17th Sunday A Another homily

On this 17th Sunday of ordinary time, the Church reminds us that the greatest of all treasures is the Kingdom of God. In his love, God himself has chosen us, and prepared it for us before time. So, the holy mother church encourages us to pray for wisdom as Solomon did, to enable us discern the true value and mysteries of God’s kingdom.

Today’s first reading began in a very interesting way. If you were Solomon what would you ask for? Some of us would, ask for more cars, houses, shoes, foods, money, power, children and much more! On the contrary, Solomon asked for wisdom for the benefit of both his kingdom and God’s kingdom. He begged God to give him understanding: “Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil.”

An understanding heart is God’s gift (Prov 2:6). We need it every day, and in all aspects of our life (family, work, studies, and in all life’s decisions) in order to succeed. So, the Apostle James encourages us: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously…and it will be given to you (Jas 1:5). Wisdom was given to Solomon, because he asked for it. However, God expects us to ask wisely, reasonably and not selfishly.

In the second reading, Paul reminds us that: “In everything, God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” That is, that God is leading us through the storms of life towards our home, and towards his kingdom. Carefully, He orders all the events of our lives in order to lead us there. This is what we call providence. Simply put, that God’s powerful hand is active in all the circumstances of our lives.

“Everything” is utterly inclusive and comprehensive. It has no qualifications or limits. Therefore, neither this verse nor its context allows for restrictions or conditions. “All things” is inclusive in the fullest possible sense. It includes your present trouble, your heavy heart, your poverty, your richness, joblessness, your success and failure, your weakness and strength, as well as your sickness and health. Indeed, “everything” and nothing is left out!

Nothing exists or occurs in heaven or on earth without the knowledge of God. By saying that “all things work together for us, Paul tries to reassure us that there is no discord in God’s providence. This is especially, for those who through their faith in Christ have wisely become God’s friends. He also assures us that, nothing can ultimately work against those whom God has chosen and predestined for his Kingdom. Those, who walk faithfully with him.

Today’s gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ use of parables to teach us about the Kingdom of God. Therefore, it is a call to be as wise as Solomon. Without wisdom, we can neither understand the parables of Christ, nor seek the kingdom of God. Today’s good news is also a call to value what is most precious to us, and for which God has chosen us.

Today’s parables are intended to instruct us to prefer the kingdom of heaven to this world, and to ensure that nothing prevents us from entering into it. Through these parables, Christ reminds us of the excellence and beauty of eternal life. The kingdom of God is indeed a treasure hidden from the wise of this world.

Only those who are wise according to God’s standard look for it, and find it. To find it, we must first value it, and when we have found it, we must hide it in our hearts. Therefore, let us ask God for understanding and wisdom as Solomon did, so that we may be wise enough to discern what is good for us, and to make God’s kingdom our priority.

Peace be with you all!


Things overheard at The Dollar Store

It is a packing day for me, to get things off shelves or out of drawers, and into boxes or containers for moving.    I am going a bit wacky.   Fortunately I have some nice cd’s to play to motivate me, such as “Traveling Light” by various Christian artists.   This is reminding me to thin down my stuff as I pack, for the trash or a charity give-a-way.

My sense of humor is needed, too.   I recalled a little routine I wrote in my head about a trip to the local dollar store.   It was of the funny things you could overhear there.

Things Overheard at The Dollar Store

How much is this item?

Is this jewelry real?

Do you have any special sales today–like 50% off?

Do these slippers come in any other colors than these ones in dirty mustard yellow or diluted pink carnation?

May I pay for these two items in all pennies?

Is this thing really only just a dollar?

How old do you think this Zebra cake is?  Do you sell Moon Pies here, too?

Can I pay for this American Bald Eagle pot holder by check?

Do you carry any nice perfume or cologne in this store?

Where is the electronics section?

Where is the clothing section?

How much does this glassware cost?

Do you take American Express or travelers checks here?

WalMart has a better selection than here.

What’s the difference between Family Dollar, The Dollar Store, Dollar Hero, Just A Dollar, The Dollar Tree, and the Dollar General?

How much is this can of deluxe festive chili?

Homily. 15th Sunday.

Homily. 15th Sunday. by Fr. John Barry    Web version

God is a sower but will we let Him sew His will in us? Or–will we settle for living for much less in a so-so life?  Or–will it be worse?! (Hope not!)

The Choices:   Open up so very much.   Or, be so-so, either shallow or worldly. Or, be apart from God, trampled on the path of the world or picked-off by birds of prey.

God so loved the world that he sewed. The Seed was the Word of God, His Son, Jesus.  We are the soil. But what kind of soil?  There’s today’s question.

We have the parable of the sower today in Matthew’s gospel, and it looks a little like Jesus as Johnny Appleseed.   Do you remember the legend of this ‘Appleman’ crossing the country and sowing seeds to the earth?  Johnny Appleseed is an American children’s story, and it may be a lesson of just explaining and thankfully telling about our fruitful land, in the tale of a man sowing seeds that become apple orchards across the Midwest American trail.

Jesus is much more than a legend or exaggerated folk figure.  He really IS the great coming of God to walk humanly among us to sow the possibilities of new life and fruits in the Spirit. Jesus sowed the fruitfulness for eternity for us!  As another Gospel quoted Jesus saying: “the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” He sowed salvation for sinners.

In this gospel, at Mathew 13, it sounds or reads like Jesus is looking back to examine how His good seed took to people of the earth, to whom He gave the seed, of Himself as the Saving Word.  He is observing here in the text of how He was received in open welcome by some folks, which is one of four exampled responses.  He also is commenting that three of four persons were not cooperating in having His teaching planted in them. That is not a good percentage on our side, revealing that many don’t see the need for The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Response “A” (of the four soils) is the soft and yielding soil of a trusting believer. Jesus celebrates this kind of person(s) and their fruitful consequences.

Then, He points to Response “B,” of His good seed that has fallen on ground that is only so-so, which refers to someone who is only giving shallow ground away, but lacking the deep faith and love and trust they need for His coming to be effective in them.

Jesus gives His example “C” of response; it is of when a person receives the Good Word, the seed of God, but it lands on a surface that is too surrounded by temporal, selfish cares, or worldly stuff, as called as thorns. The problem here: worldly matters mean much more than God’s matters.  What is the result of this response? Often, those worldly cares choke out the Word in life for this type of person.  This game of thorns’ is much a game of thrones, as in, who is in the throne of their soul?  Is it The Mighty Me or the Lord Jesus? The selfish-me-life chokes on all their vain pursuits.

Or, consider Example “D,” the fourth response, as it is one whereupon a person is so sinfully selfish, and ego-centric, that it results in nearly shutting out God and any fertility and growth in one’s spiritual life, because of hardness of heart. For–even while the Seed was sown by The Lord for good, in this fourth person, the seed falls in the hardened, worldly path, and then it gets picked off by birds of prey, to God’s dismay, since He made us for Himself, but He will honor the freedom’s term of our will, and that of our own free decision to choose our soul soil.

Let us hope we take this parable seriously. Jesus says: ‘Those who have ears, listen up!’

Bravo to the people who hear themselves fitting in category A.  That means you are doing much in cooperation with God to be alive in Christ.  ‘Right?!

In an interesting interpretation I heard, someone has commented that maybe we individually and corporally as a church can be a mix of all four types of soil in our field. Some parts very open to God, some shallow and hesitant with God, some areas way too worldly, and some parts just very resistant to God.   We all need to yearn for being the good soil, and for those caught in the rebellious hard ground, we pray the Lord’s Prayer and “deliver us from evil, for Thine is the Kingdom.”

That is a short look at today’s images given by Jesus, as He tries, in a parabolic way, to explain the human condition, and our need to abide in God with the good soil of cooperation, in love and faith.

Jesus is pleased with those who till in their Catholic faith for good, open ground in them to Him.

Ol’ Johnny Appleseed was probably pleased, too, at all the apple trees that sprung up across America.

While Johnny didn’t head eastward, we know what success apple orchards have had in mid-and-western Maryland, many groves are giving a great harvest, and Johnny would give a thumbs up to the Old Line State here, with our fine tasty apple cider, jams, apple butter, and other fruits of the earth to enjoy and share here.

God in Christ seeks a harvest of souls. People who are alive in the fruits of His Spirit are His delight.

ln this parish here, I am hoping we can yield many fruits in The Spirit together, and that I can rejoice in the fruit of the Spirit already sown and alive in you, and so, too, you of me. We are God’s field.

God has so much invested in this parish and in each you, and He wants, in Jesus Christ Glorified and Risen, for you to have the abundant life in Him.

Does that sound good to you?  Can you say yes to what God in His goodness wants to do in you, and in us?

I think the parable has us yearning to be good fertile ground for His purposes here.  Not rocky, thorny, prickly, hardened earth, and certainly not to be easy pickings for the birds of prey against God’s wondrous plan.  “Lord, help us to be good ground for you.”

I find it interesting that the epistle reading for this Sunday describes the groaning sound, which is heard and cannot be denied.  It’s a groaning for things to be right.    The world and humankind is fallen and broken, so the groaning about it is daily, it’s the groaning of hurting and lost people.  But I’d like to add, that it also can be the longing sound for us to all  be right with God.   They are personal groans and some collective groans.   In the groaning sounds of the longing of the broken creation to get whole and right and restored– I hear the Holy Spirit, for He speaks to us of the call to get wholly into Jesus, our salvation.  He speaks in our inward groaning that we really need spiritual response, to keep on in our becoming the children of God.

Even while humanity rebels or just foolishly sins against God (as we each do sometimes) or when people just struggle to accept the reign of God, and live by faith in the Son of God– all nature indeed groans for The Day we do get whole again, and our souls do yearn even cooperate at our best with the re-offered Kingdom of God.

Let us live in the hope of Jesus, so to keep on coming up for a rising. Today’s Psalm 65 verse wraps it all up: It tells us  “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”  God will sometimes drench those furrowed rows, or soften it with showers, blessing its yield.   May we be a great harvest field for Jesus the Lord.




14th Sunday Homily Meekness: Let the Mighty Me only eek out. (My last St. Ed homily)

I was planning to play and sing a song for you in this last homily, but I don’t have the health and voice for it today.  Look and listen for the Michael W Smith video on our parish web site:  “Friends are Friends Forever. ”

The readings today are all about meekness, and the Lord evidently wanted to have me give you a message on it today, even if in a croaky, bullfrog voice.

I will start out on the children’s level.  Boys and girls, when I was around your age, my Mom took in a 2 or 3-year old girl into our house, to care for her, while her own mother could not.  She stayed with us for many months, until returning to her own mom.  This girl was called Cynthia or Cindy, but I called her “screaming Mimi (me-me).”  She was the most selfish little girl!   All she ever did was yell “me… me…me!”  Or “mine… mine…mine.”  She only seemed to care for herself, and I did not like that much, being her temporary or foster older brother.   Screaming Mimi!   Meekness– this word that Jesus uses to describe Himself, is just the opposite.   It’s when you don’t cry and demand me, me, me all the time.   It’s when you care as much as others as you do for yourself, and show it.   That’s meekness.

In fact, it is kind of weird that the letters of m-e-  do begin the word meekness.   Because a meek person doesn’t begin with themselves or me.   If they are any bit selfish, then their me-me part only eeks out.   Eeks out means that it only comes out a little, as like only drips of being selfish.   Meekness only has your selfish “me” just eeking out from time to time.  But mostly you are humble and ok.

Jesus said:  “I am meek and humble of heart.”   These words we heard from Him today in the Gospel.   Jesus says that it is a very good thing to be like that– meek and humble.   For sure, you won’t be a screaming Mimi.  At least not when you are older.  I got to say that when you are 2 or 3 of age, you might be expected to be a bit self-centered, making sure you are noticed and get what you need from the big people.

Everyone:  We all know that one of the Beatitudes of Jesus was “Blessed are the Meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”   It is one of 8 special ways Jesus marked out for discipleship.  We are each called to be blessed, by being meek, like Him.

Meekness is an important message of Jesus the Word, and it is a theme of His Hebrew Testament revelation as well.

Let’s review some verses of what we heard proclaimed in Scripture this weekend.

Zechariah gives a prophecy about how to recognize the Messiah and Deliverer of the world when He comes.   In Zechariah 9 it says: “See, your King shall come to you; a just Savior is He, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.”

This is clearly a reference to meekness and a clear image of it.   God comes among us in all meekness.  He comes in a manner of revelation that is not merely surface level, but is only to be caught on by people who are truly seeking in their minds and hearts for something deep.  Jesus rides on the simple animals amidst ordinary people with palm branches, because He was coming as a king among the people.  Meekness and humility-of-Being is something God values very much, so it is His choice to be revealed in such a way.  Imagine that!  God is Supreme and Omnipotent but prefers a humble revelation.  Huh.

And He wants us to practice meekness.

Next, in Psalm 145 it says that meek people pray and bless, yes, they get down on their knees and pray to God:  “Your faithful ones bless you.  Let them discourse of the glory of YOUR kingdom and speak of YOUR might. The LORD… raises up all who are bowed down.”   Notice how the meek person is boasting of God’s kingdom and might, and not of themselves.

There is a value, then, every Sunday Mass and in any daily Mass, that we get down on our knees and worship God, right?   And that we look for God to come to us in meekness, such as in private prayer, or family prayer, or community prayer, too!  Right?

Well, the One Who entered Jerusalem in the final climax of His ministry, in stark meekness, also was the One who acted so very meekly in establishing the Eternal Covenant in Himself, when, at the Upper Room, He broke bread and poured forth wine, and He told people, Now, this is MY Body, This is My Blood, This is Me.   Then the Meek Lord Jesus freely submitted Himself to the Cross–to put into effect this meek covenant sign of His Body and Blood in our Holy Communion at Mass.  Amazing.

So we get down on our knees and pray in unison to the God Who keeps coming meekly to us.  It’s His Real Presence, alright!  We love You, O Meek Jesus, in Your Body and Blood outpoured for us in Holy Mass.

Let us jump into the Gospel for more Scriptures on meekness.   Jesus gives praise to the Heavenly Father that His little ones (that is, His followers, who are meek people) have been able to find revelation and discovery through God’s meekness in His Christ.

This is a word to His Eucharist lovers today, His true worshippers in Him as Sacrament. Jesus says;  “I give praise to You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, You have revealed them to Your little ones. (The littles are the only ones who would be meek and humble enough to get Jesus’ revelation!) Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will….”

Now hear Jesus say, again, by this Matthew 11 text, that He can give rest and comfort to the meek and lowly of His flock:   “Come to Me… and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”

The question these Scriptures pose for us today is:   Are we the meek He is talking about?   Are we living in meekness– so to have this rest and comfort and revelation for a deep, mystical experience of God among us?   Do we know enough about the beatitude of meekness?  Could we be missing something of God because we don’t get it that The King and Just Savior might come among us in a meek or humble way?

I hope that makes you (and I) think a bit on it today.

And, by the way, to preach on meekness does not make me the model of meekness, just the announcer of it.  I want to say here, that, as your pastor for a decade, if I have been proud in any time, and not in the Lord’s meekness, then I ask for your pardon.   If I seemed to wrongly put you or the Lord behind my own personal (and selfish) will, then I am sorry, and Lord have mercy on me.   Amen.


Application.     If you would like to read on for some application, then be my guest…


An example I can give of meekness in The Church is of The Little Sisters of the Poor.    Almost trampled recently by our own government, and forced to comply with indecent new laws or to go bankrupt in not practicing it, the Little Sisters are real wonders in their saying “no” to following an unjust new law, which had asked of them to practice an immorality, connected to abortion or anti-life measures in the workplace. These sisters said no to that.  They said:  We’d rather be obedient to God then comply in evil, even indirectly or complicity.    They stood up to HHS.   It was valiant, and it also was meek.   Meek doesn’t mean weak: it means living sincerely and humbly before God… with the triad order of God, then others, then self.   It’s what the Little Sisters do so well.  The love God.  They serve others, especially to the elderly poor, such as in the St. Jeanne Jugan house on Harewood Rd. in D.C.   Then they care for self.  All in Jesus’ Name.  As Jesus describes Himself as meek, in today’s Matthew 11 text, He then declares:   “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened down, and find rest for yourselves.”   What Bible verse could describe better what the Little Sisters do?!

Are you moved by this example?!   Well, the pope was.   Do you remember this?  Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop in his DC visit to the local house of the Little Sisters, and it was to give thanks for their witness, in standing strong versus the oppression from their own government and unjust laws being proposed within ObamaCare, while also continuing to do what they always do.  Act meekly and love deeply.

Pope Francis makes notice of the lowly, and raises them up for us to see.  In another example, on May 13th, he canonized two of the shepherd children who witnessed the Fatima apparitions a century ago.   Francesco and Jacinta, the names of these two children saints, are the youngest- ever non-martyr canonized persons in the Church’s history.   The deep faith of two “little one” believers, who both would pass before reaching the age of 11, was told to be profound.   They spent long hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament (Holy Communion in the Tabernacle or in a Monstrance), and prayed in penitential fashion for a world they saw to be in great sin, and great danger by it.   They pleaded God’s mercy, and Mary’s help, and for many people to join them with Mary, seeking holiness of life.  Of course, the visions they received of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory– and the state of people’s souls (in grace or disgrace)— inspired their devout life.

My former parish of St. Edward in Bowie has ordered a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, with the three visionaries of Lucy, and that of Francesco and Jacinta.   It will be put up in the Marian shrine on the little hill behind the church, once the order comes in.  Hopefully the statue will say that we value meekness among us, when that virtue is lived out, like as it was lived out in the two new children saints of Fatima.

Blessed indeed are the meek— Heaven is theirs and the whole new earth forever.   They will live on in Light—and the proud and arrogant and conniving and worldly wise manipulators will perish.    So says the Lord God.

A New Sanctuary, Tabernacle, and Marian Spot to serve (A quiet visit to Resurrection Church)

Here I am standing in the Church of Resurrection, over in Burtonsville. I am transferred from St. Edwards to this parish, as appointed by Archbishop Wuerl on Friday.    Here are some photos in the church.

It was quiet in here tonight.  I did meet some women in a prayer group in the vestibule room afterwards, and they prayed over me, upon my bidding.   A couple of them already knew me, which was nice to experience.   I don’t know who I know here at Resurrection, but it’s probably only a small number.    Yet I came in to meet the Lord of the House, whom we all know:  Jesus.   I met Him in the Blessed Sacrament.    I looked over at the honored spot for Blessed Mary, and I looked upon the altar where I will likely pray hundreds, if not thousands of liturgies, and hopefully very many personal prayers in the pew.

(I came dressed casually today)    IMAG1416_1

Who is a parish to get as their new pastor? A Vocations Thought

I was traveling with a Cardinal to a parish, one that was to get a new pastor, as their one was leaving in a few months.  The process of filling the pastorate was not begun yet, but because the Cardinal was visiting, the people asked him the obvious question:  “What kind of priest will we get as our new one?”

I heard him say:  “We haven’t started looking yet, but I can tell you that you will get him from the lot which you have supplied me in this Archdiocese.  I give to you of the priests that you give to me…   Who are you giving to me, or who have you given to me?”  The people thought about it, and said:  “Sadly, we haven’t given the diocese a priest vocation yet, nor do we have one in the seminary.”   “Ah,” his Eminence replied, “…gladly some of the other parishes and families in the diocese have given me some priests, so I will choose from among them.  You will get from what another parish has supplied me in a priest vocation.”

I think his point was that vocations come from our parishes, and that is mostly where we find our next priests.   A future hoped-for pastor is a person that may be in our parish right now, who could use some encouragement to look into the calling.

Cardinal McCarrick was that person, and he had a nice positive way of asking parishes about how they are promoting priestly vocations, and he made it to many of his 140 parishes in that time he shepherded Washington.  The numbers went up in his time.


Sometimes people complain with who they get for their new priest or pastor.   As in:  “We don’t like this one.”   Yet I do wonder with them if they have actively helped get men into the priesthood, and supported the priestly ministry of Washington overall.  When one parish complained of getting an Asian-American priest to their parish (and wanted a white, Caucasian, preferably born in Southern Md., I said to a few of them (and thought it privately among others):   “This county has had very few vocations to Washington, so the pool of what you want is not much there.  Why not help vocations thrive in this area?   But MOST of all, why not accept the vocations God is providing to you?  This Asian-American is a great representative of an predominantly Asian Catholic community in the Metro area, and you should be pleased to have him come serve among you.  You are getting a great priest here.   ‘Better give him a chance, because the Holy Spirit sent him here to you.

People are sometimes oddly funny in the way they react to a new priest/pastor.  One parish group complained that their new pastor prayed too much beforehand (prior to Mass), interfering with their long-established casual, talking atmosphere before Mass, right up to the opening song.  Now he was ‘ruining it’ in his pre- Mass meditations, kneeling in the front pew. They knew little about this new pastor, but felt free to immediately gripe. Wow.  I felt like saying:  Why not rejoice in a praying priest new among you? And visit and talk after Mass to each other?  I felt like chastising them for their insulting and ungracious behavior.

Where does a bishop get his priest vocations?   Mostly from the families and parishes in his diocese.   Yet the numbers of men going into seminary are still lacking.   Why?  It may be so because that many in the Church are so removed from care and support of our vocations to priesthood.  I would encourage you here at St. Edward to be active in vocations support.  Chris Garner remains our vocations liaison, and it is neat, because he is now a new permanent deacon candidate for our Archdiocese.

In our own parish here, we had just one enter our DC priests recruitment for seminary, in all my decade here. He’s the first since our parish started in 1972.  While he did not go on to Holy Orders, I am most proud of him for being open to the call.

In our parish, we have another family with a vocation to the priesthood, into the Pre-Catechumenate Way.  He is Jason Mantich.  He is studying for Newark Archdiocese.

Another family who moved in here have a son in seminary for the Ft. Wayne diocese. His name is Bonaventure Gbabba.

Yet, as of now, we’ve not had a first Mass of a young man raised here at St. Edward. I hope someday in our future there will be.

I have hope, because I came from a neighborhood corridor (from Kenhill Drive/Tasker MS over to a couple blocks past Kenilworth school towards Belair Drive) which has produced a bunch of DC priest vocations.   We all came from St. Pius X parish.   In my neighborhood within a few blocks of my Kittery lane address, the following vocations did come:  (me),  Fr. Richard Welch, Most. Rev. Barry Knestout, Fr. Mark Knestout, Fr. Tom Woods, Fr. Tim Breslin, and Fr. Dave Wells.

The other side of Bowie has also produced a good number of priests from Sacred Heart parish.

We’ve got to get South Bowie and Mitchellville/Upper Marlboro going with a wave, too.


The Cardinal was right: he gives priests from among the group that the ADW gives him. We have good young men coming out of this parish for the past four-and-a-half decades, with more good ones currently— so we are due for a breakout.


13th Sunday Homily (Thanks and Farewell) from Fr. Barry

Today is my tenth anniversary of being here at St. Edward–Bowie.   I wanted to just say thanks to all of you today, for the main message of this homily.  I have given 500 or so Sunday Homilies for you since July 1, 2007, when I first arrived.  This one will mix in my thanks, using a set of readings that lends well to a homily of appreciation.  These 13th Sunday “A” Scriptures speak about support that ought to be given to the worker of the Lord, and it also speaks of the blessings that go to and fro in co-relation of service workers to the community.  That is, we are blessed in God’s Spirit in our shared work for The Kingdom.

I became your fifth pastor a decade ago, and it was a real joy for me.   It was a homecoming to Bowie for me, and I do love this city.  (I’m a SPX School/ Tasker M.S./ Bowie High alum of old.)   It was nice to be here in a parish where Mom has been going since 1986, and to where Dad had likewise come over here with her from St. Pius X parish, since he was a new deacon in 1986, and that he was assigned here under Fr. Kemp.   He then served under two more pastors of Kehoe and Foley, until his passing in 2004.   I met a number of you back then at that wake and funeral of Dad, but knew some of you way before, and I knew some people from the K of C too, and some from my growing up days, and more.  Many of you, though, started afresh with me, or joined on along the way, and it has been nice to be in this faith community with you.

I had served in some parishes in crisis beforehand as a pastor or as a fill-in stop gap pastor, so it was so nice to come to a normal and happy parish and be your pastor and for so long a time.   I was hoping to build upon that good thing you had going here at St. Edward, and I think God has used me for good in this community of faith.  We remain as a good normal and happy parish, and I hope you have liked some of the things the Holy Spirit inspired me to do as your pastor for the decade.   I did enjoy shepherding here, and being on the journey of faith with you as we have pressed on the goal of meeting Christ in Glory.

Today’s reading from the Old Testament mentions that the prophet Elisha had a great supporter and a friend in a woman of Shumen (who is unnamed, so we’ll call her Misha), and she, like some others, knew that the man of God needed support around him, such as financial helps, and prayer, and love, and common spirit.  She was well off and talented, but also very much in need of more growth in the Lord.   She was so happy to meet Elisha the prophet.   She gave support to him, and he was so blessed for it, and likely very grateful.   Well, I can identify with that.   You have been support to me, St. Edward family, as a pastor doesn’t go it alone, and is as good as the people and participation around him.  I have had your love and parish dedication of time, talent and treasure from a good enough number of people to do some fine things here with that offering.  Together you have been a “Misha” to me.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.   I hope I have been your favored man of God, too, like the Bible story, though the story is about one of the greats, so I make no comparison to Elisha, that’s for sure.

It says that Elisha to give back to the woman of Shumen, as by a suggestion of her servant Gehani, who said that her sorrow was not being able to bear a child.   Elisha is given a prophesy in the Spirit, and he uttered aloud a prophetic word upon the woman, (Misha), and the prophet’s prayer led to a miracle and motherhood for her.   Nice.  We surmise that Misha was married, so two people got the miracle in that story.  Well, here at St. Edward, we have had some miracles and blessings here, too— going both ways– and I won’t single one out, but some definite works of God have been manifest here.  I hope I have been means of blessing to you.

As I thought of miracles where God has used me, I am guided to the thousands of Masses I’ve prayed here at altar before you, and with you.   Those are the miracles, all by Christ the Priest’ means through the holy orders he bestowed on me, that I might be so led to connect as our shared miracle.   I think especially of the many Sunday ones and special Holy Days’ ones here.  There’s been the miracle shared in our story of priest and people in liturgy.  We have had the Eucharistic miracle on a daily occasion here, sometimes several a day.   That’s the miracle of what I will remember most strongly between us:  how we gathered here in Jesus, The Bread of Life.

I will recall Sunday Eucharist and Daily Eucharist, and also those times by the altar for weddings, funerals, RCIA conversions, and Confirmations and 1st Holy Communions.   I will also hold dearly all the Masses over at the regional St. Pius school too, where I once watched the priests do it for me as a youth, and now returned to do it for the new generation. Nice.

Back to the Scriptures….

In this Gospel of Matthew 10, the chapter we are in is called the Mission chapter.  Jesus sends people out on mission to spread the Good News, namely the apostles here (and later the 72 disciples will also be commissioned, as Luke would tell us).   The apostles go out to the villages and towns to meet people and to share with them the Rabbi Jesus’ message and His works of healing.   In this mission effort, there are many people who receive the apostes in, and Jesus says that as they received them in (as His sent disciples)– that they were receiving Him in, as well.   He said that the prophet or evangelist or workman of God was worth his wage of support, in the giving of lodging, food and welcome.   Indeed, the apostles and some disciples came back, saying to their Master that there were people who welcome them in, receiving the teachings of Jesus, and some receiving the healings of Christ via them.   Jesus was glad for this report of some support afforded His sent ones.  He says that Heaven notices even for a cup of cold water given to someone representing Him.

Later in Jesus ministry, He would be the traveling rabbi with disciples going through Bethany, when cups of water were likely offered to Him, in the neighborhood of Martha and Mary and Lazarus.   Then they even extended much more to Jesus and company, and they become close friends.    I think of that story, too, in relation to Matthew 10, in the friends made and love found along the way in ministry, such as here since 2007. Thanks.

Again, like the first reading, Matthew 10 describes how it was an expected giving or generosity to assist God’s workman, and again, you have done that for me with some food, lodging, and a little pay for keeping my ministry here as priest.   I can thank you again for that.

You know, in the seminary, I wrote a 42-page exposition of this missions chapter 10 of Matthew, giving Scriptural exegesis on it, and forming some of my own opinion on it.   I did notice its appeal to the person in a priest vocation who leaves family life, like myself, and makes the church community his family.  Indeed, that is who you are to me:  family.   Even while I do have family here in the area, and I love them:  I am committed to serving you and the others in the Church of Washington of whom the Archbishop sends me out to help.  That was my life’s dedication at ordination–to serve the Church of Washington.

Living the message has been somewhat challenging, as in my being moved around a few places:  4 as pastor and 3 as associate pastor/ parochial vicar. And 1 in a floating half-year when I served several places from a parish in-residence, while doing a tenth year sabbatical.  Living Matthew 10 has been harder than writing about Matthew 10.   Especially in this week.   After a great ten years with you as pastor, suddenly on Friday I have been named to pastor/administer another parish.   I am being transferred.  In fact, I am as of Saturday the shepherd of a parish in Eastern Montgomery County called Resurrection Parish Burtonsville.    I have about 2 weeks to move my things from here, and to celebrate Mass just up to mid-July and then leave you.   It’s sad for me to have to go, after so many good times together, and in renewal in the Lord and His Spirit, and with new personnel coming on in the parish.  You now have a new music director, Megan Weeks, as of July 1, and you have a regular and new parish secretary, Cres Soisson, who will be officially the lone secretary on Wednesday, as our Jackie Macri retired on Friday.   I just hired them, but they will be serving under a new pastor.

So I am to go.  To Resurrection Parish in Burtonsville.   It is in Eastern Montgomery county, right off Rt. 29 in the corridor between Silver Spring and Columbia, Maryland.

To explain briefly, of the sudden change, many weeks ago the Archbishop told me that he wanted for my next parish to be Resurrection Parish, Burtonsville, as whenever it opened up to need a new pastor.   He thought it might need a new pastor soon.  I did not know when that would be, but quickly on Friday I was asked to change, and by Saturday, July 1st,  I was named.   It was an unusual way to do it, as all the other transfers were done openly back in May, but this post had a private reasonable explanation for how it was handled, thus, which I need not try to more detail for you.   The effect of it is that it takes me out of here rather abruptly.  Sorry for that.  The parishes of Resurrection and of Sacred Heart Bowie and ours have the announcement to make.   Fr. Scott Holmer to here, as your new pastor/administrator. Me to Resurrection parish in Burtonsville.

Today was planned to just be a tenth anniversary of thanks to you, of my happiness of being with you so long, but now it has just two weeks left to it, and I make this my official farewell, even while I will be here all this weekend and next, and cover many daily Masses until July 12th.   I knew the announcement might be coming soon, so I was afraid that this abrupt farewell might happen, but at least I had a small party planned for outside after all Masses today.   So we shall gather after Mass.

So who is the new priest coming in?   It is Fr. Scott Holmer.  He lives right here in Bowie, as the parochial vicar at Sacred Heart–Bowie, on Rt. 450.   He just will need to take a right on Rt. 3 and go 5 traffic lights south, and make a right onto Mitchellville Road, and up to #1940.   It’s a short move for him.  Not a far way to go.   You will like Fr. Holmer, as I do, and he is a marvelous choice to be your next pastor.   I have been working quietly with him in recent days and weeks, so to prepare him for this place.  I have been doing some residence renewal for him, too, as a hearty welcome in.   He will start likely on July 13th.

Three special words, people:   I love you.

Four others:  I will miss you.

Yet this truth remains:  We are one in the Body of Christ, and nothing will separate that union in the Spirit.   We are one.

Happy Independence Day Weekend, folks.    In this Year of Grace, a parting message:  It has been a grace and gift to be with you.

Finally, as we sing in the CWA prayer group here:  I love you with the love of the Lord, yes I love you with the love of the Lord, I can see in you, the glory of the King, and I love you with the love of the Lord.   imag0801_1

Knowing the Spirit Better

I am doing a personal three day retreat IMAG1390_2on The Holy Spirit.   I have a series of 14 half-hour talks on the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.   The series is done by a Franciscan priest I have met several times and been on retreat with for several Summers.

I am on my own instead of a communal retreat, so to concentrate just on this topic.

Fr. Barry

“Rebuilt” (model) church needs much re-consideration

7403_1I went to a “Rebuilt” Mass. I came as an observer of it, just another person in the crowd.  (No clerics on.)  It is a Mass within a new movement in Maryland to make the celebration of Mass more relevant to younger Mass-goers (though the Rebuilt founders may dress their approach up in other terms).   Here’s how it came across to me– it was like pulling in to a Cineplex today.

The church seemed more like an auditorium, and it was very dark inside, with commercials for the parish flashing on large screens up front.  On the way in through the main doors, I was passed by kids going out carrying paper plates of fresh pizza slices, adult men and women leaving with foam cups of hot coffee to their mouths, and a grandma in jeans and a t-shirt exiting while eating a banana.   That’s just for starters, folks.   (These people were leaving the café area of the parish, which I took a peak at before walking into the church part. These people were leaving from the prior Sunday liturgy.  But how often do you run into people leaving Mass with slices of pizza?!   But I knew I wasn’t at the Cineplex, but at a Catholic church for Mass!   I joked to myself:  “Maybe their dismissal to close Mass is:  The Mass is ended, go and eat pizza.”)

There was a greeting team and a parking team to hold open the door to church and to tell me exactly where to park beforehand.  As I pulled up the church driveway, I saw a couple walking in from the neighborhood street, and it occurred to me that they did so because they wanted to choose their parking situation.   After Mass, in the scramble of people coming and going, I understood why they chose the far-away spot.  ‘Twas quite a parking mess.  Obviously, the parish will need to schedule Masses at least 2 hours apart in the future (and not 90 minutes), lest someone and their banana gets run over in the confusion out on the lot between liturgies.

In watching people coming out from the earlier Mass, I did notice smiles on faces, and a good number of families in the crowd. Ah, a big positive!  People liked this parish!  Well, that was a very good sight to see!   People walking in to Mass also looking pretty happy to be coming.  That was refreshing.

As I saw the arriving congregants, I also saw a more younger crowd, with numbers of new families.  There were not many older persons over 65.  Maybe 5%, which in Catholic America is quite odd.  Well, it’s a positive and a negative here on that accord.

Well, a second negative was noticeable.  Most of the people all looked the same race and/or middle or middle/upper class background.   This sameness among the people was a little off-putting to me, because I knew the Maryland area of the parish church was more of a blended area, even though in a partly-affluent corridor out of the city. The congregants were almost all dressed in casual cool or just in plain jeans and shorts.   (Even more dressed-down that one going out to dinner somewhere.  There was an abundance of Orioles t-shirts in the attendees of Mass, suggesting maybe that they were including the struggling team in their intercessory prayers.  It worked, as the O’s won today–even with Chris Tillman pitching! 🙂    A man who did walk in to Mass wearing a suit did stand out among the incoming Mass-comers.   There was just a casualness in this parish that spoke of some lack of reverence here.  Of course, I have seen this casualness in other places– just not so dominantly (except at Beach parishes in the Summer).

As some of my first impressions were not so good here, I reminded myself that I was going to try to be positive, and not to come in with a critical attitude.  After all, this was my Sunday Mass obligation, as well.   I came incognito, and sat in with the congregation today.

As I walked in to a darkened church, I could make out an altar, a presider’s chair, an ambo, a crucifix, and some lit candles on stands up front and center.  Check: I was in a Catholic church.   One problem: No visible tabernacle, no sanctuary lamp.

What got one’s attention instead were the large screens flashing announcements and commercials above me, and everybody in the church was talking to one another, or checking their phones for messages (but not looking at Catholic Apps, such as one to prepare for liturgy!).  I saw only a minimal of people remaining quiet or looking like they were praying.   A young lady was taping something live on a tv camera just three pews away from me, evidently for their broadcast of this show, er, Mass, later on to the parish web site.  She was a distraction.

Relevance all too often sacrifices reverence in a church.   I immediately saw that here.

The band members were not a distraction, as they stood discreetly off to the side.   They were my lone witnesses to some respectful attitude before Mass.   Their drums and guitars were up on a platform, which rivaled the altar space for attention.   As Mass started, the band walked on.  From then on, people would be looking off to the side at them, or up at the big screens, about half as much as they would be looking at the lector or priest or altar.  These side distractions would hold a lot of the attention in Mass.   Still, the members of the band before and during Mass seemed to be the most reverent people in the house.   More on them later.   Mass has not started yet.

There was no kneeler to position oneself humbly for pre-Mass prayers.   There were no missalettes to check out the readings for Mass (although I always do that at home before I come in to Mass, so it was no loss for me, as I knew of the Jeremiah reading, the Psalm, the epistle, and the “what you hear in the dark, you must speak and proclaim in the Light” Gospel of this Sunday).   Thankfully, there were no parish bulletins to be found, so no one was eyeing them as pre-Mass reading material.  🙂

It was past the time for Mass to start, but we hadn’t begun yet.  There was no sign of a procession to be coming in of servers, cantors, deacon and priest.  However, there was a video welcome given to us from the big screens by two spokespersons for the parish, and many explanations to be made of what to do.  Next, another video came up about when the children would be leaving for their “Time Travel” session.   Now, finally, came the opening song.

The words to the opening song were up on the screens, and the music group was lively and contemporary.   I liked the way the group sang and played, but I did not know the song, nor did the people around me, so we mostly watched and listened to them sing and play.   I am not sure how the priest and one server got up to the sanctuary, but suddenly they were there. (Did they rise up from below the stage?!)   The Sign of the Cross opened us up, and a Penitential Rite by the presider.  The Gloria was a rousing 2017-sounding one, perhaps written by this parish group.   I sang along, as I could.  A member near me sang along pretty loudly and enthusiastically.  That was nice to notice.  As the Collect was prayed, I noticed something a little odd.  The presider wasn’t facing us, but he was facing diagonally away from us, angled toward the altar from his presider’s chair, positioned beside the altar ten feet away.  A lone teen or young adult altar server held the Missal for the priest, and I noted that the young man had an earpiece, receiving instructions from someone controlling the Mass from some side place.  Odd again.   Oh, now I got it, the priest was looking into a camera.  We, the live congregation, he had his back to.   Just great!   Check: negative.

In the back of church was a lighting ministry and a sound ministry.  From the appearance of it, they were paid helpers for Mass, vital to the liturgy, and helping with all the slides.  Ushers were going up and down the aisles spying for free seats about.

When the Liturgy of the Word began, the only slides to go up were the responsorial words of the Psalm song (which was not the Lectionary Psalm) and some text of the Gospel.  The church remained dark throughout the Mass so we could see the slides.  (If you had brought a St. Joseph’s Missal for assistance, then it would not have helped unless one used a cell phone light to see it.)   This lack of text is not much of a problem for me, since I think The Scriptures should be heard as proclaimed, rather than read along in the pew by persons looking down towards their missalettes.  I get that concept.  However, I have a comment about it.  This way that the Rebuilt Mass does the Word requires a very good lector to do it, and one who does not have an accent.   In most parishes, that would disclude many Africans, Asians, South and Central Americans from being lectors.  Heaven forbid a Jamaican or Australian or even Green Bay Wisconsin-ite be chosen to proclaim the Word, due to the need that all could understand each Scripture verse proclaimed (since a text can’t be followed).   Just saying.   It’s an exclusionary way this church does the Liturgy of the Word– for good communications’ sake.   The human factor was orchestrated here.   Not so good.

I was ready for a good homily.  The pastor-priest was proclaiming the Gospel and preaching today in Holy Mass.   Yet I was disappointed by what came next.   After proclaiming the Gospel, he merely summed up the readings and showed their ties to not being afraid to be the Lord’s voice or witness to the world.   Then he advertised that a series on Moses was coming at the tail end of Mass (though Moses isn’t in any Summer readings of Year A cycle, as far as I know).   Yet I like theme preaching a lot, so I looked forward to this post-Communion homily to come, since we were quickly standing up now and praying the Apostles’ Creed.

I checked the time, and it was only 25 minutes into Mass.   We were going in fast speed.   No break for any silence either.  The Offertory Song to follow the Universal Prayer was a familiar praise song of charismatic prayer meetings, so I knew it and joined along in the song.  No procession of gifts was done.  Soon, we were moving into the Eucharistic Prayer(EP).  Surprisingly, the Holy Holy song was the sung Latin Sanctus, of which the Praise Band took a break and it was almost an acapella  prayer.   We were signaled to sit for the EP.  (No kneelers.)   A few tried kneeling, but there was no room for that.

I watched the presider through the Mass, and he was pretty expressionless throughout, during a Mass with lots of high tech and praise band excitement.   A little odd.   He seemed to be doing things in a hurry, too.   He prayed a normal Eucharistic Prayer and did the elevations properly of Body and Blood, though.  As the Peace Rite exchange began, he was breaking the bread and the Lamb of God was sung and done quite soon.   Just one Lay Minister joined Father in the sanctuary space at the Lamb of God (to serve a church of 300).   I wondered about that in the moment, comparing the number of parking lot ministers I saw while pulling in.

As Communion started, the Praise Band didn’t receive, but went into singing right away, and I didn’t see them receive during the Mass.   I also noticed that other lay ministers appeared with ciboria, but not with Eucharist from the altar or a tabernacle in the altar area.  Odd.   They just appeared in numerous places with the Eucharist from somewhere, and the Communion Rite was finished up pretty quickly.   It was only 42 minutes in when the Prayer after Communion was done, without a call for people to stand up for it, nor for the blessing.   The priest prayed in the diagonal direction away from the people again, and then abruptly announced: “The Mass is ended.”    But the church experience was not over, just simply paused.   A dismissal of children from the church to their programs was announced, and a layman came up and then gave an 18 minute Moses talk, complete with slides, as the presider sat in his chair, again looking a bit detached and unemotional about everything, even as the pastor of this whole operation.   The lay teacher taught us how Moses had an attitude of gratitude.

This lay teacher did a very good job on the Moses teaching, and then we all stood, with the children come marching back in on a cue, and we sang a short closing song.   There was no procession out.   When the song ended, the priest shook some hands up front.  Most of the congregants went out into a café area to have donuts and coffee, and fruit, and bagels, and best of all, slices of fresh pizza.

I wondered about the value of the Eucharist inside of us as we lined up for pizza.  I decided to skip the pizza.   I took a walk around and I saw the babysitting ministry room, the little kids room for ministry, and the Time Travelers room, and some other rooms for during Mass/Moses talk occupation of the young.    (I stood in the Time Travelers room and wished to be at the 1983 World Series in Baltimore again, but nothing happened.)

I had managed to get inside and out of this “friendly parish” without anyone walking up and saying hi to me, except for a quick sign of peace in Mass, and I tried to go up and talk to a musician after Mass, but they turned away to talk amongst themselves.   I realized later that they were paid to play all the Masses of the morn, as well was likely the lector a paid person.   That ‘professionalism’ did not lend to those folks acting like regular members.  Not, at least, to my observation.  Paid help can act differently at or in a Mass or afterwards.  No surprise in that.   But not ideal!

Outside there were many people talking on the plaza, or hanging awhile in the café.   The mood was pretty good, except for the parking lot, as people for the next Mass were arriving, but not finding available parking spaces.   The parking ministers had a job on their hand keeping people calm out there.   If only Moses could have parted and opened up some new spaces somewhere, for a safe but late exodus of the 1030 Mass Folk and a safe arrival of the Noon Mass new folk.

I realized as I drove away that I hadn’t genuflected or blessed myself with holy water before my departure, until I realized that no one did at this parish.   It’s different.

My favorite part of the experience was the contemporary music, though it had its flaws.  I also liked that the children’s and youth ministry were bringing and leaving happy faces on the young (along with chocolate donut frosting).

The “Rebuilt” (model) church needs much re-consideration.

I noticed they are building a bigger church on the grounds.  Perhaps the old space can be used as a parking garage (but I got a feeling they’ll use it as a mega-café).  Or perhaps the new space and the present space is planned as one big space for worship, since they have the megachurch in mind with this place.

I am happy that many ‘Timoniniums’ and O’s fans are coming to Mass at this parish.  We need people coming to Sunday Mass.   I just wondered:  Is THIS how we are to go about it?

I liked the contemporary music– well, at least to a point.   The music ministers were the best part of the liturgy.   Since I have a liking to contemporary praise music, I did enjoy it.   However, the Mass needs to have its Liturgical Music, as well, which they really did not offer at the ReBuilt parish here. (I am a member of the National Pastoral Musicians Association for the reason of promoting liturgical works in the Mass, even contemporary ones, but not just Praise Band music.  That music has its place.   I really like it– but in its proper place.)

More comments…..  I did like the Moses presentation, but it was odd that the preaching of the day was by a layman, and not the clergyman   Yet I did like that people in the pews were staying for a Bible teaching of 18 minutes, as all Catholics very much need more Bible study and faith education.   I have tried many ways in my own parishes to present as such.   Sometimes it has led to longer Sunday homilies by me to get the message across, all with a 60-minute Mass limit in mind.    I know Catholics need so much more knowledge of the Bible and Catechism and Apologetics and The Saints– they do need so much more than the little many settle for.   ReBuilt, at least, is trying a creative way to keep Catholics in the pews for some teaching time.   Yet the sacrifice of the priest’s homily time is too much.    So, there’s a positive and negative comment in one there.

Other positives:  I liked that the babe’s and children’s and pre-teens had a ministry for them on Sundays, and that a whole lot of people were involved in their parish (even if for selling $1 pizza after Mass).   I figured that a high number of paid persons were needed for this whole operation to work, so I wondered all that worked out financially, or how much another parish (like ours) could copy it on a smaller budget.   I guess if you have the higher collection, then you can pull more ministry off.  Bravo to them that they pulled it off.   Our parish cannot afford a band, nor light and sound and screen/computer teams, nor paid staff on Sundays for all the ministries, nor the Security Guard (off duty Baltimore policeman) they had present.  Phew!

A major negative:  I think Jesus was lost in all of this.   Yes, He was glorified in the songs, and honored in the prayers, and mentioned centrally in His House, but all the trappings (music band, lights, cameras, screens, noise) took much away from His being honored and revered in His own Mass.   The priest, His sign, also seemed secondary to the liturgy, even while it all depended on his being there.   A general feeling of it being a religious drama show, with music, almost overwhelmed the Mass, and there was precious little reverence felt there for the one Centrality there that deserved the most respect:  Christ as Eucharist and the Sacred Offering at Mass.

Yes, we got Communion at this Sunday Mass, and we did acclaim Jesus— but it was such an unfamiliar way of doing it.   The boxes were checked of Catholic things to do in a proper Mass, but the Mystery seemed to be missing in the middle.

I think the Catholic Sunday Liturgy does need some of the elements and modern adaptations present at the Rebuilt Mass.   I get where they are coming from, but I am not sure where they are going, and I am unsure about how they are going about this reform.   I came as a person very interested in what they were trying to do here, but I am unsold on it at this time.   I am a fan for their trying, and in doing so as Catholics, rather than departing independents trying to re-invent the Christian Church.

But I think the “Rebuilt” program had better re-group! 

I have read all their materials in the past few years in attempting this project.   I like some ideas a lot, but I am flummoxed and offended by some other ideas of theirs.

But I just had to take a Sunday and go see a ReBuilt Mass for myself.    I did this today, leaving my retreat house to drive to this liturgy.  I wrote this review back at the retreat house.


Consider Who the Host is at any Catholic Church.   He is Jesus.   The Attention needs to be on Him in any Mass, whether a Cathedral Mass with choir or a daily Mass in a simple country chapel.   His Presence in the Church, via the reserved Blessed Sacrament, is the first consideration of ‘noticing Him’ when one enters the Catholic parish church.   His Presence in the Priest, via Holy Orders, is an important focus as the prayers of Mass take place.  The priest presider/celebrant should reflect this and he should be aware of it.  Then the Word in Scripture announces Him.   The Eucharistic Prayer really ought to be prayed along (participated) by the faithful on their knees.  The Lord is Come to us in Mass.   The Eucharist and its thanksgiving is such the vital experience of the Mass.   It must not be lost amidst all else going on around it.  When I leave the Sacred Liturgy, the Peace of The Presence needs to be central.  The communal experience of prayer needs its key link to the action at the Altar (The Miracle of the Lord’s Supping with us) and our being commonly fed by the One Loaf Who is Christ, Bread of Life. IMAG1245