Tuesday, May 28, 2019

6th Sunday of Easter, Cycle B - May 26, 2019

6th Sunday of Easter

Cycle C

May 26, 2019      
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 4:00pm
 Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 11:00am 

The Branding

There is a story about a family from New York who bought a ranch out in the West.

They planned to raise cattle there. Things were moving along okay and then a problem arose. 

The father, his wife and his sons disagreed on what name to give the ranch. One day, the father said to some of his neighbors who lived near the ranch: “I wanted to name it the Bar-J. 

“My wife favored the Suzy-Q. My one son liked the Flying-W and the other son wanted the Lazy-Y. 

“So, we’re calling it the Bar-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y.” The neighbors thought that this was a long and strange name but didn’t comment on that.

Instead, one of them asked, “Well, where are all the cattle?” The father replied, “Oh! None of them survived the branding!”

Early Church Conflict 

That story is kind of a light way to look at today’s first reading.

The passage is about a disagreement among the early Christians that was more serious than the naming of a ranch. The issue was this.  

Did the non-Jews who wanted to be baptized and become Christian first have to become Jews and accept all the Jewish practices? The issue caused a significant conflict.

The early Christians resolved this disagreement and the way they did it is a good model for us in dealing with conflicts. I see three ingredients here that are important for conflict resolution: 1) Act, 2) Ask, and 3) Appreciate.

1.   Act

First, we need to act. We need to face up to the conflict and deal with it. 

The early Christians in today’s first reading acted quickly to address the conflict and heal the rift that was growing. If we don’t do this, the conflict will probably just get worse and become harmful.

That’s basically what happened with the family who disagreed on the name of the ranch and the result was that they ended up with no cattle. I think the Scriptural counsel of “not letting the sun go down on our anger” is another way of telling us to act and deal with a conflict.

2.    Ask 

The second important ingredient for conflict resolution is to ask for assistance. Sometimes conflicts need discernment from a third party.

Again, today’s Scripture passage says that the whole Jerusalem church participated in working out the disagreement. The lesson is that if the persons directly involved cannot resolve the conflict, the wisdom of others may be needed.

This might include another family member, a trusted friend, or a professional counselor. The point is: let’s be open to ask for the assistance of others when we are not successfully resolving a conflict.    

3.  Appreciate

And then the third ingredient is to appreciate the other persons involved in the conflict. Be respectful of them and try to understand their point of view.

The Scripture shows the early Christians doing exactly that. So, we need to work on the issue – how late the teens should be allowed to stay out or which household responsibilities will each spouse be responsible for. 

And in doing this, we need to stay focused on the issue and not attack each other personally or call each other names, things like that. We need to appreciate each other as persons. 
God, the Holy Spirit

So, 1) Act, 2) Ask, and 3) Appreciate – three A words for dealing maturely and spiritually with conflicts.

And as we do all of this, we also turn to God in prayer. We ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide us.

The early Christians prayed together and, in the end, they even said, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and ours too.” That’s how clear they were about God’s presence in what they were doing.

Now, it will not always be possible to pray together with others with whom we are in conflict. But, we can at least do this on our own, privately.

If we do, the chances of resolving a conflict are much higher. And then, the chances are also much higher of experiencing the peace that Jesus offers as his farewell gift in today’s gospel.      

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle B - May 19, 2019

5th Sunday of Easter

Cycle C

May 19, 2019
St. Mary Parish, Pylesville 9:30 and 11:15am

The Heifer Project

Several years ago, my brother Charlie and sister-in-law Lynn sent me a different kind of Christmas gift.

The gift was a sheep. Now, they didn’t send a sheep to me by FedEx.

What they did was to donate a sheep to a very poor family in Uganda. They gave this in my name and as part of what is called is called the Heifer Project.

The Heifer Project is a not-for-profit organization that helps very poor families in Third World countries. The plan is to give a specific animal to a specific family.

The animal might be a sheep, a goat, a heifer, chickens, and on it goes. The family is taught how to care for the animal and then the animal becomes a source of income.  

For example, the family might sell the eggs from the chickens or the wool from the sheep. In some Third World countries, this money enables parents to send their children to school, since they do not have free public education.  

“By Your Love For One Another…”

Well, I remembered all of this when I was reflecting on today’s gospel.

Jesus says, “Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for one another. This is how people will know you as my disciples: by your love for one another.”  

The Heifer Project is a good example of living out Jesus’ words. My brother and sister-in-law gave a sheep in my name that one Christmas.

And their giving this also helped others who were very much in need. Now, as I look at Jesus’ life, I am seeing three ingredients that are part of our loving others as Jesus has loved us.

1. Looking Beyond Myself

First, we need to look beyond ourselves.

We are to look beyond what I need or what I want. And sometimes we are even to look beyond what is in my best interest to the needs and well-being of others.

When you think about it, this is exactly what Jesus does for us in the Eucharist. He is looking beyond himself to us and our needs.

When I see parents giving of themselves so unselfishly to care for their little baby or child – that, for me, is a great example of this. So, looking beyond ourselves to the needs of others is an essential ingredient in loving as Jesus has loved. 

2. Feeling Compassion

Then, we are to allow the needs of others to touch our hearts.

This means that we feel compassion for those who are hurting. We feel empathy for those who are burdened in some way. 

Jesus repeatedly feels compassion – for the hungry, the sick, the grieving, the rejected. So, we feel compassion for the friend who has lost his job and is facing a lot of uncertainty 

Or we feel empathy for persons in other parts of the world who are subjected to ethnic cleansing. So, allowing the needs of others to touch our hearts is an essential ingredient in loving as Jesus has loved.

3. Committing Something

Finally, we are to do something – to commit something of ourselves to assist others.

We see Jesus repeatedly doing this. In fact, he commits himself so fully to us that he even gives his life for us.

Maybe a father resolves to spend more time with his college-age son who may be going off the tracks a bit. Or maybe you decide to prepare and take a meal over to your neighbor who is grieving the loss of her husband.

Or maybe we donate some money to Catholic Relief Services to assist them in their work in Third World countries. So, committing something of ourselves to assist others is an essential ingredient in loving as Jesus has loved.


1) Looking beyond ourselves to the needs of others, 
2) allowing their needs to touch our hearts, and 
3) committing something of ourselves to help – 
this is loving as Jesus has loved.  
And as Jesus says, “This is how people will know you are my disciples: by your love for one another.”