Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Feast of Christ the King, Cycle B - November 25, 2018

Feast of Christ the King
Cycle B
November 25, 2018      

He Had God

Recently a psychiatrist talked about her first appointment with a new client – and, of course, his name remained anonymous.

This man had been off of drugs for six months and was living in a sober house. He was working hard to cope with the mood swings and sleeplessness and other challenges that often come with early sobriety.  

The issues that had to be addressed to repair his life were overwhelming – depression, drug addiction, trauma, homelessness, and unemployment. And yet, the client sitting in her office was very willing and very polite.

The psychiatrist asked him, “What is keeping you going?”He said calmly, “Why, nothing but God.”

He appeared to have turned himself over to a new father – to God. He felt that God would love and manage him better than his own father had.

At one point, he, the client, asked her, the psychiatrist, “How were you raised?”“Me?”  

He persisted. “What do you believe?”

The psychiatrist says that she felt somewhat embarrassed and lonely. It struck her that one of them had a home, a job, and a family, and the other appeared to have nothing.

Yet the one with nothing was not lonely. The psychiatrist said, “I have great respect for people who believe.”

He simply said, “Ah!”They then set the next appointment and he got up to leave.

He turned to her and said, “I’ll pray for you, you know.”She says that those words stayed with her all morning.

This man, her client, had nothing. But he did have God.    

God Was His All 

That story appeared in The Boston Globe.  

For that man, the client, God was his all, his everything. It was God who was getting him through and keeping him going. 

God Is Our All: Alpha and Omega

This, as I see it, is the point of what we celebrate today in our Church.

I find the title of Christ the Kinga bit awkward. Jesus is not a monarch like King Henry VIII or Queen Elizabeth.

Here we are not talking about power or pomp or politics. Instead, I see the words in today’s second reading as really opening up what Jesus is for us.

Jesus himself says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.”You probably know that Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

So, Jesus is saying that he is the Alpha, the first, the origin of all that is. He is one with the Creator in bringing all there is, including us, into being.  

And Jesus also says, “I am the Omega.”He is the last, the endpoint, our goal and destiny.

What This Means

So, with these words, Jesus gives us a powerful way for understanding our lives.

He is our Alpha – the One from whom we come – and our Omega – the One to whom we will someday return. And, as I see it, if he is that, he is our all, our everything, much as God was for the man in the psychiatrist’s office.

No question, our loved ones are valuable, probably invaluable to us. In that sense, they are everything to us.

But, in another way, Jesus is our everything. If he is our origin and our destiny, then he is also our way and companion for everything in between.

So, the words that I choose to use to express myself maybe especially when I am frustrated; the decisions that we make on how to deal with a relationship or a marriage problem; how to treat employees or how to do our job for our employer – my idea is that Jesus is to be our reference point for all of this.  

And, of course, when we are hurting or lost, something like the man in that psychiatrist’s office, Jesus is our sure foundation. He is the secure base who helps us to get by and keep on going.  

It is in this sense that we can say that Jesus is a King. This is why our Church honors him with this title today. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - November 11, 2018

This past weekend, Archbishop Lori requested that a homily which he recorded be played at all Masses in the Archdiocese. Therefore, I did not preach. I am posting the homily that I gave this past August 26. It still reflects my basic perspective on the current Church situation and may be of some help at this time. My prayers and best wishes!

Father Michael Schleupner
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B
November 11, 2018
11:00am at Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore     

The Church Crisis 

Angry, ashamed, disappointed, disheartened, shocked – these are some of the feelings I have heard from Catholics in the past two months.

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and the McCarrick scandal have been very painful for all of us, and that includes me. I do have a perspective on this crisis and I also see a way forward.

I discussed this with Father Joe and he felt that it would be good for me to share this with you. Obviously, my perspective is limited because I am only one person. 

My thoughts today are also limited because I am focusing on only one dimension of the issue. I just want to say that up front.  

How Did This Happen?

The question is: how did our Church allow abuse to go unchecked? How did some of our leaders, some of our bishops, fail to address this properly?

There are a number of possible answers. I am focusing on one because I am convinced that this is very much at the heart of the problem.

The major issue is the clerical culture or clericalism in our Church. What do I mean by that?

Clericalism means setting one group, the clergy, ordained priests, apart from the rest of the members of the Church. In fact, it has meant setting the clergy above others and treating them in that way.

The origins of this go back to fifteen hundred years ago. Without getting into all of that history, I would say that the clergy continued to view themselves as apart and above for at least several centuries after that status was no longer helpful to society. 

In today’s gospel, Jesus is putting down the clerical culture in his own religious tradition. The scribes and other leaders also held themselves apart and above the other people in their religion. 

Well, this culture, this clerical culture has created the environment that allowed the present problem to happen. Here is why I say that.

The Clerical Culture

If we look upon the clergy as apart and above, as almost the core of our religion, then we – or at least we clergy – feel the need to protect the clergy, ourselves. 

For us to admit of imperfection in our ranks may seem to admit of imperfection in our Church. For us to admit of moral failure in our ranks may seem to admit of moral failure in our religion.

I am not justifying that rationale. I am simply saying that this has been the human dynamic at play for hundreds of years.

The result is that there developed the tendency to cover up mistakes and even serious moral flaws. This was done by us, the ordained bishops and priests.

This was very shortsighted and morally wrong, but it was part of the clerical culture. It has ended up hurting minors and adults and hurting the entire Church.   

Now, the clerical culture is not nearly as alive today as it used to be. But, remnants of it still linger in some places. 

We need to move completely away from a clerical culture to a People of God culture. We need a culture that respects, empowers and allows all the baptized – all of you – to participate in the full life of our Church. 

We already have the vision for this in the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. Now we need to implement it fully. 

That takes me to some thoughts on how to move forward. I have three ideas – I know that there are other things we have to do and some that we are already doing, but I want to highlight three big directions that I think we need to take. 

Moving to a People of God Culture 

First, as I said, we need to include all the baptized, all of you in the entire mission of the Church. This includes the setting of direction, the ministry, the oversight and the accountability systems.

There are many ways that this is already happening, and we can see this right here at Saint Matthew’s. But, we need to make sure that this happens in all places and on all levels of the Church, from top to bottom. 

Second, we need especially to assure the role of women in our Church. As I say this, I think of today’s first reading and again of the gospel. 

In both passages, widows are central to the concern. And the reason is that women in general and widows especially had no rights.

They could not even have title to or inherit their husband’s money. Jesus shows special sensitivity to widows and all women.

Today, we in our Church have work to do on the dignity and role of women. I realize that the Church teaches that ordination is not open to women. 

But aside from that, we still need to make sure that women are included as equal partners in mission and ministry. I say this after having listened to the thoughts and feelings of many women especially over the past thirty years. 

The third direction that I see is that we need to open up the issue of ordaining married men to the priesthood. There is absolutely nothing to preclude this.

I am not speaking of our religious orders, like the Franciscans and Jesuits, where celibacy is part of the commitment to community living and religious life. But I am speaking of the diocesan priesthood.

In fact, the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church have a tradition of ordaining married men to the priesthood. We in the Western or Latin Rite now need to do the same. 


I have had these thoughts for many years, since I was a young priest, and not just since the current crisis. 

I believe these directions will end a clerical culture and lead us into a full People of God culture. This will energize our Church.

It will lead us to a renewed priesthood and a renewed community of faith. That gives me hope, and it gives us a positive way forward at this time. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - November 4, 2018

31stSunday in Ordinary Time 
Cycle B
November 4, 2018     9:30 and 11:15am 
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 

Rabbi Herschel 

I want to start my reflections today with a brief quote from a Jewish rabbi named Abraham Joshua Herschel.

Rabbi Herschel was a prominent scholar in our American Jewish community. He was an author, a philosopher and a theologian and he died in 1972. 

I am quoting just three short sentences from him. Rabbi Herschel said: “Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out as a sound, ends in a deed.”

I want to repeat this so we can just allow it to sink in. “Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out as a sound, ends in a deed.”

This morning I want to reflect with you about the words that we use. And, by the way, how appropriate to quote a leader of the Jewish people who have been victimized by words and then by actions over the centuries and were just victimized again last week in Pittsburg.

Our Words

Our words are powerful. 

They have an effect on us. To some extent, they form who we become as persons.

Our words also have an effect on others. They may lead others to feel good or to feel lousy about themselves, to become compassionate or to become hateful.

And because of this, our words have an effect on our relationship with God. Just think of the two great commandments of love that we hear in today’s gospel. 

A very important way that we show our love for God is by the way we treat one another. And our words play a crucial role in the way we treat others. 

So, I’ve got five, quick, positive rules for the kinds of words we are to say, and also corresponding negatives for the kinds of words we are to avoid. I hope they will be helpful. 

Five Rules on Words 

Number 1. Use words that are respecting and not belittling.

Respect others as persons and if possible, affirm their good qualities. Don’t belittle others and make them appear as no good.

Number 2. Use words that are unitive and not divisive.

Emphasize the things that you share in common with others and that unite you. Don’t divide and treat others as if there is no common ground between you and them. 

Number 3. Use words that are reconciling and not distancing. 

Ask for forgiveness or be forgiving, or at least speak in a way that leaves the door open to that. Don’t distance yourself from others especially by holding yourself as absolutely right and them as absolutely wrong.

Number 4. Use words that are protecting and not bullying.

Be protective of others who are vulnerable. Don’t bully others by taking advantage of their weakness or lesser position.
Number 5. Use words that are persuasive and not coercive.

Treat others as reasonable persons and try to respectfully persuade them about whatever the issue is. Don’t try to coerce others into seeing or doing things your way.


I see these as five basic and important rules on our use of words.

When we use words that are respecting, unitive, reconciling, protecting, and persuasive – when we use words like these, we are fulfilling Jesus’ commandment about love in today’s gospel. We are doing that without even using the word love.

But when we use words that are belittling, divisive, distancing, bullying, and coercive – when we use words like these, we are not following the way of Jesus. We are injuring others at least to some degree. 

So, the words we speak toothers – maybe toyour husband or wife, your parents or children, toour classmates or co-workers, our neighbors or friends – these words can have helpful or harmful effects on them.

And the words we speak aboutothers – maybe aboutindividuals we know or about entire groups who are different from us in some way – these words can also be constructive or destructive

So, let’s be an example of how to speak and what words to use and not use. Then we and our words will help bring about the kingdom of God on this earth and make a positive contribution to our world.