Journal Archive 2024 CYCLE B

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First Sunday of Advent
MK 13:33-37
December 3, 2023

It’s hard to believe, but preoccupied by holiday preparations, many people were totally unaware that the day before Thanksgiving…one of the busiest travel days of the year in this country…there was an incident at the Rainbow Bridge connecting the U.S. with Canada at Niagara Falls.

Within minutes of a car bursting into flames and exploding in the immediate vicinity of the Customs and Immigration booths, the “gatekeepers,” whose responsibility it is to BE WATCHFUL…BE ALERT…sprang into action. Four U.S.-Canada border crossings were immediately closed as local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies got to work. The Department of Homeland Security around the country was on “high alert,” anxiously awaiting the initial reports from the First Responders on the scene. And, of course, the media voiced the suspicion that was on everyone’s mind…TERRORISM!

When the FBI Buffalo found that there were no explosive materials or “terrorism nexus,” I for one…and in spite of the tragedy…felt a great deal of relief.

The whole thing quickly disappeared from headline news as well as from people’s minds and conversations as we focused on celebrating Thanksgiving, watching football, and shopping online. I want to suggest that is part of our human frailty. We are easily distracted. Once we are no longer threatened or inconvenienced, we just go on with our lives. We so quickly forget the things that terrorize us. Maybe that’s a good thing. We certainly do not want to move through our time on earth constantly filled with fear…always on “high alert.” That’s no way to live.

However, just as we quickly forget those things that threaten our safety, security, and well-being, once a crisis has passed, it seems that we tend to forget as well WHO has saved us.

This Sunday, we begin The Season of Advent, and with it an entirely new Liturgical Year.

I say it again: It’s hard to believe, but preoccupied by holiday preparations, many people are completely oblivious to the great significance of these coming weeks. Focused entirely on making this the “BEST CHRISTMAS EVER,” many are completely distracted by preparations for a holiday, without giving a single thought to the preparations for the HOLY DAY!

Advent is not a penitential season. It is a time of joyful anticipation.

Still, the proper observance of Advent is a means of building awareness of, and appreciation for, the Holy Day as it approaches. It offers the opportunity to focus on the meaning of The Incarnation…. God’s Eternal Word made Flesh. Celebrating Advent BEFORE we begin to celebrate Christmas enables us to better comprehend this Sacred Mystery, whereby The Creator extends the ultimate expression of love by entering into creation, as One like us, in all things but sin.

Another way of thinking about The Birth of Jesus Christ might be to imagine that a bridge connecting heaven with earth has been opened, and nothing that anyone or anything can do will ever destroy that link. What is tragic, however, is how little attention or importance is given by so many to this wonderful gift from God. Although this expression of unconditional love is certainly worthy of celebrating, we tend to focus on the party and forget the reason for the joy we feel during this time of year.

Another, and possibly even greater, tragedy is that we have lost sight of a promise that has been made. The Christ will, once again, pass over that Bridge of Love to declare that the Reign of God has arrived in all its fullness. This season of Advent reminds us that we are a people waiting…not just for the annual celebration of something wonderful that happened in the past, but for the fulfillment of God’s Promise of eternal peace that will come someday…in the future.

The Scriptures proclaimed during this very brief Season are meant to reawaken an awareness that God’s plan for creation is still unfolding. “THIS” is not all there is. At the appointed time, “THIS” will come to its conclusion and Christ will return to renew the face of the earth. Then, there will no longer be a need for a bridge connecting “THIS” reality with The Kingdom…because THERE WILL BE NOTHING BUT THE GLORY OF GOD. And that is something to celebrate, not just once a year, but every day of our lives.

Unfortunately, just as we forget threats once a crisis has passed, it seems we also forget about promises of wonderful things to come. And so, The Lord Himself encourages us not to get distracted by “THIS.” Rather, Jesus cautions us to be watchful and to prepare to rush out to greet and welcome Him with joyful hearts when He returns in all His Glory.

It might well have fallen out of the minds of most folks, but I can only assume (and actually hope) that the “gatekeepers,” charged with the responsibility of protecting us, will continue to investigate just exactly what happened at the Rainbow Bridge last week. How effective was the response? How can a repeat of the incident be avoided?

Disciples who are not overly distracted by “THIS” have the responsibility of protecting The Gospel, which is The Bridge that connects “here” from “There.” Baptism brings with it the duty to offer a fitting and proper response to God’s GREAT EXPRESSION OF LOVE, and to search for ways to overcome the forgetfulness of others. Advent is a time for disciples to be especially watchful and alert for ways to keep the Christ Light burning until Christ returns in all His Glory.

Second Sunday of Advent
MK 1:1-8
December 10, 2023

A celebrity interview (movie stars, pop singers, politicians, billionaires, etc.) very often concludes with the question: What do you hope your legacy will be? Or: How do you want people to remember you after you are gone?

If Oprah had been around to interview John the Baptist, she probably would’ve ended with that question. She might even have suggested the response. Something to the effect of: John, you are well known for calling people to repent. Is that how you see your legacy? Do you want to be remembered for shouting out: REPENT…REPENT…REPENT?

After spending a lot of time reflecting on all that the Gospels tell us about John the Baptist, I want to suggest how I think he would have replied.

Don’t get me wrong, Oprah, I believe that repentance is very, very important. But, in order to repent, you have to look backwards. My job as a prophet was to direct people’s attention to the future…a future that will unfold in and through The Christ.

Obviously, sometimes, a guy has to clean up stuff from the past in order to be able to imagine a better future. It is important to clear away bad memories…or feelings of guilt…or doubt…or regret…so that you’re better able to envision a future filled with hope…and peace…and justice…and love. But in the end…isn’t all about the future!

So, to answer your question…NO! I do not want to be remembered as the voice in the desert yelling REPENT…REPENT…REPENT!

To be perfectly honest, Oprah, I would just as soon not be remembered at all.

My mission was simply to introduce the Messiah. As far as I’m concerned, once I had pointed Jesus out, introducing Him as the Lamb of God Who has taken away the sins of the world, my work was done…and I became totally forgettable, because Jesus Christ is The Future! IT’S JESUS CHRIST WE MUST REMEMBER!

But, of course, we know that John the Baptist is anything but forgettable. Over 2000 years have passed since the events at the Jordan River, which are reported in all four Gospels, and he is still very much remembered and honored. Jesus, Himself, insured that the generations would never forget His cousin’s contribution to salvation history when He remarked: …among those born of women, there has been none greater than John the Baptist. (Matt. 11:11) That certainly is a compliment that makes one sit up and take notice.

So, just exactly what was it that makes John so great and so memorable? What is his legacy to us? What should we remember about him, doing our best to model?

While it’s impossible not to hear the echo of his voice shouting out: REPENT…REPENT…REPENT, the fact of the matter is, almost anyone can do that. I would suggest that what makes John the Baptist so unique as to be greater than anyone else born of women is the fact that having introduced Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ…The Son of God…The unblemished Lamb Who has taken away the sins of the world…The Messiah…he simply stepped aside. The Baptist permitted himself to become less in the eyes of the people, so that Jesus could become more. Simply put, John made room for Jesus.

If, in fact, that is the legacy of John the Baptist, it is an extremely valuable one…an inheritance we should put to good use. And there is no better time than Advent. This is the Season when Christians are called to push back against our own wants and perceived needs and desires, and ambitions…even our own fears and pains and sufferings…so as to make more room for the Christ-child, not only as we celebrate His birth, but as we look to the future.

John the Baptist has taught us to see Christ in our past, to feel His presence, and to make room for Christ in our lives…NOW…and to be confident that Christ is our future! And THAT is something worth remembering.

Third Sunday of Advent
Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
December 17, 2023

We have arrived at this Third Sunday of Advent…often referred to as “REJOICE SUNDAY.” The Scriptures proclaimed today each express what every Christian should be experiencing as we await the celebration of Our Savior’s Birth: JOY!

Still, as I reflect on these JOYFUL and HOPE-FILLED passages, I can’t help but wonder what I would say to the folks in the pews if I were preaching in Ukraine, or to a community of Palestinian Christians in The Holy Land. Actually, how can any preacher anywhere encourage people to REJOICE! during these violent and divisive times? To be perfectly honest, for me anyway, it has been a struggle to find the right words and I don’t live in a war zone.

And then, St. Paul hit me upside the head with one little sentence in his Letter to the Thessalonians: DO NOT QUENCH THE SPIRIT!

The word “quench” has two meanings which seem to be somewhat contradictory. One can speak of “quenching” a thirst or desire. Clearly, St. Paul is not telling us that we should not satisfy The Holy Spirit, which means that he is cautioning us not to extinguish, suppress, or in any way stifle the Holy Spirit.

It is the desire of the Holy Spirit that humankind should live in PEACE and JOY. That desire is UNQUENCHABLE, regardless of who, or what, may attempt to stifle it. So, Gaudete Sunday brings a very important message to Ukraine, The Holy Land, and to anywhere else in the world where injustice, hatred, and division exists. Do not lose HOPE! Darkness will not prevail.

The Light of Christ broke into this world with the birth of Jesus. That Light remains burning brightly through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and that Light will defeat all darkness with The Lord’s Second Advent…Christ’s return in Glory.

Meanwhile, people can look up into the sky at approaching drones and rockets and bombs and shout with confidence: YOU CANNOT QUENCH THE HOLY SPIRIT! Hostages can say to their captors: YOU CANNOT IMPRISON ME BECAUSE THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD HAS SET ME FREE! All people of Good will are able to stare down death itself, assured that The Spirit dwells within them…and THE HOLY SPIRIT IS UNQUENCHABLE!

So, what should a preacher say to the people in the pews…regardless of where they might be? DO NOT QUENCH THE SPIRIT…AND YOU WILL FIND JOY!

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Lk 1:26-38
December 24, 2023

A woman leaving church on the Third Sunday of Advent was wearing what has become known as a “Christmas sweater.” Her sweater, unlike many I’ve seen, was anything but “ugly” or silly. There was a gold star shooting across the front, and artistically placed was a single word: BELIEVE!

So, as she passed by me, I commented: Beautiful sweater!

She stopped, and with a very serious look on her face, replied that she loved it the moment she saw it. She said: I knew I had to have it!

Then she went on to say that she almost stopped wearing it because she had come to see that “BELIEVE!” …unbelievable as it might seem…is sending the wrong message.

From TV commercials, seasonal movies, and TV shows, and from less tasteful “Christmas sweaters” she has seen people wearing, she suddenly realized the word “BELIEVE!” has somehow, tragically, become a call to “BELIEVE” in Santa, and elves on shelves, and romance during snowstorms, etc. etc. etc.

But, before moving on, and with a note of determination in her voice, she said: I know what I BELIEVE, and I will keep wearing this sweater. And, of course, she was referring to the REAL REASON for this SEASON.

WE BELIEVE that God is pure, unconditional, and infinite LOVE.

WE BELIEVE that God sent Jesus Christ into this world so that God might see and love in each and every one of us what God sees and loves in Jesus. And so…

WE BELIEVE that when we live as Jesus taught us to live…IN PEACE, JUSTICE, and LOVE…it is then that we are most pleasing to God, Whose will it is that the entire universe exist in a spirit of PEACE, JUSTICE, and LOVE.

We are bringing to an end a year marred by countless tragic and LOVELESS acts. The prospects for the upcoming year, in terms of giving TO and receiving love FROM one another, WHAT CHRIST GIVES TO US…PEACE, JUSTICE, and LOVE…are not encouraging.

However, all that can change…and change quickly…if we try even harder to LIVE WHAT WE BELIEVE not just during the Christmas Season…but every day of the year.


And in spite of what others might BELIEVE or not…or how they may or may not live…YOU will help to keep the Spirit of this Holy Night alive all year long.

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
LK 2:22-40
December 31, 2023


I bet there aren’t many folks who need to ask: “What’s that?”

“Artificial Intelligence” made a rapid transition from an intriguing, futuristic thought, found in science fiction books and movies, to part of our everyday reality. “AI” has proven itself to be of enormous benefit to humankind, but at the same time it possess some real and highly dangerous threats to our future. I would suggest that one downside to “AI” is that it has contributed in a major way to the division that has become the hallmark of the present age.

The fact of the matter is, the younger generations are knowledgeable, even skilled, in looking to “AI” for high-speed information and knowledge. Whereas most seniors are not. That, in my opinion results in division.

However, we seniors are not without resources. WE HAVE WISDOM…. THAT IS SLOWLY LEARNED THROUGH LIVED EXPERIENCES…but…is essential in making right judgments. Information and knowledge, as valuable as they might well be, can often lead down a dark path without wisdom to guide them.

One real and highly dangerous threat that “AI” brings with all of the good it has to offer…is that it appears to make WISDOM IRRELEVANT. That is very worrisome, particularly as respects spiritual wisdom.

The Spiritual Wisdom, that is a special gift of The Holy Spirit, has been handed down, appreciated, trusted, and highly valued through the generations. Unfortunately, as humankind looks more and more to technology for information and guidance, WISDOM appears to be devalued or even worse…ignored. As a result this cultural shift technology has triggered, there is not only a growing division between the young and the old…but even more serious…a distancing BY humankind FROM the Divine.


Clearly, the spot light is on Jesus, Mary and Joseph. However, the supporting actors in this drama, which unfolds in the Temple, should not be overlooked. What we have in this passage is a meeting and harmonious blending of three generations, the result being a moment of GREAT REVELATION…once again affirming the message of the angles…CHRIST THE SAVIOR IS BORN.

These two elderly people bring to the story, both knowledge about God’s promise to send The Messiah into this world, as well as the wisdom to recognize the Infant as The Christ. Without their knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament, they would not have been waiting and watching for something wonderful to happen.

Without their wisdom, they may not have recognized the Holy Family when they encountered them. All of this because their knowledge was directed and energized by the WISDOM given them by The Holy Spirit. Moreover, Joseph and Mary were wise enough to listen to…and most probably benefited in some way, from what their elders had to offer.

The Church has paired two Readings to introduce this Gospel, each, in its own way, speaking to the importance of family and the respect that should flow between the generations. The concept of inheritance is mentioned in both passages. The richest and most valuable inheritance that one generation can pass on to the next…is what has been given to us by the Holy Spirit. A gift that teaches us how to use the fleeting things of this world in such a way that all divisions…are healed…. especially those that separate creation from our Creator.

The Epiphany of the Lord
Mt 2:1-12
January 7, 2024

Matthew draws the outline, but centuries of prayer, meditation, reflection, and tradition have filled in the blank spaces with a colorful and dramatic image of the role three foreign visitors played in welcoming The Christ-child into this world.

Pope Francis moves us back to basics. The Holy Father is quoted as having said:

It is not enough to know where Jesus was born, as the scribes did, if we do not go there. It is not enough to know that Jesus was born, like Herod, if we do not encounter him. When his place becomes our place, when his time becomes our time, when his person becomes our life, then the prophecies come to fulfillment in us. Then Jesus is born within us. He becomes the living God for me. Today, we are asked to imitate the Magi. They do not debate; they set out. They do not stop to look but enter the house of Jesus. They do not put themselves at the center but bow down before the One who is the center.

This year, we Catholic Christians are encouraged to focus our attentions on Eucharistic Renewal. A “no frills” approach to the Solemnity of the Epiphany, one of the most ancient Feasts of the Church, is a good place to begin this contemporary search for a renewed appreciation for the Sacrament, which is the Source and Summit of our faith.

At the heart of the Eucharist is “the exchange of gifts.” We present back to the Creator fruits of the Earth, which human hands have formed into bread and wine. God then accepts and blesses The Gifts and returns them to us as the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Then, like the Maji, we return to our homes changed by the encounter with Christ. The rhythm of Eucharist concludes when we are sent forth to share what we have been given.

So, as we search for a deeper understanding of and renewed commitment to The Eucharist, IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT GIFTS THE THREE VISITORS OFFERED TO THE CHILD. We must also know the meaning of them. Gold, of course, is a tribute befitting a king. Frankincense is used to worship our God. And myrrh signals an impending death.


My prayer and reflection suggests to me that The Holy Family graciously accepted the gold, took it, blessed it, and then returned it to the Magi to inspire charity.

Likewise, the frankincense was received and then returned with the reminder that, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, all humankind shares in the Divine life and should be reverenced.

As for the myrrh, it would have been acknowledged with great appreciation, and handed back with the assurance that by accepting His death on the Cross, those who believe that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life will live forever.

Is it possible that the exchange of gifts between these seekers of truth and the Holy Family was an outline for the Eucharist?

If so, we are left with the responsibility of filling in the blank spaces with our very lives. When we leave this intimate and life-giving encounter with The Christ that the Eucharist offers us, we should return to our homes “a different way”… with charitable hearts, an appreciation for the indwelling of the Divine in every human being…and with a “revived” confidence in the promise of Resurrection.

It is not enough to know where Jesus was born. Through the Eucharist, we are able to go there…and adore Him.

It is not enough to know that Jesus was born. Through the Eucharist, we are able to encounter Him… His place becomes our place, His time becomes our time, His person becomes our life.

IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT EUCHARIST MEANS…IF WE DO NOT LIVE IT. Although we may not have a star to guide us… we do have the example of the Magi to follow.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jn 1:35-42
January 14, 2024

In recent years, there have been many studies into cognitive function, especially in the area of memory loss. I am at the age where I at least “skim” such reports when I run across them. What I have learned about “better brain health” seems to offer suggestions on how to protect “spiritual health” as well.

Many studies speak to the importance of social interaction. It appears that isolated people are more likely to suffer memory loss. Just so with those who, for whatever reason, are not part of a Christian Community. When we do not come together as a family of faith, we are more likely to forget what God has done for us through Baptism. Sharing our faith, especially by coming together to celebrate Eucharist, is a brilliant way for God to remind us of what we have been specially chosen for.

Diet plays a very important part in protecting our powers of recall and understanding. There is no better spiritual nourishment than The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Hearing deficit that is not addressed is associated with loss of cognitive abilities. The Liturgy of the Word is an excellent time and place to hear, without the distractions of the world, that to which God is calling us.

Studies show that continuing to learn new things and develop new skills as we age helps protect memory. Religious education and spiritual growth and development should be a lifelong effort for Christian disciples. The more we learn about God, the more we want to know. And, the more we know about God, the more we know about ourselves and our world…and what we as individuals…and as Church…are commissioned to do in this world.

Depressed people tend to be more vulnerable to a loss of brain power. The Lord has encouraged us to “Break the Bread and Share the Cup” in memory of Him. When we do that and remember Who Jesus was and Who Christ is, we are better able to live in hope and push back against those things that cause us worry…stress…depression. Our hope is in the Name of the Lord…Who has given us The Sacraments so that we never lose hope.

Because of the way the Church year unfolded, we missed celebrating the Baptism of The Lord this year. Besides not having one final occasion to remember and rejoice over the Birth of Jesus Christ, the calendar has also taken from us a brilliant opportunity to reflect on the meaning and the power of our own Baptisms. Our Readings on this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time make up for that lost opportunity in that they are all about being chosen to serve our God.

Simply put, the first Sacrament of Initiation is very much about being chosen to serve as a disciple of The Son of God…called to proclaim Jesus as The Lamb of God Who has taken away the sin of the world.

In our Second Reading, St. Paul reminds us of the vulnerability, as well as the strengths, of our earthly bodies. The same holds true for our spiritual lives. It is important that we accept the invitation extended to the first disciples to “come and see where the Lord lives.”

Christ resides in the Eucharist.

When we come TOGETHER to LISTEN to The Word, to be NOURISHED with The Sacrament, and to LEARN more about God and what God is asking of us, we are re-energized, renewed, and protected. And then we can go out into the world with every HOPE that we can make a real difference.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 1:14-20
January 21, 2024

Back in 2019, Pope Francis gave this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time a special name: “Sunday of the Word of God.”

With that title, the spotlight that shines on the Ambo/Table of the Word during EVERY Eucharist intensified. Quite likely, the Holy Father considered the many ways in which Roman Catholics would benefit by highlighting The Living and Eternal Word. But the thing that seems especially relevant in our time is Francis’s point that engaging with Sacred Scriptures has “ecumenical value since the Scriptures point out the path to authentic and firm unity.”

We certainly seem to have strayed from that path! The path that leads to “authentic and firm unity” has been overgrown with fear, mistrust, and selfishness. There is, in fact, division and disharmony in every aspect of our lives…even within our ONE Holy and Catholic Church. So, it is a very good thing to be even more attentive to the Word of God as a way of reminding us that The Creator desires that we live together in the spirit of “authentic and firm unity.”

Our First Reading is from the Book of Jonah. Children, more so than adults, might be familiar with this relatively brief Old Testament Book of a minor prophet. Having a “fairy tale” quality about it, it has been retold at their level and colorfully illustrated numerous times. Adult Christians, on the other hand, might not have read it in its entirety and are only aware of the basic facts.

Reluctant to undertake the mission that God assigned him, Jonah found himself “entombed” in the belly of a whale…sort of an imposed “timeout” to give him an opportunity to reconsider his position.

Although some might well accept this as fact, a marine biologist would probably find it very “hard to swallow.” Still, for the Jewish people, The Book of Jonah is neither childish nor a simple but entertaining fictional work. In fact, the whole text is proclaimed during the High Holy Day Services of Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, when the entire people, in a spirit of “authentic and firm unity,” come together to acknowledge sin and ask for mercy and forgiveness.


Without a doubt, the call to repentance is the major theme here. However, there are other less obvious, but no less important, lessons to be learned. Having finally been “spit out” by the whale, Jonah resumes the mission. But, he is very half-hearted in dispatching his responsibility One can’t help but wonder what would have happened had he been more aggressive in his efforts to deliver God’s message to a pagan nation. Is it possible that had Jonah embraced his duty with more enthusiasm and commitment, over and above igniting a “communal penance,” there might have been a “mass conversion”?

The formal introduction to the God of Abraham motivated the people of Nineveh to reform. However, had Jonah used the opportunity to move beyond simply warning them and begun to teach them about the will and ways of The Creator, possibly an “authentic and firm unity” between two old enemies might have come about.

Just a thought.

But what is indisputable fact is that, at the appropriate time, God made the effort to call humankind to “authentic and firm unity” in an unrepeatable way; BECOMING THE MESSENGER…as well as THE MESSAGE. Jesus was GOD’S WORD MADE FLESH. By sending The Son into our world, The Creator made certain of an unconditional commitment to the mission, to the point of death on The Cross.

In our Gospel, we hear how Jesus recruited help in order to dispatch the mission for which The Father sent Him into this world. Peter and Andrew, and, in turn, James and John, responded to the invitation to serve without hesitation. And while they didn’t always understand or “get it right,” they were never half-hearted in the work of sharing the Good News. They embraced the call to discipleship with enthusiasm. They echoed Jesus, Who was light on threats and warnings, stressing healing, forgiveness, and peace…the kind of peace that promotes what God wants of us: “authentic and firm unity” in and through Christ.
“Word of God Sunday” is not only a chance to recognize the priceless gift of Sacred Scripture. It is also a good opportunity to take some time to examine how we live out our Baptismal call to discipleship.

Ask yourself: Who do I most resemble? The reluctant prophet, actually turning away from service and moving in another direction? Am I like Jonah, who, even after returning to the task, made a less than enthusiastic effort? Am I resentful of God’s willingness to forgive others?

If you see Jonah looking back at you in the mirror, you might consider a “timeout” in the belly of the whale. If, on the other hand, you react to The Lord’s call with the unconditional response of the four fishermen…then somehow…some way…YOU are helping to bring about “authentic and firm unity” …maybe within your family, or parish, or workplace, or community.

There is so much dividing us these days. But, THE WORD OF GOD has the power to bring us together in Christ Jesus. It’s our job as Christian disciples to broadcast that message!

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 1:21-28
January 28, 2024

Worth remembering: This week’s Gospel was NOT written by Stephen King, but by Mark the Evangelist.

Giving too much attention to an “unclean spirit, convulsing and crying out” could tempt some to go all “Hollywood” in their reflections on today’s Gospel. The focus, it certainly seems to me, should be on the power and authority of God’s Eternal Word made Flesh…Jesus Christ. What could possibly be more dramatic? What could possibly be more important?

Last week’s celebration of “Word of God Sunday” as well as the Church’s ongoing call to Eucharistic Revival help us to push the “unclean spirit” to the background (where it belongs) and to bring The Lord center stage. And where Jesus goes…there is always room for us.

It is important to note that the unfortunate person playing host to this “unclean spirit,” did not come roaring into the Synagogue like a monster from the outside. As reported, it would seem that he was a member of the community, looking, and possibly even acting just like his neighbors. I wonder if he might not even have been a scribe…or religious leader?

What we know for certain is that the victim of this “unclean spirit” recognized Jesus. The realization of Who stood before him triggered a violent reaction. The man railed against the teaching which The Lord delivered “with the authority” of the Holy Spirit.

Then, in His first display of Divine Power and Authority recorded in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus liberated the man from the dark feelings that had invaded him.

Where Jesus goes, there is always room for us. So, let’s put ourselves into this drama.

The Lord is most definitely present in the Eucharist. Through the proclamation of The Gospel, Jesus teaches us with the very same power and authority that was evident on that Sabbath day in Capernaum, when He stood before a congregation of the faithful…in the Flesh.

So, the question becomes: How do I react to the Liturgy of the Word? Am I astonished and amazed by what I hear? Do feelings of peace and joy and hope stir within me? Energized by what I have heard, am I anxious to make the Word take my flesh…and live it?

Or…even though I recognize the power and authority of The Word…is there some unclean spirit…some darkness within me…that resists or even rails against The Gospel? Make no mistake about it, anger, resentment, envy, prejudice, pride, and arrogance are just some of the ways that we are rendered “unclean.”

The Good News is simply this: Jesus has NOT come to destroy us. Quite the contrary. The Lord is present to us, especially in the Eucharist, so that we might become all that God created us to be.

Through The Word and The Sacrament, we experience healing, forgiveness, peace, and freedom. Then we are sent out into the world, and those who encounter us should be astonished and amazed at seeing us…because…if we have allowed the Eucharist to do its work…we are an image of Christ.

I have one final thing to share. When I left parish ministry and became a “senior priest” in the Diocese of Saginaw, I was concerned that I might not have the opportunity to “Break open the Word of God” …PREACH…on a regular basis. My fear was that, because I would not be putting in the time and effort…and prayer and reflection…required of a homilist, a distance might develop between myself and The Good News. So, I approached the Sisters of St. Clare of Saginaw with the suggestion that I make a weekly contribution to their existing web page. With that, The Sunday Journal came into being.

Almost 10 years have passed since this joint effort to spread the Gospel began. So much has happened in our Diocese, in our Church, in our nation and world, and in each of our lives since then. Every week, I have been amazed at how the Sunday Scripture passages somehow have offered insight, encouragement, inspiration, and hope even in the darkest of times. I personally look to Scripture for TRUTH…which, during this past decade, seems to have become an “endangered species.”

Among the changes, the Sisters have relocated from Saginaw to a new home in Wheaton, Illinois. For my part, my concerns were unfounded. Most Sundays, I am called to preside and preach in a parish here in the Diocese of Saginaw when the priest/pastor is away.

Being a “traveling preacher” has afforded me the opportunity to see how important it is for a community, on occasion, to hear a different voice, offering a different perspective regarding the unparalleled beauty of Scripture. And so, as of The First Sunday in Lent, I am stepping aside and turning this “online pulpit” over to a new voice. The Sisters will make an introduction to you in the coming weeks.

Let me conclude by sharing a quotation from theologian and Scripture scholar Monika Hellwig, which she wrote after reflecting on and praying with this Sunday’s Readings.

Saint Paul seems to be concerned with different kinds and degrees of authority, and he also evidently thinks of Jesus Christ as the one whose teaching makes the deep impression, because, unlike those who are learned from human sources, he teaches with messianic authority, which is the power of the Holy Spirit – power to touch and transform everything in creation.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 1:29-39
February 4, 2024

The name J. Robert Oppenheimer made a sudden jump from the pages of the history books to the “silver screen.” The movie, titled with the surname of the American scientist whose work in developing the atom bomb is credited with bringing a speedy end to WWII, deals with the concern for national security and the need for secrecy. It is also about power…certainly military…but also political power.

Scripture scholars and theologians, not unlike scientists, as we see in the Oppenheimer movie, do not always agree with one another’s theories. Still, through respectful and sincere dialogue and exchange of ideas, significant insights and advances are made possible in both areas…FAITH AND SCIENCE. One thing that recurs throughout Mark’s Gospel, which inspires ongoing debate among theologians, is referred to as “The Messianic Secret.” Throughout Mark’s Gospel, after some miraculous deed, The Lord frequently admonishes people: “Tell no one!”

Last week, we heard how a man with “unclean spirits” called out to The Lord: I know who you are-the Holy One of God! To which Jesus simply replied: QUIET! This week, we are told how The Lord stood at the door of the house and faced all of the pains and sorrows and miseries of the entire village…responding with compassion and miracles. Obviously, His powers were on full display. However, it is also reported that on that evening, He drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew Him!

Jesus did nothing to conceal His compassionate response to the sick and suffering. The miracles were done in the open and news of them spread like wildfire. But, in some cases…especially exorcisms…The Lord commanded secrecy. Why? That is the core of what is referred to as the “Messianic Secret.”

It is easy to understand why secrets about atomic energy were, and, I assume, continue to be guarded and protected. It is all about having and protecting control and power. Whoever has the secrets and the power is in control.

There is nothing more powerful than The Word of God! And God’s Word is intended to benefit all people for all times. So then, why would Jesus forbid some to speak out about The Good News?
Possibly because those who were wrestling with unclean spirits might well have recognized Who Jesus was but did not understand why Jesus…God’s infinitely powerful Word made Flesh…was sent into this world. Liberated from what made them unclean, for whatever reason, maybe they were just not ready to give witness.

Through Baptism, Christians are liberated from that which makes us “unclean.” And, as we mature in our faith and are formed in the ways of discipleship, we (hopefully) come to a deeper understanding and appreciation for Who Jesus was…and…Why Jesus came into this world as one like us…in all things but sin. With this knowledge and a mature understanding of The Power of God’s Word made Flesh, we are better able to live here and now, as we will when Christ returns to announce the Kingdom of God in its fullness. The Kingdom is all about unity and peace!

In our Second Reading, St. Paul describes the burning desire to share all of this Good News. As disciples, we should be eager to, always and everywhere, proclaim the Gospel. What Paul does not mention in this passage is that not everyone has the maturity of faith to speak. The “unclean spirits” of ignorance and immaturity can cause some to distort the message of the Gospel. The “demons” of arrogance and pride can cause others to use the power of The Gospel to promote some agenda which might conflict with what God intends for humankind.

So then, is it possible that the so called “Messianic Secret” is needed to protect “spiritual security?”

Did Jesus silence some voices, which…for any reason…might have used the power of God’s Word for any purpose that, in any way, undermines PEACE, HEALING, FORGIVENESS, JUSTICE, UNITY, and above all, LOVE?

That is certainly a question which Biblical scholars will continue to discuss. But, as for us, be certain of this: Jesus was the Messiah, The Son of God, Who was sent into this world by The Father to call all humankind to live together in LOVE! There is nothing secret about that. What is critical to “spiritual security” is this: Any distortion of that message is not of the Spirit of Truth…The Holy Spirit! And to anyone who speaks in any way contrary to the Law of Love, the Christian response is simply this: QUIET!

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 1:40-45
February 11, 2024

If Netflix was to make this Gospel into a “limited mini-series” that concluded this very dramatic story with Jesus going off alone to pray (which, by the way, He often did after most miraculous events), there would be a whole lot of disappointed viewers. Mark leaves us with numerous unanswered questions. Is it possible that there are “bonus lessons” to be had from reflecting on what we are NOT told?

How would “Season 2” look?

EPISODE 1: Why did the man disregard The Lord’s instructions to “tell no one?”

In a way, this healing/cleansing was a “sacramental moment,” much like Baptism or Reconciliation, which are “special” graced encounters with The Holy Spirit. Furthermore, this miracle restored the man to the community, which had banished him out of fear. This brings to mind Pope Francis’s remark that Eucharist is not a reward for the righteous, but a healing remedy for those who are sick. When we take advantage of these graced moments…these encounters with the Holy Spirit…how can we not rejoice? How can we keep it secret? The joy simply flows out of us.

EPISODE 2: What happened when the man “showed himself to the priests?”

It would seem that the proper response from all witnesses would have been “wonder and awe.” However, throughout the Gospels, we learn that this was not always the case, even with the religious leaders. How did they respond when the healed man presented himself? Were they skeptical, looking for explanations beyond Jesus’s miraculous powers? Did ignorance or arrogance cause them to ask the question raised on other occasions when The Lord’s Divine Powers were on display, By whose authority does this man do these things?

Jesus touched the leper. Would they have accused Him of endangering the entire community, risking the spread of the disease? They most certainly would have seen Jesus as having been left “impure” Himself in need of cleansing because of the contact with the leper.

What we can say with certainty is that the Lord moved above the Law set out in the Book of Leviticus and responded to the pleas of the leper with LOVE. But then, Jesus directed the now cleansed man to comply with the established Law, sending him to the priests and directing him to make the proper sacrifice. From this, are we to remember that The Law of Love is the first and most important…but that the established Law stands?

EPISODE 3: What happened when the man returned home?

This is one of the more dramatic and detailed reports of the many healing miracles. In desperation, the afflicted man violated the strict laws of quarantine. He approached Jesus at the risk of being stoned to death on the spot. He knelt and pleaded. Of course, The Lord’s response was to brush aside all of the reasons why He should not have engaged in conversation with this person. Moved with compassion, The Lord declared His desire to cleanse the man and restore him to health and to the community. Would the community which had banished him been as accepting? Through this miracle, The Lord certainly made a brilliant showing of His Divine powers. He healed, cleansed, forgave, and restored. All of this was also a challenge to the community to do the same. Would they have welcomed him back?

Conclusion: What are the “bonus lessons?”

How would you conclude this mini-series?

It’s not difficult to change the word “leper” to any number of other words we so often use to justify our snap judgments…righteous condemnations…severe punishments. In order to protect our community…our way of thinking…our privileged positions…who might we marginalize or exclude? Who would we purge in order to protect ourselves? Who do we fear will contaminate us?

How will you deal with “those people?”

Do you have the compassion to end the story with a “graced moment?”

Good-bye…and GOOD NEWS!

First Sunday of Lent
Mk 1:12-15
February 18, 2024

As I was browsing a recent issue of National Catholic Reporter, this article’s title attracted me because Lent is very much on my personal horizon. The idea of “let’s try softer — not harder” really spoke to me as we try to walk God’s path, not our own. I hope you enjoy this author’s approach to Lent as much as I did.

Sr. Dianne Doughty, OSC

This Ash Wednesday, let’s try softer — not harder

Feast of the Transfiguration
Mk 9:2-10
February 25, 2024

Learning from the Mountaintop

Have you had experiences in your life that you consider mountaintop events?

Each year the Church uses one of the accounts of the Transfiguration as the gospel text for the second Sunday of Lent. This week we are invited into the disciples’ mountaintop experience as Jesus becomes radiant in glory.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is based in part on some schools of mysticism that believe that humans and animals can change form. The word for transfiguration (metamorphose) literally means to change form.

Movies like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter contain contemporary expressions of this understanding. In the Jewish tradition, the righteous will take on a new heavenly form. It is not uncommon to meet people who hope that their heavenly bodies will be significantly different from their earthly ones, as they ask, “Will I be skinny in heaven? Will I be free of disease?”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is transfigured not in the sense of taking on a totally new form, but the way he appears to his disciples is dramatically different. The fact that Peter, James, and John witness this moment makes it a historical event, not one that takes place only in the spiritual world. Nor is it a vision or dream of some experience in the future when the fullness of God’s presence will be revealed.

Jesus is the only one who is changed and enters into a dialogue with Moses and Elijah. The disciples witness and participate in what is taking place: they see the change in Jesus’ appearance, they recognize Elijah and Moses, Peter addresses Jesus, they are overshadowed by the cloud, and they hear the voice from heaven speaking to them. What is taking place occurs so they can experience it and participate in it.

Let’s reflect on the five primary facets of the Transfiguration of Jesus:

  • 1. Divine revelation where Jesus’ true nature is revealed to his disciples.
    2. Identity confirmation where the disciples’ witnessing of the Transfiguration confirms Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.
    3. A glimpse of the Resurrection where we get a foretaste of what the resurrection experience might have resembled in those early days.
    4. The call to listen as God says, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased – listen to him.”
    5. The mountaintop experience where the disciples’ witness to this extraordinary event solidifies their faith and understanding of Jesus’ divinity, reinforcing their commitment to follow him despite the challenges they would face.

Take a moment to consider the Transfiguration in your own life. Just as the disciples experienced a pivotal moment in their spiritual journey, how are you and your faith affected?

Third Sunday of Lent
Jn 2:13-25
March 3, 2024

My gratitude and hopefulness are growing after reading The Global Sisters Report on the Church in Ukraine. (Feb 20, 2024) Reading this article and supporting through prayer the sisters, monks, nuns, psychologists, and volunteers who provide emotional, spiritual, and psychological services to the war’s victims gives me hope for healing and loving comfort.

May this story affect your Lenten practice of prayer for the Church in Ukraine: The church in Ukraine is ‘a field hospital after battle’.

Sr. Dianne

Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 10, 2024

Time: We are beginning the fourth week of Lent, daylight savings starts today and we have been in Wheaton, Illinois for 10 months. The reading from Ecclesiastes tells us “…there is time for everything under the sun.” I have been reflecting on the mystery of time and am drawn to “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance,” and “God has also set eternity in the human heart…”

I am aware of how close the Spirit of God is with me. Praying this text, out loud if you wish, once or twice slowly, may surprise you how near God is in whatever “time” you are in.

A reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-14.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil?

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.

That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Fr. Barko
Jn 12:20-33
March 17, 2024

Who are the people who have led you to your relationship with Jesus?

If the Greeks who had asked to see Jesus felt they had bitten off more than they could chew after everything that happened, I don’t blame them.

Perhaps they had heard of Jesus’ miracles or teachings and were curious, wanting to lay eyes on the man they had heard so much about.

They are to find Jesus, of course, in the grain of wheat fallen to earth and dying. They are to find Jesus in the one who is lifted up from the earth and loses his life.

Imagine their surprise when he issued such sobering and challenging dictums as, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

If we should like to see Jesus, we know that we need to look for the fallen grains of wheat around us, the sick and impoverished, the abused and oppressed.

If we should like to see Jesus, we know that we need to look for those who are losing their lives, the victims of poverty, abuse, discrimination, and war.

No wonder some of those Greeks tried to shake off the voice from heaven as thunder: it affirmed the authority of Jesus’ words. Frightening. Sobering.

Even those willing to say the voice was from an angel still fell short of acknowledging the truth.
Maybe it was too inconvenient to believe that God’s voice had spoken from heaven because that would force them to grapple more seriously with the difficult things Jesus had said.

Has there been a time when you were struggling with your faith, either in Jesus as the Christ, or to continue your association with the Church? What was that period like? What do you remember about that time in your life?

I know there are times when I hear the Word of God or receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and fail to respond appropriately.

It’s easy to brush aside God giving himself to me much as the crowd brushed aside the voice as thunder—nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to cause me to change how I live my life.

At other times, I recognize that the Lord is present to me but fail to actually respond to his presence.

I may acknowledge the Holy One during mass, then let my mind drift to my to-do list for that day.

This gospel challenges us not to take these encounters with the Lord for granted, but to ask him to help us draw closer to him and to allow him to change our lives.

There was a time in my live when I had to mentor graduate students. These were highly gifted, extremely motivated people, and it wasn’t hard to see where they could be in ten years if they stuck with it.

On the other hand, they were virtually blind when it came to imagining their future selves. They already knew who they were, thank you very much.

Some saw themselves as much better writers than they could possibly have been at that point in the journey. Others were convinced that, no matter how hard they tried, they were doomed to failure.

My primary job as a mentor was to help them topple these false self-images, which were blocking their way forward.

But this toppling process was painful—a kind of death. Whether they suffered from bravado or from an inferiority complex, they’d become dependent on this self-made identity.

The thought of letting go caused both grief and fear.

Yet as Jesus points out in these mysterious lines from John, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.”

What has to crumble before we can be born anew is the image, we’ve created of ourselves.

Great adventures lie ahead, but we can only taste and see what God has prepared for us if we’re able to accept ourselves as we actually are: neither perfected nor defective, but instead, overflowing with potential.

Like grains, which—though tiny—contain universes.

Palm Sunday – Fr. Barko
Mk 14:1—15:47
March 24, 2024

The palms we hold during the ritual procession are an imitation of what the local people did long ago, the ones who lined the road. This opening part of the ceremony is more than just another historical reminiscence, it is a proclamation today of Jesus as king. It is the first half of the jarring contrast.

You may not have noticed the kingly aspect specifically, but there are multiple clues in the. First, he rode on a donkey or colt, an animal that was used for royalty’s entrance into a city.

Second, the disciples spread their cloaks over the colt’s back as they would for someone royal.

Then the crowds along the way treated Jesus as a kingly hero. They spread out their coats on the roadway and covered them with palm branches cut from the fields.

It was a symbol to soften the pathway for the kingly one: to keep the dirt off of him. And they cried out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The King.

Growing up, I always thought that Palm Sunday was a really fun day – at Mass. My siblings and I began by picking out the best-looking palms (and I would try my best not to wave them around too much).

Then, Mass started with a reading about the crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem and praising him with “Hosanna in the highest!”

When the Liturgy of the Word began, things abruptly turned to today’s gospel. Even to a kid, the suffering of Jesus on his way to the cross is powerful and strange, through that VERY long reading.

In my church, the congregation would speak the crowd’s words, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

I never knew how to feel about that. I couldn’t imagine being in that crowd wanting to kill someone, especially Jesus, after praising him as the King of Kings.

As I’ve gotten older, of course I have come to realize that Palm Sunday does indeed fit together, and it fits together through the eyes of the crowd.

The crowd is the counterpoint to Jesus.

Instead of remaining firm in purpose and identity like Jesus, the crowd is fickle, moving swiftly from praise and honor to condemnation and hatred.

I am so often a member of that crowd. We all are. We cheer and honor Jesus with our words and, at times, even strive for true holiness, yet we also stray from God and choose sin and selfishness.

To be human is to be in this very state of fluctuation: to strive, to fail, to turn back, to fail again, and ultimately (hopefully) to always turn towards God again and again as many times as it takes.

This Palm Sunday, I pray that we work to reconcile these two parts of ourselves. On this side of the veil of tears, we may never be perfect.

We may often fall and join the crowd in crucifying Jesus, but we must also remember the Passion is not the end, and there is resurrection yet to come.

I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.

You or I would have probably cried out, “My God, why have you abandoned me?”

But are these the words of a king? Does such a total surrender represent kingly action? What do you say? No!

But scripture says the opposite.


Jesus, king of kings, “did not regard equality with God as something to cling to – or to grasp”—for safety or honor or for whatever other reason.

As the greatest king he emptied himself out, became like a slave, obedient even to death on the cross.

This, in allegiance to God and in service of the people.

On this day of the king, Jesus knew who he was, even under the worst strife.

He was and remains the one who loves, no matter what. We have here the opposite of the kind of greatness we always imagine: service of God’s people as the true basis of rulership.

A good ruler pulls a kingdom together and makes it safe, a place of abundance.

If they accomplished such a goal, no kingly suffering would be too great.

Palm/Passion Sunday is a large-scale revelation of kingship’s true meaning, a vision we in our country and the world, certainly need today.

Real love.

Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper – Fr. Barko
Jn 13:1-15
March 28, 2024

What’s the Point?

I have to assume Jesus did a terrific job washing his disciples’ feet, but that was never really the point. They are all already clean––Jesus even says as much.

If washing were truly a need, it would have happened the moment they entered the home, not when it does – when supper is mostly finished.

The real point is not the action itself but the relationship that manifests within it. That is what matters.

Despite all that is going on, the purpose is clear.

Through the hustle and bustle, the noise and distraction, see the other and serve them genuinely.

If God kneels and washes our feet, dare we do any less?

The year to come will be challenging. From spring and summer right through the first week of November, the performative noise swirling around us will only get louder, distracting us more and more from God’s lesson shown in this passage.

The mysteries of our faith are truly profound, and yet at times, they also confound us.

We begin the Sacred Triduum by remembering how Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist.

Jesus changed the bread and wine into His Body and Blood, to show how perfect His love is for us.

And so, we celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him, as He commanded us to do so.

Yet, other than the 2nd reading which mentions the Body and Blood of Christ, the Gospel only mentioned Jesus having supper with His disciples.

And then, the focus turned to the washing of feet.

Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.

That confounded His disciples. And that should also confound us.

We may ask: What has the holy Eucharist got to do with the lowly washing of feet?

When we think about it deeper, we will see that the Eucharist is for everyone, regardless of the state of holiness or sinfulness or worthiness.

In other words, Jesus offers His love for saints as well as for sinners.

In the washing of the feet, Jesus is showing us that He cares about the lowest, the neglected and even the despised.

Jesus gave us the example of humility and charity by being a servant who washes the lowly feet.

In partaking of the Eucharist, we follow Jesus by being servants of humility and charity.

In partaking of the Eucharist, we become servants to the lowly and the lowest, to the neglected and the despised.

In partaking of the Eucharist, we will go down on knees with Jesus, and wash those lowly feet.

That is what Jesus, our Lord and Master did.

We follow Jesus and do likewise.

When we accept this commandment, we walk the path of joy.

When we internalize this law, we become happy.

And so, the paradox: happiness is never a function of filling oneself up; it is a wonderful function of giving oneself away.

When the divine grace enters one’s life (and everything we have is the result of divine grace), the task is to contrive a way to make it a gift.

In a sense, the divine life—which exists only in gift form—can be “had” only on the fly.

Notice please that we are to love with a properly divine love: “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”

Radical, radical, radical. Complete, excessive, over-the-top.

Let us continually remind ourselves that, from God’s perspective, the other is only ever us in different shoes.

Easter Sunday – Fr. Barko
Jn 20:1-9
March 31, 2024

Have you ever tried to stare directly into the sun? Not so easy and certainly not safe. And on cloudy days, it’s hard to feel the warmth and light of the sun. At night we cannot see the sun at all in most places on the earth. These experiences illustrate our constant seeking of that light, and the struggle we have in doing so.

In our everyday lives, where do we see signs of the light of the resurrection and the fact that Christ is alive?

The disciples went to the tomb, and it was empty. The stone had been moved and some accounts even said the linens were folded! And, of course, Jesus’ body was not there! They are all significant signs, but Peter and others still did not understand – or perhaps believe.

The women who encountered Jesus on the road were the first to put it together – and they ran and reported. And still, disbelief among the men. Imagine how frustrating that must have been for those strong women!

However, when Jesus did arrive, things began to change. Conversation commenced and questions arose. However, it wasn’t until they shared a meal that they all finally recognized Jesus. This is why what we do at the altar when we celebrate Mass is so very important. We recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

After he breaks the bread, the priest puts a piece into the chalice and says quietly, “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.” This signifies the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the work of salvation.

Then the priest elevates the Body and Blood and says, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.” This is a pivotal part of the mass – when we get to gaze upon the bread and wine and understand they are indeed the Body and Blood of Jesus.

When you are at Mass, stop a moment to take it all in.

Our celebration of Jesus’ rebirth on Easter morning is deeply incarnational and is offered to us through common signs like table and cloth, food and drink. Yet we struggle. We really want to believe that Jesus is alive, that sin and death are defeated forever; we want to have faith. We want to be Easter people.

Mercifully, Christ is patient with us. Jesus meets us in our unquenchable hunger, our weaknesses, our doubts, our fears, and our pain. Not only does he feed us, but he also sits and eats with us.

Christ is not only risen above the heavens and beyond all time—the risen Christ is with us here and now. We have constant access to his endless, extravagant, and comforting mercy.

Remember that during these weeks of Easter celebration!

Third Sunday of Easter
Lk 24:35-48
April 14, 2024

During Holy Week and now in Eastertide, I have become more convinced
that every desire, longing, fear, and disappointment is heard by God. Yet
what is equally convincing is that every answer to our hearts’ pleas
happens in God’s best timing.

Wishing you this truth, I share this Eastertide prayer for you and yours.


God, give you Joy this Easter Day, that bides with you
along life’s way, and fill your heart with blithesome cheer as
you pass on from year to year.

God, give you Peace this Easter Day, the peace that
cannot pass away, ‘twill turn life’s gray to ruddiest gold
and bring you blessings manifold.

God, give you Love this Easter Day, and all the twelve-
month may it stay to guide, to comfort you, and bless
and fill your life with happiness.

Remembering Two Prophetic Bishops
By Dr. John A. Dick, from Another Voice
May 12, 2024

On April 4th, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a Detroit, Michigan Catholic bishop, passed from this life. He was 94. Gumbleton became a national religious figure in the 1960s when he was urged by activist priests to oppose the United States’ role in the Vietnam War.

Tom, as friends knew him, was a founding leader of Pax Christi USA and a prophetic leader in the US Catholic peace movement. I first met him when I was a high school student at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary, where he had been a student. We met periodically over the years.

As Robert Mickens, Editor at La Croix International, wrote on April 06, 2024: “Tom Gumbleton was a friend and defender of the poor, the imprisoned, and the sexually abused, as well as those discriminated against because of their skin color, sexual orientation or female gender.”

Detroit’s strongly conservative Cardinal Edmund Szoka (Archbishop of Detroit from 1981 to 1990) and his conservative successors marginalized Gumbleton to the point that he eventually became the pastor of a parish of Detroit’s poorest and most run-down urban neighborhoods. He was still living there in a nearby apartment up to the day he died.

Tom Gumbleton’s death reminded me of the other Michigan Catholic bishop who was also a graduate of Sacred Heart Seminary and a very good friend: Kenneth Untener. On March 27, 2004, Ken, who was Bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, died of leukemia. In many ways he was my hero as well as my good friend. His death on March 27th at age 66 also coincided with my 61st birthday.

When Ken first came to Saginaw in 1980, he introduced himself to the people of Saginaw in the city hall. “Hello, I’m Ken and I’m going to be your waiter.” He loved to tell the following story: One day he was walking down the street toward a church with his genuine $12 shepherd’s staff in hand. “Look, Mom,” cried an 8-year-old girl, “there goes a shepherd,” and indeed Ken was exactly that.

Ken was “one of the few bishops for all those alienated women in the church and for liberal Catholics,” wrote Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, then editor of America magazine, at the time of Ken’s death. “These people could look at him and say, ‘Yes, there is someone in the hierarchy who is sensitive to our views and is willing to speak out.’ In that kind of prophetic role you won’t get your way most of the time, but you know five or 10 years from now, what people call outlandish may be accepted as normal. He was a point man, and it seems the point man always gets hit first.”

A year before his priesthood ordination in 1963 Ken broke his right leg playing handball. Because he had a genetically deformed ankle, doctors removed the entire leg below the knee. Ken never regretted the amputation. “A deformed leg,” Ken later said “was socially awkward. A wooden leg is not. … You can kid about it. But the experience of my leg was most valuable to me. I think I know something of what it’s like to be the only woman in a room of men or the only black among whites. I know what it’s like to be noticed. I’ve been made sensitive to that.” Nor did the loss of his leg impair his dedication to golf and hockey, games he indulged in with a lively competitiveness throughout his career.

I conclude this meditative reflection with a prayer that continues to inspire and motivate me.

“Prophets of a Future Not Our Own,” was written by Ken Untener in 1979. It was originally written by Ken not as a prayer but as part of a homily to be given by Cardinal John Dearden in 1979, at the annual Mass for deceased priests in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan.

It helps now and then to step back
and take the long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime
only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise
that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection;
no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds
that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations
that will need further development.
We provide yeast
that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and do it very well.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter
and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

A Meditative Reflection: Remembering Two Prophetic BishopsBy Dr. John A. Dick, historical theologian, posted April 17, 2024, in Another Voice

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