Saturday, September 29, 2012


Quote for Today  - September 29,  2012

"My life is spent in perpetual alternation between two rhythms,  the rhythm of attracting people for fear I may be lonely, and the rhythm of trying to get rid of them because I know that I am bored."

C.E.M Joad [1891-1953], in Observer, December 12, 1948, page 2.

Friday, September 28, 2012


It’s about time to take care of  _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time to pray.

It’s about time to call up and talk to _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time to forgive _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time to take a good walk.

It’s about time to thank _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time to get moving.

It’s about time to write my life.

It’s about time to throw away _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time to use my talents to write that poem or paint that picture or cultivate my garden or sing that song or play that instrument.

It’s about time I went to an art museum.

It’s about time I get into better shape.

It’s about time I stopped to listen to the birds.

It’s about time to whistle. When was the last time I tried to whistle a tune - or anything - and how about trying it with a kid?

It’s about time I cleaned out my _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time I read _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time I prayed one decade of the rosary - slowly and reverently reflecting on one decade instead of rushing a whole rosary or not praying at all.

It’s about time I sorted out the family photographs.

It’s about time that I asked the big question to _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time we talked about the elephant in the room which is _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time I laughed.

It’s about time I cried.

It’s about time I let go of _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time I went to visit _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time I was in deeper communion with Jesus - that it was more than a quick bite or a quick chat.

It’s about time I stopped complaining about _______. [Fill in the blank.]

It’s about time I simply paused - became quiet - and know God is right here, right now and all is full of grace. Amen.

[Today’s first reading for the 25 Friday in Ordinary Time, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11.  is the famous, “A time for this and a time for that” reading. We hear it at many religious ceremonies. It's also the words used by the Byrds for their hit song, “Turn, Turn, Turn”. The piece above is a first draft variation I wrote this morning for this text.]

Quote for Today  - September 28, 2012

"Whenever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship."

Harry S. Truman [1844-1972]

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Quote for Today -  September 27, 2012 - Feast of St. Vincent de Paul

"The best way to know God is to love many things."

Vincent van Gogh [1853-1859]

Wednesday, September 26, 2012



The title of my homily for this 25th Wednesday in Ordinary time is, “The Lie.”

This theme and issue of lying is expressed in both the first reading [Proverbs 30:5-9] as well as today’s Psalm [119:29, 104].

What I like to do for homilies is read the Mass readings of the day and see what questions they trigger - especially questions that I haven’t looked at in the past. I figure this is a good way to grow and to get stretched. So today’s readings triggered the thought: come up with some thoughts about, “The Lie.”


There are two kinds of lies: the white lie and the bad lie.

In general - and following our conscience - telling a white lie can save time and energy and people. In general, ethics and moral theology allows for so called, “white lies” in some cases.

For example, you’re not going to tell the truth when your sister-in-law asks you how she looks in a certain dress. You know from experience that no matter what you say, that’s the dress she’s going to wear the wedding. And you know it’s going to make her look even fatter. Or someone wants to sit down and talk for 2 hours. You just spent two hours the other day with them. Today you have three important things to do. You know the person is going to feel rejected if you tell the truth. Reality: you just don’t have time for them today. So you lie. You say you have an important appointment at that time - and the important appointment is to just take a needed break - to catch up with some bills or what have you. Or you tell you’re kid to tell someone you’re not at home - when the truth is, you’re not home for them. It’s hard to explain …..

There are various drawbacks to white lies: sometimes they lead to slippage into bad lies by blurring; sometimes people feel they have to confess them - mixing them up with bad lies - or they feel guilty - because it’s not the truth; sometimes you get caught in a white lie. “Uh oh!”

That’s a few comments about white lies. By their nature, they can be slippery, but ….


Bad lies are bad lies.

There are degrees to bad lies. We can use words like big lies and small lies - and lies that lie in between big and little. We also use the words in Catholic circles, “venial” and “mortal”.

Bad lies have consequences - like white lies at times.

In a courtroom - having put hand on the Bible - we could be guilty of perjury.

In a marriage - lies can end a marriage - when they are part of a big time deception.

Bad lies could be part of our pretending to be someone I’m not - and that can do soul damage.

Bad lies can be planting falsehoods out there about others -for various reasons -  and that can destroy community and relationships and the common good.

Agur - have you ever heard of him before - don’t lie - is the author of today’s first reading here in Chapter 30 of Proverbs. He prays not to be a deceiver. He prays to God that God help him, “[Lord], put falsehood and lying far from me.”

I once read a comment by the poet, Theodore Roethke, “O the lies I tell my energies….” He said that in an article about teaching English to students. He wrote, “I’m beginning to feel the mould creep over the lineaments of the soul. O the lies I’ve told to my own energies trying to convince myself I was teaching you something. Twenty times a day I asked myself: are you really worth it?” [2]

Don’t we all have self doubts at times - about faith and marriage and relationships and work and raising kids, etc. “What am I doing here?”

We can be lazy. Theodore Roethke’s comment about the lies we’ve told our energies often hits me. I say things, “Enough already. Hide. Take a break.”

That line led me to think that the first place to look at lies is in oneself. What are the lies I tell myself?  I do it about work and breaks. I do it about eating and health and exercise.

Is it easy to spot lies in political advertising - by all sides. As a result I can’t wait till November 7th.

Didn't Hitler say, "The broad mass of a nation ... will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." [3] 

It’s easier to spot lies people get off about themselves compared to the ones we tell ourselves. What I'm saying here is that the key area is to spot the lies I  tell myself.

Don’t we often lie by repeating comments about others - making suggestions about others that are not true - or hearsay? We judge. We have biases. We have baggage. We often contradict ourselves. We do sloppy reporting.

We spend our lives blaming God and others for our disasters. We repeat our comments or comments we have heard without filtering them - or studying them - or finding out if they are true.

As I reflected on all this, the big message that hit me is that we all have to push our own “mute” button. We need to push our own “pause” button. We need quiet to “mind” and “mint” our words.


In pondering this, we might even ask, “Can I ever speak?”

In pondering this, we might end up saying what is said in the Talmud: “Teach they tongue to say, I do not know.”

In pondering this, we hopefully end up realizing that the key motive and simple goal is to love one another as Christ loved us - and he gave us a call to be in communion with one another.



Painting on top: "The Lie" by Johan Lowie, Oil on woodboard,32"H x 44"W.

[1] Cf. Sissela Bok, Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, Pantheon, 1978; Cf. Dan Ariely, The [Honest] truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone - Especially Ourselves, HarperCollins, 2012

[2] Cf. p, 242 in Allan Seager, The Glass House, The Life of Theodore Roethke, N.Y. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968. This appeared in the May issue of College English, in a piece by Ted entitled, “Last Class”. He is writing about Bennington. (This appeared in Botteghe Oscure, 1950 - Roma - an anthology of new italian writers/ Edited by Marguerite Caetani and selected from the pages of the review Botteghe Oscure.

[3] Adolf Hitler, Die breite Masse eines Volkes ... einer grossen Luge leichter zum Opfer fallt als einer kleine." Mein Kamf (My Struggle, 1925) Volumn 1, chapter 10.

Quote for Today - September 26,  2012

"A nice person lives here with a mean old buzzard."

Sign on a door in a home I visited in Ohio. As I walked away, I wondered, "Who's who?"

Tuesday, September 25, 2012



The title of my homily for this 25th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Proverbs”.

The first reading for yesterday, today and tomorrow are all from the Book of Proverbs - which is part of the Kethuvim or “Writings” in the Jewish Scriptures - which some Christians call the Old Testament. Now some don’t because it could be not EC - that is, Ecumenically correct. Sometimes “old” implies value; sometimes it might be seen as implying “less” or what have you.

Christians divide the Old Testament into 4 sections. The Bible is a library, so Christians divide the library into 4 sections: The Pentateuch, the Historical Books, the Wisdom Books, and the Prophets.

The Jewish Scriptures are divided into 3 sections in the library: the Torah - which we call the Pentateuch; the second part or division is the Nevi’im or the Prophets - which includes some historical books as well; and the 3rd part is the Kithuvim - which has historical writings - along with some wisdom literature.

It’s in this third part - the Kethuvim we find the Book of Proverbs. Today’s proverbs are part of a collection of 376 proverbs attributed to Solomon. In the Middle East - dare we say many cultures - the king is seen as a source of wisdom.

Dare we also say every culture has proverbs - usually short statements that give practical advice or insight. Here are 3 proverbs about money not in the Bible - from different cultures: 
·        Portuguese proverb: “Give me money, not advice.”
·        Russian proverb: “When money speaks, truth keeps silent.”
·        Italian proverb: “Public money is like holy water - everyone dips their hand into it.”


To be practical here is some homework.

I mentioned in my homily for Sunday: if you want to read the Bible and don’t know where to start, one good place would be the Letter of James.

I added: in general, “Don’t start with book one: Genesis.”

The Book of Proverbs might be a second smart place to start after James. You can just skim through this book and pick out 3 to 5 proverbs that grab you. This could be like going through the Old Reader’s Digest when they had the “Points to Ponder” and “Quotable Quotes” sections.

Doing that would keep on building up interest  and use of the Bible as one finds some down deep practical wisdom sayings.

Further homework could be what I would call, “Proverb Therapy.”

I already have pushed what I call “Story Therapy”.  I hold that everyone has 5 to 10 stories they use to deal with life’s issues - and self healing - and healthy ways to look at life.

I am also thinking that everyone uses “Proverb Therapy.”

For example, how many people in the midst of suffering say, “I thought I had it bad - but it could be worse - because I met a really sick person.” You’ve heard the saying, “My big toe was killing me till I met someone without any feet.”

How many 12 Step Folks in AA or other 12 Step programs say over and over again, “A step at a time.” or “Easy does it.” or “A day at a time.” Then there is my favorite saying in AA -  the first half of which is a saying from Jesus, “The truth will set you free, but first it will hurt.”


Life is a classroom. Stop complaining about  teachers - because you’re the teacher and you're the student and everyday has it lessons. Learn them. Do your homework. Then you can go out and play - because all work and no play - makes one a pretty dull person.  Let's add, "... because all work and all play and no prayer- means a dull person as well."


Quote for Today - September 25,  2012

"Solomon made a book of proverbs, but a book of proverbs never made a Solomon."


The statue is of Solomon. It's by Andrea Pisano from 1343. I don't know if the picture above is of the copy of this statue on the second level of the Bell Tower or Campanile in Florence - or is it the original statue which was brought inside the Duomo Museum in Florence Italy - so that it will be preserved and seen better. 

Monday, September 24, 2012



The title of my thoughts for this 25th Monday in Ordinary Time is, “The Light  In The Night.”

I overheard two people on a bus the other day talking about the night. One person said she leaves the TV on all night. It gives light to get up during the night without stubbing her toes. The other lady said, “I could never do that. It would keep me awake all night. I need the dark.”

Evidently different people do different things. People have different patterns.

That conversation came back to me as I read today’s gospel.


In today’s gospel from Luke 8:16 we have a saying of Jesus that appears in Mark 4:21-22 and Matthew 5:15. Luke refers to it again in 11:33 - when he’ll then jump to the image of the human eye. Jesus says there that we can tell a person by looking them in the eye. Where did Jesus get his lights and insights? Jesus must have done a lot of eye searching and eye looking into.  We find the image of light again in John 11:12,  when Jesus announces that he is the light of the world. We know in Matthew 5:14 right before this image of the light on the light stand, that we’re called to be light to the world as well.

Today’s gospel text and image is also found in the Egyptian Coptic Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. Here is Logia or Saying 33: 
            “Jesus said: 
             What you shall hear 
             in your ear 
             and in the other ear, 
             preach that from your housetops; 
             for no one lights a lamp 
             and puts it under a  bushel, 
             nor does one put it in a hidden place, 
             but one sets it on a lamp stand,
             so that all who come in and go out 
             may see its light.” 
[The "bushel" is a small bushel measuring cup that can be used to snuff out an oil lamp - without causing sparks and lots of smoke or too much smell into a tiny room of a house.] [1]

So this image of the light on the lamp stand in the dark is very Jesus.

Gospel commentaries explain this image very well. A regular home in Palestine for the average person - a peasant - had one room. And the lamp stand would have an oil lamp. When you came into a home the light from the outside would light up the tiny home. If you came into the house in the dark, if the oil lamp on the lamp stand was lit, you could see who and what was in the home. There was very little privacy - and animals might be in the back of the house.

Having heard that, we can grasp what Jesus is saying.
     "No one who lights a lamp 
      conceals it with a vessel 
      or sets it under a bed;
rather, one places it on a lamp stand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden 
that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known 
and come to light.”

In a small house, in a small village, everything is found out.


So what’s a lesson or a message from all this? Here are a few:

Honesty is the best policy.

“So live,” as the old saying goes, “that you wouldn’t be scared to sell your pet parrot to the town gossip.”

Remember the 3 monkeys: See No Evil; Hear No Evil; Speak No Evil.

Be grateful for walls - and privacy - and the space you have.

Go family camping in one tent every once and a while. It gets you to be grateful for back home a lot more.

When it comes to people, realize people are different. Some like to sleep in the dark; some people like some night light on.


[1] Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, Revised Edition,1963, page 120; Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, pages 51, 335, 205.

Quote for Today - September 24, 2012

"If you are sure you understand everything that is going on, you are hopelessly confused."

Walter Mondale, [1928 -  ] Poughkeepsie Journal, March 26, 1978


When was the last time you were sure about something and you found out you were "big time" wrong? Be specific.

When was the last time you were sure about someone and you found out you were "big time" wrong? Be specific.

Why not ask each other at the dinner table these two questions and don't forget to add, "Be specific!" or "For example?"

Sunday, September 23, 2012



The title of my homily is, “Cultivating Peace.”

That’s a phrase in today’s second reading from James.

I think it’s worth looking at - praying over - reflecting on - considering - and then trying to put into practice.

“Cultivating Peace.”


I’m sure all of us sometime in our life have tried our hand at planting something. We might have been a kid and we saw those seeds in the inside middle of a light orange honeydew melon. We certainly weren’t going to eat them. “Oooh!” So we asked our mom or dad, “Could I plant those seeds?”

We did. We looked at our pot or plot every day - waiting for new life. Surprise something grew. We didn’t get any honeydew melons, but we got a green plant. A nice surprise for the eyes of a small child.

I’m sure many of you planted tomatoes or zucchini - roses or tulips - and surprise - you saw the fruits of your work.

Has anyone ever had the fantasy of buying 10 or 20  packets of flower seeds and just throw them on the ground somewhere - especially in an ugly empty dirt lot - and then imagine ourselves and others going  by that spot a few months later. Surprise the lot or the highway divider or wherever we tossed or scattered those seeds was filled with flowers.  I always thought that would be a much nicer thing for young people to do than graffiti.

So we know what it is to cultivate.

The title of my homily is, “Cultivating Peace.”


What are the ingredients of peace?

What do we have  to scatter?

Here’s a random list of positives: listening, fairness, equality, respect, compassion, civility,  forgiveness, education, assuming the good will of the other….

Here’s a random list of negatives: not judging, no racism, no bias, not yelling or shutting down on another or others, no finger pointing…. 


We’ve been listening to the letter of James for 4 Sundays now - and we have him again next Sunday as our second reading.

I love to say to someone who wants to start reading the Bible: “Start with James.” Starting with Genesis is like going into a library and reading the first book on the first shelf - as you come in the door.  The Bible is a library. Do what people do in a library. Look around - and pick a book that grabs you.

I love to recommend James if someone wants a recommendation on where to start in the Bible. I add - “If you don’t get James, say ‘Uh oh!’ I’m in trouble.”

In fact, I think it would be a great book to start a Bible Book of The Month Discussion Group - if you want to start one.

And talking about Book of the Month, it’s neat that this year we have James for the 5 Sundays of September and September only has 30 days. James is our book of the month. Mark is our book of the year.

In today’s reading from James he tells us how to cultivate war and how to cultivate peace.

If you want war here are the seeds - here are the ingredients: jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, let your passions run riot, covet what you don’t possess, insincerity,  kill and envy what you can’t obtain, fight, don’t ask or if you do ask, ask wrongly - with lots of passion.

If you want peace here are the seeds - here are the ingredients: gentleness, mercy, compliance - and the opposite of the seeds of war.

The title of my homily is, “Cultivating Peace.”

Pope Paul VI is known for his words, “If you want peace, work for justice.”

Pope Benedict XVI playing on those words said, “If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.”


Look in the mirror - look oneself in the eye - ask oneself, “Am I a peacemaker?”

A few years ago I was in a bus and we were coming into Northern Ireland. We were going to stay in the city of Derry - which was famous or infamous for its violence and its clashes. For years I had seen on the evening news the gun towers on the borders between the north and the south. In the towers were soldiers with guns. As we approached the borders there were no towers. Instead there were big flower pots with flowers - instead of soldiers with machine guns.

It was a wonderful sight. It was a wonderful stark contrast between war and peace. 

What’s it like when someone approaches me: war or peace?

As the old saying goes, “There are two types of people: those who cause happiness wherever they go; and those who cause happiness whenever they go.”

Each of us needs to look in the mirror and ask: “What’s it like to meet me? Do people walk away enriched or impoverished?”

Each of us needs to look in the mirror and ask, “What do my conversations sound and look like: complaints - gripes - lots of whining and arguments or a conversation that uplifts, refreshes and makes our day.”

Each of us needs to look in the mirror and ask, “Am I that grouchy old man I said I’d never become when I was a little kid and I had to ask him for my spaldeen - pink rubber ball - that went into his front garden?”

Each of us needs to look in the mirror and ask, “Am I the like that sweet little old lady with the cane on our street when we were growing up or the 5th grade teacher who always had time for everyone and we said, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like her.’” Have I?

Each of us needs to look at today’s first reading and ask, “Do I gossip or nitpick on the saints amongst us - because compared to us - down, down, down deep, they make us feel ugly about ourselves?

Each of us needs to look at today’s gospel and ask if our ongoing inner self argument is all about our desire to be first, the greatest, and we know we’re not - but instead Jesus is right - the secret is to be last and the servant of all.

I was at a wedding reception yesterday and I was on  Table 2 with the parents of  the bridegroom and their daughter and her 3 kids. I saw first hand the difference between parents and grandparents. Parenting is tougher. I saw how a mom has to be a servant - a big time servant - when you have to feed 3 little ones at a wedding banquet - be a peace maker between two brothers with each other and their cousins who came over from Table 3 and spent lots of time on the floor as well as a good bit of time under both tables - which had white table cloths to the floor.


The title of my homily is, “Cultivating Peace.”

Look in the mirror each morning and looking yourself in your eye, ask, "What's my plan for today?" Hear your answer: "Cultivating Peace!"

How to cultivate peace? Today’s readings especially James gives us the ingredients of how to cultivate peace and also how to cultivate war.

I always like it when they have on the inside back cover of Missalettes, those books with music and the readings in the benches in most churches,  the peace prayer of St. Francis. Our’s does not. So find a copy of that prayer.  Keep it on your bathroom mirror and read it and then cultivate its plan and make each goal your hope for that day as you begin each new day. Amen.


Quote for Today - September 23,  2012

"I am the voice of today, the herald of tomorrow ....  I am the leaden army that conquers the world - I am TYPE."

Frederick William Goudy [1865-1947], The Type Speaks


If Frederick William Goudy was speaking today - how would he communicate his message? By text or twitter? By cellphone or TV clips? By blog or e-mail? How?

What do you want to announce to your world? To your family? To your country? To your church or synagogue or mosque or temple?