Archive for the ‘Messages’ Category


A reading from the Book of Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
A reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians 3:12-17
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 2:22-40

Dear Reader,

What do we celebrate on this Feast of the Holy Family?  Certainly and most obviously, we celebrate the family that is Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.  Each is a person of profound faith, called by God to trust God’s call and to live out the implications of that call.  The family is an icon before which we sit to be drawn into the mystery and so be transformed.  Icons tend to be placid depictions of extraordinary beings rapt in prayer and seeming to be totally other.  That is, until we look deeper.  So it is here.

Responding to God’s will involved struggle for Joseph who had to let go of what he had planned for his future and to trust when the young woman to whom he was engaged was found to be pregnant.  Breaking the relationship was his first inclination.  The angel told him to trust that what was happening was God’s will.  So he took Mary into is house.  Because he was of the House of David, Caesar’s mandatory world census set them on the road to Bethlehem late in Mary’s pregnancy, caused him the humiliation of not being able to provide a decent place for the birth of the child, and then, when it seemed that the child was in danger, he had to leave hearth and home and flee to Egypt.

Mary.  At most she was thirteen when Gabriel said to her: Hail, Full of Grace.  She too struggled to find God’s will in the angel’s invitation, needing assurance, needing a sign so that she could know that nothing is impossible with God.  Simeon says to her in today’s Gospel: And your heart a sword shall pierce.  She will have to struggle to understand who the son she bore is.  The sword is the word of God.  Her heart is where she thinks, prays, and ponders that word.

Jesus, too, struggles as he comes to understand that his work is to do the will of the one who sent me.  And following that will will take him to Calvary and the brink of despair as darkness threatens to envelop him in abandonment.  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

As extraordinary as the three individuals who make up the Holy Family are, the icon they become in this feast is meant not only to inspire but also to challenge us to do what they do and be family as they are.  Really?  I think so.  It is a sad fact of contemporary living that many families are fractured.  Single parent homes are not uncommon.  Ideally parents and children live in a community of life and love.  The guiding ethic Sirach puts before us spells out how that reality is to be lived.  The mutuality of parents’ authority is one thing.  The responsibility of the children to be guided by that authority is another.  The obligation to care for each other, especially children for parents as they age and their faculties fail, all these come together as something pleasing to God and merit being with God forever.  God hears the cry of the just.  The grace that animates all this merits sin’s forgiveness.

Single parents.  Widows.  Widowers.  Single people.  What about these?  The icon of the holy Family is something that each one may enter and thereby be transformed.  Openness to God’s love and grace is the calling of every person of faith.  Trust in times of difficulty rises out of that faith.  Respect for each other enfleshes that faith and helps the other to experience God’s love through the acts of kindness and respect.

There is more.  What about the parish?  What about the Church?  Doesn’t the icon apply there too?  Should not the parish be family?  Should not the Church as the People of God inspire each member to love, honor, and respect every other member and to live with the desire to put into practice the unity that is ours in Eucharist, the unity that is ours as the Body of Christ?  We are family.  There is mutuality among God’s people who are loved by God as God loves Christ.  That is one of the effects of the Incarnation and our being drawn into the community that is God.

One of the catch phrases that came out of Vatican Council II was the call to all the faithful to full, active, and conscious participation in the Liturgy.  That means that one’s being a passive spectator, if you will, at Sunday Mass does not fulfill the obligation.  Nor is the obligation fulfilled if one becomes totally self absorbed in private devotions, the rosary and the like, thereby effectively being walled off from the rest of the community gathered at the Table.  The Eucharist is action and all are part of it.  Then, having eaten and drunk, all are sent to continue the action of Eucharist where ever we go in the market place until all are fed and have drunk.

Paul writes to the church at Colossus.  Listen to what he says as he speaks to a community broader than the individual family.  The community at large is called to put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In other words, it seems to me, the feast we celebrate today is meant to put before us a model of every coming together of people.  The Holy Family is a model for how the human family is to live.  In these times of hatred and division, of racism and sexism, of resurgent white supremacy and neo-Nazis, if that profound respect, that sense of responsibility for each other were to captivate the human imagination and motivate us to recognize that all are members of the one family of God, what differences would soon become apparent.  Sure, it is idealistic.  But what if that is God’s will for us?

What does heartfelt compassion mean?  To be compassionate is to suffer with.  Heartfelt compassion goes even deeper.  The suffering of the other is our own.  It that embrace we find Christ.

We have been blessed with beacons of compassionate response.  We call them saints.  Dorothy Day.  Thomas Merton.  Mahatma Gandhi.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  They tend to prick the human conscience and make us marvel all the while wondering how anyone could live so selflessly.  We shudder to think that their call is our own.  Put on heartfelt compassion.  That is not a suggestion.  That is a directive.  That is an easier word to accept than command.  There is only one way.  Christ.

I beg your indulgence and hope I do not test your patience as I close this reflection with a quote from another beacon of compassionate response who gave his life in testimony to this cause, Archbishop Oscar Romero, killed while he celebrated Eucharist.

Christ marveled, says the Gospel, and he said, “Truly I have not found such faith in Israel.”

I say:

Christ will also say of this church: outside the limits of Catholicism perhaps there is more faith, more holiness.

So we must not extinguish the Spirit.  The Spirit is not the monopoly of a movement, even of a Christian movement, of a hierarchy, or priesthood, or religious congregation.  

The Spirit is free, and he wants men and women, wherever they are, to realize their vocation to find Christ, who became flesh to save all human flesh.

Yes, to save all, dear brothers and sisters.  I know that some people come to the cathedral who have even lost the faith or are non-Christians.  Let them be welcome.

And if this message is saying something to them, I ask them to reflect in their inner consciousness, for, like Christ, I can tell them: The kingdom of God is not far from you, God’s kingdom is within your heart.  Seek it and you will find it.

Imagine what would happen if we really believed we were all family, God’s family, the world peopled with our brothers and sisters.  Imagine as tomorrow we being a New Year.

Sincerely yours in Christ,




Dear Reader,

God rest ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay!  Remember, Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day.  That carol played on my car radio a few minutes ago as I returned home after finishing some chores.  I had stopped at a traffic light and a disabled person in a powered wheelchair crossed the street in the walk in front of my car.  Let nothing you dismay, I thought.  And nothing will, if we remember and believe.

That is an interesting word, dismay.  According to my dictionary, the transitive form of the word means to cause to lose courage or resolution from alarm or fear.  The year we finish, as has been the case for the last several, has been filled with stories that could dismay even the stoutest heart.  How many mass killings have happened as evidence of the anger and frustration that divide us as a people?  White Supremacists and Neo Nazis marched and shouted racial slurs.  Seemingly endless wars rage in the East and thousands of refugees flee in search of shelter, food, water and safety.  Horrendous natural disasters have taken many lives and left survivors in dreadful conditions.  Countries in Africa brace for revolutions in the face of what amounts to genocide in some conflicts.

These by no means exhaust the list of those happenings that are daunting enough to cause dismay for even the strongest among us.  I didn’t mention the stories of domestic violence.  Yet, the carol urges us to rest in God and be merry.

A friend told me recently that she thought stories like those listed above should be banished from the evening news during the Christmas season.  They just kill the spirit.  Perhaps.  But pretending that everything is fine and ignoring the plight of many of our brothers and sisters will not bring us into the real spirit of Christmas either.  The true spirit of Christmas is a defiant one that refuses to allow even the darkest night to overcome those who believe.  We must not forget that it may have been a starry night that we celebrate, but that would have been all that was right about it.  Abject poverty forced the young couple to take up temporary residence in a cave not meant for human habitation.  The ox and ass that are part of crèches should serve to remind the onlooker that this is not really the most appropriate site for the birthing of a baby.

There is great symbolic meaning in the manger that is used for the baby’s first crib.  It remains a feed trough meant to hold the food to be consumed by the animals.  The wood of the manger reminds us of the wood from which the adult now in infant form will hang in crucifixion, the same one who will give himself over to be consumed body and blood by those who gather at his table.

The shepherds idealized by Rembrandt and other artists ought to encourage the lowliest among us if we remember that they were in fact considered to be on the bottom rung of society and their company to be avoided.  They were an unpleasant lot for the most part; typical of those with whom Jesus would practice table fellowship.  This man welcomes (tax collectors, prostitutes and) sinners and eats with them.

What is the point of this demythologizing?  The romantic pastel scenes might get in the way of the power of the message meant to be proclaimed this day and meant to give us reason to hope.  Everything in the Christmas Gospel narrative proclaims God’s infinite love for human kind, broken and sin-touched though we are.  God desires to embrace humanity and draw us into the community that is God.  God so loved the world that God sent the only begotten son.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  God is not distant, aloof nor remote.  It is not in earthly splendor that God comes, but as a vulnerable child, meek and humble.  In whatever difficult situations people might find themselves, Christmas reminds us that this is what God has taken upon himself in the union of the human and divine that is Jesus Christ.  That union is forever.  There will always be hope.

Christ’s coming into the world is a source of consolation for those who feel lost and abandoned.  The dying and rising of Jesus that we renew in every Christmas Liturgy reminds those who mourn and those nearing death that death has been conquered and life prevails.  The infant in the manger challenges us all to be sharers, to be willing to give of what we have so that all might have something of the essentials of life.  The word Socialism has been cast about with abandon as a criticism of some of the proposed socio-economic reforms sought in our country.  The Infant confronts people of Christian faith.  In accepting Christ’s birth we must accept the reality of community and communal responsibility that Christ brings.  Before the 5000 were fed, remember, Jesus challenged the apostles: You give them something to eat.  A loose translation would have Jesus saying, It is your responsibility.  The command is to love.

Live now.  Love now.  Remember and make the whole Mystery and wonder present.

It is traditional for us to wish each other Peace at Christmas.  Peace is the confident assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  In the midst of great suffering and turmoil there can still be peace if we remember that Christ has conquered all that threatens us.  Christ will never let us be defeated forever.  God loves us in the now as if each of us were the only being in the universe and will love us for all eternity in that forever now that is the face-to-face vision of God.  That is the way God loves Christ.  That is the way God loves us in Christ.  As you are loved, love the little ones that others might not notice – the poor, the insignificant, the disabled, the aged and all other classes of those vulnerable and easily marginalized.

When you do you will know God and him whom God has sent, Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate and whose coming again in Glory we eagerly await and know will happen.  It is in Christ that we live and move and have our being.  Our peace comes from knowing that on the last day we will rise with him.  All things warped by humankind’s inhumanity to their own kind will be restored and made right again.

I wish you peace.

Sincerely yours in Christ,



A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 6; 1-7
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Peter 2:4-9
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 14:1-12

Did you notice that this Sunday is called the Fifth Sunday of Easter?  That is, not the fifth Sunday after Easter.  It is important for us to remember what is supposed to be happening during these weeks.  We might miss the point since we have been in the Easter Season nearly as long as we were in Lent.  We live in the dawning reality and implications of the moment that changed everything forever.

Sad but true, we might see lent as more fitting than Easter to be a season.  During Lent we focus on the Cross and on fasting, praying and alms giving.  Holy Week comes and we make the Passion and Death journey.  We witness defeat.  We looked on and saw Jesus betrayed, rejected and broken.  Except for three, even the disciples fled in sadness and left Jesus to die on the Cross.  They had hoped Jesus would be the one to set Israel free.

We do not live in the past.  The mysteries of Jesus’ dying and rising are timeless.  Through the proclamation of the Liturgies of Holy Thursday and Good Friday we recognize their continuation in the events of our times and our entry into them.  There is not much in contemporary culture to encourage the recognition that there is one human family, each person created in the image and likeness of God, loved by God, destined to live in that love for all eternity.

Today’s gospel, if you will, is the proclamation of the primacy of self.  What are the goals today’s children are taught to set for them selves?  To be number one.  To be powerful.  To be wealthy.  There is little sense of social conscience, that we have a responsibility to seek justice for the poor and the down trodden.  Wars rage and millions flee seeking refuge.  Saber rattling increases with every newscast.  As I write this, one state in our Union in three days has executed three men.  There is violence in our streets with innocents being gunned down in drive-by shootings.  A man murdered his infant daughter on camera.

Many have walked away from the Church.  The message being proclaimed is not resonating with the masses.  If there were more evidence of the bishops, clergy and faithful living the social Gospel there just might be full churches on Sundays besides Easter.  It should be clear that the Catholic Church is present in those marches proclaiming that Black Lives Matter.

Faith in Christ has been found wanting because some of those who witnessed to it professionally have been found wanting.  There are scars physical and emotional that attest to a tyranny.  Pope Francis preaches a poor church serving the needs of the poor.  Some in the Church do not want to hear that message.  Who wants to smell like the sheep?  Serve in the midst of the sheep?  How many aspire to be feet washers of Muslims, and Jews, and convicted Mafia members?

Now remember what happened on this Easter Sunday.  All around the world churches filled to over flowing for Sunday Mass and other religious services.  Many parishes witnessed the Baptism of neophytes joining the ranks.  Perhaps Easter remains the day people gather, hoping against hope.  And the Good News must be proclaimed clearly so that those nearly broken ones, caught up in the wave of scandal and defeat can be renewed in Spirit and be reminded of who they are in Christ and the hope that is theirs in Him.

Pope Francis clearly proclaims a primacy of place for the poor.  The hierarchy is being challenged to live more simply.  Crowds seem to hang on his every word.  A Rabbi is among his closest friends.  He has meaningful conversations with a newspaper editor who is an atheist.  Many resonate with the Bishop of Rome’s message and some are returning to the Church.

Easter is a Feast of 50 days.  The message proclaimed is that Christ has triumphed over everything humankind fears.  Death no longer has power over us.  The little ones in Christ are the beloveds of God.  Throngs are strengthened and rejoice in the Word, just as they did in light of the first Easter.

Hear what is happening in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.  The Twelve are busy about proclaiming the Good News.  Many listen and respond and are baptized.  The numbers grow.  As they do some essential services don’t happen.  Some needy ones are being neglected.  So, some good and faithful ones become official servants of the poor, thereby allowing the Twelve to be faithful to their charisms as preachers and teachers.  That is how the Order of Deacons came about.  What we are witnessing is the realization of mutual responsibility for each other among the faithful.  The Priesthood of the Baptized emerges.

Forgive me if I keep referring to Pope Francis, but his witness inspires me.  He stands and serves among people shocked by what is happening in Ukraine, and Iraq, and Syria.  People struggle to reconcile church bells and alleluias with the A>IDS epidemic and starvation and malaria and sleeping sickness and human trafficking all ravaging Africa and others parts of our world.  How can the triumph being celebrated be reconciled with the horrors unless they are identified with the Cross?  Reason for hope is found in our sharing in Christ’s triumph over sin, suffering and death.  Imagine what can happen when the faithful accept again that they share in that triumph and therefore can inspire hope in those who falter.

We are supposed to understand that if we follow Christ in Resurrection, suffering ought not surprise us.  Yes, the battle is done.  Yes, the triumph is won.  But we must remember that Christ’s Victory remains a work in progress that will continue to the end of time.  “Behold I am with you always, until the end of time.”

Those people who entered the Font during the Easter Vigil emerged from the waters gleaming with oil and were dressed in white, signs of their identification with Christ.  Their sins are washed away.  They have new life in Christ.  What happens when they are confronted with the reality of sin that has survived in their lives, when they have to deal with the fact that their struggle must still go on?  They must press on for their participation in the Victory that lies before them.  And so must we who with them are the Body of Christ, the Church.

If we recognize Christ in his rising, we must be open to Christ’s help to see all reality in a new light.  Then sometimes what seems like victory to others will be recognized as defeat.  What seems like triumph will be seen as failure.  We struggle on to say no to sin, to the temptations subtle and otherwise to lord it over others, and to see ourselves as superior to others.  In Christ’s Victory we are called to be servants of the servants of God.

That is what Saint Peter reminds us of in today’s second reading.  Christ is the living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God.  So are we in Christ.  Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Those words resonate and should remind us of the call of the Second Vatican Council in which it was declared that the Church is the People of God.  The faithful are called to full, active, and conscious participation in the Liturgy.  We share in the Priesthood of the Baptized.  As Peter says: You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of (Christ’s) own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Do you believe that?  Can you live in that reality?  Do you feel the support of your local parish to live that priesthood?

In the Gospel we hear Jesus speaking to the disciples during the Last Supper of his impending death.  They cannot begin to comprehend what he means that even though he dies he will be with them forever.  He is returning to the Father who sent him, there to prepare a place for them.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  Our journey of faith leads to that eternal union.  There is one way to accomplish that goal.  We must know Christ and imitate him in word and action.  I am the way and the truth and the life…. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

Do you see why it takes a time to celebrate the reality of Easter and to drink in the implications?  Each time we gather to celebrate Eucharist it is to give thanks to God through the renewing of Christ’s dying and rising.  We see Christ broken and poured out for all.  We experience his Resurrection as we take and eat and take and drink.  Then we are sent to do what Jesus continues to do through his living stones.  As the faithful we go out to love others as we are loved.  That includes our enemies, by the way, again as Jesus taught.  It is all about love.  But this is not a love that prompts us to take anything to our selves.  This is love that empowers us to empty ourselves in service.  We go out to wash feet the way Jesus did.  In the midst of all that seems to spell the defeat of Christianity, we live in the triumph of the Cross as we emerge the new creation begotten in Baptism.  Just as the numbers of faithful grew so rapidly in that first Easter Light, I will wager that if the faithful heed Pope Francis’s invitation and become recommitted to imitation of Christ, the numbers will flourish again.

It may take a while.  But I believe it will happen.  Do you?