Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Hebrews 10:1-10; Ps 40 Here I am Lord, I come to do your will; Mark 3:31-35

We are all familiar with groupies.  Groupies are those crazed fans of music groups who lose their sense of reason and normalcy when they are around "their" rock star or "their" favorite musician.

We have seen it most recently with "Bieber Fever" and we are all familiar of the "Beetle Craze."

Strange how humans have that inert desire to group together and to find meaning in associating with groups or people.

Think about our local communities.  We have the Lyons club, the Rotary club, the KofC, Catholic Daughters, Altar Society, Guadalupanos/as and the list goes on.  There is the Friends of the Library group, the Gardening Club and more.

The bottom line is we like to gather, we like to belong, we like to find meaning in these place, these gatherings, these meetings of the mind.

In them we discover a place of comfort, a place of direction, a place of support, a place of importance.

Jesus in today's gospel invites us to another group.  He wants us to be his "groupie" but rather than losing ourselves in the emotional craze we are asked to invest ourselves in "the will of God."

Think about the will of God for a moment.  There are three parts of the will of God.

There is the universal will of God.  God has  a plan for all humanity and all of creation.  He wants to reconcile the created world to himself and he does so in Christ.  God creates us to know him, love him, serve him in this life and be with him in the life to come.

There is the circumstantial aspect.  These are those moments in our life that are beyond our control. This is where we throw up our hands because we can't make heads or tale out of the situation.  we find ourselves saying "Que sera, sera".

Here God invites us to surrender.  The words of Christ from the Cross come to mind, "Into your hands Lord I commend my spirit."  Surrender is a necessary part of living God's will n our life.  When we can not make sense of our life we look to God who brings meaning an purpose and we take him by the hand and let him lead.

The third aspect and the one that hits closest to home is the intentional or personal aspect of God's will. God invites us to invest personally in living our life according to his plan, no longer based on our whim.

God has given us the instruction manual or the game book so to say in the scriptures we read and the teachings his church.  We are asked to execute that on a regular basis.

We have to execute his will daily by being loving, merciful, forgiving.  We have to execute it by avoiding temptation and seeking to reach out to the least of our brothers and sisters.

We execute it by living the beatitudes and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

This is where we truly live out our identity as brothers and sisters.  This is the pattern for the groupie of Christ.

Go on and get crazy for Jesus.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Conversion of St. Paul: makeover

Acts 22:3-16 or 9:1-22; Ps 117 Go out to all the world and tell the Good News; Mark 16:15-18

Today in the Church we celebrate the memory of St. Paul's conversion to the faith. 

One of the most hateful and despicable men in regards to persecution of Christians gets an make over.
This is a real man who had real emotions and real ties to destroying Christians and message of Christ.  And yet, out of the blue there is this change, this 180 degree turn about. 

"A light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"

"He said, who are you sir?  Then the reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do." 

There it is, the initial encounter that changes the heart of man.  There it is, the initial encounter that has changed the face of the church.  There it is, the  initial encounter that reminds us that God is active in our history; God is on the look out for men and women of his choosing to spread the good news.

From the clear blue sky, light shall rain down and hearts are transformed. 

It is often said that God loves us unconditionally, that God loves us as we are.  But what the conversion of Paul  reminds us is that God wants to change us, convert us, open our eyes. 

In deed God loves us but his love seeks to penetrate our hearts and transform our lives. 

Two things about conversions:

1) it is a surprise.  All were surprised when they heard of Paul's transformation. Which means that we have to create space in our life for God to surprise us. 

We have to be ready to be surprised.  With God we can no longer say we do not like surprises.  For if we are against surprises then ultimately we are against God. 

2)  We have to let God use us to surprise others.  Think about that today.  HOw can you bring the light of Christ in your life, your family, your work place and bring forth that surprising reality of truth in love. 

Be surprised!  Be the surprise! Bring a surprise with you!

ultrasound generation: words from Cardinal Dolan

As we mark the solemn 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, I would like to address my column this week to our teens and young adults, who I believe will ultimately prevail in restoring a sense of respect for all human life, including the innocent baby in her mother’s womb. Please feel free to share this column with a young adult in your life, or ask them to look for it at www.cny.org.  
For much of the 40 years since the Supreme Court’s tragic Roe v. Wade decision ushering in an era of abortion on demand, we in the pro-life community have had little to cheer about. In the battle for hearts and minds, it has at times seemed as though we were losing ground, and fast. We could preach about the sacredness of all human life, about the harm that abortion does to women who are so often coerced by others into doing the unthinkable, and the lifetime of pain and regret so many of them, and the fathers of the aborted baby, face as a result. For a long time we were overwhelmed by even louder voices proclaiming “choice” to be the ultimate right. For too many of my generation, that argument was effective and catchy, and there is no changing their minds.
This civil rights issue of our time—the right to life of the innocent baby in the womb—won’t be won by the older generation; it will be won by the young. It is to you that I address this message on this solemn anniversary.

Popular culture calls you the “Millennial Generation” because you came of age at the dawn of the Millennium. But I think of you as the “Ultrasound Generation.” You are different than any generation that came before you in that your very first baby pictures were taken not with you in your mother’s arms, but you alive in her womb.

Your generation is defined by technology. You have come to expect almost annual revolutionary technological breakthroughs that change the way we live and work. You have seen staggering medical advances that have given doctors wonderful new tools in fighting disease and injury. And you have grown up with ultrasound technology that has opened a window into the womb, allowing us to glimpse preborn babies from the earliest weeks of gestation.

You have seen your little brothers and sisters before they were born in these grainy videos and photographs pinned to the fridge. Your mom or your dad has shown you those first images of yourself. Some of you have even seen your own children for the first time with newer, clearer 3- and 4-dimensional ultrasound technology. You have gasped with wonder at the sight of little arms flailing and legs kicking, heads bobbing and hearts beating, mouths sucking thumbs.

You have seen, and you believe.

Let’s face it, you figured out a long time ago that your parents’ generation isn’t always right. So many have tried to convince you (as they have allowed themselves to be convinced) that an unborn baby is nothing more than a “clump of cells.” College professors, politicians, Hollywood glitterati, and media talking heads have hammered you with the message that the decision to abort has no more moral significance than having a wisdom tooth extracted. To be an enlightened adult, you will be told, you must support the “right to choose.” (They won’t tell you what, or who is being chosen.)

You are rightly skeptical. They may believe what they say, but in this matter they are wrong. Think of your first baby picture, the one on the flimsy paper with the dark background and the unmistakable image of you. You know better.

You have seen, and you believe.

I know it is not easy to go against the prevailing culture. But your generation has not been afraid to be countercultural. Besides, I have good news for you—you are not alone. The pro-abortion movement’s dark secret is that it has been losing the hearts and minds of young people for a number of years. And now the secret is out. 

Just last month, the head of the nation’s largest abortion advocacy organization, stepped down, citing the need for someone younger to try to engage youth. Interestingly, she seemed to acknowledge that her side is losing you, the “Ultrasound Generation.”

“The intensity on that side will not go away,” she told the media. “They come to this issue as young people who want to overturn Roe v. Wade, and they’re going to do everything in their power. That view might change as they grow older and reality hits and personal experience happens, but right now the personal intensity is pretty high on that side.”

You know what? She’s right! I have seen that intensity myself in the young New Yorkers who pray at abortion clinics, lobby in Albany and climb onto buses in the pre-dawn darkness to join their fellow pro-lifers at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., as we’ll do this Friday. When I look out into the sea of faces out on the Mall in the shadow of the Washington Monument, I see you. You know who I see when I look at the rallies on the pro-abortion side? I see people my age and older.
That pro-abortion leader and others like her are counting on you having some sort of grand epiphany once you get older and, as she said, “reality hits.” But what they aren’t counting on is that when you saw yourself, your kid brother or sister, your own child, in that ultrasound photo, reality did hit. And it hit hard.

You have seen, and you believe.

But here’s the tough part: It is not enough that you believe. It is not enough that you are sympathetic to the cause. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to know that so many of you in the “Ultrasound Generation” are pro-life. But this can’t be a secret anymore. You need to proclaim it. It can’t come from me or from people my age; our time is rapidly passing. Now is your time.
My time has seen 55 million abortions in the United States since 1973. That is almost exactly the population of New York State and California combined. A number that big can seem abstract, but you know intuitively that these 55 million people were your peers, your siblings. One of them could easily have been you.

In New York City, four out of every 10 pregnancies end in abortion, double the national average, mostly poor Black and Latino women. In some parts of New York City, the number is 6 in 10. Yet some of our elected officials in Albany are pushing a bill, believe it or not, to expand abortion access even further. It’s as though, in their minds, our state motto, “Excelsior” (“Ever Upward”) applies to the abortion rate!

Sometimes, it falls to one generation to clean up another generation’s mess. And I’m afraid we have left you quite a mess. I am asking you, the “Ultrasound Generation,” to set the course right, to change hearts and minds, to change the law so that your children’s generation is given the legal protection that your generation so tragically was not. Ultimately, I am counting on you to change our culture.

My faith in you is high. For I have seen, and I believe—in you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

refusal to betray love

Hebrews 7:1-3,15-17; Ps 110 You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek; Mark 3:1-6

Yesterday since it was the anniversary of Roe v Wade, the church asked us to offer the mass for gratitude for the gift of life.  So we did.

Yesterday was also the feast day of St. Vincent the Martyr, whose celebration we will commence today.  We decided to move his feast day celebration here on retreat.

I am pleased with the decision.  When we were in Madrid for world youth day, we stopped over in Valencia.  We spent several days in VAlencia warming up for our trek to Madrid for the arrival of the Pope and the commencement of the youth day festivities.

While in Valencia, we came across the relics of St. Vincent the Martyr.  He was a deacon int he early church and was killed for his faith in the 4th century.  You do the math.  That was over 1700 years ago.

Behind the Cathedral altar there is a box which contains the arm and hand of St. Vincent, still incorrupt for the most part.  It looks like a hand and arm.  Pretty amazing.

I remember having the opportunity to preach at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart while in Valencia with about 4 hundred pilgrims from all over the world and i was asked to preach on St. Vincent.

It was a pretty "cool"experience.  I remember telling the pilgrims gathered that a martyr simply put is one who refuses to betray love.

They do not choose to die but rather they choose to live for God and in living for God and holding firm to their faith no matter the consequences they honor love in its highest degree.

The refusal to betray love, not our love for God, but rather God's love for us.  This is what we celebrate in today's feast.

Martyrdom is the willingness to hold nothing back.  Martyrdom can easily be likened to tithing.  As you look toward today's first reading, we encounter Abraham  apportioning to Melchizedek  a tenth of everything.

What about us?  How do we give of ourselves?  What do we apportion out to God as a sign of our gratitude for him in our life?

Whether we are martyrs or not, we are all asked to give of ourselves as an opportunity to no longer live for ourselves but to live for God.

What say you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


The Love of Life
Love is not merely a feeling, but is rather the desire for the best possible good for those whom we love. Through our natural intelligence and through Divine Revelation we become aware of the value of this most basic of all gifts which is life. Mere reason leads us to comprehend that it is better to be alive than never have had been in existence. The knowledge of the value of life that comes through revelation leads us to understand better this gift and to appreciate it: as a result, we worship and love more and more the Giver of this gift. This love is what moves us to protect the life of the unborn or any who might be unjustly treated. We are also led to protect women that might feel tempted or forced to commit abortion, as we know the devastating consequences that abortion will have in their lives. Last but not least we have to love, even if most of them seem to be utterly unlovable, the many perpetrators of abortion: medical personnel, and pro-abortion activists and politicians. We have to do everything that we can to convince them of their errors so that they repent and change their ways, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of society.
All human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Using a traditional scholastic term, we can state that He is the exemplary cause of every human being, in other words, He is the model on which all human beings are created. He looked upon himself and wished that other beings would share in His own happiness. So if we reflect upon ourselves, we can begin to understand our participation in the greatness of our Creator. This participation on His greatness leads us to comprehend that He has brought us out of nothing with a purpose, because knowing His intelligence and His loving nature it is clear that all His actions are always guided by a magnificent purpose. The first intention for which He has created us is that we should enjoy for an eternity His loving company in Heaven. All human persons are called to this eternal and loving company, no one is excluded, save those who, through their own actions, exclude themselves.

This manner of creation brings us to understand the unique essential dignity of every human being. A dignity that is not lost for any deprivation of the many external perfections that we might expect to find in a human person. A person might be born with a disability, or may suffer disability through injury or disease, but these deprivations do not affect his basic dignity. A Christian also has the hope that one day when the doors of Paradise will be opened for those children, all their human imperfections will be healed and they will enjoy forever the beatific vision that we all long for.

We are also created to be collaborators in the salvation of the World. The Lord normally does not intervene directly in the world; He does it through our free collaboration in his plans of salvation. He gives to us the saving truths through Holy Scripture, our natural reason and the mediation of the Church and we have to manifest them in our daily lives. If we love those truths we should be impelled to share them with all whom the Lord places in front of us. So when we speak with love and conviction of those truths we cannot be accused of carrying out an exaggerated rhetoric when we defend human life from its biological beginning until natural death. Nobody in his right mind can call it "vitriolic rhetoric" when we denounce that millions upon millions of unborn babies have been killed in the womb in the U.S. and in the rest of the world. It is literally a question of life and death, for the victim, for the mother of the baby and for the perpetrator of abortion, assisted suicide or euthanasia. The victim will have his earthly life terminated; the mother will suffer greatly for her actions, and the perpetrator and the mother will live under the shadow of the unhappiness of having rejected the loving truths of their Creator and certainly they will place their eternal salvation in jeopardy. Our main solidarity has to be always with the victim of the crime, because if the conscience of the nation is not moved by this growing injustice, we know that a growing number will be victimized in the future. Our solidarity is also with the mothers of those babies because often they have been misled or forced into committing this terrible action.
Last but not least we wish and pray that all abortionists will understand the terrible consequences of their actions and be converted.
Excerpted from Spirit & Life, Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula, Interim President,Human Life International

spiritual Lions: a note from yesterday

Hebrews 5:1-10; Psalm 110 You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek; Mark 2:18-22

Just a word from St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews

“Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts ad sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.”

St. Paul is setting us up for a better understanding of Jesus the high priest.  He will later go on and speak about Jesus and his life in the flesh and how through his suffering he becomes a source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

But I want to focus on one aspect of St. Paul’s reflection: “He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people…”

How would our life and our ability to relate to others be altered if we meditated on that passage, not so much in regards to Christ and his identity but in regards to us and our identity?

What if we spent time reflecting on out own errors and ignorance?  What if we grew in our awareness of our own sins?  How would that affect our ability to deal with the sins of others?

Would it help us to be patient  in our dealings with those we encounter?

How quickly we hoist ourselves above others?  How quickly we judge our selves to be greater, more important, at a higher level of being than those we meet who are beset with errors and ignorance? 

Yet, we are not!

The one thing that Jesus as our high priest shows forth is how we are to deal with the burden of the sins of the other.  We are ask to carry them.

We are asked to patiently make that trek with Christ on the path to Calvary carrying the sins of the other as Christ carries our sins.

To deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness…

Here are words of St. Francis De Sales in regards to his enemies, “If an enemy were to put out my right eye, I would want to smile at him with my left; if he put out both my eyes, I would still have a heart to love him.”

Again he stated this,
“The Lion is a powerful animal, full of resources; this is why he can sleep without fear either in a secret den or beside a path traveled by other animals.  Thus we must become spiritual lions! Fill ourselves with strength, with love of God, and thus you will not fear those ”animals” which are human failings because in the winds of temptations the great fires of divine love grow stronger, while smaller flames are blown out!”

Friday, January 18, 2013

on guard

Hebrews 4;1-5,11; Ps 78 Do not forget the works of the Lord; Mark 2:1-12

"Let us be on guard while the promise of entering his rest remains, that none of you seemed to have failed...Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience."

The two lines above are the bookends of the words of St. Paul today in the letter of Hebrews.

There is a sense of the possibility of losing or being lost caught up in his language.

To be on guard suggest a need to be cautious, careful, alert, vigilant, observant because there might be a situation that is dangerous or danger is or may be lurking.

Why the need for such insistence on St. Paul's part?  What could possibly go wrong?  If we accept Jesus as Lord, then why the need for this constant alertness and precipitous caution?

The importance is garnered from the context, something that many of fail to notice as we glimpse through the pages of scripture.

Remember int he context of Paul's letter he is directing the hearers or in this case readers back to the desert wanderings.  He is speaking in particular of Israel's infidelity.

When on the verge of entering the promised land, the lord ordered Moses to send men to reconnoiter the land, to scout out what was beyond the jordan.  (numbers 13-14)

On their return there were a few naysayers who were trying to convince the rest of the folks to disregard what God had said about giving the land and people over into their hands.

With a few negative remarks from a few naysayers the whole community broke out in loud cries, grumbling against Moses and aaron and but more importantly began to express their own disbelief in God's ability to lead them as he told them he would, "WHy is the LORD bringing us into this land only to have us fall by the sword?" Num 14:1-4.

Here in lies the sin of the nation of Israel. After having witness to enormity of God's power and how God rescued them from slavery and fed them with mana for 40 years, now on the verge of receiving God's reward they get weak in the knees and bail on their faith and trust.

This is the context in which Paul speaks these words today to us.

The danger that he speaks of is not so much out side of us but rather inside of us.  We, in our own journey, can be our worst enemies.

In the words of St. Philip Neri, "Lord, watch out for Philip, He betray you today."

THis is why Paul invites us to be cautious, alert, attentive, vigilant.

Quickly in a flash doubt and fear can take over our hearts.  In just a few moments, our faith can begin to unravel.

This is why it is so important to make an act of faith daily, to reconfirm our faith in the living God and entrust our life to him no matter the circumstances.

It is also important not to give in to the naysayers around us feeding us the darkness of distrust.

This is why we must be on guard.

The term on guard is used in fencing by the referee so the participants know they should get ready for the bout for the fighting is about to commence.

St. Paul is simply being the referee and getting us in the proper posture and stance for the bout, a bout that is often against our own interior doubts and worries and distrust.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

dive right in or out

Hebrews 3:7-14; PS 95 If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts; Mark 1:40-45

Again, it is interesting to note how quickly the gospel of Mark has Jesus getting right into the mix of things.  Mark's gospel skips right over the infant narratives.  There is no genealogies either.  There is no joyous proclamation.  Marks gets right to the point. 

John the Baptist makes a cameo appearance doing his thing, but quickly the lens focuses in on Jesus.  Jesus, as they say, hits the ground running, full speed. 

Jesus dives right in.  So much happens within the first few verses of chapter one that without saying much already we know this Jesus doesn't mess around.  He is calling disciples, casting out demons, curing the sick, healing the lepers and all in a good day's work. 

Reminds me of a quote: it is easier to sit up and take notice then to get up and take action.  Jesus is definitely a man of action.   There is no procrastination in Christ. 

What about us? How often do we sit up and take notice yet fail to get up and take action. 

If anything, Mark's gospel reminds us that we should not be afraid to follow Jesus's lead and  jump right in and make a big splash.

Give the people something to talk about.

Here are the words of St. Paul from today's first reading, "Encourage yourselves daily while it is still "today," so that none of you may grow harden by the deceit of sin.  We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end."

Here are a few words from St. Anthony of the Desert

"If we live with the picture of death always before our eyes, we will not sin. The apostle's words tell us that we should so awaken in the morning as though we would not live to evening, and so fall asleep as if there were to be no awakening. For our life is by nature uncertain and is daily meted out to us by Providence. If we are convinced of this and live each day as the apostle suggests, then we will not fall into sin; no desire will enslave us, no anger move us, no treasure bind us to earth; we will await death with unfettered hearts"

St. Anthony, at the ripe young age of 18, left all behind and entered the desert to follow more closely Christ.  In some sense, he dove right in by diving right out of the world and society.  In the desert he embarked on a life of solitude.  HE stayed in the desert until he was 105 years old. 

It is one thing to get hyped up about entering the desert but a whole other reality when it comes to staying for the long haul: perseverance is the name of the game. 

We can learn a lot fro St. Anthony.  How quickly we change our minds with the changing of fashion!  Yet, Anthony is steady and true. 

This is where our faith truly begins to be refined in the action of perseverance on the soul. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jealous of Jesus

Mark 1:29-39; Hebrews 2:14-1 8

I find myself at times jealous of Jesus. I see how he moves in the gospel passage and I am fascinated with how much time he has to devote to the people around him doing things like preaching and casting out demons.

As a parish priest, at least here lately, I have been spending my time dealing with building boards and leaky roofs and renovations and adding bathrooms.

I wonder how Jesus would deal with that stuff.

I have to constantly remind myself that even adding bathrooms is part of the evangelization process.

We read today from the letter of Hebrews: "through death, Jesus, might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life."

Fear is a fascinating reality.  In the beginning there wasn't fear.  Fear came about because of the fall, original sin.

Imagine what life would be like without fear?
What are our fears?

Think about how fear can affect us and the decisions we make. How often is fear the deciding factor in our life?

How often does them phrase "I am afraid..." Come up in or conversations.

In light of the first reading and in light of what Christ does is there reason for fear.
Have we not see lived out the reality that love cast out fear.

Be attentive to fear and seek to the truth of God's love drive it away.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Baptism of the lord: doves, sandals, paternity, bridegroom: life in Christ

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22; Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7;Psalm 104 O Bless the Lord my soul; Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord which officially marks the end of the Christmas season.
How many of yo have kept the Christmas spirit alive up until this weekend?

How many you are taking down your trees this weekend to mark the end of the christmas season?
How many of you still have your nativity scenes up and continue to sing Christmas carols?

I direct you attention to the second reading.  St. Paul tells us that "the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age..."

We are different.  We can no longer let society or modern culture dictate how we live.  Our choices and habits can not be formed by the culture we live in but must be formed but Christ who lives in us.

How many of us conform?  How many of us are shaped by the things we hear and see?  How many of us are willing to be the ones who shape and form by the faith we profess?

This is what St. Paul insists on.

Hw do we train to reject godless ways?  What kind of effort do we put forth?  Godless means we think we know better than God.  Godless suggest that we are too grown up to let God determine our path.

Our news years resolution should to train ourselves to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, devoutly in this age.

A quick look at the word choice by St. Paul:

temperately is also understood as sober and not just in regards to drink. But the greek has a sense of having a halter on oneself, that is being in control and command of one's heart, mind and soul.  Giving direction to one's life according to the plan of God.
justly is  a sense of being upright, standing erect.  One who stands erect has no reason for shame; one who is upright is blameless because his life gives testimony to truth in love.  A just and upright man is one who has found his identity in God.
Devout is one who has a practical awareness of God's presence in his life.  In the practice of living God's presence is brought to the front by what one does and say.  Embodied in this practice is reverence and awe for the blessings God has bestowed.  A devout person is one who is conscious of walking in God's blessing: the psalm puts it best, "I shall walk in the presence of the lord in the land of the living."

The gospel for today begins with these words, "The people were filled with expectation..."

Think about that for a moment.  What do you expect out of life?  What do expect from your spouse or your children or your employers or employees?

How do you communicate those expectations to others?

How does those expectation change you and give direction to your life?
The people went out to John to be baptized because they let their expectations for something more and better to move them along.

They knew if they wanted a change in the world they must first let change happen in them.  They knew if they wanted to defeat evil in the world they had to first face the evil within. They knew that f they expected the kingdom to unfold in and around them then the kingdom had to take root in them first.

The change they expected they needed it to change them.

Here we have Jesus identifying with the grey mass of sinners on the bank of the Jordan.  He publicly stepped in the place of sinners.  He identified himself with is so that our identity would be discovered in him.

Jesus takes all the people's expectations and makes them part of his life and journey and mission.  So that in and through him now our deepest expectations are met.  Jesus reveals to us what it means to be human and what we should really expect out of life, "this is my beloved son for whom I am well please."

There are a few things that we should notice about the gospel.

1)John speaks those words that we have heard many of time, "I am not worthy  to loosen the thongs of his sandals..."

Now often times we equate that statement of John with humility.  That even in the presence of one so great as Jesus he cannot fulfill even the task of the lowest slave, because of the distinction of persons and mission.

As good as John is and was, compared to Christ he isn't even in the same league.  Jesus is in a league of his own.

But there is more to this simple statement about loosening thongs and sandals.

It reveals something of who Jesus is.

In the ancient world, when a male died before he was able to have a child with his wife, then the next surviving brother was to take his place and marry the window and perform the marital act so that a son could be conceived and carry on his brother's name and lineage.

It is known as the levirate law.  Levir simple means husband's brother.  If the brother refuses then the wife has a right to present the case to the elders for judgment.   Dt 25:7-10 gives us an insight to this reality.

"But if the man does not want to marry his brother's wife, she shall go up to the elders at the gate and say, "My brother-in-law refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in ISrael and does not intend to perform his duty toward me."  There upon the elders shall summon him and speak to him.  If he persists in saying, "I do not want to marry her,"  his sister in law, in the presence of the elders, shall go up to him and strip his sandal from his foot and spit in his face, declaring, "This is how one should be treated who will not build up his brother's family!"  And his name shall be called in Israel, "the house of the man stripped of his sandal."

Thus the one who keeps his sandal on is the bridegroom.  John is not fit to remove the sandal because JEsus has chosen to step in and to fulfill his brother's duty.  Where Adam and all the ancestors failed, Jesus will succeed.  He will marry the bride Israel and the offspring of God shall come forth.

A new line, a new offspring, a new lineage of grace shall be issued forth.

This is why at Easter, when we bless the water used to baptize those  coming into the church, the Easter candle is plunged in to the font to in a sense symbolic express the fecundity of Christ, the one who gift of self brings about a new creation as he breathes his spirit on his disciples.

The bridegroom has arrived.  He will not shirk his duty.

Also, the symbol of the dove and JEsus coming out of the water points to the time of Noah.  The dove brought back the olive branch to represent that the water had subsided and time had come for a new creation to occur and thus a new beginning.

This new creation comes through Christ. This beginning is made clear again by the words of St. Paul, "reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly..."

Lastly, we hear the words of Christ spoken as the heavens open and the dove descended, "You are my beloved son; with you I am well please."

Pope Benedict points out that the heaven opens above JEsus to symbolize that it is in Christ that the will of the Father is perfectly carried out.  Where the will of God is carried forth there heaven is open.  Jesus is the place where God's will is perfectly fulfilled.

As the words are echoed forth from the heavens, "You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased we are reminded of the ancient world.

In the ancient world, paternity was not determined biologically but rather socially and publicly.  This pubic and social acceptance of child by the father is what gave the son legitimacy and appropriate social standing.

It is also obliged the father to be responsible for the child.

The words spoken from heaven assure us as listeners of the divine sonship of Jesus. He is legit.  

His legitimacy makes us legit through the waters of baptism.  Christ's title is given to us.

We are baptized not so much to be a good person but rather to carry out the Father's will.  HEaven and the kingdom is now found where those who are united to Christ seek to fulfill God's plan.  We carry heaven with us as we go for Christ the one for whom heaven is opened now lives in us.

Friday, January 11, 2013


In today's gospel Luke 5:12-16, we meet a leper, one who is "full of leprosy." Now picture that in your mind for a moment.  This man is ugly and probably dirty even filthy.  He also had lepromas or tumors on the skin.  He may have had pieces of fingers and even toes deformed by the skin infection leaving him with stumps.  He was a man who was hated by others and more than likely hated himself.

This  man approaches Jesus for a cure. My first thought is what were other people doing as he approached.  My guess is they ran or at least quickly maneuvered themselves so that they would not touch or be touched by this outcast.  They may have even looked away or even hid their children from the disgusting creature.

At the same time, people probably stared or even glared at him.  How dare he break protocol.  I can imagine the questions rolling through the minds of those on lookers, "how dare he?", "who does he think he is?" and so on and so forth.

IT was definitely not a welcoming crowd.  It was hostile and could turn violent at any moment.

Think of the courage the leper possessed.  Think of the confidence he mustered as he approached.
That in itself is a beautiful lesson.  Against all odds, he seeks help.  He lets nothing stand in his way of his goal.

Hee is a man filled with shame and guilt and self-loathing.  Yet, Jesus still stretches his hand to touch him.  Even when we despise ourselves it is not a true measure of God's deep affection for us.  God's affection for us is often deepen than our own sense of shame or disgust.  Our feeling toward ourselves does not determine God's love for us.

Jesus touches the untouchable.
As christians we are to do the same.

Jesus sent the man forward to carry out the prescribed ritual.  At some point take time to read Leviticus 14.  Think about the prescribed ritual.  It takes 8 days before the man would be allowed back in the circle of his family and friends.

The ritual is charity.  JEsus prescribes the ritual for all of those who doubt, all of those who are nay sayers.  Even if they doubt Who Jesus is they would still hold on to the old way of doing things. So rather than debunking the old way he incorporates it in the healing.  This way the man was assurred of his place back in community.

JEsus doesn't dispense from ritual.  There are many in our society who despise the Catholic church because of her rituals.  Yet, the ritual itself can be healing and cleansing.

Lastly, Jesus prays.

Today set aside some time to pray. Remember pray is just like party but with out the t and a few letters scrambled around.  Prayer is to breathe in the presence of God.  Today when things get hectic, pause for a moment and take a deep breath and breathe in the presence of God.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I often find myself think not like Jesus but like his apostles.  This may be a problem.  I often wonder if I too am headed in the same direction as they.  They are the ones that tuck their tale and run when things get a little scary and a whole lot rough.

In today's gospel the apostles are eager to dismiss the crowd.  They want to send them off hungry and tired.

I can feel their pain and I can relate to their angst.

Having been with all they, they just want a little down time, a little me and Jesus time.

But Jesus insist.  On fact he demands that the apostles give them something to it.  When they are confused by his statement he goes ahead and shows them.  The crowd sits down, the bread and fish are blessed and broken, then he hands it to the apostles to give it to the people.

There we are.  We can only give what we have first received from Him.  We must first receive in order to give.  We shouldn't be stingy.  Just go ahead and give and watch the miracle unfold.

Sometimes I find myself thinking like the apostles and maybe god is setting me up for a miracle or two.  Come lord Jesus set me straight once again.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The day after the Epiphany

Today is Monday the day after we celebrated the arrival of the Magi at the scene.  The story of the nativity is like a great suspense nor mystery novel.  There are many twists and turns and stops and pushes along the way.  There is also always present an element of surprise.

This element of surprise is important.  Just like every good book keeps suspense with that anticipation of surprise, so does God working in and around our lives.

There is always an element surprise when it comes to God.

As a priest friends describes those events, "is it odd or is it God."

Nonetheless, corny as it may seem, God is the element of surprise in our life.

I wonder as we turn the corner from the Epiphany and head toward the Baptism of the Lord and the beginning of Ordinary time, what the journey for the Magi was like on the way home.

In a dream they get a message not to Go to Herod but to head east by another way.

I wonder if they all had the same dream?  I wonder what there conversation was like that early morning as they bit farewell to Joseph and Mary and the child?

I wonder what kind of hospitality they received from the Holy Family, that had so little to offer considering the circumstances.

I imagine them getting dressed in their eastern persian garb, head dress and flowing gowns, mounting their camels and slowly fading out of sight.  It must have seemed like a mirage for the Holy Family as they watched those camels slowly disappear over the horizon in the cool of the morning.

What kind of effect did the Magi have as they brought back to the east their experience and encounter with the child lying in a manger?

How soon did the Magi stop telling the tale of their adventure or did they tell it often and relive each day?  I wonder if like us they caught up with living that they lost sight of the purpose of life they encountered in the manger?

So they journey back to the east like missionaries with a message and a purpose carrying the encounter with them.

So it is with us.  We too carry the encounter with us.  We too have a decision to make.  Do we just get on with our lives and forget the encounter or do we keep it at the center so way somehow?

All I know is, as we go through life, be sure to be on the look out for that element of surprise, that appearance of God in our midst.  The epiphany is always just around the corner, over the bend, just beyond the horizon, as close as the next child we meet, the next face we encounter, the next step we take.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

On the Magi

From Pope Benedict's book

Matthew tells us that when the Magi "saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy."

The pope comments, "It is the joy of one whose heart has received a ray of God's light and who can now see that his hope has been realized-the joy of one who has found what he sought, and has himself been found."

How do we receive that light in our own life?  How do we allow that same attitude of rejoicing be contagious in our lives and relationships with others?

Matthew continues, "Going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him."

The pope continues, "The wise men do a proskynesis before the royal child, that is to say they throw themselves onto the ground before him.  This is the homage offered to a divine king..."

When have we truly did homage to Christ in our life?  Many of us offer lip service but when have we really humbled ourselves in true submission, letting God have his way with us and ultimately dictating the way we shall go in life?  We know the Magi departed by another way; what about us?

Are we more enthralled with the star then the one who the star points toward?

As the pope directs us, "The story of the wise men's star makes a similar point: it is not the star that determines the child's destiny but it is the child that directs the star."

Do we and are we willingly to be directed?  Are we willingly to let our destiny to be shaped by Him whose manger becomes the cross upon which he shows us what love looks like?

"The gifts represent three aspects of the mystery of Christ: gold points to Jesus' kingship, the incense to his divine sonship, the myrrh to the mystery of his passion...through the myrrh the mystery of the cross is once again associated with Jesus kingship and mysteriously proclaimed in the worship offered by the wise men.  Anointing (with Myrrh) is an attempt to resist death, which only becomes definitive with decomposition.  By the time the women came to the tomb to anoint the body on Easter morning-Jesus had already been risen.  He no longer needed myrrh as a protection against death, because God's life itself had overcome death."

Myrrh is the only gift that is not needed.  This is important for us to remember as we all in our own way face death.  We no longer need to put up a resistance to death for in Christ death is no longer what it use to be.  The one who is born for us is for us life.

Sperm donor sued for child support

I not sure if any of you have been keeping up with the latest news coming from Kansas.

Apparently, a Sperm donor is being sued for child support by the state of Kansas' department for children and families.  Due to technicality, the sperm donor is to be accountable for the support of child conceived because the women who used the sperm did not use a doctor nor a clinic but rather impregnated themselves using a syringe at home.

Kansas law apparently requires a physician to be used for "artificial"  insemination or else the donor is held responsible.

The donor had this to say, "I donated genetic material and that was it for me. I'm not being held to be a parent...I'm not raising a child, I wasn't expected to be paying for child support."

So far this is by far my top news story of the year.  5 days in and already it begins.

I like the ruling.  I think all sperm donors should be held responsible for child support.  It would certainly help us all rediscover the necessary connection between sex and life.

Since when is sperm just genetic material.  Really!  What has our society become!
The couple in question is two women who thought they had the right to "play" parents.

Come on America lets rediscover our common sense.

Lets put babies back into families where Moms and Dads are once again a suitable environment for growth.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ten Lords a leaping

1 John 2 :29-36; Ps 98 All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God; John 1:29-34

Today is the tenth day of Christmas.  That's right, we are not yet finished with Christmas or its season nor its joy.

Remembering the twelve days of Christmas were originally meant as a catechetical tool to teach the faith in a time when the faith was outlawed (in England to be fact), we turn to the Ten Lords a leaping.

This particular tool for teaching is directed toward the ten commandments, which is fitting on today's feast.

Today in the church we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Jesus means savior.  His name is both who he is and what his mission or purpose is all about.
This is why we are asked by the Church to bow our heads every time the name of Jesus is proclaimed or pronounced in the liturgy.

We bow our heads to acknowledge with gratitude the great favor we have received from almighty God for each of us and all of us.  Jesus saves and we are forever grateful.

To recall the words of Jesus in the gospel, "Father protect them in Your name that you gave me."

The invocation of the name of Jesus is protection for us as we journey through life.  We live and breathe beneath the protection of the one who Saves.

Invoke the name of Jesus often, especially when temptation comes knocking.

Now turning our attention to the Ten Commandments, we recall one of them, "Do not take the name of the Lord in vain."

There is great significance to this commandment.  How often people come and mention how they let the name of God slip but they will usually follow it up with but I didn't mean anything by it.

This is exactly the point of the commandment.  Taking something in vain is when we don't mean anything by it.  Perhaps we should start meaning something with the words we use and the names we profess.

Lastly, Notice that in the first reading the very first word that comes from the Mouth of John the Baptist, "Behold."

Behold....What do we behold on a daily basis?  How do we behold Jesus acting in our life and the lives of others?  How do we behold the saving mystery of grace?  What do people behold in us?

Often we think we are living right and holding firm to the faith but what others experience in us is something completely different.  Today behold yourself and behold how others respond to you and in the midst of that behold the one who comes to save.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

closed minded

Today on January 2nd we celebrate the memorial of St Basil and St Gregory. 

As we turn our attention to the New Year, the church directs our gaze once again to the grace being active in the human heart, mind and soul as we venerate these two saints and doctors of the Church. 

They stood fast to what was orthodox, that is, right teaching in regards to the faith and believe in the identity of Christ. 

Basil and Gregory found themselves in the mix of contention as the early church struggled with Arianism, the teaching that Jesus was not one with the Father, that he was a creature, just a notch above the angels.  

Basil and Gregory fought for the truth and they refused to tolerate false teachings in regards to the essential identity of Jesus, the one begotten from Father from all ages, eternal and truly divine. 

It is because of Arianism we have the word "consubstantial" in our creed even today.  We profess Jesus to be the same not similar to the Father, begotten not made, one in being with  the Father.

We certainly have lost our way when it comes to taking a stand for what is true and good. 
In our society we try to remain "opened" minded and thus tolerate all kinds of nonsense when it comes to opinion expressed about who God is from all eternity and who Christ is as well. 

Sometimes, as Basil and Gregory teach us, that one's mind should be open only in so far as it can shut upon that which is true.  We do not open our mind in order to keep it ajar but we open it in order to bite down on that which is of true substance, worthy of chewing.

Imagine walking around all day with your mouth open.  We would soon discover that many un welcomed things would gather causing havoc to our health.  It is the same with our mind.  When we try to tolerate everything then we begin to believe in nothing. 

Isn't this where we find ourselves in the current milieu.

This is where Basil and Gregory can assist us in our endeavor as we journey through the New Year. 

Here is an excerpt taken from the life of Basil in his conversation with the Emperor:

 "In 372 Emperor Valens sent Modestus, the prefect, to Cappadocia to introduce Arianism as the state religion. Modestus approached the holy bishop, upbraided him for his teaching, and threatened despoliation, exile, martyrdom, and death. To these words of the Byzantine despot, Basil replied with the peace of divine faith: "Is that all? Nothing of what you mentioned touches me. We possess nothing, we can be robbed of nothing. Exile will be impossible, since everywhere on God's earth I am at home. Torments cannot afflict me, for I have no body. And death is welcome, for it will bring me more quickly to God. To a great extent I am already dead; for a long time I have been hastening to the grave.

Astonished, the prefect remarked: "Till today no one has ever spoken to me so courageously." "Perhaps," rejoined Basil, "you have never before met a bishop." Modestus hastened back to Valens. "Emperor," he said, "we are bested by this leader of the Church. He is too strong for threats, too firm for words, too clever for persuasion."

These are the kind of Bishops we need today.  As we honor the memories and life of Basil and Gregory, we should pray for our Bishops that they have the same kind of audacity to stand up against bullies of our current society, refusing to step down from what is true. 

We should pray also for ourselves that we begin to discern what is true and good and worthy of closing our mind and heart around. 

In the opening lines of today's first reading John poses a question, "who is the liar?"

Think about that for a moment.  Lying presupposes the possibility of truth. 

If there were no truth there could be no lying.  But we know there is truth, especially in regards to the God's revelation.  Not everything is acceptable, not everything is worthy of our belief. 

Truth is greater than what we think or suppose or even hold to as an opinion. 

There are lies and liars which means there are those who seek to speak the truth. 

Where do we fit in this scheme of things?  This of course begs the question, why are we Christians?

We are Christians in the first place, not because Jesus was a splendid teacher of morals in the first century Palestine or because we like his vision for ordering society.  We are Christian because somehow in Christ we have been touched and even transformed by God himself. 

This is what Basil and Gregory were insisting on in their fight for right teaching, orthodoxy.  The one who is Consubstantial with the Father, God from God, Light from Light, as entered into our time and brought us face to face with God, truth has a face, in JEsus and through his church we know what it looks like and for this we are ever grateful. As we say in the Kyrie, "Lord JEsus, you have given us the consolation of the truth, Lord, have Mercy."

Mercy shines forth in truth!  Basil and Gregory refused to forsake or take for granted the mercy of God by down playing truth.  We should seek to do the same.