Saturday, December 3, 2011


Quote for Today  - December 3.  2011

"There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but boys, it is all hell."

General  William Tecumseh Sherman [1820-1891]

Photo on top by Matthew Brady c. 1864

Friday, December 2, 2011



The title of my homily for the First Friday in Advent is, “An Eye Opener!”


I have a grandnephew, Patrick, who is doing a job I always thought I’d love to have: making TV commercials.

After graduating from Maryland that was his dream - and he landed a job in New York City in an advertising firm - but he didn’t get into the creative side of making TV commercials. It was the business side. And so he switched to a second firm. Once more: business - when he thought he’d get into the actual being a part of a team that puts together a great ad that people would be talking about the next morning at a coffee break. He’s now in his third firm in three years. He’s getting closer and closer to his dream.

I have to ask him: “Patrick! What opened your eye to the dream of wanting to do TV commercials?”

I assume that it was great TV commercials and he said, “I would like to do that.” Then he said, “I could do that.” Then the inner comment, “I will do that!”


I say that because I once heard a Tom Barrett, a priest friend of mine, say - how he got the dream of becoming a priest.

As a little kid he was sitting in church with his mom - attending the Our Lady of Perpetual Help novena every Wednesday at their local church.

He watched and listened to the priest giving the novena, preaching, saying the prayers, blessing everyone with the picture of Mary.

One day he said, “I would like to do that.” Then he said, “I could do that!” Then he said, “I will do that.” And then he did that.


The stories and the sayings and the moments in the Bible can be eye opening experiences for people.

A TV commercial often gives you a before and an after. It gives an opening scene or sight to catch your eye. Two people are playing Scrabble. One is a caveman. A gecko is crossing the road. A plane is sky writing. Someone is being hit with a water balloon.

You’re caught. Then comes the pitch about the product: insurance, beer, a new car.

The hope is that you’ll remember that product, that insurance company, that car, that beer when you’re shopping for beer or car or insurance.

Today’s first reading from Isaiah Is 29:17-24 gives scenes of good and bad, positive and negative, prosperity and desolation,  good times and bad times.

Then it gives hope: the deaf hear, the blind see, forests bloom and become orchards, tyrants and the arrogant are blown away, the empty is filled.

Buy God and your desert will bloom, your eyes will see, your ears will hear, your children will laugh, the lowly will rise, the dark gloom will fade and you'll experience morning. You'll see the light.

Today’s gospel - Matthew 9:27-31- talks about two blind men - the gospel often talks about blind people - and they cry out to Jesus and they see.

It would make a great TV commercial.

You could see  a blind person suddenly seeing a field full of flowers and then a rush of the birds making circling sweeps in the air.

Then it could jump to someone who was "blind" for years finally seeing what their parents were trying to tell them. You could see kids finally seeing what their parents were trying to tell them. You could see husbands and wives  finally beginning to see what the other has been saying and seeing for years.


How many of us received that e-Mail film that was about 2 minutes or so. A blind beggar is sitting at the bottom of some steps in a plaza. He has a piece of cardboard and a can to collect coins from people walking by. A lady walks by - she stops - comes back - looks at his sign - picks it up. It says, “I’m blind. Please help!” He touches her shoes while she takes out a pen and changes or adds to the sign or writes on the back of the tan cardboard. After that people reading the newly revised sign start putting lots of money on the cardboard in front of him. Then that woman walks by later on. She stops and he touches her shoes and asks, “What did you do?” And she tells him she just said what his sign said in other words. She walks on and you now see the revised cardboard sign. It simply says,  “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see.”

And just the other day I received a similar short film. A father and a son are sitting on a bench. The son is reading a newspaper. The camera focuses on a bird. “Chirp. Chirp.” The father says, “What’s that?” The son says, “A sparrow.”

Then there is another sparrow. The father asks again, “What’s that?” The son says, “A sparrow.”

The father asks again at another “Chirp. Chirp!” “What’s that?” And now the son is annoyed. And once more says, “A sparrow.”

And this goes on and on - and the son gets furious - and yells at his father.

Then the father gets up and goes into the house and comes out with a book. I’m think it’s a Bible. The father sits down. The book is open to a certain page. Pointing to a page the father hands the book to the son.
I figure it’s the quote from the gospels about seeing the birds of the air or better, the piece by Jesus about all sparrows being noticed by God. Nope it’s a diary or journal from the father. He tells the son to read what’s written. “My son - aged 3 - asked me 21 times in a row “What is that?” and 21 times in a row, I answered, “A sparrow.” and each time I gave him a hug.

And the son hugs the father and kisses him on the side of his head.


We need pauses - commercial breaks - in the movie or show of our life - to hear and to see advertisements for patience, love, service - to care for and about each other.

Then I get the eye opener as I'm putting together this short weekday homily. As priest, I'm  into making TV commercials dummy. You’ve been doing your dream job all these years by being a priest. Each sermon, each Mass, is advertisement of Jesus telling us his values. Each Mass is an invitation to a Supper with Jesus to let him wash our feet and to let him give us his body and blood. Then to hear: Do the same in memory of me! Go out and give your body and blood for everyone you meet today.


Quote for Today     December 2.  2012

"Men have been swindled by other men on many occasions. The autumn of 1929 was, perhaps the first occasion when men succeded on a large scale in swindling themselves."

John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash, 1929, 1955

Picture on Top: "(Picture from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.) Depression: Breadlines: long line of people waiting to be fed: New York City: in the absence of substantial government relief programs during 1932, free food was distributed with private funds in some urban centers to large numbers of the unemployed. (Circa February 1932)"

Thursday, December 1, 2011


December 1,  2011

Quote for Today

"Perhaps someday it will be pleasant to remember even this."

Virgil [70-19 B.C.]

Photo on Top: Man in the Dark by Federico Marsicano

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


November  30,  2011

Quote for Today

"Everyone in daily life carries such a heavy, mixed burden on his own conscience that he is reluctant to penalize those who have been caught."

Brooks Atkinson, "February 28," Once Around the Sun, 1951

Painting on top by William Holman Hunt [1827-1910], "The Awakening Conscience," 1853

Or read John 8: 1-11

Tuesday, November 29, 2011



The title of my homily for this First Tuesday of Advent is, “Not Everyone Sees The Same Way.”

This is something that is obvious. We know it. Today’s readings are one more reminder of that obvious truth.

“Not Everyone Sees the Same Way.”

When we forget this obvious truth - we end up with stale mates and road blocks on the road to each other. It blocks our abilities to work with each other. When I forget this and then realize what happened, I bring up the old saying that I like to quote, “The greatest sin is our inability to accept the otherness of the other person.”

Someone else said that and at times I see why they said that and what they meant by it.

When we see - or at least get glimpses - of what the other is saying, we can say today’s Psalm response: “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.”

When we see what Isaiah is saying to us in today’s first reading, the Spirit of the Lord can rest on us - a spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength - and the wolf in each of us can be with the lamb in each of us - so too the bear and the cow, the lion, the snake and the child.

When we see this we see why Jesus said in today’s gospel: "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it."


The title of my homily is, “Not Everyone Sees the Same Way.”

How many times and in how many ways do we learn that message?

It triggered the memory of going to a Baltimore Ravens football game a good 8 years ago with Father Denis Sweeney, Father John Tizio - as guests of John Ambrose - before he died of cancer.

We went in his Hummer. That was the only time I was ever in a Hummer. Woo. Big car. Big mobile. To John I’m sure it was just a car. I felt a wow in it. As we got very close to the stadium to the parking lot John went to, I noticed various people walking along dressed in Ravens’ Purple stopping to look and point at the Hummer.

I got a weird thought. This is how it must feel like to be a beautiful woman - everyone stops to look at you. The beautiful women here know exactly what I’m talking about. The Hummer had tinted windows from which I noticed people going “Wow! That’s some Hummer.”

To John I’m sure he saw it as just another vehicle.

We had great seats. We’re sitting there and I say to John on an upcoming play that it’s going to be a pass. He says to me, “Nope. Look at number 86 over there.” And sure enough it was a run. It hit me that former professional football players must see a football game differently than I see a football game. He played for Arizona State as well as the Colts for part of one season.

“Not Everyone Sees the Same Way.”


We’ve all heard the example of Michelangelo. He would look at a block of marble and see Moses or David or the Blessed Mother in it. We would see just a block of marble.

How does God see us? What does God see in us?

“Not Everyone Sees the Same Way.”


What now? What do we do with this simple basic message that we all don’t see alike. I’m not sure, but here are 5 leads:

1) It could lead us to communicate better with each other - checking out how the other sees.

2) It could lead to less assumptions - or clarification of assumptions.

3) It could lead to less judging others - or throwing rocks.

4) It could lead us to learning more - because we could discover other takes that differ from the take we take on something.

5) It could lead us to prayer - asking God why in the world and how in the world did you ever come up with the idea of mosquitoes and hippopotamuses - or what have you - or how in the world did you come up with these neighbors or family members of ours - who are so, so different from us. Amen.

November 29,  2011

Quote for Today

"I worry about people who get born nowadays, because they get born into such tiny families - sometimes into no family at all.  When you're the only pea in the pod, your parents are likely to get you confused with the Hope Diamond."

Russell Baker, "Life with Mother," William Zinsser, ed., Inventing the Truth, 1987

Monday, November 28, 2011



The title of my homily for this First Monday in Advent is, “Reluctance.”


Two things triggered this homily - this reflection - on reluctance.

The first thing was today’s Psalm response, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”

That’s from Psalm 122 - which begins this way as we heard read,

                       “I rejoiced because they said to me,
                       ‘We will go up to the house of the LORD.’
                        And now we have set foot
                        within your gates, O Jerusalem.”

Psalm 122 is one of the so called, “Pilgrim Songs” that folks sang on their pilgrimages to the big temple in Jerusalem. We can picture and hear that - like Moslems going to their major holy places in Saudi Arabia or Catholics going to Lourdes, Fatima or the big Marian Shrine of Chartres in France.

Those folks go or went with great joy - and little reluctance. It was a holiday!

The second thing that triggered this homily thought on reluctance was a moment yesterday at St. Mary’s. I noticed a lady and someone else in the sacristy. At the sign of peace I usually drop in there and say, “Peace” and shake hands with those in there. I like to connect with everyone.

Then before heading back to the altar I squirt that germ killer stuff on my hands. I wonder how long that stuff will be used. By 3011 will it have become part of the Mass like the washing of the hands which is still there - even though we no longer get the big collection of food at the offertory for the poor and the hungry - a practice of the Early Church that stopped a long time ago - if I have that correct. Yet the priest still washes his hands to this day.

Well, the two people in the sacristy were a mother and a son. I gave the mom a handshake and a word of “Peace” and then went over to the son - a young teenager who was in a semi-fetal position. His head was in his hands and he didn’t see me coming towards him.

The mom then said out loud, “He doesn’t want to be here - but I made him come with me to Mass.” I paused and then put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Peace to a kid who doesn’t want to be here.” He looked up - with a pained face that was semi-twisted.

After that, the only thing I thought about for the rest of the Mass was that kid and his mom. It stopped me from wondering and worrying about how many mistakes I was making in the using the new prayers. That faded into the background - compared to that Reluctant Teen.


With the various announcements in newspapers and on radio programs of the changes in the wording of the Catholic Mass prayers, starting yesterday, I was wondering if anyone who had stopped going to church - or is a once and a while Sunday Mass goer - went to church yesterday. Were the numbers up? Could that be measured?

Weekday Mass goers I assume come here freely and with joy. How many Sunday church goers come out of obligation? How many teenagers come out of obligation?

We have this new translation. There was reluctance on part of some bishops - and others - to do these changes. But here we have it. It’s like today’s gospel with the story of the Centurion. We get orders and we do them. [Cf. Matthew 8:5-11]

I said to myself I’ll give all this time - to see what these changes are about.

The word I hear is that everything will be more “formal”. Formal is a key word. I began noticing that in most of the articles I read about these changes. I know the difference between formal and informal. Some people are more formal than others and vice versa. Will those who like to dress “formal” and think “formal” and who are reluctant to come to church for whatever reason - will they now come more often? Will those who like informal - drop out - because they feel things have become more formal in the prayers? Will anyone notice any of these things - a year from now?


In the meanwhile, what do we do to make Mass more of an spiritual experience for people who are reluctant to come to Mass more often?

I also had the 5 PM Mass last evening here at St. John Neumann. It’s the Youth Mass.

The crowd wasn’t too big last evening for that Mass. Was it the holidays? Was it because there was no “Youth Event” after the Mass - as there usually is? Was there a big football game on? Does that have an impact? I don’t know.

I was wrong in what I thought would happen with regards this Youth Mass here at St. John Neumann’s. I figured in one year it would be packed every Sunday evening - with seats being difficult to be had. Different folks came up with a band - with drums and guitars, etc. Surprise. That didn’t fill the church.

One drawback was that the Mass wasn’t every Sunday evening. It was called off when religious ed was called off for that Sunday. I thought that was a killer - and people might be reluctant to come - not being sure whether there was a Mass here on Sunday evening or not. We got that cleared up - and that Mass goes all year - till May - and starts up again in September.

Then that band disbanded - and last night I noticed there was just one singer and one piano player - and the music was good. I wondered if there was a possible band in our midst.

But were the kids here reluctantly? Did the band music help?

I realize the Mass is not entertainment - but as the old saying goes, “Why should the devil have all the tunes?”

I wasn’t sharp enough and quick enough to whisper to that mom at the 12:30 at St. Mary’s - that there was a 5 PM Youth Mass at St. John Neumann’s.

If she dragged her son to the 5 would he still be in the fetal position of not wanting to come out of his womb - his comfort zone - and be at Mass?

I don’t know.

Can we measure reluctance?

I had a home Mass on Thanksgiving afternoon at one of my nieces’ house and everyone was there - but one grandnephew was hanging in the back - with arms folded. Was he feeling reluctance? Was he feeling trapped? What was he feeling or thinking? I don’t know. I didn’t ask.

Do surveys help?


I preached the same sermon for the 5 PM on Saturday night at St. Mary’s and again at the 12:30 on Sunday. I had worked on that homily. Knowing that the Mass at 5 PM was for youth, guilt got me to write a completely different sermon - and compared to the more prepared homily, I felt reluctance to preach it.

In fact I began the homily last night by saying something like this, “I had another homily for this Sunday, but since this is a youth mass, I wrote this homily this afternoon for the young people here. It’s first draft - but here goes.” I tried to youngerfy my thoughts.

However, I felt a reluctant tugging in giving it, knowing the other homily was better in my appraisal, and there were as many adults at the 5 PM Mass as young people.

Good News. Sometimes gifts come across the waters. I’m standing there in the vestibule after Mass saying, “Good bye and have a good week.” A mother says to me on the way out of church “My daughter said she appreciated that the priest wrote a homily just for us.”


November  28, 2011

Quote for Today

"She didn't hear me. But I heard me."

Comment by Renita J. Weems in her book, Listening For God: A Minister's Journey Through Silence and Doubt, Simon and Schuster, N.Y., 1999

Sunday, November 27, 2011



The title of my homily for this Youth Mass for the First Sunday of Advent is, “Watch!”

It’s the final word and the theme of today’s gospel.

It’s an Advent theme - as we begin the season of Advent this Sunday.


We know what the word means - because we know what a watch is - even though a lot of people are using their cell phones for watches these days.

Everyone watches the time - sometimes. What they watch for tells us what people are really interested in.

Watch people watch their watches. Watch people watch clocks - they know how many more minutes it is - till school is let out. Watch coaches screaming at quarterbacks and players to watch - especially with this gesture  [TWO  FINGERS  TO  THE  EYES].



We’ve all seen movies - with scenes about watching - about being alert. Soldiers are in a field - and it’s night time - and two soldiers are put on watch - for two hours - and then another two and then another two. And we see the good guys or the bad guys creeping up and sure enough the two soldiers on watch have fallen asleep - and then disaster strikes the camp.

Last Sunday as I was driving to Rehoboth Beach I was listening to the Ravens postgame show. Ray Rice said he was going to watch films later on that Sunday night for the upcoming Thanksgiving evening game. He said that this week there is no time off. We’re in the playoff hunt and we have to win.

Well, the Ravens won on Thanksgiving night. Evidently he and the others watched game film - looking for tendencies - patterns - how the 49ers play. . I would assume that the 49ers also watched film - but maybe some players were lazy and fell asleep while watching the film.


The message for today in church is all about watching for God.

Today’s first reading from Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7 is a prayer that God will return - and no longer hide his face from us - so God we  are watching for you.

Today’s first reading from Isaiah is a call of hope that God will come down from the heavens - the mountains will quake and shake - and God will show up.

Today’s first reading from Isaiah is a hope that God will show up when we’re doing what is right - not what is wrong.

Today’s gospel - Mark 13: 33-37 - has the image of man who owns a house and puts his servants in charge of various jobs - and he tells the gatekeeper as he leaves on a journey to be on the watch - because he might come home in the evening or at midnight or when the rooster crows or in the morning. You never know!

This took place before I-Phones and TV cameras or what have you.

We hear this story and several similar stories with many of the readings near the end of the Church year and at the beginning of the Church year.

There are all kinds of evidence that people in the Early Church - some 2000 years ago - thought the world was about to end - and Jesus was about to come back again.

He didn’t. We’re still here.

So the world falls asleep when it comes to God.

How about you? Has God come to you yet?

Are you watching for God?


The first coming of Christ was a total surprise. Who would believe that God would come as a little baby - a helpless little baby?

What hits me every time I hear these stories is that God does not follow my script, my plan, my will, my imagination.

If you were a little kid and you were given a box of crayons or some clay, how would you draw God - or how would you form God as a clay statue? This idea is not too far fetched. This first reading from Isaiah pictures God as a potter who works with clay and surprise he made us. We are the work of his hands.

If I was writing the story, I would never have dreamed up God coming as a little baby.

I remember the movie “Oh God” and its sequel - when God comes as an old man: George Burns.

I remember hearing about a play in the early 1970’s where God is cast as a Puerto Rican Steambath attendant in New York City. It features people who have died and wake up in steam in a steam bath. They obsess about what they obsessed about in life. Bruce Jay Friedman - who wrote the play - said he got the idea when he was in a Chinese Restaurant. He got quite sick from the food and thought he was going to die.  Tandy - one of the main characters in the play - discovers he has died from food at a Chinese restaurant.

What do you obsess about? What do you drama king or drama queen about?

Wasn’t there another movie - called “Bruce Almighty” - when a TV reporter in Buffalo complains to God about life, so God gives him almighty powers? If we were given God Almighty powers, what would we do with them? Would we change life or the world? How so?


What do people see - what do people watch - when they see  plays with God on stage - or movies on a screen? Does it get them to see life any different? Does it get them to see God any different?

In ancient Greece the gods appeared on stage - as the gods of love and war. Did people who watched those plays change in any way?

When the Jewish scriptures were read in synagogues - people listened to the stories about God coming as burning fire to Moses - or as power when enemies were killed - or as a tiny breeze - or as light. What did they imagine? What did they see? Did it change their lives? Did they love more? Did they care for others more? Did they take care of the poor and the sick and the handicapped more?

Why did God come as a baby?

That is the Christian belief.


We begin Advent today - and we move these 4 weeks to the re-celebration - the re-enactment - of something that happened 2000 years ago. We’ll hear the story again in the readings and the hymns - here in church and on the radio or in stores or malls where people are shopping . Listen carefully. You'll here in the background “Silent Night”, “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, “Joy To The World.” Every Catholic church has the crib - usually up front - with the straw and the stable - the sheep and the shepherds - the cow and the ox - and Mary and Joseph - and the baby Jesus.

What do people watch when they hear about this - and watch all this?

I would think it has more impact than movies with God as old man - or a Steambath attendant or as an Almighty Power speaking to a newspaper reporter in Buffalo.

I can say that because most Catholics who don’t go to Mass - come to Mass at least at Christmas. It’s called just that: Christmas - from Christ’s Mass.

And those who come the other 51 weeks of the year, do they see God coming in the bread - as food - and do they go out from mass and see Jesus in the challenges of the week - or as Paul discovered he saw Jesus in us - in people - especially those who need our love?


Watch life. Watch people. Watch how life works.

I don’t have any children. Those of you who have, how did your life change when you saw your life show up in the new life of a baby?

Watch the movie of your life - and bring that to prayer. Then work to make that movie better. Watch yourself in that movie.

Kids,  how have you changed the life of your parents by being part of the family you are part of?  Watch that film. Then go home and make that movie better. Watch yourself in that movie.


The title of my homily for this First Sunday in Advent is, “How Are You?”

That’s one of life’s most basic questions - especially when we meet another. “How are you?” One translation: “How’s it going?”

For some reason as I began thinking of a homily for this First Sunday in Advent - that question - that title - that theme for a homily - hit me.

“How Are You?”


We just celebrated Thanksgiving - and I’m sure that was the first question a lot of people asked a lot of people.

“How are you?”

It’s the same question we ask when we see someone at work or at a meeting or a party or coming into Mass.

At Thanksgiving - if we haven’t seen a family member or someone in quite a while - we might be expecting an actual answer to the, “How are you?” question.

“How are you?”

How are you today? It’s less than a month to go to Christmas. We’re headed for December and winter - and a New Year. For Christians it’s the First Sunday of Advent. For Catholics in the United States it’s the beginning of a new translation of words in the liturgy and its prayers.

How will these changes work? How will it turn out? My plan is to keep an open mind and find out from doing it - how it will work out.

Yesterday morning I heard a very positive piece on NPR radio about this change in the Catholic Liturgy - while driving back here from a great week of seeing most of my family - for Thanksgiving. How will we experience this change in our Mass? How will it go? Time will tell.


As I drove to see my brother’s family last Sunday afternoon - they came from all over the country - for a week in a rented house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware - I was wondering about “how” each was doing. Then early on Thanksgiving morning I drove from Rehoboth to see my two sisters and another side of the family - in Pennsylvania and then New Jersey and then back to Pennsylvania, and then back here yesterday. I hadn’t seen some of these people in a year or so. We talked about family - about jobs - and what’s happening - on how things were going.

It’s Thanksgiving - and I heard someone say Thanksgiving is the biggest time of the year for families visiting family.

I’m assuming this trip helped trigger this “How are you?” question.

How has to do with the practical. How to books and CD’s tell us what steps to take when we want to make something happen.

So I guess when we ask a relative or friend or someone we work with, “How are you?” we’re asking, “What steps have you taken since the last time I saw you?" So sometimes we really are expecting an answer to the “How are you?” question.

How about the reverse? What do we answer when someone asks us: “How are you?” - and they really mean it? Do we answer with health answers - work answers - relationship answers - or what?


Then it hit me: what a great Morning Prayer or anytime in the day prayer: “God: how are you?”

Some people might skip the “how” and ask at or to God, “Are You?”

Some people who believe in a God might ask, “How could you?”

Thinking these questions, I thought, “This could be a homily. This could be a homily for the First Sunday in Advent.”

Do we ever picture God as a You - a You in my life?

Is God a “You” to me?

The person in the other car is a “you”. The person next to us in the elevator - or in front of us on the escalator at the mall - or in our home - or at work - is a “you”. Is God a You to me?

We spend a good bit of our lives thinking about the you’s in our life.

When we spend time with God - here at church - or at a funeral - or in the dark night - or on a beautiful morning - or waiting for tests from a medical procedure or blood work - how do our thoughts about God go? Is God a “You” in that 3rd word in the “How are You” question?

As I thought about this while driving and then while putting together this first draft of a homily - wondering if this homily might be a bomb - the next how thought that hit me was: people differ on how they see or think God works.

Isn’t that one of life’s biggest lessons: to learn that we all don’t see the same thing the same way - especially life? Isn’t that why they have 12 people in a jury? Isn’t that what happens when we’re listening to someone describe a movie that we also saw - and they thought it was great - and we thought that too was a bomb?

My two sisters went shopping on Friday - and asked if I wanted to go. I didn’t say, “Are you crazy?” - but I did get the thought to shoot up to the local library in Doylestown, Pennsylvania - and maybe get an inspiration or two for a homily - for this Sunday.

The library was nice and quiet. I guess a lot of people were shopping. I spent two hours going through an interesting book by Dr. Renita Weems, an ordained elder of the African Methodist Church. The book is entitled, “Listening For God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt.”

While teaching first year students at Vanderbilt University, she said that she announces every year to first year students who enrolled in her introductory course in the Old Testament: “This is not a course on what God said…. This is a course on what the ancient Hebrews said God said.” She adds, “This was my pronouncement the first day of class every semester.”

I wrote that down. That is a very profound and provocative statement.

I wonder how students reacted to that. Did hands go up? Did minds open up? Did minds close down? Did reactions set in?

I sat there in that library and gave that some thought - knowing that I will continue to think about that one: how God works - stress on how.

If all of us here in church today were in a big discussion group and the question was: “How do you see God working?” Or “How is God?” would we get our hands on a wide spectrum of answers?

Does God zap people? Does God cry when people get zapped with cancer or a family disaster? Does God care about the starving?

I know I read the Good Samaritan story in the New Testament and I read that Jesus talked about the man who is beaten up and two people walk by him - and the third person, the Good Samaritan - stops and helps the man who was beaten up by the robbers. I sometimes ask God, “Why don’t you stop and help the guy?” “Why don’t you prevent the man from being beaten up in the first place?”

These questions bring us face to face with the “How are you?” question if we ask it to God. How does God work?

Does God ever intervene? Does God ever come to our rescue? Does God ever help? Does God expect us to be his helpers - that we do the stopping to help our neighbor who is stranded and hurting?

This woman minister, Dr. Renita Weems, in that book talked about her doubts and her questions. She said that a preacher once wrote to her, “The difference between you and me is that you preach your questions, whereas I preach my answers.”

That caused a pause in me? How do I preach? I have well over 3000 homilies on my computer that I have preached - and I laughed because I don’t know how to answer that question.

Is that how life works? Others know us. We don’t know ourselves.


I do know I’m on page 5 of this particular homily and that means I have to come up with a conclusion.

The title of this homily is: “How are you?”

I said I’m aware that we ask this question of others as well as ourselves at times. I’m preaching this morning that we ask that question to God: “How are You?”

I think I hold the following. Answers to the “How are you God?” question can be found in the Scriptures and in the lives of people who live a life with God - especially people who have questions and struggles with God - people like you and me and this preacher, Renita Weems. So - yes - we have answers to that question and we have questions to some answers. I’m pushing in this homily to spend time in our God space - with the prayer question to God: “How are you God?”

Then it hit me that the Advent Season and the Advent Readings - as well as this upcoming Christmas Season and Christmas Rush - that has already started - has many messages - and they deal with this question.

For example, there are a whole series of W words for Advent: watching, waiting, wondering, wandering, waking. Advent in the Northern Hemisphere - I don’t know how they do this in the Southern Hemisphere - is all about moving towards darkness - December 21st being the darkest day of the year - and then we move towards more and more light. That’s life. We are in the dark - some more than others. Sometimes we have sparks of light - one, two, three, four, like the Advent Candles - where we have answers - but sometimes the light goes out - and needs to be re-lit - over and over again. But like Christmas shoppers - like the Magi or Wise men - like the servants in Advent gospels - we keep searching and watching - and surprise God comes as a little baby. Only God could come up with that one. Isn’t that how God of Surprises works all the time - coming up with answers that we - we never expected? Amen.


November  27,  2011

Quote for Today  November 27, 2011

"The great contemporary choreographer
Martha Graham was once asked
by a group of journalists, after a premiere, 
what the meaning was of a particular dance
she had performed.  She responded: 
'If I could have told you what it meant,
darlings,  I wouldn't have had to dance it.'"  

Opening sentence by John Baldovin, SJ, in the Intoduction of the book The Postures of the Assembly During the Eucharistic Prayer by John K. Leonard and Nathan D. Mitchell, Liturgy Training Publications, 1994, A Project by the Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy.

Picture on top: Martha Graham [1894-1991] - by Yousuf Karsh (1948)