Saturday, November 10, 2012


Quote for Today  November 10, 2012

Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
Music and lyrics ©1976 by Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the "Gales of November" came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
with a crew and good captain well seasoned,
concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.
And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
and a wave broke over the railing.
And ev'ry man knew, as the captain did too
'twas the witch of November come stealin'.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
when the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
in the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin'.
"Fellas, it's too rough t'feed ya."
At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in; he said,
(*2010 lyric change: At 7 p.m., it grew dark, it was then he said,)
"Fellas, it's bin good t'know ya!"
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
and the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when 'is lights went outta sight
came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the love of God goes
when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
if they'd put fifteen more miles behind 'er.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
they may have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
the islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
with the Gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
in the "Maritime Sailors' Cathedral."
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they call "Gitche Gumee."
"Superior," they said, "never gives up her dead
when the gales of November come early!"


The Edmund Fitzgerald sank this day, November 10, 1975



The title of my homily is, “Temples, Churches, Mosques and Synagogues.”

If you drive through Annapolis, you’ll find churches, temples, an old synagogue - but I don’t know about mosques. Up Duke of Gloucester Street from St. Mary’s is the Presbyterian Church. Up at the top of Duke of Gloucester at Church Circle, you’ll see St. Anne’s church. You can also see on our street  a building that was a Jewish synagogue.

If you go up Rowe Boulevard you’ll spot two churches - the Methodist and then the Lutheran Church. On Spa Road you can see a Jewish Temple.

Right near us here at St. John Neumann there are two churches down the road and the Unitarian Church next to us.

If you drive around the United States or many places in our world, you’ll find, temples, churches, mosques and synagogues.

Why?  Why do people build temples, churches, mosques and synagogues?


There are cemeteries, cemeteries, cemeteries everywhere. They tell us people die and we have to bury folks in special places.

There are stores, stores, stores, everywhere. That tells us people need and buy things.

There are banks, restaurants, gas stations, car dealers - everywhere. That tells us people need places to save their money or to borrow money - as well there are places to eat, which tell us we’re hungry, as well as car dealerships that tell us people buy cars and there are gas stations to fill up - unless the car is an electric and battery powered car.

We know the answer to the why question when it comes to all those places. But what about temples, churches, mosques and synagogues? Why do people build such places?

THE WHY OF temples, churches, mosques and synagogues

Here we are in this church. Why? For what reason?

We’re here to pray. We’re here to thank God. We’re here to ask God for help. We’re here to say we’re sorry. We’re here to do these together.

People come here to thank God for new babies and have them baptized and blessed. People come here to get married. People come here to pray together when someone dies and have a funeral Mass for them. We use this particular church for a graduation Mass for our 8th graders. Today we’re having this 12:10 Mass for our regular mid-day Mass crowd - as well as our St. Mary’s high school freshmen and women - who are on retreat today.

We come here to celebrate the great feasts of Jesus - Christmas, his birth into our world - and Easter - his Resurrection back into Eternity.

We come here to hear the sacred readings from our Holy Scriptures and to eat and be in communion with Christ in the Eucharist.

Notice the “we”. We do these things not just by ourselves - we do these things in the presence of others. It’s called “community”.

Those are a few brief answers to why this church has been built. I leave answers to the “Why?” question about temples, mosques and synagogues to leaders and teachers in those religions.


I brought up the topic of “Temples, Churches, Mosques and Synagogues” - because today the Catholic Church celebrates the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome - way back on November 9th 324.

Back in 1984, I visited that church in Rome  - dedicated to our Savior Jesus Christ. It was also dedicated to St. John and ended up being called St. John Lateran. It’s a big church - but not a church that grabbed me - by its look. I visited it on an off hour, so it was rather dark.  It’s a big long rectangular box of a church - not that far from the Redemptorist headquarters in Rome. The priests who serve this parish are Redemptorists - so I add that comment.

What grabbed me when I visited St. John Lateran church was not its look - but its history. It was the site of 5 ecumenical councils. It’s the episcopal seat of the pope - the bishop of Rome - way before St. Peter’s - which Catholics consider the “mother church” of the Catholic Church. The popes lived there - till they moved to Avignon in France in 1309.

So that visit St. John Lateran - had me visiting history.


Today - November 9th - Redemptorists celebrate the opening day of our congregation - not in Rome - but in Scala, Italy, a tiny town above the beautiful Amalfi Coast. St. Alphonsus Liguori who started our community picked November 9th - because he wanted to call his group - not Redemptorists - but Priests of Our Savior Jesus Christ - the other name of St. John Lateran's Church in Rome.

The year was 1732. Six men showed up for that first day.

Within 6 months all had left St. Alphonsus but 1 person - a brother named Vitus Curtius - stayed.

Thank God St. Alphonsus kept at it - and we are still around after all these years. We were up to 9000 + members in our best days in the middle of the last century. Now we’re around 6000.

I add the numbers because today’s readings bring out that the church is buildings - but more importantly - it’s made up of people - living people. [1]

We are called to be church and temples and houses of prayer.

I don’t know if they have that theology in Islam.


Enough. I close with the message of Christ in today’s gospel: We are called to be houses of prayer and the gate of heaven for each other - so let us be that. Amen.



[1] First Reading: Ezekiel 47: 1-1, 8-9, 12; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3: 9c-11, 16-17; Gospel John 2: 13-22.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Quote for Today  - November 9, 2012

"Unless we learn the meaning of mercy by exercising it towards others, we  will never have any real knowledge of what it means to love Christ."

Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness, [1963]

Thursday, November 8, 2012



The title of my homily for this 31st Thursday in Ordinary Time  is, “Thank You, Luke.”

If we didn’t have the Gospel of Luke - or if we had a gospel of Luke without this 15th Chapter of Luke - and if someone preached on its theme for today - the preacher might be turned into the pope because of the content and its key message: Jesus celebrates communion - Jesus eats with sinners.

“Oh my God, did you see whom Jesus walked up the aisle to be in communion with!”


We’ve heard a hundred times in our life that we can’t take it with us.  I don’t know how it works after death, but as of now, I’m going to take with me the 15th Chapter of Luke.

Of course, what happens after death is out of our control - obviously!

As I was reflecting on today’s gospel I remembered about a time when I was praying. I was half asleep or half awake or half something. I imagined that I died. I  meet God.  I say to God, “I’m expecting You to be the God that Jesus talked about in Luke 15 and if you’re not like that, the hell with you.  I’m going to go find that God.”

Ooops! Having blurted that out woke me up big time. I went, “Uh oh!” putting my hand over my mouth for saying such a thing to God. Then I halted and said, fully awake, “Well, if you are not the one Jesus talked about in Luke 15 - I mean that: the heck with you!” Noticed I softened it up a bit when I was more awake - moving from hell to heck. Yet, that’s the God I expect to meet when I die. I’m banking on you, Luke!


Reading today’s gospel - especially its opening sentence - I sense what was happening in Luke’s community - was what happened to Jesus as well as Christians down through the history of our Church. There have always been people who thought certain people shouldn’t be in church - certain people shouldn’t be in communion with Jesus and the community. Yes. That's what I'm saying here. In the history of the world, there have always been people who are excommunicators.

Without knowing who they were and what I said that was offensive, I’ve had people point their finger at me - and shaking their finger at me in the parking lot - yelling something at me. I think they were saying, “You’re wrong! You’re in the wrong space. You shouldn’t be here!”

Sticks and stones will break my bones and names will always hurt me as well.

I have learned in my mind to simply say, “Hi!” or “Peace!” or say nothing - especially when someone seems to want to excommunicate me from their Church or their vision of the Church - or from “Who’s Right?” or what have you? I have to be careful not to do the same thing in return. I think Jesus learned to turn the other cheek - from many rejections - way before he was smacked around on the night before he died - as well as the following day.

Laugh! I know Jesus Christ and I'm no Jesus Christ.

I sense that Jesus ran into this full time - this urge to exclude people from communion with each other. And Jesus experienced the ultimate excommunication. They killed him. They way of the crossed him till they had pushed him outside the city of Jerusalem. They excommunicated him. They refused communion with him. And from his wooden pulpit - the cross - he said, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Wow! We all need to learn to say that prayer every day!


Recently with the new translation of the central prayers of the Mass - the Canon - those in charge changed the words “for all” to “for many”.

If a priest doesn’t go along with this and is turned in - he won’t be excommunicated - but he might be in trouble.

There are two traditions on this: those who push for “for many” and those who push for “for all”.

I say what’s in the book - “for many”  but I’m aware that different bishops around the world disagree with this “for many”. [1]

It feels strange to me every time I say “for many”, because I’ve been saying “for all” for all these years.

But I sense all this is deeper than that. I’m not sure about this, but I sense that Luke was more wide open than Matthew.

I sense that is because Matthew was writing  mainly for Jewish Christians and Luke mainly for Gentile Christians.  We hear in the New Testament readings various struggles about  the uncircumcised from the circumcised. I’m sure you noticed that in today’s first reading from Philippians 3:3-8a.

If we read the New Testament we certainly get a feel for the struggles about intercommunion of people with people - insights with insights - theology with theology.


So today’s gospel - the beginning of Luke 15 -  begins with the words: "The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'"

There it is - the shock, the anger, the attempt to not allow Jesus to be in communion with sinners - to eat with them - to welcome them.

So in Luke 15,  Jesus tells 3 stories - 3 stories of welcome - 3 stories of Jesus loving sinners: the story of the Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the Lost Son.

The third story - which we didn't hear today -  that of the Prodigal Son - ends with a note of sadness - the elder brother would not welcome his brother home. He stayed outside and would not come into the banquet that the father threw for his found son.

I’ve heard that same Elder Brother in various churches not wanting younger brothers - people they judge to be sinners - to be there. I hope all brothers and sisters - when we meet each other - at least in heaven, we’ll reach out and be in communion with each other - and celebrate the Great Supper of the Lamb with each other.


Let me close with one more moment from my life that has impacted me ever since. It’s a personal example. I hope you are in touch with your personal examples about your God experiences.

Once upon a time I was making a holy hour of prayer in front of Jesus in the tabernacle. I was by myself. And once more - like many people in prayer - I spaced out.

Once more, somewhat out of it, I had a moment of grace. I imagined Jesus the Good Shepherd, standing there with me as a lost sheep around his neck. I felt tremendous grace and light - because in the experience I sensed that the underbelly of a sheep is smelly of urine, etc. yet Jesus wrapped me around his neck and had a great smile on his face.

I was loved - no matter what. I was the Lost Sheep and Jesus found me.

Later on I realized the tabernacle door had on it an image of Jesus - the Good Shepherd in bright bronze.

Later on I realized this experience was  not far fetched. It’s Luke 15. So that’s why I said I’m taking Luke 15 with me into heaven. Thank you, Luke. 



[1] "Bishops Irked by Vatican Interference," by Christa Pongratz-Lippit, The Tablet, October 20, 2012, page 31; "Letter from Rome," Robert Mickens, The Tablet, May 5, 2012, page 31

Quote for Today - November 8, 2012

"But Lord,
Be merciful to me,

a fool!"

Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887), The Fool's Prayer.

Check out Luke 18:14

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Quote for Today  - November 7, 2012

"What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
It's the only thing that there's just too little of."

Hal David [1921- ] , What the World Needs Now Is Love [1965]



The title of my homily for this 31 Tuesday in Ordinary Time  is, “Attitude.”

It’s a word that is sometimes used when parents or teachers or coaches are talking to young people.  I’m assuming Paul is challenging the Christian community in Philippi to look at Christ's attitude compared to their attitude in their ways of thinking and treating one another. [Cf. Philippians 2:5-11]

It’s a word that appears in today’s first reading - when Paul says, “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.” To me that sentence is a bit clumsy, so I looked up other translations. I noticed that the Greek word, “PHRONEMA” is translated by the English words,  “attitude” or “mind”.  So here are a few translations of the key word and key sentence Philippians 2: 5.

 “The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had.” [Good News Bible]

“Let Christ Jesus be your example as to what your attitude should be.” [J.B. Phillips translation]

“Your attitude should be the kind what was shown us by Jesus Christ.” [The Living Bible - Paraphrased]

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” [King James Version]

“Let your bearing towards one another arise out of your life in Christ. Jesus.” [The New English Bible]

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” [The New Revised Standard Version]

“In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus.” [Jerusalem Bible]

In these translations from the Greek, I hear Paul saying, “Have Jesus’ Mind” - or  “Have Jesus’ attitude.” Or we can use the acronym from a few years back: “WWJD” - “What Would Jesus Do?”


As I reflected on the 2 readings for today I came up with 3 ways to have Jesus’ mind or attitude on how to live life and how to behave.


The first way is the emphasis of today’s first reading: emptying self of self.  Paul gives us what various scholars think is a very early Christian hymn.[1] The Second Person of God empties himself of being God and becomes us. He then empties himself even further by becoming our servant. He then empties himself even more by being crushed and crucified by human beings. When we killed Jesus - we might say, “We killed God” and “We killed one of us” -  ourselves at our best. Maybe we couldn’t face being who we are called to be: ourselves created in the image and likeness of God.

So the first way to have the mind of Jesus - or the attitude of Jesus -  is the willingness to empty - to die to self - to become the servant of all - like Jesus did. Tough stuff. Haven’t we heard Jesus say that a dozen times? [2]


The second way to acquire the mind of Jesus or the attitude of Jesus is to simply watch Jesus dealing with people and life situations and then imitate him. We read the gospels to watch Jesus in action and then do likewise. That means to forgive - to love - to be aware of those tugging on our sleeve - to notice the unnoticed  - to wash feet - to feed others - to go the extra mile - to give the shirt off our back - in other words to do all those things that get us to be called “sheep” and not “goats” when the King gathers us all together at the Last Judgment. [3]


The third way of taking on the mind of Jesus or the attitude of Jesus is to learn his teachings and then try to put them into practice. Here is where today’s gospel is quite a challenge.

Let me see if I can put into words a bit of what I understand or something that grabs me from today's gospel.

What is my attitude towards life?  Do I see life as an invitation to celebrate - as in a banquet - along with everyone else? We’re aware of the text in Matthew - when Jesus answers those who ask him why do John’s disciples fast and his don’t: “Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them"? [4]

So how do we see life? If people are recovering from a hurricane like Sandy or Katrina, one better not say, “Life is a banquet my friends, come to the cabaret.” If people are going through a crisis, a divorce, the loss of a job, a death, obviously I cannot see them seeing life as a banquet.

So how we see life at a particular moment is an, "It all depends!"

So the famous words of Ecclesiastes, “There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven: a time for giving birth, a time for dying; … a time for tears, a time for laughter….” [Eccleisastes 3: 1-8] could be put on the table here. I have to face lots of different situations in life - so I have to adjust my thinking and my attitude - to fit the situation.

So too Jesus. 

I can’t see Jesus with a grin on his face all day long - especially when he saw suffering and struggle - but I ask myself, “What was his basic attitude towards life in ordinary time?" 

That’s one of my lifetime questions.  Compared to the mind or the attitude that the Pharisees had towards life - being all law and dealing with nit picky stuff - I hope to live my life with joy and in and with the freedom of Jesus Christ. I hear this in the gospels loud and clear. I have met people whose main metaphor for life is that it’s a battle. I never got that.  I have always had trouble with that image and that mind set for life. [5]

I also picture Jesus experiencing rejection. I picture Jesus seeing people walking away from him because of his attitude towards life. Was he too happy for them? I picture Jesus discovering that many of those called - didn’t buy his call. He discovered that not everyone accepted his take on life.

Is it automatic frustration if we want everyone to like us - and everyone to accept our attitude and mind set for life?

The more we live, the more we see variety and possibilities in the people around us who are living out  what they think Jesus’ vision of how life works. Here is where we need to check out our attitude towards other people.

At times it is difficult to get along with each other - especially when another is different than I am - or looks different - or talks or thinks differently or what have you.

The reality is that we are different. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? People have different attitudes about who are the “good people” - who are the “chosen people” - who are the “saved” - as well as who are the “wrong people” to be in community and communion with.  We judge each other. We like being with so and so. We avoid being with so and so. We are hesitant about the stranger and the unwashed. 

Today’s gospel is quite a challenge - because Jesus is saying that life is this banquet to be celebrated together. However, when Jesus proclaimed this message: many declined the invitation. So he said, “Okay, if you don’t want to be in the kingdom, at the dinner, at the banquet, I'll send out my disciples to call others and fill the banquet hall.

Luke - challenges Jewish Christians to think outside the box of Judaism - and see that Christ starts in Jerusalem and reaches out to the Gentiles - to the Many!

Today’s parable of The Great Supper challenges us to look at our attitudes towards “Who’s Who?” in our church - in our parish -in our circles.

I hope our church keeps on going out to all the world - to China, to Japan, to Russia, to Moslems, to India,  to Europe, to the Americas - to all regions of the planet. I hope our church keeps calling all to come to the banquet. 

I would suspect this parable of The Great Supper gets in there under our prejudices - into the gray matter of our attitudes at times. We look around and ask, “What is he doing here?” “What is she doing here?” “What are they doing here?” 

I don't know about you, but there is usually someone in the room, who challenges us. To be transparent, I know I am challenged at times by folks who are ultra-right or ultra-strict. I think most people have their list of undesirables. Today’s gospel story challenges us right there - in our mind and in our attitudes.

Jesus says the kingdom - the will of God - is the call to a great supper - a great banquet. If the invited don’t accept this message of Jesus, well then Jesus says to go out and call in the unwashed, the beggars, the blind, the lame and the dumb. My banquet hall must be filled. Notice that Luke’s version of the story handed down from Jesus does not have the addition that  Matthew gives. Matthew says the invited outcast now the in crowd - needs to have a wedding garment. Luke says he or she just needs to be there. [6]


My favorite retelling of this story in today’s gospel is by Flannery O’Connor. It’s in a story called, “Revelation.”

Her stories  take place down south. The setting for "Revelation" begins in a doctor’s office and ends on a farm.

It’s the story of a woman named Mrs. Ruby Turpin who brings her husband to the doctor - because he has a bad sore on his leg.

Ruby comes into a small doctor’s waiting room. She doesn’t like the crowded look of the room and those in the room: white trash, the ugly, the overweight, and the poorly dressed folks. There’s only one seat. She tells her husband to take it. She is screaming inwardly that there is a kid on a couch with a running nose - and whoever his mother is, doesn’t tell him to get off the couch and give it to the lady who just walked in.

Ruby Turpin does not like these folks she has to hover with.

At night she plays a game in her mind about who she would be,  if she wasn’t herself. She wonders who she would want to be and who would she not want to be. She would not want to be black, white trash, ugly, or unwashed.

It’s a long short story - and this sermon is too long already.(7) Let me just say that a girl in the waiting room goes berserk and hits the 48 year old Ruby with a book. She then jumps on Ruby and calls her “an old wart hog from hell.”  They sedate the girl and she is carried away the insane asylum.

The story ends with Ruby back home on their farm. It’s  sunset, It’s  beautiful. The sky is filled with colors. Ruby has a vision - a revelation. She sees a bridge up into heaven. Then she sees folks she considers white trash, the ugly, the poor, the blacks [she uses the n word], to all be on a bridge leading up into heaven.  Surprise she sees herself - but she’s not first.


[1] The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, “The Letter to the Philippians,” Brendan Byrne, S.J., p. 792.

[2] Check out these gospel texts where Jesus tells us he is the servant of all as well as our call to serve: John 13: 1-16; Mark 10:41-45; Matthew 20: 24-28; Luke 22: 24-27

[3] Matthew 25: 31-46

[4] Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19; Luke 5:34.

[5]  Cf. Lorenzo  Scupoli, The Spiritual Combat as well as the writings of Dr. Peter Kreeft. Cf. also Romans 13:14 and especially  Ephesians 6:10-20.

[6] Compare Matthew 22: 1-14 with today’s text Luke 14:16-24.

(7) The spoken version of the homily was 1/3 shorter. As I walked towards the pulpit, I knew it was too long and too vague. I knew it was a first draft - so I fixed it up a bit for my blog. It still needs clarification - especially on Part 3.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Quote for Today  - November 6, 2012

"You don't have to attend every argument you're invited to."

Brenda Ashford, submitted this to Guideposts, August 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012


Quote for Today - November 5,  2012

"'Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed', was the ninth beatitude."

Alexander Pope [1688-1744] in Letter to Fortesque [September 23, 1725]


I don't know the background or the reasons for  this comment - but I still want to make some comments and reactions. 

Try it - that is - not to have expectations - and listen and watch what happens to your soul.

Even that - not to have expectations - is an expectation.

Did this Pope's wife have any children?  If she did, what was he thinking for those 9 months?

My comment would be: Crazy!  Life is all about expectations - starting with Christmas Morning.

Painting on top: "Merry Christmas" (1891)  by  the Danish painter Viggo Johansen  (1851-1935)

Sunday, November 4, 2012



The title of my homily for this 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time B is, “How Far Am I From The Kingdom of God?”


The second last sentence in today’s gospel is a statement from Jesus. Jesus says to the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” [Cf. Mark 12: 28b to 34]

The last sentence in today’s gospel is, “And no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

In this homily I’m daring each of us to ask Jesus this question: “How Far Am I From The Kingdom of God?”

This could lead to another question:  “Just what is this Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven that you, Jesus, are often talking about?”

If you’ve ever left the United States for a vacation or a trip, you know the feeling on returning of coming to the custom’s desk - usually at the airport - or at the border - and you pass your passport over to an officer. You stand there as he or she looks at your passport - your picture - you - and then a computer screen. Then there is a pause. Then there is that wonderful message, “Welcome home!” You’re back in the good old U.S.A.  Then you get home and you come into your house and you feel, “It’s good to be home.”

So we know when we’re home. We know when we’re in our own state and when we are in our country.

But do we know when are we in this kingdom of heaven that the scribe in today’s gospel is not far from?

Would Jesus say to us: “Welcome home. You’re in the kingdom?” or would Jesus say, “You’re not far from the kingdom of God” or would he say, “You’re far from the kingdom of God”?

That question is the gut and the genesis of this  homily.


On a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest and best, if we were asked, "How good am I as a member of God’s kingdom?".  most of us would become silent.

I don’t hear myself or most of us using that word "kingdom" or asking that question. However, we do see ourselves or identify ourselves as being members of various other kinds of categories:
       o       Ravens or Redskins or Steelers Fan
       o       Marylander
       o       Catholic
       o       Christian
       o       Independent, Democrat, Republican
       o       Annapolitan
       o       Married, Single
       o       Rich, Poor, Middle Class
       o       American - American citizen
We could possibly rate ourselves on a scale of one to ten on those categories - but how good are we as a member of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven?

I know I hesitate when I think about this question - because I’m not that sure of the criteria. There are no t-shirts to wear, bumper stickers to put on our car, games to watch, coffee mugs to drink from - with the words, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I’ve heard people say from time to time, “I’m not that good a Catholic!”  Or “I try to be a good Christian.” To say that implies we have an idea in mind what constitutes a good Catholic and a good Christian and we sort of know how we’re doing.

Then there is that “uh oh!” state we wonder about - if we’re living in it: the state of grace. That’s an “Uh oh!” We have glimpses of what that is all about.

But today I’m preaching about being in the state or mystery called, “the Kingdom of God”.

If we read the Gospels we often hear about being a member of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of heaven.

What’s it like to be in that kingdom - so we can compare ourselves to the model - or get an estimate on how we’re doing?

I don’t know if the scribe in today’s gospel wanted to enter Jesus’ group or Jesus’ view or Jesus way of doing life. I don’t know if the scribe - meaning someone who was educated - understood what the Kingdom of God meant.

Another question: fill in the blank.  I see myself mainly as a ___________?

I think that’s a great question - hey I made it up. I would think that what we fill in that blank with would tell us a lot about ourselves.

Would the answer be “human being”. I see myself mainly as one more human being on this planet and there are lots of us. Or would we fill in the blank with one of these words as our #1 answer on how I mainly see myself: mother, father, husband, wife, plumber, lawyer, accountant, kid, teacher, lover, friend, Christian, Catholic, son, daughter, grandparent, cancer survivor, lonely, satisfied, rich, lucky , blessed.

If we come up with the #1 way we see ourselves, then we could rate ourselves on a scale of 1 to 10 - 10 being the highest and the best.


In this homily I want to push and press for the category of being a kingdom member as a possibility for how we see ourselves.

In today’s gospel we hear about a scribe - someone without a name. For starters we only know that he can read and write. Then we find out that he asks Jesus a big question: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” 

Had he been watching Jesus? Did he hear about Jesus? Did Mark put this question in here because all of us down deep ask that question all the time - and most of the time - without knowing we’re asking it?

What’s it all about? Where am I? How am I doing? God - are you satisfied with how I’m living my life? Oh my God, I’m scared about all this down deep at times.

And Jesus answers the man by quoting the Shema - the great commandment to Israel: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

The Shema - the Great Commandment - which we also heard in today's first reading from Deuteronomy 6: 4-5 was put on a tiny piece of parchment - rolled up - and put in a tiny box - the Mezuzah - and that was nailed to one’s door frame - as a reminder. Here’s the plan. Here’s the message. Here’s the key. Here's how to live life.

Then Jesus added a second commandment - also from the Jewish Scriptures: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Cf. Leviticus 19:18b]

Public speakers often say, “If you can’t put your message on a matchbook cover or a calling card, you don’t know your message!”

There it is - there’s the plan. There’s a plan. And it can fit on a tiny piece of paper.

But does it put us in the kingdom of God? Does it put a smile on God’s face when we live that plan, that message? Does it put us in the state of grace? Will that bring us basic joy?

We have to answer these questions. We have to spell out the implications of the two great commandments Jesus mentions in today’s gospel. We have to score ourselves on how well we are doing.

The metaphor or image or word I like for the Kingdom is Dream. The Kingdom is the Dream of God for all his children for all creation.[1]


My goal for this homily today was just to ask the question - and to ask each of us to put ourselves in the skin of the scribe. We can read and write. We can listen. We can think.

Asking ourselves if we are members of the kingdom - widens the circle.

We know we’re members of the Church? We know we’re members of a parish - state - country. But being a member of the Kingdom - now that’s mystery - that’s wider. That challenges us to see the Church as a means to bring us into the Kingdom of God. [2] It makes the head person not the pope - or bishop - or priest - or who have you - but God our Father - and Jesus as our Teacher as he is in today’s gospel - at other times he’s our High Priest - as we heard in today’s second reading. It focuses that the scriptures, the writings, the Church, it’s teachings and teachers, are to challenge and help us to enter into the kingdom - which Jesus describes in many images and ways.

It also widens the circle to include all people - all religions - and all ways of life.

I picture the scribe in today’s gospel walking away thinking about that last statement from Jesus, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” What happened to him next? Did that comment from Jesus crush him or help him to become creative and enter into the kingdom of God - even it meant squeezing through the eye of a needle - walking the narrow way - move from being a goat to becoming a sheep - coming back and entering a Christian community?

We don’t know what happened to the scribe, but we can know what’s happening to us. Amen. 


[1] Cf. The God We Never Knew by Marcus J. Borg, Harper San Francisco, 1997, pages 141-155; 133-137; 100; also read once more the "I Have A Dream Speech" by Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963. It can be found on Google by just typing in, "I Have A Dream Speech," Martin Luther King Jr.

[2] Cf. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Documents of Vatican Council II, # 45; Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church, Documents of Vatican Council II, #1


Quote for Today - November 4,  2012

"If only we knew how to look at life as God sees it, we should realize that nothing is secular in the world, but everything contributes to the building of the Kingdom of God."

Michel Quoist