Friday, June 28, 2013


Genesis 17:1,9-10,15-22; Ps See how the Lord blesses those who fear him; Matthew 8:1-4

We continue our following of Abraham and his journey with God.  All week we have been invited to take a peak into the life and times and struggles of Abraham and his family.

We now find ourselves in chapter 17 of the book of Genesis, where Abraham gets the bomb dropped on him.  One could say the thunderbolt has struck him.

"God further said to Abraham:  As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai; her name shall be Sarah.  I will bless her, and I will give you a son by her.  Him also will I bless; he shall give rise to nations, and rulers of peoples shall issue from him.  Abraham prostrated himself and laughed as he said to himself, Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? OR can Sarah give birth at ninety."

Abraham laughed.

It has been often told to me that one must laugh in order to keep from crying.

Perhaps this was one of those moments for Abraham.  Certainly as he looked upon his wrinkled skin and gray hair and looked across and saw his wife growing feeble, he began to question whether God really knew what He was doing.

Or perhaps he began to wonder about the whole drama of trying to have a kid the previous time with Hagar and Ishmael and Sarah getting all upset.  Maybe he figured he didn't want to deal with that again.

Whatever it was, laughter seemed to be the only answer appropriate.

Think about your own life.  When has been the last time you found laughing because of the turn of events or the change in circumstances, where like Abraham it seemed to surreal or beyond comprehension.

And what was God's response to this outbreak of laughter.  As scripture relates God replied, "nevertheless..."

Nevertheless or all the same God's plan will continue to unfold.

It is nice to know that God seems to also have a sense of humor.  God's puts up with lot of nonsense from us and continues to forge the path for salvation to unfold.

Laughter is a beautiful thing.

In fact here are a few words from Pope Emeritus BEnedict XVI,

"Deep joy of the heart is also the true prerequisite for a sense of humor, and thus humor is in a certain sense, the measure of faith...where joylessness reigns, where humor dies, the spirit of Jesus Christ is assuredly absent. But the reverse is also true: joy is a sign of grace. One who is cheerful from the bottom of the heart, one who has suffered but not lost joy, cannot be far from the God of the evangelium, whose first word on the threshold of the New Testament is "Rejoice."

Abraham's laughter is a sign of surrender.  HE finally raises the white flag.  He finally decides to let God do it his way. 

Where are our white flag moments in life?  Where have we finally decided to let God have it his way?

Just like too much junk food is bad for our health physically so insisting on too much control can also slowly erode our faith. 

God will invite us to surrender, to raise the white flag, to throw our hands, or in Abraham's case, fall down and just laugh.

In that laughter, we might just discover the golden nugget of true faith.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Genesis 16:1-12,15-16; Ps 106 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; Matthew 7:21-29

Jesus says to his disciples, "not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name?  Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?  Did we not drive out demons in your name?'  Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you. Depart from me."

This is quite a thought provoking passage.  And as much as it is a thought provoking passage it is meant to be a passage that gets us moving, a passage that calls us to action.

Certainly prophesying, driving out demons, mighty deeds are all important and worthy endeavors.  The problem is, in our human nature we have a tendency to just focus on the big ticket items and lose sight of the little things that really make life happen daily.

What good is it to focus our energy and boasting on the big items if we forget or over look those small details where life unfold on a regular basis.

I recently read a book entitled "Olive Kitteridge."  An din this book the author puts these words on the lips of the main character in the story, "life depends on what she thinks o as "big burst" and "little burst."  Big bursts are things like marriage or children, intimacies that keep you afloat, but these big burst hold dangerous unseen currents.  Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly clerk at [the local grocery store], or a waitress [at the coffee shop] who knows how you like your coffee..."

It is the little burst we need to focus on.  Here in these precious brief moments we honor Christ.  The prophesying, the driving out of demons, the mighty works, these will take care of themselves, in fact they will happen more readily if we start small and zero our energy on the little burst of life.

When Jesus tells us in the gospel, "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock" It will not collapse because no matter the big things that come our way such as rain, floods, wind, and buffeting the little things have been firmly in place to hold us firm.

The words he speaks of are the words that are found in the sermon of them mount: the beatitudes, being salt of the earth and light to the world, not being angry with our brother, not saying 'you fool' to them, settling with those who may have a grudge against us, not harboring lustful thoughts in our mind, guarding our eyes and hands for goodness, not swearing, turning the other cheek, giving away our cloaks, loving our enemy, doing unto others as we would have them do to us, forgiveness,  praying in the secret of our room, living the tenets of the 'Our Father', storing up treasure in heaven, not getting carried away with concern for material possessions or belongings, recognizing the log in our own eye, thriving to enter to the narrow gate.

These are the words that are meant to form and shape our life.  This is how we allow JEsus to become Lord of our life.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Genesis 15:1-12,17-18; Ps 105 The Lord remembers his covenant forever; Matthew 7:15-20

Today in the life of the church we celebrate the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva.  IT was on January 9, 1918 that he first began to think about God's call for him.  IT all started with footprints in the snow.

He was in the middle of the winter, out and about,  when he spied footprints in the snow.  He noticed these prints were left by bare feet.  IT was about then that he caught out the corner of his eye a discalced Carmelite Friar.

A he ponder what was all this about, the thought that entered his mind and eventually led him to be open to the call of God in his life was the following, "If others could make such sacrifice, can't I offer something."

Can't I offer something.  Thus began his inclination to the voice of God in his life. Eventually he discerned the call to the priesthood.

After being ordained, while just 26 years of age he had a thought.  After celebrating the the mass on the feast of the guardian angels on October 2,1928, he had a vision of sorts.  He saw people of every nation and race and age and tongue and culture seeking to find God right in the middl of their ordinary life, their work, their family, their friendships.

People who looked for Jesus in order o lobe him and live his holy life until they were completely transformed into saints, as one who so dedicated their life such as to dedicate all their activity to God whether they were bankers, butchers, lawyers, teachers and so on.

He realized that one who is a disciple of Christ christianizes his surroundings and his faith is contagious.  These lay people would raise Christ to the peak of every human activity and offer sanctifying sacrifice of their entire lived experience.

Thus was born OPUS DEI.

It was later while celebrating the mass and elevating the host that the words of scripture came to mind, "and I, if i be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto me."

He envisioned men and women of God who would lift the cross to the pinnacle of all human activities.

So go forth and lift high the cross and raise the banner of Christ to all human activity.


Genesis 13:2,5-18; MAtthew 7:6,12-14

Yesterday, we looked at Abram and his nephew Lot.

The story of this particular occurrence in Abram's life begins with the following, "Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold."

Abram had the world on a string.  He had everything at his fingertips.  All he wanted and more spilled forth on to the open country as far as the eye could see.  And yet all of this did not bring him happiness.

In fact it brought just the opposite: conflict.

He and his nephew struggled with one another.  Conflict arose over their possessions and their land.

Of course even today how often we experience this conflict within families over possessions and wealth and the like?  How often has material things destroyed families?

It the mist of the conflict, the resolution arises to separate.  Lot takes what is his and moves to Sodom and Gomorrah, and of course we know what follows there.

Abram heads to the west to Hebron, which will become the place David is anointed king, so already a foreshadowing of things to come is unlocked for us.

But what i want to draw your attention to is what Abram does.  The very last line of the text reveals to us what is at the heart of Abram's faith: "Abram moved his tent and went on to settle near the terebinth of Mamre, which is at Hebron.  There he built an altar to the LORD."

He built an altar to the Lord.

In deed the on thing that is constant in Abram's life is this building of altars.  From the moment Abram leaves his homeland to the moment of his death,a s he journeys forth, he always stops and builds an altar.

Altars built by the hand of Abram are scattered through his journey.

The altar symbolizes gratitude.  Abram bows his head and bends his knee out of deep appreciation for the Lord, YWHW, who had called him forth, who had blest him abundantly, who had promised to guide him.

Abram never loses focus on the fact that his life with all of his riches, all of his struggles, all of his ups and downs are a gift from God, this one who spoke to him.

Abram never loses sight of the fact that it is the mysterious blessing hand of God that guides and provide as the journey unfolds.

Deep appreciation and penetrating gratitude really is the source of Abram's calmness and patience and peacefulness in the face of life's mysterious highs and lows.

This is why Abram becomes the father of faith.  The power source that drives his ability to entrust himself to God's call is that deep and abiding gratitude and appreciation.

What about us in our life?

Do we build altars of gratitude to God in our homes.  Do we enshrine places of appreciation for the ever watchful eye and helpful hand of God who journeys with us?

This is why we gather around the altar as catholics.  We celebrate the Eucharist, which is Thanksgiving.  We are invited to enter into the thanksgiving of JEsus to the Father and thus we are transformed and empowered to live a life of Christ, one of deep appreciation and gratitude from which all peace and goodness flows.

G.K. Chesterton stated it best, "the aim of life is appreciation."

It is appreciation and gratitude that light up the pathway that points to the narrow gate, as Jesus invites us to comprehend in the gospel.  "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life."

It is gratitude that illumines the path that opens wide to the narrow gate.  This is how we follow in the footsteps of the Father of Faith and journey forth with peace and goodness.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Luke 9:18-24; Galatians 3:26-29; Ps 63 My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God; Zechariah 12:10-11;13:1

I recently read an article about Pope Francis.  In the article the author mentioned that Pope Francis is becoming a the first tweetable Pope.

Pope Emeritus Benedict hit the big time with Facebook.  But Pope Francis has raised the bar.

If you anything about Twitter, as it is called, you know that one who communicates via twitter is forced to be brief, succinct, to the point, unlike we preachers :)

Twitter allows only 140 characters to be used to get a message across.  Which seems like a lot but in actuality is quite limited.  There is no room for theological discourse but only room for simple thought and future rumination for followers.

Pope Francis has quite a few tweetable moments.  I am going list just a few of my favorite 140 characters or less moments below:

"We are not part time Christians."

"Long faces cannot proclaim Jesus"

"Peacocks are beautiful from the front, but look from behind and you discover the truth"  This was Pope Francis on Vanity

And last but not least.

"The church is not spa therapy."

These are definitely precise and to the point with little wiggle room but much room for thought.

In fact the  author of the article when on to say that Pope Francis has become a defibrillator for the church.

Think about a defibrillator.  It is used when someone is having severe heart malfunctions and the rhythm of the heart is out of whack or not present.  It sends an electric shock to get the heart's rhythm back on line so that life can once again be.

Pope Francis the defibrillator.  Sounds pretty catchy.

Poep Francis wasn't the only one to be such a shock to the system nor is he the first one to be tweetable.

Look at the gospel for today.  We encounter some pretty tweetable moments as well as some quick shocking invitations.

Jesus' question to the disciples is definitely worthy tweeting, "Who do you say that I am?"

Here is the question for the ages.

There are many questions we ask in our life.  There are many questions asked to us in our life.  But none are as important as the one above.  "Who do you say that I am?"

The answer to this  one question can break or make our life.

Why does Jesus ask the question?

JEsus wants his disciples to become aware of what's hidden in their own minds and hearts and give voice to their own conviction or lack there of.

It is the conviction of our answer that determine our livelihood.  The choices we make in our life proclaim the answer to the question Jesus ask.

Is he the son of the living God?  Is  He the anointed one of God? What in our life points to that answer?  How often in our life do we make Jesus less than who he is so that we can remain comfortable where we are?

Secondly, we hear Jesus say, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me."

Now, we have grown so accustomed to that phrase "take up your cross" that it no longer shocks us.

We must remember the cross was a terrible form of capitol punishment, of execution.  It was considered so terrible that it could not be spoken of in front of Roman citizens.    IT would be equivalent to the electric chair for us today.

What if JEsus said, "take up your electric chair daily and follow me" would we get it then.

Jesus invites us not only to a life of commitment and deep conviction but ultimately of martyrdom.

Are we ready to give our life away in living our faith?

Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.

This is what it is all about: discipleship.

Denying ourselves is about realization that we are not the most important person in the room.  There is always another person who should take center stage and that is Jesus.  Denying ourselves is about creating space for him to be made known.

Taking up our cross is about the willingness and readiness to die.

Discipleship we often confuse with the struggle of getting our life together.  How much energy is spent on ourselves and truth be told we will continually struggle with getting it together.

This is good. But primarily, discipleship is the struggle to give our life away. It is not so much about commitment or conviction as it is about martyrdom.

We are dead men walking.

The cross we carry is the road to life, to glory, to the kingdom.

Friday, June 21, 2013


2 corinthians 11:18,21-30; PS 34 from all their distress God rescues the just; MAtthew 6:19-23

"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."

A few weeks ago, myself and a group of adults went to a youth conference or convention for those who work with youth, in particular LIFETEEN.

On one occasion, as we gathered for the MASS of the day, the priest, when inviting us to prepare ourselves for the penitential rite, paused to make this observation, "we are all posers."

We are posers.  What he went on to say is that all of us through out our life put on a good face, whether it is in our ministry or in our careers or even in our families.  We all pretend at times to be better than we really are.  We all present ourselves as having it all together, when in fact we are barely holding it together most days.

The penitential rite is an opportunity for us to keep it real.  IT that moment of the Liturgy when we are asked to call to mind our sins, our weakness, our failure God comes to bail us out from our own self-confidence and teach us to be more confident in Him and Him alone.

This is what it means when those words pressed upon our lips, I confess to Almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters that I have sinned..."

We, like St. Paul, are boasting in our weakness and entrusting our lives to the strength of God's mercy.

We acknowledge that we all share a dark place and in this common sharing then the light of God's grace can begin to grow.

This is the treasure we store up.  This is where our heart is, enthroned on the merciful heart of Christ himself.

Then we assure ourselves that the light with in us is not dark at all.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


2 corinthians 11:1-11; Ps 111 Your works, O Lord, are justice and truth; Matthew 6:7-15

What does it mean to babble?  It means to talk foolishly, idly or just chatter.  How often have we described people as chatter boxes, that is they talk for the sake of talking but not really speak on a level of depth or meaning.

Chatter boxes.

We all have chatter boxes in our life.

Yet, in today's gospel Jesus invites us to not babble in our conversation with God.  Jesus wants us to make prayer meaningful.  He wants to focus our conversation with God in a way that gets us aware of those things that matter most of all.

So Jesus invites with the following invitation, "this is how you are to pray."

What follows is an all too familiar prayer that has been pressed upon our lips countless times, the  "our father" or the "Lord's prayer."

We are invite not to let this prayer become familiar but rather a part of our family dialogue with our Father.  Who knows the Father better than Jesus.

When we pray it, we need t think about the words and phrases a little more deeply.  What exactly are we being invited to understand about prayer when we pray with these words.

The words create  a space for a proper attitude.

St. Benedict states clearly in his rule of life that "our minds must be in accord with our voice."  In prayer it isn't thoughts that precedes words but the word of prayer passed on from the lips of Jesus forms our thinking.

We pray with the words of GOd that enter into our mind and heart and slowly transform us to be children as we are called and thus we become one with the living God.  The voice of Jesus who teaches us the payer actually prays with us and for us opening our life to a new kind of encounter with the Father.

The voice precedes the thought and in voicing our prayer we are conformed to heavens's delight.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


2 corinthians 9:6-11; Ps 112 BLessed the man who fears the Lord; Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

"And your heavenly Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."

Who sees what is hidden...

What is hidden your life, my life, our life?

What do we refuse to share or refuse to unload?  What do we hide in hopes that no none finds out, no one discovers?

What does our Heavenly Father see when he looks into our hearts and minds?  What hidden reality begs for the light?

When we think of hidden realities in our life, often we instantly think of negative things, evil realities, shameful choices.  What about the positive things?  What about the good choices we have made but kept them hidden?

What payment awaits us for the hidden realities of our life?


"You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God."

You are being enriched in every way for all generosity.

At each moment of our life God provides for us the opportunity to be generous.  Each moment has contained within it that stimulus that is meant to get us moving out of ourself rather than being closed in on ourself.

How often, due to the circumstances of our life, we grow stingy rather than magnanimous.

How often do we hoard and protect ourselves rather than open ourselves upward to welcome life.

God has created us to be generous and if that were not enough he creates opportunities for us to grow in our magnanimity, whether it is a smile at a stranger or conversation with an enemy or simple gesture of picking up liter.  Always and everywhere God places before us an invitation to give a little more.

These are the moments in which grace takes over our soul and nudges us to generosity in living.

Generous thinking leads to generous doing leads to generous loving leads to generous living.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


2 corinthians 8:1-9; PS 146 Praise the lord my soul; Matthew 5:43-48

"I say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others. For you know the gracious at of our Lord JEsus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that  by his poverty you might become rich."

To test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others.

How often is our love tested?  How often do we find it easy to say and a lot harder to do, that is to love?

A friend of mind, when we travel together, we always keep an eye out for the the cheapest and tackiest souvenirs.  It never fails to amaze me how cheap and tacky these street vendors can be.  To date, there have been many cheap and tacky souvenirs, but the one that stands out is the miniature dish int he shape of the Colosseum, in which a few goldfish crackers could be held.

But there have been many cheap and tacky souvenirs: the calendar of priest of the month seen in the streets of St. Peter's Basilica, the bobble head Swiss guard along with the bobble head pope, the apron that has the image of the male parts from the statue of David, and the list goes on and on.

We know words are cheap and yet time and time again we settle for cheap.  Not only do we settle for cheap but tacky also accompanies our effort of lack there of.

Sometimes we treat love as if it were a souvenir: cheap and tacky will do.

No longer.  St. Paul invites us to remember that all we do is first and foremost an invitation to imitate Christ:  "for you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor that by his poverty  you might be rich."

Lets leave cheap and tacky behind when it comes to love.  They are great descriptions for souvenirs, not so great for imitation of Christ in our life.

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, fr he makes the sun rise on the bad and good."

BE perfect! Love those who God loves in God way not our own.

Monday, June 17, 2013


2 corinthians 6:1-10; PS 98 The Lord has made known his salvation; Matthew 5:38-42

"as fellow workers, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain..."

Do not receive the grace of God in vain.  How does one receive the grace of God in vain.

In fact, it seems almost like an oxymoron to suggest that one could receive the grace of God and not be transformed by it.

How could  this be?  We are talking about the very life of God, when speak of grace and yet it seems it can be ineffective?

Grace requires a response.  God take the initiative every time.  He calls, he shouts, he beckons, he whispers, he lays it at our feet.  Yet, we must respond to his invitation.

We must receive it actively not passively.

We cannot be bystanders or spectators when it comes to grace given.

Then St. Paul goes on to list the circumstance that make grace realized...."endurance, afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech, in the power of God, with weapons of righteousness, through glory and dishonor, insult and praise, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, poor yet enriching others, having nothing yet possessing all things."

There!  It has been said.  It has been past down.

Whew!  That is a lot of circumstances by which grace operates.  It seems has if grace is in all aspects of life.

When we don't let it be then it becomes vain.

Love is operative at all times, so too is grace.

It meets us where we all; God is where we are at each moment.

Friday, June 14, 2013

power and control

2 corinthians 4:7-15; PS 116 To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise; Matthew 5:27-32

"we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us."

These are the opening lines of the first reading for this friday of the tenth week of ordinary time.

St. Paul exhorts us to remember the end game is to help others realize the surpassing power belongs to God and not us.

Yet, how often do we want people to think that we are the ones holding the bag with all the chips; we are the ones with the power and control.

The greatest danger to our salvation is our insistence on having some say in the matter, having some control over the unfolding events of the day.   We often assume power and authority and control where really and truly we have none.

There is a certain sickness that affects the soul that insists on having control.  It is one of the first temptations that enter into the human race; it begins with Adam and Eve who wanted some say i the matter, who wanted some control, who did not want to be patient and wait.

Today, examine your life.  Where do you insist on being in control.  In those moments, the sickness of temptation fills you.

But there is another moment of grace that awaits.  Recall the words of St. Paul, "surpassing power  may be of God and not us"and trust that these earthen vessels, these cracked pots, are never meant to control, manipulate, even dominate but rather simple receive so that the fruit of God can be grown daily in our lives.

There is a riddle I heard recently: What is the difference between God and you.  God never thinks that he is you.

"For we who  live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested on our mortal flesh."

Let Jesus be in control.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The gambler

Acts 11:2-26;13:1-3; Ps 98 The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power; John 21:20-25

Many of us are familiar with the term "bluffing."  The poker craze has made sure of tho for certain.  No one who watches any TV, especially ESPN, has escaped being introduced to the World Series of Poker.

Poker has been a game that has captivated the heart and imagination of so many.  It is a game of percentages.  Where the gig isn't so much about winning every hand but rather winning enough of the hands to stay head of every one else on the competition.

It is a game of knowing as the Kenny Rogers sang so well, "when to hold, when to fold them, when to walk away."

Of course included in this reality of holding and folding is the ability to read your opponent.  Is the other person serious, does he have a good hand or does he have tiger by the tail, or is he bluffing.

Poker has become more than just a game of cards but a sport that has fascinated so many young and old alike.

I often think of Poker when i think of today's feast, the memorial of St. Barnabas.

Barnabas arrives on the scene in the ACTS of the Apostles.  He is a missionary.  He ventures wide and far to spread the message of Christ.  He goes on these journeys initially with St. Paul.  These tow go forth to the "ends" of the earth proclaiming the kingdom.

Barnabas doesn't get a lot of play. Because he is attached to St. Paul, Barnabas gets neglected and pushed aside because of, and even rightly so, the fact that paul gets a lot play, a lot of attention.

But even before Paul gained notoriety, Barnabas quietly and unassumingly, lives the life of fidelity.

He was the one who the church leaned on and sent to investigate what was going on in different places where Christianity began to flourish.

Barnabas is like the Nuncio of the early church.  He would go to relay back to Peter and the apostles what  was happening around the world where Christians would gather, worship, and live.

He must have been trustworthy, other wise, why send him to get the facts and eliminate the fiction.

For instance, in today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the Church sends Barnabas to investigate what was going on in Antioch, then he was sent to relocate Paul from Tarsus to Antioch.  Here was man who had authority and respect.

Not many people would be able maneuver the great St. Paul, but Barnabas seemed to have the edge .

Why was Barnabas so reliable and trusted?

If we flip to Acts 4 and scroll down to verse 36 and following, we discover an insight in to Barnabas, we discover his true "tell" as they say in Poker.

"Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas, a Levite, a Cypriot by north, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles."

Barnabas gives everything to the church.  In the terms of Poker, he was all in.  He wasn't bluffing.

This is why he was so reliable and trusted.  He showed himself early on to be a man of conviction.  He showed himself early on to be a man who led by example.  He truly had an obedient faith.

He didn't peak about his faith as much as he lived it.
He was a gambler of the highest degree.

He played the hand he was dealt, and he played it with integrity, concern, compassion, and most of all with deep conviction of faith about this Jesus.

He did not bluff.  He went all in.  He made a splash on the scene of the early church that earned him the nickname, "son of encouragement."

This encouragement wasn't by the words he spoke but by the life he lived.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Luke 15:3-7; Romans 5:5-11; Ps 23 The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want; Ezekiel 34:11-16

Here are a few words from Pope Francis on today's feast of the Sacred Heart of JEsus

"Let Him draw close to us and feel Him close to us. This is really very difficult: letting ourselves be loved by Him. And that is perhaps what we need to ask today in the Mass: ‘Lord, I want to love You, but teach me the difficult science, the difficult habit of let ting myself be loved by You, to feel You close and feel Your tenderness ! May the Lord give us this grace...The Lord loves us in these two ways, He draws near and gives all His love even in the smallest things: with tenderness. And this is a powerful love, because closeness and tenderness reveal the strength of God’s love."

Now I want you to think about Red Tape.  This phrase is often used to describe the government and government programs.  People will say that there are a lot of red tape one has to go through in order to get their benefits, their rewards, their payment or even just to be heard. 

This Red Tape is what we consider excessive regulation and rigid conformity to rules in order for the bureaucratic approval to be given. 

Sometimes, we treat God this way.  We put red tape on God's love, God's closeness and God's tenderness.  We limit or try to excessively regulate God's personal invitation to others and even to ourselves. 

How often do we create distance between ourselves and the so called "lost" rather than imitating Christ who int he gospel leaves the 99 and goes after the one who has strayed.

Who is the strayed on in our life?  Who is the lost?  Who is the one we choose to pull out the red tape on and become bureaucratic with our love so unlike the Sacred Heart of Christ. 

Hear again the words of St. Paul, "God proves his love for us that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."  Think about that little word, "still."  While we were still sinners. 

God didn't wait for us to right the ship, to say we were sorry, to get our act together before he showed his great love for us.  No. 

There is no excessive regulation on his part, just a gift. 

In fact, Jesus began to appear to St. Margaret Alacoque in the 17th century to insist on a greater devotion to his Sacred Heart for the simple reason of making up for the ingratitude that was showed for his sacrifice. 

Most red tape is because we are not grateful enough.  How are we bureaucratic in our love?  How can we be more like the heart of Christ?  

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Tobit 6:10-11; 7:1,9-17, 8:4-9; PS 128 Blessed are those who fear the Lord; Mark 12:28-34

if you looked at the readings for mass today and actually read through them, then you might be a little perplexed by the title of this post.  Why on God's green earth, as they say, would I title it "grave digger" when the first reading is about Tobiah and Sarah on their wedding night?

Am I trying to make a snide remark about marriage?

Or considering the gospel where we encounter the two great commandments, "love the Lord with all your heart, strength mind, and soul and your neighbor as yourself."

Where is any mention of graves and digging them?

I entitle the post grave digger not because of what is contained in the readings for mass today, but rather for what is left out!

As Tobiah and Sarah are on their knees praying for deliverance and seeking God's blessing for their nuptials and their life together, Raguel summons his servants and they went out and dug a grave for he said, "Perhaps Tobiah will die, then we would be a laughing stock, an object of mockery."

Raguel and his family wasn't quite certain that Tobiah and Sarah would make it through the night.

Perhaps they doubted their daughter, perhaps they doubted Tobiah, perhaps they doubted God.  All in all they were half-hearted in their faithfulness to God's ability to deliver Tobiah and Sarah from death.

Where Tobiah and Sarah were both trusting with all their heart, all their mind, all their strength, all their soul the rest were half hearted at best.

Where are we half-hearted in our own lives?  Where are we half-hearted in our daily tasks and duties placed before us?

When will be fully committed?  When will we be fully invested?  When will our strength and our mind and our soul and our heart finally be synchronized?

OR are we going to just be grave diggers?  Are we going to live like the ones who are always hedging their bets or waiting for the next best thing?

Grave diggers are those that spend their life staring in a 6 by 6 hole.

Tobiah and Sarah they directed their gaze upward and trusted with all their heart as they prayed, "call down your mercy on us and allow us to live together to a happy old age."  Then they said together "Amen, Amen."

Tobiah and Sarah were fully synchronized: heart, strength, mind, and soul.

We can be like Tobiah and Sarah and hope for the best while entrusting our life into the hands of living God from whom all hope comes or we can be like Raguel and anticipate the worst.

I guess it is a choice; we must choose.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Tobit 3:1-11,16-17; Ps 25 To you O lord, I lift my soul; Mark 12:18-27

"Grief-stricken in spirit. I. Tobit. groaned and wept aloud.  Then with sobs I began to pray..."

It is this experience of grief, groaning, and sobs that moves Tobit to his knees.  Having been humbled by the circumstances of life, having been brought low, with head bowed and knees bent, Tobit finds himself in the proper disposition to pray.

We look at Sarah, who also finds herself in a circle of abuse and insults.  Seven husbands have been taken to her bridal chamber and seven husbands have been found dead that same very night.   The girl, as scripture describes, "was deeply saddened that day, and she went into an upper room of her house where she planned to hang herself."

Again, like Tobit, finds herself brought low by the circumstances of life, humbled and bowed low, with hands stretched outward and upward, Sarah discovers the path way to prayer open wide.

Scripture tell us the following, "At that very time, the prayer of these two suppliants as heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God. So Raphael was sent to heal them both."

Prayers sent upward are heard in the glorious presence of God.  God has a plan to bring about healing, a plan that neither Tobit or Sarah could have anticipated.

But, never was Sarah and Tobit asked to understand God's plan or even anticipate God's plan, but simply surrender to his plan and allow the plan to unfold in their life in God's time.

Once again we see the beauty of time and God's grace working together to bring about harmony and peace.

Again we are reminded of the words of Jesus in the gospel for today that God is "not God of the dead but God of the living."

He is God of the living, and we are no closer to being alive then we brought low in life we open ourselves to prayer.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Tobit 2:9-14; The heart of the just one is firm; Mark 12:13-17

Why do bad things happen to Good people?

This could easily be the underlying theme of the first reading for today.

Tobit, our main character, is known for his virtuous deeds: faithful to worship, careful to tithe, gives alms to orphans, widows, and strangers, obeyed dietary laws, gave bread to the hungry, clothes the naked, and buries the dead.

Here is a man that was overcome with charity for his neighbor and truly devoted to God.

 In the midst of these good deeds, he finds himself blind.  Why?  Because he was busy burying the dead and that same night after doing a noble deed, he sleeps near a wall only to have bird droppings fall into his eyes and cause blindness.

The tables are turned and his wife has become the bread winner, working and slaving to provide and care for her husband.

Tensions and frustrations mount.  Words are exchanged between man and wife and they are not pretty, all because of a goat, though not really.  So much more is going on in the first reading, so many silent underlying issues of distrust, agitation, frustration, and the inability to communicate all these things clearly.

In the gospel, Jesus has words with the pharisees, the religious elite.  It is always kind of funny listening to the pharisees talk down to Jesus about devotion to God.  They are making fun of the SOn of God himself.  It is very humorous indeed.

The Pharisees are haggling with JEsus over political and religious issues.  It is nice to know that some things never change.

All the readings deal with particular vantage points.

Each figure in today's readings have their own vantage point or perspective and they each think theirs is the vantage point: Tobit from the his vantage point of being helpless because of his blindness. Anna, Tobit's wife, vantage point is one of being under appreciated and not trusted, the Pharisees in the vantage point of thinking they are correct and have the best understanding of the law and the teachings of the Mosaic covenant, then of course their is Jesus, whose vantage point can be summed up by the pharisees themselves, "teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone's opinion.  You do not regard a person's status but teach the way of God in accordance with truth."

we each have our own vantage point.  We each think the best of our vantage point as well.  But, we must remember as good as our vantage point is, it is not God's.

This should be relief for us.  This should bring us peace and harmony.  This should help us relax when circumstances are overwhelming, out of control, and beyond our comprehension.  They are never beyond God's comprehension, or God's vantage point.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Trustworthy: corpus christi

Genesis 14:18-20; Ps 110 You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17

While at my first assignment in Victoria, I was approached by a sixth grader who was being harassed about his catholic faith by a church of christ minister.  The sixth grader asked me if I would go and meet with the minister.

So we went.  The minister, the moment I enter his house began to question the teachings of the Catholic church.  Now, for the sake of setting things straight.  I went, not to defend the Catholic faith but to ask rather  why the minister insisted on picking on a 12 year old boy about his faith.

I thought it to be an unfair advantage.

The two main questions the minster asked were about Mary and the Eucharist. The question about the Eucharist was a pretty common question posed by protestant sects: why do we take JEsus literally?

That's the question.  Why do we take Jesus' literally, at his word when he says "the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you...for my flesh is true food and my blood true drink. Whoever eats my flesh  and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them." (John 6:52-59)

Why do we take Jesus Literally?

The fact of the matter is the church has always taken Jesus literally.  The church has always trusted the words of Jesus.

Not unlike the Disciples in today's gospel.

Jesus is surrounded by 5000 men, not to mention children and women.  As evening drew near, the apostles approached Jesus and wanted to "dismiss" the crowd.

Jesus asked them to "give them some food yourselves."  Now with a meager five loaves and two fish, things were not looking good.   Yet, when Jesus asked the apostles to sit the crowd in groups of fifty, they did it.

They may have wondered what Jesus was up to.  They may have questioned the reasoning for the sitting of all these people in small little communities of fifty.  But they trusted int he words of Christ.

Then when Jesus blessed the five loaves and gave it to the apostles to feed the 5000 thousand, again apostles trusted in Jesus' word, they took him literally.

They may have doubted that five loaves could feed so many; nonetheless they ventured forth with what they thought to be an inadequate amount.

They trusted Jesus words.

A beautiful thing happened.  Jesus proved himself reliable and trustworthy.  He did not make the apostles look foolish.  As the miracle came to light, Jesus' words again were seen to be trustworthy.

As it was then with the feeding of the 5000 thousand, so it is now with the every mass we celebrate.  As we here those words from the Last Supper, "take this all of you and eat it this my body...take this all of you and drink of it, this is my blood."

As we go up to receive communion, we, like the apostles, are asked to trust the words of Christ.  And we say "amen", we discover that Jesus doesn't make us fools but each time shows his words to be reliable  and trustworthy.

Indeed this bread is what Jesus says it is, no ifs or buts about it.

Why does church Take Jesus literally?  We trust his word.

His flesh is true food and his blood is true drink.  We have real communion with God at the mass.  We JEsus comes to meet us and communicates his real presence to us.

It is definitely worthy of a "Amen."