Thursday, December 29, 2011


December 30, 2011

Quote for The Day

"Life is merely a fraction of a second.
An infinitely small amount of time to fulfill
our desires, our dreams, our passions."

Paul Gauguin [1848-1903]

Painting on top: "The Yellow Christ", "Le Christ jaune", 1889 - by Paul Gauguin, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.

December  29, 2011

Quote for Today

"Les vrais paradis sont les paradis qu'on a perdus."

"The true paradises are paradises we have lost."

Marcel Proust [1871-1922], Le temps retouve (Time Regained, 1926, translated 1931 by S. Hudson, chapter 3, p. 215.

Painting on top, "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" 1897, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, by Paul Gauguin [1848-1903]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011



The title of my homily for this feast of the Holy Innocents - December 28 - is, “Awareness of the Power of Bad Example.”


Let me begin with by mentioning a very interesting thing that happened on a high school retreat with some of our kids.

There we were having a group discussion on the issue of teen age drinking and drugs. Sitting there listening, it triggered the memory of a meeting for parents that I attended a few years back about teenage issues. A specialist on teenage issues was the main speaker. She worked in Anne Arundel County. St. Mary’s was on average with other high schools in the country regarding teenage drinking. I was hoping we would be lower; I was glad we were not higher. The presenter had done an anonymous survey amongst our kids - and was telling parents what she saw was going on with our kids. I was also thinking about things kids have said in other discussions on this very issue.

That’s how it began - but the interesting thing that hit me didn't happen yet.

The young people first started talking about themselves. They talked about peer pressure - driving after drinking - looking for parties with booze, everybody does it, etc.

Then surprise, they started talking about how some of their parents drink too much - and also offer their kids alcohol at times. I had heard that before as well.

Now the interesting moment …. For the first time, I heard the following: these high school kids talked about how they were giving bad example with their drinking to the younger kids in our school - as well as to their brothers and sisters.


I wanted to yell, “Freeze the moment!” I wanted to yell, “Great insight! Some of you are saying that you are moving from being self-centered to being other-centered.”

I didn’t because I thought the conversation was progressing very well. It was moving into possible further awareness’s they were not seeing till that moment.

I kept listening and noticed that the conversation - was opening up some mouths that were quiet till then. I sat there hoping and praying that more minds would open to deeper and further challenges.

It would be great if those moments in that discussion could be frozen and then thawed out as life moved on for them.

I am personally scared for these kids as they move on to college - where for some kids binge nights are every night.

Each of us needs to pause and examine what is the good example I’m giving - and what are the bad examples I’m giving - especially towards children.

I also hoped that they would move their words from babble to not picking up the bottle.

Example speaks louder than words.


For starters Jesus was off on this topic - not to give bad example - especially towards children.

He said it would be better to have a mill stone tied around your neck and you’re thrown into the sea - than to have given bad example to kids. That’s a strong statement. [Cf. Mark  9:42; Matthew 18:6; Luke 17:2]

Then paradoxically - but really not - Jesus struggled to get people to go within - to walk around listening to their inner thoughts - checking out their actual attitudes - that this was more important than outward example.

He said this because the Pharisees could give good example, but in reality, it was their inside, their motives, that Jesus went after. Yes they gave good example. However, they used their example to try to manipulate people to think these Pharisees were super people.


Someone said, “A good example is worth a thousand sermons.”

If that is true, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the impact of bad example?

If Chinese kids speak Chinese - because that is the language they hear at home - then it’s obvious they speak the language, the tones, the attitudes, the meanings of their parents.

If the message of Christmas is that the word became flesh, then we need to realize that our words become flesh in others, especially children. Children are our words become flesh. We have the accent and the attitudes, the behavior and the being of our parents.

Today’s gospel talks about the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. In how many homes are the words of Jeremiah that we hear in today’s gospel being fulfilled because of the bad example of others - especially because of alcohol - and people are killed because of drunken drivers or alcohol poisoning?  [Cf. Matthew 2: 13 - 18; Jeremiah 31: 15]

                     A voice was heard in Ramah,
                     sobbing and loud lamentation;
                     Rachel weeping for her children,
                     and she would not be consoled,
                     since they were no more.

If the message of today’s first reading is to be aware of sin - as well as our words and impact on others - then we need to grow in awareness of the power of our example. [Cf. 1 John 1:5-2:2]


Today the feast of the Holy Innocents, my message is to be aware of our impact on children. We can kill kids by the impact of our bad example on the innocent.

December  28,  2011

Quote for Today

"Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind."

W.  Somerset Maugham [1874-1965], Of Human Bondage (1915), Chapter39

Tuesday, December 27, 2011



The title of my homily is, “2 Feelings: Complete and Incomplete.”

We know what it is to feel complete and we know what it feels to be incomplete.

We know the difference. We know when something or someone is missing. We know when we finished something - and we feel it went well - for example, experiencing Christmas as a family, putting together a great family meal - vacation - or what have you.


Last night I was watching Monday night football. I wanted to get to bed but I also wanted to see if Drew Brees would break Dan Marino’s single season yards passing record of 5084 from 1984.

The problem was I was alone. Father Joe Krastel would have been there - but he’s up at his brother’s. Then  a priest who was visiting us for 2 days dropped in our common room - where I was watching TV. Well, the game got slow. He wanted to see the record broken - but it wasn’t happening, so he went to bed. He  said he was quite tired. Well, right near the end of the game Drew Brees pulled it off and broke the record with a touchdown pass.

It was neat - but I didn’t feel complete - because I was by myself - and it’s great to see these things with others.

It triggered a memory of the same thing happening years ago. It was the first game of the 1988 World Series. The Dodgers were losing 4-3 in the 9th inning against the Oakland Athletics. Dennis Eckersley their closer was on the mound. Kirk Gibson came out of the locker room for the Dodgers and Tommy Lasorda put him in the pinch hit. Gibson said that he was available. One Dodger was on base. Both of Gibson’s legs were injured from the previous games to get to the World Series. He also had a stomach virus. This was to be his only appearance in the World Series. The count was 0 and 2 - then Gibson worked the count to 3 and 2. As in the movie, The Natural, Kirk Gibson’s hits a famous home run. It was great, but I felt incomplete, because I was by myself. The Dodgers went on to win the 1988 World Series 4 games to 1.

I am sure you have had the same experience - the names, the place, the situation would be different - but you know the feeling. It’s the same.

To be human is to want to go through life with others - especially to share the biggest and best moments - with another or others.

This is what makes death and divorce and separations so tough.

This is why Genesis has the words, “It is not good to be alone.”


What’s even deeper and more painful is when another or others are there but they yawn or they look at their watch - or they don’t understand what we’re so excited about - or they don’t care about sports or religion or what have you.


Get that, get this idea about not being connected, or being alone or being out of sync with another or others, you then grasp one of the key themes of John the Evangelist?

He knew about communion. He knew about Christ. He knew what makes for joy: it’s communion.

He grasped the loneliness of Jesus who came amongst us - and people didn’t get him or his words - and walked away. Then John adds, but to those who do receive the Word, they get the fullness - the completeness.

In today’s first reading from 1st John he tells his motive for writing. I write that you too will get what we got: Jesus. And we tell you, so that your joy may be complete. [Cf. 1 John 1: 1-4.]

That’s why in today’s gospel we hear that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb - she was empty without Jesus. That’s why in today’s gospel Peter and John ran to the tomb. That’s why John says of John, “He saw and believed.” Faith is connection. Faith brings completeness. [Cf. John 20: 1a, 2-8.]


Completeness ….

The hunger for completeness ….

That’s what makes the world go round.

That’s why the world is round - so that we roll towards each other.

That’s why the apple and the orange are round…. Want a piece?

That’s why the communion is round …. Take and eat.

December  27, 2011

Quote for Today

"Suppose all the joys, the cares, and the opportunities afforded you in life could be gathered into a bag which you could carry on your shoulders.  And suppose each person in the world brought his burden to one common heap, there to be given the privilege of depositing his bag and selecting any other bag of his or her choice.   Do you know what would happen?  Invariably, each one would be content once again to pick up the bag he had deposited on the heap and go his or her way."

Based on Plutarch, Consolation to Apollonius.  I've heard variations of this metaphor using the image of the cross rather than the bag.

Task: Take a blank piece of paper and make three columns. Put on the top of column 1, "Joys", on the top of column 2, "Cares" and on  the top of column 3, "Opportunities". Then start to list your's under those 3 columns. Use 2, 3, 4, 10 pieces of paper, whatever it takes - or do this on a computer screen.  If you do this with another, you can compare - and start a good conversation. Another trick would have another write your's and you write their's. Then compare.  Very interesting.

Monday, December 26, 2011


December  26,  2011

Quote for Today

"The cut worm forgives the plow."

William Blake [1757-1827]

Sunday, December 25, 2011


[The title for my Christmas Story  for 2011 is, “2 Wise Women, 1 Wise Man.” Every Christmas I write a Christmas story in memory of Father John Duffy who died Christmas Eve 1993 - and who wrote a Christmas story for his niece every Christmas.  I typed out a few of them for him.  Hearing about his death that Christmas Eve while sitting down to write a sermon - I decided on writing a Christmas story - in his memory - instead - and I’ve been doing that every Christmas since. This year’s story # 19 - is entitled, “2 Wise Women, 1 Wise Man.”]

You never know what’s going on behind closed doors - as you drive down any street - any road - any avenue - in any city, town or village - across our world - any day - let alone Christmas Day. You never know what a group at any table at any restaurant around our world are toasting,  if you’re sitting there at another table and they lift their glasses. “You can only imagine” as the song goes. “You can only imagine.”

Once upon a time, there was this couple named Maria and Jose - and they lived in San Antonio, Texas - both born in the good old USA.

Jose’ dad was a shepherd - who had drifted over the border from Mexico a long time ago - finding work as a shepherd on the Edwards Plateau in Texas. I believe this was in the 1920’s. Then when things got tough - he moved to San Antonio and took any job he could get. He married Serena - and they raised 6 kids - the youngest being Jose - who at 25 married a woman named Maria.

Jose and Maria were not blessed with children. They tried and tried - hoped and hoped - but they had no luck in bringing children into this world. This was painful because their many brothers and sisters had many kids - and they knew that the gift of a child - was the gift of a lifetime. Wasn’t that at the heart of the Christmas story? God knows us very well. He came in the birth of a child. So Christmas, especially Christmas, was one tough moment for Jose and Maria.

At the age of 30, they decided on adopting kids. This all takes place back in the early 1950’s. Adoption wasn’t as difficult and as expensive as it is now. They adopted two girls and a boy - each very different from each other. Chad, the boy - was from French Equatorial Africa - now called Congo. Susan, a Navajo girl, was from New Mexico. And Toki, the other girl, was from Japan. As I said, these 3 kids came from very different backgrounds. We’ll leave the story on how they found these 3 kids to another story.

Schools in San Antonio were okay. Actually, with these 3, it didn’t make much difference because these 3 kids were sponges for knowledge. Their parents, Maria and Jose, had the wisdom to let them learn - challenging them with their homework as well as bringing them to the library every Saturday - helping them lug at least 10 books home each week.

These 3 kids grew in wisdom, age and grace, as the Bible puts it.

And you might not believe this, but one went to Princeton, one to Georgetown, one to Notre Dame. None went for sports. All went for knowledge and for the future.

One went to work for the World Bank in Europe. One went to work in the Foreign Service of our country - serving in Korea, Taiwan and Cambodia. The third, Susan, the Navajo from New Mexico, after graduating from Princeton with honors - went and became a nun. This brought great joy to her parents - who were devout Catholics all their lives. She ended up teaching and then doing social work with Native Americans in Washington State, Arizona, New Mexico and then doing advocacy work for Native Americans in Washington D.C.

Time went on. Toki and Chad had wonderful marriages - marrying someone they met in their field. Both had families of 5 kids each - all of whom flourished. Family pictures that came in the mail every Christmas went on refrigerator doors of relatives and friends and stayed for quite a while. Obviously they stayed on mom and dad’s refrigerator door all year long. These grand kids had great facial features - great mixes of DNA. Whatever it takes to form beautiful textures in our looks - these 5 kids from Toki and her husband, these 5 kids from Chad and his wife got them.

Some not so good news…. Living at great distances - scattered all around the world - holding important jobs - being very busy - they were not able - unlike so many families - to get together as a family for Christmas and Thanksgiving with mom and dad - Jose and Maria.

Yet, Maria and Jose would see their 3 kids and Toki and Chad’s kids - but never all together. That was a sword that cut into their hearts at times. Hearing about the work their 3 kids were doing - and what their grand kids were up to - in various places around the world - made up for that at times. However, Christmas could be tough - because they knew what Christmas could be like when all the family were together as they experienced it when their mom and dad were alive.

Their 3 kids of course did get back - in time - for their parents funerals: dad in 1973 and mom in 1979. Toki - was almost late for her mom’s funeral. She had to take 3 different planes to get back home to San Antonio from Cambodia.

Toki and Chad retired in the early 1990’s. Both settled back home in the States. Susan, Sister Susan, was still working in Washington D.C. She jokingly said she had become a Redskins fan - especially in their better years. Toki and Chad’s kids were off and running - college - marriage - interesting jobs - and like their parents, they too were making starting to make a difference in different parts of our world.

Now here is where the story gets wonderful - and why I loved this story as I heard it the first place.

In the year 2000 Toki and Chad - remember both were retired - were talking to each other on the phone - one from New York and the other from St. Paul, Minnesota. They were talking about their mom and dad. “You know, we’ve been busy all our lives - working, working, working - as parents and public servants. You know, we never really sat down and talked to each other as adults about our roots.”

Then one of them said - looking back, they are not sure which one actually said this, “Why don’t we get together and do just that. Let’s call Susan to see if she thinks the same.”

So they called Susan and all 3 decided to meet in San Antonio for their first Christmas together in at least 40 years. They picked Christmas, because Christmas is a get-together day for all of us - especially family. They picked Christmas because down deep they knew this is where it all begins for those of us who are Christians and Catholics. The crib is where we come from as Christians. It begins with a baby.

Then came the question: just us or with our kids as well?

With Toki and Chad’s kids scattered all over the place - with cost and logistics, they decided they wanted to do this upcoming Christmas with just us. So it would be Sister Susan by herself, Toki with her husband from Minnesota and Chad with his wife from New York. It sounded a bit selfish at first, so they told their kids that we’ll get together for Thanksgiving as usual. They added, “We need to get together in San Antonio to do something that was long overdue.”

Toki checked the Internet and found a good hotel in San Antonio and booked it for 3 rooms for Christmas 2000 - 3 days and 3 nights.

“What are we going to do? What are we going to talk about for 3 days?” These were the questions that intrigued them a bit for the next few months before Christmas.

When they got to San Antonio and began their talking, they laughed, because it was no problem. They talked and talked and talked. They went looking for their old homes - two of them. One was still standing. They rang that bell and told the family who lived there, that they lived there way bay. They were welcomed in and stories began flowing. They went to their old church. It was still standing - still going full steam ahead. They also went searching for their old schools. Both grammar and high school were long gone. They rented a big car and took a  four and a half hour drive one day to the Edwards Plateau - where their grandfather who came from Mexico to work as a shepherd in the 1920’s first worked.

All through this, Toki and Chad’s spouses were very quiet - but were enjoying hearing all the stories.

On the way back from Edwards Plateau the light went on for what these 3 people on this planet were going to do for Christmas for the next bunch of years.

Someone said, Hello! We’re adopted.”


Sometimes the obvious brings the most silence.

“What about where we come from?”

Of course they had thought about this many times - but never had time to really check it out. So the plan was to check out their stories and then travel to their roots.

They were going to spend Christmas in Japan where Toki came from. They were going to spend Christmas at a reservation in New Mexico where Sister Susan came from. They were going to spend Christmas in the Congo where Chad came from. They were going to spend time in Mexico where their grandfather came from and Oklahoma City where their grandmother had come from. They were going to spend time in Corpus Christi, Texas where their mom, Maria had originally come from - and on and on and on.

And this they did. They had been too busy all these years to follow their own star - only guiding others to find their stars and their destinations. They finally got the wisdom to sit at the roots of their other trees. Each Christmas from 2000 on till today - they found wonderful Christmas gifts under their different family trees - ready to be unwrapped and shared with each other.

You should see the face book pictures and entries and the e-mail stories they sent their children and grand kids and friends from all these fascinating places - they visited - the places where they came from.

Almost finished this story ….

One small ritual - one small ritual every Christmas night - from these three - Chad, Toki and Susan - whether it was in Japan or Mexico, the Congo or New Mexico - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma or Corpus Christi, Texas, they raised their glasses at every meal - at least twice and toasted, “To mom and dad, Jose and Maria, thank you for the gift of life - thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for the gift of family. Amen!”

Painting on top: The Journey of the Magi, c. 1435, by Stefano di Giovanni [Sassetta], Sienese.

This story is total imagination - translation - nothing is true - except the reality of places like Edwards Plateau in Texas - 238 miles from San Antonio.

December  25, 2011

Quote for Christmas Day


Tu scendi dalle stelle
 O Re del Cielo
E vieni in una grotta
Al freddo al gelo
E vieni in una grotta
Al freddo al gelo.

O Bambino mio Divino
Io ti vedo qui a tremar,
O Dio Beato!
Ah, quanto ti costò
L’avermi amato.
Ah, quanto ti costò
L’avermi amato.

A te che sei del mondo,
Il creatore,
Mancano panni e fuoco,
O mio Signore.
Mancano panni e fuoco,
O mio Signore.

Caro eletto pargoletto,
Quanto questa povertà
Più mi innamora,
Giacchè ti fece amor
Povero ancora.
Giacchè ti fece amor
Povero ancora.

Video on top: Luciano Pavorotti singing "Tu Scende Dalle Stelle" - a famous Italian Christmas song which was written by the founder of the Redemptorists, St. Alphonsus de Liguori.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Quote for Today December 24, 2011

"God  knows  no distance."

Charleszetta Waddles

Painting on top: Holy Night by Carlo Maratta, 1625-1717

Friday, December 23, 2011


December  23,  2011

Quote for Today

"If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one,  check your pulse.  You may be dead."

Gelett Burgess

Thursday, December 22, 2011


December 22, 2011

Quote for Today

"If  you  wait  for  inspiration  you'll  be  standing  on  the  corner  after  the  parade  is  a  mile  down  the  street."

Ben  Nicholas

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Quote for Today -  December 21, 2011


On the first day, God created the dog and said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this I will give you a life span of twenty years."

The dog said, "That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?"

And God said that it was good.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said, "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span."

The monkey said, "Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?"

And God again said that it was good.

On the third day, God created the cow and said, "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years."

The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?"

And God agreed it was good.

On the fourth day, God created humans and said, "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years."

But the human said, "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God, "You asked for it."

So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable information. I'm doing it as a public service. If you are looking for me I will be on the front porch.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011



The title of my homily for this December 20th is, “Amazing Grace!”

That word “grace” in today’s gospel - Luke 1:26-30 - when the Angel Gabriel says to Mary, “Hail, full of grace” - triggers all kinds of stuff for me. It’s a great reminder that God is always “hailing” me - that life is full of grace. Everyday is filled with gifts. However, I need reminders over and over again - every day in fact.

For starters, what a great morning prayer, to wake up every morning - to sit on the edge of one’s bed - to pause - half awake or half asleep still - to listen - to hear the message from the angels of the morning saying to us, “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you.”

That should / would / could scare us and then we can hear the angels follow up by saying what the Angel Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid.”

What a great attitude to have for each day - not to be afraid - because the Lord is with us - and we are filled with grace.


In Greek the words for “Hail, full of grace” are “Kaire kekaritomene”.

Obviously, the English is just a translation. This greeting in Luke becomes part of the Hail Mary - as in, “Hail Mary, full of grace.”

Kaire” means “Hello”. It’s a greeting - a joyful greeting. It’s a connecting. We’re hailing down Mary - and we still use that word “hail” as in “hailing a cab”. It’s a cheerful “hello”. It’s a call to celebrate, rejoice! It’s a “Surprise! I’m here!”

Then it’s followed in Greek by a big long word, “kekaritomene”. Hear the sound in that word of the Greek word “charis” - gift - as in being gifted - receiving charisma.

The angel is saying to Mary that you are God’s favorite. You are favored and loved by God. You’re God’s delight.

To translate these words “charis” and kekaritomene” - is quite a trick - especially because the theology of Grace has a long and heavy and varied history - in theology and in understandings.

A man named Ilion T. Jones said, “The word ‘Grace” is unquestionably the most significant word in the Bible.”

Questionably that’s quite a statement. As I looked up the word “Grace” in two theology dictionaries last night, I caught what he was saying. Grace was presented in long articles - many pages long. [1]

I also quickly went through Section IV of M. Scott Peck's classic book, The Road Less Traveled, pp. 233-312. It's entitled, "Grace!" and well worth going through again and again. [2]


For this morning I would simply like to convey that grace is amazing.

Grace overwhelmed John Newton - who wrote the famous hymn, “Amazing Grace”. I’m sure you heard the story about how he was a slave ship captain - who had a tough life - whom God delivered, who saved a wretch like him. In a great storm at sea he thought he was going to die. He didn’t. He converted to Christ. He eventually became a Calvinistic Methodist minister - who was against slavery.

The more we reflect upon our life - that we are alive - that we are in our skin - that we exist - that we are not slaves - we’re free - should have a tremendous impact on us.

For starters we have to reflect upon all that had to happen for us to be here this morning. We are a link in a chain - a long chain - of happenings - our parents meeting each other - getting married - the same with their parents - and their parents - all the way back to the beginning. Amazing. Amazing graces.

Being single - not having children - stares me in the face - on and off through my life. I stopped a line. I broke a chain. Amazing - as well as an “Uh oh!”

I’m also amazed that I have been blessed with a hundred million miracles to be me.

Today’s first reading from Isaiah 7:10-14 talks about asking for a sign - there are dozens of them every day - and thousands in a lifetime.

I have been gifted with faith and hope and love by God and so many.

When I hear the word “grace” I think of the phrase, “But for the grace of God.”

I’m here in church this morning by my own choice. I came with my own legs. I dipped my own hand in the holy water font. I said with my own mind, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

I realize that. Yet, I hesitate. How much of all that is the result of forces and people other than myself. I wonder how much of me is me? I’m amazed when I read some book that I read twenty years ago and I laugh and say to myself, “That’s where I heard that.” When I see a mom or dad walking into church with their kids, I say, “Thank you mom and dad for walking me into church.”

So when I think of others, I say, “Who am I to judge my neighbor - who’s here - who’s not here?” Yet I do it - and we all do it - everyday. Well, not everyday - but some days. Father forgive me for I don’t know what I do at times. But for the grace of God here I am.

I think of e.e. Cummings words, “be of love a little more careful than anything”. I then say, “be of grace, be of faith, be of judging, be of thinking a little more careful than anything.”

Amazing grace….


Picture on top: from inside Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Spain, this past September.

(1) Quentin Quesnell, “Grace,” in The New Dictionary of Theology, editors Joseph A. Komonchak, Mary Collins, Dermot A. Lane, A Michael Glazier Book, Collegeville, Minnesota, pp. 437-450; Robert Haight, S.J., “Grace,” in The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, editor, Michael Downey, A Michael Glazier Book, Collegeville, Minnesota, pp. 452 - 464.

[2] M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, A Touchstone Book, Published by Simon and Schuster, New York, 1978


December 20,  2011

Quote for Today

"Our latest moment is always our supreme moment.  Five minutes delay in dinner now is more important than a great sorrow ten years gone."

Samuel Butler  [1612-1680]

Questions: List 5 great sorrows of your life. Have they given you perspective? Have you ever stopped in a mess and said something like this, "Compared to my mom's death, this is small potatoes?"

Monday, December 19, 2011



The title of my homily for December 19th, is, “Ouch!”

One of the words that I heard my god-child and niece Patty use is, “Ouch!”

When someone says something stupid or offensive or without thinking and it’s something that hurts or is the wrong thing to say, she says, “Ouch!”

I’m glad she does that, because now I find myself saying that to myself a few times - and if the dumb thing has already been flying out of my mouth and into and around the room, I say, “Sorry! That was the wrong thing to say. I apologize.”

But better, I have found myself saying, “Ouch” a bunch of times before I said something stupid. Then I say in-loud, “Thank you Patty. Thank you!”


One of the instances where people do say the wrong thing is about people having or not having children - too many, too few or none. I’ve heard “Ouch” moments around that question from time to time.

We don’t know other people. We don’t know their story. We don’t know their situations. We haven't walked in their moccasins for a mile - or their sins - if that's what we think is going on for that matter.

In today’s readings we have two stories about women who wanted to have children - whom neighbors and perhaps even themselves - described that woman as “barren”. There are enough stories in the scriptures about this question - that we know in the Biblical world if you didn’t bring a child into the world, you were looked down upon - and people even looked down on themselves. [Cf. Judges 13: 2-7, 24-25a; Luke 1: 5-25]

Today’s gospel ends with Elizabeth going into seclusion - before giving birth to her child - in her old age - and she’s thinking and praising God saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”

So she felt it was a disgrace not to have had a child.


Or take Mary and Joseph - they weren’t married yet - and Mary was with child. Read these early chapters of Luke and you pick up this issue of comments about others in small town Israel.

Once more, we don’t know another’s story.

The same thing happens today.

Or take people who make “ouch” statements about those who never got married or people who were divorced or what have you - as well as those who are gay or lesbian.

I remember many a Saturday evening Open Forum session on weekend retreats when some guy ranted and raved about gay people - only to have some father speak up and say, “You have no idea what you’re talking about - till you have a son who is gay - and all the pain and struggle that brings about - till one makes peace with one’s son or daughter or family.”




So this is a short sermon or reflection on the simple but powerful word, “Ouch!"

Before you shoot your shotgun on any issue: from abortion to zebra stealing - pause - take your finger off the trigger.

Before you shoot off your mouth off about other’s motives - pause. This would be include comments about clothes, length and look - or what have you. Haven't we all heard comments like, “Did you see her - what she’s wearing at her age - or her weight?”


Haven’t we all heard comments like, “Did you see who was talking to whom?” Or, “Did you see who was having lunch with whom? What’s up with them?” “Did you see who went to communion?” Or, “She never goes to communion. I wonder why?”


Pause! Sometimes guns backfire.

Pause! Otherwise you might cause yourself shame - or hurt - or both - as well as for the other - and when we hurt or are hurt we all feel, “Ouch!”

December  19,  2011

Quote for Today

"The five most important questions a kindergarten child asks are:

             1) Why?
             2) Why?
             3) Why?
             4) Why?
             5) Why?"


Sunday, December 18, 2011



The title of my homily for this 4th Sunday of Advent, B, is, “Surprise! God Is A God of Surprises!”

Life would be very boring - if there were no surprises.

Life would be very boring - if we wrote the script - and that’s the way our life went.

Life would be very boring - if we could see around the corner, if we could see tomorrow and next year - and the rest of our lives.

Life could also be very nerve wracking, dangerous, depressive, if we knew how our marriages, jobs, our family, our future were going to happen.


God is a God of surprises.

Life is the surprises.

That’s why we put wrapping on the gift!

Question: How well do we do with surprises?

Question: How well do we do - when things don’t go our way?

Same question but phrased slightly different: What do I do when I want what I want and I don’t get what I want or get?


If we were God, how would we create the world, the universe, life, death, change, that is, if we could create things any way we wanted things to be?

After all - we are made in the image and likeness of God and we are called to magnify the Lord.

Could we come up with a better plan than the present plan?

Would we make anything different from the way things are happening now?

How would we plan today? Would we plan it differently than what’s going to happen today? Who’s going to win today’s games? What happens if someone else was also God and they planned the other team to beat our team?

I remember thinking something like that while we just about to begin a high school basketball game. We were standing in a circle praying. I looked up from the prayerful head bowed down look and noticed the other team was also praying - and I thought, “God how does this work?”

If we were God, would there be life on other planets - besides earth? Maybe there is, but as of now, we don’t know if there is.

Would people get cancer, heart problems? Would there be deaths at 15 or 5 or 35 or 95?

Does God zap people? Does God know what our choices are going to be? Do our choices get God to change His plans? How does all this work?

If we were the Creator, would we have come up dinosaurs and Dalmatians? How come the dinosaurs disappeared and the Dalmatians still run through our fields? How about hippos and horses, mosquitoes and monkeys? Why did God create what God created?

Does God laugh at anything he created?

Was God in on how Danny De Vito, Lady Gaga and George Clooney look?

Does God laugh only at us humans?

We’ve all have heard the words: “Want to make God laugh, tell God your plans?”

We’ve all heard John Lennon’s words, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

We’ve all heard the Portuguese proverb: “God writes straight with crooked lines.”

We’ve all heard Garth Brooks song, “Unanswered prayers” - how he goes  to a hometown football game with his wife and how he meets his old flame - and he reflects on how he prayed to God every night that this high school sweetheart would be the one he’d spend his life with - and as he turns to his wife he sings, “Thank God for unanswered prayers.”

People think and have thought about this stuff “all through the years.”

If we were God, would we have picked Israel for the country to come up with One God? Would we have picked Mary? If we were God, say God the Father, would we have sent our Son at the time in history Jesus was sent? Some guy named, William Norman Ewer (1885-1976) wrote “How odd of God to choose the Jews.”

Was it odd that God chose the Jews?

Whom would we choose, if we were to choose some group to start the plan called “Salvation History”? The Navahos, the Eskimos, the people on the island of Crete?

Whom would we choose to be the Mother of his Son - if that’s the way we were going to do this?


Do those who trust in God have more inner peace than those who want life to work differently than it’s working now?

What does it take for someone to be at peace with God - with oneself - with others?

What are the implications of our having freedom and free will?


In today’s first reading references are made to David being chosen to lead Israel by God and God had expectations of David. It’s payback time. It’s calling in favors time. God is expecting David to build a temple. David is living in a nice big house made of cedar and the ark of the covenant is living in a tent. God is saying, “What’s wrong with this picture? Hello!” [Cf. 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16]

As we know from the First Book of Samuel, Chapter 16, God tells Samuel to go to Jesse - who has lots of sons - to find the one whom God has chosen. Samuel sees 7 sons of Jesse - thinking surely the one the Lord wants is here. Nope. So he asks Jesse, “Do you have any other son?” I wonder if the 7 heard that question. Did one of them say, “Hey Jesse, are we chopped liver?” Jesse says to Samuel, “There is still one more, the youngest, he is out taking care of the sheep.” Samuel says, “Send for him. We won’t eat till he comes. The boy appears and God says, to Samuel, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.”

Surprise! You never know whom God calls.

In today’s gospel God chooses Mary - a young maiden girl living in a small village far from the big cities. Surprise God chooses Mary. And like Eve - like us - she has the power of choice. She asks questions - then she makes the choice to choose to give us the fruit of the tree - the tree of life - the cross - Jesus. [Cf. Luke 1:26-38]

And we are given the choice every day to choose Christ: “Take and eat!”

In today’s second reading from Romans 16 Paul tells us about surprise. He calls it mystery. He calls it “secret”. Then Paul talks about listening - the call to listen - to listen for revealings, manifestations - from God. That’s the basic meaning of the word “obedience”. It’s to listen. It’s to hear the Word of the Lord in scripture. It’s to embrace Jesus - the word made flesh - who dwelt amongst us. [Cf. Romans 16: 25-27]

Mary - whenever an artist paints today’s gospel - pictures Mary listening - listening for annunciations.

Prayer is annunciation - but too often - our mouth is mouthing prayers - and we don’t hear.

Jesus calls that babbling - babbling prayer - be careful of that. [Cf. Matthew 6: 7]

As they say, we have two ears and one mouth - but that is applied more to everyday conversations. Jesus - watching people praying in his time - warned us and the Pharisees about babbling prayer.


Christmas is a time for deep prayer.

Christmas is a time for deep pondering prayer.

Did you notice that verb - ponder - in today's gospel?

Christmas is a time for great listening prayer.

When the Christmas Stable is set up, watch the stable. Listen to the Christmas story. The shepherds are out there in the fields - caring for the sheep - and like David they are called to come to the meet the Lord - in a stable. Look at the animals, they are listening. Watch the Magi - they are searching and come in from the cold into the stable.

Listen to the songs, “Silent night, holy night!” “O come all you faithful….”

Christmas is a time to change your tent into a temple for the Lord.

In the meanwhile, laugh, because Christ comes to this world in a stable, which is filled with you know what - as a baby and welcomes us.


God is a God of Surprises.

Surprise! God came as a baby.

Who of us would have thunked up that one? Amen.


Painting: 1898 Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Turner [1959-1947]