Journal Archive 2023 CYCLE A

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First Sunday of Advent
Mt 24:37-44
November 27, 2022

Appreciating how essential a “good night’s sleep” is to overall health and well being, more experts are making recommendations on how to defeat insomnia. I for one, read every article and listen to every interview I come across, in hopes that I will stop tossing and turning most of the night. There are a few tips that each sleep guru seems to have in common:

1. It is important to maintain a regular “sleep schedule” as much as possible.

2. It is important to avoid those things that interfere with sleep, such as late-night heavy meals, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages and the so called “blue light” coming from electronic devices.

3. It is important that the bedroom should be dark and the mind as free from worries and concerns as possible. (Easier said than done…right?)

This is all pretty much common sense. And, if a few changes can improve overall health and well being…well why not put them into practice? It occurs to me that these common sense recommendations might also be the key to improving our spiritual health and over all sense of well being.

Consider how the Scripture passages proclaimed during Advent, are in large part, a “call to action.” Throughout the brief season we hear things like: STAY AWAKE! PREPARE! BE VIGILANT! MAKE CHANGES! ACT!

This all takes energy and energy requires good rest. You need good sleep in order to tackle big projects. What can be a bigger project than salvation?


1. It is important to maintain a “regular schedule” by being aware of, and fully engaged in, the entire Liturgical Year. The U.S. Catholic Bishops point out that:

Christmas Time and Easter Time (following their respective preparatory Seasons of Advent and Lent) highlight the central mysteries of the Paschal Mystery, namely, the incarnation, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Ordinary Time, takes us through the life of Christ. This is the time of conversion. This is living the life of Christ. Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation.

The whole of the Liturgical year is scheduled in a way that encourages us to grow closer to the Sacred Mysteries. When we stick to the schedule the Church has arranged for us, and faithfully observe each of the Seasons, we are spiritually refreshed. Being faithful to the liturgical schedule energizes us enabling us to do the work…of growing and maturing in Christ.

2. It is important to avoid those things those people, places and things that disrupt the Peace of Christ which is a rich source of spiritual energy.

Although a Season of preparation, unlike Lent, Advent is not penitential. It is a time of joyful expectation. First, of course, for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. But in addition…during this brief time, we remember The Lord’s promise that He will return. This is a season when we anticipate and prepare for that great day. To properly prepare, we need to push back, as best as possible, against those things that distract us and sap our spiritual energy. After all, we want to be well rested and look our very best when we go out to meet Christ…and that takes preparation.

3.It is important that we retire for a time each day with our mind as free from worries and concerns as possible.

Meditation and prayer create the environment that is conducive to a peaceful mind and spirit. Jesus, repeatedly went off alone, by Himself, to pray…especially in the most troubled of times. On His return, He was able to continue to “do the work.” As we begin this New Year, it would be advisable to follow His example.

It really is a matter of common sense.

Advent should be regarded as much more than a brief, preparatory Season that introduces Christmas. It is also an attitude. Advent is a way of being in the state of constant readiness for the return of Christ in Glory. And this requires action…work…and focus. That all takes spiritual energy. And common sense tells us how to acquire that energy…so why not put it into practice!

Second Sunday of Advent
Mt 3:1-12
December 4, 2022

Pop singer Taylor Swift is about to go out on tour again. Even Congress has taken note. The demand for tickets has been so great that TicketMaster broke down. For some reason, with everything else going on in the world, this seems to be cause for a Congressional investigation.

Anyway…I happened to be talking with a young person (a committed “Swiftie”) fortunate enough to score a ticket before the computer crashed. I asked her: “Who is opening for Taylor Swift?” To which she replied: “I don’t really know!”

I suspect most “Swifties” would answer the same way. Who cares? What does it matter? I’m paying to see Taylor Swift! It doesn’t make any difference to me who the opening act is.

Although mentioned in the early part of all four of the Gospels, I think we tend to regard John the Baptist like an opening act. He makes a brief appearance during Advent, and then, for the most part, disappears. It’s as if he is there to make a little noise while we gather for the main attraction…JESUS! He’s Who we’re here to see!

That is a big mistake.

John the Baptist is much, much, more than an opening act. He is an integral part of the glimpse of the Mystery we call God…the glimpse that is stretched into a full view through Jesus.

Consider the staging of his appearance in today’s Gospel. We find him in the wilderness, as predicted by Isaiah…a voice crying out in the desert. Throughout Scripture, “the desert” is depicted as a sanctuary of sorts, where profound and intense spiritual experiences are to be had. Moreover, we often find that seekers leave the desert changed, which is exactly the message that John is calling out…REPENT! CHANGE! TURN YOUR LIFE AROUND!

The costuming is unusual, to say the least. Unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees, who drew his wrath (You brood of vipers), John intentionally clothed himself like you might imagine an Old Testament Prophet…like a desert dweller…like a person whose authority is obvious from the message entrusted to him. He had no need of the trappings of office for which the Temple “personnel” were known. John was clothed in righteousness, which spoke louder and far more eloquently than robes and vestments.

Even his diet had great symbolic value: locusts and honey…both bitter and sweet. Being told that you have “missed the mark,” that you need to turn around and move in another direction, is a bitter pill to swallow. But, how sweet to know how easy it is…with God’s help…to correct your course.

He might well have been Crying out in the desert…but his message echoed back and attracted a crowd. How surprised they must have been to find him standing in a pool of refreshing water in the middle of such dry, arid territory. What a reminder that we can expect to find God’s healing and forgiveness in the most unexpected places.

John was definitely NOT A WARM-UP ACT for Jesus. His role was, and continues to be, critical to an understanding of Jesus…God’s Eternal Word made Flesh. He was given the duty of urging people to clear away any mistaken thoughts or impression they might have…or might have been taught…that God is anything other than total and unconditional LOVE!

When we respond to John the Baptist’s call to “turn around,” what we see is Christ waiting patiently to take center stage in our lives! And you certainly do not need a ticket to hear Jesus say I LOVE YOU!

Third Sunday of Advent
Mt 11:2-11
December 11, 2022

Several years ago, the television program The Antiques Roadshow was filmed on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. An old friend had tickets and invited me to go. Each person admitted to the event was allowed to bring two items for appraisal. I brought the violin that has remained silent for decades. It was my maternal grandfather’s…who was given it by his father, who may or may not have been the original owner. Both were accomplished players, I am told.

I vividly recall the spirit of the event. It was one of hopeful excitement. Things were very orderly and there was no pushing or shoving to get ahead in line. Everyone seemed patient and in good cheer as they waited to consult an expert who would evaluate their treasure.

When it was my turn to present the violin for appraisal, the expert put on a pair of white cloth gloves and gently…almost reverently…opened and carefully removed the instrument from its old leather case and began a close and methodical examination. He explained his observations as he moved along. He was actually able to identify what area of Germany the wood from which the violin was harvested. He verified that it was well over 100 years old, but in spite of its age, his expert opinion was that the only real value was sentimental.

This experience is brought to mind by the Gospel proclaimed on this 3rd Sunday of Advent. What we have here is a sort of “mutual authentication” between Jesus and John.

From his prison cell, John directs his disciples to “evaluate” Jesus. Of course, the best way to evaluate someone or something is to get up close and personal. Although a prisoner, wouldn’t you think that the mood on both sides of the “bars” was joyful excitement? Salvation was in the air. They needed only to confirm the feelings that were welling up within them.

For His part, by receiving, responding to, and returning John’s disciples to him, the Lord seems to be validating and placing great value on The Baptist’s contribution to His own mission.

But Jesus’s reply is also “Self-authenticating.” He uses His healing miracles as a way of assuring those John sent, as well as us today, that He truly is God’s promise fulfilled…The Messiah. However, then, as now, it is important to look deeper into these miraculous events to appreciate that they were more than physical healings.

THE BLIND REGAIN THEIR SIGHT…and so are able to see the image of God in all of creation…especially in other human beings.

THE LAME WALK…and as they move, they serve those in need, they spread the Good News as they go, and with each step, they move closer to The Kingdom.

LEPERS ARE CLEANSED…enabling them to rejoin the community, just as sinners are cleansed and return to fellowship at the Communion Table.

THE DEAF HEAR…and find comfort in God’s assurances of unconditional love…echoing that message to others.

THE DEAD ARE RAISED…even more miraculous than calling Lazarus from the tomb was the way in which Jesus’s message of peace, justice, and love reignited and continues to resuscitate the faith life in those who have gone cold.

AND THE POOR HAVE THE GOOD NEWS PROCLAIMED TO THEM…the Good News that no matter how worthless we might feel, or be made to feel by others, we are each treasured by our God.

This Gospel seems to be Jesus’s way of authenticating John’s role in Salvation History, while, at the same time, Self-authenticating Himself as The Messiah. But the miracles and the healings continue and someday will authenticate all those who “take no offense” at The Gospel but bring it to life by living it.

Someday, the Lord will gently and reverently remove them from the cases we call our earthly bodies and will lovingly examine them…healing and repairing every injury sustained through time in this world. And then they will be authenticated as priceless…and eternal…and they will join the heavenly choirs in giving Glory to God in the highest!

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Mt 1:18-24
December 18, 2022


A young woman was specially prepared by God and the righteous man to whom she was betrothed received specific instructions from an angel concerning what was needed from each of them. Both accepted the invitation to participate in a unique and unrepeatable joint venture between heaven and earth.

Besides the unshakable faith that steeled Mary and Joseph as they undertook their respective parts in this drama, they also showed remarkable patience.

Patience is a virtue that the Holy Spirit is eager to instill in each and every person who asks. This “fruit of the Spirit” is often mentioned by the New Testament authors. In certain instances, the Greek word employed communicates the image of “remaining under” as in enduring a burden (carrying a cross). The other Greek word for the virtue of patience illustrates the ability to control one’s emotions…one’s temper. This word is used to describe the strength it takes to endure a hardship without a major meltdown…showing unusual self-restraint or self-control.

Without patience, when a person is faced with a daunting challenge, they will try hard to escape it, complaining throughout the ordeal, maybe over-reacting…losing control.

A lack of patience is weakness. Patience, on the other hand, is power…power to endure without falling victim to negative emotions such as self-pity, despair and hopelessness, anger, or the desire for revenge. A patient person would never play the “victim card.”

Obviously, it is less difficult to be patient with someone you love, so there is a clear connection between love and patience. Remember how patient our Creator is with us. God IS love and God IS patience. It follows that when we shoulder our crosses without resistance, or when we show control over our emotions…even in very stress-filled times, we are an image of God.


Mary and Joseph, out of love for God, accepted the task that God laid on each of them. In order to be successful in their respective roles in salvation history, they needed to be patient…with God…with one another…and even with themselves.

Now, it is our responsibility to continue what they began. It is on each generation to ensure that The Eternal Word continues to take flesh…by patiently living the Gospel. And while no other human being has been graced as fully and completely as The Blessed Mother, The Holy Spirit stands ready to empower us by continually replenishing within us the fruit we can use…PATIENCE!

Let us pray: Blessed Mary, Mother of Consolation, pray with me for the virtue of patience. There are so many times when my lack of patience keeps me from becoming the kind of person God wants me to be. Guide my thoughts to you and the example we have in your own life and in that of St. Joseph, your faithful and loving spouse. Help me to become patient as you both were patient. Amen!


The Nativity of the Lord
Lk 2:1-14
December 25, 2022

In the middle of December, mid-Advent, Nouvel Catholic Central High School staged a production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The producer chose a “retelling” of Charles Dicken’s classic by contemporary playwright Patrick Barlow. The adaptation stresses the “conversion process.”

Because I have known most of the cast since they were preschool students, I made a point of attending. The kids did an amazing job. The play was not only great entertainment, but, at least for me, offered a powerful insight into the mystery of the Incarnation.

Towards the end of the second act, Scrooge (played by a young man whose entire family I am particularly close to) finally understands the error of his ways. More importantly, he realizes that time is running out for him, and that death is close. In a highly dramatic monologue that was brilliantly delivered by the young actor, Scrooge calls out…I WANT TO LIVE! I WANT TO LIVE SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME…I WANT TO LIVE!

It was intense and certainly seemed to me that this heartfelt plea went on for several minutes. In fact, Scrooge actually left the stage and walked down the center isle and into the darkened theatre, looking right into the faces of the stunned audience and desperately repeating those lines. I doubt anyone so much as took a breath. No one made a sound.

Appreciating my own reaction (my heart was in my throat), I began to think about the actor’s parents. I imagined how moving it was for my friends to hear their child pleading for his life…begging for help. In fact, after the play, his mother said that she could not hold back her tears. In truth, I doubt many could or did!

And then, out of the darkness, a very little girl in the front row shouted out in her sweet, young voice what every single person in the theatre was probably thinking: I’LL HELP YOU!

Her mother quickly silenced the little girl.

At first, it wasn’t clear whether her line was “scripted.” But as Scrooge continued undaunted by the interruption, it was clear that this uninhibited child gave voice to what we adults were all feeling. We all wanted to stand up and shout out:

The entire production was memorable. But it was the profound response of an innocent child to the extreme suffering of the actor that stuck with me. That, and the image of a parent watching her child pleading for help.

After a few days of reflection, it occurred to me that what I had seen was far more than entertainment. The completely unplanned reaction of the little girl to the anguish of a repentant and desperate sinner left me, anyway, with a meaningful insight into the mystery of the Incarnation.

Since the early stages of creation, the entire universe has been calling out…I WANT TO LIVE! I WANT TO LIVE! SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME! I WANT TO LIVE!

Above and beyond…watching this heart-wrenching drama from eternity, The Creator, much like the parents of the young actor, was moved beyond telling. Finally, God reacted to the cosmic plea for redemption…for help…for life!

The Creator took action.

God spoke into the earthly body of a young woman the most powerful Word imaginable. And that Word…God’s Eternal Word…took Flesh. The Christ-child was born.

The first sound…the very first cry that came from the newborn’s mouth rang throughout creation carrying the message: I’LL HELP YOU!

Jesus is God’s reply to creation’s desire to live. And The Lord’s assurances of Divine assistance have continued to echo throughout the centuries. But the voices of the faithful are called to become part of the heavenly chorus that first announced the Christ-child’s birth.

When we hear that cry…no matter from where or from whom…I WANT TO LIVE! I WANT TO LIVE! SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME…I WANT TO LIVE! Disciples are charged with the responsibility of responding: I’LL HELP TOO!

There are many traditions…and decorations…and songs that “make the season bright.” And there is certainly nothing wrong with joyfully celebrating Christmas, so long as we do not lose sight of the real meaning of the Incarnation. The very first cry that came from the mouth of that newborn Who came into this world in the most humble of circumstances was the Creator’s response to all of creation: I’LL HELP YOU!

There is no carol or hymn or card or story that better captures the true meaning of this very holy night than those simple words…I’LL HELP YOU!

Words that should be on our minds, and on our lips, and in our hearts…not just during this Season…but all year long.

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
Lk 2:16-21
January 1, 2023

Most people know that the first book of the Old Testament is called “Genesis “or “The Beginning.” And most people also know that the first chapter of the first book of the Bible is the first “Creation Story.” And most people, whether or not they accept the story of our origins, know that the sacred text describes how God accomplished Creation in six stages and then rested. But many people might not have noticed a very significant detail in the “Creation Story.”

After five of the stages (days), the Creator pondered what had been accomplished and observed: It is good! A significant detail for us to remember during this era of salvation history when so much around us seems to be “bad” is that our Creator thinks that the work of Creation is “good.”

But another significant detail that many overlook is that the Creator made no such observation at the conclusion of “Day 2.”

The second stage of our origin speaks to “separation.” Reflecting on what transpired during “Day 2,” we see a distancing between Heaven and the created world…with a dome placed between them. Is it possible that God did not find “goodness” in this work of his hands because there was more work to be done? Was the “separation” intended to be a temporary condition, while other things unfolded…or evolved, so to speak?

Which brings us to today’s celebration: The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

When I was growing up, Marian devotion was very prominent in the spiritual life of Roman Catholics. Parochial school children, for example, prayed “The Litany to The Blessed Mother” so frequently that the long list of titles and honors and functions of Mary were committed to memory. Some were vivid and meaningful insights into her unique role in salvation history. Others required mature reflection in order to understand and appreciate the Blessed Mother’s remarkable contribution to God’s eternal plan for salvation.

Sadly, and inexplicably, towards the end of the 20th century, devotion to the Blessed Mother seems to have waned. Maybe it would be helpful to consider new images of the Blessed Mother in order to revive the reverence she so richly deserves.

Thinking back to “Day 2” of the Creation Story, at the conclusion of which God made no observations, I wonder if it would be appropriate to image Mary as “the bridge” which reconnected what was separated as our world came into being.

Is it possible that in the beginning…the Creator saw fit to cause this separation, envisioning that day when the two realities would be rejoined through the flesh and blood of a young woman who had been specially prepared for that purpose?

Through her willing and unconditional service…the Divine Word passed over the space distancing heaven and earth…becoming flesh to dwell among us. Mary’s earthly body was God’s passageway from eternity into time.

Moreover, like all biological mothers connect their children to their ancestors, Mary connects us or links us to the source of all Creation…God! In that way, doesn’t she bridge what separates “the here and now” from our origin…the Eternal Kingdom?

Many people have forgotten, or fail to take notice of, a very significant detail in the story of redemption, grace, and salvation…the role of a young woman who committed her life to reconnecting heaven with earth. However, we might perceive the image of the Blessed Mother, we must never lose sight of the truth that she is our direct link to the Divine.

Pope Francis has recently encouraged the faithful to: “Turn to Mary often…for she is a mighty intercessor and a faithful companion on our spiritual journey.”

During his Angelus Address on the Feast of the Assumption this year, Francis reminded us that: “Mary, our Mother, takes us by the hand, accompanies us, and invites us to rejoice.”

It seems that what he is telling us is that Mary is not only the bridge, but our guide and our companion as we travel through this created world to the place that always was.

A fitting resolution as we begin the new year is to rekindle our relationship with Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of our Church…and our spiritual Mother who links us to our origin. Mary is most definitely a way to bridge the gap between our life here and eternal life.

Happy and Blessed New Year!

The Epiphany of the Lord
Mt 2:1-12
January 8, 2023

Today’s Gospel is the story of star power versus STAR POWER.

Thanks to modern communications, there is an entire galaxy of stars out there, desperately hoping to attract attention to themselves. These stars are called actors, pop singers, or athletes…and then, of course, there are politicians and corporate executives. Places, things, and even feelings and emotions also have star power. Think about anger, revenge, bigotry, envy…these are just a few of the feelings that can draw a person in and hold them in orbit!

Regardless of their place in the cultural universe, these stars have this much in common: Each has some quality, characteristic, or talent which makes them shine. Dazzled by their light, star gazers are strongly influenced by them, revolving around them like Earth revolves around the Sun.

These stars have something else in common with one another. They are constantly searching for ways to increase their power and influence over their admirers. Also, they jealously guard their power.

The star gazers have something in common with one another as well. They pay a great price when they are drawn into the orbit of a star. All too often fans are so overwhelmed by star power that they sacrifice their own identity…even to the point of losing their free will.

Consider the brilliant people in Jerusalem whom Herod consulted. They appear to have been just as smart as the three foreign visitors…but it would seem they were not as “wise.” They were trapped in a toxic relationship with the person their very lives revolved around. It appears that, for whatever reason, probably fear, they could not break free of Herod.

The Three Magi, on the other hand, were not drawn into the orbit of the evil king. After a very brief encounter with the dark forces at work in Jerusalem, the three searchers resumed their journey. Empowered by the brilliant STAR that had led them so close to Bethlehem, they did not fall victim to the power that appears to have imprisoned their colleagues who remained in Herod’s service.

The Three Wise searchers from the East did not permit Herod to take control over them. They trusted in THE STAR from heaven, and, as a result, found what they were searching for: The newborn King of the Jews. What they could only study about in their homeland they were rewarded with a first-hand experience of in the most unlikely of places…a manger.

After their visit with the Christ-child, they ignored Herod’s orders to return and report. Instead, they returned home, avoiding a further encounter with the treachery of the evil ruler.

So, as we continue our celebration of God’s Eternal Word made Flesh, it would be a wise thing for each of us to take a moment and ask ourselves whether we have been overpowered by some star…or are we determined to be guided only by THE STAR…THE LIGHT OF CHRIST!

Choose wisely…THE STAR has THE POWER…to lead you to Eternal Light and life…while the star gives Herod way too much power and control.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jn 1:29-34
January 15, 2023

Last fall I was invited to join a group of college friends for a “Big Chill” weekend up north. I hadn’t seen several of these folks in over 50 years. Half a century does a lot to change a person’s appearance. So, I was a little nervous that I would not be able to recognize everyone. In fact, that was not a problem in the least.

I have to admit, at first sighting, my reaction was “Wow! Did he age.” Or, “She certainly looks older.” I have no doubt that my friends all thought the same about me as I hobbled out of the car on my cane. But in spite of the ravages of time, I had no problem in recognizing each of my friends. Whether it was their tone of voice, or the color of their eyes, or the sound of their laughter…or some unique mannerism…time had not concealed their identity. Friendship is stronger than time.

The beginning of the friendship between John the Baptist and his cousin Jesus of Nazareth is described at Luke 1. Neither had yet to be born. But the mere proximity to Mary, pregnant with God’s Eternal Word made Flesh, caused John to react with excitement and joy, within his own mother’s womb. Without even seeing Him, there was a recognition that triggered a dramatic response.

All four Evangelists report on The Baptism of the Lord. The Gospels do not tell us, however, whether or not there was any interaction between Jesus and John during the “in between” years.

Like all Israel, The Baptist was awaiting the appearance of The Messiah. Still, a prayerful reading and reflection of each version leaves one with the impression that John was taken by surprise when Jesus at last appeared.

One might safely assume that the feelings of excitement and joy which overwhelmed him while still unborn were again aroused within John as Jesus approached. What we are left to wonder at, is whether John was able to actually identify the person Who triggered this visceral reaction within him. Consider how, twice, within today’s rather brief passage, John is quoted as saying: I DID NOT KNOW HIM.

Some 30 years had passed since the visit of their pregnant mothers. Obviously, time had made enormous changes in both during those unreported years. If, as some Scripture scholars suggest, they had not seen each other during the “in between” years, it is certainly reasonable to assume that John did not immediately “know” the person of Jesus. Nevertheless, he definitely recognized the powerful feelings welling up within him as The Lord approached. Those feelings prompted John to introduce Jesus as The Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.

Time might well have changed their physical bodies, but their spirits were the same. “The Real Presence” of THE HOLY SPIRIT, perfectly embodied within Jesus from the moment of His conception, was instantly identified by John. THE HOLY SPIRIT is infinitely stronger than time. THE HOLY SPIRIT is eternal.

The very same HOLY SPIRIT reunites us with JESUS CHRIST each time we fully, actively and consciously participate in The Eucharist. The powerful feeling that is ignited within us as we approach The Communion Table is very much like John the Baptist’s reaction to the approach of Jesus.

And after our “reunion” with CHRIST through the Sacrament, we are sent forth…back into our day to day lives. Our faith strengthened by THE HOLY SPIRIT, everyone we encounter…regardless of how much time has passed between meetings…should be able to recognize us as disciples of THE LAMB OF GOD WHO HAS TAKEN AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD.

Time cannot change the appearance of a faithful disciple…because friendship in Christ is eternal.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 4:12-23 or 4:12-17
January 22, 2023

One Sunday morning, having proclaimed and then preached on today’s Gospel, a person stopped me on the way out of church and remarked: I definitely could not do Jesus’s job, but after hearing today’s Gospel, I have to say, He couldn’t do mine. The person was director of human resources (HR) for a midsize corporation.

When called to find the perfect person to do a particular job, HR makes four simple inquiries. My friend’s reaction to Mark 6 was obviously prompted by The Lord’s casual way of assembling a workforce to support Him in his mission and ministry without asking a single interview question. For example…

DOES THE APPLICANT HAVE THE NECESSARY SKILL SET? This is a “no-brainer.” Obviously, placing someone in a job they have no ability to do is a recipe for failure. And yet, Jesus began His talent search for Apostles along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and among commercial fishermen. Not only did The Lord begin recruiting in the most unlikely of places in which to find candidates with the NECESSARY SKILL SET TO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS…but there was no application process and no interview. He simply extended the job offer to individuals who demonstrated little, if any, promise of succeeding.

DOES THE CANDIDATE HAVE THE ABILITY TO EASILY COMMUTE TO THE WORKPLACE? Employers want employees readily available for service. With respect to the work of the Apostles, there was definitely travel involved. But transportation and accommodations were not of particular concern to Jesus. Remember how He sent The Twelve out two by two and instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. (Mark 6:7). Clearly, this required a great deal of trust on the part of the worker, which raises the next concern of a competent HR officer.

DOES THE PERSON BEING INTERVIEWED HAVE THE CHARACTER AND ATTITUDE TO SUCCEED IN THE POSITION? Basically, HR is exploring a candidate’s capacity for loyalty. Is a potential new hire “in for the long haul?” Are they trustworthy?

The New Testament describes how 11 among those of Jesus’s first “new hires” were unconditionally loyal. In fact, all but one of them lost their life in the course of doing the work of proclaiming the Good News.

The final concern to HR departments might leave them vulnerable to accusations of “ageism” …but nevertheless, it is a significant concern.

IS THE POSITION TO BE FILLED “AGE-APPROPRIATE” TO THE APPLICANT? There are many aspects to this area. Not only do people in different age brackets have different strengths and weaknesses, but they come to a position with different needs and expectations. While there are obviously no personnel files dealing with The Apostles, tradition tells us that Peter was the oldest. John was the youngest, though, in the end, he served the longest…as he lived the longest. We also know with certainty that Jesus called siblings…in other words…older and younger brothers. So, this is one HR hiring box The Lord seems to have checked. The Lord covered a broad age range.

Jesus’s approach to assembling His team baffled my friend working in a modern-day HR department. Nevertheless, His approach tells us something very significant about the call to modern day discipleship. First and foremost, through the power of the Holy Spirit, everyone has the skills and abilities to serve. The most extraordinary contributions to salvation history have been made by the most ordinary people. The most important qualification is a loving heart…that, and trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ.

As far as the commute to work…it can be as close as the family dinner table or as distant as the other side of the world. In fact, some of the most important work that disciples are called to do is within the family unit, the neighborhood, and, without a doubt…the parish! Even still, modern communications make long distance discipleship a snap. Today, we can send the Good News to the other side of the world in an instant and without packing a bag.

As to the matter of commitment and loyalty, doing “the work” is an expectation of our Baptism. Through the Sacrament of Initiation, we share in the Life of Christ, and, as such, are expected to share in His mission and ministry…regardless of our age.

It’s understandable that a person involved in modern day HR would find the story of Jesus’s methods surprising. But they were undeniably successful. The work continues to this very day. Loyal and trustworthy disciples of all ages continue to serve and are good at the job because the Holy Spirit inspires, empowers, and guides them.

So then…let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. There’s lots to be done.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 5:1-12a
January 29, 2023

I told my iPhone to connect me to “YouTube” and asked to see any homilies that one of my favorite theologian/author/preachers (Franciscan, Fr. Richard Rohr) may have delivered on this Sunday’s Gospel…THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.

In an instant, I was given the choice of six reflections, each focused on one of the BEATITUDES. There was also the option of “listening to all,” which, of course, I clicked onto. I closed my eyes and began to hear some very inspiring and thought-provoking observations about this extremely important teaching of The Lord.

All of a sudden, the first reflection in the series was harshly interrupted by a commercial from one of the big drugstore chains, advertising some kind of beauty product guaranteed to make me look young again. (Good luck with that!) I assumed that, somehow, I had lost the connection with the “channel” I was listening to. But before I could figure out what was happening, Fr. Rohr was back. I relaxed, closed my eyes again, and returned to the “mountaintop,” and the calm and soothing voice of Fr. Rohr echoing that of The Master…The Good Teacher…Jesus.

It happened again!

I can’t recall who was selling what…but another annoying sales pitch interrupted a beautiful reflection. This time, I didn’t even open my eyes because it dawned on me…I do not pay the monthly fee to engage the YouTube station without commercial interruptions. I listen “for free.” So, I did my best to ignore the unavoidable distractions, trying my best to hold on to the sacred mood as best I could, waiting patiently to return to the mountaintop for the third reflection.

Of course, after about five minutes of peace, another commercial came blasting out of my iPhone…for some reason…louder than Fr. Rohr’s reflection. The thing is, this time, something caught and held my attention. I actually listened. Worse yet, (Mea Culpa) I began to think to myself: I need that! I want that! I wonder if I can order it from Amazon.

Now it was the sermon that interrupted the commercial. Fr. Rohr returned and began his reflection on the next Beatitude. I reconnected quickly, but not without making a mental note to order whatever it was that I was now convinced that I couldn’t live without.

By the time the fourth reflection began, I knew that my shield was down. I was no longer effectively blocking out the advertisements. In fact, I was expecting and even accepting them without resistance. And so, I next listened to a voice urging me to call a law firm that assured me of the maximum recovery if I were to be involved in an accident.

Ironically…OR PROVIDENTIALLY…this “helpful” message was followed by a profound reflection entitled: Happy are Those Who Hunger for Justice. I was immediately reminded that, for Jesus, “justice” was much greater than the “maximum recovery” from an insurance company.

It was at that very moment that I realized that the first…and maybe even the most important lesson to be learned from the Sermon on the Mount…is to be found on the very first line. We have to do what the disciples did. We have to join Jesus on the mountaintop, away from all distractions and interruptions and commercial announcements.

When we leave the physical world and allow our spiritual selves to travel to the mountaintop, we are better able to listen with our minds and our hearts, and fully engage in what He is telling us.

And, if we are able to do that… rise above the cares and concerns of day-to-day life, opening ourselves as fully as possible to God’s Eternal Word made Flesh, we are better able to understand what comes next in this teaching that is at the very core of the Gospel.

All nine of the Beatitudes can be woven into one hope-filled lesson…and it is simply this: When life knocks us to the ground and we feel crushed under the weight of some problem, or worry, or challenge or sickness…so heavy that we are certain that we are broken beyond repair…it is then we are truly blessed…because it is then that God takes over. When you come to truly understand and believe this teaching to be true…then THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS YOURS!
Obviously, we can’t stay on the mountaintop, no matter how wonderful it might be up there. We have to come back down and face the challenges that await us here in the world. But, because of our time with the Lord, we are strengthened…and we can face our problems with renewed courage and with hope! Amen.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 5:13-16
February 5, 2023

“The National Prayer Breakfast” is a decades old tradition. Held in Washington D.C. on the first Thursday of February, the event brings our nation’s leaders together in prayer. That is certainly consistent with our motto: In God We Trust!

The perception might well be that this is an opportunity for our national leaders to come together for “morning prayer” and a shared meal. For people of faith, it is both comforting and encouraging to think that politics can be put to the side, and our leaders, together, humble themselves before our God.

This year, there has been a significant change. It was recently announced that the longstanding host, a Christian “movement” (not to be confused with a structured organization) called the “International Foundation” has stepped aside as the organizer/promoter. Congress has taken on the responsibility for the gathering.

The fact is, over the years, the affair has grown in both size and duration. The National Prayer Breakfast is no longer a few hours of fellowship, faith sharing, and reflection among elected officials. It has become the centerpiece of several days of what is most easily described as “Christian networking,” attracting literally thousands of people.

As one might expect, the press became interested in the event. One young journalist went so far as to become “imbed” within the “International Foundation.” He eventually wrote two books about his experiences as an “insider.” His books became the inspiration for a fairly recent documentary, which was very much focused on the purpose of the “The National Prayer Breakfast.” The motive of the “movement” that previously hosted the gatherings over the course of several days was called into question.

After reading the books, viewing the documentary, or listening to any of the reports of investigative journalists, the lingering concern for many becomes: IS THIS AN EXAMPLE OF THE GOSPEL INFLUENCING THE DIRECTION OF POLITICS…OR IS THIS THE SELF-SERVING USE AND INTERPRETATION OF “THE GOOD NEWS” IN AN EFFORT TO JUSTIFY AND SUPPORT A PARTICULAR POLITICAL AGENDA?

When pondering the true motivation of any “Gospel-fueled” movement or organization not recognized as “mainstream Christianity,” it seems helpful to recall Jesus’s instructions to His inner circle: There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.

BUT…it is also important to recall how The Lord’s instructions ended: Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. (Mark 9:39-40)

Which brings us to this weekend’s Readings.

First, some background about the passage from Isaiah.

What is proclaimed comes towards the conclusion of the prophet’s writings and finds Israel recently returned from captive slavery in a foreign country. In the struggle to reestablish itself as “The Chosen People,” emphasis was placed on strict observance of rituals, worship, and sacrifices. In spite of these efforts, things were not what had been hoped for while a captive nation. So a national fast (rather than a prayer breakfast) was under discussion.

Enter Isaiah, voicing God’s reaction to the proposal.

Basically, Isaiah is telling the people that nothing will change until THEY CHANGE! Moreover, this change will not come about by fasting. The change that God desires is social reform.

Specifically, there must be an end to divisive behavior and violence. Unfair labor practices must be addressed. Leaders must learn to rule with an eye to the common good and not in the pursuit of power to promote self-interest. With these changes, Jerusalem would reestablish itself as the City of Light…shining brightly for the rest of the world to see, admire, and strive to imitate. Without these changes, darkness would continue to veil and obscure the light.

Today’s Gospel passage about salt (not just a seasoning but also a preservative) and light (necessary to preserve life) follows and is very much compatible with last week’s proclamation of The Sermon on the Mount…THE BEATITUDES. The Lord touches on all of the concerns about the common good found in the passage from Isaiah.

So then, while people of faith naturally find comfort and encouragement in seeing our nation’s leaders praying together, it is important to ask: JUST EXACTLY WHAT IS IT YOU ARE PRAYING FOR? If prayer is for the success of a particular agenda, then another question becomes quite significant: HOW DOES YOUR AGENDA SQUARE WITH SACRED SCRIPTURE?

If we truly are a nation which places our trust in God, then we should expect to see our national policies come down from the mountaintop and not from political machinations on Capitol Hill.

That, of course, means a commitment to make those changes in policies and laws which reflect the message voiced by Isaiah…and magnified by Jesus Christ. Hopefully, at some point prior to this year’s “scaled down prayer breakfast” the participants had an opportunity to consider the call to social justice that reverberates throughout Sacred Scripture…certainly highlighted by the Lord, Himself.

For those of us who will never be invited to “The National Prayer Breakfast,” no matter who hosts the event, we can certainly pray at home. And a most worthy prayer is to be found at Ephesians 1:17-23 where St. Paul asks: God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give [our leaders] a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.

Let US pray that all those who lead our world, our nation, our Church, our parishes, our families…serve with hearts enlightened by God’s will and God’s ways…so that we all might live in peace, justice, and love.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 5:17-37
February 12, 2023

Ash Wednesday is less than two weeks away!

For many people we pass in the grocery store, or encounter on the other side of a gas pump, this means absolutely nothing. They aren’t necessarily bad folks. They simply have no active spiritual life. LENT comes and goes, leaving them totally unaware that it is a season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Other folks hear the words “Ash Wednesday” and think “Mardi Gras.” They may not be part of the mob of revelers in New Orleans, but they are still in the party mood. Fat Tuesday is not a “last call” before 40 days of abstinence. It’s just another opportunity to over-indulge.

Then there is you! Devout…observant…faithful…serious Christians (pick a label) …who anticipate the season and begin planning for it.

Toward that end, this Sunday’s Readings are a “checklist” for charting the 40-day spiritual journey. Jesus certainly gives us a framework to examine our consciences and our lives as we anticipate having ourselves marked with ashes.


Maybe before you get too far into plotting your course through the desert, (that’s how we are encouraged to imagine Lent…as a desert experience), it might be helpful to consider where you want to be at sunrise on Easter Sunday Morning.

I’m wondering if simply giving up chocolate…or beer…or swearing…for six weeks…actually makes us all that much better than those people without any spiritual life. It might be a good thing to “stretch” our concept of Lent a bit. And to do that, it might help to “shrink” the Gospel passage the Church gives us as LENT fast approaches.

Matthew reports how Jesus detailed and then expounded on “The Law,” going so far as to lay out penalties for violations. But this lengthy passage can be “shrunk” into this interpretation:

Jesus was challenging His listeners…and continues to challenge devout…observant…faithful…serious Christians today…TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!

What we hear today is the call for a radical and new way of living “The Law.” For The Lord, it is not enough to be observant. He is rallying the forces of goodness and love, encouraging His followers (us) to live outside of “The Law.”

In other words, it isn’t enough to observe the speed limit. We must adapt our speed according to road conditions. And considering the desperate conditions of our world today, this means speeding up our response to the diverse and dire needs of people with whom we share this planet.

Disciples are called to distinguish ourselves from the folks we pass in the grocery store…or encounter as we fill our gas tanks. We do this by being aware of the sufferings and needs of our sisters and brothers. Once a legitimate need is identified, discipleship demands a speedy and thoughtful response.

Engage the needs of others with loving hearts.

Limiting the penitential season to a few weeks of increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, which it clearly is, might well find us feeling vindicated for our sins on Easter morning. But what happens Easter Monday?

It might benefit us to consider this season as an opportunity to speed up our life-long work of conversion. PRAYER, FASTING, AND ALMSGIVING might leave us feeling vindicated for our sins at the conclusion of Lent 2023. But THINKING AND LIVING OUTSIDE THE BOX might leave us feeling more comfortable to face our Just Judge at the conclusion of our earthly lives.

Ash Wednesday is less than two weeks away. Use this time to think about where you want to be on your own…personal…Easter Morning. A repentant sinner or a devout…observant…faithful…serious…Christian…who did more than merely observe the letter of “THE LAW”?

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 5:38-48
February 19, 2023

Have you ever gone to the grocery store JUST to buy a loaf of bread or maybe a quart of milk only to walk out after spending $40.00 on things you really didn’t need AND without what you made the trip for? I have!

OR…have you ever wasted an hour hunting for your car keys only to find them “hiding in plain view?” I have!

Maybe you’ve hurried to get to a doctor appointment on time, discovering upon arrival that you’re a week early. I have embarrassed myself that way.

As the old expression goes: My memory isn’t what it used to be!

However, it is not so bad (THANK GOD!) that I am unaware of the fact that little things are “slipping my mind.” So, when I heard about a book written by TV celebrity and neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta, MD, titled: 12 Weeks to a Shaper You…A Guided Program…Build a Better Brain at Any Age…I bought it. It was worth the money because I found some comfort and reassurance in the first few pages.

Research has established that we probably pay attention to only 60 to 70 percent of all that’s in front of us. Because the rest of our daily experience doesn’t necessarily fill or contribute to the way we see our life’s narrative, we ignore it.

As I understand it, memory’s most powerful purpose is to reinforce our own life’s narrative, THE STORY OF US. So, if some minor detail happens to slip our mind, it’s okay, because a healthy brain is one that remembers the important things, while at the same time forgets the trivial.

Dr. Gupta references a recent discovery of a so-called “forgetting neuron” in our brains, which somehow facilitates the process of “forgetting.” And yes, forgetting is just as important as remembering, and can even help us sharpen our brains and make room for new – and more valuable – information. IN ORDER TO REMEMBER, WE HAVE TO FORGET…TO SOME EXTENT.

At this point, you might be thinking that more than my memory is failing me! How can any of this have anything whatsoever to do with our Readings?

Well, think about it.

Isn’t Jesus telling us that when we are the victim of some TRIVIAL OFFENSE… a rude remark, a hurtful comment, a social “slap in the face” …ANYTHING that really doesn’t affect or have any significant impact on “our story” …we should put our “forgetting neurons“ to work…and forget about it?

Isn’t He telling us that when we extend ourselves to others in some way…we should forget about what it might be costing us and rise to the occasion with extraordinary generosity?

Isn’t the core message in this admittedly challenging Gospel passage to reinforce our own life’s narrative, THE STORY OF US, by making room for what is truly important?

By doing our best to forget those things that we hang on to…those dark or selfish feelings that do harm to our spiritual health and well-being…aren’t we eliminating detractions from “our own life’s narrative”? When we forget the trivial, aren’t we better able to remember that THE STORY OF US IS THE STORY OF CHRIST?

The purpose of Dr. Gupta’s book is to encourage people of all ages to improve “brain health.” Over the course of 12 weeks, he proposes ways to “A Sharper You!” As you might well suspect, this includes recommendations about diet and exercise…and stress control. He sums things up with the suggestion: WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE HEART IS GOOD FOR THE BRAIN.


We are about to begin the Season of Lent…SIX WEEKS TO A MORE PERFECT YOU!

This spiritual program includes diet, exercise, and stress reduction. We are called to fast and abstain from those things that have gained too much control over us and are detrimental to our health, both spiritual and physical. We are challenged to exercise charity by giving without counting the cost. We can accomplish stress reduction by intensifying our prayer time. We can improve our spiritual health…no matter what our age…by forgetting what adds nothing to our stories as followers of Jesus Christ. The more we forget what is of little consequence, the easier it is to REMEMBER THAT WE ARE DUST AND TO DUST WE WILL RETURN.

But in the meantime, The Lord encourages us to strive to be perfect…perfect …just as God is perfect.

First Sunday of Lent
Mt 4:1-11
February 26, 2023

I recently watched a “JESUS MOVIE” on television that I personally found to be especially inspirational. It left me with the feeling that I had been reflecting on The Scriptures and not just watching television. The movie is called “40: The Temptation of Christ.” As you can guess from the title, the focus of the film is today’s Gospel passage.

With the exception of a few scenes drawn from Jesus’s younger years, the whole movie is committed to the Lord’s time in the desert. And because of that, the fullness of JESUS’S HUMAN NATURE is highlighted. The film maker accomplished this in a very powerful and dramatic way.

As I was watching the action unfold, I could almost feel the crippling heat from the burning sun, the thirst, the hunger pains, the fatigue, the confusion, the fear and anguish, the loneliness…especially during the dark, frigidly cold desert nights. I felt the uncertainty that the Lord endured during those days and nights of solitude…ALL OF WHICH THE HOLY SPIRIT HAD LED HIM TO.

I think it’s interesting to consider that the description of these 40 days in the Lord’s life must’ve come directly from HIM. He was alone in the desert when the evil one appeared on the scene. There were no witnesses. It seems highly unlikely that the tempter shared the story with anyone else, since he lost the epic spiritual battle.

It’s telling of how significant this struggle between good and evil was, since it is reported by Mark, Matthew, and Luke with only slight variations. I think it’s also important to notice and reflect on the detail in each of these reports, while still leaving a great deal of room for the imagination.

It’s a bit like a children’s coloring book…with thick, dark lines, outlining a picture to be filled in by a young artist, relying on their own creative imagination. This particular film maker has taken full advantage of the Gospel’s invitation to “fill in the bank spaces.” In fact, the first two attacks by the tempter involve images by which many people might be horrified, shocked, and even scandalized. But as I let the impact of the film settle in, it occurred to me that this highly creative approach (that some might find offensive) really puts the viewer in touch with Jesus’s humanity…His Human Nature…which was, after all, the tempter’s target.

Upon entering the story, the tempter isn’t depicted as an ugly creature from a horror movie…or a wild animal…as in some Jesus films. He is a handsome young man who relies on a long, black hooded cape to give a sinister vibe. Then, during the first temptation…and this is the part where you might recoil at first…he appears to Jesus disguised as Mary.

Speaking in a very soft, loving voice, the tempter mimics how a caring, nurturing mother would have urged her child to do what is good for them.

Eat! Please eat…you have to keep up your strength. I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you.

How clever of the evil one! What child would resist the desperate pleas of their mother? But Jesus saw through the disguise, and He resisted the temptation to turn stones into bread.

Your immediate reaction to the second temptation might also be negative. After a brief flashback to all St. Joseph had done to protect and foster the Son of God and the child of Mary, the tempter stole the image of the other loving parent.

To lure Jesus out of the spiritual realm and into the material world, he uses an image of St. Joseph, who attempts to “shame” Jesus into turning away from His mission. In modern day terms, the second temptation might sound like this:

I sacrificed so that you could have a better life. Work hard, study hard, get a good job. Succeed. Make a lot of money. Give meaning to MY life…to all the sacrifices I made for you…by having a second home…a great car…a big investment portfolio.

But Jesus saw through this disguise as well. He resisted the temptation to forego His mission and ministry so He could engage and embrace the material world. The Lord ignored the very natural inclination to satisfy the ambitions of his earthly father, understanding the cost would be the will of His heavenly Father.

For the final temptation, the evil one dropped his efforts to disguise himself. There was, however, a costume change. He shed the long, black hooded cape that shrouded him in other scenes. Instead, the actor was dressed in a brilliant white tunic with gold trim. There was no longer anything dark or ominous in his appearance or demeanor. In a very friendly and inviting tone, he offered, even pleaded with The Lord to partner up with him.

And, of course, Jesus refused.

The Lord did not buy into the diabolic scheme. In spite of the extremely weakened state that both desert conditions and deprivation had pushed Him to, Jesus had the strength to resist this final onslaught.

And then, The Lord, in a dazzling display of power, named the enemy and then dismissed him. The actor playing the role of Jesus spoke those three commanding words with force. But whether shouted or whispered, those words continue to be the ultimate weapon against any hunger, desire, or ambition that threatens our spiritual well-being.

Get away, Satan!

With those three, simple words, together with the help of God’s saving grace, our fragile and weak human nature, so vulnerable to temptations, has the power to UNMASK…NAME…AND BANISH anything or anyone that might slither into our lives.

As I said, the movie “40: The Temptation of Christ,” left me with the feeling that I had been reflecting on The Scriptures, and not just watching television. My reflection reinforced what the Church calls us to remember each year as we begin the Lenten Season by joining Jesus in the desert.

Temptation is all about deception. There are no rules. The tempter does not play fair. We must be super vigilant if we are to unmask the enemy which assumes many different disguises.

It might take the form of misguided love or undeserved loyalty. Very often, it hides in the shadows of ego or ambition. Moreover, the tempter does not give up. Our appetites, our greed, or our pride are easily reignited.

Resistance and rejection aren’t always as easy as we might hope. It takes time. If we are blessed, we might overpower and even banish a temptation in 40 days. But other temptations come back after a hard-fought battle and try again…and again…and again…to win the war.

You know that’s true from your own lived experiences.

So, you have ahead of you 40 pages of thick, dark lines, outlining a picture to be filled in by you…relying on your own creative imagination. If you take full advantage of the Gospel’s invitation to “fill in the blank spaces” with prayer, fasting, and works of charity, on Easter morning, you will be looking down at a masterpiece…an image of Christ!

But remember, “conversion” is a life-long process…a marathon, as they say, not a sprint. So don’t get too discouraged if you happen to skip a page or ruin a picture by coloring outside of the lines.

And don’t rush.

Finally…be confident that with God’s help…and three powerful little words…GET AWAY, SATAN!…spoken with conviction…you can prevail.

When you do…the angels will come and minister to you! AMEN.

Second Sunday of Lent
Mt 17:1-9
March 5, 2023

Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently made the news, and not because of some spectacular play on the football field. Rather, his decision to spend four days in a specially outfitted “hermitage” (my word not his) in total isolation from the outside world, and in complete darkness, drew the attention of the press, his fans, the general public, and, actually, so called “experts” in psychological and emotional well-being.

In the past, he has described using yoga, meditation, and even certain drugs to calm his fear of death and to promote “self-love.” As he explains his most recent venture, which ironically was undertaken as the Christian world entered the Lenten Season, as an effort to: stimulate his mind…get into a better headspace…and have a greater peace in his life. He might not be familiar with the term, but what he is doing through these somewhat “unconventional” methods is spiritual discernment. No criticism there.

As I read the various articles about this sports celebrity, my mind went to the Gospel proclaimed on Ash Wednesday (Matt. 6:1-6). There, Jesus encourages those on a “spiritual quest” to do so in private. On the other hand, when a public figure acknowledges a desire to rise above the material world, there is the potential for positive influence on others…especially young fans. That is a good thing. So, again, no criticism.

However, missing in the various reports was any reference to Christ. Herein lies possible criticism.

In the extremely unlikely event that I am ever able to speak to Aaron Rodgers, I would say: Hey Pal, I admire what you did. But you do realize that you were NEVER alone during those four days of darkness, don’t you? The Holy Spirit was with you every second.

As far as the “experts” who have weighed in on the pros and cons of “darkness retreats,” I would try to explain that, from a spiritual standpoint, there are two kinds of darkness. There is the darkness that comes about when we are blind to God’s loving presence in our lives and in our world. This is a darkness brought about by poor decisions, bad choices, evil thoughts, and divisive feelings. Truth cannot exist in this kind of darkness but lies and falsehoods thrive. It is the kind of darkness where the “boogeyman” dwells.

This darkness breeds fears of every kind, including the fear of death. It is a spiritual, psychological, and emotional condition that leaves the human mind vulnerable to self-doubt and self-loathing. There is no peace to be had in this darkness that resists the Light of Christ.

And then there is a darkness described in a variety of ways by many holy people. It is an inviting kind of darkness that the Holy Spirit leads us to…even as the Spirit led Jesus into the desert…the kind of isolation into which Jesus led Peter, James, and John on the mountaintop. Drawn into this healing darkness, seekers find peace and hope. And you don’t need to travel to a special place or pay big money for this spiritual therapy. All one has to do is to shut the doors, draw the curtains, blocking the access of the blaring lights of this world. So protected from all distractions and worries and fears from the “outside,” one can overpower temptations and be healed, all within the shelter of their inner room. God’s saving grace thrives in this “holy darkness” and brings with it stronger faith, abiding hope, deeper love…and peace…THE PEACE OF CHRIST.

Isolating the soul from all things but God, it is within this SACRED darkness that we develop an inner vision of who are at the very core of our being…BELOVED CHILDREN CREATED IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD. This darkness is like the bright cloud that surrounded Peter, James, and John on the mountaintop, enabling them to hear the heavenly Voice urging them to Listen to Jesus.

Once again, reaching back to the Ash Wednesday Gospel proclaimed as we began our Lenten practices of PRAYER, FASTING, and ALMSGIVING…this “holy darkness” is to be found in our “inner room.” And we can access this place where truth flourishes and Peace abounds by simply finding a quiet place and closing our eyes to anything but God.

Reflecting on the mysterious events of The Transfiguration, Pope Francis once said: We all need to go apart, to ascend the mountain in a space of silence, to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord. This we do in prayer…and this is curious. When we hear the Word of Jesus, when we listen to the Word of Jesus and carry it in our heart, this Word grows…Do not forget: This week, listen to Jesus! And think about the matter of the Gospel: Will you? Will you do this? Then, next Sunday, you tell me if you have done this.

When Aaron Rodgers stepped out of his four days of total darkness and into the light, he was momentarily blinded. He would have had to shield his eyes from the sun. When seekers emerge from the “holy darkness” of their inner room into which they have been led by the Spirit, they can look directly into the Face of The Son…and rejoice in the Glory of God.

Do not forget:

(Pope Francis) This week, listen to Jesus! And think about the matter of the Gospel: Will you? Will you do this? Then, next Sunday, you tell me if you have found a very simple and easy way to…

(Aaron Rodgers) stimulate your mind…get into a better headspace…and have a greater peace in life…

And all from your recliner (Me!)

Third Sunday of Lent
Jn 4:5-42
March 12, 2023

I did a double take when I first noticed the car in front of me had a license plate with a dark blue background and bright yellow numbers. When I saw the motto: WATER WINTER WONDERLAND across the bottom, I realized that there has been a REVIVAL of the plate that every Michigan vehicle sported back in the 1950’s. This triggered a childhood memory for me.

I was taken back to the day, many years ago, as I stood watching my grandfather put a new license plate of that very design on the rear bumper of his brand new “Ford Crown Victoria.” It had a white roof, a black body, and lots and lots of shiny chrome. I recall asking him what >WATER WINTER WONDERLAND meant. He explained that we here in Michigan are doubly blessed by God. Not only are we surrounded on three sides by the Great Lakes, but we are also fortunate to have many inland lakes all over the state. He told me that there were places in the world where water was so scarce that people went thirsty. In those parts of the world, water is so limited that the people cannot even take a bath or wash their clothes. It really was the first time in my life that I gave any serious thought to how precious water truly is.

That is a realization…how precious water truly is…that is easy to lose sight of. It seems that when something is plentiful, we tend to forget its value. We take it for granted. Hopefully, the REVIVAL of a vintage license plate will somehow remind us of how blessed we are, although, these days, we have a lot more than a license plate to remind us of the value of water.

Water is very prominent in the news these days. Some parts of the world are dealing with massive flooding, even as others are suffering from devastating drought. Water also takes center stage in our Readings on this Third Sunday of Lent.

My reflection on what a precious, abundant, and powerful “spiritual resource” water is triggered another memory…not from childhood, but rather from the Easter Vigil liturgy. The Blessing over the fresh water flowing through the Baptismal font is a powerful reminder of how the Creator doubly blesses us with the gift of water. It is a natural resource which is essential to life in this world. At the same time, it is a spiritual resource which enables us to hope for eternal life in the Kingdom.

The Blessing begins:

Oh, God, who by invisible power
accomplishes a wondrous effect
through sacramental signs,
and who, in many ways, have prepared water,
your creation, to show forth the grace of Baptism…

The Blessing goes on, reminding us that the Holy Spirit hovered over water in the first moments of creation, giving water the power to sanctify.

Next is a reference to the deluge, where water became an instrument of regeneration.

In the Blessing, we recall how the waters of the Red Sea parted so that the people could pass from slavery into freedom in the Promised Land. The sea closed and it was water that shielded the people from Pharaoh’s army which was in hot pursuit.

Moving into the New Testament, we recall how Jesus was Baptized in the waters of the Jordan. That extraordinary event in salvation history reminds us that God’s life-giving presence is as available to us as water. We are literally surrounded by it. A significant detail of the Paschal mystery is the fact that water poured from Jesus’s side as He died on the Cross.

The Blessing concludes:

May the power of the Holy Spirit,
O Lord, we pray,
come down through your Son
into the fullness of this font,
so that all who have been buried with Christ
by Baptism into death
may rise again to life with Him.

Today’s Gospel is as deep as the well where Jesus encountered the woman with a very colorful background. There are many levels of meaning to be drawn from this passage, which, for centuries, has been used to catechize those preparing for the Easter Sacraments.

But it also carries a critical message to those who might have lost sight of how precious water is…not just to quench our thirst or cleanse our bodies or wash our clothes. At the very dawn of creation, the Holy Spirit used water as the medium to sanctify our world and make it holy.

It is that same Spirit Who regenerates us when we are deluged by doubts, fears, worries…even sin. It is The Holy Spirit Who parts the waters, enabling us to escape those things that enslave us, making us less than what God created us to be. And once we have passed over into our personal Promised Land, it is the Holy Spirit Who protects us from those things that continue to pursue and threaten our freedom. It is the Holy Spirit Who dwells within our Baptismal waters…making The Living Water a source of healing and spiritual REVIVAL.

It is the Holy Spirit…Who dwells within each and every one of us, leaving us precious in the eyes of God…Who never takes any of us for granted, no matter how “colorful” our lives might be or how our “village” regards us. It is the Holy Spirit…Who makes all of creation a “WONDERLAND” for those wise enough to draw the Spirit up from the depth of their being and into their daily lives.

It is this same Spirit Who will awaken us to Eternal life in Christ.

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Jn 9:1-41
March 19, 2023

The Academy Awards aired last Sunday. In the days and even weeks building up to the show, there was a lot of news about the nominees in the various categories. Of course, the actual production held a prime time slot on television. And entertainment reporters, at least for the next few days, will continue to find things to discuss about the winners and losers. Although the whole thing was of little interest to me, it did give me an idea about this week’s Gospel.

The story of this “healing miracle” and the backstories leading up to it would be a powerful movie, that, if done properly, could well be an “Oscar sweep.”

The screenplay writers, in order to do justice to the script, would have to understand the social customs of the times. The so-called “holiness code” that influenced people’s impressions of and relationships with one another, provided that “bad things” happen to people because they have sinned. The movie will begin with disciples, aware of this misguided belief, asking The Lord: Rabbi, who sinned…this man or his parents that he was born blind?

And so, a “backstory” will be needed. What did this family do…or fail to do in the past…maybe even several generations in the past…which resulted in “inherited guilt” and the punishment of a child born blind?

The family’s shame will surface again during the investigation into the healing. The parents carry a sense of guilt because a past sin (even if they are unaware of what it might have been) is the only logical explanation for their son’s blindness. They are called before the authorities investigating the healing without social standing or credibility. They know they have been per-judged.

Of course, they are reluctant to make any statement or express an opinion which might add to their troubles. Their sense of shame is so great that they leave their son to defend himself. They are already broken down by a totally misguided theology which depicts God as a harsh and punitive judge. In short, they are terrified…of God and of those representing God.

With respect to the inquisitors, the costume department and the makeup artists will be key. The religious leaders must be extravagantly dressed to demonstrate their power and privilege. They must appear sanctimonious, confident in their righteousness, and understanding of the situation before them. The actors will play the role with arrogance uncaring, but at the same time with exaggerated piety.

It will help to refer back to the “holiness code,” which explains that honor and privilege comes to those who lead exemplary lives. But the audience must be left asking themselves: What kind of example are these religious authorities really giving?

Actually, these parts won’t be particularly demanding. Even an inexperienced actor could offer a convincing performance. Human nature is such that we often jump to conclusions without bothering with the truth of a matter. And once we form an opinion, we vigorously defend it, regardless of the facts… especially when it comes to playing the “blame game.”

The casting director’s real challenge will be to find a young actor capable of depicting a person who has lived his entire life unable to judge or evaluate people by the color of their skin or the quality of their clothing. The man’s blindness has left him with a sort of innocence that is to be admired. Throughout his whole life, this man has been dependent on others for his safety and well-being, so the role must be played with humility.

Since he has never known anything different, there is the sense of acceptance of his disability. The man did not ask Jesus to be cured. The challenge of the part will be to communicate the total surprise and delight in seeing the world for the first time. The sheer joy and excitement will come, however, with a sense of confusion. Imagine living your whole life in darkness, and suddenly, without warning, being called into the bright light of the world.

The part demands that he bring all this emotion before the self-righteous panel of religious investigators. The young man has not only been given the gift of sight, but, as a result of his encounter with Jesus, he slowly comes into a spiritual vision which is an even greater gift. His growing insight is reflected in his answers.

Ironically, this growing spiritual vision and insight is completely absent in the so-called religious authorities sitting in judgment. They are blinded by their own privilege and pride.

A supporting actor, capable of bringing the complexity of this young man’s life onto the silver screen, will certainly be deserving of an Oscar.

Of course, the lead actor in the drama will need to capture the unconditional love, the unshakable peace, and the overwhelming compassion of The Lord. No easy feat. If the actor is to rise to the occasion, his performance must leave the audience with an understanding that Jesus did not always require belief or even faith before performing miraculous deeds. Sometimes, a miracle had a purpose beyond the healing.

In this case, for example, The Lord gave the man vision to demonstrate that spirituality is about seeing what God is revealing, and that arrogance and self-righteousness often blinds us to what God places before our very eyes.

If the movie is successful, people will leave the theatre appreciating the importance of “unlearning” customs and beliefs like the notion of inherited guilt and punishment…or the folly of the “holiness code” which enabled some to enjoy unearned honor, while others suffered from undeserved shame.

It is highly unlikely that a movie inspired by this Gospel will ever come to a theater near you. But there is no need to buy a ticket in order to enter this drama. During this fourth week in the Lenten season, you can simply close your eyes and sit with this passage to learn all it has to offer.

Better still, cast yourself in the supporting role of the blind man. Allow yourself to feel Christ summon you with His gentle and loving touch. Imagine opening your eyes to everything that God has in store for those who believe that Jesus is The Son of Man and worship Him as their Lord and Savior. Use this powerful drama to enhance your spiritual vision and enjoy a brief glimpse of Easter Glory on this Laetare Sunday!

Fifth Sunday of Lent
Jn 11:1-45
March 26, 2023

Morning prayer this past Monday included a beautiful Intercession that I found especially inspiring.

Help us to welcome spring with attention to Your life-giving Word and its presence in all creation.

Spring is indeed filled with sights, sounds, and smells that inspire a sense of new beginnings…new life…a rising up from the frozen ground. However, the change in seasons is only one of the many ways in which our Creator’s life-giving Word speaks to us.

In fact, God’s Word made Flesh, Jesus, often turned to other aspects of nature to draw attention to some truth which The Creator has revealed. Fr. Richard Rohr has eloquently described how the Lord often relied on nature as “an authority,” going on to say: Nature instructs us everywhere. Look and learn how to see. Look and see the rhythm, the seasons, the life and death of things. That’s our teaching; that’s creation’s plan in front of us.

One exceptionally calming and beautiful instance of The Lord using nature to make a point is found at Matthew 6:25-27.

Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you add a single moment to your lifespan by worrying?

Clearly, we can’t.

We definitely cannot add a single moment to our earthly lives by worrying. But many, if not most, cannot seem to stop worrying about their own death, or the death of loved ones. In spite of the fact that we are completely surrounded by assurances of resurrection, very often we fail to appreciate God’s promise of life after death. And so, death provokes anxiety and fear, leading to emotional defense mechanisms like avoidance and denial. Even Martha and Mary, intimate friends of the Lord, frantically summoned Jesus when their brother fell ill, in hopes of a miraculous healing. You can almost feel their sense of desperation as the drama of this Gospel passage unfolds. The sisters were desperate for a miracle…and they got one…but not exactly what they hoped for.

The sickness and death ended in an extraordinary way with a “premeditated miracle.” Jesus purposefully and intentionally used the death of His friend, Lazarus, to reinforce the message that the Creator signals so clearly through seasons and trees and flowers, signals which are so often overlooked.

The timing of this “premeditated miracle” is a lesson in and of itself. It came even as Jesus was about to begin His final journey to Jerusalem, with the ultimate destination being Calvary. He certainly anticipated the devastating effect His Crucifixion would have upon the disciples. He knew that they would need more than seasons and blossoming flowers to reassure them of His power over death. And so, He gave three simple commands:

Roll back the stone!
Lazarus come out!
Untie him and let him go!

Those three commands will continue to echo throughout the universe until the Risen Christ returns in Glory. Humankind is commanded to Roll back the stone! We are encouraged to remove whatever it is that has us trapped in darkness and unable to see what God has placed before our very eyes. The Lord commands us to roll back those stones which prevents us from moving closer towards our final destination…The Eternal Kingdom.

It is God’s desire that each of us step out into the radiant Light of Christ. We are called to Come out! Emerging from the emotional tombs we find ourselves trapped in, we leave behind all the fear and anxiety that threatens to overwhelm us as we consider the reality of death.

It has been God’s Eternal plan that we shed the fear and sense of doom, confident that when our earthly life comes to an end, something eternal and glorious awaits us. Jesus’s instructions to the “premeditated miracle” in Bethany apply to us today. Untie him and let him go! In other words, we are called to shed those things that speak of sin and death…and replace the burial clothes with our Baptismal garments…the dress code for Resurrection.

The promise that the Creator has placed within nature to instruct and comfort us is magnified by the Raising of Lazarus and then sealed by Jesus Christ, The Savior of the world, Who, by His Cross and Resurrection, has set us free!

We are bringing this Lenten Season to a close. Next week, we will join Jesus of Nazareth as He makes His triumphal entry into The Holy City to face the reality of His own suffering and death. Like The Lord, we should find comfort and confidence in the Creator’s promise of Resurrection. As we begin the last days of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, we might ask The Lord to:

Help us to welcome The Easter Season with attention to Your life-giving Word and its presence in all creation…assuring us that death has no power over those who have come to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world!

The long, dark, cold days of winter are almost over. The Season of Hope is close at hand…Let us rejoice and be glad!

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Mt 26:14—27:66
April 2, 2023

The month of May will begin with some very historic events. The coronation of the King of England will take place in Westminster Abbey in the City of London. Several days later, a young man will
celebrate the Sacrament of Ordination in St. Mary’s Cathedral here in Saginaw. Although there are certain similarities shared by the two celebrations, in truth, they could not be more different from one another.

Both men will be anointed with holy oil during the respective liturgies. The oil to be used during the coronation was pressed from olives gathered from groves close to the Garden of Olives. The presider, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, is quoted as saying: “This demonstrates the deep historic link between the Coronation, the Bible, and the Holy Land.” Matthew Gembrowski will be anointed by Bishop Gruss with Sacred Chrism blessed by the bishop this coming Tuesday as the faithful from every parish in our Diocese gather to celebrate the Chrism Mass. His anointing will serve to demonstrate the deep link between his Baptism Day and his Ordination Day…and the bond those two Sacraments forge with The Body of Christ.

In coming to the throne, the new King of England is claiming his birthright as the firstborn of the recently deceased monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Matt’s vocation is also traced to his parents. They were faithful to the promise they made on the day they celebrated the Sacrament of Christian Marriage, a promise they renewed when they presented their infant son for Baptism. In fact, they raised their child to know, love, and serve Almighty God. Consequently, Matt heard and responded to God’s call to serve.

This is where the similarities end and the marked and extremely significant distinctions begin.

On coronation day, there will be a grandiose parade through the streets of London, which will be lined with crowds eager for a glimpse of this impressive display of power and pageantry. By extreme contrast, Matt will drive, without ceremony, through the streets of Saginaw to the Cathedral, totally unnoticed. For the vast majority who are not part of the Church, there will be nothing in the ordination to draw attention, or interest, or to impress.

The King of England will leave Westminster Abbey in splendid and costly attire, each rich and elaborate element having historical meaning intended to display power and authority. When his “subjects” look on as he parades past them in all this extravagant splendor, they will shout out: GOD SAVE THE KING!

During the Ordination Mass, Matt will not be crowned nor adorned with priceless jewels; rather, he will be “vested” in a white alb, reminiscent of his Baptismal garment and the purity of heart he will bring to his ministry. Over that will be placed a simple stole, a symbol of his vocation as an ordained priest and the sacramental powers that come with that station. There will be no rich velvet robe. His outer vestment will be chasuble, a sign of the charity and love he brings to his ministry and to the “flock he will serve,” as opposed to the “subjects he will reign over.”

When Fr. Matthew Gembrowski steps out of St. Mary Cathedral vested as a Roman Catholic priest, he will present himself as Pope Benedict XVI once described clerical vestments: “in robes of love that reflect his special mission and identity in Christ.” His vestment will represent his: “gift of self, the obedience and particular relationship with God.” Monarchs use luxury to define themselves. Ordained ministers clothe themselves in a manner that reflects: “who they are and how they must strip themselves of all the worldly attachments, giving up their own lives in order to act in the name of Christ.”

These two upcoming and current events lend themselves to a very vivid image of two historic events that took place over 2,000 years ago.

Having departed from a dusty little village near the Mount of Olives, Jesus entered the Holy City in the humblest of fashions. He came riding on a borrowed donkey. There were no other preparations made for this highly important event. Although on hand to welcome him were those who knew of His miraculous deeds and powerful teaching, the Lord’s arrival was unlikely to have otherwise attracted much other attention, especially considering what was happening on the other side of the city of Jerusalem.

So, to ensure peace in the city during the Jewish High Holy Days, the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, also made an entrance into Jerusalem. He came to demonstrate the authority and complete control of the Roman Emperor over an occupied nation. His carefully orchestrated and well-planned entry into the Holy City involved great pageantry and fanfare. The occasion was meant to attract as much attention as possible to arouse the fear and respect of the citizens. He was greeted with cries of: HAIL CAESAR! in whose name Pilate had come to govern. Contrast this to the reception Jesus was given. As reported in today’s processional Gospel, those gathered to greet Him called out: Hosanna to the Son of David…blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!

The Palm Sunday proclamation of the passage from Matt. 21, as we begin our triumphant entry into Holy Week, begs the comparison between coronations and Ordinations…empires and faith communities…subjects to be ruled over and souls to be ministered to…military power and authority to control and loving service…pride and humility.

Despite the crowds chanting GOD SAVE THE KING! there will be another coronation in the not-too-distant future. The new monarch’s reign will be numbered in years. Even though the Roman Empire lasted centuries, there came a time when the greeting HAIL CAESAR! simply faded into history.

But…the announcement…HE IS RISEN! JESUS IS LORD! words proclaiming the REIGN OF GOD…are eternal.

Those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, whether ordained or not, are called to example His as He began the final days of His mission in time, before returning to His eternal and universal kingdom…a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.

Through our Baptism, we are all called to follow The Lord’s example of loving and humble service. In that way, our lives present a contrast to so much of the rest of the world.

The Resurrection of the Lord
Jn 20:1-9
April 9, 2023

As I sit here, reflecting on Easter, I have as inspiration a growing stack of greeting cards from friends. There are no “bunnies or colored eggs.” Each card has a spiritual theme, and most of my friends have included some beautiful words about Easter hope and joy. Alleluia! is found at least once, on almost every card. We definitely have come to appreciate what Christ’s Resurrection means for us…the FUTURE hope of Eternal life. That is definitely cause to rejoice.

But we should not over look what Easter holds for the faithful HERE AND NOW! Perhaps a good way to tap into the fullness of Easter joy, is to consider the immediate impact on the Apostles and disciples as they experienced the Risen Christ.

The experience replaced the horror and grief, shock and hopelessness, and even shame and guilt which Good Friday left in their hearts…with a profound sense of PEACE!

The experience brought a sense of FORGIVENESS, both the comfort of being forgiven, as well as the urge to be forgiving.

The experience awakened within them, in a new and special way…the life giving PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. With this deepened relationship with the Holy Spirit came a new sense of purpose…the resolve to continue The Master’s work.

The outpouring of graces that the first witnesses to The Risen Christ were given, are still very much available to us today…there for the taking!

If like Martha, you have …come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the One Who is coming into the world…then rejoice in Christ’s PEACE! It is yours for the taking. With this gift of PEACE you can face with courage, any challenge…even death.

If like Thomas…you are able to over come all lingering doubts and declare: My Lord and My God!…then find comfort in The Risen Christ’s understanding and FORGIVENESS! It’s yours for the taking…although it comes with the expectation that you will in turn, strive to understand and forgive others.

If like the couple from Emmaus your “hearts burn” as you listen to God’s Word proclaimed and approach the Communion Table for Eucharist…know that it is THE HOLY SPIRIT awakening you to a new life in Christ…and the confidence to share the Good News that the Emmaus couple shared: We have seen The Lord!

Alleluia!…without a doubt…is the appropriate way to greet the Risen Christ and the promise of Eternal life that points to the future.

THANK YOU!…is the fitting response for the gifts to be enjoyed HERE AND NOW…PEACE, FORGIVENESS AND NEW LIFE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT!

Have a very Blessed Easter Season!

Sunday of Divine Mercy
Jn 20:19-31
April 16, 2023

Several years ago, I had to undergo a surgery that left a gaping wound on the top of my forehead. The surgical site required a great deal of care but was nearly impossible to deal with on my own. A nurse friend from the parish was generous enough to step forward to offer her expertise. Her commitment was truly an act of charity.

Time passed, and she became concerned that there was no evidence of healing. She made arrangements for me to be seen by a specialist. Again, I was blessed to be placed into the care of an exceptional healer. He rearranged his schedule in order to do a further procedure that very day. I left the hospital with a Band Aid, and after another day or two, no further care or treatment was necessary. I was healed! Only a slight scar remains.

On the rare occasion I even notice the scar, I honestly don’t think about the trauma of the initial procedure. What I do remember is the loving care that I was given by what have become two very special people in my life. When I do notice the scar, I say a prayer of gratitude for them…and for healing.

Considering the mind-blowing magnitude of Resurrection, it makes one wonder why The Risen and Glorified Christ appeared to the Apostles and disciples, still bearing the wounds of His Crucifixion. Themselves still severely wounded by the vivid memories of Good Friday, why remind them of the horror of The Crucifixion? The continued presence of The Sacred Wounds are definitely part of the Paschal Mystery.

We see in today’s Gospel that The Risen Lord used His still-present wounds as a means of establishing His identity to His incredulous followers. But possibly, there was an even more significant purpose. Is it possible that besides being proof of identity, these marks were also proof of power? Were these signs of cruelty which were transformed into symbols speaking to His complete victory over evil? No longer a reminder of the trauma and the brutality of Good Friday, The Sacred Wounds offered a demonstration of The Lord’s absolute power over sin and death.

Is it possible that the invitation to come into direct contact with The Sacred Wounds was intended to do more than resolve doubt? Was Jesus asking Thomas to reach in and be transformed through the Glorified Wounds so Thomas might come to believe in the power that was given to him through The Holy Spirit? The whole of this Gospel passage seems to be a call to all followers of Christ to continue the work The Master began…the work of caring for the wounds of others.

Everyone suffers from wounds…some that impact our physical health, but other wounds result from poor choices and bad decisions, from sin. These injuries threaten our emotional and spiritual well-being, sometimes severe enough that they require special wound care. Such injuries to mind and spirit can be of a nature that it is next to impossible to manage “wound care” alone. It is then that we must look to the charity of others for help. If, after a certain amount of time, there is no evidence of healing, we should then turn to the Sacramental ministry of our Church.

The Divine Mercy we celebrate this Second Sunday of the Easter Season is present in a very special way in the Sacraments which Jesus has left us for the purpose of “wound care.” And once we are healed, when we look at any faint scar which might remain, there is no need to recall the injury, but only give thanks for the healing that comes to us from the Risen Christ, The Lord of Mercy. For this, we should give thanks!

Third Sunday of Easter
Lk 24:13-35
April 23, 2023

A Christian “blogger” invited his followers to complete the sentence: l need the Resurrection because…

There were a number of powerful postings, but one that I found to be especially profound was written in poem form by Kara Root, a Presbyterian minister from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I need the Resurrection
because my sister is sick
and can’t afford insurance,
because I’ve told a weeping Haitian mom,
“No, I can’t take your son home with me,”
because I’ve been rushed off a Jerusalem street
so a robot could blow up a bag that could’ve blown up us.
because I’ve exploded
in rage
and watched their tiny faces cloud with hurt.
because evil is pervasive
and I participate.
I need the Resurrection
because it promises
that in the end
all wrongs are made right.
Death loses.
Hope triumphs.
And Life and Love

If the dejected couple making their way back to their home village from Jerusalem had posted something…it might have read something like this:

We need the Resurrection because…

Like Peter and Andrew, and James and John,
we left everything behind to follow Jesus.
And now the dream is shattered,
and we have no place to go
except back to where we came from.
We need the Resurrection because
He gave meaning to our lives
and hope when everything in the world
seemed so totally hopeless.

We need the Resurrection because
He brought a fire to our hearts
as we watched Him do miracles and
listened to Him speak about how things should be,
and someday will be…but now that fire has gone cold.

We need the Resurrection because we are ashamed
that we slept when He asked us to keep watch,
fled when He was arrested,
remained quiet when the crowd shouted
Give us Barabbas and crucify Him!
Hid as He was scourged…and
locked ourselves in a dark room as
He hung from The Cross.
We need to hear Him speak those words,
that He spoke over and over and over again,
Go in Peace…your sins are forgiven.

We need the Resurrection because
He gathered us together as a family,
inspiring us to care for one another
and now…

Now it’s just the two of us and we feel so alone.

We need the Resurrection because we know we have to
continue what He began…but without Him,
we don’t feel strong enough.

We need the Resurrection!

The Risen Christ knew that these confused and grief-stricken disciples NEEDED THE RESURRECTION, and so He turned the 7 miles of dusty, rocky road that led from Jerusalem to Emmaus into a special place of revelation. The Lord used their journey home as an opportunity to break open God’s Eternal Word for them. And so, their heavy hearts became enlivened as they began to understand how self-sacrifice and suffering have saving power.

Accepting their invitation to “Stay” …The Lord turned their humble dining table into a Communion Table. Their home became a place of special revelation as they came to appreciate the healing and forgiving power of Eucharist, which is the Food that would sustain them as they continued The Master’s Work.

Finally, because they experienced Resurrection through this amazing encounter with The Christ, they, themselves, became instruments of revelation, leaving their home and returning to the Community to share what they had been given.

So, too, for each of us, who, for whatever reason, NEEDS THE RESURRECTION. The Risen Lord walks next to us…not just for 7 miles…but for the years of our earthly lives. And when we open our hearts to Him through the power of The Eternal Word, we find hope, peace, and meaning to everything that we endure along the way.

If, like the Emmaus couple, we ask Christ to “STAY WITH US!” He takes up a dwelling place in our hearts and in our homes.

And when we join the Community of the Faithful to proclaim The Gospel and Break the Bread and Share the Cup, our hearts do burn within us, because we know that God will keep the promise that, in the end…

All wrongs WILL be made right.
Death WILL lose.
Hope WILL triumph.
And Life and Love WILL prevail.

THE WHOLE WORLD needs the Resurrection…and now it’s our job to give witness to it.

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Jn 10:1-10
April 30, 2023

Computer geeks are far better able to explain this than I am, but I do know that there is a BIG difference between speech recognitionand voice recognition. Speech recognition means that anyone can take my cell phone and ask it to get directions to a Catholic Church…or the closest breakfast buffet after Mass…and it will do it.

But if I were to break down and buy a new Smartphone that’s equipped with voice recognition…it will only do what I ASK it to do. Technology has advanced to the point where electronic devices can be taught to learn the frequency or pitch, accent, and flow that is unique to the way an individual person speaks. In other words, a computer can be trained to respond only to the voice it has been programmed to recognize.

During the first part of this Easter Season, the Gospel passages have been very much about recognition.

In various ways, the Apostles and disciples came to recognize the Risen Christ in their midst. Remember, last week, the couple from the little village of Emmaus recognized “The Guest” sitting at their dinner table when He “broke the bread”? Now, on this Fourth Sunday of the Easter season, appropriately named “Good Shepherd Sunday,” we move beyond just recognizing Christ. With this passage, the Church gives us a sense of how the firsthand witnesses to the Resurrection slowly processed what it all meant.

The Gospel of John is the final account of the earthly life and mission of Jesus Christ. It was written after an entire generation of Jesus’s followers had the opportunity to remember, share, reflect on, discuss, pray about, and pass on to their children all they had seen and heard as they journeyed with The Lord. Unlike the other three Gospels, John is not so much focused on recording a history. Instead, John gives us a collection of the signs and wonders that Jesus did, in many instances, interpreting their meaning. John also reports several images or symbols by which the Lord identified Himself.

This week, we are invited to image and relate to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. What we are given here is a very clear and beautiful description of the loving relationship between Christ and the Church. This passage offers us assurance of the Lord’s protection and guidance. But there’s a warning set within this lesson as well. You might say that we are being reminded there is a BIG difference between speech recognition and voice recognition.

There are a whole lot of thieves and robbers lurking out there, eager to separate us from the fold and lead us into dark and dangerous places. To protect our relationship with the Good Shepherd and remain within the safety and security of His flock, we must be discerning. When our spiritual speech recognition seems to be directing us to follow a course of action…it is imperative to engage our spiritual voice recognition.

Spiritual discernment is very much like voice recognition. It enables us to authenticate the source of a desire or feeling to ensure that it is the Risen Christ leading us. If the frequency or pitch of the voice calling to us is perfect mercy and unconditional love…it is the Good Shepherd. There is no mistaking the Good Shepherd’s accent. Christ speaks with a very definite note of tolerance, acceptance, healing, and forgiveness. It is easy to track the flow of The Lord’s voice. It carries us into a current of uninterrupted PEACE!

Computer geeks are able to explain how to protect against bad guys trying to hack into our electronic devices to steal and destroy. But only prayerful, spiritual discernment can protect against the evil stranger intent on doing us harm. If the voice we hear speaks of perfect mercy and unconditional love… tolerance, acceptance, healing, and forgiveness… it is The Lord who is leading us to a place of PEACE!

Anything less…proceed with extreme caution.

Fifth Sunday of Easter
Jn 14:1-12
May 7, 2023

Families with “troubled hearts” come to their parish to prepare the liturgy celebrating a loved one who has died. As they hear and consider the various Scripture passages the Church suggests as appropriate for a funeral liturgy, John 14:1-12 seems to strike a special note with many grieving families. They often respond with a nod…sometimes even with a slight smile, when they hear The Lord’s promise: I will come back again and take you to myself. And so, this passage is frequently heard at funerals because it certainly has a comforting message.

However, at the time that Jesus made the promises and offered the assurances found in John 14, He wasn’t involved in planning a funeral. The Lord was preparing The Apostles and disciples to continue His mission and ministry in this world after His return to heaven. So, it seems wise not to reserve this passage for those times when we are forced to deal with death. What we have here is also The Lord’s plan for how we can face life…here and now…with all its hardships and challenges…and face it without “troubled hearts.”

Fully aware of the common human response to confusion, uncertainty, and adversity, The Lord explains that HIS WAY is the perfect WAY to deal with “troubled hearts.”

The image of a single house with many dwelling places is a good starting point to reflect on THE WAY. The Gospel calls us to come together…joining in mind and spirit…rather than to turning our backs on one another and going in separate directions. THE WAY is communion…sharing and exchanging…with God as our Center.

And THE TRUTH is that the most perfect communion of human minds and hearts is Holy Communion. When we come together and join our minds and spirits…proclaiming The Word and sharing the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ…we are at our very best. The Church teaches that Eucharist is both the source and the summit of our faith. It is also a perfect remedy for “troubled hearts.” Eucharist is spiritual and emotional medicine that helps us deal with “troubled hearts.” Eucharist restores joy to our lives.

But even more than making this life bearable, Holy Communion is the nourishment that promises us eternal life in The Father’s house where there are many dwelling places. When we come together and do as Jesus commanded us to do, we enjoy the healing and forgiveness which He so generously lavished on believers when He was physically present. Cleansed and healed, we are better prepared to face our merciful and loving Judge when our time in this world comes to an end.

And the miracle goes on.

The graces the Sacrament brings have the lasting effect of “ongoing protection” against the temptations to turn away from the Light…to wander alone into darkness. Like gravity holds us fast to the earth, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Eucharist keeps us secure in the Divine Life…more pleasing to the Creator…easily recognized as an image of Christ.

We are living through an epidemic of “troubled hearts.” The violence, the confusion, and uncertainty, the division that we face daily threatens the joy of our hearts. The Lord urges us to protect ourselves…not by isolating ourselves…not by closing ourselves off from the rest of the world…but by going out and continuing His mission and ministry.

Coming together in peace and harmony to hear the Eternal Word proclaimed and share in the saving banquet is THE WAY disciples celebrate the TRUTH and live THE LIFE… here and now…preparing us for the ETERNAL LIFE that awaits believers.

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Jn 14:15-21
May 14, 2023

There is a line in this Sunday’s Second Reading that deserves a second beat. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.

For Christians, all hope rests in Christ. Most of us trace Christian hope back to our mothers and grandmothers, who did the essential work of presenting us for the Sacraments of Initiation…Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation. Christian mothers, for the most part, are the first and longest serving catechists in the lives of their children. Children begin to learn “right from wrong” while still in their mothers’ arms. Very often, it is the women of the family who make the effort to form and inform children in the practices, beliefs, prayers, and traditions of our Catholic faith.

Long after children leave home and start their own families, a Christian mother continues to guide and inspire her children. As they move into their adult years, her words of encouragement are heard less frequently by the ear, but now the echo of her voice from the past persists in their minds and hearts…staying with them and reminding them of what discipleship involves.

As we mature in our faith, we pursue a deeper relationship with Christ, not because of our mothers’ expectations, or out of a sense of fear or guilt…but because we come to a deeper understanding that all hope does rest in the LORD GOD, Who created the heavens and the Earth. At this stage, disciples feel the urgent need to pass the faith of our mothers…the faith of our ancestors…on to the generations to come.

When I am asked to explain why I place all my hope in Christ, I respond: “Because my mother and my grandmothers were instruments of the Holy Spirit.”

Through them, I came to understand that by doing my best to live as Jesus taught, trying hard to love God with all my heart, and soul, an mind…and even when it’s difficult…especially when it’s most difficult…to love my neighbor as myself…I might not actually see the Lord standing next to me, but I will feel with certainty His presence living within me. When Christ is so fully present to us, we cannot help but live in peace and hope.

And so, with grateful hearts, we pray for the women who have fulfilled their vocation as Christian mothers and passed on the faith to us.

Prayer for Mothers

All-loving God, we give you thanks and praise for mothers young and old.

We pray for young mothers, who give life and tend to every need of their children; May they be blessed with patience and tenderness to care for their families and themselves with great joy.

We pray for our own mothers who have nurtured and cared for us; May they continue to guide us in strong and gentle ways.

We remember mothers who are separated from their children because of war, poverty, or conflict; May they feel the loving embrace of our God who wipes every tear away.

We pray for women who are not mothers but still love and shape us with motherly care and compassion.

We remember mothers. grandmothers, and great-grandmothers who are no longer with us but who live forever in our memory and nourish us with their love.

We pray for healing and forgiveness on behalf of those mothers, who, for whatever reason, have not fully lived out their vocation.


The Ascension of the Lord
Mt 28:16-20
May 21, 2023

It’s graduation season.

The invitations to Open Houses are flooding the Post Office (although a lot of people are using email these days). Along with all the other party preparations, families are rummaging through drawers and closets and boxes, gathering old photographs for what has become the centerpiece of the decorations…THE PICTURE BOARD.

Guests really do enjoy the time travel experience of tracking the graduate from cradle to cap and gown. But the proud parents, looking at the display of treasured memories, might just find this to be a bittersweet experience.

Flashbacks of bringing home the newborn…or the baby’s first steps…starting kindergarten…etc., etc., bring on a wave of nostalgia. Missing who their child WAS blends with the pride of what the child HAS BECOME…leading to hopes and dreams of WHAT COMES NEXT. All this makes for a roller coaster of emotions.

There were obviously no picture boards on the mountaintop on the day the Risen Lord vanished from their sight. But the Apostles and disciples carried with them the memories of the many “AWE MOMENTS” they enjoyed as they witnessed Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth. From the first day they heard His voice inviting them to follow Him to the taste of the extraordinary wine that was somehow drawn from water jugs…driving out demons, calming storms…the raising of Lazarus…it was all there in their minds and their hearts. They had no need of old photographs to help them remember.

Those “AWE MOMENTS” helped His followers to see who Jesus WAS. Memories of miracles and sermons and intimate conversations then blended with their experiences of Easter morning and the days following. After the horror of Good Friday, they came to believe that The Lord had BECOME the Risen Christ.

Now, as they stood on that mountaintop looking up towards the heavens, they were hit with a powerful wave of nostalgia. Clearly, this was a bittersweet moment for them. All of those watching this next great episode in the drama of our salvation must have wrestled with the very same thought: Why does He have to leave? The couple from Emmaus might even have called out the same invitation that they offered the Lord the night He walked home with them: Stay with us.

At the same time, they found comfort and hope in The Risen Lord’s promise that: Again, in a little while you will see me! They understood that WHAT COMES NEXT would bring more miracles…more powerful deeds…more “AWE MOMENTS.”

And, of course, what came next was an entirely new way of relating to God. WHO came next was the Holy Spirit.

Christ returned to The Father so that the next great episode in the drama of our salvation could begin. The Risen Lord made room for the power and presence of The Holy Spirit.

Those who had been companions of Jesus of Nazareth, standing on that mountain, gazing up into the heavens and feeling the bittersweet experience of The Ascension, were soon to become much more than mere spectators to miracles. The Risen Christ sent The Holy Spirit to dwell among and within them. And so, they became empowered activists, continuing the mission and ministry which Jesus began.

There are no “picture boards” preserving all of this. But there is The Gospel…the Living Word of God. When we read the Good News with eyes of faith, we remember that Jesus of Nazareth WAS the Son of God. And we marvel at the great love that He had for us…love so great that He accepted death on the Cross. And so, He BECAME The Risen Christ.

What CAME NEXT was the arrival of The Holy Spirit. The same Spirit Who empowered the Apostles and disciples to spread the Good News continues to empower us today. It is on us to continue the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.

This celebration of the Lord’s return to heaven is a perfect opportunity to put together our own…spiritual…picture board. Beginning with the photos of our Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation, we get a glimpse of who WE WERE.

As we move through the years, are there images of us living the Gospel? Is there evidence that WE ARE disciples of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue The Lord’s mission and ministry? Are we leaving behind a record of empowered activism?

Or do we need to step up our game? Tempting as it might be, we can’t just stay here looking up into the heavens. We must go out into the world and actively proclaim the Good News.

This much is certain: If we have done our best to live lives of discipleship, WHAT COMES NEXT…is traveling out of time and into Eternal Peace and Joy!

Pentecost Sunday
Jn 20:19-23
May 28, 2023

The Hubble Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990. The James Webb Telescope was launched on Christmas Day, 2021. Webb is said to be 100 times more powerful than Hubble, capturing images of light generated literally billions of years ago…from the very dawn of creation. Both LARGE SPACE TELESCOPES have helped to confirm and illustrate scientific theories and to inspire even greater and more ambitious visions of the “ultimate nature of things.” That is what scientists are eager to discover…the “ultimate nature of things.”

It occurs to me that Hubble and Webb relate to one another much like the Old Testament relates to the New Testament. Both brought…and continue to bring messages of enormous importance and great value to scientists and researchers. For its part, Hubble pointed towards and inspired future discoveries. Webb has gone on to make some of those discoveries that Hubble could only predict.

So far, it seems that nothing which Webb is telling us has disproven THE BIG BANG THEORY that Hubble helped to inspire. According to this well-known theory, everything existed in a single point of energy no larger than the tip of a match. This tiny cosmic seed contained power beyond description or imagination.

Then, 14 billion years ago and in an instant…or, as the Book of Genesis tells the story: In the beginning…all this power exploded with a force much greater than the speed of light. With that, what we know as “the universe” began to blossom and unfold.


When teaching and preaching, the Lord often turned to nature to enable His listeners to better comprehend God’s Eternal plan. The Lord pointed to the birds in the sky, wildflowers, grapes, and grain to reveal something significant about the mystery of God. So then, why can’t we use the universe to delve deeper into the truths which The Creator reveals through the vastness of outer space?

Think of it this way:

The Person of Jesus of Nazareth was “THE” single point of energy and power…DIVINE ENERGY…AND THE CREATIVE POWER OF GOD. Flesh and blood was the cosmic seed which was ignited about 2,000 years ago, moving the entire universe towards its ultimate destination…Christ’s return in glory.

As predicted by the Old Testament, Jesus’s death and resurrection were the so-called “significant” but unrepeatable events…the flash point…that set the stage for a SECOND BIG BANG…a spiritual or sacred BIG BANG. On that first Pentecost, The Holy Spirit broke into time with a force and power that defy any scientific theory or mathematical equation. The Holy Spirit literally flooded the entire universe with holiness.

With this SECOND BIG BANG…this spiritual or sacred BIG BANG…all of creation was infused with WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING, AND RIGHT JUDGMENT…so that humankind could participate in this very gradual movement towards the fullness of the Reign of God.

Every stage in salvation history has important work to do. So, The Spirit of God infused all creation with COURAGE to accept the challenges unique to each era of history.

The Holy Spirit tempered all these gifts with PIETY…so that even the most brilliant of minds…Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, Hubble, Webb, Stephen Hawking would go about their work, appreciating that they are not The Creators…only creatures doing exactly what God prepared them to do.

The birds in the sky, the wildflowers, grapes, and wheat continue to offer us insights into The Sacred Mysteries. But we live in an era of mind-boggling change…especially in science and technology. And so, it is extremely important to be vigilant to what God is revealing to us in the furthest galaxy of the universe which has now been made visible to us. That is certainly where the coming generations will be focused…space! It’s our job to teach them what they should be looking for, how to properly interpret what they see.

In the cosmos, God has revealed what scientists and researchers continue to search for: “The ultimate nature of things.” Through the second Big Bang that occurred on Pentecost, humankind was given the Gifts to better see and appreciate that what science is searching for has already been and continues to be revealed.


We are much blessed, but also greatly challenged to be living in this era of salvation history. Still, with or without technology, when we look into the night sky, the experience we have is the last Gift of the Holy Spirit…WONDER AND AWE!

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Jn 3:16-18
June 4, 2023

A recent headline caught my attention: 1-in-10-million rare white bison born at Wyoming State Park. (CBS News Service) Bear River State Park announced the “new arrival” in mid-May. The article went on to give a brief explanation of the genetics at play, then concluded with a quote from the National Park Service.

A white buffalo calf is “the most sacred living thing on Earth” to some Native American tribes, including the Sioux, Cherokee, Navajo, Lakota, and Dakota. Some American Indians say the birth of a white calf is an omen because the birth takes place in the most unexpected places and often happens among the poorest of people. The birth is sacred within the American Indian communities because it brings a sense of hope and is a sign that good times are about to happen.

Although a “living story” that has undergone changes among the various Tribes and over the span of about 2,000 years, the core message is strong and unchanged. The Creator sends the White Buffalo at critical times to inspire people to pray for peace and harmony in the world. The legend goes on to cultivate an appreciation for the omnipresence of The Spirit in nature.

One can’t help but to recognize “a hint” of the Triune Nature of God in this ancient legend. The Native American images of The Divine bring to mind the Divine Reality we celebrate today…the Divine Reality in which we are baptized…THE HOLY TRINITY…FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT.

What we celebrate today is more than legend. Jesus Christ is God’s Promise fulfilled. Jesus Christ is God’s perfect and non-repeatable Self-revelation. Scripture tells us:

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Jesus Christ’s unique and unrepeatable power to save is rooted in His relationship with The Creator and The Holy Spirit…One God in Three Divine Persons. Many great and wise minds have bent to the task of explaining this sacred mystery. But, in truth, it is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. Even St. Augustine acknowledged that if we understand it, then what we understand is not God.

Nevertheless, as is evident from The Legend of the White Buffalo, God has given humankind an instinct that enables us to enjoy a glimpse of the Divine Nature. And through these “hints” together with what we read in Sacred Scripture, we can be certain of this much: The Creator desires to communicate with us, the most treasured and valued of creatures. And God also desires that we, in turn, communicate with Him.

Sometimes we do this by directing our prayers to The Father. Other times, we speak to Jesus. And, finally, there are times when it is The Holy Spirit Whose company and counsel we seek. The Mystery of the Trinity tells us that to speak to One is to speak to All! And the message communicated by Each is one of perfect and unconditional love.

That is all we can really know…but actually…what more do we need to know?

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Jn 6:51-58
June 11, 2023

Last Sunday morning, the news reported that an ancient religious icon dating back to the 15th century has been transferred from a public museum…where it was taken by the Soviets in the early 1920’s, back to The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. This was really big news within the Eastern Orthodox Church, where icons are regarded as much more than just art.

Meditation on these sacred images, prayerfully created through human hands, is common practice and considered to be a powerful form of prayer as well as a means of catechizing. Icons are often referred to as “windows into heaven.” Heartfelt reverence of the sacred image depicted in an icon is an opportunity to get a glimpse of what awaits us on the other side. But there’s more. People offering prayerful devotion before an icon frequently speak of the feeling that they are participating in the sacred mystery that is depicted in the painting.

So, the return of this ancient and well-known icon called “The Trinity” to a place of worship seems the perfect way to celebrate Trinity Sunday. And that is understandable. The icon offers worshippers a glimpse of the Perfect and Eternal relationship between The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…God indivisible…existing in infinite harmony and perfect love.

Now, before you think that I am a week behind, talking as I am about The Trinity, let me point out that windows have two sides. Just as we look out a window, someone on the outside can look in. This brings to mind something St. Frances De Sales once wrote: “Look at God, and God will look at you.”

Consider what God has seen over the past 18 or so months when God looks at Russia or Ukraine…or in countless other places in our world today. Even here in the United States, our schools no longer offer our Creator a vision of peace and safety.

What God sees in this world, for the most part, is the complete opposite of the harmonious communication and unconditional love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Tragically, this is not “new news.” Caine and Abel introduced envy, ambition, discord, and violence into history, and those dark feelings have plagued us ever since.

And so, now, we turn to this Sunday’s celebration of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

By giving us The Lord’s Supper…and encouraging us to Break the Bread and Share the Cup in His Memory, Jesus Christ, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, has given us a means to override those dark instincts that, from the earliest of times, have interfered with our Creator’s plans for us. It is God’s will that we live in peace…The Peace of Christ. And we can gain that Peace for ourselves through The Eucharist.

We are given the Sacrament so that we are better able to live as images and likenesses of God…Who is Perfect Peace and Pure Love. When we come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ…we become what we eat…One Bread…One Body. Through the transforming experience of Eucharist, we can truly say: We are the Body of Christ.

Today’s Gospel speaks to the inability of Jesus’s listeners to understand and accept His profound teaching on the Eucharist. Throughout the centuries, our greatest minds…our brightest theologians…have explored and attempted to explain how The Gifts of Bread and Wine can undergo a radical change.

But do we really need an explanation? Isn’t the hunger we feel as we walk towards the Altar enough assurance that something wonderful…something powerful…something truly holy is waiting to make us someone wonderful…someone powerful…someone holy?

What we celebrate today is God’s creative power at work in the Eucharist, changing us into living icons. When we walk out of Church after a worthy Communion, we return to the world with the ability to inspire prayer in those who otherwise might not pray.

When we live the Eucharist, we become convincing educators to others…teaching others…especially those who have no spiritual life whatsoever, God’s will and God’s ways.

When we eat The Bread of Life and drink from the Cup of Salvation, and do our best to live The Sacrament, like icons, we can be “windows into heaven,” offering people a view of what awaits us on the “other side”…and allowing the peace and joy that we see there to pass through us like sunlight.

I appreciate that these seem like flowery words…almost too good to be true. But do a reality check. Think about how you feel when you don’t…for whatever reason…come to Mass, then compare that feeling to how you feel when you do. Now, just consider how different our world would be if all of the Church were gathered each and every Sunday, partaking of what our God so graciously sets out in front of us, eager that we partake.

I suppose that it is a good thing that the faithful who are eager to meditate on the perfectly harmonious relationship of the Holy Trinity no longer need to go to a museum. That icon really does belong in a cathedral. But Christ really does belong in our hearts, and Christ comes to dwell there through Holy Communion.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 9:36—10:8
June 18, 2023

In recent years, a new and very lucrative career has emerged: social media influencer. Young, attractive, charismatic people take to the Internet and make enormous amounts of money by “shepherding” people towards fashion trends, health and so-called beauty products, restaurants and clubs…etc. etc. etc.

Basically, these folks are paid — and paid well to create an appetite for a lifestyle that is costly, certainly in terms of a big hit to the credit card (or cards), but also in terms of mental and spiritual health and well-being.

Those who can afford to buy into this dreamworld very often end up feeling unsatisfied…unfulfilled… looking to their “online shepherd” for directions to the next “new pasture.” Those who can’t buy into these fantasies are left behind feeling “troubled and abandoned.”

As we return to Ordinary Time, we find Jesus empowering and commissioning “12 SPIRITUAL influencers.” The Apostles were specially prepared by The Lord to go out into the world to create an appetite among the people for a radically new world order…a new way of living in this world.

These “new shepherds,” directing the crowds toward a New Age, were not using their youth, or beauty, or enthusiasm to draw people into a dreamworld. Jesus shared with them the ability to do miraculous things to attract and convert their listeners into followers. It was the miracles that captured people’s attention…but it was the power of the message that ultimately made them believers.

The 12 were not promoting changing fashions or the latest trends; quite the contrary. They were entrusted with a vision of something that had begun…would continue to unfold, develop, and flourish…until, someday, it would be complete and infinite. These 12 social influencers were ambassadors for the Kingdom of God.

Once a listener became a follower, they were most often totally committed to The Way, The Truth, and The Life; in other words, they were totally committed to Jesus Christ. This was the case because they no longer felt “troubled or abandoned.” They found the kind of Peace that had been evading them no matter where they searched. Once they experienced Christ’s Peace, from that point forward, nothing less than the Peace of Christ would satisfy them. They stopped searching because they understood that there is no greener pasture in this world.

And it cannot pass without noting that the 12 influencers went about their work with a total sense of selflessness…never counting the cost…even when “the cost” was their very lives.

Over the coming months, we will be focused on Matthew’s Gospel. As we move through Ordinary Time, hopefully, each of us will feel the urge to be more than listeners. At the core of Jesus’s teachings, as reported by Matthew, is the call for followers to become influencers. Through our Baptisms, we are empowered and obliged to participate in the work of creating a world-wide appetite for the Kingdom of God.

Over the coming Liturgical Season, we are offered a vision of how things can be…should be…and someday will be. What we see will hopefully help us to better understand our role in the world.

Although we are gathered together as ONE FLOCK…A COMMUNITY OF FOLLOWERS COMMITTED TO A NEW AND RADICALLY DIFFERENT WORLD VIEW…we Christians should not isolate ourselves. Our role is not to stand on the sidelines, sheltered in and defending an Institution. Rather, much like the 12, we are sent out to engage the world as spiritual influencers…spiritual activists!

And this what is especially critical to know:

Our responsibility with respect to this vocation of spiritual influencer is especially challenging in this day and age…because there are so many competing voices trying hard to drown us out and draw people in directions that are full of peril. But we will prevail.

Those Baptized in Christ have been given miraculous powers. We might not be able to cure the sick, but we can definitely give care, concern, and assurance of our prayers to those in need. Obviously, we do not expect to be able to raise the dead. However, it is well within our power to raise people’s spirits. There are few lepers left in our world to be cleansed, although there are vast numbers of humanity marginalized because their differences challenge the sensitivities of others. Those who are discriminated against are in need of Christian charity and tolerance. It is relatively easy for us to drive out demons. All we need to do is demand truth.

Over the next months as we hear and ponder Matthew’s Gospel, permit your minds and hearts to surrender completely to the message and the challenge it offers to disciples of Jesus Christ. And, once it has created within you an appetite for peace, justice, love, and truth…you will become a spiritual influencer.

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 10:26-33
June 25, 2023

In a document entitled, “The Legacy of The Declaration of Independence,” Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“The principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence promised to lead America—and other nations on the globe—into a new era of freedom. The revolution begun by Americans on July 4, 1776, would never end. It would inspire all peoples living under the burden of oppression and ignorance to open their eyes to the rights of mankind, to overturn the power of tyrants, and to declare the triumph of equality over inequality.”

These inspiring words are said to capture the so-called “Spirit of ’76,” the popular sentiment that sparked The American Revolution.

It’s anyone’s guess how much of an influence the teaching of Jesus Christ played on Jefferson as he sat down to compose these very lofty thoughts. But all Christians should easily see how The Spirit of The Gospel…The Spirit of the Good News is echoed in these ideals that were and continue to be part of “The Spirit of ‘76.”

The principles outlined in Matthew’s Gospel declare independence from all oppressive structures, institutions, authorities…or beliefs…which deprive humankind of the dignity with which our Creator called each and every life into existence.

The revolutionary movement which Jesus announced promised to lead Israel, and eventually every other nation on the globe into a new and radical era of freedom…an era that the Lord Himself called the Kingdom of God. Moreover, this struggle to ensure that all people…for all times…are included in the safety, security, and peace of the Reign of God…the struggle will not end but is ongoing…continuing until Christ returns in glory.

The Spirit of The Gospel…The Spirit of the Good News…should inspire those living under the burden of sin…to repent. Not so much in terms of shoveling on the guilt, pounding our chests, and wallowing in regret, although taking responsibility for our past actions is certainly part of it. Rather, Jesus seems to be calling for REPENTANCE in the sense of changing our minds. Changing the way, we see the world. Changing the direction of our lives and to follow THE WAY, demand and offer THE TRUTH, and to live THE LIFE…The Life of Christ.

The Spirit of The Gospel…The Spirit of the Good News…ignites within the human heart the desire to LIVE JESUS in a new, radical, and revolutionary way.

In order to enjoy such a total and complete conversion, we must open our eyes to the God-given rights of all humankind. Those who live in The Spirit of The Gospel recognize the unique value in every other human being. Those who live in The Spirit of the Good News join the fight to overturn the power of tyrants, especially the tyrants that take refuge within our OWN minds and our hearts… tyrants such as arrogance, greed, unbridled ambition, hatred, violence, the desire for revenge and bigotry. To experience the Reign of God is to commit to and to declare the triumph of equality over inequality.

In recent years, we’ve repeatedly heard the dire warning that our democracy is “at risk.” It would be unwise to ignore or challenge this possibility. At the very beginning of our Republic, Thomas Jefferson cautioned that the revolution begun by Americans on July 4, 1776, will never end.

As we celebrate Independence Day, it is more important than ever to recommit to the true “Spirit of ’76,” which was inspired by and embodied in the Spirit of The Gospel. The best way to protect our freedom and liberty is to LIVE JESUS!


Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 10:37-42
July 2, 2023

NBC journalists DeSilva and Day published a brief article entitled, “A Tale of Two Disasters” last week.

Very briefly, the article compared the public interest and reaction, as well as the vast differences in recovery efforts, between two recent disasters at sea. The first involved a fishing boat bound for Italy, overloaded with refugees fleeing UNLIVABLE conditions in their native countries. The public interest and reaction were what we have come to expect as “border security” becomes an ever-greater concern within wealthy nations.

This first disaster, which claimed hundreds of lives, triggered protests and civil unrest in Europe. In the U.S., however, reporting of the tragedy was short-lived, and one wonders whether it would have been reported here at all, but for the violent reaction against the influx of refugees and immigrants.

(Did you know anything about this tragedy?)

The second “Tale of Disaster” was, of course, the loss of the Titan submarine carrying underwater tourists, who, quite likely, paid a great deal of money to visit the wreckage of yet another disaster at sea. Ironically, the sinking of the Titanic was also an occasion to consider how human life is very often valued according to wealth and social standing.

(This story was…and continues to make the headlines…almost impossible to miss!)

A representative of a human rights“ watch dog” for Europe and Central Asia was quoted by DeSilva and Day as saying: “The willingness to allow certain people to die while every effort is made to save others…it’s a, you know, really dark reflection on humanity.”

There is an undeniable difference in the way that authorities and emergency services dealt with the two catastrophic events. That fact alone makes it more important than ever that Christians clearly understand and embrace the lesson at the core of this Sunday’s Readings.

HOSPITALITY is the clear link between the passage from 2nd Kings and the Gospel. The “woman of influence” who convinced her husband to offer HOSPITALITY to Elisha the Prophet continues to influence and inspire people of good will even to this day. Her house guest caught her attention because she recognized him as “a holy man of God.” It’s important to notice that there is no indication that her generosity was motivated by the hope of reward or reimbursement. Still, she was rewarded in a very unexpected and meaningful way.

The Gospel passage is a continuation of Jesus’s instructions to the 12 before they embark on their first mission trip. He encourages them to rely on HOSPITALITY from people of goodwill. But the way the instruction begins seems to stretch the obligation on hosts to include all those in need.

It shocks our sensibilities to think that we should put any limits on the love and affection we have for those closest to us. However, if one sits with the opening lines, and then allows them to flow into the directives on HOSPITALITY that follow, it seems that the Lord is warning us to embrace every human being as “a holy child of God” and to offer HOSPITALITY when needed… or suffer dire consequences.

Think of it this way:

“The willingness to allow certain people to die while every effort is made to save others…it’s a, you know, really dark reflection on humanity” … and a VERY DARK REFLECTION humanity’s willingness to understand and embrace the lesson at the core of The Gospel. We are called to respond to all human disasters WITHOUT consideration to where they are coming from, where they are traveling to, the reason for their trip, and most definitely without consideration to their wealth or social standing. To behave otherwise risks misfortune.

On the other hand, when a person or a nation rises to the challenge of this Gospel message…God’s Blessings are assured.

IF WE ARE TO HOPE FOR GOD’S CONTINUED BLESSINGS ON AMERICA, THEN WE AS A NATION “OF INFLUENCE”… must continue to show the rest of the world how to put these Readings into action.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 11:25-30
July 9, 2023

The glossy cover of a magazine caught my attention while I was in the checkout line of the grocery store. The picture showed a picnic table filled with all kinds of amazing looking food. The caption promised the easiest and the least expensive recipes to ensure the “BEST 4th of JULY EVER!”

I was inspired!

As soon as I arrived home, I called a few friends and invited them to my house for what I hoped would be the “BEST 4th of JULY EVER!” And so began the heavy lifting…shopping, hauling the grocery bags into the house, finding room in the refrigerator for the perishables…cleaning the house. All that even before the cooking began. By the time my friends arrived, I was exhausted. Still, I was determined to do my best to see that they had a good time…and they seemed to have enjoyed themselves.

“BEST 5th of JULY EVER!”

I got up very, very late…drank a pot of coffee…and then back to bed. Actually, one of my friends called to thank me for hosting, and I admitted: “You caught me napping.” And he said: YOU EARNED THE REST!


Those few words got me thinking about the powerful message in today’s Readings.

The passage from Zechariah is a little like that glossy magazine cover that promised a wonderful celebration! Through the Prophet, God is offering a vision of the joyful celebration of something that the people had been waiting for…longing for…anxiously anticipating…for many generations: The coming of the Messiah. The image of the celebration serves to inspire hope as well as the determination to continue to prepare to welcome this new King.

The arrival of the Messiah would definitely be a cause for celebration because God promised that He would win perfect freedom for all people. The One Who God promised would restore order, heal the wounds caused by the first sin and division, and initiate an age of peace and justice for all. What’s not to celebrate?

In our Gospel, Matthew is explaining that Jesus is the One…this new King…a new kind of King…one humble but more powerful than any other ruler…powerful enough to claim control over all of creation.

Jesus, The “Just Savior,” began a spiritual and social revolutionary war for independence from anything that threatens the freedom that The Creator intended for us when this world was called into being. The victory was not won with swords and spears, or guns and rockets…. but with the most powerful weapon of all…LOVE! Jesus did all of the “heavy lifting” so that all creation could experience the freedom that God wants for us…and His only weapons were mercy, forgiveness, healing, and unconditional LOVE!

Having declared our independence from the oppressive forces that enslave us, The Lord invites his followers to continue the resistance against anyone or anything that attempts to take back what He has won for us. The heavy lifting is done, but the work continues…and it’s on us to see that it gets done.

Here is the Good News: Our work…our part in this spiritual revolution is made easy by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. The Spirit ensures that we are never exhausted… because a Holy Spirit is inexhaustible. And when we do our best to cooperate with The Holy Spirit… someday, we can hope to be invited into an eternal celebration… where the Lord will welcome us with the words: YOU EARNED THE REST…ETERNAL REST!

As Matthew’s Gospel continues to unfold during the summer, we will hear how The Lord encourages us, His followers, to engage in the ongoing spiritual revolution so that we do not lose the freedom He has won for us.

Over the coming months, we will hear, as well, the many reasons we have to celebrate. And we are invited each week to do just that…to celebrate in the best possible of ways…by coming together for The Eucharist.

The Lord has done the heavy lifting, giving us a reason to celebrate, and He has also prepared the celebration for us…the Eucharist…truly “the best celebration ever!”

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 13:1-23
July 16, 2023

The month of July 2023 opened with THE TWO HOTTEST DAYS EVER recorded in GLOBAL history. And yet, the debate continues over whether the undeniable phenomenon of global warming is caused by our failure to properly care for our planet…or is simply part of a weather cycle!!!!


It IS happening…AND WHATEVER THE CAUSE…global warming is bringing with it (borrowing a phrase from St. Paul) the sufferings of this present age.

Compounding the tragedy is the fact that…at least for NOW…the poorest of the poor are SUFFERING THE MOST. (Although the wealthy are wondering: What are we going to do about our ocean-front mansions?)

In today’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus: Why do you talk to people in parables? What’s with all these little stories?

The passage calls to mind God’s desire to communicate to the created world the mysteries of the Kingdom. Tragically, from the very beginning, there appears to have been “communication problems” between The Creator and us. And so, The Father sent the Son into this world for a ‘’face to face” with humankind. Jesus is God’s most beautiful, dramatic, and intimate way of connecting with and speaking directly to us. Still, even His disciples appeared to have needed a further and more detailed explanation of a pretty simple message.

As The Lord points out, very often, we hear but don’t understand…look but don’t really see. Then there are those times when we intentionally ignore or filter out God’s messages. And, on occasion, even though we might well have fully comprehended the lesson, we become distracted by life and slowly forget what we know to be true…life-giving…critical to our peace, happiness, and well-being.

Appreciating our diminished capacity to see, hear, and understand, as well as our tendency to ignore, forget, or totally reject the message, Jesus often turns to story-telling to make the importance of a lesson as comprehensible as possible. In this passage reported by Matthew, The Lord uses agriculture to make a point. Other places Jesus encourages us to take a lesson from…NATURE! Shouldn’t we then take a lesson from global warming?

Regardless of the cause, there is a hard lesson to be had from our current weather patterns, and it certainly seems to be about SUFFERING! St. Paul offers another descriptive phrase that The Weather Channel would do well to employ: All creation is groaning…glaciers are groaning…rain forests are groaning…the oceans and the coral reefs are groaning…and so few of us are listening…or seeing…or understanding the message. But even more urgent is the groaning of the poor who are suffering the most from this climate crisis.

God hears the cries of the poor…and so do the rest of us. The sufferings of this present age are recorded and broadcast in real time every single day. But way too many have found a way of disregarding or ignoring or claiming not to understand what ordinary folk can do about it.

The Lord repeatedly directs us to nature to hear what God is telling us. Climate change certainly seems to be telling us YOU ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER! BE ATTENTIVE TO THE SUFFERING OF ALL PEOPLE! CARE FOR THEM AND FOR YOUR PLANET!

The Good News is that God will not give up on us…God will continue to speak to us until we all listen…understand…and obey.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 13:24-43
July 23, 2023

Our Gospel is long. Matthew reports three parables and then goes on to give the detailed explanation that Jesus reserved for His disciples. Moreover, it ends on what seems to be a pretty threatening note, which makes it challenging to harmonize with the first two Readings, which are filled with hope. It’s hard to put all of the pieces together!

A few Sundays back, we heard The Lord declare: Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones. So, it might be helpful to approach these Readings like little ones…playing with a child’s puzzle.

Very early on, children learn to look for the corner pieces first. It’s easy to find the four corner pieces. I think that the four corners of the picture that will emerge when this Scripture puzzle is assembled are SIN, PATIENCE, HUMILITY, and REDEMPTION.

SIN is very much the point of the little stories that Jesus used to teach the crowds about the Kingdom of Heaven. Evil inclinations invade the lives of even the holiest people. Temptation infects everyone’s life, threatening to overwhelm all that is good and life-giving.

But, just as children learn to be patient as they go about putting a puzzle together, The Lord stresses the need to be patient with ourselves as we deal with our “dark sides.” And so, the next corner of the puzzle is PATIENCE. If we act rashly in our efforts to rid ourselves of anything that makes us less than God created us to be, we risk somehow damaging our spiritual growth and development. This is another way of saying that conversion is a slow, methodical, thoughtful, and lifelong process that requires self-restraint and endurance.

Our Second Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is extremely helpful in finding the third corner of our puzzle, which is HUMILITY.

Paul reminds us of a reality that we often try to deny. We are weak. In fact, it is our poor choices and bad decisions that sap our spiritual energy and strength. But the Holy Spirit comes to the rescue…especially when we are willing to humble ourselves, by acknowledging our shortcomings and failures and accepting the incredibly powerful help of the Holy Spirit.

Elsewhere, St. Paul teaches us that when we are weak…it is then we are strong. When we stand humbly before our God, acknowledging our weakness and asking for help in the fight against temptation and sin…The Spirit comes rushing in to re-arm us.

Which leaves the fourth corner of the puzzle…REDEMPTION!

The passage from the Book of Wisdom concludes: You gave your children good reason for hope that you would permit repentance for their sin. And so, the frame for the three Readings concludes with God’s promise of forgiveness for those who acknowledge their SIN, commit to the lifelong process of conversion with PATIENCE, and accept the help of the Holy Spirit with HUMILITY.

But it seems necessary to consider the rather threatening reference to the “fiery furnace” and the “weeping and grinding of teeth.”

It might help to imagine our lives like a jigsaw puzzle…coming together piece by piece…year by year…decision by decision…choice by choice.

When it is finally completed and the Just Judge looks down on the picture that has emerged, there will most likely be some pieces that have been damaged over time, or possibly forced into the wrong place, or maybe even lost. It is then that the lenience and clemency of God (specifically referred to in our First Reading) takes over. It is as if God removes from the picture and disposes of anything that detracts from what is pleasing to our Creator. What remains is a picture made “righteous” by God’s infinite mercy and unconditional love.

Although SIN is almost unavoidable, when we PATIENTLY set out on a path of conversion, HUMBLY acknowledging that we are too weak to do it on our own and accepting the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can hope for REDEMPTION.

Even a sinner can hope to, someday, “shine like the sun” in the Kingdom of God.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 13:44-52
July 30, 2023

Completing the seven parables that He used to teach them about The Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus asked His disciples: Do you understand all these things? And, of course, they answered, Yes!

The Lord then turned to an attorney in the crowd and inquired: Are you sure? The attorney replied: Well, actually, Lord, as far as the buried treasure, I do have a few concerns about ownership and property rights.

Then Jesus looked over at a financial planner who had been listening, and asked: How about you? He said in reply: I have to admit that I’m a little uncomfortable with the investment strategy. That pearl may or may not hold its market value. I don’t think it’s a wise decision to invest all of your assets into one thing.

Finally, Jesus asked an insurance agent who was standing by: Do you have any thoughts about this? Immediately, the insurance agent said: Lord, I can’t give an opinion until there has been a complete inventory of the treasure and the pearl has been sent to a reputable jeweler for an appraisal. There is no doubt, however, that it should all be insured against fire, theft, or loss.

It does not seem that the primary purpose of these seven little stories that we have heard proclaimed over these past two Sundays is to make non-believers into converts. If you read Matthew 13 from start to finish in one sitting, it becomes clear that, although a crowd was listening in, Jesus’s intended audience was His Apostles. Think about it.

The Lord didn’t stop with one story but went on to offer seven parables. He gave private explanations to His chosen followers out of earshot of the onlookers. He concluded by point-blank asking them: Do you understand all these things? In other words: This is all very important. It’s critical that you “get it.” So, if you have any questions, ask them now.

The Lord felt the urgent need for the members of His inner circle to fully understand the purpose of His earthly mission…a mission in which they were called to participate…the mission and ministry of announcing The Kingdom of Heaven.

In order to fully appreciate and to be properly equipped for the work ahead of them, they needed much more than the wisdom of attorneys, or financial planners, or insurance agents. Like Solomon in our First Reading, to be successful in the work of evangelization…the work of conversion…the work of sharing the Good News, the Apostles would require: understanding hearts…wise and understanding hearts.

That kind of spiritual wisdom enables people of faith to rise above the material world and to see and hear and embrace what God is revealing to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to announce that The Kingdom is ALREADY HERE…but NOT YET in its fullness. The Reign of God will prevail in the material world when Christ returns in Glory.

IN THE MEANTIME, the Kingdom is made a spiritual reality through good and faithful disciples who commit themselves totally to hearing, accepting unconditionally, and then doing God’s will.

There is no question of ownership. It belongs to all who desire it, seek it, and recognize it once they have found it. The value is beyond estimate or appraisal. The dividends are eternal life. Once fully invested, there is no need for insurance because the spiritual reality is guaranteed by our Creator’s promise: To those who have…more will be given. There is no risk of fire, theft, or loss once The Kingdom has taken root in a disciple’s mind and heart.

Do you understand all these things?

Don’t be overly concerned if you have some lingering questions. This is a lot to wrap one’s mind around. So, ask God for the gift that Solomon asked for…an understanding heart that enables you to say…THY KINGDOM COME…THY WILL BE DONE…NOT MINE!

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
Mt 17:1-9
August 6, 2023

In his farewell address to the people of the Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen (1921-2018) is quoted as saying: What is a pilgrimage? Isn’t it a group of people, in the company of one another, who are traveling together for a holy purpose? Our journey is a pilgrimage that has Jesus Christ as both its origin and its destination.

In a way, this Feast of the Transfiguration celebrates a pilgrimage which Jesus arranged for Peter, James, and John. The “holy purpose” of their journey up to a mountaintop was to enjoy a better view of The Kingdom. What they witnessed was the power of God’s love, changing Jesus of Nazareth in such a complete and dramatic way, that, for a brief moment…they enjoyed a glimpse of the Risen, glorified, Eternal Christ…His face, shining like the sun, and His clothes white as light!

Another pilgrimage comes to mind. In fact, and very appropriately, it concludes on this Feast of the Transfiguration.

Young people from all around the world met in Portugal, for a holy purpose…World Youth Day. With Jesus Christ as both the origin and the destination of their journey, in the company of one another, they (hopefully) have enjoyed a mountaintop experience that strengthened their faith and deepened their understanding of the Incarnation.

The INCARNATION…Jesus, God’s Eternal Word made flesh, came into this world to live among us in order to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

Obviously, these young disciples can’t remain on the mountaintop forever. Today, they will come back down from the spiritual mountaintop and return to their homes. When they resume their ordinary lives, like St. Peter in our Second Reading, they will be eager to tell their stories and share their experiences. And their families and friends will listen. But while the travelers will be able to tell their stories, they really won’t be able to actually “share” what they felt in their heart of hearts during their time on the mountaintop.

We can, and definitely will, listen with interest…and look at the pictures…and read their texts and emails and Facebook postings. We will see for ourselves the excitement in their faces and take notice of the changes that have come over them. But what they’ve witnessed on the mountaintop really isn’t something that can be shared. What they can pass onto us, however, is the desire to see for ourselves what they saw.

Now, here is the Good News. We can!

We can have our own mountaintop experience, and we don’t have to leave home to enjoy it. Think about it.

What is a pilgrimage?

Isn’t it a group of people, in the company of one another…people like us, when we gather in our home parish to celebrate Eucharist?

What is a pilgrimage?

Isn’t it people like us, gathered together for a holy purpose? There is no holier purpose than to do as Jesus commanded…breaking The Bread of Life and sharing The Cup of our salvation in His memory.

What is a pilgrimage?

A pilgrimage is a journey that has Jesus Christ as both its origin and its destination…very much the same as the short journey we make from our seat to the Communion Table. And when we step forward with our hands out…we are on a mountaintop. Through the celebration of Eucharist and in the company of one another…we experience firsthand the power of God’s love…which changes us…transfigures us…so that we are better able to recognize in ourselves…and in each other…the truth that we are beloved children of our heavenly Father.

Through their pilgrimage, these young disciples were offered a view of The Kingdom of heaven. Through the Eucharist we share, that same view is available to us.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 14:22-33
August 13, 2023

Spiritual teachers, retreat directors, and those involved in pastoral ministry are often asked for tips on how a person can improve their prayer life. One suggestion to try is called “The Saint Method.” It really is very simple.

1. Pick a saint.

2. Focus or meditate on something from their earthly life…something the saint said or wrote, some significant event that’s been handed down through the generations.

3. Have a conversation with the saint…being open, honest, candid…like you would talk with your most trusted friend.

4. Learn from the experience.

Today’s Gospel offers the perfect saint, as well as the perfect event to focus on. So, let’s have a conversation with St. Peter.

ME: St. Peter, you were a very experienced fisherman. You certainly were able to predict when a storm was coming. What made you decide to cross over the Sea of Galilee when a major storm was on the horizon?

ST. PETER: Jesus told us to!

ME: What was so important that you had to make the crossing without waiting for better weather?

ST. PETER: I’m not sure. However, after a major miracle…or sermon…Jesus usually gathered us Apostles together in a place where there would be no distractions so He could explain what we had just seen.

ME: Had you seen something special that day?

ST. PETER: Of course, we did. He prayed over 5 loaves and 2 fish and fed 5,000 starving men, not counting women and children. They all ate until they were satisfied, and there were 12 baskets filled with leftovers.
ME: That certainly was a miracle that deserved some further discussion. But Jesus didn’t get into the boat with you, did He?

ST. PETER: No! He stayed behind to say good-bye to the crowd of people. He told us that when they had all gone home, He wanted some alone time to pray. That’s something else He often did after some major miracle or sermon. He would go off by Himself to a deserted place to pray.

ME: So, there was nothing unusual about The Lord sending you Apostles on ahead without Him.

ST. PETER: Nothing unusual? What are you saying? In the middle of this terrible storm…the waves so high we were all certain that the boat would sink, He came towards us walking on the water!

ME: Unbelievable!

ST. PETER: Absolutely! No one could believe their eyes. It was more terrifying than the storm. Everyone thought they were seeing a ghost.

ME: Even you?

ST. PETER: At first, I wasn’t certain what I was seeing. But then He called out to us: Do not be afraid! I thought I recognized His voice but the storm was so loud, I wasn’t quite sure at first.

ME: Whatever possessed you to jump into the sea?

ST. PETER: Joy at seeing The Lord! Faith in Him! Seeing Him made me feel that we were saved from the roaring sea. And, of course, love! I was so excited to see Him.

ME: So why did you sink?

ST. PETER: I became distracted by all that was happening around me…the wind…the rain…the waves…the others shouting at me to get back into the boat…and I took my eyes off of Jesus.

ME: Weren’t you embarrassed?

ST. PETER: Not really. I know that my lapse of faith and sinking is what all people remember. But what they should see is that when I was in trouble, Jesus was there to raise me up.

ME: So, the sinking made the raising possible.

ST. PETER: Exactly! All I had to do was call out: Lord Save Me! And there He was to raise me up.

ME: What did you learn from this experience?

ST. PETER: Several things. Once again, I was reminded of the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. I learned that He appears in the most unlikely of places doing the most miraculous of things. And I also learned that when I am in the greatest of dangers, all I have to do is call out and He extends His hand to save me!

So, back to the final stage of “The Saint Method,” what have WE learned from our conversation with St. Peter about the experience of “walking on water?”

First and most importantly, we have learned a very simple but a very powerful prayer to say, especially when we are most threatened or terrified:


20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 15:21-28
August 20, 2023

Recently, the Secretary-General of the United Nations issued a statement addressing a growing concern: “We must confront bigotry by working to tackle the hate that spreads like wildfire across the internet.” He was talking about “hate speech.”

International human rights law, so far, has failed to define “hate speech.” The United Nations has.

Hate speech is “…any kind of communication in speech, writing, or behavior that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender, or other identity factor.”

Actually, with or without a formal definition, it is easy for most people to recognize “hate speech” when they hear or see it. But the opportunities to observe the tragic effects it has on its targets are not all that frequent…especially today, when the internet is the preferred vehicle for this sinful vocabulary.

That might well be the reason why Jesus spoke to the Canaanite woman in the way He did. Maybe He wanted His disciples to hear how vile “hate speech” sounds and to see with their own eyes the impact it has on its target.

The fact is, when the Canaanite woman approached Him, The Lord reacted in a way that observant Jews of the time would have expected any man to respond to a gentile…especially a gentile woman. He ignored her. That is about as demeaning as one human being can be to another…to simply pretend they don’t exist!

But she was persistent, and with an intensity that any mother would rally in defense of her child.

Again, The Lord’s reaction was in keeping with the social and religious expectations of His time. The Chosen people, who enjoyed a special relationship with God, regarded “others” as unworthy…inferior…impure. In the minds of the witnesses to this dramatic exchange, including His own disciples, Jesus’s harsh words were totally appropriate to the situation.

But then, her extraordinary expression of faith caused Him to break with social convention and even with religious law. The compassion and love we associate with Jesus surfaced, and after recognizing, accepting, and complimenting her expression of faith, He gave her the relief she sought. Therein is the focal point of countless Christian sermons over the centuries…be persistent and you will get what you are asking for.

But I believe that there is so much more to be learned from this passage.

Is it possible that Jesus simply used this encounter with a pagan woman to do some “sensitivity training” with His disciples?

Did He want them to hear how vulgar “hate speech” sounds?

Did He want them to see with their own eyes the look on the face of its victim? Was His objective to make His followers…and us…aware of how certain attitudes, behavior, and speech can hurt others?

Was His purpose to demonstrate that socially acceptable behavior… even when it seems to be supported by religious beliefs, can obstruct compassion…when compassion is the way in which God responds to those in need?

By comparing the effect of “hate speech” on the internet to a wildfire, we are offered a very timely image of how dangerous sinful words…and the dark feelings or opinions that motivate these sinful words…can be. Possibly the most devastating impact of this dark vocabulary is its impact on our ability to be compassionate.

Could that be the most powerful lesson in this passage? Was Jesus demonstrating to His disciples, as well as to us, that, to live the Gospel, we must be compassionate without concern for “religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender, or other identity factor.”

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 16:13-20
August 27, 2023

This week’s Gospel uses a familiar image for us to play with: keys. Where are the keys and who has them? It is a frustrating experience to lose your keys because access is denied to you. It’s not that someone else has done this to you; you just forgot where you put them. They are here, but where? How we use the word “key” is a theme for this Sunday.

Our Old Testament Reading describes an arrogant and untrustworthy steward. Jewish historians actually suggest that he was conspiring with foreign enemies. When his treachery was revealed, “the keys” that were not only a symbol of the power and authority of his office, but literally gave him access to what was valuable and important, were taken from him.

I would venture to guess that if you asked Roman Catholics, especially those whose faith formation and religious education was influenced by the Baltimore Catechism, what “the keys” represent in today’s Gospel, the response would be immediate and consistent. Jesus made Peter the first Pope when He handed him “the keys.” For them, “the keys” are a symbol of power and authority. This image is definitely supported by Church teaching and tradition.

I feel fairly confident that even someone “unchurched” would respond to that question without too much forethought. Who hasn’t heard some silly joke depicting St. Peter as a heavenly security guard standing at the “pearly gates”? This image goes beyond the power of the papacy. The idea being that, somehow, St. Peter has been entrusted with the responsibility of admitting or denying access to the kingdom of God. “The keys” are to the celestial courthouse. Peter judges who gets in and who is barred.

For me, this image seems a bit misleading, to say the least. Among other concerns this interpretation raises, it means that God has delegated Divine judgment. In spite of the fact that The Lord specifically mentions “binding and loosing” to imply that an individual’s salvation is in the hands of anyone other than Almighty God, is not consistent with Church teaching or tradition.

To help put this whole thing in better perspective, we might consider how a Jewish Rabbi would answer the question: What do you think Jesus meant when He told Peter that He was giving him “the keys” to the Kingdom? An observant Jew of Jesus’s time would most likely recognize the symbolism at play here. In the Hebraic teaching and tradition, the word “key” used in a situation like this would infer God’s Law and/or Wisdom.

How would St. Peter, a devout Jew, respond if asked: “Why do most statues or paintings of you show you holding a key?” Since he was wise enough to recognize that Jesus is The Christ, wouldn’t he be wise enough to recognize that “the key” entrusted to him by The Lord is The Gospel? And wouldn’t he also be wise enough to recognize that at the very core of the Gospel is LOVE, caring for one another?
If you have misplaced your keys and if there is such a thing as an encounter with St. Peter at the “pearly gates,” he will help you find them. He will look at you and see a loving person who has done their best to actually LIVE the Gospel, and he will recognize you as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and the gates will swing wide open and you will be welcomed into Paradise by the Angels and the Saints!

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 16:21-27
September 3, 2023

St. Paul urges: Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God.

This very sage advice is especially relevant today.

We are literally being bombarded by a variety of influences that grab our attention and cause us to lose sight of what God has planned for us.

For example, Time Magazine published an article on January 12, 2023, describing some extraordinary research being done at the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School.

Briefly, very credible medical researchers…THIS IS LEGITIMATE SCIENTIFIC DATA…NOT FAKE NEWS…CREDIBLE RESEARCHERS claim to have made enormous progress in developing the means to reverse the aging process. In terms of treatments and therapies, it is hoped that this research will lead to such things as restoring vision, healing diseased hearts, and renewing deteriorated joints.

I, FOR ONE, WOULD LOVE TO GET RID OF THIS CANE…AND THESE TRIFOCALS…and be able to walk down the street without huffing and puffing. Who wouldn’t? BUT ultimately, the objective OF THIS VERY CREDIBLE RESEARCH is to offer the possibility of extending a person’s earthly life indefinitely.

If this research can bring about HEALING and reduce suffering, then it is undeniably a very good thing. However, our Scripture passages this week raise the question as to whether the objective of unlimited earthly life is actually good news for ANYONE? Is this part of God’s will?

Our Gospel reports how Jesus began preparing His followers for His own suffering and death. Of course, out of love and concern, Peter resisted the idea that The Lord must die.

Jesus responds: Whoever wishes to save their life will lose it.

This would suggest that those who hope to defeat aging, and, ultimately, death, are dangerously short-sighted.

Jeremiah inspires an intriguing image of the inner workings of the human body. We are filled with The Eternal Word of The Lord. The cells of the human heart burn with this spark of the Divine, leaving us with a feeling of restlessness and a longing for something more than we can ever hope to find in this world.

God’s presence is imprisoned within each cell of our bones, eager to energize our movements and set us on a path that leads out of time and into eternal life. The human body simply cannot contain this powerful force. That part of us that is eternal cannot be “held in.” Eventually, that which is infinite must burst forth from the finite and fragile vessel that contains it.

It is certainly true that, moved with compassion, Jesus performed countless miraculous healings, even raising the dead. And so, advances in medicine that heal and relieve suffering are very much consistent with God’s will as revealed by Jesus Christ.

But The Lord’s mission in this world was to do the will of The Father. And, ultimately, the will of The Father was that The Son should sacrifice His life in this world so that all who believe might enjoy eternal life in The Kingdom.

So then, the takeaway from our Readings certainly seems to point to the need to resist the ambitions of the present era, CERTAINLY CONCERNING THE AMBITION TO REVERSE THE NATURAL AGING PROCESS…even to the point of extending life in this world indefinitely.

Rather, Jesus is encouraging us to “reboot” our trust in The Creator, Whose will it is that we do enjoy eternal life, not just in this world, but in The Kingdom of Heaven!

Now, you might well be thinking that this is the stuff of a science fiction movie that does not belong in a reflection on Sacred Scripture. To that, I would reply that this is the “stuff of the present age.”

We must not allow this “stuff” to transform our minds and our lives. Rather, we must continue to look to the Gospel for guidance, so that we can properly discern God’s will.

And it is God’s will that we live forever…but not in this world!

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 18:15-20
September 10, 2023

Most “regular churchgoers” are at least aware that Pope Francis has called the universal Church to a Synod. This meeting or assembly of the global faithful will convene in the Vatican next month. Leading up to this event, there have been ongoing preparations in the Roman Catholic Diocese around the world. The hope is that “listening sessions,” which began at the parish level in 2021, will enable participants to arrive at the Synod better prepared to have fruitful discussions about our Church.

Considering that this century in salvation history has begun with war, violence, social upheaval, and ideological divisions that seem to run deeper with every passing day, there’s lots to talk about.

But, while this call to gather together in The Name of Jesus Christ has inspired a great deal of enthusiasm, it has also aroused an unfortunate amount of criticism. Certain US Church leaders have been especially vocal about their concerns that this gathering together in The Name of Jesus Christ is an opportunity for evil to attack and erode very basic truths of our Church. Rather than an opportunity to chart an aggressive course into the future, it has been suggested by some that the coming Synod could well bring about a schism.

I do not dismiss these concerns. Still, as I read the dramatic warnings against the Synod, I find it very difficult to justify them with the Gospel we heard proclaimed two Sundays ago. In Matt. 16:13-20, The Lord assures us that the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it (our Church).

Clearly, those who are so opposed to the upcoming gathering together in The Name of Jesus Christ feel that their resistance is necessary to protect and defend Church teaching. But does a gathering together in The Name of Jesus Christ really necessitate such extreme defensive and threatening warnings?

Are we to imagine that those who are traveling to The Vatican for the Synod are not gathering together in The Name of Jesus Christ? Or are we to discount The Lord’s assurance that when disciples: gather together in my name …THERE AM I IN THE MIDST OF THEM?

My prayer and reflection on this week’s Readings have led me to these personal opinions…for what they are worth.

Our First Reading makes it quite clear that the duty of a prophet is to WARN those who are in danger of acting in a way that is displeasing to God. Those who have spoken out against the upcoming Synod are definitely WARNING against the possible dire consequences of assembling the universal Church to discuss the burning issues of our times. But I wonder if these WARNINGS have gone beyond what The Holy Spirit intended?

Our Gospel, for example, encourages dialogue…even when it is confrontational or unpleasant. Moreover, if initial efforts at “conflict resolution” fail, the Lord Himself tells us to continue the efforts by bringing in mediators. The objective of the process is to uncover truth, to rest disputes or disagreements, and to restore harmony and peace. After all, PEACE is the precious gift that Jesus left us.

To defer to the warnings of those opposed by canceling or refusing to participate in the Synod seems inconsistent with Matt. 18:15-20. Nevertheless, to proceed without giving due consideration to the WARNINGS against eroding the “basic truths of our faith” is to ignore what God is saying to us in Ezekiel 33:7-9. Possibly, the impasse can be resolved though our Second Reading: Romans 13:8-10.

Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence love is the fulfillment of the Law.

If those gathering for the Synod next month strive to go about their work in the Spirit of Love, then God will certainly be The Guiding Presence. And possibly, some new and exciting insights into how we can be faithful to basic Church teachings while still being faithful to The Law of Love might result. Let us pray!

I do know this much to be true: It does not take a prophet to see and WARN AGAINST the toll this discord is taking on all of humanity. Division and discord seem to be the flavors of the day. In every aspect of life, a cordial meeting of the minds is a rarity. Within families, parishes, the workplace, governing bodies, and certainly among nations, meaningful and fruitful dialogue and conflict resolution seems all but impossible.

This Synod is our Church’s opportunity to give the whole world an example of how to heal. Love is the answer!

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 18:21-35
September 17, 2023

When I left parish ministry and moved into my own home, some friends surprised me with a great big houseplant. It was in such a large pot that three people were needed to carry it out of the van and into my house. We put it in the window that gets the most sun, and my friends explained how often and how much water the plant needs. It was a terrific housewarming gift.

As I said, we put the plant in the sunniest window of the house. The problem was that other than to water and care for the plant, I rarely use that room. As a result, there have been times that I have forgotten my duties. When I eventually remember to check on it, the poor plant is literally collapsed, dropping over the side of its container.

The first time this happened, I was really upset. I was certain that the plant was dead. But I decided to see what would happen if I were to give it what it needs to live…WATER! A day later, the plant was as healthy as ever. IT FORGAVE ME!

Actually, our Creator has designed the entire universe to be FORGIVING.

If it hasn’t already begun, eventually, the hills surrounding Lahina, Maui, will spring back to life, and the black char left from the fires will return to brilliant green. The same thing will happen in the Canadian and California forests.

Remember how FORGIVING the ozone layer was, literally healing during the pandemic, when the world stood still and allowed it the time it needed to FORGIVE. Sadly, we began to assault it again. Our skin FORGIVES and heals after a minor cut or burn so quickly that we almost forget how we were injured.

There are countless examples of nature recovering and returning to life after some life-threatening blow. That was God’s design…that when injured or afflicted, the universe should FORGIVE AND HEAL, in many cases, literally erasing evidence of the hurt.

Jesus gave voice to this universal healing inclination from The Cross, when He prayed:


We human beings might be most in need of FORGIVENESS from God when we act against this natural inclination to FORGIVE AND HEAL. If we allow ourselves to be frozen in the past, obsessed with some offense…our spirits and our emotions poisoned by anger and desire for revenge, we can’t return to life as we knew it before we were injured.

When we do not allow ourselves to FORGIVE, we miss the opportunity for something new to happen. Failure to forgive prevents a return of life.

Maybe one way of thinking about our Reading this weekend is this: Hanging onto anger and resentment is unnatural and contrary to the laws of nature…and THE LAW OF GOD!

A FINAL THOUGHT: As the U.S. marked another anniversary of the terrorist attack on our nation, I am reminded of a comment I recall, although I have forgotten the source.

After 9/11, almost the entire world was “on our side.” Tragically, rather than focus on HEALING and the power of FORGIVENESS, all our attention was focused on anger and revenge. As we began to aggressively avenge our horrific injury, we lost much of the sympathy and support from other countries.

We also lost the opportunity to show the rest of the world how the universe as well as the Gospel tells us to respond to injuries inflicted by others. The best “self-defense” against further injury is the determination to HEAL…and the path to healing involves FORGIVENESS!

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 20:1-16a
September 24, 2023

I bet the ears of Catholic auto workers attending Mass this weekend perked right up during the Liturgy of the Word. As this parable unfolds, it certainly appears to be the makings of a major labor dispute that will most likely be resolved in favor of the workers. But this passage is definitely not something auto workers would want to take to the bargaining table next week as they continue to negotiate a new contract. The ending of our Gospel is not “pro-labor.”

No matter which side of the bargaining table your sentiments might lie, this little story just doesn’t sit well. This parable not only offends our sense of justice, but it also brings personal experiences to mind. From childhood on, there are times when our accomplishments or contributions are discounted or even ignored. Everyone has a memory of working hard on something, only to have someone else push us aside and “take a bow.”

On those occasions when we feel that we’ve been slighted, treated unfairly, or overlooked, whether in the workplace, at school, in the parish, or even at home with our family, it’s very difficult not to feel bitter.

However, this Gospel is about much, much more than perceived injustices we suffer in this life. This Gospel is about salvation.

In truth, no matter how many prayers we say, or Masses we participate at, or Holy Hours we make, or candles we light, or acts of charity we are credited with, no one is ENTITLED to a place at the heavenly banquet. We enter into Eternal Life and Light by invitation…not because we’ve purchased a ticket through acts of piety or numerous good works.

This is NOT to suggest that prayers, the Eucharist, or any devotions or Christian service are not important. We should worship God because it is right and just that we do just that…WORSHIP GOD. We SHOULD give our Creator glory and praise because that is God’s due. We should respond in charity to those in need, not to better our place in line at the Heavenly Gates, but because that is what The Lord asks of His disciples.

Just because we have been faithful or devout does not mean we are ENTITLED. To think that way is to apply an earthly sense of justice to spiritual matters, which is a tragic mistake that can lead to frustration, anger, and even hopelessness.

If we EXPECT some kind of special reward over and above a deeper and more intimate relationship with God just because we are doing what we should be doing…WORSHIPPING THE MOST HIGH…I think we are setting ourselves up for a serious disappointment.

A deeper and more intimate relationship with God is reward in and of itself, certainly something worth working towards, and definitely something to be very GRATEFUL for.

One of the many benefits to be had from a more intimate friendship with our Creator is that we come to understand that God’s ways are not our ways! Moreover, we come to a deeper appreciation for the wisdom behind Divine justice, whereby the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Our Readings this week offer us a lens that helps those wise enough to use it to better see the world through the eyes of our Creator. God sees what each and every person needs, and, at the right time, provides for us. Moreover, everything God sends us is a pure and unearned gift. Ours is not to question the timing, or the amount, but rather to be grateful for what we are given.

If and when we are enlightened enough to appreciate that our thoughts tend to be self-centered and even selfish, whereas God’s thoughts are inspired by pure love and infinite generosity, we are pleased to find a place at the back of the line and patiently wait our turn. There, we will find ourselves in the best of company, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Saints!

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 21:28-32
October 1, 2023

It probably didn’t take more than a heartbeat before the religious leaders and elders answered Jesus’s question: Which of the two did his father’s will? And I bet they responded in unison…all together, shouting out: THE FIRST!

The answer seems so obvious that no thought is required…a classic “no-brainer.”

But notice…The Lord does not actually affirm their reply. He does not say: Correct! That’s right! Good answer! Instead, He makes what we can only imagine to have been an extremely offensive reply to these very important people…people of authority…religious leaders, no less!

What He seems to be telling them is: Guess again! Sinners are closer to the right answer than you are.

Maybe it’s not so much of a “no-brainier” as it first appears. Possibly, the answer to that question deserves a bit more thought. In fact, maybe it was their thoughtless reply that caused Jesus to snap back at them: Tax collectors and prostitutes…the fallen…the disgraced…the public sinners…are entering the kingdom of God before you.

I wonder if…just possibly…the correct answer to the question is: NEITHER! NEITHER DID THE FATHER’S WILL.

Even though he eventually changed his mind, there is no indication that the first son experienced a CHANGE OF HEART! Can’t you imagine the look on his face as he went storming out to the vineyard, all the while muttering to himself: This is so unfair. I had other plans today. I never get to do what I want to do. Why is he making me work again today? I put a full day in yesterday.

Parents know full well how unsettling that kind of confrontation with their children can be. As for the second son…wouldn’t that bring a double disappointment? Not only was the work left undone, but the father was left wondering: What kind of kid am I raising?

So, my personal answer to Jesus’s question is: NEITHER DID THE FATHER’S WILL. And that raises the question: DO I?

Every time we leave Mass, we are “sent forth” with words to the effect: My child, go out and work in the vineyard today. DO YOUR PART TO BUILD THE KINGDOM. The response comes back in unison, and in a heartbeat…very possibly without a great deal of thought: Thanks be to God!

And off we go, as we heard in our Second Reading, with the encouragement in Christ that comes to us from the Eucharist. So, what do we do next? After our enthusiastic Thanks be to God!…do we actually go out into the world with…as our Second Reading encourages: the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus?

Filled with the Holy Spirit, do we truly go out looking for ways to humbly regard OTHERS more important than OURSELVES? When we stumble on some way that we can work in the vineyard…do we put aside our own cares and concerns…LOVINGLY AND EAGERLY? Do we roll up our sleeves and imitate Christ’s compassion and mercy?

OR…do we grumble?

If our first thought is: This is so unfair. Why are they always calling on me? Well, I suggest that is NOT THE WAY TO DO GOD’S WILL. Moreover, that is not the way to find the joy that comes from working with one another…single minded and of the same heart. If we are “Sent Forth” from the Eucharist with the thought in our minds that we will all be doing the will of our heavenly Father, and the thought is simply this: NO GRUMBLE ZONE…CHRISTIANS AT WORK!

27th Sunday in Ordinary
Mt 21:33-43
October 8, 2023

The Old Testament Reading, as well as our Gospel, offers images of trouble in the vineyard. In both instances, no crop makes it to the owner’s wine press, so there is no wine to evaluate or enjoy. At the center of both Readings, however, is the truth that, ultimately, God is in charge.

Having waited patiently for a fruitful harvest, when one did not come, both vineyard owners make radical changes. Isaiah reports that the Old Testament landowner abandoned further efforts. In Jesus’s parable, the change alluded to, as He confronted the misguided religious leaders of the day, was a foretelling of His Self-Sacrifice on the Cross.

His listeners certainly took His remarks personally. They felt the burn that came from the suggestion that they were unfaithful and would soon be replaced. All these centuries later, we, too, should take this story to heart, because it is directed to us as well…the difference being that there is no sting for us, but only comfort and hope.

You won’t find a better explanation of this passage than that offered by Pope Francis during his Angelus address on this date in 2017.

The urgency of replying with good fruits to the call of the Lord, who asks us to become his vineyard, helps us to understand what is new and original about the Christian faith. It is not so much the sum of precepts and moral norms, but rather, it is, first and foremost, a proposal of love which God makes through Jesus and continues to make (with humankind). It is an invitation to enter into the love story by becoming a lively and open vine, rich in fruits and hope for everyone.

This powerful message is especially relevant as our Church leaders are sent to work by Pope Francis “in the vineyard” of the Synod on Synodality. Let us pray that they not be misguided by their own agendas, but rather, open themselves fully to the movement of the Holy Spirit among them. May they work diligently on behalf of what is true, honorable, just, pure, loving, and gracious, so that the entire Church might come together in celebration of The God of Peace and Love!

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 22:1-14
October 15, 2023

A friend helped to plan her 50th high school class reunion. It was an event that she had been looking forward to for months. She was especially delighted by the RSVPs which indicated that the majority of her graduating class was also excited to get back together. The arrangements were made to ensure that there would be more than enough food for everyone. AND THERE MOST CERTAINLY WAS!

I spoke with her the day after the party. Although she, like everyone who did attend, had a very good time, about 1/3 of those who responded that they would be there…WERE NO-SHOWS!

At the end of the evening, rather than going home in the “after-glow” of a successful party, she ended up packing and delivering the abundant leftovers to various shelters and charities so that the food that had been prepared (and paid for by the good-hearted committee members) would not go to waste.

And it didn’t.

But still…can’t you just imagine her disappointment? I can!

Every Sunday morning that I look out and see so many empty seats…in whichever parish I happen to be presiding in… I feel a wave of sadness. Not for myself or for the music ministers and liturgists and cleaners and sacristans who have worked hard during the week to prepare “good prayer” for the faithful. I am sad for those who have…for whatever reason…missed out. I am sad for the “no-shows.”

Over the course of his 10-year papacy, and for various reasons, Pope Francis has used the expression “global indifference.” I fear that term has become relevant to Sunday worship. There certainly seems to be a marked “indifference” among the faithful about gathering for the Eucharist.

Elsewhere, Francis seems to attribute “indifference” to a “disorientation” caused by the whirlwind life we all lead, especially in the more privileged countries. A barrage of demands and distractions causes folks to become overwhelmed, over-stimulated, or distracted, and the result is a sense of “indifference” to some things that should hold priority, the spiritual life being a major victim…family life being another…the two often tied together.

And so, the Holy Father has called the Church to Synod. The purpose of what is a three-year effort is to use our past experience to re-orient our lives in such a way as to “live communion, to achieve participation, and to open (the Church”) to mission.”

The process began last year, with worldwide listening sessions. It has been estimated that about 500,000 American Catholics (about 1% of us) actually participated. You might say that there were a lot of empty chairs at the party. I am not certain as to why this was the case. Were we invited but did not attend? OR…did the invitations somehow get lost in the mail?

The solemn opening took place in Rome on October 9 and 10, and the local churches are asked to mark the occasion on October 17. But, prior to the beginning of the Synod, there was a spiritual retreat for Bishops invited to participate in the month-long meeting. The theme of those days of prayer and spiritual reflection was HOPE!

While we should definitely be mindful of “sacramental indifference,” which seems to define this era of salvation history, we should not lose HOPE! Although the Holy Father is realistic, he is not pessimistic. Actually, one of his stated objectives in this Synod on Synodality is that we “enlarge the tent.”

The HOPE is that, through the workings of the Holy Spirit, the Synod will inspire the faithful to return to church and re-orient themselves to the Sacramental Life that has always defined us. And we hope, as well, to find ways to extend a welcoming invitation to those who have not felt comfortable to participate in the past.


So, let us pray, especially on October 17, that what we HOPE for becomes reality.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 22:15-21
October 22, 2023

Pope Francis raised more than eyebrows last summer with his comment that elements within the U.S. Catholic Church have become politicalized, often placing ideology above faith. Rather than insulting or upsetting us, his observation should be taken to heart and included in our examination of conscience…as Church and as individuals.

This week’s Gospel is a sad commentary on the lengths to which some people will go in order to protect their own status, authority, or ideas and views. Of course, The Lord saw through the hypocrisy at work and sidestepped the controversy. The efforts to trick Jesus by drawing Him into a political fire storm were a failure, although this encounter was undoubtedly “spun” into evidence against Him later on.

However, there was an immediate loser here. THEM!

They lost the opportunity to hear The Word of God taken Flesh speaking directly to them. They were blinded to The Real Presence of God in their midst. They closed their minds to what God was asking of them in order to promote The Kingdom here and now. They hardened their hearts against GOOD NEWS and continued to promote FAKE NEWS!

Politicizing our faith can result in heavy losses. Pope Francis, I would argue, based on this Gospel, was right to caution against it. Moreover, the Holy Father has gone to great lengths to ensure that ideology is left at the door of the Synod so that our Christian Faith might grow and flourish in this 21st century.

The October meetings of the Synod on Synodality involve five modules. The first was entitled: “Synodality.” The Synod began its work by exploring the process itself. The first session was intended to lay a solid foundation upon which to support its further work.

The next three modules are where the delegates get down to business. There are 35 round tables, each seating 12 delegates, organized according to languages to minimize the chance of misunderstanding and to promote communication. English is the “lingua franca” spoken at 14 tables. (The Holy Father Himself is seated at one of these tables, like every other participant.)

The second module was entitled: “Communion.” Basically, we are asking the Holy Spirit to inspire us to find ways to relate to one another in more meaningful ways. The Synod has now moved on to “Mission.” Simply put: “What are we in this world for?” Finally, and of great importance, is the subject of “Participation.” Each of the Baptized has an important role in building the Kingdom and sharing the Good News.

The Synod will conclude…somewhat like we are sent forth after Mass…delegates going back into the world to further ponder COMMUNION, MISSION, and PARTICIPATION…while the documents generated during the Synod are integrated into a single and meaningful statement of what the Holy Spirit is saying to the universal Church.

Francis has encouraged that, at every phase of this “coming together of the Body of Christ,” the faithful SPEAK BOLDLY. But, he has also encouraged PRAYER and REFLECTION, so that even as we LISTEN to one another, we HEAR the Holy Spirit speaking to us.

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.

What is it that we owe to God?

Could it be that we turn a deaf ear to any ideology that attempts to drown out The Good News that God speaks to us through The Gospel?

Do we “owe God” the effort to see The Real Presence of Christ in our midst…through all God has created…so that a sense of true COMMUNION prevails?

Do we “owe God” a genuine sense of open-mindedness to what our MISSION in the world is…devoid of limits our own self-interest threaten to impose?

Do we “owe God” open hearts, receptive only to truth and committed to PARTICIPATION in sharing that truth by being faithful to the Gospel?

These are questions that The Synod is working to answer. However, they are also questions that we should be exploring in our Diocese, our parishes, and in our homes.

What do we owe God?

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 22:34-40
October 29, 2023

Jesuit, scientist, philosopher, and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is credited with saying: The world is round so that friendship may encircle it. This sounds like something found in a greeting card rather than in one of his numerous scholarly works. Still, it is comforting to imagine planet Earth being completely surrounded by a powerful and protective “love force.”

The suggestion that: The world is round so that friendship may encircle it, brings to my mind the ozone layer…an invisible blanket of gas protecting life forms on Earth, by filtering harmful ultraviolet light from the Sun. That’s how I envision a shield of friendship and love…an invisible barrier, ensuring that we can lead our lives in an atmosphere of peace and justice.

Tragically, satellites photograph, measure, and report extensive damage to the ozone layer caused by human ignorance, neglect, and even intentional acts. If technology could examine this “love layer,” just think what we would see. There would be gaping wounds over Ukraine, and certainly over the Holy Land, as well as throughout the Middle East. In fact, “hotspots” would be evident all around our poor planet…some large…others that go almost unnoticed…but each threatening this protective, spiritual love force about which Teilhard speaks.

Every bigoted thought, unkind word, selfish act, or lie is a strike against this “iron dome” of love with which The Creator encircles us. The very question that Jesus responded to during the brief exchange reported in today’s Gospel was motivated by jealousy and malice. What Matthew reports is a perfect example of an attack on love. The hypocrisy of this religious leader is a totally loveless act of a kind that jeopardizes the atmosphere of peace, in which human nature can thrive. The Pharisee and everyone listening to his efforts to entrap Jesus clearly knew the answer to a trick question.

Love of God always was, and always will be, the first and greatest commandment.

But The Lord spoiled whatever follow-up question this devious person had planned touse to ensnare Jesus. With a preemptive strike, the Lord linked “the firs t and greatest” to a second law…a law that the man was in clear violation of…love of neighbor.

A contemporary theologian, Fr. Richard Rohr, has written: The greatest commandment is to love God, and the best way I know to love God is to love what God loves—which is everything!

Isn’t that just another way of saying that no one can claim to keep the first and greatest commandment while violating the second commandment? Through Jesus Christ, Love of God has been inseparably linked with the Love of Neighbor.

Now here’s the Good News!

Although ignorance, neglect, and even intentional acts are damaging the ozone layer to the point that some experts warn that life on this planet is in jeopardy…the “friendship” that encircles and protects us will withstand every attack.

The “friendship” encircling Earth and serving as a protective spiritual barrier for all life on our planet is THE LOVE OF CHRIST! St. Paul tells us: I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are clearly capable of damaging the ozone to the point of causing irreparable damage to our planet. But the friendship which encircles and protects us is THE LOVE OF CHRIST…which is eternal.

That is something we should be eternally grateful for. And the proper way to Thank God for this powerful protection of unconditional love is to love what God loves…EVERYTHING AND EVERYBODY!

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 23:1-12
November 5, 2023

Style is defined as: a particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed. (Thank you, Google!)

Early on, students involved in the discipline of communication science consider which is more important: the message (substance) or the manner (style) in which the message is delivered. Actually, the debate goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Plato was concerned with truth and not the packaging in which it was wrapped. Then came Aristotle, who felt it was important to “read the room” and present information in such a way that it would be readily accepted and absorbed.

As a senior priest, there are occasions (although few), when I am not needed to preside at Sunday Mass in a parish. When I do “have the weekend off,” I go into tourist mode. I travel to different parishes in and out of our Diocese to experience and share Eucharist in communities that are less familiar to me, or where I have never before had an opportunity to pray.

What I experience is “different styles.”

The architecture of the church is the first thing I notice. Then, immediately walking through the doors, the “style” of the faith community shows itself in how worshipers, especially visitors, are greeted. Music is a great way to evaluate “style.” Certainly, the priest demonstrates a “personal style.” It might be something as obvious as the vestments, the tone of his voice, or the mood and length of the homily. And while liturgical style definitely impacts how The Eucharist is celebrated — good liturgy should be a priority in every parish — the substance stands on its own. We gather in Jesus’s Name and in His memory to hear the Good News proclaimed and then to break and share The Bread of Life and The Cup of our Salvation.

Insofar as Eucharist goes, the substance is all-important.

That certainly seems to be the message in all three of this Sunday’s Readings. Both the Prophet Malachi and Jesus have some pretty severe words for those whose manner of communicating the Good News falls short of what God expects. St. Paul lightens things up a bit. Although self-congratulatory, he describes the transformative power of The Good News when it is passed on in the best possible way.

It would seem that through His teaching and preaching, Jesus demonstrated the most excellent manner of communicating God’s love and mercy. The Lord’s “style” was humble service, forgiveness, and healing. And, in that way, “the substance”…the Message…. The Good News…THE TRUTH…was and continues to be revealed.

St. Francis de Sales suggested a simple way of avoiding the curse that Malachi threatened, or the frustration that the Lord had with the religious leaders of His time Simply put: LIVE JESUS!

All that being said, I wonder if just possibly the most accurate way of evaluating “the style” of a Christian community is by reading the bulletin. The substance of the Eucharist is very much about humble service and outreach. Is a community putting The Good News into action? Does a parish LIVE JESUS? If so, then style and substance have met and God is well pleased. Don’t you think so?

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 25:1-13
November 12, 2023

As I sat down to write this reflection on my iPad, I noticed the message at the upper right-hand corner of the screen indicated that I had only 20% left on the battery. And since (as Sr. Laura often points out) I tend to be long-winded, my first thought was that my computer will shut down before I complete my work.


I began writing, knowing that if the screen were to go dark before I finished, I could just get up, find the charger cable, plug it in, and go about my business…. which, by the way, is exactly what happened.

So, here we go…

Our Liturgy of the Word begins with a reflection on the beauty and the importance of WISDOM and PRUDENCE. Our Second Reading offers assurances of RESURRECTION. Then we come to our Gospel. It is, indeed, sobering to hear how Jesus concludes this little parable. The wise and prudent are rewarded, while the foolish and self-indulgent are told: I do not know you!

The warning is crystal clear. A wise person prepares for their Day of Judgment and can expect to be admitted to the heavenly banquet. If you give no further thought to these Readings, that would certainly be a worthy and important takeaway.

HOWEVER, it would seem that Jesus often turned to parables so that His listeners would give FURTHER thought to the little story. Here, it seems very likely that someone in the crowd would not have been satisfied with the plain and obvious meaning, and might react with…I get it but….!!!!

So, let me say it for you…I get it but….!!!!

Wedding parties are all about relationships, close friends coming together to celebrate with few, if any, limits. WISDOM and PRUDENCE are not foremost on the minds of young people intent on having a good time. Moreover, because of the good-natured atmosphere and the close friendships, if one were to say: I forgot my eye shadow…or…I’m out of hairspray…would you really expect the others to say: Too bad…you should have planned better?

And then there is the fact that Jesus’s first miraculous deed was done at a wedding reception. When poor planning, or possibly over-indulgence, left the glasses empty, The Lord provided an abundance of the best of wines. He made it possible for all the wedding guests to continue the celebration. So, what’s with this parable?

Of course, the plain and obvious lesson in our Gospel is that the WISE and PRUDENT are rewarded, while the FOOLISH and SELF-INDULGENT suffer severe consequences.

I get it but…

What about the relationships…the friendships…the reason for being together…the celebration? Five might well have been “wise,” but their reaction to the less prepared seems a bit selfish! And, in the end, was their decision not to share really the wise thing to do?

Then, of course, there’s the attitude of the bridegroom. He must never have heard the expression…the more the merrier!

Isn’t this one of those parables where Jesus encourages us to dig a little deeper?

Consider this: In spite of their deep love and appreciation for wisdom, the greatest thinkers in our Church…our greatest saints…readily acknowledged their limitations. Still, they continued to seek enlightenment in the sure and certain hope that at the conclusion of their earthly life, all would be revealed to them. All their hope was dependent on, and energized by, the unconditional love of God, revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

A truly wise person accepts that no one is worthy, by their own merits, to enter into the heavenly banquet. We all fall short in wisdom and prudence, some more so than others. But those who are wise enough to keep seeking come to appreciate God’s great mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness. That is enough wisdom to enable us, even when we occasionally run short on prudence, to move through life in the hope that those who believe in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior “will always be with the Lord!”

It’s all about our relationship with God, Who never exhausts His love for us. That is definitely something to celebrate.

St. Paul concludes our Second Reading by encouraging us to “console one another.” So, permit me to conclude with this consoling thought:

At those times when your conscience signals that your faith or hope or love is running low, you can always reach for the charging cable of the Sacraments of our Church and continue your work in this world, with the sure and certain hope that on the day your screen finally goes dark…you will awaken at the doors of a great feast. And you will hear the most loving voice say: I know exactly who you are…come in and enjoy the place I have waiting for you.

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 25:14-30
November 19, 2023

I feel like I am repeating myself…which, of course, people my age often do. However, this is a situation where I think I am completely justified in saying the same thing that I just said last Sunday.

In my reflection on last week’s Readings, I pointed out the “plain meaning” or the obvious lesson of the parable Jesus told. I went on to offer my opinion that: If you give no further thought to this Reading, the plain and obvious meaning will certainly be a worthy and important takeaway. Just so today!

Pairing the Old Testament Reading with the Gospel leads to an obvious lesson. If you act on an opportunity, and take a risk, whether investing your love and life in a relationship with a worthy spouse, or investing your money in a sound business opportunity, you will be rewarded. If, on the other hand, out of fear, you hold back, you might well lose out.

The plain meaning of this parable has inspired many a sermon encouraging disciples to take our God-given talents and opportunities and put them to good use, so that they pay spiritual dividends. This causes me to repeat exactly what I said last Sunday: If you give no further thought to this Gospel, the plain and obvious meaning will certainly be a worthy and important takeaway.

However, if you dig deeper…mine this parable, so to speak…you might just discover a pearl of wisdom that will bring an even greater spiritual return…holding its value during these volatile and violent times through which we are living.

Let me explain.

The “wicked and lazy servant” was quite honest in explaining his investment strategy to the master. He told him to his face! You have the reputation of being “demanding.” The poor guy went on to suggest that the master was even unethical. (Remember, he was the kind of guy that harvested where he did not plant and gathered where he did not scatter.) Of course, the servant was reluctant to take a risk. Fear dictated the most conservative path. He hid what was entrusted to him to protect it, as well as himself. The conclusion of the story demonstrates that he was, indeed, justified in his fear.

I wonder if fear also motivated the so-called “good and faithful servants”? Maybe they understood what would be expected by their “demanding” and possibly unethical master. Maybe fear led them to the conclusion that the best strategy was an aggressive one. After all, they had nothing to lose and everything to gain by showing a profit.

I suggest that fear is very much at play in this little story. Furthermore, I STRONGLY SUGGEST that fear SHOULD NOT…EVER…be at play in the lives of good and faithful Christians, who are trying their best to live as Jesus calls us to. Why am I bold enough to make such a suggestion? Because The Lord, Himself, on numerous occasions, told His disciples: FEAR NOT!

Nevertheless, as we heard in last week’s Gospel, repeated today, Jesus also encourages us to BE PREPARED!

I have one last suggestion.

It occurs to me that The Church, in her wisdom, opened this Liturgy of the Word with the little passage from The Book of Wisdom to help us look beneath the plain meaning of the parable. Often proclaimed at weddings, as well as the funerals of good and loving wives and mothers, the passage encourages men to invest their love and their lives when they find a “worthy wife.” The Reading goes on to describe how a hardworking and industrious spouse brings a lifetime of good…and not evil. What we are not told, however, is the motivation for such commitment and effort. In most cases, it is LOVE!

Good, faithful, committed, and self-sacrificing spouses (wives as well as husbands) do all they do…OUT OF LOVE…NOT FEAR…BUT LOVE!

And so, it should be for us, whom, through Baptism, have been enlightened by The Holy Spirit. We should prepare for The Day of the Lord, but not because we fear a “demanding master.” Our preparations should be motived by the desire that things be as perfect as possible on that day, when He comes either to call us as individuals, from time and into eternity, or on the Last Day.

We should prepare to go out to greet our Christ…with joyful and loving hearts…free of all fear and anxiety. That, I believe, is a pearl of wisdom that will hold its value, even during these volatile and violent times we are living through…when there is little peace in our world, and nothing seems secure.


The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Mt 25:31-46
November 26, 2023

Knowing that Thanksgiving was just around the corner, I did not stay for “coffee and donuts” provided at the parish where I celebrated Mass this past Sunday. (Although the kind hostess sent me off with a “care package,” and in the end, I had the calories without the fellowship!) So, I was one of the first out the door and into the church parking lot.

I immediately saw that every vehicle had a large, white flyer tucked underneath the windshield wipers. I just assumed it was some sort of advertisement and tossed it into the car and headed home (to eat the donuts in the “care package” with my morning coffee.) It was then that, almost thoughtlessly, I opened and examined the 11×17 inch card stock that was waiting for me after Mass.

What I encountered can best be described as a “collage of sin.” Someone had meticulously cut and arranged together quite a few headlines and images that were clipped from newspapers and magazines, each speaking to some situation or event that makes the times we live in so filled with stress, uncertainty, and even danger. Actually, there were many more things that were not mentioned…the most recent mass shooting, Gaza, the climate crisis…the culture of lies…and the division and mistrust that is so prevalent these days.

Someone had gone to the expense of reproducing this little poster of gloom and doom…and then made the effort to place their work on every car in a church parking lot. I can only guess at what motivated this anonymous individual to do all this. Maybe they intended a warning to Christians to be wary of any one, or anything, that might draw us into darkness and out of The Light of Christ. Possibly, they meant to encourage us to BE PREPARED to resist those things that are contrary to our Baptismal dignity. Whatever their purpose, it occurred to me that the creator of this “apocalyptic collage” harbors feelings of fear and possibly even hopelessness in the face of so much undeniable evil.

In fact, the flyer was very much in keeping with the Readings we proclaim at Mass during the final weeks of every liturgical year. As we look forward to Advent and Christmas, The Liturgy of the Word serves to remind us that THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS NOT YET FULLY BLOSSOMED. However, through Jesus, it has already dawned, and we are called to help announce and live it here and now.

What is most important to remember is that no matter how much darkness a “collage of sin” might contain, it will never withstand THE POWER OF CHRIST! And so, we conclude Ordinary Time with THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE. The message behind this Feast is crystal clear: God is in control.

And when at last The Reign of God is upon us in its fullness, there will be no more darkness, or evil, or lies, or division. All that will remain is the Peace of Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

The Opening Prayer of this Feast is something worthy of further reflection.

Almighty ever-living God,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of the universe,
grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery,
may render your majesty service
and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

And so, we move forward into a new year, resisting all fear, and facing the challenges ahead, with hope in the power of Christ our King.

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