Saturday, December 8, 2012



The title of my homily for this feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is, “The Power of Choice.”

Today we’re celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception - the Patronal Feast of both the United States as well as this parish of St. Mary’s.

As you know the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was declared in 1854 and this church’s cornerstone was blessed in 1858 by St. John Neumann.  On page 46 of Robert Warden’s  book on our parish we read that the official title of this church was always the “Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” but he says it’s not clear just when this was adopted. 


There are many themes in the readings for this feast of the Immaculate Conception:

·        “Where are you?”
·        Temptation to taste and bite into the  forbidden,
·        Blame, shame,
·        Choice
·        Garden of Paradise - and being thrown out of paradise,
·        Eve - as the Mother of all the Living,
·        Being blessed,
·        Holiness,
·        Love,
·        Adoption,
·        Being favored,
·        Purpose,
·        Hope,
·        Angel - as messenger
·        Being Called,
·        Grace.
·        Pondering,
·        Being Named,
·        Holy Spirit,
·        Being Overshadowed,
·        Barren - and being fruitful,
·        Nothing is Impossible with God.

Those are just a few. I choose to speak a bit on choice.


A major theme in American life is freedom. America is very much pro choice. I choose not to let that phrase refer only to those who choose to allow abortion - especially since our choices include an impact on self and others. And I see a deadly impact in abortion. So I’m using choice and pro choice here in the context of freedom of choice - that it is a very strong national value. We are the land so many people came to by choice from so many other places. We're aware that some were brought here by force - as slaves. Then there are those here were driven from their spaces - so when it comes to freedom - we don’t have an immaculate record.

The value of freedom and choice has always been part of our value system. We stress freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech. All have consequences and bring limitations. Each includes the principle of impact of one person’s freedom on another’s freedom. We've all heard the message: one can’t yell, “Fire” in a crowded movie. Freedom to swing your fist, as they say, ends where my nose begins.

I remember reading somewhere that visitors to the United States from some countries love to go to the Mall or a big grocery store and see all the choices. Around here we can go to CVS, Rite Aid, The Annapolis Pharmacy, or get prescriptions by mail or what have you. We have Ford and Nissan. We have Giant and Safeway, Graul’s and Wegman's is more and more on their way here. We have K-Mart and Wallmart. We have dozens of different types of cell phones and gadgets for communication.



In today’s first reading Eve chooses the forbidden fruit - and the rest is history. She brings Adam into the deal. He blames her. She blames the snake. And the rest is mystery.

Mistakes - bad choices - often tell us more about ourselves than our successes. They expose our naked motives. They teach us there are consequences. Hurts tell us more than helps - so so often.

We can take and eat forbidden fruit and our lives are different forever. It ends our innocence and our paradises.


In today’s gospel, Mary the New Eve, chooses God’s plan.

I like the great stress that like Eve - she is given a choice. She asks questions like Eve. She ponders. She chooses God’s message for her. He brings Christ into our world.


The message of the first reading is: Don’t eat the forbidden.

The message of the Gospel is: Eat God. Eat Christ.

Life is a choice about what we eat - about what we say "Yes" or "No" to.

We have a choice between the forbidden fruit and good fruit - the goodness of Christ who bids us to bite into him and his good news every day.

We have the choice of devolution - going backwards - or evolution - to keep growing and knowing God.


I just got back this afternoon from 4 days with some of our high school seniors on a Kairos Retreat - our 21st.

We’re waiting in the lobby for the bus to arrive and get us back here. I notice a picture there on the lobby wall. I think it was by Giotto - called the "Annunciation".

It is a picture of Mary hearing the word of God. Then in the background - off to the side - is Adam and Eve rejecting the word of God.

I had just read the readings for today to come up with a homily on the bus coming back. I said to myself: there they are - both readings in that painting - the every day choice - to be like Mary and choose the Good News or to choose the Forbidden and end up in disaster. It’s our choice. Amen.

Quote for Today - Saturday - December 8, 2012

"Cast your bucket where you are."

Booker T. Washington [1856-1915], in the Cotton State Exposition Speech at the Atlanta Exposition - September 18, 1895

Friday, December 7, 2012


Quote for the Day - Friday,  December 7, 2012

"Hell, Madam, is to love no longer."

Georges Bernanos [1888-1948] in The Diary of a Country Priest [1936]

Quote for the Day, Thursday, December 6, 2012

"People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise."

William Somerset Maugham [1874-1965], in Of Human Bondage, [1915],  chapter 50

Quote for the Day - Wednesday,  December 5, 2012

"The tragedy of love is indifference."

William Somerset Maugham [1874-1965], in The Trembling of a Leaf  [1921] 

Note: Next to this painting I found on line by Fritz Hirschberger  was this poem by this same painter: 

Fear not your enemies, 
for they can only kill you.

Fear not your friends,
for they can only betray you.

Fear only the indifferent,
who permit the killers and
betrayers to walk safely on earth.

And below it were these notes:

Text and art by Fritz Hirschberger are from "The Holocaust Series: Sur-Rational Paintings" and reprinted with permission of the Regis Foundation, Minneapolis, MN. Fritz Hirschberger's full series of art work on the Shoah can be found at and For more information, contact the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies: Dr. Stephen Feinstein, Director, tel: (612) 626-2235, email:, web:

© 2005 Anti-Defamation League

Tuesday, December 4, 2012



The title of my reflection for this First Monday in Advent is, “Justice! Making Sure Everyone Gets a Piece of the Pie!"

Justice is one of the various possible themes in today’s first reading - amongst several. I picked one I don’t preach on that often - justice - just to refresh my thoughts - to highlight - to mark with yellow Magic Marker - something that is important.

Isaiah 11: 1-5 is talking about a future leader - the Messiah - a shoot of David -  who will have lots of gifts: a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.  Then Isaiah adds, “He shall judge the poor with justice.”  He further adds, “Justice shall be the band around his waist.” Band is also translated “belt” or “loincloth”. In other words, one is wrapped tight when it comes to justice.

So a few thoughts about justice - a central thought - especially from the prophets.  And as we know - prophets are crucified and killed - rejected and told to leave town and pulpit - probably a reason we don’t hear too many homilies on justice.


The Hebrew word used in our text is SEDEK. It can be translated righteousness, integrity, justice, fairness - words like that.

It’s especially used when talking about fairness in matters of how judges make decisions - as well as arguments about not being partial  - as well as having honest weights in the market place - and being aware of the cries of the poor.

Don’t we often heat in the scriptures the refrain, “God hears the cries of the poor.” Do I?


In the New Testament the key word used would be “DIKAIOS”. It would be used to say what’s right in a given situation before God.

This is what we’re praying for when we say, “Thy will be done!”

Jesus came to set things done right. To discover justice is to discover  the solemn judgment of God in what’s happening between each other - in family, in neighborhood, in whatever situation one runs into. It’s the call to be right and fair with each other.


In today’s gospel - Luke 10: 21-24 - Jesus says the little ones - the childlike - have a wisdom. With regards justice watch kids at a birthday party when the cake is cut. The knife doesn’t cut all pieces of equal size and amount of frosting. Listen to the prophets in the room: “Hey that’s not fair. She got more than me.” “He got more than I did.”

In today’s first reading we also hear the great scene of, “The Peaceable Kingdom” - where “the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.” [Cf. Isaiah 11: 6-10]

Look for Christmas cards with that scene. Christmas is the time of peace and justice. The message is: Work for peace by working for justice.  We don’t have to be animals clawing, biting, devouring each other.


First: I remember hearing some Catholic high school kids on a retreat calling one of their  nuns, “Sister Peace and Justice.” I asked why. Answer: "because all she talked about was peace and justice.” What a great nickname!  Wouldn’t that be a great comment in our eulogy that we'd all want?

Second: when we took our 4 years of  theology  in  the major seminary after college, the last two years were Moral Theology. I’ll  never forget our teacher Father Charlie O’Leary. His nickname was, “The Bull”. He rammed ahead with his main stress: justice. To him it was the key cardinal virtue - the key life virtue -   - over all  the others. I’m glad he wasn’t off on sex or pride - but on the practical issue of fairness across the board.

Third: I’m sure you remember Father Jack Lavin [1] who lived  and worked here at St. Mary’s for many years.  I learned that the issue of justice was his number 1 priority. We’d be at lunch or supper. He would be rather quiet till an issue came up in conversation that had sandwiched in it, the issue justice. Then he  would come alive. He had a nose for fairness issues - justice issues - especially for the poor and unnoticed. Justice was his bottom line.


What’s your issue? What are you off on?

I don’t know what I’m off on - but maybe those who know me - know what it is. Both that nun, that teacher, Charlie O’Leary and Jack Lavin, helped me see that people can be off on the issue of justice - and how that leads to peace.

We all have heard Pope Paul VI’s mantra: “Want peace; work for justice.”

I once saw a great video - that brought out the issue of justice and peace, fairness and solidarity, big time.

The main speaker in the video said that peace in the world, peace in our community, peace in our family, peace in ourselves - will only exist and work when we have fairness.

The video said things like, “To have peace, everyone has to have a piece of the pie.”  “Everyone has to feel they also have a piece of the action. In other words everyone has a voice and a vote.”

Leave someone out. Expect a cry - and sometimes a revolution - from the poor slobs that are being neglected. Amen.



Read Father Jack Lavin's book, Noticing Lazarus at Our Door


Quote for Today - December 4, 2012

"Emotion is not the Cinderella of our inner life, to be kept in her place among the cinders in the kitchen. Our emotional life is us in a way our intellectual life cannot be."

John MacMurray

Chew on that thought. Agree? Disagree? It all depends? Don't understand? Please explain? Would someone say that the reverse be also true?

Monday, December 3, 2012



The title of my homily for this First Monday of Advent is, "What If's and If It Wasn't For's."

Life consists of both "What if's" and "If it wasn't for's."


There are lots of things in life we could have done and didn't do.

It could have been a word, a conversation, a help, towards mom or dad, brother or sister, neighbor or stranger - but we didn't do it.

Some might have been sins of omission.

Realizing them can paralyze us - dumb us down - de-energize us - discourage us. 

We all have our "What if's."  

They are our regrets

What we can do now is to say, "I'm sorry!" if others are living. We can always try again. We can learn from our blindness - or selfishness. 

Yet, they reappear and haunt us from time to time.


We can also look at the positives. We can look at all those, "If it wasn't for me" or "If it wasn't for you" this would never have taken place. 

If it wasn't for our mom and dad meeting, marrying, loving each other, we would not be hear - obviously. I

If it wasn't for so and so coming back to the faith or because they went to church - they gave us good example - and so we are here today.

It's good to think and thank God for all these positive things that happened - and we are different as a result. 


If it wasn't for St. Francis Xavier - whose feast we celebrate today - the Jesuits would be different. Yet he was one of the original 7 - and that made many a difference. 

There would be no Xaxier high schools and colleges and universities. There would be no kids named, F.X. 

If it wasn't for his 13 month ocean voyage to Goa and the Orient - many, many would never have become Catholics - would never have found Christ in their lives. 

If it wasn't for his style of being poor, the poor in Goa would not have gravitated towards him. The upper classes didn't go for him like the lower castes did. 

If he didn't make the switch in style - wearing fancy classy clothes, he would not have been allowed a chance to preach Christ in Japan. That gave him entrance - and  a base for operations. 


Back to the "What if's?" What if he got into China. He was headed there but died at the age of 46.


So life is loaded with both "What if's" as well as "If it wasn't for him or her's".

It would make good Advent reflection on these two issues. 

Here's two questions:

1) When it comes to Christ, what if I...?

2) If it wasn't for Christ I would ...?


Quote for Today - December 3, 2012

"Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage."

Pope John XXIII

Picture: This is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, at Thanksgiving 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012



The title of my homily for this First Sunday in Advent [C] is, “Hoping to See Signs of Hope.”

We begin the season of Advent today. One of themes of Advent is hope - so that’s the theme of my homily for today: “Hoping to See Signs of Hope.”


To be a human being is to be a person that hopes.

Sometimes people give up hope - but thank God there are folks around who don’t give up hoping.

Who are those people in our life who placed their hope in us -especially when we were down? Read your inner autobiography [written or unwritten] or inner monologue and name the names.

Grandparents hope their grandkids who are into drugs or alcohol or disastrous relationships wake up and shape up and get their life in gear again.

Recently I’m at the hors d’oeuvres part of a wedding reception….  A mother is holding this beautiful baby - just standing there in the chit chat area - just outside the big dining room. I do what everyone does. I start smiling at the baby and making gestures to make him or her laugh. It works. Cutest little baby…. Maybe 6 months old…. It’s great to spot a baby in the crowd when one knows hardly anybody. A grandfather comes over to me and whispers in my ear, “If you have any magical water up your sleeve, give the baby a quick baptism, will you.” Then he walks away.

I pause. I say to myself, “What was that all about?” An answer comes:  he wants to see signs that his kids and grandkids get going with the faith he has placed his hope in and hopes they do too.

Having a kid baptized is a sign of hope.

To be human is to be a person that hopes to see signs of hope.

People look for signs when it comes to  the weather, the country, the economy, the marriages we’re in. We want good weather - good times - good things happening for all.

We are people of hope. We love a good hope story.

We see a dog limping or a bird with a broken wing or we hear about someone with cancer and we hope they heal - get going again - walk straight and fly right.


I was talking with someone recently - but I forget who it was - and where it was. I keep on seeing signs that I seem to be a regular passenger on the Senior Moment bus.  Whoever, this person was told me that they were on a bus tour that went up to New York City and then down to where the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood.

Besides seeing all the names of those who died that September 11 - in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon, as well as the 6 who died at an earlier attack on the buildings in the 1990’s, the person who was telling me this story - told me about the Survivor Tree at the World Trade Center Memorial.

I had never heard about this - so I went to Google -  a friend who has a much better memory than I do. I read all about the Survivor Tree and why it impresses so many people.

Everyone loves a story of hope. Everyone loves a story of survival.

If I have the story correct, the tree is a pear tree that was planted in the 1970’s. In October of 2001 the tree was discovered in the midst of the rubble. It was 8 feet tall and badly burned. It had one living branch on it. It was dug up and brought to a nursery in the Bronx on November 11, 2001.

It was burnt and covered with ash - so it needed a lot of care - which happened. Did anyone scream, “What a waste of tax payers’ money?” I don’t know.

By the spring of 2002, Richard Cabo - the primary caretaker of the tree - said it would make it. It did. The tree grew.

In 2010, the tree was uprooted in a storm. It was replanted and continued to grow. In December of 2010 it was brought back down from the Bronx to the World Trade Center and replanted. It has become  a significant part of what you see when you go to the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City.

The tree keeps growing. It’s over 30 feet high. People hearing the story report that it gives them hope.   It suffered no damage with Hurricane Sandy.

To be human is to look for signs of hope - like that tree - like the whole World Trade center - slowly getting there after all these years and all these controversies.


Today’s readings are Advent readings - telling us of the struggles - that can hit our world - yet we hold out for hope.

In the first reading Jeremiah says: Okay every thing is going to pot. However, a new shoot of life will shoot out from the family tree of David. That’s one of those biblical images of hope. A tree might  be cut down, yet surprise, if you look at it, you spot a tiny branch of life has appeared - growing off its side. There is always hope.

The second reading from 1 Thessalonians - the oldest of the New Testament writings - urges us to be symbols of hope by our behavior - by leading good lives. Good example. Good example. Good example. People spot those signs of growth shooting off the sides of people.

The Gospel for today is from Luke - who will be our Gospel writer for Year C all this coming year. He says, when it looks like everything is coming to an end - there is hope. Even though the seas are roaring and the earth and sky are shaking, you’ll “see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with power and great glory.”  Then the great message: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”


The title of my homily is, “Hoping to See Signs of Hope.”

We begin the Advent Season today. It’s a season of great hope.

St. Alphonsus - the founder of the Redemptorists - whose statue is up here above our altar - used to like to say the 3 great signs of Christ’s presence and Redemption are the crib, the Cross and the Tabernacle. All three can bring us to Christ.

Each year we celebrate Advent and another Christmas as seasons to increase our hope and the coming and recoming and coming again of Christ.

The big Advent prayer is just 3 or 4 words: “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”

For starters then we call to Jesus who calls us to follow him. And hopefully our children and grandchildren will follow our lead. Amen.



Picture on top:  I forgot where I took this picture.

Picture of Survivor Tree: From Wikimedia, June 16, 2012 - Source PumpkinSky


Quote for Today - December 2,  2012

"Conceit lies in thinking you want nothing."

Epictetus, Moral Discourses, c. 110