as a shepherd, need to welcome and include.

Jesus says today, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.”Jesus is clear that they are still his sheep.

In many other places in the gospel, he is clear that he welcomes and includes everyone. Today, this might be Catholics who do not come to Mass often or those who have pretty much dropped out of the Church.

So, maybe parents present a baby for baptism and they are not practicing their faith very well. No question, I want them to practice their faith and come to Mass.  

But instead of making that a pre-condition, I welcome them and we work together and baptize their baby. I believe this way of shepherding has a far better chance of leading them closer to the Lord.

Or maybe a couple comes to be married and they are already living together. I and we all know our Church teaching that this level of intimacy should be reserved for marriage.

But instead of turning them away and putting them down, I rejoice that they want to be married in the Church and we proceed to make that happen. And once again, I believe that this way of shepherding has a far better chance of leading them closer to the Lord. 

I am convinced that this approach is key to being a 21stcentury shepherd. And by the way, it is not a watered-down approach to faith, but rather a more authentic and even more challenging way of living it.


There are other things I could say but these are some of the primary traits I try to embrace in being a shepherd today.  

1) Listen, and speak thoughtfully. 2) Be positive. 3) Welcome and include.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

3rd Sunday of Easter, Cycle B - April 15, 2018

3rd Sunday of Easter

Cycle B

April 15, 2018             

4:00pm at Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville

 11:00am at Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 



Back in August of 2016, about a year and a half ago, there was an inspiring article in theWashington Post

The article was written by a woman named Tracy Grant. She was the deputy assisting editor of the Post.

Tracy Grant writes that in 2003, her husband Bill was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She says that over the course of seven months, he went from from beating her silly at tennis to needing her help to get to the bathroom.

Tracy Grant says that this was a difficult, stressful and exhausting time. But, she also says that those seven months were the time in her life when she felt “most alive.”


Tracy Grant reflects that she was a respected professional and also a parent of two sons. 

She writes this. “I had to discover the reason why I was on this earth.

“During those seven months, I came to understand that whatever else I did in my life, nothing mattered more. I discovered that the petty grievances of an irksome coworker or a flat tire pale in comparison with the beauty of spontaneous laughter, the night sky, or the smells of a bakery.

“There were moments of joy, laughter, and tenderness everyday…”They were there“… if I was willing to look hard enough.”   


Tracy Grant goes on to say that in the days following Bill’s diagnosis and brain surgery, she really used all her skills as a reporter.

She researched clinical trials and talked with oncologists in several states. She says that this gave her a sense of purpose.

And it gave Bill comfort and some laughs. He would chuckle as he listened to her arguing with insurance companies about what was and was not covered.


Thirteen years after Bills’ death, Tracy Grant looks back at those last seven months with her husband with lots of gratitude.

She writes this. “I haven’t started a foundation to cure cancer.

“I haven’t left the news business to get a medical degree. I work.

“I try to be there for my sons. I will never again have that high a purpose.

“But every day, I try again to be the person I became during those seven months. I try to be a little less judgmental, a little more forgiving and generous, a little more grateful for the small moments in my life.

“I am a better person for having been Bill’s caregiver. It was his last, best gift to me.”

“Flesh and Bones” 

I think that is a great story and it really brings today’s gospel alive for us.

Jesus appears – the passage says in “flesh and bones”– Jesus appears to his disciples. In turn, the disciples become much more alive as persons and as persons of faith.

They are now seeing things differently and are much more purposeful and grateful for life. They become for others the “flesh and bones”of the risen Christ.

Whether or not she thought of it this way, Tracy Grant experienced Jesus in his “flesh and bones” in her sick and dying husband. And through this, as she says, she became much more alive.

She was seeing things differently and she became much more purposeful and grateful for life. In turn, she became the “flesh and bones” of the risen Christ especially to her sons. 

So, Jesus began a process in that resurrection appearance. It is a process that each one of us is to be drawn into.

We are to experience Jesus in his “flesh and bones”maybe in your daughter or son who is so wonderfully enthusiastic, or maybe in your elderly parent who really needs your assistance, and on it goes. Through this, we can become more alive as persons and as persons of faith.

We can see things differently and become much more purposeful and grateful for life. We can become for others the “flesh and bones” of the risen Christ.

That’s how I see today’s gospel. And I thank Tracy Grant for helping me to see this in a whole new way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2nd Sunday of Easter, Cycle B - April 8, 2018

2nd Sunday of Easter

Cycle B

April 8, 2018               8:00 and 9:30am Masses

Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville


Doubting Thomas?

In recent years, I have begun to dislike the expression doubting Thomas.

I and many of us 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 sees and touches Jesus. 

But then, Thomas ends up making one of the most beautiful professions of faith. 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 begun to dislike the expression doubting Thomas.

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, I think that Thomas stands as a good example for all those who are seeking to understand more about God.

Our Seeking

Today some authors, including some Catholic authors, tell us that many people experience this seeking in their faith.

They say that this seeking should really be seen not as a lack of faith, but as a stage or a dimension of faith. I agree with that, and from my own experience in ministry, I see persons of faith seeking or questioning in various ways.

For example, some who are seeking question certain sections of the Bible. They ask: how can the image of a militant and vengeful God in parts of the Old Testament harmonize with the picture of a merciful and forgiving God that Jesus presents?

Or, some who are seeking question the designation of God only as Father.  They ask: isn’t God the source and creator of both genders and doesn’t that say something about the identity of God?

And again, some who are seeking question why our Church or any Church or religion would say that those who are not part of their community will not be saved. They ask: didn’t Jesus bring salvation to all people and isn’t the mystery of heaven and of God’s love bigger than anything we can grasp or imagine?

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

So, 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. Being part of a church can really help us.

Jesus knew that we need a community for our journey of faith. He intended the Church to support and guide us positively in our journey, especially when we are seeking.

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 Mary’s Parish, we also need to be engaging. This means that we need to be welcoming and including and respecting of 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 and to be able to profess those wonderful words about Jesus: “My Lord and my God.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter Sunday, Cycle B - April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday
Cycle B
April 1, 2018


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 like 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.