Monday, January 21, 2019

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C - January 20, 2019

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cycle C
January 20, 2019

John’s Gospel

Today, I want to do a kind of “Bible-study” approach as my homily.

At the end of your rows of seats, there are copies of today’s gospel.  I would ask you to please pass these down so that everyone can have a copy; I think this will help us to appreciate the passage a bit more.  

This is from St. John’s Gospel and John organizes a lot of his gospel around key events called “signs.”  The idea is that John sees some of the key events in Jesus’ life as signs or symbols, as pointing to something beyond themselves.

Today’s story of the wedding at Cana is the first of these “signs.”  So, let’s look at some of the details in this passage and see what they are telling us.


The Wedding: The Problem 

To begin with, Mary says to Jesus, “`They have no wine.’”  Jesus’ mother could simply be concerned here about the embarrassment of the newly married couple in running out of wine.  

But on another level, “`They have no wine’”also means that they – and all of humanity – have no way to God.  Their relationship with God has run dry.

Then, Jesus responds to his mother, “`Woman, how does your concern affect me?’” Jesus’ response may sound quite disrespectful, but there is also another level of meaning.

The word “Woman” is the same word that is used in the Book of Genesis for Eve, the first woman in creation.  So, Jesus is conveying that his mother, Mary, is the new Eve, the first woman in the new creation that he is bringing.

Jesus goes on to say, “`My hour has not yet come.’”  Maybe Jesus just wants to relax and enjoy himself and not be bothered with anyone’s problems.

But, Jesus’ words “`My hour’” mean the event of his suffering, dying and rising.  Apparently, Jesus knows here at Cana that as soon as he starts his divine mission, opposition and hardship will also start. 

The Wedding: The Solution 

So, Jesus seems to dodge his mother’s request, but Mary is undeterred and says to the waiters, “`Do whatever he tells you.’”  Mary trusts in Jesus, even though she does not yet understand.

In her trust and faith, she gives a directive to all of us. If we “`Do whatever he tells’” us, we too will experience the action of God in our lives.

Then John’s gospel carefully notes that there are 6 water jars. To his audience, this means 1 less than 7 – 1 less than the perfect number which is 7, a sign of fulfillment or perfection.

For us, it is like getting a 90% on a test and not a perfect 100%. The idea here is that Jesus himself becomes the 7th jar, the fulfillment or perfection of humanity’s relationship with God.

And then, there is the great statement of the headwaiter.  “`Everyone serves good wine first, but you have kept the good wine until now.’”

On one level, the headwaiter voices the common-sense practice of not holding the good wine until people are a bit high and won’t appreciate it. On another level, these words also say that in Jesus, the best has been saved until last in our relationship with God.

Conclusion: Signs

Finally, John concludes this story by saying that “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs.”

So, Jesus’ actions are signs – signs of God’s presence and action in our lives.  We Catholics especially are a people of signs.

We have the signs of the 7 sacraments.  The question is: do we bring to these signs the trust or faith that the first disciples bring?

For example, do we bring this trust or faith when we say “Amen” to the words “The Body of Christ” before we receive the Eucharist?  If we bring this trust or faith to the signs that Jesus gives us, then we too will be able to experience Jesus doing great things for us in our lives.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Cycle C - January 13, 2019

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
 Cycle C
January 13, 2019                

Humpty Dumpty

I’m sure that most of us are familiar with the storywriter Lewis Carroll.

We remember his famous story Alice in Wonderland,and Carroll also wrote Alice through the Looking Glass.  This is the story where Alice meets the character Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty is sitting on top of a high, narrow wall.  Alice looks up and says, “And exactly like an egg he is!”   

Humpty Dumpty responds, “It is very provoking to be called an egg – very provoking!”  Alice explains, “I said you looked like an egg, and some eggs are very pretty.”

But Humpty Dumpty is not amused and says, “Tell me your name and your business.” Alice responds, “My name is Alice, but…”

Humpty Dumpty interrupts, “It’s a stupid name; what does it mean?”  Alice asks, “Must a name mean something?”

And Humpty Dumpty retorts, “Of course it must; my name – Humpty Dumpty – means the shape I am – and a good handsome shape I am too.  With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”   

Baptism: Name and Shape

Well, this little exchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty helps us to appreciate something about baptism.

We have all been baptized “In the name… of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  As Humpty Dumpty says, each of these names – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – means something.

They say something about our shape.  The idea is that we are to allow our baptism to shape us around God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Our Shape: The Father

First, around the Father.

The Scripture tells us that God is the creator of all that is.  And so, we are to see all that is as God’s creation and therefore as sacred.

This means especially in our times that we are to be alert to environmental issues.  On a personal level, we might make sure that we recycle paper, glass, plastic and whatever else we can.

On a community level, we might support sensible policies that reduce carbon emissions.  So, being baptized in the name of the Father means that we shape our lives around our Creator and the gift of creation. 

Our Shape: The Son
And then, we are to allow our baptism to shape us around the Son.

From the time of his baptism, Jesus lives with a sense of mission.  And so, we are to view our lives as a mission from God.

This means that we are to do our part to benefit the kingdom of God on earth.  On a personal level, we do this by being especially attentive to our family members and our other loved ones.

On a community level, we might volunteer some time teaching religion or leading a scouting program, things like that.  So, being baptized in the name of the Son means that we shape our lives around Jesus and his sense of mission.

Our Shape: The Holy Spirit

And finally, we are to allow our baptism to shape us around the Holy Spirit.

Today’s gospel tells us that the heavens open and the Spirit comes down from above.  And so, God is now with and even within us.

This means that we are to live with an awareness of God’s presence.  On a personal level, we do this by making some space for some kind of prayer or prayerful reflection each day.

On a community level, we do this by participating in Mass and receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist which is the supreme way for God to be with us.  So, being baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit means that we shape our lives around God who is present.


As Humpty Dumpty says,“My name means the shape I am.”  

We are baptized “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Let’s allow our baptism to shape us around these names. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Feast of the Epiphany, Cycle C - January 6, 2019

Feast of the Epiphany
 Cycle C
January 6, 2019  
4:00pm and 8:00am at Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
11:00am at Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore

T. S. Eliot

When I was in my college years – back in the 1960s – one of the authors we read was T. S. Eliot.

Eliot was an English poet and dramatist. He died in 1965.  

T. S. Eliot wrote a poem entitled The Journey of the Magi. Obviously, it focuses on the three Magi or wise men whom we hear about in today’s gospel.  

I want to read just a few lines from this poem – The Journey of the Magi. The poem is written as the reflection of one of these three Magi – as if it is one of the Magi speaking.

It may be a bit challenging at first, but just hang in there with me. We will quickly see what he is getting at.  

The Journey of the Magi

Here are the verses from the poem – The Journey of the Magi.  

“…were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like death, our death.”

Let me read these few verses just once more. And notice: this Magi is not speaking of Jesus’ death, but of a death or dying that we experience.

 “…were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like death, our death.”

Birth and Death for the Magi

This wise man or Magi, speaking for all three of them, is saying something very insightful.

They see the newborn Jesus, the Christ Child. They see the “Birth,” as this Magi puts it.

But they realize that they are also seeing a “Death.”It is the “Birth” of Jesus, but it is their own “Death” that they see.

And, it is not their physical death, but rather a spiritual dying. The idea is that seeing the Christ Child, seeing this “Birth” forces them to die to certain things in themselves.

This experience forces them to change, to go home different persons. Maybe that is the real significance of the statement at the end of the gospel that they went home by another way.

So, the author T. S. Eliot is saying that our seeing and celebrating this “Birth” probably also involves a “Death” for us. It involves some spiritual dying to self.  

Birth and Death for Us

For example, as we look at the Christ Child, maybe this “Birth” also means:

“Death” to any indifference to human life, whether it is the life of the unborn or the life of children who do not have enough food or adequate health care;
Or maybe a “Death” to our not being attentive enough to an elderly parent who is feeling lonely or to a young adult who feels lost. 

And, as we look at the Christ Child in relation to these three Magi who come from a different country and a different religious and cultural background, maybe this “Birth” also means:

“Death” to being closed to persons who are different from us and our way of living or thinking; 
Or maybe a “Death” to stereotyping migrants and refuges who are seeking survival or a decent life.

I have to say that this is probably a very different way to look at today’s feast of the Epiphany.

It is probably very different to look at the Magi as seeing both “Birth” and “Death.” But, it rings true for me. 

How could we see the birth of the Christ Child and not be changed? How could we see this birth and not also go through some kind of spiritual dying to self?