Saturday, June 15, 2019

6/16/19 -- Holy Trinity Sunday

Scripture Readings

Today we celebrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity. We have a mysterious image of a Father who creates, a Son who redeems and a Holy Spirit who strengthens and enables.

Our God is so much for us to take in that, in the history of salvation, our God presented this Divine Mystery to us in stages. 

First, God first revealed this Divine Mystery to us as a Father who creates all things. This creating force is all powerful.

God the Father is stronger and more powerful and more awesome than any other force in the world. God wants us to pay attention. God wants us to follow.

Next, God revealed this Divine Mystery to us as an only begotten Son. The Son is also powerful, but the Son expresses power in a very different way.

Jesus becomes a brother to us, a human being who walks the earth with us and knows and understands what we go through. 

Jesus embraces the great mystery of our powerlessness, the ability to submit, the ability to give in, the ability to embrace what is.
Jesus gives in. Jesus submits. Jesus redeems. Jesus saves.

Jesus says, “I want you to follow me. I want you to be servants of God like I am a servant. I want you to love others as I have loved you. I want you to do the work that is yours to do.”

Finally, God reveals the Divine Mystery to us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a mentor, a coach, a trainer, someone there with us on a regular basis. The Holy Spirit constantly comes to awaken us to the truth and then comes again and again to reawaked us.

Jesus says, “The only way for you to do the work that is yours to do is for you to allow me to send the Holy Spirit upon you. This mentor will come to you and work with you. This Holy Spirit will be the source of energy you need to submit, to give in, to do the work that is yours to do.”

There should be nothing embarrassing about making mistakes or getting lost or not being able to focus very clearly. It’s not in us to have it all figured out or to have it all together.

But it is in us to listen. It is in us to be guided. It is in us to turn to the Holy Trinity and say, “What’s next? Where do we go from here?”

Certainly, the more time we spend with our God, the more we feel God’s Divine Mystery saving us, the more we feel God’s Divine Mystery dwelling in us, and the more we feel God’s Divine Mystery changing us.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

6/9/19 -- Pentecost Sunday

Scripture Readings

We are all really different. No two of us are exactly alike. Our differences are what makes us all unique and special. One of the great human tragedies is that we are so obsessed with our differences.

We use those differences to separate and divide ourselves into groups of us and them. We use those differences to categorize and label people. We use those differences to demean and disparage others.

We use those differences to blame and to scapegoat. We even use those differences as an excuse to hate.

When it comes to our differences, God Is saying 
something different. God sends the Holy Spirit as Tongues of Fire. What do tongues do? Tongues speak. 

At Pentecost when the Tongues of Fire came upon the Apostles who were once afraid, they spoke with courage and conviction. 

Everyone who heard them speak understood even though they all spoke different languages.

The Tongues of Fire that come from the Holy Spirit proclaim that Jesus is Lord. The Tongues of Fire that come from the Holy Spirit give to each individual some manifestation of the Spirit.

If each individual is giving a different manifestation or gift of the Holy Spirit, this means that our differences are God given.

Our differences proclaim that Jesus is Lord. So God is speaking to us through our differences. And our differences are something we should celebrate.

We might be tempted to focus on our differences in a negative way. But on this Feast of Pentecost God is calling us to celebrate our differences with love. God is calling us to celebrate our differences with forgiveness.

Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.

We are called to recognize that God gives us different gifts. We are called to acknowledge how wonderful our differences are. 

Our different gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit come as Tongues of Fire. And those beautifully unique Tongues of Fire all proclaim that Jesus is Lord.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

6/2/19 -- Ascension Sunday

Scripture Readings

Regarding our spiritual lives, there are many decisions we can make. We can decide whether our hearts are open or closed.

We can decide whether we are willing or unwilling to cooperate with God’s grace.

We can decide whether we are tender or hardened.

We can decide whether we are open to change or stubbornly set in our ways. 

Each of us gets to choose. Each of us gets to decide.

Many of the best things God wants for us can be diminished because of our own stubbornness or because of our lack of faith or because we are lazy about the things of God. 

Notice it’s not because God’s power is weak. God created the world out of nothing. God raised his only son from the dead. God took his son up, body and soul, to be with him in heaven.

God is all powerful. God can do all things. But God is not going to force himself upon us. So often we find ourselves waiting for God to do something for us. But God is really waiting for us to be open to what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us and through us. 

Jesus tells the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit who will give them everything they need to continue their calling.

They need to wait. They need to be ready. They need to be open. They need to be willing.

The same can be said about us. But we may be waiting for all the wrong things.

We may be waiting for God to change things around us. We may be waiting for God to change the people who trouble us. We may be waiting for God to get us a better job. We may be waiting for God to find that someone special for us. 

But are we waiting for God to send the Holy Spirit to change us on the inside?

We can decide whether our hearts are open or closed. We can decide whether we are willing or unwilling to cooperate with God’s grace.

We can decide whether we are tender or hardened. We can decide whether we are open to change or stubbornly set in our ways. 

Each of us gets to choose. Each of us gets to decide.

God wants to do wonderful things in our lives. God wants to change our hearts. We can decide to wait. We can decide to be ready. We can decide to be open. We can decide to be willing to receive all that God wants for us.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

5/26/19 -- 6th Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see the church struggling. You see, the early Christian communities were made up of Israelites and Gentiles.

The Israelites, the Jews, were tied to all their Jewish laws and customs and rituals. The Gentiles, on the other hand, never did practice the same rituals or follow the same laws as the Israelites.

So the Jews considered the Gentiles impure, unclean, not close to God. Then the shock comes with Jesus. Jesus is interested in teaching everyone. He doesn’t put the Israelites in a different category from the Gentiles. In Jesus’ eyes, they are all equal.

Jesus taught them that God loves everyone no matter who they are or what tribe or nationality they belonged to.

Once the Jewish Christians saw that the Gentile Christians were receiving the same gifts of the Spirit, they came to understand that they could not burden the Gentile disciples with the very laws and customs and rituals they themselves struggled to follow. 

This was a very difficult decision for them to make. As the early church struggled with this issue, they did not struggle alone. The Holy Spirit was with them, prompting and leading and guiding.

We also struggle in our lives. And the message from scripture is clear. Do not be afraid. Do not be troubled. Do not be anxious. Do not be worried. 

God is inviting you and me into situations that are over our heads and situations that we cannot possibly handle by ourselves.

Why else would God keep saying, do not be afraid? God wants us to be vulnerable and open and receptive to the grace of the Holy Spirit at work in us and through us. 

Finding ourselves in situations where we are not comfortable or situations that we are not sure we can handle creates anxiety. And so we struggle. But we do not struggle alone.

Jesus promises to send peace. Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises to be with us so that what we are called to do, we are not called to do alone.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.
We do not have to go through life without any help. 

And so we seek Jesus. We cling to Jesus. We embrace Jesus. We long for the peace that Jesus sends. And we pray for an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to rescue us from the struggles we face in our lives.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

5/19/19 -- 5th Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

In the gospel Jesus calls us to love one another. But he gives us a very specific instruction on how he wants us to answer this call. Love one another as I have loved you. Love one another in the same way that I have loved you.

Jesus shows love by teaching the disciples. We love like Jesus when we teach our children.

Parents have the responsibility of teaching their children. But as a community of faith it is our duty to assist them.

We show love by teaching our children right from wrong. We show love by teaching our children proper respect for authority. We show love by teaching our children how to pray. We show love when we teach as Jesus taught.

Jesus shows love by healing the sick. We love like Jesus when we care for those in our lives who are sick. We care for the sick by taking them to the doctor, by making and delivering home cooked meals, by helping with everyday chores when they are unable to do so. 

We show our love for the sick by simply being present at the bedside of one who is dying. We show love when we care for the sick as Jesus did.

Jesus shows love by comforting those who mourn. We love like Jesus when we comfort those who mourn.

We show love by visiting those who are grieving, by extending a helping hand, by writing a sympathy note or by listening instead of giving advice. We show love when we comfort those who mourn as Jesus did.

Jesus shows love by feeding the hungry. We love like Jesus when we feed the hungry. 

We show love by helping out at the soup kitchen or by giving to Food for the Poor or any other charitable organization that feeds the hungry. Yes. But we also feed the hungry by sharing meals with our loved ones. We show love when we feed that hungry as Jesus did.

Jesus shows love by giving of himself to the point of death. We show love like Jesus when we give of ourselves.

We can give of our time by volunteering somewhere. We can give of ourselves by sharing our God given talents with this community. And we can give of our treasure by supporting the work of Saint Martin de Tours Church through our Sunday offerings. 

We can also give of ourselves by offering a kind word, or by asking, “How can I help?” and then being willing to listen to the answer.

Loving like Jesus loves is about shifting the focus away from ourselves. If all we think about is ourselves, we are going to be a pretty miserable and lonely. 

If we truly want to be happy in life, we have to care about the needs of those around us, we have to love as Jesus loves.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

5/12/19 -- 4th Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

Anyone who has watched the news on television lately knows that the world is full of voices clamoring for our attention. 

Politicians yell and scream at each other, accusing one another of the most vile things. People cry out exposing racism and corruption and violence. We see videos of road rage, shouting matches, street fights, and disagreements of all kinds.

There’s plenty of blaming, belittling, and berating. These voices are deafening. They agitate us. They upset us. They anger us. They provoke us. They distract us.

It’s a noisy world that we live in. Add to that all the sound bites, itunes, and white noise that we are exposed to everyday.

Jesus’ voice is so different from all these other voices. Jesus’ voice is easily drowned out if we are not really paying attention.

And we may need help discerning Jesus’ voice. We might even wonder, “Does Jesus still speak today?” Yes, of course. In more ways that we realize.

Every word of the gospel is Jesus’ voice speaking to us. “My sheep listen to my voice. In know them and they follow me.

The sheep who listen do what? Follow. But how can we follow Jesus if we are not listening to his voice?

We can express our love for Jesus by silencing our own voices. We can express our love for Jesus by listening to his voice. We can express our love for Jesus by following.

But how do we know we are hearing Jesus’ voice? Well in some cases it’s obviously Jesus and in other cases we need to discern.

Jesus’ voice drew us here today. Jesus’ voice speaks to us in this liturgy. Jesus voice speaks to us in our reading of the scriptures. Jesus’ voice speaks to us in this homily.

Jesus’ voice speaks to us in the prayers at mass. Jesus’ voice speaks to us in the songs we sing in church. 

Jesus’ voice can also speak to us in the silence of our hearts or through the voice of another, or through a series of events that we experience or even through nature. 

So when we are not sure it is Jesus, we need to look for confirmation.

We bear fruit when we do what Jesus asks of us. We find peace when we do what Jesus asks of us. There is balance in our lives when we do what Jesus asks of us. These are the signs confirming that we are hearing Jesus clearly and that we are following.

There may be lots of voices in this noisy world clamouring for our attention, but the only voice that brings peace and justice, the only voice that brings love and forgiveness is the voice of the Good Shepherd calling us to follow.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

5/5/19 -- 3rd Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

Imagine you are thinking everything is ok between you and Jesus and Jesus comes sit by you, says your name and then asks, “Do you love me?”

You answer like Peter. “You know that I love you.”

Now it’s a bit of an academic exercise. And maybe we are not masterful at the art of meditation or spiritual imagination. 

However, imagine your child or your spouse or your parent or the person you love the most or care about the most drawing near to you, calling you by your name and asking you the same question.

“Do you love me?” There’s a little sting to the question now, isn’t there? Mom, son, honey, “You know that I love you.”

The question comes again, “Do you really love me?” Now there’s that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. 

Show me that you love me. Prove to me that you love me. Confirm that you love me. I want to see that love in your actions.

Jesus is inviting Peter to make up for his three denials. Yes. But it is so much more than that. Jesus is inviting Peter to follow. And at the heart of following Jesus is love and action. 

We are invited to love Jesus with a deep abiding love, a love that is incredibly good and valuable, a love that gives us a sense of importance and self-worth. 

Filled with this deep abiding love we recognize that Jesus is inviting us to articulate this love through our actions. After all, actions speak louder than words.

It’s one thing to answer the question, “Do you love me?” It’s another thing entirely to go out into the world and live that love with humility, to share that love with kindness, to show that love with patience, to be that love with gentleness.

Love in action: a smile, a gift, a helping hand, a prayer, a hug, a gentle touch, a home cooked meal, a listening ear, flowers, an encouraging word.

Today Jesus comes close by and ask us the question, “Do you love me?”

Saturday, April 27, 2019

4/21/19 -- 2nd Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

The disciples were huddled in a locked room, paralyzed by fear. They were overcome by darkness and doubt.

The Risen Lord Jesus appeared before them to show them his hands and his side. The Risen Lord then breathed the Holy Spirit on them and, in that encounter with the Risen Lord, they are transformed.

They were saying to themselves, “I am bad and undeserving. I have to pay for my mistakes.” 

But Jesus walks into all this fear and doubt and betrayal and breathes life and love and forgiveness.

Jesus never mentions their fears. Jesus never mentions their failures. Jesus never mentions the denial. Jesus never says, “You know you really didn’t do very well.”

Nor does he say, “I’m really upset with you for what you did to me.”

No. What does he say? Peace be with you. You don’t have to stay in this dark locked place.

After his encounter with the Risen Lord, Peter who had denied Jesus, heals the sick at Solomon’s portico.

After his encounter with the Risen Lord, Thomas who had doubted that Jesus was really raised from the dead, makes one of the greatest professions of faith.

After his encounter with the Risen Lord, John who had been distressed about Jesus’ death, writes a gospel and the Book of Revelation.

After their encounter with the Risen Lord, the others who had been locked in the upper room paralyzed with fear, go out into the world and proclaim Jesus raised from the dead.

Peter moves from fear and betrayal to courage. Thomas moves from doubt to trust. John moves from distress to evangelization.

Doubt and anxiety and fear and hurt can all become barriers to our faith. Why are we so anxious? Why are we locked in the upper room? Why are we paralyzed with fear? Why are we overcome by darkness?

Jesus invites us to come close, to see, to trust, to believe. Jesus invites us to be alive, to be awake, to be connected.

The Risen Lord is saying, “I want you to be at peace. I want you to be whole. I want you to be happy. I want you to be complete.”

Do not remain in the darkness and doubt and fear. Come close. Draw near. Touch and see and believe.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

4/21/19 -- Easter

Scripture Readings

Sometimes we don’t find God because we are miserable. Our lives are often filled with suffering and grief and anxiety and pain.

We should not minimize the suffering and anguish and grief and pain of the women who come to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. 

We should not minimize the fear and anger and powerlessness of Peter and John. They are overcome with overwhelming grief.

In the midst of their desolation have they given us an example to follow? Is there any reason to hope? They have certainly made a decision to be there at the empty tomb. 

They don’t know the tomb is empty yet. They are there to grieve and mourn, but they are there. They have showed up. They haven’t given up on God and God certainly hasn’t given up on them.

And just when it looks like sin and evil have the last word, the angels bring the message of salvation. Jesus has the last laugh. God the Father in heaven has raised Jesus from the dead.

Laughter has overcome sin and evil. The laughter of joy has overcome the cries of anguish. The laughter of hope has overcome the cry of despair. 

The laughter of love has overcome the sin of anger and hatred. The laughter of healing has overcome the scourge of sickness and suffering. The laughter of the resurrection changes the world.

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead overcomes all the evil that we experienced on Good Friday. Brokenness has been transformed into beauty, death into new life, and sorrow into joy.

The power of Easter bursts forth. We share the laughter. We share the joy. We share the hope. We share the love.

We share in the redemption that Jesus won for us. We rejoice because Jesus has overcome all the sin and suffering that he took upon himself.

So the choice is ours. We can either live miserable lives filled with suffering and grief and anxiety and pain. Or we can turn and follow Jesus who loves us with an extravagant, relentless, unconditional, uncontrollable love, a love that brings us laughter and joy this Easter.

Friday, April 19, 2019

4/19/19 -- Good Friday

Scripture Readings

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary of Magdala and the disciple whom Jesus’ loved.

Today we stand with them in solidarity, helpless. We all face darkness in our lives, suffering which renders us powerless, temptations which we simply cannot overcome.

There is pain and suffering, the pain and suffering of Jesus, but also the pain and suffering of those standing there. And then there is the sin and evil and brutality of those who mock and crucify.

Jesus takes upon himself all this evil. Jesus takes upon himself all this suffering. Jesus shares in the sufferings and anguish of others. Jesus clothes himself with our sins and the sins of all humanity.

Jesus’ death on the cross gathers all our sufferings into one to sanctify us and wipe away all our sins by atoning for them. This is a deliberate divine choice to take on all the sin and suffering of the human race. 

Today we stand at the foot of the cross, helpless, as Jesus dies. We might be tempted to ask, “Is there anything that can be done?”

We can surrender. We are heartbroken and the heartbreak arises from the inescapable reality of being helpless. We can surrender to this helplessness.

To stand at the foot of the cross is to keep vigil in the face of evil that, once done, cannot be undone.

To stand at the foot of the cross is to keep vigil as a beloved child intentionally walks down a path of destruction.

To stand at the foot of the cross is to watch helplessly by the bedside of a loved one dying before you eyes.

To stand at the foot of the cross is to stick around even where you realize there will be no rescue and no happy ending. 

To stand at the foot of the cross is to surrender to aging or depression or sickness.

We stand there with Jesus, helpless. We want to do something but there is nothing to do except keep vigil. There is nothing to do except surrender.

We stand with Mary, Mary of Magdala, the other Mary, and John because, like them, we love Jesus. And we surrender the rest to the saving power of Jesus’ love for us.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

4/18/19 -- Holy Thursday

Scipture Readings

The Babylonian Talmud, a vast compilation of the writings of Jewish rabbis, describes an ancient ceremony where the priests in the Temple used to lift up the golden table and exhibit the Bread of the Presence to those who had come up to Jerusalem for the festivals, saying to them, “Behold, God’s love for you!”

At the Last Supper, Jesus knowing that his arrest, trial and death were imminent, wanted to leave his disciples with a visible sign of his presence. He chose bread and wine.

Jesus gave the Twelve an expression of his love for them, a new Bread of the Presence, a visible sign of God’s love for them.

This new sacrifice was to replace all other Temple sacrifices and was to be offered in remembrance. 

Saint Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem in the 4th century, says, “In the Old Covenant there were the loaves, the Bread of the Presence, but they...have come to an end.

“In the New Covenant there is a heavenly bread and a cup of salvation that sanctify soul and body.

“Therefore, do not consider them as mere bread and wine, for according to the declaration of the Master, they are Body and Blood.”

Cyril was able to sum up the whole mystery of Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist.

The New Covenant offered at the Last Supper transforms Jesus’ death from an execution to an offering. At the Last Supper Jesus gave his body to be broken and blood to be poured out, as if on an altar in the Temple.

This total gift of self is an extravagant gift of love. As we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in remembrance we receive this extravagant love, a love that Jesus calls us to share with others. 

“Do you know what I have done for you? I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

We are called by Jesus to love one another. We are called by Jesus to serve one another. We are called by Jesus to become what we receive from his hands, the Body of Christ.

And so we strive to be more like the Master. We strive to be more faithful. We strive to be more grateful. We strive to be more compassionate. We strive to be more forgiving. We strive to be more loving.

Tonight I will lift a silver ciborium containing the Bread of the Presence. And in your hearts you will hear the voices of the ancient priests in the Temple in Jerusalem crying out, “Behold, God’s love for you!”

Saturday, April 13, 2019

4/14/19 -- Palm Sunday

Scripture Readings

The old African American spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” invites us to reflect on being present to the events that surround the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be there? To be at the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and shout Hosanna and wave palm branches. To be seated at the Last Supper and offered the bread become body and the wine become blood.

To pray at the garden of Gethsemane and witness the arrest of Jesus. To be at the trail. To see Pilate have Jesus scourged and then try to release him. To hear the crowds cry “crucify him.” To walk the way of the cross and watch Jesus fall three times. To stand at the foot of the cross, helpless, as Jesus dies. To help carry the body to the tomb.

The church gives us the opportunity to be present at all of these events. The church gives us the opportunity to walk with Jesus on the way of the cross.

This is profound. We might not understand all these events but we can be present.

Why? Why be present? Because the cross repairs a broken world. The cross mends broken hearts. The cross restores broken lives. The cross brings hope and comfort. 

On Holy Thursday at 7 pm we will gather in the upper room for the Last Supper. At 8 pm we will watch and wait one hour with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

On Good Friday at 3 pm we will walk the way of the cross to Golgotha. We will witness Jesus’ agony and death and venerate the wood upon which he died.

On Holy Saturday at 8 pm we will watch at the empty tomb and on Easter Sunday at 8 and 10 am we will share the joy of the resurrection.

Rather than pose the question of the old African American spiritual, “Were you there?” maybe we can really make an effort this Holy Week to actually be there.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

4/7/19 -- 5th Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston who studies courage and vulnerability says that we either walk inside our story and own it or we stand outside our story and hustle for worthiness.

That is exactly what is happening to the woman caught in adultery. Up to this moment, she has stood outside her story and hustled for worthiness. This hustling for worthiness is probably what led her to the adulterous affair. 

Those who accuse her are forcing her to stand in the middle. Those who accuse her are forcing her to own her own story. When she was busy hustling for worthiness, I doubt that she was embarrassed or ashamed.

She was either a victim of unwanted aggression or she was a player looking to satisfy some unmet needs or some desires. 

Those who make her own her story want her to suffer the consequences. They believed she should be stoned to death for her actions. Lack of forgiveness always leads to death.

So she waits in silence, afraid. She knows the punishment for her actions. She doesn’t assume there is a way out.

But Jesus doesn’t want her to be stoned to death for her shortcomings. Jesus doesn’t want her to be stoned to death for her failures. Jesus doesn’t want her to die because of her sins.

And suddenly the mob is gone. The sin is forgiven. The woman is saved. Jesus wants her to change her life. Now that she has owned her own story, Jesus can begin to work in her life to save her.

And Jesus begins with mercy and forgiveness. I do not condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.

What happens to her? Does she change her life? Does she take Jesus’ words to heart? Does she forgive those who condemned and judged and accused her? Does she start over?

And what about you and me? We have all sinned, which means none of us is in a position to condemn or judge or accuse. We all need to stand in the middle and own our own story.

And for some that means guilt and shame and embarrassment. But Jesus chastises those who condemn and judge and accuse. And forgives the one who is judged.

Do we spend our time condemning and judging and accusing or do we have the courage to walk inside our own story and own it. Those who do not, spend their lives hustling for worthiness. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

3/24/19 -- 3rd Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

Who are we? Who are you? Who am I? 

Some of us will constantly define ourselves by who we used to be. Some will brag about things from long ago, an athletic achievement or some boy or girl we dated or even an impressive ACT score. Some of us like to name drop about famous people we’ve met or the highest paying job we ever had or some award we got. 

On the flip side, some of us can never forget that mistake we made or that relationship that failed or the time in our lives when we were abusing a substance or mistreating a person or getting fired from a job.

I guess living in the past is something many of us do without even thinking about it. But is that who we really are?

And what about the opposite side? We sometimes imagine the real me is on the horizon somewhere, down the road, in the future. I often envision the day when I will be kinder and more loving and more compassionate and more joyful and more secure with my place in the world and my role in this community. 

It’s as if I’m saying that the guy I am now is not the real me. The real me is the person I will be at some point in the future, the point in my life when I will give my all toward trying to be the very best that I can be.

In today’s first reading from Exodus we hear one of the most profound passages in our Scriptures. 
At the heart of the conversation between God and Moses are a few words, simple words that say so much. 

When Moses urges God to reveal his name, God replies, “I am who am.” “I AM”. Now we might think that God is being a bit evasive. But it is so much more than that. In declaring “I AM” God is revealing to Moses the profound truth that God is eternally present. God doesn’t have a past or a future. God simply is. God simply exists.

But what about us? Is that our reality? Should it be? Why shouldn’t it be? We are immersed in time and space during our time on this earth. We do have a past and a future. And so in that regard, we can’t claim to be “I AM”. But maybe we can lives as if it were so.

If God has no past and no future, if God simply is present now, maybe we should try to live that way too. Maybe the past is something we can learn from, but shouldn’t dwell on. And maybe the future is something we absolutely can look forward to and plan for, but not if it means that we keep putting off the changes we need to make today.

Lent is a perfect opportunity for us to firmly ground ourselves in the present, a time to sincerely take a look at who we are at this very moment, in this time and place. And if the person we think we should be is either someone we were in the past or someone we can become in the future, then we should start to change now. 

Who am I? Who are you? Not who we were. Not who we want to be. Rather, who we are right now. Who is the real you? Who is the real me? God wants us to be that person this very day. And if we are not sure we believe we can be that person, God says, “I AM”.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

3/17/19 -- 2nd Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

In our prayer and meditation, we can use our imagination to place ourselves at the Transfiguration. We see Jesus’ face change in appearance and his clothing become dazzling white. We witness the glory of God. And we hear the voice of God saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

We can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and remember that he is with us. When our eyes are on Jesus, they are not fixed on the world. And when our eyes are on the world, they are not fixed on Jesus.

So let us fix our eyes on Jesus who provides direction and hope, healing and purpose. Those whose eyes are fixed on Jesus understand that Jesus is the one who provides all good things. Eyes fixed on Jesus let the riches of the world become blurry. 

Those whose eyes are fixed on Jesus are paying attention when the answer to prayer comes. Eyes fixed on Jesus allow God to take the lead. Those whose eyes are fixed on Jesus spend time connecting with God in prayer every day. 

Eyes fixed on Jesus are able to focus on the needs of others. Eyes fixed on Jesus see those who need love. Eyes fixed on Jesus see those who need forgiveness. 

Eyes fixed on Jesus are not fixed on lust or passion or pornography. Eyes fixed on Jesus are not fixed on a TV or a computer screen or a smartphone.

Eyes fixed on Jesus do not veer off the road. They steer clear of the potholes in life. Eyes fixed on Jesus avoid the darkness.

Those whose eyes are fixed on Jesus know that God has not forgotten them. They understand that God has plans for them. Eyes fixed on Jesus know that God is greater than any misfortune or illness or even death itself. 

Those whose eyes fixed are fixed on Jesus know that God is alive and well and aware of all things. Eyes fixed on Jesus know that God rescues and restores. Eyes fixed on Jesus know how to forgive, how to love.

With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we pray to be transformed, little by little. Nothing sudden. Nothing drastic. Life altering change for the better.

If we focus on Jesus, we become enlightened. We are able to see things. We are able to understand things, things that don’t make any sense to those who are not paying attention to God.

At the Transfiguration, the disciples see Jesus filled with light. And they hear the voice of God. This is the one. This is the Messiah. This is my son. I want you to listen to him. I want you to trust him. He speaks the truth. He brings reconciliation. He shows you the way. 

If we can embrace Jesus and keep our eyes fixed on him and listen to Jesus when he speaks to us, then we are going to find everything for which our hearts and souls are yearning.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

3/10/19 -- 1st Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

Satan comes to us in disguise. The devil flatters us with subtlety.

Temptations appear attractive at first so that we, little by little, let our guards down and lower our standards. And then before we know it, we are trapped in a world of sin.

So in order to conquer these temptations before they overtake us, we need to unmask them. But we can’t do that alone. We need divine strength and grace to reject whatever is taking us off course.

In the first temptation the devil suggests that Jesus should command a stone to become bread. Jesus has been fasting and is hungry.

The stone represents hard stuff, difficult things, stumbling blocks. The temptation is to take a difficult journey and turn it into something much easier, much softer, like bread.

The temptation is to take the easy way, to walk the worn path, to do what is comfortable rather than what is right. 

Jesus says the solution to this first temptation is to trust in God, that if we chose the difficult path, God will be there with us.

In the second temptation the devil pledges that he will give all his power to Jesus if Jesus would simply worship him. 

If you compromise your values you will become powerful. You will become famous. If you break all the rules you will become rich.

Power represents control. Power gets things done. The temptation is to take power and use it to our advantage, to use it to manipulate others to get our way. The temptation is to control others so that we end up on top.

Jesus says the solution to this second temptation is to understand that God’s power is not used to control and dominate. God’s power is used to create life. Our response to God’s gift of life is to worship God alone.

In the third temptation the devil suggests that Jesus tempt God. Throw yourself down from here. God will guard and protect you.

Jesus deciding to jump from the temple would force God to rescue him. The temptation is to determine what is to be done. In this way we make ourselves like God.

I decide if I will jump. I decide if I will heal this person or not. I decide whatever, then demand that God do what I want. The third temptation is to hold God hostage.

Jesus says the solution to this third temptation is to understand that it is wrong to put God to the test.

Lent is a time of transformation, a time of change, a time of spiritual growth, a time of struggling with these temptations. In this spiritual battle we ask Jesus to give us the grace to overcome temptations. 

It is so difficult though because temptations appear to be attractive at first,  until we give into them and realize they have the power to ruin our lives. 

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds us that we do not have the strength to resist on our own. Paul reminds us that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

If we confess that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved. If we cry out to Jesus for help, we will be protected.

Satan may come to us in disguise and flatter us with subtle temptations but when we resist he departs.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

3/3/19 -- 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

If you’re like me, when you have a problem with someone, you probably focus on what that person said or did wrong. And you really believe that the problem would get better if the other person would just change.

But Jesus’ message is that we don’t always see things as they really are. Sometimes we have a plank in our eye. Sometimes we see the world through rose colored glasses.

So instead of focusing on the faults of others, maybe we need to look at our own lives. But looking at our own lives can be problematic because the wooden beam is obscuring our vision. So how do I take the beam out of my eye?

First, I can pray to change. The season of Lent is almost upon us. The gospel this weekend is calling us to focus on changes we need to make in our lives rather than focusing on the faults of others.

This shift allows us to put our own houses in order before we begin to tell others how they need to change or how they need to live or how they need to behave.

What needs to change in our lives? What problems do I have that I need to work on? What sins and temptations simply get the best of us. We can pray that Jesus helps us on our Lenten journey, that it might be a journey of change.

Next, we are called to watch our speech. The book of Sirach says that one’s fault appear when one speaks. Our words have the potential to cause great harm. But our words also have the power to give blessing.

Carefully chosen words have the power to heal, to lift up, to forgive, to show love and to bring life.

Finally, we are called to produce good fruit. Jesus says good trees bear good fruit. Rotten trees bear rotten fruit. And every tree is known by its fruit.

The same can be said about us. Good people bear good fruit. Rotten people bear rotten fruit. So how are we going to bear good fruit during this coming Lenten season?

We can start simple, by doing little things. Maybe a morning greeting. Maybe a kind word of encouragement instead of criticism. Maybe focusing on the positive instead of the negative. Maybe a helpful good deed instead of a judgmental thought. 

We all have problems and we tend to want to blame others for our misfortunes. Jesus calls us to remove the wooden plank that obscures our vision. Sirach calls us to measure our speech. 

And Jesus calls us to focus on changes we should make in our lives instead of focusing on the faults of others. In this way, we can set out on our Lenten journey of bearing good fruit.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

2/24/19 -- 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

What if you did something bad, something that in your mind made you an enemy of God. How would you want God to respond to you in that moment? Love your enemies.

What if you caused hurt or pain to another person, maybe by your actions or possibly just by your words. How would you want to be treated when your shortcomings were brought to light? Turn and offer the other cheek. Pray for those who mistreat you and speak ill of you.

What if someone sincerely apologized to you for an old grievance but you were still full of anger and hurt. How would you react to the apology? Forgive and you will be forgiven.

What if someone in need came to you begging for help and you refused. How would you feel when someone said no to you in your hour of need? Give without expecting repayment. 

We don’t like to be around judgmental, mean spirited, vengeful people. Yet we ourselves are judgmental. We can be mean spirited. We can be vengeful.

What makes us think others would want to be around us when we act this way? Jesus is calling us to choose another way. It is a difficult way.

Jesus’ teachings are unique. There are no other teachings like his. That’s why scripture scholars believe these teachings come right from the lips of Jesus. No gospel writer would have made up these teachings. They are just too difficult.

They are so radically different that when we hear them we are hearing the authentic voice of Jesus.

Jesus is calling us to be merciful. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.

Jesus is calling us to be forgiving. Be merciful. Stop judging. Forgive. And you will not be condemned.

Jesus is calling us to be loving. Do to others as you would have them to do to you.

Jesus is calling us to be giving. Give to everyone who takes from you and do not expect repayment. Give and gifts will be given to you.

For the standard you use to measure will be the standard used to measure you.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

2/17/19 -- 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Jesus’ words in the gospel today seem backwards to us. Blessings to the poor but woes to the rich. We all want to win the lottery. Blessings to the hungry but woes to those who have their fill. No one wants to go hungry. Blessings to those who weep and woes to those who laugh. Blessings to the rejected and woes to the popular.

Whenever Jesus’ teachings confuse us, I believe it is our task to search for the deeper spiritual truths found in those teachings.

What does it mean to be poor? Poor in spirit? A feeling of poverty, like something is missing. Lonely. Inadequate. Having poor self esteem. Not being courageous enough.

People who are rich are sometimes poor because they already have all they want and are still not happy.

When we’re are feeling this way, Jesus says we are blessed. Why? Because we can recognize our reliance on God. We can turn to Jesus and ask him to make us rich in the things that matter to God.

What does it mean to be hungry? Maybe we have a hunger for something other than food. Feeling empty inside. A longing. A desire. Having a sense of not being fulfilled. A hunger and thirst for justice, perhaps, or for a meaningful life.

People who are full are sometimes empty inside because being full might not take away the emptiness inside.

When we’re feeling this way Jesus says we are blessed. Why? Because we can ask Jesus to fill our hungers with whatever is lacking.

We know what it means to be hated or ridiculed or rejected. We know what it feels like to lick our wounds, not fitting in, treated like an outcast, not knowing where to sit during lunch at school.

People who are popular are sometimes sad because all their friends are only social, the kind who disappear when things get rough.

How can Jesus say we are blessed when this happens? Maybe Jesus is saying, “I love you just the way you are. Stop trying to be someone else just to fit in. Follow me rather than seeking acceptance from the crowd.”

If we can embrace poverty and hunger and rejection, then we are on our way to finding riches and fulfillment and acceptance.

Jeremiah says to trust in the Lord, to hope in the Lord. So we ask the Lord to make us rich in kindness and grace and mercy. We ask the Lord to fill us with goodness and compassion. And we ask the Lord to sooth the wounds of rejection and ridicule. In this way, we are truly blessed. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

2/10/19 -- 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Individuals throughout all of history have been called by God to take on special roles, special tasks. It is almost universal that those people God chooses are reluctant. They believe they aren’t brave enough, they aren’t strong enough, they aren’t worthy enough. 

But then something happens, a change occurs. There is an experience they have that enables them to accept the invitation from God to do the work they are called to do.

It seems that the Holy Spirit awakens an energy, something in the human soul that has been there all along, but needs to be challenged, needs to be brought to life. 

It’s as though God is saying: “Don’t worry about where you’ve been. Don’t worry about what you’ve done. I can take care of that.” 

In the first reading, the angel takes a burning ember and places it against the lips of the Prophet Isaiah. It’s as if the angel is saying: I am burning your lying lips so you know that’s over. It’s in the past. Don’t worry about your past sins anymore. I want you to be able to feel the strength of the Spirit working in you.

We have an image of a repentant sinner being called to be an instrument of God, being called to holiness. Repentant sinners often have a sense of being touched by God and transformed by God. 

In the second reading Paul tells us that many have been called to follow Jesus. And those who are called have been strengthened and encouraged. 

In the beginning, Paul was a person who was constantly persecuting the church. Then the Spirit came upon him blinding his eyes. Only then is Paul able to see that he’s been doing the opposite of what God is asking. Now Paul is going to have the wisdom and the courage to be an Apostle doing the work that God has called him to do.

In the gospel, Jesus is calling ordinary people from their ordinary lives to become extraordinary disciples. He does this by simply giving advice about where to catch fish. Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your calling, at your command, I will lower the nets.

Peter senses that Jesus is not just an ordinary man. There is something about Jesus that is more than he had ever experienced. All of the disciples felt the power of the Spirit working through Jesus. 

The first thing Peter thinks is: Get away from me Lord because I am not worthy of being around someone like you. I am not good enough.

But Jesus says to Peter: Look, I see you as someone extraordinarily good. I see you as someone who has the potential to follow me. I am calling you to your destiny. I want you to live the life that I am calling you to live.

Jesus wants us to recognize our humanity. That we are basically selfish. That we are basically flawed. And that we make choices that are not necessarily wise. 

We are like Isaiah, we lie. We are like Paul, sometimes choosing the wrong path. And we are like Simon Peter, thinking we are not good enough or holy enough.

That’s when Jesus says to us: That’s ok. That’s what it means to be human, but I would like you to step out in trust. I am inviting you to follow me. I am inviting you to trust the power of the Spirit that I send you.

Individuals throughout all of history have been called by God to take on special roles. It is almost universal that those called are reluctant, including ourselves.

If Simon Peter and Paul and Isaiah can follow the Lord, then so can we.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

2/3/19 -- 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

We endure many difficult things in our lives: stress, poor health, bad habits, addictions, death, depression, anger, hatred, marital strife, jealousy, insomnia, anxiety, and the list could go on and on. 

The Prophet Jeremiah is told that he is going to endure many difficult things. Why did God tell this to Jeremiah? Because the Lord God needed Jeremiah to be strong.

The Lord God says to Jeremiah: I formed you in the womb. Before you were born, I knew you. I dedicated you. I appointed you. As if I’d leave you crushed. I am with you to deliver you.

The people of Corinth had a difficult time too. They were people who were jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, quick to judge and quick to lose their tempers.

Even Jesus runs into trouble. The people from his hometown turn their backs on him. They are jealous. They are worried about their own interest. They are really angry. So angry, they wanted to kill him.

If we are honest, we know that all of us in some way have a difficult time and we often have these same bad attitudes. We are not really all that honest. We are prone to jealousy. 

We can be a bit pompous and full of ourselves. We tend to seek our own interests and are quick tempered when things don’t go our way.

How can be become strong like the prophet Jeremiah? How can we become strong like Jesus? Where does our strength come from?

It’s clear from the first reading that Jeremiah’s power has to come from God. It’s also clear in the Gospel that Jesus’ power comes from his divinity, from being God’s only begotten son.

We can get tied up in the illusion that we can somehow take the Spirit of God and control it, using it for our own purposes.

But Jesus gives himself over completely. He lets himself be filled with the Holy Spirit. He gives himself over to the divine power working in him. So does the Prophet Jeremiah.

How do we become powerful in the Spirit? Saint Paul says to let the Spirit of God fill us with love, love that is kind and caring.

Not pompous, but self giving. Not jealous, but kind and caring. Not inflated, but humble. Not rude, but loving and forgiving. Not quick tempered, but patient.

Like Jeremiah and like Jesus, the Lord God knows us, the Lord God dedicates us, the Lord God appoints us. As if the Lord God would crush us. Rather, the Lord is with us, to deliver us from all the difficult things we endure in life.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

1/27/19 -- 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Imagine if an enemy invaded our city, destroyed most of the homes and sent us all to live in exile. While in exile we were not allowed to practice our religion. Then after a few generations, our children’s children were allowed to return to find this beautiful church in ruins.

Among the ruins they find a Lectionary containing our scripture readings; readings they have never heard before. That’s what’s happening in the Book of Nehemiah. The people are hearing the Law of the Lord read to them for the first time. 

They understand that the scroll contains divine wisdom. They commit themselves to following the Law of the Lord. In their attempt to follow the Law of the Lord, they struggle with the law and fall short.

Isn’t it the same with us. We understand that God calls us to do something or that God asks us to live a certain way or that God wants us to answer a certain call and we can’t do it. It’s just too hard.

There is some guilt or shame or sadness over that simple fact that God is asking something of us and we can’t do it.

The disciples were ordinary folk like us. They had a very difficult time doing what Jesus asked of them as well. They failed pretty regularly. This is certainly not a reason to lose hope.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me. We were all anointed at our baptism, The Spirit descended upon each of us bringing divinely given gifts and talents, empowering us and giving each of us a task to fulfill.

When someone is anointed, it means that they have been given a gift. When the Lord anoints, the Lord empowers. The Holy Spirit is divine power dwelling in us. We are always conscious of our weakness, but we must also be aware that the power of Jesus resides in us. 

The church represents the collection of all of our divinely giving gifts. Together, Saint Paul says, we are like a body, different people with different gifts all working together as one. 

All of us have a small part to play and each part is essential. All of us together make up the one Body of Christ.

We may be weak. We may come up short. We may even fail. But we are all still anointed, We are all still gifted. We are all still empowered.

And we too hear the words written on the scroll. Those words say to us, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon you, because the Lord has anointed you. Do not be saddened by this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.” 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

1/20/19 -- 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Someone else will do it. Someone else will take care of it. We see a garbage can that’s been blow into the street and we drive around it. Someone else will get it.

We hear a pitch for volunteers for some worthwhile event and we convince ourselves that someone else will step forward. We see someone struggling and we think someone else will help.

We see something that could be a potential hazard at the store and we say someone else will report it. Someone else will do it. Sadly it’s become a kind of mantra in our lives. We could even say it’s a sort of prayer of inconsiderateness.

Jesus could have taken this approach at the Wedding at Cana. Some commentators say that Jesus could be the very reason they ran out of wine.

Mary was invited to the wedding. And since Jesus was Mary’s son, he was invited as well. But he came with his disciples in tow. They were hungry and thirsty from their journey. They could be the very reason the wine ran out.

Mary knows this so she tells her son to take care of the problem. He cannot say to his mother, “Someone else will do it. Someone else will take care of it.”

Saint Paul says that there are different gifts God gives to us. And these gifts are spread over the entire human family.

No one person has every gift. And God doesn’t gift just a few. God gifts us all. Some people have patience. Some people have a very generous heart. Some are intellectually gifted. Some are good listeners. And so on and so forth.

Every single person has some unique God-given gift that no one else has. We are one of a kind, each and every one of us with specific gifts.

There are some things, done certain ways, in certain circumstances that can only be done by me or through me. There are some things, done certain ways, in certain circumstances that can be done only by you or through you.

There are certain things that God wants and expects and hopes for the world that might never become a reality if we don’t do it.

Someone else will do it. Someone else will take care of it. Possibly not. At least not in the exact same way you or I can give our unique God given talents, gifts given which fit each of us perfectly.

When it comes to our God given gifts, Mary looks at her son and says to us, “Do whatever he tells you, because someone else will simply not do.”

Saturday, January 12, 2019

1/13/19 -- Baptism of the Lord

Scripture Readings

Baptism brings about belonging. John baptizes with water. The people who are baptized by John belong to him. They are his followers; they are his disciples. 

We are baptized by the priest of the church who stands in the place of Jesus. So we are baptized by Jesus. We are his; we belong to him. 

By virtue of our baptism we are Jesus’ disciples. And John is very clear that Jesus baptizes with fire and the Holy Spirit.

The baptism of fire burns away our impurities and purifies us. A refiner’s fire is used to make gold and silver pure. The impurities are burned away leaving only the precious metals.

When we are baptized in Jesus’ fire our sinfulness is burned away leaving only what is precious, leaving only what is full of grace.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by our sins. We think we are not worthy and cannot be holy. Or we think that we have to overcome our sins alone. Jesus’ baptism of fire burns away our impurities, burns away our sins, so that, instead of being overwhelmed by them, we can slowly, over time, be purified and move away from our sins.

The baptism in the Spirit ignites a fire in our souls and inflames us with a zeal and a passion for the things of God.

The Spirit empowers us to reveal God’s love and grace to the world. The Spirit enables us to be pastoral and kind.

The Spirit stirs up in us a renewal that starts within. This renewal gives us a new heart and leads us to a new life.

This new life in the Spirit enables us to be more like Jesus, to act with charity like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to serve like Jesus, to love like Jesus.

Baptism is about belonging and John baptizes Jesus with water. But Jesus baptizes us with fire and the Holy Spirit.

We pray that the Spirit and the flame ignite a passion for God in each of our hearts now and throughout this New Year.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

1/6/19 -- Epiphany

Scripture Readings

The Prophet Isaiah says that darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the peoples. The prophecy from Isaiah sounds like it could be made for our times. 

There is darkness all around. Wildfires, storms, our government has shutdown. We are in the middle of a global trade war. The economic disasters of central and south America have caused a wave of migrants seeking work.

There is a lawless feeling that we are right on the edge of riots and protests. We live in a world of violence with many things in our lives that cause great anxiety.

But the Prophet Isaiah also says, “Your light has come. Raise your eyes and look about for upon you the Lord shines.”

The wise men looked to the heavens and saw the star at its rising. They were overjoyed at seeing the star. They searched diligently for the child. They brought treasures and did homage.

The wise men are truthseekers, star gazers. They are very much focused on listening to voices above them and inside them. They listen to and interpret dreams. They are constantly listening to the deepest voice within.

We see them looking to the heavens, to something outside themselves, to something beyond them, higher than them.

They are extraordinarily sensitive to what is going on. They listen and watch and pay attention.

The wise men see a star. The star says “Look I am here. I want to show you things. I want you to open your eyes to see that there is meaning and purpose and direction in all this chaos.”

There is chaos all around them but God is still with them. God is there. God is in their midst.

The Prophet Isaiah says to you, “Raise your eyes. Look, see, search.” 

The star brings a light that is inviting us to see something extraordinarily different. The star is inviting us to see that in the midst of chaos, God is there. 

Even though there is darkness all around, the incredible light has come into the world to change everything.