Saturday, March 31, 2012
Quote for Today
"To maintain a successful marriage,
according to research
by psychologist John Gottman, Ph. D.,
husbands and wives must offer each other
at least five acts of love and kindness
to balance each single act of spite or selfishness.
You may walk around carrying negative incidents
like daggers in your heart,
ignoring the thousands of positive things
that happen to you every day."
page 68, "In Praise of Rose Colored Glasses", O Magazine, September 2011
Friday, March 30, 2012
Which hurt more: whispers or stones?
The title of my homily for this 5th Friday in Lent is, “Whispers or stones?
Today’s first reading from Jeremiah 20: 10-13 begins with Jeremiah hearing “the whisperings of many….”
Today’s gospel from John 10:31-42 begins with these words, “The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.”
That’s where the thought for this homily came from.
Then the question: “Which hurt more: whispers or stones?”
Children were taught to say to those who taunted or bullied them with words as kids, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
But the adults who taught their kids to say that knew that names hurt both kids and adults - often much worse than sticks and stones.
Kids learn fast that the rule on the bus and the playground is: “Bully rather than be bullied.”
There are 2 kinds of people: those who bully and those who are bullied.
There are many articles and comments on talk radio shows lately about this issue of bullying. The goal is to cut down bullying - even stop it - if possible.
I don’t know about what your childhood was like - but I know that kids don’t know what they are doing - but they can be challenged to learn to know what they are doing. I know I joined the pack to pick on those who were different: those who were overweight, had glasses, pimples, or big ears. If we got past the stage of our mom bringing us to school (we could walk in our day), and some other kid didn’t, we might pick on that kid as a “momma’s boy”.
We know that once a person is accused of something - if it was a false accusation - it’s hard to put mud back into the puddle - it’s hard to remove graffiti from a person’s reputation.
In small print we read from time to time about someone who was accused of sexually abusing a kid - commits suicide - and sometimes the accusation is false.
Jeremiah goes down in history as the man who was in the pits. That’s where his accusers tossed him.
Jesus goes down in history as the man whose whispers against ended him up at Calvary. Jesus goes down in history as the man who died on the cross - with spit on his skin - along with blood and bruises from falling and being beaten.
CONCLUSION: GOLDEN RULE
I’m still learning - because I still whisper and sometimes spit or spurt out a comment about another - getting a laugh from the others - but a pained look - if I look - on the face of the person I throw a word rock or stone at.
I know if I take the time to pause before I open my mouth - for a whisper or a shout - and ask, “Would I like it, if someone did this to me?”
I believe the Golden Rule is another saying parents teach kids - along with “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Both readings for today - and Psalm 105 - in between - talk about Abram or Abraham - so let me pull together a few comments about Abram or Abraham - on this 5th Thursday in Lent.
5 OBSERVATIONS ABOUT ABRAHAM
Since this is not an actual pulpit homily - I don’t have to worry about boring a reader with the following observations. If interesting, they might continue; if not interesting, they can simply push that X up in the corner and move on like Abram or Abraham did.
FIRST OBSERVATION: MANY APPEARANCES
In the New American Bible, the name Abraham appears 254 times - mostly in Genesis. Abram appears 63 times. So that’s 317 times.
It’s not as many as Jesus - who has 1049 name appearances or David with 1025 or Moses with 814 name appearances.
Yet Abraham must be noticed - and paid attention to - as one goes through the Scriptures - Jewish and Christian.
SECOND OBSERVATION: MODEL OF FAITH
In both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures - Abraham is seen primarily as an example of faith - moving forward - with trust - and without clarity what will happen next.
In the Jewish scriptures this message appears in the 12th Chapter of Genesis - when Abram’s name is the shortened version of Abraham and he is asked to move to a new land and a new life. The second big faith struggle takes place when Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
The so called, “Letter to the Hebrews” certainly proclaims this motif and message. We find it loud and clear in Chapter 11: 8-19.
THIRD OBSERVATION: COVENANTS AND PROMISES
If one wants to understand the Jewish and Christian religions, one must understand covenants.
We know the meaning of the words, “I promise!”
We know the meaning of, “Let’s make a deal?”
We know the meaning, “Let’s handshake on this.”
We know the meaning of, “I give you my word.”
We know the human sentiment behind the advice, “Get it in writing.”
Human beings make agreements, deals, contracts, covenants with each other. The Bible is filled with them.
The Jews believed that God made a covenant with Abraham - that God spoke to this man - which included the promise of a son - whose seed would fill the world.
FOURTH OBSERVATION: REVELATION
When talking about Abraham - when seeing him as one of the founding pillars and fathers of the Jewish religion, we’re accepting the concept of revelation - that God reveals Himself to some humans - in somewhat mysterious ways.
Artists and story tellers have to be creative on how they present this experience of revelation. Check out the You Tube version at the beginning of this blog piece.
FIFTH OBSERVATION: A LONG TIME AGO
When talking about Abram or Abraham, we’re talking about a long time ago. The story is in the bosom of legend and the ancient history of a people. The story develops in time - to become core religious tradition for a people.
Scholars place him sometime between 2000 and 1500 B.C.
I would suggest reading the material in Genesis on Abraham at first and then go to the Abraham material in the Letter to the Hebrews.
I would then suggest reflecting on the human condition of making promises, covenants, and wanting revelations and surety from God that we are moving in the right direction. Amen.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
REMAINING IN A WORD
The title of my homily for this 5th Wednesday in Lent is, “Remaining In a Word.”
In the beginning of the English translation of today’s gospel there is this interesting sentence, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples.” Next comes the famous comment, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It’s from John 8: 31-32.
When you were in school - and the moment was totally boring - and you began to doodle, what did you doodle? What did you draw? Was there a cartoon character - a number - a day - a date - a letter - a word - a name - that your drew over and over again?
If by any chance you still have your childhood notebooks, why not check them out - or textbooks - or what have you? You’ll find words underlined or highlighted or you might find question marks or comments.
A classmate of mine - who had a very, very, very high I.Q. - Jack Hamilton - used to draw a character - just his head - eyes, no ears - just his skull and hair line. He drew perhaps 100,001 sketches of this skull. Why? I asked him once and I forgot what his answer was - but I remember seeing him during many a boring class drawing his skulls. No, he didn’t become a plastic surgeon or a skin doctor.
I used to write the number “5” and write it thousands of times. Why? I don’t know why. But I’ve drawn that number “5” on foggy windows and mirrors - and lots of pieces of paper. No, I don't play the lottery.
I also loved letters that I could put characters inside that letter - in the caves of an “O” or an “A” or an “D” or “g” or "e" or “B”. I loved the shelves I could put tiny little drawings of tiny little figures of people on with the letters “E” and “F”.
In time I got to love the history of the development of letters - studying that “B” - which in Hebrew is “Beth” - the word for “House” - and I’d think, “Two Story House”. "Bethlehem" - meant "house of bread". I liked to dabble in and then doodle Chinese Characters - to see the reason for the curves and lines. Fascinating. That's another lifetime - along with Arabic script.
With the time remaining, I love to look up the origins of words - their parts, their roots, their possibilities - with prefixes and suffixes. If I have time - some extra time - when preparing a homily for the day’s readings from the Bible, I like do look up the Hebrew or the Greek - of a word that grabs me in the English translation.
What it does for me is trigger good stuff when I spot certain words that I spent time with in the past. Every time I read the Gospel of John I spot the word “REMAIN” - as in today’s gospel. I hear the Greek word echoing in my memory: “MENO.” I looked up the word in Webster's Dictionary. It has for “remain” that it comes from the Latin word “remanere” - which comes from “re+manere” "to remain" - and Webster adds, “more at mansion”. At "mansion" it tells me that mansion is about what is not destroyed, what continues unchanged - what stays. Then I also notice at “mansion” - that it's from the Greek word “MENO” - dwelling, residence, manor, house. Next I noticed the very interesting comment in Webster under “Mansion” - “one of the 28 parts into which the moon’s monthly course through the heavens is divided”. Isn’t that very intriguing? Who had time to doodle those 28 images - while looking at the moon in the night sky?
What do I doodle? Where do I dwell? Where do I spend my time? What are the life experiences that remain?
If I read anything into the Gospel of John, it’s John’s desire that I remain with Jesus. It’s that we dwell in Jesus. It’s that this word “Jesus” - this person, Jesus, becomes flesh in me.
My name is Andrew and I love it in the Gospel of John that it was Andrew who is the first person there in the first chapter who goes up to Jesus and asks him, “Where do you live [MENEIS]?” and Jesus says to him, “Come and see” and Andrew went with Jesus “and saw where he lived [MENEI] and stayed [EMEINAN] with him the rest of the day” and the next day he went to his brother Peter and told him, “We have found the Messiah” - and the rest is history.
Okay, I have to admit - for the sake of honesty - besides you can look up the First Chapter of the Gospel of John as well,that it was John the Baptist who pointed Jesus out to Andrew. However, it was Andrew who made that first move …. and the rest is history.
So if you doodle, if you like to doodle words, doodle the word “remain” - draw yourself into those little caves in the small letters “e” and “a” or hide under the “r” or the arches in “m” and “n”. Remain with Jesus in there in prayer - and let Jesus - the word sent from the Father - become flesh and fresh in you.
And by the way, I don’t think this is too far fetched - have you ever stopped to look at Gaelic lettering - and monastic copies of the Bible? Those monks and those artists did some amazing doodling on their manuscripts. I’m sure monastery bells rang - and some monk was lost inside some letter he was painting and remained with it for the longest time - perhaps deep, deep in prayer, deep, deep in Jesus - missing a meal, but not missing Jesus..
Image on top: Portrait of St. John the Evangelist in the Book of Kells. It was a wonderful moment when on a trip with folks from this parish we saw some of the Book of Kells in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Notice that soft cushy chair John is sitting on. I was wondering: "Did the monk who drew this wish he was on a soft easy chair like that?"
Image on the bottom - below this: Ornamental text, "In principio erat verbum", Chapter 1, verse 1, of the Gospel of John - repeated in the bottom margin in a later hand."
Both Images can be found in The Book of Kells, Forty-Eight Pages and Details in Colour from the Manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin, selected and introduced by Peter Brown, Librarian of Trinity College, Dublin, Thames and Hudson, 1980, pages 41 and 43.
P.S. This was a "Doodle Sermon" - didn't have to preach today - but I enjoyed fooling around with the word "remain" in today's gospel. Amen.
IF I WROTE
WHAT WOULD BE
March 28, 2012
Quote for Today
This is an English translation of the the Aria, "Nemico della Patria" an "Enemy of the Country" - which is the name of an opera by the composer Umberto Giordano. It tells the story of Andrea Chanier [1762-1794] - who was executed during the French Revolution. It is sung by Andrew Costello - the famous baritone opera singer. I've been looking on the Internet for people with the same name as I have. This Andrew Costello is the third that I noticed. I saw listed at least 50 more!
An enemy of his country?
An old fable that gladly
the public still swallows.
Born in Constantinople? A foreigner!
Studied at Saint-Cyr? A soldier!
Traitor! Accomplice of Dumouriez!
A poet? Corruptor of hearts
and of traditions!
Once I lived happily
in the realm of hatred and vengeance,
pure, innocent, and strong.
A giant, I believed myself!
I am still a servant...
I've only changed masters...
a slave to violent passions!
Ah, worse! I kill and tremble,
and while I kill, I weep.
I, a son of the Revolution,
first heard its cry
and joined it with my own.
Have I now lost faith
in that dream?
How illumined with glory
was my path!
The conscience of the heart
to reawaken in men;
gathering up the tears
of the oppressed and suffering;
making the world a paradise;
transforming men into gods;
and with a single kiss--
and with a single kiss and embrace,
to love all humanity!
Some questions - [in an attempt to justify this quote - so as to get the singer with my name into the picture.]
What have I swallowed - and realized afterwards - it was bunk?
What life hats have I worn? Baby, child, student, teenager, wife, husband, mom, dad, grandparent, accountant, military, poet?
Was I ever filled with myself - feeling like a giant - till I was humbled? What happened?
Am I still a servant? Do I see life as a chance to serve or to be served? Which is more me?
What have been my dreams?
What have been my paths?
Have I ever been or wanted to be in on a revolution or a cause?
What kind of a conscience do I have? Strict? Lax? Social Justice Oriented? Guilt laden? Scrupulous?
What have I cried over?
Do I see Jesus as the one who can transform us into God - but the road is a strange one: that of self emptying.
Has my love for others expanded to love all humanity - or do I still have my walls and barriers - prejudices and misunderstandings of others.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
WHO JESUS IS….
The title of my homily for this 5th Tuesday in Lent is, “Realizing Who Jesus Is….”
A STORY ABOUT TWO PRIESTS
Two Redemptorist priests stationed in our house is Washington D.C. were known to argue from time to time on theological questions. To use labels, one was considered, “liberal” - the other “conservative”.
The “conservative” died and was laid out in our house chapel in Washington. That night around midnight another guy was in the small choir loft - looking down into the chapel - just dropping in to say a night prayer. The chapel door down below opened. In walked the “liberal guy.” He went up to the casket. He stood there in silence for a while. The other guy in the choir loft remained very, very quiet - nervous as not to scare the priest down below. Then the “liberal” guy says to the dead guy, “Now you know. Now you know I was right!”
That story has made the rounds in many a conversation amongst Redemptorists.
AFTER WE DIE
What hits me in this story are the questions: what will we know after we die? What will happen? How does it all work?
To answer these basic questions, to figure out my wonderings, I rely on three texts. The first is my own: “We have to die to find out!” The second text is from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. “Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face” [1 Corinthians 13:12]. The third text is also from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what things God has prepared for those who love him.” [1 Corinthians 2:9] All three quotes are based on faith - belief in what we cannot prove or see.
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN - WHAT ABOUT DISCOVERING CHRIST BEFORE WE DIE?
Today’s gospel reading is from John. I don’t know about you, but I find the Gospel of John to be a very unique gift to our world.
I find the Gospel of John different - dreamy - difficult - compared to Matthew, Mark and Luke.
I worked with a priest for 8 ½ years before I came to Annapolis. He didn’t care for the Gospel readings after Easter that were from John. They seemed at times to be convoluted and repetitive and downright mysterious. He is not the only one I’ve heard who has this opinion.
So I’ve always been looking for a key to unlock the Gospel of John.
I think that key is in today’s gospel when Jesus says, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM….”
CONCLUSION: THEN THEY KNOW
I think some people don’t meet Jesus for the first time till after their death. Then they know.
I think some people discover Jesus when they are lifted up or nailed down to a cross - when they face their Good Fridays big time - a lot of suffering. It’s then some people really start to pray. Then they know.
I think John in his gospel present a whole series of people whom Jesus meets and then they know.
Andrew meets Jesus - then he knows. A couple run out of wine at their wedding, then they and those present know. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. Slowly he knows. A Samaritan woman meets Jesus. Then she knows. A man paralyzed for 38 years at a pool is healed. Then he knows. A woman caught in adultery is not stoned but saved. Then she knows. A blind man is cured. Then he knows. A dead man comes back to life. Then he knows.
From time to time we run into people who say they don’t know God or they say they are atheists. I sometimes wonder what they would think if we told them we believe that a carpenter named Jesus, born of a Virgin, 2000 years ago, is the son of God and we know him - a bit - and we hope to get to know him even more before we die. And those who see us in our casket won’t be saying, “Now you know!” Rather they know, we knew Jesus. Amen.
Painting on top, Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio [1573-1610]
THE MEANING OF LIFE
March 27, 2012
Quote for Today
"The indefatigable pursuit of an unattainable perfection, even though it consist in nothing more than in the pounding of an old piano, is what alone gives a meaning to our life on this unavailing star."
Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) Afterthoughts (1931)
Monday, March 26, 2012
CAN I BE OF
SERVICE TO YOU?
The title of my homily for this feast of the Annunciation is, “Can I Be of Service to You?”
Those 7 words - “Can I Be of Service to You?” - is the message waitresses and waiters say to us at restaurants - as well as the words sales people say to us in stores or businesses or on the phone.
“Can I Be of Service to You?”
That’s the theme and the thought that hit me as I came to the end of today’s gospel, when Mary says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Today’s gospel - Luke 1: 26-38 - also has the angel saying to Mary up front, “Do not be afraid.”
I would suspect that’s the bottom line in life - being afraid - because we don’t know how much of our service will be called for - how much of our time will be taken - if we give our “yes” to the annunciations for service - to others.
I would suspect the bottom line is the fear of how much this is going to cost - to bring a child into this world - to volunteer to drive someone somewhere - to give a pledge - to invite an aging mom, dad, uncle or aunt - into our home - fearing that this might drive me crazy or drive me to the grave.
Love is wonderful - but it can become very expensive.
No wonder, we wonder, “Is there an escape clause?” to my “Yes!”?
I was having coffee this morning with one of our Monday morning money counters - and he said, “Harold is the one who asked me 20 years ago, ‘How would you like to be an usher?’” I said, “Yes” and here it is 20 years later.
Everything costs us time, money, energy, life.
Isn’t that why Christianity has made it? We’re now near our 2000th year - still following Jesus basic message: giving.
Question: "Life: what’s it all about?"
Answer: "Life - what it’s all about is the daily mass of life - saying with Jesus to the world, ‘This is my body…. This is my blood…. I’m giving myself to you in memory of Jesus.’”
The Christian is a walking announcement - an everyday annunciation to the world - where we say to everyone, “Can I be of service to you?” - where we say to the world what Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
MY LIFE METAPHOR?
March 26, 2012
Quote for Today
"The chess board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the Laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
Thomas Henry Huxley [1825-1895] from, A Liberal Education 
Questions for exploration: How do you see life? What are your metaphors for life? Is it a battle? Is it a game of chess? How about Judo? How about Monopoly? How about working in a vineyard? How about a journey? What's your dominant metaphor for life?
Sunday, March 25, 2012
The title of my homily for this 5th Sunday in Lent, Year B, is, “Hesitation.”
That’s a human reality that hit me when I read today’s readings.
Do I or don’t I? Yes or no? Maybe - but maybe not! Maybe not now…. Maybe next week …. Maybe next year…. Maybe never …. Obviously, I’m hesitating. How bout you? Do you hesitate too?
I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.
If you have a ball point pen - and if I suggested you write that word, “hesitation” on a piece of paper - or text yourself - and mediate or think about “hesitation” this week - would you do think about it? If you didn’t have a piece of paper, but you have a ball point pen, would you hesitate to print the word “hesitate” or “hesitation” on your hand.
IN A GIVEN DAY - IN A GIVEN WEEK
In a given day or in a given week, how many times, how many situations, do we find ourselves in a hesitation mode?
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by….” 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I crashed…. because I didn't slow down.
I should have hesitated at the fork in the road.
Wait a minute? What did you just say? What are you asking me to do?
To do some thinking about hesitation.
Oh okay. But right now, I have a lot on my mind. So I’m not sure. I need some time to think about this. Oh , okay, to be honest, . as you can tell, I’m hesitating.
Hesitation comes with the package. Just watch a baby crawl - then stall. Just watch a person walk through the mall. Do women do shop differently than men?
Can you give me the name of a good doctor? I need a second opinion.
Can you give me the name of a good lawyer? I don’t want to decide or say the wrong thing right now.
The menu looks good - however - what would you recommend?
I’m tempted - however ….
I blew it. Maybe I should have hesitated.
I want to - but I’m not sure. Let me give this some more thought?
You know the old saying, “Look before you leap.”
To retire or not to retire?
To go to this school or that school? Whether it’s elementary, high, or university - or to go for another degree.
To have another child? Agree or disagree?
To switch jobs?
To move to another house - or to stay in this one - yet with the way the economy is - yet the housing market - yet I’m hesitating.
People are getting married later than 100 years ago. People are living together before marriage more than 100 years. People are divorcing more than 100 years ago. How much does a wedding cost? How much does a marriage cost? How much do kids cost? How much does divorce cost? How much does life cost?
Who said, “If they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money”?
There are also so many more choices than there were 100 years ago.
I-phones, cell phones, lap tops, Macs, Big Mac, Whopper, Mangia or Maria’s - this or that’s…..
So you understand why I hesitate. Yet…. Maybe …. Give me some time.
In today’s first reading from Jeremiah, we hear about a new covenant that the Lord wants to make with the house of Israel.
This one will not be written on stone - but on the human heart.
Wait a minute! The one’s on stone are so much easier to read.
And in this first reading Jeremiah says that God says, “I will forgive evildoing and remember sin no more.” All well and good. I like that, but my heart hesitates to believe that one - because my heart remembers when I really blew it. So maybe God forgets, but I don’t.
Today’s Psalm - #51 - is a prayer for a complete soul wash. Have you ever hesitated at a car wash - which version do I get? The cheapest or the deluxe? Psalm 51 - sings about the deluxe - the thorough wash - the removal of all guilt and all sin - so I can drive forwards cleansed and renewed with a new spirit. Wow, whoever put together today’s readings - really wants to get across this forgiveness theme - so that’s one more indication that we hesitate to accept forgiveness.
Today’s second reading from Hebrews - has Jesus standing before God our Father - crying with loud cries and tears to be saved from death. We need to keep hearing that Jesus wasn’t made of cardboard - or stone - but he felt fear and tears as he went through suffering and death. In Holy Week we’ll hear more about this - when Jesus goes through his agony in the garden. Jesus had great feelings and thoughts - hesitations - in the garden and at Calvary.
Today’s gospel from John continues this theme of hesitation. Jesus says he’s troubled about letting himself be killed - and there were people out here who wanted to kill him. “Yet what should I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour?”
As preacher there are some hesitations about these texts because we know that John and the other gospel writers are writing all this after Jesus’ death and resurrection. They are recalling what Jesus said - but now with a lot more understanding. We were taught that much in the gospels developed in the context of the Mass - as the Early Church pulled together it's theology and insights of Jesus.
The poets amongst them - especially John - knew Jesus chose bread and wine as central signs of his reality. Wheat grains, wheat seeds, have to be planted and die. They grow in soil and sun and and rain - or lack of rain. Then they are cut down. Then they are crushed to become flour - to become bread - to then be baked - to become bread for the table. So too the grapes. They have to go through a similar story to become wine - so too Jesus. It’s a long process. It’s a long process from Bethlehem to Nazareth to Jerusalem. It’s a long journey from Christmas to Easter.
"WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE JESUS."
I love the question that begins today’s gospel text from John, “Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we would like to see Jesus.’”
Isn’t that what we are here today to hear about? Isn’t that why we’re here to see?
And in today's gospel Philip tells Andrew and both go to Jesus and Jesus gives the great answer - the great story of the grain of wheat - that it’s just a grain of wheat till it’s willing to die - to be planted - to grow - to die - and on and on and on.
We come here to Mass to receive the Risen Bread - Jesus.
Please hesitate - at communion time - at relationship time. Please hesitate to put your hand or tongue out - before you receive Jesus into yourself today.
The title of my homily is, “Hesitation.”
I don’t know what your plans are for this week. It’s the 5th week in Lent. Palm Sunday and Holy Week are next week.
Lent is a great season to reflect upon some of the great themes of Life. I think one theme is the theme of hesitatiion.
Is it? I'm hesitating to say just that - because I haven't thought about this enough already.
Hesitate a bit this week and think about hesitation.
I have thought about e.e. cummings famous comment, “be of love a little more careful than anything.” I don't hesitate about that.
However, I would hesitate to say, “be of hesitation a little more careful than anything.”
At first glance, it would seem that it's very important to hesitate to see where and to whom we're called to love and to serve - and whose feet to wash - whether to go out on a night when a best friend might betray us. 
 A line in the fourth and closing verse of Robert Frost's famous poem, The Road Not Taken. Cf page 131, Complete Poems of Robert Frost, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, 1964
 I assumed that some homilies and sermons this day might feature or mention what happened in Sanford, Florida with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer. I hesitated to mention this for various reasons - one of which is the need for a thorough investigation of the shooting as well as the practice of having these volunteers - which I very uninformed about. If my whole sermon was on this case - - for example, the shooting calling all for a lot more hesitation on having such a law in Florida or anywhere - then okay. However, if I mentioned this near the end of my homily, then that might knock out my whole homily on the theme of hesitation - because that's all folks might get thinking about. I even hesitated to put in this footnote. However, in this written homily on my Blog - this footnote can serve as one more example of the human phenomenon of hesitation. What do you think?
[This is a story I wrote last night for today's Children’s Mass - the 5th Sunday in Lent B, March 25, 2012. The story is a reflection on John 12: 23-26 - the Gospel for this Sunday]
Sarah and Sally - cousins - both 7 years of age - both an only child - both their grandmother’s only grandkids - went to their grandmother Sandra’s funeral.
It was their first death. It was their first time in a funeral home.
They had never seen a body in a casket before. Separately they went up to casket with their parents for a prayer. Mom and dad had their arms on their daughter’s shoulders in case this was too scary.
They stood there for a moment looking at the flowers all around the casket. Then they began to look at their grandmother - who had been sick for the last month or so - so they heard the “death” word.
They saw their grandmother holding a rosary in her hands. They both wondered about that - seeing their grandmother with that same rosary in her hands when she was living - but why would you put her rosary in her hands when she was dead?
After going to the casket, they turned around to face the room filled with people - who had come and kept coming into the funeral parlor.
They were both very quiet - watching everything and everyone. They were both sort of shy - when it was something they never did before.
So they just stood there when people went up to their moms - who were sisters - and people would say, “Sympathy!” “Condolences!” and “Hope and prayers you are doing okay.” They didn’t understand what the words “Sympathy” and “Condolences” meant.
They found the two hours in the afternoon and then the two hours in the evening in the funeral home very, very, long. They noticed everything - the tears and the hugs, the love and the hopes they were okay.
They realized their grandmother knew a lot of people.
The next morning at the funeral home - Sarah and Sally - got to see the moment the undertaker closed the casket - after their moms and dads stood there very quietly and then they got in a big, big car that took them to the church for the funeral - with grandma in her casket in another car - which they followed. At Mass Sarah and Sally got to bring the gifts up to the priest.
They liked their grandma. They knew she had been sick - for quite some time now. They understood some of that as 7 year olders. They knew people die. Watching their moms dealing with the death of their mom helped them to realized it was much harder losing a mom than losing a bird or a cat or a dog or seeing a flower die.
After the Mass - at the cemetery - they were asked to hold baskets that held little packets of seeds. They were asked to give them to those who were there for the final blessing at the cemetery.
Both also had their pocketbooks - because pocketbooks were in style and it was just after Easter. Sarah noticed Sally was sneaking packets of flower seeds into her pocketbook.
“I wonder why,” she thought. “I wonder why?”
After the ceremony, after the prayers and the blessings in the cemetery, the undertaker said to Sarah and Sally, “I see that you have some packets of flower seeds in your baskets. Well you can keep them. Make sure you get some good flowers from them.”
At the luncheon after the cemetery, Sally said to Sarah, “How many packets of seeds did you get?” Sarah counted hers, “Seven!”
Sally said, “Well, I got 17!” And Sally said it with a smirk more than with a smile.
Sarah didn’t know what all this meant. She didn’t know what Sally was up to - or why she was doing what she was happening. It was something new - something she didn’t understand. It was something different. So she said nothing.
She had seen kids at school and at parties showing off - and sort of trying to look better than other kids. She asked herself, “Was this what her cousin Sally was trying to say and do to her? To look better than her? Was she trying to say to Sarah, ‘I’m better than you - because I got 17 packets of seeds and you only got 7’?”
She was still thinking about this about a month later - so she asked her mom about what Sally said and did. She didn’t want to be a snitch - because kids made fun of snitches at school. Still Sarah also said to her mom, “I saw her sneak a handful of packets of seeds into her pocketbook when nobody was looking.”
Her mom listened and simply said, “Sarah, don’t worry about it. She’ll be okay.” However, her mom began thinking about all this. But she didn’t say, “Sarah, in life, try not to judge people. You never know why people do what they do.”
In July Sarah and her mom and dad went to Sally’s house - for a Fourth of July cookout. Sally and Sarah were playing with dolls in Sally’s room and Sarah spotted the 17 packets of flower seeds on Sally’s bureau. Sally spotted Sarah spotting the 17 packets of seeds and said, “I loved it when the undertaker told us we could keep the flower seeds. It reminds me of grandma.”
Sarah simply said, “Oh, I miss her too.”
On a Saturday in August, Sally and her parents came over to Sarah’s house and they were sitting in the living room at first - till Sarah’s mom said, “Sarah, why don’t you show Sally your flower garden.”
Both girls went out back - along with Sally’s parents - and there in Sarah’s garden - there they were - about 100 bright, beautiful, all kinds of colored flowers - growing and flourishing in Sarah’s garden.
And as Sally saw all that two things happened: tears and a tearing of her heart - because she knew then and there - what she would learn many years later in church - when she heard the words of Jesus, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies it produces much fruit.”